Tagged: writing

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.”

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…)

Finding the Character’s Pain 0

Sunshine and rainbows. We all would like to have a life free of stress and full of sunshine and rainbows. A life of bliss only leads to trouble. There is no excitement, no drama, no life.

Writers need to run as quick as they can from sunshine and rainbows. At least when developing a story everyone will want to read. Can the main character end up in a land of beauty and peace? Sure. Just don’t plan on writing a sequel.

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Courtesy Pixabay

Pain, wounds and disaster are what we need to strive for when writing a good main character. Give a character pain and a past full of strife, trouble, and challenges. Allow them to triumph. And then smack them again.

Wounds provide the best motivation to overcome an obstacle and move the story forward. Give your characters a reason to fulfill a basic need for love, faith, understanding, and belonging. Make this character pain so intense they must do something to overcome it.

Pain and suffering also suggests your character has a basic flaw that leads them to more pain. A character weakness that they must hide or tackle in order to move the story forward. Allow the character to show they have the strength to overcome their weakness.

The whole goal is to make the story move from scene to scene. The best way to do this is by finding the pain.

[plain]What are your thoughts about character development? Post your comments below.[/plain]

Second Writing: Proofreading and Editing Skills 0

By all means write as fast as you can and put the words on paper. In the movie Finding Forrester, the fictional reclusive author William Forrester tells Jamal Wallace, “No thinking — that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is … to write, not to think!”

No thinking — that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is … to write, not to think!

The second writing comes through the proofreading, editing, and re-writing.

Too many writers get bogged down in re-writing each sentence as they write it. A missed opportunity to allow expression and creativity to flow on the page. Capture the spark of genius first and allow it to build. Stopping to edit just breaks the chain and makes it difficult to put down pages.

The story develops and becomes refined in the second writing. I like to let the story sit and ferment like a bowl of bread dough; it sits and bubbles until I have the time to return to make the loaves. The second writing allows you time to smooth out the wrinkles and improve on the structure. At this stage you notice the awkward phrasing, the empty dialogue, and the story weaknesses.

In the coming weeks, I plan to began writing a short story about a girl who comes to Las Vegas seeking revenge. Over time, you may notice the story will contain strikeouts and edits. I plan to keep those in there to show you how I am editing and re-writing the story. Of course, I would appreciate your feedback too.

[plain]Do you write like a whirlwind, or do you carefully consider each word? What are your thoughts on getting words on the page? Post your comments below.[/plain]

 

Character Introductions: Backstrom 0

Bones is one of my favorite police procedurals, although not as dark as the richly-disturbing Criminal Minds, with humor, well-written characters, and charm.

Last night, Bones writer-producer Hart Hanson brought to life Detective Everett Backstrom, a Fox-TV series titled Backstrom based on a Swedish book series by Leif G.W. Persson.

Backstrom has a bit of a House feel to it, with the lead character, played marvelously by Rainn Wilson (The Office), and full of wonderful writing. For instance, we immediately understand Det. Backstrom has problems, quirks, and a biting humor. (more…)

The False Ending 0

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]

Pantser Plotter 0

There are two camps of thought: the people who listen to the muse and write by the seat of their pants and the people who write an entire book-length outline prior to starting to write.

I prefer to combine the two, without writing an entire book-length outline. Let me explain my thoughts on this debate.

Pantsers argue they are free to listen to the story and the characters. It is a muse-centric approach, with the characters exploring the milieu and wandering about discovering the story. All fine and well. It is interesting how a story can take on a life and allow a writer to document scenes and fill in the story.

Plotters say there is no way a story can take shape without a road map: it requires a structure to allow the characters to face their inner and external conflicts. The characters are forced to face their fears. Plotters like to know where the story is headed.

Here is my take: Pantsers need to outline and Plotters need to be open to just writing.

In my experience, without an outline I have twice been abandoned by my characters in the second act. They exhibit attention deficit disorder and climb out of the book. The characters say “well, that’s all I got,” and the story sort of fizzles out. I’m rewriting “Fish Tacos: Or How I Went To Mexico to Save My Soul” because the main character started bitching about his past and failed to get off his butt. Sure, I’m the writer, it is my story, but I let the character dictate where he would go and when he would get there. Believe me, if left to his designs, the main character would still be sitting in the desert waiting to move.

So now I plot everything: short stories; novels; non-fiction; and, screenplays. I give the viewpoint characters a purpose and a timeline to meet. I challenge them to face their demons. I gift them happy successes. By the time the story ends, they see their doubts, obstacles, challenges, and growth.

In some ways this is the perfect way to write by the seat of your pants: the story structure lets them wander about, as long as they meet their deadlines. So I guess I’m a Pantser Plotter . It seems to be working.

[plain]How do you plan your projects? Do you outline or just let it flow? Leave a comment below.[/plain]

A Kenning Ramble 0

kenning ramble

Deadline horror
Original thinker
Metaphor drifter

Word shaper
Keyboard charmer
Alphabet wrangler
Paragraph plodder

Plot maker
Scene creator
Tension builder
Page burner

On the path to becoming
an author.

The Bedwell Curse 0

I am sure she really meant no harm when she said, “You will never be a writer.”

The shock of the statement caused me to burn inside and I ached to prove her wrong. My sophomore English teacher failed to understand my punctuation and short sentences that often lacked complexity or my fascination with Tyburn poems.

“Rat-a-tat-tat,” she would write on my papers.

“Less poetry, more exposition,” she scrawled in big red letters.

[plain]Rhyming
Timing
Quaffing
Imbibing
Rhyming, timing spontaneity
Rebuffed as a quaffing, imbibing wastefulness.
[/plain]

Sentences consisting of subject-verb-object became my bread and butter; my go to sentence when I needed to clearly state a point. Ten years of television journalism proved a simple sentence often was all that was needed.

I felt pride in knowing Mrs. Bedwell was wrong.

Yet, I wasn’t really sure.

Writing 75 words a day for a crime story really doesn’t make for a deep writing career. The first day on the job as a science writer, I was assigned to write a 3,500 word story on a complex chemical reaction. I nearly left the Selectric II behind.

“How do I start?” I asked my new editor Kippie.

“Start by writing,” she had replied.

I still couldn’t begin. This was the first time I considered Mrs. Bedwell might have been right.

“You will never be a writer.”

The blank page turned brighter and I just stared at it until whiteness filed the room. I was pulled out of my brooding by a phone call.

“Just start,” Kippie, said through the speaker.

The typewriter clacked out the first word. Then the next. Soon there was a page of thoughts and sentences. Surprisingly, some of it seemed to flow and tell the story. It was rough.

“That’s what editors are for,” said Kippie, when I confessed it wasn’t very polished.

Who knows if I am the writer Mrs. Bedwell envisioned.

It doesn’t matter.

I am the writer I want to be.

[plain]Where you ever told you couldn’t write? Was that a proper judgement? If not, what did you do about it? Add your thoughts to the comments below.[/plain]