GHOSTS (A 100 WORD STORY)

The following is part of a “shared storytelling event” over at I Saw Lightning Fall . We were tasked to write a scary story of exactly 100 words in length. This is my attempt.

Ghosts

It’s the feeling on the back of your neck when you’re alone in a darkened room. Are you really alone?

The voice in the back of your mind. Did you leave on the stove?

The prickle at your ear. Are they laughing about you?

The drive through the rural forest on a cold autumn night, the trees branches casting their shadows in your rear view. Do they not resemble long skeletal fingers reaching for you?

That headache you’ve nightly endured these past many months. Didn’t your favorite aunt have brain cancer?

Ghosts are real my friend. Oh yes they are.

Writing Advice Continued: From Claudine

Claudine wrote this in the comments of yesterday’s post on Show Dont’ Tell and you write such a thoughtful, kick-ass comment, I want to put in on the front of the blog for all to see (I will, of course ask before I do so, don’t be shy to comment). Thank you so much, Claudine. There is so much good here.

Edit: Claudine tells me this is the source. Good advice, this.

I completely agree… sometimes ago I got this “memo” which I do use as well when writing a novel:
1: Does your screenplay use the 3 Act structure? 99% of successful films over the last 100 years have used it. Are there exceptions to the rule? Of course. But for now, use the 3 Act structure. Here’s an overview: Focus on the exploits of your main character, as well as defining the three main acts. Act 1 typically sets the unique circumstances that propel the story and character’s agenda. Act 2 is split into two smaller acts (a, and b). 2a brings momentum to the challenges your main character faces, as the various plots are woven. 2b typically brings a surprise conflict or challenge that must be overcome. This is the “twist” that may put your character’s agenda at risk, and complicate it to a point of being compelling and entertaining to watch. The darkest time for your character is at the end of Act 2. Act 3 brings resolution to your plot and character’s agenda. Themes of redemption, revenge, confirmation of love, victory, or acceptance are all common themes.

2: Are you SHOWING instead of TELLING? TELLING would be “Michael and Sarah are having fun with a lot of people at the house party.” SHOWING would be “A steady stream of people push by Michael as he makes his way through a darkly lit hallway carrying two beers. He spots a dancing Sarah from across the crowded living room.” Dialog must be natural and organic. Obvious dialog is boring. “Hello, Sarah. Wow, you sure do dance well. Isn’t this a fun party?” Don’t write obvious dialog.

3: Are you revealing people and story elements strategically in your scenes? Don’t show everything immediately. An example of what not to do is this – “5 tough guys are sitting around a poker table. A mound of chips is sitting in the middle of the table.” Instead, it should be like this – “Nervous eyes glance to the left. We see another guy meet the glance and look down. He’s holding 5 cards. A third guy pushes chips toward the huge pile at the center of the table.” Do you recognize the difference?

4: Are you maintaining your audience’s attention at every moment? You must. Keep them in a constant state of anticipation. If you follow the previous 3 suggestions, you’re on your way to holding the attention of your audience.

5: Are you starting your scenes at the beginning? Don’t. Come into a scene that is already underway. This technique engages the audience immediately – the audience feels they are ‘catching up’ and as a result, pay closer attention to what is going on, because clearly there was something going on previously.

6: Are your scenes too long? Keep your scenes short. You can have 1 to 3 set pieces (longer scenes) in your script, but keep the other scenes short.

7: Have you had your script read out loud? It doesn’t count if you read it out loud to yourself. Have a private or public reading. You will be surprised how helpful it is to hear your script read out loud. Don’t know any actors? Maybe a local theater troupe would be willing to help out. In fact, they would more than likely jump at the chance! If you decide to have a public reading, good for you. You never know who may be in your audience (i.e. potential investors, etc).

8: Have you sent your screenplay to friends and colleagues? They will give you feedback that you can benefit from right now. Be patient and be open to input. Now is the time to adjust and rewrite – before production starts.

9: Is your script a page turner? It must grab the reader from half way through the first page – or sooner!

Take my advice and follow these suggestions now so you stack the cards in your favor. Remember, your script is the foundation to your movie. Would you build a skyscraper on a bog? Of course not. Can you make a great movie from a weak script? I have heard too many filmmakers say “Oh, it will be great! I’ll work out all the kinks on the set.” That approach never works. Never.

I don’t remember who wrote it, but it’s very helpful.

INTANGIBLE

I wrote this for a Flash Fiction site a few years ago. It had to be no longer than 250 words. I completely forgot about this little story until it received a comment today. Having re-read it I’m quite fond of it so I thought I’d repost it to give it a few more eyeballs.

Intangible

She writes her number on the back of my hand with a black magic marker.

Then she says hello.

We dance the way people at parties dance, a fast slow dance of an excuse to press our bodies together, to what passes for music at these types of things. Stuck in the middle with you.

When she speaks, she leans in close, the black tips of her blonde hair tickling my face, her hand soft on my shoulder.

I’ve read when a girl is really into you, she’ll take any chance to make physical contact.

I’ve only read.

I fetch her a drink, standing in line for an eternity, glancing her way, worried should she leave my sight she will disappear, ethereal.

I return.

I don’t go here, she says, between sips of her beverage. I’ll transfer, I say, joking, but not really.

With nods and a smiles, my friends leave. Her friends linger, inspecting me as they embrace her goodbye.

Time passes. We find our way into the cold.

Our night ends at the threshold of her friend’s building. Call me as soon as you wake, she says.

I tell her this is not the end of our tale. She nods.

I spend the remainder of the night in my bed, watching the minutes flick by.

Morning light peeks through the yellowing blinds of my bedroom and I clutch my phone, finding myself paralyzed by the idea of blemishing the perfect of yesterday with the unknown of tomorrow.

What Scares Father Christmas?

This is for Loren Eaton’s annual Advent Ghosts.

What scares Father Christmas?

What scares Father Christmas?

Death?

Disease?

Famine?

That other one nobody seems to remember? What is it? Taxes?

No.

A bump in the night.

A house with no chimney.

A floor covered in those tiny plastic building blocks, near-invisible to the eye of a thousand year old man?

Not at all.

Too many cookies?

Not enough cookies?

Lactose free?

Gluten free?

Soy?

Not even close.

Taco Tuesday in the Elf cantina, and the ensuing chaotic aftermath.

Taco Tuesday, my dear friends, is what keeps that jolly old elf Kriss Kringle, Papa Noel, good old Saint Nick, awake at night.

The Pantser, The Plotter and The Inbetweener

This brilliant guest post written by Karen Henderson, whom I’ve known online since the day Al Gore invented blogging. She’s writing about a topic that is near and dear to my heart: plotting, or the lack thereof. Read on to the end to discover how you can win a copy of her book. Free books!

The Pantser, The Plotter and The Inbetweener

Unless you are writing for personal reasons, it is assumed you want someone to read your work. If someone does pick up your manuscript then you will hopefully also want that person to find it interesting enough to read every word, on every page, until they reach The End.

How many times have you, as a reader, put a book down and moved on to the next one because the author waffled on and on and on, or they wrote long, dreary weather reports, or they simply told a story that wasn’t worth telling?

For most, life is boring enough. We read to discover new worlds, new adventures, new people and new ways of life. We want to be transported out of reality to experience the things we do not or cannot experience on a day to day basis. We desire that elusive love affair or to travel through space at light speeds we can only imagine.

We have one life but can live many through the words of a book. But how do we write a book that breathes life into the reader and does such a book need to be planned?

There are three types of novel writers: one will just sit and write, one will plan every detail of the story and then sit and write, and the third will do a little of each.  But what is the best method?

The answer to that question can only be answered by you, the writer. Whatever suits you best is the right method for you. Let’s take a look at the three methods and maybe it will help you decide:

The Pantser is someone who writes by the seat of his or her pants. They haven’t got the time or the inclination to outline the characters and the plot. They want to get words onto paper as quickly as possible. They like to be taken by surprise. They enjoy going wherever the characters or the plot takes them. They have no idea where the story will end … but it’s fun finding out.  However, there is a real possibility of writer’s block when the ideas stop coming. The writer might also be inclined to waffle as the characters go in circles, confusing the hell out of everyone, including the writer. A lot of editing might be required to strengthen and straighten the good stuff and to alleviate the nonsense.

The Plotter couldn’t possibly write a single word without detailed character profiles, chapter outlines, maps, and something resembling a Wikipedia site for the other information they needed to build their world (imaginary or not). They know everything—and I mean everything—about the characters and their storylines, as well as the main plot and every sub-plot before they start writing. They probably have numerous software packages that collates and organises the information, or a folder system (hard copy or soft copy, it doesn’t matter) that would make a non-Plotter’s mind boggle. They spit in the face of writer’s block because, in their opinion, it’s not possible to get stuck when you know exactly what happens next. However, the Plotter may feel as if they’ve written the book before they even get started because so much prep has gone into the story and they know it so well. This may cause loss of motivation, which leads to half-finished manuscripts.

The Inbetweener doesn’t feel comfortable just writing but, on the other hand, feels constricted if they plot too much. They are at their happiest when they know what makes their characters tick and know where the story is going, but have the freedom to explore new avenues along the way. They may have key plot points they have to reach but are not tied in to how they get there.

You may read these descriptions and instantly know which type you are. But writers cannot be pigeon-holed. Think about it for a while and you might discover that the short story you’re writing indicates you’re a Pantser, but that novel you’ve been working on for years proves you’re a Plotter from way back.

If you have been a Pantser but cannot finish a story, become a Plotter or an Inbetweener and see if that helps. If you are an unmotivated Plotter, throw caution to the wind and try writing as a Pantser for a while. Above all else, you must write. Only a completed manuscript can be submitted for publication.

There is no right or wrong. Do what works for you. Remember though that whatever type you are your story must be worth reading. Don’t bore the reader with long descriptions. Allow their imaginations to soar. To achieve this there must be logic and flow and pace. The characters must be likable or ‘real’ enough to draw the reader into caring about them and their situation. The plot must be solid. The words must be concise and must always move the story forward.

If you want to go from a writer to an author, then you must write, write, write. What are you waiting for? Go and write now.

Hang on, before you go, I have a question for you. I am all three of the above. I’ve been a Plotter and an Inbetweener for novels. I am a Pantser for short stories. What about you? Are you a Pantser, a Plotter or an Inbetweener?

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This guest post is part of the “Tomorrow” Virtual Book Tour starting on 6 July 2013. To find out more about the stories, the authors and the publication go to the virtual book tour schedule page at http://www.kayellepress.com/2013/06/tomorrow-virtual-book-tour-schedule/.

I am offering “The Struggling Writer” readers a chance to win a copy to the “Tomorrow” ebook (in the format of the winner’s choice). Just leave a comment on this post and your name will be in the draw. One name will be randomly drawn and the winner will be announced in the comments section, in a couple of days.

Before I go, I’d just like to say a big thank you to Paul for hosting this stop on the book tour. If you haven’t been here before you should take a moment to look around. You’ll find an interesting look at a writer who admits to procrastination and a great cross-section of writing tips.

About Karen Henderson

Karen Henderson is an editor at Kayelle Press, a small independent publisher of speculative fiction in Australia. Their latest release is “Tomorrow”, a post-apocalyptic anthology exploring the possible outcomes of plagues, biohazards, human error, natural disasters and intergalactic travel. The book is available in paperback and various digital formats from their website and from most online bookstores. Visit the website (www.kayellepress.com) to find out more.

How To Start Writing

This is a question that come up quite a bit with new writers. How do you become a writer? How do you start writing?

There is a really simple answer. Start writing. Don’t think about it. Don’t plan out a story. Don’t make a collage. And for the love of all that is pink and froofy, don’t worry what genre you are writing for. The story will work that out for itself.

Just. Start. Writing.

Oh, and don’t check your e-mail/twitter/Facebook/tumblr first. Those things are writing killers. Trust me on this one.

Somebody Has the Same Idea as Me, Oh Noes!

Natallie Whipple had an excellent post today about writing, and story ideas, and how sometimes you can be halfway through a project only to discover that *gasp* somebody else had the same exact plot.  Check out her post, Other People Will Have Your Ideas—That Is Okay . My favorite bit of the post is this:

The truth is—other people are going to have your ideas.

Also, that is OKAY.

When people ask me what I’m writing, I rarely give them a detailed answer. Part of that is for this very reason. They will hear the idea and either immediately come up with a reason it isn’t plausible (this is an evil thing to do) or they’ll say, oh that reminds me of <insert book title here>. Then I’ll be all messed up in my head and abandon a perfectly good story. But I shouldn’t do that.

This leads to something else. The problem of elevating The Big Idea to god-like status.  The overall idea is important, but more important is how that idea is implemented (written).  There were others on the planet Earth who came up with an idea about a boarding school for young wizards. But there was only one Harry Potter.

The general rule of thumb, really, is to write YOUR story.  It it on paper, or in 1s and 0s. Worry about the rest of that crap later.

Crazy Hockey and A New Gig for Me

Boys choosing sides for hockey on Sarnia Bay, [Ont.], 29 Dec., 1908.

I played in a crazy hockey game last night in my adult league. Yes, I switched back to the skates that are a size too big for me. I’d rather deal with that than have the blade snap off while I was playing. The skates weren’t too bad really, since I tied them really tight. The idea skate tightness level of a skate is just before the point where your feet get numb.

So yeah, the game was crazy. The final score was 14-9! My team only had eight skaters (5 play on the ice at a time), and we play 60 minutes straight without any breaks, so I did a lot of skating. It was fun, but I’m a little beat this morning. I did score a goal, which gives me eight for the season. I’m hoping to get to ten. I feel much more confident on the ice lately, which makes playing a lot more fun.

The playoff beard is going well, only slightly itchy. We’ll see if I can get some pictures.

There is going to be more Daddyness over at Be A Good Dad, and I’m going to be one of the Daddies! Mike offered the chance and I gladly accepted. I was able to choose whatever topic I wanted to write about and I chose children’s book reviews, because we read to our daughter so much. I will have a weekly post there and I’ll let you know what it’s posted. The reviews should be fun and also let you parents know about some good kids books. I will be operating on the five sippy cup scale (1 sippy cup is bad, five sippy cups is good).

Hobo Code of Ethics

hansbaluschekstrolch.jpg

Today’s Myths, folklore & symbolism post over at Julie K. Rose’s blog featured a symbol from the “US system of hobo signs”. I had no idea there was such a system, so I had to do some research over at wikipedia. What I found was very interesting. Thanks for the idea Julie! Isn’t it great that we live in a world where we can do some quick research on a topic without ever having to put down the morning’s cup of tea?

There’s some fascinating stuff over at Wikipedia’s entry on Hobo. Not only is there description on the symbols hobos used, but there is also a listing of a Hobo Code of Ethics, which was, according to Wikipedia, created by Tourist Union #63 during its 1889 National Hobo Convention in St. Louis Missouri. Here is the code of ethics they decided upon:

  1. Decide your own life, don’t let another person run or rule you.
  2. When in town, always respect the local law and officials, and try to be a gentleman at all times.
  3. Don’t take advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable situation, locals or other hoboes.
  4. Always try to find work, even if temporary, and always seek out jobs nobody wants. By doing so you not only help a business along, but insure employment should you return to that town again.
  5. When no employment is available, make your own work by using your added talents at crafts.
  6. Do not allow yourself to become a stupid drunk and set a bad example for locals treatment of other hoboes.
  7. When jungling in town, respect handouts, do not wear them out, another hobo will be coming along who will need them as bad, if not worse than you.
  8. Always respect nature, do not leave garbage where you are jungling.
  9. If in a community jungle, always pitch in and help.
  10. Try to stay clean, and boil up wherever possible.
  11. When traveling, ride your train respectfully, take no personal chances, cause no problems with the operating crew or host railroad, act like an extra crew member.
  12. Do not cause problems in a train yard, Another hobo will be coming along who will need passage through that yard.
  13. Do not allow other hoboes to molest children, expose to authorities all molesters, they are the worst garbage to infest any society.
  14. Help all runaway children, and try to induce them to return home.
  15. Help your fellow hoboes whenever and wherever needed, you may need their help someday.

This is fascinating to me, that this group of people would get together as a community and come up with this system of symbols and code of conduct to insure their survival.  Several story ideas spring to mind, but I need to stick with my current novel.

Anyhow, I thought someone else might find this interesting as well.