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Monday, November 22, 2010

"Its All In The Game"

As the old song says, "Many a tear will have to fall, but it’s all in the game."  The only real question is which game is being played. In chapter thirty-three in the book of Genesis, Jacob is playing a very odd, but familiar game. His game was called How Do I Save My Butt.  I told you it was familiar. 

The problem here is not the desire to preserve self, but how he went about doing it.  Like many of us, Jacob was willing put everything he had on the line to try and save himself from the perceived wrath of his twin brother Esau.  He set his goods, his servants, even his children and his wives – that’s right he had two of them, but remember I never said he was smart. 

Like a whirlpool in his thoughts, each revolution in his plans took him deeper and deeper into darkness. Each layer, a well planned step by Jacob, took him further away from God and right into an urban mess.

Anyway, Jacob was heading back home when he was confronted by his brother and almost pee’ed his pants or his burqa it would have been called in that day. And this even after Esau had shown that he meant his brother no evil, but greeted him with tears of the joy of reunification.  

So, while Esau was planning the big family reunion, Jacob was lying his tail off and headed east as his brother rode north. When we allow ourselves to give into the domination of fear, rational thinking is the first thing to go. So instead of going back to his ancestral home with its extended family and the security of numbers, Jacob fled to Shechem in Canaan to live in tents outside the city wall. [BTW: This is where his daughter Diane was raped.]

So as creators of Urban Fiction, we can follow the dark twist and turns found in the corridors of the human experience to draw upon for the seeds of our story lines.  It is true that truth is stranger than fiction and it is also true that our life experiences give us all we need to create.  So go Urban and stop just talking about writing and write.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Nothing New Under The Sun II

In the year 1406 BC in the Judean hillside of Ephraim, a local priest took a young woman to be his bride. After a while the young woman, bored with her life, decided to take a lover, and left the priest to return to her father’s house. The priest eventually went to the home of his father in-law and retrieved his bride.

While en route home they passed through a small village called Gibeah [Their first and largest mistake.] During the night the men of the city, consumed by lust, demanded that the priest come and have sex with him. The host of the home where the man and his wife were staying begged the men not do this evil thing, but instead offered his virgin daughter and the man's wife to the men instead. [I guess being a woman didn't hold much value.]

Eventually the men of the city settled for the wife of the traveler and as a group they raped the woman for the duration of the night. At morning's light the priest found his wife near death lying on the steps of the house. After her death, which followed shortly thereafter, the priest took his knife, cut her body into twelve pieces and sent the varied portions to the tribes of Israel and told them of the evil that had been done in hopes that they would rise up and do justice and claim revenge for his ravished and murdered wife.

A pair of weary travelers, a lust filled mob, a gang rape and murder. And the bloody delivery of the woman’s remains sent out to the inhabitants of the land as a message and call to arms. And all of this happening within the borders of a civilized city with walls locks and coded laws.

When we stop and think of the evil and darkness that rule in our headlines and occupies the corridors of our dreams, we can have the misguided delusion that ours is the worst of times. We see ours as an age where the rule of law has been set aside for the pursuit of pleasure and vice. But as you can see from the story above, a story which is recorded in the 19th and 20th chapters of the Old Testament book of Judges in the Bible, we have been raping and killing each other from the beginning. And once again we are able to say like the ancient philosopher King Solomon, “The thing that hath been, is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Nothing New Under The Sun

When I read Ecclesiastes 1: 9, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun," it makes me think of good writing.

Think about it, no matter what you're faced with, or trying to accomplish, you can be certain that somebody somewhere has already dealt with it [in principal if not in practical reality]. Think about Levi and Simeon, two of the twelve sons of Jacob, and their reaction after their sister Dinah had been raped by Shechem.  I know, I know, some of these names are hard on the tongue, but the actions of their hearts are all too familiar.

Again. Lust, jealousy, and the desire for revenge... all the virgin seeds of good story telling; and all the seeds of the fallen nature of man. When we write our stories we do not often focus on the heights of man's accomplishments, but rather contrast those higher traits against their darker more nefarious cousins. [Don’t you just love that word, nefarious?]

Two brothers, enraged by injustice, set themselves against an entire city to revenge the dishonoring of their baby sister. After talking the men of Canaan into circumcising themselves, the two sons of Jacob wait until the men are overcome with fever and sickness and under the cover of darkness they put the whole male population to death.

Imagine the roiling of emotions, the single minded determination that allows these brothers’ passion to carry out their quest. A city of circumcised men, a darkened night and the flashing of swords, a stream of blood on the floor and the deed is done.

We see these ancient accounts of men, their troubles and how they dealt with them, and we either curse or applaud their decisive actions. Now play it forward and remember the grandmother in Australia, how she took it upon herself to hunt down and shoot the two men that car-jacked and raped her beloved granddaughter. You see life on the streets, both dusty trials and paved highways, the seeds of urban fiction resides all around us.

Next time, I will talk to you about how your typical city police department approaches the investigation of a crime. What I would like to do is dissect an investigation from an insider’s perspective. I will let you decide what crime you would rather walk through with me. Use the post and let me know what peaks your interest and together we will discuss how to use those aspects to create your own storylines.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Where the Rubber Meets the Road: (Fiction from the Street)

Ever hear the saying, "Where the rubber meets the road,"? Well it usually refers to where everything comes down to the bottom line, brass tacks, or end of the road. Don't you just hate the overuse of cliché'?
 Anyway, back to the topic at hand. I suggested in my last post that the best root for Urban Fiction was the truth we find about the nature of man as recorded in the Bible. I know, I know, some of you may be saying what in the world does the Bible have to do with street-life. But think about it, what is street life other life where you live.

In this vein called Urban Fiction we see all around us the seeds and roots of good fiction in everyday life. I mentioned how one set of brothers, moved by jealousy, sold their younger brother into Egyptian slavery. Pride, fear, lust, and hatred all act as parts of the baser human nature. When we read the papers or watch the newscast, then we can look around us and see those same elements reflected within the sphere of your own culture. That is the beginnings of good fiction, good Urban Fiction.

Someone once said, sorry I can't remember the man's name, "Fiction is just truth that hasn't happened yet." So as you search your soul for the seeds of your next storyline, take a moment and look around you and see life happen. Then recreate those stories as reflected in your own cultural norm.

Now take a minute and make a note of three dynamic things you observed today. Now imagine that roadside accident you saw earlier happened because a desperate15 year-old stole her step-dad's car because she was trying to escape an atmosphere a child sexual abuse. Wow! What a story lead. Now find your own thread and create the next great piece of Urban Fiction.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Urban Fiction, who knew?

I was amazed when I saw what was being called urban fiction and hearing it described as new or novel.  Sure back in the 1970's an enterprising writer by the name of Iceberg Slim, better known as Robert Beck, broke out with his timely work, Pimp. Then in the 90's Sister Souljah did the same with her novel, The Coldest Winter Ever, which hit with a splash.

But if Urban Fiction is really a story about street level life, down where life sometimes gets dark and dirty, then Street Lit, as it is also called, has been around for a while. Brothers hating brother and selling him into slavery to steal his place in the family business; or the boss's wife trying to seduce the employee and crying rape when the barely no-longer-a-teen ran out naked leaving her wanting and wanting; if you catch my meaning. Or the drooling lust of a middle aged politician who stole one of his best assistant's wife, impregnated her and then had him killed to cover the deed...[Sounds like an outtake from the Times or Post doesn't it?  But I digress.] then we have had the makings of urban fiction dead center in the greatest source of reality.

Someone once said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, if that is true, and I propose that it is, then the greatest source of inspiration for Urban Fiction has been the greatest source of truth, the Bible. Simply said, Urban Fiction uncovered and unleashed.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Drop me a line and add your thoughts to the discussion.