Friday, April 3, 2015

Start in the right spot

Yesterday when I dropped my daughter off at school one of the office staff was waiting to talk to me. She asked if I'd gotten the note when I picked up my daughter.

" no," I said. "I didn't pick up my daughter yesterday. My husband did."

The woman continued talking about the note and how it was supposed to be delivered, and said something about a lunch order, and then the bell rang.

Impatient, wanting to get out of the way of the beginning of class, I asked what I needed to do. I assumed Sylvia needed money to pay for a lunch.

"No, no. You don't need to do anything. We sent home the money with the note."

Now totally confused I waited as she finally explained the whole story. My daughter took some money from our car (the keeping of money in the car scandalized them, but that's a different matter) and wanted to put in a lunch order. I had to explain to her she can't just take money and buy lunch, it has to be placed in a paper bag and I have to write on it.

The experience made me think about hooks in story telling. When telling a story it's essential the story starts with the right information to get me to pay attention--tell me what the conflict is. Then I'll pay attention to the boring but necessary backstory so I can figure out how to address the conflict. Amazing how understanding storytelling shows up everywhere.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Idea book

So, Writing Excuses, which I listen to semi regularly, is structured as a 'master class' this year. I'm going to follow along and do (and post!) at least some of my exercises. As I said, I'm only a semi-regular listener. I listen to them all, but sometimes I'll go a few weeks without listening and then binge on three or four episodes at once. This being January, and summer, I'm just getting started.

The first episode focuses on coming up with ideas. I have lots of ideas, most of which I think of and promptly forget. Not so useful. I'll try to be better here. These were the prompts we were supplied for the exercise:

From an interview or conversation you've had:
*Pigs, baby cows, chickens, and other farm animals destined for slaughter are kept in deplorable conditions that cause them to go crazy. What would happen if they were released suddenly? What would happen if their craziness was somehow transmitted to whoever ate the meat?
*Pests evolve ways around pesticides and herbicides. Overuse of pesticides and herbicides brings about the demise of said chemical.
From research you've done (reading science news, military history, etc): *Hackable pacemaker.
*Man who lies (stealing identities, going into debt and walking away from it) in order to get an education because he's otherwise too poor to get education he wants. Succeeds in getting an education but is later pulled down by revelation of his past.

From observation (go for a walk!):
*Man in a pink helmet, climbing off the side of a bridge toward something I can't see. What is he going toward? What if he falls?

From a piece of media (watch a movie):
*Morality of the TV show Grimm--it's okay to steal a baby from a woman to keep that baby away from a group in leadership. Also okay to kill a bunch of people who are enforcing a racist rule. Why are rules so flexible and what will the consequences of that moral flexibility be?

From a piece of music (with or without lyrics):
*Sylvia is a girl being pestered by an ex boyfriend. She's leaving on a train with her new boyfriend and the old one just wants to say goodbye, but her mother won't let him. How does Sylvia feel? Is she grateful to her mother, or annoyed, disappointed to not have some closure with the guy?

Other random ideas:
*A woman who relishes swearing because she's been in a situation where she can't swear for a long time. Enjoys the feel of the swear words in her mouth.
*Polygamist wives who are steampunk engineers

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Like many stories, my current WIP involves a revolution (two, actually). While I love many fictional stories that include revolutions, most of the time they fall flat for me for a variety of reasons. In most of the stories I can think of off the top of my head (Hunger Games, the Madd Addam trilogy) the thing that bugs me is the attitude people have toward human life. There never seems to be enough 'othering' of the subjugated or lower classes to justify the abuse that's allowed.

By othering I mean ascribing negative qualities to a group in order to differentiate the ruling or upper class and justify why the lower class deserves its lower status. You know, like poor people deserving to be poor because they're lazy.

In our society, where we don't literally cart off poor black or Hispanic kids into fights to the death, we still have so much more othering than exists in most of those worlds. I understand possessing negative attitudes toward others isn't socially acceptable, but I think it speaks to the privilege most white writers have that we don't recognize its absence. Recognizing, of course, that as a white woman I don't actually include such othering in my WIP at the moment (though in large part I'm going to claim that's a failure of world building and will fix it in revision. Yeah, revision...)

Anyway, that's not what I wanted to write this post about. This is more of an, I want to keep this link handy 'cause someday I'm going to want to think about these issues more. iO9 posted a fun article on what fictional dystopias ignore about revolution that I found just a teensy bit interesting. My favorite: the head honcho isn't always the problem. It's a lot harder to have a neat plot when you're fighting against an entire class rather than a single bad guy, but let's be honest, how often is the ruler the only source of the problem? Right, never.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I don't want to go to bed

I've done my writing (300 words! Wahoo!) and I'm so tired my eyes are sagging, but I don't want to go to bed yet. I don't want the evening to end and the morning to be that much closer. I've read everything on facebook, I've responded to important and not so important emails, I've read responses on my writing group's website. I can no longer write a useful response. Honestly, I haven't been able to write a useful response for the last hour or so. I should go to bed now, but I just want to read one more thing...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

somethig to keep track of

I did write thiswee, which is a definite improvement, but I did not write every day. Even so, I wrote  928 new words in three days. Wahoo for me!

Unfortunately, it's all pretty un-compelling writing. Back story stuff I need to write but nobody else needs to read. Next week I'll have to do more, both in terms of writing and in terms of making things exciting.

In the pursuit of making compelling writing, here's a check list of items tothink about for every scene. Lots and lots to think about, but will be critical to go though during revisions.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

New goal

I'm struggling to get back into writing, both on my blog and on my projects. I think about them (more about the novel than about the blog, to be honest) but sitting down and doing the writing is hard right now. I don't have any of the excuses I've had for the last, oh, nearly year (no visitors, no pregnancy, and my baby is very nice to me sleep-wise so I'm not terribly sleep deprived) but I'm having trouble sitting down and forcing myself to write.

The best I ever do with writing is when I sit down and write a little bit every day, like 300 or so words. It's a little more than a page and I can usually bang it out in 20 minutes or so if I've even remotely planned. So, here's my new plan: I'm going to write about 300 words a day for the next week and then post next Sunday what I've done. Then I'll have something for both writing and blog. Win-win!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Best cinnamon rolls

Sometimes books are about food, even when they aren't.

I read Robin McKinley's "Sunshine" a few days after I had Kip. It's a book about a girl and a vampire, but in addition to being our protagonist, that girl also happens to make the world's best cinnamon rolls (something that's only mentioned every third or fourth page of the book). Perhaps unsurprisingly, I craved cinnamon rolls for weeks after I finished devouring the book.

Today I made my favorite cinnamon rolls.

My husband and I disagree on how the best cinnamon rolls are made. He thinks cinnamon rolls should be spread out so they don't touch, so every roll is completely separate. I think cinnamon rolls should be baked in a pan, in as much contact as possible so they come out soft, almost gooey when they're fresh from the oven.

He loves a straight cinnamon roll, with lots of cinnamon and butter, and with raisins and pecans in the filling but not much else. I'm less of a traditionalist and love to throw in hints of orange peel and cardamom to make my cinnamon rolls almost like a Christmas Julekage, though I'm not opposed to other fillings, like chocolate or brown sugar and marmalade, though I'm not sure I've ever gone quite as crazy with toppings as these.

No matter how I make them, they must be topped with cream cheese frosting.

Sadly, I took a nap this afternoon and, in my absence, my children ate all the cinnamon rolls. The only evidence of their existence, dirty plates and small piles of discarded raisins and pecans.

Thanks to the connection with the world's greatest cinnamon rolls I will think about "Sunshine" every time I make my own world's greatest cinnamon rolls. The power of food, not to be underestimated.