30 May 2011

US Memorial Day Rememberance

"...Here we bow in holy revrence,
Our bosoms heave the heart felt sigh.
They fell like brave men, true as steel,
And poured their blood like rain.
We feel we owe them all we have,
And can but kneel and weep again..."

From the Hymn "Kneel Where Our Loves Are Sleeping"

Words by G. W. R.
Music by Mrs. L. Nella Sweet

Images of sheet music can be found at http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/sheetmusic/b/b08/b0802/

17 May 2011

Story Engineering & Me

Story EngineeringGiven that I majored in engineering, worked as an engineer for several years, and use engineering paper in my writing digital-notebook, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the title of Larry Brooks book, Story Engineering, spoke to me. The book's premise: that each successful story is constructed with six competencies and key plot points.

The six competencies and my quick description of what they mean to me ...
  1. Character - how to view and develop a character
  2. Concept - distinctions between idea and concept and how to develop a concept from an idea
  3. Theme - how to look at theme and develop it in your story
  4. Story Structure - the breakdown of successful stories, and how to use key plot points to develop your story
  5. Scene Execution - how early or late to enter a scene, POV etc.
  6. Writing Voice - how to develop one
The Story Structure competency, where one breaks down a story into core components, is the one that resonated most with me. It may sound formulaic to split a story into separate parts with plot points in certain locations, however Brooks suggests that's not the case with examples to bolster his point. I actually appreciated Brook's framework in order to develop a story/plot. (Reminded me of my product qualification days at Intel when we had to work to a plan to get product out of the factory door with minimal issues. No nostalgia. Really.) Since I'm navigating this creative writing gig, instruction included, on my own so far, I've struggled with the "What comes next?" and "Is that the right thing to write?" questions in my stories. His suggestions as what to consider and how to fit pieces together answered my questions. Not to mention they align to my very structured way of thinking and doing.

I've already begun to incorporate what I've learned about story structure into my current revision. I've wanted people to connect with Akeva, my protagonist, but hadn't gotten the reaction with alpha readers I'd hoped for. Using Brook's framework, I realized that I hadn't set her up to be empathetic as there was no setup in her ordinary world. So I've added a scene with her and her family, the night before she leaves home, which will hopefully create some sympathy. There will be more opportunities for me to bolster that sympathy later in the story, which I fully intend to do.

Another aspect that I like is how Brooks' instruction meshes so well with Holly Lisle's methods from the HTTS and HTRYN online courses, reinforcing each other yet adding something different. For instance he proposes the use of beat sheets, she utilizes sentences that can easily be converted to a story synopsis. They both agree that an author should write only what is necessary to tell the story, and to be hard on your story to make it the best it can be. Holly teaches her students to use scene and story twists as ways to make your story unique. Brooks suggests critical thinking when asking the "What if ...?" question to devise an original story. See, different yet similar.

Overall, I'm pleased I've added this tool to my library and my writer's toolbox. Now off to finish reviewing my notecards, looking for other places to bolster or demolish, as necessary.☺

PS Larry Brooks's blog, storyfix.com, is a good place to learn more about Brook's take on storytelling and Story Engineering.

PPS I don't know Mr. Brooks, and won't receive a kickback from him for this mini-review. Just thought other writers might find my take on his book useful.

06 May 2011

#FridayFlash - Found

A very short version of what I originally planned. And mostly the last one for a while. Enjoy...

Brian Rose tightened the strap on his horse again. Delaying again, get on with it, man.

He’d arrived at Faradoch den Beithe three days ago, prolonging his absence from home further by calling on his cousin, Meriel, and her family. That he would put up with Meriel’s insufferable husband, Ennis, was proof that he’d do just about anything to postpone dealing with his mother.

He checked his bags again.

A voice called from outside the barn. Glad for the interruption, he left his horse saddled and walked outside. 

An unfamiliar voice said, “Finally.” Brian turned towards the voice and nearly bumped into a bonny lass, her shapely form clearly outlined in a soiled, sleeveless shirt and breeches that left her legs bare.

Her green eyes opened in surprise, then her face lit up with relief. She reached out  to him, about to say something, then fainted. He lunged to catch her before she crashed to the ground.

After wrestling off her black bag, he laid her on the ground. Searching for wounds, he found dirt, scratches, and bruises. Blue-black bruises, framed with yellow that blanketed every part of her, even her face. How could anyone deliver blows to leave marks such as these?

Beads of sweat formed on her skin, yet her forehead felt cool to the touch. She needed help. Brian scooped up the lass and her satchel, then trekked back to the house.

Brian glanced down at the limp body in his arms, he’d covered her with his kilt to give her protection from any curious onlookers they might encounter. The few strips of her clothing barely covered her, leaving nothing to the imagination about her womanly curves. Why was she no wearing skirts like a respectable lass?

Her exposed legs and form fitting clothing weren’t the most shocking things about this stranger, nor the way she had literally dropped into his arms. Brian was not a squeamish person, but the sight of her bruises turned his stomach.

03 May 2011

Continuous Education, Your Muse, and A Double-Edged Sword

Continuous education is a good thing.

You and your Muse can't wait to use your newly gained insights from three different craft books. Plot. Character. Structure. Not separate entities, but aspects that feed each other to spin off into new and exciting ways.

You both think about the current story, a behemoth revision you've been working on for what seems like forever, and you both realize it could use some help from the writing craft books you've just read. Then the other first draft stories waiting in the depths of your hard drive suddenly beg for attention and fixes too.

Writing progress halts as you try to plan what to do next ... Finish the current revision with it's flaws or start the revision again? Work that first story that grabbed everyone's attention? Develop that completely new story idea bouncing around in your head?

You don't know where to turn first. Your Muse doesn't care so much so long as she gets working, she's tired of just sitting around.

When you realize the plan you've been working to these past few months just crumbled to dust, your  excitement wains.

In a flash of lightning, you realize that continuous education is really a double-edged sword: a dangerous tool only to be handled when all working drafts are complete and query letters are sitting in  agents' computers.

With the vow fresh on your lips to not touch another writing craft book for a very, very, very long time, you sit at your desk and begin your writing journey anew, wishing that your Muse will still have all her great ideas at hand.

When you glance in your Muse's direction ready to work again, fear and hope wash over you. You glimpse her holding a new toy. Seems she likes the sword analogy and clip-art a little too much.