MY CHARACTER LEFT ME


MY CHARACTER LEFT ME

By Natalie Bright

Writing an entire novel is the most wonderful, soul-changing, frustrating, dreaded task you’ll ever tackle. In fact, I once said that I’d never writer a book. My articles and short stories were enough for me.

Several years ago I started a lovely historical story with a 16 year old protagonist targeted to YA market. The suggestion was made that I consider dropping her age to 12 or 13. I rewrote it, and now I have two 7,000+ word manuscripts. I never finished either. Both versions seem wrong, leaving me uninspired and frustrated. Where did my main character go? Will she ever emerge again?

Write.

SHE’S BACK…

These past several months, this character has been nagging me a lot. She still holds much mystery for me and I must know more about her and the time of her life. The historical period continues to hold much intrigue. I see her as a young girl, on the verge of being woman. I see her being involved in a forbidden love, so a 13 year old is not going to work. YES! I SEE her and she’s getting clearer every day. As to her exact age, I haven’t a clue. Both versions are a muddle in my head.

Note to self: Don’t question the why. I have a beginning and I have an ending. I need to make a list of possible conflict that she must overcome. I will write the scenes in my head, no matter the order. Make it to the end. With the help of my WordsmithSix group, we’ll make it tidy and tight.

Write more.

CRITIQUE THAT MAY STEER YOU WRONG

I’m not saying that it was a waste of my time to rewrite the book with a younger protagonist. Maybe it will help me see the main character and her journey more clearly. At this point, who am I trying to please? The answer: me.

Take writing advice with a grain of salt. In the end you’re the author and only you can make the final decision. Absolutely, make that scary leap and let other people read your work before you publish. I know that you’ve dug to the depths of your soul and sweated over your pages for months and months, perhaps years.

Step back. Listen carefully to your trusted beta readers. Consider all of the possibilities, but in the end you have the final say.

LET’S BEGIN AGAIN

I’m starting over. For the third pass I’ll use elements from both versions. My gut is telling me this story has potential. Hopefully, I can find the heart of the story and it will emerge from the mess I’ve made. This will be a great project for NaNoMo in November, and I’m going to reach the end this time. Phew. I feel so much better about this. Thanks for listening, WordsmithSix!

Just.

Keep.

Writing.

 

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Story Exploded


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Story Exploded

By Nandy Ekle

It happened again. I woke up listening to a voice telling me an adventure. As the words scrolled across the great movie screen in my head, I realized that would make an amazing story. Probably ten or fifteen pages, a nice juicy short story at best.

As a “pantser” (one who writes “by the seat of their pants”), trying not to do so much planning that all the fun turns into a fill-in-the blank, essay-ish type of work, I took out my trusty computer, opened the word processor and let my fingers transcribe the scenes playing out in my head.

And then I came to a decision-making moment. Sometimes this is where I get locked down, waiting for the characters to tell me what comes next. Most of the time I can see the scenes clearly, but the transitions between the scenes is the muddy white noise part of the brain-feed movie going on. So I have to think for a minute. This is usually not wise if I want a short story because a lot can happen in a decision-making moment.

In this story I began to see twists and turns multiply to look like a roller coaster gone haywire. The hidden truths I will build to are good ones. In fact, I broke out in goosebumps and giggled like an insane madwoman every time a new twist popped up.

Research. I needed to research a couple of things I knew nothing about. And I had to research some things I knew a little about, and one or two things I completely understood, but wanted to find a way to connect to the new things I would be learning. And all the while a new secret would wink at me and I would giggle a little more.

So now I look at my “short story” and realize it’s a good tale, but it exploded into an outright novel. Only, I absolutely don’t want to say it out loud because the muse will pack up and leave me holding a paper cutout of my character in one hand and an dry ink pen in the other.

So, for the moment, we will continue to call this a short story.

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

Malapropism


Malapropism

by Adam Huddleston

 

Here’s another quick literary term to add to your repertoire: malapropism. It is defined as the use of an incorrect word (with a similar sound) for a correct one.

Why would you do this?

It can be used to show that the speaker is confused, upset, or otherwise impaired. It is important to understand that in order to be effective, the two words must be similar in sound or structure.

For example, in “Much Ado About Nothing” a character states: “Our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two auspicious persons.” In this case, the speaker substituted comprehended for apprehended.

I hope this helps in your writing!

A Glimpse of the Past


Outtakes 256

A Glimpse of the Past

by Cait Collins

 

I’ve come to realize how pampered I am. The boiler system for my apartment complex broke down and we’ve been without hot water for several days. Frustrating, absolutely. I’m so used to turning on the tap and out comes an unlimited amount of hot water. But for the past few days, I’ve had to get up half an hour early to heat water for a bath and to wash my hair. The inconvenience caused me to think about times when hot, running water was not available.

Think about early settlers who had to dig a well, draw the water, and build a fire to heat the water. Imagine a 100 degree Texas Panhandle afternoon, stoking the fireplace just to have hot water. It gives new meaning to Saturday night baths.

Our forefathers were made of sterner stuff. No grocery stores to provide fresh produce and butchered meat. Of course not. They tilled the soil, planted seeds, and nurtured the growing plants. The harvest was canned or preserved to provide food during the moths between the harvests. As a child, I helped weed our garden. We’d buy vegetables from roadside stands, and mom would rope all of us into shelling peas and snapping beans. She’d can or freeze the prepared veggies. She made pickles, jams, and jelly. I think of the hours my mother spent making sure her family had good food to eat.

I wish I’d listened to the stories of hog butchering and wringing a chicken’s neck. Or grinding meat into sausage and stuffing the ground meat into casings. Maybe if I had listened, I would better appreciate what I have now.

And maybe, I could use that knowledge to spice up some characters. Think about the hermit who has chosen to live in an area where there is no indoor plumbing, no electricity, and no running water. The closest water is the creek that’s a couple of hundred yards away. In the winter, snow is melted for drinking water. How would I describe him? How would I structure his day? What made him decide to live without modern conveniences? There are so many possibilities for this scenario.

I do not long for the good old days. I like my creature comforts. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate my forefathers and their “can do” attitudes. It makes me wonder what they’d think of their children. I’ll also admit I’ve been pretty grump these past few mornings. But there is a silver lining to the inconvenience. At least I didn’t have to haul the water from the nearest playa lake. Man, I don’t even want to think about that.

ARE YOU AFRAID TO FLY?


ARE YOU AFRAID TO FLY?

by Rory C. Keel 

It’s amazing that so many people have a fear of flying. Several years ago, while on a plane from Saint Louis Missouri to Portland Oregon, I remember boarding and seeing a man who looked as pale as death. He took his seat across the aisle and immediately buckled the seat belt, grabbed the armrests and shook so violently I wondered if it was the engines or him shaking the plane. After sedating himself with a couple of adult beverages, he slept soundly to our destination.

While I have never been afraid to travel in an airplane, I have experienced a fear of flying. Realizing I would never pilot an F-16 fighter jet, I turned to the hobby of remote control airplanes.

After what my wife called “investing heavily” in a kit, I began to build my first R/C airplane. For days I trimmed every piece of wood with the skill of a surgeon to the exact specs. For weeks, I placed every drop of glue precisely in the correct spot, as to not change the balance of the plane. And after months of careful tune-ups on the engine and electronics, along with a few instructions from others to assure that my plane would soar with the eagles, fear took over.

What if it crashes? All that hard work and time will have been in vain.

On my first solo flight, I rolled the plane down the tarmac and lifted off. A feeling of accomplishment flooded over me as I made one pass, then another over the stands. Not wanting to run out of fuel and lose the plane, I made the approach to land. That day I witnessed the most horrific sight—in front of me laid splinters of wood, pieces of plastic and shards of metal. I crash-landed my plane.

In writing, there are moments when we are afraid to submit a piece of work, fearful of rejection. We work on a piece until it is perfect then, “WHAT IF” takes over. What if it’s rejected? What if it was a waste of time because no one likes it?

The good news is that my first plane did finally soar. I learned that my time wasn’t wasted at all. In all the hours of building I had learned how to repair the broken plane, and after adjusting the mistakes I made in the landing approach, confidence took control.

Yes, I have letters of rejection for my writing, however with repairs and a few adjustments, those same pieces have been published.

Don’t be afraid to fly!

Roryckeel.com

LISTEN TO YOUR CHARACTERS…Or They May Abandon You Forever


LISTEN TO YOUR CHARACTERS…

      Or They May Abandon You Forever

By Natalie Bright

My novel about a 14 year old boy set in the Texas frontier is a typical coming of age story, which involves him finishing the job of delivering a wagon load of goods after his father died. Ben has a run in with outlaws, is shot by a Comanche arrow, gets lost in the wilderness; just your typical Wild West adventure. The young Comanche brave would not leave me alone. The only thing I could do to get that kid out of my mind was to write key scenes in his viewpoint. I realized I liked him and instead of being my antagonist, the story changed. I inserted Roving Wolf’s scenes where they belonged in the already finished book. I now have two protagonists who become friends.

LESSON LEARNED

Here’s what I learned from that experience: you don’t have to write an entire book chapter by chapter in that exact order. For some of us, Point A to Point B is not how our mind works when it comes to creative fiction.

Don’t be afraid to explore those flashes of imagery in your brain. It might be a piece of dialogue. Maybe it’s a minor character that keeps nagging you about a scene you left them out of. It might be a place that flashes in your mind, and then poof, it’s gone again. You know someone was there and something happened, and you have to write it before you learn why that place is important. For me, it’s like an explosion in my head. The imagery of that character is so alive. Sometimes it’s a conversation that seems so vibrant and real, it can’t be ignored.

TALKING CHARACTERS

Some writers say that their characters never talk to them, and usually it shows in their stories. Their characters are flat, lifeless, with no personality. When you take the time to dig into your character’s head and heart, then their personality will become real. When they are real to you, they’ll be real to your readers.

DIG DEEP: HERE’S HOW

If your book is in 3rd person, rewrite several scenes in 1st person POV. Free write, in your character’s POV, about their childhood, favorite things or people, life experiences, greatest fears. The deeper you dig, their motives, desires, angst will become clearer. That protagonist will begin to tell you even more (truth!). I know, it’s a creepy, strange and glorious experience, so I wouldn’t mention it to your non-writerly friends. I promise, one of your characters will pop into your mind out of and tell you something wonderful. Keep in mind, that the majority of the things you learn about your protagonist and antagonist during this process will not make it into your manuscript. When you’re character is faced with a conflict, you’ll know exactly how he or she will react and that’s what endears them to your readers. We learn more and more as the story progresses.

Don’t be afraid to give your characters the attention they deserve. Allow them to tell you their secrets. Just make sure you’re taking notes.

Message From Mundania


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Message From Mundania

Life, moving slowly, as if the same day repeats over and over and brings to mind a phrase from the days of Flower Children: What a drag.

You get up in the morning, rub your eyes, wash your hair and drink your coffee. You go to your jobs or classes, work a while, eat your lunch, work a while, go back home. You eat supper or dinner—whatever you like to call it—turn on the TV and settle for the night. And it all starts over the next day.

But what we forget are the little adventures we have every day, you know, the little things that are different about a day. The postage machine hijacks the fax machine, the client forgot to send in the payment, or a black plastic bag scoots across the highway and reminds you of an alligator coming after your car. Once, just breaking the promise to myself that I would not eat my favorite snack that day brought a very nice story.

When something happens just the teeniest bit out of the ordinary, whether it’s frustrating or hilarious, you can write an entire story centered on this event. Let your imagination ponder and study it. Then add in some exaggeration to what you already know about the event. You’ll soon find that your ho-hum life is full of story-worthy adventures and “boring” will be for people like detectives and spies.

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

Nandy Ekle

Alliteration


Alliteration

by Adam Huddleston

 

This week’s literary term concerns a device often used by poets, but not as much by novelists. Alliteration is defined as the repetitive use of words with similar sounds in quick succession. For example: George the Giant jumped over the garage. It can be very effective in children’s literature (where the reader often enjoys the sounds) or lyrical writing. Most novelists try to avoid alliteration however in that it can distract the more mature reader from the overall story.

Happy writing!

In the Zone


Outtakes 255

In the Zone

by Cait Collins

 

Have you ever had one of those really productive writing sessions? You know that time when the words almost type themselves on to the document or the pen moves itself across the page. I’m having one of those in the zone moments tonight. It started right after I got off the phone with my insurance company and has continued for a little over two hours. I’ve glanced over the pages and think I’m on the right track. It needs some polishing, but it’s insightful.

So please forgive me if this is short and sweet tonight. You see my protagonist is about to reveal a picture he drew while in a fugue state. I wonder how he’s going to explain how he drew a vehicle he doesn’t remember. The details are sharp and accurate right down to the license plate on the rear bumper. There’s a flat tire and …

 

Happy writing.

The Perfect Writing Space


The Perfect Writing Space

By Natalie Bright

The second blog post I did for WordsmithSix Blog, I talked about my perfect writing space: our lovely home office. It should have been 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. I watched my world as I wrote: the kids were much younger, food simmered on the stove, and the dogs peered at me through the window.

Years later WordsmithSix has grown to almost 500 subscribers (thanks everybody!), and I’m writing in a new space.

Luckily, I’ve been able to cut my day job hours which allows me more time to write. In the office space that we share with my in-laws, I’ve taken over my mother-in-law’s office. It hardly seems possible that she’s been gone almost ten years. She was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known. Material wealth had absolutely no meaning to her. She was never interested in fancy clothes, shoes, or filling her home with stuff. Instead, her collection of Stephen King and Dean Koontz hardbacks were her pride and joy. She loved a good horror story. Cooking a huge meal for her family or proudly showing me the first prefect rose on the bush that she had grown from a dead twig where her rewards. This was where she did the books for their real estate business, and where my kids sat on her lap to play computer games. She kept a pile of trucks and legos in the corner.

The memory of her quiet presence reminds me that this was always her office, which is why we haven’t used it until now. It has been transformed into my ordered chaos. Stacks of edited manuscripts, research notes, and books that cover every available space. I don’t have to be orderly or put anything away, and it’s wonderful. I look forward to work every morning and can hardly wait until my hands are on the keyboard.

As for the kitchen table, it’s back to being a table in the kitchen. The home office has been taken over by our high school aged son who has embraced the online gaming community.

I guess the point of this blog is this: be YOU, create when and where you can, and realize that crafting words is a complicated, joyous process that we shall never understand.

What about you – has your perfect writing space changed from time to time?