March 5, 2008

Unleashing the Muse ©

I've been reading a lot of stories. Not only on the blogs, but at AC and a few other forums I visit. The most appealing are those that touch reality. I can sense the truth of the story. I can relate to the character and the scenario that surrounds them.

Taking that into consideration, what makes a good story? Is it making real life into fiction? How do you do that?

I took creative writing in college. We were often given exercises to draw creativity out from within. Use your imagination, the prof would always say. Use words to bring your characters to life...

Now, I know my writing has leaned more toward the help/guide/how-to genre. Especially what I submit to AC. What I log here has been what I'm learning as I try to grasp the marketing/promotion faction. But I want to touch on my creative side--tap into my Muse...

So, I've been doing some spring cleaning, just as fellow blogger Conda has suggested. Her post Spring Cleaning Tips inspired me to hit some shelves in the laundry. One project I tackled was a box of papers. Most of it I threw out as the stuff was junk. Amidst the junk, I did find a short story I wrote a long, long time ago.

The story is about a man that has an affair. Common, I know. There are three main characters: the man, the wife, and the mistress. The story is true.

I want to work on this story here every Wednesday. For the blog, I'm going to tag it as Workshop Wednesday. I'll be using some short story exercises to try to bring the story out of it's dust laden origin and make it a shining star.

I'm also testing some of these writing books I've got shelved before me to see if they're worth a grain of salt. Most of these books say to start with an idea. Check! I've got that pinned down. I've even got a rough draft to work with!

Now comes the tough part, the process. Should I do excerpts? Put the whole shebang on a post and edit the post with each exercise? Just do the exercises and post a finally?

I don't know if I want to put the whole thing out there just yet. It needs some work and I don't want to embarrass myself. Excerpts might work for now along with exercises.

I guess I'll just start this and see where it takes me.

The exercises are coming from Turning Life Into Fiction by Robin Hemley. I want to concentrate on this book because the title says it all. I'm not following the exact order of the exercises, I've never been one to follow directions.

Since the story is a draft, I'm going to start in the chapter about revisions. I may end up trashing the whole thing, but we'll see where it goes.

An emphasis is made about structure.
  • Stories tapped from memory can be too episodic--got it.
  • Don't relate various episodes from life and call it a story--okay.
  • Make it cause and effect, it doesn't have to be obvious but it has to be there--sure.
  • Give the story direction.

Some suggestions are made about giving the story five different titles, five different beginnings, five different outlines, and five different endings. Holy guacamole I've got a lot of work to do.

To start off, I don't have title one yet. I want to wait on that, I think. Here is the first bit of the story:

"Two years!" A familiar voice broke the silence of the moonlit room. I closed the door behind me and reached for the light switch. "Don't turn them on." I threw my keys onto the sofa table, "Pam, you're awake?"

I could see her huddled on the couch. The room reeked of smoke. I sat down across from her. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see her more clearly. "You've been with her for two long years."

She took a long drag off her cigarette. The cherry lit up her face. Her eyes were red, almost glowing. I waited to speak. She reached for the ashtray and piece of her long bleach blond hair fell from behind her ear. She smashed the butt into the tray.

She grabbed a cigarette pack from the side table. "You know..." She slapped the pack against her palm. "I've known all along." Slowly she unwrapped the clear cellophane from the pack. The crackling noise echoed throughout the room.

Pam looked strait at me. One eyebrow shot up, "You thought the two of you were so smart--hiding the truck, meeting at bars, going to hotels--you must of thought I was stupid."

Over the next week I'm going to try to rewrite this beginning five times. Should the man's name come out early like hers? Is it moving too slow? Does the scene work? Should the lights be on?

Continued on Wednesday...

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  1. Muse:

    You are a story teller after all. I'm glad that you decided to do this. It's fun, and getting involved with a fictional story every once in a while pushes all of to dig deeper than just restating facts - technical writing. We have to jump over to the other side of our brains. It's trying, but it can also be a great adventure into a side of ourselves that we usually keep hidden. I'm looking forward to following what you do with this idea.

    Happy trails

  2. Thanks Swu! Every once in a while I get these spurts, especially reading all the great stories you and others have put out here.

    This should be fun and we'll see what I can do with it.

  3. Good start, muse. I especially enjoyed your use of the senses. But coming up with 5 titles?! I have trouble with one!

  4. Hello Conda! Yep, 5 titles is going to be a tough one. I'm thinking though.

    The exercise should really stretch my mind. I'm so out of practice with this.

    Take care!

  5. Hi! It appears we have something in common, as I also love to touch on reality. Not just to share but to take me back.

    I've never thought of going into fiction but if I can learn from you, perhaps I'll give it a go one day.

    I would imagine writing about something that others can relate to is a start. The one you have touched on would hit home for some.

    I wish you good luck and take care - Peter

  6. Thanks Peter! I need all the luck I can get.

    The writing is getting easier for me. I've really never had a problem with research/guide/info stuff. Early on poety came pretty easy too. The story telling, that's what gets me. Hence my wanting to practice. Practice makes perfect, right?

    I'm forging through on this thing I've started. I've almost got next Wed. post ready.

    Have a wonderful day!


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