Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dear Advice Columnist . . .

And the winner is . . .The Quick and the Dedd! Thank you to everyone who voted. Follow the development of this story now through the end of November at my writing blog,

 In keeping with the theme from the last blog, I wanted to share with you another source I use for story themes or subthemes: advice columnists.

OMG what a treasure trove! The three major ones I can follow in my newspapers are: Dear Abby, Ann Landers, and the well-named, Carolyn Hax. I cut their columns frequently to throw into a novel potpourri folder. It is bulging.

While Ann and Abby are similar in the number of questions per column and length of answers, Carolyn is different. She often has only one question with an extended response.

Abby and Ann tend to be, while direct, kinder in their responses and supports offered. I intuit that Carolyn doesn’t give a flying leap about sugar coating the response. She is direct and often snarky. I like it, by the way. It’s refreshing to hear someone call out a miscreant.

Carolyn’s voice is distinct, but I think you would be hard pressed to tell Abby from Ann without the by-line. The tone of Ann and Abby is one I tried to re-create and mock (Sorry, Ann and Abby), in a short story I wrote for my Land’s End short story anthology.

Sometimes I don’t cut out their columns, but I make a computer tickler file for the story line by introducing potential subplots, character names, and fold it in with other story lines (like from the daily paper astrology fortunes). I’ve talked about my extensive tickler files before that contain the dozens of stories I’m sure I’ll write one day!

Brooklyn and his wife, London, make a party game out of the advice columns. One will read the question, and the others will generate responses which can be scored correct by matching the columnist, or by majority vote, be considered a better response than the columnist! Isn’t that clever of them? But, then again, they are both novelists!

Until next time, mine the paper for story ideas. Life is happening everywhere, just waiting for you to catch it and share.

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