Monday, February 28, 2011

60-Second Syntax: Parallelism

60-Second Syntax is a quick look at some common mistakes in writing. Please note: Different editors may follow different styles and rules.

Parallelism comes into play when you have words, phrases or dependent clauses in a series. All the words, phrases and dependent clauses in a series should be parallel, meaning they are grammatically equal.

Basically if you are listing items, they should all be the same, whether it be nouns, adjectives, verbs, phrases, gerunds etc. Make sure you verb tenses match.

For example: She studied English, literature and linguistics. (all words in the series are nouns)

She attended Harvard, worked for the Newsweek, and retired from The New York Times. ( a series of past-tense verbs)

First, she had to finish the rough draft; second, she had to get it proofread; and lastly, she had to return it to her professor by Friday ( a series of independent clauses that follow the same structure of introductory phrase, subject, verb; note the verb tense is identical in all sentences.)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Author Insides - Salvatore Gugliotta

Salvatore Gugliotta received a B.A. in English from Coastal Carolina University in 2008. From there he moved to South Korea to teach English for a year. After strolling around Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, and Thailand he returned to the United States in 2009 to attend graduate school for English education. He currently lives in Southern New Jersey where he writes, teaches, and ekes out a happy living. He has just completed his second unpublished novel that he hopes doesn't get as dusty as the first.

Sal's short story, "Three Magic Words" appeared in the Autum 2010 issue of TBS

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?


I guess I was 19 years old and I started life-guarding on the beach. I burnt my arm pretty badly in an accident one night and had to sit on this beach where I didn't have to do a thing all day long. I brought my journal with me and one thing led to another.

Why do you write?

I write because, I don't have a choice. It's coming out one way or the other.

Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?

I did have dreams of not having to work a 9-5...

What's your favorite genre to read?
I've always been attracted to something that still has the laws of reality attached to it.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?

This is the boring answer, but I don't think I read anything that hasn't in some way affected me. The novels I picked up and couldn't read a page of reminded me of the things I didn't want to be. The novels I picked up and couldn't put down made me jealous enough to go and get what I wanted to be.

What does your family think of your writing?

Convincing them they aren't a character is difficult, even when they are.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

I'm up at 6 and write until noon. Then I go to work at an academy in South Korea to teach literature. Then I'm home at 9 and writing until 12.

What are your current projects?

Currently I'm working on a novel called Acid Washed Wild Divide. It's about a guy who loses a girl, drinks rat poison ten years later, and realizes that it was a really stupid decision. Both of those things.



Monday, February 21, 2011

60-Second Syntax: about vs. approximately

60-Second Syntax is a quick look at some common mistakes in writing. Please note: Different editors may follow different styles and rules.

Though often wrongly used interchangeably, there are a proper times when you should use about or approximately.

About is used when discussing a generalization or an estimation. It is also an adverb. The majority of the time, about is the word you will want to use.

Approximately is used in relation to scientific data. It means almost exact or nearly correct.

Example: She expected the bill for her home improvements to be about $5,000.
The accident happened at approximately 5:50 p.m.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Suitcase Alumn - Adam Ficek

From our mate, Adam Ficek and Roses Kings Castles, from his new album, Suburban Time Bombs:

"One Born Every Minute"


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Author Insides - Dave Migman

Dave Migman's narrative non-fiction piece, "Wayward on the Rock" appears in the Winter 2010 issue of The Battered Suitcase. Dave Migman leads a nomadic lifestyle, burning leaves trail in his wake. His first novel, The Wolf Stepped Out, is available from Dog Horn Publishing.



Dave, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?


When I was a teenager. I had this physics project, which was supposed to be a factual essay on the planets. I wrote this sci-fi saga in which most of the solar system imploded. The teacher read it out to the class. I was horrified, thrilled and embarrassed all at the same time.

Why do you write?

I always felt I had these stories that needed extricated from my system. I guess over the years it has become a compulsion. I get nervous if I can’t find the space to get stuff down.

Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?

Well, I think we create our own personal (subjective) narratives. All those romantic notions we entertain can manifest themselves as reality. There’s a lot of shit to plough through though. Every writer wants to be read, every artist wants to be seen and there’s a lot more of us nowadays.

What do you think makes a good story?

Rhythm, timing and an author needs to develop their own voice. There’s a lot of writing by numbers out there. The mainstream is inundated with badly written and vacuous novels. I like honesty in writing. I like it when the author offers us his soul on a plate and is unrepentant.

What's your favorite genre to read?

I read anything, from sci-fi to poetry. I think in each ‘genre’ there are books that stand out. But I would limit myself to a favorite.

Who is your favorite author or poet?

Once again, no favorites. If I have to quote some names it’d be some of Celine’s work, some Henry Miller, Huxley, Bukowski, Hemmingway, Selby Jnr, Burroughs, Steinbeck and I enjoy Philip K Dick, Vonnegurt, Yukio Mishima. Recently though I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction and philosophy.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?

Oh, that’s be Tropic Of Cancer by Henry Miller and Journey To The End Of The Night, by Celine. I don’t know if their inspiration was a good or bad thing, but they were definitely catalysts in how I approached a text. They made me realize you don’t necessarily need standard plot formats to write great work.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?

Definitely Kerouac’s On The Road enthused me with a romantic and na├»ve yearning to write and travel when I was a young man. I used to love his books when I was in my early twenties. I can’t read him nowadays though.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?

I get a lot of inspiration from real life, from historical texts and mythology. The thing that I learned over time is to hone in on one idea, focus on that from inception to end. Jumping from idea to idea can really confuse you. Liken it to a shotgun, scattered all over the place, or a rifle bullet, direct to the heart.

What does your family think of your writing?

They don’t.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

I’m a morning person. 6 am I’m up and writing. It pours out. Then I take a few hours to get air. Usually though, when I’m writing I need space, need to be able to live in the mindset. I’ll do this mainly in the winter as I’m a self employed craftsman and during the spring and summer months I have to make the cash that allows me the time to create in the winter.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?

I like to sacrifice a cat to satisfy baby Jesus before I begin any project.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

When I’m writing fiction getting in a character’s mind and trying to leave my soap box out of it. That’s a real challenge.

What are your current projects?

A work of fiction about Hell. And some poetry.

What are you planning for future projects?

A graphic novel called ZERO.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Be honest, don’t hesitate, just get it down, refine your technique and style, but live too. It can be a lonely existence. And take the criticism of others with a pinch of salt.

Where else can we find your work?

My first novel The Wolf Stepped Out is out on Dog Horn Publishing, (http://www.doghornpublishing.com/) there is a review at Nthposition (http://www.nthposition.com/thewolfstepped.php ). Shorts and artwork appear in Dog Horn’s Polluto Magazine (http://www.polluto.com/ )





I’ve quite a lot of poetry and shorts out there too. Weird Year, Identity Theory, Neon to name a few. My blog is http://crackedslab.blogspot.com/ and I link to most of my published work there.





Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"In the Storm" debuts today


"In the Storm" by Karen Metcalf; February 2011; published by Vagabondage Press; $2.99.

Vagabondage Press is proud to present "In the Storm" by debut novelist Karen Metcalf.

I first came upon "In the Storm" in the Vagabondage Press slush pile. The story drew me in with its brilliant imaging and the is-it-real-or-is-she-losing-her-mind dilemma of the heroine.

"In the Storm" is the story of a teenage girl trying to protect her brother and herself from their abusive stepfather, when she discovers her life choices may not be her own to make.

Abandoned by the world around her, Carly believes she is fated to a life of torment at the hands of her stepfather and is desperate for an escape. When she can bear the abuse no longer and gives in to a thunderous rage, she suddenly finds herself in an unfamiliar, yet beautiful, storm world.

This limbo between dimensions appears to be her private sanctuary, but it may just be her purgatory.

No one escapes fate without sacrifice, but is the price more than Carly is willing to pay?

One of Karen's strengths is the imagery she creates in her writing. Here's an example of some of the beautiful description she uses in "In the Storm":

The sky is quickly darkening as the sun retreats behind the trees across the field. The night sky sweeps forward to erase the day, like waves washing away footprints, leaving only clean, black sand. A star peeks out with one eye and signals to the rest that the coast is clear. They creep out of hiding one by one and join it, twinkling with excited conversation. The moon is only a sliver tonight, like a hammock, inviting the stars to play.

"In the Storm" is a must-read for all fans of young adult literature. It is a story that will stay with you long after the last word is read.

See a teaser for it here. Be sure to watch it full-size with your volume turned up.

"In the Storm" is available in digital formats from Vagabondage Press, Amazon, iBookstore, Smashwords, Issuu and more.


About Karen Metcalf

There’s a phrase in the South, “telling stories,” which means telling lies. Growing up, Karen Metcalf told a lot of stories, which wasn’t always a good thing.

She was raised on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where she spent most of her time reading science fiction and horror. She continues to explore those worlds through her writing, today.

Karen is 23 years old and lives in Tucson, Arizona.

You can follower her on Twitter or visit her on Facebook and Selfari. Also be sure to check out her blog tour schedule.

Monday, February 14, 2011

60-Second Syntax: affect vs. effect

60-Second Syntax is a quick look at some common mistakes in writing. Please note: Different editors may follow different styles and rules.

Generally speaking, affect is a verb and effect is a noun.

Affect means to influence.

Effect means outcome or result.

Effect can also be a verb meaning to make happen.

Example: His speech on gun control may affect the voters’ choice.

Cancer can be an effect of smoking.

The law effected a change in public policy.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ban your tab

Dear authors, if you value your editor’s/designer’s sanity, you will stop using the tab button immediately. I am not kidding. Put a piece of two-sided tape on it or scribble over it with a black marker; just don’t use it.

You might be thinking I am slightly insane, but there is a logical reason for this request. Every tab you put in is one that has to be taken out when typesetting. Do you know how many tabs a full-length novel can contain? Too many. And while a search and replace can be used, inevitably it will miss some because there will be a slight difference such as an extra space or something that throws the search off.

Luckily, there is an easy solution.

Writers should become familiar with the auto indent feature in Word and use it every time they create a new document.

Simply open a new doc and go to the “paragraph” tab and click on “format” (or just the paragraph tab in Word 2007 and 2010). You’ll see a drop-down menu in the middle of the box that says “special.” From the drop-down menu, select “first line” and in the “by” box, select “.5,” which normally pops up automatically. What this does is tell the computer to automatically indent the first line of each paragraph .5 inches — the same as a tab button.

This saves you a step because you no longer have to insert a tab at the beginning of each paragraph, and your designer doesn’t have to take it out. It saves time all around.

Author Insides - Melissa Chadburn

After studying law Melissa Chadburn obtained an MFA from Antioch University. She is a lover and a fighter, a union rep, a social arsonist, a writer, a lesbian, of color, smart, edgy and fun. Her work has been published in 5923 Quarterly, 52/250, Thunderclap Press, The Bohemian, People's Weekly World, Political Affairs, Shelf Life, and Splinter Generation. She blogs at http://betteranever.blogspot.com/

Melissa's short story, "Communion," appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of The Battered Suitcase.

 
 
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?


When I looked around me and didn’t like where I was or what everyone around me was doing and immediately wanted to write my way out of it.

Why do you write?

To survive. I’m not sure which came first my fake book reports or my runaway letters but they were both lies. When I was a kid I was allowed to read whatever I wanted. So I got started on Jackie Collins’ The Bitch really early, about age 9. Unfortunately I had to turn in book reports in class for the books I was reading at that time as well. So I would make up the story and the book report. I would think up titles my teacher would approve of like Suzy Wins the Big Race I made up an author’s, name, and wrote a synopsis of the book and everything. Even then I already knew I was sick of those American stories of small triumph they were trying to sell to us kids. I also used to write notes stating I was running away to my mother. They would be long detailed confessions of everything I had done wrong because I did not know how to win her acceptance otherwise. She was consistently inconsistent and bat shit crazy and I just thought this tradition of confessing all of my sins would somehow shock her into the tragic reality that I held onto so deeply as a teenager. So I would write the letter, place it on the table, listen for the dreaded sound of her high heels clicking toward the door and then start out the house. Immediately mocking a look of defeat when she saw me.

Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?

There’s a lot less cigarette smoking involved. Especially since I quit smoking.

What do you think makes a good story?

One that rips you open and tears out your insides and makes everyone feel closer.

What's your favorite genre to read?

Fiction and fiction

Who is your favorite author or poet?

Whoever I read last. There’s too many to pick... Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Kurt Vonnegut, Don DeLillo, Janet Fitch, Sapphire

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?

White Oleander, PUSH, Slaughterhouse 5, The People Made of Paper, geesh this is hard. Someone, I think it was Stephen Elliott, said people read for two reasons 1) to get closer to people or 2) to escape. I am one of those that reads to get closer... but I also try to practice reading like a writer, a sniper actually, looking to steal words or style or information getting in and out fast enough to move on with my existence as a writer. It has taken me a long time to get to this point. I used to remain a hostage in novels I didn’t like. I thought it had something to do with loyalty. Once I began a novel I did not think it would be okay to put it down. I think I have some remnants of Catholic guilt like there’s some book monitor out there watching me. I used to think I engaged in a silent agreement with the author once I cracked it open.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?

Well I hate to admit it but TIME Magazine probably influenced me the most just because when I was four years old I was stuck waiting in the doctor’s office on an army base somewhere in the world. I was walking on all the chairs and getting restless because waiting wasn’t my thing and people told me to sit down. My brother pulled a magazine from the pile, TIME and sat me down. He had me find and circle all the words that began with “th”. That’s when I learned how to read. By the time the doctor called me I was did not want to go. Not only did I learn how to read but I knew learning was my favorite thing at that moment.

Also there was a point in my life where I could have graduated from foster care and the american child welfare system into the juvenile justice system pretty quickly. I was an angry teenager and felt victimized and criminalized at the same time. Luckily for me a woman befriended me who was active in politics and got all my anger and passion fired up toward social justice and class issues. I learned then the shortest route from feeling hopeless to hopeful was through righteous indignation. Anger, but the useful kind, the kind that makes me want to change shit. I helped draft and lobby for a public works jobs bill that created jobs in building public schools and roads and took the money away from the military budget. For this reason I would have to say Leontiev’s Political Economy influenced me a great deal.

Lastly, there’s this one narrative that I can never get sick of. I guess it is the old stories they were trying to sell me as a child, stories of struggle and triumph. Again, I read to get closer to people not to escape. The people I seem to feel closest with are the people that are familiar with a certain brand of pain but don’t just wallow in it. The people that are works in progress. My people died of drug and alcohol abuse and I loved them dearly. I loved them to the point that it hurt us both very much. So for reasons that might be obvious and those that are less obvious.. another book that changed my life was Bill Wilson’s book of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?

Suffering. I’m more of a dodgy grungy city kind’a writer than a cabin writer. Dare me and tell me I can’t and that will help me most. When I was a kid and lived in a temporary shelter there was a light’s out rule. We had to have all the light’s off by 8 pm. The home was forty minutes away from my school. They were not allowed to drive me anywhere or give me any money. For these reasons I was told not to go to school. I was in the 9th grade, which was a pivotal time for me because at that point I would be graduating from junior high school and going into a four year high school. I was accepted into a special program in high school for disadvantaged youth. I thought this was my ticket out. The group home suggested I quit school. I don’t know what type of student I was before this but the type of student I became was remarkable. I studied with a flashlight in the dark. I saved half of my dinners to bring to school the next day for lunch. Nothing inspires me more than being told no. What does your family think of your writing?

My chosen family supports me and loves me. My chosen family is comprised of a loving girlfriend, a dog, and a cat.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing? My work schedule is always ridiculous. I wish I could tell you I woke up at 4 am and wrote in the silence or that I went to sleep at 2 am and wrote in the evenings while everyone was asleep but my writing is really sporadic because I have a day job that is more like a career that sucks up most of my time. I’m a union rep and I like to think that everything I do is related to my craft. That as a union organizer I am constantly pulling material from the people around me. But mostly I am doing busy work and am on conference calls and reporting random numbers to people. When I write I do like to read for an hour, write for an hour, read for an hour, edit/revise then submit for an hour. So I guess you could say I’m a binge and purger where I won’t write for a week and then I will spend twelve hours writing on any given day.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals? I used to prepare myself to write by lighting a candle and saying a prayer, essentially letting my spirit travel to whatever grave place it needed to and then I would signify the end of my writing by blowing the candle out. This let me return to the place where my feet were. Today I can’t do most of that because I prefer to write outside of my house since I have a dog and a cat and their needs will whisper to me constantly if I’m home.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Yes the middle part. I always have a beginning and an end but it’s that middle. There’s usually some sort of mental break down and questioning of my worth around page 100.

What are your current projects? I am working on a manuscript, A Tiny Upward Shove which well this is how I describe it in a query:

There is a point in everyone’s life that marks the separation of before and after that moment. For Marina, she experienced a series of these moments and A Tiny Upward Shove depicts them all.

Despite her capacity to rip the reader open at their seams with her honest depiction of feeling dejected and unloveable Marina has a preserved sense whimsy. Throughout the novel Marina is confronted with various forms of physical and sexual abuse all delivered by brands of authority in and out of foster care. We watch and learn as her expectations transcend to a keen sense of survival and yet delivers a consistent political awareness. She is a social arsonist touching the minds and hearts of her reader. She is a lover and a fighter with a distinctive voice that captures tragedy with humor and grace.

A Tiny Upward Shove passionate voice and edgy grit will appeal to a wide range of fans spanning from Sapphire and Janet Fitch to Junot Diaz and Kurt Vonnegut.

What are you planning for future projects?

One at a time. Although I get desperate to see my name in print now and again and often submit excerpts from my manuscript as short stories.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Per a colleague, Sugar, who writes a love advice column for the Rumpus: “Write like a motherfucker!”

Where else can we find your work?

My work has been published in 52/50, 5923 Quarterly, Battered Suitcase, Khimaril Ink, Little Episodes, Penn State Literary Review, Fine Line Magazine, Thunderclap Press, Dynamic Magazine, The Bohemian, The Examiner, People's Weekly World, Political Affairs, Shelf Life, and Splinter Generation.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Suitcase Alumn - Kieran Leonard

Touching base with prior contributors to The Battered Suitcase finds singer/songwriter Kieran Leonard in sessions for Gin in Teacups.







Friday, February 11, 2011

Author Spotlight - James Vachowski

James Vachowski is the author of our debut digital release, OUTSPOKEN.

James Vachowski previously worked as a police officer and as a civilian contractor in Iraq before fixing his sights on the lofty goal of middle management. James is a graduate of both the University of South Carolina and The Citadel, and currently lives with his family in Jacksonville, Florida.


You can find him online at http://www.jamesvachowski.com/ and on Facebook.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Author Insides - Britt Gambino

Britt Gambino lives in New York, NY, at the end of the universe (aka Washington Heights). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in anderbo.com, DecomP, Xenith, The Arava Review, and Moon Milk Review. This fall, Britt will begin pursuing her MFA at the New School. She enjoys brunch on a Sunday afternoon, making musical compilations and rearranging furniture with her partner, Trisha, who has always believed. To read some of Britt’s ramblings, visit her blog at http://gritsforyou.wordpress.com/.

Britt's poem "36 Barrow Street" appeared in the Autumn 2010 issue of The Battered Suitcase
 
 
Britt, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I was young, around 10 or 11 years old. In fourth grade, I had an assignment to write a parody of James and the Giant Peach – it was called Brittany and the Giant Plum. I wrote the whole story in a black and white composition notebook and I was hooked.

Why do you write?
I write because it helps me process the world around me – writing is my filter, my compass, my lens. It’s simultaneously the hardest and the easiest thing I do.

Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?
The work itself – yes, it is like I imagined it to be. Everything else – as in, what I have to do to support my writing – no.

What do you think makes a good story?
I think a good story works the same way a human body works: it’s got to have guts, well-oiled limbs, and a beating, fiercely-driven heart.

What's your favorite genre to read?
Literary fiction. Poetry: some surrealist and language poetry, objectivist, some confessional – despite the fact that the term has negative connotations, there’s some amazing stuff out there.

Who is your favorite author or poet?
One of my favorite authors is Jeanette Winterson. Written on the Body changed me – and the way I approach my writing – forever. Poets – e.e. cummings, Mark Doty, Marilyn Hacker, Paul Celan, Kim Addonizio, Marie Howe, and Jeffrey McDaniel, to name a few.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion; Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson; Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut; Beauty is Convulsive: The Passion of Frida Kahlo by Carole Maso (actually, anything by Carole Maso); The Sky Isn’t Visible from Here by Felicia C. Sullivan; The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
Everything I’ve ever read by Jeanette Winterson; Heaven’s Coast by Mark Doty; The Sky Isn’t Visible from Here by Felicia C. Sullivan; Memoirs of a Bookbat by Kathryn Lasky; Valencia by Michelle Tea; The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz; Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
I find a lot of inspiration riding the New York City subway. Ironically, it gives my brain the space it needs to think and just go wild on the page. Being naturally introspective tends to jumpstart me, as well – I’m constantly examining and re-examining different aspects of my life. Kind of detrimental as a human being, but great when you’re a poet.

What does your family think of your writing?
They’re supportive, though they don’t always understand it.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I have a full-time job and I’m currently pursuing my MFA – I write as often as possible, wherever possible. I don’t have a strictly defined writing schedule (although I should) – I tend to write either early in the morning on the train or late at night, and I usually allow myself one day a week “off.”

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?
I love writing on the subway, in parks, in any public place. For some reason, it’s easier for me to write out of the house. Inside, there are too many distractions. I’m also particular about the types of notebooks I write in and whether I use a pen or pencil.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Knowing when the surreal or abstract is too vague, and on the flip side, when the narrative is too heavy-handed and obvious.

What are your current projects?
I’ve been working a long sequence of poems, which is something I’ve never attempted to do before. My first semester of graduate school has yielded a lot of poems – now, I will begin to sift through and revise.

What are you planning for future projects?
No specific plans yet, but I’d like to try writing some more biography and persona poems.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
I’d like to pass along some great advice that was given to me as a teenage writer. Charles North, a New York poet, once me that you have to write like you’re in the 20th century (or now, the 21st). I have since taken this to mean that you shouldn’t do or use anything that feels false to you. Don’t inject a certain word if you don’t think it belongs there, don’t force your poem into a pantoum if it wants to be a sonnet, etc. For me, it’s become a philosophy of trust your instincts.
And, also important – don’t ever, ever stop writing. If you don’t have people in your life who support what you do, find some. They will help you keep sweating through it.

Where else can we find your work?
Online, at anderbo.com, DecomP, Xenith, Moon Milk Review, The Arava Review, vox poetica, and Caper Literary Journal.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

On Structure

Ernest Hemingway is credited with pointing out that "Prose is architecture, not interior decoration."

Good prose does require structure and good stories have to have a solid frame to hold up all the lovely words. Good stories are built. The basic framing of a good story is three acts: beginning, middle, and end. Within that three-act structure you can play a bit with the plot. You can introduce subplots; you can introduce secondary characters; you can hit on secondary themes.

The beginning is where you introduce your characters and ends when the catalyzing crisis occurs for the protagonist, sending them on their way into the story. The middle is the back and forth struggle for the protaganist to overcome her obstacles and meet her goals and ends right before the final crisis. The end is where there is an all or nothing effort to overcome the obstacles and meet the goal, but it often starts when it looks like neither of these will occur for the protagonist. After this low point comes the final climax and the resolution.

These three acts are constructed using "scenes." Scenes are defined sections of time/action in the story and the two main types of scenes are action and reaction. An example of a solid action scene would describe your protagonist going to their high school reunion and running into their Senior crush. The reaction scene would be the protagonist sobbing in the restroom, realising that they should never had broken up with them.

Action scenes also have a beginning, middle, and an end that mirror the larger three-act structure. Like the overall arc of the story, scenes should also have a catalyzing crisis, an obstacle to overcome or a goal to meet, a climax point and a resolution. Reactions scenes can also use this structure, particular when a protagonist is facing an inner obstacle, has an internal goal to meet, a crisis of conscious, a climactic moment of revelation and a resolution where they turn to meet the world with new perspective and determination.

Acts, scenes, catalyzing crises, climax, resolution; these structures work. They not only help the writer organize the events of the story on paper, they also help the reader organize the events of the story in their mind. The use of these structures may seem predictable from a distance, but vivid narrative, strong characters and powerful voice require a solid foundation to hold them up.

Besides, who's going to argue with Hemingway?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

New Release Day - OUTSPOKEN by James Vachowski

Vagabondage Press its pleased to announce the launch of our new line of digital shorts today! Our debut digital is a comedy for both teens and adults -- the hilarious OUTSPOKEN, by James Vachowski.


Abraham Lincoln Jenkins is a teenage vandal, social activist, and aspiring revolutionary, but with only four months left until his high school graduation Abraham’s lifelong dream of attending Harvard College is put in jeopardy when he learns that he is still in need of two core credit hours in Physical Education. Unfortunately for Abraham, the only available spaces in a P.E. class are as a cadet in the Army’s JROTC program!

Told almost exclusively through Abraham’s one-sided complaint letters, OUTSPOKEN is the natural result when the War on Terror collides with the War on Christmas.



OUTSPOKEN is now available at Amazon, Amazon UK for Kindle, and epub, mobi and pdf versions at the Vagabondage Press website.



Monday, February 7, 2011

60-Second Syntax: Introductory Comma

60-Second Syntax is a quick look at some common mistakes in writing.

Please note: Different editors may follow different styles and rules.

We're talking commas again. This time, we're focusing on the introductory comma, or the comma that follows an introductory phrase.

An introductory phrase is a dependent clause, word, participial phrase or infinitive phrase at the beginning of a sentence.

Examples[i]:
  • "If the apocalypse comes, beep me."
  • “In every generation, there is a chosen one.”
  • “When I kiss you, you don't wake up from a deep sleep and live happily ever after.”
  • “Actually, I was thinking my daughter is going to kill you soon."
In very broad, basic terms, any word/phrase that comes before the subject of a sentence should have a comma after it.


[i] Examples courtesy of the genius writer that is Joss Whedon and his brainchild of brilliance: “Buffy The Vampire Slayer.”