“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
W. Somerset Maugham
I love this. Kind of cheeky, but so true.
I was sitting around with a friend the other day, surfing the internet and laughing at entertaining websites, when we came upon one I hadn’t visited in a while: fmylife.com.
Weirdly, I got a ton of ideas for stories. Yes, some of the posts are obviously fake. Some are also unlikely and far-fetched, but isn’t that what we want for a story sometimes? If a mishap was commonplace, it wouldn’t make such an interesting read. Some of the posts are even deeply sad. You may have to look through a lot to find one that speaks to you, but if you have writer’s block, it could really be worth it. Look what I got from this one:
Today, I packed all my clothes in a black garbage bag, so I could easily move them to my new house. When I came back outside to load it into my car, the bag was missing, and all I could see was a garbage truck driving away with the week’s trash. FML
Okay, losing one’s clothing? Unfortunate but not Earth-shattering. What else could have been in one of those bags that would be catastrophic to lose? Don’t you just feel the ideas flooding in? Or this one…
How in the world did that dog lose two toes? Or if you are a humorous writer, this one…
Let the extreme family conflict commence! If you find any super-evocative FMLs, post them in the comments section! I’d love to see what you all find.
This is a piece of flash fiction I wrote for a contest. There was a very tight word limit, which is why it is so short. I didn’t win the contest (which was huge and international so I really wasn’t surprised), but I think this piece has the potential to say a lot about manmade destruction versus nature with some work. Please let me know what you all think! I love suggestions and criticism, as long as it is constructive. Thanks for reading!
Molly stepped through the garden of carnage, placing her feet gingerly as if the field would crumble beneath a misstep like an eggshell. With each footfall, the lifeblood of the battlefield bubbled up around her soles. As she tiptoed over scattered muskets and stone still hooves of horses, her schoolbooks slipped loose from her pudgy fingers and fell with a soft pat onto a tattered blue wool chest. Reminded of school, she turned slowly to gather up the curling bundles of pages. A low sound, like the hum of a sewing machine, broke the silence of the misty morning and she paused, fearful. Her quick breaths had been the only sounds she had heard since straying from her path. Molly knelt next to the body from which the sound emanated – could he be alive? The little girl’s skirts ballooned out and parted the sea of bodies, soaking up mud from the field. She gently touched the gold Union insignia on the chest of the man’s uniform – there was movement there. Not breath, but a stirring from within. Suddenly, in a maelstrom of yellow and black, a riot of wasps burst from the festering entrails in which they had made their nest. Molly let out a small gasp of shock and held perfectly still as they swirled around her and dispersed. Not a single one harmed her delicate skin.
I have been preparing to write a novel for some time now – making character webs, scribbling notes here and there. I even have a 20 page chunk finished. I wrote that over a year ago.
Really, things are going nowhere fast. Then yesterday I was at Target and came across the book Ready, Set, Novel by Chris Baty, Lindsey Grant, and Tavia Stewart-Streit. All three authors work for National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo, so I figured they would have some good advice.
The book takes the form of a workbook, with sections on idea generating, character building, establishing plot etc. The tone is a little tongue-in-cheek, I suppose, and at first I felt a bit silly writing in it (since I have taken countless classes on how to construct and write stories – shouldn’t I know how to by now?) but I have accomplished more since I got the book than in the past couple of years. Maybe it is some sort of left-over conditioning from high school, but the fact that there are exercises and blank pages and instructions makes me feel like I have to fill them in. As if it is an assignment. It is amazing.
Besides that, some of the activities are very helpful and are things I would never have thought to do, like writing scenes from a character’s childhood – things that happened before the beginning of the novel. They won’t even be included, but just having thought through them makes me feel so much better acquainted with my characters. Another interesting exercise was putting your characters in crazy situations together that have nothing to do with the plot (like hypothetically trapping them in an elevator together). It forces one to think about their mannerisms and personalities as a whole – not just how they will react to the events in your plot, but how they would react to other strange or dramatic occurrences in their lives.
To top it off, the end of the book includes coloring pages of famous authors in case you just get frustrated and need a break. I don’t know that there has ever been a 21 year old that enjoyed coloring books more than I do. I would recommend it to anyone who aspires to write a novel but feels stuck. $17 well spent.
So far, I have only posted two photographs to prompt writing inspiration. This wonderful blog, Easy Street Prompts, has hundreds! The pictures range from bizarre to beautiful to artsy to touching. They also post groups of random interesting words and phrases. I absolutely love it. Check out the blog HERE.
I am just posting up a storm! This is my last one for today. I took this photo at Drunk Bay in St. John, Virgin Islands. The beach has lots of rocks and interesting detritus and people often leave impromptu art there. I thought this piece was beautiful and I wonder who made it – what is their story? What brought them to that beach? What life experiences do they have that made them want to convey this message to others? It is a beautiful part of a person that they have left behind for others to experience in their own way. Spark anything for you? Let me know! I would love to read it.
Need some writing inspiration? I have a lot of interest in visual arts, especially photography, so images often inspire my work. I took this picture from the High Line park in New York City. As I mentioned a couple posts ago, I love all things gritty, dilapidated, and forgotten. This picture gives me so many ideas. Why was it abandoned? What was in it before? What might be going on in there now? Meetings of some sort? Is it the hide-out of some sort of criminal? Who created the graffiti on the side and why? The questions an image like this can generate, for me, are endless. I hope you enjoy my photographic efforts. If it sparks anything for you, let me know! I would love to read it.
This is one of my best poetry efforts, which is the product of a semester of revisions. My professor was of the tough-love variety. In my opinion, they can often be the best type – one works harder than usual to impress the professor (or spite them by being successful, as in my case). I have recently revisited it and done a bit more work. Any (constructive) thoughts or comments are welcome.
Looking at a Clock
A first cry – of dismay perhaps
to the man and his aggressive swinging briefcase:
alone with the acrid smell of sanitization,
impersonal stiff white sheets, and burning machinery.
Silhouettes of scrolling hands burn into her eyes.
Is it sliding stacks of documents that obscure your view?
Eternity holds its breath. Stopped.
A man and a woman and a fist
know the cycles and the song.
In their four eyes, four reflections of the clock,
and the only moving things are silent snowflakes.
I know the rhythms of my world:
a floor scattered with broken glass, shards of breath;
the children’s eyes fixed on the hand
overlooking the quiet square in the moonlight.
The clock counts down, gloomily waiting
as icicles melt and drip. A somber symphony drifts upward.
The golden gears give off a faint industrial hum.