Snowflake Method Step 6 (cont.) -e


Snowflake Method Step 6 (cont.) -e

by Adam Huddleston

This week, I am continuing Step 6 of the Snowflake Method.  See my previous blogs for explanation on the process. Here is the second paragraph of the one-page plot summary:

Before each game, Dwight Lara, the Yellowjackets’ possible savior, performs a ritual of dark magic.  In order for the spell to work, a human life must be sacrificed, resulting in the death of a fan sometime during the game.  The deaths occur in a variety of ways, and while the public begins to view the Yellowjackets as an “unlucky” team to watch in person, no one suspects their new player.

Dwight Lara, all one-hundred seventy pounds of him, slid into the locker room like a cold shadow.  His smile was infectious. He nodded to each of his new teammates in turn, then quietly set about placing his new gear in the small locker assigned to him.  

 

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THESAURUS


THESAURUS

Natalie Bright

One well-known author is quoted saying that if you have to look up words in a thesaurus, then it’s the wrong word. As a writer juggling a day-job and family, as many of you are, I think having word lists handy are a life-saver. Sometimes I know the word, but it’s late at night and the right word just doesn’t come. The only option is to reach for help.

Here are two of my favorite that I’ve found extremely helpful.

THE EMOTION THESAURUS by Angela Ackerman & Becca Pugllisi.

“A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression” is an alphabetical list by emotion. The term is defined by physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, and signs of acute cases. I kept writing that my character feels nervous, but I wanted to show her nervousness. The list of physical signals is lengthy and can be used throughout the scene. This is a comprehensive tool that writers of every genre would find useful.

CHILDREN’S WRITER’S WORD BOOK by Alijandra Magilner & Tayopa Mogilner

If you write for children, a grade-leveled word thesaurus is particularly handy. This one has word list groups by grade and reading levels for synonyms.

Happy writing!

Snowflake Method (cont.) -D


Snowflake Method (cont.)

by Adam Huddleston

This week continues Step 5 of the snowflake method for writing created by Randy Ingermanson.  For more details, see my previously submitted blogs.

 

Stephen Craight-

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been in love with the game of baseball.  My father made sure I had a bat (crochet) in my hand as I lay babbling in the crib.  Once I turned three, I was pushed into a toddler’s league where the coach was thrilled just to have one of his players not stagger away with the ball in his mouth.

I played every year, watching as my skills improved to the point where I was eventually offered a scholarship to play at Louisiana State University.  From there I was drafted by the Cleveland Indians and placed in their farm system. Although my time in the majors was short, I made a strong enough impression that the White Sox gave me an assistant coaching job once my playing career was over.

The first time I met Dwight Lara, I was skipping the Amarillo Yellow Jackets, a small but talented semi-pro team in the Texas Panhandle.  I remember him being a tall, lanky kid. From the Bahamas with skin as dark as midnight. Not a bad outfielder and the kid could hit.

We were at the halfway point of the season, the time of year the majors play their all-star game.  The Jax weren’t even sniffing contention. We brought Lara in and our season turned around immediately.  We didn’t win every game, but most of them. Week by week, the boys began creeping up the standings.

Something pretty morbid was starting to happen though; folks were dying at our games.  I mean, actually dying. It was just a handful of fans, but the crazy thing was, they only passed during the games that we won. The police never got involved with the team, because the causes of death were always outside of our influence.  Some had health-related issues, some choked on food, a couple were due to stadium security. It was sad, but…we were winning.

Before a game one night, I remember it was the last part of a homestand, I couldn’t find a clipboard to attach the lineup sheet to.  When I checked the seldom-used room at the back of the locker room, I saw something I later wished I hadn’t. Lara was kneeling on the floor, facing away from me.  In front of him was this…idol, I guess is the closest term.  He was whispering something over and over, kind of a chant.  The kid must have heard me behind him, but when he turned around, he didn’t look startled in the least.  Just calmly nodded at me then turned back to what he was doing.

I put two and two together and figured he was responsible for the deaths somehow.  I felt bad about it, but I let him keep doing his thing.

Winning is addictive.

Well, we made it to the championship series, and one night Lara comes to me and tells me that he’s suddenly grown a conscience.  Says he can’t perform his spells anymore. I told him real quick that unless he wanted me to rain down destruction upon him (and his family), he better keep it up.  He refuses so I contact a man I knew from my days in Chicago. He knows a guy who knows a guy, and such. The next thing I know, this goon is knocking on my front door at home and offers to “take care” of Lara’s son.  It was my final mistake in a history of bad mistakes.

The last game of the series, I get word that this guy has offed Lara’s kid somewhere in the stadium.  We end up winning the game, but before the confetti has even had a chance to set in the outfield grass, Lara finds me and takes me out.  The kid separates my melon from my shoulders.  After that, everything is dark.

 

Learning Online with MasterClass


Learning Online with MasterClass

Natalie Bright

 

As I write book #2 of the Trouble in Texas series, I’m watching MasterClass with R. L. Stine during lunch breaks. Stine is the author of the Goosebump Series for kids.

Learning online at MasterClass.com is easy. The first class I took was James Patterson, which is an excellent video series about his writing process. Also included in the price is a workbook which you can print or download. The short videos fit into my already busy day.

Although I do not aspire to be a screenwriter, I paid the additional fee for the All Access Pass to unlock every class. I’ve just finished learning about character development from Shonda Rhimes. Listen to her as she breaks down the inspiration and writing process for her characters in Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. Go back and watch the pilots for each show. It’s fun to witness genius at work.

Lunch breaks are spent at my desk watching R. L. Stine’s videos, and I print the PDF worksheets from each short segment, jotting notes of the specific changes I’ll need to do to improve my story. I work on edits when I get home.

Interestingly, R. L. Stine does not keep an idea journal. Using character and plot ideas, he formulates a chapter outline. He most always knows the ending before he starts, and then he writes from that outline until it’s done. The key word here is DONE. Finished. The end. I can never get there because I give in to the many ideas swirling in my head. My process is to stop, start this, and then jot notes about that. Those days are over. I’m going to finish final edits on Book #2 of the Trouble in Texas series, THE GREAT TRAIN CAPER, before I start something new.

Mr. Stine has been very inspiring. One class costs $90, and the all access pass is $180 per year. I’ve discovered I didn’t have time to read the writing magazines I used to subscribe to several online magazine, and attending SCBWI conferences is a huge investment. If you want to learn more story craft, consider MasterClass. Next up for me on MasterClass.com: Judy Blume.

Happy writing!

Favorite Authors


Outtakes 356

Favorite Authors

By Cait Collins

 

I have a stack of books waiting to be read.  Problem is I’m limited on reading time. It’s really a case of too many books and not enough time.  As I prepare for my vacation, I find myself checking the shelves in my “\unread books” bookcase and choosing titles I want to take with me.  I’ve narrowed the list to four.

Sherrilyn Kenyon       Styguin

Craig Johnson             Western Star

Craig Johnson             Death of Winter

Susan Wiggs                Between You and Me

There’s nothing like having new reads from favorite authors to take on vacation…

Other ideas include:

Nora Roberts              Shelter in Place  (I couldn’t put this one down.)

Sharon Sala                  In Shadows  (The FBI needs more heroes like Jack.)

Diana Palmer               Unbridled  (200thbook)

Carla Neggers              Imposter Lures  (I’m looking forward to this release)

Jodi Thomas               Mistletoe Miracles  (A new Ransom Canyon novel out 9/25/2018.)  Jodi has mentored many aspiring writers in the Texas Panhandle and the surrounding area.  Many of us have taken her creative writing classes.  She recently retired from her position as Writer in Residence at West Texas A&M University. She will be missed.

If you like stories from new authors, I would suggest Our Time on Route 66.  Five authors from Wordsmith Six have released this anthology about the Mother Road from different time periods (Depression Era up to a few years into the future), different genres, and different points of view. The only rule was each story had to touch the U Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas.  My story is “Showdown at the U Drop Inn” follows photojournalist, Moira O’Hara as she travels Route 66 in an attempt to rebuild her life after a natural disaster.

If you’re into politics, there are new books almost every week from your favorite news personality or political analyst.

New titles from all genres are released weekly so there’s no shortage of really good reads.  Take a few moments and visit your local book store.  The staff will be happy to help you locate a truly good book.

Writing Quote


“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.”
—Enid Bagnold

15 Minute Challenge


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

15 Minute Challenge

By Nandy Ekle

A writer’s job is to look for a story in ordinary, every day events. So, I like to play a game with myself when I’m driving. Whether I’m driving the 20 minute piece of road to my day job, walking around the grocery story throwing together meal plans for the week, or toodling down the highway for 13 hours to see my children, I look for anything that might spark my imagination. 

Sometimes it takes some time to get a piece of a story. Like, there’s an empty field I drive by every day. But one day a tractor shows up and begins pounding a mound of dirt. A month later planks of wood seem to have grown from the flattened dirt mound. Walls begin to go up, and a roof grows seemingly over night. Pretty soon I find myself marveling because I can’t remember what it was like as an empty field. And I know I can make a story out the experience.

But there are also subtle things that I can’t tell if anyone else has noticed or not. Such as, I also pass an old empty, closed up store front building on a corner crossroads every weekday morning. It suddenly dawns on me as I pass by one morning that there’s always a white pick-up truck in the empty old parking lot, just sitting there, facing the street. Inside the truck is a person wearing a big white cowboy hat. That’s all I can tell about this person. I think this is a man, but have never seen his face. He’s not there when I pass it in the afternoon on my way home. And he’s not there when I pass the corner on the weekend going out to run my errands. He doesn’t wave, he doesn’t get out of the car, and no other cars or people are around him. I have no idea who he is or why he’s there. And that, my friends, is a burning log of story ready to pop.

So here’s my challenge to you, dear blog readers. The next time you’re going to be driving, turn on the video camera in your phone and record 15 minutes of driving down the road. You might be surprised at the everyday weirdness you never even knew you were seeing.

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

Snowflake Method (cont.)-C


Snowflake Method (cont.)

by Adam Huddleston

 

Last week, we went through Step 4 of the snowflake method for writing created by Randy Ingermanson.  This week, I will continue with Step 5 for my story. In Step 5, you’re supposed to write up a one-page description of each major character (a synopsis told from their point of view) and a half-page for each minor character.  To keep this blog from getting too large, I will focus on one character a week.

Dwight John Lara-

I was born in Nassau, Bahamas on December 26, 1994.  Both of my parents worked in local government, as aids in the House of Assembly.  I grew up playing many sports, but baseball and soccer are where I excelled.

When I was a young boy, there was an old man living in one of the poorer areas of Adelaide Village. He would do magic shows for the kids and treat us to ice cream if we were lucky.  I remember he had a big hound dog with one eye missing that always slept under his chair as he enchanted us with disappearing coins and card tricks.

One day, he pulled me aside as the rest of my friends were leaving for home.  He asked if I wanted to learn some of his magic. I said of course. He brought me inside his little hut and sat me down in front of a blazing fireplace.  Why it was lit in July was beyond me, but, he was a little off.

“How good of a baseball player do you want to be,” he asked.

“The best, Mr. Rogue,” I responded.

“Then let me teach you something…special.”

He then proceeded to impart upon me a knowledge I eventually wished I had never learned.

Years later, I graduated from high school and received a scholarship to play at a small college in Mississippi.  Although my team finished each season well back of first place, I never used the secrets Mr. Rogue had taught me.  I was too afraid of being caught.

Eventually, I wound up playing for an adult baseball league in Dallas, Texas.  After an embarrassingly long losing drought, I decided to put my dark teachings to use.  I only employed it a handful of times, but I noticed that we always won those games.

In the summer of 2018, I received a call from the Amarillo Yellow Jackets, asking if I was interested in playing center-field for them.  I figured this was the closest I would ever be to the majors, so I quickly agreed. Besides, how could I turn down a contract worth six digits?

Their season was at the halfway point and they were not even close to sniffing the top of their division.  I played my heart out for them but found myself batting a little south of .200. Our manager, Stephen Craight, started looking at me in a way that made me feel my days with them were numbered if something didn’t change.

After a road trip were the team won one-of-six, I decided to dust off my “little bag of tricks”.  I found a small room (not much more than a broom closet) in the back of our locker room, and performed the dark ritual before our first home game.  We won, and I heard later that a man had suffered a fatal heart attack midway through the sixth inning.

I continued the same spell for the next two nights, and we were victorious in both of them as well; at the expense of an elderly lady who had a stroke and a drunk fan who choked on an enormous hot dog know as “The Big Donger.”  Deep down, I began to truly feel remorseful. I always hoped that whomever was dying, it was just their time to go.

By the time the playoffs rolled around, I was ready to stop the hexes all together.  Craight came to me one night and told me he’d seen what I was up to, and that I better continue.  When I informed him that I wouldn’t, he threatened me and my family.

An hour before the championship game, he was nowhere to be found.  We were managed by Johnny Langston, our assistant skipper. We won the game, even without my black magic, and moments after the last out I received a phone call that my son had been murdered in his seat in the stadium.

I walked through the locker room in a daze, and there, coming out of that little broom closet was Craight.  Without even thinking, I attacked him and we struggled for several minutes before I was able to kill him. I found a large blade in the “magic room” and separated his head from his body.

Holding his head in my left hand, I walked calmly out to centerfield, completely ignoring the cheering of the fans and the confetti that blew around in the Amarillo wind.  A dozen stadium security guards surrounded me with their guns drawn. With my boy gone, I had nothing else to live for. I sucked in a deep breath, and whispered my final spell.  The entire stadium collapsed inward, killing everyone.

 

Snowflake Method (cont.)-B


Snowflake Method (cont.)

by Adam Huddleston

 

The past couple of weeks, I have been trying out the snowflake method of writing created by Randy Ingermanson.  This week is Step 4: Expand each sentence of the one-paragraph summary into its own paragraph. Here was my summary:

When the Amarillo Yellowjackets find themselves at the bottom of their division, they recruit a mysterious center-fielder in the hopes of turning their season around.  As their luck begins to change, a startling fact becomes apparent; fans are dying at their games. The club manager discovers that his new player is a master of black magic, and is responsible for the tragedies.  When the team makes the championship series, conflict arises between player and coach concerning the fielder’s role on the team. The aftermath of their feud results in the greatest horror yet.

Midway through the 2018 season, the Amarillo Yellowjackets are dead-last in the Southwest division of the American Baseball League.  The teams’ recruiting scout hears rumors of an excellent center fielder playing club ball in east Texas. General manager Stephen Craight quickly recruits him, hoping to at least pull his ball club up to a .500 record.  

Before each game, Dwight Lara, the Yellowjackets’ possible savior, performs a ritual of dark magic.  In order for the spell to work, a human life must be sacrificed, resulting in the death of a fan sometime during the game.  The deaths occur in a variety of ways, and while the public begins to view the Yellowjackets as an “unlucky” team to watch in person, no one suspects their new player.

Craight walks in on Lara before one of their games and witnesses his ritual.  His suddenly puts two and two together and realizes what is causing the fatalities.  Internally, Craight is torn between the horror of the present situation and the possibility of winning the championship.

The team breezes through the remainder of the season and is to play in the championship game.  Just before the game, Lara explains to Craight that he will no longer be performing the ritual.  After losing the argument, Craight secretly tries to complete the spell on his own, even going as far as to have Lara’s son murdered at the ballpark in hopes that the Yellowjackets will win.  

Lara discovers what has happened, and once the game is over, kills Craight in the dugout.  The cheering crowd watches in horror as Lara slowly walks to his position in center field holding the severed head of his general manager.  After casting one final spell, the entire stadium collapses inward, killing everyone in attendance.