Which we have today. After a couple of weeks of mild Indian summer warmth with temps around 10-14 C (50-55 F, give or take) a diverse weather system arrived in the night and fine snow began sifting down on us. The temp today has hovered below 0C or 32F, so a lot of the precipitation has liquefied. But new snow started this afternoon and now we’ve a fluffy white blanket.
Quite diverse from the balmy day yesterday. I was refilling my shallow basin of water for the sparrows that I have in front of our living room window and they took great delight in splashing in it. I probably won’t need to set water out for the birds for a good long while. Mind you, we really welcome this snow. It’s been so dry here for so long.
Two days ago I listened to a webinar about Scrivener writing programme and found it very interesting. It’s one huge organizational writing “notebook” package plus, storing your manuscript broken into scenes, all your reference material, imports and exports files, compiles your work as an e-book, etc. I see it comes complete with various “how to” tutorials. My husband is definitely interested in giving it a whirl. Has anyone else out there tried it and did you like it?
Our Ragtag Daily Prompt yesterday was ANTICIPATION. Also, I was listening to a talk by a published author which was all about building a reader’s anticipation. She was giving examples of writers who used their opening lines — and for sure the opening paragraphs — to grab readers and hold their attention.
George Orwell’s opening line about the clocks striking thirteen usually comes up in talks of this kind. People also quote Dickens’ stunner: It was the best of times and the worst of times. Snoopy’s “It was a dark and stormy night…” has been done in several variations.
Just for fun and practice, I’ll try my hand at opening lines that grab a reader’s attention — and today’s Ragtag prompt is SHADOWS, a word with lots of “opening hook” potential.
Slipping into a deeper shadow, he watched her as she approached her car, wondering how many seconds it would take him to do what he needed to do. She was still oblivious — that would help.
Mandy sat on her porch, watching the sunset glow gild the valley, and wondered for the zillionth time if he’d come back before those pines over at Rest Haven shadowed her grave.
The passing white clouds cast their shadows onto the scorched prairie. The farmer shook the dust off his hat and wiped his brow. Yes, a bit of shade, but nothing else. Eight weeks and not a drop.
Why on earth was that girl hanging back, staying in the shadow by the stairs, not joining in the fun? Then I remembered: she’s the one whose brother disappeared last week.
Darmond stopped and turned in time to see a shadow slip behind the scrubby trees. No, he wasn’t imagining it; something was stalking him.
“A shadow? That’s all? And what makes you suspect, Mrs Pickford, that there’s a notorious criminal hiding in your woods if all you saw was a shadow of “something” — which could easily have been a deer?”
Now, which opening lines would make you want to keep reading?
Starla, the starving novelist, was staring into space when her brother came into the room.
“Whatcha writing now?” Sydney glanced over her shoulder and read from the computer screen. “The Snide Snoop Solves the Crime at the Country Fair. Catchy title…I guess.”
“This one will be a real hit. A runaway best seller.” Starla beamed in anticipation as she envisioned her name on the New York Times Bestselling Author list.
“Looks like you have a long way to go, if all you have written so far is Chapter One – Chapter Two – Chapter Three.”
“This is my outline – and I dare not write any more specifically than that. Nanowrimo doesn’t start until midnight tomorrow, so today I’m getting my outline down. Then when the clock chimes twelve tomorrow… Blast off!”
“So you have today to get all your ducks in a row and twist your plot creatively?”
“Of course not, silly! I’ve been working on this in my mind all week. I’ve created the persona for my main character. I’m calling her Agasta Brazen; she’ll be a sort of an anti-heroine, one who doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
“Agasta Brazen? I’m sure I’ve heard that name somewhere — or something like it.”
“Agasta has a pugnacious personality and makes truculent wise cracks to the people she meets. She’s the one who discovers the missing Be-Kind-To-Animals donation jar that normally sits at the entrance to the petting zoo. And being rather vain, of course she has to find the thief before anyone else does.”
“This is really sounding familiar — though not the petting zoo part. And that name definitely rings a bell…”
“Anyway, my protagonist will be unique, since I’m writing this story. But I’m thinking now that I need to give her a pal or a helper, someone laid-back to act as a ‘foil’, as writers say. Or maybe a pet?”
“And she has her pet in the petting zoo?”
“Hmm… Maybe I should change the petting zoo to a ‘Most Adorable Dog’ contest? Then Agasta can enter her dog in the contest. She should have a huge shaggy – but very clever – dog. One that loves everybody. The opposite nature to hers.”
“Oh. Like Oscar the Grouch teams up with Cookie Monster. That ought to work. Did on Sesame Street.”
“Oh, Syd. I love it. Yes, that’s brilliant! I’ll name him Snookie and give him an insatiable appetite for dog biscuits.” She flexed her fingers over the key board in anticipation. “Nano Novel, here we come!”
“I still think you might consider changing your character’s name – just in case. You wouldn’t want to spend December in court on charges of plagiary.
“You’ll be in trouble if you kidnap someone else’s character. Did you know the word plagiary actually means kidnapping? I happened to read it in the dictionary last week. Live and learn.”
“What if I call her Henriette Parrot then? She could maybe have a pet parrot that witnesses the theft and…”
“Well, I’ll leave you to it, Sis. Sounds like you still have a bit more plotting to do. I’m sure glad you have a computer to work on now. I remember what your desk looked like when you first started doing Nanowrimo.”
Here we are, almost the middle of October, which means NaNoWriMo starts in eighteen days and ten hours. Which means I’ve got two weeks to think of some brilliant plot if I hope to take part in the Great Event. For those of you who haven’t heard, Nanowrimo is a month-long event where hopeful biographers, memoir and travel writers, novelists and poets all around the world sit town and hammer away, aiming for 1500 words per day, give or take.
In the interim — these October days so swiftly passing by — participants will need to get their ducks lined up in a row. And here I am without so much as a feather of an idea!
I enjoy the challenge of trying to write 50k words in November. Just the thought of it starts my blood rushing through my veins, ready to pour out onto the pages, as one writer put it. I’d be delighted to sign up and outline my project — but at this point I’d be like the writer who said, “I’m writing a novel. Today I did the page numbers.”
October is when we’re supposed to do the research, fix the era, verify the dates, outline the plot, determine the objectives, envision the characters with their qualities good and bad. Would any of you readers like to suggest a title and some characters for my potential Nov. tale?
I have this e-book where the writer claims anyone can write 5000 words in an hour, and his claim is quite believable. I’ve done a thousand words in ten minutes myself. BUT… you have to know when you start to type exactly what you’re going to say. No mulling, no research, no rethinking or rewriting. This kind of writing takes serious planning before and between sessions, unless you’re a really good “pantser” who can start with an opening scene — like Snoopy’s, “It was a dark and stormy night…” — and just go wherever the characters take you.
One thing I will say about Nanowrimo: it’s worth a try. It’s an exercise, an encouragement to write. Even if a person writes a short story instead of a full-length novel, you still have the satisfaction of accomplishing something. However, like any other journey, you need some idea of where you want to end up and the route you need to take to get there, or you may just wander around in inky circles, lost and discouraged.
Kind of like life, right? Life coaches encourage everyone to set goals. They warn us that if we just drift through each day without clear goals we’ll end up nowhere — and find the trip unsatisfying.
So here’s wishing you inspiration and clear objectives, if you’re among those who intend to join the Nanowrimo crowd. Should my muse deliver a semi-load of inspiration before Nov 1st, I’ll sign up, too. 😉
Sue over at Crooked Creek has done reports on the new books about Donald Trump: TOO MUCH AND NEVER ENOUGH written by his niece, Mary L. Trump, and the other, RAGE, by Bob Woodward. I think Sue has done a great job of introducing the books lightly and fairly, without getting into personal opinions about the contents.
Stickler for accuracy that I am, I do object to the subtitle “…the world’s most dangerous man.” It sounds so sensational. No doubt he is one of the most powerful men on the planet but when I think of some dictators, money men, heads of organized crime and drug lords, I’m not so sure who should receive that title. But I’ll leave that where it is.
When I read these book reviews, my thought was: at least we live in a world of free speech. People have compared Donald Trump to Hitler, but there’s so much difference. Read about that history! If any writer wrote a news story calling Hitler a megalomaniac or tried to publish a book about Adolf Hitler, the most dangerous man on the planet (which he was, in his day) the journalist or author would have disappeared in the night and never been heard from again.
I have a book here written by a woman who was a girl in Nazi Germany. Her father, a loyal army officer who had serious misgivings about the whole regime, quietly got involved in a “Schindler’s List” type arrangement with a factory owner. When this was discovered he was arrested and secretly executed. Trump may not respond well to criticism but I’m not hearing anything about vocal Democrats being rounded up and quietly disposed of.
“The Worst Ever” Usually Means “I Haven’t Heard of Anything Else”
We live in a world of sensational superlatives. The media delights in them. “The worst pandemic in history”; “the biggest, the worse, the most devastating storm” ever. Climatic conditions like fires, droughts, hurricanes, are “the most calamitous,” “unsurvivable” and “portents of much worse to come.” Political races may be called “the most contentious” or “the most fateful decision ever.”
It’s rather thrilling to believe we actually live in an era of the worst ever. These days we seem to be surrounded by news and Facebook and Twitter working to sustain panic and fury. Many people are chanting some eulogy for the West — or America. I can’t predict whether things will get worse or better, but I do believe it would be great if more people were studying history.
Speaking of which, I’ve just started reading PROHIBITION: Thirteen Years that Changed America, by Edward Behr. Fascinating era!
Fandango had an interesting story as his response to these prompts, the furious reaction of a writer who’s sent his manuscript off to an editor and it comes back thoroughly red-penned. He calls the editor, irate about all the marking and even replacing of sections. So I’ll credit Fandango for my tale. His story got me thinking down this line. I do feel a bit of sympathy for that editor, though he overstepped his role.
One day, after reading a story by a multi-published author, I asked my eight-year-old grandson, “How can a person fall off a train and land in front of the train? And furthermore, land far enough in front of the train that the train can stop in time to not run over the person’s body?” He thought for a moment and said, “It would work if the train’s going backwards and the person fell off the engine.” A certain writer should engage my grandson as technical advisor.
A Unique Editorial Encounter
I was wandering my way through an Ontario woodland path one morning, taking in the sound of birds, the woodsy smell of the trees and earth, listening to the wind fluttering the leaves, when I came upon a penguin weaving its (its – not it’s) way among the trees.
“What on earth! Oh, I’m losing it,” I exclaimed. “Penguin! What are you doing in these woods?”
“I don’t usually do woods,” the creature replied. “I seem to have gotten lost.”
“Big time. You’re over half a planet from home.”
“Can you tell me the way to Puddleville?”
“Puddleville? I can, but what do you want to do there?”
“A writer who lives in Puddleville wants a penguin for her story; she ordered me from e-Bay. She’s writing something about Hudson Bay and she wants me to do a guest appearance in her story.”
“But there are no penguins in Hudson Bay. Ever,” I protested. “Never have been.”
“You’ll have to take that up with the writer. I’m just one of the cast. I’ve supposedly stowed away on a fishing boat going into Hudson Bay. Now I’m to fall off the boat and flail around in the bay so her brave main character can save me from drowning in the frigid water.”
“Save you from drowning? But you’re a penguin – you can swim. And as far as frigid waters go, the water in Hudson Bay is a lot warmer than the Antarctic.”
“Say, you really like to find fault! What are you, an editor? What have you got against an exciting sea rescue? She’s writing it in a very dramatic style readers will love.”
“I like my drama to be realistic, even in fiction. A lot of readers do, you know. She should have at least hired a seal.”
“But I’m way more interesting than a seal any day.” He took a moment to preen a bit. “Anyway, I’m just going to do what I’m told, then grab the bucket of fish she’s offering as payment, and head south.”
“I think this whole story is going to head south. What’s the name of her book so I don’t spend good money on it.”
“She’s calling it Igor’s Alaskan Adventure. I’m Igor. “
I shook my head. “Why am I not surprised? Anyway, how be you follow me home, then I’ll drive you to Puddleville in my car. You’re never going to get there hobbling through the woods like this. I might even have a word with this writer about geography. Alaskan Adventure indeed!”
“You’d better watch out. Writers don’t always react well to some ‘slash and burn’ editor type finding holes in their plots.”
“You’re probably right.” I sighed. “Well, come on, Igor. Your adventure awaits.”