Sunday, November 25, 2012

10-minute writing prompts, part i

I am fortunate to have close friends who are also cousins. This means that at big family gatherings, I always have someone to hang out with (though my whole family is awesome. Trust me.). It's an extra bit of good fortune that some of them are also writers. This wonderful combination brought me and my cousins Jessie and Kara to 3 a.m. on Saturday night, when we decided to write stuff. Weird writing prompts was the game; I was introduced to, which I highly recommend for this sort of thing. On the site, you pick two archetypical characters and either a mood or action, which gives you a list of scenarios. The first one we picked was "Trickster desperately wants Warrior to confess." After 10 minutes, this is what I had:

Tamin was playing with his favorite illusion -- shiny, incandescent bubbles. Insubstantial, but he was skilled enough to make it appear as if he was juggling items with actual weight. Tarwar didn't pay much attention. Unless Tamin showed his hand, Tarwar wasn't in the mood to play his games.

Tamin sidled closer, light-filled bubbles shimmering. Little flashes of glare kept twitching across Tarwar's newspaper. It was becoming too distracting. Tarwar raised his eyes.

Almost nonchalantly, Tamin caused his light-bubbles to vanish. "I talked to Ilrien today," he said.

Tarwar didn't answer.

A bubble bounced off the wall behind Tarwar's head and into the trickster's hand, where he tossed it to the ground. He bounced it, up and down, eyes on Tarwar's face. "I asked about the race," he said. "You said you were going to meet her."

"I said that," said Tarwar, noncommittally. He folded the newspaper, and it became a dagger in his hands. The blade, text from yesterday's headlines still visible, flashed with the incessant bouncing of Tamin's bubble.

"She didn't seem to recall having that conversation with you," said Tamin, leaning forward. The bubble of light in Tamin's hand disappeared as he pressed his palms onto the desk between them.

One thing I find interesting about this one is how it seems like I've jumped into a novel. There's some weird sort of a magic where you can apparently fold paper into real weapons, and these characters definitely have a history you don't see.

It's also interesting to note that I don't know that history. I don't know who Ilrien is or what sort of race would be happening in this magical universe. It was just the excuse I came up with to fit the situation. I'm a discovery writer. I make stuff up as I go. Maybe if we had gone a little longer, I would have had to come up with an explanation. Jessie, an outline writer, and I laughed at our different methods.

We did three writing prompts total. The other two will be posted soon. We didn't read them to each other, but it was neat to talk about what scenes we had come up with and how they were different.

If you think it's weird, I do too. Have some grace -- we only had ten minutes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


I don't like the term writer's block. It's not just that it sounds like a nasty thing for us writers, which it is. Mostly it's frustrating because I feel like writer's block is my fault. Am I too uncreative, too moody, too caught up in "the muse" that I can't write whenever I want to? Not usually. Occasionally, however, I simply get stuck because of story reasons.

One thing that can really drag a novel down -- or help it fly -- is the pacing. This causes that, a plot point moves us forward, there's some reaction after this scene to absorb previous action, ebb and flow, purposeful movement. Some writers are masters at this, whether by instinct or training. I like to think it's something I'm tuned to -- I love to pay attention to pacing in novels -- but I definitely don't have the mastery I need to execute it properly.

Is the voice in my head that's telling me there's something wrong with this chapter responding to my sense for pacing? Or is it some other problem with the story entirely? Is it just the voice of self-consciousness and self-criticism that opposes anyone who takes on a creative project? Or am I not being dedicated enough?

Right now, I'm looking at some of the bigger, structural elements of the story. I'm finding that the minor characters I put in have to be there, but need to serve a greater purpose by the end. I have a plot point with tension that needs to emerge in a less contrived way. I need to make the causes leading up to it make better sense, and I have to make an escape seem surprising, yet inevitable.

Oh, chapter five, you needy document.

And chapter five comes pretty early. It's like a foundation for the story -- if I screw up the early parts, the later parts aren't going to have anything sound to stand on.

So I take a break to complain, define my problems for the Internet to see, and move on. What am I doing here? I've got revising to do.