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Information about Almost Paradise, a short story by Maria L. Berg that is in the Washington's Emerging Writers Anthology

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Reading as a writer: Deconstructing a scene

image of the book Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen and a filled in scene deconstruction worksheet

This summer my wonderful local book store, A Good Book in Sumner, Wa, not only had a Summer Reading Bingo card, but came up with a Bingo card for writers as well. It looked daunting at first with squares like: Write your manifesto (turn your excuses upside down); Write seven days in a row; and Finish Something; but the more I worked on it, the more inspired I was to continue.

One of the final squares on my card before I got my blackout was, “Deconstruct a Scene.” The instructions were to read a scene from your favorite book/author and find what makes it work. I picked out scenes from different authors I enjoy and put the books on my desk with the scenes I’d chosen dutifully marked, but kept moving on to other squares of the Bingo card. Finally, I searched the internet to see if there were any forms or worksheets out there to guide me through the process of deconstructing a scene. I didn’t find what I was looking for, so I went to work creating my own.

I had recently attended my first meeting at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA) cottage. I’ve been a member for years, but only watched some meetings online. I’m glad I went. Pam Binder gave a presentation on critique groups and created a hand- out with her ideas of how to evaluate a scene that were helpful. I also incorporated ideas from Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft (8th Edition) by Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French and Ned Stuckey-French and The Twelve Questions in Frencesca Block’s The Thorn Necklace: Healing Through Writing and the Creative Process.

Deconstructing a scene

Evaluating a scene is similar to evaluating an entire story. A scene encompasses the same elements:

  • The point of view(POV) character, in a specific setting, wants something
  • Something or someone stops them from reaching that goal
  • This leads to crisis
  • Which leads to reflection and/or insight
  • Causing the POV character to change and/or come up with a new goal

The point of deconstructing scenes by authors you admire is to look for the techniques they use to make a scene stick with you. You want to identify the choices they make that appear so effortless and keep you reading like:

  • How do the characters express emotion?
  • What invoked emotion in you the reader?
  • Did something surprise you? Why? How?
  • What kept you turning pages?
  • Was there a hook at the end of the scene?

The Worksheet

I tested my worksheet on a scene from Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen. I chose this for my exercise because my current work in progress (I finished the first draft two days ago. YAY!) is in that vein: A murder mystery that brings a lot of eccentric characters into wild situations. The scene I chose did not specifically fit the scene and sequel structure, and I realized this by using my worksheet. I also discovered a technique to show emotion that I liked and may use in the future.

Filling out the worksheet didn’t take as long as I thought it would and the insight gleaned from filling it out was well worth the effort. The great thing about this Scene Deconstruction Worksheet is not only can I use it to read as a writer, but I can use it to evaluate my own scenes.

You can get a copy of my worksheet to use in your own reading and writing by signing up for my newsletter.

I want it button

When you do, you will receive a link to the file and a special message from me about once a month.

I hope that you will use this worksheet and find it as informative as I have.

Happy Reading and Writing!

 

Final Days of 2017 #FD2017 Day 25: Surviving The Rare White Christmas!

For our final odd ornament visual prompt I found a gift from 1996 still in its box. The box had some interesting info. I’m loving the name Grzegorz. I think the ball is painted with drums, but that’s a guess. From this view, it could be stylized black holes.

#vss very short story

While her family continued to open gifts, Carrie’s attention was drawn to the black spot on the painted, glass ornament. She could swear it was growing. Mom must have spiked the Christmas punch because she saw snow falling inside the black spot which was definitely growing.

Carrie stood on wobbly legs and touched the now floating void in the room. She felt cold air whoosh past her and closed her eyes to protect them from the burning cold. When she opened then again, a spritely crone with a thick pile of white hair neatly wrapped in a bun on the top of her head said, “Oh, Carrie. Good. You’re here. Santa’s in trouble.”

Today’s Poetry Prompt and Poem

Today’s prompt from MoSt Poetry is a form prompt. Fun! Write a tanka, a Japanese five-line, 5/7/5/7/7 syllable count form, concerning an emotion associated with this holiday season — positive or negative, neighborly or not, infused with eggnoggyness or something else.

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/tanka-poetic-form

Smiling at the snow
Voices travel over lake
Love this; it’s Christmas
This winter wonderland is
A perfect morning present

Extra Writing prompts

I found a couple writing prompts @writerswrite on twitter for today.

 

#FlashFicHive

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Graphic by Anjela Curtis

Anjela informed me yesterday that when #FlashFicHive comes around again in February, it will only be weekly prompts. Sad, but understandable. I’m trying to figure out how to approach my posts in 2018. Though I love the inspiration I find in theses daily posts, they are very time consuming. I may scale back to my previous bi-weekly posts in January and see how it goes.

Don’t Forget To Read!

Today is all about reading the books you got for Christmas! Yay New Books! Believe it or not, I did not receive a single book for Christmas, however, I still have one book to hurry through this morning before I gift it. And there’s still one more gathering that has book promise.

Today is also a great day to build your reading wish list. You can start buying those books with the money you get from gift returns and gift cards (fingers crossed).

 

Happy Reading and Writing!

Final Days of 2017 Day 24: This Crazy Cat

kitty in a hat box

Yesterday, was the annual family white elephant exchange and after everyone left, this crazy cat was left behind. It is now part of my odd decoration collection and today’s inspiration.

#vss very short story

Jenna thought it was so cute when her new Siamese cat jumped into her hat box where she kept her sewing supplies. She laughed and giggled as Snowy watched her from just under the closed lid and then sprang up like a Jack-in-the-box when she wiggled her fingers. But Jenna’s sewing business took a big hit when Snowy became viciously territorial and Jenna had to replace all of her supplies.

Today’s Poetry Prompt and Poem

Write a poem including the words perceptive, glorious, pernicious, quicksilver, and rock. Joe’s bonus word is quibble, and Sophie’s bonus word is frivolous.

The pernicious rock flashed like quicksilver
None would quibble the act was frivolous
And though childish, had glorious consequence

For the perceptive knew, said rock flew
Through the window, striking a bottle that toppled
Into another which in turn toppled another

The next bottle fell to the floor and smashed
Startling the shop cat asleep in the back
The cat darted out a little cat door and startled a driver

The driver screeched to a halt and hopped out
Searching for the cat in fear it was harmed
She investigated a sound coming from the dumpster

And inside was a crying infant wrapped in a blood-soaked towel
Saved from a terrible fate by the frivolous toss of a
Pernicious rock of glorious consequence.

Editing Focus

Let’s face it, I won’t be getting any editing done today or tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean my subconscious won’t be working on things without me. I found some characters that needed further development while doing my Character Web the other day. I’ll try to think about them during lulls in the festivities.

#FlashFicHive

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graphic by Anjela Curtis

I had a great time with this prompt last time. It led me to the discovery of occult chemists. I’m excited to see where this challenge leads me. Looks like Anjela left the Meaning from Circumlocution. That would be some odd usage of the word Gingerbread.

Berg Reading

The bride grange went to Range Bridge to meet Bigger Daren the binge grader who had spent the day grading beer which brought on the big red anger, the dage bringer.

Don’t Forget To Read!

I may have found a hole in the market. Sewing Cats Christmas, does not appear to be a book category on Amazon. Shocking, right? Ha. Ha. Ha. Here are some books I found to go with today’s theme:

Cattastic Crafts: DIY Project for Cats and Cat People by Mariko Ishikawa

Fashion Cats by Takako Iwasa

Trimmed With Murder (SEASIDE KNITTERS MYSTERY Book 10) by Sally Goldenbaum

I don’t know if that last one has a cat on it, but it kept coming up in my search so, maybe the cat kills all the people.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Final Days of 2017 Day 23: Yeti Paws

This has been hanging on the inside doorknob of my bedroom door ever since I received it from my Swedish “sister”. God Jul means Merry Christmas in Swedish. I am not sure what the fur is, but I’m going to go ahead and say it was made from Yeti paws.

#vss very short story

Hannah thought the furry Christmas decoration looked like a fluffy bone, so she put it around her dog’s neck. She loved how it bounced as he frolicked in the fresh snow-drifts. She heard a yelp and her little Prince didn’t emerge. She tromped through the thick snow, her heavy steps crunching on the top layer and then quickly sinking up past her knee. It was exhausting work to walk the few steps to see behind the hillock. She gasped. Her eyes traveled up the white fur to the blood dripping from the Yeti’s mouth. The strand of string still holding the fluffy bone was stuck around a huge, sharp tooth. Hannah screamed.

Today’s Poetry Prompt and Poem

Today’s prompt is a tough one:

Write your own memoir in 10 lines. No more, no less.

A Creative Life

Abject antecedent agonizes an allimentation allowance
Circumspect creature charily content
Rapacious reader reaching recalcitrant
Timely travel tunes tenacious talent
Educated egocentric eagerly endeavors
Antiestablishmentarian acts autarkically
Tumbling terrifically toward the twilight
Impossible issues invert imagined ills
Voracious verbiage vanquishes vile visions
Erasing exasperation eases endangered existence

 

#FlashFicHive

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I really like Ask the 8 Ball prompts. This one was fun. I asked the question as written and got:

replay hazy

So I tried a different question. I asked: Should I start my story with an onomatopoeia?

outlook good

Don’t Forget To Read!

To fit with today’s theme, I thought I would find some books about the Snow Beast.

Yeti – The Ecology of a Mystery by Daniel C. Taylor

My Quest for Yeti: Confronting the Himalayas’ Deepest Mystery by Reinhold Messner

The Abominable Snowman (Choose Your Own Adventure 1) by R. A. Montgomery

GAMAGO Yeti Journal I have this journal. I really like it. I bought it at the Seattle MoPop when it was the EMP (Experience Music Project). I write my ideas for kids stories in it.

Yeti Rescue Kit

And there are many kids books that look cute:

Yeti, Turn Out the Light! by Greg Long, Chris Edmundson and Wednesday Kirwan

No Yeti Yet by Mary Ann Fraser

Yeti and the Bird by Nadia Shireen

Happy Reading and Writing!

All The Colors Of Santa And Snowmen: Final Days of 2017 Day 21

All the Colors of Santa and Snowmen

I found these wonderful little light covers yesterday. If I hadn’t been playing with pink flamingos the other day, I wouldn’t have recognized what they were. The rainbow santas and snowmen will probably be riding pink flamingos for Christmas at my house.

#vss very short story

In all the hustle and bustle of the Annual Santa-Snowman Convention, they hadn’t noticed that some of the santas and snowmen weren’t actually supposed to be blue. One santa froze to death and a snowman choked on his own carrot. Was it foul play? They decided to sweep it under the snowbank.

Word Of The Day

I stumbled across a new word this morning and it’s a good one, so I thought I would make it the word of the day.

inanition: noun  1. exhaustion from lack of nourishment; starvation.  2. lack of vigor; lethargy.

May you never know inanition.

Today’s Poetry Prompt and Poem

Prompt: Write a poem about a place that you do not like.

MoSt included some great suggestions for this poem:

Use a crazy number of metaphors and similes. Give that place a costume, a cliche, a smell, a bon mot, an emotion, an inner life, a bunch of lies that lead to a truth, a bunch of truths that lead to a memory that isn’t quite true after all, give it a persona, a breath, a sound — what music would be in that place? what sounds would be just outside? What person comes in and goes out and what do they say? And…you can totally make something up. Remember, you have little obligation to truth. Go wild.

The Office

It doesn’t matter the proprietor
Or even the town, state or country
This room is my living hell

A life of recurring, compelled visits
Empty of answers
though full of testing instruments

The horror-show of the human machine,
Laid bare, completely bare
With the opening at the back

Tortures and fears all created here
Weapons of “health” line the wall
Posters threatening death for non-compliance

And the joke in on me, this torture’s not free
The poking and prodding’s expensive
I pay with my innermost secrets.

 

Editing Focus

As I continue to go through my scenes looking at value changes, I’m also going to highlight all the passages that show my MC’s inner life as recommended by James Scott Bell in Revision And Self-Editing (Write Great Fiction)‘s Ultimate Revision Checklist.

When I’m done highlighting, I’ll read through all the highlighted sections in order and ask myself:

  • Is the flow of the interior life understandable and believable?
  • Are there places that seem inconsistent?
  • Are there gaps that need to be filled with other interior insights?

#FlashFicHive

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graphic by Anjela Curtis

Sharing lines will be fun today because I wrote a lot of Creepy Christmas flash fiction over the last few days.

Don’t Forget To Read!

Great news! Gator McBumpypants in Shelley Comes Out Of Her Shell is now available for Kindle!

Happy Reading and Writing!

Christmas In Japan: Final Days of 2017 Day 19

kimono ornament

I still haven’t been to Japan. I hope to visit some day. This pretty, colorful kimono seemed like an odd addition to the tree, so I thought I’d spend the day exploring Christmas traditions in Japan.

You can read about Christmas traditions in Japan at All Things Christmas, The Culture Trip and Why Christmas?

#vss very short story

Hoteiosho wanted to bring all of the presents this year, so he challenged Santa to a sumo match. Santa wasn’t willing to take off his Santa-suit, so he had to forfeit. He got home early from deliveries and took a nice long nap.

Today’s Poetry Prompt and Poem

Today’s theme is Clouds
clouds
light and                                                     mean and
fluffy white                            foreboding dark warning
pareidolia for                      of a storm approaching, blocking
grass-layers in spring                          the sun’s warmth and light
moving              swiftly            swirling      and               roiling overhead
drifting

Editing Focus

I made some progress yesterday. Through meticulously filling in  The Story Grid: What Good Editors Knowspreadsheet, I noticed stronger places to start the story and places where point of view would be stronger from another character.

Today, I will continue the process of finding the Story Event of each scene.

#FlashFicHive

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graphic by Anjela Curtis

Looks like this is a story and poetry prompt.

To keep with today’s theme, I looked for a Japanese Christmas song and found some Christmas songs in Japanese matched with anime images:

Then I found this gem:

A cover of Christmas Eve by Chemistry. Definitely what I was looking for.

Here’s a translation of the lyrics. I cannot attest to the accuracy.

Christmas Eve

All alone I watch the quiet rain
Wonder if it’s gonna snow again
Silent night holy night

I was praying
You’d be here with me
What it used to be
Silent night holy night
For Christmas

Somewhere far away
The sleigh bells ring
I remember
When we used to sing
Silent night holy night

I keep you inside me
Oh the truth is unspoken
So my heart won’t be broken
On Christmas

They lit the trees
Along the avenue
Twinkling silver with a touch of blue
Silent night holy night

Don’t Forget To Read!

To go with today’s theme, I found a couple of books about Christmas in Japan:

Tree of Cranes by Allen Say
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (light novel) (The Haruhi Suzumiya Series) by Nagaru Tanigawa

Happy Reading and Writing!

#FD2017 Final Days Of 2017 Day 16: Joy To The World!

Ocarina

Many people put fake, plastic instruments on their Christmas trees. I like real ones. I received this Ocarina in a basket of world instruments as a Christmas gift. It adds gorgeous color to the tree and when the spirit moves, I can grab it and play along with my favorite carol. Or, in all honesty, make horrible noises in a joyful manner.

#vss very short story

Pepito wore his ocarina everywhere he went. His grandmother had told him it would protect him from harm and he would be a great savior to his village. One day, while he was skipping along the mountain trail, the ground shook and a generation of vipers slithered from the rocks toward the village.

Pepito pulled his ocarina from his neck and showed it to the snakes, but they were not deterred. He prayed that its power would flow through him as his grandmother had promised, but he did not feel any power come.

Finally, as the snakes were about to reach him, he brought the ocarina to his mouth and blew a loud and ugly note. The snakes stopped, confused by the sound waves. They licked at the sound in the air. Pepito fluttered his fingers over the holes blowing as hard as he could. The song he played was a terrible noise; the vipers fled and hid.

Today’s Poetry Prompt and Poem

Though some reports say the HHS word ban is a misunderstanding, just the idea of a government agency telling people that they can’t use certain words is an affront to any wordsmith. So, though I think it will be difficult and I will have to update this post with the drafted poem, I am happy to take on the challenge proposed by MoSt Poetry:

Use the words vulnerable, fetus, diversity, entitlement, transgender, science-based, and evidence-based in a poem.

Health And Human Services

All humans are endowed by their Creator
Human health is All inclusive

With the Rights to Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness
The Center for Disease Control is tasked to help with this

Their scientists prevent the spread of disease
Using science-based data they fight the good fight

Against microbes on the hunt for human hosts
All life is vulnerable from fetus ’til lost to death

The evidence-based bias is skewed
Correlation is Not equivalent to causation

Gender identity and biological sex assignments
Do not change those entitlements

Transgender humans are part of our diversity
Diversity is necessary for genetic survival
Survival being that entitlement
Entitlement to Life

Editing Focus

Today and tomorrow, actually for as long as it takes, I’ll be separating out each scene in my draft and attempting to analyze it down to its essence, one sentence that captures the scene. As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be creating a spread sheet for a Story Grid. While I do this, I’ll also be following The Ultimate Revision Checklist.

The first thing on the Revision Checklist is to take a good look at your Main Character (Lead Character on the checklist). As I read through my scenes, I’ll ask myself:

  • Is my MC worth following for a whole novel? Why?
  • How can I make my MC “jump off the page” more?
  • Do my characters sufficiently contrast?
  • Will readers bond to my MC?

I’ll also make a physical diagram of my character arc using the Kubler-Ross Change Curve For Story like I talked about on Day 14 Stages Of Change.

#FlashFicHive

With all those happy words it could be a challenge to create conflict in my story. Ha Ha. Just Kidding. It’s the holidays. However, let’s see what Oblique Strategies says:

Accretion

And suddenly we have a

Word Of The Day

I love when that happens!

accretion – noun
1. an increase by natural growth or by gradual external addition; growth in size or extent.
2. the result of this process.
3. an added part; addition: The last part of the legend is a later accretion.
4. the growing together of separate parts into a single whole.
5. Law. increase of property by gradual natural additions, as of land by alluvion.
There’s another word for today!

alluvion – noun

1. Law. a gradual increase of land on a shore or a river bank by the action of water, whether from natural or artificial causes.
2. overflow; flood.
Now I see many possibilities for conflict.

Don’t Forget To Read!

I thought for today’s theme it would be fun to look up books on instruments around the world.
The World Atlas of Musical Instruments by Bozhidar Abrashev and Vladimir Gadjev
Musical Instruments: From Flutes Carved of Bone, to Lutes, to Modern Electric Guitars from Scholastic
And I need this one! Play The World: The 101 Instrument Primer from Mel Bay.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Pink Flamingos: Final Days Of 2017 Day 17

I received these at a white elephant gift exchange. I think every tree needs some thoughtful pink flamingos.

#vss very short story

The reindeer became skittish as they got closer to Florida. A crew of pink flamingos were vying for their jobs and were always trying to show of for Santa. Trying not to kick a flamingo had become a hazard of delivering presents.

Today’s Poetry and Poem

Write about inheritances. The real, the imagined, the wished for, the cursed…

Her Mother’s Pink Flamingos

Her mother’s pink flamingos
Were all she ever wanted
She spent hours playing with them
As a child while she waited
For her mother to get home
Day or night, in the heat or cold
She imagined the flamingos hopping
And flying around the trailer park
She imagined them lifting her up
On a multitude of soft feathers
And landing on candy-floss clouds
Where they watched the sunset
But when her mother kicked her out
She took a bat to those flamingos
They had left her there to rot
Now she had nothing and nowhere to go
She instantly regretted her actions
But she couldn’t bring back
Her mother’s flamingos.

Editing Focus

Chapter 16 of Revision And Self-Editing (Write Great Fiction) by James Scott Bell is The Ultimate Revision Checklist. Starting tomorrow, I plan to begin following the checklist on my draft for Throwing Stones while also creating a Story Grid following the guidelines in The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne.

To prepare for this intense editing practice, today I’m going to follow Mr. Coyne’s suggestion and separate my novel into each scene, print out the scenes and staple each one into a short piece of writing. Then I’ll start a spreadsheet for Throwing Stones with a SCENE column, WORD COUNT column and a STORY EVENT column. Then I’ll be ready to dive in, first thing tomorrow.

#FlashFicHive

Since I didn’t find the prompt for #FlashFicHive yesterday, I thought I would combine it with the prompt for today. And that means, there will be pink flamingos. Oh yes, there will be pink flamingos.

I have two options for my pink flamingos in the fill in the blanks sentence:

  1. The pink flamingos lived in a bright place with cryptids.
  2. The dogs lived in a hairy place with pink flamingos.

I used this as a short mad libs game with a friend and those are the words I got. Let’s try a couple more to fill out the idea:

1. The pink flamingos lived in a dark place with helicopters.
2. The tree lived in a fiery place with pink flamingos.

So this place, with at least of tree, full of pink flamingos, dogs and cryptids could be dark and hairy but becomes bright when set on fire. Luckily the helicopters were already there, so they put out the fires quickly.

Don’t Forget To Read!

I thought I would keep with today’s theme and look for some books on Pink Flamingos.

There is a surprisingly small selection of books to choose from. There are exactly two books in the King County Library System with the words “Pink Flamingos” in the title:
The Pink Flamingo Murders by Elaine Viets and Pink Flamingos by Carlo Mari.

I had a little more luck on Goodreads and Amazon finding such gems as:
Pink Flamingos All Aroundby Michael J. Andersen
What Makes Flamingos Pink?: A Colorful Collection of Q & A’s for the Unquenchably Curious by Bill McClain
BUGS BUNNY AND THE PINK FLAMINGOS (A Little Golden Book, 110-63)by Gina Inogoglia.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Final Days Of 2017 Day 16: Aloha Santa

aloha santa

In the mood for a Hawaiian Christmas? This Santa is. My sweetie and I agree he would know the words to Mele Kalikimaka, so we’re not sure what he’s looking at in this book. If you’d like to listen to the song here’s some Bing Crosby.

#vss very short story

Santa let his elf take the reins while he thumbed through his Hawaiian translations. He was pretty sure the man with the red face, shaking his fist and pointing at his broken chimney, wasn’t saying “Merry Christmas.”.

Today’s Poetry Prompt and Poem

Write a poem about/for/against/including Pantone’s color of the year for 2018: Ultra Violet.

https://www.pantone.com/color-of-the-year-2018

UltraViolet

A light beyond the spectrum of sight
A flower with super-powers
A girl who summons all her might
A field full of wild-flowers

Happy Reading and Writing!