A Poem A Day: Traction

I turn without a sound

the road is hot

my heels don’t touch the ground.

My path is paved with blue

a mist or fumes

my toes keep cutting through.

There is no other way

for me to turn

I will get there today.

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A Poem A Day

Three years ago I started a little project named a Poem a Day and wrote diligently for… oh a while. Reading back, I realized I do love the thought of this and I liked some of what I conjured up so hereby the poem a day is back on track!

As for comments, critiques, anything you feel like sharing: have at it! I love feedback and I love knowing you were here, so if it’s only a greeting, do comment. It makes my week, I’m tellin’ you!

Now, this post wouldn’t be much of an announcement without a little something something to go with it, so here’s the first 2013 Poem a Day.

 

 

 

With every breath

and every drawn line,

I frame our world with

rushed mornings and

quiet evenings.

James

Image

James looks a lot like the model Sam Way

Morning light slipped unforgiving between the curtains on a Sunday morning, waking up one very hung over James Blackwood. He struggled to open his eyes but shut them right away, recognizing the delicious feel of curves and subtle musculature against his tired body. Last night’s indulgence had been a fantastic one. Damn… He let his mind wander back to glimpses of the night and licked his lips. Hopefully he’d see her again at one of the gigs, she was definitely worth another go.

When he glanced over to look at her, Rita… Riva… R… Rose? Well whatever her name was, he caught sight of a clock and his eyes went wide. 10:12. Fuck fuck fuck. He was supposed to meet his parents and some of their friends in less than an hour and he wasn’t about to show up wearing leather pants and a torn shirt! A grin sneaked onto his lips at that, the girl had been so damn fun. Fuck, no time!

James considered himself incredibly stealthy and smooth when he untangled his body from the goddess on the bed and picked his clothes up from the floor. They were actually a pretty accurate path from the bed to the hall so by the time he had his leather jacket on he was out by the front door. A minute later he was in an elevator along with an indignant looking middle aged lady and a poodle in a purse, to whom he nodded politely and ignored after that to avoid smirking over her obvious offence at his appearance.

He arrived on time, incredibly so, having showered on record speed and found something more appropriate and mother-approving than his previous attire. In fact, he was quite a different man now than he was an hour ago. No one would suspect he played drums in a dirty grunge rock band at every opportunity, drinking and playing with grouppies until dawn. No, now he was the Blackwood heir, the intelligent second son who was to inherit the company since his older brother was busy being a football star. Nevermind the younger one who would most likely end up in the army or something, and their sister who would no doubt set the world aflame with her high ideals and causes. No, James was the hope, the bright star, the jewel.

He strolled calmly into the quiet bright sitting room of his parents’ enormous house, knowing he was right on time, but when he rounded the couch to greet the guests he nearly choked on his breath. There were the Goodwill’s and their two daughters, Silvia and B something… Brie? And the other couple, the Montgomery’s, were there as his mother had told him with their daughter Reese.

Well, he thought sarcastically as the situation dawned on him. At least I now know what her name is.

“Mom, dad,” he said politely to his parents, “mister and mrs Goodwill, mister and mrs Montgomery,” he continued in a pleasant tone, then finished with a simple “girls,” and a smile for the younger generation present. How he managed to sit down and pick up the drink his mother had poured him while he stood there, was a mystery. As was his apparent ability to sip from the glass. What the hell was she doing here? No, that wasn’t the right question. What the hell had she been doing in the club last night?! Daughters of his parents’ friends didn’t show up there, or anywhere he played. It wasn’t their scene. It was… Well it was his, and now it was probably doomed to end because once she spilled to his parents…

Kristina

Seventeen. Five. Four. Two.
Seventeen was how old Iggy was turning that day, and herself in a couple of months. Five was the number of years she’d known him and the number of months she’d known him. Yeah, we’re talking sex. Four was the number of years since she decided he was definitely the cutest boy in the whole world. Not that she’d been crushing on him back then or anything. He was simply the cutest, like… Her bestie Mina was the nicest girl in the whole world. Two years was the time they’d been snogging by now. Randomly, completely casually. Out of boredom most of the time. Really. At first. Still. Right? No… Because four weeks was the time she’d been wondering if she was getting too… Needy? Too something. Two weeks was the time she’d spent biting her nails over it. Too needy? Too… Could you be too attached to your best friend? Was it…

“Oi! Want this up here or not, Kris?” Dominik’s voice rang out, annoyed enough to tell her he’d been trying to get her attention for a while. She jumped slightly and nodded at him after looking at what he was doing. The fourth floor sitting room was looking great. She and Mina had come up here about an hour ago to set it all up for the party they planned. Everything was coming together awesomely and much of it was thanks to her brothers and cousin. Kris had figured since she had them around she might as well ask them to come with and help out, seeing how they were all older than her and Mina and knew more spells and stuff. Right now, her brother Dominik was levitating a string of lights made out of empty charmed butterbeer bottles to hook it onto the top of some book shelves.

Kris beamed a smile at Mina and leaned against a wall, watching her second oldest brother James do his thing at the make shift bar. It turned out he knew all kinds of cool cooking charms that benefited them. Yay for drinks, right?! Josh jogged around the room placing more charmed lights all over the until he dropped into a couch with a heavy sigh and then shot right up again. “That was not cool,” he stated like the couch had personally insulted him and started transfiguring the cushions into bigger, softer ones. The energetic Blackwood cousin duplicated enough of these pillows to spread on the floor and create a cozy lounging area. His head bobbed to the music Kris had managed to start earlier and Kris automatically copyied his movement as she watched him with a grin. “What, the couch bite you?” She joked and got a faked little look of horror in return. “Damn thing got teeth and claws, locking on my fine ass… I’m telling you it’s time to put it down!”

Kris laughed but unfortunately Dominik finished what he was doing and decided now was a good time to have a little chat. He walked towards her and upnodded slightly, narrowing his eyes in a way she recognized instantly and even started trying to find something, anything, to distract him with. Something was up, and she was in trouble. She glanced at James who was very much keeping his head down, but it had to be about Iggy. James had to have told Dominik what he saw and heard at the courtyard a couple of weeks ago. Ohh man… So that was why Dominik was so cool about helping out for the party. He just wanted a chance to… to… But before her panic settled properly and sprouted paranoid ideas on what her brother was going to do with this information, he started talking. “So… What’s up with you and that kid?” he asked. Which meant he didn’t know already because the siblings never played any games like that. Well, aside from this tiny thing about her not telling him anything about Iggy. But in general, they were close and honest with each other, especially Kris and Dom. If he knew, he’d not ask her like that.

“Nothing, we’re just friends…” she started to lie but closed her mouth and glanced at Mina and then James who was still looking at anything other than her and their brother. Joshua, however, lounged on a couch and watched them with interest, only missing popcorn to complete the picture. Dominik didn’t say anything, but she knew he knew she was lying. She was a bad liar to begin with and lying to Dominik? She couldn’t do it, never could. Just like he was crap at lying to her.

James finally chimed in with a bit of ‘helpful’ advice. “Just tell him, Tini.” He said and glanced up for a moment. He didn’t get why she was denying it since he knew she couldn’t lie to Dominik. And he didn’t get why she was denying since it was a fairly innocent deal. And he didn’t get why she was denying it since it was so damn obvious his brother must be dumber than he thought to not notice anyway.

Kris rolled her eyes at the nickname and the comment. James was the only person who got away with calling her that. So far. And it was only because he didn’t actually talk enough to her when others were around to create a risk of the name spreading. But now he was beginning to stray from that rule, since he said it in front of Tommy and Iggy in the courtyard, and in front of Josh, Dominik and Mina right now. Just great. Great great. But. He seemed to have kept his mouth shut about the whole snogging-Iggy-and-going-to-the-Halloween-ball-together thing.

“Ohh look at the time, it’s almost nine! The others will be here any moment. The room looks awesome, thanks for the help, you all!” She rambled on and tried to get out of answering but instead of pressing her, Dominik headed for Mina. He draped his arm around her shoulders and tugged her a little closer like he was about to plot a major conspiracy with her. “You’ll tell me, right Mina? You wouldn’t keep a secret from me… We’re like family, after all…” He grinned smug but his voice was teasing, knowing he’d get the exact reaction from Kris she now gave. The brunette flailed and made a frustrated sound. “That’s so not fair! You don’t see me asking Sal about your love life!” But as soon as the words slipped she closed her eyes and groaned inwardly. “I didn’t mean that, I mean…”

James shook his head, more baffled than amused but definitely a little of both. Josh burst out laughing, however, and rolled off the couch to come over to them. “Ohhh that little firstie got some game, huh? Ravenclaw’s where it’s at! Brains and balls, dude! Tackling a Blackwood baby sister… Daaayum… Just sayin!” he shut up at the look on Dominik’s face but chuckled to himself and wiggled his eyebrows at Kris who wished sincerely she was big enough to punch her cousin’s lights out at that moment.

“It’s not like that, we’re just… It’s… We just snog.” She attempted to explain but of course the ‘just snog’ was another lie. Not that she were about to explain that one, but Dominik would know something was off about her comment. James and Josh headed to the door and Dominik glanced at them and then the time. It was almost nine. “Yeah…” he said, had let go of Mina earlier of course and now followed his brother and cousin to the door. But his tone of voice was a clear message to Kris that this conversation was not over. By far.

When they were gone, Kris looked at Mina. “I’m so screwed,” she said and slumped her shoulders where she still leaned against a wall. Well… At least the room looked great, they had plenty of drinks and stuff to nibble on, music… And the whole gang showing up soon. Tonight would be great, and she’d face Dom’s rant later. Like, when she showed up at the Halloween ball with Iggy. Yeah, good plan… Ahem. But still. Tonight would be awesome.

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 ;)

Triplepeak – part 7

(Find part 6 here.)

The grand hall filled Chase with dread as he crossed it with the kid in tow. He didn‘t look at the floor, the artfully decorated two-square-feet tiles, or the paintings that hung in viewing height and created a border from door to stairway on both sides of the room.

His large frame was squared and tense, shoulders set back and chin up. He was going to face some serious music this time.

He glanced at the kid as he reached the wide staircase straight across the room from the door. He only hesitated a second, only looked at her long enough to frown, but her image was burnt into his mind. He knew what the council would decide on, and that it was his fault. With a few muttered curses under his breath he started climbing the spiral stairs, one hand locked around a thin wrist.

He let go of her when they were half way up and slowed down a little. Not much, just so she‘d have any breath left when they reached the top floor. He saw her rub her wrist but she didn‘t complain. Maybe she felt the weight in the atmosphere. The finality.

The walls started creeping in as they neared the top, ending close enough to the stairs to easily cause claustrophobia. When the couple finished the hike, Chase‘s shoulders were touching the walls on both sides. This was for security reasons, of course. An entrance like this was easily guarded and there was no other way in or out.

Follow me, Chase said quietly and meant for it to sound commanding but it came out like a plea. Damn nerves, he thought and mentally kicked himself. He couldn‘t afford any mistakes now. He had to stay cool and composed.

He stopped a couple of steps from the tall archway into the front room where they‘d wait for an audience with the council. He should tell her what to expect.

“I, uh…” He started and cleared his throat when his voice sounded cracked and insecure. Well, to be fair it probably sounded just as grumpy as always to others, but he cleared his throat anyway.

“There are laws”, he started again, not sure how much to explain. “No one from the outside is supposed to know how to get to the city, or to see it.”

He looked her directly in the eyes now, hesitating a moment when her grin faded. He focused on her hands until she tucked them in her pockets and then looked her in the eye again, the whole thing taking only seconds.

“What they do”, he said and then corrected himself, “what we do, is execute the outsider”. She didn‘t break eye contact when he growled the last words, but she flinched. Of course she did, who wouldn‘t? Someone from outside these walls wouldn‘t understand the meaning of their secrecy. The way of life depending on it.

“There hasn‘t been an outsider for over twenty years, though. So we‘ll see what they…” He stopped without finishing and frowned. She probably didn‘t believe they‘d kill her, so why give her reason to wonder? Might as well let her discover the severity of the situation herself.

He ran his hand through his hair, leaving it even more tousled, and turned to enter the front hall. He heard her follow… Not going to admit to feeling her follow, that was for sure… And headed for a plush-clad bench near the double doors to the council chambers. They had barely sat down when one  of the guards standing on each side of the door leaned his head a little down and to the side, held a hand to his ear and then looked at them.

“They are ready to see you now.”

His partner immediately stepped forth, pushed the door open and waited for them to enter.

Twitter Poem Test Run

Yesterday I tweeted a request for words, lines or names to use as inspiration for a piece of fiction, a poem or a micro-story. Tweets rained onto my TweetDeck… but only one related to mine ;) So, thanks to Gary Murning for playing!

Pernickety. British English, informal.
Worrying too much about small and unimportant things [= fussy]
(Longman dictionary of contemporary English)

_______________________________________________

Sitting there,
staring at me.

Long crooked feet and arms,
stretching out like
he owns the place.

His hair is gray, a little,
mostly black.
Sitting there,
staring at me.

I could reach out and
make him go away,
disappear.

I’d have to touch him to do that, though.
And move.
It would attract attention.
Then everyone would see him:
Sitting there,
staring at me.

Maybe use the handbag?
Swing it casually,
hit him just hard enough so he
moves away.

No one would notice.
No. He might grab the handbag,
sit on it.

I will wait.

He might rub off my hem when I
get up and walk out of church with
the crowd.

Some other poor woman will
have to worry about him then.

Today, of all days.
At church, of all places.

Fluff.

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?