Thursday, June 28, 2012

Why Didn't They...

Why didn't they just...

Sometimes when I'm watching a movie or reading fiction I wonder, why didn't she do...this...or that. For example, I was watching Hitchcock's "The Birds" one night this week and I wondered, why didn't the protagonists pack up the mother and the little girl and head to Mitch's place in San Francisco after the kids were attacked by the birds at the birthday party? Or at least after the mother found her neighbor killed by the birds?

I heard a comedian during a routine he was doing question why the characters in the Amityville Horror didn't just leave the house when weird things started happening.

Certainly, these sentiments are common to most of us. That's why the comedian used that material in his show.

Sometimes characters do the things they do because it's in their "nature" to behave as they do. Using "The Birds" again as an example, neither Mitch (who was a criminal lawyer) nor Melanie (who kept company with a "wild" crowd) were the type of people who ran from a fight. Each of them, as we learn during the picture, stood strong and faced challenges rather than running away from them. So, they stayed in Bodega Bay instead of seeking the safety of San Francisco.

I can live with the question "Why didn't they just..." if the answer is as clear cut as it is in "The Birds." I understand characters should behave according to who they are. I WANT them to be true to their nature, even if the actions they take seem ill advised. If they use poor judgement or make mistakes, it only makes them more human.

We readers or movie viewers are only cheated when writers of novels or screenplays "force" characters to do what it is not in their nature to do or when their actions are directed by the writers who are fulfilling an agenda for the story instead of letting characters be who they were created to be.

For example, the author of a book I read earlier this year "forced" two old sweethearts into a reunion leading to marriage without any attempt at resolving the titanic problems which had festered between them for nearly two decades. All of a sudden, each of them forgot the terrible pain they'd caused each other and just decided, hey, let's get married.

This book left me asking, why didn't she just..., but this time the "she" wasn't a character, it was the author. Why didn't she put the hero and heroine in a situation where they needed to rely on each other to make it through a crisis? It would then be logical and believable that they could somehow realize the old feelings they had for each other were even stronger than any of the problems they'd had in the past.

Life's complicated, writing fiction is complicated.

However, reading fiction should be pure pleasure and a complete escape from life's complications. Shouldn't it just?


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author
Fran's Web Page

Monday, June 18, 2012

People Don't Change

My mythology teacher in college always used to say, "There's nothing new under the sun."

What she meant was this: people are the same; life is the same; essentially, we never change. If she weren't right, we wouldn't be able to understand and identify with ancient writings.

Whether we're talking about Roman and Greek mythology, the Bible, or other ancient writings the people of today can identify with the people in myths and in other ancient writings like those of the Bible because we are the same in most ways.

We think, feel, love, hate, pray, get hungry, sleep, wish for a better life, take action to right wrongs, work at professions, love our children and make many of the same mistakes people have made for thousands of years.

In literature the same plots are used over and over again, but we never tire of reading them because we like certain types of stories.

Each mystery novel has a puzzle to be solved. Hints to the solution are peppered throughout the book, and in the end the solution is revealed.

Most good love stories feature a couple who is in conflict in the beginning, and, by the end, after overcoming tremendous obstacles, end up together--unless, of course, it's a Romeo and Juliet type of tragic love story. I guess they did end up together--just not alive and happy.

Soap opera types of dramas often feature secret babies, characters prone to get amnesia, and people thought to be dead turning up alive. Again, nothing new here. I doubt any drama has outdone the plot in the Oedipus Rex, written thousands of years ago by Sophocles. [A baby is left to die, he's rescued and raised by an adoptive parent (unknown to his birth family) and eventually ends up marrying his biological mother.]

Our technology changes; our homes aren't in caves anymore; we drive motorized vehicles instead of animal drawn ones. Yet in the hearts and souls of all of us, though each of us is unique, in many ways we're the same as the first people to live on the planet. We aspire to love and be loved, to be healthy and happy, to indulge in fulfilling work, to ease our own pain and suffering and that of others too.

And what is wrong with that?

Whatever you're reading, whether it was written this year or thousands of years ago, I hope it leaves you with a good feeling and lots of hope.


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author
Fran's Web Page

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Readers Benefit from Publishing Changes

The publishing industry is changing rapidly, and we readers are reaping the rewards of those changes.

Now more than ever readers have the chance to read terrific books publishers often rejected for one reason or another.

Publishers have limited space in their yearly publication catalog. They have often needed to reject quality books because there just wasn't enough space in their programs to publish them.

Enter Independent Publishing. With places like Kindle Direct Publishing, Barnes and Noble's Pub-it program and Smashwords, authors now have the ability to put quality books into readers' hands without having to jump through publisher hoops, hoping to have their books published. Authors benefit and so do readers.

Last week I read an article about a reporter who'd dreamed of writing fiction. After years of procrastination, he finally wrote his book. He spent a couple of years traveling the traditional publishing route submitting to publishers, using an agent, etc. He got nowhere. He heard lots of "you've written a nice book, but" yet no one wanted to publish his book.

Then he heard about Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing program. He published the book himself, and it wasn't long before his book started selling. Fortunately for him, his book really took off. Within months it had sold thousands of copies. Readers LOVED his story. If he hadn't made it available to them on his own, they'd have missed out on a terrific read.

This past week it was announced that Amazon has acquired long-time publisher Avalon Books, a traditional New York publisher. Three of my books have been published in hardcover by Avalon Books. My fellow Avalon authors and I are looking forward to working with Amazon as they make distribution of our books more easily accessible to readers.

I've read dozens and dozens of books published by Avalon Books. Believe me, readers should be prepared to be highly entertained when these quality books become available in the more affordable e-formats, audio books and paperbacks.

As I said, changes in the publishing industry have been great for readers, and I think things will only get better.


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author
Fran's Web Page

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Work We Do

Fiction writers are one of those kind of people who do what they do because it's in their blood. They can't NOT write. Whether or not they are ever published, they write.

I believe there are a good many professions where the people involved are doing what they do because it is a part of their heart and soul.

People in the medical profession, for example, the ones who work directly with patients, are laboring under conditions many of us would have a hard time dealing with. If their work wasn't a part of who they are, how could they stand the stress of it, the demands of it?

Over the years people have often said to me, how can you put together great stories the way you do? I could never do it.

I could ask a police officer, a soldier and a nurse a similar question. How can you put up with felons or enemy combatants or disgruntled patients? I could never do it.

Fortunately for all of us, God made us different. When we put our talents to good use we can create a pretty good environment in which to exist. Whether we're talking about the blessed farmers who produce the world's food, the courageous soldiers who protect our freedoms, the loving parents who tend to the needs of their children, the inventive entrepreneurs who provide us with wonderful material goods and services, or the much less significant contributors to society such as writers like me, we can all make life better for someone. Sometimes, we make life better for many someones.

Whatever work you do, dear reader, I thank you for the good contributions you make to your family, your religious affiliations, your neighborhood and your country.

God bless you.


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author
Fran's Web Page