“Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” and Nebraska Summers

“Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” and Nebraska Summers
Donald L. Vasicek

Augusts in Ord, Nebraska were stifling. Temperatures were in the 90′s and the humidity was also as nearly high back in the 1940′s and 1950′s. When I wasn’t in the swimming pool, or on the golf course, or sitting in the shade with my twin brother eating some of Mom’s canned sauerkraut we filched from a dirt basement under our house and arguing who was a better baseball player, Mickey Mantle or Eddie Mathews (my favorite was Eddie Mathews, a third baseman for the Milwaukee Braves, he played third base, and his swing from the left hand side of the plate was as smooth as marble), I spent my time in the Ord Township Library.

Mrs. Smith was the librarian during those years. A somewhat grumpy woman who said little, but always dressed very professionally with her gray/white hair always up in a bun. I was intimidated by her, but equally, I was very close to her. I guess I got on her nerves because I was the kind of kid who always asked questions, probably too many questions, about books, like the Hardy Boys mysteries, “Is the newest one in yet, Mrs. Smith?” I asked in a wavering voice.

“Donnie,” she’d always say, I’ll call your Mom when it’s in.” She would turn then, and go back to stamping library cards, something which always fascinated me. She’d pound the stamper, an oblong-handled device with a square ink pad on the bottom of it, on staid cards. And what once was a blank space on the cards, now had a date on them.

So, I’d meander through the library, checking out books, until I found one. I remember one, “The Jungle Book” (1894) by Rudyard Kipling. A short story in the book, “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”, about a valiant young mongoose’s adventures, particularly with cobra snakes. I sat down and begin reading it. Before I knew it, Mrs. Smith notified me that it was time for the library to close. So, I tried to check out the book, but she told me I’d have yet to have returned 3 other books that I checked out, and she warned, “You know the rule, you can only check out 3 books at a time.”

I said okay. I put the book back on the shelf and planned to return the next afternoon to check to see if the newest Hardy Boys Mystery book was in, and to read more “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”.

This past August I was in Ord with my brother to check out our roots back there. The temperature was in 90′s, so was the humidity. I stopped in the library. It was the only place in Ord that had WiFi, and I had some emails to attend to. So, I visited with Kristi Hagestrom, the director for a bit. I told her about Mrs. Smith and my visits to the library when I was a boy. She was riveted by the story. And I found it heart-warming to have been blessed with good health to be there and embrace the smell, the sounds, and the sights of a place that will always be cherished by me. For it was in the Ord Township Library that shaped my future for me and where I’m at today.

“How to Write a Story”

In every story, there must be a beginning, a middle,
and an end.  It must contain a main theme that holds
everything in the story together.  The story should also
have a main character who has to achieve a goal in
the story.  There should also be an opposing force,
an antagonist, and/or a villain who has the same goal,
but for a different reason and who goes about achieving
the goal in a different way.

Another key element to writing an effective story is
to make sure you are “showing” the story and not
“telling” the story.  The way you accomplish this is
to pay special attention to your verb usage.  Using
passive verbs results in “telling” the story.  Using
action verbs results in “showing” the story.  You
must have the instinct to know when to use
passive verbs and when to use action verbs.  This
will make a big difference in the effectiveness of
your story.

A compelling story always contains these story
elements.  It is in the execution of these elements
that determines how compelling your story will be.

I hope this is of help to you.

Award-Winning Writer/Filmmaker Donald L. Vasicek

Writing Story Beats


When writing a screenplay, by writing story beats first, it helps you organize your thoughts into a more coherent form. Once you complete writing the story beats, you can then begin writing each scene for your screenplay. By following this approach, you will find that you have a road map to follow with respect to your story beats. So, much of your grunt work goes into the story beats, while most of your creative work goes into the writing of each scene.

Story beats should show each scene in brief form. They do not have to be written in perfect grammar. They simply need to be written down in order. Story beats can be looked upon as idea beats. You have an idea for a scene. What should take place in that scene.? “Oh, yeah, this, this, and this.” Bang! You’ve written your story beats for the first scene. A word of caution, always enter your scene at the last moment and get out of the scene as soon as you can.

For example, on page 1/minute 1 of my screenplay/movie, “The Caller”, I introduce the setting. I introduce the main character. I show what she does as a professional. I show how she acts and reacts around other people. Bang! I move to the next page/scene. The story beats are: Introduce the setting. Introduce the main character. Show what she does as a professional. Show how she acts and reacts around other people. Get out, move to the next page/scene.

Once you get some story beats down, you will find that ideas come up where you want to write more in story beats you’ve already written. So, do that. If you want to expound on the setting, e.g., then add to introduce the setting, behind the stage of a fashion show. Then, get back to your story beats for the scene on which you are presently working.

Writing story beats are refreshing and very helpful to writing a multi-dimensional screenplay, something for which every screenwriter should strive.

Story beats 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6...