Thursday, October 30, 2014

Less is More

A Stephen King novel is about 100,000 words or so. Yeah, he's the king of fright all right, but that doesn't mean you need to use thousands of words to evoke emotion in your reader. More doesn't always mean better. Sometimes a few carefully chosen sentences can do the trick. Here are some creepy examples . . . 

I begin tucking him into bed and he tells me, “Daddy check for monsters under my bed.” I look underneath for his amusement and see him, another him, under the bed, staring back at me quivering and whispering, “Daddy there’s somebody on my bed.”
 ~ Juan J Ruiz

The grinning face stared at me from the darkness beyond my bedroom window. I live on the 14th floor.
~ bentreflection

Working the night shift alone tonight. There is a face in the cellar staring at the security camera.
~ hctet

You start to drift off into a comfortable sleep when you hear your name being whispered. You live alone.
~ anonymous_abc

The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door.
~ Scry67

You hear your mom calling you into the kitchen. As you are heading down the stairs you hear a whisper from the closet saying “Don’t go down there honey, I heard it too.”
~ comparativelysane

So, which one creeped you out the most? As a mom, I'm going with the last one. This works for other genres, though, as well. Ernest Hemingway penned a six word dramatic story that's stuck with me for decades . . .

For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.

The point is if you choose your words wisely, you cut straight to a reader's heart. That should be the bullseye for every writer.

If you'd like to read more or are game to try your hand at a few of your own, check out Two Sentence Stories. Their submission guidelines are here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

#Waterstones

Did you hear about the Texas guy who got locked in a London bookstore and Tweeted to get rescued? Seriously? WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT TO BE RESCUED FROM A BOOKSTORE?! YES, I AM SHOUTING!

Sheesh. That's like updating your Facebook status, asking to get let out of heaven.

Getting locked in a bookstore is a dream come true. Just think of what you could do all night, surrounded by shelves upon shelves of books. You could:

  • Binge read
  • Rearrange books so that the ones you like best are the most easily seen
  • Stack books into a mega kind of card house or a whopper of a book fort 
  • Learn some new moves in the dance section or take up martial arts with an illustrated how-to
  • Collect dinner ideas in the cooking section
  • Figure out how to pick a lock from a book on the I-wanna-be-a-criminal shelf
  • Become an expert juggler or origami whiz

And those are just a few ideas off the top of my head. The one thing I wouldn't do is call in the mounties for a rescue.

But that's what David Willis did. First he posted a selfie on Instagram with the message: "This is me locked inside a Waterstones bookstore in London." When that didn't get him any results. He turned to Twitter saying, "Hi Waterstones, I've been locked inside of your Trafalgar Square bookstore for two hours now. Please let me out."

Eventually he was freed, but I'm still scratching my head as to why he'd want to be.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Writer in a Monster Costume

Writers are notoriously eccentric . . .
  • Virginia Woolf wrote her books while standing up.
  • Edgar Allan Poe habitually wore black. Emily Dickinson and Mark Twain wore white. 
  • Charles Dickens walked nearly 20 miles a day.
  • Stephen King writes in the same seat at home and arranges his manuscript and notes in neat piles.
Though I’m not a famous author, I do have a few of my own quirks. See if you can relate to any of these…

I’m a creeper.

I love crowds. The more people in one place, the better. Why? Because I’m the one eavesdropping on the conversation next to me. And it’s not just my ears that get a workout. I people watch too, mentally taking notes about interesting body language and unique individuals.

I’m a zombie.

Usually I’m a very good listener. Key word: usually. Sometimes, however, if a person is talking and they use a unique phrase or bring up a topic that makes me go “hmm”, whammo! My brain suddenly leaves the body, and while I’m still there in person giving off the appearance that I’m listening intently, I’m far, far away in my WIP. One small trigger word from you, and while my body may still be in front of you, Michelle has left the building.

I’m an alien.

I cannot write at home. Impossible. There’s laundry. Dishes. The dog needs to go potty. My kid needs a ride to Timbuktu. Whatever. So I must travel to another universe to get any kind of writing done. The most prolific place for me to go is a library, though I usually end up at Starbucks.

So . . . what kind of writerly monster are you?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Kicking it Old School

NANOWRIMO is nearly upon us. The big writing frenzy begins on Saturday. I don't think I'll go for the full 50k, because really, who needs that kind of failure in their life? There's a reason I live in Realsville . . . way less stressful. That being said, I am going to up my game this year and go for 1k words a day, which will give me a sweet word count of 30k in one month.

And I'm going to do it all with a Pilot G2 pen.

Is it because I fear typing on a keyboard will give me carpal tunnel before I get grandkids? Or am I terrified of developing cancer in my hinterlands from having a laptop radiating crazy vibes into my flesh? Perhaps I am a closet masochist?

Nope. No. And nuh-uh. Turns out there are some legit reasons to write long hand. Pay attention class. You're about to get educated.

Prevents Distraction
Who doesn't pop over to Pinterest or Facebook when the going gets tough? I've been known to have 52 tabs open at one time, bopping from Drudge to Twitter to Goodreads. And yeah, better check my email because who knows when the New York Times might send me a message that I'm on "The List." Squirrel!

Shifts Your Brain Into Gear
Recent studies suggest that writing in longhand engages the brain in a way that's different from typing. Virginia Berninger (professor at University of Washington) says, ". . . pictures of the brain have illustrated that sequential finger movements activate massive regions involved in thinking, language and working memory." She also says handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding involves selecting a whole leter by touching a key.

So Long Internal Editor
While writing in longhand, there's no backspacing, deleting or re-working sentences to make them pretty. Sure, you can cross out sentences and re-write, but after the first few paragraphs, that usually gets old and you quit doing it.

Plus, writing with pen and paper is extremely portable and I don't have to worry about plugging in. But really, I just love the feel of a pen in my hand as it sweeps across the page. Ahh. Simple pleasures.

Friday, October 24, 2014

What Are You Struggling With Today?


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tidbit: Words

It's been 186 years since Noah Webster published his two-volume American Dictionary of the English Language in 1828. It took him 28 years to complete because he had to learn 26 languages, including Ancient Greek, Latin, Sanskrit and Old English. The final draft listed and defined 70k words. Oh yeah, and did I mention the dude was 70 years old at the time?

Too bad it only sold 2500 copies and he had to mortgage his home.

He went to his grave at the age of 84, never knowing that nearly 200 years later, most of the English speaking peoples of the world would be using his dictionary.

So in honor of Mr. Webster and World Dictionary Day (which was last Thursday), here are some super freaking sweet words that I shall endeavor to use in an upcoming novel . . . 

BABBLEMENT (n.)
"Senseless prattle" or "unmeaning words."

DAGGLE-TAIL (adj.)
As a verb, to daggle is "to befoul" or "dirty", or more specifically, "to trail in mud or wet grass". The adjective daggle-tail ultimately describes someone "having the lower ends of garments defiled with mud."

FOPDOODLE (n.)
An insignificant fellow. Webster described this word as "vulgar and not used."

JACKPUDDING (n.)
A "merry-andrew" or "a zany" according to Webster. Basically, a joker who acts the fool to make other people laugh.

MAFFLE (v.)
To stammer or stumble on your words.

QUADRIN (n.)
A quadrin was old copper coin, which Webster explains was "in value [worth] about a farthing". Its name can also be used figuratively of any tiny amount of something.

RAKESHAME (n.)
A vile, dissolute wretch. Also known as a rampallion, a scroyle, a runnion, apander, or a cullion.

WRANGLESOME (adj.)

To dispute angrily or to involve in contention. If you're wranglesome, then you're quarrelsome.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Questions You Always Wanted To Ask . . . Take Two

Here's the rest of yesterday's post, which asked the question, "You can ask your favorite author any one question: what would you ask?"

And here's the last response that was posted in regards to that question . . .

Who is YOUR favorite author, why, and what would you like to ask him/her?

Sweet pickled pineapples, Batman! How can anyone answer that? A single, favorite author? Gah! Can't be done. Well, maybe by genre. Yeah. That's how I'll get out of this one.

Genre: Young Adult
Author: Jill Williamson
Why? Characters that stick with you.

Genre: Speculative/Horror
Author: Travis Thrasher
Why? Takes the ordinary and reshapes it to extraordinary.

Genre: Speculative/Time Travel
Author: Lisa Mangum
Why? Beautiful, beautiful rhythm of prose.

Genre: Sci Fi
Author: Ray Bradbury
Why? Plot twists like nobody's business.

Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Author: Tim Downs
Why? Snarky dialogue times ten.

Genre: Historical
Author: Jessica Dotta
Why? Haunting tales with detail so real that you feel like you're there.

Genre: Dystopian
Author: Veronica Roth
Why? Palpable tension between the characters.

Genre: American Lit
Author: John Steinbeck
Why? Turns of phrases that make me want to weep.

I don't have any favorite westerns because, umm, honestly the only western I've ever read is Shane. Yeah, I know there are a gazillion other genres I could've listed, but I see you yawning. 

Now then, wake up and share some of your faves in the comment section.