The Saturday Morning Blogger – Show, don’t tell


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Show, don’t tell

James Barrington

I generally consider myself a pretty good writer, but that doesn’t mean I know all the rules to be a pretty good writer of fictional novels. That’s a whole different animal.

Four of our Wordsmithsix group got together this week to review our latest efforts at literary brilliance. I am constantly grateful for the input of my partners. I can see my work improving, but I recognize I still have a long way to go.

One (of many) writer rules I’m still struggling to learn and internalize is the “show, don’t tell” rule. I need to want to narrate a story instead of planting visual images in the minds of my readers. While that may be OK in a blog, it’s not acceptable in literary fiction. I have the rule pretty well fixed in my mind. My problem I haven’t fully grasped the application of how to follow that rule. I’m working on it, but it’s too easy for me to fall back into the narrator role. My wordsmithsix friends are very expert in pointing those issues out as I read my developing work. It seems like I make a few steps forward and then I have a tendency to slip on the narrative slope. Each time I’m caught doing that, I get another lesson. Hopefully I’m learning.

The concept I’m working on internalizing is letting the characters in the story reveal facts through their dialogue rather than simply spelling it out. Telling is much simpler, but not nearly as interesting.

“So on I worked, and waited for the light,

And went without the meat, and cursed the bread…” (with a tip of the hat to Edward Arlington Robinson).

And hopefully “show not tell” will take roots in my creative system and become a natural thing.

Quoting the Masters II


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Quoting the Masters II
By Nandy Ekle

I like to read quotes by authors who know what they’re talking about. I find a lot of inspiration, instruction, wisdom, truth, and humor.

Here’s a few I’ve picked out from other sites on line to share with you.

1, Every first draft is perfect because all a first draft has to do is exist. — Jane Smiley

2. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page. — Jodi Picoult

3. Fill your paper with the breathing of your heart. — William Wordsworth

4. You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will. — Stephen King

5. A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit. — Richard Bach

6. I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it. — Toni Morrison

7. If you want to be a writer, write. Write and write and write. If you stop, start again. Save everything that you write. If you feel blocked, write through it until you feel your creative juices flowing again. Writing is what makes a writer, nothing more and nothing less. — Anne Rice

8. Write like it matters, and it will. — Libba Bray

9. Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on. — Louis L’Amour

10. It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating. — Gustave Flaubert
Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Bard’s Intrusion


This week, I’m presenting a short story I wrote after choosing a writing prompt from reddit.com. It’s very rough, and the ending is quite weak, but I’m pretty sure it’ll work for a children’s story for my kids.

Enjoy. Maybe.

 

Bard’s Intrusion

by Adam Huddleston

 

Bard took a moment to gather his strength, then ran straight at the wooden door. It shattered inwards in a shower of splinters and bolts. The warrior rolled along the stone floor and sprang to his feet, raising his sword skyward. He opened his mouth to scream the triumphant monologue he had been preparing for years now, but stopped short.

The giant beast before him, the bane of their kingdom since the death of the last great hero, stood hunched over, pointing a skeletal finger at another identical creature.

“You listen to me, Borok! Your mom and I have been over this with you. We don’t want you attacking and plundering with those Kirnee boys. They’re horrible influences, son, especially for a youngling like you!”

“Da-ad,” the smaller beast whined. “They’re not that bad. Just the other night-“

Bard cleared his throat and the two creatures spun around and glared wide-eyed at their intruder.

“Uh, I’m sorry to disturb you two,” the human said. “Is there any chance that we could battle to the death right now?”

The two creatures looked at each other than back at the warrior. The taller beast looked down and shook his deformed head.

“Yeah, well, about that Bard, I’m really sorry. Is there any way we could push this to next week. The “fam” and I are kinda having issues right now…you know how it is.”

“No, Blortok, I don’t. You ate them all, remember?”

Blortok raised his head and laughed.

“That’s right! I totally forgot about that! If it makes you feel better, they were pretty tasty.”

Bard sighed. “No, you moronic heap of filth. That doesn’t make me feel better. And I really don’t want to postpone this. I’ve been journeying for a long, long time to get here. I mean, what am I supposed to do for a week, sit around here watching ya’ll argue?”

“I know, I know. It’s just that-“

“Ah, c’mon Dad,” the son interjected. “Just fight him. Don’t be such a scaredy-chicken!”

Blortok turned around and frowned at his son.

“Stay outta this, boy,” he said.

“Look,” Bard began. “I don’t mean to butt in here, but maybe your son is right. It won’t take very long, I’ll dispatch you quickly, and then everything will be fine!”

Blortok rolled his yellow eyes.

“Oh, whatever, Bard! You’re honestly going to stand there and claim that you can defeat me. Me? In combat?”

The human thought for a moment before responding.

“Well, yeah…I guess. I mean, I am the savior of mankind and all…”

“Alright,” the monster said. “Alright. If that’s what you think, let’s do this.”

Bard held his sword up and slid into his familiar battle stance.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Just what do you think you’re doing?”

“What do you mean?”

Bartok shook his head. “We aren’t fighting in here! I’ll spill your juices all over the place…and do you have any idea how hard it is to get human blood out of a carpet?”

Bard looked at the ground then back up and rolled his eyes. “Ugh! Fine! I’ll meet you outside.”

The battle-hardened pair filed out of the room and walked to a grassy clearing a stone’s throw from the monster’s house. They stood several yards away from one another and crouched into fighting positions.

“Ready when you are, Bortok.”

“I was born ready,” the beast responded.

Bard rolled his eyes again and charged. He pulled his sword back, ready to swing in a wide arc. Bortok bore his sharp fangs, preparing to drive them into the warrior’s muscular flesh. Just as they were about to land their massive blows, a tremendous shriek came from the monster’s house.

A huge creature, even larger than Bortok, plummeted out of the front door of the home.

“Bortok Bartholomew Slaverpot! What are you doing!”

The two combatants stopped in mid-strike and turned to the giant being. Before they could respond, it stomped over to Bortok and smacked him on the back of the head.

“Sorry honey,” Bartok said. “It’s his fault! He talked me into it!”

Both warrior and beast looked at the ground and kicked at the dirt.

“I don’t care who did what,” Bartok’s wife responded. “I’m sick and tired of all the fighting! You’ve got a son that needs a good talking-to inside, and here you are, dancing around with some scrawny human! You two shake hands and make up. After that-“she looked at Bard, “you get on outta here before I show you some real fighting.”

“Heeey,” Bard whined. “I’m not that scrawny.”

Bartok’s wife took a threatening step toward him.

“Yes ma’am. I’ll be on my way.”

The two fighters’ faces turned red as they slunk over to one another and shook hands. Without saying a word, Bard turned and mounted the horse that had been tied to a nearby tree. He spurred the steed and sat tall in the saddle as it sauntered off into the distance.

When the warrior had disappeared over a hill, Bartok turned to his wife and put a wart-covered arm around her shoulder.

“Thank you, Fugbunch. And I’m sorry. I promise never to fight a human again without your say-so.”

The two creatures clasped hands and walked side-by-side back to their home.

 

It’s Spring


Outtakes 283

It’s Spring

by Cait Collins

 

I was driving home the other evening and noticed white blossoms on the trees. I was astonished at the beauty of tree-lined street. But wasn’t it too early for blossoms? It was late February and the threat of snow or ice was still out there.

A couple of weeks have passed and the scene has switched from white blossoms to tender green leaves and purplish-pink pink lady blossoms. Soon bluebonnets, butter cups, and native wild flowers will spring up. The crops will be planted, and live stock and wild animals will birth their young. Thunderstorms will rattle the night skies. Hopefully the rain will fall. Spring is life renewing itself.

Wild fires sparked by a careless hand or a defective machine ignite parched grass lands and dry timber and devastate the Panhandle. Hundreds of acres of grassland and fields are scorched. Lives, both human and animal, are lost. Grain for the livestock is unusable. And in true American spirit, folks around the country are sending aid to those who have lost much of their livelihood. True pioneer spirit prevails as farmers and ranchers ask the volunteers to take care of neighbors first because the neighbors need the help more. When the time comes to replant volunteers will arrive and neighbor will help neighbor to rebuild.

Nature thrives in all seasons. The promise of spring, the growth in summer, the harvest in fall, and the rest in winter move in a cycle that never changes and ever changes. Heat and cold; wet and dry; storm and drought build and define human drive and ingenuity. And they fuel and feed the writer’s art.

Where Do I get my Characters?


Where Do I get my Characters?

Rory C. Keel

When we begin to write a piece of work, we need characters to fill our pages. Beginning with our protagonist, our main character, who will normally be opposed by the antagonist. Supporting characters fill in the gaps and make our stories interesting and full of life.

Characters are all around. Every day you’re surrounded by characters such as a spouse, children or even pets like a cat, dog or a goldfish. Maybe your boss at work or co-workers could add that personality you need for a story. And animals can offer the type of character you need based upon the creature’s instincts and habitat.

As you go through the day, notice who is around you and take notes on how they act and what they say.

Before long you will have the perfect characters for your work.

WORDS WITH POTENTAIL


WORDS WITH POTENTAIL

Natalie Bright

At last week’s critique meeting, we listened to a story that had been written many years ago. Even though this writer has improved greatly, it was solid—very entertaining and horrifying—we loved it! The potential is even greater based on the feedback. Written as a short story, it’s going to be part of an anthology. I think this author is on the right track by compiling several of her strongest short stories together in one publication. ( I can hardly wait to buy that book, Nandy Ekle!)
Whatever your work in progress might be, whatever fire is burning in your gut at this very minute, whatever idea deserves your attention, those words can become something entirely different in the future. Keep your mind open to the opportunities. For heaven’s sake, don’t delete it! Even bad writing has potential. You can’t edit a blank page. (Wish I had all of those stories and poems I wrote in college. I tossed that journal years ago.)
After I found my way back to writing, a story I wrote about a cowboy called Cecil was accepted in an anthology published by TCU Press almost 13 years later. There is no way I could have known that I would meet a ranch hand with the same name! Meeting the real-life, horse-riding cowboy named Cecil just added more depth and color to my short story. It needed work and it needed a critique from WordsmithSix peeps, for sure. The story became better because of my experiences a decade later. With the help of my critique group, that short story became good enough for publication.
You may be at a point in your writing when it seems rejection is a clear message to give up your dreams of becoming a published author. The very first words by David Morrell, creator of Rambo, keeps echoing through my brain after I heard his talk at an Oklahoma conference,

“Don’t question the why.”

I share this because I have spent, actually wasted, too many years questioning the why. And now I’m asking myself, why for different reasons. Why didn’t I finish that book? I’m staring at a stack of sticky notes and marked up articles for blog ideas, so why didn’t I write them? There’s no way that I could have known back in 1999 that I’d need material in 2017 for two blogs and three orgnizational newsletters. I would have never imagined that I’d have a talented critique group who could boost my confidence and my words. The struggle to write never ceases. Now I’m faced with a part-time day job that will probably go back to full-time soon, and I’ll be frustratingly juggling writing time. What crazy life is this? Opps, there I go again—questioning the why.

The story is in us. The story picked us. We can’t possibly know why. I have to keep reminding myself to stop stressing and find joy in the process.

“Every story I’ve written was written because I had to write it. Writing stories is like breathing for me, it is my life.”
RAY BRADBURY

Find Natalie’s blogs and articles here:
Blogging every Monday about writing life at wordsmithsix.com
Blogging every Friday about the Texas Panhandle at “Prairie Purview”. Read her blogs at nataliebright.com or on the Amazon Author page.
Sign up for here for the newsletter: nataliebright.com
Natalie is editor of “The Window”, the official newsletter of one of the oldest writing organizations in the country, Texas High Plains Writers, org. 1920 in Amarillo, Texas. Here’s the link. panhandleprowriters.org.

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Continuous vs. segmented


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Continuous vs. segmented

James Barrington

I have written five previous novels. None have been published. I hope I am learning with each successive effort. While the idea of having a legion of fans of my writing is appealing, I have found each effort personally rewarding whether they ever leave the confines of my hard drive or not. In each of my earlier efforts, I have essentially written from start to finish as ideas flowed, but in my current effort I’m finding that the ideas are coming in interconnected but not continuously flowing patterns.

Perhaps my disjointed story segments result from the nature of the story – a twenty-year class reunion being the “current day” and the events of the intervening years laying background to peel back the layers of motivation and character interrelationships. As I mentally “see” action unfolding, my mind begins telling me the roots of the latest developments.

I’m finding this technique challenging, but stimulating at the same time. Mainly I’m finding it a great opportunity to put more depth to each character. I believe it will produce a better product in the end. I’m also finding the wordsmithsix critique group extremely helpful in keeping me grounded with suggestions and questions that I realize I should have already considered.

The Texas High Plains Writers will be meeting today (March 18) at The Oasis on Canyon Drive at 9:30 a.m. For anyone interested in writing, there are always great ideas, great information, and great fellowship. See you there!

Favorite Poems


Favorite Poems

by Adam Huddleston

 

Some time back, I wrote a blog concerning poetry. It discussed the benefits of writing poetry for the average author. As I reread it, I noticed that I failed to mention a few of my favorite poems. Since poetry is a very subjective art form, these particular verses may fail to “float your boat” but, to each their own.

In no particular order: “The Road not Taken” by Robert Frost, “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe, “The Wreck of the Hesperus” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll, and “Two Dead Boys” a nonsensical poem by an unknown author.

I suggest giving these poems a read, and if you don’t care for them, keep exploring the wide world of poetry until you find some that you do.

Happy writing (and reading)!

 

Old Friends


Outtakes 282

Old Friends

By Cait Collins

 

 

I’m in the process of cleaning out my study. You see, by book shelves are overflowing with books from history and science to children’s picture books. My niece claims I hoard books. Of course I do. Books have their own personalities. Each one has a voice. A spirit. And a life. They hold a place in my heart.

You see, as a teenager, I was a bit awkward and shy. I was Twiggy in a Lana Turner world. Books were my friends. They accepted me, made me feel important when I absorbed the knowledge they provided. They comforted me when my sister was out with friends and I was left behind. I’m not angry or sorry for those days. I found the joy in knowledge. I became a trivia queen.

At a young age I was familiar with Shakespeare and Tennessee William and Eugene O’Neil. I attempted to read Mein Kempf, Hitler’s autobiography. I loved geology. I could recognize rocks and minerals. Spy novels fascinated me. James Bond was a favorite character. Grimm’s Fairy Tales were nothing like Disney tales.

And I started writing. I’m still writing. And I’m still reading.

And I’m still sorting books in my book shelves. Some will go to the public library for their fund raiser. The children’s books can be donated to Ronald McDonald House. And some I will keep. They are the special books. The ones that still have me reaching for them to read again and again. Of course I’ll add new books to the shelves. But I’ll always have dear friends resting in my library.

How long has it been since you reread a favorite book? That long, huh? Why not revisit that old friend? After all, true friendship lasts a lifetime.