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Showing posts with the label Writing

I Went to a Writing Group Today - August 14th, 2019

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Analiese pulled the writing prompts out of a hat today. Each prompt was different. The hat was a glittery Irish hat, one of those festive ones for St. Patrick's Day. I made a few jokes about Leprechauns, that caught on, a few more people talked about Leprechauns, and then I couldn't get it out of my head. Yes, I mentioned the speech I gave about my family being descended from Leprechauns and winning the frog trophy.


Here's my entire prompt.

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What if...

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The three dots are an ellipsis. That's the important part of this prompt, it's where the mysteries and the possibilities lie.

I sat staring at my blank sheet of paper for a few minutes. I didn't want to write about Leprechauns because I thought someone else might because of our discussion, and... it was just too obvious. But, nothing else would come to mind, so I began.

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"Alright McDuffy, I see that you're upset, and maybe that's reasonable, but I think we can …

Leading a Writing Group - Session 6

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Our prompt went through three evolutions. First, I proposed the idea of interstitials. That's where a sentence has dialogue, then description, then dialogue again. I just think they're cool, and therefore feel like everyone would be interested in them. I also think it lets you see how much a single sentence can really do. Since it didn't seem popular I went to option number two, a scene where the hero and the villain meet for the first time. But, I was asked if the scene could be people other than the hero and the villain meeting. And, of course, I think artistic creativity must necessarily be flexible. Our prompt ended up being, a meeting of two characters.


Xavier did well. We had a small discussion last time about how I don't expect a certain thing to come out of the writing, I don't require anyone to follow the prompts, but I do expect effort. That turned out well. He came up with this story where the names were a mixture of crazy letters. I think that comes fro…

My Music List; Or, What I Listen to While I'm Writing

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I'd heard about people that listen to music while they're writing. I thought it was crazy.


I was taking a writing class from Shonda Rhimes a couple of years ago. She wrote the tv show "Grey's Anatomy", along with a number of other tv shows. She mentioned that she listens to music while writing. "How odd," I thought. It seems like you would need to focus, and you couldn't while music was blaring in your ears.

Maybe she listens to classical music or something. It seems like having words ringing through your head while you're trying to write would be difficult. Nope. Shonda Rhimes listens to heavy metal while she writes. Crazy. That is, until I tried it.

Probably around a year ago now I decided to listen to a few of my favorite songs while trying to write. Just as an experiment. I wrote faster and better. I was surprised. Now, I almost always listen to music while I write. I can write anywhere, any time, but I prefer to be standing in front of a co…

A Story for Henry

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I've told the school that I teach online for repeatedly that the book they have for Henry is too difficult. They won't change it, and I can't change it. It's a complete disservice for the student and the parent. So, I decided to fix it by writing my own story for Henry to read.


It's difficult to make a story on the spot that's exactly at the correct reading level for a student, but I came fairly close on this one, closer than the textbook that I was given. The ideal is to push the student's abilities, just a little. When I went through a course for a volunteer reading program in Muskegon they recommended to read at the level where the student is correct 90 percent of the time, and is stretching themselves 10 percent of the time. Fair enough.

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The cat saw a bird.

The bird was in a tree.

The cat wanted to get the bird.

So he climbed the tree.

When he got to the top, the bird flew away.

The cat looked down at the ground.

It was a long way down.

Th…

A Poem for Henry

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I was teaching Henry online. We had finished reading the book for the class. I asked what he wanted to do: write, ask questions, etc. He wanted to write. I asked if he wanted to write a story. He said that he wanted to write a poem.



Henry came up with this, with a little help.

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A fox
has blue and white,
socks.

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Since he likes foxes I decided to extend that theme and see what happens.

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The fox
trapped in a box
for all of seeming eternity.

Constrained and restrained
boxed within
finding no relief.

He seeks freedom
and finds a wall instead,
and so he struggles
before he goes to bed.

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There are some good insights into the zoological nature of insomnia based on the thoughts of Desmond Morris contained in that little poem.

Then we drew octopuses in the last two minutes of class.

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I Went to a Writing Group Today - July 24th, 2019

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The official prompt for today was "bucket." But, there was some chaos at the meeting. In the next room there was a drawing class full of kids learning to draw knights and dragons. It looked pretty cool. We only had 3 small tables to work with, so the logistics were a little awkward. I jokingly suggested that the prompt might be "chaos." Analiese liked the idea and so the official prompt became "bucket and/or chaos."


I wanted to use the ideas of "knight, dragon, bucket, chaos" all in one. Here's how it went down.

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Hazing was officially against the university's policies. So this wasn't hazing. It was considered an initiation. Officially, it was recorded as "voluntary after-class extracurricular participation." The word voluntary was misleading.

There's no real reason to feed a dragon by hand. And Kaos wasn't a nice dragon. In the pamphlets given out to parents at visitations his personality was labeled as…

Leading a Writing Group - Session 5

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There are many ways to tell stories.


I wanted to introduce the idea of using fictional reference material in a story. So, the prompt was to use a letter in the story. I went over a few different ideas on how you could do this: a letter on a table, in the mail, nailed to a tree, on the ground, a text message, a whiteboard, etc. I also reminded everyone that I make the rules, but included in my rules is that you can break the rules. If something strikes you, write what you want. The important thing is to try hard, to write something down, to keep going.

I, myself, was surprised at the direction my story went. Here it is.

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John Carter of Manhatten was walking home from a movie premiere. The air was crisp and smelled of pollution, as cities do.

A light wind picked up and blew garbage from one sidewalk, across the road, and into the fence on the other side, like a city tumbleweed.

John Carter of Manhatten loved the city. The sights, the sounds, the people, the smell. He stoppe…

I Went to a Writing Group Two Weeks Ago - July 10th, 2019

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Why didn't I write this article two weeks ago? I don't know. I could say I've been busy, because I have been. I even officiated my third wedding this last Saturday. But, that's not the real reason. The real reason is that I fell into a more contemplative as opposed to productive mood. I do that sometimes, but we're not diving into that in this article. In this article there is a story to behold.


Analiese had a type of sentence stem this week. (This might really be more like a fill in the blank question, but I figured I'd include a reference to the work of psychologist Nathaniel Brandon anyway.) Here's the prompt she gave us.

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Complete the following sentence and write a scene or story that begins with it: "It's strange to think that I never would have known about ___________ if I hadn't taken that left turn."

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How do I get ideas? No one really knows the answer to that. Things just happen, then... ideas. One little …

On the Path to Story Analysis, Scene Analysis, and Sentence Analysis

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Science is a test of facts. Art is an exploration of values. They are different realms of experience, knowledge, and insight. Writing fiction is an art. Creating stories is the most important art. It's infinitely complex. We need a framework to understand both the meaning that we can pull from existent stories and how to create new stories. I've studied many, and like all conceptual frameworks, I've found that I need to build my own.


I think there are three important levels to focus on if you're writing stories: sentence, scene, and story. I am going to briefly introduce three sources for each of these that I'm trying to integrate and adapt into my own system.

Do we want to start at the top or bottom? Let's start at the top, with story, and we'll work our way down. Remember, this is a general overview so all of these books will contain a lot of good info that I'm not going to cover.

There is a great little ebook by Martin Turner called "The One Bas…

Writing is a Life Skill

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I was recently contacted about being in a history book about Toastmasters District 62. I was the first person to complete an entire path in the Pathways educational program. I was asked for a quote. If asked, could you produce a good and original quote on request?


I asked how long the quote should be and was told a paragraph would be perfect. So, what did I do? Here it is.

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When I was 19 I climbed Mt. Rainier. At that particular moment in my life I had made no plans beyond getting to the summit. When I accomplished that I had this weird feeling. A slight disorientation. That disorientation was because I lacked a next step, I lacked a future. The purpose of a path is to provide you with that next step. I was the first person to complete a Pathway in Toastmasters District 62. I completed that path the same way I climbed the mountain, one step at a time. Follow the path and it will lead you to your destination. And when you're near completion, begin planning for your nex…

I Went to a Writing Group Today - June 26th, 2019

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"Write from the point of view of someone or something that none of the characters knew was watching. It could be a ghost, animal, the furniture come to life, etc." That was the prompt. It stumped me for a few minutes.


Usually I can start writing pretty fast from a prompt. I think that comes from years of doing impromptu speaking in Toastmasters. But this time, this time I sat there for a few minutes, staring into the abyss where story ideas come from, waiting for one to jump out, wondering if one would.

It did.

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Jennifer smiled an unfriendly smile at Tim. "Hi, Tim. Nice to see you." She didn't mean it, and Tim knew it.

Tim didn't say anything. He looked down at the floor as he walked across the office and sat in the seat facing Jennifer's desk. No one spoke.

Jennifer's smile was truly happy now, full of joy. "Tim, you didn't shut the door."

Tim stood back up, walked to the door, and closed it. Then he returned to his seat.…

Leading a Writing Group - Session 4

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I was going to have the prompt be "letters." That could go in a couple of interesting directions: there could be epistolary writing where the story is told in letters, or the story could be about a letter of some sort. But, instead, I wanted to go a little crazy.


I had the kids write down a color, their favorite color or some other color, doesn't matter. Bella had a hard time choosing, but did eventually. Then, I had them select a weapon.

Last week the idea of a stupid ninja came up in the group for some reason, a ninja in all black that was trying to hide in snow and failing.

The prompt? Write a story about a stupid ninja that wears that color and uses that weapon. I chose purple and tank. Yes, a tank.

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Jonathan pulled his tank up to the facility and hopped out. His purple uniform glistened in the sun.

He had been in ninja training for six weeks now. Since they were focused on the art of war he had thought getting a tank would impress people, but it didn…

A Poem for Joshua

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A couple of days ago I went through a book with a student of mine named Joshua. He's pretty good at English. He's 9, he likes reading, and he likes telling me about the stories he's reading. From what I've heard from Joshua he has an excellent English teacher at his school in China, a chap from England. I asked Joshua about writing, and he asked if I wanted him to write a three paragraph essay. Lol. No, I don't want him to write a three paragraph essay, I want him to be able to write anything he wants. I asked if he wanted to work on how to write a story and he offered to write some poetry. That works.


Joshua wrote a poem based on using the letters of his name for the beginning of individual lines. That's called an acrostic poem, I looked it up. He wrote the poem on a piece of paper, instead of the screen, and read it to me.

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July is my birthday
On my desk is an elephant
Sunshine and shine
Haha, I am happy
Upside down, Andy is my friend
Andy is my …

Leading a Writing Group - Session 3

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A writing prompt can be anything, since anything can be in a story. Truly, everything has a story, since life is a story. But, there is a little bit of an art in selecting writing prompts. This last week I went with "door." That's it. It's wide open, but it's powerful. Doors are thresholds, they are mysteries, they are the point where something changes, barriers that open.


As it turns out, Lexi had already been drawing a door before I gave the prompt. Funny how that works sometimes.
I think the prompt might have been a little too open. There were too many options and the kids didn't naturally add any detail to the door. It probably would have been good to have pictures of doors that they selected, or something like that. This next session I'm probably going to go with letters, and see if anyone is up for trying a little epistolary. That's where you write the story in letters, or some other documents like that. Then, I think I might start getting wilde…

I Went to a Writing Group Today - June 12th, 2019

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I was not feeling it today. I had a tense political meeting on Monday that I gave a speech at, and I sat in this uncomfortable plastic chair for the meeting holding a lot of tension in my body. That threw off my spine. I went in for an extra adjustment the next day and it wouldn't adjust properly. If my cervical spine is out of place for too long it causes issues with my brainstem, and will start effecting my ability to cognitively function, which is just starting to happen now (it doesn't take long). And, I've been too busy to properly rest like this particular body design needs. So, I wasn't feeling it today, but I went to the writing group and had fun anyway.


Analiese came up with a prompt that included an educational piece. Here's the beginning of it.

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Conflict

In every story, there has to be a problem. The main character has to be challenged in some way or the story will go nowhere. There are four basic conflicts to look for that may face the main…

Leading a Writing Group - Session 2

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The prompt for today was dialogue. The story could be anything the kids wanted, it just had to include dialogue, or people talking. Some stories are all dialogue, some stories have no dialogue, most fiction writing is a mix. No matter what kind of writing you do, it's good to play with dialogue.


I find these types of writing exercises interesting. I usually have no idea what I'm going to do. If I do have an idea about what I'm going to do it always comes out completely different, nothing like I had imagined.

We talked about dialogue a little bit. I went over the idea of interstitial sentences because I thought Lexi, the 14 year old, would be interested in that. An interstitial sentence is when there is one sentence that starts with someone talking, then in the middle there's some description, and then the person is talking again. For instance, if a woman is standing at the fridge it might be like this: "John! I thought you said you were going to," she turned …

I Went to a Writing Group Today - May 22nd, 2019

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A couple of weeks ago I missed the Left to Write meeting. The next day my friend Jon emailed me and asked if I was going to come to the next one. I was sad when I realize that I had missed the meeting, I had simply forgotten to write it on my schedule. I think I made up for it today.


The meeting was at capacity today with 13 people in attendance. When I walked in I thought the entire table was already full because the only open seats had books in front of them. But, those seats were open. The book was the prompt; dun, dun, dunnn.

I sat down and looked at my book, "Ooh, 'The Law of Love' by Nora Roberts, one of my favorites." I'm joking. I can't remember what I said exactly, but I did mention that it was not a book that I would normally pick to read. I had the option to change of course, but I didn't want to.

Now, I've tried to read romances. I've tried quite a variety over the years. I've tried the classics by the Bronte sisters and Jane Auste…

Leading a Writing Group - Session 1

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It's an odd story, how I came to be part of a writing group yesterday.


I went to the Muskegon Comic Con event in the spring. It was fun. I walked into the game room and was greeted by a perky woman named Holly. She convinced me to join a one-off Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game. It's an activity that has always seemed fun, but I've never found the time to participate in that world.

I invited a few people and a couple of kids joined in. Yuke led our session while also managing the gaming sales table. It was a grand adventure that took us deep into a cave looking for buried treasure. Three of the five people came out alive. One girl was able to snatch some of the gold from us, but Xavier and I were able to get most of it. Xavier turned out to be Holly's son.

While talking to Holly after the game she mentioned that she runs a homeschool group that uses the Muskegon Fab Lab, where people can work with 3-D printers, laser etching, virtual reality systems, and more. I …

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