You can read this if you wish although it consists of thoughts and fragments as I attempt to free write 750 words every day. Some of this may end up in a Story or a Conversation. Anyway, this is how one learn and shapes up The Craft.
According to my new writing goal, I am supposed to just write down whatever comes to my head and finish up in 750 words. The whole thing sounds a bit of a waste of time, frankly. I don’t have the luxury of writing nothing; there is so much more to write and get done.
Yet, here I am just writing. And counting time.
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Three days earlier I studied all night with a girlfriend for a physics exam and afterward drove four classmates 12 hours to San Diego for spring break. The entire trip the girls giggled and cackled behind me while a Korean kid sat silent up front. I decided we scared Jae. Although, being a confused immigrant might also explain his silence. Either way, he only said thanks when I dropped him off at his house. For that matter, Cindy told me how to find it.
The rest of the trip to Oceanside I drove in a blur on autopilot. All of the lights merged into a slow motion light show and I doubt I could even tell you about the trip. I arrived at the motel, went to bed, and slept nearly all Sunday despite my mother’s pleas to come to the beach. In the morning, I drove her north to Anaheim where we rode the teacups, stood in a long line for the bobsleds, and paddled a canoe. We ate dinner on the bayou, visited the pirates, posed with Mickey Mouse, and explored the Swiss Family Robinson tree house. Overall, mom had a great time and I played the sweet son. By nightfall, the sky exploded with fireworks and we headed back south. Mom slept pressed into the window missing the nuclear power plant, the Marines, and the moonlit beach. As the tail lights on the interstate blurred into red, I again drove like a drone.
Tuesday, I left mom in the room sadly wondering why I was heading back to college. I made Spring Break last only as long as a three-day weekend with an irritating baby. At the studio I planned to make a lot of cash in the remaining days of my break.
Before I left, Cindy called to say she wanted to ride back with me to school.
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Behind the library, between the quad and the band room, the Stoners smoke packs of red Marlboro’s. For all practical purposes, this might as well be no man’s land. Only sand dirt seems to grow and the green soccer field starts 80 yards farther away. I imagine the area remained hidden before the school added the soccer field and a football arena. The area is the perfect place to hide and smoke.
I have never been back there. I only see it when I sprint over to the band room. I doubt I would ever hang out there. It is the end of April and school is winding down. Spring fever grabbed us a few weeks ago. The weekly ski trips to Mammoth ended in March, so we all need something to take our minds off school. Boredom fails to describe the feeling; I guess the warm days make us want to play hooky.
I am late for stage band. As I rush past the Stoners, a girl with punk black hair, torn jeans with a hole in her knee, and a bandanna around her neck carries a bass guitar case toward me. I swear she is Joann Jett come to life. She walks my way with attitude. I switch my trumpet case to my other hand and hold the door open for her. She smells like cigarettes as she slides into the band room.
Edna sucked in the soup. A large noodle stopped at her lip. She tried to tongue it into her mouth and couldn’t reach it. She slipped back into the chair and let out a long sigh.
“I miss George.”
Larry stood up and wiped off her mouth. He lifted her hand up and placed the linen in her lap. She forced a smile patting his hand. He left her chair and moved to the window.
“George was a good man.”
Edna tried to turn her head to look at her son. “Would you mind showing me the pictures?”
Larry looked around his mother’s room. A picture of him and the kids in a frame on an old oak table. A white knitted doily circled the frame. On it another picture of a young George. He wore black Caterpillar hat and a blue jean jacket. He never smiled. He was too busy working.
I have mentioned that many stories fail to gain traction in the second act. This is where the viewpoint character forgets why they are in the story. Of course, it is the writer who has forgotten; either by writing by their pants or failing to plot in enough conflict to keep the story moving forward. Stories thrive on conflict and bad things must happen to the hero before it all ends up as good and satisfying.
That is why within the second act, is the false ending. In fact, you might say this is the top of the hill. And this is why screenwriters call it the midpoint. Everything works up to the midpoint and then tumbles down into the depths of hell before the beginning of the end.
Screenwriters know they must take the viewer to the first turning point within 12 pages. Novelists also incorporate a turning point before the end of the first act. The second act is reserved for the hero doing heroic things; nothing can go wrong. And then it happens: the midpoint. Writers reserve the midpoint for the center of the story and add the ultimate conflict for the hero to face.
The midpoint is when the girl discovers the guy is hiding a secret girlfriend (who usually is revealed in the third act as his sister). Or at the midpoint, the hero faces emotional or physical death. Will she make it? Keep watching. Everything is revealed in the third act.
A good midpoint incorporates a false victory for our hero; she defeats the bad guy, only to discover a badder bad guy is standing behind her. Another excellent midpoint is to have the hero face ultimate disaster; the singing cowboy movies called this a cliffhanger. Finally, a midpoint should provide the ultimate obstacle in the story. What happens to give the antagonist the upper hand? What is the chink in our hero’s armor?
Midpoints add conflict, which is the main reason anyone reads a novel or watches a movie; they want to see the hero defeat the antagonist. They want to see the hero survive the midpoint.
[plain]How have you used this technique to infuse your stories with conflict? Reply below in the comments.[/plain]
300 square feet.
Enough room to sit.
And maybe spin all around.
The size of a gingerbread doghouse.
If the dog was a small mastiff.
A big dog with a very large appetite.
With no place to store the dog food bags.
The minimalists say we all could stand to slim down.
That our mega mansions, stuff, and stacks of books signify waste.
But the very thought of living in a one-room cabin frightens me:
Like Thoreau living in an urban forest with no solitude or private pond.
The stacks of books, hand selected, some with gold leaf edges are precious friends.
Even if they spill off the shelves and pile up in towers on the floor.
“You’re a hoarder,” say visitors who look down in disdain at my collection of wordy excess.
And although I attempt to purge, sort, and reduce the pages, it is hard to part company.
They all contain dreams, fantastic journeys, ginormous thoughts, hidden truths, ineffable fruit, obsolete wisdom, scientific hypotheses, and farce.
Put them on a Kindle, they say, yet most are out-of-print, esoteric, or hand-me-down treasures.
Which makes it all the more difficult to release them to a better place; a Goodwill, or a book sale.
So they stand stacked like beleaguered sentries circled in spindly towers keeping silent watch over words cluttering the floor.
They wait and watch with dread wondering when they will be released into the world and set free.
Each knows I haven’t the courage to sort, pick, or drop any of them into a box.
A certain belief none of them will be downsized to shoehorn them into a tiny house.
Or are they mistaken to express this joyful expectation that they are so highly regarded?
Unfortunately some must be labeled, screened, and stacked for certain delivery to the curb.
The house must shrink from 3,500 to 1,700 squares, albeit not a one-room schoolhouse.
It is still smaller than the library where the sentries now stand guard.
The childhood adventures remain and the college texts with inspired margin notes.
Each is carefully stacked next to the poems and dime-store mysteries.
The free classics will find a home electronic and portable.
Words stacked neatly alphabetical in my library virtual.
I will sneak in some Steinbeck or Holmes.
The rest will be donated for free.
To give others pleasure or pain.
The words will worm inward.
To plant a seed.
An inspirational spark.
Copyright 2015, Michael S. Sommermeyer. All Rights Reserved.
[plain]This shape poem works from one to 20 words and then back to a single word. Pick a topic and write your own shape poem. Add it to the comments below.[/plain]
Tom was stuck and hanging 100 feet above Fremont Street, angled like Superman, and tethered only to the narrow ribbon of wire in a harness. Unable to twist and look up at why he was stuck, he looked down at the street instead. A sea of tourists moved below him as if he was just another attraction. A small boy let go of a smiley-face balloon and started to cry. A bald dude stared at him in a peewee muscle shirt. A ragged homeless man bumped the crowd begging for a dollar. A topless brunette in a devil’s costume waved at everyone while holding a red fan over her exposed breasts.
Mark had promised fame and fortune at the end of the zip line. He failed to mention this.
Some people swore the house was haunted. To the ghosts, it seemed unlikely anyone believed. They bumped into the living without the slightest notice. Sometimes they made a sudden movement to remind each other they were still around. Mostly they bounced among the residents coloring happy memories or darkening deep regrets. Never had they sparked passion in the hearts of the living. The ghosts wished people believed.
Tommy woke slowly from an afternoon nap. He rubbed his eyes, stretched up his arms and locked his fingers together crunching his knuckles. A ghost bounced around the cracking fingers before disappearing. Tommy smiled at a sudden thought.
This time he would do it. Weighing only 98 pounds, more or less, his mother had told him he was too small to play football. “You’re better suited to chess,” she would say. But he wanted to grind his toe in the grass and scuff up his shoes until they were green. He yearned to slip the shoulder pads on, bury his head in the helmet, and chew on the mouthpiece. Today he would race down the field and catch the winning pass. This was going to be his year; he would not be too short, too skinny, too uncoordinated. He was playing football, no matter what.