Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday Shorts #13

Write 100 words for this prompt:

A man has been murdered. The only witness is the cat. What did the cat see? 

Come back before midnight on Sunday and leave a link to your response in the comments. Visit, read, comment on other people's work.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Seaside Images

The trees along the beach of the northern end of Jekyll Island look like something out of a story book, twisted and bent. The high tide line is barricaded from the waves by a man made rock wall that's been put in place to slow the erosion that's slowly moving the northern part of the island to the south.


I wish I'd thought to get some images of Driftwood Beach (to the north of our hotel) but by the time we actually made it that far in our walks, it was dark and I, of course, had left the camera in the room.

On this vacation, I had every intention of being creatively productive. Sure, I thought, I'll take my notebook down to the beach, spread a sheet on the hard packed sand, lay on my belly and kill two birds with one stone: work on the tan and get some writing done.

Needless to say, that didn't happen. For one, I'd forgotten how hard it is to write at the beach with the wind tossing hair and pages about and the grains of sand that find their way into everything. I'll be shaking them out of my belongings for some time to come.

For another, I was far too engrossed with watching the waves and playing in the surf to bother putting pen to paper.

Though on our second day there, I did manage to collect some images in my image notebook.

Considering one of the many short stories I've been poking at focuses heavily on the sea, they should come in handy. My memory is strong and with my many ocean visits over the years, I can easily recall the smell of the brine, the dark odor of decaying marine life, the sharp, gritty feel of sand against my skin, the drag of silt around my feet as I waded into the sea.

But in the event that my memory fails me, I like having some things committed to words.

The voice of a gull echoes over the roar of waves, high pitched and cackling at some joke passed between her and the fish.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Music Mondays: Seaside Songs

I'd like to say that my lack of blogging is due to my working tirelessly on my backlog of short stories...but, if I'm honest, it's more due to my having either few ideas to blog about or lacking the wherewithal to actually write them out.

Though I am, slowly, ploddingly, penning images, outlining plots, writing short sections of stories. Yes, I'm working on more than one story at a time. (It keeps my Writing ADD at bay. What? It's a thing. I'm convinced.)

For this Music Monday, I decided to throw out some sea related songs to inspire me to make headway on my ocean-oriented tale.

"The Pirate's Bride" - Sting

"The Downeaster Alexa" - Billy Joel

"Edge of the Ocean" - Ivy

"The Heart of the Sea" - Flogging Molly

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Saturday Shorts #12

A miniscule challenge this weekend. The telling of an entire story with a short breath.

Tell me the story of a struggling artist in six words.

Come back before midnight on Sunday and leave a link to your response in the comments. I'll share it on Twitter. Pay a visit to anyone else who's participated. Have fun. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

WWR: Working Late

Your prompt: 

It's late at night. She's lying in bed reading when she hears movement downstairs from the kitchen. The opening and closing of the cabinets, of drawers. Thinking her husband is finally home, she gets out of bed. Just as she's stepping through the bedroom door, her phone hums to life, volume turned low for the late hour.

She snatches it off the night table. Her husband is on the other end, telling her he'll be home around 1:00.

What happens next? 

Link up by midnight on the 8th and visit any others who've linked up. Tell a friend about the challenge. Feel free to take the WWR image or button. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Saturday Shorts #11

Describe your favorite place in 33 words.

Leave a link to your response in the comments before midnight on Sunday. I'll share it on Twitter. (Or, if you don't have a blog, leave your response in the comments.) Visit anyone else who's participated. Have fun!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Writing Opposite Gender Characters

Via Flickr (Elephant Gun Studios)

Do you get anxiety at the thought of writing a character of the opposite gender? Do you worry they'll come out stilted or stereotypical? Do you worry about getting it right? Then this post is for you! (And we're talking gender here, not sex. Of course there are biological and physiological details you may need to research, depending on what you're doing. But this is about people's thoughts, feelings, reactions, actions, etc.)

First thing first: people are people. It doesn't matter their gender identity. People are people first. Everything else is window dressing that's draped on us (and occasionally pinned or stapled on us) by society; we may embrace said dressing or not.

The trick to creating believable opposite gender characters is to....well, create believable characters. If you're trying to create a character based on flat stereotypes (the "typical man" or "typical woman"), they're going to fail.

How about an exercise?

Character 1 walks into their apartment and stops outside their mostly closed bedroom door, peering through the gap. Their partner is in bed with Character 1's coworker. Bile floods the back of their throat and they take a quick step back, then another, all they way out of the house. They get in their car and drive off.

Character 2 walks into their apartment and stops outside their mostly closed bedroom door, peering through the gap. Their partner is in bed with Character 2's coworker. Character 2, as if on auto-pilot, turns and goes swiftly and silently to the kitchen. They pick up a knife. Just as silently they return to the bedroom and shove the door open so it hits the wall with a slam, making the couple in the bed jump and scream. "What the fuck do you think you're doing?" they say, entering the room, knife held at their side but clearly visible.

Character 3 walks into their apartment and stops outside their mostly closed bedroom door, peering through the gap. Their partner is in bed with Character 3's coworker. Character 3's face heats, their head fills with static, time seems to slow. They pulls the cell phone from their jacket pocket and start recording, making sure to get the faces of their partner and the other person on camera. They set the video to upload to various social media sites. Then Character 3 pushes open the door, shouts "Say Cheese!" and snaps a still photo. This will make a great addition on the company's Announcement Board.

Which of these characters are men? Which are women? They could be either or neither. They're individuals, with distinct reactions to a situation that any person could share.

Instead of worrying about making a character who's a man, or a character who's a woman, stick them in a story, wrap a plot around them, and ask the truly pertinent questions. What are they working for? What haunts them? What do they want? Who would they die to protect?

When you do that, you'll get a character worth caring about. And any trappings (or subversions) of sex or gender can be added later, if or as they're pertinent, to make the character more real.

I say that last part, because we live in a society built on the idea that men do this and women do that; a society that doesn't often recognize options beyond the binary. So writing characters completely emancipated from the social baggage isn't entirely realistic. (Unless, of course, you're writing in a different kind of universe, in which case, as we all know: rules are meant to be broken.)

Bottom line: be wary of stepping into cliches or stereotypes.

As Mette Harrison writes:
Women, despite the sense of awe and fear that some beginning male writers seem to view us with, are actually a lot more like men than you think. As a culture, I think we have codified certain gender stereotypes to a point that is ridiculous and actually harmful to men and women. 
Men are not all unable to listen, unable to ask directions, good drivers, bad at cooking, always thinking about sex, clueless about fashion, and unable to engage in deep emotional conversations. 
Women, by the same token, are not all obsessed with their hair and makeup, worried about how many calories they are eating, thinking about how their butts look in this pair of jeans, helpless when it comes to math, illogical, and only interested in romantic comedies as movies. Men, and not only gay men, share some of these characteristics. This is perfectly normal and healthy. The characters you write, whether male or female, should never be examples of only-supposedly female characteristics or only supposedly male characteristics.
- Writing Characters of the Opposite Gender 


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