Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Writing is like driving a truck a little too big for me

My husband and I used to own an old red, full-size Dodge truck. I drove it quite a bit, and being a small woman, it always made me feel as though I was doing something unusual.  I would see my petite hands wrapped around the over-sized steering wheel, surprisingly slender, the flat bench seat seeming to push back at my hundred pounds of weight.  The steering had a constant jiggle from side to side in my hands. At first I tried to hold it steady but overtime I got comfortable enough to trust the truck to steer straight even if the wheel I held seemed to be shifting back and forth; it had play in it.  My arms would just relax into the movement.

Writing is like that.  It has wiggle room in a story when I am drafting, and I will feel at first that the story is drifting in and out of the center it should be in.  I slow down, hold tighter, end up over correcting, and the driving of the story is not enjoyable.  As I become more involved with its inhabitants, my grip loosens. I begin to trust the story to keep the road on its own, and the tremendous view out the window gets much more of my attention, not those quick glances that are punctuated by far more intense visuals of the speedometer, gas gauge and temperature indicator. 

When I have gained trust in the story, it doesn't get easier to write, any more than that truck got easier for me to push the pedal down or steer around corners, but the writing does feel more like it has a good reason to be coming into existence; there is purpose to it, place, time, people and growth.  So every story seems a little too big for me, a little unwieldy, but in time, I gain the finesse and ease of moving along the track of the story's way.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tuesday prompt 2

Think about a book or story you have read that made a strong impression on you. Select one of the secondary characters and imagine their point-of-view of what happened.  Now write their story.

This is nothing new. John Gardner did it in Grendel (based on Beowulf) and Rhys's also voiced other characters in Wide Sargasso Sea (a before Jane Eyre interpretation).  So give it a go.  What would another character say about how things went and why?  Give it a week's effort. See you next Tuesday.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Drawing pictures with a blinking cursor

I have always viewed writing as a way to create moving pictures in a person's mind. Sometimes the movement is just the steady closing in on the moment of discovery when everything is crystal clear, intense, sharp to the senses.  Other times the view is like the image made by a really fine film camera where everything in the background is slightly blurred and only a single impression is cast in sharp relief to the mind's understanding. I love building those images.

Yesterday I was working on my story having set aside a few minutes.  I had been writing intently working on a particular scene.  The time seemed to have been endless, and I had stopped to back up and view what I had written.  Silly, but I highlighted the new text to check word count, a bit over 500 words.  Disgusted, I set to again to refine the images and dialogue to make it feel bright, deep and authentic.  Even now my mind still keeps running back to the little scene, noting that I had kept the view small, never moving out to create a sense of place, a feel for the desert, the loneliness and the irony of feeling chilled in the intense burning heat of a too hot planet.

Friday or maybe Saturday, I'll bend over that scene again, work on the distanced view, come in close again and finally find that something of what I had hoped to have wrought was on the screen tapped by the steady rhythm of the cursor blinking.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The first weekly prompt

So I thought I would combine a little of my teacher stuff with my writer stuff.  Every Tuesday I am going to post a prompt for creative writers to respond to. The idea is to write on the prompt idea for a full week. Then start on the next one.

Prompt:  If you have read the book To Kill a Mockingbird, you will recall the situation I am about to describe.  If not, I think I have enough here to make the event clear.

Remember when Atticus was just trying to make Mayella Ewell comfortable in court, and the girl became quite angry because she felt he was insulting her by calling her Miss Mayella?  She was certain he was making fun of her because no one ever called her Miss Mayella, and she told the judge she was not going to answer any more questions because he was treating her badly. The judge tried to tell Mayella that this was just Atticus Finch's way, that he was not making fun of her but was being respectful. She wasn't buying it.

Your prompt is to write about a kindness misread.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Acts of One Person Could Help the Economy

I have always firmly believed that the acts of one person can represent many and can also lead to similar acts.  I recently heard of an individual who worked to build his house entirely of U.S. made products, from nails to wood to windows.  As a result, he proved that one can build a quality and cost effective (the cost was only 1% over what it would have been had he used "cheaper" foreign made materials) home.  In fact, according to the actions of those who worked to emulate him, the all U.S. product home was of superior quality to the standard currently followed by those trying to save money and make a profit.  Find it here:

Just one percent of cost, but a hundred percent of effect to our economy (and increased quality of result): I was flabbergasted and feel certain that there lies our road to recovery.  If every contractor (private or commercial) chose this same process and looked at it as an investment, a small drop in profit to raise our country's economy, what a change they could bring.  And if other companies and individuals followed similar acts of investment, accepting the small cost it would otherwise have been, what effect would we have on our American economy?

If we are a world economy, would not our becoming stabilized lead to other countries stabilizing their own economies.  The acts of one person can lead to many in similar acts. Let's not leave our country in the hands of talking heads.  Let's lead it ourselves out of this economic valley.  Thank you,  Anders Lewendal of Bozeman, Montana.

So this had little to nothing to do with writing, but somewhere the idea is percolating.  One person, one percent, over time, can bring about positive change.  Not a bad story idea, not a bad way to run one's life in general.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Nifty little mind mapping program

As promised, this post is about a mind mapping program I downloaded onto my iPhone.  It is called Simplemind and is user-friendly and versatile.  I wanted something like Freemind, but for my phone for when I am away from my computer but want to map out an idea for a story, lesson plan or even organize my directory of teacher files which has gotten a bit cumbersome over the years.  I upgraded it from the free version and gained nice features, such as making folders for separate categories of maps. So my Student of Jump series maps are separate from my school stuff and my daughter stuff.

Because it is set up for the iPhone, it responds to finger action in a way I wish Freemind did, closing up sections and easy sliding whole sections about, or moving a set of ideas from one topic bubble to another if I decide I want a plot event to occur later or earlier than I originally planned.  (There are a lot of features it doesn't have that Freemind does, which is why it won't be replacing Freemind.) Of course, if the map is big, then it gets difficult to see on a small screen; however, the real point was to have access to this type of program when away from a large screen, which is why I like a second important feature it has: I can email myself a pdf version of the map.  I can also save it to an online web holding site for retrieval.

Since I just started the app to make sure I had my info correct, I have learned that it does come in a desktop version that apparently is governed by the phone app.  A link is created through a password and then one can exchange maps and edit in either location via a wifi connection.  Hmmm, that sounds promising, but appears to be a little more complicated on the purchase than I am ready to go, especially since Freemind meets my needs.   As for use on the phone, while away from a handy computer, it is great.  I sat in a field watching my husband mow down weeds, and I was able to outline a book.  Very handy.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I write time travel stories

I like time travel stories because the character that travels in time still has to deal with who he or she is.  In my first novel of the series I am writing, the main character Brent Garrett is impulsive and tends to do what is immediately important to him.  That impulsiveness sets in motion a series of actions that ultimately send him back in time 200 years. But he takes that impulsiveness with him.  Though it is not a fatal flaw, it is a flaw which effects everything he does.  That is what I like about a time travel story, I can work with those distinct qualities of character.  There can be growth and change, epiphany and conflict as the character either becomes aware of that innate flaw or responds to the results of it by adjusting how he or she reacts. In the first book, In Times Passed, Garrett does not come to understand that he is the reason behind his actions, but he does work to make his reactions more productive. (And he does actually come face to face with the person responsible for his troubles, hee, hee). As the series progresses, he does mature, though he is not the main character of each book as different individuals take on the role at center stage.  Students of Jump 1 (In Times Passed) and 2 (No Time Like the Present) are largely focused on Brent Garrett. The second book does contain a different main character, Garrett's daughter.  She too travels in time and carries her own baggage, initially created by the actions of her father but sustained by her own.

I also enjoy humor, especially in the bantering between characters, and that is a key element in my writing in this series.  People (and for fiction: characters) who truly care about each other have the ability to use language in such a manner that it tips ideas, memory and experience, a repertoire per say of the links between two people, that make for dialogue that shows depth and connection.  I enjoy building characters that connect tightly with other characters and seem to enjoy each other's company.