About Writing on Wednesdays: Writing Prompts and Memories

Writing prompts are fun and they get those creative juices flowing that sometimes lead to a great story. To Touch a Unicorn was created from a writing prompt Chuck Wendig gave on his blog. He has writing challenges every Friday I enjoy reading even if I don’t always participate.

This week Tracey and I decided we wanted to begin using writing prompts. We each picked a sentence from Daily Writing Tips last Monday. The goal is a minimum of 500 words and we have from Monday to Sunday to complete. On Sunday we’ll share our stories with each other for review. It should be fun.

Tracey chose ‘They came back every year to lay flowers at the spot’ for this week.  This is an interesting sentence because it can be creepy or sad. I can’t wait to see what she does with it. Maybe Tracey will let me put up what she writes. She should because she is a talented writer.

The story prompt I chose for this week is ‘It was the first snowfall of the year.’  This sentence is haunting but the why of it didn’t strike me at first. It was when I was going over my beginning sentences that I realized I was using childhood memories. Here are my first several sentences:

It was the first snowfall of the year but the shivers racking Scarlett Miller wasn’t from the cold, it was the tracks in the snow leading up the stairs to her back door. The same back door that was partly open when she got up that morning. She knew two things had stopped the intruder from coming in: an old trunk full of books sitting in front of the door and Ginger.

A good start I think. I was eleven when the incident I’m drawing from occurred. Yes there was snow and yes there were tracks leading up stairs to our back door. Instead of a trunk of books there was an empty trunk with a large wooden cage on it that had two gerbils inside. I truly believe Ginger saved us that night. Her and her alone. It was just my mom, me and my brother because my dad drove a truck over the road and they knew it.  Ginger was a hero and deserves to be remembered for her love and loyalty. Ginger is why I always feel safer with dogs in the house to at least alert me they hear something.

Children are so naive and trusting. I was no exception. Looking back I realize I must have worked my guardian angel a lot during those years. Sometimes I want to cry for that girl because no child should see or hear some of the things I did but then I remember I am blessed because many of those things could have turned out so much worse.

One day as I walked home from school one of the new neighbors, an older woman, from across the street called to me from her front door, I walked over, she invited me to come in and I did. Inside there was another woman and two men. They were so friendly and when they asked questions about me and my family I answered them.

They said they wanted me to do chores for them to earn a little money, ironing and such. Excited I ran home to ask my mother if I could work for our nice neighbors. To their credit they did tell my mom about themselves, turns out the guys were just out of prison for rape and murder. Her answer was a resounding ‘no’ to me with a stay away from them added for good measure.

Not too long after that the incident with the back door occurred. Not too long after that the murderer killed the rapist. Yes, I saw that. Not the actual killing but the aftermath. I could see the police car and ambulance from the top of the hill where the school bus dropped me off. The paramedics rolled the rapist out of the house and just as I walked by they got to the ambulance on the road. The bullet hole between his eyes could be clearly seen. The murderer went back to jail and the wives moved away. So did we.

Do we know for certain who it was trying to break in our back door? No. But I’d say the odds were pretty good it was one or both from across the street, don’t you? I think I’ve mentioned how beautiful my mother was as a young woman. I think I’ve also mentioned how men stared and occasionally followed her around. My mother did not encourage them that I can recall nor did she dress inappropriately but something made men stop and look and then look again. Whatever ‘it’ was it also made a few of them act inappropriately.

There were at least five incidents that were truly creepy and scary that I remember. One in Maryland involving one of our neighbors stalking her (I don’t remember much except my mother talking with a friend about contacting the police, I  remember being afraid), an incident in California where my mother got money from a company because the man who worked for them actually caused her physical harm, two in Georgia (including the incident I’ve talked about) and one in North Carolina.  There’s more, I’m sure, but they didn’t go that high on the creepy/scary scale so I don’t remember them.

What I find interesting is that I didn’t consciously pick that sentence because of those memories. It kept going round and round in my head; I started putting together sentences before I remembered, “Oh, yeah. That actually happened.” It’s not like every time it snows I freak out or anything but it has always been in the back of my mind like a bug crawling around the kitchen floor. You try to stomp it but the thing is too fast and gets in a crack between the wall and floor before you can kill it. Well now the memory has some use as I draw on it to write an awesome story, I hope.

Peace.

About Writing on Wednesdays: What Kind Of Character Do You Have?

Faith Hunter, Ed Schubert and Larry Correa discussed their thoughts about character development in this panel at Stellarcon.

The focus was on the protagonist and how to create him or her with the something extra that makes a reader’s eyes pop out. Something more than eye color, hair color, weight or height. The something that makes them keep reading and want more.

You love your character. S/he is the best thing since sliced bread. Naaaannnh! This is a huge red flag that your character is bor-ing. Part of the story is the flawed character that needs improvement. To keep the reader interested your character must grow and change through the end of the book.

However, your character can’t just change without warning. Something has to make the character see him/herself clearly. This is the point where the character transitions from good to bad or vice versa. The character must make a choice that determines his or her path for the rest of the book. A choice that helps decide how your book ends.

Readers must be able to relate to your characters. Some ways to humanize characters: have them fall short of a goal; have low self-esteem; break a code of honor; unable to complete a task; make them clumsy; have bad luck; have ill-health; have a phobia; not the sharpest marble; be shy or walk away from something because it’s too hard.

Flaws to give your character: they’re judgemental; they have a temper; they’re impatient; they’re arrogant; they’re introverted; they’re a loner; they’re overconfident; they’re weak; they’re ignorant; too rigid and won’t change easily; prejudiced against race, religion, etc.; they’re amoral or too promiscuous.

A deeply flawed character discussed was Dexter from Showtime. A TV show based on a series of books. He is an example of a bad character who is fun to write. If you are not familiar with the show or books he is a serial killer.

I saw the first two seasons of Dexter before I cut Showtime loose. The premise was his stepfather saw the trait in him and directed his energies to killing other serial killers. The twist is he works for the police. I liked the show and now I’m thinking I should check out the books although I’m sure they’re nothing like the TV show.

Characters who walk a very narrow line between good and bad are Anne Stuart’s stock in trade.  In general her male protagonists are amoral but somehow she always manages to make them likeable if a little scary. True love puts them on the right path. Of course it’s a wide path.

 If you’re interested in these type books try Anne’s books from the Ice series or Ritual Sins. In case you don’t know and you’re interested, Jeff Lindsay writes the Dexter books.

Be careful when writing a character like Dexter or Bastian from Black Ice. It would be all too easy to antagonize your readers instead of enticing them to read more.

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Tracey Is Fine

I am not putting this under Freaky on Fridays because as I explained to Ruth several blogs ago when you are called because your child has been in a car accident it’s not a freak out but damned stressful.

Tracey was in a car accident Friday night and as it happens we weren’t called but by sheer luck, God looking out for Tracey or whatever you choose to call it we showed up at the scene of the accident. The chick didn’t have her cell phone.

 A couple of days ago Paul and I decided we were going to see the special extended version of the Lord of the Rings films that are showing at a theatre in Greensboro for the next three weeks. From our home it is about a 45 minute drive to get there.

Twice, let me repeat twice, I went to Fandango to purchase tickets on-line but kept thinking no I need to go to the theatre to get the tickets because I was uneasy about buying the tickets online. I had tickets reserved but kept clicking off before the final confirmation.

Paul and I made a night of it. We went to the theatre first and got the tickets for Tuesday night then talked to the ticket guy about Fandango and how it worked. To be honest I felt incredibly dumb for wanting to wait and talk to someone first. Old and dumb but maybe my unease wasn’t about Fandango so much as it was about a premonition of sorts.

Let me also point out that Paul is not fond of going to Greensboro or to the movies. The fact he was so enthusiastic about both was such an unusual response for him I kept wondering if I should check under the bed for a pod or something. Weird.

Next we went to Barnes and Noble and then dinner. The last thing we did was visit Ed Mckay’s Used Books. Ok, I’m a book nerd. By this time I’ve called Tracey several times with no response. The Natural Science Center where she works is in the general area where we were but as far as I knew she should have been home. 

We were supposed to get her something to eat on our way home so I checked with my mom to see if she was there but no such luck.  After I hung up I fussed over her whereabouts as we passed a police car sitting over in a parking lot to our left with its lights flashing. Paul says he thinks that’s Tracey. Huh?

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Curio’s Past, Shhh.