The 7-Link-Challenge

Right now I’m reading a book called 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. It’s author, Darren Rowse, posted a challenge on his blog today where he encourages his readers to do something similar to what he teaches in that book. It’s a neat, simple, terrifying task of writing a link-post. Of course I couldn’t resist, you know me… (Or will, if you keep reading my blog ;) )

THE 7 LINK CHALLENGE

  • My very first post on this blog was a beginning of a story, titled Dawn. Dawn is actually a story I’d like to continue some day, I like the idea of it and its characters, but for now it serves a different purpose. Got to start somewhere, right?  *grin*
  • The post I enjoyed writing the most is without doubt my ongoing story… Okay so they are multiple posts, not a single one, but you can find Triplepeak City in reading order on a single page if you want to! The story is about a girl in search of adventure who gets exactly what she asked for and more. Hidden city, horse-riding heroes, dark magic growling in the background in the form of wolves and ravens… Sound like fun?

At first it seemed like a dark cloud, but as it came closer she made out shapes and movement. It was a flock of large black birds, silently gaining on them with such accuracy it was clear what their target was. And soon enough, the first bird let out a rough cry and plunged towards them. It had barely moved from the flock when a few more mimicked its move and then the whole bunch was shooting down.

She reached for her knives, secured by her hip, but was stopped by the rider. He grabbed her arm and put it back around him as he leaned even further down, basically pinning her to the horse.

“Hold on,” he growled, muttered something and the horse broke into a gallop that seemed to be closer to flying than running as it´s feet barely met the ground. The birds missed their target but kept following them and she was about to point that out, somehow, when the rider added:

“Ravens are the least of our problems, it´s the dogs we need to worry about. The guys better have that damn tunnel ready.”

  • There was an interesting discussion on one of my poems, the first time someone actually criticized anything on my blog… Which is great! Feedback for me, some points to think about for you. The poem paints a picture of a troubled girl and it’s called Go on.

Dragging her feet
making her way towards whatever she
has to face that day.

Eyes glazed and gray
hair tangled as if soaked and woven
everything is slow.

  • The fourth part of the challenge was to link to “A post on someone else’s blog that you wish you’d written”. This one is a bit of trouble for me. There are too many to choose from. I think I need to start by admitting to my relentless admiration of James Chartrand.
    (James, if you’re reading this: I’m your #1 fan! Will you please sign my bookmark of one of my favorite posts you’ve written: “How to Become a Better Writer and Get Readers Loving You” ? )Yeah, so there’s this post on reading your work out loud to improve it. Did I mention it? “How to become a better…” Right. Ahem. (How embarrassing.)
    The technique is one I use with and without meaning to. My friend Vallý knows when I’m really concentrating on writing something because I start reading aloud as I type and fix bad lines or ill-fitting words out loud before I fix them on the page… It comes in handy when doing assignments and essays for class together. She knows exactly where I’m going with the text before she gets a chance to read it ;) Do I wish I’d written that post? Do I wish I had the to-the-point and witty voice the author has? You bet I do.
  • My favorite title is “Light in its Natural Habitat“. The post is a poem, a cute little abc poem in fact, and that title both fits it perfectly and sounds… Well, I think it sounds awesome ;) Don’t you?
  • And finally, the post I so wish people would read and take to heart, because it’s supposed to help people realize poetry is a form of expression anyone can use. Please go ahead and read 5 Easy Steps to Writing Rhyme-Free Poetry
    I’m telling you now and I’ll tell you again, it’s not a question of “not getting” poetry. Who does? I mean, really? Do we ever know if what we gather from a poem is actually what the author wanted to say? No. Well, not unless you ask. The point is, if you can read, you can read poetry. It uses the same words as other texts, the same symbols. The words may stand for other than the obvious meaning, but so do words in other types of writing. I mean, have you read a legal document lately?

    Reading poetry is similar to listening to music. You have rhythm and sound, emotional use of words and metaphors… All you have to do is let yourself feel what the words are saying, just like tones of the piano or the guitar.

Now you have a decent list of great posts to read, and by all means do ;) In the meanwhile, I’m writing a little Thank-You post to celebrate a comment count of 100! Yay :) All my wonderful commenters will be listed and linked to, and the top ones get a little paragraph of introduction. All lovely people, I assure you ;)

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Character Creation and Development: Patterns

Photo credit: brooke• via Flickr.com

How do you distinguish one character from another in your story? Do you actively seek to maintain that difference, or do they all blend into a half-this-half-that narrative voice? Do they all react similarly to what you throw at them, no matter who they are and how they‘re supposed to approach life?

These are important questions for every fiction writer to address, and return to regularly.

When giving our characters life and then following them through a plot, there are two things we can monitor to make sure they are true to themselves: Dialogue and physical actions and reactions.
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Dialogue

Each person has a unique pattern of speech. This is a fact. We use some words more than others, we use certain phrases, certain structure… Some of us tell a story in one short sentence that others might tell in a five minute speech. This makes us easily recognized in a room full of people, at least to those who know us.

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It all begins with voice

Identifying your characters’ speech pattern is similar to finding your writing voice. I’d advise you to go dig into a few articles on the topic and see what exercises and tips they offer. My personal favorite is over at Men with Pens: “How to find your writing voice“.

When familiar with the concept, or if you are already, apply the knowledge to your character development. Give your heroes voices you feel match the personality you already mapped out and developed to some extent.

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To each his own

The first round of voice-casting is easy. You might want your character to sound uptight, young or old, naive, uneducated or snobbish… General terms are easily applied and that‘s a good start, but you’ll want to take it a step further.

Give each character some character! Your snob might over-use “rather” and tend to start every story with “when we were at the summer house recently…”  Your eager twenty-something student might fit “dude” into every other sentence and misuse some common phrase…

You catch my drift. Dialogue is often a major part of fiction and we want our readers to feel the diversity of our characters through that obvious medium.

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Physical action & reaction

Just like with dialogue, physical actions follow a pattern. Each person tends to blush under similar circumstances, laugh at similar things and go through a spike in blood-pressure during similar experiences. Sometimes we do this unconsciously, sometimes knowingly. Your characters are no exception, or shouldn’t be.

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Stop cracking your knuckles!

Little habits and quirks go easily unnoticed until we focus on them. If you’d study someone’s movement and reaction to situations, people, words… You’d soon see how he scratches his beard a lot when he’s thinking, his foot is constantly on the move when he’s bored and he’s much more comfortable with man-to-man touch when watching football…

These little things pile up and form a living breathing person you can easily write realistically, and in a way that registers to your readers. (I bet you already pictured that guy I described!)

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It‘s in the details

Focus on what makes each of your characters unique. It doesn’t have to be a major thing, it might be as trivial as wrinkling his nose when things smell bad, just make sure you have a little (or a lot) that defines them.

Your readers love to feel like they know your characters, and with every quirk you put out there you give them something to build on. Just make sure you don’t go over the top and create a character that is nothing BUT nervous habits.

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Following the patterns

As you write your story and your characters develop into multidimensional people, practically leaping off the page, take some time to re-visit those original thoughts. Your characters might grow out of some habits and adopt new ones, but over all they should be consistent.

The same goes for their voice. Their dialogue style might change a little through the course of the story, but they should be recognizable as the same person. Right?

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To make it easy

Create a little list of identifying patterns for each character, put it with your other character notes. Use examples, such as: “angry = bites lower lip, says “okay” a lot, doesn’t make eye-contact”. Then, when you need to check on how you’re doing, you consult the list. It’s also a very convenient tool to use when writing new scenes.

What you get from doing this, thinking about this, is a clear sense of difference and identity amongst your characters. You become aware of the nuances that shape your written dialogue and relationships. You find fresh angles and points of view by understanding your heroes better.

Isn’t that what we‘re going for?

Shut up Songbird

I’ve stayed for too long
my voice is turning harsh and unforgiving.
My words don’t sound like songs anymore.
I should know better by now, after all this time,
but I couldn’t let go when the melody caught me.

I’ve stayed for too long
I can’t believe my head isn’t empty yet.
The trouble with constantly creating,
within my head or on paper slash keyboard,
is how to not.

I’ve stayed for too long
my voice is drained of all it’s juices.
I shouldn’t utter another word but
I keep singing, humming, pretending that’s not
doing any damage.

I’ve stayed for too long
the same way I always have and
probably always will.
Selfdestructive actions are,
after all,
what being an artist is all about?

Shut up, songbird.

5 Easy Steps to Writing Rhyme-Free Poetry

Image credit: Surrealmuse via Flickr

Have you ever felt like writing a poem but been discouraged by the thought of proper form and rhyme and all those things that make up a good, solid work of poetry? Or have you been discouraged by the (silly) claims that if it doesn‘t have rhyme it‘s not a poem? 

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Let me help you get past that. I am not about to show you which words to use and not to use. I am not about to tell you what to write about. Those are your own challenges. I am, however, going to help you get them on paper/screen in a nice, readable way. 

Now, since that‘s cleared, here are my beginner-safe steps to writing your heart out without the constrictions of rhyme! 

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1.  WRITE SPONTANEOUSLY 

When writing poetry, you are pouring out feelings and opinions in the flexible and multi-toned form of words. This can be a true headache, since there are so many ways to express a single emotion. What works best is to write down as much as you possibly can spontaneously. It will probably be flawed and awkwardly worded, but it will be the closest you can get to your heart-song. (Anyone like singing penguins?) 

. Continue reading

Triplepeak – part 6

(Find Part 5 here.)

Dani admired the view, the surroundings, while they rode towards the city. Once they were threading the streets the sparkling white buildings revealed details of fine cracks and chipped surface, as well as painted murals depicting what Dani assumed to be the city´s history.

The images were like beacons, each one a guiding point towards the council, she realized as they drew nearer. Chase had pointed out a specific tower before they passed through the city gates. Continue reading

Vonnegut´s 8 Rules for Writing a Short Story

I stumbled across a blog where a girl (so sorry about that, Alex ;) ) was talking about these eight rules of writing fiction, and I shamelessly googled the rules for my own thoughts. They were written by a Kurt Vonnegut who, according to wikipedia, wrote them in self-assessment purposes. He added that great writers tend to break theses rules. So… if you don´t follow them it might mean you´re just a brilliant writer… eh? *Wink*
Anyway, here´s my take on them…

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
    This seems easy enough, until you stop to consider what it actually means. Can you ever be sure your writing is good enough to be a fair way to spend another persons time? Not really. Not even close.
    All we can ever do is make sure what we put out there is the very best we can give. Right?
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
    Oh goody, here´s a fun part. Who doesn´t love writing a likable hero? Or… wait. The unlikables are fun to write too. The difficult ones you seem to care about despite all their flaws and mistakes. The real thing isn´t writing a likable character or characters, it´s about writing lovable ones. They can be sweet, nasty, mean, saintly, tough, weak… Think of the people you root for in life and ask yourself why. For me it´s this, for you it´s that… Just make sure you write people, not a perfect picture. We don´t need the perfect picture to improve or find its way or get through tough times, it´s already perfect.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
    Again, the perfect picture. If the character doesn´t need anything, we have no reason to follow his or her story. Do we really care to find out just how long that person is going to stay perfectly happy and satisfied? Of course we need wants. We need the story to be going somewhere, taking us somewhere… even if it´s only to the table to pick up a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
    I like this one. It pushes us to really think about what we´re writing. it makes us get rid of the pointless stuffing that pours onto the page when we get carried away or simply have nothing more to say and need to finish something.
    However, some of those pointless things serve a different purpose. For me, it´s about a bit of breathing space. You know? A little light pause between scenes or actions  or even paragraphs to digest what I´ve been reading. So maybe not follow this rule to the letter? ;)
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
    Brilliant. I´ve never heard it put like that, but I think it´s brilliant. Don´t get lost in backstory and leading-up-to´s, start where the story really begins.
  6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
    This one made me think of an article by one Marc Pieniazek. 
    The rule pretty much says it: we want the reader to know what makes our characters tick. How they face danger and difficulties- if they face them. If they run and hide or fight. Our true colours are most visible when we´re under pressure and faced with tough choices, yes? 
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
    See, this one makes it simple for us. The whole ‘not wasting a stranger´s time’ only needs to apply to one person ;) In reality, if we want to follow this rule, that one person should be you. If we don´t count you, it should be someone whose opinion you appreciate and value. Someone you trust.
    And, if we don´t take the rule quite as literally, write in a consistant direction. Don´t try to fit everything  into a single story. You may love lasagna and you may love roast beef, but I somehow doubt you´d throw it on the same plate. It not only ruines the taste, it ruins the mood.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
    I like it. It´s basically telling you to help your readers care. Help them get so lost in your story they don´t want to put the book down (or browse away from the page). Creating suspense is in my opinion a good thing, but it´s a difficult thing to do well. Maybe what the great writers have in common, amongst other things of course, is the skill to create just the right amount of mystery and suspense to keep us on our toes.

(a Poem a Day) -turn-

I know the way to face
find the perfect angle
draw up the most beautiful
version of
everything. (Or what it is.)
Hold the thought
breathe it in
and let it slowly fade.
Then turn.
New idea,
fresh start
pensil traces thin lines
on empty sheets of white
or even
golden on black.
Then turn.
Moving faster now,
finding what I need before I
start looking.
Turn.