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December 4, 2005 - What Is A Fact Checker Supposed To Do With a Parable?

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Book Wrangler

December 5, 2005

By Bob Patterson 


Recently a friend asked me about getting started on a writing project and I immediately pulled out a copy of Writing the Natural Way by Gabriel Lusser Rico and offered to lend it to him.


That particular book was highly recommended to me by someone who has had four books published (my brother, Dr. Richard B. Patterson).  Later, I checked with a friend, Dennis Etchison (who is currently teaching a class in Horror writing in association with the Mystery & Imagination bookstore in Glendale California) and he concurred saying that the Rico book is the only one he would recommend for my friend to read.


There was another book that stressed the exercise of sitting down each day and forcing one's self to do writing, even if you have to start out by doing things like - "It's almost five o'clock on the afternoon of December 2, 2005, and I'm writing this because my Book Wrangler column is due on the desk of Just Above Sunset's beloved editor and publisher Alan Pavlik by first thing tomorrow morning."  You force yourself to put words down on paper for the same amount of time each day.  Eventually, you will overcome your resistance and the words will flow easily. Famed musician Keith Richards once said, "If you practice anything long enough, you get good at it."


Dennis commented that such an exercise was also a very good "warm up" exercise for someone who is embarking on an excursion into The Writing Zone, because it conditions the writer's mind to write on cue.


When I spoke with my friend who had precipitated the (so far) futile attempt to find the second book, I had to outline what that particular book urged and why it was a good way to get started.


My friend asked about the feasibility of dictating his thoughts into a portable tape recorder and having his words transcribed by a secretary.  According to some anecdotal evidence I had gathered early in life that was exactly how the creator of the Perry Mason series of books, Erle Stanley Gardner, worked, so I encouraged the white belt scribbler to do whatever worked for him.  If he felt more comfortable working that way (and could afford the secretarial services) well then by all means that's how he should proceed.


Another example of anecdotal evidence that I had accumulated in this lifetime of absorbing as much interesting minutia as possible to be available for use in things like novels, screenplays, and/or columns for an online publication, was the (alleged) fact that the mystery writer, Rex Stout, was supposed to have composed his novels on a linotype machine.  He had been, my hearsay evidence maintained, a linotype machine operator and felt most comfortable working in that rather unusual manner.  The pragmatic approach to writing says, "Do what works for you."


Some folks will maintain that I must not ever use such "urban legend" style information in a news story because it will be almost impossible for a fact checker to work on such flimsy material.  However, for the purposes of a pep talk with a white belt writer, I thought it was OK to use that material in my encouragement of his endeavors.  Technically, since a column is opinion and description of events in the columnist's life, using those two items of dubious authenticity would be permissible because that's actually what I did say to my friend and motivational parables are acceptable (to me) under the circumstances.


My gung-ho journalist buddy will object to the use of such un-fact-checkable material, but my rebuttal is that if a person who is an ordained minister can't use a parable in a homily meant to bolster a rookie's moral, then all fables, folk tales, and legends should be destroyed.  Do we want to go back to the book burning stage of human development again, Mr. Fact-Nazi?  It funny how conservatives can fudge on fact finding but they won't stand for it if they are talking to a liberal. 


So, I'll encourage the one guy to put fresh batteries in his mini-tape machine and do the Agent Cooper (if you don't know, ask any Twin Peaks fan) routine to get the word flow started.  Meanwhile, my fact-checker-prone fanatical friend (who believes that the alleged F-102 fighter pilot's elusive credentials are as incontestable as a statement from an infallible church leader) will just have to wait until I locate definitive biographies of both Erle Stanley Gardner and Rex Stout, before we continue this area of discussion.


[It took a bit of fact checking at Amazon.com to establish that the writer of the Perry Mason novels did spell his name Erle Stanley Gardner.  Not Earl and not Garner.]


The editor and publisher likes it when I deliver some information about new products for bookstores that many of this column's readers might not find elsewhere.


New items that we will mention are -


Jazz Life by William Claxton


Fat Politics: The Real Story Behind America's Obesity Epidemic by J. Eric Oliver.


Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia edited by J. E. Curtis and N. Tallis


The First Lady of Hollywood: A Biography of Louella Parsons by Samantha Barbas


Hammer From Above: Marine Air Combat Over Iraq by Jay A. Stout.


Just Another Soldier: A Year on the Ground in Iraq by Jason Christopher Hartley


A writer for the Baltimore Sun (a fellow named H. L. Menken) is quoted (in The Portable Curmudgeon) thus - "It is a fine thing to face machine guns for immortality and a medal, but isn't it a fine thing, too, to face calumny, injustice and loneliness for the truth which makes men free?" 


Now, if the disk jockey will play Over There, we'll march out of here for this week.  During the next seven days, we are going to try to contact the king of quotes, Jon Winokur, and see if we can get any information about what his latest project is.  Tune in again next week to see what (if anything) we can report.  Until then, have a week where the only hot lead you encounter is in a linotype machine.  "So long, Holly!"




Copyright 2005 - Robert Patterson

Email the author at worldslaziestjournalist@yahoo.com






Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
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