Posts Tagged With: Fiction

Challenge Me – Short Story Challenge

I just found out about this cool writing contest where participants are given a writing prompt and have 24 hours to write a short story.  Alas, I missed the deadline.  So I decided to do it anyway!  And you can help.

Leave a comment with a writing prompt.  You need to include a genre, a subject, and a character assignment (example:  horror, travel, a dentist; see more examples here.).  I will pick a comment at random and write a short story using that writing prompt.

Don’t torture me, please!  😀

I’m going on a weekend trip, so you have until midnight your time on Monday (February 25th) to leave a writing prompt.  I will choose the winner on Tuesday, and write the story on Wednesday.  It will be posted by midnight my time on Wednesday.

Can’t wait to see what you guys come up with!

Advertisements
Categories: My writings, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Story Structure Stress

It’s been a tough month.  I spent the month of October preparing for NaNoWriMo – actually plotting (gasp!).  A definite first for me.  And now that November is here, I feel like I have a good grasp on what I need to do and how I need to do it, but it took some doing.

I had serious doubts about calling myself a writer this month.  Of course I write.  I’ve always written.  Lots of random scenes.  A couple of very solid starts to novels, which never got a middle, let alone an end.  I’ve partially written a couple of novels.  My one main work in progress is hovering at 62k words, with a very solid beginning, most of a middle, and a rough “this is how it’s going to end” ending.  My other main work in progress, hovering at around 50k words, has a shaky beginning, an iffy middle, and an abrupt ending.

Oh, I can tell a good story, and I have some serious dialogue skills, don’t get me wrong.  I know that what I write is fairly strong.  But, to be perfectly honest…I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing.  It’s the plotting and outlining that have had  me frustrated this month.  I had serious doubts that I have the aptitude to be a writer, simply based on my inability to outline.

Beyond one creative writing class in high school and a couple of writing workshops in the years since, I didn’t study writing.  I didn’t read The Greats.  I didn’t pick apart a hundred plots to determine turning points and climaxes and resolutions.  I didn’t learn about 3 act structure or 4 act structure or The Hero’s Journey.  I’ve read many books on writing, hundreds of blog posts, and I still had issues structuring a damn plot.

Which begged the question – What hope do I have at being a writer?

My husband, bless him, suffered my mini-breakdown a few weeks ago over this and told me to shut up.  He’s read what I’ve written, and he says it’s good.  (Is that like your mom telling you that you’re pretty?)  He said I should stop worrying about all that other stuff and just write.  He said my structure is fine and I know what I’m doing, I just need to stop thinking about it.  Stop reading the hundreds of different ways other people do things and just do it my way.  That there is no right way, no correct answer.  And he’s absolutely right, and I never thought otherwise.  But I wanted to outline, to connect the dots, and I kept trying all these different ways to try to figure out my way and that’s what drove me batty.

Oh, but the joy of mini-breakdowns.  Clearing out my head like that made me better able to function.  I wanted the outline to happen within an hour, the plot to be perfect immediately.  And I wanted each new blog post I read about structure to work for me.  But none of that happens immediately.  Writing is still a study, a practice, like yoga.  Each practice makes something new click, stretches your mind further, but you will never be perfect each and every time you sit down to write.  Your muscles might be sore, your balance might be off, your mind may wander.  You just have to do the best you can that day.

NaNo starts in 13 hours.  I’m ready.

Categories: The Writing Process, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Writing Exercise, or Copyright Infringement?

I wrote this post almost a year ago, before Fifty Shades of Grey became massively successful. I thought it deserved a repost. What are your thoughts on FanFiction?

No "aspiring" about it

Writing Prompt: Think of a critical scene in a book you love. Write a different ending to the scene, then continue the story with the new ending in mind.

Congratulations, you’ve just written FanFiction.

Time Magazine had a piece in a recent issue about FanFiction – what it is, who does it, who likes it, and who doesn’t. It was a well written piece, and it really got me thinking.

I’ve never thought much of FanFic – and by that I mean I don’t think about it often. I’ve known about it for years, of course, and have read some, but sometimes finding something of quality is difficult. I don’t even have time to find new good blogs, let alone good FanFiction, so it’s simply not something I’m into. I don’t think I’ve actually written any FanFic, although I have thought out scenes in my head: What if Angel meets…

View original post 652 more words

Categories: On Writing, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Toning up your writing

“Is your writing flabby or fit?”  That’s the question The Writer’s Diet asks, and it gives you immediate feedback on your writing, showing you where you have excessive verbs, prepositions, and adverbs (among other things).

I found The Writer’s Diet via MetaFilter, one of my all time favorite websites.  I’ve been introduced to hundreds of news stories, photographers, artists, singers, ideas, and interesting individuals I would never have discovered otherwise.  This is just the latest.  From the metafilter post:  “The WritersDiet Test, created by Dr. Helen Sword, allows you to enter a writing sample of 100 to 1000 words and have it graded from “lean” to “heart attack” on its level of excess verbiage.”  Well, of course I wanted to find out where my writing fell.

Since I wasn’t on the computer with my current WIP, I entered in the text of one of my more storytelling posts on my other blog, Blessed by Holy Water in Tallinn.  The results?  My overall score was “Fit and Trim,” with everything except the verbs coming in at lean.  My verbs, though, evidently need toning.  The site also highlights each of the instances within your text, so you can see where you might look into editing your content.  I can see each and every instance I used be, is, are, were, am, and was.  Very interesting, indeed.  You can also download a full diagnosis, which includes suggestions for improvement.

I definitely wanted to see what came up with my current WIP, so I switched computers and copied in the first chapter.  My results:

My current WIP is lean, baby!!

So what about this post?  “Fit and Trim,” although my verbs still need toning (but, it counted the 6 instances I used it in the paragraph above as examples, so I think I should get a break on that!).

Try out The Writer’s Diet and let me know what you think of the site.  Do you think it’s useful?  Where did your writing sample fall on the health chart?

Categories: On Writing, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Unintentional Writing Insight

“My eyes sting from the smell of typing ink. My fingers are striped with paper cuts. Who know paper and ink could be so vicious.”

Kathryn Stockett, The Help, p. 357

Who knew paper and ink could be so vicious. True Dat.

Categories: On Writing, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Writing Exercise, or Copyright Infringement?

Writing Prompt: Think of a critical scene in a book you love. Write a different ending to the scene, then continue the story with the new ending in mind.

Congratulations, you’ve just written FanFiction.

Time Magazine had a piece in a recent issue about FanFiction – what it is, who does it, who likes it, and who doesn’t. It was a well written piece, and it really got me thinking.

I’ve never thought much of FanFic – and by that I mean I don’t think about it often. I’ve known about it for years, of course, and have read some, but sometimes finding something of quality is difficult. I don’t even have time to find new good blogs, let alone good FanFiction, so it’s simply not something I’m into. I don’t think I’ve actually written any FanFic, although I have thought out scenes in my head: What if Angel meets another vampire with a soul and falls in love with her – would she be his salvation? What if she’s an original vampire, and is immune to sunlight? The scenes I have written in my head are a mishmash of Angel/Blade/In the Forests of the Night mythology. So, yeah, FanFic.

Because isn’t that what we, as writers, do? We imagine What If. That is our mantra. We ask What If when it comes to the stories and characters we write, so it seems only natural we would ask it of the stories we read and watch.

What if Gale had been chosen for the games instead of Peeta?

What if Tom Buchanan died – would Daisy and Gatsby have gotten together?

What happened after Johnny drove away from Baby? Did they ever meet again?

What happened when Inigo Montoya took over as the Dred Pirate Roberts?

We think What If, we write that story down, and we want to share it with others who also wonder What If. It’s natural.

But is it legal?

FanFic writers do not make money on their stories when they post to websites like fanfiction.net, but is it still copyright infringement? Authors Ann Rice and Orson Scott Card think so, and are quite upset when fans pen What If. But others, Stephanie Meyer and J.K. Rowling, are all for it, figuring it’s a great promotional tool. Is one group right and one group wrong?

It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I think that if I were published and someone did fanfic on my work, I would be excited – I mean, after all, something I wrote inspired someone else enough to write! That’s amazing! But, wait, you’re having two of my most loved characters do what?! No, no, no, that’s not good at all. So yes, I understand perfectly where Rice and Card are coming from, in that respect, because you can’t say fanfic is fine, unless you do this with it. It doesn’t work that way.

Good FanFic truly is amazing – the ability some people have to truly know the characters the same way the original author does – or, at least, the layers the original author wants you to see. Maybe Stephanie Meyer did her own fanfic, wondering What If Bella had chosen Jacob instead of Edward, or What If Charlie dies in a werewolf attack? A thorough writer would certainly entertain the possibility, to see where the story goes.

Honestly, good (note the use of the word good here) fanfic seems like a lot of work to me. You have to really know these characters that were created in someone else’s head. That takes research, study, and more imagination than I think I have. (Not sure what that says about my skills as a writer…)

So, what do you think of fanfic? Good? Bad? Would you want someone creating fanfic based on your work?

Be sure to check out the Time article – some good quotes:

“…fan fiction was not just an homage to the glory of the original but also a reaction to it. It was about finding the boundaries that the original couldn’t or wouldn’t break, and breaking them.”

“…I love the show, but what if it went further? What happens if I press this big, shiny, red button that says “Do not press”?”

“It was a way to bring to light hidden subtexts that the show couldn’t address.”

“Fictional worlds, while they appear solid, are riddled with blank spots and unexposed surfaces.”

“It’s human nature to press at the boundaries of stories, to scrabble at the edges, to want to know what’s going on just out of range of the camera.”

“A writer’s characters are his or her children, but even children have to grow up eventually and do things their parents wouldn’t approve of.”


Categories: On Writing, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“existence” – a one word writing practice

“I’m ready for my existence to come to an end.  I’ve lived enough lives, enough lifetimes, to fill a book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.  My tales are more gruesome.

“When this all began, when I first realized what was happening, I thought it might last another century, two at the most.  It’s been twenty.  Over 2000 years of falling victim to the same fate, over and over again.”  She laughed, shook her head.  “I’m exhausted.”  She looked up at him.  “And you are, too.  You just don’t know it.”

“I’m tired of this life.  That’s enough for me.  My tales aren’t pretty, either.”

“Yes, but yours are beyond your control.”  She looked away, gazed across the treetops.  “In fact, your tales are my fault.  Everything bad that has ever happened to you, happened because of me.”

“You aren’t responsible for everything.  Becca, LJ, they weren’t your fault.”

She looked back at him, her eyebrow raised.  “Weren’t they?  How do you know?  What if they died because of me?  Would you be able to forgive that?  Would you be able to forgive me?”

He was unable to hold her gaze, and she had her answer.

**oneword gives you a word, and sixty seconds to write whatever pops into your head.  Obviously, I didn’t write all this in sixty seconds, but I like to expand what I start with, and this happened to work with my current WIP.  

Categories: My writings, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

I don’t need that word…or that one…or that one…

Is it really writing, if you’re taking something that’s already written and crossing words out?  Well, there’s still an element of creativity to it, and it gets you outside of your brain, so…yes!

I got this writing prompt idea from Storytelling Nomad, a “blackout” writing exercise in which you take a piece of writing (your own, someone else’s) and you cross out words to create a new piece.

Pretty fingerprints color the small, thick kid.  Being weird as an adult would be a problem.  No one dreams of a worse mission – an experiment to see if a drug cures dangerous interest Yes, it seems lame to appreciate things, but a career stuck not trying might end with a battle against human foibles such as reading and angering birds.  The world has become crazy, the response to go to war, dragging friends into adventure.  Curiosity isn’t the answer anymore, but we need to take chances exploring fantastic worlds most of us can’t even imagine.

Still not sure if it’s incredibly profound or incredibly incoherent…

Categories: My writings, On Writing, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

55 word microfiction – Wednesday Writing

I found out about 55 Fiction from Metafilter.  “55 Fiction is a form or microfiction with a few rules, including a limitation to 55 words.”  There are a couple of websites with the name, although apparently unrelated to the original 55 word contest. 

I thought, what the heck, could be fun:

The frigid office is a shocking contrast to the jungle outside.  The hairs on my legs stand up and grow faster.

“Please, can we turn it up, just three degrees?”  68 sounded temperate.

“No can do, pretty lady.  We turn the temp up, the jungle comes inside.”

I look down at my legs.  “Too late.”

Categories: My writings, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Vicariously, I Live (Fiction)

The pages crackle with each turn, the paper brittle from years in the dry air.  Although I knew the words by heart, I loved reading each story again.  The words, written in shaky print here, flowing cursive there, childlike block letters in yet another place, conveyed life in a way my mind can’t really know.

My mother’s words, written in beautiful cursive, flow over the page in a wash of grief.  “You will never know the music I’ve heard coming from the courtyard below,” she writes.  “The guitar sounds fluttered up like butterflies, its wings tickling your ears only briefly before flitting away again.  Your father and I used to dance to that music, here in the kitchen, imagining we were in a square in Argentina….”

Yes, mother was heartbroken at the end.  Of course she was.  She had already lost her husband, her youngest son, and her daughter, not to mention nearly all her friends.  The only reason she and my grandfather lasted so long was because of me.

This story here, the one with the shaky print, was written by my grandfather.  His acceptance of the fate of the world isn’t tinged with the despair evident in my mother’s stories.  “Good luck, kid,” my grandfather writes, his words pressed so thick and deep into the page I can feel the impression on the back side.  “You just got to survive.  Reminds me of the time my buddy Mac and me were in the jungle, hiding from Charlie.  Neither one of us knew what to do, we just knew we had to do it.  Boy, but you shoulda seen the colors in that jungle!  So much green I started to hate the color, but there were pinks and reds and sometimes a white streak to remind you something else existed.”

I laid the book back on its pillow and reached for the picture book on the ground.  Flipping through the pages, I wondered if any of these flowers were ones my grandfather had seen.  A flash of purple caught my eye, and I thumbed back a page.  I had seen this flower before, the pinkish violet, the petals open like a butterfly, flowing down like a waterfall.  My eyes dropped to the bottom of the page.  Phalaenopsis (Moth Orchid.)  I ran my finger over the petals, wondering if they felt as smooth and cool to the touch as the glossy page.

I placed the book back on the floor, the page turned to the Phalaenopsis.  In my mind, I surrounded the Phalaenopsis with green, like my grandfather said.  Is this what he saw?

I picked the book up off the pillow and turned the page.  This story was my favorite.

“I kicked the ball today and didn’t miss!  My toe hurts a little, but don’t tell mom, she might make me stop, and I don’t want to stop.  Coach gave me a high five and told me I was going to be a good forward some day.  Then Stinky Stevie threw water on me.  He said it was a way of saying good job, but if so, why didn’t he just say it?”

My baby brother, so grown up at 8, would never see 9.  He died a year ago.  Mother died last month.  Grandpa died last week.

I looked around the room, the plastic-sealed windows letting in opaque light, the layered sheets of heavy plastic hanging at the door, blocking any air particles that might come in.  Mother had talked about the music from the courtyard, how I would never hear it, because the musicians were all dead.  But I had never seen the courtyard, either.  The picture in my head was as imaginary as the picture I had of grandpa’s jungle, based on picture books and the words of my family, just like what I thought of when I thought of butterflies, and waterfalls, and soccer.  But I had seen that flower, the Phalaenopsis, through a part in the plastic sheeting one day.  It was real.  I knew it.

“Stay in here as long as you can,” grandpa said as he piled cans along the wall.  “The plastic is the reason you’re still alive.  Hell, it’s the reason any of us lasted as long as we did, because we had to be so clean to get in here to see you.  You ain’t never been exposed to anything in here, and as long as you stay in here, you never will be.”

This bubble has kept me alive, but it prevented me from ever living except through the stories of my family.  I had never been exposed to anything.

I closed the brittle pages and stood.  I was ready to live, if only for a moment.

I parted the plastic curtain and saw it.  The Phalaenopsis.  Still in bloom. 

Four steps.  Four steps, and I would be able to feel it.

I charged the Beau with giving me a writing prompt today.  I told him to pick a song lyric, preferably to a song I didn’t know.  He gave me this:  “Vicariously, I live while the whole world dies / You all need it too, don’t lie.”  It’s from a Tool song – I’m not a huge Tool fan, so I can’t tell you which song. 

Categories: My writings, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.