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!

 

Setting #3 – Results

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Gwangali Beach. Photo Source: Me!

See other Writing Exercises from this blog.

On Tuesday, I wanted you to actually go somewhere different and write about that real-life setting.

I was intentionally vague about where you could go – a park, doctor’s office, beach, rooftop – as long as it’s a place you don’t go very often (or better yet, a new place not too far from home).

Even though I work close to Gwangali Beach, it’s rare for me to get much time there. It was a nice treat to have time to sit before a meeting of the Busan Writer’s Group began.

Here’s the setting description I came up with. I tried to include sensory info along with a general mood.

The low waves can’t drown out the constant running of car engines on the road behind. I can’t lose myself in this crescent slice of beach, with the city wrapped around so closely. Its growling engines and blaring horns are a few long strides behind, and the island of sand is not wide enough to fully escape into the sound of small waves breaking against land. Even the horizon will not let me forget the city, with the great suspension bridge stretching over the natural sky, ferrying an endless stream of cars across a dimming sky.

The sun sets behind me, and I sigh as I brush sand from a bench. The feel of the coarse grains spurs a thought, and I look closer at the sand under my black Doc Martens. Dry brown, it breaks apart quickly as I scoop with testing fingers. There is no sign of the earlier rain, no clumps of dark brown or half-dry sand to tell of the rain that fell for most of the day. The hours of sun, brief as they were, were enough to remove the memory of rain.

The evening wind brushes a tiny patter of sand against my cheek. I turn to see children, tossing sand as they laugh, oblivious to the wind that chills as it billows my jacket. I take shelter in the jacket, clutching it close as I sit. As the children play, their Korean falls in my limited understanding, and I am glad to know their playful words.

The wind picks up, adding salty flair strong enough to drown the constant exhaust. For a moment, the air is clean, and within that snapshot, I can believe I’ve left the city behind. The moment ends at the sound of my alarm, a light melody playing from my phone. I look at the display. Friends and fellow writers will meet amid the grinding of espresso machines and the chatter of small talk. I rise from my seat, ready to leave the slice of beach and return to the city around it.

I hope you’ll share your setting as well!

Setting #3 – Let’s go somewhere different

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Alas, my own brick of a laptop is far too heavy and lasts all of 1 hour, if I’m lucky. Image from Wikimedia Commons

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See other Writing Exercises from this blog.

I’m being quite literal with the title of this post – let’s actually go somewhere freaking different this week!

I’m serious, go somewhere with your pen and paper, or your portable device of choice (I have a 7-year-old brick of a laptop that can’t go an hour without juice, so I’ll go for the paper option). Go somewhere you don’t usually go, or better yet somewhere you’ve never been.

I want you to describe the scene around you, using as many of the five senses as you can. You can write this ‘in character’ by imagining one of your story characters is in the location, describing it as they’d see it, or you can do a straight-up description of the scene in your own words, without worrying about connecting it to a narrative. It’s really up to you.

I’ll refer to an example of my own work where I really did go to the location described to set the scene:


Daniel walked along the stony path before the temple. The doors of the main shrine were open as he passed before them, allowing a glimpse of a golden Buddha with colorful paper lanterns hung above his head. Daniel stepped on the low stone stair just outside the frame, a sharp sandalwood scent filling his lungs as he examined a bowl with sticks of incense set just before the Buddha. No different than a one–night stand? No. Of course I won’t do it. Shaking his head, he turned away from the Buddha, walking around the small pond set into the center of the stony ground before the temple. He allowed himself a last look at the peaceful place before descending the tree–lined path down the mountain.


That temple is based on Cheonbulsa, a temple that’s five minutes from my house. I had my character Daniel stand outside the temple and describe it, though I admit, there could have been more senses involved. I got smell and some sights in there, but I could go all out and get the clacking of the wooden bells, or the feel of smooth, worn wood under your feet after you remove your shoes to meditate in the temple.

For Thursday, I’ll go somewhere I don’t normally go and try a similar scene-setting piece. I encourage you to do the same!

 

 

#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.

Creative Assets – Advice for Writers

This is a reblog from Lateral Action – a very good blog for creative types that I recommend you check out.

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This post talks about how content creators have to keep, well, creating content in order to survive. The traditional ways of getting a job don’t work for many creative types (God I wish someone had sit down with me and explained THAT 20 years ago …), so we have to get ourselves noticed through different means.

When you follow a creative path, you won’t find any of the usual milestones of success.

Unlike your friends who enter traditional jobs, with clear routes to promotion, finely calibrated pay grades and impressive job titles, there is no ‘career ladder’ for people like you and me; no incremental markers to indicate your progress.

So if you compare yourself to them, it can be easy to feel left behind as they climb higher and higher, from promotion to promotion. It’s obvious to all the world that their career is ‘going somewhere’.

Meanwhile, what are you up to?

On bad days, as you wrestle with another project that stubbornly resists your efforts to turn it into a masterpiece, with no fancy job title, and no promotion or pay rise in prospect, it can feel like you’re going nowhere fast.

If it’s a really bad day, you may be on the receiving end of some well-intentioned sympathy from a friend or family member, asking if it isn’t time you got “a real job”.

Have a look at the full article at this link!

 

Resources for Writing Teachers

http://thewritepractice.com/teachers/

My own lessons on the basics of writing are based on my class for ESL students, most of whom have only written some university essays and lots of text messages in both their first language as well as English.

This link here has some good ideas on reaching a broader base of learners, and so is extremely useful as I seek ways to spice up and improve my writing and how I teach.

 

Another writing lesson will go up soon!

Writing Exercise – Character Desires

I’m continuing my feature on Characters with these Write, or Else Exercises.

This week, we look at what your characters want.

Exercise 2: What do your characters want?

Last week, I wrote 3 sentences about characters from 3 different stories. I described the characters as they appeared at the very start, before the major conflict of the story. Now it’s time to figure out what they really want.

Let’s start simple: What do you want?

List some things you really want. Not need, mind you – you could possibly survive without these things, but in your heart, they’re as important as needs. They can be material or immaterial – money, a kickass gaming rig, sex, a golden lager from the heart of Bavaria, financial security, love, freedom, adoration, anything.

Things I want (that I’m willing to admit on my public blog):

  • to write a darn good novel
  • money (who doesn’t want more?)
  • sex (see above)
  • travel and exploration
  • a good drinking partner (or coffee shop partner)

What do you want?

Now comes the fun part – what do your characters want? Your characters can want things that you want, or they can want very different things.

Try to think of what your friends and family members want, and also what people who are very different from you want. A devout Catholic priest will probably have a different list of wants from a Tibetan monk, so consider a few different people and decide which desires fit your characters. You can focus on one character, or list desires from multiple characters.

Things My Characters Want:

  • ________________________________
  • ________________________________
  • ________________________________
  • ________________________________
  • ________________________________

I’ll share my own answers with on Thursday. Let’s see some good wants!