Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sensory Prompt

I wrote this for this prompt.  It's a sensory exercise, and I used the main character from my most recent novel in progress, tentatively titled 'Coming Home'.  It's about a man who loses his faith after an accident kills his wife and community, and he alone is spared.

I did taste as my sense, but I couldn't just stick to one thing... The first section wanders a little, venturing into smell, and the second is actually more of a mini scene than a writing exercise.  Probably won't make it into the book, but still, it's good to have some scenes based on purely sense-related issues.  Senses are a very important part of writing, and I too often forget everything except sight.


Good taste -

The most wonderful thing in the world to Jared Thral was the taste of his wife's skin. They both worked hard, in the fields during the day, exposed to the heat of the sun and the burn of the winds rushing through the valley. But when they were done with a long day's work they got back to the house and Jared smelled of musk and dried sweat, while Satalia smelled of beauty, and purity, and even though the smell wasn't light, or floral, it was so intense and deep that it made his heart ache. He thanked God for giving him the gift of life when he lay in bed with her, his face pressing against her hair, falling asleep with the scent of it in his head. Whenever he smelled freshly tilled earth, he remembered that smell, and the taste of her skin. Like nothing else on earth, the taste of her skin. Fresh and sweet, like the frequent spring rains. She always tasted like she had just come inside from a rainstorm.

Jared stood in the rain, now, and thought about her. As a boy, he had run around with his mouth open when the rains came, trying to catch as much as possible until he was so full of water that his stomach sloshed when he ran.

Bad taste -

Jared smiled, and accepted the offered plate. The very sight of the marda made him queasy, but he ignored the pleas of his stomach and put two of the wraps in his plate. Michae, next to him, smiled.

“Good, Jared! You will remember what it is like to follow the rules of God. Partake of his food, so that he may cleanse you.”

Jared nodded and looked back at his plate. The smell was reaching him now, and it made the rolling of his stomach much more pronounced. The sight of it was revolting, and the thought of it in his mouth, his stomach, made him gag.

“Is something wrong?” Michae asked.

“Sati... this was the last meal that she made for me.”

“Oh. Oh, of course. For Thirdday prayer, I assume. Yes, I remember. The flood happened on Thirdday.” The priest stopped, looked between Jared and the plate of food. “Are you telling me you haven't eaten marda since? Jared, it's been weeks.”

“I can't do this.”

“You have to,” the priest said – gently, but insistent. He was beginning to get irritated. That was not what Jared wanted. He was looking to fit in, here. To find a new home with his people. Wasn't that how it was supposed to work? He was a Devout, as was Michae, as were the people around him, as well as the abbess eating somewhere in the room. He hiccuped, something that was not quite a sob, and picked the marda off his plate and closed his eyes tightly before putting the thing in his mouth.

It was worse than he could have imagined. One taste of the marinated lettuce holding the thing together brought him back to the day that it happened. When he was sitting on the wet ground, throwing up the last meal his wife had made for him, feeling the burn of acid and the salty taste of his tears. He chewed, desperate only to get the thing down his throat as quickly as possible, but it didn't want to go. It turned into a sticky paste, always too large to swallow, a thing that seemed to be made of slime and rotten meat. He heaved, kept chewing. Michae was watching him intently, making no moves to help, saying nothing. He heaved again, gagging as he forced the lump down his throat, almost choking. The taste of it stayed in his mouth even as the solid ball of food sunk down into his stomach, and he grabbed blindly for the glass of water by his plate, trying to wash out every particle of the wretched food.

“There,” said the priest, soothing now that the moment had passed. “That wasn't so bad, was it?”

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What is 'Voice'?

This is a question that came up actually quite unexpectedly.  I've been writing a daily writing prompt, at least 500 words of a story or idea for the past couple of days.  Four prompts, total.  Pretty cool ones, if I do say so myself - there's the very beginnings of a story about the University of War, the end of the world, a vivid dream, and an overly clich├ęd character - and as I've been writing I've had to ask myself why all of my writing seems to sound the same.

These story snippets are all different genres, written from the points of view of four entirely different characters, with different things going on in their lives.  But for some reason, there's a common thread - they all sound like me.

This has been an issue with me in the past, particularly with my first novel, and is something I'm trying to correct as I edit my second.  I guess I just didn't realize, until I started doing these, how much everything kind of sounds the same.  Not just the dialogue, but the descriptions, the words.  Is this my voice?

There are two ways I'm looking at this.  One, it's bound to happen.  I write, well, often, and there is no way to not develop a voice when you write.  It's your style, your signature.  It also means that I'm becoming more aware of how I write, and I'm taking a step back to examine my work, which is definitely a positive for me.  On the other hand, I don't know how thrilled I am with this voice.  I feel like, if I'm taking the same approach to writing every time I sit down to write, than I'm not learning anything, and I should be.  I am not an expert at this.  I consider myself good.  Maybe well above average.  But I don't think anyone is good enough to get complacent.

So here's the plan.  I'm going to take a few steps out of my comfort zone.  Maybe write some things that don't come as easily to me, write in a style or in a medium unfamiliar.  Poetry has been suggested.  So has playwriting, or writing a page of a comic.  Things that I don't know much about, that it would be a good idea to learn.  Maybe writing a story from a completely foreign mind, or just keeping the thought in my head, as I write, to do it differently than usual.

I'll give that a shot, and if any of it turns out halfway decent I'll post it on my off days.  I need something to keep the internet occupied.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Writing Prompts

Hello, everyone!  Today we're going to talk about writing prompts.  I've been doing a daily prompt (just for a couple of days now) at, and to be a good moderator I've been doing the prompts along with whoever else wants to participate.

I have a couple of questions about writing prompts, actually.  I don't know if they're helpful or distracting.  I know that they're a great way to stretch those writing muscles, and maybe they're a good way to get unstuck if you're stuck on something, but what about when you're right in the middle of a project?  I think, for a writer, anything except for working on your current project is procrastination.  I have a novel in the works right now, and pausing every day to write 500 words on some other idea I've had kicking around for a while just sounds dangerous.

Maybe that's just because these are my prompts that are being offered.  The ideas for the prompts that I'm posting are all coming from my notebooks - notes I've jotted down, pieces of ideas that I've had in class.  I might have this note: cracks floating in the air.  That's it, just one line.  But if I make it into a prompt, I will let that small little note in my notebook win, and I will be forced to figure out what it means, or what it might mean.

I can see this as both a good and a bad thing.  On one hand, I get to flesh out an idea that's been lurking in the depths of my idea book for months, and once I write about it I can check that small little itch in the back of my mind off for good.  But what if it's good?  What if I like it?  I wrote exactly 499 words about a first day at the University of War.  Doesn't that sound pretty awesome?  How do I stick with my boring old novel when I can get sidetracked and write about what's going on at the University of War?

What do you think?  Are writing prompts a good way to get yourself out of a rut, or into the writing mood?  or are they potentially dangerous sand traps for your current work in progress?  Can they possibly be both?  

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I'm Back

Hey, folks.

Big plans this year, just getting a bit of a late start.  I know I vanished off the face of the earth last year, but for what were good reasons at the time - my computer was totally busted, unusable, really.  I finished NaNoWriMo and kinda freaked because that manuscript - all 50k words of it - is trapped in a laptop that is over a decade old.  Cannot get it off.  Seriously.  And other things, cumulating in my being pretty much unable to write for a few months.

But I'm back, still writing, editing, etc, and I have PLANS.

I'm publishing them here, so I can't renege.

1.  I'm going to start posting on my blog again.  Three days a week, tues, thurs, and sat.  This is happening, for reals.
2.  I'm going to PAX this year with a short story, printed out (and probably stapled), with my website on it and a link to a self published story available for free on amazon.  None of this has happened yet, but like I said - PLANS.
3.  I'm also looking for conventional publishing options.  I haven't been writing that much during my hiatus, but I have been writing.  Several short stories, more starts that I've ever had, and what could be, if I had about a bajillion more hours, a few novels.  On Tues I'll get a little deeper into what I've been working on, and I'm also trying to figure out how to get this site more out there.  Publish more often, obviously, but I'm also thinking about doing book reviews, maybe some how-tos, anything I can to flex that writing muscle a little more.  I've yet to sit down and come up with a concrete schedule, but each week there is going to be some serious editing time, and some serious looking-at-where-to-publish-this/oh-dear-God-there-my-precious-baby-goes time.  So, yeah.  Stick around.  There's gonna be some changes.