Writing Excuses, Week 1

Oh, hi there!

I mentioned in my last post that I’m listening to The Writing Excuses Podcast on my lunch breaks at work. I was going to put my work on the Writing Exercise in that post, but it was entirely too long. So, here’s a whole separate post, just for Writing Excuses!

So, in order to learn and keep my creative juices flowing through this semester, I’m participating in the Writing Exercises offered at the end of the episodes this season.

Week One was all about how to generate ideas. The exercise was to come up with 5 ideas, each at 150 words, from these various methods:

  1. An idea from a conversation or interview with another person
  2. An idea from some sort of research
  3. An idea from an observation: take a walk
  4. An idea from the media you consume
  5. An idea from a piece of music

My answers:

  1. Talked with my french instructor. She told me a story about when she spent 4 weeks in Ireland. It rained every single day, and by the end of her stay she never wanted to see a potato again. I want to take this concept of an amazing trip gone wrong. Play with family dynamics/cultures. Make it humorous but with a solid moral/theme. And… maybe put it in space?
  2. Do research on Anti-gravity. I’m bad at science in general, but I really like Science Fiction. I could see a story about people training for space missions, this uber competitive thing, and depending on the science, it could drastically affect who gets to go into space and who doesn’t.
  3. I’m sort of cheating on this one. I took this walk 4.5 years ago. Trevor and I visited his parents in North Carolina back in the fall of 2010. We met a woman who was collecting shells, but she was oddly particular. She showed me that she would only keep the ones that glimmered or were shiny in some way, because she’d told her grandson they were mermaid treasures. Since that day I’ve had the idea for a story I refer to as Seashells. A teenager is sent to live with his grandmother for the summer while his parents settle their divorce. While bored in the tiny seaside town he meets a real mermaid. I originally envisioned this story to feature a male protagonist, but as the details filter in I think it would work even better with a girl lead. I haven’t decided yet.
  4. I’ve been watching a lot of Community and House M.D. lately. I mean a lot. It makes me really want to write an asshole character. Someone who makes you doubt them on the daily.I also saw this picture on twitter of a man skiing down this insane slope (it sounds lame but it was an intense black and white photo; it look otherworldly). So, the asshole character tears down a person so much that they attempt an insane stunt to win the character’s favor. The asshole deals with the consequences. This would also be set in a fictional world of some kind… because that’s what I write.
  5. You guys know by now that I make playlists for every story. Music is already a part of my writing. It heavily affects my tone and atmosphere in my stories. So, to pick a single piece of music is almost painful for me. But, I’ve been listening to a mixture of Evanesence and Cage the Elephant. Throw in this awesome digital loop from 30 Seconds to Mars’s “Bright Lights” and I’ve got a very dark, high energy piece set in space. I may have to explore that further when I’ve got the spare time.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. These ideas are terrible. I know. Again, this isn’t my usual method for brainstorming ideas. I’m terrible at forcing ideas. They come to me unbidden and are often the product of a powerful lyric or image. Or I’ll have a dream where some weird thing happens. Like the other night I dreamed that in order to get the Library job, I had to grab an invisible scarf and pull it from an invisible trunk in the secret attic of the Library. Basically, in order to join the ranks of the Librarians, I had to believe in magic, and believe it enough to let me feel and grab something that my brain told me wasn’t even there.

That’s how my story ideas start. And I usually sit on them for a while. Like Seashells. That story is only just starting to stir and have enough detail to ask to be put in the project Que. Jordinn’s Story was the same way. I wrote that first short story back in early 2009, but didn’t feel ready to start the novel until late last year.

Plus, there are short stories that want attention. I haven’t forgotten about The Portrait, my ghost story, or my space short series. Which was terrible. Just awful. But I really like the scenario and my characters. I’m just not familiar enough with the tropes and clichés of Science Fiction to do it justice. Yet.

Maybe by the end of this semester I’ll have a firmer grasp.

See you soon!



2 thoughts on “Writing Excuses, Week 1”

  1. I’m also a fan of Community and House, so idea four really caught my attention. I like that idea of dealing with the consequences of that sort of character, and that maybe their attempts to belittle could lead to someone transcending their expectations (which, now I think about it, seems to be what House aims for, and maybe shouldn’t be encouraged!).

    Years ago, the first time I tried to do any exercises like this, I found them a struggle too. It felt like trying to squeeze blood from a handful of nails – sure, there was blood, but maybe I would have been better keeping it on the inside. Over time, doing more exercises like these has helped to develop the mental connections that lead to those random strikes of inspiration. Like going for a run, each journey isn’t about getting anywhere, it’s about developing the ability to get further. But as with anything in life, the usefulness of this insight may vary!

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