Author Archives: Jesikay

Rogue Muses or Overbearing Ones, We Got All Kinds Here

Last week Amanda talked about her rogue muse, Myrtle, and how Myrtle is driving her insane. (My word, not Amanda’s but I bet she’d agree with me.)

I don’t know if I’d rather have her muse or mine. Mine does not have a name because mine likes to change identities half the time. Mine is also being a little overbearing lately. And a workaholic. It isn’t enough that she’s got me participating in a poetry challenge, which I can handle just fine, but she also has me participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for those who need to have it spelled out). And that means prepping for a long month of writing. Oh, and let’s top that off with agreeing to write a short story (5-10k words) for a murder mystery novella with a deadline of December 1st.

Yeah. She may have bitten off more than I can chew.

But that’s the fun/insane thing about being a writer. You never know what you’re going to find yourself getting into. Take for instance the poetry challenge I’m doing. Last year I joined thanks to CJ’s gentle nudging. (It really was-CJ is a subtle witch-she says “hey, you should do this” and then she begins writing some lovely words and I can’t resist.) I joined late but began writing two poems a day to catch up (because I could, not because I had to). By the time the challenge was coming to a close I was writing three poems a day. It was a lot of fun and I met new people and ended up with quite a bit of poetry in my repertoire.

Now take NaNo. I joined that last year as well, thanks to AJ. She’s not so subtle. She’s more like “you should do it because I’m doing it and you should do it.” Did I mention she was holding a sledgehammer at the time? (Okay, not really. She’s not that violent…or is she? 😉 ) During NaNo I began writing something I thought would be my first book. And I was doing well until midway through a bad head cold/infection cold-cocked me and took me out of the game for good. It was awful. You’d think that would put me off NaNo. But you’d be so wrong. I’m doing it again this year. What could possibly go wrong this time? (I know, I’ve just invoked the Writing Gods’ perverse sense of humor. What can I say? I like a good challenge.)

Amanda always asks us in group what our writing goals are. I may be one of the few that can look her in the eye without flinching, or fidgeting under her steely gaze, and give her an acceptable answer. I have more than enough goals and writing going on right now, and I think both Amanda, and my muse, should be happy with that.

And me, well, tune in next month to watch me become a sleep-deprived, raving lunatic.

Have a great week.

Jesi

The Hardest Part of Writing

This past Thursday I began the annual October Poetry Writing Month Challenge (OctPoWriMo). CJ got me started on it last year and I couldn’t wait for it to begin this year. And boy, did it ever start. I’ve already had two challenges that gave me pause. One was to write cinematically and the other was to write a shape poem on the subject of showing up. And BOOM, baby! I knew what to use as my subject for today’s post here.

Writing is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different. To sit down in a chair and write for a set period of time is not natural, and the inclination is to procrastinate. To find anything else other than what you should be doing, i.e. writing. So, the hardest part of writing is showing up.

What I mean is to be focused on what you are doing. It’s relatively easy to become distracted. Let’s see, there’s Facebook, or Twitter, or, oh yeah, what was that thing on Amazon you were looking at? Or maybe there’s some housework that needs to be done, or you really should take that walk you’re supposed to be taking. Guess what…you aren’t showing up. In fact, there’s nothing being written because other things have taken your time and attention.

Now, I’m not talking about those things that really need taking care of, e.g. kids needing to be fed, dogs needing to be walked, the tire changed on the car. Obviously, family (and laundry) is important. But, I’m fairly certain that you can do without all the drama on Facebook for at least thirty minutes.

This is why I like doing writing challenges. They force me to show up, and that, in turn, sharpens my skills and strengthens my weaknesses. Especially when I’m doing an online blog challenge. I get immediate feedback from different readers and their viewpoints are invaluable. In minutes I can tell if I need to change POV or if I’ve missed something. Is the poem I wrote subpar or should I consider adding it to a future collection folder? What needs tweaking and what did I do right?

The two prompts that I was especially challenged by nearly had me stumped. Writing cinematically was a prompt where we had to view our favorite movie, scene, or video, mute it, and view it without sound. We then had to write a poem in such a way as to express the way the scene came across to us. Well, I don’t have a particularly favorite movie or video so I chose a scene from Sir Ian McKellen’s 2008 performance of King Lear. The scene itself had moved me to torrential sobbing. Sir Ian is like a grandfather figure to me and so the end scene is heart-wrenching. I didn’t much like the poem I wrote (read here), but I was surprised by how many people were moved by my words. I showed up and put a lot of thought and focus into it, even using two phrases from the play to emphasize Lear’s frame of mind. (By the by, this is an excellent exercise to utilize sensory perception-take away all sound and write only what you see.)

The other prompt was difficult only because I really do not like writing shape poetry. That’s where you write a poem whose form is a visual shape on the page. Think Shel Silverstein:

shel

The day I was supposed to write for this prompt ended up being incredibly busy, but I still pushed it off for as long as I could. I REALLY don’t like writing shape poetry (probably because my illustrative skills suck-Joe, feel like giving me some lessons?). But still, I showed up and completed the challenge:

Uncomfortably Numb 10-3-2015

Yes, I wanted to make you cross-eyed. No, not really. The spiral itself is central to the idea/theme of the poem. Here is the actual poem:

Uncomfortably Numb

By Jesi Scott

 

Those eternal days of not being enough

not having it all together

lost hopeless

small cry-yourself-to-sleep days

when even your heart doesn’t show up but hides

in the endless pit of hell on earth-

What brimstone scorches worse than this black hole named despair?

Sucked dry and spit back out into chaos where

the best you can do is show up but

your best isn’t good enough

and so you spiral down and down and down…but still, you show up.

The poem itself can stand alone but is definitely more impactful when utilizing the shape (spiral). It gives the sense I wanted to convey of falling in and spinning out of control.

I wouldn’t have come up with either of these poems if I hadn’t shown up. You have to make the time to write. You have to give it your complete attention.

Showing up is half the battle.

Have a great week!

Jesi

 

 

To Blurb or Not To Blurb

I subscribe to a blog called The Passive Voice, and if you are a writer you should be subscribing and reading this fantastic blog. Yesterday there was a post about blurbs that I found fascinating.

What is a blurb?

blurb    /blərb/
noun
a short description of a book, movie, or other product written for promotional purposes and appearing on the cover of a book or in an advertisement.
or
verb
write or contribute a blurb for (a book, movie, or other product). 
The article was about the second definition.
What we’re basically talking about here are endorsements from other authors and/or celebrities, those compelling “reviews” popped onto a book’s back cover or first few pages, to get the reading public to buy the book.
For a self-publishing writer these acclaims can help sell books, and when you are talking about having to self-promote, every little bit helps. Including blurbs.
For example? Go Google The Martian by Andy Weir. Completely self-published beginning as an online serial then going onto Amazon at $.99 then selling 35,000 copies in four months in 2013. That’s when it got Hollywood’s attention. In March of 2014 the book was no. 12 on the New York Times bestseller list, and by November that same year the book sold 180,000 copies. A huge coup for self-publishers.
But what happens when you get people to read your book and leave reviews on sites such as Goodreads and Amazon?
This became a huge concern of mine just before summer. You see, Amazon, in all its amazing glory, decided to take down any reviews if it was discovered that these reveiws were written by friends of the author. I have put up reviews for writers who, at the time, were not my friends. I met them through blogging and became a source to them for helping their promotion efforts. Eventually, through further interaction we did become friends but does that make my blurb/review of their work any less credible?
What about those well-known authors who seem to write blockbuster after blockbuster? Do blurbs really help them since they are well-known already in the industry? I mean, honestly, what more can you say about a famous author that hasn’t already been said, or read? Critiquing their current work is one thing, but seriously, how many times do we need to hear how he/she is today’s  Tolstoy, Austen, or Shakespeare? And let’s be honest, they aren’t those writers, and their writing resembles the classics the way a goose resembles a swan. They may be birds and have feathers and can swim and fly, but one look tells the truth.
Personally, when I buy a book, whether it is self-published or traditionally published, I ignore the blurbs. I don’t care for them. I’m looking for word of mouth and my own interests. If someone I know tells me I should read a certain book then I am more likely to do so than reading an endorsement from a celebrity or well-known author. Those people do not know me, but my friends and people I talk to often know my tastes or can guess easily. And if there are people I know personally endorsing a book then you can bet I’ll be reading that book. In fact, I have a lengthy list of books on my Goodreads Want-To-Read list thanks to those friends whose books I have read and heartily endorse.
To blurb or not to blurb, that is today’s question? Should blurbs be done away with and the writing stand on it’s own? Or do we like blurbs and think they are a useful marketing tool? Sound off in the comments.
Jesi

The Problem With Poetry

“Hang there, my verse, in witness of my love.”

~Shakespeare, As You Like It

I love poetry. Everyone who knows me can tell you that, and those who don’t know me, well, they learn that fact quickly. The ironic thing is that I don’t go around quoting it or throwing lines around like they’re party favors. For me, poetry is something I hold gently inside to ponder in awe at its beauty, then release back into the world in my own way. I try my best not to force it on those who don’t appreciate it as much as I do. But oh, how my heart beats wildly when I meet someone who “gets it.”

But I have an issue with you self-acclaimed poetry dislikers. Stop apologizing to me for not liking it. I don’t expect you to get it. We live in an age where poetry is not looked upon kindly. The majority of people do their very best to avoid it if they can. So I don’t expect you to like my poetry, and I don’t expect you to change your attitude about it. I do, however, expect you to respect that poetry is writing, and not something separate and vile and “not real writing.”

Poetry gets a terrible rap because most poetry that we’re taught in school uses outdated language that’s hard to understand in our society. Who wants to try and figure out what hidden meanings might lie behind all those “thee’s” and “thou’s”? Why can’t it be written in plain English?

Because it isn’t prose, poetry seems to fall into the same category as, say, finger painting compared to Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating. Nah…it really does seem to be pushed off into that comparison sometimes. Ask a perfect stranger on the street what the last poem was that they read then pay close attention to the look that crosses their face. Was that a look of horror, or perhaps they were bemused? Wait, did they actually laugh out loud?

Not all poetry is hard to read. In fact, some can be rather fun. A lady in my writing group wrote a poem about coffee. I myself have written one about a sore throat. Some poetry does contain meanings, both abstract and concrete, but most comtemporary poetry isn’t hard to understand anymore. For example, read We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks. Better yet…listen to it. Today, Amanda made a statement today in group that poetry is like Shakespeare in that it wasn’t made, really, to be read but to be seen and heard. That’s a fairly accurate statement. Poetry was not usually written down but memorized and performed then passed down verbally. Most was accompanied by music. Which is why I find it incredibly amusing when people tell me they don’t like poetry. What do you think songs are? They are poems set to music. Granted, they are not all that great but what do you make of these lyrics?

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

In my life I love you more

This is poetry. And I bet you didn’t make it through it without the music chiming in your brain.

And the idea that poetry is dead amuses me to no end because poetry was never on its deathbed. It hasn’t breathed its last yet. It sits quietly in the background, patient and observant. Its disciples seek it out, and, sometimes, it sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Sometimes it hits you with the force of a sledgehammer, while other people are led to it through the love of something, or someone, else. But it isn’t dead.

So stop apologizing to me for not liking poetry. If it doesn’t speak to you then I’m okay with that. But do not make the mistake of telling me it isn’t “real writing.” Because I will take up the gauntlet you throw down.

Jesi

Writing As Therapy

In Amanda’s last post, she wrote about 9/11 and an online thread she’d seen about whether or not world events shape our writing. She then went on to talk about the events of 9/11 and how they affected her, and how she hoped it had changed the way her characters react. Last Monday, I missed my post here at Twisted Writers. I’m sorry. I apologize sincerely. Unfortunately, there was no way I was able to write that day. I did not write on my home blog, nor did I get on Facebook except once to check in with my brother. In fact, I stayed away from the computer and most things electronic. Not because it was Labor Day, but because it was the second anniversary of my father’s 64th birthday-the last one I ever spent with him. While it may not have been a world event, for me my dad’s passing shook my world to its core.

November 23, 2013 my father succumbed to the pancreatic cancer he was diagnosed with in August that same year. On his birthday, a few weeks after he was diagnosed, I packed my kids into a rented Jeep Compass and made the six to seven hour trip from Dallas to Amarillo to surprise him. He didn’t know I was coming. And I’ll never forget the way his face lit up when he saw me. We stayed for a few days then came back home only to make one more trip a few weeks later, the last time I ever saw my dad.

The night before he died I got the call that I should come and say goodbye but it was impossible. My personal circumstances prevented me from being able to leave. I was heartbroken. The next 24 hours were hell. I tried every means open to me to find some way to go but there was nothing. So I turned to poetry. I opened up books and tried to drown my heartache in words. But I didn’t write.

Truth be told, I hadn’t written anything besides my signature for three years. Not one blessed thing. But I could read, and I could listen, and I did. I listened to beautifully trained voices reading the same feelings I was having, experiencing the same anguish I was going through, and it helped to a degree. And then the thought occurred to me that my dad didn’t even know I wrote. I never told, never let him read one word. How sad is that? It wasn’t that I didn’t love my dad or even that I thought he’d hate it. It just never occurred to me that he would want to know. Now he was dying and would never know. I couldn’t live with that. And so, I wrote the first poem I’d written in three years. Five minutes after I posted it to Facebook, my father breathed his last breath. He may not have read it but my family did, and I know it meant something to them to know how much I loved him.

Little did I know it would be the poem that led me to being here, writing for you.

The last two years have been hard. My personal life has been going through upheaval and change. It still is, but my writing is what is getting me through it. Writing is therapy. I know it firsthand. Writing is what got me through the days after my dad passed away and what gets me through even now. No, I didn’t write on his birthday. Instead, I read and spent time with my kids. So, I hope you’ll forgive the lapse and remember that when life gets to be too much to handle, write it down. Those emotions will make you a better writer in the end.

So how has this affected my writing? Apparently, I’m very good with anguish. 😉

Jesi

My Heart Hurts

by Jesi Scott

 

My heart hurts.

 

The cold, the wind, the rain:

The weather of my soul.

 

You lie there, unaware

Of my pain, my misery.

 

My heart hurts

More as the night goes on,

And with every passing moment,

Every second you grow weaker,

I grow weaker too.

 

When you are gone my heart will cry,

the pain may fade,

but my love will not die.

An Exercise In Sensory Imagery

(Life took a wild turn this weekend past and left me exhausted so I’m reblogging this post from my home blog. – Jesi)

An Exercise in Sensory Imagery

The story I’m currently writing is taking an emotional toll. It’s a hard write because it’s fairly personal, and with the research I’m still continuing to do for it, even though it’s just a short story, I’m really having a rough go with the subject. I have to often take breaks so I don’t drown in the emotional current of the piece. I’ve also begun to prepare myself before I begin by doing some practice writing exercises. In fact, I’ve gone back to basics. So, how about a writing lesson today?

It’s a simple one: all you have to do is sit down and write a paragraph using sound imagery. Think of a noisy place and describe it. You might find yourself using alliteration (same letter or sounds at the beginning of adjacent or connected words) and onomatopoeia (words that sound like what they are-e.g., sizzle, crash).

Don’t worry; this is just for fun. No grades or criticisms. Just free write for twenty minutes.

Here is my practice piece:

It is three in the afternoon on a sweltering summer day. Somewhere, in an air-conditioned house, a dishwasher hums and sloshes its contents into cleanliness while an industrious little bird chirps and splashes in the birdbath outside the kitchen window. A delivery truck rumbles by on its way to some unknown destination. It seems like such a peaceful day, with the sun shining and all relatively quiet in the suburbs. Then a door slams. CRASH! Baby elephants galumph down the stairs, pictures rattling on the walls in the wake of the beasties, and immediate cries of “MOM, can I play Minecraft?”, “MOM, can I have some cookies?”, “MOM, he hit me!” resound through a house in what can only be described as the equivalent of a grenade exploding. Soon, too soon, pips and pops, bashes, slashes, and angry riotous conversation issues from the family room. From somewhere nearby a sigh of resignation escapes a throat but it is barely audible among the cacophony. A woman sits at a table, pens and paper and other writing implements scattered around, and marvels for the umpteenth time at the genius of Mother Nature’s survival instincts, which causes a mother to strongly attach to her young.

 

What can you write using sound imagery? Feel free to share in the comments.

x Jesi

Habits of “Successful” Writers, or the Secrets That Sell a MasterClass

Firstly, I have NOT taken James Patterson’s MasterClass on writing. Please take note of that.

Secondly, I know people who have paid Mr. Patterson for his time and videos.

Thirdly, I am about to tell you what Mr. Patterson (and other successful authors) knows about being a “successful” writer.

Are you ready?

It’s all about developing good writing habits.

There. That’s it. That’s what you are paying Mr. Patterson to learn. Yeah, $75-$100 just to learn that. I’m not saying he isn’t worth listening to, or that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. In fact, the consensus of what I’ve heard and read about his MasterClass is that most people think they got their money’s worth. He talks about storytelling, not specifically writing. He discusses characters and dialogue and outlining and action/suspense. He believes in hard work and discipline. But not necessarly style. You aren’t setting out to write a classic novel, just one that sells. Obviously, Mr. Patterson, whose name is everywhere on the bookshelves, knows how to sell a book.

But you have to remember, James Patterson started out like any other writer. He had to develop certain traits. So, what are these traits? Google “habits of successful writers” and you get a long list of sites telling you what makes a successful writer. Guess what the first one (almost always) is?

  1. Write! Write daily.

As if you didn’t already know this one. But it’s the most highly effective trait to cultivate. Write write write. Even if it’s just for a few minutes every day. This is the one you MUST be strict with yourself about. Writing every day makes you a better writer. It is the difference between being a good writer or a great one. Even if you aren’t James Patterson Successful, writing every day is essential to your own personal success.

2. Read.

Read often. Read in the genre you are going to be writing in. This, too, is essential. You learn the tropes of your chosen genre. Examine the sentences, the dialogue, the character development. Pay attention to the opening sentences and how well the story holds your interest. You can learn more from reading than you can by paying someone to tell you the same information you are already absorbing from a story. Read good writers. Read great writers. Read bad writers. You will learn what to use and what to avoid.

3. Keep some kind of writing material handy.

You never know when an idea is going to strike. The most handy tool today is your mobile phone. If you own a smart phone, you have in your hand the most readily available notetaker/organizer/idea keeper. There are apps for everything. Download a voice recorder app and speak your ideas into an easily downloadable file and transfer them to your computer via Dragon software which automatically translates your voice into the written word. If you are old school, carry a pen and paper around. But keep it with you. Those ideas can happen out of the blue.

4. Join a community writing group.

I can’t tell you how great a circle of other writers is at keeping you inspired, encouraged, supported. Writing may be a solitary experience but you aren’t alone. There are so many other aspiring successful writers out there and being a part of this group is a huge boost for your esteem and well-being. They are a wealth of information as well. Got a problem with one of your scenes? Someone can help. Having trouble writing dialogue? Someone in your group probably writes great dialogue. Find them and make friends. Plus, other writers “get” it. They understand, and will often enable your crazy.

5. Nurture your inner schizophrenic.

I LOVED this one when I read it on one site. The person who wrote it was talking about how as a writer you have to be two people with your writing: a dancer and an ax murderer. The dancer agonizes over how interesting the story is while worrying about grammatical errors, etc. The ax murderer brings a cold eye to the finished work.But I translated it into being more than that. You have to embrace your crazy, neurotic side. So what if you have conversations with imaginary people in your head? You’re a writer, you’re allowed to be eccentric. Just make sure you write everything down. And that person who just cut in front of you or is too perky in the mornings? Let your inner Dexter take care of them in your story. You could use a psychotic character in your story, right? Just, you know, don’t actually REALLY act like a homocidal maniac.

6. Develop a thick skin.

You are going to receive criticism. You are going to fail at something. Not everyone is going to like your writing. Let it go and move on, gracefully. Don’t let the trolls get to you because a troll’s job is to discourage you and keep you from succeeding. And just remember what happens to trolls…

“The big billy goat  flew at the troll, and poked his eyes out with his horns, and crushed him to bits, body and bones, and tossed him out into the cascade, and after that he went up to the hillside. There the billy goats got so fat they were scarcely able to walk home again. And if the fat hasn’t fallen off them, why, they’re still fat; and so,

Snip, snap, snout.
This tale’s told out.”

Will these habits make you successful? Obviously, not as successful as James Patterson who also had help along the way from knowing how to sell himself and having a good agent and taking advantage of his advertising knowledge.

They WILL make you a better writer and that’s half the battle.

And guess what? I just told you all that for free.

Jesi

P.S. Add any other tips and habits in the comments. 🙂

 

Writers Are People Who WRITE

A Lesson in the Practice of Sensory Imagery

Wanting to be a writer isn’t enough. Grabbing a pen and some paper is a good start. But what really makes a writer a writer is actually writing. We here at Twisted Writers talk about this a lot. If you want to be a writer, write. But how? What if the words don’t come to you? Well, pard’ner, I’m glad you asked. Because I struggle with this as well.

Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Yeah, thanks Ernest. That’s insightful, but it doesn’t tell me how to write.

So here is what I do that is helpful. I sit my butt in a chair at a table, either with my laptop or a spiral notebook and a pen, and then…I bang my head on the table. Sometimes my brain just empties itself.  I feel like the stereotypical blonde from every blonde joke you’ve ever heard. There’s an empty corridor between my ears and if you listen closely you can hear the wind whistling through it. What to do?

At this stage I usually say screw it and I go do something completely mundane. Ten to twenty minutes into cleaning the bathroom an “a-ha” moment occurs. I get an idea. The problem is I don’t stop and go write. That’s what I SHOULD do. Instead, I continue cleaning the bathroom and more ideas occur to me. At some point, I AM going to realize I should be writing instead of cleaning because I end up forgetting half of the ideas I just had.

I definitely need more discipline.

Something else I do to help encourage the words to come is writing exercises. There are a plethora available to you online. Type “writing exercises” into your Google search box and you are a few clicks away from inspiration. Or you can go to a library and check out writing books. Most have exercises included so you can practice writing. Yes, you may have some basic exercises you think you don’t need to do, and maybe you don’t. They tend towards the repetitive. But this is incredibly good practice for the simple reason that we can get lost in other parts of writing and forget the basics. It never hurts to brush up on those skills. Then there are exercises for the more advanced/seasoned writers. Guess what? They need to practice, too.

I like to read books that teach writing because you get varied viewpoints from different authors. The one advice they ALL say is sit down and write. It’s the Rule of Three: if three people say the same thing, you should listen. EVERY published author says the SAME thing…sit down and write. Whether it’s for five minutes a day or thirty, sit down and write. Doesn’t matter if it’s lists or stream of consciousness or story ideas, sit down and write. Practice makes you a better writer and, more often than not, a published one if you continue and FINISH your writing.

I’ve been working on a final story for a Twisted deadline and it’s been giving me a rough time. Mostly because it’s a hard write. The subject matter is a personal one for me and I feel I’m distancing myself from it so it doesn’t hit as close to home as it actually has been. But, I am writing. I decided to take a break, though, because it is taking an emotional toll on me, and I thought I needed some breathing space. So, I picked up a book I recently checked out from my library and decided to tackle one of the exercises. It’s a simple one: Write a paragraph about an object you can remember from your childhood but use five sentences, one for each of your senses. It’s a lesson in practicing sensory imagery. Great, I thought, I suck at this already. I couldn’t think of anything in particular. I sat for ten minutes before I realized what I remembered wasn’t an object but a person. More specifically, it was a memory of my grandmother washing dishes while I ate a popsicle. Here is my paragraph:

When I think of Granny, I picture her at her kitchen sink up to her elbows in warm, green-scented suds. The scrape of plate against plate, the slosh of the water as she pulled dishes from the bubbly abyss, and the swish of her clothes as she rubbed against the counter accompanied her as she sang her favorite go-to hymn, Rock of Ages. I’d suck on a popsicle as she worked; the syrupy sweet taste of artificial cherries dripping down my chin and onto my fingers created a sticky mess. Granny would notice and stop cleaning briefly to wipe my face and hands with the well-used but soft washcloth. I can still smell the fresh, clean scent of Palmolive Dish Soap from the cloth, and to this day, the fragrance, now Original Formula, works better than any time machine, transporting me back to Granny’s kitchen listening to her sing, “rock of ages cleft for me let hide myself in thee.”

What do you think? Can you picture yourself in my Granny’s kitchen? Does any of the sensory imagery evoke similar memories? Can you smell the Palmolive or taste the cherries?

Now it’s your turn.

I challenge you to do the same exercise. It didn’t take long to do, about 20 minutes. I’d love to read your responses in the comments!

Have a great week!

Jesi

 

Let’s Play A Game

Copying and sharing yesterday’s post from my home blog because I had the Grandest Idea to Inspire people to get writing. There are a few changes…

Dear Writers,

It has come to my Attention that there is a disturbing lack of Creativity within Contemporary Society as a whole. There is a sore need for Sparks of Imagination, especially for the young, those Dreamers of Dreams, Painters of Artful Things, Writers of Inspiring Works, and Creators of All Things Especially Wonderful. This is a sad State of Affairs, and I feel that something must be done.

Therefore, I have put on my Thinking Cap and have had the Most Wonderful of Ideas. I want to play a Game-one most Fun and Creative and Imaginative. I call it The Game of Wonderful, Sparkly Fun. The Objective: to bring to Life worlds most fantastic by writing stories.

The Rules (for there must be some Boundaries, or else Things That Might Not Need To Be Known happen, and that’s just Bad Manners):

1. You must address your story to someone as if you were writing a letter. The story does not need to be a letter but IS the letter, e.g. “My Dearest Lizzi, You will be astonished at what occurred to me today….I have discovered a plot against the Queen. Vickie is just beside herself in indignation at how anyone could possibly want to dethrone her.”

2. There are NO Rules as to subject matter. This is to Spark Imagination and Be Fun. Your Mind is your Limit. Whatever Thinks you can Dream, no matter the impossibility/improbability, are Encouraged.

3. Wanting to add/extend someone else’s story is not only Encouraged but Excitably Supported.

4. Good Taste must be applied as there are Things That Might Not Need To Be Known and Eyes that do not need to read/see Things That Might Not Need To Be Known.

5. Good Times must be had by all and sundry. Laughing is Wanted. So are Smiles, Hugs, and lots of Happy Faces.

Any and all are invited to Participate and will only add more to the Fun. Please feel free to send Invitations to play The Game of Wonderful, Sparkly Fun (to be known as The GWSF hereafter).

All “Letters” must be posted to your Blog and should be Shared Among All Things Social.

My dear Friends Through the Wires, I appeal to your Good Sense of Fun and your Sparkling and Glittering Nature to help Encourage this Endeavor of Magnificence.

I await your reply in Anticipation, and remain your Most Sincere Friend,

Jesi, M’Lady Poet,

Queen of The Light Fantastic (and Lovely Words)

 

Post Scriptum: Come join us on Facebook and post your “letters” there!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/thegwsf/

Defining the Narrative (Story) Arc & Discovering Your “Hook”

I participated yesterday in a workshop where the subject was the Story (Narrative) Arc. We wrote 1-2 pages of a new story in preparation for the class, and then we had to determine our story arc and our “hook” (that part of the beginning that captures a reader’s interest). The story I used was not actually new to me but the group had not seen it and I haven’t worked on it since I wrote it.

The workshop was interesting and I want to share some of my moments of enlightenment. Firstly, a definition of Story Arc:

A story arc is an extended or continuing storyline in episodic storytelling media such as television, comic books, comic strips, boardgames, video games, and films with each episode following a narrative arc. A narrative arc refers to the chronological construction of plot in a novel or story.

A story, whether in book form or film, can contain several story arcs. However, each arc should contain the same elements. Typically, these elements are:

an exposition: introduction of characters, setting, and  a lead-in to the conflict

the rising action: the part of the story where the conflict increases

the climax: the point where the conflict is reached and the turning point in the story occurs

falling action: the unfolding of events of the climax and release of tension

and the resolution: rather obviously, the conclusion.

In picture form, it looks like this:

risko narrative-arc

 

I want to emphasize that this is a typical/traditional definition. In reality, your story/narrative arc should look more like this:

story-arc

 

The basic reason is you want to give your readers some breathing space. You can’t keep them on a constant high. If there is no downtime, at some point, you will make them want off the ride…for good. Giving them a commercial break allows, ultimately, the tension to build even more and permits you to throw in surprises they will not expect.

A few months ago, I read a novel that used this particular type of story arc. Dear Stephanie by Mandi Castle was one heck of a rollercoaster ride. Her main character, Paige Preston, is a hot mess, but what Ms. Castle did, brilliantly in my opinion, is give you a break from the drama where you can sit back and go “whew”, until she hits you with the next hill, which is higher and deeper than the one before it. And her resolution? Let’s just say it was like having the first bite of the best dessert ever…and then the restaurant catches on fire. I highly suggest you put this book on your reading list.

One of the other things we discussed was your “hook”. As a reader, you want to be taken into the story right away. Else why bother reading the rest of the book? For me, Inkheart was one of the hardest books for me to read because it didn’t grab my interest. It didn’t “hook” me. I read that book out of pure determination (shut up, AJ-determination/stubborness, poe-tay-toe/poe-tah-toe). It was hard for me to get into the book, and I never read any of it’s sequels. I’m sure it is a good series, but, for me, if a book takes me several chapters and I still don’t know why I’m reading, then I’m not going to be interested in the other books.

One of my favorite contemporary novels is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Ms. Morgenstern begins her book with a prologue (don’t get our fearless leader, Amanda, started on prologues), and it begins with this:

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”

And, just like that, I am transported into magic. My brain begins firing and my imagination conjures up the movie Something Wicked This Way Comes. Let’s ignore the prologue. Even without it, the first sentence of the first chapter hooks you in.

The man billed as Prospero the Enchanter receives a fair amount of correspsondence via the theater office, but this is the first envelope addressed to him that contains a suicide note, and it is also the first to arrive carefully pinned to the coat of a five-year-old girl.”

I am all in now. I want to know more. Who is the note from? Who is Prospero? And why is the note pinned to a little girl?

In the workshop, we had to discover our story arc and then pinpoint our hook. To be fair, I had never put any thought into story arc. So, trying to find what the arc is in a story that isn’t fully realized yet was not easy. Even harder was trying to figure out what my hook was. Because what I thought it was turned out not to be the hook for everyone else. This is why beta readers are incredibly important, but that’s an article for another day.

I have been working on a story I began last November during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I basically began by writing the ending of my story and working my way backwards. Or so I thought. Now I’m looking at it with a different perspective. I’ve decided to go back to my ending and upload it to my writing group for a critique with the focus being on whether it will work better as the beginning. I also now see the possible story arc in it as well as a hook.

I challenge you this week to look at your current work in progress and view it with an eye to story arc and finding your hook.

Have a great week!

Jesi