Let’s Play “Pretend”

Stories since the beginning of time have been thrilling us by having characters take on false identities. In this episode we look at one legendary song and two folktales that show us the GOOD and BAD consequences of pretending to be someone we’re not. Major thanks to Christopher Wallace, Aaron Shepard, and O. Henry for their contribution to the legacy of stories.

Music by:
Ben Murray-Smith https://soundcloud.com/ben-murray-smith

Sources Referenced:
“I Got A Story To Tell” song by Notorious B.I.G.
“Forty Fortunes” an old folktale as re-told by Aaron Shepard
“A Retrieved Reformation” a short story by O. Henry

Infatuation, Thy Name is Love

Love stories are as old as time, but then again, so are stories about its creepy sister-emotion: infatuation.

In a continuation of the chat between my friend Casandra and I, we land on the topic of how guys still use pickup lines. She shares with us one specific pickup line that was a little too corny not to be memorable.

This episode features two short stories. One old one, and a REALLY old one.

The first story is the REALLY old one, and it comes by way of Turkey. It’s called “What Happened to Hadji,” a humorous story where an infatuation goes terribly wrong. Can Hadji be redeemed by the end of it?

The second story is a witty short story about a wannabe lover looking to literally buy the attention of his obsession. The story was written by the prolific writer John Collier back in the mid-20th century. You’ll recognize many motifs in this story that have been copied by Hollywood movies in the decades since.

Thanks to the sources that influenced this episode, specifically Jane Yolen who included “What Happened to Hadji” in her folk tale anthology Favorite Folktales From Around The World. And thanks to Zoetrope for providing access to “The Chaser” short story.

A Stranger Comes To Town

Speaking with my friend Casandra, we hit upon an interesting topic: how relocating as a youth impacts ones life. She tells me about a traumatic experience she went through as a teenager after moving to Jamaica.

We have three stories for this first episode. They are three folk stories centered around this most familiar theme: a stranger shows up to disrupt the status quo.

The first story is an ancient folk tale with a clever stranger making a scene. It’s called Stone Soup.

The second story is also a very old folk tale about a prince who is convinced he’s really a turkey. Could a complete stranger save the day for the King and Queen? This one is called The Turkey Prince, although in some cultures it’s also called “The Rooster Prince.”

The third story is an adaptation of a classic short story by one of the masters in the Short Story genre. It’s called “The Open Window” by Saki (aka HH Munro).

Announcing a new podcast: Rendition

I am excited and proud to finally share with you guys what I’ve been working on for the past month and a half. It’s my second podcast (don’t worry, Project Book will still see new episodes released), and this new podcast is called “RENDITION”

The quick and dirty gist of RENDITION is “Timeless Tales Re-Told,” essentially I will be bringing you classic stories from around the world each week.  Every episode will have 2 or 3 different folktales/stories and these will be focused around a specific theme or motif that they have in common. 

I think this content is valuable for multiple reasons:

  1. The stories will be really entertaining plus short enough that they’ll be easy for you to remember and re-tell to your friends at gatherings. Your storytelling skills might even impress that gal/guy you were too shy to talk to at the nacho station.
  2. If you’re a writer, these tales might provide inspiration for new material of your own. Because these stories are old, they’ve been proven to work time and time again. Remember what Einstein said “Genius is really just about knowing how to hide your sources.”
  3. Many of us are first-generation Americans. This means that there are tons of folktales from our parents’ country we haven’t heard, and some American ones that we’ve missed out on as well. So essentially, we have a big culture-gap we should try to close. I’ll be bringing you stuff from near and far-away lands, so trust me, 95% of these will be brand spankin’ new to your earholes. 

I’ll be releasing the initial two episodes of RENDITION during the first week of October 2017, and then you can expect a new episode every Monday after that. 

One Christopher Nolan Movie Scene Taught Me All I Know About Great Writing

Did you know that Harry Houdini, the famous magician, also worked missions as a Spy for the US government?

Think about it, he had all the skills to be a great spy.  I mean, he knew how to escape from dangerous situations, had a quick hand for swiping small objects, knew multiple languages, and was often invited to gatherings with heads of state.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the real-life James Bond.

I mention Houdini because he is of course, the most famous Magician of all time. And today the topic is magic, both traditional magic like what we know Houdini for, but also a much different form of it, THE MAGIC OF WORDS.

If the pen is indeed mightier than the sword, then you have a small army tucked away in that 3 pound dome of yours. So use it!

The problem is: those who NEED the power of words on their side most, rarely understand the concepts behind good writing.  But the concepts themselves are SUUUUPER SIMPLE to implement,  IF you let yourself be convinced that they are true.

I’m just now building my writing chops, but I feel like KICKING myself because I had been given the secrets to writing well 7 YEARS AGO, and totally ignored them.

Here’s the thing: chances are that YOU have been given the secrets too.

Have you heard the name Christopher Nolan before? He’s the guy that made Batman movies cool again.  He wrote and directed the movies Batman Begins, the Dark Knight, The Dark Knight rises, as well as non-Batman movies like Inception, and his breakthrough movie from the late 90s, Memento.  The man is one of the highest grossing directors ever because his movies are deep but entertaining.

One of his best films is called The Prestige. It came out in 2007 and follows the fictional story of two magicians in London during the late 1800s . About the same time Houdini was also making a name for himself.   

Well, the movie starts with a scene that is 2 and a Half minutes in length, and in those 2 minutes and 30 seconds Christopher Nolan spells out the SECRET to powerful writing. Continue Reading