They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Can you write a thousand words about this photo? Who is he? What is he thinking? What is his life like? What or who is he looking at? Is he pensive, or sad, discouraged or simply thoughtful? What do your creative juices tell you about this person? How can you make him come alive for readers?
Writing is a way of exploring our lives, whether we write nonfiction or fiction. But sometimes it’s hard to dig deep into places we’d rather forget. But to create real characters who jump off the pages we have to explore those darker sides of ourselves, so we can translate them into “real” paper people, characters with a true character arc.
Read the prompt, take a deep breath, set your timer and begin to write. Let the words just flow; no judgment, no whitewashing, no skirting the issue. Let it all hang out, so it can be easily accessed for your “real” writing.
Write about a time when you failed. Why? What happened? What did you do wrong? What could you have done differently?
Some opening sentences can set our minds spinning, especially if we have to finish the sentence. We end up being taken to places we might never think of on our own. But spurred by the Muse, off we go, perhaps into the opening of a whole new story!
Set your timer and let your creativity have free rein on this one! Where will you end up? (And, as always, feel free to change the pronoun and tense if you desire.)
If she hadn’t been blind before, she would be after….
This sweet photo is sure to spark some creativity. What do you see here? Who is this garden fairy? What is she reading? What does she do when no one is watching, when the night is dark and all are asleep? Just how magical is she?
Set that timer and begin to write… now!
Today we have one of my favorite authors, Shirley Radcliff Bruton. To me, she is the quintessential poet who recently began to meander over into pose. But, no matter what she writes, poetry or prose, she adds an element of elegance, a delving into the deepest parts of our psyches, a poetic drumbeat that echoes in every word. What she writes grabs hold of you with the gentlest, kindest of hands, and doesn’t let go. Here she talks about writing both poetry and prose.
Writing poetry is a gift. Writing prose is a learning process. I have an idea in mind when I write in both genres, it’s just that one flows easier than the other.
I had a wonderful introduction into fiction writing by Susan Tuttle. Susan’s writing class took me down a non-intuitive road. I felt like my mind was exploding, trying to grasp what she was saying and then apply it to her short writing exercises. She was kind and patient.
Susan is a great observer, challenging me every step of the way. Even though sometimes I don’t like to hear it, most often I learn a great deal from her and my rewrites. The Friday Night Writers’ Group, of which she is a member, is another source of learning. We all treat each other with great respect, while not holding back our critiques. They’re wonderful teachers!
I recently read A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness. What a brilliant writer. You drop into this story like room temperature butter to toast. I was totally captivated. I watched the movie (same name) twice on Netflix. He writes for YA audiences.
It still amazes me, but I have two books of prose coming out this year:
Z is a book for 5 years and up. It’s an illustrated picture book. The main character is Z, a multi-ethnic old woman, who lives in a cabin within a forest. Z is psychic and practices her native rituals. She is also in tune with the natural world and teaches Milo, a gifted boy of 5, her way of life. The story is told by Milo, now an adult, to his daughter, Sara.
Jake is a YA story about a middle-aged woman who’s lost both her husband and son in a tragic accident. She finds connection to life again by befriending a teenage boy, Jake, who connects with no one, except insects. It takes place in 1961-2.
Thank you, Shirley, for a fascinating look into your journey from poetry to prose. I know I’m looking forward to reading both Z’s and Jake’s stories.
Shirley’s book of poetry, This ‘N That, written with author Debra Davis Hinkle, is available on Amazon. Check it out. You’ll get Shirley’s lyrical, intuitive poetry as well as Debra’s heart-grabbing, cogent poems. What more could one ask for in a poetry book?
Here’s a little prompt to help you dig into your own life and maybe be able to translate that into your writing. You can do this as yourself, or, for a true challenge, become one of your characters and do the exercise as him or her. Again, it’s a timed exercise, so set your timer and write non-stop for 10, 15, or 20 minutes.
Write about what true friendship means to you.
Today we have Chelsea Thomas, one of my favorite authors. I was honored that she would agree to do a post for me. And I learned some fun, and unexpected, things about her… how about you?
Before I answer these questions, I want to make it clear that all Chelsea Thomas books are written by me and my husband, Matt. So even though all my answers will be about me (Chelsea) personally, all my cozies are co-written by both of us. OK! Excited to answer these questions!
Susan: What is the first thing you had published, and when?
Chelsea: The very first thing I had published was probably an editorial in the local paper in Florida, about why art classes were important to me. I was in middle school and quite passionate about the topic!
S: What is the one story you want to write, but just can’t?
C: When I was a kid, I wrote a mystery series called Autumn Waters. I used to do live readings of the new installments every week for the kids who rode my bus. I’d incorporate bullies from school as villains, that kind of thing.
I’ve wanted to novelize those Autumn Waters stories for a long time, but haven’t been able to figure it out yet.
S: Who is your favorite antagonist in your stories, and why?
C: I love Sunshine Flanagan, the beautiful but spiteful police chief in our books. There’s something really satisfying to me about a villain who is gorgeous and amazing and powerful. You love to hate her and you’re also kinda jealous of her.
S: Why do you write the genre you write?
C: friend of mine, Christy Murphy, was writing cozy mysteries and recommended it… plus, I’ve always been a mystery fan.
I watched and read a ton of Poirot and Miss Marple and Sherlock growing up. It’s a gratifying genre, because there’s a mystery and then it’s solved. It’s fun to plot and to have a sense of justice and closure at the end of every book. Like finishing a puzzle.
S: What is your favorite writing snack?
C: Pizza Pringles. Hands down.
S: What is the most valuable piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
There’s been a lot. But probably just to write things you like. Ideas that immediately set your imagination in motion always turn out better than ideas you have to force into realization.
S: How many times do you re-do the opening of your stories before you are satisfied with them?
C: Basically once. My husband/writing partner and I do a lot of prep for our books, so by the time we get to the first draft it’s pretty close to the finished product.
S: Do you blog? If so, what do you blog about?
C: I don’t blog but I love reading them!
S: What has helped you most in your growth as a writer?
C: Reading. And writing. That might sound overly simple, but it’s true. Nothing is more helpful to me than absorbing as much good writing as I can, and then sitting down and trying to reverse engineer my own stories.
S: Are you writing anything now that surprises you?
C: Matt and I just finished writing the screenplay for a horror movie, which is not normally our niche. But we loved it. And there’s a lot of overlap in the Venn diagram of horror/comedy/mystery, so the genre felt familiar in surprising ways.
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USA Today Bestselling Cozy Mystery Author
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If you haven’t yet read any of Chelsea and Matt’s Apple Orchard Cozy Mystery series, you’ve really been missing out. I, for one, can’t wait for the next installment of the series. Talk about great, fun, and satisfying reads! See for yourself! Start with “Apple Die”, book 1, and I guarantee you’ll be marathoning through the entire series in no time!
Opening sentences can be so much fun, especially if they send a shiver down your back when you read them. Here’s one that can be as full of creepy crawlies as you want… or perhaps none! Read the sentence, set your timer, and have a ball!
We found chains attached to the basement wall when we moved in.
What’s In A Name?
Humans can’t learn to speak cat. Don’t even try to teach them. They are not smart enough to pick it up, other than trying to utter a few meows that translate into nothing. No matter how often you speak to them, no matter what you try to tell them, they just won’t get it.
This is a true human failing, one of the major proofs that they are so much less than cats.
Of course, we cats are a secretive breed; we don’t tell everything to everyone, not even other cats. Usually we don’t bother speaking to those cats we meet, and when we do, we don’t often give out our real name, the one given to us by our parents at birth. That is a sacred name, one only shared by special felines, not casual or new acquaintances, so often we’ll use a nickname, or an alias. Any times we’ll just say, “Call me ma’am. Or sir.”
I still remember when my Mom and Dad, a few days after my birth, pronounced my forever name: Meggidy Mags. A shudder of pleasure at the sound rippled through me; its essence settled deep within me. Within moments I became Meggidy Mags. It was the quintessence of who I am. It was a moment beyond sacred, and no name any human servant might call me could ever come close.
Humans, not understanding this fundamental truth about cats, not knowing we already have a forever name, will spend hours—and sometimes days—figuring out the “perfect” name for you. But remember, it’s not a “real” name, it’s just one of their own devising, one that feels “right” to them. They don’t seem to care if it feels right to you.
Of course, this is not a really bad thing. It sets us apart, and far above, humans’s canine pets. Unlike dogs (shudder) who lap up whatever humans do for them, cats can choose whether or not to respond. We do not have to “obey our masters” since we don’t have any—we are the masters! So much of the time we won’t come running whenever the human who shares our house calls us, using a name that isn’t really ours.
Here’s how it works: When you hear the human-given name, stop and think about how you want to respond. Do you really want to be disturbed, to be taken away from what you are currently occupied in doing: napping; cleaning your face/body; eating; watching birds out the window; playing with your toys; redecorating the house; etc? Which is more important, your desires, or your human’s? I think the answer to that is obvious.
I say, unless it involves food—and especially treats—then either answer the summons if it fits into your plans, or don’t bother yourself about it. Humans need to understand this; if they want blind, unthinking obedience, they should get a dog. Dogs come running when they hear the call; we cats, when we hear the summons, take a message and get back to our humans at our convenience.
Yes, this is yet another matter of properly training your human caregiver to give you the care you deserve. It will take time, but eventually your human will understand that you do not come at their beck and call; you come when you feel like it. However, you will find that humans will come running whenever you call them. A loud yowling, a pathetic-sounding mewling, and many other combinations of sounds will get them to your side, whether you want food, an ear scratch, the curtain moved so you can see more clearly out the window, your toy tossed across the room, whatever. Humans are like living machines; program them properly to respond to “I need you” and you’ll never have to worry about name what they call you ever again.
Remember: a name by any other name will not call a cat!
Another Wednesday, another writing prompt. Here’s one you can have fun with… who knows what it’s a picture of? What do you see in this photo? What is happening, or has happened? What caused the pockmarks?
Let your Muse have fun playing with this one, and see what happens on your (real or virtual) paper once open gets moving or fingers get tapping keys. You know the drill: give the photo a good look, set your timer, and start writing!