Weekly Writing Challenge: Object

Weekly Writing Challenge

My desk is generally empty of unusual things. I have my computer, mouse, printer, lamp, and a variety of other boring things surrounding me. But to my left, under the pink lamp I can’t turn on because it’s too close, are three palm sized dragon figurines. They all show what I believe a perfect dragon looks like, and each one has a different story.

The oldest one is reddish (I call him bronze for Anne McCaffrey’s sake) and coming out of an egg. A few years ago my family went out to the Medieval Times dinner and show in our area. Outside of the dining room/jousting arena where we waited to be let in was a nondescript desk on the far side of the room with general medieval gifts. Among them was this little dragon, the first dragon figurine I had ever found that had all the traits I look for in a dragon (not evil-looking, a decent color, four legs, and proper looking ridges) for less than $20. I of course had to get him and he became an integral part of my bedroom decorations. He also serves as a reminder that the perfect dragons are out there, I just have to find them.

The second one is a $5 souvenir from DragonCon last year. It is a purple dragon (not a correct color but I do like purple) perched on a fake geode with her head raised to the sky as if she’s calling out. I can’t call her a perfect dragon because of the color, but she does have four legs and I love imagining why she is crying to the sky. It is a pose that reminds me of what a dragon would look like while keening for a lost friend.

The third one is my newest but also my favorite. She is the same size as my bronze boy, but is curled up and looks up at me from beneath her wing with one eye. She is a Windstone dragon and my gold beauty. Windstone makes my favorite (McCaffrey correct) dragons, but they’re so expensive and so rare that I have never gotten one. My little curled gold is my $60 way into the Windstone world. I have been wanting one of their dragons for years, but the curled ones are the first that I was willing to pay for, and I have not been disappointed. She is very small but I love picking her up and admiring her. Every Weyr needs a Queen, and she is mine.

My desk is generally barren of anything not work or school related, but my slowly growing group of dragons are the exception. They comfort me when I am stressed and my admiration of them has inspired me more than once. I am always on the lookout for a figurine to add to my little collection, but being picky has limited me and for that I’m happy. My trio is made up of my favorites, the most beautiful examples I could find and I love them all the more for that. They never fail to increase my love for dragonkind and my love for writing fantasy, and I owe some of my greatest inspirations to them.

Curled Dragon - Violet Flame

My Valentine’s Day Castle

What is my Valentine’s story? I’m young and have many Valentine’s Days ahead of me, but so far they have really been quite uneventful. So since I don’t have a romantic Valentine’s Day where I met my future husband or was surprised with a cruise to Costa Rica, I’ll write about the years that I loved this holiday the most.

My favorite Valentine’s Days were actually the ones in elementary school before we were old enough to like boys and everyone gave the whole class a Valentine. We would go to the store with our parents and pick out the perfect pack of cards that perfectly said who we were and that the whole class would be talking about. They came in sheets and had a spot for the to and from, simple. Mine were usually silver and metallic with pictures of Harry Potter characters on them. The people I liked most would get Hermione, Ginny, or Luna and everyone else would get Harry, Ron, or Dumbledore. By the end of our annual Valentine’s Day party all my Harry Potter Valentines would be replaced by an assortment of cards and candy from the other 20 people in my class.

But the best part about Valentine’s Day was the boxes. Everyone in the class cut a hole in the top of a shoebox and decorated the outside in their own way. We lined either the hallway or the classroom with all our boxes and dropped a Valentine in every one. I had a lot of fun in first grade making that box. Covering it in doilies – my go-to for Valentine’s Day even today – and painting it red. When I was 6, however, tragedy struck. To my horror, when the day finally came, I had a fever. I was crushed, everyone was at school making their boxes and enjoying the Valentine’s Day party and I was at home. I was missing out on my favorite tradition.

While I moped on the couch, my dad came up with the idea of the year. Even though I couldn’t go to school, I could still make a Valentine’s Day box like everyone else. Then, when I went back the next day, I would have a box for all the cards that were saved for me from the party. But cutting a hole in a shoebox and watching me decorate it doesn’t make for much father/daughter bonding, so my dad decided we would make the best Valentine’s Day box in the class.

I’ve always been a princess girl, so our natural first idea for the box was a Valentine’s Day castle. We took paper towel rolls and cut them to fit the four corners of the box then attached them. We cut the tops of the rolls to look like castle turrets and even added floors just beneath the cutouts so the people could stand on them. Once that was all glued and cut, my dad spray painted it the shiniest red I’d ever seen. The spray painting is one of my clearest memories of that day. I was just a little kid and had no previous experience with spray pant, so when my dad started to paint this cardboard castle all I saw was magic.

While the castle was drying, we painted a wooden dowel white and cut a triangle out of pink construction paper. Then, we took the castle inside and I added my signature doilies as well as construction paper hearts while my dad glued the pink triangle to the dowel to make a flag. I wrote my name on the flag and we added it to the castle for the finishing touch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This Valentine’s Day box was beautiful. To a six year old it was magnificent, and even today I love it. The next day I proudly carried my bright red masterpiece into school, ready to accept all the candy I had missed out on the day before. But it wasn’t the shiny Harry Potter Valentines that made this year special, it was my whole class oooing and ahhing over my box and getting to say “my daddy and I made this.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I used that box for three years straight and although the flag needed re-gluing a few times, it was never any less wonderful. When my little sister got to that age, the three of us made Valentine’s Day mail trucks out of wood with working wheels. They were both dark blue and we personalized them by painting little wooden hearts in different patterns to clue on the sides. Our names were on the license plates. He also made my sister a giant purple rocketship once I was past the box phase.

Although the boxes got more complex and impressive once my sister got old enough to make them, my favorite is still the red castle that sits on a shelf in my bedroom, with my name on it’s flag. It was the most simple one, just made out of cardboard, but it was the one that I felt the greatest connection to my dad while building. It was a joint effort and he made my dream of a red Valentine’s Day castle a reality.

Love is complex. It’s messy and confusing and oftentimes Valentine’s Day can make things worse in a rocky relationship. It’s amazing the reactions I see around me from people both in relationships and single. Within my sorority I’ve heard nonstop talk about what everyone is doing Friday. They talk about the surprises their boyfriends are planning, the grand gestures they’re expecting, where they have reservations and what expensive dress they’re wearing. The single girls make jokes about how they will be spending the day with Netflix and ice cream. I’ll be going to Moes and probably spend the evening watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, but I’ll guarantee that although I won’t have as much to talk about the next day, my night will be just as romantic and loving as any crazy plan. And, despite all the excitement about romantic relationships on this day, the greatest relationship I’ve built through Valentine’s Day is the one with my dad.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

12 Ways to Stay Interested in a Story

How many failed ideas do you have lying around your desktop? Why didn’t they make the cut? I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember but I’ve only really finished a handful of stories. It’s taken a good bit of trial and error, but by looking at what NOT to do, I’ve managed to come up with a list of how to stay interested in a story once you’ve started writing.

Photo by Jeffrey James Pacres

Photo by Jeffrey James Pacres

Top 10 ways to stay interested in a story

1. Write it down

This seems like a no brainer but it’s a big one for me personally. I have idea after idea; I fill my head with a story and write it from start to finish without ever putting pen to paper, then I get bored with it and it never gets written. It’s not that I love these unfinished stories any less, it’s just that I was finished with it long before I typed the first word. If you have an awesome idea, great, but do your best to only work on it when you’re physically writing your thoughts down. Come up with another little story to distract you when you aren’t able to work on the real one. If you can draw, draw one of the scenes you’ve already written out. Write character profiles, whatever it takes, just DO NOT write the story in your head.

2. Choose characters with interesting personalities and motivations

No Mary Sues! It’s easy to make a character a Mary Sue, but your story will definitely not thank you for it. The tragic backstory, too perfect to be real personality, and everyone falling in love with her the second they lay eyes on her is fun to imagine for us hopeless romantics, but putting one of these in your story is the nail in its coffin. Just be sure you don’t swing too far the other way and make your main character completely unrelatable. Make your character interesting to write about and read about. Make them react in interesting ways and give them imperfect relationships with their co-stars. In my opinion, the characters are the most important part of a story, so spend as much time as necessary fleshing them out and giving them their own life. It worked for Stephanie Meyer, but I would avoid characters like Bella from Twilight where she was really just a faceless shell for the reader to insert herself into.

3. Have just the right amount of minor characters

The “right” number of minor characters is different for every writer and every story, but no matter what, do not let your minor characters crowd out the plot with sheer numbers. If you have a cast of a hundred, your story is going to be 100 times as long as a cast of one, because you now have to give ample screen time to every single character because you love them so much. If you’re aiming to be the next George R. R. Martin go for it, but when thinking on a smaller scale the fewer characters, the easier it is to actually have a finished product.

4. Let it develop naturally

Sometimes, if you’re very lucky, a story will develop a life of its own and start writing itself for you. It may or may not be going in the direction you had originally planned but, honestly, it’s better to go along with it. The plot you had lined up may have been absolute gold, but if it’s not going in that direction, the best way to keep it alive is to go where it really wants to. It will probably be better in the end anyway. Similarly, sometimes (despite our best efforts in step 2) a character just doesn’t do it for you – probably because you’ve made another character much more interesting than your main shell protagonist. If a character takes over, let them – odds are trying to stay on your main character will bore you to death anyway.

5. Have a detailed setting

While it’s not a deal breaker, a good setting can help a stalled story get traction again. Nothing to write about? If you know where you are, you have a ready-made side plot just sitting there. You have a world/country/city/kingdom to bend to your will, so help yourself and your story out and use it.

6. Have a clear idea of where the plot is headed

There’s nothing worse than coming up with the idea of the century, having amazing character, a fantastic new universe you made especially for it, and finding 50 pages in that you aren’t really sure what you brought your cast together for. It doesn’t matter how perfect everything else is, if you don’t have a plot – and a GOOD one at that – your story isn’t getting past first base. Be absolutely certain that you have a detailed story line, it doesn’t even have to be written down, before you start writing or you’ll find yourself writing in circles.

7. Have it mean something

You’ll be more motivated if you have something real and personal driving your story. Is it a story about escape from a metaphorical cage? Is it a coming of age story about finding yourself? Is it a journey where the destination is nothing more than knowledge? Why does you story matter? Make it more than skin deep and you and anyone who reads it will love it that much more.

8. Don’t stew over minor details and wording, they’re not worth it

Don’t let your story come to a standstill because you couldn’t decide what color dress your main character was going to wear to the party. If dress color mattered that much, you would have already known what she should wear so just pick a color and keep writing. I once had a Harry Potter story brought to its knees because I couldn’t come up with the perfect name for one of my major characters. That story probably had one of my favorite characters I’ve ever written, and it died because I couldn’t decide between Evan and Darren. How dumb is that? Don’t let that happen to you. Just pick a name and if you hate it that much you can change it at the end.

9. Save the editing for the end

If you’re on a roll keep rolling. Don’t stop to correct spelling errors or change around sentence structure. Sure that matters in the end, but when you’re trying to get your thoughts written out which verb you used three pages ago needs to take a backseat to the real story. This is the beauty of NaNoWriMo, if you want that book finished in a month, you don’t have time for minor details and you’ll be more likely to get it done. Once you’ve typed the end, go back and edit for as long as you like. Many a story has died because I kept going back and rewording the first few pages when I still had ideas for the part I was really on.

10. Go somewhere new

Sometimes a change in scenery is all you need to get the creativity flowing again. Somewhere not too busy but with new sights, noises, and smells can change your whole attitude toward your project and give you all new inspiration.

11. Don’t force it

Know when it’s time to call it. Sometimes that defibrillator is just too late. If it’s dead, it’s dead.

12. Write it in the order people will read it in

This one is up for debate. I’ve heard of people writing chapters from all over their books in all different random orders and that may work for you, but it’s going on my list because I’ve tried that and had it ruin books. I think linearly, so if my mind is already that far ahead AND I give in and decide to go write that, the part I was on is dead. This may work for you and more power to you if it does, but I would not recommend it.

Cedar and Cherry

A Natural Love

 

I first saw her, elegant and beautiful as a goddess

Eternally lovely as if planted by an artist

Across the street comforting her weeping friend,

Leaving me wishing I could simply extend a hand.

 

She was just blossoming, could be outshone by none

Pink and alive and brilliant in the shining sun.

I did not think she would have noticed me,

For she was irreplaceable while I was one of many.

 

It seemed that she was stretching toward me

Calling that if I could get across the concrete sea,

My undying love for her would be returned,

So I began to reach out to what I hoped to earn.

 

She watched as I reached across time and space

And she leaned in my direction, though rooted in place.

Months and years went by as we moved slowly with intent.

The world changed around us, but we were somehow distant.

 

I was tireless until that instant when I was suddenly secure.

Our fingertips brushed and it was at that moment I was sure

That she, as fragile and divine as a dove,

She was my one and only love.

Weekly Writing Challenge – Contemplation

I just happened to notice the Weekly Writing Challenge for this week while scrolling through my news feed and, as a hobby-type writer, I thought why not this could be fun. I love writing excerpt style stories and the image Contemplation seems perfect for that type of thing. Here goes nothing!

The ocean has always been our mysterious neighbor. We can add 50 pounds of scuba gear and kick around reefs or create a miniature reef in our own homes but something about the ocean remains elusive, just out of our grasp. I often come to this spot not far from my home. I like to sit here and allow myself to be absorbed by the push and pull of the waves, pulled away from my austere life and pushed toward a higher awareness of myself. My life has been a hurricane of bad luck and even worse decisions. I have not reached 40 and am divorced and unemployed. My ex-wife has custody of our daughter Kara but she still gets to visit me here and life me up with her innocence and belief in all things magical. 

I live…lived with my sister here by the sea. Sometimes she would come out and sit with me, though she never said what she saw in the waves. She must not have found the same solace I do or she would still be here. If I look closely I can spot movement in the pool at the base of the rock I am on. Even now, when I am surrounded by death and loneliness, there is life right at my feet. I don’t have need for any pets when I have the entire ocean at my back door.

I’m angry, though I am afraid to say at whom. I wish I had known what my sister was dealing with. When I was there worrying about all my own problems I wish I had stopped for a moment to ask her how she was doing, how she liked her new job or how her night with friends was. But I didn’t, and I can’t now, so I let the waves pull the anger from me, relieving me of that particular burden.

I look down again and see a brightly colored fish thrashing about on the rock below me. The last wave must have thrown it out of the water. I jump down from my crouched position and my feet splash in the puddle I land in. I don’t have a net or anything so I just cup the thrashing fish as gently as I can in my hands and lower it back into the sea. It darts from my palms but I imagine that it thanks me just before it disappears out of sight.

Not sure what to do next, I sit near where I saved the fish. The water laps at my feet and I close my eyes and imagine that I am the little fish swimming out into the deep ocean toward freedom, and I am at peace.

Well there’s that…this is what happens when I start writing with no clear idea of where it’s going, depressed characters. What do you think? Comment and let me know!

Daily Prompt: The Show Must Go On

I would absolutely want to be the director of a movie. I feel like writing is really just directing people who happen to be fictional, so directing would be right up my alley. I tell the characters where to stand, what to do, how to say their lines, and I make sure the scene is set correctly, all things that directors do. I feel like I’m directing all day every day in my writing but I would love a chance to try my hand at really doing it.

Why You Should Never Quit

Just a quick little post today suggested by the Daily Prompt.

Some stories are written in a matter of hours and some are never quite where you want them to be, but there’s always hope for every story. Inspiration comes and goes but if the story is always there waiting you can always go back and work on it to make it even better than before. My writing is constantly evolving but most of my ideas are still sound and I keep going back to the same stories year after year. If it is something you are passionate about, you will keep coming back to it and it will get better every time. I love the feeling of sitting down for half a day and having a complete story at the end of it, but there’s something riveting about having that one story that you know will be great and keep going back to.

Do you have any stories you keep adding to year after year? What is it about them that you love so much?