Finding Story in Setting

mist misty fog foggy

Photo by Life Of Pix on Pexels.com

When I needed to come up an idea for this summer’s short story contest I struggled to find a redemption story I wanted to tell.  I thought first about choices that needed redemption.  Next I thought about characters—who they were, what choices they made and what situations they found themselves in that required redemption.  Both were fine but not the “Wow!” story I wanted.

Finally I thought of setting.  One came to mind that would have lots of action and I could picture vividly.  I knew the smells, the sights and the sounds.  In my mind I wandered around my setting searching for my characters and their story I could tell.

Guess what?  I found both of them, or maybe they found me.

The antagonist found me first, probably because he would have the most interactions with everyone else in this setting.

Other character’s started to introduce themselves and their stories to me.  Then we worked together to find some action and discovers their disasters.  I threw a few rocks at them to see how they reacted.  They brushed off some like they were nothing.  They didn’t respond the way I was hoping to others.  I tossed a few more and together we found the right balance in character and action to bring a story I wanted to tell alive.

Fore me, these contests require a different creative process because my ideas need to conform to a preselected topic.  Typically I come up with ideas, write down the ones I like and develop the ones I love.  But in this situation, as with most contests and many freelance assignments, I’m forced myself to come up with something creative within the set guidelines.  That is where the ability to apply any new ways of approach idea generation can be a godsend.

Where do you get ideas when they need to conform to specific parameters?  I’m interested in what methods work for you, especially when you are under a deadline.

Advertisements

Summer Writing Contest

The Summer Writing Contest from The Write Practice and Short Fiction Break is finally here!  This contest’s theme is “Redemption” and the deadline to enter is July 10th.  You can link to all the information about the contest including the signup page here.

summer-writing-contest

This will be the third time I have entered this contest series and I keep coming back for two great reasons.

First, all entrants are required to workshop their stories for a week with the other contestants.  Not only do you get great feedback from fellow writers but you also get a chance to read some great stories and see how the authors incorporate the feedback they receive.

Second, for a slightly higher entry fee, you have the option to receive written feedback directly from the judges after the winners are announced.  In the past, I received supportive and constructive feedback from two judges, so I would expect this to continue with this season’s contest as well.

If you can dream up an idea that fits the theme and have the time to pump out a 1,500 word short story in the next week, I highly recommend signing up.

I hope to see you in the workshop!

Weekly Status: June 8, 2018

To keep myself accountable, I have chosen to post about my creative progress each week (maybe a couple of days late!)  Although you may not be invested in the details of my progress (or lack thereof), I hope you can take from my updates some ideas on developing your own personal accountability method.

abstract accuracy accurate aim

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Writing

Blogging

As a result of the progress I was making on my fiction writing, I made the conscious decision to let the novel flow without interruption from other projects this week.  I started two posts when I needed a break from the novel, so they are queued up for posting soon.  I also spent my downtime this week brainstorming other post ideas to alleviate some of the rush to get my five weekly posts published.  

Next week’s target: Post 5 of 7 days

Fiction

I found my flow getting back into the novel I had started re-outlining.  I’ve tried being a pantster, an outliner, a Snowflaker, and a Story Gridder.  After following the Story Grid podcast and reading the book I desperately wanted to follow the Story Grid method, but for me Story Grid alone is not enough.  I discovered that I am a Snowflaker at heart.  The flow of the steps draws out and helps me clarify and strengthen my ideas.  Everything I learned from Story Grid is impacting how I approach each step in the Snowflake Method.  As I get into and complete my first draft, I am certain Story Grid will be a well worn tool to get me to the final draft.  This week I probably hit at least eight hows of dedicated work on my novel, therefore to keep momentum I’m bumping up my target by 3 hours.

The second writing project I haver this week is to come up with an idea for the Write Practice and Short Fiction Break’s summer writing contest.  The entry deadline is July 10th with the first draft due for workshopping on the 16th, so I’ve got to get working.

Next week’s target:  6 hours working through the Snowflake Method

Photography

Again, I didn’t spend any time on photography this week.  I’ll keep it on the list in case I jump into it in my spare time.  The quick tutorials are great for filling a waiting minute.

Next week’s target:  Playing around for as much time as I want

Coding

I realized my data storage method was not working so I began investigating the best approach for data structures that are more complex than used in most Swift tutorials.  My goal this week is to determine the best method and outline a plan to implement the method into my project.

Next week’s target:  Develop and Outline new data structure

Videography

Focus on my novel too precedence this week so I was not able to map out the project in Motion based on the current draft of the script.  I’m putting this on the side burner for now to keep pace on my novel.

Next week’s target:  Map out the entire project using placeholders.

When juggling multiple projects do you feel guilty neglecting one for another?  Does positive momentum in one project build your overall confidence?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Character Assassination

pexels-photo-209327.jpeg

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I still subscribe to and read the very first writing newsletter I discovered when starting my fiction writing journey.  Randy Ingermanson’s Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine had an interesting article this month about Ad Hominem Attacks on Your Protagonist.  You may be more familiar with the term character assassination which is a type of ad hominem attack.

Randy defines ad hominem attacks and provides an number of examples to provide a clear context.  He also make a strong case for adding this type of obstacle to your own writing toolbox.

You can find a link to the June 2018 e-zine here.

If you haven’t heard of Randy, The Snowflake Method or advancedfictionwriting,com I encourage you to give this month’s e-zine a look and when you’re done explore the rest of his site.  He has a vast amount of material for any fiction writer.

If you’ve heard of the Snowflake Method, have you used it in your writing?  Was it useful or not?

Heartstrings

two red hearts

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

The rescue was full save one cage.  Empty soft bed, food partially eaten. The one gone tugged at her heartstring, tied in knots for days, weeks even years.  The knot would never go away, but, with time it would blossom into a bow where it would remain with the others for eternity.  Her heart was full, yet always room for more.  Infinite heartstring for infinite love she held for those that had crossed the bridge.  Never forgotten by her.  Never.  They are her loves, her joys, her mission.  She was their savior, their advocate, their last chance, their home.

All cages are full again. So many to save.  So much love to give. Infinite.

 

 

Don’t Think, Just Write!

So, I’m beginning to be quite a fanboy of The Art of Blogging. This article has seven great suggestions for getting down to writing, but one stuck out as particularly helpful.

The quote by Raymond Chandler in the seventh suggestion hits home regarding the importance of making the time set aside to write FOR WRITING!

I have a few hours today to give this a go. First I’ll turn off my Wifi. Since I use Scrivener, I can shut out all the other apps on my computer. I’ll get my coffee ready, leave my phone and iPad in another room and get down to work.

If I’m not writing, outlining, drafting character descriptions or anything specific to moving the project forward, then I’ll probably just stare at the wall (I’m not sure my balance is good enough to stand on my head).

Hopefully some of these suggestions can make your writing time more productive, too.

The Art of Blogging

If you’ve done the proper amount of research on your topic, you know what your audience wants, and you know what you want to say, then taking action and starting to write should be simple and require no particular effort. Right?

Not quite. All writers know too well that sometimes this just isn’t the case. Getting down to the physical act of writing can take a lot of will power.

View original post 362 more words

Weekly Status: June 22, 2018

football-3228206_1280

To keep myself accountable, I have chosen to post about my creative progress each week.  Although you may not be invested in the details of my progress (or lack thereof), I hope you can take from my updates some ideas on developing your own personal accountability method.

Writing

Blogging

I’m getting into a good rhythm with my blog posts.  Now into my 3rd week I made five more posts and have decided this is the right number that gives me enough time to complete my other responsibilities with enough time left over to work on my other interests.  Going forward I have adjusted my target to 5 posts each week.

Next week’s target: Post 5 of 7 days

Fiction

I worked a little more on my novel but not as much as I wanted.  I’m finding it difficult to sit down and do the work as I become distracted with other projects.  I read an interesting bit of advice about writing time this week.  (I cannot recall where or who originally said it, so if you know could you post a comment so I can give the author credit!  Edit:  I found the article I ready on The Art of Blogging.  The quote is by Raymond Chandler and included in the article Don’t Think, Just Write! by Cristian Mihai)  The gist is that during your set writing time you need to write.  If you aren’t writing you shouldn’t be doing anything else.  Period.  Your alternative to writing during this time is thinking about your writing or staring at the wall.  I’m going to give it a try this weekend.

Next week’s target:  3 hours brainstorming and outlining

Photography

I didn’t work on photography at all this week.  For now, I’m leaving this creative category as a “nice to have” and will play around with tutorials and practicing on my own photos when the impulse strikes me.

Next week’s target:  Playing around for for as much time as I want

Coding

I began reworking one of the complex views in my project.  I originally had it as a dynamic tableview but have since determined that it should really be a static tableview and insert dynamic tableviews within certain sections of the static table view as needed.  I’m sure if you are not into coding all you probably read was “blah, blah, blah-blah, and blah!”

Next week’s target:  Complete the change to a static tableview

Videography

I completed the script for my Motion project.  The best part about writing the script rather than jumping in head first to build the project was coming up with alternative ideas on how to present the full concept.  Near the end, I originally thought the animal shelter would rise from the ground, but as I finished up the script I came up with what I think will be a better way to show the shelter moving from idea to reality.  Now comes the fun part—getting my hands dirty in Motion!

Next week’s target:  Map out the entire project in Motion.

What projects are you passionate about this week?  Are you finding time and success in your creative adventures?

Reading Only Act I

pexels-photo-1166657.jpeg

Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

As I continue outlining the novel that I originally started as a pantster, I’ve developed a strange obsession.  I keep starting new books, only reading through the end of Act I and starting a new one.

I’m hung up on seeing how other authors are building their opening act.

  • Is the opening scene an introduction to the character or can I see bits and pieces hiding among the description and action that will be important to remember in Act II or III?
  • What is the call to action?  Is it strong enough to keep the protagonist in the game?
  • Is a mentor introduced?  How natural or forced is her relationship with the protagonist?
  • Is the point of no return really a line in the sand that the protagonist can never cross back?

So many questions and they all come back to structure!

What at first seemed like losing interest early on has turned into a writing tool.  I’ve always read that I should keep reading other author’s works while I am in the midst of writing.  On the surface I had considered reading while writing to be a distraction and feared I’d subconsciously steal ideas from the book I was reading.  This experience has opened my eyes to the real reason we should read while writing and for me it’s all about understanding structure.

Are you an avid reader when deep in writing mode?  I’ve been mixing up genres from the one I’m writing.  Do you think you should stick with your writing genre or do you think varying reading genres can offer some interesting insights into your own work?

Yearning to Learn

abc books chalk chalkboard

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Ever since I can remember I’ve always had a strong desire to learn new things.  In the past few years I have been diving deep into learning how to write a novel—structuring plot, building tension, crafting scenes and developing great characters.  Writing, whether a novel, short story or this blog, has been my creative outlet for a while now.

Lately writing alone has not been enough to fill my learning needs.  You’d think with all there is to learn about structure and style, brainstorming ideas, and sitting down to actually write would fulfill my learning needs.

Yet, I still needed something more, something different.  Setting aside any requisite skills and abilities to venture into other creative avenues, I thought about adding one of several options to my creative repertoire.

Music, Guitar?

close up of ukulele

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m no musician but I do love music.  I played the piano when I was young, but was never very good.

When I ventured back into piano lesson in high school, I learned to improvise the rhythm of the left hand by reading chord notation and playing the right hand as written.  This method provided me with the opportunity few of my piano playing fiends every had—to play popular music and make it somewhat recognizable to the listener.

Learning to play guitar seems somewhat similar, but it will need a dedicated regular schedule of lessons and a bit of an investment.  Guitar probably isn’t in my near future.

Drawing, Illustrations, Art?

person holding black pen sketching flower

Photo by Alena Koval on Pexels.com

My dad’s mother was an artist.  She painted beautiful Michigan forest-scapes generally with a smattering of birch trees.

One day after dinner, I was probably in middle school, she taught me to draw my subject upside-down.  We pulled a Donald Duck rubber magnet off the fridge, turned Donald on his head and she had me replicate it on paper.  The result ended up to be far more accurate than had I drawn it from the correct perspective.

I have since learned that drawing a subject upside-down uses your visual right brain leaving the rational, thinking left brain that keeps telling you “that doesn’t look right” mostly out of the activity.

I need to learn more technical skills to improve my drawing abilities rather than simple practice.  I enjoy doodling, but I think I’ll leave illustrating to trained professionals.

Finding the Right Fit

These are just a couple of choices I considered, choosing two where I would likely have the best chance for success based on my interest level and limited history.  Whatever choice I made would need to fit my style and not be a burden on my other responsibilities and interests.

Although I yearn for another creative activity I feel I already have a lot going on.  If I could learn guitar using headphones, I think I’d pick up the guitar, although I’d prefer to learn acoustic.  I wouldn’t want my family suffer the sounds of my “learning”.

App Development, Coding

app apps cellphone cellular

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m certainly dating myself when I tell you that I learned BASIC programming on my own using a TRS-80.  Then in sixth grade we were taught using Apple II+ and Apple IIe computers.  I still regret not taking more advanced programming courses (do you remember PASCAL and FORTRAN?) when I was in high school.

I’ve always been a math and logic based thinker which is probably why learning to code is so appealing to me.  As with other creative pursuits, I love the idea of creating something tangible from my own idea.  With coding there are loads of resources on-line, and I pretty much already have the software and equipment needed.

With the influx of apps created in basements or dorm rooms, on lunch breaks from work, by friends in bedrooms or a continent away, the flexibility checks another box on my next project evaluation list.

All that remains is coming up with that wonderful, exciting, stupendous idea.  But, isn’t that half the fun?

Choosing Your Next Undertaking

Selecting new skills and abilities to learn can be a tricky task.  In addition to showing an interest, you will need to evaluate whether you can put the time into learning that the new skills deserve.  Weighing your commitments to family, friends and work as well as those you have made to yourself for other pursuits must be done prior to embarking on such a journey.

Sometimes it can be appealing to dive right in, but your success with any new undertaking hinges on whether you can put forth the effort necessary.

I’m all for learning new things to make my own world a more interesting place.  I just want to make sure I’m not cluttering up the place with a bunch of half-baked attempts.

What new skills are you eager to learn?  Do you have any skills you started to learn then pushed them aside?  I’m interested to know what took precedence and whether you think you’ll pick them up again.

Avoiding the Inevitable End

If you are an avid ready, you know the feeling when you find a really good book and can’t put it down?  I’m always excited when I come across one of these gems.

book book pages bookcase browse

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For some reason I have a very strange habit when I get 80% of the way through one of these—I can’t seem to keep going at the same pace.  I start to take in small chunks at a time.  Three pages now, several more pages a few hours later.  The last 20% drags on for another couple of days when I should have been able to plow through in a matter of hours.

I’ve even started the same habit when streaming series on Netflix.  As I reach the final three or four episodes I take in just enough of an episode to get a fix before switching to another activity.

I’ve finally figured out why.  Simply put, I don’t want the story to end.  I fear the feeling it will all be over soon.  I’ve fallen in love with the characters and the story so much, I begin to mourn this loss before it’s reached it’s conclusion.

On a good note, I am almost always satisfied when I finally reach the end and eagerly await more.  What else could any author want but another reader hooked on their characters, story and style.

I resign myself to the fact that I can only wait patiently for the next novel, seek out the author’s other work or hang on for the next season to start.

Do you put off the inevitable when nearing the end of a great book or television series or do you push through at the same “can’t put it down” pace?  Do you have any odd quirks or habits when it comes to finishing books and other series you enjoy?  Let me know in the comments.