Tagged: writing

Write Fiction with a Story Prompt 0

I am a big fan of story prompts whether they consist of a word, a sentence, an idea, or a photo. The story prompt serves as a launch pad for creativity and it prompts the writer to see inward, consider possibilities, and think how the reader will respond.

On Steemit, the #freewrite group of writers tackles a daily story prompt provided by @mariannewest. Nearly 250 writers participate by writing whatever comes to mind in five minutes. Some of the output rambles around as the writer latches onto a prompt. Other writing comes away seemingly polished regardless of the writer using The Most Dangerous Writing App, a sadistic writing tool promising to give you the finished work as long as you don’t stop writing. Pause for only a second and it eats your words! Needless to say, I am not a fan. I am all for writing as fast as you can and throwing it away. However, I do like to read it first.

Amazon offers a number of writing prompt books. Writers Digest serves up a weekly offering of Creative Writing Prompts. Even if you choose not to write something to fit that prompt, each one often leads to another idea.

Sometimes an entirely random idea pops in my head, which then leads to a story. I read about a white Redwood “ghost tree” standing on the coast of California. A few days later I heard a lawyer complaining about a long deposition – a pre-interview of a witness. This led me to combining the Redwood with a deposition to write A Moment of Pure Truth. I like to think this story might not have started without the story prompt.

I make a habit of writing at least 500 words in the morning. Some of it is trash; bits of ideas and random observations. Some of it ends up in my Scribbles or Conversations. Most of it ends up deleted. Every once in a while, I find a random idea or sentence that might make a story. I then use this idea for further writing later in the day or week.

Story Prompts in the Wild

  • You can ask your friends and family for a prompt. What is the first word you can think of? They will probably wonder why you asked, but they can always read the final draft.
  • An editor may also give you a prompt. I will pay a lot of clams if you write about a physicist who hates the weird and wonderful world of science. Yeah, I can do that.
  • Read the newspaper. Discounting the threat of “fake news” what better place than the newspaper to prompt your next story? Some of the best mysteries start out as news headlines.

Wherever a story prompt comes from it is bound to result in something you can use. If anything, you can always shake out the cobwebs and get on to the real writing.

Leave me a reply and let me know what you think. All feedback helps me get better.

Oh, the Amazon Link sends me a commission.
Photo by Amber Holmes. Used with permission (She’s my cousin!).

A Day of Rest 0

Day 131: 5 Minute Freewrite: Tuesday – Prompt: solitude

Prompt by @mariannewest. Words by @wordymouth.

She walked passing only a few other couples on their way down.

She smiled, waved, and appropriately nodded. Not too bad for a Tuesday. There could be more people on the trail.

In the canopy, the limbs bustled together in a shallow breeze. At her level, the ground, rocks, and ferns stayed perfectly still. Everything was so green. She listened for a sound. Hearing none, she made some noise grinding off a rock with her boot.

Off trail, a large Douglas Pine lay on its side covering the last melt of snow and ice. A Carpenter ant wandered the bare surface climbing over the beetle tracks exposed in the wood by erosion. It carried a bit of seed over the pine. She waited for it to pass over the side, then sat down on the wood.

She looked across the forest floor to the far side of the canyon where a waterfall fell into a green pool. She breathed in slowly. Then she breathed out. The cathedral of solitude gave her rest.

Thanks for reading. Leave me a comment.

An Obvious Secret 0

A Conversation

“She really doesn’t know?”

“I haven’t had time to tell her.”

“Don’t you think she’d like to know?”

“It’s not like I’m keeping a secret. I need to time it right.”

“I would think the moment you’re gone she’ll know something’s up.”

“I doubt she’ll even care.”

“Is it possible you’ve already let her know?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Maybe, the wedding ring has given it away.”

“This thing? Well, yeah, maybe.”

Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic 0

I occasionally offer up my writing advice. My personal routine centers around writing at least 500 words or just anything for me everyday. This could be fiction, poetry, a chat-story, or just scribbles. I am a professional writer of non-fiction. Putting up a word count of 2,000 words takes little effort. Of course, most of those words focus on how-to, technical, and specialty writing.

Writing comes natural and I enjoy it. However, those 500 words of just anything can prove a challenge. Think of writing with your non-dominant hand; the letters scrawl out, but they may not be easy to read.

Which takes me to my topic of Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.

These topics took center stage in our K-12 learning. They were what the teacher started off with in the grade school classes, and then there were specialized classes in high school and college. Sometimes they made sense. Other times, they were a mishmash. The first two subjects – Reading and Writing – came pretty easy. Math ended up being my weak point. So, I’ll start with Reading and Writing.

writing adviceReading – Learning to identify patterns, techniques, plots, and story elements come from reading. Read as much as you can. I think the best writers spend more time reading than writing. Reading sparks ideas for your writing. For instance, the other day I was reading a technical article on generating oxygen on Mars. The article centered on making rocket fuel so Martians could get to Earth. I thought about terraforming; using oxygen to create an atmosphere. And if you could create oxygen, you could probably mix in other gases.

Reading helps you learn creativity. For instance, in poetry there are forms for verse, syllable, and rhyme. Most of these you need to learn to write them. A mystery has certain elements a writer must include. Now, you can learn about these various forms by studying the patterns, or you can learn them by reading. The creative spark comes through when a writer reads a novel, poem, or short story from start to finish. They start to see what the writer was attempting or the turns needed to get to the final denouncement. Basically, you can learn the various forms, but you don’t really understand them until you see the inspiration behind the words.

writing adviceWriting – Papa Hemingway used to say you had to just write with no stopping whatever came into your head. And then throw it away. Sort of like running oil through an engine, a writer must lubricate the keyboard to get everything moving. Now, I tend to think some of that literary lubrication can be saved. But if it is good enough, you’ll come back to it again. Like reading, writing must be done everyday. You have to put the words down on paper, or screen, so they can lead you to other paragraphs.

And try different forms. I try a different style or writing when I am practicing to give me the courage to break the rules. You can’t stick to just one style because it will become rote. Practice foreign ways to set up a story so you will have the confidence to try different styles when it counts. You may not like how the story is going. That is fine, because you will soon now how you like to write. Just mix it up so you have a reason to write everyday.

writing adviceArithmetic – You are on your own here. I know how to find a word count. And I remember the PEDMAS formula so I can do those fun math quizzes that stump others. I learned statistics because it’s the best way to catch someone in a lie. But I couldn’t spend time on algebraic equations because I don’t have the patience. Besides, I’m a writer, what do I need math for. (Oh yeah, those paychecks for word count.)

Diving into brain science, working a math equation, or puzzle, helps with your creativity. You use a different side of your brain, which causes you to jump out of your writing orientation and into problem solving. This is perfect for anyone trying to think up a new plot point.

So, yes, even math has its use to a writer.

Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic all form the basics of education. You really need all three to discover better ways to build a story, express yourself, and collect a paycheck. Build upon them to become a better writer.

Buddy, The Rottweiler, and Charlie, the Dachshund, Find a Snack 0

A Conversation

“It’s really only a matter of time before they take that away.”

“Nah, they don’t even see me.”

“They seem to know when you’re into something you’re not supposed to be in.”

“It’s the silence. Go make some noise. Scratch your crotch or something.”

“It doesn’t itch.”

“Don’t just stand there watching me. Go somewhere else.”

“I can’t. It’s so fascinating.”

“In what way?”

“How you can get that whole thing in your mouth.”

“Easy really.”

“How so?”

“I suck in the head first then hide the legs with my tongue.”

“Ope, she’s coming over now.”

“Buddy, spit out Missy’s doll.”

“I told you she’d notice.”

“I’ll get it back. No one will want it covered in spit.”

“True. Give me a lick.”

“Oh, you’re going to love the taste of this one.”

The Ely Pass Accident 0

When I was in college, I was driving across Nevada around Christmas and hit a cow with my car. I wasn’t driving too fast, but I managed to come out of a cloudy valley onto a pass and there was a herd of cows in the roadway keeping warm. Since I was driving pretty slow, I managed to weave the car between the standing cows and most of them ran away. However, there was one steer in the middle of the road that refused to budge. And so I hit him with the side of my car. It all happened so fast and I remember hearing a “bump.” That’s not so bad, I thought. I drove the car to the side of the road, got out and saw the imprint of a six-foot cow on the side of my car. The dent was so bad, I had to pull it away from the back wheel so I could keep driving. The cow ran off and I never did see it.

Anyway, I kept driving on and hoped the cow never died. In Nevada’s open range, the driver is responsible for killing a cow. Being a college student, I barely had enough money to drive home. I surely didn’t have money to buy a dead cow.

Fiction comes out of real and imagined experiences. Here is a piece of flash fiction about a cowboy heading home.

Thirty miles of snow blanketed the valley from range to range. Small strips of black pavement broke through the snow. The pavement disappeared as the road dipped farther around a bend. The cowboy paused the truck at the top of the grade and considered his future. Would it be possible to turn around and start over? Too many miles to go and too much behind him, he decided. A gust of wind raced around the cab and snow swirled around the hood. He looked down at an endless snowy valley. His breath blew fog on the window. He wiped away the frost and wondered if he should have called Sally to let her know he was coming.

The cowboy sat until he felt the cold on his legs. The chill rode up from the bottom of the floorboard through his boots making his bones hurt. The chill reminded him things were not warm between him and Sally. He patted his thighs and shivered. He must try to reach her. He turned the heater up, pulled the truck into gear, and jumped the start smoothing out as the truck picked up speed.

He considered the snow, cold, and all the times he had been stuck in this same spot shivering. He traveled this lonely highway all the time and it never seemed very warm. Watching the junipers pass against the snow, he expected to see a bandit ahead. This stretch of basin and range resembled a desperado’s playground. The roadway always seemed covered in snow with no one took the same road on the same day. Today was no different. The snow piled higher against a whitened sky and the truck began to make new tracks in the packed ice. He no longer saw the pavement. He watched for the mile markers and aimed down the middle.

The cowboy imagined what was happening four ranges over. Sally focused on her two boys, three poodles, and a husband. He thought about her growing up. She rode beside him with her small legs hanging over the seat. Now her smallest boy could take her place. He rarely saw her now. An unspoken distrust hung in the air when they did see each other. Another cold he never could thaw. His daughter looked at him with suspicion when she poured him a cup of coffee in her kitchen. Her eyes wondered what he wanted and why he dropped by. He smiled and hoped she would forgive him. He wished they could be closer.

The cowboy hummed an old melody, something he had heard once, in a haphazard manner. He stomped his heel on the down beat as the truck bounced off the center markers. He wondered if he shared this song with Sally once, rocking her to sleep or out of habit. He turned his attention to the road and began to whistle the melody.

He regretted he never could find the middle ground with Sally. His daughter never liked horses or the ranch life. The time he was away had further wedged them apart. The divorce made it harder for him to be close. A cowboy’s fate he guessed. He made a fist in his lap, then relaxed as the truck climbed a hill. He geared down and the truck slipped in the ice. He caught the wheels from slipping before the bed fishtailed.

A grey cloud enveloped around him as he climbed the grade and thick fog erased the mile makers. The cowboy felt for the center line. He inched up until the tires grabbed pavement. The truck sped up as the cloud passed and he could see the road ahead.

A small herd of cows stood in the pavement warming themselves. He breathed in and stomped on the brake pedal. The brown and white cows looked at him like he was interrupting a meeting. He threaded past them sliding across the pavement. He hit a patch of ice and the truck bed began to spin. He steered into the slide but went too far sliding the truck around to the right. More cows ran away and he could see their wide eyes as they rushed off the road. The tuck continued to slip sideways and he could see it slowing down. An ounce of hope as he figured he might make it.Out of the passenger window he saw a large steer standing its ground in the middle of the road. The cow looked through him. He pumped on the gas and tried to drive forward. The acceleration gave the back-end more speed. The truck slipped even faster toward the standing cow. There was no way he was going to avoid a crash.

He heard a small thump in the middle of the door and the truck stopped sliding. He took a moment to collect himself and he thought it was a small dent. Then the bottom of the truck rounded him landing in a crunch. Broken glass showered over him. A toolbox dropped and cut a gash above his right eye. He grimaced and passed out under the glove box.

He laid in the cold air bleeding. Cows wandered around the overturned truck sniffing at the doors. The truck sat in their warm spot.

A grey sky spit snowflakes. The herd of cows huddled near a borrow pit watching the truck. The cowboy woke up to a smell manure, urine, and cold. He rose up on his elbows as a small steer ran by the windshield. He found himself wedged between the door, the crumpled roof, and the steering wheel.

The roof shot up bouncing him to the floor board. He felt a primal scream rise through him. The sound made him to want out. The cowboy reached for his crumpled hat under the dashboard and missed. The truck rocked under him and his butt slipped down toward the door. He reached again for his hat. The wild scream rose from under him a second time in what seemed like a hollow and desperate plea. The cowboy pulled up on the steering wheel and pushed on the driver door. It wouldn’t budge. Facing the broken window, he stuck a boot over the center hump, pushed himself up, and wiggled out.

***

The cowboy fell face first in the snow. A smell of iron, urine, and manure caught up to him and he looked back at the truck. A bloody and mangled head moved under the window. The cowboy stood up and brushed ice off his neck. Melting ice burned a hole through the gash in his forehead. He patted the wound and a clump of blood covered his fingers. He wiped the blood off on his pants.

The reflection in the door revealed a four-inch gash in his forehead. If he had hair, he would look scalped. Blood hung from the torn skin. He pulled the mess over the raw wound and patted his forehead. The falling toolbox had opened up a sizable piece of his face.

He ripped off a piece of t-shirt leaving a curled up ribbon below his flannel shirt. He wrapped the thin material around the bloody mess tucking one end under the other to hold it in place. The white cloth soaked with blood making the bandage a scarlet banner.

The wound made him queasy and he needed to sit down. He lowered to the ground next to his crumpled hat. He smoothed a dent in the crown and placed it over the scarlet bandage.

The cowboy sat in the snow and shivered. The falling snow melted on his hat and jacket. The gash in his forehead hurt. He watched snowflakes dance across the valley. The wind swirled the snow around the junipers. Nothing moved. Nature paused to see what would happen next.

A snort interrupted the silence. The cab moved up as the steer tried again to remove the truck from its back. He jumped away from the truck. The smell of urine became stronger. The cow let go and the cowboy watched as its eyes closed. The herd watched the truck with snow swirling around their heads. A few moved back to the center pavement. The cowboy shivered again and pulled his jacket tighter. The wind seemed colder than before.

The crumpled cab lay on top of the steer. The cow no longer moved. The cowboy heard an odd whizzing nose and he realized the rear tires continued to spin. He walked around the truck and wrenched on the driver door. It wouldn’t open. He found a rock, smashed the window, and turned off the engine.

He stood in a puddle of urine and blood next to the cow’s rear legs. He stepped away leaving bloody footprints in the ice. His forehead stung and a trickle of blood dropped from his eye.

***

The cowboy sat underneath the overturned truck bed. He tolerated the smell of the dead cow by moving as far from it as he could near the tailgate. To keep dry, he sat on a carpet made from the clothes in his duffel. He had placed a few more layers of t-shirt around his wound. Outside, three inches of new snow-covered the ground from a couple of hours of snowfall. Small flakes fell at first, and then large, wet flakes came down like rain. None of the wet wood he gathered lit a fire with the few matches buried in his glove box. He never found the cigarette lighter. The stack of clothing failed to keep the cold ground from making his seat numb. He kept his bare hands tucked under this armpits and rocked back and forth to keep warm.

No one came up the grade to discover his wreck from either side. For the longest time, he stood in the falling snow looking into one valley after another hoping for a rescue. The snow only made him wet and cold. Winter was the wrong time of year for a steady stream of cars. And no one knew he was out there.

He laid his head on the metal panel and thought about Sally. She might be cooking dinner now. Macaroni, cheese, broccoli, and steak. He like a thick cut, medium rare. A wave of nausea rolled over him and he sat forward. The cold metal made his head hurt. He rubbed the makeshift bandage and came back with another hand of blood. He wiped it away on his leg and then held his head in his hands.

What if I die out here?

***

He thought about a time when Sally stood on her tiptoes to lick chocolate cake batter from a spoon. Her pink dress matched her toddler stockings. She reached up to get at the spoon and he kept pulling it away. He chuckled. No wonder she hated me, he thought. Another time, he let her paint his lips and color his eyes. He looked like a rodeo clown, but she liked it. Then there was the years he wasn’t around. She stopped counting on him and grew closer to her mother. After that, he couldn’t break through the distrust.

He wondered what if he had stuck around? It might be different. No way to know. He let out a sigh. He would have found a way to screw it up. Nothing he did seemed to work.

He looked at the dead cow mashed under the cab. It looked asleep. The cold no longer bothered it. The cowboy felt warmer. He shifted on the carpet and leaned to look under the tailgate. Still snowing and getting colder. The sudden change in altitude shot a quick pain behind his right eye. He could feel his heart beat through the blood-soaked bandage. He took a deep breath, laid back on the truck panel and closed his eyes.

***

Sally held out a hot mug of coffee to him as he walked into the kitchen. She laughed as he burned his lip pulling the cup away from his mouth. He set the cup on the counter and reached out for her hand. She took it and he pulled her in for a hug. He smelled her hair and thought about what a great daughter he had.

A highway worker pulled into the wide shoulder next to a pile of black cinders. The cows were long gone. A wrecked truck lay overturned near the far shoulder. Melting snow dripped down on the carcass of a dead cow under the crumpled cab. Broken glass spread out on the pavement.

The red-haired worker in overalls looked under the tailgate. He found the cowboy laying on a bed of clothes with a smile. A brown bandage and dried blood covered the face of the dead cowboy.

The worker stood up and looked out over the snow-covered valley of rabbit brush and junipers. He kicked away some snow from his boot. He looked the other way down the grade. Another long stretch of snow. Heck of a place to wreck, he thought. He spied a hawk flying across the valley.

The bird hung on the wind channels between the ridges floating over the basin. Miles of chaparral and high desert spanned below. The hawk saw a rabbit and darted to the spot vanishing behind a stand of junipers.

Finding the Spark: Inspiration 0

On April 21, 2017, I hosted a webinar titled Finding the Spark: Inspiration. There was no sales pitch – just a half hour to explore writing ideas and how to find inspiration.

You can watch it at http://wordsmithholler.link/Inspiration.

When I was first writing fiction, I struggled to figure out what to write. I honestly stared at the page. Until I found a simple trick. Many tricks really, which I will share with you.

For the past year, I have used this website as my sole method of getting stories out there. Now that I am working at placing stories with publishers, I am looking for even more inspiration.

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.” — T.S. Eliot

Inspiration means we come full circle. The “Ah hah” moment. We gain knowledge and inspiration from those things we experience and our memories. We must build an inspiration arsenal.

The Cure for Back Pain 0

A Conversation

“I’m just going to take a quick walk to stretch my back.”

“Does your chair tighten you up too?”

“Something awful.”

“I heard a rumor we might get new chairs.”

“I heard it too.”

“Either they give us new chairs or they supply us with an unlimited supply of Ibuprofen.”

“Honestly, either option couldn’t hurt.”

March 15, 2017 Scribble 0

I spent twenty minutes holding my head to the right as a doctor went in again for my fourth thyroid biopsy. “Boy this is really deep,” he said. “Yep, maybe you’ll be the guy,” I said. It is clear with have a nodule or two. We don’t clearly know if it is cancer. “At least if it is cancer, this is the best one to get,” said my endocrinologist. “It takes so long to grow.” Comforting. While other writers are busy taking people to other places, I’m in an endless loop of out-patient surgery. No, you would not be interested in the waiting, prodding, and sore neck. It doesn’t jump off as one of those stories you want to hear.

***

Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” True. Sometimes you just have to write it out and hope something sticks. Then let it fall to the floor. In Hemingway & Gellhorn  he says,” Never crumple pages. Always let them float gently into the basket. Any writer who rips out his stuff and crumples it will go insane in a year, guaranteed.” I like the idea of floating paper to the trash. I would float this to the trash, but it’s a huge monitor.

***

It turns out nobody reads this blog. (more…)

After My Stroke: A Year of Possibilities 1

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Courtesy Pixabay

Author’s Note: After my stroke in July 2015 I had to think about how I would proceed. This project started out as a way for me to focus on writing. The year took a different turn for me. I spent two months relearning how to walk, talk, and type. A had a stroke at the age of 51. It became a rebirth.

After My Stroke: A Year of Possibilities

A year ago I started this experiment with a lot of promise in my mind; it felt like I would finally focus on something and complete it. Then work piled on and I set this aside. I could always come back to it because it was something for me.

The months rolled by and I found myself in Texas helping my son with a fireworks stand. Long, hot days and nights filled with outrunning the local flying insects. I still think about the bites on my leg. A few days after the 4th of July I was back in Nevada and working again. I sort of thought about this writing corner and promptly moved on.

A week later I was staring at myself in the mirror and wondering why one eye was closed and the other was bigger than a rabbit’s eye. I had caked blood on my ear and my head hurt.

(more…)