Monthly Archives: April 2014

At Home Generating Story Ideas

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Humans are idea generating organisms. Face it. You couldn’t live one moment without thought generation taking place.

But how do we take those random ephemeral spears of mental images and create a story line from them?

Psychologists and other specialists have their theories. As a writer, though, my only concern is developing my own method for such creation. And since I’ve been doing this for most of my life without analyzing it, picking apart how I do it has presented a challenge of its own.

My story ideas always begin with a flash of image, as do most peoples’. They can stem from a memory or fragment of one. An idea trigger can also come from a commercial, a single image within a movie, or during a reading of something as innocuous as a print ad.

The flash of story occurs, sometimes as only a fragment and sometimes as a full-blown story with a complete arc, characters, and setting. It takes over the brain in a tide of sensation. However it happens, writing is the difficult part and the most time-consuming.

I, like every other writer/poet/artist must bring forth an interpretation of that idea for the pleasure or edification of others.

The process of that fleshing out of ideas, however, can cover a varied landscape of stair steps.

  • Deciding on the main character (s), if we don’t have that piece of the puzzle  already. And how many other characters will feature
  • Choosing the proper setting and detail for the story
  • Choosing the time duration for the story (one day, several days, months, years, or  a lifetime
  • To use subplots or not
  • Decide how entangled those subplots are with the main story line
  • Will the story need more than one book and how many. If more than one, will  they each stand alone and be linked through a master plot, be independent of each other with only the setting as the link, will they be told sequentially or at random, and does each story line have consequences that are reflected in following books.

And these points are only the first of many decisions made. Looks daunting, doesn’t it? It is when you get right down to basics. If a writer was mindful of all these considerations at the beginning, she’d probably quake, shake, and refuse to go past the first couple of points.

The thing is—writers aren’t necessarily the most rational beings. Even when the “writer” is a village storyteller, those points aren’t part of the conscious process. The story gets told in as logical a manner as the storyteller can produce, either by voice or pen.

Dramatic effects and description enter the picture. The story becomes a performance in itself. We can listen to it or hold it in our hands. We can desire it to be true with such intensity  that we fantasize about taking part in it (fan fiction.)

The peculiar part is that we’re programmed for it, for telling stories, for using our imaginations on a daily basis. Creating stories is a pastime we all share. How do I know?

Everyone daydreams, whether they’re conscious of it or not. And daydreams are merely stories we tell ourselves as opportunity and boredom arise.

So, tell me. What stories ideas have you generated today? Want to share them? Good. Leave a comment here. Share a smidgen of one story idea. Next month we’ll see what we can brainstorm around its core—maybe do a bit of flash fiction together.

I’ll see you all again in a couple of days. Happy writing, all. And have a terrific weekend.

At Home with New Perspectives

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Hi there, gang. We’ve arrived at the fourth week of April and I still have some semblance of sanity left. Hurray!

I’m making slow progress with my novelette—working title “A Grain of Truth.” I’m staying caught up with poetry from Creative Bloomings this month, so I’ve kept that goal. And I’m still plugging away at a script—working title “Dreams Die Hard.”

It’s the script work that really fries me at the moment. The new mindset and perspective is taking some effort to conquer, but I’m getting a handle on it. Remember when I said that only concrete action and dialogue are used in a spec script? For a novelist it’s tough to break a narrative/descriptive mindset.

My first effort was a colossal failure. Way too much exposition/description/detail.

What’s needed? Broad terms. Broad actions. Leave the reader with the task of filling in all the natural gaps of scenery and action. After all, that stuff is done by set designers, cinematographers, directors, and the like.

This week I finally managed to almost totally nail that aspect. You’ll notice my hesitation at claiming success. That’s due to not having a totally clean scene yet.

The hang-up turned out to be my use of a new turn in the plot, which was deemed unnecessary and involving a complication that might not be there in real life. So, back to the story board.

Since I can’t use the plot element I’d planned, I’ve had to whip up something else to electrify the suspense, endanger the heroine further, and speed the story along. I already have her paranoid. Now I must get her more emotional earlier and drive her to lengths that she might otherwise not have taken. Well, I don’t really plan on her being charged with murder again, but ….

Oh, yeah, this week’s task is a brainstorming session to force the climactic final life and death scenes.

And how is your week shaping up? Are you taking any new writing courses, registering for a new workshop, planning a new project?

Me? I just began a new course on series writing and loving every minute of it. I’ve already learned, in one week, more than I’ve learned about fiction techniques in any other training taken. This is going to be a dynamic and dramatic shift for my story-lines and storytelling future.

Color me excited.

There you have it. My last few days in a nutshell and a look at the ones coming up. Drop me a line and tell me about your own work/writing challenges/ask questions. I like hearing from readers and always answer them.

Well, I need to begin some homework. Yay! Can you tell that I love learning? Good. Have a great week.

 

What’s on the Other Channel

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If you want to explore my other web-life, hop over to 2Voices1Song and see what’s come of my script frenzy challenge and why it’s so important for me right now.

I posted an entry on my blog there about the effect of the mindset shift.

And if you have time, take a gander at all of the excellent poetry being exhibited by my web-partner there this month.

Enjoy your day and the coming rest of the week, all.

Have fun with whatever you choose to do with your time. You only get one crack at it. You might as well make the most of each second.

See ya later.

At Home—Sailing or Becalmed

Photo by BJJones Photography

Photo by BJJones Photography

A week has passed along this new adventure path of scripts and mind-bending new processes.

Yeah, you read that right: mind-bending. More than a year ago, one of the writers I know, Dennis Foley, gave a talk at our local writers association. He was talking about screenwriting and the difficulty novelists had trying to cross over to the medium. I’d done a documentary script years ago and his statement flew through my mental file room, dropped a note into my in-basket, and zipped on out without making much of an impact.

The impact waited until this month to make a re-appearance.

In sailing one has clear skies and good winds. Opposing those conditions is the becalmed boat. When no winds occur, the sailboat sits, rocking sedately in a stationary position, until a new weather system rolls through to provide a breeze to fill the sails and move the boat along its chosen path.

For this writer, sailing occurs when ideas flow within the writing process, fingers fly across the keyboard, and pages appear from the nothingness of digital magic. Of course, those same ideas place themselves on paper, too. It all depends on where I’m at and what the conditions are.

My becalmed boat situation happens when I have plenty of ideas but the mindset is wrong or the process is stalled because of a conflict of some kind.

This past week I’ve sat becalmed—bursting with new ideas and placing none of them on paper or computer. Okay, I did a couple of poems and three pages on my novel, but only out of desperation to have put words down somewhere.

What happened?

My novelist mindset butted its head against the brick wall of a screenwriter’s writing process; that’s what happened.

A script leaves the writer with no room to elaborate for explanatory purposes. The primary thing one must keep in mind is that a script is merely the physical manifestation of a visual image. That’s it. We’ve been taught that for every feature length film script of 100-120 pages, only 10K of those words are in dialogue. The rest is action and setting. The writer doesn’t include any direction, supposition, motivation, or emotion.

Setting doesn’t include description, but rather a list of props in relation to one another, physical location, time of day, weather, etc. Colors don’t come into it. Physical traits of characters are irrelevant, unless a plot point of some kind depends on a specific color or a character’s physical anomaly.

Take away a novelist’s chance to embellish their prose with all of the aforementioned devices, and you’re left with tedium. Cold facts don’t warm the heart.

But the most difficult aspect is the action. Think about this. Close your eyes, and think of sitting at a table with friends. You’re having a meal or just coffee. Now, picture in your mind every movement each member of the group makes, every expression, and every sip of drink and bite to eat. Add to the picture the movements made by those surrounding your table—include the wait staff, other patrons, etc. Be sure to include all of the props those minor characters and cameos use during their brief passage through your mind.

Do you have those things in mind? Good. Now, add scintillating dialogue that moves the plot forward while all of this is going on. Keep in mind, that with each dialogue that involves a movement of any kind, you must break for that inclusion before continuing with dialogue on the page.

I’m sure you see how this can stall any writer’s forward movement in a short line. The mindset of the screenwriter depends solely on characters’ dialogue, setting, and action. Bald facts, forward-driven conversation, and a format that drives the pacing.

The novelist is free of such constraints and therefore has a messy mind. Mine’s really cluttered—rapidly approaching hoarding capacity. My previous experience with scripts didn’t allow for this type of mental shift. I was unprepared for the tedium of such detailed thought about a person’s actions.

I’m lucky, though. I had a breakthrough last night. I don’t have a squall or tempest at my back to bell out my sails quite yet, but it’s building. I can feel it. I can move on now for the rest of the month.

No more becalmed seas for me.

At Home—A Week of Work or Circles within Circles

Ewam Pool

Are you like me? You put together a work schedule, an editorial calendar, with hours blocked out for use on your most critical/time-relevant/deadline oriented projects. It looks smooth and easily done.

Then, before you’ve gotten started, your inbox fills with announcements of events demanding that you attend—if only for a half hour or so.

If you are like me, and the above scenario is a common occurrence at your place, you know what I mean by “the event shuffle.”

Case in point, this week for me. Things I cannot forego in my writing.

  1. Three things I will not miss: Monday night scriptwriting class, Thursday night’s write-in with fellow local writers, and Friday afternoon’s critique group meeting.
  2. Writing on my script for Script Frenzy—3-5 pages each day for the entire month.
  3. Working on my sci-fi novel at least four days out of seven each week—no less than an hour per day.
  4. Poetry for Creative Bloomings and its constructive commenting.
  5. Posts for both of my websites and one column on a writers’ website.

Things I can let slide if necessary:

  1. Household tasks like laundry.
  2. Personal reading, crocheting, relaxation efforts.
  3. A few hours of sleep

Things that have cropped up that I wasn’t expecting, but which I need to plan on doing as well:

  1. More course studies and several coaching sessions.
  2. A publisher’s launch extravaganza (for Children’s MG and YA authors) that runs all week. I said earlier half an hour here and there. Why? Because one of my favorite people and a close friend, Mikki Sadil, is a featured writer for the event.
  3. A online writer training session that I’d really like to take
  4. Time to work in new software and other tech stuff.

I know. It doesn’t sound like much does it, as far as things to work into the schedule. But when you take into account all of the other small interruptions of daily life—doctor’s appointments, running those last-minute grocery errands, or running out to get new cartridges for your printer, or whatever scenario might arise—getting a good, solid day’s work accomplished is a major big deal.

So, my schedule gets shuffled. If I take half an hour in the morning for the author launch event on Thursday, the tenth, I must have all my critiques finished by noon for Friday’s group meeting. I also must be finished with script work long before supper because of write-in at 6 p.m.

In order to get in a few short sessions of study, I must forego any social media work until evening or move all my evening work forward to accommodate an hour each night of study.

The coaching sessions last less than an hour. I should be able to work those in during lunch without nudging other work to the side.

Tech stuff—I can only give it half an hour a day this week. The weekend is already full. No time then.

You see what I mean. Even the best editorial calendar can be stretched and juggled only so far before chaos sets in. Some things are locked in and immovable. Others are necessary but more flexible. Still others are the most flexible and can be done at almost any time, but aren’t so critical that they can’t slide if necessary.

All of this reasoning and shuffling has eaten up my morning, along with email, and site work. What do I have left for the day? Writing five pages on my script, talking to the bank, doing a few bills, getting in a shower, and making it to my class tonight with pages for reading in-hand.

The smooth surface of my writing pool has deeper currents beneath. It’s those currents which create small tsunamis in my writing day.

With that in mind, I’ll bid you all adieu. Have a blast with your own week’s schedule, peeps. I’ll be here sometime later in the week with more form doing here At Home.

At Home with Contest Results

Well, folks, today’s the day for the Photo Contest Results to come out. I was fortunate to have a few last-minute entries.

Linda Hofke

Without further ado, please congratulate the winner of March’s Poster Photo Contest, LINDA HOFKE, who entered a wonderful image of bright serenity.

Linda and I will work out prize details in the next day or two, but the slated prize is a professional print of her entry, for her use as she sees fit. For those who don’t know Linda, she is a well-versed writer who lives in Germany with her husband and daughter.

And the judge’s choice is:

Contest winner Fxd

 

Linda G. HattonRunner up goes to Linda G. Hatton who also had a quality entry. Linda G. created an actual poem poster image for her entry. And a fine job she did of it, too.

The runner up image is:

Claudette 3Water

Both writers deserve a round of applause. Thank you both for adding beauty and grace to my world.

Betty Jo JonesI also want to thank photographer Betty Jo Jones, who lent her expertise and considerable talent to this contest. Stop by her Facebook page (link above) to see many examples of her work.

And there you have it. Plans are in the works to do a photo contest for poem posters again each year. Hopefully, next time around, more writers will take the plunge and send in their photos for consideration.

Until I return with another regular post, let me say how much I appreciate all of those who’ve chosen to subscribe to this website and follow my progress down the publishing trail. I value each and every one of you, whether you stop by often and leave comments or just pop in occasionally.

Doing this kind of contest is a lot of fun. Actually, doing any kind of contest presents an opportunity for fun.

Take care, everyone. I’ll see you in a few days with a weekly update of doings in the At Home office. TTFN

 

At Home Tackling a New Skill

Pansy Close-up - Copy

 

When I look at this image, I get energized; not just because of the colors, but by the message.

Each of us has a purpose for the day. Either that purpose gets placed before us, or we create it for ourselves. It could rollover from the previous day or be brand new. Only we know what the final purpose is for the day and our life within those limits.

My writer friends tell me that I write a lot. They tell others the same thing about me. Oh, she’s always at the keyboard–writing. I usually remain diffident to the remark. But at this late night hour, I can accept that assessment completely today.

For me the day began by me dealing with the end of the photo challenge. I did receive photos in the last couple of days. Yay! Thank you brave souls who pushed past uncertainty and dived in with images to share.

I handed those photos to my judge and noted on my calendar that I’ll announce the winner and the subsequent full prize on Thursday, April 3rd. So, stay tuned everyone for that announcement.

After taking care of that, I moved on. Email and social media, news feeds and a bit of correspondence, left me ready for breakfast.

Half an hour later, I dived into a revision of Part 7 of my current novel project–a sci-fi story. I also needed to finish that section for this week’s crit group meeting on Friday.

I began the revision/rewrite (it’s those tiny details that must be inserted for clarity and movement that take the time.) and finished it about two hours later. Then came the spell check and edit session, which took another half hour. I sent it out to group members in early afternoon.

Script work came next. Remember I said I was tackling script frenzy this year. Well, I dove in with feet, legs, and rear with an entirely new opening scene. I’d already redeveloped the treatment to accommodate the changes I needed.

Screenwriting is a new skill that could create gains for me in many ways. If I get comfortable enough writing scripts, I can spread out into new territory. Children’s plays, teleplays, stage plays for repertory companies. I have a friend who does those each year and has for years. It sounds like fun.

The process isn’t an easy one. The mindset is totally different from novels. I must learn to ignore description, except as it pertains to set props and the actions and facial expressions of the players. That’s tough. Oh, well. I’m on my way down that path and having a blast learning how to tweak for emphasis. :)

I managed three full pages today (my goal was four pages) before dinner. I tend to edit as I go, especially when I forget bits of action that make the scene sensible. I felt really good about my progress up to that point.

Dinner was announced. Sister had fixed a superb meal. I shut things down for a well-deserved break, ate and chatted with Sister, cleaned the kitchen up (that’s my contribution to dinner when she cooks) and readied myself for a 89 minute training session at 7 p.m.

I finished that session, responded to comments on Facebook and a couple of websites, and decided I needed to do this before anything else cropped up. And here I am, talking to you guys.

Did I mention that I still have a page of script to do before winding up for the night? Good. Sometimes I forget those little details. :)

And that’s been my day. I hope yours has fared as well and productively. Tomorrow’s work division:

  1. with script work,
  2. wanders into a post for my other website to pre-schedule for Thursday,
  3. flows into an outline for an article for Wordsmith Studio due next week for the following Monday,
  4. and end with a bit of work on a cookbook I’ve threatened to publish for the past couple of years. I’m determined to finish it and get it out this summer.

I’ll be back on Thursday to give you an update and to announce the winner of my first photo contest. See you then. Have a great week, everyone.