Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Writing Prompt: Point of View, etc.

Today's prompt deals with point of view. The rules regarding POV aren't breakable: once you choose to be in a certain character's head, it's not acceptable to change until you've started a new chapter. The only other time you're "allowed" to switch to another person's POV is when using a "section end designation" like this (or something similar. In The Key of Kilenya, we used cute, little keys:-)):


The concept behind point of view issues isn't difficult for many of us, but sometimes things still slip through.

Today's Challenge:
Write a short scene (poetry, fiction, etc.), using one of the examples below, and make sure you stick only to the thoughts of the main character. For bonus points, write the scene twice - the second time from the head of the other person. :-) (You don't have to if you're aren't inclined to do so.)

Here are some examples you can choose from:
  • Tom and Will are disgruntled neighbors. One morning, Tom knocks on Will's door and threatens to kill Will's dog if it breaks into his yard and chases his chickens one more time.
  • Sarah can't wait to meet Jeff tonight. She's been single for so long, and has a feeling he's Mr. Right. Her friend, Brittany, disagrees.
  • Seth and Kirk have had a long-standing competition where their trucks are concerned. Seth says to Kirk, "Where were you last night at 10:00pm? Someone broke into my truck again."
  • Mark and Stacy are discussing Mark's desire to pick up four-wheeling. Stacy's dad was killed in a four-wheeling accident a few months earlier.
  • Jessica and Chris were engaged for a year when Chris broke off the engagement. Three months later, he calls her up, asking if they can get back together.
If you don't like any of the above, please feel free to create your own. :-) Here are the parameters I want you to stick to:

  • Get into the thoughts of the person you choose. Don't let the dialog alone carry the scene.
  • Don't have more than two characters.
  • Take the scene where you want it to go.
  • Keep it short - three or four paragraphs (or up to eight lines of dialog with thoughts interspersed)
Keep up the hard work with writing, and good luck! Go ahead and post a link to your response below.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Writing Prompt: Telling vs Showing

Everyone has heard this before: it's important to show rather than tell. "Telling" gets old really fast, doesn't help us become familiar with the characters, and doesn't further the plot. "Showing," on the other hand, not only pushes the story forward, but allows us to see what the characters are like.

Here's how the first page of The Key of Kilenya would look if I'd "told" rather than "showed.":

Jacob really liked video games. He also liked basketball. One day, he decided he wanted to stop playing video games for an hour or so and practice basketball instead. He was tending his little sister so he made sure she was okay, then went outside.

His sixteen-year-old brother, Matt, who really liked working on cars, saw him and asked if he could also play. They joked around, as brothers often do. Jacob won the game of basketball. Then they talked about how Jacob was planning on trying out for the team.

A moment later, they were discussing a mutual acquaintance, when Jacob heard a noise coming from the trees near the driveway. Matt said he couldn't hear it. Jacob looked at the trees, wondering if something was there.

If this were the start of my book, my target audience would die from boredom. Teenagers have a great deal less patience than adults when it comes to telling rather than showing, but even adults get frustrated from it. Learning this simple-sounding, yet difficult-to-master concept is key in our writing.

Here's how The Key of Kilenya really starts (used with my permission. Ha ha. :-)):

Jacob tossed his favorite hand-held video game onto his bed, then grabbed his basketball and dashed down the stairs. As he entered the kitchen, he paused, glancing out the window to check on Amberly—still playing in the sandbox out back—then turned and bolted through the front door, eager to take advantage of the last rays of sunlight.

Matt, Jacob’s sixteen-year-old brother, was working in the garage. “Hey, I wanna shoot too,” he said as he popped his head out from under the truck.

“Fine, but I really need this practice. So challenge me.”

“Don’t I always?” Matt said with a laugh. 

They played a quick game of one-on-one, with Jacob barreling past Matt and leading the game consistently by fifteen points or more. He ended it with a spectacular three-point shot and bent over panting, hands on knees.

“Yeah, well, I can still beat you at football.” Matt grinned. 

Jacob laughed, then tossed the ball to his brother. “Here. You need to practice more.”

“You still trying out tomorrow?”

“‘Course—I have to.”

“Uh-huh.” Matt tucked the ball under his arm and glanced at Jacob. “You know . . . letting Kevin win at something might not be a bad thing. ‘Sides, you could both make it.”

“No, we couldn’t. You know Coach—he’s not going to let two fourteen year olds on varsity.”

A rustle in the trees next to the driveway made Jacob turn his head. It sounded like a large animal or a person. “You hear that?”

“Hear what?” Matt was back to shooting hoops again.

Jacob motioned for Matt to stop and took a step closer to the trees, squinting to see better. But the sun had already set, and the brush was dark. “Hey, turn on the light. I think something’s in there.”

It's longer than the first example, but it fulfills many needs. A couple of things I did differently:

I used dialog to move the plot forward, to help my readers get a feel for the characters, and to let us know what's going on in Jacob's mind (basketball, beating Kevin, making the team).

I also used several key words to show what Jacob is doing. "Tossed," "dashed," "eager," etc. He's not moving slowly, and he's not bored. He's excited to get to practicing.

There are several hard fast rules in some markets/genres that don't work in others. For example, The Key of Kilenya starts pretty quickly and jumps into action almost right away. My youth readers love this, but it might not work so well for someone who enjoys a good, relaxed romance.

Telling, instead of showing, doesn't work for any fiction market, with one exception: if the scene would be better with the telling instead of showing. (Who wants to watch the main character sleep all night long, rolling over occasionally, etc.? :-)) In non-fiction, it usually isn't a big deal. (Obviously, if you're writing a manual on how to use computers, you have to "tell." :-))

Today's Challenge:
Take a scene that exemplifies "showing" from a favorite movie, and rewrite it to be an example of a bad scene. Fill it with "telling" things, and remove the awesome. :-)

Then, compare your newly written scene with the original, and tell your readers what you changed and why. Explain the reasons you feel the original scene is a good example of "showing."

If, like me, you have a hard time choosing, here are a few movie ideas:
  • Star Wars
  • The Princess Bride
  • Indiana Jones
Or whichever other movie you'd prefer using. :-) Good luck! As usual, post in the comments below a link to your response. :-)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Writing Prompt: Eating Sushi

Before getting into the prompt, I wanted to get to know everyone better. If you're feeling up to it, would you comment and tell me what your interests/hobbies are, what you write/read, and where you're from? (I don't want specifics on location. :-))

Me: I like biking, hiking, camping, painting, playing the viola and piano, teaching, and my husband. :-) I'm from the mid-west, and I read YA literature and adult thrillers. (RIP, Michael Crichton!) I write YA fiction.

Now then. On to today's prompt. :-)

Have you ever noticed that the people who've tried sushi tend to either love or hate it? The experience is a unique one - not easily forgotten by those of us who didn't grow up eating this odd Japanese delicacy.

For today's challenge, I want you to use the different senses to describe your feelings about and the experience of eating sushi. Gear your writing toward someone who has never tried it and try to convince them to your way of thinking (to eat or not to eat).

If you've never tried it, I want you to take a side anyway and show us what you imagine it to taste like. Practice your powers of description and persuasion. :-)

  • The ability to accurately describe an experience using all the senses is a strength we as writers need.
  • The ability to persuade someone to side with you is a life skill handy in most any situation.

  • You must use at least four senses.
  • Don't say whether you're for or against sushi until the end. If your readers can figure it out through your descriptions, double points for you!
  • Don't bash your readers over the head - be subtle. Remember the old saying, "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still."
Good luck! Feel free to post a link to your response in the comment section below.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday Writing Prompt: Your First Car

Today's prompt is more an essay/article than fiction, though don't let that stop you from writing a story along these lines and using that instead. (That would be really interesting! And so would a poem.)

I've been thinking a lot lately about whether or not my husband and I should buy a "first car" for our children, or if we should encourage them to save up and purchase one on their own. We've discussed this, but haven't come to any decisions yet. And I don't feel like a "Let's see how each child acts" situation will work, since it's not fair to buy a car for one kid and not another.

Here's where I've been a little torn. I believe in the value of working hard to achieve goals and being self-sufficient. I feel it's important for children to learn to save their money. On the other hand, sometimes all we need to be successful in life is a gentle nudge, or a little help from someone.

My parents couldn't afford to get cars for us, but my in-laws did so for their children. My husband's car is nearly dead now - he's run it to the ground. It's saved him a great deal of money, and he really appreciates owning it. Me - I worked really hard for my first car and paid for it with my own money. Though I don't have it anymore, I still remember the sense of accomplishment and pride I'd get whenever I drove it.

First, what are your thoughts in this regard? Should parents help their kids out, or should they encourage children to work toward the goal of being a bit more self-sufficient?

Next, write about the first car you bought. How you paid for it, what you went through to get it, the feelings you experienced when you drove it/looked at it, etc.

If you'd like, go ahead and put a link to your post in the comments below. Hope this helps get the writing juices going!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Should I? :-)

Should I keep this in Eyes of the Sun, Kilenya 5?

"Citizens have twenty-four hours to do so, or the Lorkon will ensure the destruction of everyone in the offending city. And that won't be nice, will it, Precious."

If you don't catch that reference, you're probably not as geeky as me. :-)

Wait. Did I say geeky? I meant cool. Cool! :-)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Hiking Trails in Utah/Salt Lake Counties

I love hiking with my hubby and our baby! Today we went up the Dry Canyon Trail, which starts in Orem, right up against Timpanogos. It was beautiful! Pretty difficult at times, but with a lot of variation and cool things to look at, including some really dramatic cliffs and scenery. We only went up about a mile and a half (it was a pretty steep incline), but felt like we got a lot out of it.

Other trails we've done this year:
The Y (we usually do it once a week. It's a little more difficult with a baby, though, since the sun is pretty much on you the whole time. We're going to have to find a work-around for that one... (AKA: babysitter :-)))
The Pleasant Grove G (we've gone twice... it's not my favorite)
Mill B North (Big Cottonwood Canyon. Very green, lush, beautiful. One of my favorite trails.)
Mill B South (Big Cottonwood Canyon. Very pretty - not as lush as Mill B North, but still beautiful.)
Broads Fork Trail (Big Cottonwood Canyon. LOVE this hike! It's in the same parking lot as Mill B South. Heads straight up - there isn't a gradual incline. But there are bridges, and when you go in the springtime, the spring run-off is pretty fantastic.)
Granite Quarry (where the pioneers got granite for the Salt Lake Temple. Little Cottonwood Canyon. I wouldn't take little kids up there - it's potentially dangerous, depending on how far you go.)
Ensign Peak (and above it. Nice views of the SL valley and Bountiful. And that huge industrial complex... you know which one I'm talking about. :-))
Rock Canyon (twice. This is another favorite of mine. We've done it several times over the past three years. There are five bridges you cross that add flavor.)
Battle Creek (really steep at first, but rewarding the higher you go. We saw some cool stuff: the creek, waterfalls, the skeleton of a deer (okay, I'm weird, I know. :-)), and such. It's a good hike.)
Alpine Canyon to Horseshoe Falls (we went all the way to the top. We could have continued down into American Fork Canyon, but thought better of it. :-))
Bonneville Shoreline from Rock Canyon to the Y (the Bonneville Shoreline trails are all over the Eastern benches in SLC and UT counties. They're a lot of fun and offer a great variety.)

Stewart Falls (also a fantastic hike. It's not difficult enough for us to do regularly, so we make it a social event with friends and family. Beautiful waterfalls at the end.)

The best thing about hiking? My hubby and I brainstorm for my books on the way back down. It's been super good for my career!

If you want to know more about any of these trails, just ask. I'll give you info on levels of difficulty, locations, etc.

Also, if there are any trails you know of that aren't on this list, let me know! We love exploring new hikes.We like ones that are medium to extreme difficulty and that last a couple of hours up.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Friday Writing Prompt: Willingness to Give

One of the most frustrating (and sometimes neatest things), is being really excited about a post you’re writing, then watching as it takes a completely different turn from what you’d planned. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, and this is what happened to me today. I was going to write a flippant, somewhat funny prompt, but while putting together the intro, found the words heading somewhere else.

A while back, my husband and I had quite the “growing” experience. Our dishwasher broke, followed by the disposal, then the master-bathroom sink started leaking, we had an enormous rainstorm come through which flooded the basement and the garage, I tore my left rotator cuff and sprained my wrist, my car (a Geo Metro, bless its heart) and my husband’s (a ’93 Grand Am) started having problems, and on top of all this, we’d had some really stressful deadlines with my writing.

Needing a break from everything, we made a quick decision to attend a sibling’s college graduation. It was really nice to spend time with family, but my in-laws decided to follow us back and stay two nights with us. I was mortified! The house was a wreck, nothing worked, and neither my husband nor I had met our deadlines yet. I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown—trying to keep up with everything, while playing the “perfect” hostess.

What a relief it was when my MIL didn’t snub me or act like she was better than me, but stepped in and started helping. She insisted I go to my office and edit so I could make my deadlines. She did the dishes and cooked for us while my father-in-law fixed the cars. Then, the next day, the two of them spent nine hours working in the yard, helping us maintain our rental agreement. Before they left, they filled the fridge and freezer with food and gave us a check for $100.

I’m constantly amazed at the generosity of other people. At their willingness to give of themselves—their time, money, and talents. I started that week thinking I’d be in a living Hell, and it ended with me feeling really close to my in-laws and husband. And I met my deadlines. Hallelujah!

Today’s challenge:
Write about an experience where someone blessed your life, or helped you achieve something you felt was impossible. Post it on your blog, and put a link in the comments below!