Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sample Summer Exercise

This quote is by Alice Munroe in The Albanian Virgin.  I used it as the model for a character introduction excerpt of my own.  

“I had met Donald when I went to see him about a rash on my neck.  He was eight years older than I was – a tall, freckled, blushing man, cleverer than he looked.  A dermatologist sees grief and despair, though the problems that bring people to him may not be in the same class as tumors and blocked arteries.  He sees sabotage from within, and truly unlucky fate.  He sees how matters like love and happiness can be governed by a patch of riled up cells.  Experience of this sort had made Donald kind, in a cautious, impersonal way.  He said that my rash was probably due to stress and that he could see that I was going to be a wonderful woman, once I got a few problems under control.”

My words - I met Aaron when I brought in a sample of our water after we discovered oil seeping out of the ground in the corner of our backyard.  He was six years older than I was - a short, sunburnt, solid built man, more patient than he looked.   An assessor sees how dreams can be shattered by unseen elements, though the problems people bring to him are not in the same class as foreclosures, or zoning laws.  He saw how property values and people’s lives can be sabotaged by the shifts underground.  Experience of this sort had made Aaron tentative, in a thorough, impersonal way.  He said my water was probably okay, the depth of the water well my saving grace, but the presence of oil particles in the air would be a bigger detriment to my health than any drinking water issue, and that I was the type of woman who could not only survive this challenge but eventually have a wonderful life.   

As you can see I unabashedly used many elements of Alice Munro’s work as I built these sentences.  The paragraph is not going to be used in any piece of my own fiction, I sought instead an expansion of techniques I could use to bring a story to life. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Summer Writing

I'm enjoying my summer which includes some welcome trips.  For the writer, it both a blessing and a curse.  The good part is that I'm gathering stories.  The bad part is that I have less time to use those impressions, details and story lines in actual writing.  What to do? 
Well, here's the plan. 
I will be writing in the form of exercises.  I have begun a 'Bits and Pieces' as my summer assignment.  These may or may not become part of a larger work, but that doesn't matter.  One of the first things I have done is to find sentences or paragraphs that I admire and use them as models for my own work.  So far this assignment has included these things as models.
A dialogue that is both quoted and summarized. 
A physical description that includes allusions to character.
A handling of time that is effective and brief. 

I have found that finding these models is a valuable exercise, I'm paying close attention to sentences and their purpose within a story.  I'm learning.  Always a good thing. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016


I think I spend too much time being haunted by conversations; mainly my responses.  What I should have said, what I actually meant and so forth.  Like anyone ever has a do-over.  It’s a useless occupation, the situation arose and it went the way it went.  The question was asked and answered.  The opportunity was bungled or handled.  My words were said.  The mistakes were made, the impressions were formed.  It is time to move on. 

However, these hauntings contain potential for story plots once I get over the insanity that is to continue to overthink the incident!  For the sake of my mental health, I’m going to choose story plot.  Here are some steps that have worked for me in the past to move from disturbed to inspired. 

An eerie bird?
First I will make brief notes, with dates and names of what happened.  These truths are then filed.  I have found that because I have recorded the facts of the matter, I can then move away from further mental review.  It (the disturbance) is ‘put down.’ 

Then I am ready to create fiction around the situation.  I will give my feelings to another, or I will create another who thinks and reacts very different than I do and let the incident happen to them.  I will stretch and exaggerate, I will think of dire results or causes.  I will let the seed from my own world grow in a world of its own.