Sometimes The Story Is Better Than the History

In literature we sometimes can’t tell the truth from a myth. The truth is that the story is often better than the history.

The Deluge



A good example is the deluge that covered the earth in ancient times. Such a story is found in in the literature of many ancient countries. Notably is the story of the flood in Genesis of the New Testament where Noah is told to build an ark to save his family and all the animals of the world.

It’s pretty obvious that such floods occurred, at least locally, or perhaps in the limited world of the individual. Such stories are great to read, and from what I understand of ancient literature, the story was much more important than the actual history. If God was not there in the original story, the ancient writers would certainly put him there, perhaps several gods as needed.

The Story Is the Thing

Folks love fiction because they love a story. They know that the story probably is not based on fact, although occasionally it is, but they don’t care. They want to be entertained, feel love, feel terror, feel adventure and to feel the world of the unknown such as in science fiction.


When I was writing novels, I did research. I read the history and the stories of the past. This was the background for my novel. The reason I don’t write novels anymore is that I’m 83 years old and my brain tends to get history’s confused and I might place events of the 19th century in the 18th century and such. Most readers pick up such blunders and they might tell me about it.

What Makes a Good Story

Cowpoke on BullA good story has great characters, characters that are bigger than life. Stereotype characters are not desired. The story wants a character who is different even if derived from the stereotype.

A good story has a great events. Living these events makes the characters in the story more exciting. Folks like action in most cases, so action is important.

A good story has a great plot, not the ho-hum stuff. There are only so many story plots. It’s the details in fiction that brighten up the plots and makes you think that it is new.

And it is the details in your story that keep people reading. They want to know your characters from inside and out, especially the protagonist and the antagonist. (The protagonist is the hero of your story and they antagonist is the bad guy.)

Each scene in your story builds the plot and advances the story. So you want your scenes to be vibrant and memorable. In my mind, I still see many of the scenes from my past novels. In a way, they are my history. Scenes which include Place, need to be authentic if real. (I read on of Zane Gray’s novel and I read his description of a view from the Mogollon Rim in Arizona. I told my wife it was not right but we drove upon the Rim and took a look to make sure. His description was right on.)

Mogollon Rim

Mogollon Rim

Also when I write a novel, the characters in the novel come forth and try to take over the novel. That means that lots of extraneous stuff can get into your story, stuff that distracts from rather than build your story. One character in one of my stories (Bull, A Western Saga) was so blasted persistent, that I had to write him a novel of his own (Revenge on the Mogollon Rim, A Peter Ott Western). The characters in my novels are part of my history and I know them well.

Bill Cosby

What did Bill Cosby do with the Noah Story? Went something like this:

God: Noah! Build an Ark!

Noah: Great, Lord! What’s an ark?

God: Make it of Gopher Wood and 180 cubits long!

Noah: Great, Lord! What’s a cubit?

This almost makes me want to write another novel. However, I must resist. In my old age, I’m sticking to the short stuff.


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Writing Tip of the Week: The Writer’s Market

Painting by Author

Painting by Author

The Writer’s Market

Where does a writer sell her or his stuff? That is what I’m referring to when I say, “the market,” in this article. I am not specifically aiming at the target of a particular article, however that does play a role.

Most writers use a book called Writer’s Market. The addition you want now is Writer’s Market 2015. You’ll find many publishers listed there along with literary agents. Be careful when you selected literary agent. This sum are just organizations set up to scam you.

Denali: Painting by author.

Denali: Painting by author.

When you are starting out as an article writer, you might look at smaller publications that can not pay you as much as the larger ones but who can give you a reputation as a writer. In fact a good editor will show you how to improve your writing. Your chances of getting published will increase in smaller markets, especially if you have some special expertise for which editors are looking.

Painting by author.

Painting by author.

There are some pretty good books on how to find a literary agent. If the agent asked for pavements from you, it is usually a good idea to run.


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Writing Tip of the Week: Novel Writing Software

Novel WriterNovel Writing Software

Over the years I have used novel writing software. Here is what it can do for you:

1. Find names to use in your novel.

2. Help you define characters for your novel.

3. Help you to develop places and things and time frame.

4. Help you define your plot.

5. Help you setup chapters.

Some programs are more expensive than others. All are of some value.


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Last Chance to Save $165 on Wealthy Affiliate

Kyle and Carson extended the Black Friday Sale on the annual membership in Wealthy Affiliate until midnight today (December 4, 2014). That is midnight Pacific Standard. Rather than paying $47 for a monthly membership, you can buy one year for only $299.00.

If you do this, you will be making a commitment for the long-term to marketing on the Internet. You will have everything you need to build a website, host the site, and to drive targeted traffic to your site.

This is a great opportunity don’t miss it?


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Writing Tip of the Week: Check Your Facts

Durango, Colorado

Durango, Colorado

We all make mistakes in our writing, expressly this 82-year-old man.

I’m writing another Western novel just for the heck of it and I mentioned action that had taken place in Durango, Colorado.

That was a big mistake which I have to go in and correct.

The reason is that the action in my story takes place about 1860. A quick look at the history of Durango shows that Durango, Colorado was not there until the late 1880s after Geronimo and the other Indians had been neutralized.

durango Mexico 2Now if I had said Durango, Mexico, I would’ve been okay because it was there in 1563.Durango Mexico

I have published hundreds of scientific papers. There, you’re always dealing with facts. But in fiction writing, your mind goes off here and there and sometimes you make a boo-boo like I did.

When I was a magazine editor, we occasionally made an error in our reporting. It was always very embarrassing to have to make corrections.

You might think that fiction readers don’t check facts. They do and that they don’t have to go to an encyclopedia to do it either. They probably wouldn’t be reading what you are writing if they didn’t know something about it.

So you can have your characters do anything you want anywhere you want but if you are writing in a historical format that you had better have your facts right.

Well, just check on your facts.


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Writing Tip of the Week November 20, 2014: Humor

tjb logoHumor finds a place in poetry, article writing and in novels. You can pour it on like gravy over potatoes at Thanksgiving or you can sprinkle it on like salt or pepper or cayenne pepper.

Humor always has a place. The it was not used by Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg address because that was a somber occasion. But he sprinkle them here and there in his speeches and then his writings.

Mark Twain was known as a humorous. But there is a seriousness in some of his writing too. It’s just knowing when and where to use it.

Comedians and their riders have an objective. That is to make people laugh. It’s up to the comedian to interpret the writing and to act the part.

Many of us will miss Letterman when he leaves the networks because, like Red Skelton, he is a clown.

Red Skelton always performed in exactly the same way night after night when he worked the Las Vegas clubs. He said that if you change things you may not get a laugh the second time. He was very strict on that point with his supporting actors.

detectiveWe don’t always know the funny from the unfunny. That is why comedians go to small clubs to test their writings. Jay Leno has done this for many years. One Peculiarity of Leno is that he laughs at his own jokes. Sometimes that causes his audience to laugh with him.

A priest, a rabbi and the judge walked into a bar. The bartender said,”What is this, a joke?”

Well, I had to get some humor in here somewhere.


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Writing Tip of the Week: Fiction Versus Actual

tjb logowhale 2kids book 2Let’s take a look at four (4) paragraphs from my old, dilapidated textbook on literature. The subject is Whaling starting with scientific fact and ending with fiction. Economics and history are in between. Try to notice the difference in content and style. Can you see a difference in the restrictions on the writers. Once you decide your format, you are harpooned like a whale.


The first is from Science:

“Whales may be divided into three suborders: the Archeocetes of the early Tertiary; and two living groups —Ordontocete, or toothed whales, and the Mysteceti or Whalebone Whales.” Alfred S. Romer

The second is from Economics:

“The physical losses in whaling resulting from the destruction of vessels, cargoes, and equipment are indeed formidable when considered in the absolute; when compared with the size of the entire fleet fleet at sea during any given year, they constituted a smaller percentage of the whole than might reasonably have been expected as a result of the nature of the industry.” Elmo Paul Hohman

The third is from History:

“Those were the full, gala days of the industry (1830 – 1860) when rugged New Bedford, in particular, was at the peak of a picturesque, salt-sprayed renown which took her name into the seven seas. This new England town which became the greatest whaling port in the world despite population figures which were unimpressive even in an era of villages, learned to blend the strange and exotic with the native and homely in a manner both alluring and ludicrous.” Elmo Paul Hohman

The last is from Fiction:

whale“And thus with orders and yells the keel cut the sea. Meanwhile, Stubb retaining his place in the van, still encouraged his men to the onset, all the while puffing the smoke from his mouth. Like desperados they tugged and they strained, till the welcome cry was heard-“Stand up, Tashtego! – Give it to him!” The harpoon was hurled. “Stern all!” The oarsman backed water; the same moment something went hot and hissing along every one of their wrist. It was the magical line. An instant before, Stubb had simply caught two additional terms with it round the loggerhead, whence, by reason of his increased rapid circlings, a hempen blue smoke now jetted up and mingled with the steady fumes from his pipe. As the line passed round and round the loggerhead, so also, just before reaching that point, it blisteringly passed through and through both of Stubb’s hands, in which the hand-clothes, or squares of quilted canvas sometimes word at those times, had accidentally dropped. It was like holding an enemy’s sharp two-edged sword by the blade and that enemy all the time striving to rest it out of your clutch.

Herman Melville

Herman Melville

“‘Wet the line! wet the line!’ cried Stubb to the tub oarsmen (him seated by the tub) who, snatching off his hat, dashed the seawater into it. More terms were taken so ling began holding its place. The boat flew through the boiling water like a shark all fins. Stubb and Tashtego here changed places-stem for stern-a staggering business truly in that rocking commotion.” Herman Melville ((August 1, 1819 – September 28, 1891) in Moby Dick.

That last one was very exciting!

Whale 1The writing from history was picturesque, but that is often not in history writing. The first two, science and economics, were factual with perhaps more interpretation in the economic writing.

So, what other differences do you see? Your essay on the subject is due next Friday. LOL

Books on Whales and Whaling

Moby Dick Classics


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Tip of the Week November 6, 2014: Your Journal

tjb logoYou have two journals, the one that you write down and the one in your head. A written journal is usually more accurate than a mental one. So don’t completely rely on your memory. Each day jot down things that occurred and things that are of interest to you and possibly others.

I have always regretted that I never kept a journal, which means that I have to rely on my memory. That is not good.

Earnest Hemingway, Sun Valley Idaho, 1939 (A few miles from my home.)

Earnest Hemingway, Sun Valley Idaho, 1939 (A few miles from my home.)

You can keep a journal on your computer. You’re probably there every day anyway and may as well jot down what you did, what you thought, and what you plan to do. If you are a writer, and you may well be sometime in your life, at least to write your memoirs, you will be glad you did.

Earnest Hemingway was a journalist which showed up in his fiction.

But I still think that a written journal in your own handwriting is best.

There is a difference between writing with a pen or pencil on paper than typing into a typewriter or a computer keyboard.  Erle Stanley Gardner, author of the Perry Mason novels (as I remember) wrote his novels with a pen on a yellow legal pad. That is what he sent to the publisher. He did this while sitting on his porch in Florida.

One last thing. Even if you never use your journal, if you leave it behind, it will be your history in you own words.

How to Keep A Journal Books At Amazon


One of my earliest paintings. Wisconsin Dells with Mountains Not really there. I pasted parts of 9 postcards into the painting. Can you find them?

One of my earliest paintings. Wisconsin Dells with Mountains Not really there. I pasted parts of 9 postcards into the painting. Can you find them?


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Writing Tip of the Week: Transforming History to Fiction



How to Write Fiction Books at Amazon
Your fiction can be greatly improved if you are a student of history. If you are writing a period novel, say 1679-1723, then you need to study about life and times during those years. They will help you lay the backdrop for your novel.

You also can cite historical events in your novel. You can do this in several ways, the easiest is to have one of your characters bring up the subject.

You can also take actual historical events and transform them into historical events. That is, your characters act at the event on their own.

How to Write Fiction Books at Amazon

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Writing Tip of the Week October 23, 2014: Facing Reality

Earnest Hemingway, Sun Valley Idaho, 1939 (A few miles from my home.)

Earnest Hemingway, Sun Valley Idaho, 1939 (A few miles from my home.)

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. Benjamin Franklin (thanks to

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. Ernest Hemingway (thanks to

When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature. Ernest Hemingway

When you write a novel, you should know what you are writing about. You should know the terrain and you should know people. That is, you should know real people who you can place in your novel that they should not be identifiable with any living person. In other words, you have to make some changes.

When I was writing the detective novel In No Way Guilty, the action was centered in South Jersey, the Atlantic City area where I lived. But some of the action was centered in Arizona. There I tromped around the hills and talked to old-timers and characters who I could transform and place into my novel. (Incidentally, that novel is about compulsive gambling. The New Jersey gambling commission supplied me lots of information on compulsive gambling.)

Hemingway was an ambulance driver in Spain at times of war. He spent a lot of time in Spain watching bullfights and hanging around with other writers. He spent time in Paris and he went to Africa. He wrote about all of these places and the people that he knew disguised in his novels.

I painted this to commemorated Poe's El Dorado. The searchers spent time in New Mexico.

I painted this to commemorated Poe’s El Dorado. The searchers spent time in New Mexico.

Right now, I’m writing another Western. This one centers in New Mexico where I have spent quite a bit of time. However, I am studying New Mexico history to enhance my writing, fictitious as it is.

Reality is the name of the game.


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