Lost in Translation: Storytelling

I write because I love to tell stories. I’ve always been able to spin a tale as I’ve had great characters move through my life who were larger than life, or just plain interesting in some offbeat way. Pulling from their experiences and adding in my own idea of where their particular story should head has always been a joyful labor of love.


But, I definitely don’t think all authors are born storytellers because they get way too involved in the “structure” and “how tos” of writing. I always feel like I can tell when an author has been burning the midnight oil trying to get his/her thoughts stripped down and massaged into such a manner as to gain the Hail Mary from St Martin’s, or Grammar for Dummies, or some other such boring ass manual. Or, they’re trying to fit into their publisher’s page limits. Maybe I’m wrong and it’s just my taste – I don’t know. I do know this – if I read someone’s story out loud, I can tell if they’re a real storyteller, or not.


As most of us who call ourselves writers know, you should always read your piece out loud before the final edit. Do I do it? Not enough, that’s for sure. I’m just about to do the audio book for 5 Tales and I’m going to do it myself. Thanks to some very talented people at the Atlanta School of Broadcasting – I’ve got the voice and the voice over thing down. But, to be honest, I’m a little scared. I’m worried that it’s not going to sound like when I tell a story verbally to a friend or acquaintance, and that would kill me. I write exactly the way I talk. Well, I think I do anyway, after the edits I’m never really sure if the message is lost or not. I also worry that suddenly I won’t like the structure or plot of XYZ story, and now that it’s out all over the place I can’t change it.


The biggest reason I’m intimidated to do this audio book stems from a segment I heard on the now defunct Dick Gordon’s The Story where Dick had Ron Rash read his short story Something Rich & Strange from his collection Nothing Gold Can Stay. It’s the most amazing reading I’ve ever heard. You cannot help but stay and hear the whole thing once it gets a hold of you – which happens immediately. It’s this kind of storytelling I aspire to and I think most writers of fiction should. I realize it could be his voice or his cadence, but I’ve listened to it so many times that I’m absolutely sure it’s the story itself. Give it a listen – you’ll be enrapt.

Here’s the link for Ron Rash’s Something Rich & Strange. You can thank me in the comments!



They Killed Brian!

RIP Brian Griffin

RIP Brian Griffin

Ok, so I go from Dick Gordon’s The Story going off air to a cartoon dog’s death on Family Guy. Hey, at least I have range.

Like most Family Guy fans, I’m completely distraught that Brian Griffin was axed off of my favorite adult cartoon. Family Guy has been a guilty pleasure of mine since it went on air back in 1999 and Brian the Dog was by far my favorite character. Who wouldn’t love a talking dog that drinks martinis and writes horrific novels? He also got the best lines in the show. Which brings me to why I like the show so much – the writing.

I can’t stand potty humor of which Family Guy is replete with, but when you put the slop through a figurative colander some really good juice comes out. The creator Seth MacFarlane is a brilliant writer and comedian and since he’s of my generation and comes from my home state, his pop culture references are totally relatable to me and bring back some great memories from my childhood. They once opened the show with the opening scene from The Great Space Coaster – I nearly bust a gut.

From what I understand, of all his characters Brian has the most characteristics of MacFarlane himself. I definitely see that and have watched both Brian and MacFarlane progress over the years. When Brian drank martinis, Seth drank martinis, when Brian switched to Scotch, Seth switched to Scotch. Brian is a tree hugging, pot smoking, Prius driving, womanizing Liberal and MacFarlane has never minced words on where he falls on the political and social spectrum and he’s rarely ever seen with the same woman. It was a very cool progression to watch – creator and character growing and becoming famous together.

The New Guy - Nothing Against Vinnie, But I want Brian Back

The New Guy – Nothing Against Vinnie, But I want Brian Back

I think from the brouhaha I’m reading in the news, blogs and on Facebook, Brian was certainly one if not, the most beloved character. So, why the hell would MacFarlane kill him off? I mean, this is a comedy after all, there’s no need to kill off a favorite character especially if he’s a cartoon dog. All I can think of is that it’s a “kill your darlings” situation. The producers said they wanted to “shake things up”. Well, they sure as shit have done that. A new dog “Vinnie” who also talks and has the voice and look of a New Jersey gangster voiced by former Sopranos star Tony Sirico, immediately replaced Brian. Kind of hacky, I think. I use the “kill your darlings” metaphor because I can’t help but wonder if MacFarlane is looking for a bigger challenge – like Brian was too easy to write, something like that.

I honestly don’t think this is going to work and cautiously predict a death knell for the show. Seth MacFarlane has made it no secret that he feels Family Guy should have jumped the shark five seasons ago, but insists on giving the fans what they want for as long as they want it. But, I have to wonder – is this what they want? I don’t. I want Brian back.

Farewell Dick Gordon – The Story Will be Missed

Dick Gordon - The Story

Dick Gordon – The Story

For the past month or so, I’ve been whining about Dick Gordon ending his APM production Dick Gordon’s: The Story. And, the fact is I’m already mourning it and the show has only been off air for a few days. Dick Gordon did something I find masterful and can totally relate to; he kept silent, letting his guests tell the story. Only prompting in between his questions when it was absolutely necessary, often creating huge amounts of dead air – something that goes against everything radio is about. Dead air is a death knell in radio, but Dick made it an art form. Not only did it force his guests to keep talking to fill the silence, it also created a cadence steeped in suspense for the listener.

In this modern world full of images, noise and cool technological devices aimed at grabbing our attention, Dick was able to create a sphere in which we happily used the mind in rapt unison with our ears to engage and be entertained by the stories of people from all walks of life. No images, no background score to intensify the mood, just great personal experiences told through the art of the spoken word. Oftentimes, I would listen to Dick in the car and would pull over because I found myself so captured by the story. A lot of times, I ended up going ten or twenty miles out of my way by accident!

There are far too few quality story-telling outlets on radio these days. At least, not the way Dick did it. Ira Glass does a great job with This American Life, but it’s not presented in the same casual free flowing manner like The Story. Certainly, a lot of people would say radio is dead anyway and that’s an understandable attitude given how interactive and personalized our entertainment choices have become. But, I think it’s sad. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, maybe it’s because I’m becoming a curmudgeon, but I like being able to create scenes in my head to the words of someone else’s experiences. Even though I’m a visual guy by and large, having the option of being able to see someone else’s interpretation of a scene and creating my own has always been important to me. However, if the quality of radio programs isn’t there, then the landscape is barren and radio will die. That’s a horrible thought. Sure, you can buy a la carte on Sirus/XM or whatever other satellite feed becomes available. But what fun is that? Chasing content all over the radio dial is what makes the ultimate end so much more satisfying. (That’s definitely the aging curmudgeon talking right there.)

Last summer, Dick produced a series of authors reading their short stories on air. I was really entranced by a Ron Rash story Something Rich and Strange. This story, told by its author on air; to me, is far more gripping than it is on the written page. It’s 12 minutes long, but you have to listen to it. It will grab you. Here it is:


Dick has over two thousand stories on his website that the program produced during its time on air. I would highly recommend spending some time perusing through and enjoying his talent in bringing real, solid, interesting entertainment to your ears.