Monday, April 30, 2012

A to Z Challenge Recap

So I spent the last month participating in the A to Z Challenge, writing posts everyday (almost) and now I'm locked in the habit of making sure I have something for tomorrow. But my brain is fried. I'm wiped out from doing letters everyday. One thing for sure, however, they were a good writing prompt. I always had a start on what I would write about. Except for Y day. I was down to writing "Yikes!" as my post until my sister sent me a poem about using spell checker. Go to Y HERE.

I think my favorite post was A, with Loretta Stephenson's art work, from Art By Retta. We got to see a painting being born and I compared it to how writers develop their work in literature. You can read about it HERE. Of course, Loretta finished off the A to Z Challenge with a guest post about Zombies, Zucchini and Zebras. My favorite part of the entire post was her comment about what it had to do with writing: not a zappin' thing!

Now that the challenge is over, you'll be seeing a little bit of everything from me. Expect to see some excerpts of stories I'm working on, and a report from the classroom. I'm halfway through my writing class and am learning a lot about both poetry and prose. My teacher, Kitty Lion, is a published author and great with expressing her ideas. She is both challenging and encouraging and helps us take the bull by the horns to get the most out of our writing.

One more thing I wanted to report to you. I had the opportunity to read an excerpt of my work aloud in class the other day. Up until now, I've been pretty shy about sharing my work. Oh, yes, I have a critique partner who I trade with, but this was an entire room full of people. My hands were shaking and the sweat was pouring off me. It's a good thing I was sitting down, because my legs weren't very stable. But after all that, I discovered it wasn't so bad. And, they liked it! Oh, I got a good critique on my writing, but overall, it was well recieved. It was an excellent experience that I reccommend to all writers. What have you done lately? Share with us?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Z for Zombies, Zebras & Zucchini... Oh My!

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge. You can visit the home page HERE.

Today I have asked Loretta Stephenson (Art By Retta), who is also my sister, to do a guest post and finish up this challenge. I was ecstatic when she said yes, so, without anymore introduction, here she is!

Zombies, Zebras & Zucchini... Oh My!

I'm Loretta. I'm an artist.

My sister Karen is a writer.

And this is HER blog!

Karen asked me to wrap up this A to Z wild ride with a guest post. So... what does my point of view have to do with writing, you ask?? More than you might think.

When I started realizing just how innately talented my little sister really was (I can get away with calling her my little sister, since Karen is 1 year younger than I am) I was delighted and impressed.

And over time, I've learned from her just how much writing and art have in common. All the arts, actually. For instance:

We all have a process or method that we individually hone.

We all have blasts of inspiration hit us, with creative surges.

We all have dry spells, but we continue for the love of it.

We all need support of fellow creatives, so we don't feel isolated.

We all go through spells of feeling like everything we do is crap!

We all discover that our most powerful ally is our own belief in ourselves!

We all learn to let go, be bold, be audacious and reach for our dreams!

Oh yeah... the letter Z

You all have been working your little writer tushies off in this A to Z Challenge. So I thought I'd surprise you this time with a zany list of favorite Z stuff. What does this have to do with writing?? Not a zappin thing! :-D

My favorite Yiddish word: ZAFTIG, meaning a plump, juicy round woman... va va voom!

My favorite summer recipe: ZUCCHINI BREAD. Here's a LINK to a sugar-free, wheat-free Zucchini Bread recipe. Eat without guilt! 

My favorite guilty pleasure tv show: ZOMBIES, on The Walking Dead. I just hide my innocent little eyes when it gets too gross. ;-)

(Credit: good ole' Google, no original source found)

My favorite energizing music: ZYDECO. I have THIS GUY'S CD, and it explodes with life and energy!

My favorite artsy animal: ZEBRA. Artists have long enjoyed adding graphic black and white elements to their images.

My husbands favorite western author: ZANE GREY. He wrote 54 westerns in a romanticized and formulaic style, selling over 13 million in his lifetime alone!

My favorite daydream: ZILLIONAIRE. Yep, I admit it. I'd love to actually make a few bucks from my art. Wouldn't you??

Thanks for supporting my sister and each other during the A to Z Challenge. It was fun to peek over Karen's shoulder, and visit some of you.

Oh yeah. I'm an artist... my sister is the writer. Any typos or other grammatical blunders are really truly kinda sorta all mine.

(Loretta, aka Retta, can be found on her blog Art By Retta, working to earn her first Zillion)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y for Y Use Spell Checker

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! You can visit the Home Page HERE.

Ode to a spell chequer

I halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plane lee marques four my revue
Miss steaks aye ken knot sea

Eye ran this poem threw it
Your sure reel glad two no
It's vary polished in it's weigh
My chequer tolled me sew

A chequer is a bless sing
It freeze yew lodes of thyme
It helps me awl stiles two reed
And aides mi when aye rime

To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should be proud
And wee mussed dew the best wee can
Sew flaws are knot aloud

And now bee cause my spelling
is checked with such grate flare
Their are know faults with in my cite
Of nun eye am a wear

Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed to be a joule
The chequer poured o'er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule

That's why aye brake in two averse
My righting wants too pleas
Sow now ewe sea wye aye dew prays
Such soft wear for pea seas

~~Author Unknown~~

Friday, April 27, 2012

X for Xenophobia

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! You can visit the Home Page HERE.

My discussion to day is about xenophobia and how it can be useful for a character in your story. Xenophobia is defined as a fear of foreigners or strangers, or of that which is foreign or strange. The phychological definition is a fear of strangers, or anyone who meets any list of criteria about their origin, religion, personal beliefs, habits, language, orientations, or any other criteria. While the phobic person is aware of his aversion of a target group, they may not identify or accept it as a fear.

What kind of character can we create who has xenophobia? Would he necessarily be the antagonist, or bad guy? A typical xenophobe would be careful to target certain types of people and could actually be an excellant bad guy. But what if your xenophobe was your protagonist, or good guy? How would you write him then? Could he he helpless and needy and trying to change? But what kind of story would that be? How about if you wrote him as someone who has an epiphany about his disease and changes at the end. The bad guy gone good?

A xenophobic person has to genuinely think or believe at some level that the target (or person) is in fact a foreigner or stranger. This separates xenophobia from racism and ordinary predjudice in that someone of a different race does not necessarily have to be of a different nationality. Xenophobia can also be directed simply to anyone outside a culture, not necessarily one particular race of people.

So, if a character starts out afraid of a group or even one other person, because he thinks he is different, his fear might manifest in ways that look like hatred and predjudice. He might refuse to let his daughter date someone or refuse to shop at a certain store. All from fear that can somehow be eliminated from your character and then his epiphany and realization that these people are okay. That would be a good ending to a sad tale. How would you do it?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W for Writer's Block

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! You can visit the Home Page HERE.

Today I want to talk about getting stuck, or as some writer's call it, writer's block. I originally was going to analyze the process of how you get stuck, but I figure that as writers, you already know that part. What you'd like to hear are ideas and ways on how to get out of the mud and get un-stuck. No one likes to sit spinning your wheels, digging deeper and deeper into the mental muck, so let's talk about getting out of the mire.

What is it that intimidates us most when we are looking at that blank page? Is it laziness, as some suggest? Instead, may I suggest that ordinary fear and severe self judgement might be the real culprits holding you back? Instead of saying I have no inspiration, perhaps you are clamping down on your inspiration while expecting a masterpiece to come from your fingertips? Also, there are those who say that writer's block represents a lack of information. Could you be frustrated because you don't know enough about the scene, the action or the characters?

The best way to throw writer's block off and away is to write. Not to any great ambition, not to the soaring heights of creative genius, but simple and easy writing. Don't expect your rough draft to be perfect, because that's what it is, a rough draft. Pick up your pen and start writing about your characters and what you expect of them. Then, put one in a scene. After that, you'll find that because your expectations were allowable even to the smallest of expectations, you may have the beginnings of a story that you can work on. And you can say to yourself, "No more writer's block!"

I have made it a habit to write something everyday. No matter how much or how little, I write. When I am staring at a blank page and can't think of what to write, I turn it into an exercise. Pick a character and describe him. Then another and a scene. Soon I am writing about that cahracter and forming a whole story in my head. Then I can outline the story and fill in the details as I go. Sometimes it feels as if I'm working backwards, but the idea is to come up with a finished end product. To say this is the end. And that;s a wonderful feeling!

"The metamorphosis of an idea into a story has many aspects, some deliberate and some mysterious. "Inspiration" is a real thing, a gift from the subconscious to the conscious mind." ~Janet Burroway

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V for Voice

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! You can visit the Home Page HERE.

Today I want to discuss Voice and the differences in active and passive voices. If your writing is to be vigorous as well as vivid, if you want your characters to "come to life", you must make use of the active voice. The active voice occurs when the subject of the sentence performs the action described by the verb of that sentence:

She spilled the milk.

When the passive voice is used, the object of the active verb becomes the subject of the passive verb:

The milk was spilled by her.

The subject is acted upon rather than acting, and the effect is to weakin the writing and to distance the reader from the action.

The passive voice does have an important place in fiction, precisely because it expresses a sense that the character is being acted upon. If a prison guard is kicking the hero, then:

I was slammed into the wall; I was struck blindingly from behind and forced to the floor.

This appropriately carries the sense of his helplessness.

In general, however, you should try to use the active voice in all writing and to use the passive voice only when the actor is unknown or insignificant or when you want to achieve special stylistic effects like the one above.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U for the Ugly Stage

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! You can visit the Home Page HERE.

Courtesy of Fun Pics Free

My discussion today is about the Ugly Stage. I was talking to my sister, Loretta Stephenson (Art By Retta) a couple of days ago about how with artist and writers, you get to a place in your work that suddenly looks ugly or like something for the trash can. I have sat down to re-read a piece that, the day before sounded good, but today sounds terrible! What happened? Did I miss it the first time? Or am I just going through the Ugly Stage?

I have it on good authority that artists go through the same thing with pictures. There is a place where the picture is in its stage of development that has the beginnings of a picture in it, but it's not quite finished, so it looks ugly to the artist. In writing, while we are building our story and before we have have fleshed it out to become three dimensional, there is a place where the story looks bad, or unfinished. That's when we have to go back and start the real work. Putting in the color and taking out the adverbs (we all know about adverbs, right?). Choosing the right words to express what we mean can create the right texture for our piece. Changing a few words here and there and adding a few lines to give our character the right look can make all the difference in the world. For example: He was very tired. Or, He dropped into a chair, exhausted, with sweat pouring off his face. Which do you prefer?

Have you noticed the ugly stage in your work? If you have and can't find a solution, put it away for a while. Set the piece on the back burner and go on to something else. Later, when you are fresh, come back to it and see what kind of re-writes it needs. After that, give it to a critique partner or a friend who will give you an honest answer and get new ideas. My critique partner is a gem. She's honest and encouraging at the same time.

What are you working on? Are you in the Ugly Stage? Share your thoughts with me...

Monday, April 23, 2012

T for Theme

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! You can visit the Home Page HERE.

Todays discussion revolves around how to choose a theme for your story. A theme is the subject of your discourse; or what it's about. Sometimes I find, as I did today, it's difficult to decide what I want my theme to be about. But I was recently given an excellent suggestion for deciding on my theme. Today's theme is educational and informative.

Choose your character, the setting, and the point of view while you are deciding. Begin your outline of chapter one. In that first beginning outline, your theme will usually start to solidify in your mind. Is your genre fantasy or sci-fi? Or Romance? Perhaps you want to have a theme of a coming of age story or man against machine. Perhaps it's more or a Western and it's the good guys against the bad guys. Whatever you decide, that is what you need to focus on as you create your story, trying not to get side-tracked as you go.

Remember not to confuse theme with topic, or what your basic plot is. You have a topic: boy meets girl, boy gets girl and then the theme; love and remembrance, or coming of age story.

Your theme can be subtle or loud. But either way, it must be believable. Even if you write way out there fantasy, make sure the reader can shake his/her head in agreement and say, "Yep, that's right!" Make your theme acceptable to the reader and you will have hooked them into your story. Now, pick a theme and write! What are you writing about? What's your theme?

The theme with my picture could be varied. I could choose to write about warring dragons (as my topic) and life and death as my theme. What would you do?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S for Storyteller

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! You can visit the Home Page HERE.

As writers, we are privileged to be a part of the grand group of historians known as storytellers. Since the advent of the pencil and before, this occupation has tickled the senses of the hearer and reader with all kinds of prose and proverb.

History of Storytelling
Stories or narratives have been shared in every culture as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and to instill moral values. The crucial elements of stories and storytelling include plot, characters and the narrative point of view.

The earliest forms of storytelling were primarily oral and with the advent of writing, stories were transcribed and shared over wide regions. Stories have been carved, scratched, painted, printed or inked onto all manner of medium, from pottery to other textiles and also recorded on film or stored electromagnetically in digital form.

Modern storytelling has extended from the traditional forms (fairy tales, folk tales, mythology, legends, fables, etc.), to representing history, personal narrative, political commentary and evolving cultural norms and educational objectives.

All that said, how does that affect you as a writer?
Your story, in whatever genre it is written in, is a commentary to the reader on something. Whether it is fact or fiction, believable or fairy tale, your reader is expecting to find something of you in the story. Even if your story is non-fiction, your reader wants to find the truth in the lines that tell him what is real and acceptable.
As writers, we make a contract of expectation with our readers in the very first sentence. And by the end of the first paragraph, the reader has decided whether or not to accept that contract and read your story. By presenting the reader with a plot, characters and POV, you can tell your story and entertain your reader and fulfill that contract.
Be the writer and tell your story. It will continue on in the great tradition of all those that have come before you.

Friday, April 20, 2012

R for Revisions

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! You can visit the Home Page HERE.

Today I chose Revisions as my R word. As writers, we all know the intense effort that comes when we hear or see the words: "please revise".  It sometimes seems that when we are crossing out those sentences or adverbs, or even whole paragraphs, it's like we are cutting off our own arm. But what comes by cutting out those parts and replacing it with something more dramatic or powerful is exciting and refreshing. We have re-birthed our story for a second, or third time and have only succeeded in making it that much better.

Just today I received from a valued critique partner a suggestion to revise part of a chapter that I thought I'd finally gotten right. But after reading her notes, I saw that I was head hopping with my point of view and had left the reader dizzy trying to follow the thoughts of the story. Back to the drawing board! The best part is, I didn't get angry or frustrated, I thanked my lucky stars that my partner had the courage to tell me my mistakes. So, my "baby" is getting re-born again before it gets ready for publishing. Hooray for revisions! It can only get better!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q for Quirky

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! You can visit the Home Page HERE.

Do you have a Quirky character in your story? Is he/she someone full of unusual characteristics, like a wandering eye or totally frizzy hair, or both? Or perhaps your character is prone to say outlandish things at the most inopportune times. This peculiarity of action or behavior might be the thing that elects your character to the unusual character hall of fame. Then again, it could outshine your protagonist and make your story a little lopsided.

It's important to remember, with quirky characters, that a little salt goes a long way to spice a dish. You want your quirky character to be remembered, but you don't want them to take over the show. Unless they are the whole show (the protagonist). In that case, let them shine! But make sure your antagonist, or villian (if there is one), is up to the task of tackling your unusual main character. A weak bad guy will outweigh the scales and tip the balance of the scales. Or, perhaps your quirky character is the villian. In that case, you'll need a super character to balance him out and save the day! In any case, let your character be zany, rich and exotic! Let him be quirky!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P for Pygmalion

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Pygmalion was a legendary Greek sculptor who fell in love with a statue he had carved. Apparently, in time, Venus took pity on him and granted his wish that the sculpture would come alive. Pygmalion married the ivory sculpture changed to a woman and together they had a son, Phaphos.

In George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion, a modern variation of the myth with a subtle hint of feminism, the underclass flower-girl Eliza Doolittle is metaphorically "brought to life" by a phonetics professor, Henry Higgins, who teaches her to refine her accent and conversation. Personally, I never saw the connection until I recently looked closely at the two. The idea of Eliza being brought to life is a little far fetched, to me. I thought she had character and spunk before Henry Higgins did a revamp on her outside layers. But that's just one from the peanut gallery!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O for Odyssey

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! You can visit the Home Page HERE.

The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. It was probably composed near the end of the 8th century BC, somewhere in Ionia, the Greek coastal region of Anatolia.

The poem mainly centers on the Greek hero Odysseus (or Ulysses, as he is known in Roman myths) and his journey home after the fall of Troy. It takes him ten years to reach Ithaca after the ten year Trojan war. In his absence, it is assumed that he died, and his wife Penelope and son Telemachus must deal with a group of unruly suitors, the Mnesteres (or Proci), who compete for Penelope's hand in marriage.

It's believed that the original poem was composed in the oral tradition by an epic poet/singer, perhaps a professional performer, and was more likely to be heard than read. The Odyssey was written in a regionless poetic dialect of Greek and is 12,110 lines of dactylic hexameter. In the English language, as well as many others, the word odyssey has come to mean an epic voyage.

Monday, April 16, 2012

N for Nature or Nuture?

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! You can visit the Home Page HERE.

Today I'm posting about Nature or Nuture? and whether or not the age old question affects the characters in your stories. We all know the difference between the two, but for the sake of clarity, I will define each one.

Nature: The inherent quality or basic constitution of a person or ones natural instincts or way of life.

Nuture: The influences of education and training that modify the expression of an individuals heredity.

Picture By Loretta Stephenson - Art By Retta

This picture represents the layering of nature and nuture on this cat. It has it's own natural coat of fur, and then it has an added beautiful coat wrapped around the fur. (At least that's how I perceive this picture). When we look at our characters, are we seeing a layer over the natural person? Is it something that was an influence from childhood or part of their education that creates a belief? Or do we see the natural person, if it is possible, stripped from it's layers of beliefs and protection?

Many of the layers that cover our characters are from the character's attempt to preserve their self from ruin if exposed to another individual. How do we, as writiers, find the right depth in our characters? It is by peeling off the layers of the indiviual and finding the natural self.

What do our characters hide behind? Where do those layers come from? I have a character that is an agent for the Agency of Acquisitions and Restorations who dresses in all black. Why? That is a layer that has to fall of before my character can reveal his true natural self to his love interest. But she has her own layers of nuturing that holds her back. She was raised to not trust men - especially those wearing black. But our characters all have layers. It's finding what's down in the natural person that will reveal what our character is really like, but also remembering that the layers are a part of him.

Do you have an unusual character? Are they Nature or Nuture? 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M for Muse

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! You can visit the Home Page HERE.

A Muse is considered a source of inspiration. Whether it be a person, place or thing. Whatever you use to spark creativity in yourself becomes your muse. It doesn't matter why the thing you choose is your muse, but sometimes it's good to reflect on what effect the person, place or thing has on you.

The nine Greek Muses were considered goddesses on Olympus who became the representatives of poetry, the arts and sciences and sources of inspiration. They were: Calliope (Epic Song), Clio (History), Euterpe (Lyric Song), Melpomane (Tragedy), Terpsichore (Dance), Erato (Erotic Poetry), Polyhymnia (Sacred Song), Urania (Astronomy), Thalia (Comedy and Bucolic Poetry).

Who or what is your muse today? Does it change when your emotions change or you want different style input? I use one of my daughters as a muse when I'm writing. Heather has been someone that I can go to and bounce ideas off of and search out story ideas with. Although sometimes she can be extremely comical and play with me when I ask her questions, she can also be brutally honest with her opinion. One thing I know for sure, she will listen and hear what I'm saying. Sometimes she doesn't have to say anything. My other special muse is my sister Loretta Stephenson (Art By Retta). I like to bounce philosophical questions off her, because I consider her a person who thinks before she speaks. Having a good muse can help work out the difficult problems that arise when you are faced with creating a new story.

A muse can help bring your thoughts into perspective and clarify what's in your mind, or bring you new ideas to wrestle with. What are you wrestling with? Have you checked in with your muse?

Friday, April 13, 2012

L for Labyrinth

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! You can visit the Home Page HERE.

A labyrinth is a place constructed of or filled with confusing intricate passageways. It's sometimes confused with a maze.

I like this word because it reminds me of constructing a story. When I'm writing, I like to take the plot and make twists and turns to make the story interesting. In a true labyrinth of the early periods, there was one way in and the twists and turns would eventually lead you to the center. These were usually used for prayer or meditation.

The labyrinth differs from the maze because in a maze you have more than one entrance and the twists and turns can end up leading to a dead end. When I am writing my stories, I have to be careful that my twists and turns don't lead to a dead end, but they need to be on the continuous path that leads to the end of the story.

How is your story progressing? Are you in a labyrinth or a maze? Does your story get stuck at a dead end? Or do the corners lead to sharp twists and turns, but still find their way to the center, or the end of the story?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K for Karen

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! You can visit the Home Page HERE.

Since today is the letter "K", I'm introducing you to Karen Elizabeth Brown. I spend a lot of time writing about topics that are of interest to myself and others, but today I'm writing about me! I promise not to bore you with all those extraneous details, just the facts that make up my life.

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, which is a part of Los Angeles, California. My first "publication" was in a writing journal printed by the teacher of my tenth grade English class. It was titled "The Black Box". It didn't win me any awards, nor did it push me into a writing career at the time. What it did do was make me realize that I could take the world as I saw it in my imagination and re-create it into something fascinating.

Writing became a hobby, but was put on hold while I studied music, spent time chanting as a Buddhist, then got married and had three beautiful children. After that, I decided to become a Registered Nurse and I worked nights at the local hospital. But it eventually ended, as all things do, and I fell back into writing.

My writing started out with attempts at journaling, then short stories, then longer ones and finally a four part book, The MacKenzie Chronicles, which is in the re-write process at this time. My sister is Loretta Stephenson (Art By Retta) and she is working on the book covers for the four stories and also the cover for Medieval Muse, a shorter story that will be offered as a free read in August.

You've heard about me, now how about you? What are you working on? Do you remember your first story? Let me hear from you!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J for Journal

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! You can visit the Home Page HERE.

Do you keep a journal? Recently, I decided to take a class on fiction writing and the first thing that was insisted on was that we keep a journal. I almost dropped out of the class! I have attempted to keep journals in the past and have failed horribly to follow through. Why? I don't know, but part of me was jealous of the time that could be spent writing.

Something has happened, however, since I started keeping a journal again. I'm using it to really think about things. My thoughts and ideas are becoming more solidified and concrete. I am challenging myself to use it to complete ideas that flit around in my head but never really become clear otherwise.

Two days ago I wrote about making habits. This is what I'm doing with my journal. I'm working on making it a habit so it will become a natural everyday thing. Right now, it's still an uphill journey and some days I drag myself away from the computer, kicking and screaming. "I have to write in my journal!"

What are your thoughts on journaling? Do you keep a journal? For how long? Please share with me...

Courtesy of Loretta Stephenson (Art By Retta)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I for Imagination

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! You can visit the Home Page HERE.

A writer's imagination is what keeps the stories flowing out of each of us. Webster's dictionary says: an act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or not previously known or experienced. Creativy ability.

How do we create something in our mind that is not previously known or experienced? Where does it come from? I am considered a creative person in my sphere, and have been asked by others: where did that story come from? My standard answer has usually been: I imagined it and wrote it down. But I've always asserted that I had to have some kind of point of reference to dream up a new character or idea, but after thinking about Webster's definition, I am changing my mind. Issac Asimov, Jules Vern and many others, thought up whole new worlds that defy the imagination and push the thinking into whole new areas. Why are we, as writers, any different? We are capable of journeying into those unknown places of our imagination and creating a whole new idea. How?

"And there is nothing new under the sun." Taking what we have seen and heard, we can filter it through our own special way of looking at things and create something with a new twist, a special way of looking at it and maybe even a whole new character that surprises the senses. We are unique individuals, therefore, we see things in our own unique way. With this ability, we are capable of re-interpereting what we see and hear into incredible new ideas. Is it actually a mental image of something not present to the senses or not previously known or experienced? Yes. After we re-invent the wheel, it may not look like a wheel anymore. It is our creative ability that has seen this new image or character in our mind and we weave a story that is fresh and exciting.

I want to thank artist Loretta Stephenson (Art By Retta) for sharing her thoughts about creative expression with me. She is an artist with unique creative ability and design.

Monday, April 9, 2012

H for Habit

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! You can visit the Home Page HERE.

Today I'm going to talk about developing a habit. Be it writing every day, exercising, doing your daily chores or all of the above! Whatever your goal, you can develop a definite pattern or habit to make your idea blossom into a reality.

About a year ago, I was writing hit or miss and never really finishing anything I started. Then, I made a commitment to myself that I would write every day without fail, no matter how much or how little I wrote. But it had to be every day. I did not punish myself if I only wrote a few words, but what I found was that as the days flew by, I woke up looking forward to my time at my computer (or on paper) and I began fighting to keeping that time to myself open. It was MY time.

I look back now and see that I watch much less television and I read more and I write usually 1000 words a day. I find that the days I don't get to write (which are very few) I feel like something is missing. I haven't had my daily fix. My habit needs to be satisfied.

How to create your habit: commitment. Start out with a set period of time ... say, six weeks and commit to yourself that you will do your writing or exercise, etc. for that period of time. Check it off on your calendar or make a chart if you need to. And follow through. Even if you can't write 1000 words each day or exercise the entire 30 minutes, do something each day. Be positive and don't beat yourself over the head if you miss one day. Continue on the next day.

You'll find that after two or three weeks your activity will start to feel natural and more a part of your daily routine. It will be a habit. You'll be able to smile and feel better about yourself, because you have succeeded!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G for Good vs Evil

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Perspective: The villian normally sees himself as doing the just thing, or he can also see himself as doing something that, in the end, will only satisfy himself. While that person sees himself doing right, another will most assuredly say that he is doing wrong, and human nature will usually oppose it.

The conflict between good and evil is one of the most conventional themes in literature and is sometimes considered to be a universal part of the human condition. There are several variations on this conflict, one being the battle between individuals or ideologies, with one side good, the other evil. Another is the inner struggle in characters (and by extension, humans in reality) between good and evil.

From the earliest times, writers have thematized the conflict between good and evil in religious terms. In the old testament, Yahweh (God) asks the prophet Jeremiah: "The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse - who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9)

While certainly not as widely seen as the direct good vs evil conflict, the concept of "individual vs self" is often much more compelling to a reader, especially if it is the protagonist. It requires well written character development in order to truly succeed.

The struggle of good vs evil in my own sphere of influence has given me much to use as material for developing my stories. Each person has their own diverse life experience that is worthy of using in character development for their protagonist and antagonist. A good story will speak to the heart and will foreshadow the struggle of the human condition in its characters.

Friday, April 6, 2012

F for Fate

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Fate: Something that unavoidably befalls a person. The universal principle or ultimate agency by which the order of things is presumably prescribed; the decreed cause of events.

Destiny or fate is a predetermined course of events. It may be conceived as a predetermined future, whether in general or of an individual. In my life, I can see how fate played its hand at an early age and caused me to choose a course that seemed to be the right one. Later, I questioned the way these events played out, and saw it was my choices that determined my destiny, but was an unseen hand actually behind my decisions? Is predetermination truly evident in the lives of individuals? I can see in my life that even with my mistakes, I was headed down a road that has ended me where I am today. Now I can look back with awe at that unseen hand that saved my life more than once. But I also believe that I must take an active stance in my life and not wait for destiny to catch up with me. I don't have that kind of time.

Do your story characters succumb to a fatalistic attitude? Are they waiting for something to happen? Or do they throw caution to the wind and decide to create their own destiny - letting fate catch up with them? Characters with strong beliefs in a higher power will naturally lean on those for guidance and support, thus they become more outward in their musings. Believing in a self-driven destiny will cause your characters to be more introspective and self-reliant.

I think the more spontaneous the character, the more refreshing and exciting they become. Taking the bull by the horns is a pro-active way of showing that your character is not driven by which ever way the wind blows. He will show force of character and backbone.

These are just my musings on today's word - fate. I'm sure there are many different ways of creating characters that are strong and enduring, that believe in outside influences controlling their destiny. See if your characters are making their own destiny or waiting for the second shoe to drop. How does that affect their decisions in your story?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E for Ego

Does the world really revolve around me?

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! You can visit the homepage HERE.

Ego- The Latin word meaning "I" or "self" or "identity". A person thinking, feeling, willing and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thoughts.

A part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world and thus mediates between the primitive drive of the id and the demands of the social and physical environment.

Ego has many meanings. It could mean one's self-esteem, an inflated sense of self worth, or in philosophical terms, one's self. Ego development is known as the development of multiple processes, cognitive function, defenses and interpersonal skills. I could also add that my ego has appeared somewhat inflated as I meet all the great people in the A to Z challenge. So we can apply this to many facets of living.

Apply this to a character in a story you are writing and you have the ability to create the complete person. What is his ego like? Is the world revolving around his situation? Is he filled with self importance, self-esteem or conceit? When he looks in the mirror, what does he see? The kitten or the lion? Does his ego become the organized, realistic part of his self, or is he insecure and cowering?

Make you characters come alive by creating an identity for them that strikes a chord with your reader. Try creating the lion in the looking glass as an experiment of ego.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D for Death of a Main Character

...or Should You Kill Your Protagonist?

Courtesy of Jim R Stephenson Photography

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! You can visit the A to Z Homepage HERE.

There are a number of situations in which it is okay for the protagonist to die. The reasons vary, depending on whether the story is based on a real or fictional character, the time frame of the story and other considerations.

With fictional characters, it all depends on the author's future plans. If there is a series, and the author decides to end it, then he/she may allow the protagonist to die. That way, the story line ends. Sometimes this happens when the author does not want anyone else to continue the stories with his character after he/she is gone. Sometimes it happens when an author is tired of these characters and wants to move on.

Some stories are written so the protagonist dies a heroic death, fighting the antagonist. Other stories have the protagonist die and are reborn. In some stories, the death of the protagonist leads to another plane of existence. One writer of a fantasy series had the protagonist die in the beginning and the story revolves around his adventures in the world he enters.

So there are numerous situations in which it is acceptable for your protagonist to die. Besides, if you want to revive your character later, you can either write a prequel, or, if you can think of a logical and plausible way to do it, show that your character really did not die. It was just the readers perception at the time!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C for Character Assessment

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There are many ways to develop characters for your stories, but I've found the best way is with an extensive character assessment. In the interest of brevity, I won't be posting the entire assessment I use, but will encourage you to seek out an assessment of your own that includes some of the following:

Typical expressions when happy/sad/angry/frustrated/etc.
Parents: What was important to the people who raised him/her?
Ethnic background
Strongest/weakest character traits
How is his/her situation ordinary or extrodinary?
Special training
How do people view this character?
Overall outlook on life
What personal demons haunt him?
Does he/she have a secret?

As you can see, an extensive character assessment goes deep into the person. Whether you use it all in your story is an individual decision. You will, however, be able to create a more three dimensional character with this information and you will know your character and how he thinks when you are writing him into situations.

Monday, April 2, 2012

B for Beowulf

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Beowulf is the conventional title of an old English heroic poem, consisting of 3182 alliterative long lines, set in Scandanavia, commonly cited as one of the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature.

It survives in a single manuscript known as the Nowell Codex. It's composition by an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet is dated between the 8th and the early 11th century.

In the poem, Beowulf, a hero of the Geats in Scandanavia, comes to the help of Hroogar, the king of the Danes, whose mead hall has been under attack by a being known as Grendel. After Beowulf slays him, Grendel's mother attacks the hall and is then also defeated. Victorious, Beowulf goes home to Geatland in Sweden and later becomes king of the Geats. After a period of fifty years has passed, Beowulf defeats a dragon, but is fatally wounded in the battle. After his death, his attendants bury him in a tumulus (burial mound) in Geatland.