Tag Archive | writing

February Writing Prompts: Creating Characters

q-writerswriteCreating characters for stories is never an easy thing to do. It’s not easy to just come up with a character off the top of your head and slap a name on him or her and call him or her ready to go. Creating characters are much more complex than that. Essentially, writers are creating real living, breathing, and well rounded creatures, just like human beings, and breathe life into their characters. They come with full backgrounds, families, personalities, looks, likes, dislikes, and so on just as real people, such as you and I, do. In order to create believable, honest, and real characters for your stories, you have to practice at building people out of nothing. You can pull ideas on characters from everywhere around you: people you know, people you see walk passed you, yourself, and every corner of this Earth, as well as from your imagination.

Let these writing prompts for this month help you gather ideas for the characters you wish to create and write about. Get to know these characters as if you were meeting someone new for the first time. Know your characters as well as you know yourself, your family, and your friends. Characters are just strangers that come into your life and you, as a reader and as a writer, get to know them better than you know anyone else on this Earth.

Here are the writing prompts on creating characters for the month of February:

  • Write a story/scene/poem/etc. in which the main character is based on yourself, but when you’re 55-70 years old. How have you changed? What is your personality and demeanor like, as opposed to now? Have you accomplished the things that you wanted to? What do you look like? Where do you live? Who are the people in your life?
  • Write about someone who hides his or her, physical or emotional, pain in the work they do. Does someone notice and try to help them with getting rid of the cause of the pain?
  • Write about a main character discovering his or her doppelgänger. How would your character react? What is the doppelganger like personality, physically, etc?
  • What emotions motivate your character’s journey? Show us without saying the emotion. Have someone read it when your done and see if that person can distinguish which emotion motivates your character.
  • How did your character overcome their obstacles and set backs in the story?
  • What would your character say, or how would your character react, if his or her dark secrets were aired for all to know? Show us in a scene or two, or simply write out a summary.
  • Would you consider your character a threat to others? Write a summary or brainstorm of how your character is a threat, and how your character is not a threat.
  • What do you think your character’s breaking point is? How would you show that in a scene?

Get to Know Your Characters:     

(www.writingforward.com)

Background and Family

  • Unearth your character’s roots. What is the character’s ancestry or cultural background? How does ancestry shape your character? Is the character at odds with family traditions?
  • Write a series of short paragraphical biographies of each of the character’s closest family members: spouse, children, parents, grandparents, siblings, close friends, etc.
  • Write a monologue in which your character summarizes his or her life story; be sure to write it in the character’s voice.

Motivations and Goals

  • What motivates your character? Money? Love? Truth? Power? Justice?
  • What does your character want more than anything else in the world? What is he or she searching for?
  • What other characters or events are interfering with your character’s goals? What obstacles are in the way?

Flaws and Fears

  • What is your character’s single greatest fear? How did your character acquire his or her fears?
  • What are your character’s flaws and weaknesses?
  • How does the character’s fears and flaws prevent them from reaching their goals?

Appearance

  • What does your character look like? Make a list and include the following: hair, eyes, height, weight, build, etc.
  • Now choose one aspect of the character’s appearance, a detail (bitten nails, frizzy hair, a scar) and elaborate on it.
  • Write a short scene in which your character is looking in the mirror or write a short scene in which another character first sees your character.

Personality

  • How does your character feel on the inside? What kind of person is your character and what does the character’s internal landscape look like?
  • We don’t always present ourselves to others in a way that accurately reflects how we feel inside. We might be shy or insecure but come across as stuck-up and aloof. How do others perceive your character?
  • Write a scene with dialogue that reveals your character’s external and internal personalities. Good settings for this dialogue would be an interview, appointment with a therapist, or a conversation with a romantic interest or close friend. Write the scene in third person so you can get inside your character’s head as well as the other character’s head; this will allow you explore how your character feels and how he or she is perceived.

Enjoy these writing prompts. May they bring you insight and understanding into your own characters. Write on, my fellow writers and readers.

-Jessica.

 

Vestige Novel Chapter 2 (Reworked and Edited): Rena’s POV

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Chapter Two: Rena’s POV

How could this have happened? I watched still as stone as Amos and Constantine reach out and catch Jamie before she hit the ground. She had fainted. Much worse than that, she knew about the Dark Ones now. A dangerous force in the world that Vanessa never wanted her to know the existence of. What was Jamie doing in the woods at this time of night? My mind whirled as I ran my hands through my long dark locks.

            I had met her a few times before when I went to visit my old friend, Vanessa. Jamie was Vanessa’s seventeen-year-old adoptive daughter. As hard as this was going to be for the both of them, and more so for Vanessa, Jamie knew about them now, and something had to be done about it.

Amos and Constantine looked up at me with the same matching expressions on their faces of concern and shock. Neither of them had ever seen a human be so bold as to attack a Dark One without fear. I had never known humans were strong enough to actually take one down without dying in the process.

Gazing down at her now, a silent sigh of disappointment slipped between my lips. Jamie was still out cold. Her dark golden hair and her life drained face was covered in beads of sweat, matting strands of hair to her forehead.

“Is she alright?” I finally asked them, not bothering to check myself. Their guesses were as good as my own.

They placed her down carefully on the ground and looked her over. Amos put two of his fingers to the main vein on the throat of her neck to check her pulse. “She is breathing; unconscious, yet breathing. She will live to see another day.” He examined, his Spaniard accent clear in his voice. He met my gaze with worrisome eyes. “What should we do now with the girl? She has seen too much for human eyes.”

I knew what he meant.

Constantine’s eyes rounded and bulged at the same time we heard his sharp intake of breath.

“What is it Constantine?” Amos and I asked in unisons, stepping closer to him.

“Her arm! Look at the girl’s arm! Tell me it isn’t what I think it is.”

At my son Constantine’s request, I walked over and bent down hovering over Jamie like Amos and Constantine were now doing. He pointed a shaking finger to the nape between her upper and lower right arm. “There,” he pointed.

We followed his gaze and direction with our eyes. Amos positioned his flashlight on the section of her arm, so we could see it better under the fluorescent light. When the light shone over the area, we saw what Constantine meant. In the nape between her upper and lower arm were three distinct needle marks. They were surrounded by bruises and her veins were a vibrant violet color at the moment in hand.

It was clearly obvious to Amos, Constantine, and I what the marks meant. We all stood back up.

“The girl has been marked. She probably fainted from the pain of the change,” Amos shook his head. “She’s so young. They always are.” His gaze fell on her. “The world will never be the same for her again.”

Constantine nodded in agreement. “Because she is going through the change that must be why she had the strength to take down that Dark One. Strange, but intriguing. However, even those going through the change shouldn’t be able to be as strong as she was.”

It made complete sense if one looked at it that way. Still a newly changed Immortali shouldn’t have the knowledge it would require to defeat a Dark One or kill it, let alone one who’s still going through the change.

Amos yawned. The dark lines under his eyes were evidence of his exhaustion. We had been tracking the Dark One for days and chasing him for hours. Ours wards were waiting for us to return home.

“What should we do with her now? We can’t just leave her here and have humans find her. We would be risking exposure.” Amos was right. We couldn’t just leave her here.

I thought it over briefly though I already knew the answer. I knew the answer the second I realized that the girl was Jamie. “We will take the girl to her adoptive parent’s house and see where to go from there. Her house isn’t far from here. A few miles at best.”

Confusion was written in the furrowing of their brows and the stillness of their movements.

“You know this girl and her adoptive parents?” Amos wondered.

I nodded my head in her direction. “Yes, I do. Her name is Kathleen James McKenna, though she prefers to be called Jamie. Her adoptive parents are Mark and Vanessa McKenna of Trenton, New Jersey. They adopted her two years ago.”

Understanding flashed over their features the moment I said Vanessa’s name because they knew Vanessa as well.

Amos kneeled down and slid his hands under Jamie, lifting her off the ground, and put her into his arms without waking her up. She was still out cold.

Constantine’s eyes flickered down to the unconscious Dark One and up to me. “What should we do with him then?”

This was a job they could do without me for tonight at least. My current job was to make sure Vanessa knew what happened to her daughter. This is going to break her heart, I think sadly, but it has to be done. I held out my arms extended. “Give her to me,” I told Amos. He placed her into my arms, and I held her tight against my chest, so she wouldn’t fall. “I’m taking her to Vanessa. I’ll call you when I’m going to return. You two can deal with the Dark One without me for tonight. This is much more important than him.”

Neither of them contested my words.

Amos put his hand on my shoulder gently. “Be careful and return back safely to me, Renata,” he whispered. He worried too much. He knew that I was more than capable of taking care of myself.

Without another word to them, I carried Jamie back to her car on the side of the road. I found it easily in the night, and I put her securely in the backseat. I shut the door silently without waking her. Looking around, I see no one in sight for miles. Thinking over what I should tell Vanessa, I got into the driver’s seat, shutting the door, and I turned the key in the ignition. As the car hummed to life, I drove off on a new mission. A mission that I didn’t want to do, but I knew I had no choice.

Communicating your thoughts and ideas onto the page

Soul of Planet earth is in each of usWriting is simply a voice retelling a story to the audience in a way that is compelling, honest, and they can connect themselves to. Readers should feel engrossed in the lives of your characters, curious to see the outcome, and willing to take the journeys down many pathways with the characters. If writing does anything at all, it should move the reader to think deeply by giving them new insights and ideas into aspects of life that they already are going through, possibly could go through, or they will hopefully never go through.

All writing effects readers and should allow them to feel something. Writing should make readers feel, whether those feelings are happy, sad, angry, or what have you. Good writing should convey those moments in time with a clear view of all the circumstances and events and obstacles the characters go through on their many paths. Readers should see how the characters develop, change, and take solid shape from the beginning to the end, and at the conclusion, they should understand and feel that the characters were real, honest, and their choices were what they really would have done.

Characters are meant to be relateable, loved and hated, by the readers. They are essentially symbols for the many facets of humanity and inhumanity that we as people harbor in some respect within ourselves; the many shades of humanity wrapped up in creativity, imagination, and possibility. Readers should see this in the characters. However, it is not always easy to convey those ideals into your writing. Some times it’s hard to figure out where to start, how to move it along, and when to end their stories.

In my time being a writer and reader, I have found a method that works best for me, and that method is what I call the Movie Transition Method. The Movie Transition Method is when I take the basic essential format of how a script or movie film is made and transition it into a time frame of events that really elaborate and relay the story of my characters in a way that keeps readers reading and myself writing.

How I plan out what I need to put into my characters story is as follows:

1. I make a time line. I draw one long horizontal line three-forths of the way across a blank, clear paper. Then I draw three vertical lines on the page, so I have three sections, which I label as: The Setup, the Conflict, and the resolution.

2. I add in events and important information that I feel need to be included in the story.

The Setup includes:

-Introducing the characters and their situations

-Bringing the readers into the characters’ worlds

-Setting up the foreshadowing of events to come later

The Conflict includes:

-Getting deeper into the characters’ thoughts, life, and their struggles

-How the characters react to the events occurring

-How and why things are happening  to these characters

-The conflict that the characters go through and what their lowest points are

-The build of suspense and mystery

The Resolution includes:

-The lowest, darkest, or troubling times for the characters

-How the characters react to the situations and how their behavior ultimately leaves them to the end, or next chapter, in their lives-The climax, or the defining moment(s), that resolve the conflict and shape the characters into the change or same individuals they are

-The summary, wrap up of events, ending note, or cliffhanger that leads into the next chapters in the characters’ lives.

3. The Movie Transition Method of outlining leads into the outlining phase.

This phase is especially important because I take the meat, or content, of the Movie Transition Method timeline and write out the content that will be included into the story in an outline. This later leads me to write the first draft of my characters’ stories and life.

It’s important that I make a note here to tell you that an easier way to think of writing your characters’, or even your, stories is by pretending it’s a movie film. You have your beginning, middle, and end. The beginning should be informative, the middle should be interesting and enticing, and the end should be moving, critical, and it should end after the important chapter does. Do not prolong a character’s story for better length. Content is what is key in your writing.

Think of your writing as a movie. Write out the important scenes: delete scenes that have no real connection or importance to your characters’ motives or actions, extend scenes that have power over the characters’ journeys, and highlight the reasons why your characters’ stories are important for your readers to read and accompany your characters on. All of that is how you can communicate your thoughts and ideas, which essentially are your characters’ thoughts and ideas, onto the page and visible for your readers to see, feel, and understand.

 

Vestige Novel (ReWorked and ReWritten): Chapter 1 Jamie’s POV

Chapter One: Jamie’s POV

    “Not again! I can’t be late again!” Pressing my foot further down on the gas pedal, I knew that I was going to get in trouble with Vanessa for being out passed my curfew for the third time this week.

     It had only been a week after my seventeenth birthday and already I had broken my promise to stay out of trouble and behave myself.

    She’ll have my head on a stick this time, I thought frantically.

    As I drove out my frustrations, I began to notice the headache forming like a storm could in my mind wasn’t helping much either; not that a headache ever helped anyone. The headaches have gotten worse in the passed four days since I first noticed them coming and going. I prayed that it would disappear by tomorrow’s soccer match because the team was depending on me to carry them to victory. What’s a team without its best goalie?

    With eyes still focused on the road ahead and hands still placed at ten and two on the steering wheel, I carefully maneuvered my cotton sweater off without so much as swerving on the road. I wiped at my forehead and removed the beads of sweat building before I glanced down at the heat settings and saw that it was off. I inhaled a small gust of air and had a hard time breathing without finding myself wheezing. I hoped that I wasn’t getting sick, that it was just allergies, because I would miss out on too many things if I was coming down with something.

    No other cars or people were around on this old dirt road as I powered through it. Hardly anyone took this route anymore because the highway was faster, and also due to the fact that this road was said to be dangerous because of all the accidents that occurred here when it was a busy road.

    The lonely dirt road sat beside a forest on both sides. A few houses popped up here and there; otherwise, it was abandoned. Rushing and driving fast was a given for me. I knew no police cars would be sitting in wait. They never patrol this road anymore.

    Coughing hard, I closed my eyes for a split second. When my eyes shot open, I was blinded by a big flash of fluorescent white light that shone through the forest off to my right. The car shook slightly beneath me; enough for me to notice that it wasn’t natural. Something was happening.

    Startled, I panicked and found the brakes with my foot and stomped on it, putting the car into a complete stop, while I shielded my eyes with my arm from the bright illuminating light. My head felt like it would explode with pain as it pulsated against my skull. Barely seeing around my arm, I saw the light slowly faded away through the overgrown trees after a few seconds.

    Removing my arm from my face, I looked at the area where the light was still fading back into the darkness of night. My eyes finally adjusted to the sudden shift in light and my ragged breathing made each wheeze hurt worse.

    “What the heck was that?” I asked myself, still in shock.

    When I finally calmed down to what I thought as reasonable, I put the car back into drive and pulled off to the side of the road and parked the car. The flash of light was completely gone when I got out of the car and shut the door. Looking around in the dark of night vigilantIy, I headed into the forest with quiet steps weary that I was alone. It was too silent for a location where many animals inhabited. The forest wasn’t just silent, but it was absolutely creepy. My heart pounded against my chest, telling me to get out of there. Something about the forest felt wrong, unnatural. The pit of my stomach twisted into knots and dropped into an abyss of uneasiness.

    After minutes of walking, I reached the exact point where the light had originated. I leaned against a tree trunk to steady myself as my body begun to sway and my mind swarmed, losing balance. Unsuccessfully, I tried to shake the headache and the vertigo away.

    The tournament must’ve taken a lot out of me.

    The silence in the forest stretched on with only the sounds of my labored breathing and heart pounding loudly in my chest present as I attempted to catch my breath.

    The sudden sounds of tree branches and twigs breaking or being moved made my head shot up alarmed. I listened closer to the noises in complete stillness. The noises were getting closer to where I stood shaking with fear. It sounded like the branches and twigs were being stepped on.

    Someone or something was running fast in my direction.

    “Hello? Is someone out there? Hello?” I yelled, trying to see if they were alright.

    No one answered back.

    The running kept aiming in the same direction. This time the sounds of whomever or whatever was coming became more persistent and grew louder.

    Another thought dropped into my mind. One thought I should’ve thought of sooner. What if they were the ones who caused the flash of light?

    A thought I should’ve had much sooner, because now it was too late to run. I could hear them too close now. I wouldn’t, couldn’t, let my fear be the death of me. My instincts and teachings consumed the fear building inside of me like a typhoon as I prepared in case the person or animal was going to attack me. Everything about its approach felt wrong. Digging my feet into the ground, leveling my arms, calming my nerves with shaky breaths, and suppressing my aches, I positioned my body into a defensive stance as I had done many times before during tournaments. I worked myself up for an encounter by praying “you can do this, you can do this” repeatedly in my head. Even though I felt like crap, my every nerve was on end prepared to fight just in case.

    Once again my eyes swept over the direction where branches and bushes were beginning to tremble. I could see small pebbles and rocks and little sticks quaking on the grass and in the dirt because of some force. Squinting, trying to narrow my sight in the darkness, I saw the distinct silhouette of a man in dark clothing running towards me. A short distance behind him, three figures with flashlights were pursuing him.

    As he got closer to me, one of the figures chasing him, a woman, shouted out to me catching my attention for a split second. “Run away from him, girl! Don’t let him touch you! Run now!” She yelled breathlessly.

    I couldn’t make out her face though I heard the panic and anger ringing clear as day in her voice. She was right to say it. I should’ve listened but I was too stubborn and it was too late. Running wasn’t an option now. The unsettling feeling deep inside of my soul said that this man they were pursuing was a very bad guy. Shaking my headache away as best as I could, I got back into a defensive battle stance.

    He came into complete view and I watched horrified as he growled at me, gritting his teeth like a feral animal. The inhuman growl that yelped from him threw me off guard, yet not scaring me enough to get me out of my stance. I didn’t move an inch. I was too afraid to. He came charging at me at full speed with his arms outstretched and tackled me to the ground before I could make a move to defend myself. His attack blew the wind right out of my body.

    He was so fast that I barely saw his attack.

A few labored breaths later, I gazed him dead in the eyes. An unusual feature of his stood out immediately. Strange dark red rings around the irises of his clearly amber eyes caught my curiosity. It was weirder than his pale skin, drained of most color.

    Another menacing growl, in my face this time, rippled through his mouth as he struggled with me and he attempted to stand back up. He was stupid to think that I would just give up and surrender. I used all the body strength that I could muster to wrap my legs around his and disabled him from getting to his feet. Doing that only frustrated him more.

    The dark rings around his eyes grew larger and slowly overtook the amber parts remaining, consuming them completely. My mouth dropped open. No way was is that possible! It can’t be real! Human eyes could never do that. It just wasn’t physically possible.

    Laying my rounded eyes on him, reality cracked inside of me at the reality of the existence of other worldly creatures. I was still in shock, yet I knew that my eyes weren’t deceiving me. This was really happening. He was real.

    The three figures that were previously chasing him halted to a stop nearby. I glanced at them briefly, but not long enough to see them and who they were. He caught me off guard in that split second and took advantage of it. Before I could turn back to him, he had already unwrapped my legs and hold on him. I turned back around in time to see him hiss inches from my face like a snake ready to strike.

    Trembling, I shut my eyes tight over my eyelids and waited for the death I knew was coming for me.

    With little effort, he got a good grip on my arm with his hand and flung me in the air. The impact of colliding with a tree trunk ended my flight. The fall and plop on the hard ground of dewy grass was agonizing. It was hard enough that I felt beaten and bruised on impact. Ten times worse than the sickness I already felt beginning to brew inside of me. My glassy eyes of tears blinded my sight. I blinked my eyelids rapidly in order to see through the haze of tears.

    Only a few seconds since I was immobilized had passed, still I had missed a lot. The man was standing up facing the three individuals with flashlights in a feral crouch. Watching the man with an intense unblinking stare, I stood back up, leaning against a tree for support, and shook my head. I set my view on the scene playing out before me when the dizziness begun to fade.

    He was too focused on the others to pay much attention to me at this moment It’s now or never, I thought to myself as I worked up the confidence to outweigh the warring terror in my body. Releasing my jagged breath, I slowly drifted away from the tree and over toward him without making any sounds. In close proximity to him, I started running at him now with my arms outstretched. Clashing with him, I used the full force of my body to take him down. It was like hitting an immoveable object ,but somehow I managed to get him off his feet.

    We fell onto the ground hard with a loud plap. My attack had caught him completely off guard. He immediately tried to untangle me with his hands. Unlike before, it wasn’t going to be so easy with me focused. Whether he was a delusion or real didn’t matter to me in this moment. I wrapped my legs tighter around his waist and maneuvered my right arm around his right arm and neck, then I squeezed hard. I couldn’t let him get away from here and hurt anyone else.

    I squeezed and squeezed until my entire body was engulfed in a burning pain. His groans made my skin crawl. He wiggled around trying to break free of the sleeper hold I had him trapped in. His teeth chomped were mere inches from my face, with only my arm keeping him from turning in my direction and biting me.

    After a few minutes of struggling, his body finally became completely lax as he drifted into unconsciousness. Exhausted as he entered submission, my heart rate slowed and sweat clung onto my forehead. I released my hold and dropped him to the ground. Staring down at him, I  stood up brushing dirt and leaves off my clothes and out of my now tangled dark golden blonde hair. The brain splitting headache and dizziness rushed back into me. It was a thousand times worse than before.

    Now the pain was almost intolerable.

    The three formerly pursuing the man stared at me with their eyes practically bulged out from their sockets. Then they dropped their gazes down to the unconscious man–well I wasn’t sure what he was, but I knew he most certainly wasn’t human.

    The wheezing cut at my throat, making it harder for me to breathe right. A searing pain slithered up my spine and spread throughout the rest of my body. My bones and joints kept cracking like they were going to shatter to bits. They were much worse than growing pains. An agony close to how death would feel, I imagined.

    The woman stepped forward, so I looked her over closely through burning blurry eyes. Her face was familiar to me. That long curly black hair, those yellowish-green eyes, and her beige skin set tiny alarms off in my mind. I stood as still as stone, taken aback a moment. She was too familiar and I knew exactly who she was. I had seen her many times before with Vanessa. What is she doing out here at this time of night chasing that awful creature?

    “Rena? Is that you?” My voice sounded hoarse as I called out to her.

    She didn’t reply back to me. All she did was watch me. Her lips parted, yet nothing slipped from in between.

    Just as I got ready to ask her again ,I broke out into a harsh coughing fit.

    She took a slow step forward, moving out of her stone state. Recognition flying through her.

    “Kathleen? Kathleen McKenna? What are you-” She started.

    Her voice cut out and disappeared into the wind as the dizziness finally won and I fainted, barely seeing the other two with flashlights running to catch me as I slipped into unconsciousness.

Thank You For Following Fellow Readers and Writers

Thank You For Following Fellow Readers and Writers

Since I started this blog to date, I have 80 blog followers, 95 facebook viewers, and over 500 views on my blog. It hit me just how powerful the spoken and written word has become. I thank you for your time and for reading my thoughts and advice on reading and writing thus far. Words are only words until you see the affect and effect it has on others that surround you and take interest in what it is that you have to say. So once again, Thank You and keep reading and writing people of the world. May my words travel with you.

Creative Writing Prompts for November: Hone Your Writing Abilities Writers!

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It’s that time yet again, fellow writers and creative souls! Below are a list of creative, fun writing prompts to get those creative ideas flowing and keep your imagination broadened on the horizons.

Option 1:

  • You are a leaf and fall has started. Explain how you feel about this.
  • Make up your own evil species, or write a short story involving one of your favorite evil species.
  • You recently discovered that you have superhuman powers. Write it on how you received these abilities, how you would use these abilities, what powers you have and why, and also how it feels to have super abilities (the pros and cons).
  • Write about one of the riskiest, or joyous, memories that you have from a younger period of your life, or from recently.
  • Write about what peace on Earth would be like.
  • You are a caveman living in prehistoric times. Describe what it feels like to live in that time period, what it feels like to struggle to survive a dangerous, mysterious world, and what your mind-set is like.
  • Take the first line of your favorite song, or the first few lines of the chorus, and make it the beginning of a short story. Continue and see where those few lines take you.

Option 2:

Write prompts and tell stories beginning with one of these here lines:

“Behind her, silence echoed like a cruel enemy…”

“Time seemed to wrap around them into spirals and weaving energy consuming the air and brushing almost tangibly across their skins…”

“No one has seen the world through these eyes, my eyes, the way I have…”

“The sun cast down on her, making her skin glow with a golden aura as she…”

“The door screeched open with a bloodcurdling scream that prolonged as it slowly slid open…”

“He chased the moon across the night sky through incoming asteroids and clusters of stars with his hand outstretched, eager…”

These are the prompts for this month. Try a few out and you may be surprised by what your imagination can come up with.

Note: Top writing prompt is brought to you by http://writingprompts.tumblr.com/

Until next month, write on!

Local Author Lectures at GRCC on Writing and Publishing

This article was originally intended to be in the Collegiate Newspaper at Grand Rapids Community College, but now it’s here for you on my blog. Read and write on, fellow writers!

On Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, from 11:15 to 12:15pm in Grand Rapids Community College’s Wisner-Bottrall Applied Technology Center, the session entitled “How I Turned One Good Idea Into a Book Series” was held in room 120 with Paul A. Krieger, professor of Biology and author of the Visual Analogy Guide Series, was the speaker.

Mursalata Muhammad, professor of English, introduced Krieger to an audience of about 50 students attending the lecture.

The lecture began with Krieger discussing how one idea he had altered his life and work. “It started with an idea. The idea was to teach students anatomy and physiology,” Krieger began as he stood before the crowd, smiling. “The idea was visual analogy.” He spoke about how he did research, went to book stories, and discovered that there were no books out there in stores that really explained anatomy, biology, chemistry, and physiology and had visual aids to benefit the students learning. From there, his idea sprout and grew. He drew up drawings by hand to accompany the chapters and sections of the book idea he had blossoming in his mind.

“Working on that book combined three of my interests: biology, writing, and illustrating.”

His first book, A Visual Analogy Guide to Human Anatomy, came out of this idea he had been creating; however, the book wasn’t without difficulty to get published as he went onto tell us all. Here was when he really dove into how he turned his idea into an entire book series.

Eugene, Krieger’s father, was a Lutheran minister and taught him “the power of words.” Krieger’s English 101 professor in college, Walt Lockwood, emphasized the process of writing rather than the finished product. “You never get it right the first time, so you keep practicing,” Krieger said. These two important people influenced him to become the person, teacher, and author that he has become today. His first mentor, Mike Timmons, an author and professor of Biology, was instrumental in narrowing down Krieger’s book idea when he first started out working on it 12 years ago. With Timmons advice, Krieger’s idea became more tangible and he could see where it was going to go. His second mentor, Kevin Patton, author and professor of Biology, advised him to get into an organization that could help him get published.

From there, Krieger took Patton’s advice and joined the organization called “Text and Academic Authors” (TAA). This was the right direction for Krieger because in the organization he learned the business end of publishing, networked with others authors in different fields, took workshops on improving his writing, and met auditors. He explained that not knowing the business end of writing an being an author will hurt writers looking to publish their works. When addressing the audience, Krieger advised the attendees to seek out professional business correspondence from lawyers because they should be certain that publishing companies and editors aren’t taking advantage of them and that they get their contracts as close to 50/50 as possible. “Always read the contract thoroughly,” Krieger said. “Don’t sign your life away.”

The great part of writing a series of books, according to Krieger, is that with each new book it’s a new negotiation opportunity to get paid more for your work that you didn’t get the first time around.

“When selling your idea to an editor, you have to put your best salesmanship on,” Krieger said. “It was very difficult.”

A Visual Anatomy Guide to Human Anatomy, his first book, took him roughly two-and-a-half years to write and illustrate. He explained that working on his book took a lot of time management and that it became easier when he broke the project up into smaller pieces. There’s no guarantee of success and only about 17 percent of first edition books make it to a second edition in academics. After a great deal of time and through numerous rejections, he found Morton Publishing, which published his first book and still publishes his entire Visual Anatomy Guide Series.

Today, his Visual Anatomy Guide Series is used in schools across the country.

Before the session came to a close, Krieger left the attendees with his final words of advice. “The learning never stops. When you’re working on your writing skills, know that those skills apply to a lot of things. It can help you for your careers down the road.”

Paul A. Krieger

Paul A. Krieger and his book

The Language of Storytelling

Image

Human beings–the human race as a whole–has from the beginning of our existence told stories to explain that which we cannot fully fathom, or that which we grow curious about. Out of our language, the language of sheer existence, we tell stories.

Since the dawn of humankind, we have told stories through art on cave walls, rocks, and through telling stories around the only source of real warmth in those days, fire. Storytelling predates writing by many, many years. As a race, we began telling stories through the extension of art, drawings on cave walls, and rock, and through performances in front of others around the dancing flames of a warm, embracing fire that ebbed at the numbing, bitter cold of weather. We told stories to explain why lightning flashed in the sky, and thunder echoed and rolled. Why there were stars in the sky among the darkness of night. Why there were animals roaming around the Earth. Animals that could kill us as prey, or we could kill, eat them, and use their fur to warm our own bodies. Everything had a purpose. Nothing was without some sort of story or explanation for existing.

The point is, these stories we told didn’t destroy our sense of fear; instead, they lessened the hold fear and trepidation had on us.

Take the biblical story of the Tower of Babel. Generations of humans after the Great Flood spoke one language and migrated to the land of Shinar where they would continue to build a city with a tower, the Tower of Babel. A tower “whose top may reach unto heaven” and humanity could make a name and have power over all on the Earth. On each level of the tower, God gave them their own language so they could not communicate with each other to finish the tower. What I’m getting at is that the languages changed. Just because they didn’t finish the Tower of Babel didn’t mean that, that was the end for them. They split up, went their own ways, and later created and built other buildings, other masterpieces like the Great Pyramids, towers, and structures. They did it divided, but through their languages with their own section of people.

Storytelling empowered us. Having explanations–whether those explanations were factual, embellishments, or sheer nonsense–taught us to use our imaginations, not to fear what lingers in the night, and to live with the reality that everything happens for a reason. Sure, we have grown as a race since then: buildings, technology, intelligence, etc. The one thing here that has remained consistent is storytelling.

We no longer all speak one version of a language, and we don’t live together huddled against one another skin to skin in caves to survive the cold. We live in different continents, speak different languages and dialects, but this one aspect has never left us. The language of storytelling has become a part of our DNA, per-say. We still tell stories. We tell them verbally, in art, culture, beliefs, values, writing, entertainment and in many other forms.

Unlike in the beginning, we have explanations for a majority of the things happening in the world and to us. Yet, the need to tell stories is still there. We have changed how we do most things in life, yet we tell stories in our own styles and forms and it reaches different cultures, people, and parts of the world now through books, internet, word of mouth, etc. We don’t have all the answers to everything yet and we may never be able to. The one thing we will continue to do is tell stories to explain the things we still don’t have viable, concrete explanations for. The things we dream, live, see, hear, feel, taste, touch, and fear are all caught in a web of ever-twisting and changing meanings and realities because we continue to tell their stories in new ways, in our own voices, because we want to solidify them, give them meaning and relevance and essence in our lives. We don’t do this just for ourselves. We do this for future generations too. This is our legacy. Our past was written for us, here and now. What we write, see, and live now and tell through the language of storytelling is the legacy we leave for future generations. What they do will be doing for the next generation.

Humanity leaves its impression on the world in the way we tell stories.

Writing Prompts (Part 1): Try some of these out!

Writing prompts are helpful tools that can show you your strengths and weakness in the way you write. Essentially, writing prompts give you ideas to find out what you think, what you want to write about, and strengthen your writing skills. I will be posting new writing prompts two to three times a month for you to try. I will always try to make a variety of them, so there will hopefully be one to match your writing interests.

As an example, here are a few writing prompts that I thought of yesterday when I began thinking about what it is that I want to write next in my lifelong writing journey…

Prompt #1

Turn to pg. 35 on whatever book it is that you are reading. Copy down the very last line or two of the book. From there, start free writing a story starting with the line(s) of that book you were reading. You might be surprised to find that there’s a story there.

Purpose: The purpose of this exercise is to show you how to brainstorm, as well as how something so mundane as a line or two from another story can create new parallels and ideas in your own writing.

Prompt#2

Take a devastating event that you have heard of recently and make it fictional. Take the emotions, the people, and the actions of that event and make it fiction. Turn it into what ever it is that you want it to be about; however, don’t forget to keep the affects, effects, and emotions from the real event within the story, or scene.

Purpose: The purpose of this exercise is to show you how to capture a moment in time and how to capture the real emotions and feelings of that moment. This will help to improve your ability to strengthen your emotional stakes in the stories you write.

Prompt #3

Take the lyrics and music of your favorite song, or pick a song at random, and free write a story out of the lyrics.

Purpose: The purpose of this exercise is to show you how important your imagination is because all stories start within your mind. They manifest in ideas, such as song lyrics, and you create them with your imagination, and give them life as stories.

More prompts coming soon…

My First Quote from Path of Shadows 2: HIDDEN IN SHADOWS

My gaze drifts over to Sarah, who’s sleeping across from me in her bunk bed. Brazael’s loud ranting doesn’t seem to wake her.

“Don’t worry about talking quietly,” Brazael says and nods over to Sarah. “She won’t be waking anytime soon.”

In confusion, I gaze back at where Sarah is sleeping. The pastel blue, cotton blankets are pulled up to her shoulders. Her face is turned away from me, so all I can see is her long, black braided hair from where I sit. There’s no movement from under the sheets. I can’t tell if she’s breathing or not.

“What did you do to her?” My eyes burn with bright anger as I meet his expectant gaze. I hold his stare momentarily before I focus on his mouth to break our gaze.

From his back pocket, he produces a butcher knife. Crimson red blood is matted over top of the gleaming silver blade. My mouth hangs open slightly as I recognize the knife. Turning around on the bed, I lift up my pillow. The knife I’d taken from the kitchen and placed under my pillow earlier is gone. Brazael has it in his hand.

Facing him now, I grab at my covers, clawing them until my hands ball into fists. I want to kill him, strip the life right out of his body, but I resist the powerful urge to do so. If I kill him, I’ll surely be exposing myself for who I really am. My mission will be ruined.

The Art of Characters

The Art of Characters

F. Scott Fitzgerald got it right when he spoke these words. Writers are many people in one body. To develop, create, craft, mold, and imagine characters up from bits and pieces of our daily encounters with people, shreds of ourselves, things we see everyday, and build them from the ground up in our imagination as people. People of whom become as real to us as flesh and blood. Friends, enemies, children, etc. We all have deep roots with our characters. In a way, it’s like childbirth; we go through the mental “pain” of giving them life, so that they can entertain our reads with their journeys and life stories. We become attached to them and we know them better than anyone else in this world. They essentially become a part of his, a part of our own personal history. We see through their eyes the world, their thoughts, their joy, their pain, their fear, everything. The real challenge is finding ways to make these characters relateable and telling their stories well enough to paint vivid pictures in our readers’ minds. That is the challenge every writer, beginner or master, has to become the victor at.

PATH OF SHADOWS Quote of the Day

“There’s a war coming, Diana. I can’t say there are many Angels left on Earth. We’ll need all of ones we can find.”

Her eyes round slightly as she realizes what I’m suggesting. “No. I’m not an Angel. This isn’t my fight.”

“Yes, it is,” I correct her. “You’re half-angel. Whether you like it or not, you were born into this war. The demons will come after you whether you fight on our side or not. At the very least, you need to be able to protect yourself. Let me train you.”

I’m right. She can see this much as she bites her lower lip. “Okay,” she agrees. “I accept your offer, but I’m not promising anything. What you’re asking me to do I have to think about.”

“That’s all that I ask of you.” I move away from her and return to my former position by the dryer. “Consider what I’ve said.”

Chapter 9 and 10 of Path of Shadows

Chapter Nine: Stone’s Throw (Diana’s Point of View)

“How much longer until we reach Pittsburgh?” Raphael asks the next morning as he walks up behind me.

The map is placed on a table in the kitchen of the church. I hover over it and try to count the miles from here to Pittsburgh in my head. I count the days and divide them by hours of daylight. “A few days by foot. Maybe five or six days tops.” I look up. “Where’s Emma?”

“Outside taking a walk. I would’ve accompanied her, but she’s safe in the daylight,” he says and leans against the counter with one leg lapped over the other. “I was wondering what you plan on saying to your Aunt when you find her. Have you given any thought to what you’re going to say?”

I don’t know what I’m going to say to my Aunt. I haven’t really thought that far ahead. Now, it does make me wonder. “I’ll figure it out when I get there.”

“You have a few days to think about what you’re going to say to her, but you should really think about it.”

Hurrying footsteps get louder the closer they get to us. Emma runs in the kitchen and over to us with a huge grin on her rosy face. “You guys’ll never guess what I just found,” she says. Her voice is high and giddy.

Raphael and I stare at her, confusion on the both of our faces. I question whether or not she’s finally cracked.

“Come on,” she says and pulls me along with her by the arm. “Let me show you what I discovered.”

Raphael’s right behind as Emma leads us out of the church through the front doors. We make our way around the side of the church and over to the wooden garage in the backyard. She pulls the garage doors open. Sunlight seeps inside and lights the garage up.

There inside sits an old green Chevy truck with the logo of the church on its side doors.

“See,” Emma points at it and almost bounces on her heels.

“How do we know this old thing still works?” I don’t want to give myself false hope, though I can feel it blooming inside against my better judgement.

Raphael walks over to the truck and pops the hood open. “Let’s find out,” he says and takes a look under the hood.

Beside him, Emma and I watch him pull tubes, nozzles, and wires out. He open them and look through every little part inside the engine. Satisfied, he walks over to the driver’s side and opens the door. We see him hop into the driver’s seat and have a look around. A few minutes later, we hear the rattling of keys. A moment after that, the rough sound of the engine comes to life.

“It works,” I whisper in disbelief.

The engine dies down and quits. Raphael hops out and walks over to us with a smile on his face. “The truck runs fine,” he examines. “There’s enough gas to get us to where we need to go.”

Emma and I share a look.

“Do you know how to drive it?” Emma asks him before I can.

“Yeah,” he answers and looks between us. “Don’t you two know how to drive?”

“In this type of economic downfall people don’t really drive cars,” I tell him. “No, we don’t know how to drive.”

He nods like he should’ve considered that. “Okay. You both go get your stuff and we’ll head out. I can drive.”

With his reassurance, we run back inside the church and pack up all of our stuff. It’s not much, only two backpacks full of clothes, bottles, and hunting equipment. We had to pack light when we left South Dakota because we were travelling by foot and didn’t want to be weighed down.

Raphael places our bags into the bed of the truck while we get into the passenger side. Packed and ready to go, he gets back in the driver’s seat and shuts his door. He puts the key in the ignition, turns it, and brings the old beast back to life.

“Here we go,” he says as we pull out of the garage and head for Pittsburgh.

Sitting and looking out the window, I have time to think about Raphael’s question. Does my Aunt even knows of my existence, and if she does, would she want to know me. I’ve travelled across the country to seek her out. The least she can do is talk to me. But that’s if I find her. I turn to see Emma. She’s passed out with her head leaning on my shoulder. I hope we didn’t travel all this way for nothing. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive myself if I’m wrong, and I’ve dragged Emma along with me. Sighing, I turn my head to look back out the window.

The day passes before I know it. Hours of sitting in the truck has time lapsing in my mind. I stare at the yellow and white lines painted on the roads blankly. The sky’s a deep shade of purple by the time I see a green sign that identifies the town we’ve entered as Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.

The truck comes to a stop in front of a library and the engine dies.

“Why are we stopping?” I turn and ask Raphael.

He points out the window at the descending sun. “It’s almost night. We’ll stay here and continue travelling at daybreak tomorrow.”

“We’re so close,” I tell him and remove my seatbelt.

We unpack for the night in the former library. There are shelves upon shelves of dusty books with yellowed pages. There are lines pressed into the red carpet of the floor where desks, chairs, and tables once sat. I breathe in the thicker air that mixes with the fresh air from outside now. The scent reminds me of an abandoned building. Emma falls asleep as soon as she lays down on the blanket. I sit next to her on the blanket and stare blankly at the dusty books.

“You need to stop worrying,” Raphael says as he walks over and kneels down beside me. “We’re only a stone’s throw away from Pittsburgh. We’ll be there in the morning. Just relax.”

I know he’s right. He always seems to be right. I lay down and try to relax my tense muscles. Noises outside of the library make me sit up with a quickness.

“Stay here,” he whispers and walks out of the library doors without making a single sound.

 

Chapter Ten: Family (Diana’s Point of View)

Raphael reenters the library and comes back over to me. He shrugs his shoulders as he sits down next to me on the worn-out gray carpet. “No one was out there. It must’ve just been the wind.”

I lay down on the blanket to sleep. The creeping feeling inside of me makes me feel we aren’t alone. Brushing it off, I close my eyes, and know I’m safe as long as he’s next to me. Within no time, I’m comatose.

The next morning we’re back on the road. I grow anxious in my seat as we enter Pittsburgh. Emma nudges me with her elbow and smiles widely; her way of saying we did it. Our premature excitement is thwarted when the truck begins putt, putting and comes to a slow stop.

“What happened?” I ask Raphael when we come to a complete stop in the middle of the road.

“The truck stalled,” he replies and opens the driver’s side door. “We ran out of gas.” He sighs and hops out of the truck. “We’ll have to continue on foot.”

Emma and I get out. We grab our backpacks and follow Raphael down the road. He has the map out again and looks it over as we venture. I try to stay in high spirits as we go. I can’t let one thing like a truck stalling completely destroy my excitement today. Not when we’ve come so far.

Almost an hour passes before we reach the neighborhood of Morningside. I check every street sign we pass by because I know we’re getting close to our destination. All the houses lining these streets are older, Victorian maybe, and once upon a time could’ve been historical houses.

“Wellesley Avenue,” I say under my breath as I stand before the sign.

We head down Wellesley Avenue, the street Thea’s supposed to live on. Rows of houses blur passed me in a haze as I speed walk towards the 1400s numbered houses. 1401, 1403, I think as I pass them. 1405, 1407. I stop in front of a three story reddish-brown brick house with a front porch.

“1409,” I say. “This’ it.”

Standing still, I take a soothing breath to counteract the anxiety. One step before the other, I suck it in and walk up the steps onto the porch. Emma and Raphael are with me as I’m in front of the door. My fist raps on the wooden door.

We wait, but no one answers.

I knock again, a little harder this time.

There’s only silence on the other side.

“Maybe she doesn’t live here anymore,” Emma sympathizes in a soft voice. “She could’ve moved.”

What more can I do? I travelled across the country to get here. I’ve done all I possibly can. I nod slowly and feel my shoulders slump with defeat. I can’t believe we came all this way to discover no one lives here. I don’t protest when Emma leads me away from the door with her hand on my back guiding.

A loud crashing sound comes from within the house and alarms us. We stop and turn back to the door. Raphael puts his hand on the doorknob and twists it. It’s unlocked. He pushes the door open with a gentle nudge. It squeaks as it swings.

“Is anyone here?” He calls out inside.

No one answers again.

We go inside the house with quiet stealth. The three of us split up and have a look around the house to see if anyone’s here. I head up the stairs to the second floor. No one appears as I peek into the rooms: two bedrooms, a bathroom, a room filled with books, and a larger room with unopened boxes on the bare wood floor. There’s no dust. Everything gives me the impression it’s been used recently. The air even smells of Windex, polish, and potpourri.

Where are they at then?

Finding no one upstairs, I head back down to the first floor. Raphael’s at the bottom of the staircase when I get there. There’s a crease forming in-between his black eyebrows. I can tell he found no one either.

“No luck,” I shake my head in confusion.

“Someone definitely lives here,” he observes.

Emma’s voice calls us from below. “Guys, come downstairs. Please.”

We find the basement door in the kitchen. I go down the stairs with Raphael behind me.

“What did you find?” I ask Emma and pause in step as I see her in full view now. She has her trembling hands raised in the air. She’s as still as a statue. All I can focus on is the guy, a year or two younger than us, holding a shotgun. The barrel’s pointed in Emma’s direction.

 

Poem: The Sun and the Moon

Upon the Moon

You saw the Stars

The Sun’s aura reflected

the pull it held

 

Dawn settled and

Dusk came

The universe expanded

in your view

 

Time stood still

Yet everyone moved

except for the Stars

falling and rising

 

The silver thread weaved

in the design

A lifetime shall pass

another will come

 

And these two

the Sun and the Moon

will rekindle the Stars

etched in the night

 

Healing and burning

gravitating and releasing