Thursday, September 29, 2011

More Conflict

As I said in my earlier post. I went through several ideas before settling on the one I actually used for my writing assignment I posted on-line. This scene is backstory for one of my main characters. In my most recent revision of my manuscript I deleted the reference to this even happening. It's a quick character sketch of these four boys who grow up together. Three are cousins and seem to get along fairly well. But when the minstrel's son starts hanging out with them, trouble is stirred up.

Now, the assignment was for only 500 words and we were to leave it unresolved. I'll put a mark there so you'll see where I cut it off.

But it's no fun to be left hanging. So I continue the scene in 184 more words.

As he caught up, Neil sent a prayer to St. Mark for longer legs before summer’s end. It wasn’t so much being last, it was…
“Why do we even let him come with us?”
“It’s his father’s land, Giles”
Giles. Ever since the tall minstrel boy had come to the valley, he had somehow convinced Neil’s older cousins that he was a swaddled babe. John the Baptist’s camel hair shirt couldn’t have chafed worse than the three years between his court-bred cousins and him; Neil the Nit. The taunts had started last week, the easy camaraderie of earlier summers melting like snow in April.
“Nit! See if you can climb as high!” Dolf called from up in the chestnut tree.
Neil looked over at Giles. He looked a bit nervous. Good. “Nay, let’s see who can climb the highest!” He would win for sure.
Giles spat. “Climbing trees is stale as week-old bread. Let’s go down to the barns instead. I hear the newest dairymaid is rather free with her kisses.”
Neil felt his breath catch. He watched the interest flit across Dolf and Henri’s faces, and ran. He dashed quick as a deer through the forest, jumped the stone wall enclosing the fields and raced through the knee-high green barley.
Reaching the barnyard, Neil clung to the gatepost as he caught his breath. He turned and watched the three trailing through the field. His heart beat faster.
He must convince them to leave the dairymaids alone. Those girls had welcomed him into the warm barn since he was small, when he’d tried to escape the stiff manners and disappointment of the manor. They’d given him cups of warm frothy milk and rumpled his hair.
But older lads seemed to think the dairymaids were only there for kisses and fun in the hay. Neil finally stopped going by the barns when he’d overheard Nina tell a lad no, with words, slaps, screams and finally tears. He’d run then, too, covering his ears.
As he watched Giles, Dolf and Henri swagger closer, he wondered when their arms and shoulders had started broadening. They wore their thirteen years like impenetrable armor. He gulped, but stood firmly before the gate, planting his fists against his hips to make him look bigger. He felt like a ten-year-old David facing three Goliaths.
“The dairymaids are under my father’s protection. You’ll not touch them.”
Giles grinned. “What have we here? A little cockerel guarding his henhouse?”
“You leave those girls be.” Neil heard the shrillness in his words. He hardened his jaw and his voice. “All of you.”
Dolf smiled down at him. Henri only lifted an eyebrow. Giles sauntered forward.
“Keepin’ them all for yourself, little Lordling?” The jealousy dripped from his words.
“They can say no to you, Giles. But they can’t deny the Prince.” He turned his pleas to Dolf. “Don’t do this.”
Neil watched Dolf begin to reconsider, but Giles pushed past.
“They can’t say no if we pin ‘em down.”
Desperately, Neil snatched at Giles tunic, pulling them both down. He got in a good jab to his eye before the minstrel boy bloodied his nose. Neil tried to ignore the hurt, but his eyes were watering. He pounded his fist against Giles’ face until the lad rolled off.

Quick as he could, Neil jumped to his feet, blinking. Giles was curled on the ground, but Dolf was coming at him. Neil put the week's frustration behind his swing. He heard a crack and pain blossomed across his knuckles.
“Hey!” Dolf howled, backing away. “I wasn’t really going to…”
Neil’s breath hissed out, and he shook his hand, trying to relieve the needles of pain. He looked over at Henri. The oldest boy just held his hands up in mock surrender.
“I’ll not tangle with you, Nit. The dairymaids are safe from me.” He watched the other two clutching their bloody noses. “I doubt they’ll cause trouble in the barn. I’ll keep an eye on Dolf for you.” Henri surveyed Giles, now struggling to stand. “It’s yon minstrel you’ll want to be tending to.”

Conflict in Writing

My newest writing assignment this week is to write a scene of 500 words or less in which conflict is shown in dialogue, subtext and mounting tension. But we were instructed to leave it unresolved and not to actually make it a "fight" scene (fists and swords and explosions, etc). So I went through my mental files and found lots of great scenes of conflict. The only problem was that most of them were already IN my novel. And I am being careful NOT to put anything that is actually in my manuscript on-line for my class. So I've used jumping off points or backstory or POV I hadn't used in my actual manuscript for my prompts.

I started two scenes and figuratively crumpled them up half way through. Then I started this scene. I wrestled it all day until it was exactly 500 words. And then after the tenth read, I felt it wasn't conflicted enough. It was a conflict between two women/ girls who work together and who are trying to keep a good friendship and working relationship despite the strain this conversation brings. But they were too well-behaved, so I put it on the shelf. Then I thought I would share here.

Anna fetched the bowlful of rounded dough from where it had been rising by the fire. She sprinkled flour on the table and dumped it onto the white patch.

I watched from across the room as Anna punched the dough down, the movements sending bits of flour off the edge of the table and sifting to the floor like snow. Anna caught my eye and grinned. I looked away, rocking the knife back and forth along the greens.

“You cuttin’ that kale small, Bets?” Cook didn’t turn around; she never did. But she still knew. Ears like a hare, she had.

“Just the way ye like it, Cook.”

“You should.” Anna whispered from her table. “You should walk out with him tonight. ‘Twill be a warm evening.”

I slid her a look. “Keep your spoon in your own pot, thank ye.”

Anna just laughed.

“Truly! If I wanted to walk out with Rosso, I would have said ‘Aye’. But I don’t and I didn’t.”

Anna was pulling the dough apart into small fist-sized balls. “Do you really not care for him?”

I sighed, scraping the pile of chopped kale to the side. Anna was nothin’ but persistent, of late. I pulled the parsnips over and began cutting the tops off.

“’Tain’t Rosso. He’s a sweet lad.”

“Sweet on you.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m not wantin’ any lad right now, Anna. Not Rosso. Not anyone.”
Anna covered her lumps of dough with a large cloth. She came over and leaned her hip against my table. “Perhaps later?”

“Don’t know. Mayhap.”

She put a hand on my arm. “’Twas a terrible night. I know how it torments you.”

I met her eyes. “No. Ye don’t.”

She looked hurt. “I’ve had my own troubles, Bets, if you remember. I know ‘tis painful.”

I let the parsnips claim my attention. First halving them, then quartering. I tried to speak kind, but bitterness leaked out all over my words. “That’s trying to balance a nugget against a pound, if ye pardon my sayin’ so.”

Anna straightened, stung. “If you say so. But you might recall, when those Ravenbacks visit you every night in your dreams and you wake screaming, ‘tis I who sings you back to sleep. I know.”

“Ye don’t.” I could feel my jaw jutting forward. “I was alone in that alleyway, if ye recall. Ye can’t know. So don’t tell me ye can.” I gripped the knife tighter, imagining the parsnips as long fingers reaching for me. Grabbing. Clutching. Hurting. I chopped. I chopped and chopped.

“Bets!” Cook’s voice was sharp. “Customers should see the parsnips in the soup without squintin’.”

I stared down at the tiny white bits, hardly bigger than a pea. I set down the knife and tucked my trembling hands against my chest.

I peeked up. Anna’d retreated to the fireplace, stirrin’ up the coals and adding wood. A hot fire’s needed for baking. But one look at her stiff back, and I knew she was sulking. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Point of View

WaHoooooo! I got ANOTHER Honorable Mention in my Writing Class and was published in our e-zine!!! Yay! So happy and excited!

Before I share my writing with you, I want to tell about the assignment for this week.

Our lesson this week, we needed to take a previous paragraph we had written at some point, polish it up and then write it again from a different point of view.

We had to post both paragraphs, each no longer than 250 words, for a total of 500 (or less)
Now some other students wrote from the same person's perspective and just changed the "technical" point of view. That is: Billy still is contemplating whether he should steal that candy bar, but instead of  "I can feel the chocolate on my tongue already..." it becomes, "He continued to stare at the rack of candy bars, his lips moving as if he could already taste the chocolate on his tongue."

So it's more like zooming in or out with the camera or looking at somebody's actions vs. looking out of their eyeballs.

But a few of us in the workshop chose to take our instructor's words literally. We made sure the perspective was different. Yes, we used "I" instead of "They/He/She" but we also changed the character who was looking at the scene.

The fellow in my class that has won  both times I have received Honorable Mention is a super writer. I can't copy his work here. It would be unethical. But I'll sketch out the masterful job he did. In his first paragraph he had a poor wretch suffering during a beating. He knows he's just being tortured before they kill him. But he is determined not to confess to a crime he didn't commit. He only did as his heart had bid him to do. He hates and despises his torturer, a man called "Red" for many good reasons. When I finished and started reading the next paragraph, narrated by Red, I scorned him. He described the thankless work of beating men to have them confess. He never chose his nickname, but it helps to get the information he wants.

Oooo! Don't you hate this guy!?!

Then in the last four sentences, Red tells why he despises the criminal he is systematically beating. He describes the crime committed, which any moral person would agree is absolutely wrong, and how he wishes he could just kill the man outright. By the end of that paragraph, I completely agreed with Red. I want the guy dead too!

Then I sat back and drooled with envy at how my classmate could take the reader on such a twisting ride in only 500 words. It was amazing!!!

And it was a perfect illustration of what our instructors had told us about POV and perspective. The narrator tells what he/she sees. And sometimes that narrator has tunnel vision, is unreliable or may just have a totally different opinion on the events that unfold.

So, with all that said, I was thrilled to come "in second place" to his writing with these two paragraphs:

DESPAIR (wc:247)

They had led her out of the city, up to the crest of the hill. A low stone wall stretched before her, enclosing a fallowed field. The wind was harsh up here, with little to block its relentless blowing. The women’s skirts and cloaks whipped around their bodies, snapping in the wind. A high whistling accompanied the low gusts. A spark of curiosity brought her head out of her deep, hooded cloak, like a turtle from its shell. She craned her head to see what caused the strange, melodic skirl. There, on the far side of the stone-walled paddock, huddled a patch of bare-leaved trees. A tall, scrawny youth leaned against the closest hunched-back trunk, a narrow pipe at his lips. The melody sent a shiver down Anna’s neck; she wanted to be free of this place. She turned, and blinked. It seemed the others had taken leave of their wits. Bets had unbraided her hair and the blond, curly mass bucked and waved in the wind. Mistress Lavagia and Cook had taken off their white head wraps and were freeing their own hair from braids and twists. Bets advanced, reaching towards her head cloth, but Anna lifted her hands protectively and frowned. Bets smiled sympathetically and pointed toward the strange heaps of stones that littered the ungrazed field. Quicker than her previous thoughts, the understanding came. This was not a hilltop paddock. This was a burial ground. And Neil lay under one of those rocky cairns.

HOPE (wc:240)

Steadily, I blow into my pipe. I play my finest whenever Bets is around. ‘Tis a shame ‘bout her lowlander friend. A widow, only months after being wed. If Bets ever looks my way, I’ll never be fool enough to join some half-baked rebellion, leavin’ my Bets wand’ring ‘round, empty-eyed for others to pity. ‘Course she’s not mine. Not yet. But she will be. Someday, I’ll touch her hair, pull on those curls, pale as winter sunlight. It’s been months since she let that stuff peek outta her kerchief. That makes it all worth it. She makes it all worth it, she does. ‘Course I’d be out here in the freezin’ wind anyway, since everyone knows I’m the best funeral piper around now. Cook is sure to tell her that I turned down the pennies she offered, and that can’t hurt. Maybe Bets’ll remember ‘twas I who piped when they buried her sister, what was found washed up at the bottom of Devil’s Throat. I didn’t charge then, neither. Aye. Bets will see. Give her a year or two and she’ll know. I’m no longer the grubby little pick-pocket who threw rubbish at her, just so she’d take notice. Someday, she’ll see how I can turn my hand at anything, how I can work at any job, for as long as any man. She’ll see the pile of the pennies I’ve stashed away for a little house. Hers and mine.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A lesson on brevity

My favorite Author-Blogger, Janice Hardy used this as an example that you can say some incredible things with just a few words. This was her illustration. Just a handful of Google-prompts tell a whole story.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Stomp! or Find Timing and Purpose in Writing

I love everything I've ever seen or heard from STOMP. But this video made me think of writing, since that is what I think about so much of the day, right now.

How can six people banging on trash as they hang from a billboard framework on mountaineering ropes make me think of writing?

Well, first, I thought of timing. At the beginning, the musicians are swinging in a rhythm from side to side on their rappelling gear. The the tinkling sounds start coming...soft and really spaced at first, but enough to draw you in, to wait and listen for what you're pretty sure is gonna come next.

And it does.

A few more pitches are added, lower and layered on top of the tinkling. Then a steady bass is pounding and the tinkling becomes the cherry on top to a complex sound of rhythms and pitches that were obviously planned.

Then, just as you start getting into the groove, but before you get bored, the rhythm changes. It slows, it pauses. You hold your breath, wondering what is coming next. Then it builds again and its going faster and faster until you wonder how they do all of this... An amazing, choreographed rhythm that is also melodic and beautiful to watch.

And speaking of watching...

Everything that is on that wire framework has purpose. It's there because it makes a certain sound and adds to the whole musical piece. There are tinkling pieces of metal and bass-making plastic and everything in between. And if it didn't add to the purpose of the musical piece they probably wouldn't have bothered to haul it up four stories, eh?

But then about a third to halfway through the piece, the camera panned out and you can see that the junk, the musical junk actually is attached to the framework in a pattern that spells out STOMP.!

So how do I apply this to writing? I've been some revising (big picture stuff) as well as editing (grammar, punctuation, etc.) over the past two months. I know I need to cut down the word count eventually to about 2/3 of what I've written. The writing has to be tight. The extra scenes have to be worth it to keep. The dialog has to be crisp or else it goes. But how do I make sure I don't throw the baby out with the bathwater?


Shannon Hale, a favorite author of mine, said that after the first or second draft, when she's going through the dross, her goal is to make the fun stuff necessary and the necessary stuff fun. Each part needs to serve a dual purpose.

Like and ottoman that has storage inside or that hide-away-sleeper or the chair that flips to become a step stool.

Or like a bunch of trash strung up at the perfect place ... to be within reach of each rappelling drummer as well as spell out "STOMP".

And the timing....

When, after the surgical removal of excess sentences and scenes, the piece just doesn't "sing", then you need to look at timing. Pacing.

That is something you know when you hear it...or read it. But even though I have and "ear" for it, sometimes it is still elusive. It can be hard to find the right pace. My first chapter needs to be ratcheted up in rhythm. I know it, I can sense it, but I'm not quite sure how I'm going to do it. A bunch of the info in it needs to be there, but some will need to be slipped in elsewhere.

But where? When? How will it be seamless?

Obviously I'm still working on this. When I figure out the golden mean of pacing, I'll let you know.

Monday, September 19, 2011

In Honor of "International Talk Like A Pirate Day"!!!

(I had to post my favorite picture of Long John Silver for today.)

I wanted to share a writing exercise that was a bonus for my Writing Workshop. The assignment was to describe a single blade of grass. I did a little more than that, and I used the "International Talk Like A Pirate Day" as an excuse to write it from a pirate's point of view. So give a big "Arrrrrrrrrrrrrr!" and read on!

He held the boat steady, following the set course, under the shifting stars. But though his calloused hands were unmoving on the great wheel, in his mind, he was running free along the moorland. How could a boy that had been sea-mad since he was a tot, ache for the sight of grass again? Even a single blade would ease his homesickness right now. Long and soft, he would pull it through his fingers, as slender as the mustache he was now cultivating on his upper lip. Nothing like the grasses he’d been seeing these last two months; wild, unnatural stuff that grew as wide as half his hand, woven by the brown-skinned women into mats, and bowls, and even whole houses. He shook his head. He hadn’t minded being press-ganged when it gave him an early entry into his chosen profession. Those three years had been miserable, but he’d never looked back, until now. Six months after their old captain’s blood had washed the deck red, he still gave grudging allegiance to Lucky Nick and his tattooed crew. He was one of the few who stayed sober while the crew debauched themselves with rum and women, and consequently entrusted with the wheel more often than not. If only England was only a day’s journey away instead of three months. He would steer the cursed ship straight into South Hampton and let the whole gang swing. Then he’d walk his bare feet off this splintery deck, over the cobblestones and muddied roads until he could feel the soft whispering green grass between his toes again. He would lay in the stuff, and roll in it like a dog, reveling in the crushed, sharp scent that would cling to his skin, hair and clothes. He would build a house out there somewhere in the hills where he could see a dozen shades of green in rolling waves from one horizon to the other. He sighed and was brought back to the present by the overlaying reek of tar, rotten oakum, and the persistent brine that invaded his nose and dried his mouth. The splashes against the hull sounded slightly off, urging him to check his position against the stars. He couldn’t help but notice the sky was a paler shade of Navy blue in the east. Digging his toes into the deck, he braced himself as the desolation of another day at sea swept over him. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I finally got my new Arkansas Driver's License, and my horrible photo reminded me of this awesome gem of a movie I saw in some "forward" years ago. It is a lovely little "movie short" and is only 16 minutes long. Its a perfect little fairy tale of a movie that covers all the points in just a quarter of an hour.

So, go ahead, watch the movie and rediscover how wonderful life is and how great you are....

Because "You are AWESOME!"


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Using All Eight Senses!!!

Eight Senses? Is that right?


At least for my writing workshop, it is. Because as you describe, there are the normal five senses of Sight, Sound, Scent, Touch and Taste.

But what about a sense of Space? Is it bigger than a bread box? Tiny? Cramped? Echoingly ginormous?

And then there is Time. When is this happening? There is the year or era, as well as seasons, and time of day. Gotta use at least some of these, or we won't know when we are!

Then, our workshop leaders introduced the sense of...the Unknown! (Dum, dum, dum!)
You know, when the hairs of your neck prickle, or your stomach does a nervous flip-flop, or you feel that giddy feeling inside when you are just on the cusp of falling in love. Sigh!

So, our assignment for this week had three parts. Section one was to create a sentence for each of these, using subtle indications. No, "I watched..." or "The sound of..." or "She smelled like..."

No, no, no. Subtle.

I'll share a couple with you. Can you guess which it is? I think you can figure it out.

1) She breathed slowly, massaging her hands until they lathered with suds and the tang of almond, washing away the bits of ground beef, onions, breadcrumbs, and minced garlic that had clung to her skin.

2) The crinkle of plastic drowned out the squabbling downstairs, as she tore open the bag of mini chocolate bars she had been saving for Halloween.

3) She waited to see if the subtleties of the freezer burn would melt with the vanilla and she could just enjoy the slower melting chocolate chunks, but the brackishness adhered to her tongue like fuzz.

Okay these next two are harder. They are the two more ephemeral ones. See if you can guess.

4) She eased the SUV past the gate posts and the crooked, sun-bleached headstones, wondering at the narrowing of the grassy patch between the tire tracks that had been too wide to jump across twenty years ago.

5)  They were Old Navy, and there was no baby brother waiting to grow into them to justify the expense, but she had bought them anyway, because next winter Daniel would be too old for footie PJs and cuddling with mommy before breakfast.

Okay, time's up. Answers will be given at the end of the posting. (Don't skip ahead!)

The second part of this week's assignment was to write a paragraph using all the eight senses. I think mine turned out pretty good! I kinda fudged and made it a very loooong paragraph. Normally I would break it up. But its kinda like Flash Fiction. Less than 500 words. Precisely 422, to be exact. Oh, and before I forget, the third part of our assignment was to read a piece by James Joyce and find all eight senses in his sentences. It was fine, but not nearly interesting enough to be posted on my blog, thank you very much! Only interesting writers get posted here! (Wink, wink!)

Okay, on to my paragraph. Its based on events that happen in my novel, but it actually takes place after the curtain has closed. A mini-epilogue for one of my secondary characters.

Bets rubbed her damp palms against her homespun skirts and took one tentative step past the arch and onto the stony bridge. She licked her lips, still salty from her tears. Scolding herself for being a chicken-hearted clod-pate, she stalked resolutely to the top of the mossy, hump-backed center. She turned on her heel like a soldier to face the torrent of white water that thundered from the top of the cliff towering before her, to the pool that lay five stories below. The sun was only halfway down the sky, yet the ravine, bridge and waterfall already sat in shadow. Misty spray floated on the air in beguiling eddies and swirls before alighting upon her face in a clammy glaze, that somehow reminded her of the fetid, dripping catacombs. Here, on the back side of the city, she could almost believe that Sirens, or the Devil himself, lurked about, ready to lure the unsuspecting to their doom. If she took one more step and looked down, she would see the same view Lys had that night. But she didn’t take a step. She couldn’t even move her mouth. All the words she had bottled up, ready to share with her sister, were now trapped behind her teeth in a bone-dry mouth. If only she could tell Lys that Da was dead, hanged for joining in the rebellion. Would she find it funny that, after all he had done to Ma and to them, he should be hanged for the only good thing he had done in years? Of course, the first rebellion had failed, and he’d been hauled to the dungeon, like the others, only to come out when the Regent needed a fresh dozen swinging from the gibbets. But now that the proper king had his bum on the throne, everything was settled and it was time for Lys to have some peace. Except now, the words wouldn’t come. Bets let her shoulders slump and closed her eyes, cursing her craven heart. A tiny breath of air tickled her ear, and her eyes flew open. The bridge was empty, save for her. Suddenly, a fierce wind howled down the ravine, paused, then swirled around her, its chilly fingers tugging at her skirt, her apron, and the tendrils of hair that had escaped her kerchief. A shiver rippled over her skin, and she wondered if the faint tinkle carried on the breeze had come from within the city walls, or from the tiny silver earrings that Lys had always worn.

Alright! How was that? Did you find them all? 

And by the way, the answers to the previous Sentences are: 1 = Scent, 2 = Sound, 3 = Taste, 4 = Space (always a problem with an SUV!) and 5) Time 

(This one made me cry, even though it is only half true. I bought a little peppermint striped union suit PJs from Old Navy last year for Daniel just before Christmas. He grew out of it in two months and will never wear again...Sigh! Oh, and it wasn't THAT expensive, though I used similar justifications. And it did NOT have footies. ) 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Motivation: Do your Characters Have A Dream?

I absolutely LOVED this scene from Tangled! Take a bunch of terrible, fearsome outlaws and watch them emote about the things they would much rather be doing than their bloody occupations. Hilarity ensues!

But what about characters in a book. Yep, they got a dream too. Whether its the nosy neighbor or the hero, each has motivation for their actions, reactions and prejudices. Now maybe you don't want to come up with a complex background for EVERY single person that walks on stage in your book. But even one sentence can make a walk-on part sparkle. Is the waitress at the diner a little blah and you need someone to egg on your heroine to stand up for herself? Let the waitress get a little snarky or pop some attitude and let it have the desired results. But while you're crafting the dialog, be thinking, "Why is she having such an attitude? Did her boyfriend just dump her? Did her cat get run over? Did her accountant just embezzle her trust fund?"

So get thinking and start plumbing the depths of your characters (real or imagined;) and find out the hidden dream of each. Whether the dream is actually mentioned in the story or not, it will give consistent motivation for that character.

Happy Reading and Happy Writing!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Praan- Absolutely Beautiful

I just had to put this song, "Praan" on here, as I have come up with many wonderful scenes for my WIP novel while listening to this song. I LOVE having music in the background while I'm writing or making a movie in my head of what I'm going to write. This song always was perfect, because it followed the natural flow of good story telling.

It starts out with slow, but haunting piano chords. Then the singer comes in with a simple melody. That is like the main character setting up the situation. Then the volume grows and soon there are drums and strings all competing for attention, while adding to the richness and depth of the singer's melody. This is when the story gets complicated. This is when the main character finds that their goal conflicts with another's or they run into a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. The passion increases as they toil away, trying to find a solution, sometimes slipping and falling and failing. Finally, they are able to overcome their difficulty and reach their goal, or realize that the original goal wasn't what they really wanted. What they really wanted was something they needed to go sideways to get. But it finally is theirs and the story fades in a resolution of harmonious chords.


I really do love this song, can you tell?

I have loved this song since the first time I heard it on the awesome YouTube video "Wheretheh**lisMatt?" (Sorry, I put asteriks in, but that really is the name of the video and it really is awesome. The 2008 version.)

My sister put it on a disc and I listened to it all last year until the boys scratched the disc. And of course it was right in the middle of THIS song...sigh!

But I found it again, online and it just makes me sooooo happy!

There are other Youtube versions of this song, but the sound quality isn't as good, even if the photography is better.

So, I hope you enjoy! And for you writers out there...I hope this inspires you as much as it did me!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Before Batman....

Before he was Batman, he was Jack a newsboy fighting against Pulitzer. Do you remember this movie? It was the greatest swoon-worthy movie of the day when I was a teenager. I was tickled a couple of years ago when I heard that our YW group had a sleepover and this was the movie of the evening. I guess when you get good-looking boys singing and dancing around the streets of New York fighting against a big bully...and it happens to be real just can't go wrong.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Character Study

I am so excited about the online writer's workshop I've joined for the next few weeks. It's labelled as a class, but since it's not graded and there's a lot of peer critiquing and it was FREE...I'm thinking of it more as a workshop.

Well, our first assignment was posted on Wednesday and I got started. Write about myself from the viewpoint of a fictional person in less than 500 words. Check!

I went to town.  I got it down and then had to whittle most of it away. I used a character I made up on the spot, living in our time and place...a new "neighbor" so to speak.

I let it sit, as recommended. I went back and tweaked. I fussed. I fidgeted with phrasing and language, would go over 500 words and have to start cutting again.

Then, after it had sat like bread rising in a pan, I posted it and went to go see what everyone else in the class had done.

Oh, wait...what? They had their characters from their books and WIP walking around grousing about how god-like that author was, or how the dang author/puppeteer was messing with their life. On character even asked if any other authors would be willing to adopt her.

I scrambled back to the instruction page, found further instructions and realized my awesome description from my "new neighbor" was totally NOT going to work. But by then, it was nearly midnight and I had not had any chance to work on my story during the evening. I know, "Cry me a River."

So, I checked my posting and breathed a sigh of relief that nobody had read it but me. Nobody knew what I had done. Phew!

So I rushed over and opened up a new document and wrote...and deleted it...and wrote...and deleted it...and wrote.

Wow! Those characters that I have developed for my novel are so firmly rooted to the land I wrote them into, they were not coming out to do a little bio on me, no way. Finally, I stopped trying to force my main characters to do this and turned to the chatty little sweetheart that I made to be a new best friend and  surrogate little sister for my main female character.

She was perfect! Finally after wrestling with a few ways of presenting it, I made myself a visitor to the kitchen where three of my characters work. Bets still was too rooted to her place in my book to come where there are cars and blenders and electric ovens. So I put myself there. My pen name in the workshop is Verdebois, so that is who I am in the piece, Mistress Verdebois.

I tweaked it a bit and checked for spelling and posted it as an edited version of the first one, which I deleted first. These 500 words don't tell loads about me, that's true. You won't find my favorite color or zodiac sign. But there are clues to who I am scattered throughout.

Though, now, I'm starting to have second thoughts. Was I too subtle? You tell me...

Why, hello there! Come in! Mistress Verdebois likes to come visit us here in the kitchen of the Green Goose Inn, and ye’re welcome too.

I’m Bets, by the by, the scullery maid and fetcher of all things needed. I’m looking for a higher position when next one comes available, though.

That’s Anna over at the table, kneading bread. I know she doesn’t look like much, all raggedy and such. But she’s more than what she seems. She’s Quality.

Cook’s over there in the corner, but don’t let her fool ye. Anything happens in her kitchen, she knows. She won’t bother us though, as long as we keep working. Do ye want to help scrub a pot or chop some parsnips?

Ye don’t? Well, Mistress Verdebois helps out every time she comes and she’s got her own kitchen to work in and her own family to feed, so grab a pot and start scraping.

The Mistress wasn’t used to this, neither. But she wanted to hear our stories so much, she’d sit here for hours scrubbing or chopping, just so she could get to know us. And it was she who taught Anna how to make bread. Mistress helped her get real good so she could get a job here and survive the winter. They’ll stand there, kneading that dough until Mistress can tease her story out. I watch how her forehead smoothes out when Anna tells of her hard journey over the mountains or how she’s all flustered about her sweetheart.

Anna’s the one she talks to the most, but Mistress told me that I reminded her of herself as a girl. She said we’re both bright-eyed and curly-haired and looking for the next ray of sunshine. She said Anna needed someone cheerful like me to help her through her tough times. I know about tough times. I’ve seen some that would make a tanner’s yard smell like a spring meadow.

But Mistress comforts me with tales of the kindest lad in all the land how she snatched him up and married him. I said her life sounded like heaven. She just grinned and said their boys give them a little taste of hell now and then. ‘Course, ye couldn’t tell that from looking at them stringing out behind her like a line of ducklings. She swore it was true, though I guess if ye have five of them, it’s got to turn your house into something resembling the first fall market day.

That’s probably why Mistress comes knocking on our door so often. Maybe she wants to escape all that racket. Or maybe remind herself how good her life is back home. All I know is, when Mistress is in the kitchen, and the stories are flowing like thick soup from a ladle, it seems anyone can find their own sweet lad and an armful of friends and find a happily ever after.