Saturday, May 28, 2011

May Blog Chain - Relationships

It's been quite a while since I updated here so it's good I joined a blog chain at Absolute Write for May. Just squeaking in the last days of the month.

Here are the instructions:
This month's prompt: Relationships
Show a character's approach to relationships in a short scene. A harmless exchange between mother and daughter? A submissive character overwhelmed by a dominant partner? A passionate lover's quarrel? A forlorn, unrequited letter?

Use your characters' interaction to show the dynamics of their relationship, show how they're growing together or growing apart, or just have silly fun.
Character descriptions at the beginning are forbidden this time around--let them speak or act for themselves!

This is a short part of a scene from my WIP that I think is going to end up deleted from the next draft. So I'll post it here. The names have been changed to protect my characters' privacy! Many of the other blog chain participants have chosen romantic relationships to highlight, but I went in a different direction.

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At seven forty-five Lindsay was ready and had that nervous feeling in her stomach universal to party hosts. She wandered through the lodge, straightening a cushion here, tweaking the napkins there, and bringing in pencils and notepads to keep score.
By eight fifteen she was pacing the empty rooms. She opened one of the bottles of Merlot and poured herself a glass.
She'd almost finished the bottle when she heard someone rap at the side door. She glanced at the clock - after nine. Late, but at least someone had come. She rushed over to greet her guest.
Emma's smile seemed genuine. "Hi, Lindsay, I was hoping you’d be here. I was wondering if you had any extra printer paper. I just need about thirty sheets."
     "Printer paper?" Lindsay looked out into the fading light. "Is that all you came for?"
"Yes, unless you . . . are there any peppermint tea bags? I ran out. Do you know when you'll be going shopping for us?"
Lindsay felt her shoulders sag. She motioned Emma inside and murmured, "I'll look for some." I'm just a servant here. Not one of them. They don't want to be friends. Game Night was a stupid idea. Why did I ever think they'd want to do anything like that with me?
She went to the office for the paper, then to the pantry to search for tea. Grabbing a box from the cabinet, she turned and saw Emma behind her, one of the invitations in her hand.
"What's this? I found it in the dining room. I went to look for some napkins . . . you invited us to come over tonight?"
"Yes, I left the note on your cabin door. You didn't see it?"
"No, I didn't. When did you leave it?"
"Yesterday afternoon. I stuck them on all of the cabins."
Emma reached out and took the box of tea, her fingers grasping Lindsay’s hand. "I'm sorry. I didn't get one. I don’t know if it blew away or what. I don't know about the others." She squeezed gently. "I would have loved to come and play games. I hope you'll ask us again."
Lindsay blinked away tears. "Thank you. Maybe I will."

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Here are the other posts so far in this month's blog chain. Please click on them and see what a diverse group we are.

orion_mk3 - http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com (link to this month’s post)
Proach - http://desstories.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
Yoghurtelf - http://thefarseas.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
AuburnAssassin - http://clairegillian.com (link to this month’s post)
aimeelaine - http://www.aimeelaine.com/blog (link to this month’s post)
Della Odell - http://dellaodell.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post)
jkellerford - http://jennykellerford.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post)
LadyMage - http://www.katherinegilraine.com/ (link to this month’s post)
pezie - http://www.erinbrambilla.com/ (link to this month’s post)
xcomplex - http://arielemerald.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
Inkstrokes - http://drlong67.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post)
Ralph Pines - http://ralfast.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post) 
juniper - you are here now!
Steam&Ink - http://steamandink.blogspot.com/ post coming soon

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Learning the Craft of Writing

I've met some people who want to write fiction but don't want to spend time learning how to do it. Or more precisely, they think they already know how -- they usually graduated from high school, at least, and many have gone to college, perhaps on to advanced degrees.

We learn to read the written word early, maybe even at age 4 or 5. Reading is magical in a way that no other activity is, opening the door to worlds not even imagined. And then we're taught the physical mechanics of writing, penmanship. I don't know how old I was when I first learned to spell my name. Or how to put letters together to represent the concept of my cat, or hat, dog or log, or boat or coat or any other simple words. But most of us learn to read, and write, well before we hit double digits in age.

And then we use those skills the rest of our lives, every day probably, in small and large ways. We write out numbers on a check, we make out a grocery list, we read the newspaper or a magazine or the instructions on a new gadget or even just the television programming notes.

So when a person is told if she wants to be a fiction writer, she needs to learn how to write, it may not register at first. "I know how to write! I just need to come up with an idea and then get it down on paper." And she may, indeed, get it written down and expect everyone to be impressed.

I don't think that's true of most of other artistic pursuits. No one expects to just sit down and be able to play the piano without lessons, or paint a canvas without knowing how to use the tools, or dance in the local ballet without undergoing years of rigorous training.

So why do we think we can just sit down and write a good story? A story that resonates with others, entertains, is put together in such a way that the reader gets caught up with the characters and wants to keep reading, keep reading, keep reading - and then hopes the writer has written another story to read. Especially with the novel format, the long form of fiction writing.

Perhaps some novelists are inherently good - their first offering out of the gate is a smash with both readers and critics and they go on to have a long, successful career. I imagine the truth is that 99% of professional novelists work hard on their craft, learning from their own efforts and the efforts of others, getting instruction from books and workshops and online groups and always reading, reading, reading to see what works for them.

Yesterday I went to a one-day writers' event, Terroir Creative Writing Festival,  about an hour away. I attended three classes by local novelists and two talks by other local writers, one of them Jean Auel, who just released her sixth, and final, book in the Earth's Children series.

She spoke about her writing, how she just wrote it all down in one big manuscript and then had to go back and make sense of it all. It was her first novel, and she sold it, and that set the stage for the next 30 years. Everyone would call her a successful author. But she took the time to learn to write. She had a story, and then she set out to learn how to write it. She took classes, she read books on writing, she knew she had a lot to learn.

My next couple of posts will, I think, be about the classes I took and what I gathered from them. I hope to put down some actual information rather than rambling thoughts like today.

And other resources I like are posted under the tab above labeled "links for writers." I've started amassing them as an easy reference spot for myself, but maybe you'll find something helpful there, too.