From Wordsmith Six
A Writer’s Thanksgiving
By Cait Collins
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. At noon I will sit down with my family and enjoy a turkey dinner and fellowship. I’m saddened that this holiday is downplayed. The day after Halloween, the Christmas ads and Christmas specials began. It was as if there was no holiday between Halloween and Christmas. But this day is special. It’s a time to remember all that I have to be thankful for and my writing talent is just one of them. I would like to share my blessings as a writer.
Yes, this writer is thankful. We have been given the gift of informing, inspiring, and entertaining. And because of this gift, we all should have a list of writer’s blessings. Think about it and I’m sure you will agree.
By Rory C. Keel
At one end of the street three bodies lay in the dirt, at the other end smoke drifted from the barrel of a pistol that a man in a trench coat held in his hand.
Who were these three dead men? Why did they challenge the man in the trench coat? What was this gunfight about?
The first few sentences of a piece of work should draw the reader into the story and cause them to read further. A good introduction may tell the reader what kind of story it will be and help them decide if it’s their kind of story.
Listed below are five basic opening techniques
Try using each of these in your writing and see which one creates the greatest interest in your opening paragraph.
A Perfect Writing Space
By Natalie Bright
We have a lovely home office. Oak bookcases span one entire wall from floor to ceiling and a leafy plant engulfs a huge picture window, with two comfy chairs – one for typing at the desk and one for reading. It is the perfect place to dream, imagine, explore words, and create. When it came to the work in progress, I couldn’t write a darn thing in that room.
Instead, the kitchen table called out to me. Smack in the middle of an open floor plan, I watched television, the kids, the dogs in the backyard, and the pot bubbling on the stove. Kitty watches the world from the window sill, and even though my mother has been gone eight years now, I have her aloe vera just behind me and the lively family of chickens she painted. I feel like I can create in this spot.
The topic of my story was a difficult one. For fifteen years the story of our first son has been on my heart and mind. Finally, in the middle of today’s chaos notes on loose papers, partial outlines, and journal entries came together. GONE NEVER FORGOTTEN is an eBook about hope and healing for families who have suffered the loss of a baby.
What surprised me was that my productive home office had abandoned me. So beware, fellow writers, the perfect writing space may relocate without giving notice.
What about you – have you found your perfect writing space?
A Pinch of Rodeo
By Joe R. Nichols
Learning how to lose – Part Three
Riding broncs provides a completely different way to lose. So many variables that are out of your control. For instance, the opinion of the judges.
Or; the men opening the gate can give you a bad start, not intentionally, usually by not paying attention, or just not understanding the importance of their job. The flank man can miss pull the flank for several reasons, or just not have it adjusted right. The pick-up men can get in the way and distract the horse. It might have rained and some horses won’t buck well in the mud. The stockman loading the horses might put your horse in the front chute when he wants to circle to the right, giving him no room to do so. Or maybe they put him out of a right hand delivery when he always circles left. Lot’s of things get overlooked during a rodeo performance because of the time limits and pressure to keep the event moving fast. When you draw a good horse, you expect to win, and it’s very frustrating when someone on the labor crew screws up your chance.
Sometimes, a bucking horse just won’t have his day, for no reason anyone can explain. In San Francisco, 1985, I place in the second go-round, and qualified for the short-go. First or second place was out of reach, but third in the average was mine with a score of seventy-three or better. They had previously scored seventy-six and seventy-seven in his first two outs on the horse I drew. I watched the film of him, and he was just a good solid bronc. I couldn’t wait. He started good and I was tapped off. He weakened, but I couldn’t tell what my score would be. Sixty-seven points later, I wanted to puke. I split sixth in the average three ways for a check you couldn’t pay for a six-pack of beer with. Go figure.
One more example of a hard loss to take. The New Mexico State Finals. A two go-round good amateur rodeo. I won second in the first round, and had kind of a rank horse for my second one. Big John of Edgar Wilson’s. Big Bay horse that would go about four jumps down the arena, then turn back and spin to the left. Hard son-of-a-gun to ride. Even though I knew his pattern, he still dumped me to the outside of the spin. I spent three seconds of the ride pushing off my right stirrup, trying to get square in the saddle. Finally, I got back in position and finished the ride well. The instant I heard the eight second horn, I reached down with my free hand and double grabbed my rein. I had all I wanted of Big John.
Even though I had my difficulties riding this horse, I figured I should still win third in the round, and that would be plenty good to win the overall average.
One judge gave me a no score, said I reached down before the whistle. I made my case, saying I heard the whistle, then double grabbed. He said no, I grabbed with my free hand just before the horn sounded. I said, “If I was going to grab down, I would have done it when I was hanging off like some kind of growth on the side of the horse, not after I got back in the middle of him.” He wasn’t interested in my theory.
Behind the chutes, a friend said to me, “You know why that happened, don’t you?”
“I guess I don’t,”
“The buzzer is at the other end of the arena. You heard the sound before the judge did.” I didn’t know, he didn’t know. He wasn’t trying to cheat me, it was just a circumstance. There’s lot’s of ways to lose, none of them good.
It takes perseverance and a good attitude to prevail, no matter what trail in life you’re heading down.
POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE
Top of the Ferris Wheel
By Nandy Ekle
We hadn’t watched one of those court shows in forever. You know what I’m talking about—the Jerry Springer type judges, hearing the cases of Jerry Springer type parties. The cases sound contrived, the judges sound scripted, and the parties scream and yell at each other when the judge bangs her gavel.
As we flipped through the channels we came across one of these shows and decided to watch for a minute. There were two women, two best friends, who were suing a carny man. Their claim was negligence. They had been trapped at the top of the ferris wheel for more than five minutes. One of the women suffered from severe acrophobia, fear of heights.
The story was that one of the women, the one who was not afraid of heights, decided to administer some psychotherapy to her friend. The best way to overcome an irrational fear is to face it. So she talked her acrophobic friend into getting on the ferris wheel at the state fair. After all, the ferris wheel is a very tame ride—no terrifying speed, no slowly climbing mountains to plummet down toward the earth with a promise of death. You simply sit in a bucket and look at the landscape as the wheel turns.
As you can imagine, the wheel stopped while the two women were at the very top due to a sudden mechanical problem. According to the carny man, the wheel is inspected three times a day, so the sudden problem was very unexpected and the man immediately stopped the ride.
The acrophobic woman had a panic attack. She began screaming and flailing causing the bucket to rock and bounce. As her panic turned into outright terror, the door of the bucket flew open, causing her fit to peak, and the other woman also began to flail around.
Eventually the wheel was repaired enough to bring the women back to the bottom so they could leave and go on their merry little lawsuit-for-pain-and-suffering way.
After listening to this story in total disbelief, I realized what the women were describing was the perfect image of plot writing. You have a character with a problem who wants a solution to their problem. Then you have them do something so different from anything they’ve ever done before, only for everything that can go wrong to . . . go wrong. Then you have a character who seems to be at fault for every problem that comes up. And finally, we have the secret bad guy, the one who stands behind the machinery with a pair of wire cutters.
Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.
To the Extreme
by Cait Collins
I have a lot of respect for my doctor, but I hate taking medications. Medicines and I often do not get along. So whenever the doc suggests a course of treatment, I start researching a holistic approach. I visited one of our local health food stores recently to gather information to discuss with my doctor. I’d had dealings with the folks in this store in the past, so I was really surprised when I encountered the Health Food Maniac.
“I can help you but you have to be willing to change your diet.”
“What do you mean by change my diet?”
She handed me a sheet of paper. Both sides were covered with lists of food to avoid. There was a small section of approved foods. No more junk food, which meant anything she considered unfit for human consumption. The list continued. Soft drinks, chewing gum, cookies, throat lozenges, milk, processed cheese, breath mints, oranges, grapefruit, soup, pasta, white flour, white rice, margarine, corn, and Cool Whip were banned substances.
While I was recovering from the shock of fasting for the remainder of my days, she began she began a campaign of it’s your fault. “So you work 80 hours a week. You don’t have time to cook healthy food.” “It’s your choice, but if you want to get better…” “You’ll need to take this.” She began to place boxes and bottles on the counter.
I tried to make sense of this nonsense. Where was the sweet, compassionate gentleman I worked with before? I picked up the sheet and left the store. Wow, what a witch. I don’t respond well to the “my way or the highway” mentality.
My disgust turned to an idea. The health food nut would make a great character in a novel. I saw so many possibilities. She is so obsessed with her causes she alienates her family and friends. Or she gets careless in her pursuit of her desires and destroys the lives of her neighbors. Or she could be the comic relief character.
Extreme characters can be fun. They can be annoying or terrifying. But they are interesting and they are remembered. Think about some of the way-out folks you’ve met and how their obsessive traits can be written to add sizzle to a story? The people we encounter on a daily basis can be a fantastic tool in our writing arsenals. Do some people watching, write mini character sketches. Keep a file of these wacky folks and use them judiciously. There’s really something special about extreme characters.
by Cait Collins
Recently I spent a day cleaning out the closet in my study. I knew there were a number of boxes of supplies I used for teaching younger kids, but I was surprised to see all the craft naterials and project books I’d purchased over the years. Since I no longer teach the early childhood groups, I decided to box everything up and find a group that could use the supplies. A teacher friend told me they have an after school program for the kids, but there was no real budget for materials. She said they would be thrilled to have arts and crafts supplies.
I started thinking about all the education programs that go either under-funded or unfunded. Is there a place for us in enhancing the teaching of our kids? Of course we can help by donating craft supplies and small notebooks for journaling, but what about giving our time? Would the schools welcome writers coming in and helping students with homework, or writing projects? Maybe those who illustrate children’s books could assist with art projects.
I do believe we all have a place in educating our kids. It doesn’t have to be a big event. It could be something as simple as sitting with a child who is struggling with reading and helping him to improve his skills. Maybe it’s teaching colors or numbers. Perhaps it’s just allowing a child to have one-on-one time with a mentor. Why not check with your local school district administration and find out what opportunities are available? Helping one child improve his skills is worth the effort. That child might one day write the great American novel, or become a great teacher. It begins with a telephone call.
By Rory C. Keel
Intergalactic warp drives, transporter stations or a portal in a time continuum that can teleport us back to the future. The desire to travel through time is largely based on the desire to see the future and to know where life is going; or return to the past, perhaps to change the course of life, or simply for a sentimental remembrance of days past.
In writing there are two basic ways to travel through time: vertical and horizontal. Within each of these, several vehicles can be used to accomplish movement through time.
Vertical time is thought of as climbing a ladder. While in a particular moment of time in the story — flashbacks, flash-forwards, grabbers, bookends and brackets — move the reader up or down in that moment of time. Think of it this way, the reader doesn’t move forward in time but has a deeper understanding with the knowledge gained.
Horizontal time is the movement of the story in a linear direction. It differs from vertical in that the moment or events actually move forward in time.
To accomplish this, techniques such as stretching, condensing, leaps, bridges, foreshadowing, cliffhangers and suspense are used to move the reader forward.
When you write, incorporate these methods to make your story richer and move the reader through time.
THE WRITING PROCESS
Head Games minus the Publishing Part
By N. Bright
It’s true that there are as many different writing processes and ways to craft a book as there are writers. However, based on what I’ve learned, all writers go through similar angst before they type THE END. Whether it’s your first book or 49th, I’m guessing you’ve probably experienced a few of these head games yourself.
Happy NaNoWritMo everyone!