Friday, April 26th, 2013

Writing Prompt: Starting from the End

TypewriterI had lunch with a writer friend yesterday, and as usual, we talked shop.

I finally asked him if he wouldn’t mind looking over a short story I’m writing, because I seem to have written myself into a corner. It’s science fiction, which I love reading, but never seem to get around to writing.

Absolutely he said yes, but then he offered a nugget of advice while plotting: write the last line first.

His method is to write the last line, ask himself how the characters got to that point, then ask how they got to the point preceding that, and so on.


I’ve never suffered from “writer’s block” because (as I tell anyone who asks) I always “know where I’m going” when I’m writing. How can you be blocked if you know what’s coming next?

Starting from the end is the nth-most point of this. Now, why didn’t I think of that?

(Thanks, Carl!)

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write a poem, a short story, a scene or vignette by writing the last line first. Think: how will this end? And start from there.
  • Think of two story/scene/poem endings, then think of how they each begin. Switch the beginnings of each idea and then write one of these ‘twisted’ stories.
  • If you’re having trouble thinking of endings, here are a few ideas you can steal (re-write them once you get to the end!):
    • Like thee, may New Switzerland flourish and prosper–good happy and free! – Johann Wyss, Thw Swiss Family Robinson
    • “Now, that’s something like! Why, it’s a million times better than pirating. I’ll stick to the widder till I rot, Tom: and if I git to be a reg’lar ripper of a robber, and everybody talking ’bout it, I reckon she’ll be proud she snaked me in out of the wet.” ~ Samuel Clemens, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
    • Then he closed his eyes and humbly surrendered his vanquished throat to the comfort of the blade. Miguel Torga – The Bull, from Farrusco: The Blackbird and Other Stories
    • I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before. ~ Samuel Clemens, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
    • In this vessel, after a long voyage, I arrived in England, June 11, in the year 1687, having been 35 years absent. ~ Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

Good luck!

Photo by | Dreamstime Photos

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Review: A.R. Hill – A Light Against the Darkness

Cover: A Light Against the DarknessI like my champagne with sparkles, and my vampires without. So, I was thrilled to find A. R. Hill’s A Light Against the Darkness. In a sea of sparkling wannabes, her vampires are dark and brutal and every bit as exciting as vampires should be.

Oni is a Japanese vampire. He’s barbarous and savage and equal parts evil and insecure. He kidnaps a young girl, Samara Takeshi – who he renames Oreno – and turns her into his bride. He forces her love and keeps her locked away in his home. He takes her freedom, her childhood, and her life…

Slowly, Samara realizes that Oni has turned her into a vampire. When the horror of it finally dawns, she feels compelled to get away from him and forge her own destiny. But it’s not until Oni kills her parents that she gains the strength to flee.

After some adventure, Oreno stows on board a ship bound for the United States, makes her way to Hawii and eventually the mainland, where she finds others like herself. They take her in, teach her the ways, and embroil her in politics that only vampire societies can create. She is judged and sentenced by the council yet takes it in stride, earning her place, learning their ways, and makes a “life” for herself.

And then Oni comes calling again.

Samara is just a school girl when she’s faced with the tremendous loss of her humanity and the realization of the horror she’s become. It’s watching and learning how she handles the crisis – choosing to be more than just a monster – despite the knowledge of the long road before her which makes A Light Against the Darkness such a good read. We see the path from her point of view and feel her struggles. We’re with her every step of the way.

But don’t let Oreno’s school-girl history fool you into thinking the book is light on action. Hill keeps the pages turning with: escalating politics, sword fights, gun battles, explosions! There’s just enough blood and gore to satisfy.

Never a dull moment, A Light Against the Darkness is chock-full of intrigue and action. If you like your vampires dark and gritty, this is a must read for you.

Meet the Author – Buy the Book



Amazon: Paperback: A Light Against the Darkness

Create Space: A Light Against the Darkness

Friday, April 19th, 2013

Writing Prompt – Characters Who Die

I finished reading three stories this week in which the main character died. I didn’t plan it, it just happened.

In case you’re interested, the characters are:

  • Lily Bart in Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth. She accidentally committed suicide by overdosing on a “sleeping aid,” conveniently tying up the unraveling strands of her life.
  • Delilah in Jennifer Roberson’s Sword Singer. Tragic and abrupt, it probably couldn’t have been handled in any other way. (Spoiler Alert: Okay, she really doesn’t die. But Roberson leaves you hanging like she does: The sword fight ends with Tiger lamenting that Del paid a very high price…and the final chapter sees him in the graveyard riding off alone. Well, what are you supposed to think?)
  • Benjamin Button in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. (I’m interpreting this as death, but Button’s unmaking could probably be described better in scientific terms. Maybe he was simply un-born.)

Frankly, I call bullshit on principal characters who die.

(Especially when the story is first person, and the person telling it dies. But that’s a topic for another day…)

That being said, there are a lot of reasons to kill off main characters: they deserve it, they’ve lost their usefulness as a story tool, or – the best reason, in my opinion– to yank the reader’s chain. There’s nothing better than building up an awesome character and cutting short his life. It just tugs at the heartstrings of readers.

(Hello Ms. Roberson? Brava!)

Still, a character shouldn’t be killed off without good reason. And when there’s not a good reason, I call bullshit.

Benjamin and Delilah’s ‘death’ are well-justified, but I feel Wharton took the easy way out by killing off Lily. It’s convenient for her, because the story was really dragging on, and double convenient for Lily who had been cut off socially by friends and faced a woeful future of penury.

(I couldn’t wait to finish the book. If poor Lily would have defended her social position – she had the means – and discarded a bit of her pride, she would have fared much better. I don’t mind when a character makes stupid mistakes, but I can’t stand it when they make them over and over and over again. Makes me spitting mad.)

Here’s Your Prompt

  • Write the death of your main character. You don’t have to include it in the book or story you’re writing. Consider this a character-interview of sorts. (And don’t let your character know what you’ve planned: it puts them in the position of doing all kinds of things they might not do if they didn’t know the end was coming.)

    Some of you think I’m kidding. But, I’m not. Trust me on this.

  • If you’re a poet: write a poem about death….but not tragic death. Write about heroic death.
  • Memoirists: write about a death in the family over which some cloud hangs. Do some research to clarify details if you can.

Good luck!

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Dusting and Cleaning…

If it looks a little different around here, that’s because it is.

I’ve decided I want a ‘cleaner’ look to my Web site, so I’m testing out a few new themes. I might change this one by the end of the day…I might not.

I could do this the right way and tinker behind the scenes, get it right, and then do the switchover… but I like to live dangerously.

So… please pardon the dusting and cleaning while I make up my mind.

In the meantime, if you have any suggestions…send them my way. 🙂

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Writing Prompt – If You Had Robot Help…

Scooba Robot Floor CleanerI’m looking to purchase another robot floor cleaner.

I’ve had both the iRobot Roomba and iRobot Scooba robots: one to vacuum and one to wash the tile floors.

I loved them both… death, you might say. As both have been used long past their usefulness. It’s time for a new pair.

(I’m doing research, since there are a few more manufacturers on the market since I bought my first, but I’m still leaning toward the iRobot brand at this point.)

But as much as I love them, I want something more. Something like…

…Rosie the Robot, from the old cartoon series, The Jetsons.

Rosie the Robot

She dusted, she did the dishes, she ironed. And she talked back. If you’re going to have robot help, you might as well have something which also speaks its mind. It could come in useful:

Me: What do you think of Chapter 3, Rosie?

Rosie: Where’s the drama? It just drones on and on without passion. Too many adverbs. Not enough dialogue.

You get the idea.

I could think of another million uses, too. Like: making sure there aren’t any stinkbugs in the house, pulling the weeds in the front garden, and watering all the plants. Oh, yeah, and making dinner. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve burned dinner while diddling over a scene.

While she’s at it, she could pay the bills, balance the checkbook, and make sure everything is filed away nice and neat… because those piles of paper tend to linger around here until they’re a fire danger.


Here’s Your Prompt

  • What job in your life would you like to see replaced by robot — or appliance — help? How would it change the way you do things?
  • Write a story about this fascinating new robot (or appliance). What negative aspects could cause significant drama?

Good luck!

Friday, April 5th, 2013

Writing Prompt: Behind Closed Doors

Red door with green awning over top.

I got inspired by doors today.

Doors are like choices, or decisions. Prompts for action: should you open it or leave it shut? Should you step through, or remain on this side?

And there are so many doors, and an equal (if not double!) amount of choices.

What’s more, the sight of a door leaves one with the impression of what might be behind it. A set of French doors with sheer white curtains might inspire a light and airy dining area. A solid wooden door on the face of a Boston brownstone might convey upper-crust society. A green door, surrounded by ivy and flowering potted plants might imply adventure.

But the frightening aspect is that the appearance could be illusion. A giant troll could live behind the fairy door. An impoverished family — self-imploding on the fracturing nature of drug addition or alcohol abuse — might live behind the brownstone door. The French doors might conceal the dark recess of a sociopath’s hideaway.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • As you drive, or walk, down the street today, take notice of doors. Choose one which inspires you and write the story of what lies behind it.
  • If you’re writing a story or a novel, make a list of all the figurative doors (choices) which your character might have to walk through. Make the list long and detailed. Choose the most horrific option for your character, and write how he or she resolves the situation. Don’t just write about the scene, show the scene: let us know how the character is feeling — and thinking — about the decision. Was it the right decision to make, despite the horror of it?
  • If you journal, or write memoir (or even family history) write a story about when you — or someone else — literally stepped through a door. Were your expectations met or not? Were you surprised by the situation you found behind the door? How did you feel about what happened?
  • If you write poetry — make a list of doors. Describe them: their color, their surroundings, their ornamentation. Decide what lies behind each door. Write a poem about the most interesting one, or, write a poem about all of them.

Good luck!

Photo © Colleen Coombe | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Quick Review: Write Faster, Writer Better

David Fryxell’s book, Write Faster, Write Better, has been on my shelf for a long time. I’d started it several times over and just couldn’t seem to make it through. I finally pushed myself to get through it (it was really tough)…and now I can get rid of the book. Definitely not a keeper for me.

I might have rated this book higher, if I didn’t feel the premise were so misleading. The intro and first few chapters or so make you think Fryxell is talking about how to write novels faster and better: but he really doesn’t.

The meat of this book — and the solid advice — is geared toward making you write NON-fiction faster and better. And there’s some good information there. Fryxell makes his living writing non-fiction about writing, so I’m not surprised that there’s good information here for non-fiction, and some so-so information about fiction.

There’s a good deal of time spent on organization — and time management — being the key to getting more done. I don’t doubt he’s right, but once again I felt misled. This book was supposed to be about writing better and faster, not about getting organized or finding out what 15 minute increments of my day are sucking time out of my writing.

If you’re a disorganized writer (or maybe a semi-organized writer) — and I mean this mostly in the physical sense of your surroundings… Or, if you’re lacking the time to get your writing done, you’ll benefit from this book.

If you’re intent on a non-fiction — even freelance — career in writing, you’ll find some gems here, too.

If you write chiefly fiction, there are better books to turn to.

Two chewed pencils.