Friday, April 19, 2013

Poetry Within Your Novel

There's a not so subtle way for an author to impart a theme to readers of his or her fiction novel. That's to have one of the character's espouse it in poetry. Yeah, right, you say. Control or tamp down your disbelief for one moment. I will try to direct you to the promised land if you're willing to read on. Isn't inviting guilt wonderful?

Okay, a disclaimer to keep the fiction police happy, not every character can be comfortable with or be in contact with poetry. Yet, perhaps the character is a frustrated poet or had to write a poem in one of his or her high school or college classes. Feasible, you bet. If so, (and I bless my hardworking English teacher daily) you can incorporate the created poem into your story.

What if your character didn't attend the conventional school? Then there are several avenues in widely diverse genres to have the thematic poem disclosed to your fiction readers.

Captain Kirk on Star Trek, or your equivalent, can uncover it in a galactic cave. Maybe it just shows up as a hologram from the past. Perhaps it's a clue to a distant surviving culture that commands billions of gallons of fracking natural gas and is ready to crash the world's economy or, if you understand the poem's meaning, fill your vehicle's, and no one else's, gas tank cheap. If that's not compelling, then it could be part of a regular, old-fashioned mystery. Stranger things happen.

Your fictional romantic time traveler can find it tucked in an old trunk Shakespeare discarded on the way to Stratford-on-Avon. If you have a midsummer's night's dream not an accident, there can be a Puck you can count on. Your poem's discovery can be the "to be" of the be or not to be uttered by your Hamlet wannabe.

If your character is a historic saint, say, take mine, he lived as a Gaelic monk in the sixth century.  No, he wasn't St. Patrick who lived a century earlier. Who knows how much poetry my historic saint buried in the Irish caves escaping the Huns? Sorry, they were later and probably on a different continent. Maybe it was Finn McCool who performed the historic deed to save the magic poetic scroll my saint scribbled on whatever fast food scraps of paper then existed? I love that legendary McCool guy. He's such a 21st Century Disney character. Whoops, Disney hasn't put him on celluloid yet next to that famous Tinkerbelle. But okay, thinking harder, it was the thugs from Denmark who threatened my saint. Oh, those Danes, still around centuries later to cause Will Shakespeare dramatic trouble.

If we consider more modern times, didn't Agatha Christie conjure up mystical powers in several of her fictional stories. Perhaps a pale horse chased by Miss Marple? Or didn't Herucle Periot brave the Egyptian sun to find a poem in the tombs, or on an ancient scroll that would serve your purpose? You do the research. I'm just generating ideas.

If there's no historical villain or convenient sleuth, create your own. Remember, you're writing fiction.

Just ponder what the following poem means or says to you or us as readers. It's taken from Chapter Thirty-Four of my novel, A Body To Bones, First Skeleton Series Mystery, said to be written by a small town newspaper publisher. That he might do that would make sense, right? If I'm not the National Poet so be it, I'm, as you will be, hiding behind a created character. The question is does it impart meaning that is understood by the reader, if not critically acclaimed?

Lies will not support the past
False fronts created will not last.
In this world of gloom and woe
In wisdom, faith, and trust we grow.
For all that we carry in our heart
Or that our words will impart,
Memories in our hearts still glow
Showing us paths on which to go.
And so, what does that tell us as the readers?
Who is lying? What false fronts are created? Does it matter as long as we know it's bad? Perhaps the prior narrative tells us or perhaps we must look at our own past?  Even in a world of gloom, isn't there certain existing values we can count upon to exhibit hope? I'd say yes.
If there are trials or discouragements that linger in our hearts, doesn't the heart and the human condition have past glories that will show us the way? Shouldn't we be uplifted in the future that awaits? I'd say, amen.
Even if you don't have an answer, doesn't the poetry in fiction add another dimension that no other tool can?  Obviously you can debate me or others. But try it once. If your fiction is enhanced, you get the reward. It couldn't be any sweeter than that.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Beware. It's Personal

Lest I repeat myself too much, beware, this post is personal.

With a journalistic background, I've been taught to lead with the most important fact. For this post I've disregarded the principle since this isn't a journalistic post.

When I conceived how I would style and present this, my, blog, I decided to focus on helping other writers with craftsmanship articles, and as the desire struck, to add a bit of whimsy. Well, this post is neither.

What always impressed and irritated me about professional journalism was the ever present deadline. I vividly recall one late night lounging in the press room of a major hotel while the United States presidential candidate, in a suite upstairs, did whatever candidates do awaiting the decision of the voters. I was relaxing in the early morning hours relishing that I had stepped on the toes of a national magazine reporter and elbowed a Time photographer to get the photo of the candidate that I still cherish. On my agenda in eight hours was a two minute live radio report and attending any live press conference called if the candidate conceded or claimed victory.

I shared the company of a journalist from Australia, reporting for a group of British publications. After weeks on the campaign trail he was longing for the trip home. Slumped in his chair, he almost, on multiple occasions, fell to the floor, claimed by long days and short nights. His phone rang. It was his editor calling from a different time zone asking for 500 words, deadline in thirty minutes.

All I can say is that I've never read such concise, dramatic, to-the-point, cliche-free prose written in ten minutes from the grave of pure exhaustion. I'm sure I wouldn't have to this day remembered the incident if it hadn't been an honest-to-goodness professional who'd taught me an impromptu lesson at the foot of "show don't tell."

Circumstances as well as individuals can create the same feeling, only it may take longer.

Years ago I wrote the official United States released stories on the truce talks at Panmunjom, Korea. And it's been like days of old as North Korea has jumped to the world news stage. Only once did I have to fight the censors to use the words I had written. On that day I was successful. While I was in attendance at the truce talk site, halfway inside the 3-mile demilitarized zone, I had to have my story ready to dictate by telephone to Seoul when arriving at the military base just outside the DMZ. It was the first opportunity to make a telephone call. If it hadn't been for the experience of knowing reporters like those met during U.S. presidential campaigns, I wouldn't have been able to complete the tasks for the months that I did, nor personally complete the early morning briefing for the Secretary of the Army who visited during my deployment.

So what triggered these memories? While I wouldn't give up one minute of my journalistic life, I today discovered a reader review of my novel "The Bones Dance Foxtrot, Second Skeleton Series Mystery" on It said: "I liked it but not as well as the first one. (That's "A Body To Bones, First Skeleton Series Mystery.") We've met the author so I started reading his books, and I enjoy them. I never know the ending and that's something I like."

I must confess I didn't recognize the name of the reviewer. Am I glad he purchased and read my novels, was willing to express an opinion, and took the time to write an online review, obviously yes, yes, yes. In fact, more than glad, ecstatic would be a better word.

But it also triggered in me the thought that an author never knows if or how he or she will affect a reader or a potential reader. You go to book readings. I have one scheduled here April 18 in Rock Falls, IL. You go to community events, you support charities, you speak to people in person, if you can. It's an axiom that no one can like or dislike a novel until it's read. Getting the read is the challenge. Can there be an analogy between an author "pressing-the-flesh" and a politician? Yes.

There is a kinetic energy that bills. Yes, please come back to this blog to read ideas on how you can craft better prose, but don't forget to get out there into the community. I'm not saying it will be easy, but the rewards will buoy your heart and brighten your smile. And, the rewards come from quarters you won't imagine and at times you won't fathom.

Isn't that why you're an author, to uplift people? To give readers an enjoyable experience?

Now, I ask that you go to my previous blog post and click on the link to read a sample of my e-book Abbey Burning Love.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Abbey Burning Love - Sample Read

Read a sample of Author Donan Berg's e-book Abbey Burning Love.

Order at Full-length novel 99 cents from the author who in
2013 landed three times in the 8th Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Contest sponsored by
the Southern Louisiana chapter of the Romance Writers of America.