Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Save The Tigers

Today's blog is personal.  A few weeks ago, David passed on something he'd heard on the radio -- that the Times Picayune had announced that in order to try to avoid being forced to shut down completely, it would be publishing newspapers only three times a week.  The news filled me with such sadness I couldn't work the rest of the day.

The strange thing is, I no longer live in New Orleans, and - as much as it disappoints my mom - I have never been a newspaper reader.  I've always had the vague idea it was a kind of backlash of almost growing up in the newspaper business, or it could be that I was just the 'first wave' of new times.  The bottom line was a newspaper company two-thousand miles away 'down-sizing' had no real effect on me.

This morning, David forwarded the article that announced that thirty-two percent of their current employees are to be laid off as of September 30th, 2012.  Half of the newsroom staff had received layoffs, while remaining newsroom employees received offered to move to Nola Media Group - a new company formed to operate the newspaper using a 'digital strategy'.

I am sitting at my computer fighting back tears.  Three generations of my family worked at the Times Picayune.  My uncle managed the advertising department, my father's first job after getting out of the army following World War II was there, and a number of years later, he met my mother there.

While I didn't run wild in the place, I grew up there.  I can remember the smell of the ink, the noise of the presses, and the hot lead type coming out backwards.  It was a fascinating place, bustling with activity--with life.  And now it's dying.

The Times Picayune was founded in 1837, making it one-hundred and seventy-five years old, this year.  It is a historic institution.  It is one of the oldest papers in the country.  But soon it will only publish on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.  And even then, they make no promises about how long that will keep them operating in print.

The fate of newspapers (as well as traditional publishing houses) has been on the horizon as far back as the seventies.  As with so many other things in our world, computers changed everything.  I took fewer people to actual run the presses.  Paper costs sky-rocketed.  However, the coup de grace came with the new millennium and tablets, smart phones and apps. 

Now, I'm about to have my first book 'e-published' next week, so how can feel like this?  I can't give the answer.  I only know I feel as though the last tiger is dying.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Redefining Freytag's Pyramid for the New Millennium

Remember old Freytag and his pyramid?  He designed a diagram to help writers visualize how their story lines need to progress.  It's just a simple triangle that illustrates how we should move from the beginning of our tales . . . all the way to the end.

See - it's very simple and straightforward.

It can really help writers working on sharpening their skills, to see how to structure their stories (or novels).  The problem I've been finding is that people seem to be taking it too literally. 

Think back to when we first learned about the pyramids of ancient Egypt.  That's how we pictured them - with straight sides.  It wasn't until somewhere in high school or college, when we found out they were really built out of large squares of stone - and looked more 'chunky'.

It's not quite a stack of square blocks.  Instead, it shows how the plot builds; then there's a bit of resolution; before the plot continues to intensify.  The reader needs little breaks - little respites - sprinkled in the mounting tension.  Equally, once the main obstacle has been met and conquered, you want to gently present resolutions to all the subplots; and perhaps, throw in one or two new obstructions.  Otherwise, you let the reader down too quickly and that leaves them unsatisfied. 

Leaving your readers hungry is not the same as leaving them wanting more.