Friday, August 24, 2012

Here kitty kitty

We rescued some kittens from a tree last year.  They were so little, maybe six weeks old.  They were the cutest little siamese kittens ever.  What we didn't know was that kittens mature by four months.  Four months!  Now, just to defend ourselves from critics, we live out in the country and all of our cats are outside. We have always been responsible and neuter and spay our cats.  We were planning to spay these little kitties in the summer.  One didn't wait that long.  A little over 8 weeks ago, we had kittens. 

The kittens are on Craigslist and are ready to go to good homes.  I hope we have some takers.  Anyway, I just thought I'd share some pics of them with you.  They are so cute!  By the way, the spaying will commence as soon as the kitties are gone! (No lecture's please!).

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bloom Chapter 11

Welcome to Tighty Writie.  I hope you have been following along with the blogvel titled Bloom.  It's been great fun to write chapter 11.  Last weeks chapter can be found at Demeter Diaries and next week's chapter 12 can be found at the ever lovely Suzanne Payne's blog.  For a full list of the chapters, please check out Michelle Simkins blog.

And here we go....

Chapter 11
“What are you waiting for?” Jamie’s mom yelled at them.  “Wanda, I need you over here now!”
Jamie’s head swiveled toward Wanda, his mouth hanging open in stupefaction. “You know my mom?” he asked in a whisper, dropping his hand from hers.
“We might have met a couple of years ago before I started working at TS Labs,” Wanda muttered.  “We really don’t have time for this now.  I need to help your mom, and you need to make a decision.  Are you going to protect the plants, or protect people?  The decision you make really does determine if you are an Evil Genius, or just a Genius.”
Jamie’s mom turned back toward the shrubs that were moving closer to the Hummer.  She had the spray nozzle set and the pump was primed.  The two shrubs advanced on the vehicle and Jamie’s mom sprayed them with the chemical.  There was a hissing noise and the leaves that had been contacted by the spray began to shrivel and turned from green to a brown color.  “It’s working Jane, you’re doing great.” whooped Wanda as she jumped from the roof of the Jeep to the hood and then to the ground.  “Are there more packs in your car?”
“Yes, I think I have five with plenty of refill canisters with me.  John has more but he’s on the other side of town making sure they haven’t multiplied too quickly and surrounded the town.”  Wanda ran to the Hummers back door and grabbed a canister set.   She strapped it on her back and started priming the pump.  Jamie was still standing gawk-eyed at his mother.  “You mean dad’s here too?”
“Of course your father’s here, Jamie.” His mother yelled over the hissing of the chemical spray connecting with the shrubs.  She continued to spray the shrubs while trying to explain but it took a lot of effort. “We left to protect you, but obviously that didn’t work.  You must have already been adjusted before we left.  We didn’t realize it.  It was only later that we realized the adjustment wouldn’t show its effects until people became adults.  By then we had already left and you guys were doing so well with Gran.  We thought we had gotten away in time and that you guys weren’t affected.  We stayed away to keep you safe.”
Wanda climbed on top of the Hummer and joined Jane in the chemical spray fight.  The hedges were trying to regroup and figure out another way around the car to get toward town.  More hedges were coming out of the forest and were starting to converge on the Hummer.  Jamie glanced down at the road and saw that the back door of the Jeep was open.  Jessica is no longer in the car, Jamie thought with panic.  Had the hedges gotten to her and turned her again?  He felt panic in his heart as he glanced all over to find his sister.  He finally saw her at the back of the Hummer.  She was strapping on a canister set and was pumping the handle.  She looked weak but determined.  A surge of fondness and pride leapt in Jamie’s heart and he realized that he couldn’t have it both ways.  The plants were wonderful, scientific, and amazing, but they were killing people.  They had tried and were trying to kill people he loved.  He had to make a decision.
Jamie jumped from the jeep and ran to the Hummer to grab a pack.  He strapped it on as he was running and skirted around to the back of the hedges.  He had seen that Jessica had gone this way and it made perfect strategic sense to him.  Surround the hedges, and hit them with the chemicals from all sides.  He joined his sister and started spraying the hedges.  Jessica glanced at him and threw him a quick smile.  Maybe in time she would forgive him for hurting her.  The hissing continued for quite awhile until the hedges had been subdued and turned into shriveled brown leaves.  Jane went to the back of the Hummer and grabbed a leaf blower with a large bag attached.  “This actually vacuums up the leaves so we can haul them away and incinerate them properly,” said Jane.  She made quick work of bagging the leaves and Jamie and Wanda put the bags in the back of the Hummer. 
“Okay, this is probably the first time that I’ve ever said this, but, here it goes.  I don’t understand what’s going on Mom,” Jamie said with chagrin.
“Oh Jamie, it’s such a long story and of course you don’t understand.  All this time, you thought you were an Evil Genius and it was your destiny to experiment with the plants.  But it’s not true.  You were adjusted to believe that.  How do I explain this?  It’s like you were programmed.  Yes, that’s a good analogy.   You were programmed.  Did you ever notice your interest in plants was very sudden?”
“Well, I hadn’t thought of it that way, but yeah.  I guess so.  I just got this idea one day in high school that I should start looking at the biological properties of plants and see if I can make improvements to them.  I always thought it was because Gran wanted something to keep her garden healthy.”
“You’re a good boy Jamie,” Jane said.  Both Wanda and Jessica turned to Jamie with smirks on their faces.  “You just wanted to please Gran, but you were not really in control of these impulses.  Come on, we need to get moving and get into town to see if there’s any damage there.”
“But I need more explanation.  What was it that programmed me?  Why me?”
Jane put her arm around Jamie’s shoulder and started toward the car.  “Why don’t you ride with me in the Hummer and Wanda and Jessica will follow in the jeep.  I’ll fill you in and Wanda will fill in Jess.  Wanda, grab a couple of refill canisters in case you have to stop along the way to deal with some of our botanical friends.”
Jessica glanced with envy at Jane’s arm around Jamie, but she silently agreed that she should ride with Wanda.  If Wanda was willing to stab her repeatedly with straight forward jabs, she wouldn’t hold any punches on telling her what was going on either.  And Jessica needed to know.
“So spill it,” Jessica said as they strapped themselves into the front seat of the Jeep.  “What is the story, and don’t hold anything back.  I need to understand what’s going on.”
Wanda peered at Jessica out of the corner of her eye, nodded, and looked back at the road.  “You’ve changed.  I don’t mean into a plant or anything.  I mean, I can see that you’ve grown up in the last couple of hours.  Having nearly been turned into a plant and then fighting for your life can speed up the process to adulthood a little bit, I guess.”
“So tell me then.  I’m ready,” Jessica said heatedly.
Wanda proceeded to tell the story of how she was a bored college whiz kid in New Mexico and met Jane and John at a science museum.  They hadn’t even noticed her at first.  They were in a heated debate while standing over an exhibit of lush plants and descriptions of their genus.  They started talking about escaping just in time from the director of TS Labs.  Apparently, the director had tried to convince them to work on a secret plant project and they left before he could force them to work on it. 
But they were worried about their kids they had left behind.  One of them had apparently started to work with plants and that was just too suspicious to them.  They couldn’t decide if it was safer for the kids for them to stay away or to come back.  Wanda had jumped into their conversation and said that she could help.  They didn’t want to do it, but she was bored and threatened to expose this situation if they didn’t include her in their plans.  Jessica was impressed by the audacity a young Wanda must have displayed.
“So my parents were aware that Jamie was starting to work on the plants?” Jessica asked. 
“Yep, they kept up with you guys from a distance.” Wanda agreed.  “And they realized that the director had programmed Jamie when he had visited to convince them to work on the plants.  I guess he had given Jamie a piece of candy and that’s how they think he put the program virus in him.  They thought it would be helpful if I went to the same college and started to work at TS Labs.  I was bored and it sounded like a cool secret mission, so I agreed.  It was easy since I had such good grades.  The school and the lab were both excited to have me.  Let’s be honest, Jamie was excited to have me too,” Wanda finished with a gleam in her eye.
“So dating my brother is just part of your mission?  To stay close?” Jessica asked in anger for the brother that stabbed her a couple of hours ago.  She rolled her eyes at her own loyalty.
“Well, at first.  But then I realized how awesome he was.  He really is so smart and he’s fun.  I wasn’t bored anymore.  And he thought of me as more than a pretty face.  He actually liked my brain.  He wasn’t intimidated.  So it became even more important for me to watch him.  His plants were his side passion but I knew he was actually being influenced by the director of the lab.  He wanted Jamie to create these plants to be bio-weapons.  They could remove a ‘person of interest’ so to speak if they were getting in the way of the directors political agenda.”
“By removing a person, you do mean assassinate, correct?” asked Jessica. 
“That’s the term your parents use, yes,” Wanda responded.  “It’s really a pretty fascinating method for removing your enemies.  No one would guess a thing and everyone would have an alibi.  It would be like the person just disappeared.  But there would be no suspects. And it wouldn’t appear to be foul play.  It’s genius really.  It’s Evil Genius.”
“But why did it start here?  Why my little town?”
“Well, that was a mistake, I think.  The director didn’t realize that Jamie had moved his experiments outside of the lab.  They were still in the infancy stages and weren’t ready for a trial.  But Jamie knew he’d had success in your Gran’s garden and even in the woods when he was in high school and thought this was a great place to see how the plants thrived.  He didn’t know they were going to be a weapon.  He thought they were going to work toward reducing global warming and the effects on the environment caused by people.  He was trying to save the world.  What better place to try it than where he had people that he loved.  He just liked calling himself an Evil Genius because he was manipulating natural organisms.”
“If that’s the truth, why was he so resistant to killing them earlier.  He wanted to save them!  Even when he knew they had killed people.” Jessica quickly wiped her eyes and glanced out the front window at the Hummer in front of them.  Wanda had been telling her story but not meeting her eye.  She had been intent on evaluating the woods on the sides of the road for any possible moving plants. 
“Well, a mother loves her child even when he does something wrong, you know?  I think he was just feeling responsible for these plants and thinking he still had a way to control them and turn them for good.  I’m sure that now that he’s heard your mom’s story about the director, he’s going to feel very differently towards his babies.  They won’t be his babies anymore.”  The brakes on the Jeep screeched and the car slid sideways as Wanda crested a hill and saw that they Hummer was stopped by more hedges and a few trees in the road.
“Let’s go prune some shrubs, Jessica!” Wanda yelled as she exited the Jeep and slung her chemical pack on her back.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Is it a Platform or a Ledge?

Last year I connected with people who write.  There is so much available to writers that wasn't there in the past.  Or maybe it was always there, but it seemed so unreasonable for me to reach out to those folks.  I mean, I'm not really a writer.  I just want to be one.  I want to share my stories with others.  I want the privilege of creating something that others will find worthy of their time.

One of the things that I kept hearing about was that writers need a "Platform".  Some way for people to learn about the author and for the author to communicate his/her work.  So I started a blog and I spent time on Twitter and some web sites dedicated to writers.  My problem was that it felt like I spent more time doing those things than actually writing.  Not only that, but I also learned so much from my online friends and online writing sources about the craft of writing that I realized I wasn't ready for a platform.  It felt... I don't know...dishonest.  I am not writing enough or well enough to begin building my platform.  At this point in my development, I don't have enough to say about my work or writing in general to spend time on a platform.

For me, the platform felt like a ledge.  I thought I was supposed to be there because everyone else was, but it was so unstable that I was teetering on the edge.  I was going to fall.  I hadn't built up enough of a foundation of writing skills and materials to make the ledge stable enough to be a platform.

I haven't blogged much this year.  I've spent very little time on Twitter and my online resources.  I have spent my time reading a lot of books about writing, style, genre, etc.  I'm at the point where I've got a story in my mind and I just need to pull the trigger.  In other words, I need to write. 

No more time-wasting working on a platform I'm not ready for or reading any more books to gain insight.  I am stepping off the ledge and going to sit my butt in a chair and write. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Lie That Tells a Truth part 2

Sorry for the delay in the second part of my book review of The Lie That Tells a Truth by John Dufresne.

We left off with understanding the purpose of a first draft.  It's to not be perfect.  It's to get the words out there and see where the story takes you.  Now we're on to the Revision stage.  The author states that "All writing is rewriting."  He also gives two pieces of advice:

1.  Finish the story.
2.  Don't expect to finish it today, or in this draft, or anytime in the near future.

You see what you wrote, not what you thought you wrote.  This is the time to ask the right questions.  The question of the characters motives, the showing not telling, the word choices.  Page 85 of this book gives a whole list of questions that I thought were very helpful.  Check this book out.


I love the way Mr. Dufresne describes plot:  "Get your hero up a tree, throw rocks at her, throw bigger rocks at her, then get her down."  He actually gives credit for this saying to an unknown source but it's just such a great visual.  And it's certainly where I struggle.  When you determine which rocks to throw at your character you need to determine if it serves the plot, advances the story, or will it actually hinder the story, change how the reader feels?  Throw the right rocks.

Plot is the structure of events in a story.  It's is not a chronology.  "It's an arrangement of events to achieve a desired effect."  One of the points of this book is that the author takes the time to visualize not only his characters, but their actions.  It's as though he was in the room with the characters and he's just documenting what he sees, feels, hears.  What's on the wall of the character's room?  What does the character do when the wind comes through the window?  Really understand the character and the environment and then write.

John Dufresne starts the chapter entitled "Plottery" with a great couple of lines.  "An idea is not a story.  A first draft is not a story.  A moral is not a story.  A character is not a story.  A theme is not a story.  A plot - now, that's a story!"  He goes on to say that plots don't exist.  You can't just go get one.  You have to develop one through your writing.  He calls plot, "the organizing principle of narration."


The author calls for tenderness for all the characters.  You must treat them like children, with love and forgiveness.  But characters can't get away with lying, exaggerating, and not being responsible.  You have to know your characters inside and out.  Even though they are fiction they have a past.  They were all kids at one time, with parents, with joys and heartbreaks.  It's what defines them.  Take the time to know your characters.

Characters should surprise us.  If they don't, they are probably flat, dimensionless, with no depth.  The best way to get characters to feel real is to animate them.  Get them walking and behaving and let the reader watch them.  (This is why I have trouble reading like a writer, I always get sucked into the character!)


I love this line, "Dialogue is not a break in the action, it's an intensification of action."  There is a whole section on dialogue in the book.  How to do it well, what to avoid, etc.  I won't do it justice by piece-mealing portions into this blog, so you'll want to scope out pages 198-209.

Point of View

When trying to decide which point of view to take consider which character is in the most trouble?  Who has the most to lose?  The one with the biggest risk is the choice you should take. 

First person is unambiguous and it's easy to tell if you violate point of view. 

Second person - the you is a character in the story.  John Dufresne gives the example, "There are moments in your life when you think you can change absolutely everything....".  The author believes that this POV works best in short pieces.

Third person narrators are not characters in the story but they aren't real either.  They are invented.  It's not the author talking and it's not the characters either.  It's someone who tells the story but remains outside of the story.

Third person objective is sometimes known as fly on the wall.  It's reporting what a fly would see but you never enter into the minds of the characters.  It's a distant way of telling the story, impersonal.

Third person omniscient - this is pretty much the opposite of third person objective.  This person knows it all, what every character is thinking, etc.

Reading to Write

You never become an expert writer.  There is always more to know.  Mr. Dufresne gives good advice about reading like a writer.  The first time you read a book, read for pleasure.  Now reread the story and notice how the author reached the destinations.  What choices did he make, why?  How did he do the transitions, the movement of the characters. 

One of the final gifts the author provides is a list of items in A Writer's Toolbox.  It's a grouping of items that a writer would find helpful as they go through the journey of writing their story.

I would like to give my thanks to the author John Dufresne for his work that has been such an education for me.  I believe this book is a great reference for the aspiring writer.  His ability to easily communicate and share his viewpoint has been very helpful to me.  I hope you check out this book and get as much from it as I do.  I certainly could not do it justice in just two blog posts.

Thanks for Reading!! 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Lie That Tells a Truth, part 1

The other day I was browsing through the writing section in my local library and I pulled a couple of books down from the shelf.  I wrote about the Secret Miracle in my last post.  This post I’d like to share some information I gleaned from The Lie That Tells a Truth by John Dufresne.  In fact, it’s going to take more than one post to share his words of wisdom to the aspiring writer.

The Lie That Tells a Truth was written in 2003.  You might question its relevance for today’s writer but I found it to be very educational and well written.  For many of you this material may be well known and part of your extensive experience.  But for me, it really hit home.  I’d heard some of it before, of course, but the way it was written just resonated with me.  And I want to share some of it with you.

Writer’s Block

The first thing Mr. Dufresne shares with us are that if we didn’t write today it’s because we didn’t want to, didn’t have the perseverance or the courage.  One of those three, or maybe more.   Lacked the will or the passion.  He questions whether we really enjoy it enough because we always find time to do the things we love.  His opinion is that writers don’t suffer from writer’s block.  It’s an excuse to get out of dealing with a problem in your story that you can’t solve.  He mentions that secretaries don’t get secretary block.  (Come on, it’s funny).  His point is, work through it.

Asking the right questions

Another point that John Dufresne makes in his book is that fiction isn’t the quadratic equation; we’re not solving a problem.  His stance is that we’re creating problems.  And the answers we get for solving these problems we create is based on the questions we ask.  Logic isn’t required, let loose and trust your feelings, intuition, etc.  Logic comes later, after the story has been created.  You use the logic to see if your story makes sense, but after you create it.

The 10 Commandments of writing

Now, I don’t know where he got these.  I assume that he’s not the originator but here’s what he shared as the 10 commandments of writing:

1.        Sit your Ass in the Chair.

2.       Thou shalt not bore the reader.

3.       Remember to keep holy your writing time.

4.       Honor the lives of your characters.

5.       Thou shalt not be obscure.

6.       Thou shalt show and not tell.

7.       Thou shalt steal.

8.       Thou shalt rewrite and rewrite again.  And again.

9.       Thou shalt confront the human condition.

10.   Be sure that every death in a story means something.

Writing stories

I love these next few lines in the book, so I am copying them verbatim (all credit to the author John Dufresne).  Hopefully, all of you skilled English majors who recognize that I have no idea how to properly credit a source are satisfied that it’s obvious that I’m not taking credit for this post and are giving me a break.

“Stories and novels don’t get written.  They get rewritten.  All matters of consequence in fiction are addressed in revisions.”

I knew this right?  I mean, every author says his or her first draft was crap.  But you don’t really want to believe that YOUR first draft will be crap.  His point is that the first draft is for free-flowing creativity and that the hard work comes in the revisions.  Dufresne’s commentary about the ‘author’ is that he makes mistakes and expects his first draft not to be crap.  He undermines his effort by holding unrealistic expectations of himself.  (This is where I really begin to relate).  The author becomes discouraged when the characters on the page don’t match what’s in his head.  I like this quote too, “What had seemed like an exciting and noble undertaking now seems foolish and impossible.”  Can I get an AMEN here?  AMEN.

So, just in case I didn’t get the message, he actually spells out the lesson for me.  “Do not write beyond what the first draft is meant to accomplish.”  Explore the world, the story, and get to know the characters.  Make sure you’re asking the right questions.  Watch your characters in your mind and see what they do.

In the next post, I’ll continue sharing snippets of John Dufresne’s book, The Lie That Tells a Truth.  It really was a very good book and he had tons of “exercises” for the writer to do as well.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Secret Miracle

I read the book The Secret Miracle over the weekend.  It was published in 2004 and is written by Daniel Alarcon.  It's a guide for the novelist, a handbook. 

It was written in an interesting way because it was actually just verbatims from different authors, like Steven King, answering questions about their writing styles and techniques.  The quotes are taken from when they were on different author panels.

I admit that I hadn't heard of a number of the authors but it included international authors, so I recognize the fault is mine.  I'm just not culturally diverse enough.  I don't usually read non-fiction unless it's about writing.  I don't usually read books that are written with the specific intention of making me cry.  I don't like all the drama.  I do like mystery, political thrillers, romance, chick-lit (if funny, not sappy), and YA like Twilight, Rick Riordan books, Hunger Games, etc. 

I found a couple of items really interesting in this book.  The first was that a large number of these authors did not do outlines.  At all.  And that the ones that did outline, acknowledged that the story never stayed true to the outline.  Many of the authors felt that outlining would take the fun out of the writing process and stifle the actual story. 

The second point was that although the authors tended not to outline, the majority wrote their novels in sequence.  A few authors bounced from a scene in the middle of the book to the beginning, etc.  But most authors wrote in sequence.  For those that wrote in sequence, many acknowledged that if an idea came for a scene that belonged later, they would capture a few code words on a slip of paper, etc. but they didn't dig into the details until it was time.

What surprised me the most was that many of the authors did not have a plan for their novel.  They might have had a feeling / picture about the main character, or they might have had a "what-if" they wanted to answer, or they had a particular scene they wanted to write about and the novel flowed from there.  Their plotting was evolving as it was written.

These comments from respected authors were really helpful to me because I have a character in my head that wants to do something but we don't know what it is yet.  I've been worried about making sure the plot is laid out and maybe what I should be doing is just writing and see where it takes me.  That's not really my personality so it's kinda scary.

What do you do?  Do you outline, plot everything out, write in sequence or jump around?  Let me know!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hi ho hi ho, it's off to edit I go....

I thought writing my story was hard.  Fun, but hard.  Now it's time to edit.  This is hard and I'm not sure it's fun.  I haven't decided yet.  It's a little masochistic because you take what you love, what poured out from you and then you look at it and call your own baby ugly.

I know that with a little bit of work, the story could really be great.  It's just hard to admit to yourself that it wasn't great to begin with.  I recently read on a blog (I think) about how every line in Streetcar Named Desire was exactly what was needed.  No extra words, no superfluous thoughts.  Everything written was meant and vital to telling the story.  I want my story to be that same way.  Now, I'm not writing a classic like Streetcar, but I want to make sure that every line is important and says just what it should. 

But I've also read blogs and articles that say not to edit your 'voice' out of the story.  I'm concerned that if I adjust it too much, it won't be the same story. 

Do you ever have these concerns?  What is your process for editing your stories?

Thursday, February 2, 2012


It's only February 2nd and I'm already having reading withdrawals.  When I told my sons that I was giving up reading for the month, they were shocked.  They are voracious readers too and they couldn't believe that I was going to give it up.  I explained that I wanted to work more on my writing and that I was spending too much time reading.  They still thought I was crazy but immediately said, "Yeah, write something else because The Friend Factory was awesome."  (Hey, you gotta take your compliments where you can get them!)

Do you know how many hours are in a Saturday if you're not reading?  Me neither, but I bet it's a lot!

I know I'm going to make a couple loaves of banana bread (sans nuts).  I bet our house becomes very clean.  And the laundry gets done.  And then....what?  There will be hours and hours of Saturday left.  Perhaps a workout or a nap or both.  My husband will laugh at that last line, workout - indeed!

My experiment is for me to work on carving time out to focus on creativity, idea generation, and writing.  I am going to try to teach myself to think about my characters, the plot, the setting, the conflict and action while doing my chores.  If that doesn't work, I'm going to sit my butt at the computer and stare off into space and not let myself get 'busy' with other things.  This is my 'thing', one of my chores, that I need to schedule into my life.  I need to learn that it's okay to just let go and think (about anything).

Of course, after Saturday comes Sunday and there's just as many hours there too.

I think this might be fun!  Wish me luck...

Monday, January 30, 2012


Oh, man.  I can't believe I am going to do this.  I don't know if I can.  I don't think I've ever done it before.  I'm starting to panic a little.  Okay, a lot.

I am NOT going to read a book in the month of February.

I know!  It's crazy.  I'm the person who ALWAYS has a book in her hand.  A Nook in the crook (of my arm).  I read one, two or three books a week, maybe more.  How will I ever make it through a whole month without reading?  Other than working during the day and my family, I don't have another hobby like so many other folks do.  I don't watch TV or knit or....anything.  I read.  Everything.

Why take this vow of reading abstinence? 

I need to see if reducing my reading is going to help me focus on writing and being more creative.  I know I need to get better at it and you only get better by writing every day.

You see, it's easy to read, but it's hard to write.  I love both, but I lack confidence in my writing skill.  So, I usually take the easy way out and choose to be entertained, educated, and enthralled by other people's works rather than spend the effort to get better at my work.  And yet I want my work to be brilliant.  This is the part where you tell me that's the definition of insanity!

So, it's time to close the escape hatch, lock myself in, and see what I can really do.  I need to give myself time to think, dream, create, and write. 

*freaking out*  *hyperventilating*

Wish me luck. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

What's the worst thing that can happen?

When you're young, birthday's are really exciting.  I mean, who cares that Christmas was only a month ago.  It's birthday time!  Presents!  Cake!  My son was excited.  He was counting down the days and moaning with sadness every morning when it still wasn't his birthday. 

Little Man turned 9 on Friday. 
On Thursday evening he came down with a major stomach bug and spent the night being very sick (gross).

But little man soldiered on.  He rested instead of going to school.  I offered to have the family party on Saturday instead of Friday evening so he could feel better but his answer was an emotional "NO!"

His perseverance made me think about characters in our writing.  As writers we're supposed to think of the worst that can happen and then make our characters work through it.  It lends depth and emotion to the story.  It helps readers care for the characters. 

When you're young, what's the worst that can happen on your birthday?  You're too sick to enjoy the presents. 

What's the worst that can happen to your characters in the story you're working on?  Are you challenging your characters enough to make them seem real to your readers?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Multitasking and Story Ideas

Multitasking is hard for me.  I didn’t always know this about myself but as I’ve gotten older, it’s become apparent.  I don’t know how people do it.  I wish I could.  I’m writing this blog post about multitasking from a writer’s point of view.  A lot of writers have ideas come to them when they are doing something else.  They might be walking down a street and an idea comes to them.  They think through plot lines while exercising.  The only thing I can think of while exercising is how many more minutes do I have left? 

When I’m working my day job, I don’t think about writing or stories.  I think about work.  I want to think about my plot or my characters but I can’t do it.  I’ve tried.  An example would be the work I did yesterday.  I was gathering data between two flow meters and so I was sitting on a ladder, glancing back and forth between two display screens and writing numbers.  For hours.  You would think my mind would have lots of opportunity to wander and think about other things.  But oh, no, not me.  My thoughts were constantly evaluating the numbers, wondering why there was fluctuation, whether or not it was statistically significant, was I doing a good job and getting the best data possible?  My thoughts are constantly focused on my work projects and my next steps and what needs to be done when I’m at work.

And home is really no different.  When I start the washing machine, you would think I could daydream then, but it’s not to be.  My mind immediately focuses on whether or not I filled the detergent to the correct level, how to pour the softener without spilling it all over, choosing the right settings.  It’s never done on rote.  I think about it every time.  Washing dishes doesn’t give me a chance either.  I just think about making sure everything is clean.  I think about how warm the water is and how soapy.  When I try to think about a story or developing an idea, it’s just a blank.

Now that I’ve finally realized that I’m not the kind of person who ideas are just going to pop in my head and flesh themselves out while I’m doing the menial things we do in our normal lives, I have decided that if I require single focus time to do things, I need to discipline myself to sit and think of story ideas.

I need to learn to sit quietly and let my mind wander.  This is so difficult.  I’m not sure I know how to unfocus and just let the ideas come.  I know they are there but they seem so hard to grasp.

Do you have any trouble thinking about story ideas?  How do they come to you?  Do you have any advice for letting my creative side free?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How’s it hanging?

Over the holidays, I had a death in the family.  One of our hangers committed suicide.  Don’t laugh, I was shocked.  I hadn’t expected it at all.  I must have missed all the clues.  There I was, minding my own business.  Doing the laundry and not thinking about anything other than which shirt belongs to which kid.  I had a group of hangers on the bed where I sort and pile the clean laundry into groups.  Shirt pile for kid 1, pants pile for kid 1, underwear pile for kid 1, you get the idea.  I grabbed the hangers and started putting shirts and pants on them to take into the walk in closet.  Everything seemed fine.  I grabbed a handful of hangers with shirts on them and walked into the closet.  Just as I raised my arm to hang the shirts on the bar, one of the hanger’s heads jumped up and came into contact with the top shelf of the closet.  SNAP.  The head goes flying and the body drifts slowly to the floor taking a clean shirt with it. 
What was so wrong with this hanger that he would resort to this sort of macabre decision?  Were my other hangers so exclusive that they couldn’t get along?  Was he tired of hanging around the bar and never getting picked up? 
Please join me in a moment of silence.  *wipes tears*  Personification can really suck sometimes.