Today’s prompt comes from YEAH WRITE! a tumblr account that’s great if you’re into that kind of thing. Also, since it comes from tumblr, it actually comes from 166,039 other places, but I saw it on YEAH WRITE.

Write about a unique first kiss.

Is it your main character’s first kiss ever, or just first kiss with this other person? Does the kiss happen organically, or is it “staged” (such as from a game like 7 Minutes in Heaven or a practice kiss for a play)? What are the ages of the two kissers? Who initiates it?

In addition to describing the situation, try to describe all of the senses—not just feel. How do the kissers’ breath smell? How do their mouths taste? Do either or both of them have their eyes open? As they kiss, what interesting things are they hearing?

I think this is one I can do justice so expect (don’t expect) me to have written a wonderful little scene in the near future!

My friends and I have a pretty acerbic repartee that is as hard to follow as it is friendly. We aren’t bad people, despite what you might hear us say about each other. Besides, we know each other’s emotional kryptonite if it ever comes to friendship ending-hatred and we know to steer clear of these points. For the record, the first clue to my emotional kryptonite can be found by unscrambling select letters in this blog post.

In fact, most of the stuff we say to one another is pretty harmless (except for when we play board games). You know who are vicious? Anonymous people on the internet.

If you don’t know what I mean:

  1. What wonderful plane of existence do you live on?
  2. It is my sworn duty to ruin to ruin your happiness by showing you any comment section. Ever.

Alright it’s not always bad.

Once, I happened upon one of these  rare not awful corners of the internet. It was a strange place. A place of imagination. A place called LitReactor.

I don’t know how I ended up in this magic place, but appreciated being able to speak with like-minded storytellers far removed from the  infinitely awful wasteland of trolls.

It’s a pretty great site with essays on writing from established authors, including Chuck Palahniuk, forums, workshops, and writing exercises.

For Halloween last year, they featured a rather spooky contest which appealed to my love of Lovecraft. The contest – which I was grossly late to apply to – said to write a short story, based on an original monster in your hometown with a minimum body count of 3.

Before I came up with a monster, I came up with a fear from my memory like a creeping horror. One night when I was little, I had a bad dream and thought to ease my mind by going to my parents. This was no small feat as I had to make the long trek through an old farm house. However familiar it was during the day, at night it was full of sounds and shadows. I crept out of my bedroom in the dark, running my hands along the wall for support. I knew that I wouldn’t get much light until the bottom of the stairs where the cracked window of the old porch door let in the street light. I hugged the wall as I descended, sure to keep my feet away from the gaps in the bannister’s spindles in case there was something ready to reach up and grab me. I made it to the bottom, but felt very exposed turning my back to the old door. I stupidly looked outside into the night to where at the end of the lane a shadowy figure stood.

In the daylight it was, of course, the Ilex tree that grew out from the hedge and spread its prickly leaves on the lawn. At night, it would always be that shadowy thing watching for me.

So that was the fear, but what was the monster? I weeded through the memories of my childhood until I recall the unpleasant time I came across a rotting salmon. It had washed up on the bank of the dyke amongst the bulrushes and skunk cabbage only to be discovered by my dog. He immediately began to eat it and unleashed the most pungent, gag-inducing smell upon the world.

I probably could’ve pulled him away, but my constitution wouldn’t let me get within ten feet of it. So I seethed and waited until my dog ate enough of it to make himself sick. After rolling in both the dog vomit and salmon, he’d had enough and I could walk him home.

It only took a few hours to write The Bogmar after merging these two memories and I was pretty excited to post it for others to read. In my eagerness, however, I didn’t really do a good job editing it. I was too close to it, to high on the rush of having written something that wasn’t garbage to stop and think that maybe it might be a little bit garbage.

That’s where my friends come in. I passed it around to a few of my readers and on LitReactor and while people liked it. It was far from perfect. Aside from pointing out the typos, a common problem when writing late at night, they had some really constructive feedback. They knew what didn’t work for them and there’s no arguing with them on that point. I didn’t change everything (they probably won’t like absolutely everything) but I did take it to heart and made revisions.

I haven’t shared the second version because to be honest it’s more of a story for me. It’s a good place to go when I need inspiration. It’s moody and takes me home to a dark and foggy place. Most importantly, it proves to me that I’m not entirely bad at this, especially when I look back on the original.

So for this Craft Wednesday I recommend checking out LitReactor and more importantly, start looking at people you know who will be honest with you. Their critiques will make you a stronger writer, just don’t let them tell you you’re garbage. Maybe you should also have a cheerleader in case you’re feeling down and need someone to revive your emotionally devastated husk.

Ready for one of my favourite corners of the interwebs?

Ever spend what seems like a few minutes on something and then you look up it’s a different year and you’ve grown a Dumbledorian length beard? This pleasure-based time dilation has been my experience on the website TV Tropes (incidentally on TV Tropes this effect is called Year Outside, Hour Inside). It’s a wiki cataloging of every conceivable plot device or archetype with extensive examples across all genres or media. Except for maybe porn, I don’t think it delves into the complexity of porn.

Apart from being a great time suck, it can also be valuable in writing. It can help you clarify your story, add some depth, and caution you from more pernicious aspects of the trope. For instance, want to tease your readers with a mysterious council of poorly lit villains discussing “the plan” that’s great. It’s called the Omniscient Council of Vagueness and can be an effective means to entice your reader. Unless it’s overused and the discussion is actually a bunch of inconsequential nonsense because it’s too vague or mysterious that the reader tunes out.

Tropes are just tools. Writers understand tropes and use them to control audience expectations either by using them straight or by subverting them, to convey things to the audience quickly without saying them.

~TV Tropes

Be warned that tropes aren’t necessarily good or bad. While they can inspire or hone in on a plot point, they can just as easily over-complicate it. You’re anti-hero might seem badass in your mind, but he might also be just an asshole. Moreover, accepting and reusing tropes which reinforce the status quo make your story predictable or even harmful. Some writers fail to acknowledge the profound impact that their work has on some people’s lives. So much so that in writing token characters or other cliches, readers internalize and emulate the behaviors exhibited. Anita Sarkeesian does an amazing job at exposing these more problematic tropes in the Feminist Frequency YouTube series Tropes vs Women.

Small warning, Anita, like many women on the internet, faces harsh criticism threats of rape and death for her work so where ever possible don’t read the comments or responses.

In any case, check out TV Tropes, use it for fun writing prompts, ideas, advice, but don’t pollute your writing with every trope you read about.

Sometimes you just don’t have the time to sit down and enjoy a something the way it was intended. Meals come to mind and so now we have more McDonalds restaurants than people. While it might not be a quite the same – or nearly as good for you – as a home cooked meal, it will do. Books got this treatment years ago with the creation of audiobooks. I’m told that in the past they took the form of a hyperbolic number of small yet cumbersome audio-tapes that you have to flip around every few seconds. Fortunately now, we have Audible.*

I was hesitant at first to cave into Audible because it didn’t seem like reading, so much as it did cheating. However, my good friend beat me into submission by telling me that if you sign up for audible your first book is free. The thrift Scottish blood in me was intrigued and so I signed up. It took some getting used to, but there are really some great choices out there. I would immediately recommend Bossypants written and narrated by Tina Fey. I’d read the book, but the audiobook was superb. I do no recommend listening to it while you’re in public or at the gym. You will fail at suppressing your laughter and will get stared at.

It is also especially useful when listening to other people narrate an ebook so you can get a feeling for how sentences actually sound. I find that when I read things aloud I pick up on a lot more problems in my writing and can better hone in one flow.

By no means will listening to audiobooks replace reading those books (or ebooks, but that’s for another time), but there are worse things in the universe like kicking puppies or Twilight. Since they exist, why not give it a shot?

A word of warning, some voice-actors can’t and shouldn’t attempt different accents, but will do so anyway. These ruin perfectly good books.

 

*I receive no money from Audible to act as a shill. In fact, I receive no money from anyone. If you know of anyone who wants to pay me to be their own personal shill, I will.

Happy Craft Wednesday!

Like all (future) Craft Wednesdays I’ll be posting about things that I’ve found that have helped me write better. Today, I encourage you to check out Writing Excuses a 15 minute podcast by 4 wonderful writers releasing a new episode each week.

Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart

My husband recommended it to me when I started revising my NaNoWriMo 2012 novel. At the time I was more oblivious about writing as a profession, and these 4 professional writers started giving me the language to describe my writing. Through their banter about work and process, I felt that they’ve made writing more accessible. It made it less scary and more possible. This exposure made it a little bit like I could start coming out to myself as a writer. I feel more comfortable talking about plot and pacing. I feel camraderie (in a distant and respectful way) for these people who’ve been published and continue to publish works.

I recommend checking it out, it’s only 15 minutes and is practical and entertaining and who knows, you may get a good writing prompt or reading suggestion out of it.