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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.