Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Letter from a Decided "Nudge"

      To everyone who has heard Rachel Heffington speak about Fly Away Home, this is Callie Harper speaking. I butted into my author's usual blog space and schedule because, really: when have you ever known me to care about the proper time for saying things? See, Rachel is a darling author--really darling. She thought up someone as amazing as Mr. Barnett to play opposite me, and really (though there are several dreadful moments in my story when I wondered if Rachel really cared about my feelings at all) I think the book turned out very well. She's a little more honest about my inner thoughts than is really flattering to me, but one cannot know what one's author is up to, much less try to dictate the path of one's story. That is for God and writers.
       This bit of journalism, however, is not to speak about my story, nor to introduce you any further into my own heart (good heavens--Wade and I were quite shocked when we sat down and actually read what she had written!) but instead to lecture Rachel. So:
           You sat down and listened to me talk and ache and wrestle and yell at Wade Barnett, and you managed to take that wad of mess and formulate it into a tale. You deepened my character, you set me up for a blind date with a blackmailer, and I still managed to tell you my story. You wrote it. You created Wade Barnett and Jerry Atwood (whom, this far removed from my earlier memories, has improved ever so slightly in my opinion) and Nalia and Maralie Barrymore and all the rest. You brought in genuine celebrities and polished my story and theirs' until it shone like Nickleby's fur when he has just finished a cat-bath.
        You did all this, and you fearlessly sent us out to be shredded by the criticism of your friends and relatives and otherwise, and you took those cut-up pieces and pasted them back together, and though I couldn't see it then--and thought I began to be even more contrary than usual--you pressed through. My story is a historical romance, but we are lively enough together that even the boys who read it admitted it was darn good stuff and had little criticism to offer.
        All this you have been through, but now when it comes down to sending us off to an agent, you're balking.
       I ask you, Rachel, what sort of an author is it who just loses faith in her story and characters when the name "Agent" or "Editor" comes up? Listen. Do you think I would have even meet Mr. Barnett if I hadn't got up the courage to ask Mr. Shores for a job? I mean honestly now--he's twice as scary before you meet him, and he's a Ghengis Khan even after you've known him for years like I have.
     Do you think Ladybird Snippets would ever have flown if Mr. Barnett had not teased, cajoled, and cudgeled me into agreeing to his stupidity?
      I watched you write a blog post a day or two ago and you seemed very valiant then. You even made a little picture for the post so that your other friends might remember and be inspired by your call to small-courage. Do you remember?

       Then why in the name of the St. Evan's Post are you doubting yourself? If I had not left Nickleby with Jerry for the afternoon, he certainly would perform a compound-riposte against your backside and inform you that you're a stupid goose.
I tend to agree.
      Wade might use a more tactful representation, but I assure you that he shares my sentiments of the matter.

         In short, I broke into The Inkpen Authoress to tell you (and the world) that the very worst thing They can say is "No." The very worst thing you'll hear when you send a letter to an agent is "No." Perhaps they'll be rude and go further, but the fact doesn't change: My story is a good story. I'm a good character (if this letter hasn't borne witness). And you, my stupid Rachel, are a good writer.
      If you please to hurry up with your query-letter-writing, because I do not relish sitting here boxed up in your computer files. I want to see the world, because I think they'd love me. Yes, do smile. You know I've never struggled with false modesty. Adieu, Rachel, and Public. I must relief Jerry of Nicks-duty, and then change my dress because Wade and I are headed to the Stork Club to cover a story on Gregory Peck.

                      With all my love and best wishes,
                                                Calida Harper

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Pale Little Fancy

I have spoken before on the subject of how helpful it is to keep a notebook of some sort in which to scramble down ideas that spring upon you at inopportune moments. Sometimes I will have a phrase rattling through my brain and it ends up becoming an actual page or two when I start writing and let it fly.

"My pride? You question the pride of Darron Ap-Brainard?"

That phrase was stuck in my head a few weeks ago (though I didn't have a name to pair it with back then), and when I started writing I found that it belonged to some piece of Gloamingswood. This piece may or may not ever make it into the book, but it became a good introduction for myself into the crazy, arrogant Darron Ap-Brainard. In fact, this was the first moment I even knew there would be such a character.

       "My pride? You question the pride of Darron Ap-Brainard?"
       He (Richmond) thrust his chin skyward. "I do. I think you're an arrogant louse."
        Darron pulled the embroidered reigns of his jennet and cocked his head to one side. "You poor fool." The jennet pranced sideways and Darron took the opportunity of leaning close to Richmond's face and repeating himself: "You poor, fluff-pated fool."
        Richmond felt his hackles rising. Pericles had intimated that Darron was a bit on the windy side of arrogance, but Richmond had been none too prepared for the man. Darron paced away on his white jennet, the soft cream doeskin of his suit blending into the creature's hide.
       "We of the Ap-Brainard clan are mighty men!" Darron shouted, and his jumpy mount danced back, nicking Richmond's horse with her lips and dancing off again.
       "Will you please control that horse?"
        Darron's eyes sparked blue and Richmond groaned. "She's not a horse--she's half ass."
       "You're an ass."
      "Is that so?" Darron's lips pulled back in a smile and the sudden burst of white into his tanned face unnerved Richmond. "Then I have finally made it into manhood, thank heaven." There was no following the fellow. Darron kicked his jennet into a surprisingly swift canter--Richmond had not known donkeys could run--and swooped over the crest of the hill. Richmond's mount slogged up the slope with many a billowing sigh, and paused at the top.
      A white form hurtled up the hill toward them--straight toward them--and Richmond squeeze his knees tighter into his horse's flank. The horse shifted and Richmond shouted. The shape--Darron Ap-Brainard and his wild jennet--continued straight for him.
       "Move!" Richmond screamed, and he would have jumped from the saddle were it not for the certainty of being trampled by his own horse. "Move, you Ass!"
      "She is moving!" Darron shouted, near enough now so Richmond could see every gleaming tooth in his smile.
       Richmond squeezed his eyes shut, waiting for the shuddering, bone-cracking impact. Pericles knew this would happen. Pericles had sent him with Darron on purpose, knowing Darron would kill him by accident if not by design. Richmond didn't didn't mind the dying so much--he just hadn't prepared himself for death by donkey-hoof.
      However, the impact never came. Richard at first thought he had died without knowing it and skipped the painful part. Then he heard a sound that could not possibly in any way belong to Heaven; it was the sound of Darron Ap-Brainard's laughter.
      "Fool, fool, fluff-pated fool!" Darron cackled, and even the sudden rays of sunlight seemed to side with him. "Do you not know that it's pride my kinsmen live on? It's pride we eat and drink and ride from the first moment we step foot into the world to the last we dance out of it? Would you mewling little creatures try to tell an Ap-Brainard how to deport himself? Oh, you think humility is a virtue, do you? A pale little fancy."

Monday, February 25, 2013

"Don't dash off a six-thousand-word story before breakfast..."

I have been traveling, ladies and gents. That being said, today's post is late. In fact, I sat down and didn't quite know what I was going to write about, so I committed the seventh deadly sin of all writers and decided to "check Facebook" quickly before getting to work. Contrary to the general run of luck, checking Facebook was exactly the thing I needed to do because my brother's girl's sister-in-law (but we shall refer to her as Abby) had posted a link on my timeline that I found rather apropos. The link lead to The Art of Manliness which (while for the gents) is hilarious, informative, and full of good, old-fashioned tips on how to be a real man. I read it occasionally and pass the information I glean on to my brother and cousin and anyone else who will listen. It's seriously entertaining! Anyway, the link was a bit of writing advice from the legend, Jack London, in an article written 1903 called "Getting Into Print" and it was such good advice all around (though we might differ in a philosophy) that I had to "reprint" it here:

       Don't dash off a six-thousand-word story before breakfast. Don't write too much. Concentrate your sweat on one story, rather than dissipate it over a dozen. Don't loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don't get it you will none the less get something that looks remarkably like it. Set yourself a "stint," [London wrote 1,000 words nearly every day of his adult life] and see that you do that "stint" each day; you will have more words to your credit at the end of the year.
       Study the tricks of the writers who have arrived. They have mastered the tools with which you are cutting your fingers. They are doing things, and their work bears the internal evidence of how it is done. Don't wait for some good Samaritan to tell you, but dig it out for yourself.
      See that your pores are open and your digestion is good. That is, I am confident, the most important rule of all.
       Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.
      And work. Spell it in capital letters. WORK. WORK all the time. Find out about this earth, this universe; this force and matter, and the spirit that glimmers up through force and matter from the maggot to the Godhead. And by all this I mean WORK for a philosophy of life. It does not hurt how wrong your philosophy of life may be, so long as you have one and have it well.
        The three great things are: GOOD HEALTH; WORK; and a PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE. I may add, nay, must add, a fourth--SINCERITY. Without this, the other three are without avail; with it you may cleave to greatness and sit among the giants.
-Jack London "Getting Into Print" 1903

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February Snippetings!

Writing recently has been very very difficult and tedious and confusing for me of late. Partly because I still haven't figured out what to do with my Microsoft Word program and have been making shift with Google Drive to do any and all of my writing, partly because there are... 4 books I have ideas for and have worked at a bit, and hardly a one of them is rearing it's head and demanding I write it yet. Usually my books have a preference. My MO has been (and I assume will be) to work at the several ideas till one takes the reigns and runs off, pulling me in with it. That being said, none of the stories have done that yet, so if this blog has been a little silent, a little vague for some time, it's only because I am in several pickles at once and the brine is rather cloudy.

But I have been wanting to do a Snippets post all the same, so I hope you won't terribly mind knowing hardly anything about most of these stories. Explanation will come along in a bit after I have decided who and what I'm working with.


       Baron sighed--at least Callum thought he did. He made no sound but his arms rose and fell with his chest. "Callum pup, I've told you not to think about that yet. There is time."
       Callum felt the familiar anger rising in his breast. It hurt to breathe. "There is not time."
      "There is--"
        "No, Baron. Listen to me: I am fourteen years old."
       Baron's left eyebrow jerked upward at one corner, and Callum saw he shared the fear. "So old."
-Grey Goose Downs

        Baron slammed a fist on the table and Callum's cider sloshed over his bannock. "Your body is crippled, but your soul is keen and straight. Keep it burnished. Bronzed. In fighting trim. And the people will follow you."
       "Like eagles following a dying dove. I see. Well of course that's a marvelous plan, isn't it? I'll strike terror into the heart of the Northlings with my peckish beak and my little wings. They'll cower, naturally."
-Grey Goose Downs

        Callum picked up a stone or two and hurled them toward the path, following the trail of tallow-soaked torches the men had carried, still visible like star-fire in the rise of the hollow just beyond the village. As if the mock the paltry effort of throwing stones at his lot in life, the missiles landed harmlessly a few steps away. Callum buried his head in his arms, the weak curve of his spine providing a shell in which to hide his humiliation.
-Grey Goose Downs

       Callum felt the world wheeling and wondered if the stars had struck the moon and caused the upheaval.
-Grey Goose Downs

      His gaze wandered over to her hands. She gripped her chest-strap, and her eyes were fixed on the road with horror. A glance at the speedometer showed hew as going eighty-five, give or take ten miles. He applied pressure the brakes and watched her relax and increment as if she had been trying her hardest not to indulge in a squeal of terror. 
-No Mere Mortals

    "First of all, about the kid...I know this is going to sound awkward, but is she yours?"
    "You mean to say--coming on the smoking heels of the extensive Wikipedia article you have doubtless scoured--you know I am unmarried and wish to see if I've been dabbling in the fine art of womanizing. To answer your question quite bluntly, Miss Langley, I received Winnie as an inheritance from an old friend of mine."
     She was silent. He wished she'd say something. Anything.
     "Is that legal?" Quiet, clipped question.
      Well, that was a start.
-No Mere Mortals

     Gregory hit hit number one speed-dial and Anders answered.
      "Hello, Mr. Gregory. Do you have her?"
      "I do, Anders."
      He leaned as close as he could to the driver's window, hoping Aura wasn't paying attention. "She's perfectly ordinary as far as looks and intelligence go," he whispered.
     "Why are you whispering?" Anders asked.
     "Gosh, man! She's in the blinking car with me and can blinking hear every word you're saying."
-No Mere Mortals

      In Richmond's book it began, of course, where all things begin. At that precise moment when one has just got accustomed to the idea of doing whatever-it-is one has been doing for the rest of the year and forever an' ever amen. Richmond, in his case, was sitting with his legs slung over the back of the blue sofa, and his eyes fastened on the ceiling, wishing he hadn't dropped that book because now it meant getting up and finding his place again."

      "Let's think about it logically," Richmond said a half-hour later when the sponge cake had been reduced to a few sticky, jam-spread crumbs on the fork tines. He flipped to a blank sheet in his writing tablet and wrote the words "Finding Baby" across the top. Then, not knowing what else to write, he traced the words, bearing down hard with his pencil."

    "Do you think this is safe?" he asked.
     Jamsie wondered if he could be serious. Was it possible? Richmond--asking such a question? She put her hand against his forehead to check for altered temperature--nothing. "It's not dangerous, if that's what you mean," she said at last.
    "But if it really is a kidnapper..."
     "Then we'll probably join his collection." Jamsie laughed, pleased with her own joke but, upon catching sight of Richmond's grimace, stopped. "Are you really worried?"
      Richmond stopped fully and turned around, shoving his hands into his pockets. "It's a person who took a baby, Jamsie. It's not a joke. People don't do this sort of thing for larks."
    "It probably fell down a rabbit-hole like Alice. Now stop being a sad sack and hurry. The bobbies will have the case wrapped up if we wait any longer."

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Writing Contest! :)

I wanted to inform the each and the every one of you, that there is a new contest beginning...oh look. Today! On The Inkpen Authoress.

I was thinking I wanted something rather interesting. Something...original. Something that would amuse me and challenge your writing abilities to the utmost. Something that will require imagination as well as honesty from the entries of either category.

So bear with me. The contest? Oooooooh. It's going to be rather tough, but I know you will do it.

The theme is:
 First Impressions: the good, the bad, and the unconventional

The challenge is this:

Write a short piece about the first time you met me.

Before you fly off the handle, I want you to know this:

There will be two categories:

1.) Non-fiction (i.e. those of you who have met me may write about your first impression)
2.) Fiction (i.e. a fictionalized meeting of you and I)

For the non-fiction category, I'll be looking for the most amusing, engaging account of the first time you and I met...from your perspective. Don't worry, I shan't be offended if your first impression of me was not very flattering. I have a friend who--because of my old shyness--thought I was stuck-up. ;)

For the fiction category, I'll be looking for the most creative, interesting, and well-written piece about our hypothetical "meeting"

I realize this is not a conventional contest, but I would challenge all of you to try your hand at it. Consider it a writing exercise--surely if you can write a book about a character that doesn't exist, you could try your hand at writing me as a character?

The devilish details are as follows:

One entry per contestant. Please send all entries to I will not attempt to ban those of you who have met me from fabricating a fictional meeting...but that would just be weird so I doubt you'll try it. ;)

There is no limit to how long your piece may be, but the general idea would be a "short story length" of no more than about 2-3k words.

Accepting Entries till midnight on March 1.

The winner of each category will receive a prize--I am still working out what those prizes will be. :) 

I can't wait to read your entries, so get your pencils ready!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Gleamdring's Beautiful People: Pericles Vanauken

Despite my Word program being yet at a stalemate and preventing me from digging my talons into any real writing, I have been plotting and planning and sitting there wondering which of the several ideas will puncture me and take me flying. I have an inkling. And that inkling may become the first book in a series that will likely have three books. This scares me, saying this, because I am not a series-er. But the desire to tackle a bigger project with deeper themes has been growing on me, and to celebrate (and to understand what the heck these people are like) I am doing a Beautiful People on one of the MSC (Main side characters) of Gleamdring. I give you:

Pericles Vanauken

Who is your character as described in one sentence?
The vitriolic Pericles is a young noble of twenty-seven or twenty-eight, and the next-in-line leader of the proud, brooding, and tragic Vanauken family.

Who is you character as described in a few words?
Passionate. Watchful. Self-pitying.

Who is your character as described by one paragraph?
Pericles Vanauken is the future leader of the Vanauken family, alongside his sister, Riona. The Vanaukens once ruled all of Gloamingswood, their lands stretching out from the edges of Gleamdring Pool on the West to the coastal lands in the East. Over the years, the great family of Keeptryst pushed them father and farther back till the Vanaukens cling only to the most Western bit of Gloamingswood. For this, Pericles hates the Keeptrysts, and pities himself and his family. This is a thing that will never leave him; it is written in blood on his heart.

Who is your character as described by several key phrases?
The Hunter. "Do not mistake my silence for surrender." There will be a reckoning.

Who is your character as described by several paragraphs?
Pericles is a promising young man who has let fortune eat all happiness away. His days are filled with brooding self-pity. As the future leader of the Vanaukens, Pericles has a deep and passionate tie to his clan. The idea that Gloamingswood entire is his "right" and that the Keeptrysts sit upon the land, feasting in its fatness is a thistle under his skin. Justice will be done, the score will be reckoned.

But for all this, Pericles can be kind--even gentle--in the moments his pity is turned from himself to his sister, Riona. He is a man with a love for wandering, hunting, and stroking the wildlands. He spends much time alone in the hills above the Gleamdring Pool with his white wolf, Mairkinsmoor.

What is your character's introversion/extroversion preference?
Pericles is by nature an introvert. Deep currents of passion and thought roil in his chest, fed by his sense of injury and misuse. At moments, however--in the Feast Days, perhaps--Pericles will sometimes throw off his gloom and become charming. He spends much time in thought and inner dialog, and thus is an excellent swordsman with words when he so chooses. Harrison Keeptryst has often borne the brunt of this sudden talent.

What is your character's sensing or intuitive preference?
Pericles runs on both. His is a sensitive, tender nature, but his chosen occupation as a hunter and wanderer has marked him as a man with whom intuition is a predominate characteristic.\

What are the weaknesses and strengths of your character?
While a dark, brooding fellow, Pericles can be kind and is very intuitive as to other people's feelings of a matter. This almost feminine characteristic has caused him grief in the past, and can sometimes mar his perfect summing-up of a social situation and how he acts therein. In the woods, however, Pericles is a cool, calm, and decisive person, and is determined to give his life to winning back to lost Vanauken lands. He is manly and courageous despite the sensivity of his nature. A man in tune with the heartbeat of his lands and people. He is comely in appearance, and well-built. His greatest weakness is Pity. Pity for his family and for himself, which has given him a name as a harsh, cruel man in many cases. This is the crux of the issue, for Pericles' sensitive nature makes him feel deeply injuries done to himself and his family, but his propensity to hold grudges age upon age without forgiveness bars the pity from becoming mercy and thus being turned on the lathe into a virtue. This is the thing that clouds his vision far oftener than is wise for a leader of a fading family

What is your character's love language?
Touch and words. Pericles is a bit of a loner, and doesn't allow anyone to touch him. Though many realize he is prone to offense by speech, few but Riona realize the impact a handshake or a touch on the shoulder has on Pericles the Hunter.

What is the story of the changes of your character's personality?
Pericles has the potential to be a wise, charming leader. He is smart, powerful, and careful. But early memories of the days before the Keeptryst family drove the Vanaukens back to the Westernmost edges of Gloamingswood eat at his heart.
The customs of Gloamingswood, however, do not allow the Vanaukens to brood in their corners. The Feast Days are still held as is tradition at the Keeptryst stronghold of Winnsbrock, and Keeptryst dignitaries mingle freely with the Vanaukens on most social occasions. But tensions are rising. Some alliances have been made--treaties signed--among the lesser clans of Gloamingswood that Pericles senses are leading up to the total exile of the Vanaukens into the West.
Naturally, this does not sit well with this future head of the Vanauken cause, and Pericles begins to reach far and deep for allies of his own...even to race of the Netherfolk.

What axioms and definitions influence your character's decisions?
"Unguarded strength is double-weakness." If there is anything about Pericles' leadership style is that he is careful. So careful. This can cause him to be a brilliant strategist or to sometimes be labeled with a white feather.

What does your character believe about origins?
Pericles believes that we all come from the Before. He is reluctant to name what the Before is, for it is only the Keeptryst folk who dally in Religion.

What does your character believe about the afterlife?
If there is a Before, there must be an After. This is a subject Pericles is not much concerned with. His self-pity has given him the gift of small-sight. He sees only what is before him and acts only after watching and waiting. He does not often beggar the question of "What will happen when I die" for Pericles ironically believes himself called to avenge his clan and gain back their land, and since they are by all appearances so far from his goal, he simply cannot die.

What does your character believe about law?
Law is what binds land and families together in peace. It was a breach of unspoken law that lost the Vanauken heritage. It is a reparation of that law that will restore his clan to power.

How does your character's family life influence his decisions?
His family, in short, adores him. Their acquiescence to his every strategy has spoilt him, perhaps, but gives him an edge in leadership, for they place full confidence in his powers of mind and body. Growing up, Pericles was teased and kicked into a brawny, tawny manhood that has served him well in these current years.

When a person first meets your character, what does he know about him?
Here is a man deep as the murmurings of the Gleamdring under Winter's ice. They might also notice the scar above his left eyebrow, won in his first encounter with the wolf-pup, Mairkinsmoor.

When someone is an enemy of your character, how does he see him? 
There is a certain devil-is-too-ill-bred-for-me air about Pericles, oozing from his infected pride that ticks off every Keeptryst (especially Harrison) that encounters Pericles. He acts as a damper on social occasions, and every enemy of the Vanauken family knows him to be a dangerous fellow albeit a quiet one. No one thoroughly understands Pericles, so even his kinsmen view him with one eyebrow cocked.

When someone has been a friend of your character for a long time, what does he know about him? Riona and Mairkinsmoor are his only acknowledged friends, and of him, they know little. They guess many things, but they know little. That Pericles has deeper ambitions than winning back Vanauken land is clear. What those ambitions might be, does even Pericles himself know? Darron Ap-Brainard is the other closest thing Pericles has to a friend besides his sister and The White Wolf. Theirs is a flint-and-steel relationship...Darron's pride is so full as to make him unable (and unwilling) to accept no for an answer when it comes to being a "Friend" of Pericles.

What is something else about your character which no one else knows, which no one will ever know?
Well that would be telling now, wouldn't it? Spilling his secrets to all the world? I shan't. I shan't at all.

Low hung the moon over the Western hills, and the faint copper light it threw over the fell-land below but dimly lit the crests of the hollows. Enough light to show a man the way, enough darkness to shelter him from the eyes that sought his shape among the wind-coaxed beeches. The young man crouching in the tangle of briars--hood pulled around his face--watched and waited. A black stream burbled near his feet and emptied into the Gleamdring Pool where that low, copper-hung moon quivered in reflection. Pericles the Hunter.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sometimes You Didn't Want To Know The End

I was watching The Two Towers with my sisters the other night, and of a sudden Samwise Gamgee's voice forced itself on my ear, and I started to listen to what this most excellent of hobbits was saying. Frankly, on the brink of several new stories and not knowing what I'm to write, (and with my Word trial at an end and all my documents frozen. O.o) and only knowing that this ache deep inside my chest must come out a story somehow, I found this little hobbit's words somewhat prophetic and certainly inspiring:

Frodo: "I can't do this Sam."

Sam: "I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines out it will shine the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had a lot of chance of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something."

Frodo: "What are we holding onto, Sam?"

Sam: "That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo...and it's worth fighting for."

In that short scene on the edge of so much bewilderment, Sam Gamgee stated what I love about stories. What I wish I could write. The very cry of my heart and the words I couldn't find to say myself.

I feel that my fingers are still unfit for war. My words come out clumsy yet. There are deep yearnings and workings in my heart--deep as 'the great stories' Samwise mentions. And yet they don't come out. I am still learning how to bring the vague ache of my heart into a tangible thing. Into words, that it might nestle in someone else's heart and make it ache in that beautiful way.

How can I do this?

That was the question fluttering through my heart and head when Sam came up quite suddenly with this checklist. How do you write one of the great stories?

1.) "...full of darkness and danger, they were." Right. So you've got to have a clear striving between good and evil. Your characters need something huge to fight for. Something that puts their future in peril of they don't attain it. Something dangerous and dark that clearly is attacking the light and must be put back in its place.

2.) "...sometimes you didn't want to know the end..." Suspense. That moment in a book when you're holding it out and away from you in fear of what the next sentence might be while at the same time you wish to hug it close and devour every word. Suspense. Not knowing if the characters will come out all right because, like Sam says, " could the end be happy?"

3.) "..A new day will come." A change in the tide. Darkness defeated and Light brought back to its beautiful place.

4.)  "...folk in those stories had a lot of chance of turning back, only they didn't." Boom. Determination. Loyalty. Faithfulness. Your characters can't just be valiant from the start. That doesn't make for a gripping story. Those characters don't usually worm their way into your heart. Part of character growth in a story just as in real life is a series of choices. "I set before you today life and death...choose life."  It is the best stories that place the characters in multiple situations where nearly everyone concerned would justify them in choosing to turn back. The fact that they don't turn back is what makes the first incision in your heart and hooks you for certain.

5.) "...because they were holding on to something." The reason those characters don't turn back? Usually it's not because they're just plain stupid. Usually it's because there is something bigger than themselves that they're fighting for. That Light. That beauty that has all but been obscured by the darkness. Give your characters a thing that says "Beyond the pain...beyond the scalding heat...there is something. There is a thing I must hold on to till Death releases my hand from the gripping of it."

6.) "That there's some good left in this world...and that it's worth fighting for." The remnant. More than anything else I desire to write a book about the remnant. The tiniest glimmer of hope left in a world that is shadowed. The scrap of a tribe left from ages gone who cling on, oppressed but valiant. The scrap of good we are fighting for. As writers it is up to us to find that remnant, to dig it out, and to fight for it with all we have in our pen.

Who knew a Hobbit could teach me so much about my own writing-craft? Well....Tolkien warned me.
"Hobbits really are amazing creatures, as I have said before. You can learn all there is to learn all there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you at a pinch." 

Monday, February 4, 2013

From the Rest of You

Just as while reading you'll come across a part of a book that inspires you, in reading the blogs of my writing friends, I have come across posts that give me that ache-y break-y feeling of: I have to write because of things like this. You know the sort--they are unmistakable when you actually come across them. Because I know that it's an encouragement to hear that those countless posts you labor over actually effect someone, I've compiled a list of the particular posts over the years that are my favorites. They might be posts of snippets. They might be how-tos. They might just be a beautiful, breaking piece of prose. But each of these links are worth reading, and if one of your posts is on here, know that this is a thank-you for real. Not flattery.

From astonishing Jenny: A Strange Power in Those Riddling Words
Also from Jenny: The Fierceness of Defending Life
From Jenny as well, to me, which makes it twice as nice: Janus

From Anna: Only Dull People Are Clever At Breakfast

From my dear Katie: Contentment: a One-Butt Kitchen is Better Than no Kitchen at All
Also from Katie: "The Terror, the Suspense, the Thrill!"
And last but not least from Katie: Chainsaw Therapy

From The Anne-Girl: The Story of My Beginning (because I like hearing about starts)
Also from my Bertie: Christmas With the Sage

From Abigail: Burning the Straw Men
Also from this Valiant Girl: The Stereotyped Woman
And: The Creative Mind

There are, I am sure, many more posts from these authors and others that I find close to my heart. Most of the posts I read have had some effect on me, just as most of the books I read rub off in some way. But these pieces in particular I tip my hat to, and say "Pass the crumpets, we're out of tea."