From “To-do” to “Ta-da!”

I had to field a curve this week.  I don’t play, or even watch much baseball but my husband is a Minnesota Twins fan so I’m exposed to it a lot.  I can tell when a televised game is on by the hollering (and sometimes cursing) coming from the television room.

Getting back to my curve – I was getting ready to write my blog post.  I was in the thinking-about-it-a-lot stage when I found out my mother had been having episodes of vertigo that were random, sudden and incapacitating.  Blog post thinking exits stage right and travel plans enter stage left.  A friend volunteered to drive with me and we left Minnesota a day before blog post day.  Now here we are in Florida, Mom hasn’t had another episode (of course) and I didn’t get my blog post done.  This is it, late.

In case you have an inquiring mind, after a myriad of tests and several doctors, her vertigo has been attributed to inner ear problems and she has several exercises to do that seem to be managing it.  She is eighty-six years old and is walking one mile a day instead of two for a while.  She’s my hero.

What this means to my writing is that a lack of routine and scheduling has done me in again.  I have to face that it wasn’t the curve, although it’s a handy excuse.  If I had written blog posts farther in advance it wouldn’t be a problem, it would already be posted in my blog’s dashboard and scheduled to publish on time.  I could even have a few use-any-time blog posts in reserve for emergencies.

My next project – starting as soon as I’m done with this post – is to fill in a calendar with a writing schedule that includes daily time slots for new writing, for editing and for critiquing writers’ group submissions.  I purchased an eight by ten inch plain-Jane calendar that I can attach to my desk hutch.  In the blank spaces and margins will be my monthly goals for each of those categories.  I brought it with me to Florida along with all my WIP (works in progress) files and shiny new loose-leaf soft-sided notebooks, one for each lengthy WIP and one for short stories, flash and new ideas.

Next week I’ll let you know how that’s coming along.

Monday’s Kick-Ass Prompt of the Week (KAPOW)

Last Thursday’s blog post was about responsibility in writing and being our own boss in a responsible manner.

This week’s prompt is to write something bossy in 300 words or fewer.  It can be from the POV (point of view) of the bossor or the bossee.

For last week’s prompt I had to rewrite several times then go over it ad nauseum to rid it of 60 words.  Then after one of the rewrites the word count became moot.  Sometimes it’s like that.  This time word count wasn’t an issue.  And sometimes it’s like that.

Send submissions to caroljgorden@gmail.com.  Put “KAPOW Submission” in the subject line.  They will be posted to the new KAPOW page as soon as I can get to them.  Make sure I know what name I should use for attribution.  I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.  Comments are appreciated.  Kind critique is also appreciated.  My submission is posted on the KAPOW Submissions page.  When the new week’s prompt submission is posted the past week’s submissions will be moved to that month’s KAPOW sub-page.

 

THE ULTIMATUM

by C J Gorden

Tipping her head back as far as it would go, she screamed her frustration to the rafters.  When she was out of breath, she brought her attention back to the miscreant before her.

“Don’t you give me that look,” she said through gritted teeth.  “You did that on purpose.  And don’t even try giving me those goo-goo eyes.  You knew what you were doing.  How many times do we have to go through this?  I’ve had it.  I’m done.  And what are you going to do if I quit playing this game with you, huh?  You’ll suffer, that’s what.”

She studied her charge to see what, if any, effect her words were having.  What she saw was not encouraging.  Throwing up her hands, she said, “I’m going to give you one more chance.  Try that again with me and you’re out of here.  You’re not indispensable you know.”  She considered that and softened a bit.  Then she straightened her back and issued her ultimatum.

“I’m going to the house to wash this bucket.  Again.  When I get back here, you better stand there until I’m done and not put your freaking foot in the bucket again.  The neighbor has another nice dairy goat she’s more than willing to sell me and I’m really considering it.  Got it?”  On that, she stomped out of the barn and back up to the house.

You’re not the boss of me

I am all for independent thinking.  Don’t tell me what to write and don’t tell me how to write it.  Well, maybe suggestions would be okay, but only if I ask for them.  In a perfect world, anyone who reads my writing would just be completely impressed.  That was my initial sparkly fantasy about being an author.  Since then, the realities of writing have intruded into my psyche.  That hasn’t been a bad thing.

The written word (as well as other forms of story-telling) is powerful.  It has the ability to bring people to a subject or situation they may never have considered before, and it has the potential to sway opinions.  In anything capable of wielding such power, responsibility is intrinsic.

Wait just a minute!  Hold the phone, Charlie!  Say what?  Yeah.  That was my reaction, too.  What does this mean to me? I thought as my initial fantasy faded into an ethical quagmire.  Well, I’ve had many moons and several opportunities to think about it since then.

These are my choices: I can write in a way that benefits and gratifies both reader and community, or I can squander my efforts on biased, badly researched, self-serving writing.  I’m not saying I won’t write controversial issues.  I’m not saying I won’t write in controversial ways.  Authors of some of the classics presented in high school English classes were considered muckrakers when they were published, on a par with yellow journalism.  Their controversial writing stirred up the powers that be and precipitated change.  Prime examples are The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, which is about the meat packing industry a hundred years ago and Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in the 1960s, which brought the dangers of pesticides to light.

My point is they had a point and it was for the betterment of society as a whole.  Does that mean you can’t write a light piece that doesn’t tackle the big questions plaguing us all?  Nuh-uh.  My largest work in progress is a young-adult-turns-vampire story.  It’s not going to turn society on its ear nor re-write political rhetoric.  It’s going to entertain.

That said, my novel has interpersonal conflict and portrays social issues.  It’s a given.  It’s about a 15-year-old girl, her friends and relatives and they’re living in this world.  Any time you have a varied cast of characters launching on a quest it’s bound to happen whether in this world, on another world or in another universe.  Some things are universal.

My bad guys will think themselves good guys but will suffer consequences for bad choices.  My good guys will have an assortment of foibles and will sometimes make bad choices.  Again, there will be consequences.  All this comes about through conflict, just like real life.  Ask any teenager.

While preparing for this post I found sites that have tackled the issue from several viewpoints.  They are worth a look and are presented in no particular order.

First is William Mastrosimone, who is a movie writer in Hollywood and has impressive credits.  He wrote this article called “Confessions of a Violent Movie Writer” for a site that is no longer active but the information is still there for educational purposes.  You can find it here.

Another is at Media Literacy @ suite 101.  Called “A Writer’s Responsibility:  To Move and To Change,” it’s authored by Katherine Ward.  She aims her post to writers with a writing degree and assigns them a greater ethical burden.  I have to disagree on that point.  It doesn’t take a degree to write effective fiction or non-fiction, although it can’t hurt.  The onus is inherent to the writing, whether or not the author has a degree.  That said, the post is a good one.  You can find it here.

Next is not one but two posts by Annie Neugebauer on her blog by the same name and subtitled “The madness.  The heartbreak.  The writing.”  Amen, Sister.  I read the blogs in reverse order.  She refers to the second post in the first, which I found in a Google search.  The first post is titled “Disagreeing with Books: Writer Responsibility and Reader Accountability.”  It can be found here.  The second post was written earlier and is titled “Why I’m Tired of People Ragging on Twilight.”  It is a post that addresses the same issue from the back door and can be found here.

I’m compelled to mention a book called Writing and Responsibility by Carl Tighe which is apparently a text book.  I’m sure any student can attest that would account for the hardcover price tag of $110.00 at Amazon but you can get it for Kindle or in paperback for under $30.  I haven’t read it, but I intend to buy it with my next paycheck.  The editorial reviews on Amazon are sterling and the author’s creds are impressive.  Amazon’s offering is here, but I’m sure it’s available elsewhere as well.

Balancing writing ethics and personal freedoms is something each of us has to decide for ourselves.  My stand is firm, but if I should read a compelling enough argument or fictional situation, I might have to revise my view.

Thoughts?  Speak!  Please.

Monday’s Kick-Ass Prompt of the Week (KAPOW)

The last blog post had to do with the power of persuasive words which came about when a car dealership referred me to its “Fulfillment Department” to procure an extended warranty on my car.

Today’s prompt is to write about a wish or wishes in a way that stirs up emotion in the reader 300 or fewer words.  It’s okay but not necessary to stick to one emotion.  The entire emotiverse is your oyster.  If there’s an emotion you feel you have trouble conveying, that’s the one to go for.  This is all about stretching your writing skills.

It’s my wish that you’ll share.  My next wish is that I’ll come up with something myself.  I never do these prompts ahead of time.  After I write the prompt, I write the piece.  Sometimes that may show, but “it’s an exercise, Jim, not a contest.”

 

LOVES ME, LOVES ME NOT

by Carol Gorden

Lifting her wet cheek from her folded arm, she came up to her elbows in the meadow behind the church and was face-to-face with a daisy.  She ripped it out by the root with a clenched fist, threw her head back, baring her throat and bowing her back, and screamed, the whisper of her veil unheard.  Blinking back tears she focused on the daisy, bent and forlorn in her fist, and pounded the ground with it.

“I wish I never met him!” she said to the pulverized daisy still in her fist.  She hauled herself to a sitting position cross-legged under clouds of white satin and lace white now sullied with grass stains and thought it appropriate.

“Why?”  Eyes closed she was very aware of him has he circled warily.  Opening eyes blackened by smeared mascara she saw him mirroring her pose nearly knee to knee.  She looked daggers at the daisy.

“I heard your friends.”  She drew a shuddering breath.  “They wondered how you could cheat on me so close to our wedding.”  She looked up at him.  “So do I.”

“They heard you leave and came and got me.”  He searched her face.  “You know my former friend, right?  The one getting married next weekend?  Your brother just replaced him as usher.  Good thing they’re about the same size.”  She stared at him, motionless.  “I told you I’d wait,” he said.  “I have.  I am.  As long as it takes.”

She stared at him for several heartbeats, then, “I am so, so sorry.”

He leaned forward and whispered a breath away from her lips, “Do I have to wait any longer?”

She clamored to her feet, careful of her dress, pulling him and the daisy back to the church with a breathless, “No!”

Persuasive words

I got “an opportunity” in my snail mail the other day from the car dealership where I took my new-to-me car for an extra coded key and a remote.  We bought a 2003 Ford Crown Victoria a couple of months ago and it only came with one key and no remote.  I’m spoiled; I wanted a remote.  I’m also absent minded, so I figured another key would be a must sooner or later as well.  The car has a coded key that works in concert with the car’s security system.  If I ever lost the key, which has happened before, I would have to have the car towed to a dealership so they could plug it into a computer and program a new key.

Back to the point.  The letter said they would like to offer me an extended warranty on my used car and assured me it would be a good idea.  All I had to do was call their Fulfillment Department.  Say what?  I cracked up.  Sounded like a department you might find in Saint Nick’s workshop, not a car dealership.  I suspect the reason behind this renaming of the financial or billing department is because it works; it persuades people to buy the extended warranty.  Who doesn’t want their wishes fulfilled?

There aren’t many people who know the impact of words on an unsuspecting public like admen do.  It’s in their job description- it’s what they get paid for.  Hey!  That’s what I want, too!  I don’t write for the money, I write because I love it and because I just have to.  If there was no way to make money at it, I’d do it anyway.  Heck, so far that’s what I am doing.

Fact is, I want to be so good people want to read my words – lots of people – people who spend money to do it, preferably, like I do to read the words of others.   I’m not content to be the writer-darling of my extended family and friends.  I love them dearly and am always flattered by their opinions, but I have to suspect them of bias, so it’s not enough.  Call me a validation hound, but there it is.

In order for this to happen, my words have to be persuasive and plentiful.   The admen are restricted by the brevity inherent in thirty-second to one-minute ads audio or video ads, magazine pages and advertizing letters.  To date my pieces run the gamut of one hundred words to fifty thousand words.  In all those words, my goal has been to persuade readers to feel what my characters are feeling, anticipate or fear for what might happen next and be so wrapped up in the words that they weep, chew their bottom lip or laugh aloud.

So, when you read or hear something that moves or compels you, whether it’s from admen or novelists, pick apart how they did that and see how it might relate to your craft.  The world is truly an education.  The lessons are everywhere; avail yourselves then tell me what you learn.

Monday’s Kick-Ass Prompt of the Week (KAPOW)

Last week’s blog post was about usage of parentheses, ellipses and dashes, and the pitfalls of overuse.  This week’s Kick-Ass Prompt of the Week is to write a piece incorporating all three punctuation marks in less than 100 words.  I don’t know about you but whenever I write with that kind of punctuation, it tends to be closer to the side of fluff or juvenile sass.  I’m going to work at avoiding that this time.  Still thinking about how.  For the purposes of this challenge you may use whatever form you like.

I’m really hoping you decide to submit your answer to the challenge; I’d really like to see what you come up with.  Send your submissions to caroljgorden@gmail.com and I’ll post them as soon as possible.  The current week’s submissions will be on the KAPOW Submissions page and when the next week’s challenge is posted, those from the week before will move to the sub-page for that month.

Ready?  Set.  Write!

 

HOWL

by C J Gorden

Trying to slow his breathing (and thereby his pounding heart) he started counting breaths – three in, four out, three in, four out …  He was fairly quivering with anticipation as he peered down the path through the crisp, heart-shaped green leaves of the foliage where he was hiding.  She had refused him, called him a player, a wolf.  Twit.  He could have changed for her, but not now.  He was about to give her what she expected.  Catching a glimpse of her red hoodie coming down the path, his heart pounded anew.  Awrrrrrrooooo …

Parentheses, ellipses and dashes, oh my!

I have to admit to a love affair with the three versatile punctuation marks in this post’s title.  But like too many love affairs, this one is driven by undemanding attraction, convenience and an avaricious need for immediate gratification.  Mind you there is a place for such pleasures.  What I’m finding out is that given further effort and a deeper goal, the written word can be deeply satisfying and more in-depth.

Let me explain.  More and more what I’m reading is rife with said punctuation.  The writing is cute, flashy and trendy.  Like I said, there is a place for that.  If I’m writing a piece that’s short and sassy, cute, flashy and trendy may be just what I want.  If, however, I’m writing a piece that aspires to win the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature or a Pulitzer, limiting the use of such razzle-dazzle would probably be prudent.  I know, I know, winning a Nobel or a Pulitzer is not the goal of writing.  I’m just trying to show the pendulum swing from ditzy prose (which I occasionally write on purpose) to Literature (notice the capital “L”.)  While it grates my last nerve when people discuss literature as if it has a capital “L” and does not include genre or speculative fiction, I’m using it to make my point – which I then had to qualify.  Yeah.  That will probably be another post.

I was watching the past season of  The Voice at Hulu.com.  I never seem to be in front of the television at the right time, so I try and watch The Voice, America’s Got Talent and Britain’s Got Talent on the computer.  I love those shows but sometimes I get bored and play solitaire or Mahjongg at the same time – or even (gasp) click through the rehash parts and the yadda-yadda-yadda.  My point is that when the coaches work with the contestants, they invariably tell them their remarkable abilities to warble and hit Cloud Nine with vocal temerity is admirable, but it has more impact if it’s done less often.  The point of delivering a song is to impact, not merely impress the listener.  Impress them and they go “Oooooh.  Wish I could sing like that.”  Impact them and they go “Oooooh.  Where can I buy that?”

I looked up the ins and outs of usage for each of these punctuation marks and more, but I don’t have room in this post to recap it for you.  So here’s your homework:  Look it up yourself.  I’ll even supply some reference sites.

There are proper and improper ways to go about even a relationship based on infatuation.  Really.

Here’s what I found:

http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/dashes-parentheses-commas.aspx

http://www.myenglishteacher.net/dashes.html

http://www.uhv.edu/ac/newsletters/writing/grammartip2005.10.25.htm

http://darcknyt.deviantart.com/journal/Dots-and-Dashes-The-Em-Dash-and-Ellipsis-214173994

http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/ellipsis.aspx

http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/how-to-use-ellipses.aspx

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: