John David Kudrick

putting words to work for you

Tag: stories (page 1 of 2)

“Broken people with deep wounds …”

Great line that echoes an idea I continue to share with authors wanting to craft novels with visceral characters who are more than cardboard clichés (since none of us are):

 

The older I get, the more I’ve come to understand that there are no real villains, only broken people with deep wounds who cannot help but to bleed onto others.

Jamie Wright

 

(And the entire blog post is well worth reading too!)

A Different Way

From “The Gospel of Luke” in the book God Is Disappointed in You, by Mark Russell (writer) and Shannon Wheeler (cartoonist):

As he slowly bled to death, it seemed like the whole world had gathered to ridicule Jesus. As he hung there dying, they beat and mocked Jesus for being so naive as to waste his time on pathetic and misguided ideas like forgiveness. For which he forgave them.

 

9/11/2018: “What If…?”

Speculative fiction that reimagines the president’s “9/11 Address to the Nation” from 2001:

Good evening.

Today, humanity’s foundational pillars of existence—love, peace, mercy, and compassion—came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were moms and dads, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives suddenly came to an end because of these attacks. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, and huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. While anger is a natural reaction to such aggression, we must resist the desire for revenge. These extremists intended to stir up a hornet’s nest and further fan the flames of war and hatred in our world. But they have failed. Rather than seek vengeance out of bitter anger, our country will link arms with every willing nation to counter evil with the love, peace, mercy, and compassion I’ve already mentioned.

Today, our world saw evil—the very worst of human nature—but the world also saw some of the best of humanity: with the daring of the many rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could, with the joining of hands and hearts here and all over the globe.

Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government’s emergency response plans. Our emergency teams are working in New York City and Washington D.C. to help with local rescue efforts. Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured, and to take every precaution to protect humanity against further attacks here and around the world. Beyond this, the functions of our government and economy will continue without interruption.

I appreciate so very much the members of Congress who have joined me in strongly condemning these attacks. And on behalf of the American people, I thank the many world leaders who have called to offer their condolences and assistance. America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and unity in the world, and we stand together to win the war against terrorism.

But this war will not be won with the typical weapons of this world: guns, tanks, missiles, and military personnel. Fighting fire with fire only creates a more dangerous blaze. Meeting violence with violence only produces and perpetuates more violence.

Rather, keeping in mind humanity’s pillars of love, peace, mercy, and compassion, we must learn the truth of what it means to turn the other cheek—not to roll over and shrink away from this brutal assault, but rather to practice peaceful, nonviolent resistance, as modeled by so many great figures throughout history: Jesus Christ, Mohandas Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, just to name a few.

Nearly every religion has had its extremists who attempt to justify evil in the name of their god. The history of my own Christian faith has seen horrible acts committed in the name of a supposedly loving, peaceful God: from the bloody mass murders of the Inquisition overseas to the oppression and subjugation of the Native peoples here in our own land, and of course our justification of slavery and treating an entire race as less than human—continuing even years after slavery officially ended, with the ghastly, nearly incomprehensible slaughter of African Americans by lynching, burning, and torture at the hands of domestic terrorists.

And so, in response to these international terrorists, I am thankful to have already talked to peace-loving Muslims who have decried these attacks. Like me, they want to see a new world order of peace and unity regardless of race, religion, gender, or anything else that we have allowed to fracture humanity. So we will join with any and all who desire this as well.

Together, we will respond with love: seeking ways to bring real, relevant humanitarian aid and help to those suffering around the world, no matter where they reside. We will respond with peace: seeking ways to build bridges in every corner of human existence rather than build walls that divide. We will respond with mercy: seeking to offer empathy and restorative justice rather than vengeance and retribution to those who hurt us. And, finally, we will respond with compassion: seeking always to look for ways to be a blessing to others, remembering that we are all part of the great global family called “humanity,” and in doing so that we might live out those well-known but too often unpracticed words of Christ: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

In closing, I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of peace has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a Power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

Let this day be remembered as a day when all people on this earth unite in our resolve to be peacemakers. None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to bring about a world that can more powerfully experience the reality of a global community of love, peace, mercy, and compassion.

Thank you. Good night. And God bless humanity around the world.

Note: Watch and/or read the original address here.

A Poetic Storyteller

Just finished reading the hefty autobiography of Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run. As long as it is, I wonder how much got trimmed along the way by the author himself, as Springsteen the songwriter is an incredible poetic storyteller and knows the value and power of words (and music as well) … and it’s not like he could ever include everything anyway (was still sad that the book didn’t talk about his participation in the making of “We Are the World”).

Appreciated that he didn’t hide himself (completely, at least) in telling his story, and offered his usual raw look at life, including his own struggles:

Otherwise, if you’d like to hear/see some of Springsteen in action not only as a performer but most of all as a wordsmith, check out some these favorites of mine, which would be material enough for a writing course on their own:

“Thunder Road” [listen for “There were ghosts in the eyes…” and the next line about Chevrolets — such stark visual word-painting]

“Jungleland” [listen for the line about the barefoot girl — more great imagery thanks to little details]

“Streets of Philadelphia” [opening lines so brutally personal, from the point of view of the narrator: mainly Tom Hanks’ character in the movie Philadelphia, and yet such common emotions for all of us at one time or another in life]

“American Skin (41 Shots)” [tackling a lightning-rod issue with this one … studio version with lyrics here]

“The Ghost of Tom Joad” [kind of a culmination of how he taps into creating music that isn’t afraid to speak to modern culture … studio version with lyrics here]

PS: Found an Apple interview with Springsteen and really liked this line from him when asked about writing a book rather than song lyrics:

“You gotta find the music that’s in the words themselves.”

Sage wisdom for writers of any kind …

Drowning in Details

In my most recent post, I took a look at how details matter in a novel—to the degree that you may lose readers if you flub up the details in your story. Of course, it’s also possible to make sure you have all the details straight and then go too far with them … as in drowning a reader in the details you give.

Let’s look at an example:

The sun-kissed, billowy-clouded azure sky overhead contrasted starkly with the terrifying obsidian-plated killer android that was sickeningly immune to the 7.62mm M61 150.5-grain armor-piercing rounds that we fired at it in staccato rhythm like there was no tomorrow.

Gurgle-gurgle … Blub-blub … And the reader has gone under. Continue reading

Little Details Can Make a Big Difference

Every so often, a novelist should make it a point to remember that most readers have about 54,000 other things they could be doing instead of reading a book. A novel will only hold your reader’s attention ahead of all those other things if it’s truly worth reading.

Aside from all the various mechanics and methods of writing that can turn off a reader, one item sure to doom your novel is goofing up on so-called little details—especially when you need to include subject matter that may not be familiar to you.

To wit: Continue reading

Another Thought on Writers Conferences

In my most recent post, I touched on why authors should attend a writers conference, focusing on two main reasons: First, it’s a great place to pitch your book to an agent or editor. And, second, it’s a place to be around other people who take writing seriously, allowing you to find new inspiration and encouragement.

In this post, I want to touch on another (multifaceted) reason why writers conferences are a great idea for authors: knowledge.

When you attend a writers conference, you have the opportunity to be empowered with knowledge from at least three sources: speakers, agents/editors, other writers.

Continue reading

Keepin’ It Real with Dialogue

It will probably come as no surprise that editors enjoy the written word, which means that most of us wordsmiths not only work with words as a profession, but we also have our noses in books each day for the pure joy of reading. To wit, just the other night, I was re-reading an old trade paperback comic book (X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga) because I think it’s a great story overall, with super artwork to boot.

Anyway, at one point I came across some dialogue that is common enough in comic books because they are such a visual medium, and it reminded me of an issue that I come across all too often in my work as an editor: dialogue that doesn’t sound realistic because it’s so full of backstory and/or information dumps.

Again, in comic books I expect this to some degree because the writers have limited space with captions and word/thought balloons, but I have to admit that it still bugged me a little because it just sounded so unrealistic. When I see it in a novel I’m working on, I flag it and let the writer know that such dialogue will not ring true in a reader’s ears and will feel like a hiccup or speed bump even amidst well-written prose.

Here’s an example: Continue reading

How Do Authors Find Time to Write?

I enjoy working with authors no matter how they approach the task of writing, whether it’s with bubbly joy and passion or steely grit and determination—or, more typically, a combination of both. In any case, these authors have done something that many other wishful writers have only talked and/or daydreamed about: they finished a book, perhaps even several.

And yet most of the authors I work with or know aren’t household names in the world of books, and they’re okay with that. They’re everyday folks, and most of them have full-time jobs. Like the wishful writers who have never completed a book—usually because “I just don’t have the time!”—these authors spend time with a significant other, keep up with family and friends, raise kids, attend church, go to work, see the doctor/dentist, take their cars to the mechanic, cook meals, clean homes, exercise, take care of pets, catch some zzz’s, and the list goes on and on.

So, then, how in the world do these authors find time to write?

Continue reading

Finding Your Writing Style as a Novelist: Part 2

In the first part of this post, we took a look at an author who lived and died by the plotter/planner method of crafting a novel—a method that had served him well more than once. But when we last saw this author, he’d just read a book on fiction writing that preached the polar opposite of the plotter/planner way: flying by the seat of your pants (aka, the pantser method).

So what did this author do? Did he just dismiss this blasphemous pantser drivel and stick to his guns as a plotter/planner?

Continue reading

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