How to See Through a Writer’s Eyes: Listen—?

Glasses_on_book_101

I’ve been working on a short book that has the working title “How to See Through a Writer’s Eyes.” Maybe it’s because I wear glasses and only see so far, but I’m going to suggest you get a taste of that book by listening to me read the introduction.

My intent in writing the book is to help people see that the world is built of stories—and that with a little guidance on where to find and use those sentence-building tools, you can be one of the builders. More on the book’s progress later.

[Not sure why, but it seems you have to click on the play button twice. Moses and the rock, I suppose …]

Only Writers Fill the Real Barrel of Fun

Whiskey Barrel

The monkeys were already in the barrel

One of the books I’m reading is titled To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion. The book is a compilation of drink recipes based on cocktails mentioned in Hemingway’s works, or those known to have soothed Ernest’s throat during any dry spells behind the typewriter. From reading the book, you wouldn’t think Papa ever had a dry spell that he didn’t counter with a drink. Or four.

There’s a long history of associating writers with the sauce: Fitzgerald with his gin, Faulkner with his whiskey, Hemingway with his Definitivo (which combined equal parts vodka, gin, tequila, rum and scotch, bolstered with tomato juice and lime, a kind of Long Island Bloody Mary in Hell). So maybe this is associating Hemingway with any full bar—which he seemed to take as a challenge.

Literary Lights Liquored Up
Some literary pundits suggest that the liquor lubed their writing, giving it a flow whose force would be absent without the sweet succor of spirits. Heckfire, I’ve even put together a short video that shows how whiskey can improve your writing.

But that bit of legerdemain logic is tripped up by the old “correlation is not causation” adage: those guys just liked to get pickled, plain and simple. It probably didn’t improve their writing, but it did make them learn fascinating words like “jigger,” “muddling,” and “crapulous.” But that’s not to say that writers shouldn’t seek solace in pleasant refreshment. [Note to my business-writing clients: I never combine copywriting with cocktails. At least not at the same time.]

So, in the spirit of experimentation, thirst, and the quest to be aligned with my literary idols, I decided, along with the fair Alice-who-lives-in-this-place-we-call-home, to make some barreled cocktails. Barreling cocktails is a bit of a craze now: you take the ingredients of a standard charming cocktail, such as an Old-Fashioned, Negroni or Manhattan and put them in an oak barrel for a month or two, to take on some of the mellowing characteristics—vanilla, maple, honey, tobacco—that contact with toasted oak often lends to spirits. A number of hipster bars now offer barreled cocktails, the little darlings.

I’ll Take Manhattan(s)
Being a man believing no Manhattan should be left companionless, Manhattans were the clear choice. Thus, two nights ago, we alchemized the following:

⁃ 1.5 liters Bulleit Rye
⁃ 250 milliliters Bulleit Bourbon
⁃ 500 milliliters Martini and Rossi sweet vermouth
⁃ 3 tablespoons bitters: approximately half of which were Peychaud’s (New Orleans), half Rossard’s (Chile), and a generous splash of Fee Brothers West Indian Orange bitters (New York?)

Rye was the original right arm of a Manhattan, but I tend toward bourbon as the main kicker. But we had the jug of rye and proceeded thusly. We added the bourbon to lure the rye to sleep comfy in the barrel. No fancy vermouth here, just a basic, since we are relying on the barrel to bring the orchestra to tune. As for the bitters, I always like combining two bitters in a Manhattan, and the orange in volume is a bit too floral for me, but it added a nice top note to the combination. I wanted to put the aromatic combined bitterness on my hair.

As for the barrel of fun, that’s a nice 3-liter job (medium char) from Tuthilltown Spirits, makers of fine firewater, including the dandy Hudson Baby Bourbon. I bought the barrel for Alice’s birthday, for her efforts with moonshine (fun!) and the attempt to make our own bourbon (disaster!). We’ll shake up some of this barreled hootch into a couple of chilled glasses in a month or so, and get back to you on the results.

Or if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and we can discuss what Hemingway really meant when he said: I drink to make other people more interesting.

Doors of Perception (or, I Bet They Have Good Margaritas In There)

Flowery gate 2

Confession: I have a bit of the voyeur in me. Not the sort where I’d climb up in a tree to look into a maiden’s window to see her pajamas, but the kind where I like to sit in a public place and observe (snoop on) people going about their peopleness. Endless variations there, and endless speculation from me on those variations.

There’s an adjunct to that, where the goings-on are even more mysterious (and thus the stimulus to know heightened), because they’re less visible: they’re behind closed doors. I’ve just returned from several weeks of house-sitting in San Miguel de Allende, and one of my fascinations, among many others in this vibrant, vivid city, was with the doors. So many of the entryways in San Miguel are beautiful, with rich colors, unusual ornamentations, cascading flowers. Many of the walls of the homes in this hilly city, with its narrow, winding cobblestone streets, are set right up against the street. You can’t see through, can’t peek into what is often a lovely courtyard, unless those doors are open.

Blue Lion door 2

Many of the commercial establishments (hotels, restaurants) in the city have their beautiful doors thrown open of course, so that you can indeed see those beautiful courtyards filled with unusual furniture and artworks or happy diners. But having walked up and down through many of the back streets on a daily basis, it was those closed doors that always had me wondering. What charms or perils lay behind?

Doors of Deception
Thoughts of doorways and what’s beyond kept percolating through my time in San Miguel. And because my thoughts often turn in a writerly way, I started to think of how characters and their development in a story are like doorways. (Hey, I’m not the only one that thinks this way. Or if I am, I still have good table manners.)

It can be a useful tactic in a novel to introduce characters who aren’t what they seem. Or who is only partially what he or she seems. Or who is so radically unlike the first descriptions the reader encounters (or how other characters in the book perceive him or her) that the story—and the reader’s emotional ties to it—turn in unforeseen directions.

To make it more concrete (or wooden, which was the case with many of the San Miguel doors), many SM doors are highly ornate, or fussily decorated, or on the verge of ostentatious. Characters in stories might have big shows of wealth or power, but later we see they are insecure, anxious wretches. Their doors have splinters, and big ones. Conversely, a worn, simple door could conceal lavish fittings within (or, to torque the metaphor, conceal a character’s deep soul).

Wall heraldry 2

I enjoy when a writer later opens up a door wider on a character, where the wrinkles of personality show in a clearer light, as long as the way the revelations come are organic to the story. Even an event or characteristic that is such a radical bit of information—the protagonist murdered his best friend when he was seven, the protagonist was raised by wolves—can be later absorbed and appreciated by the reader if the doors to that information are positioned properly, and opened in a way that works in the tale.

By the way, once in a while a San Miguel closed door that I’d passed many times would be opened and I’d get to exercise my voyeur’s moment. I was amazed one day to pass by a couple of doors, on the very steep, hilly alleyway in the residential neighborhood where we stayed, and see in one, opening just off the street a tiny shop packed with sundries, top to bottom, with a single, strangled aisle, so dark and filled with overhanging goods I could barely see the counter. Another, just a few doors down, stacked with big plastic bags of what looked like curled ropes of chicharones and others with something that may also have been a pork product. No proprietors in either.

You never know what’s behind a closed door. Until the author invites you fully in.

Doorway Sun 2

Breathing New Life Into Your Writing

SunriseWalk2
Sunrise, Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia

A while back, I lived on a tiny Micronesian island for a year. I taught various English department classes to students at the junior college, and for several reasons, my stay there was flavored with some sour stints of depression and anxiety. But I like to think about the things there that soothed me: the extraordinary beauty of the waters, the dazzling, resplendent corals and marine life under that water, the tropical breezes that lightened the blazing hammer of the days.

But one of the things I remember so clearly is a sound (maybe because they didn’t have any of Proust’s madeleines there with which to tag my aroma memory). That sound was the bright, high, rattling tinkle of waves breaking and receding over the bits and chunks of coral at the water’s edge. There was a broad coral reef surrounding the island, and there was coral rubble of all shapes and sizes at the shoreline. When the waves brushed over that coral, it was as though a master—and eccentric, maybe like Thelonious Monk—pianist or perhaps a vibrant vibes player finger-danced over coral keys.

It’s challenging to describe a sound, particularly one that because of the variable tempo of the waves and the configuration of the coral was forever changing, but there was something so pleasingly calming about it; the repetitive sweep of the waves and its tinkling chime was an aural massage. After some particularly crappy days at the school, just coming back to our house and sitting by the ocean listening to the jangling chime of the coral was enough to bathe my bile in a sonic balm.

No Coral Concert? Just Breathe Instead

I bring up those island days because I’ve lately had some biting bouts with anxiety and depression again. Just the usual mishmash of feeling unaccomplished, that my writing work—both business and personal—was going poorly, that though it was sunny spring, there was a chill inside. And there aren’t any coral-chipped beaches for a few thousand miles from my Central California home.

I can conjure many reasons not to write: worrying that a button was missing off my shirt, wondering if that girl from high school really didn’t like me or just slashed my tires to get my attention, thinking I would work on my novel if there weren’t a section of the tax code online I should study for an hour or two—the list knows no end. No writers need to add “I feel like a deflated tire” to the long list of inanities that prevent them from applying the magic formula: put the time in, and the words will come.

So, for the past couple of weeks, I’ve started the morning with a simple meditation. I’m not going to get militantly woo-woo on you and tell you you have to do 1,000 Sun Salutes, an hour of chanting and then stare at the sun until God speaks, and that then your writing will flow like the mighty river. What I’m doing is simple: a 15-minute meditation that has been working for me like the sweet sound of waves on coral: a lightly stirred serving of now, and now again. This particular meditation is a guided one, though you certainly don’t need an iPad to sit and breathe. This guidance is served up by a modulated woman’s voice offering some thoughts on focusing on the present moment, then offering silence, then focusing on the ebb and flow of the breath, then silence, and on.

And it’s helping.

Breathing Through the Ping-Pongings of Your Infernal Mind

The meditation suggests that you look with kindness on the ping-pongings of your infernal mind, that mad monkey that goes from, “Are we low on milk” to “if the asteroid hits and destroys the earth in a week, I won’t have to make the payment on the flat screen tv.” Beginning my morning with a simple meditation, and reminding myself that any time throughout the day, I can return to a minute or two of acknowledging the rolling ride of my breath (rather than watch another YouTube video) has been liberating in some ways.

I bookend the meditation with some quick thoughts on things I’m grateful for. And these don’t have to be any complex or grandiose or self-aggrandizing things, like being grateful for the Apple stock split. No, it’s more like the “I’m grateful for the sound of waves on coral.” Ahhhhh …

My feeling about my writing has been better—it’s breathing some new life. And I’m doing a little more of it. I wish I’d found out earlier that writing is actually a breathing exercise.

A Little Bit Extra

I wrote a piece on getting a gun at a young age, and how that troubling time has stayed with me all my days: Taking Flight from the Trigger, published on Medium. Recommend it with that bottom button if you’re of a mind to.

And a Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there!

Caution: This Fiction Contains Pulp

'Gun Smoke Red' photo © 2010, Charles Knowles - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

My last post was about how writing prompts can spread some salsa on your keyboard to get your writing moving. In checking out some of the writing prompt sites, I found this prompt contest, which supplies 10 pages of writing prompts on varying subjects.

I chose one in the Action category, because the prompts made me think about writing a story beginning in a pulp-fiction like style. First prize wins $500, but hurry—contest ends at 11:59 CST Dec. 22. (You only need to write the beginning of a story, at least 500 words.) Below is my effort, which leans heavily on alliterative wordplay. It begins in media res.

Love at First Shot

I’d coated my fright about being caught for the crime—one I didn’t commit—with four bourbons, neat, but the pleasant hum in my head wouldn’t last: there was a knock at the door, and a knock in my knees.

It was Lucy Ligature. Former vamp turned viper—editorially speaking, that is. My colleague, my critic, my counterpart chaser of riveted readers. The editor of the Hearsay Herald, a rival rag run by Lucy, the delicious dish with the tire-squealing curves. Though now she only revved her engines for on-paper scandal scooping. This rendezvous called for the saucy sangfroid only a true cad could corral.

“Uh, well, Ms. Ligature, Lucy my dear. An unexpected pleasure. And I thought our boy Cal only spilled his soul for the pages of Hush-Hush. And now he’s spilled so much more. Shot in the tabloids—or by them, you might say. And now the cops are sure to think the shooter is me. But what’s this I hear about me being next in line for some lead?”

She slowly shaped her ripe-cherry lips into a smile that played leapfrog with a sneer. “Danny boy. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea.” Since she was punctuating these pleasantries by waving a stainless-steel Smith and Wesson, my idea fountain at the time was distinctly dry.

“I’m afraid that any article about this incident is going to have to center on the sealed secret of the smoking gun, trite as that might be,” she said, with a smirk that crossed a gargoyle with a goddess. “I do fear you’ll accuse me of lacking imagination, but, silly as it may sound, it was an accident. An accident that’s never going to have my name attached to it.”

She slid her limber legginess onto what was left of a leather loveseat and let out a sibilant sigh. It was then that I notice the weathered wisp of paper in her other hand’s gunless grasp. She glanced at the lifeless lug, whose innards were swiftly becoming outtards on his reddened rug. “Cool Cat seems to have misplaced his meow,” she said. She settled a steely stare on me and said, “The ninth life is always the nastiest one, I’ve heard.”

“Look Lucy,” I said, “Cal’s never been a choirboy, and there’s many a man who’d like nothing better than to see him skewered. But what’s he ever done to you, besides only offering the Herald his leftovers, rather than any major meat?” I was trying to play it cool, but I was shiftily sliding back, hoping to get my hind to the hinterlands in a doorward dash.

Lucy languidly lounged on the loveseat, and gave me a lissome look. “Hey, I’m going to tell it to you straight, Daniel, if you have ears to hear. The main means of getting secrets is being able to keep them, and I’ve kept more than a couple out of your readers’ sour saliva. One is that I’m engaged to be married in two days. The other is that I stand to inherit two million dollars, but only on the condition that I marry before I turn 50.”

She stirred on the loveseat and waggled that winking weapon. “The last secret, and the one that’s going to be covered up as cleanly as Calhoun’s coffin, is that I’ll be 50 the day after my wedding.” She brandished the birth certificate and laughed. “You see, you pathetic peddler of fishrot, my fickle fiancé thinks I’m barely thirty-five! Cal was blackmailing me, being the only one who knew my real age, and with a copy of my birth certificate to prove it!”

She slapped the gun on the loveseat and my heart did a triple-flip. “Cool Kitty had no pity,” she said. “He knew that my fiancé would skip out as fast as those facts got out. So I came here to cop the cop’s certificate, and he showed up while I was rifling through his house. It’s probably the only wrestling match with a woman he’s ever lost. I didn’t mean to shoot him.”

I was flat-out flabbergasted. For a woman of a certain age, she was sensational—she’d always zinged my heartstrings. I’ve never considered quicker or scampered swifter in my love-lacking life. “Lucy, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” I said. I called my office on my digital phone, telling them that charming Cal had never opened his door to me. We did a swift scrub of Lucy’s paw prints and mine, and then made a beeline for the beach, where a shiny firearm was flung into the maw of mother ocean.

I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to manage to write a story that plucked me from the heart of the crime without implicating the honey that was making my heart melt (or yours tangentially truly), but hey, I’m good at improvising. And Lucy knew how to tango, so a twosome we shall be. As the old saying goes, keep your friends close but your enemies closer.

Action suggestions.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and no dangling participles to all!

Paranoid Bell Peppers and Other Writing Prompts

'July Collage 3' photo © 2010, Julie Jordan Scott - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
 
Writing prompts are small sparklers that can light up corners of your writing mind, corners that might remain dark without the nudge.

Prompts can be so completely off the wall—”Describe how your intestines would try to parallel-park a minivan”—that your conventional approach to storytelling is struck dumb—a new tongue can be induced to speak.

Writing in other voices, other colors and other textures is a way to unleash your imagination’s beast. Roar!

There are a number of sites on the Net that supply good writing prompts. If a character in one of your stories goes mute, or a plot point doesn’t seem to have a point, they can be a good way to get your writing threads unglued. Writing for five minutes on some fizzy subject could loosen whatever is reining you in on your bigger project.

Here are some sites:

StoryWonk
Creative Writing Prompts
Writer’s Digest Prompts
Creative Writing Solutions
One Minute Writer
Sunday Scribblings
On Twitter: @writingprompts

And for fun, here are a couple of my pieces I just zipped off, a few minutes per. One was to put myself in the mind of a vegetable (not too hard in my case) and another in the mind of a metal. Both of them appear to have some self-esteem problems.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

“Uhh, something’s not right,” the bell pepper said aloud. I feel something damp right at my feet, she thought. No, not quite damp, no, more like mossy, yes mossy.

She strained to see her tiny feet, but being a bell pepper, could do nothing more than glimpse a bit of the soft green swell of her belly. It’s itchy too, she thought.

Then with an abrupt tightening of her shoulders (which being a bell pepper, didn’t tighten all that much), she realized it: she was moldy! Moldy, her, and not even two weeks old. She stifled a sob, and then groaned. She sensed the nearby celery shrinking back from her.

Iron’s Bluff Is Called

Nothing’s nobler than Iron, Iron Eddy thought. All those other pretenders, magnesium, sulphur, silicate—hah! Losers, pathetic wannabes. I alone am iron-hearted, iron willed. He looked quickly around and then said under his breath, “But I’ve been hearing some rumors, ugly rumors. It got back to me that my mother wasn’t pure!” He bestirred his tight neck and raised his voice: “Nonsense! Just look at me, red-blooded in every way!” But he cast his eyes down, to the ore of his soul, and murmured, “But what about those striations of blue. Surely no one can see their vile shadows …”

Get Prompted, Get Productive

I know I know, works of genius, aren’t they? But fun! Check out those prompt sites and fling some sentences into the universe. They might orbit around in your head long enough to spur you on write something with more gravity.

Feeling a Word’s Curves—Oh, the Ecstasy!

Dictionary page
Writers can have a volatile relationship with words, often loving the little darlings when they line up in convivial cooperation. Sometimes words supply delight even when sentence forms are abused to torque a subject or vandalize a verb. “Words, yes, friends all!” the hoodwinked writer declares. Until the words land on the page with an audible clunk, or when an apt phrase or exact expression can’t be found no matter how deep the writer shovels into her soul. “Words, damn them, unreliable curs!”

I feel my own little death when I can’t summon the rhythmic bits of language that brick out a character or spin a scene, no matter fiction or fact. But here, I want to talk about appreciating a certain sense of words as objects, a savoring of the spice from a word stew.

In this case, I’m not talking about meanings; I’m referring to loving the feel of a word, its texture, whether it’s silky or scratchy, the odd combo of visual/visceral sensation you might get in your head from processing the very spelling of a word. You know, when looking a words gives you this kind of sensation. That kind of word sensitivity started young in me too—maybe it was all those ice-cream brain freezes that cooled my cranium.

The Weight of Words

Anyway, I had an early awareness of the weight of words, and some I gravitated to some more so than others. For instance, words with “x” in them, like bollix or flummoxed. Do those give you the little frisson I’m alluding to? And how certain words feel just right in their denotation: queasy has that little lurch or drop in its letter construction—in its stomach—that is carried through in its definition. Or a word like morbid: it has a deliciously dark feel.

I’ve heard it said by some comedians that some words, by their letters alone, are funny. Words that start with “k” or the k sound, for instance. Probably why I like the sound of the word crapulous—or maybe it just harkens to my Coca Cola-crapulous days behind the gargantuan brandy snifter in which I housed and hogged down all that carbonated sugar water as a child.

Digging Through Your Dictionaries

I wrote an essay a long while back for a magazine called Verbatim, about the crazy collection of dictionaries I had, and how fun it is to just flip through them and look for words that have a furry feeling, or a sinister sparkle, or a wry rictus. It’s a challenge to look through any dictionary page and not see some words that make you squint or grimace or grin.

Like your words ‘lectronic? There are bunches of word sites, but here are a couple of fun ones: Wordnik and Wordoid. Wordnik has a nice interactive aspect where you can upload your own usage notes, comments and citations to their word examples. Wordoid lets you play with made-up words. But don’t let your mother catch you.

Word: The Cat’s Meow

Let’s extend the word-delirium extend that a bit: the Shelf Awareness daily compendium of bookish (but never boorish) news revealed this statement from author Rick Riordan a while back about something he learned in his Egypt-themed novel research:

I did quite a bit of research, and had shelves of books on hieroglyphs and how magic pertained. The ancient Egyptians considered all writing magic. They had to be careful: if they created the word “cat,” they had to deface it slightly, because they believed they could create a cat. The idea was that the ultimate form of magic was to speak and the world began. You see that influence in the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word.” All these ancient cultures dovetail, and they were all forming and evolving at the same time.

Behold the power of words! (Note: I spent all day writing variants of “Jaguar” yesterday, but no car appeared. I did see an old cat move haltingly through the yard, however…)

So, feel the curve of your words, know which ones excite and enchant, which are sturdy soldiers, and which weak-kneed wastrels. You’ll never be able to truly tame them, but sometimes just getting them to play nice with one another is a mountain topped.

How a Harvest of Juicy Plums Is
Like a Dormant Short Story

And they were even better than they look

 Yeah, and they tasted even better than they looked

There is something about beginnings and endings that makes me pull out my wise sage hat. Nope, I’m not going to (at least immediately) discuss how to begin and end a story, because sages ever so much wiser than me have blithered on that more persuasively than I ever will. (By the way, I’ve always found “Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure,” from Camus’ The Stranger a beginning that ropes me in.)

No, what spurred these Alpha and Omega stirrings are those plump purple fruits showing off their still-life stylings in the bowl above; those are the last plums from a bumper crop off our old plum tree. I’ve written about this tree before: it looks like a craggy ancient, the gnarled whippy branches and scarred trunk. What’s amazing to me is that this year’s fruit was so fat and full, when that trunk in question is pretty much bass-thumping hollow. Actually, what truly amazes me is that the tree is still alive, much less producing.

And more amazement yet: last year’s harvest was greatly less than the past’s, fruit more scattered, though still good. But it seemed a telling sign that the twisted tree didn’t have much fire left. I thought that it was clear that my old pal was whispering from its deathbed, that this would be the season it transformed to a once-tree, a thing whose fruits were cherished in memory, not in mouth.

No. No, with gusto.

Undying Tree Is a Story Seed

Here’s the part where I get all writerly and such: I’ve been mulling over writing a certain short story for a couple of years. The premise is dark and fascinating, but I just didn’t have a way in. I couldn’t “hear” the point-of-view the story should be told from, didn’t have an footing for an opening. So, I figured that was a fertile idea that had withered and died.

But then, Zeus or Buddha or Hunter Thompson decided to throw a random bolt at me. A couple of days ago, the idea for the story rose up again, and I quickly sketched out an opening setting for the story, the main point-of-view character, and some plot points. Why now, after mulling and dropping it for two years? Why?

Well, it’s like the plums. I’m just going to take it as an act of grace. I have no idea what that tree will do next year—maybe it will have avocados. But I’m grateful for the harvest, of both those juicy plums and the juicy frame of that story.

Now I just have to write. Stories just don’t blossom without words.

Mark Twain’s 10-Sentence Course on Branding and Marketing

Tom's Twain Tattoo

Yeah it’s real, and it’s on my bicep. Lucky that cigar isn’t lit.

I’ve discovered the secret of good writing: write about a famous writer, and use his actual words to build all the basic layers—and the frosting—of the essay cake. I don’t even have to attempt to be lamely clever if I can steal the cleverness of others.

There’s a reason why this guy’s face is tattooed on my arm.

Thus, my post at Marketing Profs today: Mark Twain’s 10-Sentence Course on Branding and Marketing.

Lost Dogs, Lost Dads and the Unhesitating Heart

haggis

There’s Something About Harry

Before I had heard that this dog had been lost, before I’d heard that his owner was lost without him, I felt a pang myself. That’s the power of an image—or more accurately, the power of an emotion. My sister had sent me this photo, telling me that it was a picture of Harry, her friend’s dog that had gone missing that morning. But I didn’t even get to that point in Harry’s sad story before I felt my own loss.

What looking at the picture did was take me immediately to a memory, one I hadn’t thought of in years, of a German Shepherd that my family had brought home from the pound when I was eight or nine. I think my brother and I were supposed to share responsibility for the dog, but I do remember that I was in the lead in begging to have a dog. Our dog, Champ, was a beautiful shepherd like Harry, and he was friendly and fun, but he had a “flaw”: he could easily jump over the five-foot fence that bound our yard, and he did it regularly. We had to hunt him down, all in a frenzy, over and over.

I don’t recall how deep the discussion and if many other solutions were offered, but my dad decided, perhaps only after a month or so, to return Champ to the pound. I was crushed. I remember driving to the pound with the dog in the back of the station wagon, hating my dad at the wheel, my face burning. It’s strange to still have the salt active in a wound from so long ago, and stranger still the mix of emotions, because it makes me miss my dad, who died a couple of years back.

Emotions Jump Without a Net

But this post isn’t exactly about dogs, nor about losses, as an adult or a child. More so that some emotional grounds, though they might be covered, are never actually buried. People’s emotions can jump from their bodies without any chance for their cerebral side to intervene. And that’s where we as writers, whether of business or essay or tale, should open a gate. Not as manipulators of emotion, but encouragers of it. Post the pictures in readers’ minds of lost dogs, stern parents, the gleam of future dreams.

No matter if you are writing about email marketing programs or the electricity of your first kiss, try to open the gate so the emotion comes through. (Now you might grant me the kiss part, but email marketing? Believe it, there’s a charge and a current in everything—you just have to plug it in.) So yes, the Internet has changed the game—at least on this side of the digital divide—but before the first packet, before the first link, before the first tweet, there was the human heart. It leaps.

Oh, by the way: Harry? Harry made it home. Good dog!

Flesh and Blood Are We

I had a post at Firepole Marketing a short while back that runs its fingers through a few of the things discussed here. Check it out: Flesh and Blood, Meet Flesh and Blood.