Category Archives: Learn to Write
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Hey, Mind Flayers, Zombies, and Ghouls, as well as Elves, Paladins, Death Knights, Dragons, Santa Clause, Elvis and the Tooth Fairy. I have felt a bit inspirational lately. However, procrastination aside, school, and family life are keeping me from pounding out every little thought that comes to my mind (and, o-yeah, I do not procrastinate and I don’t believe in writer’s block). Inspiration is all around us; you and me that is, and if you fell to believe me you are being apathetic.
Why do I say this? Because either you have to agree, that inspiration is always seeping into your brain. That simple conversation you had with store clerk or that creaking sound coming from underneath your floorboard can be a story in the making. Now, can I promise you that it will be a great story? Hell no! That depends on the elements of craft and your level of skill.
However, I am going to say that if you disagree with me, you’re still being inspired. You have been inspired to form an idea or opinion about my own opinions. Would that make a good story? Probably to a bunch of old school literary fiction lovers.
If you are felling to see my point, ask yourself this. Am I the apathetic procrastinator of the written word or a literary perfectionist? Both of these stereotypes have a couple of things in common. One, they both are endlessly searching for the perfect story. Two, neither can put a thought down on paper for differing reasons. The apathetic procrastinator gets nothing done because his idea is not going to become a major motion picture. The literary perfectionist gets something down on paper, but fails to finish because he is using too many adjectives or his or her story isn’t, well, perfect from beginning to end as he or she places their thoughts into substance.
I believe there is no such thing as the perfect story, there is only good writing and bad writing. The qualifiers of these principles will be a different blog. Point being, take your idea and put it to paper, finish it, and lock it away and move on to the next idea. You can come back to it later and make it sound all pretty.
Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.” Good old Jack fails to mention you don’t have to go far to beat your inspiration into something someone, somewhere, will read and enjoy.
Inspiration is all around us. It’s in the news, in the sky, on your way to work, in the little quirks your kids say, under your house, and in the walls. All you need do is be willing to accept it with open eyes and ears and use some imaginative manipulation.
That’s right, a tree! Pick a tree and build your story around it. Be creative. What is it about this tree? Does it have healing powers or turn people into zombies? Can it be used to talk to God, or is the tree a god?
I came up with this prompt the other day and introduced it some people who thought it a little absurd that a story would have a tree as an important symbol of motif. Let me prove my argument of how a tree can be an important symbol or motif in a story.
- Eve indulged in the first sin by eating from the tree of life and knowledge and further disobeying God in the Hebrew Bible.
- It is common that woodland elves be placed in tree type homes.
- In James Cameron’s Avatar, trees are an important symbol. They are used sort of like computers to the Na’vi. With them they can upload and download memories and communicate with their god.
- The Night Elves in the highly popular online game World of Warcraft lived in what was known as the World Tree and this tree has offspring called great trees, which are teleportals to the Emerald Dream.
Don’t count trees out. They can become an essential part of a story. Now what’s yours?
Do you play Dungeons and Dragons? How about World of WarCraft, Diablo, EverQuest, or have favorite Final Fantasy characters? If not, research the character creation for these games on the web. Pick a race, class, and profession and create a back story for them, but no more than three sentences for THREE characters. Or if you already have characters made, or a favorite FF, please use them.
Once you are done with this pick one of the quest below and see what kind of story you can come with:
The characters are stranded in a strange place, and must survive by finding food and shelter, and then worry about getting back home.
The characters are minding their own business when they are attacked. They don’t know why. They must solve the mystery of their attacker’s motives, and in the meantime fend off more attacks. They must solve the who is behind this and cut the head off if it to stop.
The characters are on a hunting expedition to capture or kill an elusive and prized creäture. They must deal with they hazard environment, the creatures ability to evade and track them, and the creatures ability to fight them.
A town, castle, starship, outpost, or other civilized constructed site is lying in ruins. Very recently, it was a well established community/place. The characters must enter, explore , and find out what happened.
Pick from one of these four and have fun. The world is yours.
What you write.
M. Amphet Salt
I thought it would be interested throw out unusual writing prompts that you’re not going to find in Writer’s Digest. I hope to that if you choose do them you will give me some feedback, so that I might market them someday.
Here is this weeks writing prompt:
In the (noun of your choosing) Forest, The High Priestess of the Elves has ordered all first-born daughters sent into exile (no matter the age of the child). Those who refuse are executed. Why has she done this? What do her subjects think about this? Is her motives for the good of the people, or for the Priestess to save her own life due to some prophesy? Who will stand against her and put her back in her proper place as the servant of the people (elves)? Who will support her?
What do you write!
M. Amphet Salt
“There are many reasons for keeping a diary: to make a note of facts that one considers important; to open one’s heart, to give vent to one’s feelings, to make confessions; from the instinct of economy which sometimes encourages a writer to make good use of even the smallest crumbs of his life, so that he may have one more book to publish; or again from vanity and self-satisfaction.” ~ Alberto Moravia
“Keeping a diary is for girls,” my sister said to me this morning. I, of course, took offense to this sexist statement. My reply was “sex may be between the legs, but gender is something in the head.” I bet that she thought about my answer while catching some late evening Monday sitcom. She is old-fashioned and will not ever understand what I said, but by tomorrow, or the day after, she will forget altogether. Nevertheless, I guarantee that if she kept a journal, or diary, she could reflect on it more closely and she would be less likely to forget.
But what is a diary or journal? Many out there still think have a sexist connotation to the word diary. Many people, like my sister, imagine a teenage girl sitting on her bed crying her eyes out in it because her boyfriend has broken up with her and then her brother later stealing it and reading it to his buds, only to become embarrassed to learn that she has a crush on them, or thinks they are complete jerks. On the other hand, a journal is associated with the mad scientist who holds the secret clue to solving that mystery.
Hollywood, once again, can take some of the blame for this. However, according to Liza Minnelli when people die in Hollywood they do not ask if that person has a will, but did they have a diary.
A diary or journal can be a gateway to a person’s heart and soul. And as a writer, it should be the closest and most prized possession at hand. The Journal should be allowed to overflow with a life of its own. I am writing this blog because I met a couple of youngsters last night at a writing conference who dream of being on the top New York Times list, yet they gave a yucky reply, and is he gay eye, when I pulled out my journal because I had a really great thought. However, I am speaking to both writers and hoping to help make non-writers writers in their own person way.
To say that a journal (I will use it interchangeably with diary from here on) is only for girls then you possibly know little about some of the great male masters of literature, art, and politics; C. S. Lewis, Leo Tolstoy, Ernest Hemingway, Christopher Columbus, Ben Franklin, Kurt Cobain, Marilyn Manson, and George Washington just to name a few.
Throughout history, journals have helped historians learn most of the information we know of, well, history. They offer not only a who, what, where, when, but help answer the why by providing psychological and cultural context.
Yet, to the writer they offer something special. A journal will allow you to develop a healthy habit of daily writing, which is the primary secret of writing. Not only does it allow the practice of skill, but for you to understand your own psychology, your feelings in other words, and culture. That is very important.
But I don’t know how to journal?
Well that is ok. It is a relatively simple thing to do. It only requires a pen and paper, or your favorite word processor, and as much time as you wish to devote. My first advice is to start small. Write about the thing that happened that caused you to have the largest emotional response, or affected you in such a way you are not soon to forget and then do it again the next day, or when you have time. After doing this every day, or however you schedule your journaling activities, for a while you will begin to notice a profound depth in your writing and develop a sense of pride unlike anything that you have ever felt.
Journals may be for recording the events of your day, and how you felt about them, but they are great for organizing your thoughts on things. From bits of newspapers or stories that are interesting, letters, poems, quotations, memories, anecdotes, dreams, and lists of your favorite or least favorite books or movies or whatever, a journal is used for everything under the sun you can think of in words. Some people have been known to keep separate journals for all these ideas above, but one is fine for starters.
In my journal, I keep quotations, learn a new word every day, keep story ideas, make character sketches of people I meet, and have conversations with myself on how to evolve my craft. Sounds weird, huh? Having a conversations with yourself, but they have been some of the best conversations I have ever had!
Another reason to keep a journal is one last book, one last chance to tell the greatest story of all to the world, your own. Anais Nin and Virginia Woolf left outstanding journals that have only expanded the deepness, understanding, and preservation of the great stories each wrote. As a student, these have been valuable resources. As a writer, these have become stepping-stones to climbing a mountain, which I, as all writers, wish to climb and show that they will be remembered for some contribution to literature and the world. However, to say that one will ever be as great as either Woolf or Nin is absurd, but is worth writing about.
“don’t read my diary when I’m gone, ok I’m going to work now , when you wake up please read my diary, look through my things and figure me out.” Kurt Cobain wrote this ambiguous statement in his journal. Take it for what it is, but you should write about it.
Not only writers should learn a new word a day, but everyone should, children especially. There is this website called Wordsmith.org that will email you a new word everyday, except weekends! This service is free and I feel that it is one of the best sites on the web. You should go to the site and enter your email address. Also, you may add a friends email address as a gift.
This is something that I do for my instructors and they love it, and a lot of the older ones who frown on technology truly love it. I also send it to my son’s email address.
When they email you the word, Word-A-Day is what it is called, you get the definition, connotation, the history, it’s usage, and a really great quote! What better else could have to learn a new word a day, and save the time from trying to find one.
If you have or have not heard of Wordsmith.org, I hope that you use this really great service. It will definitely broaden your vocabulary.