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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

IWSG October 2017 - Writing Real





 It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. The brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader.  To read posts from other members, click here.


This month's option question? Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters either by accident or on purpose?

I rewrote a scene the other day in which my character has an overwhelming shock. To make it feel real, I channeled two of my own experiences. The first? A day at work when someone got into my face in a way-over-the-top, completely unprofessional way. Since I was at work I couldn’t say what I was thinking, nor could I give into my impulse to lunge over my desk and throttle the—well, let’s use the word "antagonist." Somehow, I managed to keep my voice low and calm, all while my head threatened to explode and my vision got blurry. Blood pressure on high, I believe.

To that, I mixed in memories of fainting. I don’t make a habit of it, but there’s some kind of low blood sugar/pressure disposition in my family to faint. Similar to what happens to people before they get a migraine or seizure, I get a warning when I’m going to faint–an out of context feeling of intense dread. If that happens and I don’t get my head down fast, my vision starts to go wonky, dark stains drown out the light and, plop, I go down. Here’s the interesting part. I dream when I faint. I also get sick afterwards. 

I used those two examples in the following scene. You be the judge. 

“You think Ed had something to do with Trevor?” Marnie felt as if her organs had swollen, as if they’d burst out of her skin. The shed in front of her dissolved into black splotches. Afraid she was about to pass out, she squatted, ducking her head between her knees, bile bitter at the back of her throat. She fought for control but darkness carried her through mist and fog to a different land, a place where Trevor and Angelique still slept safe and alive in a tent behind her grape arbor.  
She had no idea how long it was until she became aware of the grass inhabiting the space between her feet, or Rosalie's strong arm holding her up off the ground. "Deep breaths," her sister said. Keep your head down. Let the blood get back in there."
Marnie lifted her head, repeating her earlier question. "Ed had something to do with Trevor?" Her voice sounded tinny. As if she spoke into a empty can.
Rosalie pushed her head down again. “I don’t know. I have no idea what that backpack was doing there. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. It threw me, but Vinnie and I both thought it made no sense to upset you until we had some idea what it was all about.”
As she crouched in front of Rosalie’s shed trying to fathom the discovery of her son’s missing backpack, she remembered the night she'd encountered Ed at the movies so long ago. Unable to control it any longer, she retched, losing her dinner. Rosalie held her head, her hands cool on Marnie’s hot forehead as she pulled herself up from her knees, coughing.

(Google is wonky today! No matter what I tried to do, I could not get that third to last paragraph to indent.)
 
How does your real life color your writing?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Slash and Burn Baby! IWSG September 2017



 It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. The brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader.  To read posts from other members, click here.



My lesson for this month? Not to let words get in the way of the story. Just when I think I’m there, really there, I see my exquisite stunning, clever, creative too many words slo-o-o-o-w the narrative. Cut, cut, cut.
 
It really is true. When you take a breather from your manuscript you find all sorts of issues. Honest to God, I thought this one was done. But now I see. As lovely as the metaphors are, I have to backspace over them if they aren’t doing anything. If a sentence isn’t adding to a scene, I need to acknowledge it and delete it. Tough love, baby. Killing my darlings? Oh yes. I've become a slasher. If the paragraph doesn’t propel the reader to ask, “Golly, gosh, what’s going to happen next?" I'm taking a razor to it. I’ve found scenes I’ve agonized over that, after multiple edits, have become superfluous. I can’t pretend I don’t twitch before I do it, but finally I get there. Sayonara baby. Adios. Bye, bye.

A confession? The poet in me loves descriptive language. But the same way a poem needs to be pared down to its essence, I have to shave extraneous words from my novels. I’m learning the hard way (as in, agent rejections) that if there is one scintilla of something in there that might lead to a yawn, it’s time to kick that flowery padding to the curb. 

Sigh.

It’s been a lot of work lately and my toes are getting sore.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Listening to our Voices - IWSG August 2017



 It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. The brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader.  To read posts from other members, click here.

One night about seven years ago, I lay in bed in that twilight zone between waking and sleeping.  A sentence came into my mind and I liked it enough to force myself to get up and write it down. A few months later I used it as the first line in what I now call one of my practice novels. I had no idea of the story behind the sentence, but once those few words came to me, I was off and running, figuring out who said that line and to whom it referred. Before long, I had a cast of characters around which to build a tale.

A personal essay I read in Yankee Magazine triggered my next novel (I’m still praying this one isn’t just practice.) An artist’s rendering on the page featured a damaged tree branch held up by a home-made crutch. I summoned up an image of a kid sitting on the branch swinging his legs, and that’s where my next story began, with that boy in the tree.

For the next novel, I was ready to begin a new story, but I didn’t have a plot, until I asked myself the following question. “What is the worst thing that could happen to a person like me?” Before long I’d conjured up a recent widow who discovers her late husband had a previous wife she hadn’t known about, and who, as a result of his oversight, inherits the bulk of his estate while his widow remains broke. There’s some truth behind this premise. Many moons ago, I worked with a long-time second wife who was left with nothing when her husband died because he neglected to update his life insurance paperwork. 

I’m editing that story now but lately, I’ve been wondering what I’ll write the next time. So, imagine how pleased I was the other night, when again in the wee hours, an opening scene came to me:


At first Lucia thought the ringing was a part of her dream. By the time she realized it wasn’t, James had picked up his cell.  He spoke into it, his voice hoarse with sleep. 


Truth be told, I have no idea who Lucia or James are but you betcha, sometime soon I’ll figure it out.

My point in all this? Inspiration is everywhere. We have to listen to the voices that speak to us at night. Remember the thoughts that hit us in the shower. Think about what we read. Concentrate on the conversations taking place around us. We have to watch people at the store, on trains, on planes. Anything may trigger an idea for a story.

Listen to this. The other day at work a friend told me how her father had purchased an old New York taxi cab when she was a child. As a little girl she'd climb out of her swimming pool and wrap herself up in a towel. The taxi would be warmed by the sun and she climb into it to dry off while snacking on potato chips she dipped into catsup. Isn’t that a neat scene? I can’t wait to see how it plays out in a future project.