Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Summer Vacation or Something Sinister: A What If...? Post

SCENARIO: A family of four - father, mother, two little girls - lives on your street. You know them only to smile and wave to, you recognize their cars - sports car for him, minivan for her - in the driveway, etc. Friendly but not friends. 

Summer starts. You realize you haven't seen the minivan for . . . awhile. His car comes and goes, he puts the garbage cans out, etc but no sign of the mother or the girls. 

What if . . . the mother and girls are vacationing somewhere for the summer, and he visits on weekends? He goes with them that first time, helps them unpack, and they eat dinner together in the local diner. He returns the next weekend, only to find them . . . gone. Not just gone, but as if they'd never been there. And no one in the diner or in town remembers him or recognizes photos of his family. What does he do now?

What if . . . the mother and father kidnapped the girls years ago and raised them as their own? What if the father thinks everything is fine, but the mother is becoming paranoid, is sure the authorities are on their way? She takes the girls and runs, not telling the father where they're going. How can he report them missing to the authorities when he stole them in the first place? What's his next step?

What if . . . the girls are really intelligent alien life forms studying the human race from childhood on up? What if they get sick of not having control over anything in their lives and decide to return to their planet? But they need to travel quite a bit in order to meet up with the mother ship. They need a ride. How do they convince their earthling mother to take them? 

Now, what if you took a turn with this scenario? Any sparks of inspiration? Feeling a stretch in that creative muscle?  

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The End Is Only The Beginning

I recently blogged about first lines and first pages - First Line Fear, First Page Panic. But let's not forget about The End. 

"Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle.
They read it to get to the end.
If it's a letdown, they won't buy any more.
The first page sells the book.
The last page sells your next book."
(Mickey Spillane)

I think this holds true for all stories, for all books, not just mysteries. As a reader, I don't need the ending tied up with a sparkly pink bow. I like a good wrap-up, with maybe a few loose ends so I can imagine the story continuing to unfold beyond the pages. I'm good with a vague ending, one that's open to some interpretation. I don't care for cliffhangers, though. I don't want to feel manipulated into buying the next book in order to see how this one ends. 

As readers, we put time and often money into a story or a book. We put our trust in the author, believing that he or she will deliver from start to finish. 

As writers, we're responsible for safeguarding that trust. We must bring our readers out the other side happier, more entertained, more satisfied than when they started. We need to leave them better off for reading our work. 

So, as readers, what's your favorite kind of ending? How do you feel about cliffhangers? As writers, how much time do you spend perfecting the ending versus the beginning? How do you leave your readers wanting, not needing, more?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Two Blogs Plus Five Reasons Each Equals . . . Way Too Much Math

I'm over at Tyrean Martinson's blog with my post - Five Reasons to Write Flash Fiction - so, in honor of that, I thought I'd try:  

FIVE REASONS HERE 
WHY YOU SHOULD GO OVER THERE

1) It's fun to travel.

2) A little procrastination before getting down to writing and work isn't going to hurt.

3) The tortoises are busy so nothing worthwhile is getting done around here anyway.

4) My reasons to write flash fiction might inspire you to give it a try.

5) Tyrean is a wonderful blogging buddy, who supports and encourages all of us.

Tyrean's Five Reasons series is so interesting and a lot of fun, and I was thrilled she asked me to be part of it. I hope you enjoy my post, and please go check out the others in the series so far. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

First Line Fear, First Page Panic

Jeff Somers has a great article - The Chain of Awesomeness - in the June/July 2016 issue of Writer's Digest. He's talking about building a strong first chapter, but I think a lot of it applies to stories in general: 

"A major mistake a lot of writers make is thinking that all a first line has to do is be cool or shockingThat's effective, but what makes a first line truly great 
is that it makes readers want to read the next line." 

I love a good first line, one that wakes me up, shakes me up. But I also love a first page that pulls me in, whether by grabbing me by the throat or by gently taking my hand. If something in the beginning doesn't hold my attention, doesn't keep me in the story, I will rarely read past that first page. Knowing this about myself as a reader puts enormous pressure on me as a writer. I want my readers to have to keep reading, to need to turn the page. 

As readers, how long do you give a novel - one sentence, one page, one chapter - before giving up on it? How long do you give a short story? As writers, how do you handle the pressure to prove your story's worth in such a short amount of time?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

IWSG: A Good Attitude and Better Focus


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I've been on a blogging break since mid-May, trying to get myself on a good track - emotionally, mentally, physically. Unfortunately, "life" happened, including a moment of feeling - once again! - like the kid no one wants to play with, like the only kid not invited to the party. This by the people who really shouldn't make you feel that way. I thought I was too old for hurt feelings like that. Sigh. 

And let's not forget the usual issues of writer's block, depression and anxiety. Oh, and the recurrence of a minor health issue. So, not quite the break I was hoping for.

BUT.

I am approaching June with a good attitude and better focus. I have a loose plan that includes throwing myself into writing stories - short, flash, etc - and getting them out into the world. I'm also making changes here on the blog, such as retiring Motivational Mondays. I'll still write the occasional motivational post, but it will be more as the mood strikes as opposed to on a schedule.   

Here's wishing us all a wonderful June! May it be the start of a summer full of creativity and good health and lots of fun!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Summer is coming . . .

. . . and I'm taking a blogging break until then. I'll pop in and out, though. You can't get rid of me that easily.

I'll be back for IWSG on June 1st. See you all then!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

IWSG: Putting Down the Backpack


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For awhile now, I've been feeling drained and exhausted, about my writing and about parts of my life. My husband equates it to carrying around a giant backpack. I packed it many years ago with things I thought I needed to succeed, to survive - including loyalty to my dreams, stubbornness, defensiveness, anger. And those things did keep me going for awhile, and I'm thoroughly glad I had them. 

But they've taken on a weight I can no longer carry, one I no longer want to carry, one I no longer need to carry.  

I'm making changes. I'm working on my weight - losing actual physical pounds - and re-thinking my writing, searching for the zest and the gusto again. 

I am putting down the backpack. I'm a little nervous, but I am moving forward - unencumbered, joyful, ready.