Terrytown's Library

Terrytown's Library
Raised in Terrytown, Louisiana

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Hero Wants...

By the end of the month I've written one story and have submitted that story. I finished a draft of a second story based on my childhood. And it feels great. But, I think I can push myself even further in October. November is National Novel Writing month and I'm looking forward to actually writing 50,000 plus words. Right now I'm working on a collection of stories based on my childhood, but I also would like to write a collection of stories based on my life in Atlanta and now in Decatur, GA.

Ray Bradbury said discover what your hero wants. Then you just follow him. Which sounds easy. Your hero, or protagonist is the word I like better, wants a better job. What is your protagonist going to do to get a better job. What is standing in her or his way of a better job? The answer is the obstacle. This might be something you learn as you write the story and in the second draft, you might change what the protagonist wants or how the protagonist goes after what she wants. You follow the protagonist going after what she or he wants now and write what she or he will do to get what she or he wants.

I believe the story will flow easier when the character wants something. You might know what the protagonist will do to get what she wants, that happens in the writing process as well as learning the obstacles she or he will have to face. I find when I start with something vague, I end up with a vague first draft. For this month I'm going to start with what my hero wants because I think I'll produce more first drafts of stories and possibly get more short stories out there. I might even start work on my novel. Of course I'll work on a different novel for National Novel Writing Month.

Check out my short story blog. It's a little slower than this blog, but I'm going to pick it up. Today's prompt. I'll give you a few.

A mother wants to leave the Catholic Church because of all of the scandal but doesn't know where to go and actually she wants to stay.

A woman wants a better job so she can start taking care of herself and move out of her sister's house

What if I have a setting in mind, or have an idea in mind. I want to write my version of John Updike's A&P because I work in retail and have since I moved to Atlanta in 2008. I have to find a want for my hero that matches her or his surroundings or the story idea I've thought of.

I remember a while ago my sister suggested that I write a story about or based on the life I want to live. I haven't done that yet, but I wouldn't have written about a protagonist living with her sister, her niece and her sister's boyfriend while working eight hours a week in retail. I think now I realize that she was thinking I'd be able to see what I can do to get exactly what it is that I want; a better job that will support myself and my writing career. I want to go to conferences, enter writing contests, write short story collections and novels and possibly get my Masters of Fine Arts. I haven't given up. This exercise is great for all writers who aren't living the life they expected to live.

I believe writing helps you to look at your life and your beliefs and maybe make some changes.

She doesn't want to be out of a job. What is in her way? Is it the economy or is it her own self? Has she gotten too used to the life she's living now?

Happy writing

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Writing Between Short Stories

For some reason it takes me a while to get into a short story after I've completed a short story and submitted it to a literary magazine. There wasn't a big gap this time. I think it was because I simply wrote without any expectations of working on a short story. And now I have two to work on. I'm always writing in my journals, which I bought myself as a birthday present.

Journals to me are places to experiment with your writing. I don't mean that you try to write a short story in the form of a grocery list, but that you try out your story and meet your protagonist and find out what she's trying to accomplish. What is she struggling with. You don't have to make a commitment to these characters and their stories when you write in your journal. It's also your chance to see exactly how you write and what is the best way for you to write. I'm learning that I like to write by simply writing, though I spend too much time trying to get that perfect sentence, which is why I suffer from writer's block sometimes. I should just write sentences, even if they are summaries that don't put you in the moment. At this stage of writing, you just need a sentence to put you in the story, to give you a draft to work on and pull the next draft out of. Journals are for practicing, for seeing if this is a story you might want to pursue.

I did come up with this grocery list:
Eggs (my ex boyfriend liked them scrambled, but my husband likes them...)
Bacon (the ex Kevin was a flighty vegetarian)
Milk (I can finally have real milk in the house)
Steak (I'm sure my husband likes steak)
No steak

I probably won't use it, but I was having fun one day. I need to get working on those two stories, another one based on my childhood and one based on my family, which I would like to submit it to Glimmer Train for their family themed contest.

Happy writing and today pull out your journal and write without any expectations. One thing I've found is that if you write dialogue, it will always lead you somewhere because someone has to speak and someone has to respond. Of course the dialogue has to reveal something, it has to go somewhere.

Thursday, September 23, 2010



This is the blog where I write short stories or scenes. I've posted two fiction pieces, both set in the retail store that I work in. I'd like to write my version of John Updike's A&P story. If you're not familiar with it, you need to go to your local library, bookstore or internet page and read it now. It's a great story, particular if you're working in retail. I think I'll start working on my version.

Check out this blog. I will post more fiction pieces and maybe some poems of mine.
The day before my birthday, I submitted a story and on my birthday I had a write-a-thon in which I was able to begin writing another story. Hopefully today I'll be able to finish the first draft and begin working on the second draft. A great book to read to get you writing is Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones. I also love her book Wild Mind. Both encourage to write that first draft and not think about what you're writing. You just need to get something down on paper so that you can have something to rewrite, some piece of writing to work with and get to that final draft where you edit and then send it out to somewhere. The best part is that both of these stories are based on my personal experiences. They are based on my childhood. I also started writing a short story based on working at Stride Rite and a short story based on my library job in New York. Naturally, I can't wait to submit this story. I'm considering writing a novel, but I feel more like a short story. I'm also thinking of branching out into creative non fiction like personal essays and maybe articles, but personal essays are being written like fiction and you're going to change the names.

Natalie Goldberg promotes writing practice, which is writing to help loosen your imagination and writing hand for the true writing that you want to do. It makes sense. We warm up before any sport we play, before we exercise, before we play the piano. So, why not before we write. Start with a good writing warm up session and then head into that piece of writing you want to take all the way to being published.

I can't remember if I mentioned this already, but Robert Olen Butlers' book, From Where You Dream is also a great book to read to get you writing.

This writing prompt is to do some warm up writing. Sink into that writing that's not going to go anywhere and then get into that story that you want to see published.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Start With Something Small

I think you should start with something small and work your way forward. I was thinking of that this morning. That something small doesn't have to be a first sentence, even though in previous blogs I've said start with a first sentence. It can be a TV and then move forward. Visualize a TV and what's happening around the TV. It can be anything.

She came home and found the TV on and him fast asleep.

She knew she shouldn't go in the electronics store and get a closer look at the TV she wanted to buy.

Elvis, she knew, wanted a TV in his car just like his namesake.

I used to get first sentences from the word car. Or else I'd use my surroundings. The most important thing is to make sure you use something that has meaning for you.

I'd come home from work and my uncle's mother would be watching the news. I sat down with her, anticipating the weather segment so that I could see Sam Champion. This was before he became a part of Good Morning America.

What is the smallest thing that you can imagine? Begin with that. What am I going to do with any of these lines. I don't know, but they each show potential. Maybe the girlfriend of Elvis is tired of his silly dreams. Maybe the woman in the last sentence is using Sam Champion as a crutch to keep her from guys she could actually date. You must have a problem for the character to struggle to solve and first sentences provide you with that struggle. Now that I know what that truly means, a character struggling to solve a problem or get something she or he wants, I want to revivie old stories.

Owen watched her a moment before going in the store with his daughter's birthday wish list. She didn't have many things on the list, but they all required him going back to the toy store where he first met the manager.

The next writing assignment is to begin with something small and move forward from the item. A pond, your favorite dress, a word, an image, whatever it is you can think of. How about this, your reflection against a dark surface, like a window at night. And don't be afraid to push yourself.