What’s In A Name?

I love it when I can sit down in front of my computer, put my fingers on the keyboard and just let a post flow from there as I tap away. Ideas radiate through my fingertips, forming themselves into words that dance in front of readers’ eyes. On a good writing day, I can plow through a thousand words in mere minutes without even realizing it. I sit back satisfied, reading over my work, making any necessary tweaks. And then comes the hard part.

The title.

I’ve always loved a good, snappy title. Something that, in a few words (or just one) gives you an idea of what to expect from the story, and the tone it may take. Alternatively, a title may set up a tone that the actual story subverts. It doesn’t always have to be something clever. It could just be the name of the protagonist or the name of a significant place. But a good title sticks in the mind and helps draw a reader to a story.

And I spend a long time agonizing over good title for my stories and posts. For me, it is easily the hardest part of the writing process. Earlier, I used to try and think up a title first, and then write the story. Now, I’ve taken to completing the story first, then coming up with an appropriate name. It’s tougher than it seems. And sometimes, I throw something together that’s vaguely relevant to the theme of the story, just so I can be done with it and move on to the next thing.

On rare occasions, such as with this post, the right title puts on its finest suit and walks through the door, ready to sit at the head of a written piece.

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In Brief

I’ll keep this short.

That’s usually what I say to myself when I sit down to compose a blog post. Something in the region of 300 to 400 words. Nothing more than that, unless I’m talking about a really major or personal topic. And yet, when I start typing, my fingers develop a mind of their own.

Paragraphs later, I find myself staring at a 900 word behemoth, looking not so much to lure in the reader as smother them with verbosity. There are certain topics, such as my fitness history, that were only meant to cover one or two posts, but turned into mini sagas. I just like including details when I tell a story. Small details. Unnecessary details. To me, they help set the scene, to build up the world.

It’s especially difficult to be economical with words when talking about my history. Perhaps because I haven’t discussed my past in so much detail before. I’m not much of a conversationalist, and when telling a story, I always feel like I’m droning and that the other person is fighting to stay interested (or feign interest, as the case may be). Writing seems like a better outlet for discussing my past because my readers don’t have to deal with my boring voice, so I can pile on the descriptions without any inhibition.

The end result weaves together a richly colored tapestry (I hope), but what should have been a wall hanging ends up a mural. Take this post, for example. I had wanted to write a 100 word post on brevity, and how it’s something I intend to practice in my future writings. Yet here I sit, almost 300 words in, refusing to give up the keyboard.

It’s probably best to wrap up now before things get too unwieldy, and focus instead on my next post.

I’ll keep it short.

Thursday Scribbles: Wrong Side Of The Law

Last week, I mentioned a detective story that I’d been working on and had indefinitely put aside. The post also included some character portraits of the story’s main good guys. Below are the remaining main characters, the not-so-nice guys (and gals):

Sketchbook-001

We start of with Dan Finnegan, better known as Nervous Dan. Dan’s a pawnbroker who fences illegal goods on the side, and is also an informant for both the police and some of the major crime bosses. There’s very little going on in the city that he doesn’t know about, but information can be a burden, and Dan’s spent a lot of time looking over his shoulder, waiting for a bullet or a knife to make its way through him. With eyes and ears everywhere, Dan might be able to shed some light on the D.A.’s murder, if he can just calm down for a second.

Genevieve is a lounge singer at the Four Leaves Club. She’s an enigma, but people are usually too mesmerized by her voice and her face to ask too many questions. Charming and soft-spoken, this songstress puts everyone around her at ease, often causing them to let their guard down and reveal their innermost secrets. The D.A. was known to visit the club on occasion, and it’s possible he was there for more than just the music.

Growing up in the slum known as the Boneyard as part of a large but fragmented family, Elizabeth Parker was dealt a bad hand by life. But she decided to change her luck and joined up with a local gang lord to run a small gambling den in her neighborhood. Over the years, Lucky Betty built up her own syndicate and took control of the Four Leaves Club. As the city’s gambling queen, she was one of the prime targets of the D.A.’s campaign. Could she have taken the biggest gamble of her life by snuffing him out?

Bernie ‘The Owl’ Kowalski is the most feared crime boss in the city, with a hand in almost every major criminal enterprise. He’s as vicious as he is cunning, and makes sure none of his activities can be connected to him. Since the arrival of the new D.A., his empire’s been slowly shrinking and he’s found himself on the brink of a gang war. But Bernie the Owl’s not giving up his power so easily. He’s got a plan that’ll knock out his rivals and leave no doubts about who’s in charge. Was having the D.A. killed part of the plan?

So there you have it. These are the 8 principal characters in my story who navigate the various twists and turns that lead to the mystery’s resolution. As I said, I may get back to that at some point. I’ve enjoyed bringing these guys out again the last couple of weeks, and this is the first time I’ve actually written out the character bios, so that was fun. Who knows, maybe I’ll have a burst of inspiration and have the story read by next week….that’s insanely optimistic, though.

But for now, I’m happy to have created a stage and cast of characters for a drama to play out. We’ll see when I get to open the curtain. Perhaps, until then, you can play detective yourself. Who do you think did it?

Thursday Scribbles: Gumshoe

About six months ago, I had an idea for a detective story. It was going to be a noir-inspired tale of a down-on-his-luck detective who gets pulled into a mystery by an alluring female acquaintance. Bullets, broads and bad guys would collide as our cynical hero tracked down the murderer of a prominent public figure.

I had planned to write it in 8 chapters, weaving an enigmatic but not overly-tangled web. However, trying to plot it out was a time-consuming process, and I wasn’t too thrilled with the first chapter that I cranked out. The story was also meant to launch my blog, so the longer it took to finish, the longer the blog would have to wait. So I shelved the idea indefinitely and decided to get the blog moving instead. That decision seems to have worked out well.

Here’s a little teaser I’d written up for the story:

Rick Braddock is a standard-issue private eye with all the standard issues. Drunk, cynical, surly and broke, he’s become redundant in a dirty city that’s starting to get cleaned up. So when old friend Karen Sloane comes knocking on his door to ask for help in tracking down her missing fiancé, he jumps on it right away.

Things get more complicated when District Attorney James Calloway, Karen’s fiancé and the city’s leading crusader of justice, is found dead in his office, shot by two bullets from two different guns. In a crooked town, a man like that makes a lot of enemies, but which one decided to take care of business once and for all?

To find the answer, the disheveled detective and the distressed damsel will have to wade through the seedy world of warring mobsters and political corruption. But the real threat might lie closer than Braddock realizes, and his good friend could turn out be his worst enemy.  

Reading that again, I realize that part of my problem was also that I couldn’t decide on the tone of the story. Did I want it to be fun, with an exaggerated noir vibe? Or a serious mystery? Hopefully, whenever I get back to working on it, I’ll have figured that out.

I had also planned a series of illustrations to accompany the story. There were character portraits to familiarize my readers with the main ‘cast’, and there would be a ‘cover’ image for each chapter in the story. Doing all that would, of course, only prolong the whole process further, so I just did the portraits and called it a day.

Below are the main good guys of the story (or as good as you can get in a shady, corrupt town):

Sketchbook

First up is Rick Braddock, private eye. An ex-cop without much regard for authority, Braddock became a private investigator to seek out justice on his own terms. Business was good for a while, but the arrival of a new and promising D.A. had caused the well of crime to dry up. Reduced to chasing philandering husbands, Braddock’s ready to call it quits when a knock on his door leads to his most dangerous case yet.

Karen Sloane is the police commissioner’s headstrong daughter and had been a close friend of Braddock’s during his time on the force, though her father never approved of their friendship. They drifted apart after Braddock quit, and she wound up dating the new D.A. The two of them became tabloid darlings, especially after their engagement. When Karen’s crusading fiance’s goes missing, there’s only one man she can turn to for help, but she’s not going to like what she finds.

Commissioner Tom Sloane has seen a lot of ugliness during his time on the force, from bloodthirsty mobsters to crooked politicians. He still believes in the law, however, and is as hard-nosed as they come. He’s extremely protective of his daughter and never cared for her friendship with Braddock, whose disregard for regulations rubbed him the wrong way. Sloane’s already got his hands full trying to solver the murder of the new D.A. and really doesn’t need Braddock nosing around.

District Attorney James Calloway is the city’s golden boy. He had promised to wipe out crime during his campaign and it’s a promise he ‘s delivered, sending the world of organized crime into chaos. He’s made a lot of enemies on both sides of the law as a result, but his crusade hasn’t stopped. Until the day he disappears from his office, only to end up there that same evening with two bullet holes in his chest.

Up next: The Villains!