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Showing posts from March, 2014

The Lady or the Tiger

How many of you read this piece in school: The Lady or the Tiger by Frank Stockton?  The end both tortured and intrigued me.  The author carried me along with the story and left me pondering the decision-making processes required of myself...and of all humanity.  And, still, I do not know how the story ends -- how it ended after the author stopped talking.  I find myself thinking deep thoughts and examining the story from many angles.  There are so many meanings in its folds.
     What do you think of the author's "humility" in not presuming to tell us how the story ends?  Does it make you evaluate how you think of yourself as a writer?  Sometimes we like the feeling of power as we control our stories and, to a certain extent, the reader's thoughts.  But there are more powerful forces than we are, if only we are wise enough to not stand in the way.
     What were your thoughts on the story?

Short Story: Becoming a Daddy

I clutched the steering wheel and shot a nervous glance at my wife.She flashed me an excited smile.
“This is it,” she said, happily.“We are having our baby!”
I smiled back, trying to look confident and reassuring.I hoped I had brought all of the bags she had packed for this event.She had poured over her list a dozen times, packing and repacking what she called the “absolutely necessary essentials.”
“Oh, here comes another one,” my wife moaned.Her attitude changed quickly from excitement to dread.
With one hand on the steering wheel, I reached to squeeze her arm.“Remember to relax and breathe,” I said.
She nodded, her eyebrows contracted tightly over closed eyes, and began huffing and puffing like a champion.I looked up to see the traffic light turn red and slammed on the brakes just in time.
Her arms flew out, grasping the dashboard, and she groaned like I beat her.“Don’t do that!” she hissed, still breathing hard.
The light took forever to turn green again, and I began to fear that we would…

Reaction to Criticism

ALWAYS Always receive it graciously and always re-assess your work. It may be that the critic has found something you need to work on, either in the art and creativity, the technical aspects, or the communication arena. EITHER Either make an adjustment based on what you found in your assessment or decide that the critic was in error and your writing is exactly as you desired. NEVER Never give up or quit.  If you know that you should be a writer, then no amount of criticism of your work will dissuade you.  Criticism is meant to help you become a better writer.  It is never meant to discourage a writer from writing.  Keep working on it!

A Short Story Break

It has been a while since I penned a short story.  Usually it takes something like a "short story contest" to inspire me.  But I have noticed my writing skills improve with each contest so there is something to be said for writing short stories.
     I say all this to lead into the fact that I am going to try another short story.  There is no contest looming on the horizon, but it has been so long that I think I am due to write a short piece.  Life cannot be entirely devoted to novel-length plots...
     I am rolling around different ideas in my head.  There is no one to give me the first three words or a picture to base my story on.  There are no restrictions, no props, and no judges.
     Methinks I will try something that is both epic and ordinary...something I have seen before.  After all, personal experience, great things, and the expression of the ordinary are part of what makes a story.

Making Sense of the Imaginary

Okay, you read my post yesterday and you felt a little confused.  Your story involves people that can fly and a fish that can talk.  It doesn't make sense, you say, and yet...that's the way a fantasy story is supposed to be, isn't it?  Am I restricting authors' imaginations to the ordinary parameters of real life?
     No.  The fascinating thing about fiction literature is that it doesn't have to be realistic in order to make sense.  Strange but true.
     There are two things required in making a fantasy or sci-fi story "make sense."
1. Have a panel of experts explain it.      This is easy.  If the world is to be destroyed by an exaggerated natural disaster, have a panel of experts use important sounding words to convince everyone that this is a possibility.  If your hero has just landed in a world where everybody flies, have some child explain this in a matter-of-fact tone (while looking at your hero like he is crazy for not knowing this already). …

That Doesn't Make Sense!

So I am looking for things in BB that don't make sense.  You know you've seen these anomalies before.  An athletic man walks for three days to get to a secret cave and then, in a climactic scene, a little boy with a limp runs to the cave in a matter of hours.  Really?  Or, in the days before electricity, a woman forbids the use of fire in her home and then proceeds to cook a nourishing soup.  Now how do you suppose she did that?
     I found one such anomaly in BB by doing separate short stories (summarizing the book) for individual characters.  I had character A tie character B in a shed somewhere.  Then character A went and did about a week's worth of activity, maybe more.  He visited some people and took a long trip and did all sort of things before returning to his captive.  When I looked at character B's story, I realized I needed to address the fact that the poor man is tied in a shed for a really long time.
      Sometimes it will be little things that don…

Twists: Who knew?

Twists and surprises are one of the things that keep a book interesting.  I read a book the other day that did that for me, and now I am reading it again.  Funny thing about that.
     But who is your twist is trying to fool? 
     Sometimes it is the reader.  She is reading along, thinking one thing, and then, BAM, there is a shocking revelation and your reader gasps.  This occasion is usually followed by the reader thinking back over the story and kicking herself for not seeing it coming.
     Sometimes it is not the reader -- it is a main character.  Maybe your reader knows who the villain is but your hero does not.  Now your hero is blindly trusting the bad guy, and your reader is biting her nails or yelling at the hero (something along the lines of "No, no, no!  Don't go with him!  He's only going to...!").  Your reader sees things coming.
      So if you have a big secret -- something you are going to reveal later in the book -- you have to decide who ge…


The way I figure it there are two kinds of scary:

bad scary and good scary. Bad scary is the way you feel when you are in danger.  This is a special feeling designed to warn you that you are in a bad place and you need to get out of there quickly.
Good scary is the way you feel when you are taking a leap into the unknown.  It is not always a bad thing.  You might have this feeling when you are changing careers or leaving home or, if you are a writer, talking to a publishing company.  Good scary carries both fear and sometimes a little thrill.  Often we find that it accompanies a fork-in-the-road decision. I had two "good scaries" today.  Heart-pounding, adrenaline-surging, I-hope-I'm-making-the-right-decision-and-I-think-I-am kind of scaries.  Yeah. I feel like I researched my decisions.  They may leave me breathless, but I am as confident as a 3rd time parachuter (I survived the last two times, right?).  All of us face these types of decisions.  And if you, like me, h…

Character Stories: A Way to Track Subplots

     I am trying a new trick with BB.  In BB, I have multiple characters that affect the story.  I needed a way to see all my strands separately as well as being able to weave them all together in the plot.  So I am writing their separate stories.
     Earlier this week, I wrote the story for the Duke of Northumber.  He is about 50 years old in my story, but, to understand him, I had to go back to his childhood.  My writing of his story was fairly dry (no poetry) as I quickly summarized the highlights of his life from birth to death.  It's a little less than 1400 words.
      Now I can feel like I know about his life, and I understand him better.  Some of those things from his life may not ever make it into my BB story -- they may not matter to it.  But some of them will.  Now that I know what an influential person his mother was in his life before she died, I know he may reference her in the story.  Now that I know how he has reacted to successes and failures in his life before…

Bits of BB

Here are some bits of BB.  Enjoy! __________  Light dawned over Chauncey’s face.“Why not?” he said.He looked at Grimm’s nonyielding expression.“Look, Grimm, if we want to get out of here someday, we must grasp at every chance we get.” For a moment, Grimm looked like he was weighing the possibilities in his mind.The other three held their breaths in hope.Even Annie stopped her sweeping to watch his face. Then Grimm shook his head.“No way,” he said.“There are too many things that can go wrong.” Annie sighed and returned to her sweeping. Chauncey opened his hands expressively.“But should that stop us from taking a chance?Come on, Grimm,” he pleaded. Grimm stood to his feet.“If you want to take the chance, then ask him,” he said, with a jerk of his head indicating the master’s bedroom.“I wash my hands of it.” ~BB __________ Rounding a corner in the path, she suddenly saw it.There were big iron gates, covered in ivy.The mansion behind them was dark and in ill-repair.It didn’t look like anyone had …

Writing with Multiple POVs

What is a POV?  POV stands for "Point of View".  We use it to mean the perspective from which a book is written -- more specifically, which character's perspective.   Huckleberry Finn is written from Huck's perspective.  The chapter in Little Women when Meg goes to parties with her rich friends is written from Meg's point of view.
     A good point of view sees everything that is happening through the eyes of your POV character.  What would that character notice?  How would that character describe what he sees?  This flavors even the narrative in his section of the book.
     Many books have only one POV.  My BB project will have multiple POVs.
     I recently asked Anne-girl to write a post about managing multiple POVs.  This is something in which she has had experience, and I love the way she structures things.  I knew she would have some good tips.  Here is the link to her post on the subject: The Torch Passes .  Enjoy!
     Have you anything else to add…

A Second Cover is On Its Way!

Hurray!  I am excited!  Anne-girl is doing a second book cover for me.  I feel very blessed to have won 2 book covers from her.  If you have not seen the first cover that she made for me, look under my "Works in the Wings" and you will see the cover she made for "Dungeon."  There is also a post about it that you can see here .
     This 2nd cover is for a story I wrote before I started this blog.  I don't think I have talked about it much on here, but you will hear more about soon.  I can't wait to see what Anne-girl creates!

A Good Ending

I have heard before that, when writing a novel, the first step is to write the finish.  Now that seems a little counter-intuitive.  Haven't we all learned from The Sound of Music that we should:
Start at the very beginning...a very good place to start... So why would we write the ending first?

     I still have not managed to write my ending first, and I honestly don't think it will be required.  But I have started plotting out my ending before I even get halfway into the book.  I did that with BB earlier this week.  The process goes something like this:

     1. I have a story idea and decide to write
          --- I will have a vague idea of plot, finale, characters, etc with my idea but nothing is pinned down and won't be until I start writing.
     2. I start writing and start exploring my characters
     3. Once I have got my story underway and my characters in hand, I plan my ending.
          --- This helps me to know where I am headed.
          --- This helps…

Inspiring Things Like Skeletons and Experiments

Two other bloggers have recently posted things that I have found inspiring.  One was a post by Rachel Heffington called Skeletons, Blog Design, and a British Holiday .  The other was a post by Anne-girl called An Experiment .
     The Skeleton post was inspiring because it talked about building on your first draft.  Sometimes I cringe part-way through a project as I realize that it is nowhere near publishing quality.  But Rachel points out that this is okay -- no one writes a story that is perfect on the first draft.  Instead we should view our first draft as a sort of skeleton to then build the story on.
     This was also an encouragement to start building more into Dungeon, which has been sitting rather idly this week.
     The experiment post was about writing separate storylines for each of your main characters and then putting them together at the end.  I have really been thinking about doing this for BB, as I have multiple strands swirling in my head.  So it was neat to se…

18k Words in BB

This one has a chance of being a full-length novel.  And the road is rolling out in front of me with startling clarity.  What a thrill this is!  To write and see a story come alive in your mind.  I would rather write than watch a movie any day.
     I am trying some new things with this project.  I have multiple characters with their own stories and I am giving more attention to that than I have previously.  It feels really good.  I like the way it adds depth.  It feels more real.  And it gives me more material -- which is why I think I may make it to 50k this time.
     I have passed the 18,000 word mark now.  It sounds strange to say that at this point my two main characters have just met for the first time, but you will not think it strange when you read the book.  I assure you that neither character has been wasting time.  I am, after all, only 21 days into the story.
     I can hardly wait to share it with you!

Rachel Answers Questions

1. Where are you from?
     I am originally from Penty Village, but I have spent most of my years in a little town called Runtford -- not far from the castle.
2. What is your greatest hope?
    Before the story started, I suppose my greatest hope was...well...there is a young man...I suppose there is no need to hide anything from you...there is a young man whom I love very deeply...and my greatest hope was that he would ask me to marry him.  There!  That was my greatest hope.
3. What do you pray for?
     I pray for the young man that I love - that he would prosper and do well, that he would always be secure in the love of the Lord, that he would walk in wisdom.  I pray for my little town - that change would come for the better, that the injustice and cruelties would stop, that our food would not be taken away.  I pray for the kingdom - that God would turn the hearts of our leaders toward Himself.
4. What is your greatest fear?
     I try to not be fearful.  The Lord tells us to be a…

Molly Answers Questions

1. What is your job?
     I am an undermaid.  In the castle, servants are at different levels.  The upper servants serve the royals directly.  They don't talk much to the lower servants.  The lower servants do the background work.  The royals might never see the lower servants.  And me?  I'm lower than the lower servants.  I run and do whatever I am told.
2.  How long have you been a maid? 
     Most o' my life.  And I've been at the castle for almost 6 years.
3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
     Mercy me!  I don't know.  I don't think I am very strong.  I try to be but there are many who are stronger than I am.  I am just so glad to be here, even when it's hard.
    I have a lot of weaknesses.  I'm not nearly strong enough or fast enough, and I make mistakes sometimes in my work.  Plus, there's a lot of things I am scared of.  I'm scared of the dungeon.  I'm scared of Gorgus.  I'm scared of Regina.  I'm scared I might l…

Jacob Answers Questions

1. Where did you come from?  A little village called Runtford, near the castle.
2. How old are you?  I don't know -- you will have to ask Rachel.  She remembers ages and birthdays and other similarly useless facts. 
3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?  Quick mind.  Impartial judge of people.  Reader of men's characters.  Able to spot a lie.  Strong sense of right and wrong.  Not a lot of patience for silliness.  Prone to action (regardless of logic or insurmountable odds) if my sense of right and wrong dictates it.
4. How did you meet Rachel?  When I was a boy, there was a bull in a fence behind the blacksmith shop.  Everyone knew to leave that bull alone.  I was heading home one day, and I saw the bull pawing and snorting.  Then I saw this little girl, smaller than myself, standing in the pen like fool.  I looked at that pale face that should have been rosy, the dark curly hair, and the big frightened eyes.  She was going to get trampled for certain.  I couldn't …

The Villain Answers Questions

Here are the answers to the questions for my villain:

1. Who are you?
     I am a man of great talent and experience.
2. How did you become a villain?
    Ahh, why do people jump to use the v-word?  I personally do not see myself as a villain.  I have done much for this kingdom.  Does anyone thank me?  Does anyone recognize my greatness?  No.  Regardless of my sacrifices, they will only say that I have done my duty to my superiors.  I have had enough of these people who think they are so far above me for no reason other than pedigree.  Their loyalties lie with bloodlines and not with true greatness.  They underestimate me.  They are the villains.
3. What is your greatest strength?  My strength is an ability to play a part -- any part -- as needed.  It is the most vital -- and the most rewarding -- part of my plot.
4. How do you face opposition?  It makes me angry.  I hate to be thwarted.  However, if I can keep my temper quiet long enough, I will eventually find a way around the opposit…

Dungeon Cover

So, in February, I won a raffle hosted by Anne-girl on her blog.  The prize was a "for fun" book cover designed by her.  She contacted me promptly and we began working on this cover.
     My job was to give her some info on the story -- something she could build a cover around.  Her job, of course, was the artistic part.
     This opportunity to have Anne-girl work on a cover with me was, in my opinion, a fantastic opportunity for me to walk through the steps.  I've never had someone make a cover for me before.  What would it be like?
     After I sent my initial information to Anne-girl, she came back with a set of drafts that she had created -- different covers she had come up with based on the information I had given her.
     Looking at those covers, I could see what "rang true" to my story and what didn't.  I emailed her back with my favorite two covers and what I liked about them, and we went from there.  That helped me to communicate better.  I…

Princess Answers Questions

Below are the answers from my princess:

1. How old are you?
    I will be 19 years old on the 2nd day of the fifth month.
2. What do you look like?
    I carry in my veins the blood of kings.  So, naturally, my hair is a light color, and it is long.  My eyes are blue or green, depending on my dress and mood. My hands are small and soft.  I look like a princess; I am royal.
3. Do you have any friends?
     Whom is my equal?  My parents are above me, although you may consider them my friends.  Everyone else is below me.  I greet the children of our noblemen with proper courtesy.  I wave to the populace in the rare public event.  I confess I sometimes interact with my royal servants: Hatach, or the Dressmaker, or others...but those cannot be called friendships.  A princess is not expected to fraternize with anyone.
4. What is your biggest flaw?
    This one is a difficult one for me to answer.  Princesses are not considered flawed in any respect.  But in one point I feel shame - that is…

Snippets of Story February '14

Katie at her blog, Whisperings of the Pen , hosts a monthly "Snippets of Story" event.  I have done it once before, and I am doing it again this month.  Here are some "snippets" that I have worked on in the past month:

The king shook his head slowly.  His face was ashen, and, for a moment, his eyes showed the pain he felt.  With this decision, his son would likely be banished forever.  He knew it, and yet he could not bring himself to say the words.
~BB "The Rottly Place?" Tatum said, startled.  He swung his head to stare at Ronald.  "Why the Rottly Place?  No one has lived there for over a century.  It's abandoned." "That's what I thought, too," Ronald said with a shrug.  "But I saw a bit of smoke there when I passed it yesterday.  I figured Grayson was the only one crazy enough to be living there." "Must be a tramp," Tatum mused. "Brave tramp," Barnes said, idly winding a piece of ribbon aro…