Friday, December 28th, 2012

Writing Prompt: At the Cinema

The Brothers Lumier: Louis and AugusteToday in 1895, the first commercial movie was viewed at the Grand Cafe in Paris, France. Admission was charged.

The film was made by two professional photographers, Louis and Auguste Lumier, who were goaded into creating a movie when their father saw Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope, and told them they could do better.

(Let’s hear it for a little parental guilt!)

The movie was a series of short scenes of everyday French life.

It enthralled the public, and the rest is history.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write a scene as if you might be writing a movie script, rather than a novel or short story. Don’t worry about making a perfect script. Simply set the scene with a few paragraphs at the top, then write the dialogue.
     
  • Part 2 from above: once you’ve written the movie treatment, turn around and write the scene as if for a novel or short story. Does the dialogue still work? If not, revise.
     
  • Write a journal entry or essay on your favorite movie you’ve seen on the big screen. What about it seeing it in the theater makes it your favorite?
     
  • In Cornhuskers, chapter, 28 Memoir of a Proud Boy, Carl Sandburg writes, “There is drama in that point: the boy and the pigs. Griffith would make a movie of it to fetch sobs…” Write about a movie bringing you to tears. What emotion stirred the tears? Why?
     

Good Luck!

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

Morning After Christmas Conversation

Snow Falling on Park Bench

Conversation about 20 minutes ago:

Husband of Awesome™ walks up two flights of stairs from the man cave to see how I’m doing.

Husband of Awesome™: Why does your office smell like onions?

Me: You’re probably smelling the potato salad I had for breakfast.

Husband of Awesome™: Eww.

Me: Can you do me a favor?

Husband of Awesome™: Not if it means getting closer to onions.

 


Conversation I imagine we’ll have the next time he pops in to check on me:

Husband of Awesome™: Why does your office smell like sauerkraut?

Me: You’re probably smelling the sauerkraut I had after the potato salad. You know – to get rid of the smell of onions.

Husband of Awesome™: (Shakes head and leaves, wordlessly)

Me: (Laughing…) What!?

 

In my book, there is nothing better than Christmas leftovers for breakfast the day after Christmas. Yum!

And it’s snowing again, yippee! White Christmas and more snow coming. I smell a sleigh ride at lunch time (after a ham sandwich, some crab dip and a huge hunk of fruit cake)!

What’s everyone else doing today?

Monday, December 24th, 2012

(Free) Writing Prompt Gift for You – Or Last Minute Gift for Your Writer Friends

Prompt IllustrationMerry Christmas!

Here’s my gift for you (or for you to give to a writer friend).

I’ve created 30 prompts – all different than the ones I’ve used on my Web site for the last few years.

Included are quotes, story sparks, one-word prompts, etc. There are prompts for journalers, short-storyists, poets and novelists. Some are thought-provoking questions, some are simple directives.

(If it sounds like it’s all over the board, it is: I wanted there to be a little something for everyone.) Nonetheless, any prompt can be used multiple ways: if you’re a poet and it tells you to write a story, well, just write a poem! If the prompt is something fictitious and you enjoy journaling, relate it to your life in some way.

The prompts are spread out, 10-to-a-page on 3 pages, with dotted lines between each.

The idea is to print the three pages, cut along the dotted lines. them fold the strips over so the cute image is showing, but not the prompt. Decorate a shoebox or a glass jar, toss them in, then keep them on your desk when you need a bit of inspiration.

Here’s the PDF Link to the free prompts. (Right-click and choose save as to download it to your computer.)

I hope you enjoy them!

You Say You Want More?

If you’re looking for a more robust gift for a writer friend, I’ve written 370 more prompts – one for each day of the year and a few extra which are available in the same format. They’re $2.99 via PayPal. Just click the link below. Once you pay, you’ll be directed to the download link. Thanks!




Friday, December 21st, 2012

Writing Prompt: Relax

That’s me today: relaxed.

I’ve got all my holiday stuff together: gifts bought, packages wrapped, etc. Now, I’m just sitting with my feet up and a cup of eggnog in my hand.

(Well, not really. Being done just means I get to play at my second job – writing. But you get the idea…)

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write a scene in which your character is totally relaxed…and shouldn’t be. What are the consequences? Does it raise the stakes in the story? (I hope so!)
     
  • Write a poem about all things relaxing. Try to relax the reader, without actually using that word (or another like it.)
     
  • London will prove the very source of honour.
    Plunged fairly in, like a cold bath it serves,
    When principles relax, to brace the nerves:
    Such is my case; and yet I must deplore
    That the gay dream of dissipation ’s o’er.

    ~ Richard Brinsley Sheridan, “Epilogue By Mr. Colman; Spoken by Lady Teazle”
     

  • If you journal, write about the time you were most relaxed. What would it take to find that contentment again? Or, write about little daily rituals which might relax you (a cup of coffee, a warm bath, etc.) Are they enough?
     

Good Luck!

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

Author Interview: Ripley Patton

I read the first chapter of Ghost Hand, and was instantly hooked. So hooked, I invested in the Kickstarter project, because I wanted to read this book as soon as I could! The book is finally ready, and I don’t want to put it down – just when the plot was getting good: it got even better.

And lucky us! Author Ripley Patton agreed to answer a few questions below. I hope you enjoy…

Do pick up Ghost Hand when you get a chance. It’s terrific!

~ Kelly

Why did you write THIS book?

The short answer is: an agent told me to.

The long answer is a bit more complicated than that.
In 2009, I had been writing short stories for about five years, and really enjoying it, and I’d even won some awards and contests, but I wasn’t making much money. I had thought about writing a novel and had started a couple, but I always lost interest a few chapters in. I was beginning to doubt I could even be a novelist. Then, out of the blue, a New York literary agent contacted me on Facebook. She had read one of my short stories online and wanted to know if I was working on anything longer. After I picked myself up off the floor, I told her I wasn’t, but I could be. What followed was three weeks of frantic writing and outlining. I don’t think I even slept. All in all, I managed to prepare four different novel synopses with sample chapters for her to look over. She read them all and gave me feedback on what she liked and what she didn’t. And of Ghost Hand she said, “I could sell this. Write this one.” And so it began…

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, by the time I had Ghost Hand done, the agent had quit the business, so I ended up publishing it myself.

Do you have a “story” about the writing of this book? Something fun, crazy or frustrating that happened while writing?

Ghost Hand took me three years to write, so yeah, a lot of fun, crazy, and frustrating things happened during that time. Probably the craziest thing was that my home city was destroyed by two devastating earthquakes. I was living in Christchurch, New Zealand at the time, and in September 2010, we had a 7.1 earthquake that, among other things, took down a wall of our house and we had to move in under six hours. Then in February 2011, Christchurch was hit again by a 6.3 which was actually much more devastating than the first one because it was shallower and hit smack in the middle of the city. This time our house wasn’t damaged much, but my neighbor was killed, my husband lost his workplace, and my daughter lost her high school. After that one, the city was under a national state of emergency for three months while we suffered the 7,000 aftershocks. Water, food and fuel had to be brought to us by our friends in the safe zone for several weeks. It was a harrowing experience for me and my family, and many other people, and I have a feeling that someday I will have to write a book about it. But at that time, Ghost Hand was my escape into a world a lot less shaky than the one I lived in.

How much of the book is realistic?

All of it. Every last word is as realistic as I could make it. If a girl did have an ethereal hand that could reach into people and pickpocket their souls, I’m pretty sure it would look and act exactly like Olivia Black’s ghost hand does in the book. That being said, it is a paranormal thriller. It is fantasy. I personally don’t like books that are too realistic. If I wanted realistic, I wouldn’t read fiction. I’d just step out my front door.

Perhaps one thing that people might find too realistic is that my teen characters do swear. Honestly, I debated that, taking words out and then putting it back in again. Ultimately, I asked my own two teens what they thought and they said, “Mom, teens swear.” To them, it wasn’t authentic without some swearing. But I’m sure it will bother some people.

What books do you love, and what authors have influenced you?

Oh, I’m so glad you asked this. Probably my two favorite YA books in the last few years have been Lisa McMann’s Dreamcatcher series (Wake, Fade, and Gone), and Neal Shusterman’s Unwind. Both are grungy and dark, have amazing plotlines, and are a unique take on your typical YA story (no werewolves or vampires). Those books heavily influenced Ghost Hand. And Neal has just come out with a sequel (promising to make it a trilogy) to Unwind called Unwholly. Which reminds me, I haven’t bought it for my Kindle yet, and I don’t know why. I shall now go and do just that.

What’s next?

When I first started writing Ghost Hand, I didn’t know it was going to be a series. But as I wrote the book, the story grew, and I soon had a three book plot arc that I was really excited about. I love to read books in a series because then you don’t feel as sad when you finish the first book, knowing there are two more to look forward to. So, what’s next is book two of the PSS Chronicles, which I will start writing in earnest in January. I’ve already done research for the book, which takes place mostly in Indianapolis, Indiana, and I have the basic plot line in my head. Given the fact that scenes have already started to write themselves, I don’t think it will take me three years this time. I’m shooting to have the first draft done by summer, and release book two of the PSS Chronicles in fall of 2013.

You can read the first five chapters of Ghost Hand using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature. Go there now, click on this link to read!

Where can you find Ripley and her books? Right here:

Ripley Patton’s Web Site: http://www.ripleypatton.com/

Kindle Version of Ghost Hand: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AF1CM0A

Paperback Version: https://www.createspace.com/3904994

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ghost-hand-ripley-patton/1113899293?ean=2940015815030

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Ghost-Hand/book-tcaOM1Z-bEqiPYB_TaglRQ/page1.html?s=FDxT59tXp0WF-cKDbgUOfQ&r=10

Ripley Patton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/rippatton

Ripley Patton on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ripley.patton

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Writing Prompt: Deadlines

Give your character a deadline and you’ve got instant tension in a story. And without tension, you’ve got no story (or maybe no good story).

This works in real life, too.

Case in point: I gave myself a deadline of tonight to have all of my Christmas prep done: present buying, gift wrapping, house cleaning, card sending, etc. Talk about tension! And tonight’s a mad scramble: I’ve got about eight more presents to wrap and 30 Christmas cards to get out the door.

And I’ve come pretty close to my goal. But, alas, there’s one mail-order item that hasn’t arrived yet, and one more gift that hasn’t been bought.

Still: the next 10 days are going to be pretty relaxing around here. And that was my goal, to get it all done so that I could spend some actual time enjoying the holiday instead of making a mad dash in the weeks that lead up to it.

(You’ll want to give your character more dire consequences, however, if you want some real drama in your story. Kidnap his girlfriend and give him five hours to get the ransom money. Have a job hang in the balance, or a long-standing relationship, or a life.)

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write a scene where your character is presented with some kind of deadline. Make the stakes high, and have your character really struggle to meet it. Don’t let the answer to the problem come from an outside resource.
     
  • Write the “consequences” scene if your character doesn’t meet her deadline.
     
  • Journalers: write about a deadline you made in the nick of time. Talk about what would have happened if you hadn’t have made the deadline.
     
  • Write a poem about figurative deadlines…fall turning into winter, the end of a long life, a road that goes nowhere. Invoke the feeling of a deadline, but don’t use the word deadline.
     

Good luck!

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

The Work in Progress (WIP) Game – A Little Meme

Christiana Capotondi as la sposaThere’s a little writing game circling the ‘net for writers to discuss their works in progress. Pati Nagle introduced me to it. When you’re done here, you should go read Pati’s responses.

I hope you enjoy this peek!

Q: What is the working title of your book?

A: Titles are so hard for me to come up with! I struggle. So, like most of my WIPs, this one has no title.

Q: Where did the idea come from for the book?

A: I wanted to write a book about a character that people could relate to – so I started off with the idea that my main character must have some real problems (and Assumpta has more than her fair share – starting with how much she hates her name)!

I still wanted her to have an edge — this finding ability — in order to accomplish great things. I started writing about her problems first — pantsing the plot — and the rest of it just fell together as I wrote.

Q: What genre does your book fall under?

A:Urban fantasy, I think, with a tad of erotica thrown in for spice.

(Erotica: totally not planned. While I was writing, the muse torched the plot line and came up with a love triangle.)

Q: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

A: I pick Italian actress Cristiana Capotondi to play Assumpta. (Doesn’t she look lovely in the movie poster for la peggior settimana della mia vita (The Worst Week of My Life)?) Gerard Butler must play Jak. I think he’s just hunky enough to pull it off. Poor Greg is the third wheel in the love triangle. I’m waffling over actors for this role, but in a pinch I’d choose Matthew McConaughey. He’s almost attractive enough to get the job done, but not quite – just like Greg.

Q: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A: Nice Catholic girl takes on the devil — and wins — with a little help from a sexed-up fallen angel. (You know where that leads, right?)

Q: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

A: I’ve got a nibble from an interested press based on the rough draft. If the polished version meets the line’s criteria, I’d publish there in a heartbeat. If not, I’ll self-pub this, ’cause Jak’s too wonderful to keep locked away on my hard drive.

Q: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

A:The book took about a year to write in between full-time work and other writing obligations. (I also lost the manuscript at one point, and had to re-write some major scenes from memory. That set me back about 8 weeks between searching for the manuscript, re-writes and being in a writing funk.)

Q: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

A: Hard to say…maybe something along the lines of Stacia Kane, only not quite as dark.

Q: Who or What inspired you to write this book?

A: Inspiration played no part in this book’s conception. It was more of a challenge. I wanted to see if I could write something set in a “contemporary” setting and enjoy it as well.

Q: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

A: The main character, Assumpta, is a douser. She’s a self-described “finder of things,” and her method is the pendulum. The scenes where she uses one were sometimes difficult to write because the process is cumbersome, and I didn’t want readers feeling bored through them.

And now, here are some other writers playing this game:

Pati Nagle

Patricia Burroughs

Jeffrey A. Carver

Katharine Eliska “Cat” Kimbriel

Steven Harper Piziks

Deborah J. Ross

Edited to add:

Cindie Geddes

Beth Barany

If you want to join the game, answer the questions and then post a response in the comments. I’ll add your link in the body of the text as they come in.

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Writing Prompt: Setting the Scene

School Bus Arriving to drop kids off at school.The setting in a story is the place and time the story occurs. Every story has one. It lends context to the tale.

The settings for different types of stories will be different, as will the approach to creating them. One thing to consider is the audience reading the book.

For instance, the setting for a story taking place in modern Washington, DC might include a description of the Lincoln Memorial, the terrible traffic, diesel fumes from buses, protesters on the corner, etc. It might include some details on the weather: the oppressive heat of a July sun baking all that marble or the sleet of a November rain. And that’s it: just enough detail to ground the reader to location and atmosphere. He’ll fill in the rest with his own imagination.

A period romance might include the description of a brownstone townhouse in England, gas lamps on the sidewalk (if you’re in the rich part of town) or ragamuffin children (on the poor side of town). It will usually infer the economic status of the heroine, and some background, so we know how she got to this place and time. And, it might include a description of the historical events taking place, so that the reader gets an idea of the main character’s thoughts and motives. This description might go on for several paragraphs, because this audience enjoys rich detail.

Science Fiction readers will want explicit details on science, mechanics, atmosphere, politics, etc. But you don’t want to include detail, for detail’s sake. For instance, while you’re setting the scene, if you have machine that creates breathable atmosphere on a planet formerly known for its deadly gases, you don’t need to explain how that works…unless one of your characters is knowledgeable about it, or questions how it works, AND that information is crucial to the story.

If specific details aren’t important, but you point them out, you’ll either a) bore the reader, or b) leave him wondering why you included the detail. You don’t want that bouncing around in the reader’s head when she should be enjoying the story.

Also, a good rule of thumb when setting the scene is to include details related to the five senses. So, describe:

  1. what is seen
     
  2. what is heard
     
  3. what is felt (or touched)
     
  4. what is smelled, and,
     
  5. what is tasted
     

The hard part is writing the scene without making it sound like a checklist, like this:

The chaotic barnyard was filled it with animals. I could hear the cows mooing, the chickens squawking, and in the background somewhere, an old hound dog. The dirt was hard-packed beneath my feet, and I could feel every pebble through my shoe. Someone hadn’t mucked out the barn in ages. I could smell the dung all the way across the pasture. The wind kicked up, blowing dust in my face. I could taste the corn feed Farmer Brown just strew for the hens.

Terrible!

Here’s Your Prompt:

Here are a few suggested locations and time periods, choose one and write the scene.

  • A junior high school in the US, mid-1970s.
     
  • Modern day in a Scottish castle.
     
  • A 1950s traveling carnival.
     
  • A rock ‘n’ roll concert during the holidays, and the singer is late.
     
  • Thanksgiving Dinner – the week before Thanksgiving.
     
  • A fictional planet, during a civil war.
     
  • The coast of any continent, 1800s, during a powerful storm.
     
  • Today, in your home town.
     
  • England, during the middle ages, in a small cottage
     
  • Santa’s workshop, in July.
     
  • Alice’s Wonderland – only set the scene of somewhere Alice didn’t go.
     

If none of these strike your fancy, choose your own time and place.

Good luck!