About Jack Bludis
Jack Bludis has been writing since the age of twelve. Since 1977, he has sold more than sixty novels and novellas and about 550 short stories in many genres and subgenres. He started his study of the short story and the novel at the University of Maryland, but he has learned his craft over a long period of time from writing and reading not only fiction, but the best of the how-to books, and even noticing how movies are put together. Probably not a day goes by that he does not learn something new about the craft or is reminded of something he has forgotten.
His favorite writers are Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Phillip Roth, Stephen King and lately, Stieg Larsson. He thinks the great books of the Twentieth Century include The Sun Also Rises, The Sound and the Fury, Goodbye Columbus, and The Green Mile and the Dragon Tattoo, or Millennium trilogy.
Although he has been writing and publishing for thirty years. Only a fraction of his work bears his real name.He has lived in Baltimore most of his life, but has spent time in New York, Los Angeles and Europe.
HOW I DO MY RESEARCH
Over the thirty-some years since I left college, I have accumulated more than two thousand books on various subjects and about different historical time periods. I usually begin a book knowing when in historic time the book is supposed to take place. I incorporate the year or era early in the work and I incorporate pertinent facts and history of the time. I still go to those books, occasionally, but the internet has made research simpler and easier.
For my books with historical settings, I begin the book with a scene or premise that a reader can relate to. I pick actual dates in time, but I do not usually reveal the dates, except by implication. Most of what was happening in the real world at the time is happening in the world of my novel, whether implied, stated, or left as an aura that may pervade the time and the story.
The absolute best way to write and do research is as Stephen King suggests--write the book and go back and do the research. It's easier said than done when you want to get it right. It is also an easy way to procrastinate, so I try to be careful.
Unfortunately, I need to know at least some of the historical facts while I'm writing. What did the building across the street from a character's office looked like in 1947. I have to know about the traffic patterns and, in the case of Paris 1922, whether the taxis are motorized or horse drawn and how a person moved from one place to another.
By knowing these things, I get a feel for the circumstance. I put myself psychologically into the story and try to experience the life of the point-of-view character and hope that the reader will do the same.
I have hundreds of books about Hollywood of any era and about many important Hollywood figures. I have dozens of books about Paris through the early part of the last century. I have more than a thousand other book about various time periods. I have my own memories and my current research about places I have been form which I often project farther in the past from the time I may remember.
Although I have what I consider one of the best poor-man's libraries available, I have found the Internet invaluable. I'm amazed at what I find on line: what the clothes looked like, maps of cities at various times, actual photographs of the streets and street-corners when and where I want events to take place. What were the popular songs? How far along was television? What were the folkways, the mores, and the interests of the time?
If you are going to research the net though, I would not try to do it without DSL or a cable connection. A regular phone-line connection is far too slow.
Research helps me get a feel for the place and time. If I have that, I am confident that I can pass it on to the reader.
THE BASIC PLOT
All fiction writing is formula and it is basically the same formula from the Odyssey and the Iliad to Stephen King and Nora Roberts:
A character who the reader can identify with wants something, and he works to get it, but it seems perpetually out of reach.
If the character gets it early in the work, he tries to hold onto it but loses it. When she loses it, she usually works to get it back. (This cycle may be repeated many times in a novel, with each loss worse than the last, each new effort more difficult to accomplish)
In the end, the character either gets what appears to be the final victory or learns something important from his ultimate loss.
The basic plot looks simple, but like just about everything worth doing, it is easier said than done.
do we get our ideas?
Many a new writer has been frustrated by comments from experienced and sometimes even best-selling authors who when asked the question: "Where do you get your ideas?" Come off with some smart aleck comment about the "the muse," getting them at Macy's, or even "I don't know."
It is my opinion that ideas come from within us and from outside us. Ideas that come from within us, no matter where they originate, are the most useful. Even if the idea comes from a notebook we have been keeping, the idea has been inside us nurtured by our subconscious for a period of time. We must have had the idea at one time or another or it would never have gotten to the notebook.
Some of virtually everything we experience, whether we read it, see it, or experience it stays with us unconsciously. This is the stuff that is moving around inside us working up ideas that some claim is their "muse."There is no muse, no magic. Ideas are the sum of our memory, experience, and education arranged in different ways.
Where do we get characters?
We get characters from observation of friends, associates, strangers and famous people -- actors, politicians and heroes. We work with them. We sharpen them up until they become characters on the page. But, I believe, the very best source of characters is ourselves -- how do we feel, what makes us tick. Chances are good that we all tick the same way although at a slightly different beat of the metronome and with different senses of right and wrong. How vicious were we when we were angry, how delighted and delightful when we were happy.
Other writers can provide us the basis for our own characters in their books. Most of the best characters in fiction are in Shakespeare, but not only Shakespeare. What better characters in fiction are there than Gatsby, Hannibal Lechter and Lizbeth Salander?
If we want heroes, we can think of ourselves when we did not have the nerve to do something -- What did we really want to do but were afraid to do? Or better yet, think of a time when we did act heroically, even in a minor way. It is a way to dig in and get the emotion we need to make a character work. It is something like the Stanislavsky method of acting.
Do we want a villain? Think of those villains we've read about and twist them to our own needs. Again, we can go within ourselves or observe our friends and our own actions when we feel we have been wronged. This is probably the time we felt the most evil and wanted to act out our worst fantasies of revenge.
Whether it is ideas or characters that need to be created, our subconscious had done a lot of work on it while we weren't thinking about it -- Your subconscious does a lot of work for you. Don't discount it and don't waste its product.