Tag Archives: books

Top 9 reasons to write in first-person plural

old typewriter, typewriter, antique keyboard, the way people used to access Word and the Series of Tubes before they existed

Why nine? Because Top 10 lists are popular, and therefore Boring.

But listen closely, for the case is strong for writing in the first-person plural, which we thought at first was second-person plural, and if we thought about it, which we should, first is better than second.

Also, research via the google proved that languages other than English include other amazing options. Just think of a novel written in fifth person past participle without a single letter E in the text. Think of it. Then think of a book cover with black text on a black background with black accents.

That artist from the ’60s who merely painted a canvas black will get sick with jealousy, and does he even know what presumptive mood is? Unlikely. But he’d talk our ear off about acrylic versus watercolor.

And now the list: Top 9 reasons to write in first-person plural

No. 9 — We create an immediate bond with our audience. We hear our voice, and we like it.

The only way to bond more quickly is if we put instant coffee in the microwave, going back in time.

No. 8 — First person is for narcissistic nancypants, polluting each page of text with “I,” “I,” “I,” and, for variety, strings of “me” and “my.”

It’s not about you, first person singular. It’s about us, plural. Don’t we know that now?

No. 7 — The first-person plural has roots in the Greek chorus, a sturdy trunk from Ayn Rand’s Anthem and green, modern leaves with Joshua Ferris and his Then We Came to the End, which has to be doubly good because it also has “We” in the title.

No. 6 — It’s not “the royal he,” “the royal she” or “the royal I,” is it? No, no, no.

Take it from House Windsor: it’s the royal we. Accept no substitutes.

No. 5 — Third person is common, bourgeois and blasé. How many novels are written in third person, and do we ever read all of them?

There are too many, and the quality varies so much. That’s a sign and an omen, our astrology tells us.

No. 4 — First-person plural creates an emotional distance from the readers, which is sometimes necessary.

It’s like having wealthy relatives we don’t enjoy. We don’t have this problem, but if we did, we wouldn’t wish to spend time with them, but we wouldn’t want to get disinherited, either.

Plus, that exquisite distance creates a sense of foreboding and mystery. If they can never know us, and believe we have no feelings, then we are, indeed, unknowable and omnipresent, literary gods. Or half-Vulcans with Underwoods and a hankering for Jeffrey Eugenides. We’re not sure yet.

No. 3 — A singular narrator can be mistaken, unreliable, reliably unreliabe, obtuse, acute but not cute, scalene or perpendicular.

But we are many, irrefutable, infalliable, translucent, effervescent, a closed plane of certainty and confidence.

We are legion, and it is Good.

No. 2 — Great literature is truly poetry, and great poetry uses first-person plural, such as Emily Dickison and her wonderful, “We send the wave to find the wave,/ An errand so divine.”

Do we want to be great or pedestrian? We choose great.

No. 1 — While second-person point of view was employed by Albert Camus, giving it the sheen of respect, and Jay McInerney found success with Bright Lights, Big City, you cannot ignore the massive volume of pulp fiction detective novels cheapening this choice.

Every such novel began in this sort of crude fashion: “You walk into your office and she’s already sitting behind your desk, drinking your Jim Beam and playing with your .38 special. But she’s got ruby red lips, trouble with the mob and legs that just won’t quit, so you don’t do the smart thing and turn around to leave. No. You hang up your trenchcoat, take out your notebook and listen to her sweet, sweet lies.”

More posts:

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This is Guy Bergstrom the writer, not the Guy Bergstrom in Stockholm or the guy in Minnesota who sells real estate or whatever. Separate guys. Kthxbai.

Guy Bergstrom. Photo by Suhyoon Cho.

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award (PNWA 2013). Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

3 Comments

Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday, Fiction, Red Pen of Doom, Romances; also, novels with Fabio covers, Thrillers and mysteries

Take this red pen and cut, just so

I’m looking for a few omega readers and editors to take a fresh look at a little something-something.

Yes, the literary term is “beta editors,” but that’s not what we’re talking about. At all.

Beta editing is for rough drafts and nancypants.

Omega editing is closers, for the final shebang, and – by definition – omega editing CRANKS EVERY DIAL TO 11.

Who am I looking for, exactly? Not the usual suspects, though if you name is Keyser Soze, you’re in.

If you insist on the proper usage of “whom” even though it’s deader than Justin Bieber’s music career, you’re out

I’m shooting for fresh eyes from far-off places:

  • a poet from Poland
  • a screenwriter from Sweden
  • a novelist from New Zealand
  • a freelance writer from Finland
  • a short-story writer from South Africa
  • and yes, and editor from Estonia, because I’m running out of alliteration options here.

If you’re up for it and like bleeding red on pages FULL OF WORDS, hit me. Write a witty comment, tweet @speechwriterguy or send me secret email using the Series of Tubes.

Related posts:

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This is Guy Bergstrom the writer, not the Guy Bergstrom in Stockholm or the guy in Minnesota who sells real estate or whatever. Separate guys. Kthxbai.

Guy Bergstrom. Photo by Suhyoon Cho.

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award (PNWA 2013). Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

11 Comments

Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday, Fiction, Red Pen of Doom, Thrillers and mysteries

Reading times for famous book-like objects

Reading times for these famous piles of dead trees

Okay, I’m surprised that George R.R.R.R.R.R.R. Martin wins this contest, though for some reason they skipped over Stephen the King, who may be a literary god, but who also can turn a grocery list into 1,034 pages featuring an evil clown.

Also, J.R.R. Tolkien gets credit for writing some kind of 60-page prologue to LORD OF THE RINGS that was like some sophomore history sociology major’s paper on hobbits and elves. It put the B in Boring and made me throw the book across the room, which was hard to do since I was on a beach in Maui, drinking margaritas and in the Best Mood Ever.

Also-also: J.R.R. Tolkien gets double-credit for starting the whole stupid trend of fantasy and sci-fi authors, male and female, renouncing first names in favor of initials for some reason. The trend will continue and hipster authors writing about elves with lightsabers riding dragons will, within ten years, pick pen names like “GRRRRR the Grizzly Bear” and “Sw33tn3ss M00nb3&m the Z0mbi3k1ll3r” and “Darth Elvis Skywalker III.” Bonus points if you indie-publish a book with any of those pen-names.

What famous book did you fly through, and which one took you FIVE BAZILLION YEARS?

Go crazy in the comment section.

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This is Guy Bergstrom the writer, not the Guy Bergstrom in Stockholm or the guy in Minnesota who sells real estate or whatever. Separate guys. Kthxbai.

Guy Bergstrom. Photo by Suhyoon Cho.

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award and represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

15 Comments

Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday

Give me something, something I can read

I’ve got a long road trip and 10 days of no exercise allowed after a spot of surgery (it’s not a tumor!).

So I need things to read. You know, book-like substances, printed bits of dead trees.

And I want a honking pile of them.

Therefore, good people, my plea is simple. Sock it to me:

  • Nominate a popular book that’s actually horrible and I’ll bleed red all over the first page
  • Tell me your Favorite Book of All Time so I have something delicious to chew for hours
  • Hit me up on Twitter, gmail or the comment sections if you want to collaborate on an insanely creative and secret project
  • Give me a movie or music video you want dissected and taken apart, to see how it works like magic or smashes into the hard, heartless rock named Fail
  • If you’re not a nancypants who’ll wind up in therapy, ship me the first page of your WIP and I may ink it up and whip it back, because EDITING IS CRAZY FUN

Also: You’re right, that headline riffs on a Don Henley song. Here it is, live.

The Red Pen of Doom’s Greatest Hits Collection: 10 Epic Posts

  1. Epic Black Car deserves good owner; are you worthy?
  2. The Mother of All Query Letters
  3. Why every man MUST read a romance – and every woman a thriller
  4. The Red Pen of Doom impales FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
  5. The Twitter, it is NOT for selling books
  6. A BOWL OF WARM MILK AND MURDER
  7. 30 achy breaky Twitter mistakeys
  8. Writing secret: Light as air, strong as whiskey, cheap as dirt
  9. The Red Pen of Doom murders THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand
  10. Quirks and legs matter more than talent and perfection

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This is Guy Bergstrom the writer, not the Guy Bergstrom in Stockholm or the guy in Minnesota who sells real estate or whatever. Separate guys. Kthxbai.

Guy Bergstrom. Photo by Suhyoon Cho.

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award (PNWA 2013). Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

25 Comments

Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday, Fiction, Red Pen of Doom, Romances; also, novels with Fabio covers, Thrillers and mysteries

Six ways to fix NEVER GO BACK by Lee Child

Let’s say it: Lee Child has a Superman problem.

His hero, Reacher, is beloved by fans for having the brains of Sherlock Holmes and the body of Conan the Barbarian. The man never gets outsmarted and is invincible in a fight. Here’s the last post about these books: Secret recipe for any Lee Child novel

The latest Reacher book, NEVER GO BACK, slams smack-dab into the Superman problem. Because an invincible hero puts the B in Boring.

Did I enjoy the book? Yeah, it’s always fun to read about Reacher. With every new novel, though, Reacher struggles less and less to overcome the bad guys.

If the hero doesn’t sweat, the reader doesn’t worry. Or care.

Because I do care about Reacher and Lee Child, here are six ways to fix NEVER GO BACK.

Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday, Fiction, Thrillers and mysteries

Come closer, now, and whisper your MOST EVIL PLANS

My silly blog is now one year old, meaning it doesn’t just crawl anymore.

No. It can (a) get to its feet by grabbing the couch, (b) chase teh kitteh all over the living room, (c) scribble all over the first page of any book with a red pen and (d) make sarcastic faces at really bad movies.

So thank you, dear reader, for faithfully reading posts, writing insanely witty comments and talking smack to me on the Twitter.

I never expected this little blog to have 4,300 hits in a day (Saturday), 11,000 followers on the Twitter or 100,000-whatever hits in its first year of life.

You did NOT expect that. Little Godzilla.

Did you expect that? NO. Me neither.

My expectations were rather low. This blog-like substance was born out of fun, and to try out a bunch of things on WordPress and the Twitter.

What should happen next, in Year Two?

You tell me. I’m taking requests.

Inch on a little closer to me and whisper, softly, your most evil of evil plans.

  • What over-rated novel deserves to have Page 1 ripped apart by a red pen of doom?
  • Which movies or TV shows needs to be put on the table and dissected to see how it works so beautifully, or doesn’t work at all?
  • What insane music videos need to be shown to the world, with the lyrics translated into English?
  • Or should we just go all-in with zombies, zombies and, just for variety, more zombies?
evolution of zombies

Everything goes better with zombies.

Vote in the little poll below, or post your idea in the comment section. And thanks again.

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This is Guy Bergstrom the writer, not the Guy Bergstrom in Stockholm or the guy in Minnesota who sells real estate or whatever. Separate guys. Kthxbai.

Guy Bergstrom. Photo by Suhyoon Cho.

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award (PNWA 2013). Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

8 Comments

Filed under 5 Random Thursday, Housekeeping

You need a TEAM and a PLAN

Call me crazy, but I believe that people should have some sort of plan — based on numbers and science and creativity — rather than copying everybody while praying to the Norse god of Thunder (also known as Chris Hemsworth) for a different result.

Chris Hemsworth will not listen. He is busy, and cares little for the affairs of men, though he doesn’t mind Natalie Portman.

Also, it is wrong to (a) try to do it all yourself, (b) put all your eggs in the basket known as the Series of Tubes and (c) try doing it all yourself, part time, on the Series of Tubes.

This is sacrilege to a lot of people who swear by the interwebs. To those people I say, respectfully, “To bad, so sad, tell your dad.”

Doctor, heal thyself

Even if you’re some kind of world-class expert on publicity / sales / marketing, it’s a mistake to be your own client. You’re too close to the work and you don’t have the specific contacts and knowledge for the field.

A pro athelete doesn’t need a good publicity and marketing person, but somebody who’s done PR in sports, hopefully pro baseball or football or whatever it may be.

A rock musician trying to break in shouldn’t try to be his own part-time hype man. If you want to do it right, you get somebody who’s done PR and marketing not just for rock bands, but for that exact type of band. Because the magazines, journalists and outlets for Swedish death metal is entirely different than for rap, techno or hip hop.

A team and a plan

So: if you are truly serious about whatever it is you love — punk rock, directing zombie movies, writing books where sparkly vampires get killed by elves with lightsabers riding dinosaurs — you need a TEAM and a PLAN.

Think about the best in the world at anything. Concert pianists train their entire lives to get to the top. Did they sit in the mom’s basement, plinking away on weekends until they became world-class? No. They had all kinds of teachers, tutors and mentors showing them how, and pushing their limits. They gave recitals out the wazoo and treated piano not like a full-time job, but an obsession.

NASCAR drivers focus on the driving — they don’t try to tune the engine, change the tires and fill the gas tank all by themselves.

If you’re working part-time, by yourself, going against a team of specialists who do this for a living, YOU WILL LOSE.

This is true on the football field, a MMA cage match, a piano duel, the music business, books, Hollywood, all over. A team of pros — doing very specific things very well — will kick your butt.

Now, 99.9999129312-whatever percent of people will ignore these facts. They’ll keep on plinking away and hope lightning will strike. That’s like chucking footballs in the backyard to a neighbor kid, praying one of those will be the winning touchdown in Super Bowl XXXVII.

They’ll say “I don’t have the time or the money for a team. And I don’t have the expertise to write some magical plan.”

Time: The average American watches 35 hours of TV a week. Five hours a day. Next?

Money: People find a way to pay for what’s important. Football camp, film school, piano lessons, journalism school, punk rock hairdos — if you’re truly dedicated, you find a way, and maybe forgo the daily $4 mocha or the Beanie Baby collection.

Plan: This is where people will need the most help. Because the dirty little secret is that even people who do publicity and marketing for a living are not quite sure, if you put a gun to their head, why some people break out while other, more talented people get nowhere. Yes, it’s more art than science, but that’s no excuse to throw up your hands and ignore science and numbers altogether.

People who truly love something will put in the time, and they’ll put some money into their education and development. The plan, though, is what trips people up.

Related posts that will educate you and all that:

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This is Guy Bergstrom the writer, not the Guy Bergstrom in Stockholm or the guy in Minnesota who sells real estate or whatever. Separate guys. Kthxbai.

Guy Bergstrom. Photo by Suhyoon Cho.

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award (PNWA 2013). Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

8 Comments

Filed under 7 Media Strategy Saturday, The Twitter, the Book of Face and the Series of Tubes