Friday, August 29, 2008

Going a Little Crazy

Every novelist pens stories in his or her own unique way. Some use rigid step-by-step outlines or notecards, others find inspiration as they go and let the story carry them to unimagined places. I’m kind of in the middle. I don't like to be girded tightly. I do like to have an end in sight, but usually, I prefer to wrestle and stretch to get there and not have all the pieces mapped out at the onset.

When I worked on my novel, Kings & Queens, I had the high points in my story noted, but as I wrote the book, the entire plot grew much bigger than what I had originally planned. As I got to know my characters better, they began to shift the story in surprising and cool ways. I love the thrill of getting everything down in a first draft, feeling the movement of the plot, watching characters evolve on the pages. Yes, a first draft is unpolished and raw, but it’s your initial creative breath right there, your baby. And when it all comes together, when you type THE END, it’s an incredible feeling of accomplishment.

I also love choosing a difficult goal for a character to achieve or a plot concept that’s somewhat outlandish so I can push myself to come up with how and why something is the way it is. Anything in fiction can be believable: a mummy’s curse, a town of vampires, fairies living in their own realm, a woman who can touch a corpse and experience the last few moments of that person’s life. Maybe my ideas are too outlandish at times, but it’s my job to make those elements believable to readers.

The novel I'm working on now, Sapphire Reign, has been driving me a little crazy because of its dark content and my own nutty ideas. I'm making it difficult for myself, pretty much intentionally. I know dealing with the offbeat stuff is a challenge, but I’m finding myself more drawn to strange plot concepts and I enjoy having to really stretch and rack my brain to make things work.

Whether you stick with realism or flirt with the bizarre, try some different angles in your plot by asking yourself what-ifs and building from there. See if you can take your story higher, increase the stakes or tension or bring a hint of bitter to the sweet ending. It can never hurt to seek out another layer and breathe new and unexpected life into your work.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Stepping Stones to Success

Every novel I write is not just an accomplishment, a feat mastered, it’s a stepping-stone to becoming a published author. Will I consider myself successful if I don’t publish? Nope. Look at all the records the Patriots broke last year. Did any of that matter without a Super Bowl win, the ultimate prize, proof of domination and unmatched excellence? Hardly. Yes, as an artist, there’s a part of me that writes for myself, for the need, the trial and error and pure exhilaration. The first novel I wrote was all for me, to see if I could do it. I was driven to try. Now I write with the reader in mind. For me, publication is the ultimate validation. That is my goal. It will prove to me my work has worth and merit, that it's good.

When I wrote my first novel, my plotline and characters came easily. I wanted to have a young man and woman who knew each other in childhood and met again and still carried a deep connection without them fully understanding why. I also wanted to have a black market kidnapping scheme and corporate theft with my female lead tied to all three strings. I whizzed through that book, experiencing the entire emotional journey, every happy moment, every heartbreak. It was an incredible rush. One scene flowed into another, and I was amazed at some of the scenes I'd written. I refused to shy away from grit or darkness or tenderness. Even now, I look at it and think, Wow. I wrote that? That’s pretty good, especially for a first try. This my baby. I did it. Some of the pieces are excellent actually, so funny and sweet or utterly tragic, but in its entirety it’s weak.

Although there are many minor problems with that work, the main flaw lies in my main story question, which is answered slightly before the climax. In order for a work to be as gripping as possible, that question needs to be sustained as long as possible. So, as that work stands, even though I don't see it as publishable, I consider it a great effort because I birthed it out of passion, fell in love with my characters and finished it.

Then, I wasn’t sure if I had another novel in me, but this love triangle kept somersaulting in my head: a teenage girl and her two male best friends. The girl came to me as Majesty, manager of her high school's baseball team, crushing on one of best buds, with the other one liking her. That’s all I knew, but I’m not really into romance novels. I wanted a broader plot but didn’t have a concept. One night I dreamt I was running in the woods, for exercise not fear, and I overheard this plot for mass murder. The two conspirators heard me and chased me to this town where I was able to evade them. In that dream I’d found the basis for my plot and the setting for my book.

Out of that tiny seed, I was able to place my love triangle into a twisty, tightly plotted ride with suspense, mystery, baseball, family drama, friendship, action, adventure, violence, weirdness and redemption. I’m proud of this work. I think it’s really good. It's the kind of novel I like to read and readers on Amazon do too, saying they prefer works that don't sacrifice character for plot.

I stretch to keep getting better and better with each work, to experiment with things, go darker and edgier or in uncomfortable directions, maybe add more description and see if it works, sharpen dialogue, and find much stranger villains. I love growing, learning and challenging myself. My third endeavor has been more of a struggle to write because the darker subject matter is not always easy for me to delve into, but I feel this book inside me wanting to get out. It needs to be told, and for whatever reason, I’ve been called to tell it. That’s the journey of a writer. To feel this urge inside and just go with it and pen the words. I can’t help but to write now. A writer pure and true, from flesh to soul, is what I know I am, but I really want the solid, bound book in my hands, to smell and flip through the pages, to prove it to all the world.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Kick Critiquaphobia to the Curb

Most writers are afraid of getting feedback on their work, putting it out there for others to slash and trash, but if you hope to succeed in the ruthless world of publishing, it's necessary to take the first step and leap the chasm. No work is perfect and polished on the first run, or the fifth, even if you keep going back, combing through it line by line, word by word, reading it aloud. You need another person's perspective, several, because no matter how astute you are or how much of a perfectionist you are or how many A's in English you earned, you just can't be objective about your baby. And if you can't handle the possible rejection from reviewers, how will you deal with it from agents? Reviewers/critiquers who see problems in your work can give you constructive feedback so you can improve. Most agents will just pop a form letter in the mail because they don't have the time for that.

Not all but many of the reviewers who read my work point out things they don't like or something I have to fix, weak spots, breaks in continuity, unrealistic reactions, an overabundance of "huffing". You can't please every reader, but you can at least have your work as polished as possible before seeking representation.

It may take some time and research to find a place online or in your community where you can get effective and affirming feedback but do it. You want reviewers who will point out the good and bad. Having someone point out a couple spelling mistakes, but otherwise cheer and play Pomp and Circumstance doesn't help you very much. Neither does having someone trash it to bits because we writers are a sensitive folk. You need a good balance of suggestions for improvement as well as encouragement.

My book, Kings & Queens, is currently in a critique circle at The Next Big Writer. I thought I’d share the great questions we ask for each chapter so if you’re having others critique your novel, it will you give some direction as to what to ask them to look for in an in-depth review.

§ Do the opening sentences/paragraphs grab your attention?

§ Conflict – Can you identify what it is?

§ Plot – Is it believable?

§ Setting – Is there a real sense of time and place?

§ Characterization – Are the characters believable or do they feel like cardboard cutouts?

§ Dialogue – Is it tight and does it help move the story along? Did it need more/less? Is it stilted?

§ Point of view – Is it consistent?

§ Show vs. Tell – Are scenes conveyed through the actions of the characters or through the author’s voice?

§ Grammar & Spelling – Point out any grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors.

§ Style/Tone – Is the writing easy to read? Are word choices effective? Is the tone preachy?

§ Prose – Is there any purple prose?

§ Are the period details (dress, word choices, etc.) accurate?

§ Is there enough action?

§ Does the story move quickly?

§ Is the tension level high?

§ Are the protagonists strong? Realistic enough?

§ Is there a strong dramatic tone?

Give overall impressions of the chapter:-

§ What you liked most and what worked well?

§ What you liked least or feel could have been done better?

§ How do you think it could be improved?

If you want your work to be as good as it can be, to be better than you ever thought, take the risk and get the feedback you need. You'll then be able to look at your work objectively from different angles and develop a thicker skin in the process. Don't let critiquaphobia keep you in a standstill. Kick it to the curb. You can do it. Jump.

~Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Practically Good Gifts for Writers ;)

It’s birthday time in my house again, so I’m off to buy presents for my husband and son. My son is having a belated Chuck E. Cheese party on Saturday. For something different, I was hoping to have it at the sprinkler park, but he wanted it at Chuck E. Cheese like his siblings, who had it there in April. Now I’ve gotta make 2 cakes cuz my men each want a different kind. My husband wants strawberry cake with chocolate fudge frosting, sooo scrumptious and yummy, and my son wants a yellow Thomas the Train, oh, Tank Engine excuse me, cake with sweet, icky frosting, uuuhhhl totally gross.

Although my husband and I are a lot alike, when it comes to gift-giving, we're opposite. I like to buy things for people that are fun and frivolous. I'm gonna rush into the mall and quickly pick something out for him like some strategic computer game that makes me yawn or a power tool, cuz that's what he'd buy for himself. He’s so easygoing and content, I rarely put much thought into his gifts. Sorry, but it’s true. And my son loves trains, so that’s easy. Anything that moves on tracks is a safe and sure bet. Done. Twenty minutes tops. Then, I'll flee the dreaded mall, victorious, with easy finds and an iced mocha in hand.

My husband, on the other hand, strains during his gift selection process, forever aiming to get the totally perfect, ever-so-practical gift. If a gift doesn’t DO something, especially solve a problem, it’s not a good gift. I’d be happy getting a Marion Barber shirt—um, yeah, still waiting, NFL Shop. Come on!—but my husband thinks that’s a cheat. Plus, he hates the Cowboys and cringes at having to buy me anything with stars on it. [I won't give his team glory by posting it here, so you'll have to guess who he likes.] Hang on. He did get me the first two seasons of Lost on DVD for my birthday in April—yes another April birthday, my sister too—which was a good gift, but then again, it entertains, and hence, DOES something.

Needless to say, this drive of his makes him incapable of grasping what makes a good stocking stuffer. I even made him a list one year with chocolate, votives, panties, lip gloss, a spin brush, shaving stuff and gum as examples because he kept neglecting to stuff my stocking with the meaningless treasures I crave, especially chocolate—WHERE'S THE CHOCOLATE? Do you know me at all? Hellooo—And even with the list, chocolate never graced my stocking, although the panties sure did. I can’t win.

He's so sweet. He really does put a lot of thought into his gifts, but in doing so, he robs me of recipient delight…just a little bit.

I crack up that companies love to invent products for non-common problems and then convince people that they have those problems. I mean nearly everyone, arthritis or not, struggles with having to strain spaghetti, cut in a straight line and shave without soap affixed to the razor, right? Now the remote being lost? That's a real problem. At least my pager button on the cable box for lost remotes would save time and aggravation for all mankind. [Sid, here we are again. What's it gonna take, buddy? Get it done. People are counting on you. Be a hero.]

Well, no matter what kind of gift giver you are, here are some frivolous and/or practical gifts, to get the writer in your life.

The Wrong Word Dictionary or Bibliophile's Dictionary
A beefy divided notepad, reams of paper and quality ball point pens that don’t ooze
A carrying tote
A bookcase or file cabinet for organization
A USB/jump drive
Books on craft and style such as Stephen King’s On Writing or Elements of Style Strunk & White
Designed letterhead, envelopes and/or business cards with contact info [and get real ink not that cheap-looking thermography]
A trip to a writer’s retreat or conference
An online writing class
A massage
A manicure or trip to the salon, especially before a book signing
A laser printer
A laptop, if you have an extra grand or two lying around
A Mark of the Beast GPS for his car if he does a lot of traveling
A magazine subscription to Writer’s Digest or The New Yorker
A year’s subscription to The Next Big Writer
Writer's Market guides based on what your writer friend writes. There are different guides for books, short stories and poetry.
If she's published a book, get imprinted items with her name and book title: pens, bookmarks, ghosted sticky notes, notepaper, mugs, etc. for promotional tools or giveaways at book signings, conferences, etc.
Novel writing computer programs like Dramatica Pro, although I've never tried it
Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift cards
Comfy slippers like Isatoners
A surprise beverage, especially if she's been working hard and has lost track of time
Surprise take-out
Red Sox tickets haha

Well, I'm off to clean, write, cook then shop. My toddler just came up to me. Eecck. Smells like I have a diaper to change too.

On a side note, the misplaced "practically" in my title reminds me of the time I called up my best friend just to say, "How delicious are Lucky Charms?" She paused and said, "Uh, maaagically. Why?" And I replied, "Oh. I couldn't remember and was singing, hmm hmm hmm delicious and kept thinking practically but I knew that was all wrong, cuz they are quite good. Okay. Thanks. Bye."

Have fun, be safe, take care and God Bless.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs

Friday, August 15, 2008

Kickoff Pitfalls to Avoid

Yes! NFL season's almost here. I'm sooo excited. [EhhHemm. I'm still waiting for my Marion Barber shirt, NFL Shop. I ordered it two weeks ago. Come on! I'm cursed!!! What is with me not being able to get that stinkin' shirt?? Anyway...]

I collect football movies, and I'm going to make calzones, bacon cheddar fries and kick off the season's start with a football movie marathon. Knute Rockne All American and Necessary Roughness are so on my list, but I haven't picked my last. I need to have a balance of drama and comedy. Remember the Titans or Facing the Giants? Hmmm. It'll be down to a coin toss or my mood. Can't wait. I'm hoping my Boys start the season with a bang and keep going strong until they seize new rings in victorious triumph. In football, if you have a crappy game or season—let's hope not—you can always go out there and play harder the next time. As a writer, you only get one chance to make a first impression with your book and win a reader. One chance. That's it.

After your big idea enters your brain and your main characters are sketched and fleshed out, your fingers will surely be itching to tap keys and plug away at your story. While it’s great to go with the flow, whether you work it out bit by bit or fly through, having the novel practically write itself, it’s important to know what pitfalls to avoid on the rush out of the gate. You want your kickoff to be effective so you can reel readers in and keep them riveted until the final word. To save yourself a major overhaul at revision time, or if you’ve already finished and are editing like me, here are some things to keep in mind for your first impression.

If you decide to use a prologue, keep it short. Also, consider if your book can stand without it. If it can, ditch it.

Dream sequences are generally frowned upon as an opener. If you must…keep it short and vibrant…but really, I'd be hesitant to use one. They are cringe-inducing and could be the kiss of death.

Showing common routine-type things, especially getting up in the morning, is a total yawner. Begin with conflict or as close to your MC’s main change or the dawning of the story question as you can.

Starting off with extreme action or a super steamy love scene, only to have the rest of your manuscript be uneventful is a cheat. It’s okay to ebb and flow, but using explosions to hook readers into literary or topical fiction is just not fair or nice.

Skimp on modifiers. Being adjective happy will mark you as an amateur. I’ve read some books where every noun had three or more adjectives in front of it. Paragraph after paragraph of this creates sludge no one wants to wade through. It may look pretty to you, but the eyes of readers will gloss over for sure. Do paint descriptive pictures, but pick the most important adjectives to provide good pacing.

Aim for punchier verbs instead of relying on lame and lazy be-verbs or just tacking on an adverb for that extra sort of nothing. Adverbs have their place; just use them sparingly. Often with a little effort you can find an oh-so-perfect verb that conveys what you want to say. Instead of using an adverb on a dialogue tag, try adding action to reveal tone. You can do it. Stretch and make your prose come alive.

Instead of being happy as a clam using a stale metaphor or cliché, come up with your own description, which will make your work zingy and fresh.

Too many dialogue tags, especially fancy ones, create snags. Drop unnecessary ones. When you need them, said should be used primarily, then maybe specific action ones like whispered, mumbled or the like. Conveyed, exhorted, suggested, inquired and other awkward cousins should be cut down to one or two per book, if used at all.

Don't deluge readers with huge chunks of backstory. This should be avoided at all costs. Really. It’s very dangerous. Very. The past is the past and is telling about the past. Readers want to know what's happening in your character's NOW. Sprinkle backstory throughout the novel. I had great fun hinting at something early in my book then revealing the key to that mini mystery later in dialogue. In Dark Rivers of the Heart, Dean Koontz does an excellent job of using backstory effectively. If you want a good example of well-rounded characters, a well-researched work and how to use backstory and dreams to HOOK rather than turn off, check it out.

Tears trickle from my eyes, for out my window, beyond cherry trees and mist, pink and coral bands stretch across the darkening sky like braids or interlocking fingers, tightly woven, reminding me of the stranglehold purple prose has on my first chapter…Nix that junk post haste.

Blocks of static material is all telling and shows nothing because these aren't really scenes. Fiction is scenes. Not explanation or lots of blather. It’s word pictures of things going on, people talking, the plot moving forward. Established authors can get away with pages of exposition at the onset. e.g. V.C. Andrews for one. Unless you're her ghost writer, get to the action, the dialogue, the conflict. That’s where your story is.

Present tense should be used with care for long stories. When a reader jumps into a book with it, it can sometimes be all kinds of awkward. I’m reading The Quiet Game by Greg Iles. He’s a good writer, but I’m highly distracted by his use of present tense, and it’s in first person and description heavy and jammed with is-es. I understand he used the present tense so his First Person Narrator could be a Partaker and the story could unfold in real time rather than look back, but it's still weird. I read fast, but I’m having difficulty getting into this book, never mind finishing it. I think it’s supposed to be a thriller. I’m not that thrilled. If you use Present, then really work on developing a superbly amazing voice so readers won't even notice and don't bog readers down in is-es; stretch to use more vibrant verbs.

Avoid those deadly Noids that will turn your work into a form-rejection-letter magnet. Put your best foot forward. [Another cliché. What's my tally, 6? haha.] Kick off strong and keep going.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Getting Quality Feedback

If you've got a finished product or nearly so, it's great to have your aunt, former English teacher or best friend proof and critique your work, but if you want to branch out of your comfort zone and get quality feedback from fellow writers and eager readers, check out The Next Big Writer.

It's free for anyone to sign up as reviewer, and costs a minimal membership fee for those who want to post work. And because it's a password-protected site and you're technically posting work-in-progress, you still hold first publication rights. I joined as a reviewer at first to survey the lay of the land and I was astounded by the excellent work being posted and the feedback authors were getting, so I decided to post my own work. I am so ecstatic I did. I've met some amazing writers and reviewers and my work wouldn't be the same without them. They're awesome. Take a peek and see if it's for you.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs

Friday, August 8, 2008

Oops, I Did It Again...Well, Not Me, or Britney for That Matter, But...

I know that journalism is a fast-paced business—you’re under the gun to type up stories every day, sometimes several times a day with there being so much to report on like the new Bigfoot discovery—so spelling errors are bound to roll into the ink now and then. When I worked in advertising, I made a mistake on a 2-color brochure I designed. Somewhere along the line, my client's phone number changed into a copy of the blue I chose, so it looked fine on the screen, but it didn't print on the Pantone plates. I didn't notice it wasn't there. They noticed. I fixed it and had it printed again.

But, even with the super sonic speed of the newspaper business in mind, these blunders I'm about to mention seem inexcusable to me, but also quite laughable, and I do love to laugh.

Yesterday, a book review in the Sunday paper caught my eye and jarred me out of my Red Sox loss stooper. It was for the novel, Good People, which is a "yarn"—something I hope my works are never called—of a Chicago couple, who find money in their dead tenant’s apartment and decide to keep it for themselves. Now the reviewer, Bruce Something—hmmm, wonder why I have Hurst in my head ;) —basically wrote that this couple discovers said money in the kitchen when the woman grabs a sack of flower to smother a grease fire. Did you catch that? Flower as opposed to FLOUR. And I’m also a little curious about this sack. Can you still get those? Cuz the Piggly Wiggly was clear out last I checked. I can only find those paper bundles that end up exploding in your kitchen, giving you an instant White Christmas smack in the middle of July when you're trying to make brownies from scratch.

Anyway, in Good People, this couple empties out other canisters and boxes of food in the kitchen, finding almost $400,000 total. They clean up the mess, call 9-1-1 and act as though the money never existed. Unbeknownst to them, the old tenant was involved in a robbery during a drug deal, and of course, the partners he stiffed want their money, the drug dealers want their drugs, and the cops find the couple suspicious, so the conflicts press in.

Bruce explains so eloquently that this couple has to grapple with two sets of bag guys. Hmmm. Now I’m really intrigued. Were they paper or plastic? Bag guys? That’s something I’ve never seen in fiction. I’m gonna have to go and check out the book now, to see if the author used flower as opposed to flour, and if bag guys are as scary as I envision them. Walking talking objects that should remain inanimate really freak me out like the Kool-Aid man, Fruit of the Loom guys and even M&Ms, and most especially Chips Ahoy cookies! I really don't want my food, beverages or underwear talking to me. Sorry, but that's just me. Seriously. Stop it. It's creepy. The talking apple in the Applebees commercial really confused my two-year-old daughter. And definitely get rid of chilling mascots like the Burger King King, the most horrible horror of all nightmares. Evil should not be a part of any value meal!!! Bag guys now? Sheesh. Freaky. Those plastic ones really can be deadly. Keep them away from small children.

Kay. Got it. Well, his error-ridden coverage worked. I'm gonna go check out the book, and I can honestly say I wouldn't have without those glitches, which were kind of funny but scary at the same time.

I seriously hope my work doesn’t have or retain glaring errors like that, giving readers cereal killers, break tampering [would totally suck at the office] and ghostly allusions to worry about. Sometimes even though countless eyes have read, critiqued and edited a work to death, it’s the guy eating Doritos in his favorite armchair at home with his cat in his lap, who catches that cows have UDDERS not UTTERS but it’s too late for revision cuz it’s in print. Please don't let that happen to me. Welll, bak too editting and wryting I go.

~Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Writing Exercise: Word Cram

Yesterday, I said I'd share a short story I wrote, which came about through a simple creative exercise. Just as it's important to warm up and stretch out before running, at least for me if I'm running long distances, I find when I pen a small piece prior to tackling lengthier projects like a novel, it sparks my creative drive and keeps me cranking longer. Someone on my workshop site, The Next Big Writer, put forth a challenge to write a story using a provided list of words: spigot, balcony, simple, price, migrate, customary, obedient, screen, broom, gypsy, tripod, state, cap, scale, familiar, dodge. It had to be 1500 words or less. And of course, I had to take up that dare. Here's my crazy effort:


As soon as I exit my house and step into the sunshine, I gasp.

Wearing a patchwork sunhat, fuchsia daisy flip-flops and pantaloons, Mrs. Davenport is spraying rainbows on the brown zone of nothingness uglifying her otherwise perfectly manicured yard. Why someone fortyish would risk being mistaken for seventy is beyond me, but that's so not the shocker. The lack of flowers is what leaves my mouth open like it is. I mean, not even one sprouting bud decorates the spot where previously no dog, kid or rabbit could come within feet of without getting hosed. Now, I know I'm only fifteen and supposedly don't know squat, but I swear she has a corpse buried in that bloomless bed.

She twists the spigot increasing the flow, then sees me and waves. "Hidey-ho, Kylie."

"Good afternoon, Mrs. Davenport," I reply with my eyelids sinking into a squint.

My suspicion arose two nights ago, when Bobby and I were on my tree house balcony watching the sun set. It wasn't customary for us to be up there dressed so nice, but we were waiting for my mom to get off the phone and bring us to a dance. I kept eyeing my red gown. Way too much lace and sequins. And definitely more tomato than scarlet. Gross! I should've gone with the simple, sky blue one I'd adored, with the spaghetti straps, but it went beyond my $80 price cap. Regrettably, in the travesty I bought, I appeared far more gypsy than diva. Definitely not the look I was going for. Florescent lights lie; that's all I have to say. The seventeen bucks extra would have been worth it.

Bobby, my best friend since preschool, didn't seem to care about my orangey mega-frill, and I could tell because he'd tried to kiss me. After telling me I looked hot, he leaned closer and gazed into my eyes. Delighted, I moved in too. I'd never been so near to the freckles on his nose without a football between us. Our lips almost touched, but the sound of a crash halted our magnetic pull. Bummer! Our neighbors again.

They always fought. Yelling and slamming doors were familiar echoes on the street, but this battle raged on a much grander scale. Even the normally unfazed dogs in the vicinity voiced their agitation.

After hearing trash talk about money and whose things were whose, between the cars and the winter home to where they migrate when frost bites their noses, Mrs. Davenport released a blood curdling scream. She shouted, "Frank! Don't you dare!" as she ran onto her or his enclosed porch. I'm not sure who actually owns it. Anyway, he followed her and threw a television in her direction. Not a big one...just a thirteen inch. She was able to dodge it, but it tore through the screen and smashed on the driveway into like a million pieces. She went ballistic, flailing her arms and hollering words I shouldn't repeat, but she looked pretty ridiculous in her pink, fuzzy robe with green goop on her face. A little hard to take seriously in that state.

He apparently thought so too. He howled in laughter. She snatched a broom, which was pitched against the wall, and swung at him, but he ducked, grabbed it from her and twisted her around. He held it against her neck threatening to choke the life out of her. He said he should beat her with it, then maybe she'd be more obedient. She started laughing. So did he. She turned around, and he lowered the broom and held it against her back vertically. She looked like she was in the middle of a tripod, but she didn't seem to mind being trapped. She kissed him on the lips, and he reciprocated and let the broom fall to the floor. They started mauling one another, and his face became goopified too before he picked her up and carried her in.

Yeah. Yeah. Anyone would assume they had sex, and maybe they did...but that was the last time I saw Mr. Davenport. I haven't heard fighting since. Not even one slammed door. He's always coming and going, but there's his car, right in the driveway, and so is hers. They haven't moved one inch. And the newspapers he reads everyday are collecting on the stoop. I'd bet today's makeout session with Bobby, she choked the life out of him with that broom. Looks to me like she now has everything to her name except her beloved garden.

"What happened to your flowers, Mrs. Davenport? I thought the begonias, tulips and such were your babies?"

"I got sick of 'em," she says while watering the grave with the biggest smile I'd ever seen the lips he paid for make. "Wanted to start fresh."

"That's what I thought," I reply with a nod. I knew it! My instincts are never wrong. I sigh in dismay...I really should've gone with that blue dress.

♦ ♦ ♦

Try and come up with a short story yourself or pick out a bunch of random words in the dictionary and see what you work of art you can create. It's fun and exciting. Go for it.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs

Monday, August 4, 2008

Writing Exercise: A Villanelle

If you need a break from novel writing or want to challenge your poetic skills, dip your plume in ink and try your hand at a rigid form of poetry like a villanelle. The villanelle consists of 19 lines: 5 tercets [3 lines] and 1 quatrain [4 lines]. The 1st line of the 1st tercet has to be the last of the 2nd and 4th. The last line of the 1st tercet has to be the last of the 3rd and 5th. Then, those two repeated lines have to end the quatrain. The rhyming structure is basically like a stack of Oreos, all the chocolate cookies have to rhyme, and all the cream filling has to rhyme. And at the very bottom is an extra chocolate piece. :)

You can use iambic tetrameter, in essence eight beats per line, or iambic pentameter, ten beats per line.

This may sound complicated, but start simple. If you’ve never written a villanelle, read the instructions again or write them down in your own words so you know what to do. Next, brainstorm and create lists of words that rhyme. Once you have some pieces to work with, see if patterns emerge and if anything strikes a chord of inspiration.

Here’s the first and only one I've written:

~ The Chill ~

Though warmth of sun doth not end nights
As haunting voice springs from the tomb
Love's whispers break the chill that bites

My broken wings don't soar in flights
At dawn you come and fill my room
Though warmth of sun doth not end nights

You raise me up to higher heights
Replace my frost with heat in womb
Love's whispers break the chill that bites

Your presence here rids all my frights
The darkness fades along with gloom
Though warmth of sun doth not end nights

Fret not, my love, the call to lights
Find warmth inside, beyond the doom
Love's whispers break the chill that bites

I'll miss your touch, these hints and sights
But peace has now become my groom
Though warmth of sun doth not end nights
Love's whispers break the chill that bites

But, I will stretch myself to write another one. Push yourself in new directions. Creative exercise is fun and awesome, especially when you accomplish a feat you never thought you could. Keep at it.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.