Michille: My Spirit Animal and Creativity

Great_Blue_Heron_LandingMy creativity has been ramping up lately. And it hit me while at RWA why that is. My Spirit Animal has been crossing my path almost daily. I’ve been walking/jogging in a park with nice walking trails near my house and I see a Great Blue Heron nearly every time I’m there. I live on a farm with several water sources nearby so we have herons in our neck of the woods as well. And while at RWA in Orlando, I jogged every morning and saw two every morning. Some of you are probably thinking, “Well, Michille has gone off the rails.” And if someone had seriously uttered the words My Spirit Animal to me before I took a Jungian psychology course for my master’s degree, I would have said the same about them. But that was before . . . Continue reading

Michaeline: Exercise Your Whimsy Muscles

I just got back from a trip to Tokyo, and one of the highlights was an Arcimboldo exhibition at the National Museum of Western Art . Arcimboldo was a 16th century artist famous for making portraits of Hapsburgs out of vegetables, animals and various household items. If you want to talk about whimsy, this guy made a career out of whimsy!

Rudolph II portrait made up of fruits, vegetables and flowers. Very green and fresh.

Hapsburg emperor Rudolph II as Vertumnus, the Roman god of the seasons. Click on the photo in order to see the amazing detailed work. Check out the ear of corn! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

 

But at the same time, he was very serious about his humor. You can see that his fruits and veggies and animals are all very anatomically correct, almost like botanical illustrations. And putting them together to make recognizable faces took a special eye for composition as well as a lot of hard work, I should imagine. Continue reading

Michaeline: Summer Camp at Home

Three kids camping in the backyard with a tent made of a sheet over a clothesline. Complete with darling puppy.

Or making believe in Camp-land! Turn your backyard into a summer camp for intensive writing! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

At work, school’s out, but we had some special classes for summer. The original concept was to provide something fun and like a summer camp, buta camp with no budget, and that finishes in 60 to 90 minutes. It’s understandable that with those kind of constraints, our “camp” is more “class”, but I wanted to get back to the original concept this year, so I started googling “summer camp language activities”.

And as with so many things in life, I didn’t find what I’m looking for, but I found something useful. I came across a camp that had such a sensible format and division of activities that I thought, “Hey, I could do this at home with my writing.” An auto-camp, if you’ll excuse the bad and old-fashioned pun.

This particular camp divided the day into six one-hour periods. The classes either go toward a major or a minor, with majors being something the kids want to delve into more deeply. Minors are one-shots that can be completed in an hour, and they provide a chance to explore new things.

So, on a vacation day, in theory, I could minor in laundry, American comedy TV and ratatouille, while majoring in writing, with a “class” in reading old material, one in writing new material, and a third in blogging. Six hours done, I could go outside, build a charcoal fire, grill some meat and pitas and enjoy strumming my ukulele under the stars – and go to bed with a clear conscience that I’d done good work that day.

I had the opportunity to give my summer camp idea a dry run two weeks ago, and results were . . . well, let’s say that results were mixed. I planned to major in writing, of course. I was going to read old material for two classes, cook lunch for one class, have a nice lunch, and then write for two classes and blog for the third in the afternoon, with a nice nap stuck in there somewhere.

Almost immediately, my plans went awry. Continue reading

Michaeline: Writing Treats

old advertising of a lemonade drink with lemons

Oooh, oooh, lemonade! Story-time is around the corner! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Summer’s here in the northern hemisphere, and it’s a brilliant time to treat yourself!

Use that treat to provide some writing motivation, and you’ll get double the trick from your treat. Or, use it to provide pleasurable associations for your summer writing task. If you are consistent in rewarding yourself, you could establish good habits.

First: give yourself a stick blender if you don’t already have one. This can be a reward for a job well-done, or a little bribe for some sit-down time. Plus, it’ll play a major role in many of the treats I outline.

If you are a bit stuck, go cherry-picking or strawberry-picking. Let your mind wander as your body is busy with a mindless task. Enjoy the sun, and the stretch of your muscles, and allow yourself a little wonder time. Bonus: A lot of places here allow you to pick-n-eat as you go. But even if they don’t, you’ll have delicious fruit to take home. Freeze half for later. Sit down and write, then indulge with a bowl of summer fruit.

Hot? Suffering for your art while sweating over the keyboard? Continue reading

Kay: I Finished the Book!

I finished the book.

Last Friday I typed “The End” on book two of a three-book trilogy about Phoebe’s adventures in romance-land. It’s been a haul for sure, starting with book 1, which I started before the McDaniel class in 2012, and didn’t progress much or at all in 2012 because of class, 2013 because of poor health, and 2015 because of family issues.

But now book 2 is finished. It still needs revisions—the last chapter in particular, which I thought I’d have to rewrite completely, but perhaps all I have to do is cut the last 1,000 words. I want to conflate two of my characters, that will take some thought. And there’s still the beta reads to go. Still, it’s all done but the shouting, as we’d say back in the Midwest.

Sometimes I think it’s a miracle that I ever got this far with it. Continue reading

Jilly: Powerful Shots of Story

Michaeline’s post yesterday (Story Bites for When You Just Can’t) was exactly what I needed. I’m tantalizingly close to the end of my draft, and I know what I need to do, but this last handful of scenes is driving me bananas.

I’m not the fastest writer, but once I’ve figured out what’s supposed to happen in a scene, I can normally nail a decent draft in a day or two. Right now, each one is taking me a week or more: write, delete, rinse and repeat.

My problem is that all the key players are coming together and the stakes are high. In my head the scenes are great, but capturing that intensity on the page is hard. My lack of progress has been making me very cranky indeed, so I thought I’d take Micki’s advice and see if approaching the problem from a different angle would boost my spirits and improve my productivity.

I already have a playlist and a collage for Alexis, so I decided to try something different and write a haiku for each main character at this critical stage of the story.

I’m no expert on haiku, but what I know is this: they should be three lines long, comprising seventeen syllables in a five-seven-five pattern. And ideally they should provide an insight by juxtaposing two contrasting—or conflicting—ideas.

That sounds like the perfect structure for a brief story shot that aims to capture the essence of the character and their conflict.

I’m pleased to report that Continue reading

Nancy: The Most Important Question You’ll Ask Your Characters

We writers ask our characters a lot of questions. Who are you? What do you want? How will you get it? What are you willing to suffer, sacrifice, and change to reach your goal? If and when you reach it, are you sure that’s the thing you really want, after all?

These are all important questions. They are fundamental to building believable characters. But they aren’t enough to get to the heart of your story. To do that, you have to ask your characters why? Not just once or twice or even three times, but over and over again. Ask it until there is nothing more to uncover, until it seems your characters have nothing left to say. And then ask it one more time.

The importance of the question ‘why’ is a core concept of Lisa Cron’s Story Genius approach to writing. It makes sense. Of course we want to know why our characters do what they do. One way to learn why our characters want and do and react the way they do is to add whys throughout our development process. So what do you want? is followed by why do you want that?. How will you get it? is followed by why is that the path you’ll take?. Etc., etc. Ad infinitum.

And when should you stop asking why? Continue reading