I’ve been dealing with some (mild) sleep issues recently. It’s been strange only realizing you’ve been asleep when you figure out that what you JUST remembered doing wasn’t reality…

So – back in college we did a creative writing exercise where you wrote one long sentence for five (I think) minutes. You didn’t worry about punctuation or grammar or spelling or anything like that (you can have it, but it’s okay if it’s wrong).  You repeated the last word your wrote until you could think of something more to write. I feel like my sleep has been a lot like that exercise, so I thought that’d be what I do as my activity today.

Here we go:

Sleep evades me as nothing else has – or has it? That’s a strange thing to hink about baout baout the covers are never enough and sometimes they are too much much much the air in the room is shockingly cold and stifflingly hot all at the same time. Is laying here better than not? My eyes are closed and i think the things i’m thinking are real and true things, but they might just be dream thoughts. did i really have a car accident or was that in my mind – what all can i do but lie here in the dark. don’t move too much. don’t wake up Husband – he needs to sleep sleep sleep i wish i could be a sleep like him. why does it work for him and not me? me me me me me me me me my skin loves the sheets and my head the pillow. why is it that sometimes it feels comfortable to lie on my side and then moments later its uncomfortable. did we really have that conversation? is there time enough that if i fall asleep it will help? am I asleep now? how can i tell? the times i can’t tell what’s real and what’s not are getting harder and harder to figure out when i’m in the dark. this doesn’t happen in the day – why didn’t the little white pill help? help help help help my eyes feel bruised under my lids and the night is getting less dark so does that mean its almost morning? what will i do? did i get enough sleep to function today – the days where i don’t get enough sleep are the days my head feels as if it’s full of cotton of fog of thick ether that i can’t navigate navigate and i feel stupid broken and some how less of me

Well – there it is. In all it’s glory with typos and everything. I think I like doing this exercise better with pen and paper and not the computer.

Day 2: The Database

One of the first activities in “The Imaginary World of ______” is creating the Database. It’s a collection of items in various categories that you’re drawn to. I’ve actually been working on my database for the last 3 or so days, but today I finished it.

It was fun. It was a good way to tap into happy memories and exercise my brain in a different way. Part of me wanted to rush through it so I could get to “the good stuff” but I didn’t let myself. I took my time and savored creating this database. I think that’s another resolution of mine: to take my time and enjoy things.
Like with reading – usually I devour books but not the one I’m reading now.

Alright – two days in and going strong. Hopefully the pattern holds 😜

Day One

Have you ever heard of Reedsy? I found them via an add on Instagram (I think). Anyway, every Friday writing prompts are delivered to your inbox with the opportunity of winning $50 if you write a short story based on one of the prompts. I have no delusions of winning anything, or even completing a short story from one of the prompts; however, it’s a good place to get the ball rolling.

Here’s the prompt:

By law, everyone must make a New Year’s resolution, and they must have it approved by the government.

So – here goes.

Edith started blankly at the government form she’d downloaded from It was her first year to officially have to submit a resolution for approval, and to say she was pushing it – well, she still had an hour to upload the form.

She’d heard it got easier each year. The day after Christmas, the government would issue you your official Resolution Report where it graded you on how much you’d improved over the last year – as well as give you suggestions on your upcoming resolution. Getting approval on a suggested resolution was supposed to take no time at all. However, since Edith had just turned thirty, not even two full days ago, she was supposed to come up with one all on her own.

Edith resisted the urge to bang her head on the kitchen table, and instead got up and wondered into the TV room where her roommate – Katie – was wrapped up in a blanket watching some trashy reality show.

“Did you already submit your resolution?” Edit asked as she flopped down next to Katie and stole a handful of buttery popcorn.

“Yep – last week.” Katie pushed the bowl so it was wedged between the two of them.

“And?” Edith prompted.

In response Katie unlocked her phone and opened an e-mail before handing it to Edith.

Your resolution to “spend 40 hours a month volunteering with underprivileged children” has been approved. Please report to the North Street Education Center on January 1st at 10:00am to pick up your welcome packet and undergo orientation. 

We wish you a productive and fulfilling New Year.


The Department of National Resolution Approvals

Edith scowled and handed the phone back to Katie.

“That’s a good one,” she grumbled. “How do you know you’ll be able to make the hours though?”

“Part of my internship is working with kids. I just figured I could try and piggyback the two.”

“And you still got approval?”

“Yeah. There’s this pamphlet I picked up at the store the other day. Hold on.” Katie got up and disappeared into her bedroom. She came out a few minutes later with a glossy pamphlet in hand and gave it to Edith. “This helped me figure out the best way to get something approved and work it into my schedule. There’s even tips about getting official approval for stuff you already do. That way you don’t have to worry about the fine if you don’t make your quarterly quota check-in.”

Edith looked down at the pamphlet in her hand. Stuff she already did? She doubted there was a way to get approval for anything related to her secretary job OR any of her “hobbies.” It’s not like watching copious amounts of science-fiction TV was really a benefit to society.

Edith just groaned.

“I don’t know why you’re making this into such a big deal. Just volunteer at the pet shelter or something like that. You love dogs.”

“Yes – and you know if I spend ANY time around them I’ll bring them home. All of them.”

“Hm – I see your point. Well, read the pamphlet. I think they’ve got an online quiz component that might generate some ideas for you. Now go,” Katie gave Edith a friendly shove. “Sarah and Jacob are about to go on this super romantic date and she’s a raging bitch. I want to see if he figured it out this episode or not.”

Edith rolled her eyes and got off the sofa. Katie was right. She was making it far more difficult than it needed to be.

* * *

Well – there we go. Day one, over and done.

Writing Prompt 1: Breaking Up with Writer’s Block

While checking out some different writing prompts on Writer’s Digest I found this awesome free guide that they off. They call it, The Writing Prompt Boot Camp. It’s a free download and you can get it here. I thought, that for my beginning of this weekly writing prompt challenge I’ve set for myself, that this guide would be a good place to start.

If you’ve been having some of the same problems as me, then I really encourage you to join me! I’d love for anyone who wants to to post their responses in the comments below.

Anyway… here’s the first one:

Breaking Up With Writer’s Block
It’s time for you and Writer’s Block to part ways. Write a letter breaking up with Writer’s
Block, starting out with, “Dear Writer’s Block, it’s not you, it’s me …”

There we go. So, you mission, whether you choose to accept it or not, is to break-up with your writer’s block. We all know that it’s an unhealthy relationship. Just pull the plug already.

So. Ready…..



Making Time to Write

Well, I’m doing it. I’m getting back to my writing.

One piece of advice that I hear all the time from people on how to be a good writer is to write something everyday. Which doesn’t really sound all that hard now does it? Just sit down, with pen and paper, and just put some words down. It doesn’t have to be the beginnings of amazing literature. It just has to be something.

Yeah, it’s not that easy. Maybe for some people it is, but not for me. I do this thing where I psych myself out. I over think my writing all the time and don’t allow it to be crappy. I mean, no matter what, when you write something you need to allow yourself to write that shitty first draft.

I don’t do that. I put too much pressure on myself and I know it’s stupid, but I do.

Then, on top of all that, I have to make time for writing. Again, not that hard, right?

And again, for me it is. I work a full time job now, I’m married and (call me crazy) but I like to spend quality time with Husband, I have friends that I already don’t spend as much time with as I should, family, reading, blogging, and I joined a gym. By the time I get everything done in a day that I need to do, there’s not a ton of time or energy left over for writing.

I suppose that’s what self discipline is for, but even that comes in limited quantities.

So how do I go about making time to write and making sure I have energy?

I don’t know really. I’m still trying to figure it out. It would make sense to set time aside everyday for writing, but I’ve tried that before.

Really, I’m just making excuses. I’m going to try different strategies and we’ll see what happens.

My first plan is to participate in the weekly writing prompt that Writer’s Digest has on their webpage. My plan is to post the prompt (and others that I come across) at the beginning(ish) of each week, and then post what I write on it by the time I post the next prompt. We’ll see how this works. I’d love it for anyone to join me and in the comment section leave some of what they wrote in response 🙂

What about you? How to you make sure that you have time to write?

Step 1: Follow Up

Alright, so Tuesday I shared with you the first step on how to become a better writer. It’s easy for me to sit here and tell you what to do, but harder for me to actually do it. So, I took my own advice, because if I don’t who will? And did one of the writing prompts.

Describe a “first” (first apartment, first kiss, first time driving a car, first lie, first big success, first roller coaster ride, first time in this setting). Include as many details as possible, being sure to include an aspect relating to each of the five senses.
Okay, this is the first time Liam (the main man in my YA fantasy novel sees Brea, the narrator of the WIP) I know I didn’t included as many sensory details as I could, but I was just happy to write this scene. Writing prompts don’t have to follow all the rules/ directions… as long as you get something written.
Liam closed his eyes and took a deep breath, which he almost choked on. The metallic sent was heavy in the air and made his lungs feel as if they were full of smoke and ash. He understood why Rowan insisted meeting in the city, there was less of a chance that Ash’s spies would follow them into the heart of a city full of iron. However, it was still painful. Even though the medicine the court alchemist made for them kept Liam from getting iron-sickness, he couldn’t help but imagine the poison that surrounded him seeping into his body.

He hated the city. However, Rowan was his King and there was next to nothing Liam could do about it.
They reached a small café, The Village Cup. Lo had scouted it out earlier in the day for their meeting. It was out of the way, small, and deep enough into the city that wandering fey wouldn’t dare come close.

Lo opened the door. A string a bells that hung on the inside of the door jingled merrily as the three stepped into the coffee house. It was empty apart from the young mortal girl that was behind the counter. She glanced up at them and her mouth hung open slightly. They tended to have that effect on mortals. Liam wanted to smile but didn’t. Rowan didn’t understand Liam’s interest with mortals. To Rowan, they were playthings, exotic pets of sorts. But to Liam, they were simply fascinating.

The sound of ceramic shattering on tiles seemed to snap the girl out of her daze. She glanced down at her feet and winced. Yes, she had dropped her coffee cup. Liam imagined that her feet were now soaked with the bitter, dark liquid.

Rowan scoffed and glanced over at Liam.

“Liam, take care of our orders.” Not even telling Liam what he wanted, Rowan strode over to the back corner, and fell into one of the overstuffed chairs. Somehow, Rowan still managed to exert an air of authority even when he was sprawled out in a chair.

Lo made eye contact and slightly rolled his eyes. That was more of a reaction than Liam had hoped for. Lo was a fey of few words and even fewer readable expressions of emotion. His eye roll was Lo speak for “He’s our king, what can you do?” He then glanced at the chalkboard that was propped up on the counter advertising the new pumpkin spice latte. He nodded his head toward it and then went and joined Rowan in the corner.

Liam walked up to the counter. The strong smell of coffee was almost powerful enough to cover the stench of iron that hung in the air. The girl at the counter smiled at him. He wanted to smile back, but didn’t. His track record with mortals wasn’t very good. As much as he found them interesting and amazing creatures, they had a habit of dying when they spent too much time with him. No need to encourage this one.

But he so very much wanted to. She was beautiful in only the way a mortal can be. She had brown hair that was the color of chocolate and eyes that were the color of Forget-Me-Nots. And she had the subtle perfume of coffee and baked goods that clung to her.

“Hi,” her voice was a bit shaky and she tried to smile a bit bigger. It was downright adorable how nervous she was. “What can I get for you?”

Liam glanced down behind the counter and saw the pieces of the shattered mug and a puddle of coffee on the floor. Her dark blue tennis shoes were soaked as well as the hem of her jeans. She visibly shifted her weight and attempted to hide her feet under the counter. He bit back a smile.

“What were you drinking before we rudely took you by surprise?”
Her cheeks turned a pink color and she glanced down at the puddle on the ground. “Well, usually I drink whatever coffee is oldest and we can’t sell. Uh, but that was, that was a snicker-doodle flavored blend. It’s been a rough day so I treated myself. But I’m not really supposed to…” She trailed off and then bit her bottom lip.

“Is there any more?”

“Uhh…” She glanced over her shoulder back toward various coffee making machines that Liam didn’t even try to pretend to know anything about. “Let me check. I think so…” She started walking and slipped a bit in the coffee puddle. Liam finally let himself smile as she froze and kept her balance. She didn’t turn around but Liam could bet his sword on her blush growing deeper. She then proceeded to slide her feet across the floor almost as if she was ice-skating. She fiddled around with a machine and then skate/slid back across the floor.

“I’ve got enough for one more. Not enough for you and your friends.”

“Well, I know that they would each like one of those lovely sounding pumpkin spiced drinks you have here on the board.” Liam rested his elbows on the counter and leaned forward a bit. “How about you save that last mug for yourself and fix me a cup of tea?”

“Okay.” She avoided his gaze and punched buttons on the cash register. “Your total is six fifty seven.” Finally she looked up at him. He flashed her his best smile, and she bit her lip and looked down at the counter again.

Liam dug in the pocket of his pants, a pair of mortal jeans he kept for when Rowan required them to venture into the city, and produced a crumpled ten-dollar bill. Usually, he simply glamoured some leaves to look like mortal money, but he liked this girl too much.

“Keep the rest.” He smiled at her once again and then crossed the coffee shop to take his seat on Rowan’s right side. He half listened to Rowan drone on about the increasing tension between the Dark Court and his brother, Ash’s court, the Unseelie Court. Liam was too busy watching the mortal fix their drinks.
Liam settled into his seat more comfortably once she brought out their drinks and handed them out before muttering a thank you and scooting back to the counter. She then proceeded to sit on a stool behind the counter and plop her head down. Liam took a short sip of his herbal tea and grinned. Not only was she cute, but she knew what she was doing.

Liam decided, as he turned his attention to his King, that maybe he could get used to the city after all.            

How To Map Your Story

As promised a few posts ago I am getting back to the Creative Writing business. Also, as promised is the post on How To Map Your Story.

There is a strong possibility that you already know how to map a story. I was forced to learn all about it in high school. Rising Action. Climax. Falling Action. But I never really considered using it as an outline for my own stories. Duh right?

But, there is also a strong possibility that you haven’t really heard about how to map a story (yours or others) or maybe you did learn in school but forgot. Never fear! I have drawn you an awesome diagram!

Awesome right? I can’t take all the credit though. I do want to mention that this awesome diagram is heavily based on the one that Nancy Dodd did in the January 2012 issue of Writer’s Digest (my new favorite magazine). I like to think that the diagram is pretty self explanatory. The only issue is that you might not be able to read my handwriting. If that’s the case then, I’m sorry!
So, how can this help you map out your own story? Well, it shows that any story (short or long) is made up of certain elements. You need to have these elements in order to have a story that takes a solid shape and keeps readers interested (however, like everything in writing I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule — like the resolution doesn’t always have to have a pretty little bow tied up but you do need something). Here’s my advice: Either join the Writer’s Digest webpage for free and download your own blank worksheet OR use my beautiful diagram above as a rough outline and draw your own map. 
Even if you don’t like outlining I think it’s a good way to get the barebones of your story down. Sometimes that’s all you really need. 

When to Show and When to Tell

It’s not even Thanksgiving and already my plate has too much on it. Metaphorical plate that is. I have so many different blog posts I want to put up, homework to catch up on, regular work, house work, Thanksgiving stuff, the list goes on… HOWEVER, if you keep reading this post I do have an awesome (kind of long) entry on description and showing vs telling in fiction.

So have I been writing? HA!

I wish.

And while this won’t be a lengthy post I did find this that helps me through the days…

I will post here the paper I just wrote on description for my tutorial class online. I hope it helps some of you. It’s a bit on the long side but it includes awesome info that will help if you have issues with showing vs telling, some exercises and just a few tips. So, enjoy…
The Description Dilemma: When To Show and When To Tell
            Description is not my strongest suit. I’ve never really found the right balance of words and have a really hard time avoiding clichés. But what writer doesn’t in a first draft? I’m also haunted by the phrase, “Show, don’t tell.” I hear it in every workshop several times. And that’s not a bad thing. It can be great advice. However, it can be really overwhelming advice as well.  What does that even mean? Sure, I understand the words and their application, but I have a really hard time figuring out how to apply it to my story. If you show everything then your short story will be about as long as the last Harry Potter book. That’s intense! Obviously critiquers aren’t really telling you that. They are saying, “I would like more detail. What you have is simply not enough. Don’t tell me something, let me see it.” However, there are times when showing can be just as bad as telling. As writers we need a balance.
            Before we really delve into the presentation I want to make sure that we all know what description is. Chris Lombardi in her chapter in Gotham Writers’ Workshop: Writing Fiction cites Webster’s New World Dictionary to define the verb describe. It offers these two definitions:
1.     to tell or write about; give a detailed account of
2.     to picture in words (105).
I think as writers that is what we strive for, to give our reader a vivid picture given to them via the media of words. Right, and to do that we know (or will know by the end of this presentation) that we need to do this by showing and telling.
            Now we have a good solid idea of description we need to tackle the difference of showing and telling. And really, it’s very simple. Monica Wood in Elements of Fiction Writing: Description explains that “ ‘showing’ is generally thought of as using vivid details and engaging the senses, therefore painting a bright descriptive picture for the readers [and] ‘telling’ is generally thought of as the absence of vivid detail – uninspired narrative that serves only to explain what is going on in the story” (18). Which is a misconception, you can make telling very vivid if you use the right words, but more on that later. In the most basic sense showing is scene and telling is narrative. You may be thinking, “Great, now what does that mean?” And I’ll tell you. According to Wood, “Scene serves a specific purpose; it usually contains dialogue; it has a beginning, middle, and end; and it moves the story forward. Narrative is the flow of prose – the string of sentences and paragraphs – that tell the story” (21). So now the importance of balancing showing and telling is (hopefully) becoming to become clearer. It’s hard to have a story that is all scene and no narrative and vice versa.
            HOW TO TELL: I suppose that since I’m told very often to “show not tell” then telling would be the easy part. Sure. It’s easy to say something like: “Rover walked across the yard.” That is telling. However, you can dress your telling up so that no one really notices that you’re telling them something. Such as “Rover pranced across the yard” or even “Rover sulked across the yard.” See that? The verbs are so dazzling that in your telling, you are giving the reader even more, you are giving them Rover’s emotion. And you can do even more with telling: “Rover sulked across the yard, his tail tucked between his legs and shadow growing long behind him. In the human’s house, his master stood over the shattered vase, hands on hips shaking his head.” Look at all that telling. We see that the dog is sad (by the verb we use for walking and by his tail), that it’s later in the day (because of the shadow) and that his master is exasperated but not super angry at Rover (based on the body language). See how we dressed the telling up to make it look like showing? Here’s when having a great vocabulary comes in handy. The more you make the verbs work the better the telling will be.
            HOW TO SHOW: Here is where things tend to get tricky for me. I know you all have read parts of my WIP, Breaking Through, where I’ll say something like “Mac was acting weird.” Straight up telling. This is when I need to show. But another trick of showing, which is just as important, is knowing when not to show. For instance, Liam’s love of his tea does not need to be shown to the reader in epic detail. I don’t need to show the readers him sniffing the steam rising up out of the cup of tea and him quivering in delight. That has no importance in the story what so ever. HOWEVER, Mackenzie’s sudden shift of character, her “acting weird” is a MAJOR part of the story. You all want to see the scene where Brea notices her acting weird. See? One that needs to be shown and the other that doesn’t. Is this a first draft worry? No. Which is something that I believe is really important to keep in mind. You don’t know what’s more important in the story yet (Liam’s tea and Mackenzie’s behavior are extremes) but you will know by the second or third draft.
            I always like examples.
            Here’s a fantastic one…
The day after they moved in, Coraline went exploring.
            She explored the garden. It was a big garden: at the very back was an old tennis court, but no one in the house played tennis and the fence around the court had holes in it and the net had mostly rotted away; there was an old rose garden, filled with stunted, flyblown rosebushes; there was a rockery that was all rocks; there was a fairy ring, made of squidgy brown toadstools which smelled dreadful if you accidentally trod on them.
            There was also a well. On the first day Coraline’s family moved in, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible made a point of telling Coraline how dangerous the well was, and they warned her to be sure she kept way from it properly.
            She found it on the third day, in an overgrown meadow beside the tennis court, behind a clump of trees – a low brick circle almost hidden in the high grass. The well had been covered up by wooden boards, to stop anyone falling in. There was a small knothole in one of the boards, and Coraline spent an afternoon dropping pebbles and acorns through the hole and waiting, and counting, until she heard the plop as they hit the water far below. (Gaiman 4-5)
Yes, I borrowed this passage from Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. He is just fantastic in my book. And this passage does a fantastic job of giving us examples of telling and showing (although I know that this is all narrative and not really scene – I think it still does a good job of showing the two.) First the telling. We are told about the garden. Sure, we get to see some of it, but mostly it is a pretty broad description – “old tennis court” and “big garden”. But we are also shown some aspects about Coraline. From this passage we learn how stubborn she is. She takes not one, not two, but three days of looking to find the well. The well that is behind the tennis court and behind a clump of trees covered up in boards. See? We have a  balance of showing and telling – not at all boring, and descriptive in all the right places. Like the well; the well that is critical at the end of the book. So it’s good we get a great picture of words on it so early in the novel.    
            Lastly I have a few tricks and traps of description to share – the kind that when you do need to tell (or show) will make it either pop and crackle or fizzle and die.
            TRICKS: Chris Lombardi references one of my favorite quotes of all time; “Mark Twain once noted that the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightening and a lightening bug” (118). So obviously word choice is a big trick. And how do you make sure you know you have the right word and not the almost right word? You expand your vocabulary. You make sure you know the difference between crisp apple red and blood red. You make sure you have a plethora of hardcore verbs and nouns to pull from. Adjectives and adverbs are those kinds of things where less can be more. The better and more powerful your verbs and nouns are the less you need to depend on the modifiers. Lombardi makes the point that “she walked lightly can effectively be transformed into she glided or she floated, each more evocative than the version leaning on the adverb” (113). Another trick: amp up those sensory details. Like in the Coraline example: “squidgy brown toadstools which smelled dreadful if you accidentally trod on them.” And then there are several tricks us fiction writers can pull from poetry. Let’s take over some of those fancy tricks they use; the figurative language – the metaphors and similes; lyricism – the “prose that plays with sound and rhythm in the way that poetry does” (115); and synesthesia – the trick where you use “an image or adjective usually associated with one sense unexpectedly with another” (117). An example of the last one (because I needed one) comes from John Keats (via Lombardi): “Taste the music of the vision pale…” (117).  Tada! All those tricks can make your narrative sizzle and fizzle and your showing crackle and pop.
            Now some pesky TRAPS to look out for…
            Clichés. I am guilty of using them more than I should, but yes. Clichés make for lazy writers. For instance, “skin as pale as snow” or “hands as cold as ice.” We’ve been there and done that. What makes for fun description are the hands that are frozen from a kiss from Jack Frost. Also, watch out for vagueness and imprecise language. Lombardi talks about how she used to use “grey eyes” a lot. Then one day she realized that “grey eyes” was a lazy way of goging about it. Instead aim for “slate grey eyes” or even “eyes that could rival the storm clouds” (maybe a bit cliché but we’ve moved on from that…). Last trap to watch out for are those mixed metaphors. The best one that Lombardi references is “He felt like a punching bag without air” (121); punching bags don’t have air. So with sentences like that you not only annoy your readers but loose credibility with them. Another way to use mixed metaphors is have a character run fast as a horse but also has the grace of a swan. Are they like a horse or a swan? It’s confusing.
            Bottom line: there are tricks that can amp up your showing or telling and traps that can make them even worse. The important thing to know is that there is a fine balance between showing and telling. So, even though “SHOW DON’T TELL” is rookie advice (according to both Lombardi and Wood) it’s worth listening to. If your readers are wanting more, then more likely than not it’s important to them and important to the story, but only you know where to draw the line.
One: Describe a character who is going abut the mundane job of cleaning their home. Write it from the POV of this character (either first, second, or third person), which means the character’s consciousness will inform the description. Here’s the twist: the character has just recently fallen in love, and you should let this emotion color the description without it being directly stated. Then rewrite the passage, but this time the character has just had a painful romantic breakup. (Lombardi 124).
Two: “Complete the following similes and strive for specific details and tight, lyrical language in your comparisons […] try to resist the temptation of comparing a sound with a sound, a taste with a taste, a sent with a sent.
·      The morning sun tastes like:
·      Her voice smelled like:
·      The music sounded heavy as:
·      The color green feels like:
·      The color red tastes like:
·      Midnight rain is bitter as:
·      The wind looks as _______ as:
·      Seeing him walk was like hearing:
·      Tasting the night’s dinner was like watching:
·      Hearing her cry was like tasting:
·      Smelling the gasoline was like touching:
·      Touching her dying father’s hand was like seeing:”
(Now Write! 193)
Works Cited
Ellis, Sherry. Ed. Now Write! Fiction Writing Exercises from Today’s Best Writer’s and Teachers. New York: Penguin. 2006. Print.
Gaiman, Neil. Coraline. New York: Scholastic. 2002. Print.
Gotham Writer’s Workshop. Writing Fiction – The Practical Guide From New York’s Acclaimed Creative Writing School. New York: Bloomsbury. 2003. Print.

Wood, Monica. “Chapter Two: Showing and Telling.” Elements of Fiction Writing: Description. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books. 1995. Print.

A Bit of Horror Before Halloween

So today has been a work day and a homework day.

It’s not fun when the two overlap, but what’s been nice is that husband and I have been doing homework together. It’s been what I call: “A Homework Party” (woop woop). You have to make the woop woop sound. I even made husband do it. We’ve been eating pizza, listening to music, and just getting stuff done. In someways I think my homework is better. He has to study nursing stuff (SUPER gross pictures) and I get to do writing (WOOP WOOP!)

Anyway, I have to do these different exercises for my online class. For each lecture (we get lectures on the different genres: poetry, short story, historical fiction, fantasy/ science fiction, etc.) we are given anywhere from 5-10 exercises and we pick one and write.

So here’s the exercise from the short story lecture that I picked…

Exercise #3

Take a well-known nursery rhyme or fairy tale and now take the off-stage horror and put it on center stage. If you pick The Three Little Pigs, for example, let us see the wolf’s fangs and smell his breath. Let him devour the first pig and let’s see the blood. Grim, right? I was going to make some joke about the Brother’s Grimm, but I figure it’s been done before. Anyway, re-write a nursery rhyme or fairy tale and make it ghastly. Your choice about the ending. 

And this is what I wrote…

The Woodsman unsheathed his knife. It didn’t gleam in the dying sunlight like it once had, back when his father had first given it to him. But it was still just as sharp. It still got the job done.

Slowly, the Woodsman slipped the tip of the knife into the wolf’s swollen belly. He couldn’t cut too deep. He couldn’t slice the girl or her grandmother. He slid the knife in till half the blade was buried in the wolf. Blood, as red as the holly berries in winter, pooled out of the cut and stained the wolf’s white fur. Like blood and snow. It was almost beautiful.

His knife met no resistance as he drew it from tip to toe. More blood spilled out. It was darker. More like the red leaves of the trees in the fall. Closer to the color of death. It smelled like iron. Bitter and cold. Like the winter. Like the wolf. The Woodsman could almost taste it in the air.

Once he had finished the incision, he eviscerated the wolf with his bare hands, searching for the women inside. He ripped organs from the body. They smacked the ground with a heavy wet sound as he tossed them aside. Finally he felt something different.

Wet hair beneath his fingers.

He reached in with his other hand and grabbed.

He pulled.

This time the wolf hadn’t eaten them whole.

No, he had taken his time, the old sinner.

The Woodsman cradled the girl’s head in his hands. Her face was mutilated past recognition. Her jaw was missing and there were deep slash marks that ran from her forehead down. A scrap of fabric was tangled in her wet hair.

Gently the Woodsman worked it out. It was only a scrap. 

It was red.     

Not a full blown short story. Maybe closer to flash fiction (even though I’m not 100% sure what flash fiction really is…) but there you go. Maybe it’s not as gross or horrific as I could’ve made it. But, I like it. And totally in a Halloween-I’ve-been-watching-too-many-slasher-movies kind of way. 

So, Happy Almost Halloween!

Creating Characters

So, in my creative writing classes I’m exposed to a lot of different people’s writing. Some people are awesome at description (I am not one of them…), others are kick-ass at dialogue, while others make really believable characters. I have a classmate Nikki who is great at this, but since she has yet to be published another person is John Green. He’s characters are people who I would’ve hung out with in high school.

But maybe you are one of those people who have a hard time making your characters real. So, here I am to help.

You may be asking, “Who are you to tell me how to making awesome real-like characters?”

So I consider myself one of these authors who make realistic characters? No. But I don’t think I suck. And since I am NOT the best at it, I can pass on some tips on how to get better. I have had to hunt these down myself.

Characters are super important to a story. Have shitty characters? No one will want to keep reading your book. In one of my lectures we were told that people 70% of the time watch a movie/read a book for the characters. If all of a sudden a mystery novel comes out and Harry Potter shows up in it, would you read it? I would. I would just to see Harry again. I can remember when I finished reading the books I cried. Hardcore. Yes, I will admit it. But, in my defense Harry and I had grown up together. When he was 11 so was I. When he was awkward and a teenager who could never fit in, so was I. So, when the books ended it was like I had just lost an entire group of friends. It was heartbreaking.

And I think that’s what you want when you create a character. Someone people will miss when they close the book.

How can you make a character like this? I think lots is observation. Go to coffee shops, sit there and make up back stories for the people in there. I used to do this every week with my best friend in high school. Observe how people walk, talk, interact with people. Another way is to channel all those suppressed feelings. Writing a “bad guy” — then find your inner bad guy. What would you do? I think watching TV and reading helps a lot too.

Also, one of my favorite exercises is interviewing your characters. Find out who they are. Or, have someone else interview you as your character. That’s even better. It gets you thinking in ways you haven’t before.

A book that I have (and am in the process of reading) is Growing Great Characters From the Ground Up and also Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook is an awesome resource. It has sections for every aspect of your novel — and yes, character as well.

So what inspired this longwinded post was this webpage Questionnaires for Writing Character Profiles. I was using it and thought, “Hmmm maybe I should post this on my blog…” And I did. I think it can give you a fantastic foundation to build on for a character.

All right, that’s all I got.