Raven's Pen

Writing, Reading, and Ruminating

Month: September 2015

The Reasons for a Missed Week

How is this the last week of September? Has anyone found a way to lengthen this month?

Clearly, I missed posting last week, and Monday, and Tuesday. Well, this has been a strange week. I suppose I could use that as an excuse if I needed one, but I actually have a few good reasons for my absence. In a list:

  • I finished my fourth novel. It is completely unedited of course, but it is done.
  • There was a lunar eclipse on sunday night (no, that is not an excuse, it is a fact). Did anyone else see it? It was absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, none of my pictures turned out.
  • NaNoWriMo is a little bit more than a month away. And I still have no idea what I am going to work on. (For anyone who does not know what NaNoWriMo is, I will be talking about it later. Once October is here.)
  • may have slightly lost track of time last week. Oops.

As this is the last week of September (eek), I have a quote to present for the month. (On a side note, I know I mentioned that I am pulling together a standing page of quotes a while ago. I do intend on putting one up, but I am still trying to figure out how to organize it. For now, I will start a page with a quote for the month and possibly a few others as well.) This month, I have chosen a quote by Neil Gaiman, “When writing a novel, that’s pretty much entirely what life turns into: ‘House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1500 easy words, so all in all it was a pretty good day.”

It might be ironic if compared to my life at the moment; the post-finished-novel unedited-mess-that-I-will-let-sit-in-a-drawer. But it is a good quote. And Halloween is next month.

Well, I will post the fifth chapter of Beautiful Cracks soon.

Beautiful Cracks: Chapter Four

Chapter Four

The arms wrapped around her torso lead her back into the sewer. The smells assault her nose as soon as she is handed down the rungs of a ladder. She bites her lip underneath the cloth covering her face and neck; her vision swims inside her head as her legs go limp. One of the beings holding onto her curses and drags her upright before tightening his hold, “Now ain’t the time t’ go fainting. Ya’ better stay upright, ‘fore I drop ya’ out of frustration.”

She gulps and wishes that she could with crossed fingers. But her legs seem to be disconnected from the rest of her body. The swimming in front of her eyes intensifies, and she wonders if this is what it was like for the first few years of her life. She does not remember how she felt. She only remembers what she saw behind her eyes in a place where no one could reach her.

Now she is in the world, now she is a part of the world. But she is not sure if she has ever truly existed. The Sights that she sees are real to her. She could almost reach out and touch them with trembling fingers. If they did not hold so much death and destruction she would.

Her head seems to buzz inside her skull, and she finds herself praying for something that she cannot expect, “Sa. Let me go Sa, let me go.” But she knows that Sa will never let her go. It is not a fact that she has learned or something that she has questioned, it is simply what is. She is a catalyst, she is a vassal, she is a bondsman. She is someone to be fed images and movies that may not exist. She is someone who does not know what reality is. She is someone who does not know the faces of the beings that she sees. She simply sees what she sees. She sees what Sa shows her.

She has often called her Sight a curse, but she has never truly been able to think of it as a horrible thing. Perhaps it is. But perhaps she is the horrible thing, perhaps the fact that she has a Sight is a horrible thing. The Sight in itself is not, or it is. She could not imagine herself separated from her Sight or Sa. She defines herself by what she sees.

She used to wish that she had a normal life. She used to wish that she was just like all of the other mismatched criminal beings in their town, but she wonders if perhaps she has always secretly hoped that she will never be normal. Her legs buckle underneath her, and the arms around her torso haul her back up; but she does not see cloth in front of her face when she looks back up from where she supposes her feet are.

She sees large almond eyes staring at her; she sees hair like tentacles painted in bright green with gold stripes swirling down them in bands. She sees a face without a smile and without a mouth. But she knows that there is a mouth underneath the swirl of stars that the eyes and hair blend into. She cannot hold back her gasp as something rushes through her and makes her fall backwards. She knows that she is still on her feet and held up by the arms around her torso, but she is falling through an empty void of the universe.

She is falling down a well without an end. And then the stars are gone and she is back in her body for a moment. But the moment it takes for her to find her feet again makes the space in front of her eyes swirl; this time it is not the image of someone who does not exist. It is an old car with the engine running and exhaust pouring out of its hood. The car in empty, but a family stands around it. The man is fiddling with pipes underneath the grey dust cover as a woman holds the hood open with one hand and joins him. Their hands are covered in the stink of car exhaust and oil that spilled across wires splayed open.

Three children stand towards the back of the car: the oldest is tall enough to match her father’s height and her mother’s face. She herds the two other small children towards the trunk where they pull out luggage and set it on the ground. They are ready to walk to their destination. An old town collapsing underneath the weight of think dust and sand that has settled across each house and artificial building. The family can clearly see it if they look forwards. And the crater that the town is sinking into is slowly widening with a crackle makes the air tremble. But they do not seem to be in a hurry; their plan is not to help the beings that are fleeing. And they ignore the shrill calls that are just heard on the wind.

No, they slowly fix their car and the children wait with their luggage as they watch. The town slowly sinks until the only thing left in a pile of rubble at the bottom of a cavernous crater.

She gulps for air as someone in front of the group of arms holding her hisses stop. Footsteps near her as she tries to place her weight on her feet instead of the arms around her. Someone tears the fabric off of her face and peers down at her, “What are ya’?” The voice is curiously soft as she blinks in the dim light of ancient flashlights, “Not something ya’ want.” Her voice sounds choked. The boy with spiked hair peering down at her with beings spread around at his back does not seem to have heard her. He takes two steps closer and she smells the soap of stolen aftershave as his breath whispers against her skin, “I highly doubt that. I heard somethin’ about someone who dropped out of school only a few years in an’ was kept in their house. That wouldn’t happen t’ be ya’ would it? Somethin’ tells me it might hav’ been.”

She shakes her head and straightens up as much as she can, “No, I ain’t some sort of missing girl or somethin’. I’m just someone who likes t’ spend time in theaters.” She waits for the boy to say something and clenches her hands tighter; people always say that certain things are not worth the consequences that you might face. But she is not sure if her current position would be any worse than the consequences. It could be, but even the consequences of her actions would be pleasant.

She has already changed out of her dress, and now she has the freedom to make a choice that her mother has always made for her. She should make the same choice that was made for her: she should not attempt to do something that she may regret. But what could she possibly regret? Anything, everything, nothing.

“I hear ya’ were a seer of some sorts too. An’ I’d kind of like t’ find out if whoever said that is right. Someone like ya’ could come in awfully handy at some point, don’t ya think?” His question is not a question at all. She swallows thickly and hopes that no one will notice, “I ain’t a seer or any such thing. I’m just a girl out past th’ time I should be.” The arms around her tighten their hold as the boy steps even closer, “I don’t believe that. I think ya’ know exactly what ya’ are, and I think that ya’ don’t know yer own worth, but I can show you that just as quickly as ya’ ask me to.”

She digs her feet into the ground, but the cement stops her, “I ain’t goin’ to ask ya’ for anything. And I ain’t a seer.” The boy shoves his face into her own, “An’ I still think ya’ are. Yer opinion is as irrelevant as a-“ His voice cuts off as she brings up her knee and buries it into his stomach. She can feel bone give way around her, and the imagine of what she knows he will look like if his body ever happens to be pulled out of the sewer makes her bite back a well-earned smile.

The beings around her break into chaos; boys scramble to their leaders side, the arms holding her hiss and tighten even further, but she jumps backwards and sticks her arms into their stomachs. She flees away from the infighting that is quickly beginning to follow her as her own stomach aches. She never thought that she would end up here, she never thought that she would end up in this position. But her body leads her over her mind as she scrambles up a ladder to the street level and turns to the left without thinking.

She runs far longer than she needs to as the manhole cover is lifted up and beings climb out. They do not dare to shout on the streets. And she runs until she is sure that they will not be able to catch her. At least, not tonight. She stops at the edge of the junkyard. The rough bumps of metal and brittle plastic seem to invite her as she searches for the rusted remains of the bus that used to take her to school.

She stumbles on the dark ground; the sun slipped underneath the horizon a long time ago, but she can still see the pink and orange sky that turned into the red of dried red wine on a tablecloth. She shuffles her feet to know that they are still hers and sits down on the nearest solid object. Ridges of metal dig into her legs as she curls up on top of a separated fender.

She cannot get the tentacle framed face that Sa showed her out of her head, and the sinking city is still replaying over and over. She heard about a sinking city a long time ago; it was in a book that her parents owned, but she was caught reading it once and banished from her parents bedroom for the next month. People wanted to forget about the sunken city. But she doubts that it was because of peevishness. She thought she figured it out awhile ago, but she forgot the words that she would have turned those thoughts into.

But the sinking city is irrelevant, to her at least. And yet, she cannot forget about it. And she cannot banish the feeling that everything Sa has shown her over all of these years leads to one thing. One single thing that she cannot comprehend or imagine. Why else would she be some sort of catalyst for these sights that she has never been able to understand? Perhaps Sa likes to play with her, but it does not feel like a game. This does not feel like a game. But it could be a game that Sa has not come up with. In which case she is simply where she started again: the sights that she sees could all lead to one thing.

She stands up and bites back a yell as she trips over something hard. She will travel to the mountains tomorrow. She will see if she can find Sa. And once she has, perhaps she will ask for an answer to one of her questions. She shakes her head, one of the gangs in town has already seen her, it will be safer for her to leave the town no matter what she does. And yet, she killed their leader and she is sure that they will come looking as soon as they decide on a new one. They may not limit themselves to the streets. Their leader was their leader for long enough that they will not leave him behind easily.

She turns towards the mountains with the ridges on the sides of her legs rubbing against the cloth of her pants and her backbone becoming straighter. It was worth it. What she did was worth it. And now, now she needs a plan. This is not simply about her parents anymore, or even about the thing that she knows she has that anyone will search for. No, this is about everything that Sa has ever shown her, and anything that she has ever read. She is not alone anymore, but she is the most alone on the planet. She can use her half envisioned plan now, as soon as the sun has risen. She will wait through the night. For now.

Copyright © 2015 ravenspen.com

All rights reserved.

Writer’s Block, Stalls, and Submissions

Whew, this is later than I would have liked. I should shake my fist at the internet. Fickle creature that it can be.

What does the internet have to do with anything? Well, it is part of the reason that I did not post anything earlier. Another reason is that I still had not finished writing this post. I was planning on talking about something completely different, but I have decided that I will save it for next week. For now I have a small piece of news before I get to the topic of writer’s block: I am now entering the world of attempting to submit to magazines.

The word attempting seems important right now, as I am still trying to figure out exactly what I am doing. So far I have only submitted to one (Cricket), but I am looking at others. One thing that I have noticed while beginning this process is that I actually have much less materiel than I thought.

Many of the magazines that I am looking at are searching for short things: mostly flash-fiction and short stories. I have dabbled in both as a way of avoiding the things I should be working on trying something different. But I only started to become interested in working on shorter material as in addition to writing novels over the summer.

One thing that I have learned since I began to look at shorter fiction differently, is that any kind of writing is extremely valuable. I would say that it is important to try different forms, even, and perhaps especially, if it is something that you thought you would never try. It may influence your writing is some unexpected ways. It seems that I have an affinity for the unexpected in regards to writing that I was not previously as aware of. But I am being as serious as I can.

Try new things.

I am going to use the horrible example of being in a multicultural restaurant: Imagine that you have a hundred different dishes in front of you from different cultures. If you only eat the things that you have tried before your palate will stay the same. Writing is kind of like a palate; you pull from the material that you have, and that material often either comes from something that you have seen or something that you have read.

Which is why I believe that William Faulkner makes a wonderful point in one of my favorite quotes of his: “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”

Many, many writers have said similar things: for instance, Stephan King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

I did warn you that I love quotes, right? (Which reminds me, I am planning on compiling a list of quotes, it should be up in a few days.)

One thing that I seem to run into when I look at school and literature, is that there seems to be an idea of what is ‘good writing’ and what is ‘bad’. While there certainly is a certain feeling regarding literature, I believe that it is important to read more than just what is ‘good’ when writing. Read children’s stories, and literature. Mysteries or thrillers and fairytales. Try a bit of everything (even if you only touch it once).

How is any of this relevant? It all goes back to writer’s block, or even a temporary stall.

I have been in a temporary stall with one of my novels this past week; which is part of the reason for this post. Writing comes with good days and bad days. Sometimes those bad days last for longer than anyone would like. The important thing is to not become discouraged.

Sometimes it is possible to push through your bad days by simply sitting down and staring at the screen with your hands on your keys (or on your pen if you are writing by hand), but there are other times when it can be important to take a momentary break. I am not staying that you should completely stop writing for a few days: never stop writing. But sometimes it is good to let things rest for a little bit.

For the almost three years that I have been writing relatively consistently, I have run into quite a few bad days. This does not mean that I am great at dealing with them (I am not), but it means that I have begun to compile a list of things to do when one of those days hit.

If you can get through your momentary stall by simply sitting down and trying your best, GO FOR IT.

If not, here are a few things to try:

  • Move your attention to a different project for the day (or even for a couple of minutes). Sometimes a few minutes is all that you need.
  • Get up and move around. Step out of the house. It is a clique, I know. But sometimes it works extraordinarily well. Movement is wonderful for thinking.
  • Read, read, and read. Reading is one of the best things to do if you are at a complete stall and writing seems impossible. It is not only a great way to gather ideas and study different styles, but it is a great way to keep your mind on writing without actually thinking about your own work. I believe that when you are not writing it is always good to read.
  • Research. Yes, doing research can sidetrack you. But it is also very important for certain kinds of novels. Just try not to end up spending the day on YouTube. I have spent way too much time on there in the past (I hope I am not the only one who has spent an entire morning watching different persian dances. To be fair, it was research. Kind of.) What if your story does not require research? Well, research does not have to be about facts. Research could simply be reading a story that has something that you like in it. Or a story that is similar to your own in one way or another.
  • Look for inspiration. Try not to end up looking for funny kitten videos on YouTube though. My favorite things to look for are quotes. There are tons of wonderful ones out there.
  • Do something with your hands. Make some sort of art: Draw, paint, knit, bake.

As with all of my lists: add your own ideas. My go to things are the first three. Usually I can quickly become absorbed into one of them.

An important thing to remember about writing is that everything counts. Do not become sucked into discouragement about how much you have written compared to someone else, or even compared to yourself. (I know that this is much easier said than done, but it is something to remember.) Even if you only write a hundred words or a sentence, you will be closer to finishing your story than you were the day before. It is good to see if you can push yourself, but sometimes pushing yourself can work in reverse. If you become discouraged or angry with how things are going: do not throw everything in the trash. Get up, walk around the house or step outside. Distract yourself until you cool down, and then come back and see if your prospective is different.

Beautiful Cracks: Chapter Three

Chapter Three

She lands with her feet out in front of her and her elbows cracking against a disturbingly soft cement floor. She scowls as wet sludge starts to soak through her newly borrowed clothes and stick against her skin in a film that she cannot imagine washing off. Something cracks nearby with a thick sucking sound, and then there is a chuckle from behind her, “Now there’s somethin’ no one sees every day. A lady fallin’ down a sewer ladder. Ya’ know, most ladies prefer to stay above ground.”

She scowls and struggles to get to her feet as she wipes her sticky hands off on her pants, “I ain’t a lady.” The man looking down at her chuckles again with cracked missing teeth showing, “Yer voice ain’t right to be an urchin.” She scowls at him in return and scrubs at her hands with the hem of her shirt, “I said I ain’t a lady mister.” “An’ I said I think ya’ are. I think yer a fine lady who’s lost her way, and is just waitin’ to be caught up by a fine fellow of yer own places. Ain’t that right? An’ yer lips don’t fit those urchin words. You’re a fine lady, shouldn’t a fine lady know how t’ speak like one? It’d do ya’ some good t’ show it, I sure as all that’s fine in this world would I’d like t’ hear it. Eh, would ya’ abide me? I’d like it I assure ya’. It gets mighty lonely ‘round here sometimes.”

She stops scrubbing as she realizes that her hands are about as clean as they will get, “If you want to call me a lady, then you might as well. But you should cut it off at ‘fine’.” The man grins again, “An’ why’s that lady? Ya’ don’t think that ya’ still look pretty in those sewer filled men’s clothes. Why, you’re as pretty as a hen in a pig’s sty.” She scowls again, “Because I might as well just stand on my hands and declare myself a pretty little lass the next time someone asks. Don’t I look like something better than that?” She does not wait for his answer as she jumps forwards and shoves her fingers into the man’s eyes before kicking out at his knee. He steps back with a yowl as she turns and runs to the left.

She can hear him slip and fall as his knee gives way underneath him, and she tries to pull back a smile as she wades into the sludge in front of her. She will have to find another pair of clothes after this anyway, it hardly seems necessary to attempt to keep them clean when they are already sticky. She should have known that she would run into someone in this part of the sewer tunnels, but she did not expect to run into anyone so quickly. Perhaps she should have given him a chance to explain who he is. But she does not want to think about what would happen if he ends up being her enemy.

Her boots slip in the muck and stick every time she takes more than a second to move from one step to the other. She continues to scowl as the sludge starts to even out, and she breaks into another run. She had been hoping that she would be able to wait for a while before resurfacing. But now that someone has seen her, even if he does not say anything, being underneath the streets is just as dangerous as being on them. She cannot discount the sewers as an escape if she needs one, but she should not have expected that she would be able to spend time underneath the streets. The sewers are almost more populated than the houses.

She finds that she is almost enjoying herself as she turns down another leg of the sewer, and wonders if someone would hear her if she started singing. But the town has ears, and noise is just like garbage; someone hears it sooner or latter. Despite the fact that her clothes are wet and stinking, she cannot deny the freedom that she feels while wearing pants and a shirt.

She cannot hold back her sly smile as she wonders what her mother and Marie would say if they happened to see her now. She can clearly imagine her mother’s disguised displeasure and comments that she must change into something more appropriate for who she is, and she is sure that Marie would simply say that she is starting to run into everything that she has brought towards herself over the years.

She supposes that both of them would be right.

She had dreams when she was much younger than she was running through the sewers in boy’s clothes. The whole idea that she should wear dresses is a farce. She has always known that it is something that was created for her by her mother, but it is a rule that she has always been in agreement with. Until now that is.

No, she intends on dressing as a boy from now on. At least, until she finds her family again. Then perhaps she will conform to the usual rules. And yet, some things cannot go back once they are changed. Freedom is one of them.

Certainly, the rule that she should always wear a dress has been in place to restrict her freedom. And she has always acknowledged it. She has never complained about the restricting skirts because she has always known that they were there for a reason. And it was a valid reason. But now things are changing, and it felt too good to kick the man’s knee out from underneath him.

It was too good. And despite the implications of those words, she wants to embrace them. She reaches the dead end of a tunnel that she knows climbs out from underneath the dirty streets to a manhole cover near the bus parking lot of the school. She frowns at the dirty ladder and bites her lip for a moment, but necessity is necessity, and she grips onto the rungs and begins to climb upwards. The manhole cover is surprisingly easy to push aside as she climbs up and shoves it back into place. The sun is starting to disappear on the other side of the skyline, and the remaining light is red and sharp. Like thick red wine that has bled into a dark tablecloth.

She ignores the dark red and grey sky as she walks along the edge of the chain link fence that surrounds the school on two sides. She has never been able to understand why it was put into place, it has never been useful to anyone. Except, of course, the boy who tried to jump over it on her first day of school and landed on top with his clothes rippled in half from top to bottom. It is something that she is sure he was never able to retract the embarrassment from.

Although, he did try. She was usually part of a small group to make sure that he would never succeed, and her nickname from those events is part of the reason why her parents forbid her from returning to school once they were sure she knew just enough to be left at home on her own to study.

Of course, she was never completely on her own, Marie was always around to point out one thing or another, and correct one of her answers or questions. But even Marie had her reservations, she always had a metallic edge of fear to her. It was in a small wrinkle on her face, or underneath one of her fingernails.

She noticed it in one of her dreams after she had been pulled out of the town school; even then, it was something that she tried to ignore as much as possible without much success. At first she decided that Marie was simply afraid that her parents would be displeased with how she was caring for their daughter, and then she became sure that it was because of her. Simply her and no one else.

Ever since then, she has known that she was right. Although, it took her a while to understand why someone would be afraid of her. She is simply a catalyst for the things Sa decides to show her. She has never searched her for Sight or tried to understand why she has it. Until now that is.

She turns away from the chain link fence of the school and back towards the main street that loops through the town in a strange hook shaped serpent. She keeps to the edge of the road with its fading asphalt that began to fall out of place only a few days after it was poured, and she walks back towards the mountains before taking a sharp left. The back street weaves along the right side of the road with its only destination being the movie theater.

The cone shaped roof marks it as the only building in town worth paying attention to, but the old announcements clearly say that it has not been open for years. The dark green door welcomes her, and it only takes a moment of consideration for her to decide that it is not worth waiting. She puts her hand against to lock and gives it a hard shove.

She can hear the poorly cast metal of the deadbolt splinter and crack as she pushes the door open and inhales the smell of old cigarette smoke and stale paper. She lets the jingling bells on the door attempt to comfort her as she closes it behind herself. The inside of the movie theater is dark, but its dark does not seem to be as dangerous as the dark outside on the road.

Her shuffling feet kick up old scraps of paper and movie tickets as she walks towards the ticket booth. And sticks her hand into the jar that is kept on the receptionist’s desk. Her hand comes up empty just as she knew it would, and she turns around to move onto to the curtained off door that leads into the actual theater.

She sinks into one of the old cracked velvet chairs at the back of the theater and sticks her legs out in front of her. She only remembers coming to the movie theater once to see an old black and white love story; her mother covered her ears for half of it, but she remembers enough to know that the screen is a place where stories are supposed to be shown. She has always preferred books, but anything involving a story by someone else seems safe for now.

She supposes that she should be worried or bothered that she is alone in a movie theater where worst case scenarios used to be shown on a big screen. But she is glad that she is somewhere where whatever might climb out of the screen or the curtains is not something that Sa is showing her. It was disturbing enough when she saw the old gas station burst into flames a week before a large tank exploded, or when half of the old school collapsed on an entire class of students. She still is not sure how many of them made it out alive. Perhaps someone is still trying to climb out of the rubble that was shoved into a hole and buried.

The people in her town seem to like to bury things. Her head slips downwards as she starts to fall asleep, but she is nudged awake by something pressing against her throat, “You move and I will make sure that one of my boys here declines the courtesy of shooting you in the head.” Someone grabs onto her shoulders and pulls her to her feet with a jerk that makes her wrists crack. Something dark is shoved over her head as she is pulled into the aisle and stubs her toes against the bottom of a seat with enough force to draw tears to her eyes. She quickly blinks them back even though she is sure that no one can see her face. She frowns as she is forced to move forward; for some reason, the most disturbing thing is the irony.

The same voice appears close to her ear, “It seems like we have caught a pretty bird.” She bites her lips and wonders if they have any idea just how much of a ‘pretty bird’ she is. At least, regarding to the debtors that tossed her family out of their house. She would be a very pretty bird indeed. She still has what they want, and she has lived in her family’s house for long enough to know that she should never give it away free. She lets the person holding onto her arms steer her as the smell of old cigarette smoke grows thicker; she is not completely defenseless. She is simply not sure if what she is tempted to do is worth it.

Copyright © 2015 ravenspen.com

All rights reserved.

Plotting: Main Characters

A new week as here! And an interesting topic as well…

Just as I mentioned in my post about the purple hippopotamus, plotting is something entirely based on personal choice. Which means that what your english teacher told you to do before writing might not actually be what you need to do. Although, I must admit that I am quite oblivious on the topic of english teachers.

What do english teachers have to do with any of this? Well, nothing. But they are a good example of an opinion, and this post is about opinions.

To go back to the beginning: What is plotting? Well, according to the always-helpful New Oxford American Dictionary, the definition for plotting is to:

  • secretly make plans to carry out (an illegal or harmful action)
  • devise the sequence of events in (a play, novel, movie, or similar work)
  • mark (a route or position) on a chart

I think everyone can agree that the meaning to look for at the moment is the second. Although, the first definition might have something to do with many writers affinity for making their characters’ lives terrible. Wonderfully terrible. How else could they grow so spectacularly?

Why does the definition of plotting matter? Well, because there are so many different forms and ways of plotting.

Here are a few examples that I know of:

  • Some people write a short list of things to pay attention to (my favorite).
  • Some people make detailed maps and write equally detailed descriptions of each scene.
  • Some people will put everything on flash cards and mix them up to understand where they want each thing to be.
  • Some people will write their plot like a movie script: starting at the end and then working backwards.

Well, I could go on. But I am sure that you would be able to come up with many more to add onto a mental blackboard (do not forget about the chalk). One thing that is almost always necessary in plotting is the ability to know either who your main character is, or what the issues of the time are. It does not matter what kind of story you are working on, it is always good to know something.

If that something is the fact that you have no idea where anything is going, that is just fine. I think it still counts.

Well, you may ask, this post was supposed to be about plotting. Why are you suddenly jumping to talking about character development?

Well, because character development is plotting. At least, part of it is.

Which brings me to my main point: Begin plotting by looking at the largest part of your story.

Why is this important? Most stories have a reason for existing; whether that reason is because you simply want to write something fun or different, or because you want to bring up a moral question or an issue of the time, your story will still have a reason for existing.

This reason, whatever it happens to be, is the beginning of your story. Your main character could be anyone, or even anything, but whoever or whatever it is is still your main character. It is necessary to know something about who or what it is. Sit down and think, fold your feet underneath the blanket on your lap and pick up your cup of tea. Put a dictionary next to you and choose one word.

That one word could bring you anywhere. You do not need to know very much, you just need to know enough. The definition of enough in this case, is something that you can come up with on your own.

As an example, for my serial story (Beautiful Cracks), I still do not know what the name of the main character is. I am not even sure what she looks like, but I know enough about her for her to be the main character. That is all you need, just enough.

So, what are some good questions to ask when you are trying to understand your main character? In no particular order:

  1. Is your MC a what or a who? Most stories begin with a who, but that does not mean that that is what you have to do.
  2. Why is your MC in the story? What does he/she or it have to do with the rest of your story’s dilemma? These are questions that you will most likely have to ask again and again. Do not stress out if you have no idea at the moment. Everything will work itself out.
  3. What does your MC look like? This could be as simple as whether your MC is human or something else to defies lines.
  4. What is necessary to your MC? These are not the things that your MC needs (such as a meal or water), or the things that your MC wants. These are the things that create your MC. These are the things that your MC loves so much that they become part of him/her or it.
  5. Who does your MC spend the most time with? Who someone is when they are alone versus with someone else can be very different. Who your MC spends the most time with can not only affect how they act with other beings, but also how they see themselves. This is also a great question for getting to know your MC a bit more: Is your MC kind? Judgmental? Loyal? Manipulative? Honest?
  6. How would your MC act in a certain situation? This is an interesting one (please forgive the fact that I do not remember where I first heard about this), and one that I would like to use more than I actually do. For this one, I like to put my character in a dentist’s waiting room and watch how they act. What kind of magazine does your MC pick up? How does he/she regard everyone else in the room? What is the first thing that your MC thinks when he/she sees a certain object? Emotions are also something to pay attention to.
  • How does your MC see him/it/herself? This is another one often without a definite answer. Living beings are not definite things. Play around with this question and see where you end up. What does your MC see in the mirror?
  • How do others see your MC? Of course, this is a sideways opposite of number seven. And one that can pretty straightforward to say, and just as complex to consider. Look at a few of the people around your MC, what are their first thoughts when they regard him/her?

Are these questions necessary to starting to write a character? No. You can ignore any, all, or some of these questions. But they are things to ponder. Pondering is good, so is trying on different ideas to find what fits.

Play. Walk onto the playground as though you have never seen it before and see what you can do. Come up with your own questions, try a few of mine, and look around for more. You might find some in the most unlikely places.

A Quote for a Late Beginning of September

Ouch, this post is late.

Well, much later than I would have liked it to be.

I was planning on posting something early in the week, but this has been a crazy week and I suppose that time got away from me. As I was planing on offering a quote to puzzle over for the beginning of the ninth month of the year, I will do so now. And as this is the beginning of fall, I have chosen a quote by Jean Luc Godard that I believe could relate to seasons (or chapters as they have also been called) in one way or another: “A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end… but not necessarily in that order.”

Indeed I shall agree with you.

It seems that many great stories have each of these points in different orders, certainly, it seems a story must have many different beginnings and endings and middles. The best stories have unspoken words.

The ninth month. How did that possibly happen? If anyone happens to find a book on how to communicate with the stars and let them know that this year is moving by way too fast, please let me know.

But I will save my disjointed wonderings for latter.

For now, I am also going to save my weekly post for this coming week. Which I am surprised to admit, begins tomorrow. At the moment, I will simply post the next chapter of Beautiful Cracks and wonder where I put the recipe for banana bread.

More shall be said at a latter date, when I will be pondering the many versions of plotting.

Beautiful Cracks: Chapter Two

Chapter Two

She walks along the dirt road, her sandals scuffing against the loose dirt. She stops as a cloud of dust blows into her face and makes her sneeze. She had been hoping that she would know where to go, or at least, that it would be easy for Sa to tell her where to go. But the road in front of her is still empty, and the mountains are starting to get closer. She would walk into the mountains if her life was a week ago. She could walk into the mountains and hope that she will be able to find the rest of her family.

Most people would say that she is lucky to be alive and lucky to be free. But she does not feel lucky. She cannot be lucky. Even when she was young enough to hide underneath her desk in the tiny schoolhouse with wide boarded wood floors, she was not lucky. Most people would call her cursed. Even Marie had to hide her disgust at times. But she did not mind, she knows what she looks like when she is turning around in circles and trying not to let saliva drip out of the corner of her mouth. The circles are her choice, but she could most certainly do without the saliva.

She is lucky that her parents have always been understanding, they never ask her why she gets up latter than everyone else in the morning, or why she always does her homework when no one is looking. Marie has always tried to understand her, and she supposes that that is more than she deserves.

She stumbles on a rock and swallows back her tears as her toenail is bent back underneath her. She does not want to cry at a bent back toenail when she is sure that she will find worse when looking for the rest of her family. She blinks as her head starts to spin and her vision becomes fuzzy; she can barely keep herself from stumbling to the ground as the dusty dirt road roars with the beat of a drum and march of ore clad soldiers.

Generals ride in front of them with horses that kick up almost as much dust as the soldiers behind them. Flags attached to poles in their hands tremble and snap as they announce their arrival. The sight is gone as quickly is it arrives, and she stands panting as she struggles to stay on her feet. She did not turn in circles that time, but her hands are wet and her eyes are glazed over.

A car rumbles in the distance as it hurtles towards her. She looks towards the side of the road with her heart beating faster and faster in her chest with fear. She cannot move her legs when her body has been detached and then put back together again so quickly. She should have known better, she should have known that she cannot walk along the road. But she was so desperate for a sight that she did not think of the consequences.

She leans to the side to try and pull her feet away from the churning dust and dirt that marks the arrival of a car. The wind has picked up enough that she can barely see, and she hopes that the driver is having the same amount of luck. It would be better for her to be hit than found. Especially now that her family has been chosen for their debts, and she is their oldest daughter and the only one that has survived beyond her very first years.

She did not even see the world that she lives in for the first few years of her life, she lived in the sights that she saw. She was shocked when she finally saw the house that she lived in and her parents faces. Her mother told her that she had seen everything multiple times, but she could not explain how nothing had been real. Even now, she cannot be sure what is real.

She is almost thankful that her sights hit her body so hard, it marks the fact that she is seeing something that is not real. But she still has her doubts as to whether she can feel her own hands. Especially now that she can almost see the car’s tubular bumper through the razing dust and wind. It gets closer to her, and she is sure that she could simply straighten one of her fingers and touch the rusted paint. But her feet suddenly take their long awaited command, and she jumps to the side as the car runs over the place where she was standing.

She wonders if her body is still in one piece as she breathes heavily and brambles dig into her arms. The skirt of her dress is torn beyond repair and the fabric of her thin chemise is in shreds. She gets back to her feet and wobbles back towards the road. She tries not to glace over her shoulder at the mountains as she heads back towards town.

Sa must be in a good mood today to bring up her sight, but she does not know how what she saw would relate to finding her family. She can only think that they must be in town. She must try. But she could simply be making things up, her sight often does not show her anything related to her life or a current situation in the world. What she saw could be completely random.

But, if that is the case, than why does she feel like stones are rolling around in her gut? Thinking of the men in her sight makes her feel nauseous, and that should not be the case if it was a harmless vision. Perhaps she feels sick because she was almost run over by a car. But she was not afraid when she saw the rusted bumper in front of her.

She was not relived either. She was simply thinking of the laundry that she had been hanging while Marie argued with her mother in the kitchen only a few days ago. She had been hanging a pink shirt that she had not worn for years, but still managed to stay in the house, when she became dizzy and saw imagines of a car pulling in front of their house with the exhaust pipe punching half burned fuel out of it in short bursts. She could feel her feet trembling underneath her as the engine of that car growled.

The sight had pulled the image away from her before she could see more then a silhouette stepping away from the car and towards their house, but it was enough for her to know. She had spent that night staring at the ceiling as she wondered if she should tell her parents. But she had tried for so long to pretend that she did not have sights, that it seemed sacrilegious to say anything.

Now, she wishes that she had.

But she had learned a long time ago that wishing she had done something does not make it reality. Although, she has never been able to have a very good grip on reality in the first place. She often seems to forget that she needs to sleep or eat and drink; she can barely be sure that what she is seeing is real. She supposes that it is simply an old habit. Something from her childhood before she saw her mother’s face or the bus that would carry her to school with rusted door handles and flaking blue paint that might have been pretty a few eons ago. The last time she saw it, it was sitting in a dump yard with weeds growing out from between the pipes of its engine.

She never thought that bus was pretty. But she missed it once it stopped coming to pick her up each morning. It had been like the leaking faucet in their kitchen sink: not pretty or new, but necessary and barely functional.

Now she wonders if that is what their entire town is becoming. Outdated and small. Rusted just enough to deter anyone away, and perhaps a little bit more. The thing is, the town is not nearly as outdated as it looks, it is filled with the usual gangs and abductions and killings. Their town is actually managing to stay in shape with the usual actions of any town like theirs.

Sometimes progress is not nearly as nice as everyone hopes. Theirs certainly is not. Her parents have always managed to keep on the edge of the fray, at least, until a few days ago. But she supposes that everyone gets what they deserve at one point or another. Although, she cannot be sure why her family would deserve to be debited. Perhaps because of the simple fact that they happen to live in this town.

She reaches the burned brick street that runs through the center of town and kicks a can out of her way. It jumps away from her as she turns to the left to walk in between two shacks that could hardly be called houses. Laundry is hanging on behind the one on her left to dry, she glances towards the screen door at the back of the house before snatching a pair or pants and a shirt that looks like they could fit.

She ducks back into the narrow space in between houses and changes without thinking about modesty. It is not like anyone cares. And it is not like anyone is around to see. She snags a pair of boots off of the porch of another house and tosses her torn dress and chemise into a trash barrel. Someone will find them eventually no matter where she dumps her old clothes. That is one thing about their town, things never stay buried.

You could dump your trash into a two mile long hole and cover it with a pad of cement, and you would still find someone digging through it in a day or two.

Clouds gather on the horizon, until they are no longer clouds but think wedges of black soot. She has never loved this town, but she has never hated it either. It seems to be in the same sort of limbo that she is in, and there is a certain sort of camaraderie in that.

She wrinkles her nose as she passes a garbage bin that must have been used for a dead device at one point or another. The plastic edged metal stinks like ammonium and car sludge. Love is not a word that she would use to describe their town. She turns down the street that her grandmother’s house used to be on and wonders if she has ever heard anyone use the world love. It only takes her a few steps to realize that she has not. It must be a word that she read in one of those crappy novels that her cousin would bring for her when he came in town every few years.

He always seems to think that girls like to read about romance. She would rather throw the books he brought her into his face. But sometimes books are books, and sometimes you have to deal with what you get. She stops in front of a sewer grate and sighs. It looks like that is exactly what she is doing; dealing with what she has.

She drags the heavy stamped sewer grate out of the way and grimaces as she steps onto the first rung of the slimy latter underneath. She pauses for a second to yank the grate back into place above her, and hope that she will not pass out from the fumes. It seems as though no one has bothered to clean the sewers for at least a decade. It is not like it is a job that anyone searches for.

Her hands become sticky with something that she does not want to think about as she relies on her feet to find the rungs on the latter. She is about to tell herself that she should not merely rely on her feet when they miss and her hands are ripped away from the side of the latter by the force of her body in gravity.

Copyright © 2015 ravenspen.com

All rights reserved.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén