Posts tagged writing prompt
Monthly Book Review: The Gemma Doyle Trilogy

Before getting into the review, here's today's quote. What do you think? True or False?

Apparently reading begets more reading, because rather than read the one new book I promised this month, I've read three: A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing, all part of the same trilogy by Libba Bray. Before I get to what I thought about the books, here are a few things I've realized since beginning this challenge of mine:

  1. I can definitely make time to read one book a month.
  2. Not only can I make time to read one book a month, but if I set my mind to it I can make time to read three books in a week.
  3. I can also make time during that week for writing, as I wrote more in the days after I read these books than I have in a long while. Reading does in fact inspire writing! Who knew? ;)

Now back to the books themselves. Here's the synopsis of A Great and Terrible Beauty from www.libbabray.com:

It’s 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma’s reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she’s been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence’s most powerful girls—and their foray into the spiritual world—lead to?

First of all, I actually did not realize these were young adult books before I read them. A Great and Terrible Beauty was recommended to me, and I simply procured a copy from the library before doing any research on the content. That being said, though I intended to try to read books geared towards my age range, the genre doesn’t bother me. I may be a 25 year old woman with two kids, but I’ve always enjoyed the YA genre, and will probably continue to do so for the rest of my life. Call me young at heart.

Like any work, this trilogy has its likable side and its unlikable side (at least in my opinion). We'll start with the latter, just so we can end on a positive note.

The Unlikable:

  • Poor Reliability of Characters. I understand that people don't work in black and white. Nobody is all good or all bad, but some mixture of the two. I have no problem with this being displayed in writing because it reflects reality. However, I do take issue when the characters are so back and forth that you have no idea who to trust. There was an air of mystery throughout this series, particularly in the second and third books. The identity of certain villains in these two remain unknown until the very end--another element that I didn't mind. But as I read, I found myself wishing that there was one person--just ONE--that I knew for certain was on the main character's (MC's) side. Perhaps this was intentional on the author's part, but to me, that got old pretty quickly. When reading a book, we should be able to learn which characters to trust, rather than just being told who to trust. Imagine if, in the Harry Potter series, every character had been as difficult to figure out as Severus Snape (to a milder degree if course, because there can be only one Severus Snape). That's what this trilogy was like.
  • Stagnancy of Supporting Characters. The MC is the most affected by internal change throughout the books. However, while the reader does see changes occur in the other characters, these changes all seem lumped together in the last few chapters of the trilogy. Apart from this, the friends and family of the MC stay largely the same. I would have preferred to have seen a gradual growth process throughout the whole of the trilogy.
  • Unnecessary Sexualization. Get ready; I'm about to reveal what a "prude" I am. These books aren't even close to being erotica. There are probably 6-8 scenes in the entire trilogy that include sexual ideas and language: mostly little fantasies or visions taking place in the MC's head. I'll be 100% honest and say that any type of sex in books usually makes me uncomfortable, so my perspective may be skewed. But the problem that I had here wasn't that sexual content existed, but rather that it was unnecessary. Typically I see authors use sex as a way to show characters growing closer romantically instead of showing that growth through nonsexual interaction (which is a whole 'nother issue), but in this case there wasn't even a lack of closeness apart from sex. The characters' attraction to one another and their increasing closeness was apparent without any help from the sexual fantasy department. In my opinion, the books themselves benefited very little from the inclusion of these scenes, and the scenes added virtually nothing to the plot, the characters or the reader's understanding of those characters. If you want to include sexually charged scenes in your books, then feel free to do it. But like any other element, make it have purpose. Make it mean something or affect something. Otherwise, it's unnecessary.

The Likable:

  • Well-written. In spite of the fact that there were aspects of these books that I didn't like, they were all well-written. Libba Bray has a unique style that captures the reader's attention and holds interest. Also, so much of her figurative language was on point. She made comparisons I never would have thought of, but were accurate and beautiful all at once. I give her props for that!
  • Themes of Women's Rights and Disadvantages. Taking place from the viewpoint of a young woman in the late 1800's, this trilogy includes several allusions towards suffragettes and issues facing women in that time period, including (low) cultural expectations, lack of basic freedoms, and oppression by a patriarchal system. Many of these issues still resonate in the modern world, making these allusions even more thought-provoking. Libba Bray executed this seamlessly and artfully, driving home the point without seeming like she was trying to preach. She tackled a heavy issue without once standing on a soapbox or turning her writings into political drivel, which I appreciate and applaud.
  • Believable Characters: Yes, as I said earlier, I did not like that the characters seemed unreliable and untrustworthy. That being said, however, I do feel the characters were realistic, even if I wasn't sure what to make of them. No character was one-note. From the heroine to the villains, every person had good and bad notes, which reflects reality.
  • Unique. I've read a lot of books, but I've never read one quite like this one. I don't want to give too much away to people who haven't read it and may want to. All I'll say is that I appreciated Bray's unique take on magic, friendship, and the time period.

The Final Verdict:

All of the above are just my opinions of course, which is why I've labeled the sections "The Unlikable" and "The Likable" rather than "Bad" and "Good." For my conclusion, I look to Oscar Wilde. His assertion in today's quote is that only a book you'd read over and over again is worth reading at all. Would I read this trilogy again? In all honesty, probably not. But does that mean I felt reading it was a waste of time? No! I enjoyed the books and I'm glad I read them. They spurred me to write and offered inspiration, plus they made me think. Though I wouldn't say I loved them, I did like them and I appreciated them for what they were. If you enjoy YA and fantasy, I would certainly recommend the Gemma Doyle Trilogy to you. And keep reading! Read books even if you might never read them again. You can almost always learn something. Sorry, Mister Wilde, but I think you're a bit off on this one.

Today's Prompt: Write a short story based on a book you've read over and over again. Use the same characters and setting, but create your own adventure.

Happy Writing!

A Sprinkling of Adverbs: 5 Appropriate Uses

 Adverbs. People hate them. Stephen King hates them. Writing bloggers all across the Internet hate them. Some of my writing professors even hated them. Adverbs are the cockroach of language, apparently. But what's the big deal? Why do adverbs have such a bad rap when they have a purpose and place just like any other part of language? Of course, like any other type of word, you don't want to rely to heavily on adverbs. No "Susie cautiously walked lightly to the poorly lit, haphazardly perched treehouse" type sentences, please. Four adverbs in one sentence is just a bit much. But a story won't suffer from a sprinkling of adverbs here and there. I'd venture to say a well-used adverb enhances writing rather than takes away. And what makes an adverb well-used?

  1. It clarifies rather than confuses. Some types of adverbs are particularly guilty of contributing to vague language. Examples: sort of, kind of, somewhat, to some extent. All of these are adverb phrases that don't do much for a sentence. If you must qualify with an adverb, try one that targets your actual meaning rather than a vague idea. 
  2. It's necessary. In writing, there are times in which an adverb changes the entire meaning/feeling of a sentence. It may be necessary to use an adverb to show an action the way you want it to be shown. For example, you might say, "Timmy stared at Sally." But is Timmy staring longingly? Angrily? Hopefully? Sometimes, as we all know, that matters. Of course, there's always a way to make a sentence adverb-free—"Timmy stared at Sally, eyes wide with fear." or something of the sort— which brings us to the next point.
  3. It's efficient. There may be a hundred different ways to say the same thing, but the best one to choose is the one that streamlines the readability of your work. Sometimes that involves an adverb. Perhaps you have four adverb-less sentences already, and you need a snappy alternative for sentence number five. Whatever the case, don't be afraid to use an adverb if you need to.
  4. It's right. Occasionally, as writers, there are things that just sound "right." We may not be able to explain it, but we know that a sentence or a word is simply meant to be. If an adverb is what's right, it's right. Don't let conventional writing "rules" hold you back.
  5. In dialogue. I implore you: please use adverbs in your dialogue. Forget all the points above and just use them, even if they're vague, inefficient, unnecessary and wrong. Why? Because humans often say things that are vague, inefficient, unnecessary and wrong. Hardly anyone speaks like a narrator all the time. For dialogue to be effective, it must be real. And real people say "kind of." Real people don't say things like, "Timmy stared at Sally, eyes wide with fear." So please, when your character is having a conversation, use adverbs at will, just as you would in life. Make it believable.

How do you feel about adverbs? Useful tool or Language Cockroach? Let me know what you think!

Today's Prompt: Write a one to two page story entirely without the use of adverbs. Include at least one conversation in your story.

Happy Writing!

  

Show and Tell (Writing Visually)

 "Don't tell; show." I've heard that from just about every source and authority on writing I've ever come across. Use language to show the reader what's going on. This is writing 101. Basic. I've given this advice myself, because (despite the musings to come in the next paragraph) I believe it's the best way to write.

HOWEVER (here come the musings)...

As easy as it might be to say, this rhetoric is not always easy to put into practice. Is it possible that sometimes there's no better way to say something?  That no matter how hard we might try to show, we end up telling instead? There are no absolute rules of writing, after all. What appeals to one person may not appeal to another. Perhaps there's someone out there who actually likes being told things instead of shown. Bring me such a person, and I will have a very lengthy and impassioned debate with him/her, but I will still respect that differing opinion (okay—maybe). 

So when is it okay to tell instead of show? What are some instances you've come across that required telling rather than creating a visual? Did you find those passages less enjoyable than others or were you able to maintain the quality throughout? I'd like to hear from you!

On the happenings and news side of things, I'm slightly dismayed to announce that (as you might have noticed already), I'm having to step back from posting. My "quotes of the day" now have to become "quotes of the week." Not only am I a stay at home mom of two busy youngsters, a writer, and a blogger, but I also have a freelance design business. The good news is my design business has started growing. The bad news? It's eating my time and something's gotta give. Sorry Wordpress, that's you. In any case, I'm thinking Mondays will be my posting day (yes, I know this is Wednesday and I'm already off schedule, but give a supermom a break).

In other news, my book reading adventure for September will be A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. I plan on getting started tomorrow if you'd like to join!

Today's Prompt: Write a short story from the first person perspective of someone who has been blind since birth. The setting: a city park on a lovely day.

Happy Writing! 

  

Reading for Writing (A Reading Challenge)

Guilty. Between writing, blogging, graphic design, household duties, raising two kids and the vague hope of a social life, my hands and schedule are decidedly full. Reading tries to climb up the priority list, but usually gets knocked down by the multitude of other responsibilities that require attention. And yet, reading is something I love--something I hate to go without. When I don't read, the impact on my creativity is tangible. My efficiency as a writer obviously shifts, and I think I know why: There exists a connectedness between we who work in words. It's as if we're all sharing our creativity: reading others' pieces to spark our imaginations, and then in turn producing material that will stir some other writer's thoughts. We require inspiration to inspire--like we must take in a breath in order to breathe one out. Unfortunately, the business of life often gets in the way and we're left wanting for air, wheezing out our lines and pages.

I've decided to make an initiative for myself and anyone else who needs to take a breath: It may be a small step, but I'll be reading one new book a month. The emphasis is on "new" because I have a funny habit of reading the same few books repeatedly. Why, I couldn't say, but my husband teases me mercilessly over this quirk of mine. Hopefully, exposure to some new material will inspire me even more than (or at least as much as) the books I've come to know as old friends. If you're having trouble finding time to read, and especially if you're also finding your work to be lagging (as I have been), try jumping in on this challenge with me. I'll let you know what I plan to read before I begin, and it'd be awesome to have a discussion about the book when the month is up. Feel free to join me.

As for the month of September, I'm open to suggestions. What've you got?

Today's Prompt: Write a short story set in a world in which people only communicate through the exchange of written fiction (books, poetry, short stories, etc.)

Happy Writing!

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What's Your Reason? 

 This is just a Fast Friday quote, but my quick two cents is that Elizabeth Hardwick must have had a pretty dismal view of writing. If I had to choose one word to describe my reason for writing, it wouldn't be "desperation" or "revenge" or anything else so morose. It would be "love." I write because I love it so much I can't not write—a vastly better reason than either of the above, I think.

So what's your reason? If you had to put it into just one word, what would that word be?

Today's Prompt: Carl is a proud resident of a fancy-shmancy suburban neighborhood. Two weeks ago, his next-door neighbor killed Carl's prized petunias in order to take the neighborhood's esteemed "Lawn of the Month" award. It worked, but now Carl is going to have his revenge. Write a short story detailing his master plan and how it turns out.

Happy Writing!

    

The Late Night Write

MoonQuote All you night writers, raise your hands. I know you're out there, chugging coffee past midnight or working on your second glass of wine. I see you mothers and fathers, hours after you've tucked your children into bed, trying to finish "just one more chapter" before they wake again. I see you young men and women, staying home on a Friday night while your friends go out, tending to the friends in your book instead. I see you because I'm awake at that ungodly hour too.

You're not alone. Writing and nighttime go together like breathing and coffee (because as long as I'm breathing, I've got to have coffee, am I right?). Sometimes we even try to go to bed at a decent hour like normal people, just to sit up in bed hours later with a perfect line in our head, or a picture so beautiful we've got to write it down. I don't know about y'all, but I get some of my best material when I'm falling asleep. When my body and mind relax and the constraints on my thinking start to float away, that's when the good stuff comes. So what do you do when that happens? Fall asleep and try to remember it all the next morning? Of course not! You get up in the middle of the night and write. And  more often than not, that writing turns out to be some pretty good stuff.

I will say to Saul Bellow that I don't deal in absolutes-- everythings and nevers don't sit well with me. It's entirely possible that you might write when you're not quite alert enough to write, then wake up the next morning, look at your work in progress and say, "What is this gobbeldy-gook and how did it end up in my novel?" Let's face it: we can't be perfect all the time. However, I can see his point: If something is important enough for you to drag yourself out of a half-dream state and away from your warm, cozy bed, it's usually going to be pretty good. Even if it's not flawlessly executed, the "meat" of it typically stays. So keep sleepwalking to your computers, notebooks, and typewriters, my friends. That late night write is something to strive for.

... But that's only been my experience. What about you? Do you find your dream-writings add to your works, or do they usually end up in the trash bin? Am I the only one who has the best ideas at night? Can't be! Can it?

Today's Prompt: Your significant other, of whom your friends, family, and coworkers do not approve, has asked you to run away with him/her. You plan to meet at your "special place" at midnight, but when you set off to meet him/her, you run into a series of obstacles: three not so pleasant, and one very pleasant. What are they and how do you/your significant other react?

Happy Writing!

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Here's to the Children's Authors

Here's one for you children's authors out there. "Props" to y'all, because writing for tiny humans is definitely not my forte. My husband on the other hand, who worked in the Children's Room of the Library for something like eight years, understands the world of children's fiction. He actually authored a children's book himself: Gator in a Tree. The most I could contribute to that project was my graphic design skills, which were used to format everything (at least I did a good job there!). Needless to say, having seen the process of making a kids' book and now having kids of my own to read to, I admire anyone who writes for children. There's a real skill in making something as utterly complex and simple as a child's book. It's a skill I'm not quite comfortable in, but perhaps one day I'll improve. Here's to you!

Today's Prompt: Write a children's story that begins with the line: "Henry the Balloon Man was missing from the park today."

Happy Writing!

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Tasting Life Twice

img_5830 When I read this quote, my first thought was of writing and reliving the times in our lives we would like to taste again: any memory warm, savory or sweet. To be able to experience these memories through writing is a gift, to say the least--but sweetness is not the only taste. The majority of people who write don't just taste the "good stuff" twice; they taste bitterness. They taste straight cocoa powder and drink vinegar and week-old spoiled milk. And they do it on purpose. Having already tasted it once, they do it all again for the sake of the stories that need telling.

If you ask me, there's a bravery in that: knowing from experience something will turn your stomach, but revisiting it just the same. It takes courage to live painful experiences all over again rather than shutting them away where you never have to think about them again. I consider that courage a gift as well, right along with the ability to taste the sweet times again. Without it, our writing would be superficial. Stories can't be made of love scenes and happy endings-- there would be no depth. We have to include bitterness if our readers are going to relate--if we want anything good to come of our writing at all. And that's the goal, isn't it? For our writing to have an impact somehow?

So I, for one, am glad to taste life twice, even if it includes some sour bits.

Today's Prompt: Write a short, murder-mystery style story that takes place at an upscale wine tasting.

Happy Writing!

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Self Doubt: The Enemy of Creativity

SylviaPlathQuote-01 I've been stalling a bit lately (in spite of the fact that I've made some writing strides over the last week), primarily because I'm afraid of going forward into the uncharted territory that is the second half of my book. Up until this point, Ourselves and Others has remained a creative account of things that actually occurred in my life. From here on, though it will continue to be a piece of autobiographical fiction, I'll branch out into some different circumstances that I have little to no experience with. I keep thinking, "What if I get something wrong?" or "What if this isn't really what this is like, and everyone thinks I'm a fraud? What if I'm not able to write this as it should be written?" Self-doubt pounces on me whenever it can.

But everything can be written, if you've only got the guts to do it. Like every other writer who's ever gone outside of his/her own experiences in a story (i.e. every writer that ever existed), I've simply got to believe in my own ability enough to try. If I try and fail, then so be it. At least I stepped past my boundaries and created something, which is more than I could say for myself if I stayed afraid.

Have any of you ever been afraid to write something you didn't know much about? Did you let it stop you or did you press through and end up with something awesome? Let me know!

Today's Prompt: Write a short story in which your main character moves to a different country. He/she arrives safely, only to have all his/her possessions stolen at the airport/bus station/etc. The character now is all alone in a new place, has nothing, and there's no going back. What happens?

Happy Writing!

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Constructive Criticism and Making Choices

Once, when I shared the opening chapter of Ourselves and Others with a fiction writer's group, a well-intentioned group member suggested that I change one word in the first line, which is as follows:

She met him when her bones were strong and her mind was sick—like a brand new house set on a crumbling foundation.

The word in question was "sick." From his perspective, "sick" was almost the right word, but not quite. It was "lightning bug" instead of "lightning." In its place, he suggested "weak." To him, I had used the wrong word because he believed I was trying to convey the opposite of "strong." Anyone who's been to first grade knows the exact opposite of "strong" is "weak," right? And yet I hadn't used it.

So I thought about his suggestion—there is a certain parallelism to using exact opposites, after all. I tried it out in my head and on paper, but no matter how I looked at it, "weak" could not win me over. To me, it was the flickering pinprick flash of a lightning bug when I wanted the power of lightning. I hadn't been trying to convey exact opposites in the first place. I used "sick" because it evoked the emotions and associations that were right for the story. "Weak" just didn't give the vibes I wanted to give. So "sick" stayed.

Book pages may be black and white, but writing is not. The "right" word is entirely subjective. Where one person sees lightning, at least one other person is guaranteed to see lightning bugs. Still, feedback remains an amazing thing. Every piece of advice you receive, you should consider carefully. Some suggestions may lead to changes that strengthen your work, while others reinforce confidence in the choices you originally made. There is no bad side to constructive criticism. However, in a world where right and wrong are so subjective, someone has to choose what is what. Ultimately, that's you, the author. You choose what's right and what's wrong for your writing and you take responsibility for those choices. You're the only one who really knows what your story should say, look like, and feel like. So stay true to your voice; don't exchange your lightning for someone else's, because you might find you've gotten lightning bugs instead.

Today's Prompt: Write a short story that takes place in the midst of a terrible lightning storm. Replace every use of the word "lightning" with "lightning bug."

Happy Writing!

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Turn on the Faucet-- Get Writing!

FaucetQuote Some of you may have read my post from yesterday about the bout of writer's block I've been experiencing. Well, yesterday evening I saw this quote and felt inspired. It's completely true what Louis L'amour says: you can't write until you start. So this morning I made a point of waking up before my children. They both ended up in bed with me last night, but I managed to make my escape without disturbing them. Then I showered, brewed some strong-but-not-too-strong coffee, and set right to writing. No distractions (until the two children in question finally did arise). I turned the faucet on, and the water has been flowing ever since! Bye-bye, writer's block! I'm not about to shut off the flow now, but I wanted to share this quote with anyone else who might be having a hard time pressing forward. Take the advice. Start writing. Turn on the faucet and don't shut it off 'til the sink is overflowing.

Today's Prompt: Write a modern day fairy tale (an original story or a retelling of an old favorite). Include water imagery in your opening scene.

Happy Writing!

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Writing Scared

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First off, let me say, "Hello again!" I spent the last few days away from my blog, busy with another project. Some of you might know that I'm also a graphic artist and work from home as an independent graphic designer. Well, I typically do custom work locally, but recently decided that I'd like to try my hand at selling my stationery online, so I set up an Etsy shop!

Here's the link, if you'd like to check it out: www.etsy.com/shops/khariscreations

And a few of the pieces I've put up:

Keep me in mind if you're getting married or having babies and birthdays. ;)

Now back to the quote of the day. I haven't written in a while. I'm not ashamed of that; it happens. I think when I wrote my first novel, there was a period of 1-2 months that I just could not write, no matter what I tried. While I don't feel shame, I do think there's an element of fear preventing me. You see, I'm in a turning point in my book. Everything is about to change. Maybe I'm not afraid of judgment, but I'm afraid of that. Change. I like the comfortable place I was writing in before. It was cozy and I knew exactly what I was doing. Now? I'm about to head into uncharted waters and it has me dropping anchor. The truth is though, we can't write comfortable. If we did, our stories would go nowhere and our readers would be bored out of their minds. We've got to write scared, even if that means heading into uncharted waters where there might be sea monsters and pirates and rewrites later on. That's where all the good stuff is.

Where there's pirates, there's treasure, right? ;)

Today's Prompt: Write a short horror story featuring some element you know almost nothing about (an unfamiliar profession, place, etc.). No googling!

Happy Writing!

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Writing What Hurts: Using Words to Heal

CoffeeStainQuote The past is one of the hardest things for me to face. There was a time in my life in which I was very lost-- in the midst of an overwhelming depression that led to actions I hate. When many people think of depression, they might imagine a person sitting in a dark room, crying and penning suicide notes. But mental illnesses have many faces; how they present in one person may be totally different for another. For me, depression wasn't sadness. It was nothingness. I felt nothing. And when I say that, I mean it--there was no sadness, no happiness, no trepidation, no fear, no remorse. My actions became unpredictable and totally uncharacteristic. Only the most extreme behaviors would elicit a buzz of feeling, and even that was brief and superficial, like the hair on your arms standing up. Maybe that's why almost everything I did was extreme. That's what I assume, but what I know is that I acted insane (for lack of a better word). When you don't have feelings, it's brutally easy to hurt people. And I did--I hurt myself and others I loved without realizing it until it was too late. When I did realize, there was shame. But I didn't want to feel shame, so I felt nothing instead.

In any case, thinking about that time period hurts, and it will probably hurt me for the rest of my life-- unless somehow I forget those events and live out the rest of my days blissfully ignorant. That's unlikely, but the only thing to do besides forget about it is to write about it, so that's what I've done.  My current work in progress is based on true events from those months. Through the writing, there has been crying. There's been more regret and self-loathing and utter confusion than I ever allowed myself to experience before. But there has also been healing. There's been acceptance. And I felt all of it, which I'm so grateful to be able to do.

I don't think we're writing for our readers. I think we write for ourselves and just happen to affect our readers along the way. No one is alone in an experience. When you write "hard and clear about what hurts," you're writing about something that hurts other people too. And maybe seeing your truths in black and white is what those people need to face their own pain. If you write what hurts, you won't be the only one to receive comfort and understanding: you'll give it out to others too.

This is scary for me, but I'm going to share an excerpt from my book--my narrator writing down an experience she had during her depression. It's scary because her story is my story. The actions she took are actions I took, and now despise. But I needed to write about this to accept it as part of my past, just as I need to share it. So here it is.

***

She spun the diamond around her finger, watching the light catch the facets at every turn. It was beautiful—and she hated it.

The “yes” had passed over her lips like music when she was eighteen: an adult, but still a child. And she had been happy until an ugliness came: one that started in her mind like a seed, planted by nothing. It fed on her for months, changing who she was until only ugliness remained.

The ring was unbearable. Slipping it over her knuckle, she placed it on the bedside table. “You need to leave. I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” she whispered. “What did I do?”

“We just kissed.”

“No. We kissed and then you fell asleep here—in my bed. You stayed all night. That’s more than ‘just’ kissing. Please—please leave.”

He looked so unfamiliar, sitting against her pillow—his eyes and hands and lips markedly different than the ones she knew so well. She had only met him twice. There was nothing attractive about him to her, except perhaps that there were no promises between them. “We can just forget it. We were drunk,” he offered.

Her hands shook as she cleared the glasses from the table. It was true: she had been drunk for months. She had kept enough alcohol in her system to try to pretend the ugliness wasn’t there; to pretend she still knew who she was. But no matter how much pretending she did, she kept growing uglier.

“I wasn’t drunk enough to—I’ve been engaged for a year. Why would I do this? I’ve never… I didn’t think I would ever…”

As she spoke to her own ears, he left without another word, his footsteps like drumbeats behind her. She never turned around. Nauseated, she lay down, the bed still warm from a body that hadn't belonged there. She grabbed her telephone and dialed the last number. The last number was always the same. Inside, her stomach twisted into knots, but she couldn’t delay. All too well she knew she had to call at that moment, while she still felt the sickness and shame. If she were to wait too long, the numbness would return and she would feel nothing. But she wanted to feel this. She had to.

***

This is part of my story: one of the most painful parts. But that's not who I am now. That isn't really who I was then--it's who my depression made me. As hard as it might be to believe, this experience wasn't even the height of my erratic behavior. I went completely off the rails for a while there, and when I was in the thick of it, I thought I'd never recover. It didn't seem possible that I could be even a shadow of a normal person again, and yet here I am. Writing has helped me understand myself, what I went through, and what I put other people through. And by way of that understanding, I've come to a place of healing. There's no place I'd rather be.

Today's Prompt: Write a scene based on an experience you had that hurts to even think about, whether it was something you did or something that was done to you. If you're comfortable, share it with someone who never knew that part of your history.

Happy (or not-so-happy) Writing!

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Also-- Happy Birthday, Hemingway!

 

Write the Book You Want to Read

ToniMorrison Today's quote is simple and sweet. Write the book you want to read. If there's a story you've thought of and wished existed, the burden falls to you alone. No one else can tell your story. Until you write it down, the only place it exists is in your head--and it's not doing anyone any good in there, is it? So get it out on paper and share it with the rest of us. ;)

Today's Prompt: Write a story from first person perspective, with other characters, but absolutely no external dialogue. The entire story must be told strictly from within the character's mind.

Happy Writing! blogsignature

The Anti-Formula of Story Writing

 My husband always reads the last line of a book before he begins. I never "got" it, but I've heard of other people doing this too. Some writers figure out the end of their stories before even beginning, which I've never been able to manage. I just wing it as I go along. I'm a straightforward, beginning-middle-end kind of person. But the amazing part of being a storyteller is that there are no rules. Even the rules of grammar, which I hold as sacred, can be bent for the right reasons. This flexibility is something unique to artists. Mathematicians have to follow a formula to get the right results. Scientists have to be certain of which chemicals will explode when mixed together. Not following the rules equals failure. 

For writers, there is no formula. You might hear that a story should follow a specific pattern, and there are people who tout that as absolute truth. But they're wrong. The average reader isn't looking to see if you have the right amount of plot points in the right places—they're just looking for something that speaks to them. So let that be your goal, whether your story begins with a beginning or ends with a middle.

Today's Prompt: Write a short story that begins with the ending. Work your way back to the beginning and conclude there.

Happy Writing!

  

How Smartphones Killed the Sense of Wonder

MagicThings Children are full of questions.

Why do the trees have leaves? Why don't snakes have legs? How does the sun know when to go down? Where does the ocean end? Can I possibly annoy my mother more?

When I was a kid, an answer was an elusive, mysterious beast. So if a question approached my mind, I'd capture it; study it; formulate possibilities and scenarios at warp speed. Potential solutions would be discussed with curious friends and hypotheses spouted to my parents. Everything was awe-inspiring, because nothing was obvious. The world was full of magic things, waiting to be fully discovered. And when--if--the answer ever came, it arrived with a sense of triumph. So that's why. I was right! I figured it out! Huzzah!

Fast forward 15 years and ten iPhone versions later. Yesterday morning I sat in the living room with my daughter, building precarious skyscrapers out of wooden blocks, and I asked her a question. "Why does Mommy love you so much?"

Her answer? She grabbed my shiny iPhone 5s from the coffee table and chirped in her precious 2 year old voice, "I don't know. Let's google it."

Let's. Google. It.

Keep in mind that my daughter does not own an iPhone. She has no Kindle Fire or Nook. The intricacies of a keyboard still elude her, though I'm convinced she knows exactly what ALT+F4 does (and abuses it terribly). Google is as foreign to her as Spain. And yet, when she heard me ask a question, her immediate reaction was to "google it." So where did she learn that?

She learned it from watching me. Us. Her mother and father, grandparents and family friends. To her, this is how we answer life's mysteries. Instead of pondering and discussing them, we type a question into our smartphone and let the internet answer for us. Let me clarify that the internet is not the issue here--the problem is that we take the internet with us wherever we go (even to the bathroom), and we consistently allow it to do our thinking for us. We have gone from a world of dreamers and wonderers to a world that knows everything and nothing all at once. Our imaginations have given way to information. While information is an invaluable thing to have, we've lost something just as important: the desire to think for ourselves; to seek out the unknown by searching beyond our fingertips. I don't know about you, but it's been a while since I've really marveled at the magic of the world around me. Smartphones have killed the sense of wonder.

With the average american child spending eight hours per day locked into media, I do worry that in the future, that lack of curiosity will lead to a lack of innovation. Maybe one day nobody will bother to come up with their own answers anymore. Maybe everyone will be so used to having information given to them that they won't know how to create it. That's scary, and I can't do anything about it. But I can salvage my sense of wonder. Next time a question wiggles its way into my mind, I can resist the urge to pick up my iPhone. Instead, I can think. I can debate with myself. I can discuss with others. I can come up with my own answer--one that wasn't handed to me via the internet. And you know, perhaps that answer will be totally off base--but at least I'll have worked for it.

Happy Wondering,

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This isn't a writing post, but for those of you who check in for my daily quotes and prompts, here's Today's Prompt:

Think of a question you don't know the answer to. Create your own answer, and write a short story explaining it. Don't use any search engines until after your story is complete!

Weaving Dreams Into Reality

 When I was young, I had this recurring dream. In the dream, I was walking through a forest on a path that eventually led to a lake. There was no bridge; just a pier on either side. I knew that my home was on the other side of the lake, but I was stuck—until a whale swam up and offered me a ride on his back. From this point, the dream could go one of two ways. One: I would make it safely across and then wake up. Two: the whale would toss me up in the air, open gaping jaws, and gobble me down. In the latter scenario, I would shoot up in bed, wanting to go see mommy. But I was too panicked to move—convinced that water was all around me (whale included). It was terrifying, but when night gave way to day, it became terrifyingly interesting to my eager mind. That dream turned into the first story I ever wrote. It bridged the gap between the dream world and the realm of reality, and made them into one world. I've never been the same. Every now and then I still have dreams that turn into material for my stories. They're more sophisticated now, but in ways they're basically the same—they require the same creative process and they come from the same place. I'm happy to call myself both a writer and a dreamer, and so grateful to live in this dream-reality-hybrid world. Everything is richer here, and I can't imagine it any other way.

Have you written a story based on a dream before? Something that changed the world you live in? I'd love to read it if you'd like to share!

Today's prompt: Write a story based on your most memorable dream. Try to keep the plot as similar to the dream as possible.

Happy Writing!

KC

My Imaginary Library (Quote of the Day)

Funny to think that we today could have so much in common with a dead ex-president, huh? I love books. But Thomas Jefferson was next-level hardcore in his book obsession, I have to admit. His library at Monticello has been described as having "several thousand volumes classed according to subject and language..." (Sir Augustus John Foster). THOUSANDS Of books. Cue my jealousy. I wish I had the space and money for that; I wish I had a whole room to devote to a growing library, complete with a Beauty-and-the-Beast-style rolling ladder. Life would be utterly complete (though my library never would)! So does anyone else have the same Disney-inspired life goal? What kind of books would you put in your library? Maybe you'll give me some ideas. ;)

Today's Prompt: Write a short story that takes place in a public library.

Happy Writing!

KC