Sunday, January 30, 2011

Writing exercise

This is a writing exercise- a short scene with a stereotypical character (in this case, the stern headmaster) and an effort to make him more "round" as in, not flat, but having dimension, making him more sympathetic.  Tell me if you think I'm getting it.  I'm not sure... I had hard time choosing a stereotype to try and change.  This is the "bullying headmaster with a tender, sentimental side" as suggested by the writing course instructions.  I don't know if I got into the tender, sentiment enough, but I'm trying to keep balance.  Without a full story, just a single scene, I wasn't sure how to condense or include enough information... anyway, comment, tell me what you think.

Headmaster Lucas looked down his nose, through his spectacles and sighed as his eyebrows pinched together.  The student before him cowered.  They always did.  He cleared his throat and the child actually jumped!  Sighing again, Lucas folded his hands before him and leaned down, until his nose nearly bumped against the boy’s. 
“Colin.”  He used his ‘stern’ voice.  It was most effective.
“S-sir?” The boy’s voice trembled, as did his hands.  Please, thought Lucas, just don’t let him wet himself.
“Colin, what you did today.  Sneaking into the kitchens after hours. This is forbidden.”  He raised one eyebrow, squeezing his lips together for a moment, trying to decide what to do with the boy.
“I could expel you.”  The boy’s eyes began to tear up, and his lower lip quivered.
“But, I won’t.  You’re a good student and show promise on the cricket field.  No.  I won’t be expelling you.  Pull yourself together.”  The boy sat up, still shaking, but hope gleaming in his dark eyes.
“Instead, I want you to work for three evenings’ detention periods in the kitchens with Mrs. Gregory. You’ll work off the food you pilfered.  Do you understand?”
“Y-yes, sir.” The boy nodded emphatically. His forehead shone with a light sheen of sweat.  Lucas didn’t smile.  He knew the price of becoming friends with the boys too well.  He would hold on to his power here. At all costs.
“You are dismissed, Colin.”
Colin rose and shakily headed to the large oak door. 
“Oh, and Colin?”  The boy turned just his head to look at Lucas, like a little, frightened owl, eyes wide.
“I’ll be wanting you to see Mr. Thomas for discipline tomorrow, as well.”
Mr. Thomas was the one person at Barrington Academy that even frightened Brighton Lucas.  Colin looked about to faint.  Lucas’ stomach clenched, but he held strong. His authority must be absolute.
“Yessir” He whispered, then closed the door behind him.
Lucas sat down again, leaning his head against the high, leather chair back, rubbing his eyes.  He sighed once more, cracked his knuckles and began drafting a memo to Mrs. Gregory.  He knew too well what it felt like to be hungry at night, and he wouldn’t have any of his boys compelled to steal from the kitchens again.  Instead, he would institute evening snacks to be taken before bedtime.  Cheese, bread, and milk, perhaps.  His lips twitched into a small smile.  He might even ask her to let Colin tell the boys about it.  Then he would be looked at as a hero, and might actually make a few friends.  Lucas had been watching him since he arrived three months previous, and his heart ached, watching the skinny lad alone during free hour, wandering beneath the great willows on the South lawn.  It would all come out right, he was sure.

Writing classes

Last year, fall of 2009, I took my first college writing class since deciding I want to WRITE.  It was great, I loved it, especially the poetry unit.  It didn't go deep enough into what I really want to know, though, which is how to write effective fiction.  The other day, I happened across a free online writing course, and I started looking into it tonight.  So far, so good.  I really enjoyed a document about characters.  These are the things it said that made sense to me:
"If you start by building a strong sense of your main character or characters, then add a dilemma, challenge or conflict, you will automatically be generating your plot. Starting the other way around, with a chain of events into which you then fit characters, can often be more difficult and less convincing. Character + Conflict = Plot"
"To show what makes him/her, you must come to a crucial choice that almost breaks and then makes the character.  The make or break decision gives you plot."
"Character is not the part of you that conforms, but rather sticks out."
From someone named Stanley Elkin: "I would never write about someone who is not at the end of his rope."

I think this might have been my problem with the story I forced to finish.  I had these great characters, but I forced them into the plot.  I need to give them more time to develop the conflicts and the story naturally... hmm.. makes me want to go pull out that file and start looking for what I can do to help them along...

Friday, January 28, 2011

I have a friend who has a blog like this as she is working toward becoming a published author.  It inspired me to start one as well.  Thanks, Laura!

I have been writing for a few years now.  One night, about 4 years ago, I just had this thought pop into my head and I sat down at the computer with my headphones in, playing Queen's greatest hits and began typing.  Two years later I finished my first book, working title: "Queen of the Moon".  The first third is good enough to keep.  The rest is garbage.  I pushed myself to write something, but it went in a direction I didn't really care for, and I threw in certain things just for the convenience of finishing the story.  I pushed myself hard to finish something.  But it isn't what I want for those characters, whom I love, and who have haunted me ever since, hanging around my mind and reminding me that I never finished their story.  So I'm trying to get up the motivation to go back and revisit the story, chop and mutilate it, stitch it back together even better, and get moving with my life as a writer.

In the meantime, I have about 10 other "starts".  None of them have gone anywhere. I'm really good at beginning a story, but then I hit that wall where I don't know what to do next.  So I'm working on developing a story before writing it.  I have a very long outline of a story I'm calling "Hobnail and Hook".  So far, so good.  I have the opening scene (I think), and I have a pretty good understanding of what I want for the story.  I just have to sit down and get writing, I suppose... but first I kind of want to work on "Queen of the Moon" again...

What I really need is time.  I am really hoping that having the summer off will grant me what I need to make some real progress.  My sweet husband bought me a laptop for Christmas, which definitely helps.  I can take my stories with me everywhere we go this summer, as well as not having to compete with my children for the family computer.  I'm very excited about that.  I tend to be a much more prolific writer when the house is quiet, though, so summer might be interesting.  Maybe I'll just have to get up before the kids every day, or stay up late nights to write... we'll see.  Maybe next fall I won't have to go to work and I can stay home and work on my ambitions instead!

Another concern is how to organize my chapters, etc.  I've been using Word, but it isn't very easy to flip back and forth and find things and edit in Word.  I've broken up my book in sections-- I have three or so chapters saved in each file.  There HAS to be a better way, though.  I don't want to spend a bunch of money for writing software, but I may just have to...