Posts tagged ‘writing that works’

June 25, 2015

Messenger: a 150-word exercise with Orval and Lily

MESSENGER

“You said Death called the Dracoisi,” I say. “You cannot believe I did such a thing.”

“You. Death. Does it matter?” Now Orval’s teeth chatter. He wraps his arms around his sides, leaning against the wall.

Eventually he slumps to the floor, sleeping feverishly. I slip his grandmother’s pillow under his head. As the evening shadows darken his brow, I leave him to walk in the cool of the abandoned city.

No one lives in these perfect homes now. In the deepening twilight they glimmer in all the shades of blue, empty and lonely, but I—I am not alone.

No sound warns me, no Night One’s hunting call or rush of wings. Instead, I feel the warmth of a messenger’s mind as he lands on one foot beside me.

“The Dracoisi have taken Egon,” he says. “We have an ally, but we must act quickly to rescue him.”

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June 17, 2015

A 150-word writing exercise: Lover’s Quarrel

I’m kind of having fun with this! Here is the latest Orval and Lily 150-word adventure:

LOVER’S QUARREL

This is not my fault. I tell Orval so. His skin goes as violet as the sky, and he hollers in my face.

“You—you have no right to say that! You, who used your power to manipulate everyone!”

His words are a hot iron poker, branding my heart with shame.

“I gave all I had to save my people,” I say, pleading for understanding. “I gave up the throne.”

He shakes his head. “Ion, and Sindi. All the Night Ones, all the humans, even Egon.  Even me. You deceived us all.”

“I tried to save you,” I whisper. “In the end, I let you merge with Death—I let you change our world.”

“You let me,” he says through gritted teeth, “But the damage was already done. You called the Dracoisi to our world the first time you linked your mind to ours.”

June 13, 2015

A 150-word exercise: Orval and Lily and Death, the last dragon

 

THE LAST DRAGON

Death.

The only dragon not destroyed.

The monster flew over this valley, the evening we returned.

Orval’s breath rushes across my face. “How did Death escape? I merged souls with him.”

The blade under my chin trembles. I reach out, latching my fingers through Orval’s as the dagger clatters to the floor.

“Does it matter?” I say, gasping in relief. I brush my knuckles against Orval’s slate-hard face.

“He must have called the Dracoisi.”

“We are all one people, now. They will not destroy us.” I will myself to believe this, and to believe my feelings for Orval will make him well again.

My sweetheart loses faith in our love. Something tainted flickers in his eyes, and he pulls away.

“My grandmother. They took her.”

The red sky fades to purple, the color I wore as empress—but I have no power now.

Without Orval, I have nothing.

June 2, 2015

The power of cutting words

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Last week a fellow author showed us a writing exercise he recently participated in. As preparation for an upcoming workshop, he condensed the entire opening chapter of his work-in-progress to 150 words.

The chapter was already powerful. The 150-word version was dynamite.

I’m going to try it. Here on the blog. Because I can, and because I love the idea of practicing where I can get good feedback.

While I finish the rewrite of my own current work-in-progress, I’m creating space under my ‘bits of my writing’ page for these exercises.  The exercises will show up as posts first and then as links on that page.

Just for fun, they’ll be moments in the life of Lily, the heroine from my first two books. I don’t know if the exercises will make much sense, or if they’ll ever grow into anything more than exercises. To be honest, I don’t expect them to.

I do, however, plan on having a lot of fun. 🙂

June 2, 2015

MISSING: A 150-word exercise with Lily and Orval

Orval’s grandmother isn’t here.

Sunset looms. Red reflects in a long dagger, pinning a note to her empty clothes—pinning her clothes to the bed—pinning our hopes to emptiness.

Silence.

The crimson sky deepens, flushing across the abandoned city.

Orval breathes with white-knuckled fists, teeth grinding, every muscle tightened.

“Did you do this?” he asks.

Dismay rocks me. I stumble, reaching for his hand. He jerks away.

My heart weeps blood for the loss of Orval’s trust. “My love—”

He yanks the dagger out of the bed. The red-tinted note flutters into my fingers.

Orval’s voice pounds me like an avalanche. He waves the blade under my nose. “Read it.”

I am a trembling leaf, dead already, waiting for snowfall to bury me in the cold ground. My quivering voice rushes.

“Come north. They have returned.”

My sweetheart blinks and sways.  “North,” he whispers, “Where death lives.”

 

 

 

 

October 3, 2014

Burgers and books #free #giftcard #giveaway #promo

October is here! Celebrate with me!

October is here! Celebrate with me!

I had so much fun with last month’s giveaway that I decided not to wait to November for the next one, so I’m celebrating October with a gift card promo of a different kind!

My family and I love reading parties (in fact, we’re planning one for this Saturday evening). These are simple to plan and lots of fun. All you do is 1) stock up on good books, 2) stock up on yummy foods, and 3) sit in the same room together, reading and munching to your heart’s content.

Since I wanted to promote the idea of family reading parties, I settled on the following idea:

Each week in October, I’ll  give away a free book to whoever wins the drawing for that week. For this promo, I’m focusing on the Charles Yallowitz’s Legends of Windemere series. I’ll draw a name for electronic versions of book one on October 10, book 2 on October 17, book three on October 24, and book 4 on October 31. If you already have these books and you win, let me know–I’ll gift the book you won to a friend of your choice and send you an electronic version of Trusted, by Krista Wayment or Dark Birth by Scott Bryan instead.

Also on Halloween day, everyone who has entered during the month of October will have a chance in a drawing for a $15 Burger King gift card. Food for your personal reading party!!!

Sound fun? Here’s how to enter:

OPTION ONE:

On your blog, post a story, poem or opinion on this prompt: What makes a good fantasy character? Ping back to this article so I know you’ve entered.

OPTION TWO:

If you don’t have a blog, you can like my author page on Facebook and respond to the status with the same prompt. What makes a good fantasy character? Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorGwenBristol.

Wishing everyone a Happy October, Happy Reading and a truly happy day!

 

 

July 29, 2014

Jacob Holo’s Dragons

Jacob Holo's The Dragons of Jupiter...see his Amazon sales page!

Jacob Holo’s The Dragons of Jupiter…see his Amazon sales page!

About a year ago, I read Jacob Holo’s The Dragons of Jupiter and was more than pleasantly surprised. This is by far one of the best sci-fi books I’ve read in a long time. I’ve been meaning to get back to my blog to review this, and it hasn’t happened, and hasn’t happened…and tonight, that’s going to change.

The battle scenes in The Dragons of Jupiter are very, very well done, although maybe a little bit graphic for my taste. I loved how innovative Holo was with his weaponry, though, and that made it really hard to put down even the most descriptive scenes.

I loved the body makeup the dragons wear when they’re not on duty.

I love how they work as a team.

I love the interactions between the team members, between brothers Ryu and Kaneda, between everyone and the Matriarch.  I tried to pick apart the character development and couldn’t do it. It was just that seamless, and I’ll be studying this book in the future, trying to see how Holo managed to weave his character development into the story so well that I didn’t even notice it was happening.

What a way to make readers care about the story!

Holo has a couple of great web sites, too. Read more about The Dragons of Jupiter at dragonsofjupiter.com (I am now a proud follower), or visit holowriting.com for information on Jacob Holo’s other books and writing activities. He has a lot going on.

Also, his book covers are terrific. See a sneak peak for the book cover of Humanity Machine at holowriting.com. I am looking forward to reading that one, both because of the book cover and because, if Holo always writes like he did in The Dragons of Jupiter, I’ll never be able to set his books asides for things like doing laundry and dishes.

 

February 24, 2014

What magic looks like: Nine imagery questions for fantasy writers

What does magic look like?

What does magic look like?

My little sister and I used to play I Dream of Jeannie. I have fond memories of her lifting her folded arms, nodding her head and blinking and then explaining whatever magic she had just performed.

It was beyond fun. It was a practice in imagination for us both, an exercise in feeling powerful.

Which, I think, is one of the reasons writing fantasy appeals to me. Writing about using magic brings the same powerful feeling that playing magic did when I was a child. I still love to think about what magic looks like.

Writers are faced with a different type of challenge, though. They can’t just tell their playmates about their pretend magic and expect them to accept it. They have to explain it, describe it, use imagery to plant the picture of what magic looks like into their reader’s brains.

Is imagery what convinces readers that the magic is real, at least in the setting of a book? If so, maybe it’s what helps the magic feel real enough to keep fantasy readers turning pages. And buying books.

My advice to myself, and to other fantasy authors: Know what your magic looks like. Know the rules for its use, know how often it’s used and what the consequences for using it are, but most importantly, know how to describe it to your readers.

When I write, I often make lists to follow that help me cover all my bases. Here’s a list of the type of questions I use when I’m trying to create the imagery of a particular piece of magic:

  1. Does the magic have a color? If so, what is it? Bright blue? Mud green? Are there different kinds of colors for different kinds of magic?
  2. How luminescent is it? Does it glow? Or hide in the shadows, barely noticeable to an untrained mind?
  3. How quickly does it move, and what verbs can I use to address that? Does it zing across space, or slither along the edges of a wall, or meander, or cozy up to something?
  4. How loud is it? Is it a breath, a whisper, a choke? A shout, a clash, a thunder? How do the ears of my characters feel when magic is going on around them?
  5. Does magic have a tangible feeling? If a character touched it, would they burn? Or freeze? Would the magic grate against their skin, or slide, or bounce, or caress? And again, are there different feelings for different types of magic?
  6. What types of scents does the magic carry? Something acrid? Smoky or fresh? Bitter or sour or sweet?
  7. As a character detects a scent of magic, do they taste it as well? And if so, what expressions will cross that character’s face?
  8. How does the magic interact with the world around it?
  9. How do characters feel emotionally during a magic episode? And how do they show how they feel? Does the magic cause fear, and if so, do the characters run or fight or try to shield themselves? How fast do their hearts beat?

I’m sure there are a host of other questions fantasy writers can ask themselves as they write magic scenes. These are just a few, and realistically, they apply to all sorts of action sequences.

In my mind, they apply to magic in particular, because who really sees and hears and smells magic in the real world? No matter how many video games we play, or how many television shows we watch, some things still take a little brain power.

Imagining and writing about magic requires a level of creative thinking that can evoke the strong emotions (the kind that sells books).

That’s what really makes writing about magic powerful.

February 14, 2014

Great fantasy worlds, and what makes them great

A world I grew up loving...Oz!

A world I grew up loving…Oz!

I fell in love with fantasy worlds in fifth grade. That year, one very influential teacher held a reading contest, and I won by immersing myself in Frank L. Baum’s Oz books, the chronicles of Narnia, Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, all of the Mary Poppins books, and just about everything else I could get my hands on from the tiny elementary school library.

My prize: a boxed set of Tolkien’s works–The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings–which, I am sure, stamped, sealed and certified my enduring love of fantasy.

Decades later, I still think it’s all about the worlds. Even then, I knew the revitalizing power of escaping. I understood there was a real chance of finding my lost self when I delved into a good book.

Who doesn’t love immersing themselves in someplace new? Taking a break from reality? Isn’t that why people take vacations?

I could contend that reading is even better than a vacation, often allowing readers to work out day-by-day problems in a setting that allows for adventure and excitement, and almost always, a difficult but realized success.

Even then, much of the magic is provided by the world the story takes place in. Good plots take into account the setting. So does good character development. Perhaps that’s why fantasy author David Farland, in his book Million Dollar Outlines, counsels other authors to lock down their settings before they even finish the outlines for their books.

So what is it, exactly, that makes new worlds worth reading?

Description:

I like worlds best when descriptions aren’t just listed, line by line, in a series of paragraphs long before the action starts. Very occasionally, this kind of description can hold my attention, but most often, my imagination catches on descriptions that are integrated into the plot. 

In my mind, the best descriptions wind their way through stories. Good settings wrap themselves around characters, making them take notice and even react to what they see and feel. The best descriptions are ones that characters see, feel, hear and react to. They NOTICE their world, and because they notice it, readers notice it, too.

(Incidentally, it seems I feel the most emotion as a reader when I know a character is feeling something about the environment he or she is in. Emotion sells books. Does it follow that good settings sell books, too?)

Believe-ability:

I always like my worlds to have rules. These are not necessarily the rules our planet and solar system and universe abides by (otherwise, where do fantasy and science fiction stories fit in?), but rules that form a decent framework for the plot and characters. (Mythic Scribes has a great piece on keeping worlds real.)

 

Mostly this relates to my ability to answer questions in my mind as they arise–whether or not something could happen, in that particular universe, and why. When I come across a book where worlds feel unstable, which seem to often using Deus Ex Machina for an easy ending, I become an uncomfortable reader. Usually this means I lose interest and move on to something else. 

As enjoyable as reading great worlds is, writing real worlds is hard work. I’m still studying it. I probably will be for a long, long time. 

Ease:

This relates only to how hard I want to have to work to read or understand a book. I still really love fantasy, and I love science fiction and a host of other genres. Sometimes I like stories that are really far-fetched, and but most often I like ones that hit closer to home. 

These kinds of worlds are strangely comforting as well as refreshing. When I’m looking for a world to escape into, I look for something that has familiar elements that wind through the magic. Then I’m in my happy place. I can put up my feet and disappear into that world for a long time…or at least until the story is finished.

I’m sure there are other things that make worlds great. These are my top three tests for worlds I really love, worlds I mull over in my mind long after I’ve read the book.

What do you think makes a great world? 

 

August 8, 2013

My #amreading: Prodigy of Rainbow Tower

Prodigy of Rainbow Tower, by Charles Yallowitz

Prodigy of Rainbow Tower, by Charles Yallowitz

Late last night–well, actually, very early this morning–I finally had a chance to start reading Prodigy of Rainbow Tower, by Charles Yallowitz. So far, it’s been as rewarding a read as I anticipated it would be.

Here are the parts I’ve enjoyed most so far:

  • A pocket cabin. I want one!
  • An exciting fight scene in the gardens at Rainbow Tower–I heard the crashing and the roar of fire and the wood breaking during this scene. It was VERY well done.
  • Everything about the character named Nyx. She is a real firecracker.
  • Four moons that slink behind clouds over a river…such beautiful imagery!
  • Two very intriguing fight scenes in a city called Rodillen–one on the rooftops, and one in the thieves guild.  One quick comment here on Charles Yallowitz’s writing–he really knows how to write interesting, detailed fight scenes that include the setting and dialogue as well as action. This is one of the things I liked best about his first book, Beginning of a Hero, and I’m glad to see even more of it in Prodigy of Rainbow Tower.
  • I always love the banter between Yallowitz’s characters. In this book, I’m particularly enjoying Nimby’s dialogue sequences.

Okay. I have to mention this, too: the setting in the prologue was detailed and rich. Even though it dealt with disgusting things like rotting corpses and maggots, It was again something I could picture very well. I almost gagged at one point.

According to Dave Farland’s Million Dollar Outlines, books should evoke strong emotional responses. I would say Yallowitz’s settings do that for me. I’m only a third of the way through the book, but I had to fight myself to put it down long enough to blog about it.

For any reader new to Charles Yallowitz’s work, I recommend his blog site, which contains more information about the books, the characters, and the artwork he uses.

 

 

 

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