Category Archives: Fiction

Getting Ready for a New Adventure with an Old Friend

Like I mentioned before, after almost 8 years of silence, I’ve gone back to the one form of writing which really was my gateway into the creative world, playwriting!! I spent my senior year of high school in a playwriting course and I absolutely adored it!! I expected to enter into college, major in english or communications and spend my professional career as a playwright. Unfortunately things didn’t turn out exactly as I would have wished.
As I was driving to school for my last day of senior year I was t-boned. I suffered numerous injuries, most devastatingly a traumatic brain injury. All of my dreams for my future were shattered. I was shattered. Eventually I got back into writing but I never got back to playwriting. I think the time is right. 

Getting back into playwriting aka my first love!!

Right now I am writing a sort of experimental theatre piece. It’s difficult to explain, but I want to show the type of cognitive disconnect between the mind and body a person with TBI experiences. Right now i have it set up that there are two characters which represent one person. One of the characters is the patient who suffered the tbi, and the other is their inner self. For example during one moment the patient gets a shot but doesn’t have the mental capacity to voice their reaction, the other character acts as a characterization of the patient’s reactions to their experiences. 

In a sense this play will do two things, it offers me a way to write plays again, and it also gives me a way to write about my own experiences with brain injuries. I’ve tried to write about my injury before, but it was just too emotional for me. I was just too close to that story so I couldn’t write it without making it maudlin or over the top. By writing it this way it gives me a way to write my story subjectively. 

What I’m writing: Right now I’m drafting a possible plotline of my play and some character profiles. I’m writing diary entries for each of my characters so I have a more grounded idea of their mental states. I’m also sketching some ideas for the set so I have at least a vague idea of the world my characters live in.
What I’m reading: One of the things I wanted read this year was the complete Sherlock Holmes and I just finished Hound of the Baskervilles. I have to get through a few of the short stories and I will be finished!! Oh and I’m about halfway done with A Dance with Dragons, the 5th Game of Thrones book. After I’ve finished that I’m planning on reading The Godfather by Mario Puzo. 

Exercise of the Day: The Scar

A lot of people in the world have scars. I have a circular scar on my hand from when I burned myself baking a pie. Take one of your scars  and create a character who has the same scar, but create a new story for how the character got that scar. For example I created a character who had a scar on his hand just like my own, but they got theirs from a dog bite and not from baking a pie.  Did their scar change them? Did the scar alter their appearance or personality? 

Have fun with this and I will see you later!!!

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Filed under Characters, Creative, Creative writing, Drama, Fiction, Literature, Novels, Playwriting, Plot, Reading, Uncategorlzed, Writing, writing prompt, writing tips

What are you reading/writing?

It’s been a long while since I’ve posted and, dang it’s good to be back!!! So what are you all writing and reading?

What are you writing?

I’ve started out the year by going through my yearly review. For the past month I’ve been going over all of my old notebooks full of old story ideas I had massed through the years. I gave the old idea tree a shake, and I found a few stories and outlines from years ago that I’d completely forgotten about. There was one story about a young girl who’s trying to solve a mystery in a Gothic mansion sometime in the 1800’s. The story as I had written it in college was a bit of a shambles so I think I might try to rewrite it as a play. I got started with creative writing during a playwriting course in high school, so I think it might be nice to get back to my roots. 

Getting back to my playwriting roots!! 🙂

What are you reading?

For the past few weeks I’ve been working through my ever expanding  to-read list. I’ve read the first 8 books in the Phryne Fisher murder mysteries series by Kerry Greenwood, Girl on the Train, and I’ve just started on Philip K Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle’. I’ve also started on my 2017 Reading Resolution List. Every year I give myself a challenge to read certain important books which I think I might have read but never actually have. This year I intend to read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, and Team of Rivals. I’ve become more interested in writing mystery stories so this year I decided to read the stories which laid the foundations for the genre. The Sherlock stories introduced a lot of the principles of forensic investigation (some of which are still in use today) and The Moonstone has been cited as the very first detective story ever written. 

Thanks for reading and commenting!!! I really appreciateI’ll see you soon!!!

Exercise of the day- Clearing the Cobwebs

We all get into ruts at times. Our minds start feeling sluggish and it seems that the world is speeding past without us. What does your character feel or think when they get into that mindset? What situations made them feel that way? What would they do to get their minds back into fighting form? Write a journal entry for your character which answers these questions.

Have fun with this!! 

 

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Best New TV Shows of 2015-2016?

What New TV Show for the 2015-2016 Season is the Best?

I’m glad to be back and posting!! I’ve been down with health problems for a while, but I’m finally starting to feel better!!! During the time when I was ill I couldn’t read as much as I would normally have done because of migraines so I spent a lot of time watching television. While there are some, myself included, who are continually dragging television and its writing through the mud I realized that there a lot of shows whose script quality surprised me.

Let’s start out with a brief recap of some of the new shows which came onto the scene in the 2015-2016 season. For all of the shows I list I’m going to sort them from what I think are the worst to the best. Just as a side note, I’m only talking about the four major networks because they’re the only stations I get in my area.

For CBS-

3. Limitless – While the story is interesting the main character is written as such a smug and entitled jerk than I could not get invested in his story. This show did something extraordinary in that it created a reboot which was better than the original source material, the way its main character is written made me lose all interest.

2.  Supergirl – I have seen a few versions of Supergirl in the past but to me they all had the same problem. All versions of this superhero have made her seem too much like a whiny little girl who happens to have super powers where I would prefer her to be shown as a superhero who just happens to be a young woman. While I enjoy that this character is being used as a positive role model for young girls but I would liked to have seen her written as a little more mature.

1. Life in Pieces – While some have said that Life in Pieces with its form of showing four short stories which center around one family is merely riding on the coattails of Modern Family, I have found it to be a completely refreshing take on the family sitcom (which I actually like better than Modern Family). The main thing which I like about this show is its realistic characters. In watching this show I have been reminded of my own family and the families of my friends, which adds a level of genuinely to its laughs.

Life In Pieces

Best CBS show of the new season

  

For NBC-

2. The Player – This show…what to say about it? It is difficult to find the right words to describe it because, even though I watched a few episodes I still have no idea what the story was actually meant to be about. There were explosions, sexual innuendo and bravado but that is all I can call to mind. Unfortunately this is a show which relied so heavily on its FLASH BAM elements that it fails to come up with a believable or interesting story.

1. Blindspot – This has easily been my favorite show of the entire year. It has some of the same FLASH BAM elements which I mentioned in The Player, I mean I don’t think an episode has gone by without an explosion or gunfight of some kind, but its multi-faceted characters and multilayered plotlines offer it more substance than flash.

Blindspot

Best CBS show of the new season

For ABC –

2. The Muppets – As a fan of the Muppet movies of the past and the ones which have been released in recent years I was very excited to hear that ABC was planning on making a Muppets TV show. My excitement completely wore away as I watched the first episode. I was hoping for a return to the Muppet Show of the past but was instead greeted by a combination reality show mockumentary with inappropriate innuendos. This show just feels wrong and to my mind isn’t an accurate representation of what the Muppets are.

1. Quantico – Like many ABC shows Quantico relies a bit heavily on its steamy elements (ala Grey’s Anatomy). However its time jumping element combined with its terrorism and government conspiracy storylines have set it apart from the soap opera mold and have made it what I consider to be the best new show on ABC for 2015-2016.

ABC-Quantico

Best CBS show of the new season

For FOX-

2. Scream Queens – This show combines together all of the most annoying elements of the horror movies of the 90’s and blends it all together into a weird mashup. I really couldn’t tell if they were trying to make a horror or comedy show. The writing of this show is unfunny and so formulaic that it had no chance of holding my interest.

1. Lucifer – To be honest I actually don’t like this show, but it was at least a little better written than Scream Queens. In recent years the FOX network has been grinding out shows of this nature with suave antiheros, Empire being the most successful of these. When I heard the initial premise for this show I could imagine every character and almost hear the smugness of the main character. It’s better written than Scream Queens but I’ll still pass.

lucifer

Best CBS show of the new season

Best show of the 2015 – 2016 Season: BLINDSPOT

I am a big fan of spy/government conspiracy shows and am particularly fond of ones with a female driven cast. In the early 2000’s there was the JJ Abrams show Alias and more recently there has been Person of Interest, but that’s been about it. When I first heard the premise for Blindspot, a young Jane Doe with no memory of her past dropped off in Time Square and her entire body is tattooed with complex puzzles? Yup…I was intrigued. I hate it when a show is so predictable that I feel, even if I’m watching a new episode, like I’ve seen it all before. I also don’t care for shows that throw in random twists which don’t seem to fit any of the characters or the feeling of the series. You see I like it when a show has twists but I want those twists to feel like they arose as a natural progression of the story and weren’t just randomly thrown in to tick fans off (*cough*cough*Game of Thrones*cough). Blindspot has an intelligent script, and some of the strongest female characters I have seen on television in years.

blindspot2

Best CBS show of the new season

How about you? What did you think about the new crop of shows from the past year? Sound off in the comments!!

Even though this post was all about television, that does not mean that I have forgotten about writing!! One of the biggest factors which for me separates a good tv show from a bad one is the writing. Most importantly as I mentioned above I love when shows can avoid overly predictable plots without adding in twists which feel forced and the same is true with writing. I do not like it when I read back through my stories and particular plot twists feel out of place, like I just threw them in for laughs. So long for now!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: Escape at any cost

Imagine a character who is trapped in some way. Perhaps they are trapped in a menial job, maybe they’re stuck in a bad marriage or perhaps they are the captive of an alien life form. How does the character respond? Do they try to escape their situation? Imagine what lengths your character might go to in order to achieve their freedom. If they are successful in escaping their situation what do they do?

 

Have fun with this and I will see you later!!

P.S. IT’S GREAT TO BE BACK!!!

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3 Changes that Made my 2015 Nano more Successful than Ever!!

Nanowrimo 2015 has officially come to a close!!! Well I didn’t quite hit the mark. I got to 30,000 words, which isn’t quite as much as I wanted to write, but it’s way better than I have ever done before.

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Reading = Worth the stuggle

Change #1– Stop Editing! All I did differently was to write without a censor. In previous years I would write a bit then go back over what I had done to make sure it made sense. This year I looked at Nanowrimo in a new way. I viewed it like a very long rough draft. When I was writing research papers in college I would just use the rough draft I wouldn’t spend much time editing, I’d just try to throw some ideas into pile to try and see what my thesis could be.  So this time I tried shut the editing section of my mind off while I was writing. Now that I really feel like I have a grip on the form and shape of my story I am going to put the editorial phase of my story on hold until the new year. I’m using the next few weeks to rest my brain, get some reading done, and also get ready for Christmas.

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Sure it's good to clean up your writing, but hold off on it until you've actually written something. Write first, edit last.

Change #2– Sleep More- I know that I’ve mentioned this before, but sleep is one of a writer’s best friends. Well it would seem I needed a dose of my own medicine. In recent months with working two jobs I had let my sleep schedule get really messed up and I was trying to juggle everything on just a few hours of sleep. During that time I was also trying to work on my writing, but for some reason I wasn’t having any luck at developing ideas. Then one day I was going back over something I had written in a notebook a few years before. There in big red letters were the words “If you don’t sleep your brain does not work properly”. There it was!!! I wasn’t sleeping so of course I couldn’t think straight!!! I’ve told so many people that in the past, but I never thought I’d be the one who needed to be told that!! So now I make sure that I am in bed by 11PM at the very latest and I try to get a solid and consistent 8 hours a night.

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I felt such a dope!!! I've been telling people for year's how important sleep is to the writing process!!! A more consistent sleep schedule made all the difference!!

Change #3– Diary Entries- Before I had ahh thought of what my story was I started out with a list of my characters with some of their personality quirks. With that list as my starting point I wrote a short diary entry from each of the characters’ perspectives. It really gave me a fun way to envision who the characters are, how they think, and what they sound like.

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Imagining what my character might write in their private dairies really gave me the chance to see from their perspectives

Just a few little changes to my thought process and writing techniques led me to greater success than I have ever achieved before. How did you all do? What did you do to relieve stress?

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Pet
For this exercise you are going to think of one of your favorite characters and imagine their pet. What type of pet do they keep? What do they name it? Does the pet’s personality reflect their owner?

I’ll see you around!!!

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Creating Characters: The Writers First and Best Tool

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Ok so I’ve gotten a good start on my nano. Like I mentioned before it’s not something I normally do. In all the times I’ve tried it before the whole nano process just never seemed to click for me. So far I have been pleasantly surprised with how things have gone so far. When I first started out I didn’t try to think of a plot, I wrote down a list of some character ideas. I wrote down a list of characters, gave them each a few distinctive personality quirks and then I wrote a journal entry from each of their perspectives. It gave me a way to envision who the character was and also how they sounded. After I had a few characters I started thinking of some ideas for situations I could put them in and how they might react and before long I had the layout for my plot!!  Journal

I decided that my story will be a mystery/suspense novel. So far I have a few thousand words down and things are looking alright so far. Right not I’m trying not to worry about my plot while I’m writing. I just want to write write and write some more!! I think I need to approach my nano like it’s a first draft. Don’t analyze every word just get the story out, save making it pretty for later.

I started my nano off by thinking about the characters because in my mind they are the most important piece of any kind of story. I think a piece of fiction (novel, play, tv series etc) can still be entertaining and good even if its plot is only so-so if the characters in it are strong enough to hold the audiences’ interest.Mad_Men_season_5_cast_photo

The characters in the show Mad Men were the main reason I never watched it. A few of my friends recommended it to me so I added it to my Netflix queue and gave it a go. In general when I watch a new show I’ll watch about three or four episodes just to see if I like it, but if it hasn’t caught my interest after that I give up. So I watched the first four episodes of Mad Men and at the end of that time I hated all of the characters. I found the majority of them to be whiny, manipulative, or stupid and so I was never really interested in their lives or stories.  For one reason or another all of the characters had gotten on my nerves to the point that I found it impossible to watch because there wasn’t a single character I was rooting for. The problem wasn’t the plot or the story itself because I love a good period piece. The ideas and stories which made up the show had the potential to be highly entertaining however the general attitude of the characters was so depressing that it made it impossible for me to get involved or even interested in any of it.

What about you? Are their many tv shows/movies/books which had interesting plots that you’ve not liked because of the characters?

A story can survive a few plot holes, however having characters who are strong enough to hold onto the readers or audience is paramount to writing a successful story. Right now I think I am going to go run off and think of some more characters which I can add to my story later. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail with them yet but I want to think of how the characters I already have would react if a new person suddenly appeared on the scene.

So long for now!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Memories of the House

For this exercise I want you to imagine that the family home of one of your characters in a sentient being with thoughts and feelings. What does the house feel about its residents? What does it remember about its previous occupants? Did the past of the house in some way shape its present personality? Does the personality of the house have any impact on the life of your character? Have fun and I will see you later!!

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Another Nano, Another Year!

Well another November has come and writers all throughout the world have joined together to attempt the seemingly impossible, to write a novel in a month. I personally have tried a few times before to complete a nano but found the process to be far too chaotic and stressful to work with my writing style.

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However, I never like to give up on anything without giving it my all so I’m going to give it another chance. This time I think I have acquired enough techniques to cope with the stress that nano had always placed upon me. I have a vague plot I’ve been developing in recent months which I’d like to use as the basis for my nano so the only thing I need now is time. That’s the real struggle isn’t it? I truly wish that the person who had originally thought of the idea of nanowrimo has selected another month.

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Prepare for battle!!!!

November and December are like my own personal Battle of Badon Hill except instead of a field of warring Britons and Anglo Saxons I will spend that time drowning in a faceless mass of holiday shoppers.

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They're heeeeeeeeere...

I hope that I have the fortitude and the strength to give my nano everything I have without collapsing. I am going to give myself a bit of leeway when it comes to the week of Black Friday though. I am planning to skip any writing on that week so I can rest up. I am already scheduled to work nearly 20 hours on Thursday and Friday combined so I am pushing the last week of my nano until the first week in December. That way I can get my writing in, but also avoid a complete mental collapse.

What do you do during nano to help you handle stress? It can be a rigorous process so we all need to find ways to cope with the mental strain. I think this time around I need to create a greater support system for myself. I am going to spend more time talking to my writer friends who are also attempting nanos so that we can all vent our frustrations and perhaps even help each other with idea generation. I have to get back to work but I’ll be around later with status updates, etc. So long!!!

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Exercise of the Day: The Debate
For this exercise you need to select two characters who are enemies and imagine that they are both running for president. Write a statement for both candidate explaining their respective stances. You will need to think of what they believe, why they believe it, and also what they would say to convince voters to join their cause.

So long for now!!!

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A Few Steps to Help Your Characters through Personal Trauma

All people, the real ones and the fictitious ones, are going to have some kind pf physical or psychological obstacles thrown at them at some point in their lives. In order to make your character’s  journey seem more believable it is important that you work through precisely how your character would respond to a particular trauma and also to think of how they might adapt themselves to deal with whatever the trauma is. In a sense it’s almost like you have to write out a 5 step program for your characters to work through their problems because if you just said *poof* EVERYTHING’S ALL BETTER, it would seem a bit hard to believe. It would be great if we could all summon “hang-up fairies” to help rid us of all of our troubles, but that just isn’t how things usually work out for normal people so if you want to make your characters seem more relatable to readers it’s a good idea to figure out how to have them sort through their problems.

Sometimes you feel like your character's creator AND therapist!!!

Sometimes you feel like your character’s creator AND therapist!!!

Sometimes when you’re writing you feel like your characters therapist. You know all their troubles and have listened to all of their desires and dreams, but there will come a time when your character is faced with a dilemma of some sort and you must decide how they should face it and get on with their lives. I like to go step by step through these five stages every time one of my characters is attempting to deal with some sort of trauma, injury, or loss.

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  1. 1. Acknowledgement: The first step for both the character and the writer both is to acknowledge the problem for what it is, and to accept its consequences. It is best when starting out for your character to get a clear picture of what their trauma entails. Think for example, if you were injured in a car accident before you would go about getting over your injuries you would first have to come to a full and complete understanding of what your injuries were.
  2. Thought/Reflection: In most cases after bad things happen the human mind tends to play them over and over again. Do not shy away from it, use it. When your characters relive their trauma what do they think? What do they learn from it? Does your character alter their memory in any way? Do they invent scenarios to generate sympathy or to justify their behavior? This can also be dangerous, both for fictitious people and real ones, because it can lead to fixation or obsession. You might find that your character is the type who doesn’t really want to get over their emotional trauma and would rather remain tangled in a web of obsession and regret, and if that is the case you might use this step to determine how their obsession would manifest itself.
  3. Action: Thinking can only get your characters so far. So they have taken time and fully thought through their problem, what do they do then? True, they could have just remained at step number two and assed their situation and feeling again and again, but if your characters have a problem in their lives they are eventually going to have to figure out a way to try and solve it. Have you ever had one of those friends who, whenever you try to offer them a possible solution to a problem they’re venting about they blow up in for face with something like “just let me have my feelings!!”? Well get so caught up in expressing our emotion we never figure out what action we’re going to take to solve the reason we had those emotions in the first place the problem will never be solved. The same thing is true for our characters and in some cases if we let them stew in their emotions for too long their problem will only have the time to get worse.
  4. Help/Trust: In many cases our characters will find they can’t deal with their problems alone and so they might need outside help. You need to figure out who they would trust to help them. In doing so you’ll need to decide how this person will make your character trust them and also what they’re going to do to help.
  5. Resolve: Ok so your character understands their issue, has accepted to extent of its fallout, has figured out an action to take, and has gotten some people over onto their side? Now you need to decide how easily your character makes it through these steps. Do they have the will power to see it through to the end? Do they stumble? Do they fall? If they fall, what do they do to keep going? If your character does give up, what will that meant for their psychological and emotional growth?

Have to dash, spring is here and with that comes a huge list of spring chores. See you next time!!!

Spring cleaning ahoy!!! First on my list is my desk!!! It'll take me all week but it's worth it!!! :)

Spring cleaning ahoy!!! First on my list is my desk!!! It’ll take me all week but it’s worth it!!! 🙂

Exercise of the Day: The Grab Bag

Exercise of the Day

For this exercise I want you to make three piles of paper scraps. Each pile should have 10 piece of paper in in. On the first pile write the names of some of your favorite characters from movies and books. On the second pile write a list of your least favorite characters from movies and books. For the third pile write a different genre on every scrap of paper. When you are done randomly select a piece of paper from each pile and write a story based on what you come up with. For example I had to write a mystery starring Jo March from Little Women and Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. LOL!!!!

Have fun and I will see you next time!!!

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Writing Update and Plot Issues: My Problems Wordiness and Vocabulary

AT LAST I HAVE RETURNED TO THE LAND OF THE LIVING!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Forgive me if I seem a bit overdramatic, but I feel like I have just come out of a three month long hibernation. After endless bouts of power outages, snow shovels and sub-zero temperatures I am ecstatic to say that SPRING IS HERE!!!!!!! *applause and fireworks*

WINTER IS OVER!!!!!!!!!! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!

WINTER IS OVER!!!!!!!!!! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!

When I was at college during my freshman year I got stuck for ideas when I was working on an essay and I gave myself five or ten minutes to work on a freewriting prompt which was completely unrelated to my essay. When my time was up after the first time I had about three pages of a story started, Through all of my years at college and the time after whenever I would find myself mentally stuck I go back to my old standby and add to it. This one writing prompt, which by this point feels like an old friend, has been slowly growing on my computer for 8 years. A few months ago I realized that my prompt was so long that it could be the starting block for a novel. So I’ve spent the past few months in editing, reworking, and tinkering around with it. It’s not finished yet, but the editing process gave me ample opportunity to exercise my brain during the winter freeze.

The writing prompt 8 years in the making!!! :)

The writing prompt 8 years in the making!!! 🙂

One of the problems I have found in my own writing is that I tend to use more, or in some instances more complicated, words than I need. For me half of my editing time consists either of cutting down words or going to my trusty thesaurus and trying to find simpler versions of certain words. As I mentioned in a previous post in the past reading was something I never wanted to do because it made me feel stupid. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen were really the first books I read that got me excited about reading. Because the beginning of my life as a bookworm started with those books I have always been drawn to books of that nature and I think that might have had an influence on my writing style. When I first starting writing some of my friends thought my style was overly wordy, pretentious and over the top and they were right.

The man in this picture= The sound of my writing style when I first started.

The man in this picture= The sound of my writing style when I first started.

The simple truth is that if you use too many words your reader may have the urge to yell ‘just get to the point already!!!’. On the other hand if you use words which are too flowery your readers will think that you are a conceited snob. The rules that I have made for myself are to make sure that I never use more words than I need to get my point across, and also to keep my vocabulary restricted that that it’s appropriate to the story and my characters.

Well I hope this will be the first of many more posts to come for this year!!! So long Winter!!!!!!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Sinking Ship

Create a story that begins on a sinking ship. Each of your characters is allowed to save only one of their possessions. Write about the item they choose to save and also what they are willing to do to protect their treasured item. Is it something sentimental like a photo album or something like an iPod? What goes through their head when they are trying to select which item to take with them?

Have fun and I will see you soon!!!!!

 

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Writing Update: Battling the Snow Monster

Dear snow,
Please go away!!! Thank you.
~ Me
I have been buried under a mountain of ice and snow for nearly a month!! True, being stuck indoors has given me time to work on my writing projects, but I’m starting to go stir crazy. The internet has been spotty, and there have been a few days without electricity, so I am over winter. Spring will bring its own problems (mostly allergies for me) but at least I won’t get stuck freezing my tush off shoveling snow. Have to write this quickly because I think I’m going to lose my internet soon. I will be back later as soon as I can manage to thaw out some. Bye!!

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Is it true that those who can’t speak, write?

We’ve all heard the expression “those who can’t do, teach”. That got me thinking about writers, and more specifically about why we write. I want to open this post by asking if any of my fellow writers out there have issues with speaking?

All through my childhood I had a slight lisp, a tendency to stammer when nervous, and a problem with diction because of an injury to my tongue. Most of the time I avoided speaking because I found that I was never able to communicate my ideas successfully. I was also one of those people who could never think of something to say. I never liked getting involved in debates because I wouldn’t be able to think of an appropriate comeback until days later, and by that point it was useless. Writing offered me a method of communication which wasn’t dependent on my speaking ability, so I think that was one of the things that first appealed to me.

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The stresses of speaking

How about you? Do you have any speech problems? If so, do you think that it was one of the things that first got you interested in writing? Do you think that having a problem with speaking can help writers?

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Exercise of the Day: Freewrite
Write for 5 to 10 minutes without editing using this as your starting point.
“Some say that absence makes the heart grow fonder but it doesn’t. Absence makes the heart grow numb.”

To make things more interesting, after you’ve done your freewrite pass on what you’ve written to someone else and have them continue the story. This is another version of a game we used to play in my creative writing class called “writer’s tennis”. Have fun!! I will see you around!!

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The Importance of Will Power for Writers

This quote from Neil Gaiman sums up why writing is so freeing and also so frightening. There are no rules.

This quote from Neil Gaiman sums up why writing is so freeing and also so frightening. There are no rules.

Some people will have you believe that there are rules or steps you must take to write a novel (in a lot of cases they’ll tell you that so you’ll buy their self-help book), but the plain fact is that there are no rules. The lack of rules is part of why writing is so hard. There are no real or concrete rules you must abide by or lines you must stay within to be a writer, or to be a successful writer, and so you’re only limited by your own will power and imagination. We, as writers, can’t look at the establishment and complain that it’s trying to “box us in” or “strangle our creativity”. Most of the time when we fail it is our own faults. That’s why writing is such a struggle to begin with. No matter how much anyone else tries to help us, in the end it is in our own hands whether or not we fall or accomplish our goals. There are, as I have pointed out before, certain steps you can take to help your editing or brainstorming processes, but there is no such thing as a roadmap to success when it comes to writing. It is a hard road but the only thing you need to do is to find the story you want to tell, and tell it with conviction.

Will power trumps fate, luck, and chance.

Will power trumps fate, luck, and chance.

I know this post has been a bit different from my others but it’s just something that struck me the other day at work. I’ve been working at Under Armour for the past few months and right now one of our product lines is called the “I Will What I Want” line. The whole line of shirts has sayings that are based on getting what we want through will power and determination. My favorite one was a tank top that said “Don’t Wish for It, Work for It”. I know the product line was intended for athletes but the sayings they had apply to writing as well. If you’ll excuse me I am going to do some freewriting, the writing equivalent to a 50 yard dash!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Local News

Go to the local section of any newspaper and pick three separate stories. Using a person from one story, the setting from another and the conflict from a third create a story. For example I found a local newspaper and wrote a story using Harold Johnson, who lived in Lubbock, Texas, and the conflict in the story was over a lover’s quarrel. Have fun with this and I will see you later.

dont-wish-for-it-work-for-it

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Deciphering the Masks: Another Step Towards Character Development

Well dearie me!!! It’s been HOW long since I posted?! Dang. LOL!!!! Well unfortunately, for my writing that is, for the past month I’ve been trying to settle into a new job. I’ve had to brush up on my people skills because I’m in a retail sales position at an athletic store so nearly 100% of my day is spent talking to other people. I’ve worked in positions like this before but it’s still hard to switch my mind over to the sales side. In order to make customers believe that I’m not just some commission hungry maniac I have to alter my personality so that I seem like someone they can trust. That’s one of the hardest things about sales. Every customer is different. They each have a particular set of desires and expectation and so I have to, in a shirt time, assess them and figure out how I can present myself so that they will believe that I am the person best qualified to help them. It’s sort of like I have to wear a different mask for each customer so that they’ll trust me to help them. That got me thinking about my characters.

In order for customers to trust me I have to change my personality so that I present myself as a person they can trust to help them.

In order for customers to trust me I have to change my personality so that I present myself as a person they can trust to help them.

All characters have their own distinct personalities and it got me thinking of how they might change their personalities, or what masks they might wear. The first thing I had to do was to understand who the character’s ruse was intended to fool? The next question I had to answer was what my character would do to create this illusion? Finally I had to know the main purpose or why they had gone about the whole process. For example I had a character once who didn’t want her father to know that she had crashed his car. In that case the character put on the mask of the adoring daughter. She changed her voice so that it sounded infantile and called her father “daddy”. So with that all of the questions were satisfied:

  1. Who was the mask intended to work upon? The character used this particular mask to fool her father.
  2. What personality changed occurred? The character attempted to transform herself into a vision of how she had been in her youth. She speaks in a high pitched infantile voice and uses the name “daddy”.
  3. Why did the character do this? The character created this personality change so that she could emotionally manipulate her father. She is hoping that by toying with his heart he will not find out that she had wrecked his car.

 

What parts of your characters' personalities would they be willing to hide? Why would they go through the effort to create their mask or illusion?

What parts of your characters’ personalities would they be willing to hide? Why would they go through the effort to create their mask or illusion?

In my post “3 Methods to Add Emotional Tension to your Plot” I talked about how every character needs a goal or a desire and that you as the writer need to figure out what they’d be willing to risk in order to get it, but you also need to figure out how they might need to change their personalities in order to obtain their goals. For example if you have a character named Bobby who wants to get married to a lady named June and is willing to die for this goal you also must decide what version of themselves they are going to use in order to make June fall in love with him. Everyone likes to present the best versions of themselves that they can to win people over, whether you’re like me who does it for a sales job, or like Bobby who does it for love. You need to decide what parts of your characters’ personalities they’d be likely to suppress and what mask they’re going to put on instead. Maybe at a particular part of your story you character’s mask will fail letting the world know their true selves. What could be the emotional impact from that? Did someone say PLOT TWIST?!

 

 

 

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the day: Character Assessment

I used to have to do this exercise all of the time for my theatre class in high school. There would be a pair of us performing a particular scene and we each had to write a journal entry as our character which detailed our characters’ goals and also their mental status. That is what you need to do for this exercise. I want you to take your protagonist and antagonist and to write journal entries for both of them in which they detail their problems, psychological situation, and goals. Are you pro and antagonist fight? Why? What is one’s problem with the other? Do they believe their actions are justified? One of the hardest things writers face is that they don’t just have to figure out what their characters do or say but why they do or say them. This exercise can really help you to come to a better understanding of who your characters are and why they’re acting the way they are.

 

So long folks! Feel free to comment with any question, complaints, or even suggestions for writing prompts! It’s always nice when writers can have a place to go and pick up a few extra prompts to get the creativity flowing!

 

 

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Discussion: Do you listen to music as you write? Why or why not?

Just as I do not recommend writing with a fever, reading through jetlag and turbulence = NO!!! LOL

Just as I do not recommend writing with a fever, reading through jetlag and turbulence = NO!!! LOL

So happy to be posting again!!!!!! I know my posts have been a bit sporadic lately and I apologize for that. I’ve just spent the past few weeks job searching and also working in some time to travel cross country. I spent 12 hrs yesterday in airports, on planes, and in turbulence…yeah my stomach did not like that. I tried to get some reading done but it’s a bit nauseating when the book you’re reading is bouncing in your hands every second. Since I finally got to my destination I’ve gotten some writing done, but didn’t get the chance to post. Now I have returned!!!!!!!!! YAY!!!

For this post I’d like to open a discussion. Do you like to listen to music as you write? Why or why not? If you do like to listen to music as you’re writing, what kind of music do you listen to?

Music as you write? Yea? Nay?

Music as you write? Yea? Nay?

For my part I usually listen to music as I write but I have a very specific playlist that depends on my mood and what I need. For example I am an easily distracted person so I only listen to low key things when I write, otherwise I’ll get so wrapped up in the music it will pull my attention away from what I’m writing. It also helps if what I’m listening to is tied to what I’m writing in some way. For example last year I wrote a ten-minute play that was centered in West Virginia, and so to get into that mindset I created a Pandora station that played a mixture of old southern gospel songs and bluegrass. The music was reminiscent of what I was writing so it helped me to envision the world of the story, and the songs themselves were slow paced ballads so they didn’t pull my distraction away.

Listening to some old Bluegrass and gospel on Pandora got me into the right mindset for my play, oh and it's also really good music!!! :)

Listening to some old Bluegrass and gospel on Pandora got me into the right mindset for my play, oh and it’s also really good music!!! 🙂

As I mention a few posts ago I was working on turning an old freewriting exercise of mine into a novel. Well the novel itself is set some time in the 1800’s in England so it really helped me to picture how that world looked by listening to classical music from that time. By listening to the same types of music that would have been popular during the time period in which I set my story it gives me a way to envision how that world might sound. I already had an idea of how the world looked, but the music gave me a way to picture how the world would sound, offering me a tool to engage the readers’ senses.

For me figuring out the types of songs my character might hear on a daily basis gives me another way to understand their worlds.

For me figuring out the types of songs my character might hear on a daily basis gives me another way to understand their worlds.

So that’ my rigmarole! Do you have specific music that you like to listen to when you write? Or do you like to write it total silence? Why? Post in the comment section below the writing exercise!!! If you have any questions or concerns feel free to let me know.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Moving Box Exercise

Imagine that you’ve moved into a new home. You know nothing about the previous owners. When you enter the house you see a box on the floor that belonged to the previous owners. Open it and describe what you find. From the items you find inside the box create a story for who the previous owners might have been.

 

Have fun with this exercise and I will talk to you again soon!!! Bye!

 

 

 

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Movie Adaptations of Books: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Through Hollywood’s history there’ve been a great many movie versions of books which have seemed like perfect companions to their literary counterparts. However, for every good movie there have been at least three movies that make the fans of the novel want to hurt someone. We’ve all had that moment when we remember how good the book was and then we get all excited (and in some cases horrified) when we hear there’s going to be a movie. We buy our tickets and watch the movie hoping for something fantastic and in the end when the credits roll all we want to do is scream and throw popcorn. Well fasten your seatbelts movie fans, here’s my least favorite versions. (I know I posted this a while ago but I just re-read/re-watched a few movies and thought of some new additions to my list)

 

Romeo + JulietRomeo + Juliette (1996 adapted from the William Shakespeare play) ~ There have been thousands of adaptations of Shakespeare throughout the years so how can you really mess that up? How bout by setting it in what looks like modern Los Angeles and by having the Montague/Capulet struggle look like gang rivalry? That’s the ticket! Look, maybe it would have worked out if they had done the time shift with the gang war but had changed the language to suit the time they’d set the story in. Much of the costuming, particularly for the males, seemed to look as if it had been designed for RuPaul’s Drag Race. That plus the addition of actors like John Leguizamo makes this version seem more like a comedy then a tragedy. The writers wanted to make their version different from all the others so it would stand out but they strayed so far from the feel of the source material and to me it felt like a weird joke. Tip for writers: You have some creative and interpretive powers as the writer but when you go too far it will not feel natural.

 

Scarlett LetterThe Scarlett Letter (1995 adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorn’s novel of the same name) ~ Ok, well if you’ve never read the book I’ll just give a bit of a recap: this book is about a woman accused of adultery with the town’s reverend. That said I doubt they were quite as kinky as Demi Moore and Gary Oldman made them seem. Hollywood went a bit too far with this one. In a lot of movie versions of books the love scenes are drawn out to boost ticket sales but this movie takes a few too many liberties. Not only were numerous love scenes added, but the ending was morphed in a way that almost makes it seem as if the screenwriters said “sure it’s nothing like it was in the book, but the audience gets a happy ending and that just makes them feel so good”. Happy endings are fun, but not like this. I’m not saying that if you’re writing an adaptation of something that you can’t rework things a bit to make them work within your movie, but be smart about it. Tip for writers: If you are going to change major things from the original text make sure  you’re not destroying the whole thematic motif  of the text just doing it to make things “edgier”.

A pretty good movie, but a bad adaptation

A pretty good movie, but a bad adaptation

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) ~ This adaptation suffers from many things but for me it fails because of Keanue Reeves’ trying to do an English accent as Johnathan Harker, overdone violence, and for those of you who know the film you will recall the graveyard scene…WHY?!!! JUST WHY?!!! The writers/director of the film took particular elements of the novel and manipulated them so that they could distort as much lewdness and eroticism from them that they could. The film itself was a box-office success simply because the cinematography was very well done. For my part it is an alright movie when it is considered by itself, but it falls well short of the mark as an adaptation. Tip for writers: While I understand that certain novels have erotic elements you need to be sure that if you’re writing an adaptation you’re not focusing only on one plot point because then you end up sacrificing all of the others. In Dracula there were a lot of plot elements which concerned Victorian Religion but the film did not use them at all because they were focused on the sex. Oh and also if you’re writing a period piece DO NOT CAST KEANUE REEVES.

Alright enough of my complaining! Now not all adaptations are bad,  here are a few movie adaptations of books which I really think act as models of what writers of screen adaptations should strive for.

Sense and SensibilitySense and Sensibility (1995 adapted from Jane Austen’s novel of the same name) ~ There have been thousands of adaptations of Jane Austen’s works, but none captured the story so well as Ang Lee’s 1995 film. Emma Thompson took on the roles of both screenwriter and actress in this film and ended up winning a Golden Globe for her writing. Kate Winslet was perfectly cast to portray the young and overly romantic Marianne to Emma Thompson’s sensible and even Eleanor. The dialogue was so perfectly handled that even certain scenes which never appeared in the book seemed as if they had been there all along. Tip for writers: if you want your adaptation to be well received, then you have to make any of the changes you’ve created so natural that they feel like they could have been in the book from the beginning.

 

Fight ClubFight Club (1999 adapted from Chuck Palahniuk’s novel of the same name) ~ This movie with its sleek dialogue takes the Postmodern words of Chuck Palahniuk and translates them in a way that is both thematic and understandable. I actually had to read Fight Club for a lit class in college. I hadn’t seen the movie, and after reading the book I was nervous. I wondered how any screenwriter and director could take that book and translate it into a movie so that it wouldn’t lose its thematic integrity. After having watched the movie I can say that there was no reason for me to have been nervous. The writers and director of this movie were like magicians!! They made something which I thought would only be good as a book into a fabulous movie. Tip for writers: Use everything at your disposal (music, cinematography, dialogue) in order to capture the feeling of the novel or whatever you are adapting. That way when your audience is watching the movie they can feel the same types of things they had when they read the book.

Understatement is the mother of creepiness!! LOL!!!

Understatement is the mother of creepiness!! LOL!!!

The Haunting (1963 adapted from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House) ~ The concept of the haunted house has existed in various forms for years. One of its best versions was in Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House. Stephen King rates the novel as one of the best examples of the haunted house genre in literature and actually cited the novel as one of the greatest pieces of horror fiction of the mid to late 20th century. The 1963 film version of this novel, while only moderately successful at the box office, has become a cult classic and is considered by many to be one of the greatest horror movies of all time. The writers of this film changed a lot from the novel but everything they changed had a distinct purpose for the plot of the film. It did not feel like they had increased the shock value and add in tons of gore and gratuitous violence. One of the reasons the book was so scary was that it left a lot of things unsaid, giving the readers’ imaginations a chance to run amok wondering what or who is haunting Hill House. That same feeling was kept in Robert Wise’s film because 99% of the horror elements occur off-screen and the audience and characters both can only hear what is happening. The writers and director’s of their film also did something almost unheard of today, they kept the writer in the loop. They questioned Shirley Jackson about her intentions regarding certain scenes and also the characters and then got her views on some of their plot ideas. Tip for writers: If you’re writing an adaptation then you must  walk the line and pay respect to the original novel and its creator while at the same time exploring with your own ideas. Oh and also if your writing a horror movie/novel LESS IS MORE!!! More gore and violence might get you an R rating and perhaps some publicity, but with this genre of books and movies more opportunity you give your viewers/readers imagination’s run wild the freakier it will be!!!  

What movie adaptations of books do you love/hate? What about the movie made that impression on you? Feel free to comment!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: A Conversation with your Characters

Choose a character from a story you have written or are in the process of writing, then write a scene or multiple scenes in which that character interacts with you, the author. Write with the assumption that the character understands that you, as the author, “created” him or her and are responsible for the things that happened to them in the course of the story. Does the character agree with what you have them doing? What does the character think of the story? Write an exchange of dialogue (it doesn’t matter if it’s in play/novel format) between yourself as the author and your character.

Talk to you later folks! Please don’t be afraid to comment, I love feedback!!!

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