LEITER WRITING TIPS #23–I HATE THE RUSSIAN MOB

[Suggestions, observations, and advice, writing as Ben Leiter]

A thank-you note to Dennis Lehane for his book Moonlight Mile.

Mr. Lehane, please excuse my previous ignorance of the quality of your work. The dialogue and plot were as rich as Gone Girl. Of course, I fell in love with your protagonist which you had already planned for every reader to do.

I think I know how you did it: the protagonist is flawed; he is constantly in trouble; he tries to do right by his wife, and he is wicked in love with his little daughter.

So, after I bonded with your hero, and then the Boston Russian mob threatened his family — you had my undivided attention. Great plot twists and turns.

A thriller, through and through.

Maybe my contempt for the Russian mob and other mobs stems from my previous career?

 

LEITER WRITING TIPS #30–AMY TAN

[Suggestions, observations, and advice, writing as Ben Leiter]

I’ve always liked Amy Tan ever since I stumbled on her Joy Luck Club years ago.
Amy said, about her writing, “In real life, I had hundreds of moments of self-doubt. I deleted hundreds of pages from my computer’s memory.”
“As a beginning writer, I was still trying to figure out what qualified as a proper short story versus a prose poem, an anecdote, a character piece, a novella. I actually thought there were agreed-upon answers to questions like these: What is voice? What is story? How should characters develop?”
“ . . . the prose I like is such that everything is there for a reason — every word, every image, every bit of dialogue is needed . . . ”
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“FIRE THE STAFF”

[An excerpt from my memoir “CITY MANAGEMENT SNAPSHOTS: ON THE RUN” by Ben Leiter — pen name — available at Amazon/kindle]

One day in the medium-sized western city, I received a visit from the new mayor. He wanted to chat. According to the mayor, we had staff who “weren’t with the program.”

He said he knew I hadn’t hired them; but, the longer they stayed, the more I would be identified with them.

Curious, I asked, “Who is the problem, Mayor?”

He urged me to find a way to get rid of the police chief, the city clerk, the city attorney, the city planner, and the city engineer.

Ironically, these were the best performers in the organization. They did their jobs well and exhibited a professional sense of public service.

I was totally furious and calm at the same time. I had NEVER before been confronted with such a wrongful, outrageous suggestion from an elected official.

Considering the circumstances and my feelings at the moment, I gave one of the most diplomatic responses of my professional life. I asked him why he felt that way and then further responded by saying, “Uh-huh,” and “I see.”

That was the end of that conversation. No heads rolled on my watch in that city.

Of course, he easily figured out that he could best remove the targeted staff by removing me, and so he started working on that human resources strategy.

I was impressed that, mentally, I had spent no time weighing what to do. There was no hesitation regarding his silly demands. The mayor’s neighbor described him as, “Waking up in the morning, and it’s a different world every day.”

Initially, I didn’t understand what that meant. However, continued inconsistent interactions on his part made it clear.

Maybe I had the right stuff after all?

Years later, a successor to my City Manager job in that same city resigned with a settlement in excess of seven hundred thousand dollars.

THE WRITING CHALLENGE

There is an open, never-ending challenge to writing. But, I think you are best advised to keep your day job.

 One of the best books on writing is Stephen King’s book — ON WRITING. He presents practical, clear-eyed, harsh advice in his usual inimitable style. Delightful read.

Kurt Vonnegut said something to the effect that if you really really want to upset your parents, then tell them you want to go into the arts.

Ex-priest critique of my book

 

This is a critique of my political-religious thriller, BETRAYAL OF FATHER GARZA, by an ex-priest and a person I know and respect. His perspective:

Subject: pure fiction

The whole thesis of your “betrayal” is that if the more than 400
“Christian” denominations “discovered” the teachings of Jesus Christ they
would all unite as one church. I regard this thesis as an incredible
dream. Why? The major denominations all have two things in common
and neither of the two things is Christian. First, they all are willing
and, sometimes, eager to get money. They use lots of excuses for the
use of the money– a bigger church, a TV network, professional musicians
for their “worship romp and stomp”, publications that show
support for certain political strains, executive salaries for their leaders,
etc. The multiplicity of denominations means that many more
buildings and leaders. To get all this money they have to “adjust”
their message to suit the wants of the rich.

The second factor is the quest for power. You hit the nail on the head
when you singled out Constantine as the guy who wrecked the Christian message. Ever since that day the leadership of the Catholic Church has
stood hand in hand with the political leaders. For several centuries
the Church was the political leader. It is no accident that whenever a
preacher said something the king or duke or local bishop didn’t like
there was heresy trial. After Luther the leaders of the “split offs”
copied the success story of the Catholics. They had to justify a lot of
unsavory practices that the political leaders wanted. So they
“evangelized” the Indians in South America (Catholic), they
internationalized banking (Catholic, Calvinists), they sanctioned
slavery of any people of color and any people who were debtors. The list
of grievances goes on and on. The point is that if these similarities
in their human rights violations did not bring them together, a call to
live Christ’s message would not. St. Francis of Assisi preached the
message. So did Vincent DePaul. Each was responsible for a movement
within the Catholic Church that was outstandingly good, but it never
took over. The current Pope, Francis, tries to deal with the dichotomy
in the Catholic Church and he is admired for it. But most of the rank
and file won’t change.

For your next book have a fictional leader of a truly good movement and
the fate he or she faces because of stepping on sensitive toes. Take
some simple things like a priest pastor who tries to remove the statues
from his church. And then the Pastor prohibits worship of Mary (no May
festival, no rosary).

CHECK OUT LIBBY; new at the party

Feel like I’m always late to the party; or don’t get invited; or don’t care: I’m talking about technology. But this time, I knew something about tech that my daughter didn’t.

LIBBY.

Available as an app through the Stockton public library. If you have a library card, you can borrow audio books for free for up to 21 days; no fines or late fees. It just electronically disappears.

What’s good—the free audio books go to your hard drive on your iPhone (I now have an iPhone, having turned in my 10 yo flip phone), or computer, or Ipad. No need to use those internet “minutes” or stay connected.

Right now, I have on my audio LIBBY bookshelf:
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry ( by Neil DeGrasse Tyson)
A Man Called Ove (by Fredrik Backman–I thought it would be by a guy named “Ove”?)
The Late Show ( by Michael Connelly)

What also works well for me, is they have 5-minute audio samples– lets me listen to various literary styles/techniques/tones to keep the boys in the basement sharp (that’s a literary reference to the “writing subconscious”).

Tyson let me down though, last night. I was using him to put me to sleep at 3 a.m. Instead, my head filled up with photons, and electrons, and leptons which interfered with my neurons.

Write On!

Critique Groups

I second H’s motion.
The harsh, unremitting, blistering, flaying, take-no-prisoners, in-your-face, critiques of my work–sensitively, kindly, and thoughtfully delivered have been invaluable to me. [Sunglasses]
We also need to meet to remind ourselves that we’re not crazy–we’re writers!

writing as Ben Leiter

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I hope no one gets distressed by the occasional cancellation. Summer can be difficult. This group is too effective not to thrive. It has been enormously helpful in my writing. I will have a new manuscript in progress next week and will look forward to a great critique.

H

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On Jul 31, 2018,  Ben Leiter wrote:

Hi folks,
Based on response, I am canceling the meeting for tonite.
Only had 1 fer-sure; and two maybes.
We’ll try for next week.

Write On!

SCREENWRITING–advice to a cousin

E-mail response to a request:

Hey, cousin, here’s a response to your question about screenwriting technique-books, courtesy of Harlan Hague. Harlan is an award-winning writer of westerns. I’ve read his stuff and like it, especially IF I SHOULD DIE.

I have SAVE THE CAT. It is considered a classic. Easy to read for you, but unfortunately, the only cartoon is on the cover. [Stuck out tongue winking eye]

My suggestions:
*Go to Amazon and buy all three books used. The cost of the book can be less than the postage.
*Start watching/listening to you-tube videos on screenwriting while you are doing your daily pumping-iron routines.
*Google.
*Get Neil Simon screenplays from the library.
*Check out to see if you can get LIBBY. It’s a free audiobook download (bestsellers, etc.) available through some libraries if you have a library card. Once downloaded, you do not need the internet to listen. You have the audiobook for a set time and it automatically expires. No fines.
*Since you are Irish and may have screenwriting interests, it is a mandatory requirement that you master ULYSSES by James Joyce and memorize the first 100 lines. There will be a test. A representative from the Irish Republic will schedule you when you are ready.

Actually, I think you might do well. Screenplays, in my opinion, are more action and dialogue-oriented/dependent than my stuff which explores the nature of man and the cosmos. Lots of exploring–no answers. Also, I think your stuff would sell.
[Thanks for the followup on the books, Harlan. I would like to borrow the books and look through them. I already have SAVE THE CAT.]

Write On!

 

Recommended screenwriting books from Harlan Hague:

Here are some standards on screenwriting basics:

Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder
Screenwriting, by Richard Walter
Screenplay, by Syd Field

 

FLY ON THE WALL IN HELSINKI

  FLY ON THE WALL IN HELSINKI 

“Mr. President, The-Donald! Welcome to Mother Russia. Excuse me …Finland. Not Russia, yet.

“Vladimir, my man. Good to see you again. Just call me ‘Donald.’”

“‘Just-Donald?’ No, not as good name as ‘The-Donald,’ like they call you back in America. I give everyone nickname, like your George W. do. Dubya, his name. Sit down. Sit down.” 

“Sure.”

“Thank you for meeting privately, The-Donald. No press. No interpreters. No pesky staff who always interfere. We don’t need no stinkin’ staff. We know what we want, right?”

“Yes, sir, we do. I want a deal.”

“Da. Da. We need deal. I know you are expert in these matters. I read your book. Well, my people read your book, Fire and Fury.

“What?”

“Hmm? Oh, no, no. I meant Put Art in the Deal. I would suggest rename it Putin’ Art in the Deal.”

“Sir, I think you mean The Art of the Deal.”

“Yes! Yes. That. You are great writer.”

“Thank you. I wrote every word myself. I am a master writer.”

“Well, I propose deal for you, but I know you will have huger hand.”

“‘Huger hand’? Oh, ‘upper hand.’ Well, sir, not with you. I have too much respect for you to take advantage. So impressed with what you have done with your fabulous country. Folks don’t mess with you. No special prosecutors, no nosy press. I should follow your example and annex Western Canada—you know, the White parts. Probably need to include Quebec. Cool city and Melania loves French. I like the Canadians, so polite, so friendly like my supporters in the middle of my country. Canadians—no trouble; of course, they’d have to give up their health care.”

“The-Donald, since we talk real estate, I mean to ask what would you take for Alaska? We sold it to you for $7.2 million in 1867. You had very good return on that investment. We think now is time to reclaim our property . . . for the right price, of course.”

“$7.2 million? That much? Is that the deal they called Seward’s Folly?”

“Yes, you understand real estate. Think of Mother Russia as the original owner of Alaska, the landlord, and we allow you sublet for 151 years. Maybe like your Monopoly game. You trade Alaska, I give you exclusive franchise for all new six star hotels in entire territory of Soviet Union.”

“Hmmm. How would that work? Well, I mean you are Russia now, much smaller than the former USSR.”

“The-Donald, no matter. Wait. New borders are coming. Soon . . . trust me.”

“Oh, I do. Our President Reagan agreed. ‘Trust, but verify,’ he said. I already trust you. No need to worry about “verify” details. That’s for staff. Did you know I have the best staff in the history of the United States? Maybe the world?”

“Nooo, The-Donald. I did not know this. I am not surprised. Your moves—so bold, shutting down that money-draining NATO and creating tariffs. Giving tax breaks to the rich so that they create more jobs. The proletariat cannot create jobs. And, bringing back cheap coal and all those high paying jobs underground. Brilliant.”

“Vlad, we should talk. I don’t like Alaska. Cold weather, no place for golf courses, can’t work on my tan. But I need a package deal.”

“Package? What in package?”

“You know. The tape from my little Moscow escapades. There’s only one copy, right? You promised.”

“Of course, only one tape. I have back in desk drawer in my KGB—I mean—Moscow office. We can do deal.”

“Great, Vlad. If you ever think about retiring, I can fix you up with great property management jobs.”

“You are too good to me, The-Donald. But, first I must count my fingers, after shaking your hand. You are so deal-maker.”

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