Writing Exercise #5 (Mon 6/18)

Ok, here is your prompt…remember the rules (15 minutes, no editing, worrying, revising or judging. Just write).

Your character is a SCHOLAR with a VERY LIMITED VOCABULARY.  The elements that lead you into the story are the LAST NIGHT BEFORE LEAVING TOWN and a KNOCK ON THE DOOR AT TWO IN THE MORNING.

There’s a story there, just waiting to happen…jump in and start writing!

Daily Writing Exercise #4 (Wed 6/13)

15 minutes of writing without thinking. Let your thoughts just write whatever comes next. This is for your eyes and your eyes only…unless you want to share. Maybe it’s awesome, maybe it’s hysterical, maybe it’ll prompt your next great novel…

EXERCISE #4:

You are buying a new home and are doing a walk through with your realtor. She opens the front door, you step into the (supposedly) empty living room and…???????

Write it entirely as dialogue, a conversation between you, the realtor and (if you want) whatever/whoever is in the living room..

Have fun!

Daily Writing Exercise #3 (Mon 6/11)

15 minutes and let it go…no rules, no holds barred. Just let your imagination loose.

EXERCISE #3:

You are driving along a road and there’s a box sitting on the shoulder. Curiosity gets the better of you and you pull over to check it out. What happens? What’s in the box? Start telling the story….

 

As always, if you want to post your exercise, feel free. Otherwise, just have a blast and prime your writing muscles for today’s work.

 

Daily Writing Exercise #2 (Sun 6/10)

Ok, let’s get those creative cramps out and start the writing process…

EXERCISE:

15 minutes. No editing, no worrying about how “good” it is. Just write what comes.

You must write from the FIRST PERSON Point Of View today.

You are a HOME MOVIE ENTHUSIAST and a CELEBRITY STALKER (which celebrity? It’s up to you)

The two elements that draw you, the character, into the story are:

1. A CEMETERY AT FIVE IN THE MORNING and

2. SUCCESS AT LAST

These are your prompts…Have at it!

 

Stretching Those Imagination Muscles

I had the pleasure of hearing NY Times bestselling author (and incredibly nice guy) Jonathan Maberry speak at the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference

Jonathan Maberry opens up the 64th annual Philadelphia Writers’ Conference

today. Not only was his energy and optimism infectious, but he was also filled with battle-tested and sage advice. With much thanks to Mr. Maberry for offering this idea, I am going to share it with you. Some of you may know this, some may not. Some may know it and not do it, but I hope to change that. Ok, whew…that just sounded like a Bruce Campbell Old Spice commercial. “If you need it, you don’t have it. If you have it, you need more of it. If…” Ok, you get the idea.

So, the advice/idea is this. When people go to the gym, they don’t just jump right into their workout and start slamming away. They warm up. They stretch to limber up their body and work through some exercises to get the blood flowing. Well, our imagination, our creativity needs the same thing.  When we sit down to start writing, we need a primer. Something to get the creative juices flowing and limber up that part of our mind.

Mr. Maberry said that he sits down and conducts a 15 minute writing exercise (unassociated to the current project) and invests himself in it. When the 15 minutes are up, he stops and dives into his true work out, or project.

This is great stuff! It’s not for publication. It doesn’t have to (and will not be) perfect. Nobody has to read it. This is your initial stretch to open that creative door and just start DOING. No holds barred, just you and the exercise, and the only rule of Write Club is that nobody talks about Write Club (unless you want to, and if so…have at it).

I thought about this and for all the years I’ve been writing, I hadn’t been doing it. I’d start the regular daily project from a cold workout. Looking back, I realize that it took me a bit to start really making progress. Why? Because I was tight. Well, thanks to the NEW and IMPROVED MABERRY pre-project creative exercise, you too can loosen up before you go-go. And if you act now, you’ll also receive this free collection of novelty cheese sandals (while supplies last).

So, for my own sake, and for yours, I am going to endeavor to offer daily writing exercises under my new “Creative Warm-Up” category. It’s yours, have fun with it and when 15 minutes is up, let it go and go knock the world off its orbit!

EXERCISE #1:

Your main character is a SERVANT who CAN’T WAIT ANY LONGER (for what? That’s up to you!!)

Your secondary character is a FLORIST

The source of the conflict is an OVERDUE APOLOGY.

Tell the story!! No edits, just start writing and see what you come up with in 15 minutes!!! (Set a timer).

I will try to throw all kinds of creative mash-ups and different types of exercises up here each day for you to dig into. Part of the exercise is to do it without thinking too much about it (even if it seems absolutely absurd or bizarre). And if you want to post your creation for a chuckle, pride, or just to share, that would be great! We’ll read and enjoy without judgement or critique. Because, again, this is a free-range run to stretch and play. No preservatives added.

Thank you and I hope you’ll find this useful and helpful! Let me know!

Celebrating Creativity With Imaginative Young Minds

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting my son’s elementary school and sharing a day of reading and creativity with some of the students.

I was invited to my oldest son’s 5th grade class where they are beginning to learn about and explore creative writing. After answering some general questions about the craft and about my own methods of revision and work processes, I read them the first chapter of my middle-grade work in progress.

If you ever have the chance to sit down with a large group of children and share your work with them, DO IT! To begin with, it is magical. No matter how many adult readers, editors, and peer readers you have, none of them can give you the intangible reactions you hope to get from your target audience.

I was escorted to my chair (a VERY comfortable rocking chair) by the student of the month and then the kids gathered around, in bean bags and on the rug; in chairs and on stools. I explained the premise of the story and told them that they were my first young audience to hear the beginning of the story. They were excited. I was excited.

And so I read….and it was AWESOME! There were laughs when there should have been laughs. There were smiles when I hoped there’d be smiles, and there were shocked expressions or gasps when I’d written in sections that were expected to cause those same reactions.

If I’d had the book done and published and ready for purchase, I would have had a room full of new readers. In other words, it was a success. They’d not only enjoyed the story, but they’d given me the proof that I had succeeded in my attempt to write a fun, quirky and enjoyable story for young readers. It was written all over their excited faces.

And afterward, I fielded questions about the rest of the story, about writing in general, and about key concepts and components of storytelling. It was great to discuss, point of view, foreshadow, metaphor, theme, climax, character evolution, and idea generation with the kids. They were as excited to demonstrate that they’d noticed the foreshadowing clues as I was to hear that my inclusion of them in the story had worked. They were as eager to learn what happened next as I was to tell them about it.

It was truly a rewarding experience. To give them a chance to explore their creativity and to pen a short story of their own, I prompted a little writing exercise. Using Rory’s Story Cubes (and if you haven’t seen these, they are the coolest things!), we rolled up nine images and put them up on the projector so the whole class could see them. The idea is that our minds think in pictures and an image gives us an infinite variety of interpretations. So, we rolled up the nine dice (the student of the month had the honors) and broke the class up into groups of three.

One person was responsible for writing the beginning. They had to write the hook and establish the conflict, along with introducing the character. Another child wrote the middle, working toward conflict resolution and inserting obstacles. The last person wrote the climax (having worked out with the middle writer where they were going to “meet”) and the resolution.

The groups were free to arrange the nine images in whatever order they wanted, each person taking three of the images and incorporating them into their section of the story. Their teacher and I listened in to the brainstorming process and watched as they eagerly created fantastic tales, some of which included mysteriously locked doors, laser shooting eyeballs, a honey-hunting cyclops, and giant alien bees. It was so much fun! And afterwards, some of the students shared their work with us, reading their sections and demonstrating how their voice, their imagination and their approach differed from their classmates who had the same pictures to work with.

I hope that when I left, I left some of them with a hunger to continue creating. I hope that when I left, I left some of them eager to tell more stories, to explore worlds within their own minds that they may have been hesitant to explore. I was there once. I was a 6th grade student when a similar experience had changed me forever. It was a similar experience that showed me that all I wanted to do was tell stories.

If even one creative young mind takes pen in hand and walks through that door of imagination and storytelling, then I’ll feel as if I have come full circle. But I’ll never know that, we’ll never know that, until they are sharing these same sentiments one day and remembering that afternoon in 5th grade when there were no walls and their minds could take them places where nobody could hold them back.

Here’s to creativity. Here’s to the next generation of wordsmiths, ready to ply their craft at the imagination forge.

Zombies Just Want to Have Fun….Part II

Hold on, read no further. This is not the beginning. To truly appreciate this tale, you need to begin at the beginning (hence Part II). So please, if you would, click here. If you’ve read Part I, then by all means, carry on…

Sucking wind and banged up a bit, we jogged through the woods. Others had raced on ahead, some half jogged, half shambled in time with us. The first zombie exposure had been a shock. People wore the kind of expression normally reserved for moments like when you open the front door only to be sprayed in the face by a soured ricotta cheese spewing skunk. You know, part surprise, part disgust.

The trail wasn’t wide and it was chock full of tangle roots, mud, and toe-stubbers. The sun slanting through the heavy forest canopy was beautiful. Lichen covered fallen trees and fern growth provided the perfect backdrop to a Rob Zombie/Norman Rockwell painting. There they were, blood and gore crusted zombies in the path. These were the under achievers, the zombies without any desire to get ahead in life. They served as shuffling scenery, making feeble attempts to reach out for flags as you danced past them.

The trail brought us to an inverted “V” cargo net where zombies waited underneath and on the other side. We crossed this with ease and hit the short tunnels (about 2 foot high and 10 feet long solid pipes/tunnels). After scampering through, we’d have to cross a clearing before entering the woods again. The zombie waiting must have been a NFL cornerback in life. I waited until I thought he was distracted and dashed for the woods. He was quick, I slipped in the mud, and my first flag was gone.

The next series of obstacles would find our party decimated. I was to be the only one of the three of us with any chance of survival. We hit an uphill series of bleachers, having to jump from plank to plank. Upon landing, we had to make it through the field of sprinting, savage zombies. I wish I’d had a camera on my head because it was madness. Pure and simple madness. There were bodies everywhere; zombies, runners, victims and monsters. Somehow we made it through and hitched for breath. However, that had only been half of the obstacle.

Death waited in the form of a hay bale maze. The walls were three or four bails high, the ground a churning mess of muddy water and inside…swarming with zombies. While people contemplated vomiting, fighting cramps and wondering what the hell they’d gotten themselves into, someone began to organize the survivors.

“We have to go as a group,” said the take charge survivor, somehow with enough breath to form words over his vocal chords. “Let’s put the dead people out front, as bait.”

That quote is verbatim. I mean, there’s a no-nonsense, tell it like it is, action Jackson. We knew he was right though and we staggered up to join the throng. To try to do it alone would be flag suicide. At his command, we surged forward, punching forward like a desperate picket charge. Ray went down hard, like push-ups in the mud hard. Face first, six-foot mud spray hard. He made it through with one flag left, looking like a walking Tootsie Roll. I hadn’t been hit, still two flags. The next part happened so quickly that we didn’t realize Jimbo was not with us. There was a third part to this series of chaos and the group was ready to roll through en masse.

It was a downhill run through a field of the undead. There was no time to think, the mob went and we went with it. I shot forward, bee-lining for two zombies, hoping a direct charge at full speed would throw off their decayed brains. I zipped left out of the reach of a zombie who came in from nowhere and then hit the two with a leaping scissor kick, clearing their outstretched claws like a flying squirrel-deer. Just imagine that for a moment. The rest was downhill, literally. I made it through again, with my two flags. Ray was not so lucky. His “crotch-clutch” tactic backfired. He’d placed his last flag squarely above his…um, manhood, hoping that one of the zombies might think twice before snatching at his junk. To begin with, zombies don’t think. Secondly, the wedding dress zombie was not shy in the least. She came in grabbing and though Ray died on the hill, at least he died happy.

We collected ourselves at the bottom of the hill and realized Jimbo was not with us. We waited a bit and still no sign of him. We assumed that maybe he had gone a different route and decided that we’d have to get moving. It was too dangerous to linger any longer. What we did not know was that Jim had never made it into the hay maze with us. He’d been left behind and that mistake would prove tragic. Jim never made it through the maze alive and we would not see him again until after the race was over and he arrived, infected.

We moved on. Ray was now the walking dead, it was only a matter of time before the virus spread and I’d have to put him down. But, for now, he offered to act as a shield, hoping that maybe I’d survive and live to tell this tale….

To be continued in Part III…….Come back to read the conclusion to this tale of life, death, mud and madness…and maybe the odd squirrel-deer or crotch clutch.

Please visit http://runforyourlives.com/ for pure awesomeness or visit their Run For Your Lives Facebook page. Great time, great people. Check it out. And don’t forget to look for Part III, coming soon…