Tag Archives: writing

April Showers Bring Writing Flowers

This is your month. I don’t care if you’re a writer who makes words every single day or a reader who loves the story-telling process. If one of these ideas sparks your interest, start writing. There is no better way to express your love of a story than by writing your own.

Even if you never share it, try it out. And if you find after you’ve written your idea and it surprises you with its wit, its humor, its drama, its strong character development–send it to me at Amyoung0606@gmail.com by April 26th and I will publish it on this blog for everyone else to enjoy your hard work.

1. A young girl and her mother walk to the edge of a field, kneel down in the grass, and plant a tree.

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2. A mama cat gives birth to a litter of four gray tabbies and one little orange runt.

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3. Inspired by Jurassic Park, a biological engineer is committed to recreating dinosaurs. While researching ancient dinosaurs, the scientist stumbles into evidence that fire-breathing dragons once soared over the land and decides to recreate those instead.ZZ3DC6E0A6

4. A man who sees ghosts checks himself into a mental institute, not realizing that the facility has been closed for almost thirty years.

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Don’t waste another minute thinking these negative thoughts:
I haven’t written since high school/college-if you are inspired the writing will flow. It doesn’t matter how much technique you know/don’t know. If you are passionate and inspired it will work out in the end.

I don’t think I could make a story from an idea someone else is giving-every idea comes from someone or something else. A person you’ve met, something you’ve seen, a past experience. These prompts are just here to facilitate inspiration to get the writing going. You don’t have to do them exactly, you can just borrower the idea, twist it, change it to your own liking and make a story all your own. These prompts are just tools to help.
I read a lot, but I don’t know if I can write- you will never know if you don’t try. Again no one else has to see it. You owe it to yourself to try a part of story-telling. You may appreciate stories even more.

Just give it a shot, if you do and don’t like it. Feel free to tell me. Or suggest something else you’d want to see. Perhaps you’d benefit more from learning about plotting or talking about ways to incorporate different writing techniques. I will be happy to give my readers more than just prompts to help their writing blossom.

Happy reading and writing!

 

 

 

 

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When Ka Decides Book to Movie Adaptations

The last time I addressed this topic I had been jaded and disappointed in Hollywood and most screenwriters for “screwing up” or “mis-interpreting” a beloved book/series. If you wish you can read it HERE. Warning, it is nit-picky and kind of pretentious.  My younger self (even just a few years ago) would throw out an entire movie just on some little details or expectations that far exceeding the truth of what book to movie versions represent.

This hard truth, a pill some fans are resistant to swallow (including my slightly younger self), is that each work of art (story, film, song) is interpreted by each reader/fan. They bring to that interpretation their own past, their hardships, their memories, which change the experience and perception of the art. And those interpretations that make it through the vetting process of a studio and a screen writer, the ones that make it onto the big screen might not match our own.images (1)

And it’s OKAY that the interpretations don’t match the source material. (Yes, even the most widely agreed upon as the worst of interpretations. Cough The Scarlet Letter with Demi Moore cough cough). Because the interpretation isn’t a reproduction. It is the viewing of the source material, quite literally, through the lens of someone else’s mind.

thought-policeThis may be an obvious reminder, but if we interpreted works of art the same then our lives would be worse than those in 1984 where they were spoon-fed their opinions by the government. If we are imposing on ourselves such an exclusive thinking, that our interpretations are better than other, then we are the ones to blame for hampering creativity. That’s the last thing the artists, writers, musicians, and filmmakers of the world want. That’s the last thing the readers and fans want (even if they don’t know it). Because without the independent, unique thoughts of the individual, we would deprive ourselves of some of the most beautiful creations known to man.

I’ve had a few of my favorite books turned into movies (most recently the sci-fi favorite Ender’s Game) and out of every possibility that could go wrong (inconsistencies, plot changes, terrible casting choice) I always left the theater with a huge grin, squealing my fangirl squeals all the way back to the car.
Undoubtedly, the phenomenon of having a non-pictorial story come alive in a very graphic and visually-appealing format….is a satisfaction that goes beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. To have story, its characters, its setting brought to life in front of my eyes—how can I NOT watch in awe? Some books are so vivid and so rich that they can play like a movie in your head. The scenes and character descriptions built in your mind are now standing in front of you on the screen. Voices are given timber and accents, bodies are given shape and clothes, and gestures and mannerisms are played out on the screen.

Even if every scene has one flaw, there is something magical that happens when someone takes the colors of prose and paints the filmstrip with them.

Speaking of Ender’s Game. Yes, I’m a fan. No, I will not be discussing the author’s private views in this blog. Yes, I have read every book in the main series and still don’t care about the author’s private views.

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The movie…blew my mind. Not in its accuracy (since the ending did not match the book it was titled from), but in the simple fact that a book I had come to love and revere for its intricate analysis of human emotion and psychology and sociology, was alive before me.

Were the actors everything I imagined? I will admit my poor visual imagination (thanks to aphantasia-it’s a real thing, I swear) pales in comparison to what the writers and producers put together. I recognized Ender when he came on screen not just physically, but for how the actor portrayed him. I felt the admiration Graff showed him in the final moments of the battle and the horror his team felt when he found out the truth of his victory. THAT is why I learned to enjoy book to movie interpretations. Because it gives new life to something I already love. It brings characters new dimension by adding this visual facet that wasn’t there before.

Maybe it’s because I found myself overly criticizing other’s works and I needed to reign in my own elitist thoughts. Or because I’ve actually written a piece I can imagine becoming a movie, but I’ve slowly learned to appreciate the amount of work it takes to translate something that is so complex and detailed on the page into a new format successfully.

Let’s turn now to an upcoming adaptation that has already experienced the sting of elitism even before the entire cast list is set.

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Yes, my lovelies I am talking about the long-awaited adaptation of Stephen King’s The Gunslinger. To most, you know that I am a constant reader and dedicated fan to the writer who has astounded us for decades with his ability to merge genres and themes into beautiful, sometimes horrific portraits of humanity. He is not only a constantly evolving author, but an intense inspiration for any writer who simply loves the craft regardless of the paycheck.

His alternate worlds, science fiction, fantasy western is finally coming to the silver screen. And his fans are pissed. Let me preface this conversation with the fact that although The Gunslinger is one of 8 novels in the Dark Tower series, there is no plan to make the rest of them into movies. This will be important later.

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The crux of fan issues is in the casting choice and their displeasure lies in the elitism of what we as the reader view for the character in our minds as well as what we know to be true from the content. The casting the Man in Black as Matthew McConaughey was taken fairly well as he has played enough bad guy roles that he can characterize the elusive chaotic Man in Black with ease.

Yet when we come to the namesake of the movie, the gunslinger Roland Deschain of Gilead who would be played by Idris Elba. Although at first I agreed with some of the confused and annoyed fans that the choice was poorly made in reference to everything we knew about Roland: his description within the books (i.e. he was lighter in skin color-although still tan I imagine, blue eyes and silvering black hair) and the huge racial issues that occurred in the Drawing of the Three when Odetta (eventually Susannah), one of his ka-tet (destined companions), was battling a deeply wrathful and racist other personality Detta who hated Roland for his whiteness.

idrisHOWEVER, and this is a big HOWEVER. Most of the issues that would affect the story telling and character development (the racial and personality conflict in Drawing of the Three) will never reach the big screen. Therefore, the only real attachment to content here is based on physical description, which in almost every single movie adaption has changed based on what the interpretation needs. In this case, The Gunslinger as a standalone doesn’t require Roland to be fair-skinned. It requires a rough, sometimes cold personality of a man who has lost his love, his home, and his mind a few times in his unending quest to save his world from utter destruction. Idris Elba is capable of that character. Idris Elba will succeed well at bringing a new version of Roland to the fans of the Dark Tower series, if we have faith in the screen writers and the producers and the actors to be good to a story we hold dear.

Because, constant readers and new readers and never readers, how do we expect others to excel if we continue to doubt what they’re capable of?

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Again, the key here is…the movie will be someone else’s INTERPRETATION of King’s work. I began reading about the topic of The Gunslinger movie upset at why they would change the content. Until King reminded me (and the whole world) that someone else is telling the story now, and we should sit down, shut up, and enjoy the freakin’ ride, man! Just as many fans interpreted Roland as Clint Eastwood, there are others who would see Idris Elba as their calloused yet talented Gunslinger. The man whose obsession with Tower made him ignorant to the death of his friend until it was too late. This character, this man, this….Gunslinger is not what one person expects him to be. He remembers the face of his father. He follows the path of the Beam. He respects Ka above all other forces in the universe.

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I, for one, reigned in my inner critic really quick. Since I am currently reading Wolves of the Calla (Book 5), I tried imagining (poorly due to my aphantasia) Idris as Roland. And I pasted him in like a paper doll in a book. He fit right in. I find him just as easily subduing the Calla with the Commala Rice song and his quick footwork on the stage. I imagine him carefully following Susannah out into the swamp/woods to find out what’s going on. He is just as much Roland as I would have imaged the men who are drawn on the covers of the books. It’s just a new interpretation, a new version of the Roland I admire.

Book to movie adaptations are a hard subject among readers. We view the book as the superior source because it was there first and because it has more to the story that the movie ever will. I implore you friends and fellow constant readers. Set aside your personal images of the characters. Open your mind to a new interpretation of a story you’ve come to love. You never know what might surprise you about this interpretation. It may show you more to love about the story and characters than before.

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Happy reading and writing and watching my minions!

Don’t worry I didn’t forget the bengal cat picture for your viewing pleasure. Nyla says hello!

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Mayhem in March: Monthly Writing Prompts

It’s time, my voluptuous golden minions for the monthly prompt selection by your Mistress of Fine Arts. I was hellbent on NOT doing themes every month, especially considering I did do a theme in January AND February related both to holidays and the weather, so this month’s prompts are thankfully unrelated. Although, I did sneak in a little Irish Celtic mythology in one of them so that St. Patrick’s Day would be at least vaguely connected. Can’t help but love my Irish heritage. AmIright?

Now that I’m done rambling. I present—–Mayhem in March Writing Prompts!
(All prompts were found or inspired by Awesome Writing Prompts)

Write about someone who uses office supplies for evil.

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Write a story with this criteria: Genre-folk tale. Person-hairdresser who moonlights as an assassin. Problem-there’s a red cap on the loose in town.

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Use these three words in a story: a mustache, a tube of lipstick, and a ray gun.

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Feel free to use the photos here as additional inspiration. Sometimes the right photo can jar an idea even faster than the words. Visual description is part of what brings the story to life as you know.

So, join with me this month in writing something with these prompts. It can be 100 words, it can be 1500. Whatever the muses decide. And when you’re finished with the story or even just part of it, send it to me at Amyoung0606@gmail.com and you will have it published on here.

Just to recap. Basically, write using one of the above (or all of them if you’re brave enough) ((if you’re really brave you’ll use all in one story)) from 03/03ne/16 until 03/27/16. Then you email it to me and watch as people revel and enjoy in your piece of art.
I know I will.

Happy reading and writing!

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Karma from the Closet Floor

I received a submission from January’s prompts and it is my pleasure to share another piece by my wonderful friend Rona. She was featured first on my 12 Days of Blogmas series with a winter-themed piece you can read here after you’re done reading her latest piece published below. It is a joy to see your friends prosper, but I’ve had the chance to see Rona grow even in a few months with her writing. It is my honor to share her work on my humble spotted page.

The prompt Rona chose from the January selection was: Use these three things in a story: nail polish, a VHS tape, a book of spells.

Karma from the Closet Floor

Lydia looked down at her nails in disgust. Three of them were broken and all of them had chips in the new coats of nail polish. This divorce was now wreaking havoc on her manicure.nails

Sighing, she leaned against her bedroom wall where she had been sitting on the floor. She was surrounded by chaos. There were boxes were strewn in disarray, several large garbage bags sat near the door, and piles of clothes covered her bed. She’d been going at this for a week now, sorting through the rooms of her small house and it seemed like a never-ending task. She had no desire to continue living in the house; its ghosts were a constant, painful reminder of recent events. By putting off the inevitable for so long, she was forcing everything to be done in order to move out. The new owners would be arriving less than three weeks.

Fifteen years of marriage were piled high for her to sort, pack up, or discard. When Jacob left, he merely rolled out with a suitcase. He didn’t want the house, none of the furniture, appliances, dishes they had accumulated together. And, as he so eloquently phrased it, he didn’t want her either. He was leaving it all behind.

Tears threatened to spill from her eyes again. Lydia didn’t think she had enough bodily fluids left to cry anymore, but that didn’t seem to be the case. If she was honest with herself, it wasn’t so much him that she was crying over. While she had truly loved him in the beginning, Jacob had become an insensitive bastard in the last year. The truth was, it didn’t really come as a surprise that he was leaving her for some simpering blonde, a sycophant with whom he had been cheating on her for months. Things had been going downhill for a quite a while, but divorce meant failure to her and so she stuck with him long after she should have let it go. No, it was simply the slap-in-the-face rejection; it was the message a cheater sends to their partner. You’re not enough. You can’t be what I need. You aren’t good enough for me anymore. You’re a loser. Each phrase, an emotional, selfish slap to her self-esteem.

Lifting herself, albeit begrudgingly, to her feet, Lydia went into the bathroom to blow her nose on some toilet paper. She caught a brief glimpse of herself in the mirror and shuddered. All her renewed crying  had turned her face in a puffy, blotchy mess.  She tried to ignore the lump forming in her throat, threatening to cause another waterfall of tears and turned off the bathroom light.

cheesecakeMaking her way into the kitchen, she opened the refrigerator with the hope that some sustenance was what she needed to help revive her spirits. She was greeted by the sight of a few bottles of water and two pieces of cheesecake. Just what she needed! Grabbing the pan of cheesecake and one of the bottles, she made her way into the living room where she sat on her couch. It was one of the only places in the house that still had an open space.

Biting into a forkful of creamy bliss, she made a mental inventory of what still needed done. Most of the house was packed up. She had made multiple trips to Goodwill. So many in fact, that they greeted her by name and she felt she had provided enough items for them to open another store. She had dragged bag after bag of trash to the curb. She dreaded the round of cursing that was sure to ensue when the trash man came tomorrow, but she had at least done the courtesy of calling them and warning of the mountain waiting to be hauled away.

All that remained really was her bedroom. Their bedroom. God, how many nights had he come home to her after being with that nasty little skank and she had been clueless? How does a person do that? Go fuck someone else and then come home to your spouse and lay there as if nothing had happened? How deep a level of selfishness must there be inside to be so callous?

Sniffing and biting into piece number two of cheesecake, Lydia thought of the other day when she came across their wedding album. Flipping through the pages, she had remembered every moment of the day. The sight of Jacob’s smiling face as he held her hand to his lips, her adoring gaze at him, their bodies framed in a heart shaped matte in the final photo, had sent her into a rage. Betraying asshole! She had grabbed a pair of scissors that she had for the packing tape, and proceeded to cut up almost every single picture. She only saved the ones that had her parents in them, both gone now due to a horrific car accident. She cut just Jacob out of those. She did the same to her wedding footage, still on a VHS tape. She pulled out the ribbons of tape and cut them.

Somehow she had to pull herself together. She had always been an independent person. She had married for love, not to be taken care of. Yet here she was, feeling completely helpless and useless.

“What the hell happened to you?” she whispered out loud.

Lydia got up and threw the now empty pan and dirty fork into the sink, and the water bottle into the trash. Taking a deep breath to clear her thoughts, she went back to the bedroom. As she picked up clothes from the closet floor to be boxed up, she uncovered two books that had been buried under one of the piles.

bookShe remembered tossing them there as she went through her stacks of books, debating on whether or not to keep them. One of them was a book of spells, something she had purchased when she had been going through a curious Wiccan phase. She had stopped reading it when her long-dormant, childhood Baptist guilt surfaced and hid it away in a drawer to collect dust and age. The second was an empty journal book. It had been given to her as a white elephant exchange gift, and while she had never written in it, she had kept it anyway for unknown reasons.

Taping up and labeling the last box of clothes, Lydia then turned to the trash bags and began to haul them one by one to the curb. My God, the pile was huge! There were at least 25 bags. She stopped counting at 25 at least. Hopefully she would sleep through the trash man’s tirade in the morning.

Returning to the house and locking the doors, Lydia took a long and well-earned hot shower. The water helped relax her and in doing so she began to form her game plan to get her life back on track. As an independent book editor, she wouldn’t have to face an office full of people during her emotional healing. She could work on herself from the comfort of her home.

Pulling the covers down to crawl into bed, she again noticed the two books. Taking the book of spells, she decided that it wouldn’t hurt to finish it. Maybe she could even find a spell or two to help Karma find Jacob and his blonde sooner rather than later. The thought cheered her and she set it on the night stand.

The journal was another matter. Getting under the covers, she turned it over in her hands wondering what to do with it. She thought for several moments and then reached out to the top of a box near the bed, and grabbed the sharpie she had been using to label everything. Opening the journal to page one, she paused and then carefully wrote:

Each day I will find

Another piece of me

Remaking the person

I used to be.

For the first time in weeks, she smiled.

 

 

Happy Reading and Writing!

Thanks again Rona for sharing your work with us!

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Renmen Talisman

Slightly late, my minions, but I’ve finished my February writing prompt! You still have until the end of the week to submit me yours (Original post found here), but in the meantime, enjoy a piece of my first novel…Dollhouse Daughter.

Humidity congested every inch Azalee’s kitchen despite the blast of cool air from two standing fans and an out-of-date air conditioner jutting out from the window. Her kitchen was spacious enough to do normal cooking and her work, but it felt so small with the oppressive heat. Even her snake, Ayido, was submerged almost completely in a metal tub filled with water with only a few slivers of ice left floating above her iridescent coils.66587Resized_Rainbow_coil-med

Azalee’s customer sat in silence sat at her dinner table, looking out of place in his suit and tie. He had drained the glass of iced lavender tea within seconds of giving it to him, and he tried not to look nervous which in turn made him appear even more so. The herbs in the tea would calm him enough to start talking. In the meantime, she stood at one end of the counter to cut raw chicken for dinner.

She smiled at how lived in the kitchen looked. Almost every inch of her counter space was full. A collection of Haitian rum was arranged on the back wall behind her customers hunched back and as the counter wrapped around to the adjoining wall it seemed to grow a forest of fresh flowers and herb from the granite itself. Small mason jars were lined up beside the greenery with corresponding labels to the dried versions of the plants inside. They reminded her so much of home where the foliage grew unchallenged by Haiti’s minor modernization. But here in the U.S., nature was cut off at every corner and she was forced to grow inside her apartment since there was no yard or garden outside.

“Will you take more tea, Vernon?” her voice soft and melodic.

The man in the suit flinched at the sound of her voice and he shook his head no. He quickly turned his gaze back down to the empty glass to watch the ice melt at the bottom. She took a deep breath trying to keep control of her frustration and inhaled the lingering scent of the lavender to help calm her.

Most of her new clients had reservations about her craft, although they didn’t dare to voice their doubts in her presence. Hollywood had portrayed vodou with enough wrath and obscurity that her gaze caused a visible reaction from some of them. Those reactions tore at her heart, and her patience, when she had used the past ten years to build a reputation for being kind and approachable.

With a huff, she tossed the chicken into a pan with oil and sprinkled some red and orange powder lightly over it. After she washed and dried her hands, she sat down across from him and waited. He didn’t speak at first—didn’t even look at her. He simply stared down at the melting ice as if there was nothing else in the room. The only sound came from the hum of the fans and the sizzle of chicken slowly cooking on the stove.

Finally, after nearly a minute of silence he lifted his head to meet her questioning, but compassionate gaze. He mumbled at first and it took Azalee a moment to realize he was actually speaking words instead of gibberish.

“Go on,” she said. “I am not witch who will curse you for you sins. I am humble servant of the loa and in my home secrets are heard with open heart and closed mouth.”

“I just want to be loved,” he said loudly, his London accent was clear of any hitches despite the tears forming in his eyes.

“Vernon, love is everywhere if you let it in. It is rare to find if looking for her, but she will find you when least expect her.”

“I have spent years of my life looking for love with all the wrong women. After all this time, I have found nothing.”

Azalee head tilted to the side, curious for his answer and watching as her words penetrated his nervousness and doubt. He moved the glass aside and reached for her hands, no longer afraid of touching her.

“There’s emptiness everywhere I go,” his voice earnest and more confident. “In my house. At work. I feel like Death would be a more welcomed companion than this loneliness.”

His hands were soft and clammy in hers and her body’s warmth drained into him as the pain of his loneliness seeped into her—an icy heartache that mirrored her own. Her gift to feel and relieve others of painful emotions was bittersweet on a good day, and tears dripped down her face as he wished and prayed for someone to love him back just as she had prayed to the loa only a few weeks earlier.

“I will do as you wish, Vernon,” she said, a hiccup caught in her throat as their pain melded together. “I will read the bones and the loa show me the way to find your renmen.”

Vernon looked up at her not realizing that she had been crying too, and clenched her hands tighter.

“Ren-men,” he said as he sounded it out slow. “That means love, right? You’ll really do it.”

“Loa, they take time, but yes. I will find love for you. The risk is worth the pain, yes?”

The relief in his eyes and his heart traveled through to Azalee and the coldness of his pain receded until only hope was left. She felt a whisper of air brush against her ear, a sign from the loa that this man was pure of heart. He had suffered long and with the guidance of the loa she agreed he was worthy of a love spell.

After refilling his glass with tea and ice, Azalee set to work gathering the ingredients for his talisman. She took a rosemary and yarrow from the herb jars on the counter and plucked a white flower and placed them all in a glass bowl. Next to the bowl, was a thick canvas cloth with symbols embroidered in purple stitching, which she handed to Vernon.

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“This cloth must have part of you for the spell to work,” she motioned quickly to the sweat dripping from his forehead. “As you dry your face, think of what your heart desires most.”

He took it without question and slowly soaked the sweat from his forehead and brow with the cloth. His eyes were closed and his jaw clenched as he thought hard. When he opened them, Azalee had taken the cloth and filled it with the herbs and other items he could not recognize.

“In two week time, you come to me again with the moon high in the sky. I will read the bones for you and then the talisman will be ready.”
“Two weeks?” he asked. “Why so long? Can’t I just take it now?”

She shook her head and her beaded braids clinked like tiny chimes in a gentle breeze. His impatience should have been bothersome, but instead it excited her to do her work—to give back to her community as her mother and great-grandmother before her had. As every Mambo did at the command of the loa. When Vernon left, the spirits would speak to her and weave the magic that would bring one man to the woman who needed him as much as he needed her.

Hope you enjoyed this little piece of Azalee with her customer.

Happy Reading and Writing my lovely minions!

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Ode to Writing & Prompt Reminder

In honor of Valentine’s Day I’d like to post about three love-related announcements (and some delightfully adorable Deadpool-related photos because that movie blew my heart wide open).maxresdefault

97c1efd3d4e609e3e80ddea777290b261) Reminder that you can submit a story from the love/superhero themed prompts selected at the beginning of the month to me atAmyoung0606@gmail.com beginning 2/22, which will be published on this here humble blog. See HERE for this month’s prompts and HERE for my post about how I’m writing mine for this month.

 

2)I traveled all the way across the internet to one of my favorite author’s blogs in order to post what I love about writing. She was gracious enough to allow me onto her blog space in addition to putting up with my super fan antics as I continue to gush and fawn over her writing on a daily basis. Read my short post here!

3) I’ve written a poem. Not a good poem, but a poem nonetheless. This poem expresses my love of writing. Enjoy!

Ode to Writing

Every word I write, I love you more.

Every scratch of my pen, I know you more.

A plot device there, a metaphor there,

Brings me closer to who you are

Late nights with strained eyes—burned out creator,

I yearn for you to reveal your true nature.
I dream of life for you beyond these walls.

With friends, strangers, readers young and old.

You, dear creation, will be a book one day.

It is my love for you that paves the way.

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Happy Reading and writing!!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

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Like A Boss: Writing Exercises for your Work in Progress

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This was one of the first “appropriate” pictures that came up when I searched for Mistress. I think it’s perfect. She even has a book and writing materials!

I may only be Mistress of Fine Arts, but I am boss (my favorite trendy adjective, by the way) at using writing exercises to maximizing their use on my current work in progress. In almost every workshop or writing group I’ve attended in the past four or five years, my novel Dollhouse Daughter has always been at the forefront of my mind to finish and get it into the hands of my future readers. It’s been a long road and like all masterpieces is still incomplete.

As accomplished as I felt after completing my degree, my novel was in urgent need of structural renovations, character makeovers, and an addition of approximately 100 pages…at least! Add to that a start date of January and a deadline of July, and you have a recipe for confusion, disaster, stress, complete meltdown.

My sweet, beloved minions must be asking, “Mistress, how can you pull that off when you’ve expressed many times how slow your muse works, how you are notoriously slow to get new content written, and how much you procrastinate?”

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Yes, this is what writing exercise looks like!

My answer…drum roll please…WRITING EXERCISES. Now you’re thinking, “Okay, but those are just to help with the fundamentals and they aren’t even fun.”

Except my minions, they are! Character charts filled out like dating profiles, timelines for plots handwritten on notecards and taped to the wall, writing prompts specifically geared toward the book’s subject. When a book requires this much attention to detail or revising, the key is organization and focus.

Take for example my new outline for the revised plot. I have three separate pages of lined paper, draw so that on the left column you have the major points in the plot: obstacles, midpoint, denouement. And on the right side some keep points or summaries of the chapter’s contents.

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This diagram is both easy to outline with and also not too simplified.

The reason I have three? Well, my book has a main character (Cassie), with a subplot and important point of view from her mother (Marge), and a secondary mother-like character (Azalee). In the current version, let’s call it my MFA version, it had a lot of Cassie (as expected) and she was present in all 15 chapters. Marge was present in about 13 chapters. Azalee was only present in only 6 chapters. Thus I had to equalize the distribution of mother and mother-like character in order for the book to be balanced.

So, now that I was organized, I needed to focus. And here’s where my writing exercises came in handy. I needed new content, and a lot of it was for Azalee because she is a catalyst for the change Cassie had been waiting for.

I’m starting by using my monthly prompts (which you can read about here) in reference to write new content about Azalee, and thus add more content to my book. I feel like it’s an kind of art to take seemingly unrelated exercises, like prompts which pose a different story and genre in each one, and write a chapter or scene somehow related to one piece. This month, I chose a prompt about love spells and how someone would ever come to the decision to use magic to make someone love them. And who better to write this scene with than my vodou priestess!

So, I’m going to share my three tips for using writing exercises to benefit your current work in progress.

  1. Most stories beyond their theme or genre are about people, so choosing a character based prompt that focuses on why a character is making decisions or how they’re feeling are best. They are easiest to apply to many story ideas. You could use the love spell one, most obviously, for fantasy, but if you interpret spell differently you can use it as a scientific breakthrough or natural phenomenon in science fiction, or an emotional state for realistic fiction like romances or westerns or mysteries (to clarify: someone’s emotions are so strong, to call it a love spell would be a figurative description of the emotions). The most important part about that prompt is the intention or emotion you’re focusing on about the person willing to use a love “spell” on someone else is quite a character to write.
  2. There are hundreds of prompts out there that you can tailor to what you’re looking for. If you have a character who will soon have a flashback to childhood, but you’re having trouble envisioning that character. A prompt like this would help you find out what details to include with the flashback by creating the child’s setting: Imagine your character’s childhood room. What color are the walls, what kind of toys do they have, what posters hanging on the wall.
  3. Lastly, don’t be afraid to write something completely off topic. Say your work in progress is located in a warm climate. Don’t be afraid to choose a prompt relating to snow or ice because it puts your characters in a completely different environment or situation and can reveal something truly remarkable or unknown for you to use in your actual piece.

Whatever the reason, don’t be afraid to use simple, seemingly unrelated writing exercises to help you and your characters get to know each other. Because getting to know your characters in any situation, no matter how ridiculous, is the most efficient way you can tell your story. Look out for the prompt submission I’ll be posting on 2/22 using my vodou priestess Azalee and how she handles a love spell. If you want to read more about the prompt I used or want to try one of your own. Check out my monthly prompts chosen here.

Happy reading and writing!

 

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