A to Z Challenge 2013

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Has Your Writing Run Its Course?

I hope everyone enjoyed the courtroom drama. I thought about putting up another post to finish things up, but then I realized there was nothing else to say. For one thing, the courtroom series was more for me than anything else. If you didn't catch on, the unnamed defendant was myself and the witnesses were main characters in my various WiPs. The purpose of the exercise was to do some characterization, to feel out my characters for a bit. It worked well I think, and I got a clearer idea of who these people are.

I've never been one for making lists. Sitting down and listing my character's favorite color or personality quirks is not my thing. I'd much rather put them in a situation and watch how they move through it. I also have a very short attention span, so I envisioned how my characters would feel knowing that I have put them to the side for a while. In their mind, they probably felt abandoned though in mine they are still a character I'll come back to. I also got some really awesome feedback from Kat that identified some phrasing I need to tighten up. Thanks Kat, I appreciated the insight.

What I mean by the title of this post is that my courtroom scenes have run their course and I don't really feel like writing more about it. I get this way from time to time, where I start a scene or story and get into it for a while. And then I'll come upon a place where I just don't feel like continuing. Either I don't like where the story is going, or I'm not feeling the characters. See attention span comment above. Yeah, it's a serious problem that my eons of life and experience has not eradicated. Okay, maybe not eons. Just a few decades.

Have you ever been writing a story and decided that it's over, before you really expected it to be?

Ten Word Tuesday - Story Ideas

Want a story idea?

Borrow the eyes of a child.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Courtroom Of The Soul - Part 3

"Describe your relationship with the defendant, Trevor."

"Well...I guess he is my guide, so to speak. He's helped me-"

"Isn't it true that the defendant was an accomplice in your mother's murder? Indeed, he was the orchestrator of her death, yes?"

Trevor launched out of the seat, his finger shaking at the prosecutor. "Now just one damn minute. She wasn't murdered. It was an accident and you know it. He had nothing to do with that."

The prosecutor turned towards the jury unfazed, "Such a heated reply, Trevor. But then what else should we expect from...an aberration like yourself, right?"

The courtroom erupted at that point, with people yelling from every corner. Judge Albright struggled to restore order, slamming the gavel home over and over. It took some time, but everyone returned to their seats and quieted down.

"Mr. Prosecutor, you are teetering on the edge and my patience is wearing thin. This is your last warning. One more inciteful statement like that and I'll hold you in contempt." Judge Albright turned to address Trevor. "And you will sit down, sir. You will confine yourself to that chair until the questioning is complete. Is that clear?"

Trevor started to argue. "But your honor-"

"No but anything. You will restrain yourself from any further outbursts." The Judge turned back to the prosecutor and said, "Finish your examination, Mr. Prosecutor."

The prosecutor nodded before training his eyes once more on Trevor. "You admire the defendant, don't you?" His voice glistened with barely veiled sarcasm.

Trevor straightened a bit. "Yes, I do. He's done some amazing things and accomplished a great deal since I've become acquainted with him."

"He also introduced you to the concept of insurrection and the overthrow of governments, isn't that correct?"

Trevor stood once more, ignoring Judge Albright's protests. He shouted to be heard over the uproar. "That's a lie. He helped me find the truth. The truth about myself and the truth about an evil plague propogated for centuries against humanity. He-"

"Bailiff, remove the witness", Judge Albright's voice boomed.

Strong hands dragged Trevor from the chair, but he struggled to be heard. "You people can't do this. Don't let this snake confuse you with his lies. It's all a bunch of lies." As he was being dragged from the courtroom, Trevor yelled to the defendent, "Take charge, dammit. You can't let this continue.."

The courtroom was in chaos, with photographers trying to take snapshots of the participants. Some of the jury members shrunk in their seats, trying to avoid the attention. People were arguing back and forth, and amidst it all Judge Albright slammed the gavel again and again. The fury of his strikes threatened to snap the wood in two.

Finally the room settled down. Lightning flashed through Judge Albright's eyes. "Do you have anything further, prosecutor?"

"The prosecution rests, your honor."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Courtroom Of The Soul - Part 2

"Is it fair to say you consider yourself exceptional?"

The young man in the chair slouched, a bored expression on his face. "Are you going to ask me idiotic questions like the woman Rosalie? I doubt I have her patience."

Judge Albright grimaced but said nothing. The prosecutor however, was less than happy. "Your honor, permission to treat the witness as hostile." His hawk eyes latched onto Kris in defiance.

Kris became rigid, his gaze more intent. "You have no idea just how hostile I can be. Judge Albright's silence is more ominous than your beady eyes and spindly limbs. He understands I am here only as courtesy."

The prosecutor's face changed to something more reminiscient of fear. A wrinkle between Kris' eyes appeared, becoming more defined as the seconds passed. As the prosecutor crumbled to his knees, Judge Albright pleaded. "Please Kris, he's just an overzealous lawyer. I think you've made your point."

Kris slumped once more, his hands releasing tight grips on the arms of the chair. The prosecutor gasped for breath, his head falling to hang low for a moment. His long legs were trembling, his arms wrapped across his body in a tight hug. With effort, he pulled himself up using the nearby table. He turned to drink some water, a few drops spilling down his chin. Then he composed himself once more before turning to face Kris.

"I a.a..aapologize, sir. Would you please tell us why you are here as a witness?"

Kris sighed. "I'm here to get the truth out about this man. He started something, put alot of work into it, and then he leaves to go elsewhere. I don't know if it's that he doesn't care, as Rosalie seems to think. Maybe he's cold-hearted. Or maybe opportunistic. I can't decide which. The end result is the same. A bunch of islands floating in the sea, cut off from each other or anything else."

Kris stood and closed his eyes in concentration. A female voice echoed against the walls however, interrupting him and making everyone in the courtroom jump. "No Kris. Walk outside. We can't risk another intrusion...particularly here."

He looked skyward, his eyes rolling. "Alright Mara. Be out in a minute." Kris stepped down and strode toward the door, turning halfway to look at the judge. "Don't let him off easy, Albright. I might be forced to return."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Courtroom Of The Soul - Part 1

"Okay okay, everyone quiet down."

The many voices arguing back and forth diminished.

"Now then," said Judge Albright. "Call your first witness."

The prosecutor stood and clasped hands in front. He paused for effect, letting the silence linger. "I call Rosalie Gonzales, your honor".

The doors opened wide, and a discheveled young woman shuffled up the aisle. Her hazel eyes darted from side to side, expecting danger from any quarter. Her face was dirty, her lips chapped. A fading bruise lay across her right cheek, partially obscured by the dingy locks spilling over her shoulders. Rosalie had two bedraggled children in tow; the boy was perhaps nine and the girl a couple years younger. As Rosalie moved through the half-height gate, the Judge stopped her with a wave.

"Ma'am, have your children take a seat." Seeing her hesitant glance, he continued, "Don't worry. They'll suffer no harm in my courtroom. I promise."

Rosalie nodded after a moment and murmured to the boy, who led his sister over to an empty spot. The little girl had to sit on his lap, but she didn't seem to mind. Then Rosalie slid past the prosecutor, recoiling from his offered hand. She made her way to the witness stand without another word, her eyes darting towards the defendant for just a moment.

After a quick swearing in - she questioned whether it mattered since she didn't believe in God - the prosecutor began his questions.

"Tell us your name, age, and occupation for record, Miss Gonzales."

Rosalie's temper flared. "You know damn well who I am and what I'm doing. You called me here, didn'ja?"

"Miss Gonzales," Judge Albright said, "Please answer the questions. This is all a part of the process ma'am. We must be thorough and precise."

She nodded, glaring at the prosecutor once more. "Name's Rosalie Gonzales. I'm twenty four. I ain't got no job."

"You're homeless too. Isn't that correct?" The warmth of his voice couldn't hide the icy bite hidden beneath.

"What the hell does that have to do with anything?" Rosalie was standing now, her hands on hips.

"Sit down, Miss Gonzales." Judge Albright's command boomed. "Please refrain from any profanities while you're at it. And answer the question."

She sat down hard, crossing her arms with head bowed. "Yes" came the mumbled reply.

"What was that? I didn't quite -"

"I said yes, you slimy devil!"

"Miss Gonzales, if you please!" Rosalie shrank back as Judge Albright loomed over her.

Nodding at the Judge's wave, the prosecutor continued. "Please tell the court in your own words what happened."

Rosalie eyes were on fire. "Well, he started telling my tale over a year ago and -"

"By he, you mean the defendant?"

"Yes. Now if you'll stop interruptin' me, it'd go a bit faster." She eyeballed the prosecutor before starting once more. "He started telling my tale well over a year ago. I was almost safe, almost able to breathe again...and he..."

The prosecutor stepped towards Rosalie, his words sliding down a forked tongue. "And he what, Miss Gonzales?"

A tear formed and slid down her bruised cheek. "He abandoned me. He tossed me aside for someone new. He claimed he couldn't tell my story right, but I knew better. He just didn't care anymore."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Blog Chain - Can We Talk?

This latest edition of the blog chain is Kate's fault. So go to her blog and blame her. Just kidding, Kate. You always have cool questions, and this one is no different.

The question she poses to those of us working the chain is the following:

Do you enjoy writing dialogue? Do you use a lot of dialogue in your writing (for our purposes "a lot" will be defined as more than a smidge and yet not so much that the quotes key on your computer is completely worn out.)? Do you have example(s) of dialogue you especially enjoyed from something you've read? Do you have example(s) of dialogue from your own writing? What about these examples makes them special?

Okay, she is actually asking a bunch of questions, but it's all on one subject - dialogue. So lets talk, shall we?

When I first read this subject, I was thinking how much fun it would be to explore this. Then as I began to ask myself these questions, I realized something. I really do not like dialogue. I've never enjoyed creating dialogue, probably because it just doesn't seem to come naturally.

When I first began writing dialogue, I would constantly make that terrible mistake - trying to find another word for "said". For example:

"That was exactly what I wanted you to think", Derek breathed.

"No", Sheila screamed.

"Yes" Derek exclaimed. "And now you will suffer for it".

Yeah, terrible dialogue. Thankfully I learned, and I try not to make that mistake these days.

As far as an example of dialogue I have liked, I take you to the words of J.R.R. Tolkien in The Hobbit. The following scene is when the trolls are discussing how they want to cook their newly captured dwarves.

"No good roasting 'em now, it'd take all night," said a voice. Bert thought it was William's.

"Don't start the argument all over again, Bill," he said, "or it will take all night."

"Who's a-arguing?" said William, who thought it was Bert that had spoken.

"You are," said Bert.

"You're a liar," said William; and so the argument began all over again.

I like this section of dialogue especially because of a few things. There's a hidden speaker here, but Bert and William don't figure that out. This speaks to their apparent lack of intellect, giving us a glimpse into their character. It also speaks to the talents of the hidden speaker, who turns out to be Gandalf the wizard.

Okay, it was probably too easy to pick something from Tolkien, but he's about the only author I could remember off the top of my head. I do pay attention to dialogue more these days, so maybe the next time this comes around, I'll have a better example.

As for my own writing, I'll give you a glimpse into my current WiP. In this scene, the main character Trevor just got grilled by his boss. He is not himself, and his friend Brent notices.

“Trevor, you listening? Man, you were this close to serious trouble. What the heck has gotten into you?”

“Nothing Brent”, Trevor shook his head. “I just had a bad night, didn’t get much sleep. I wasn’t paying attention and I took a wrong turn, that’s all.” He tried to smile at his friend, “Thanks for trying anyway.” How the hell was he going to get two specimens done in one day?

“It’s okay. Boy, Stein really has it in for you. Sure, he’s not great under any circumstances, but he seems to enjoy watching you squirm.” Giggles erupted from Brent’s mouth, smothered only barely by his meaty palm.

“Thanks a lot, pal.” Trevor tossed Brent a glare, more brutal than he intended.

“I’m just kidding, Trev. Really. Don’t be mad.”

I hope I am improving in my use of dialogue, but I honestly can't say if it's good enough. What I do like about this example is that I can feel their character coming through. I can visualize what is going on here, see these two having this conversation. I at least feel that I'm on the right track, but I do still feel unsteady when it comes to dialogue.

One thing I can say is that I am paying attention to everyone else on the chain with these questions. While it's been difficult to answer these, I have to thank Kate because I have the opportunity to learn a great deal from my fellow blog chainers.

Now that I've done my best with this one, head on over to Kat's blog to see what she has to say. If you haven't read my predecessor Sandra's answer, you need to go check that out too.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Contest Fun

I'm not feeling completely recovered yet, so my unplug period will have to extend just a bit longer. But I wanted to tell everyone about the contest Beth Revis is holding in celebration for her recent book deal. If you haven't visited her page before, you really need to. She is an inspiration to all of us writers, and now she is an example of how determination will help you succeed. So drop by her blog, sign up for the contest (did I mention she is giving away some super duper cool prizes for both readers AND writers), and then browse through all the previous content she's put up. Trust me, if you haven't visited her yet, this is one mouse click you won't regret.

Congratulations Beth. And good luck to everyone who enters her contest.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Out Sick

My wonderful son brought something home with him on Friday. Now I've got it. So yeah, this is probably going to be a couple unplug days.

I hate being sick. I get grumpy, I'm always tired, and I'm so not myself. And I don't have time to take off work, which really sucks.

Anyway, if I'm not commenting like usual, this is why. I hope to be back to normal asap.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday Wonderings - Is Your End Abupt?

I just got done reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. A few words of note however, before I plunge into the discussion. This book isn't my usual type of thing for two very distinct reasons:

1. It's a YA-genre book, which is definitely not my first choice.
2. 1st person writing, which I'm usually do not like.

I did not know that it had sci-fi elements when I picked it up, but it was a nice surprise. Honestly, I didn't know alot about the author or the book, other than I had seen quite a bit of mention here and there about it. On the whole, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Until the very end, that is.

Without spoiling the story for any of you haven't read it, I will merely say the end of the story was very abrupt. It just ended. There are all sorts of questions in my head at this point, wondering what will happen to the various characters. I also noticed the final line which reads "End Of Book One", an obvious clue that this is part of a series. So there is a reason for the book to end this way. But it got me to thinking about endings.

In this particular case, the author had a really good reason. The MC has done some things that have severe implications within her world, and it goes beyond just saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. In an interview in fact, Suzanne Collins even stated that she hadn't intended to write the story as a series but that it became one due to necessity.

The topic of endings is especially important to me at the moment because I am working on ending my current WiP. I am not intending for this book to be part of a series, so I am trying to tie up all the various plot threads into a neat package. The question that bugs me is how to end it properly, without being too abrupt. There will be hanging questions of course, because my story ends with a cataclysmic change in human society. Deciding which questions to answer and which to ignore is one of my difficulties.

This got me to thinking about the idea that no story truly ever ends. If you think about it, there really is no way to end a story. For example, let's say the MC of a story dies at the end. A tale could still be told regarding those left behind, dealing with the loss of this person. What if the MC leaves for greener pastures? There's a story to be told regarding what it's like when they get there or what the place is like now that they are gone. Let's face it - unless you are writing an ending in which everyone lives happily ever after, there are threads of stories hanging off the edge.

I don't yet have any concrete ideas where I will draw the line and finally type The End. How do you deal with endings in your respective stories? How do you decide a particular plot thread is so secondary that it needn't be resolved?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wednesday Winnings And Comparisons Of Skill

Thanks to the talented and successful Galen Kindley, I'm a winner! Galen's book Hearts of the Morning Calm is about to be published, and he is holding a contest to win some free copies. Jane Kennedy Sutton and I were the first lucky winners. Time to do a happy dance, Snoopy style!

I have been a fan of Galen's work from the moment I first stumbled on his blog, and it's an understatement to say I am excited to receive his book. Ecstatic might cover it. Because of this honor, expect to see an interview of Sir Galen (he's unofficially a knight, we're just waiting for the Queen to acknowledge it) here at The Muse soon. I will also be posting a review of the novel, once I'm done enjoying it that is.

This brings me to the topic of comparing ourselves to other writers (aspiring or otherwise). Christine got me thinking about this, thanks to her recent post. Her post hit home as I realized I have been doing this writing/blogging thing for over a year now. When I look back at where I started...well, let's just say only force of will keeps me from deleting those first posts. But what I can say is that I have learned so much in the past year. I had to stop for a moment though and take stock. Do I compare myself to other writers I've met here in blogland? Sure I do.

Christine had an interesting quote that I don't entirely agree with:

"When I compare myself to anyone else, I negate the power of my own journey. And I lose the purpose of the journey in the first place."

While I understand her meaning, I disagree with the idea that comparison mandates negativity. I prefer to approach comparison from a different perspective. When I compare myself to other writers, I get the chance to evaluate what they are doing right, what I may be doing wrong, and figure out how to improve overall. Rather than viewing comparison as a disintegration of self, I see opportunity.

There are a few writers/authors I've had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with (online, anyway). Each of these people have had an effect on how I think, how I write, and how I view literature. Some leave me daunted, with the feeling that I'll never be able to write as well. But most have something to teach me, whether they are aware that's what they're doing or not. I have watched success stories like Jody Hedlund unfold, and her example gives me hope. I marvel in awe at the writers in The Literary Lab, as all three of them challenge us to think deeply about our craft. I keep a sliver of hope alive that someday I'll be ready for Elana's book about querying.

Christine is an author I have a great deal of admiration for, and so this post is not meant to be a detraction. While I may disagree with her statement, I see the determination and drive behind it. These are wonderful qualities, and they are one of the many reasons I look up to Christine. What I take away from her post is that I need to remember who I am at the core and not let anything deter me from continuing my journey towards publication.

Do you compare yourself to other writers? If so, how do you deal with the results of your comparisons?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ten Word Tuesday - Ego Boost

Writing something good...awesome.

Readers expressing they like it...magnificent!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Blog Chain - Are You Writing Large?

Normally you wouldn't be seeing two blog chain posts in a row. But for the first time, I am the lucky individual who gets to start things off. Let me tell you, I put in the time on this one. I went through every question my fellow chainers have asked over the past year, just to make sure I didn't repeat a topic. That was probably a mistake too, because there have been some really awesome questions. I have to say, it's a little daunting to be in the company of such fine individuals.

In any event, I racked my brains for a while and came up with the following question:

Do you create characters that are larger-than-life or are your characters more like the average Joe?

First off, when I think larger-than-life, I think of people who are exceptionally talented. The hunky knight who's 6'5", 250 lbs of muscle, saves the damsel without getting his armor smudged, and brings about the sunrise just by staring at the horizon. Okay, that's a little overdone, but hopefully you get the idea.

With regards to my own writing, I generally choose characters that are average Joes. This is probably because I really enjoy exploring the capability of people, their ability to adjust to unexpected circumstances, and how average people can come out on top even when things look impossible. Despite how dark some of my writing gets, I'm probably the eternal optimist.

The other aspect I like about the average person is how realistic they can be. This depends on the genre of course, but if you put an average person into any circumstances, there is a story waiting to be told. How does this person deal with conflict? Do they fall in love with someone who is unattainable? Do they have the quirks that can impede their success as much as further their progress? Add to this the fact that the average Joe needs to struggle to overcome larger-than-life problems and you have a tale really worth telling.

The problem with larger-than-life characters is that sometimes it's too easy for them. Their abilities allow them to do things that others can't. While this might be more exciting, it lacks the drama of the average Joe trying to succeed similarly. All of this is not to say that I don't enjoy larger-than-life characters when I read or watch a movie. But with my own characters, it's rare that they are anything other than average (at least when the tale begins).

Finally, it needs to be said that I don't always choose my characters. More often, they choose me. There are a whole host of average characters out there looking for me, waiting for me to tell their tale. Almost like stalkers. Kind of creepy, when you think about it. Anyway, all I know is that I will be more likely to tell Gulliver's Travels than Rambo.

What type of characters do you create?

Now that I've given my take on it, I'll pass the virtual torch to Kat. Stop by her page and see how she answers this one.