Posts

Showing posts with the label Writing

I Went to a Writing Group Today - November 27th, 2019

Image
A writing group the day before Thanksgiving? Yes, of course. And the prompt isn't what you would expect.


I thought I might try something a little different today. I usually write interesting little stories. They often turn into something in between fairy tales and fantasy, which I like. But it's good to expand and try things, to push the edges and see where they actually are. This type of writing group is a perfect place to do that.

Each person has a different voice in their writing. Each person has certain tendencies, in tense, point-of-view, subject, sentence structure, everything. It's hard to break out of that. And to get better sometimes we need to.

There's one woman in the group that writes in this voice that's first person with some autobiography, but it sounds different. It's like a narrator doing a monologue. I've thought about giving that a try, so today I did.

The prompt was "cemetery."

- - - - - - -

We spend our lives ignoring our own …

A Late Night Attempt at a Chiropractic Poem

Image
The daughter of my chiropractors at Beacom Family Chiropractic is holding a poetry contest. I've been intending to do it, I just haven't gotten around to it. Now, I'm doing it.


Over the last 30 minutes here's what I've come up with.

- - - - - - -

Ancient communication highways,
ever-changing lanes of transportation,
rivers and their byways.

Delivering messages for friends and family,
messages of things gone wrong,
and others received happily.

Levels higher, now lower,
the banks and edges changing shape,
messages sent faster, now slower.

The fates of businesses and battles depend on,
the words floating along a flowing path,
destiny determined by communication.

Many things can go wrong,
the bank falls in, the water lowers, the river changes its path,
fixed neither by hope nor song.

The way must be cleared,
alignment is the key,
open the way that can be steered.

Now make a change, think fast not slow,
the river is within you,
the path of communication head to toe.

Ner…

Finding Your Voice as a Writer

Image
In writing, your voice is the unique way that you sound. It changes, and it can often be hard to grasp. I've heard the famous fantasy writer Brandon Mull talk about voice in one of his classes. He said that you need certain technical skills, but in the end you get paid for your voice. Here's one way to find that voice hidden within.


I picked a small selection to work with. It's a weird piece in the second person. And, it's not great. I'm going to make it better. Here's the original.

- - - - - - -

Version 0

You have traveled far, entering a territory of mountains and hills, forests, and ancient paths. As you near your destination, an oppressive veil descends as the sky becomes dim. The stagecoach you hired approaches an old stone building with a belfry and enormous arched wooden front doors, whose scrollwork tells tales of horror and redemption. The coach rolls to a stop and you exit to stand before the Church of the Crossroads. The church is an age-old monument…

Masha and a Hornless Unicorn Named Aralock

Image
I have an eleven-year-old Russian student named Masha.


In school, writing assignments are often kind of boring. I do them a little differently. This is an exercise that we do in class. I write a paragraph, they read it and we go over pronunciation and vocabulary. Then, they write a paragraph, I go through it making corrections while we discuss the changes. It's fun and helps with learning every part of reading, writing, vocabulary, pronunciation, syntax, grammar, spelling, conversation, punctuation, and more. It works better if the students are already fairly advanced, which Masha is.

We've already done some reading and that went well. We read my horror story that's in the anthology "Horror Without Borders", and is also in "A Flash of Horror - Part 4 of 4": http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2018/11/a-flash-of-horror-part-4-of-4.html

She liked that enough that she wanted me to write another part to it, which is quite the compliment. And, I had a feel…

Leading a Writing Group - Session 13

Image
We had a student-led day.


I wanted to see what ideas had stuck out in the kids' minds. They threw out a few good ones that we discussed: foreshadowing, frame stories, black/white/grey characters, and dialogue. I helped them to remember in media res, personification, tense, and point-of-view. Then they asked about the details of some of the points of view and we went over first person, second person, third person objective, third person omniscient, and third person close.

That felt like enough review for one day. I asked what they might want to be the prompt and we ended up with three suggestions: Christmas, adventure, and apocalypse. So, the prompt ended up being a Christmas adventure apocalypse.

Our youngest member wrote a story about the daughter of an evil mastermind who wanted to work with him in the lab. Initially he rejected her, but then they reconciled. So the happy ending of the father/daughter reconciliation was just the start of destroying a world, which is a neat idea.

I Went to a Writing Group - November 13th, 2019

Image
There were four things to think about in this prompt.


Analiese led the group in selecting a noun, a verb, and an adverb or adjective. I threw out "Turtle!" as the first thing, and it was accepted. Next, "shook" was chosen. Then, "quietly." Finally, we were challenged by Analiese to do a gender swap if we could. Since I am a man, that means writing a story from the perspective of a woman, or about a woman as the main character.

My first attempt was pretty straight forward. I thought I might be able to get everything into the first sentence and went with: The mother turtle shook quietly

And then I stopped that nonsense.

I crossed it out and began again.

- - - - - - -

Susan the tortoise gazed at the trees in the distance. Sooo far, they were so far away. A gentle gust of wind blew across the field and the grass shimmered, rising and falling in great organic waves. The leaves on the distant trees shook, and a few quietly fell from their heights to join the fo…

Leading a Writing Group - Session 12

Image
I had a fun idea for the kid's writing group - nail bending.


Pole barn nails are fun to bend. Just wrap some leather around both ends so you don't draw any blood, grip hard, and bend.

I knew that the kids wouldn't be able to bend the nails. But, I thought with my help that we could probably make a dent or more. I've done it before with women that couldn't quite get the nail to bend, I just grab ahold of their hands or wrists and help.

Unfortunately, the difference was just too much in this case. So, it was a little bit of a letdown, a little bit of a frustration. In a couple of weeks I'll probably get them some easier metal to bend so they can get the feel for it. They still had fun trying, and it's a great way to use up their energy.

We went over the concept of foreshadowing. That's where you mention something lightly early in the story because it's going to be important later.

The prompt was, of course, strength. Some version of great strength, or…

Giving Feedback on Someone's Writing

Image
A friend of mine reached out to me recently because he's working on writing a book. I'm guessing we'll get together and discuss it more in the future, but I highly encouraged him to do the work of writing, because you can spend your entire life studying something and never get around to the doing. I know that from personal experience. (And, I did send him a big list of videos and books to check out, probably too many.)


This is a writing exercise he did with my comments included.

- - - - - - -

I will offset my comments like this.

- - - - - - -
So since I think I should just start writing, I used a writing prompt to create a very short passage . This is the first time I’ve just written off the top of my head . Lemme know if it’s decent, like if there’s room to grow, anything . Thanks.

- - - - - - -

The important part about writing is that your style is going to naturally change over time, so you want to get past the early and fast changes as quickly as possible. There is alw…

Dasha Does Poetry

Image
Dasha is a student of mine. She's originally from Russia, but lives in Texas now, and is somewhere around my own age. She's an advanced student. We're working on finding very specific pronunciation issues and developing more advanced writing skills.


We've played with writing a few different things. We did some writing where we pretended we were exchanging business emails. That was useful, but probably a little too easy for her. Fiction is a little more difficult to write, so we mostly write prose. But, we did do poetry one time. It was kind of amazing. It's probably not quite as useful for learning English because the rules in poetry are quite different than normal language, and just too flexible.

I did the first stanza, she did the second, and we kept alternating from there. After she writes her paragraph or stanza then I go through doing some editing while we discuss different options on spelling, punctuation, grammar, syntax, word selection, tense, point-of-view…

I Went to a Writing Group - October 23rd, 2019

Image
The writing prompt looked simple and easy enough, but it was deceptively complex.


We were just given three nouns: rage, lobster, sandwich. From there it was up to you. I was a little surprised at how similar most of the stories were. It was a good reminder for me that I have a neotenous, or childlike, perspective in life. I tend to be more imaginative, playful, and engaged with the magical and mysterious.

- - - - - - -

Lonny the lobster was a friendly chap. He had had a long and eventful life. Now, he no longer felt the urge to get in fights, to participate in the series of constant battles necessary to work one's way up the social hierarchy. No, all of that was behind him now.

Lonny had chosen his own little lobster-sized cave out of everyone else's way. Every day he would walk to the reef where a friend of his had opened a sandwich shop. Lonny was on his way there now. Leaving a trail of uneven footsteps behind him, the result of injuries that had never healed, and would nev…

Leading a Writing Group - Session 11

Image
In this session we went over the idea of flashbacks, where we go to an earlier time in the story. Then I introduced the prompt, a very difficult prompt to do off the cuff with a short story, time travel (and the crowd goes "Ooooohh").


The eight-year-old wrote about a time machine that went wrong. There were bunnies involved. She intended it to be a horror story, but it didn't come out that way. In the story she broke the fourth wall, meaning she talked to the reader as a reader, which was pretty awesome.

The eleven-year-old had someone walk to the other side of a river, and crossing that threshold threw them back in time. He included some nice details like the main character getting out of bed with messy hair.

The thirteen-year-old had an interaction between three young siblings: Jack, Katie, and Josh. The youngest one, the seven-year-old, pushed the wrong button in the time machine. There was some confusion between grey and red. Maybe some color blindness was involved.

I Went to a Writing Group - October 9th, 2019

Image
Sometimes it seems like life is one giant obstacle.


The prompt was about facing obstacles.

- - - - - - -

When telling any story, the main character's desire is crucial. This desire forms the backbone of the plot, as the obstacles that prevent your character from achieving what they want and how your character responds to these obstacles drives the story.

Write a story or scene in which your protagonist faces an obstacle. What is this obstacle? How does it stand in the way of your character and what they desire? How does your character respond to this obstacle?

- - - - - - -
Notice the name that I use in this story. I was thinking of Robert the Bruce, who was a Scottish king at one time, and Lenny Bruce, who was a legendary American comedian. Also, just before we started writing someone mentioned a town called Eden. And I'm reading "A Child's Garden of Verses" by Robert Louis Stevenson right now. I think all of that combined a bit in this story.

- - - - - - -

Leon…

Leading a Writing Group - Session 10

Image
I only had two students for the writing group, but it went well.


The idea that we covered was personification. That's when you take something that isn't a person and make it seem like a person. In kids' cartoons this might be a singing and dancing carrot. In poetry this might be a cloud that is described as happy or sad. It is used a lot, and it's great.

The prompt for the day was "big tree." We talked about the biggest trees that we've seen. Neither of the girls have seen the redwoods or the sequoias, which are amazing, but they have encountered other rather large oaks and pines.

The youngest wrote about a dragon that was in the top of a tree. A person climbed up to help the dragon, named it Tiny, and fed it a cow.

The oldest wrote about a palm tree that was all alone, but who eventually was able to find his own kind. The tree was personified.

Here's what I did.

- - - - - - -

Seventy-five dollars. Bucky von Buckminster would make seventy-five dollars…

Haunted Tunnels Under an Insane Asylum

Image
In Traverse City, Michigan there is an old insane asylum called the Grand Traverse Commons. Under the Commons there are old tunnels that some people say are haunted. A friend of mine saw the pictures of me in these tunnels and asked if I could write something about them, because he runs a publishing firm in Russia called Horroscope Press, and he's launching a magazine in the near future. I've been trying to think of what exactly to write, and now I've decided.


I've been thinking about writing a poem about this for a few weeks. I think it's a cool idea. But, it's going to be translated into Russian, and sometimes poetry doesn't work great for that. Although, my favorite poet is Ovid, and he wrote in Latin.

Today I sat down with some earplugs in to shut out the world and wrote six stanzas. I like them. I'm going to use that, embedded in a little prose opener, followed by a little explanation. I think it will make a good piece for a magazine. Let's see…

My Interview for "Darker" Magazine

Image
"Darker" is a leading horror magazine in Russia. The "Horror Without Borders" anthology that I've been working on with Oleg is out. In English it's available as an ebook. Since the anthology is out "Darker" asked for an interview.


It's an odd interview that works well. Since I don't know Russian it makes sense to do it this way. They sent Oleg a series of questions that he passed on to me. I read them, let them percolate in the back of my mind for a few weeks, and then wrote these answers and sent the document back to Oleg. He might even be the one translating it.

- - - - - - -

Interview for DARKER Magazine – with Jeffrey Alexander Martin of JeffThinks.com

1 - During the work on stories from around the globe, have you had a chance to push the borders of horror, for yourself? Have you come across such exotic views on the genre that struck you? If so, could you give an example?

Stories are how we make sense of the world. Horror stories deal …

I Went to a Writing Group Today - September 25th, 2019

Image
The librarian that normally runs the group was away today. She had a meeting of librarians to attend. A secret meeting. I know the meeting was secret because the room they used was directly next to the room that we write in, and they kept the door shut. Naturally, the conversation turned to what devious things they could be doing behind closed doors. Cooking the books was suggested. That wasn't the official prompt though. The official prompt was - getting away with it.


Cooking the books is an idiom that means forging and faking financial documents and records. But the image that the phrase brings to mind is a literal one for me. Here's how my story went.

- - - - - - -

Little Timmy was trying to pay attention to the teacher, but he couldn't. All he could think about was the workbook. Three-hundred and seven pages. Three-hundred and seven pages of questions, of fill-in-the-blanks, of short answer, short essay, long essay, multiple-choice, true or false, matching, and other f…

Leading a Writing Group - Session 9

Image
I had two new students, so the total was five for this session. The first thing we covered was the metaphorical concept of morality and colors. White characters are the good heroes. Black characters are the bad villains. And grey characters, well, those get interesting. What if someone does a bad thing for a good reason? Or a good thing for a bad reason? It was an interesting introductory discussion. The famous fantasy writer George R. R. Martin is known for flipping these symbolic colors in a literal interpretation, i.e. he has the good guys wear black and the bad guys wear white, and everyone's really a grey character. After discussing that concept, I gave the prompt for the day - genie.


One of the new students was a bit reluctant and inquired into whether the subject was quite limited. He wanted to know the specific parameters. He was relieved to learn that there aren't any. Just try to make an interesting narrative. That's it. If you can use the prompt, then that's…

I Went to a Writing Group Today - September 10th, 2019

Image
A picture and an assignment concerning gnomes. That was our prompt for the day.


The picture had two similar looking gnomes. One had a green hat. The other had a blue hat and sunglasses, and was giving the peace sign. The prompt read:

- - - - - - -

Good writers bring their story characters to life. Choose one of these gnomes and give a detailed character description. Include physical characteristics as well as character traits, and likes and dislikes. Use your senses and vivid adjectives to bring the character to life.

- - - - - - -
One of the most important things in writing, as in any art, is to know you can break the rules. They're more like guidelines. In the picture of the gnomes there is another gnome slightly visible in the background of the picture. I took this to be the mother of the two gnomes. You'll see how that works out in my short glimpse of a story.

I recently read "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave", and it's a great b…

Leading a Writing Group - Session 8

Image
I had four cards, each with a single word: King, Queen, Prince, Princess. Each of the kids drew their card, and then I was left with... Princess. I didn't particularly want to write a princess story at that moment, so I made her a bit unique. But, before we did the writing we covered an important writing subject.


When writing there are two basic sets of tools that you can choose from. You can use narrative devices like flashbacks, foreshadowing, and framing. These are tools that help you to structure your story. You can also use rhetorical devices like rhyming, alliteration, and assonance. These are tools that help you to structure your sentences and paragraphs. The best writers are good at using both narrative devices and rhetorical devices.

Bella drew the Queen card. She wrote a story about a princess that was shortly going to become queen because the queen was passing her position and power on to her daughter. But, the princess's aunt wanted power and was seeking to make bo…

I Went to a Writing Group Today - August 28th, 2019

Image
The prompt today was to create a poem based on the idea "Where I'm From".


I did two poems. The first one is light, the second one is a bit darker.

- - - - - - -

Stranger in a known land
far from home
estranged from my clan
apart from my tribal band.

Surrounded by the unknown
cement, glass, steel, and stone
longing for home.

Sun through the tree leaves
the smell of bark.

Home in a forest.

Easy to find if you're looking
but difficult to see.

Follow your nose
that's where we'll be
cooking nothing nutritious.

Come visit the fudge game
Kenny the Elf's my name
the art of delicious
that's where I'm from.

- - - - - - -
I didn't use punctuation at the end of the lines because I was reading these out loud at the meeting so it didn't matter at the time, and I just left them.

- - - - - - -

Return
to the land of the lost

Forgotten
in darkness

Abandoned
by their host

Hope
evaporated into mist

Dreams
disintegrated into dust

Wishes
reduced to nothing

Red …

Donate to Jeff's Work