Tag Archives: short stories

Sidekicks

I have always had a thing for sidekicks. Everything from Lethal Weapon’s combo to Batman and Robin from my childhood. There is something about the dichotomy of a duo relationship that I enjoy. Unfortunately, it isn’t something writers always do well. We’ve seen duos fall short in books and film, leaving the reader or viewer disappointed. What makes a duo work?

Who’s the leader: While both characters can be strong, one must be the leader. Sometimes, this presents problems as he is usually the more intense of the two, more bound by rules, and irritating to his partner. However, as the writer it provides you chances to expound on what conflict this competition might cause.

Balancing Strengths: The characters should have different strengths. One character’s strength will offset his partner’s weakness, etc. This allows them to balance each other out in the trials you throw their way. It also provides for a funny partner to lighten a serious one, a quiet character contrasted by one who talks all the time. Opposites attract because the differences are where conflict and opportunity meet. Use it to your advantage.

One goal: Despite their differences, large and small, the two should share a common goal. If they are cops, it is to protect the people by catching bad guys. If they are doctors, it is to save lives, etc. Whatever they may have going on that pulls them apart, this goal should keep them anchored.

Successful film examples for me: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Doc and Marty, Thelma and Louise, and my favorite, Murtaugh and Riggs of Lethal Weapon fame.

What are your favorite sidekicks from literature, TV, or film?

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Green Energy

I have felt like a hybrid car desperately in need of a charge this winter. It seemed like no matter what I did, I could not get off the starting line to move forward in my writing. I’d parked in bad metaphor land. Maybe I attempted too much. I did NaNo while working on another novel and teaching college classes. Not exactly a sane undertaking.

Maybe I had lost my love for the craft. No, I still got excited about prose, just not mine. I was doing all the things I’d done before. I exercised regularly, and I ate right. I met with my writer’s group every week, and I forced my butt into the chair every day regardless of whether anything productive came out of it. And little did.

I understood underlying causes for my funk. My father’s ongoing health battles, my sons’ health issues and the oldest one’s upcoming court date (for anyone new to the blog, he didn’t do anything wrong-a shoplifter stabbed him.) were enough to keep me stressed. Trying to sell two houses, and buy a third, are adding to the insanity line we’re teetering across. Still, I’m a type A personality so this sort of thing usually doesn’t send me to the straitjacket. I finally realized I was worrying so much about why I was in the rut that I wasn’t able to get out of it. Anyone else ever do that?

We attend the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, Inc. (OWFI) Conference every May, and there are contests associated with it. My writer’s group begins prepping our pieces for the contest in October and hope to have them ready to mail off by the mail deadline of February 1. Somewhere in January, I realized I had left my funk behind and hadn’t even thought about it. I’d been so busy and so focused on the contest entries that I had no time to worry about what had caused my writing rut. Now, my entries are all polished and ready to mail, and I’m ready to settle in for a winter of total content writing anything and everything I want. Not once will I think about why I quit for a time and wonder why.

How do you recharge your battery after a down time?

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Writer’s Bucket List

In the September issue of Writer’s Digest is an article on the writer’s bucket list. While we share certain goals, each writer’s bucket list would have some variation to it. Even within my tightly knit writer’s group, there would be some differences. After reading the article, I decided I’d figure out what would be on my list so I can see how many items on my list are done.

1. My goal was always to write a novel. I love reading them and I wanted to do that, write books and tell stories. I’ve now written five so this item on the bucket list is accomplished. Yeah!

2. Publish something, anything. I have published several times. However, for a novelist to only sell her short fiction is to say she isn’t published. Sigh.  I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but I’m so far from done, this doesn’t feel like an item I can declare.

3. Master the short form. It took going to grad school to finally write a short story without it turning into a novel every time. Forty thousand dollars later, I can not only write a short story but sell one. I can definitely declare this one.

4. Book signings. I have both feared and longed for these. I have actually gotten to do this for an anthology I was a part of, and it was a lot of fun. However, there were all of us there together. Not a lone writer in a book store hoping someone shows up. Nope, this one isn’t done quite yet, either.

5. Maybe it’s my theater background; maybe it’s my love of film, but I have always had a dream (okay, fantasy) of seeing one of my books on the big screen. My YA novel is a high concept so it could happen…

What about you? What is your writer’s bucket list like?

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First Pages Deadline Extension

Thanks to life complications on my end, I’ve decided to extend the deadline for submissions to February 1. If you haven’t submitted your first page, get it in soon!

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Hooked:The Story-Worthy Goal

   

By Les Edgerton

In chapter 3 Les said something that caught my attention in one of those stop, reread, feel the lightbulb go on over your forehead, and think how amazing this revelation is ways. The ongoing dialogue of this chapter is the protagonist’s story-worthy goal. The line that stopped me is, “Your protagonist’s story-worthy goal is probably very close to a goal you want to achieve for yourself”(65-66). My first thought was about my YA protagonist, Ginny, and how she is searching for her identity. Who is she really? Where does she fit in? Her parents told her she’s adopted, but she discovers she’s genetically engineered. Think puberty is rough, try that one on for size.

    My second thought was the one that turned the pause into a full on stop. One of the purposes of my excursion into an MFA program was to find my “identity” as a writer. I’d begun writing as a playwright and director. I’d branched from that to novel-writing which, in hind sight, was a horrid leap. The MFA program sent me back to the short story genre which was good for me in a host of ways.

  Still, who was I? When I sat down to write adult novels, they were nearly always mysteries or thrillers. The books I’ve always loved to read. However, every time I sat down to write for young people, this weirdo came out. I have no idea where she came from, but she was all over the place. A paranormal here, a sci/fi there, a horror story on the side, a sweet coming of age story as a chaser. What the heck was that about?

    Here’s where what Les said caused the hair on my arms to raise. The first YA thing I wrote was the sci/fi novel with Ginny which is at its heart the story of a girl who has lost her center. Through no fault of her own, she no longer knows who she is. I relate. Now I know why this book means so much to me. I understand why no matter how much rejection I face, I can’t let go of this story. I’m not Ginny, but her story touches at the heart of all of us who at some point in our lives question who we are. Sometimes it’s in puberty, sometimes it’s in midlife, sometimes it’s in the golden years, sometimes it’s as we exit life; but questioning who we are is as human as we are.

    As you write your WIP, do you think about your character’s story-worthy goal? Have you ever thought of how it might reflect your own goal? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

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Hooked, Chpt. 2

By Les Edgerton

“The opening scene should be relatively short – a good working length would be one to four pages – so it’s important to be concise and make the language work in more than one way”(36). I read this with confidence. After all, I began my writing career writing short (50 minute plays) pieces. I cut my teeth on concision so surely I had done this well. Of course, along with this we need to include those ten components also. Hmm. I printed out my first chapter of the YA. It’s a short 2.5 pages. Let’s see how I did.

Ten components:

Inciting incident: Thanks to Les, I think this is good.

Story-worthy problem: Yup, feeling good about this, too.

Initial Surface Problem: Oh, yeah. It’s there. I’m on a roll.

The Set up: Think this is in place also.

It’s looking good, right? We’ll ignore that, other shoe’s about to drop feeling I’m having.

Backstory: A personal bugaboo of mine. I’ve done well on this. Included just a hint of backstory that is essential to the plot and foreshadowing. Oops, that’s later.

The Opening line: Thud. That’s the other shoe. I have short stories with great opening lines. But my novel does not have a great opening line. And I’m not really sure how to fix it given that she opens in the middle of present tense action. I’ve boxed myself in a corner on that one. Ugh. Les offered great suggestions on this one. So, I’m off to fix it.

Language: I’ve spent more time on the first chapter than I have on any other one chapter. It’s truly gotten the work out. It’s not perfect, but it’s getting there.

Character Introduction: I introduce Ginny, the main character,  but not the antagonist. However, there is the suggestion of one. In the first chapter Ginny refers to the kidnappings so we know there is a bad guy out there somewhere…possibly enough? Hmm. Think on that one.

Setting: In grad school they referred to me as a minimalist. I think some considered it an insult, but I didn’t take it that way. I like to read minimalist fiction so it makes sense I’d write that way. I don’t like fluff in life, and I don’t want it in my writing. However, the other side of that coin, is being too minimalist. I have to ground the reader in this place called Layton. It doesn’t happen in the first scene, but I do ground them in Ginny’s house…well, maybe that could use some work, too.

Foreshadowing: See Backstory above. I love the foreshadowing thing.

I can see that in spite of my repeated work on the first chapter, it’s still  not ready. Sigh. Back to the keyboard for me.

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First Lines

By Les Edgerton

As a writer I’m constantly looking for that great first line. The one that will hook the reader the minute they read it. As a reader I constantly admire – okay, sometimes on an almost pathological level – the first lines of other writers. Man, why didn’t I think of that line? I’m reading Hooked by Les Edgerton so this is on my brain a lot. All the best first lines I’ve read. Some from the great classics:  

Moby Dick: “Call me Ishmael.” Simple, direct. I love it. So did a slew of writers who went on to emulate it making it cliché to try today.  

Gone with the Wind: “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it.” Another incredible line which characterizes Scarlet in ways another writer would have taken pages to accomplish. Amazing use of brevity and wit.  

A Farewell to Arms: “In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.”From Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, this line sets the stage for us.  

Huckleberry Finn: “YOU don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.” Mark Twain’s reference to his signature story is a move of bravado that most wouldn’t get away with. It worked for him and the dialect sold us on the youngster named Huck whose plight is not so far removed from many of his time. The need for family and belonging yet the desire to remain free of a society that would cookie cutter them.  

See Jane Run: “One afternoon in late spring, Jane Whittaker went to the store for some milk and some eggs and forgot who she was.” I’m a long time fan of Joy Fielding’s thrillers, but this is one of the first I read and definitely one of my favorites. She hooked me with this line and Jane’s blood-spattered clothing. Blood she didn’t know who it belonged to. Again a great set up, character, setting, background, and conflict. So much in one sentence.  

Gone for Good:  Harlan Coben’s thrillers are a favorite of mine. He seems to find the perfect first line every time. This is one of my favorites: “Three days before her death, my mother told me – these weren’t her last words, but they were pretty close – that my brother was still alive.” How can you not want to read on from that first sentence? His prominence on the best seller lists says I’m not the only one who feels this way about his books.  

Now if finding and appreciating first lines would help me come up with some great ones of my own…hmm, not really feeling inspired. Better start chapter two and see what Les has to say about it.  

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