May updates for #IWSG and the #amwriting community.

iwsg

Hello visitors from #IWSG! Happy Star Wars day! I have some updates here that might be of interest to the neurotic writing community.

First up, I’ve got my ongoing series of writing exercises.

Every week for the past few months I’ve put up posts on Tuesday and Thursday featuring a writing exercise and my own sample take on the exercise. I’ll be compiling these exercises into a book later on, as I really need a new textbook for teaching fiction writing to ESL students. While I won’t claim to be a writing genius, I think the exercises will work well with writers at all levels of ability. I hope they will inspire you as well.

This month’s exercises focuses on using different points of view in writing. I hope you’ll check them out.


Other happenings:

sblarg

I have a story called Far Flung in a contest on Inkshares.

This contest is held by Launch Pad and Inkshares, and requires that you submit the first 50 pages of a novel you are working on. Your 50 pages will be read by successful authors and publishers, and you will have a chance to win a publishing contract or one of several other prizes. Might be worth checking out!

If you’ve never heard of Inkshares, it’s a crowd-funding program for indie authors. They’re a really good bunch of people, and I encourage you to check out the website.


redditmagic

I’ve been hanging out in writing subforums on Reddit, especially /r/writingprompts

There are some very good prompts, and anyone is allowed to add their own. One prompt was so appealing, it got me to break my long Reddit silence and write a weird little fantasy piece.

Anyway, I suppose my message to IWSG this month is that I #amwriting, and finding excuses to write rather than excuses not to. Maybe that’ll help you find your own excuse!

Setting #4 – Results

 

Time to finish off this month’s writing exercises.

I’m sharing an excerpt from Painted Blue Eyes as an example of a setting might look “in action” – that is, how setting description can blend into the narrative. I encourage you to share your own work, and to look at what sensory info you’ve included as you worked the setting into your story.

At the start of Painted Blue Eyes, my goal was to describe a setting that many people should know fairly well – the dusty attic of an old relative’s house. I used the familiar idea of stumbling into an old attic, along with sights and the memories it triggered in the main character. Blending sensory info with the feelings triggered can be a great way to put the reader in the setting, even without long descriptions of all the senses.

What are your favorite passages that describe settings? I’d love to hear what stories you’ve read with excellent stage-setting and scene description.

Continue reading

Setting #4 – Share a setting from your story

This month we’ve answered lists of setting questions, gone outside, and used a room to describe a character. Now let’s see your settings in action.

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Show me what you got.

Let’s see a setting from a story you have written or are working on now. You could share an actual excerpt where you describe a setting in narrative, or you can compose a separate piece laying out a setting that you plan to use.

My best answer for this comes from a story I published called Painted Blue Eyes. The excerpt starts like this:

In the cramped space between ceiling and roof, I stepped around furniture older than any living relative. Rocking chairs and antique tables were hidden under filthy rags or tangled in cobwebs. I came to an ancient brown sofa, its seats bandaged many times over with duct tape.

I encourage you to share from your work, and I’ll post more on Thursday!

 

#IWSG April 2017 – Anxiety

I’m an anxious person. I get stress about getting stressed. 

Anxiety can hold you back from submitting your writing to magazines for fear of rejection. It can lead you to frustration at a lack of output, drive you to release self-published work without the proper feedback needed – because you know you need to get something out there.

I am trying to own my anxiety and make it work for me. I’ve tried medication for anxiety, and it works to some extent, but let me tell you – without some legwork, no amount of Zoloft is going to help that much.

Literal legwork, as in exercise – if you’re an Insecure Writer, chances are, writing keeps you busy. Maybe you wonder how you can have time for it. Well, the only answer is to make time. 

Do you have 7 minutes in the morning? A lunch break long enough to step outside? Stairs you can take instead of an elevator? I find that even a bit of exercise does wonders for anxiety.

And keep a darned diary already. I’m guilty of not keeping one regularly – I have to force myself. I have to accept that I am never going to want to keep a diary. But I wil keep one anyway – it’s essential.

The point of this rambling? Good habits have to be forced sometimes. You may need medicine for your anxiety, there’s no shame in that, but there are also habits you absolutely DO need. Anxiety and insecurity do not give you excuses – find helpful habits and stick to them. The anxiety won’t go away, but it will be a lot more manageable.

One question remains: did I write today’s post for my readers or for myself? The answer, of course, is a resounding yes.

Exercise 3 Results – Character Conflicts

On Tuesday, I asked you to write about conflicts facing your characters.

 

I gave you one example:

Character Goal: Flynn wants to be a good news reporter.

Conflict: He can’t be a reporter because he is the story now. He has to figure out his new role, and how his skills can help.

 

Here are two more examples for the same character:

Character Goal: Flynn wants to propose to his long-time girlfriend, Darya Fitzgerald.

Conflict: His ship is stranded in unknown space on the other side of the universe.

Character Goal: He wants to be adored and respected among the colonists of his ship.

Conflict: When aliens start talking to him first, many colonists are wary and some even fear him.

 

Note that I still have room to make the above problems even worse. Let’s worry about that next week.

For now, let’s see your characters and conflicts.

 


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Writing Exercise – Why Can’t Your characters have what they want?

Last week, I asked you to write about your characters and what they want.

Now we’re introducing some conflict and setting things up for the real story. It’s time to figure out obstacles that stand in the way of your characters. Problems that they strive to solve, and thus give the reader an interesting story.

One key thing to keep in mind about this problem – it should be bad for your character, but not too bad at first. Later, we are going to make this problem even worse, so the problem should start off as something difficult, but surmountable.

I’ll give you an example. Here’s one of my characters from last week, and three potential problems for him to face:

William Flynn, rookie newscaster

William Flynn is a rookie newscaster who is chosen to report from a colony ship on its way to a new planet.

More than anything, he wants to propose to his long-time girlfriend, Darya Fitzgerald.

As a reporter, he wants to see history in the making and be the first to break the story.

He wants to be adored and respected among the colonists of his ship.

I’ll start with the second problem – he wants to be good at his reporting job. A reporter, however, is supposed to be objective – but when an alien contacts the crew, it is Flynn who can understand and translate. He becomes the story, and can’t just sit on the sidelines anymore!

Let’s simplify this into a character goal and a conflict blocking the character’s progress:

Character Goal: Flynn wants to be a good news reporter.

Conflict: He can’t be a reporter because he is the story now. He has to figure out his new role, and how his skills can help.

 

If you are writing a short story or flash fiction, you may only have one protagonist and one goal to focus on. You’ll have just one main conflict, which will later get worse.

For longer stories, you’ll have multiple characters, and even have multiple conflicts for each character. Don’t get too carried away, though – you still have to be able to reduce the plot to simple elements for your book jacket, and the best way is to make sure you don’t go in with too many twists planned from the start.

Now it’s your turn. Take one character from one of your stories and describe their goal and a conflict that stands in their way.

 


Consider buying a copy of Nothing Too Familiar or Convergence to support the author of this site.

Or you can help support this site by leaving a tip. Contributions can be made in any amount starting at $1 US. Thank you for the support!

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Exercise 2 Results – What do your characters want?

On Tuesday, I asked about the desires of your characters. I hope you think about the people in your stories and the things they both need and feel like they need.

Here are two of my characters and what they want:

#1 William Flynn, rookie newscaster:

William Flynn is a rookie newscaster who is chosen to report from a colony ship on its way to a new planet.

More than anything, he wants to propose to his long-time girlfriend, Darya Fitzgerald.

As a reporter, he wants to see history in the making and be the first to break the story.

He wants to be adored and respected among the colonists of his ship.

#2 Darren, single dad, retired superhero

Darren is a retired superhero and a single dad who is trying to leave his old life and superpowers behind.

He wants to be a good father to his daughter, Hanna.

He wants peace and calm after his glamorous life in the spotlight.

He wants a new love after being single for several years.

What do your characters want?