Stockpile People


Stockpile People

By Rory C. Keel

 

A writer needs to have a stockpile of people. No, not like in the movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but a file full of descriptions, characteristics and quirks of real people.

The truth is that all characters are based somehow on actual people. Think about it, even the characters you invent are based on elements taken from real people. The people you place on the page come from someone that you, as the writer, have seen or come in contact with, either personally or by hearsay.

The Gathering

To place these characters on your page, you must own them, every part of them the good, the bad, and the ugly. To do this you need to try and understand real people. Interact with them, watch them and observe their condition in life. When you finally know them, they are yours. Gather them up and stockpile them by writing them in a file. They will be glad to repeat their behaviors on the pages of your writing.

Roryckeel.com 

 

Query Letter Basics


Query Letter Basics
By Natalie Bright

1. Address your letter to a person; the right person.
2. How do you find the right person? Do your homework.
3. Research online: For agents you can find client lists, interviews with information such as what they are looking for and they’re favorite books, and agency information. For editors you can find interviews about what they want to see in their inbox, what they like to read, and what they like to see in query letters.
4. Keep the tone professional, not silly or stiff.
5. Begin with specifics: genre, word count completed, main hook.
6. Describe the elements of your story that will appeal to readers, the heart of your story, the essence.
7. Describe your life experiences as they relate to writing, but be brief.

Good luck!

A New Perspective


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

A New Perspective

By Nandy Ekle

 

I have worn eye glasses my whole life. I’ve always been near sighted and in the past ten years or so I’m also had a touch of far sightedness. I’ve been wearing glasses with a far away and a close up. And if objects are too close, I take my glasses off and squint.

Since leaving my teen years I have not had to change glasses every year, but I can certainly tell when it is time for a new pair. And this week I got some new specs. It’s been a few years, but it seems the sight in one of my eyes has changed dramatically. Dark had become darker and the lights in the dark had become brighter and fuzzier. So my new “eyes” have corrected those things.

As I put them on, I noticed things I had not seen in a while (and hadn’t realized I hadn’t seen). I noticed the vibrant colors in some of the pictures around my house and my office. This was amazing because a few of these pictures were fairly new. I had seen them and liked them, but now I can really SEE them. I’ve also noticed that the world is no longer flat. Things actually have dimension.

Sometimes that’s what we need to do in our writing. We get wrapped up in our characters and the story they act out for us. We spend entire chunks of our lives looking at these words and this same old whiny girl in the same old scene. We devote so much to this world we’ve created that we forget what it really looks like. We need to put on a new pair of glasses, step back, and admire what it looks like when you can see the whole thing.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Uncomplicated


Outtakes 186

Uncomplicated

by Cait Collins

 

Think back to when you were a kid. You didn’t worry about where you would live, buying groceries, paying bills, or finding a doctor. Your parents took care of those things All you had to do was play and have fun. A child’s life is so uncomplicated until it gets mucked up. With too many activities, to manage, too much pressure to succeed, and not enough time to be just a kid, life becomes a complex maze. . And sometimes this’s the way we write.

Our stories get complicated when we over think and over write the piece. Even though we have a plot line, we know the beginning and the end, and we have an idea of how to go from point a to point z , we’ll still bury the characters in back story, stifle them with orations, and baffle them with details. When the story is completed we have a ton of complicated plots, unnecessary information and complex phrases. The story is tedious, the pace slow, and the characters made of cardboard. What happened? Simply put, we made a simple story complicated.

I don’t spend tons of time researching every detail I think I might need. I cannot force myself to outline each scene and stick to the plan even when the plan is falling apart. I’m a “pantser”. I fly by the seat of my pants, and so do many of my writer friends. Pantsers have character sketches, jotted notes, and maybe a brief time line. We tend to allow our characters to act independently of our control. Believe me when I say some of my best work comes when I let the characters take over and lead me down the road. It may not be the route I had in mind, but often it is better. By stifling the character’s need to play, I complicate the story. Planners, on the other hand, need defined structure to keep the plot moving. Both ways work as long as we discipline ourselves to allow our opposing characteristic to have a say in the process.

There are simple steps we can take to keep the work in our respective voices. Don’t over-do the description. Sorry, but two pages of an ode on the rising sun becomes boring in a narrative. Don’t allow technical jargon to over-power the story. Do permit your character to play. Bored children give birth to mischief and a ruined plot line. Do allow your imagination to blossom. Refuse to force ideas to make the plot follow your directions. Do be prepared for rewrites. Think like a child and act accordingly. A little temper tantrum may be the best thing for the story.

SCENIC DRIVE & WHY I WRITE


SCENIC DRIVE & WHY I WRITE

By Natalie Bright

The ‘Scenic” ranch road dissects our East Pasture. It takes a fairly steep grade towards the creek bottom, descending next to a tree lined canyon. At the lowest point you drive through a dense thicket of plum bushes, a china berry grove, and wild grape-vines. Towering cottonwood trees, decades old, casts shadows on the peaceful creek beds. The land remains as it was hundreds of years ago when Native Americans camped near the natural springs, leaving flecks of flint. If you take a rest on an uprooted tree, you’ll feel miles away from a modern world.

The Flood

Following a long drought, too much of a glorious rain caused two creeks to converge in the middle of the Scenic Drive road. The force of the water formed a whirlpool that washed out a five foot hole making it impassable. And now, just two years later, we’ve never graded the road to fill the hole and it is barely navigable by four-wheeler.

Our Scenic Drive is now covered in soft sand and cow prints, and if you look really close, tracks from deer, wild turkey, quail, and bobcat too. The steep grade is terraced in uneven ledges, while other places have deep trenches washed out by running water. There is a shadow of evidence that this was once a path for modern vehicles. The mighty forces of nature have a way of erasing human presence.

Finding What to Write

I wish I could take you all on a drive in the four-wheeler along our Scenic Road. Of course I can’t, but I can write about it. This place and these people, both past and present, ignites my brain with ideas.

Helpful friends are always making suggestions as to what I should write. It was pointed out to me at a writer’s conference that kids living in city apartments aren’t interested in reading stories about the Wild West. They can’t relate to such places. Do I create trendy stories based on what seems to be selling in the market, or do I write the stories in my head? By the time we can craft a story on what’s hot, that trend is usually over saturated. The answer, I think, is to write the story that burns inside of you.

Inspiration

Is there a particular place or time period that inspires your work?

Feed that fire in your gut and WRITE ON!

Wedge of Writing


 

Wedge of Writing

Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can only learn by doing.

–Stephen King

 

Experiment


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

 Experiment 

By Nandy Ekle

 

Voice. How do you have a voice in writing? Voice is an author’s uniqueness. This has to do with word choice and the direction you take your story. I might write with a very formal voice and my characters are very prim and proper, but you might write using more casual words and ideas and your characters more like every day people walking around at the mall.

Style is the way you tell your story. This can include punctuation, or the lack of it; where and why a writer breaks for a paragraph; or the length of chapters.

It’s no secret that I read a lot of Stephen King books/stories. I can read one page of a story and pretty much tell you if it’s something he wrote or not, even if it’s something of his I’ve never seen or heard about before. And that’s because of his voice and style. However, there are a few of his stories that have surprised me, and in a good way. In fact, one of the reasons I love certain King books over some of the others is because the voice and style is so different.

The Shining. I don’t know how many times I’ve said it, but I will continue saying it until I can’t say it anymore. This book is incredible because of the style (among a million other reasons). As a student of writing rules, I can point out where each rule has been broken. But each rule is broken for specific reasons, and it was absolutely done in absolutely the right place at absolutely the right time. There are places in that book where reading the words and the placement or absence of punctuation actually made me feel like I was caught in a whirlpool going down a drain. Amazing illusion!

The Eyes of the Dragon. The first time I read this book I had never heard of it. “Hhhmmm,” I said as I took it off the library shelf. At the time I was feasting on the fantasy genre, and that’s where this book fits. I was wonderfully surprised because      Mr. King uses a much different voice for this story. He actually sounds a little like          J. R. R. Tolkien in The Hobbit. I definitely suggest this book for anyone who wants to study voice and style.

Dolores Claiborne. Not so much a shift in voice form Mr. King, but a substantial shift in style. He wrote this story in the voice of a woman, and as a woman myself, I will tell you he did an amazing job of it. But as far as not sounding like Stephen King, well, he does. You see, Dolores is a woman who has a rough and hard demeanor. That’s actually what the story is about. Survival. The thing that makes the style so different is he did not break into chapters. The whole story is told in one long narrative. And, again, that was the right thing to do. There are times when stopping to change chapters is more distracting than anything else. The result is this book is a very fast read, in spite of the thickness of the book.

Okay. Now it’s our turn. A couple of exercises here. First, try to write part of your current work in progress in the voice of your favorite author, and the style they use the most. This will teach you to think like they do, which can be very helpful. Next, take a piece of your current WIP and use an opposite voice and completely different style. This will help you decide if you actually have the right thing in the right place at the right time.

Now, show off a little bit and post your experiment in the comments below.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

 

Writing the Memoir


Outtakes 185

Writing the Memoir

by Cait Collins

What is the best way to prepare to write a memoir? Like any other genre, there are numerous approaches to researching and writing a personal story. The following are a few suggestions for getting started.

Write from memory. I began writing Tables and First Love Forever Love by drafting chapters based on my memories of events, places, and people. After completing the draft, I’d read and edit the piece, making notes of facts I needed to check. I’d research the missing information, make the necessary changes, and polish the chapter before presenting it to my critique group. I find getting the basics on paper and then filling in details works best for me.

Go through family photo albums to get inspiration. Sometimes there is a glimmer of an idea for a scene, but the memories just don’t click. A picture can jog the memory and spark your imagination. With the photograph nearby, the writing flows and soon you have a draft of the chapter.

Look for letters, journals, school memorabilia, and yearbooks that might lend insight into your project. My father’s military papers and his notes and writings have been as valuable as I write Tables.

Music is a good trigger. Download some of the songs from your youth and listen to them while you work. If you are describing how you met your spouse, sit back and enjoy “your song” or the music played at your prom.

If you think you would like to write a memoir for your children and grandchildren, try journaling. I’m not suggesting you write about putting carrots in the crock pot on a daily basis; however, keeping notes about vacations, holidays, and special events will help you when you begin to write your story.

Getting started may be the hard part, but once you determine your theme and the events you want to record, the project will move along quickly. The memories will flow and you’ll find yourself laughing and crying as you write. That’s good because those emotions will translate to the writing. Just remember to focus on the reason you are working on the memoir, and let that be your guide.