Tag Archives: Online Writing

Flash Fiction Contest

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Cover of "Obsessed"

Cover of Obsessed

I was thinking about a character in my book,  The Tower. Tony who is completely obsessed with the protagonist. Samantha (Sam) was on his mind constantly. This obsession with Sam caused him to make  costly mistakes in his life.  Have you have been obsessed with someone or something?

The Merriam Webster Dictionary  defines obsession as a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling; broadly : compelling motivation <an obsession with profits>.  That definition covers a multitude of things. A person can have an obsession over anything from dust to peanut butter,  or I should say from A to Z.

I have been obsessed with reading a book.  Just couldn’t put it down until it was finished. Right now I couldn’t tell you the name of it if my life depended on it, but I’ve been there and been totally drawn into the story. That’s one of my wishes for my books. They won’t be able to put it down once the reading has begun.

I think new love is an obsession.  Do you remember the time when you waited with bated breath for the phone to ring, just to hear the voice that began your heart fluttering.  Hanging onto every word that came out of their mouth and always wanting to hear more.  The anxiety that built because you couldn’t be with them as much as you wanted. The tears when they had to go away. Fantasizing your life with them, happy forever after.  It’s a wonderfully, miserable time.

Some people can carry an obsession to the point that it is dangerous for the person who has the obsession, or if they are obsessed with another person it could be dangerous for them also. There has to be some mental instability to stalk someone just so you can see their every move during the day or night.

I said all of this to make the point that obsession can be a good story line because of the tension that it causes.  Write a 100 word piece of flash fiction using obsession and see what you come up with.  In fact the person who submits the best flash fiction to me will win their choice of an eBook (under $4.00) from Amazon.com. A winner will be announced April 14th.  Please send  the flash fiction as an attachment along with the name and author of the eBook you would like to have. Please include the email address where you would like it sent. Emails will be deleted so be sure you attachment has the needed information. Last day for submissions will be March 31, 2012 and the winner will be announced on April 14th, 2012. Send entries to shirley_mclain@yahoo.com Happy Flashing…..

A Little Help Needed From My Friends…..

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A week or so ago I wrote a blog called, “How Do You Know.” It’s about trying to decide on a name of a book of short stories. Well, I am now putting together my book of short stories and it’s called, “Shirley’s Shorts and Flashes.” It’s a simple title that I thought would work out OK.

Now I am in the process of having a cover designed for the book. I always have a lot of fun doing this but trying to decide which is the best cover to use is enough to make you lose your mind.  The first instructions I gave them was to try make something to go with the title.  I ended up with a lot of very well done covers, but they looked like they belonged on a children’s book, instead of stories that mostly deal with mystery and death and other things.  I had to say oops, I was wrong and lets start over and so they did. I ended up with 135 designs that I have now whittled down to seven.

I know the artwork on a book-cover usually tells you something about the book.  What kind of artwork do you choose when you have a little bit of every genre in the book? I  picked what appealed to me and hope that I make the right decision.  Actually, how about a little help from my friends?  Go to 99designs and help me pick a cover.   In the sidebar under blogroll you will find a link that will take you directly to the voting page. If you think of anything that you think might help the cover, just tweet and let me know.

I love writing and the entire book making process.  I hate marketing, but that’s another blog.

How Do You know?

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The best short stories of Mark TwainOK, I admit it, I really don’t know a great deal about writing.  That expression “flying by the seat of my pants” is exactly what I’m doing. I have to say I learn something new  every day and I find that exciting. Knowledge is what makes the world go round. Everything we have in life is due to someone’s knowledge and ingenuity.

Right now I am struggling with a simple thing(not to me), that is knowing, but not knowing enough.  I want to get the perfect title for a book of short stories.  I came up with a list of titles, but nothing seems right.  The stories are of different genres from horror to mystery with  even a love story or two. A title might fit one but not all.  So how do you come up with a title?

I’ve tried the internet and I can’t say I got much help from there. There was lots of information about how to write a short story. There were a couple of articles that mentioned naming but they were talking about one story not a dozen or so.  Usually my titles just come to me but not this time.

We all want the perfect title that will grab the attention of the reader so they will pick up the book. We want the title to lead them to open the book, and never put it down until it’s read. Here are six keys to writing a title by Terri Marie of White Wing Entertainment:
1. Write down all possible titles. Anything and everything you can think of. You never know which phrase may catch and stick.
2. Pay attention to how YOU feel when you tell others your title. Do you feel proud, tentative, scared, stupid? The feeling you want is like a proud mother or father of your new little baby. Give it the best name you can. It will be called that name the rest of its life.
3. I also researched other titles on amazon. You don’t want a title that everyone has. It will get lost. You also don’t want a title so obscure or under-descriptive that nothing will come up on a search.
4. It needs to have intrigue and yet be clear.
“Things Your Priest Doesn’t Want You To Know,” would be intriguing. So would “Things Your (fill in the blank) Doesn’t Want You To Know.” We humans like to know what others are doing, thinking feeling etc.
5. Does your title help the reader to become a better person? We want to strive higher, yet it has to be an achievable goal without huge effort. If your title is “How to increase your IQ by 10 points, studying an extra 5 hours a day,” I’m not interested.
6. Sum up your book in one sentence. Write as many as you can of these one liners. If you get just one chance to give a message from your book to others, what would you say? That’s often all you get. Use it wisely. When it all comes down to it, go with your gut.

Does knowing the above information make it any easier? It doesn’t for me. When it comes to titles, how do you know?

 

 

How’s Your Title Coming Along

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Cover of "On Writing:  A Memoir of the Cr...

Cover of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

If you are like me, it may take some time to come up for the appropriate title for your work. It goes for anything that you want to place before the public.  I find I can think of titles, but something inside of me knows it doesn’t quite fit (I wonder if that’s my muse talking).

Sometimes the titles are correct from the start for me.  My book that was originally published in November of last year, had the title of “The Tower”.  When I did a revision of the book this year, I felt the title needed expanding.  I actually gave it a subtitle.  It is now”The Tower, A Jensen Mystery.”  The book I hope to publish this coming year is called “Dobyns Chronicles”.  I haven’t been able to come up with a new title, so it is the one that stuck (cover is designed).

If you have problems, I have found an article from Daily Writing Tips  which gives seven ways to help you find the correct title for your work.

1.  Think of adjectives, nouns and verbs which describe your work.  Write them down and then try pulling your title from them.  You can mix them around to see what works best.

2. Look for an important turning point in your novel or focus on the climax.  Describe the event on paper  Pick out the words or phrases which stand out to you.  See if something works for you for a title.

3.  Pick out novels or short stories that run in the same genre as your work.  Study the titles and how they relate to the story.  Then,  look at your project as a whole.  Think of the theme or overall message of your book.  Write down some words that go along with your theme and work them to see if you can find your title.

4.  Avoid the obvious “The” titles like “The Pink Slipper” or The Brown Dog“.  Look for a slight recurring themes or undercurrents in your novel and try naming your novel after those subtle nuances.

5.  Poets have a way of weaving words into a beautiful picture.  Read some famous poetry and write down words and phrases that stick out to you.  Song lyrics can have the same effect. You can find some powerful titles by mixing, matching and combining words from lyrics.

6.  Consult your thesaurus and look up synonyms for commonly occurring words in your novel.  Look up this synonyms in the dictionary to get a better understand of their meaning.  Use different words in context to find a combination that you like.

7.Type title generator into your search engine and see what pops up.  There are several websites that will either random titles .

I have also included a video on picking your title.  Enjoy……..

http://youtu.be/L0OJuB2yX50

Raining Fish

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Thunderstorm - NOAA

Image via Wikipedia

This is a Flash Non-fiction.  I’m not even sure there is such a thing.  All I have heard about is Fash Fiction.  This could be flash fiction but the problem is, it’s not fiction.  I do want to talk a little about Flash Fiction.  It is one of my favorites to write.

I use to worry about how long a flash fiction piece is supposed to be.  It took me awhile to figure out there is no set length.  I have seen anywhere under a thousand words to the hard to do fifty word story.

You have to start your story somewhere in the middle because you do not have room for elaboration.  You can’t start your story with Once upon a time in a far away land….  You have to be tight with your writing.

You also have to make it interesting enough to hold your reader’s attention.  The story has a beginning, middle and end.  It is done in few words.  You want the reader to guess until the very end about your story.  As you can see you have some challenges when writing this type of story.

I hope you enjoy my story of Raining Fish.

The news headline of “Rain of Frogs in Essex County,” reminds me of my own childhood experience of finding live perch in our front yard.  I was ten years old
at the time.  We had one of those severe, Oklahoma thunderstorms.  It rained so
hard you couldn’t see through it. The young trees bent to the ground from the
wind. I found the fish flopping around in the mud holes after the storm had
passed.  Being both fascinated, and confused, I knew beyond doubt fish did not live in our front yard.

I picked a fish up off the ground, and ran to my mother to show her the prize I had in my hand.  I thought it was strange she wasn’t as surprised by the discovery of the fish in the yard as I was.  She was cooking supper, and didn’t want to answer my questions right then. She told me we’d talk after supper, and to get out of the kitchen until I was called for supper.

The next forty-five minutes I remained baffled as to how those fish ended up in our front yard. Did God give them to us to eat? No, because they were too small.  Most of them were two to three inches long.  Did birds drop the fish as they flew over our yard? No, it was storming with the heavy rain and high wind.  Birds wouldn’t be flying in that kind of weather.

I finally ate my supper, and by the time our supper was through, I was really ready to talk. “Okay, mama, can we talk now?”

Mama laughed at me when I told her the reasons I thought of for the fish being in the front yard. The story she told me was very interesting, and made sense.  During severe storms, sometimes tornadoes form and come down over ponds and lakes. They pick up the small fish with the water and carry the water and fish over land, releasing it.  I have always heard of it raining cats and dogs, but I can literally say I have seen it rain
fish.

http://youtu.be/DoYpO0Mz2-4  This is a cute video on flash fiction.  I hope you enjoy it.

Who’s Doing The Talking

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Centre for Dialogue Logo

Image via Wikipedia

Today is Monday and it’s time for “The Blog.”  Today I want to share a little about talking in your writing, otherwise known as “Dialogue”.  In fiction anything which isn’t narration and is in quotes is dialogue.  Dialogue holds your reader’s attention, lets them get to know your characters better.  If you went out on a date and there wasn’t conversation, do you think you would go out on a second date.  I wouldn’t and I don’t suspect you would either.  That conversation is vital in establishing a relationship.  It is the same with fiction writing.

You can also do the opposite.  What if you went out with someone who talked all the time.  You couldn’t get a word in because the person wouldn’t shut up.  Would you do a repeat of that performance?  Fiction writing requires  a happy medium.  You want your dialogue balanced with your narration.

You can write about any given moment in a story by two methods:  scene or summary.  Summary is where the action is summarized, or otherwise told to the reader.  Scene writing is where dialogue comes into play (excuse the pun).  Your reader hears the conversation and can see what is happening in their minds eye.  Using dialogue makes the writing stronger.  It makes the writing seems more lifelike and dramatic.

Dialogue moments of real significance to your story.  Examples

Dee and Andy walked to the kitchen, flipped the light on before going to the sink to do the dishes.    Dee would do the washing, and Andy would dry the dishes.

“Hey Andy, are you going to help me with the dishes?”

“Sure I am, you cooked the dinner.”

Dee and Andy walked to the kitchen, laughing at the idea of Dee cooking.  She flipped on the light switch, and they headed to the sink.

“I’ll wash and you can dry, Andy”

“Sure, not a problem.”

The dialogue added more to the scene of the story.  It gave it some life, not just a flat sentence.

We just have to figure out when we want our characters to talk.  When is going to provide the most impact.

Todays video is on Dialogue.  See you Wednesday.

Do You Need Action, Baby?

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Character Rick Deckard has a hard time resisti...

Image via Wikipedia

As a writer, we all wat action.  We want the action in our writing.  We want action to keep our readers interested and to keep the story moving along.  Would you read a book that did’t have any action written into it. Even the Bible had action within it’s stories.  Action can be oe of the methods of revealing a character.  Actions are all revealing, but in a crisis your character can reveal his/her true character, intentions.

Flannery O’Connor, once made the statement “If you put fourteen characters in the exact same circumstances, you should get fourteen very different courses of action and approaches to the situation; fourteen different illustrations of what each character will do?”

What sounds better to you?  John walked to the store, hiding as he went, or John ran to the store, dodging in and out of doorways to hide from the men in the black chevy.

Action can also help define your sceane.  Did John walking and hiding make you want to read more?  Did it tell you anything about John?

John running told you he was in a hurry, dodging in and out of doorways, shows you he was trying to be crafty.  Did you want to know why he is hiding in dorrways from the men?  Do you want to read on.  Action gives our stories interest by grabbing the reader and carrying him/her on through the story.

Do you Need Action, Baby?  That’s my two-cents for today.

Video today is Bald Worm on action scenes:  http://youtu.be/SxOD4zMFGzk

What Is Fiction?

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All We Need

Fiction is a lie, an untruth, and for the writer it is a piece of writing using made up facts.  I love writing fiction because it lets me stretch my mind.  Use my imagination to make a world of love, joy, kindness, goodness, all of those Boy and  Girl Scout  ideals we learned so long ago.  I could also make a world so corrupt and dark, you’d cringe when you read the words.  It let’s the writer create whatever they want because it doesn’t have to be true.
As humans, why do we like stories?  They have been around as far back as man’s thinking abilities.  I can imagine a long ago ancestor, telling the family or a group of men how the hunt went that day.  I can see the proverbial “fish story” in the making.  It could have gone something like this; “You know what I saw today when I was hunting game, you’ll never believe it.  I sure didn’t when I first laid eyes on the creature.  You remember that huge rock  down by the lake?  It’s the one that won’t fit inside our cave.  The creature is bigger than the rock.  It is covered with brown hair and walks on two legs.  I could even see fangs hanging out its mouth.  I swear every word I’m telling you is true.”
We tell stories for entertainment, as well as to impart knowledge.  As humans we want to know about our existence, future and past.  The who, what, when, where and why of everything.  If we do not know for certain what the answers are then someone tends to create a story to fit the situation.
Fiction satisfies the need for entertainment.  We can use our imaginations and put ourselves in the world which has been created by the use of fiction.  The use of words and the imagination of us all is what’s needed for fiction.
Below is a video on Fiction Writing.  Enjoy

Train Robbery (Microfiction)

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This small piece of fiction was wrote for a contest where I could only use 100 words to tell my story.  I have also included an article by GW Thomas on how to write Flash Fiction.  I found it very helpful.

Train Robbery
MicroFiction 100 words
The high-speed train was on time. Holly kept her purse draped across her body, making her feel secure traveling with all her money.  Usually time was taken to get travelers checks, but this trip she didn’t. She felt it was unlikely this train would be robbed, because of its rate of speed.

Holly looked at the ceiling of the car when she heard the thumps. She didn’t see the parachutes opening, and the precision landings on the top of the train.  A Loud noise and a burning smell come next.  Two men drop through, guns in hand. “Money please.”

Writing Flash Fiction By GW Thomas
With the advent of the Internet, editors are looking for shorter works, more easily read on a computer screen. The current term is “flash fiction”, a tale between 300-1000 words long. Longer than micro-fiction (10-300 words) but shorter than traditional short stories (3000-5000 words preferred by most magazines), flash fiction is usually a story of a single act, sometimes the culmination of several unwritten events.
This article will offer several strategies for writing flash fiction. Used by themselves or in combination, the writer can focus their story to that brief, interesting event.
1) The small idea
Look for the smaller ideas in larger ones. To discuss the complex interrelationship of parents and children you’d need a novel. Go for a smaller piece of that complex issue. How kids feel when they aren’t included in a conversation. What kids do when they are bored in the car. Middle child. Bad report card. Find a smaller topic and build on it.
.2) Bury the preamble in the opening
When you write your story, don’t take two pages to explain all the pre-story. Find a way to set it all in the first paragraph, then get on with the rest of the
tale.
3) Start in the middle of the action
Similar to #2, start the story in the middle of the action. A man is running. A bomb is about to go off. A monster is in the house. Don’t describe any more than you have to. The reader can fill in some of the blanks.
4) Focus on one powerful image
Find one powerful image to focus your story on. A war-torn street. An alien sunset. They say a picture worth a thousand words. Paint a picture with words. It doesn’t hurt to have something happen inside that picture. It is a story after all.
5) Make the reader guess until the end
A little mystery goes a long way. Your reader may have no idea what is going on for the majority of the story. This will lure them on to the end. When they finish, there should be a good pay off or solution.
6) Use allusive references
By using references to a commonly known story you can save yourself all those unnecessary words. Refer to historical events. Use famous situations from literature. If the story takes place on the Titanic you won’t have to explain what is going to happen, who is there or much of anything. History and James Cameron have already done it for you. Beware of using material that is too obscure. Your reader should be able to make the inferences.
7) Use a twist
Like #5, the twist ending allows the writer to pack some punch at the end of the story. Flash fiction is often twist-ending fiction because you don’t have enough time to build up sympathetic characters and show how a long, devastating plot has affected them. Like a good joke, flash fiction is often streamlined to the punch-line at the end.
Let’s look at these techniques in my story “Road Test”. I wanted to write a story about taking my driving exam. I didn’t mention the pre-test or practicing. Just the test. (#1 THE SMALL IDEA) This narrows our
subject down to a manageable scene.
I didn’t have room to describe the driving examiner in detail. I set my main character in two sentences.(#2 BURY THE PREAMBLE) “The man in the government-issued suit sat down without looking at the person across from him. We’ve established the main character and his chief flaws. (He’s mediocre and probably hates his job.)
I started in the middle of the action by having the driver very quickly go from good driving to dangerous driving. Johnson, the driving examiner realizes the driver is not human but goat-headed (#3 START IN THE MIDDLE). “He had changed. The beard was longer, the skin darker and two large curved horns crowned his skull.” This creates tension and has created an image: a man trapped in a speeding car with a monster (#4 A POWERFUL IMAGE). It pushes the reader on because they want to know what will happen next, maybe why is it happening? We won’t tell them until the end (#5 KEEP THEM GUESSING). The monster keeps yelling the same word, “Pooka!” Johnson begins to understand. He knows the old fairy stories about the Pooka, about how they pretended to be horses so they could drown their victims. (#6 ALLUSION) Now is the time for resolution, our great twist ending that no one sees coming (#7 TWIST ENDING). As the monster crashes the car into a pond, Johnson realizes a modern-day Pooka wouldn’t look like a horse, but would use a car. The car crashes and we finish with: “They would die, only Johnson would live long enough to feel those large goatish teeth chewing the flesh from his bones. The souped-up V8 hit the slick surface of the pond like a fist
into jello. Windshield collapsed under tons of water, washing away the high, shrill laughter of the driver.”
“Road Test” clocks in at 634 words. It is essentially a man gets killed by a monster story, but the crux of the idea is “How would mythological creatures adapt to the modern world?” This is really the small idea. The allusions to the Pooka will work for some, but I gave enough explanation to help those that don’t know about the old stories.
This example story was chosen because it illustrated all 7 methods. Using only one in a flash story can be enough. Writing flash fiction is a great way for writers to write everyday, even when larger projects seem to daunting or they are pressed for time. Using these short cuts can have you writing in minutes.