Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When your character is in trouble, or you need them to be

Mad Scientist
There is a lovely little book called The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook.  This book is great if you are looking for a problem for your character to handle or your character is in a predicament you are uncertain how to bring to a proper conclusion.  Chances are this book or its travel version, will have the perfect get out, get in, get them before they get him/her idea that will fit your plot handily.  Comedy or serious trouble, this book will provide.  Is your character being followed, lost in the woods, dealing with a volcanic eruption?  Check out this book.  Scam artist, runaway horse, mad scientist.....

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tuesday prompt: 2012 #13

Inspirational frog and teacher.
Write a letter of thanks to the person you hold most responsible for your writing ability.  Explain what that person gave to you that added to who you are as a writer.

My most responsible person was a third grade teacher named Miss Mann.  She was stern, creative, formidable, knowledgeable and caring.  She started out as my first grade reading teacher and then turned up as my third grade classroom teacher.  She taught me to appreciate books and then taught me the desire to write. At the end of my first grade year, she made me promise to write her stories over the summer. She supplied me with her address, and she wrote back each time. She would send her letters written on fanciful writing paper and suggest that I write a story about whatever was pictured on it. I only remember one, a giant green bullfrog whose mouth supplied her writing space.  I don't remember what I wrote, but I do remember what her reply was.  Write another story and be kind to your little brother.  I suspect the frog ate him.

So Miss Mann, wherever you are out there, Thank you for developing my imagination, for being the person I knew would always read what I wrote and tell me to do it again.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Seeking simplicity in writing

Simplicity of a flower
I have been reading Steve Jobs a biography by Walter Isaacson and have become enthralled with Jobs' pursuit of simplicity.  His idea that as one simplifies there is a point when the object you seek to reduce to simplest terms becomes complicated again.  So one must search deeper for the release of a greater simplicity. And he did this by constant pursuit of epiphany, the moment of recognition that he had found "it."  So as I am reading this book, I am thinking about how this applies to writing.  Simplicity and the reader reaching an epiphany together in the form of story.  Ezra Pound did this.  His production of the poem "In a Station at the Metro" is all about simplicity.  He started out with many images, and 30 lines of poetry.  Pound whittled down and streamlined his poem until only two lines remained of one intense image and all that the image carried to his reader. This is what I think of:  How to write with simplicity in mind?  How to come to that moment of epiphany, when the writer knows the story has been told.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday prompt: 2012 #12

You are leaning over a bridge, looking deeply into clouds swirling below you.  Evergreen treetops poke through the white translucence, and hints of what lies farther down, float through.

So why in heck are you there?  Are you queasy at all? Is this viewpoint a choice or being forced upon you?  Carry the description the rest of the way.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Running out of ideas?

Every writer needs a little help some time. So here is a book that might just help. A Writer's Book of Days.  I purchased this from Writer's Digest years ago, but it is still available, paperback and eBook format.  It offers so much to a writer. Besides supplying daily writing prompts, it offers insight into the minds of productive, imaginative authors along with the opportunity to gain a little insight about oneself as a writer.

It offers the following:
  • exercises to improve writing
  • 365 days of writing prompts
  • questions to consider about writing habits and desires
  • short quotes that encourage and motivate the writer
  • other writers' experiences
It's a handy little book that I have used privately and as a textbook for my creative writing students.  Each student knows to just turn to the page for the day's date if a class day is missed, and the prompt is the same as his/her peers responded to that day.  I don't use the other features daily in class, but some days, they are the perfect supplement to the day's instruction.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tuesday Prompt: 2012 #11

Open a thesaurus or dictionary and look for really great words. Then just start writing until you find a place for each word.  Here are a few to consider:


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Last day of the Read an E-Book Promotion at Smashwords

When I first considered including my book in the promotion at Smashwords, I was a little uncertain.  I just didn't want to be disappointed and find that no one wanted to buy my book, even for free.  But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed the right way to gain readers for my book In Times Passed.  I remember my daughter saying, "Hey, maybe you'll sell five books." I was hoping for one a day, seven in the end. Well, so far, there has been just short of two purchases a day for these seven days of the promotion.  Not bad for an unknown author.  And certainly much better than none at all.

My main hope has been that a few readers will write reviews that I can gain insight from.  Good or bad, I'll learn something and apply it to my books currently undergoing edit and revision.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How to write good dialogue

Writer at work
Teaching dialogue is not easy, partly because we all talk without paying attention. To write dialogue you have to have paid attention to others talking.  But that's eavesdropping!  Okay, so listen without making any judgements, and definitely don't make any faces or any shocked sounds in response to what you hear.  This is scientific research; be objective about it.

  • So listen.  Note how two (or more) people talk without really responding directly to what each person is saying.  This is important. We rarely answer questions directly because we often don't want to give away anything important, and we have other things on our mind at the time and want to share or not share those things, so we tend to answer off topic.  Also, if we have a long term relationship with the person, we are going to talk in a sort of short hand, fragments, incomplete sentences. Some writers like to mimic this very tightly, others prefer to write in complete sentences while maintaining all other aspects of authentic speech.
"Honey, where did you put my keys?"
"You never gave me any keys."
"No. They were here on the table, where your hat is now. So where did you move my keys?"
"There weren't any keys when I put my hat there."

  • Note, the person responding to the question has not once answered the question.  The hat person is more worried about being blamed for losing the keys then helping the key person find them.

  • Dialogue also needs to be essential.  Don't waste time with dialogue that isn't offering something: characterization, rising action, relationship dynamics and such. 

So in the above situation, maybe the hat person does in fact have keys, but they are the keys to a new car, and hat person just wants to get key person to get frustrated enough to confront him, so he can then jangle them in key person's face, get that reaction he has been hoping for.

  • Add action, physical movement, reactions, etc., to create a greater sense of individuality and scene for the reader.
Modified example:
     Jill picked up the sweaty baseball cap and peered beneath it at the otherwise empty hall table.  She tipped the cap to look inside and then called over her shoulder loud enough to be heard in the next room, "Honey, where did you put my keys?"
     "You never gave me any keys," was the muffled reply.
     "Noooo," she stretched the word in mild irritation.  "They were here on the table."  She clenched the hat tightly and dropped it back down.  "Where you hat is now." Pivoting on one heel, she turned to the doorway.  "So where did you move my keys?"
     This time the response held the same note of irritation as her own, "There weren't any keys when I put my hat there."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tuesday Prompt: 2012 #10

Write with a strong image in mind.  Let it stay prominent so that it keeps reappearing in different forms, offering new meaning.  Use water or paper or a jumble of wires.

So for example, I'll use sky.

She lay on her back counting stars as they appeared, searching out the steady light of planets, waiting for a new day that would need the night to mature.  The lights of her neighbor's back porch forced her to shield one eye which cut off one side of the horizon, but it left her the inky blackness right up to the fence line, just one more limitation on her future.  Yet the stars still offered her clear skies with just a hint of confusion in a drift of Milky Way, so she imagined a boat load of friends could come by way of the Pleiades, and how could one argue with that.  She sighed and closed her eyes a moment to clear the jangle of thoughts that wanted to crowd out her contemplation of possibilities, and when she opened them, the neighbor's porch light went out.  Before her a vastness spread, and the clean night presented stunning promise in abundance.

Monday, March 5, 2012

This week is Read an E-Book Week at Smashwords.
I have my book In Times Passed available at Smashwords for FREE with the following coupon: RE100. The promotion will run until March 10. So go read an E-Book today.