Description Writing Challenge

bloom blooming blossom blur

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Before we could talk too much about description and imagery, we had to have descriptions to pull from. Writing Excuses’ Mary Robinette Kowal had a great prompt, that, while sometimes infuriating, is an absolute must for any writer to try.

The campers were taken to a garden on campus, and had to write a description of our setting for thirty minutes non-stop. Pens moving across the page the entire time. The first five to ten minutes are pretty easy, but after that, you need to dig deep, expand your senses, and really get creative.

It’s a fantastic exercise that feels a little like running. It’s not so bad when you start, then halfway through you hit this moment of “I’ve got nothing left,” but when you push through it, you hit your stride and discover an entirely new layer to describing things.

I would recommend any writers take the time to do this for each setting their manuscript or short features, because it will give you vibrant, less obvious descriptions to pull from throughout your story.

In all seriousness, give it a try.

Using Blocking to Change the Meaning of Dialogue

art materials art supplies blocks blur

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Yesterday, my creative writing campers practiced writing a short story entirely in dialogue. Good dialogue should tell you more than the words the character is trying to say. It should give us insight into the character, their situation, their setting, and their relationship to the topic and the person they’re speaking with. The voices should be distinct enough not to require tagging (in a dialogue only story).

Tagging is great, but often writers rely on it to convey how something is being said, or to provide redundant information.

“What did you say?” she asked provides absolutely no additional information compared to… “What…” she whispered, murder gleaming in her eyes, “do you mean?” where we get mood and inflection.

Like all things in writing, variety is king. Sometimes, you just need a , she said, to move the conversation along and clarify who is speaking. But when every line of dialogue ends the same way, you have a problem.

Ideally, every bit of exposition added to the dialogue should convey more information or new insight. Consider the difference between.

“I’m just hungry.”

And

“I’m just hungry,” she sobbed. She couldn’t seem to take her eyes off the pulsing blue vein on the softest part of his neck.

In addition to getting insight into what the character is feeling, suddenly the words take on a new meaning.

So today’s exercise was to take their dialogue only story, and use blocking (how the characters move within their space and what they interact with) to change the meaning of every single line.

I had some amazing results. Want to try? Share your exercise in the comments below.

Stories Told in Dialogue

Dialogue

This week’s creative writing camp is all about economy of language. I’m hoping to teach my students to give every word multiple jobs.

The most overt example of this is dialogue.

Good dialogue should tell the reader more than the words the speaker is saying. You should be able to tell who is talking, what they think of who they’re speaking to, how they feel about what they’re saying, and get a feel for their personality while they’re at it.

For an example, we looked at the story “They’re Made Out of Meat,” by Terri Bisson. Without a single description or tag, the Bisson constructed a rudimentary setting, goal, worldview, and character dynamic. We know the two beings speaking are co-workers, we can tell one out ranks the other, but we also know they’re friendly beyond their work roles because of the way they speak to each other.

Of course once they read a story entirely in dialogue, they had to write one of their own. Every student wrote their own story, and the students had to guess the setting, who was speaking, relationships to one another, and attitudes toward their topic.

Want to give it a try? Post your dialogue story in the comments below.

 

 

Random Plot Generator

Writing Resources, #amwriting

In Creative Writing Camp today, my students were challenged to firmly ground the reader in the story in three sentences that convey the setting, goal, and character.

It’s a super fun exercise that everyone should try (credit to the idea from Writing ExcusesMary Robinette Kowal who had a tweet about healthcare go viral this week).

Step 1: Go to Random Plot Generator

Step 2: Choose a Main Character, a Setting, and a Situation

Step 3: Set the scene in three sentences.

Step 4: Change only the setting and write it again

Step 5: Change only the character and try it again

Step 6: Change only the situation and try it again

Here were mine from today.

Scenario 1: A foolish man in his thirties at the fair being left for good.

So maybe he should have told her about the motion sickness before sitting next to her on the tilt-a-whirl, but how was he supposed to know it would both tilt and whirl? 

“Forget my number,” she snarled, slinging chunks of his birthday dinner off her designer dress.

Whatever, it was still an improvement from his thirty-second birthday when he’d gone scuba diving with the piranhas. 

Scenario 2: A foolish man in a castle being left for good.

The young king watched impassively as his wife bared her neck for the guillotine, trying to figure out why she looked so upset. If she’d given birth to a son instead of a daughter, this wouldn’t be happening. Next time, he’d find a woman approaching her forties; with age came wisdom, and with wisdom, sons. 

Scenario 3: A naive old man in a castle being left for good.

The king was flirting with his wife again, but Old-Man Bob wasn’t worried. His young, beautiful wife had a stable life without all the problems riches brought with them. Surely she’d reject the King’s advances. 

Scenario 4: A naive old man in a castle giving a dog a home.

Old man Bob squinted his eyes at the puppy dragging an elk out of the castle moat. “Here boy,” he whistled as the puppy bared teeth the size of his arm at him and left out an earth trembling growl. “Let’s get you in out of the cold.”

Want to give it a try? Post your 3 sentence scene in the comments below.

 

 

Blood and Other Matter is LIVE!

Blood and Other Matter

Red Moon Rising

Derrick Hernandez and Tess D’Ovidio have been best friends forever. There’s nothing they wouldn’t do for one another. But their childhood bond is put to the test when Tess shows up on Derrick’s porch covered in blood…

Tess has no memory of what happened. She’d gone to a bush party with one of the football players. She remembers the bonfire…and then, nothing. Working backward, Tess and Derrick learn that she and seven other players were the only ones to make it back from the party alive.

During the next few weeks, each of the survivors is plagued with nightmares that reveal fragments of memories from the horrific night. But when the young men start dying under mysterious circumstances, Derrick can’t figure out if Tess is next—or if she’s somehow responsible. All he knows is that he has to save his best friend—or die trying…

Blood and Other Matter is live now. Order it Today!, and check out a free sample here.

 

 

 

Blood and Other Matter is Available for Pre-Order!

Blood and Other Matter

Red Moon Rising

Derrick Hernandez and Tess D’Ovidio have been best friends forever. There’s nothing they wouldn’t do for one another. But their childhood bond is put to the test when Tess shows up on Derrick’s porch covered in blood…

Tess has no memory of what happened. She’d gone to a bush party with one of the football players. She remembers the bonfire…and then, nothing. Working backward, Tess and Derrick learn that she and seven other players were the only ones to make it back from the party alive.

During the next few weeks, each of the survivors is plagued with nightmares that reveal fragments of memories from the horrific night. But when the young men start dying under mysterious circumstances, Derrick can’t figure out if Tess is next—or if she’s somehow responsible. All he knows is that he has to save his best friend—or die trying…

Blood and Other Matter releases on April 17th. Pre-Order today, and check out a free sample here.

 

 

 

Review: Worthy of Love by M.M Kin

Worthy of Love by M.M Kin first edition book cover, Hephaestus, Kabeiro, Hades, Persephone, Aphrodite, Ares, Hera, Zeus, Greek Mythology RetellingBefore I begin this review, let me give a quick disclaimer. Worthy of Love is not a YA book. It includes adult content of the sexual variety. So, if you are not an adult or do not read adult books, read no further until you’re older.

We good?

Good.

Worthy of love is an adult Greek mythology retelling that focuses on Hephaestus’s life. We see his birth, his tragic fall from the mountain, his childhood, and his love life. Other mythological figures like Aphrodite, Hera, and Kabeiro play major roles, and still more like Hades, Persephone, Ares, Hermes, and Zeus have brief cameos.

One thing that I love about reading other Greek mythology retellings is that we authors have all looked at basically the same source material. We’ve studied the same myths, read the same stories, and we all came away with completely different characters and stories. A side note in my research (Heph and Kabeiro) is a major plot point for hers and vice versa. In her story, Heph, Hera, and even Zeus (sometimes) can be viewed through a sympathetic lens, but Aphrodite and Ares can most certainly not. My take is almost the exact opposite, I’ve read other stories that meet somewhere in the middle, and we’re all looking at the same myths. There’s so much room in Greek mythology for creative takes that are all completely accurate.

I finished this book fairly fast and really enjoyed seeing another interpretation of the marriage of Hephaestus and Aphrodite. I do wish Aphrodite had been a bit more multi-dimensional since she’s such a focal point in this book. Kin does acknowledge the double standard in the way Zeus is viewed for being promiscuous and the way Aphrodite is viewed, but Zeus was fleshed out enough that it wasn’t his only character trait. Aphrodite was just a shallow, petty, whore, and apparently a terrible mother. But I also recognize I have a bias when it comes to Aphrodite.

One thing I really appreciated was Kin setting this in ancient Greece but not doing the whole ‘my characters are going to randomly speak in stilted, Victorian English thing. I know the modern dialect puts off some readers because it’s not historically accurate, but if Kin was going for complete accuracy in her dialogue, the characters would in fact be speaking ancient Greek, not stilted, old English. If a reader can assume the characters are speaking Greek, but the story has been translated to English for our sakes, then can’t we also assume the idioms have been translated as well?

Thank you Kin for the review copy. It is always a pleasure to read another take on the Greek myths.

 

 

YA Scavenger Hunt

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are SIX contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the PINK TEAM but there is also a red team, a gold team, an orange team, a red team, and an indie team for a chance to win a whole different set of books!

Team Pink.jpgIf you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE
 
Directions: Below, you’ll notice that I’ve listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the PINK TEAM, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).
 
Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by October 8th at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.
SCAVENGER HUNT POST
 colleen2
Today, I am hosting Colleen Houck on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt!
Colleen Houck is the New York Times bestselling author of the Tiger’s Curse series and the Reawakened series. Her books have appeared on the USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Walmart bestseller lists, among many others. She has been a Parents’ Choice Award winner and has been reviewed and featured on MTV.com and in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Girls’ Life magazine, and Romantic Times, which called Tiger’s Curse “one of the best books I have ever read.” Colleen lives in Salem, Oregon, with her husband and a huge assortment of plush tigers.
 
Find out more information by checking out the author website or find more about the author’s book here! 
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT
Tiger's Dream, YASH
Hello Readers,
On this YA Scavenger Hunt I am giving you a sneak peek of something you’ve been waiting for a long, long time–the cover of Tiger’s Dream. The cover isn’t final yet since we still need to add the title, my name, the cover copy, etc., but at least you can catch a glimpse of the beautiful art. Cliff Nielsen who did all my other tiger books did this cover too and I think it’s just beautiful. I hope you like it as much as I do. We are hoping to publish the book next spring and I can tell you this is a BIG book, more than 800 whopping pages.
Here’s a brief summary:
From Colleen Houck, New York Times bestselling author of The Tiger’s Curse, comes the third and final book in the Reawakened series in which Lily will train to defeat evil once and for all and find a way to her everlasting love.

After surviving her otherworldly adventure, Lily wakes up on her nana’s farm having forgotten everything. Her sun prince, her travels to Egypt, and her journey to the Afterlife are all distant memories.
But Lily is not the girl she once was. Her body is now part human, part lion, and part fairy. And if that isn’t bad enough, she must harness this power of three and become Wasret: a goddess destined to defeat the evil god Seth once and for all.
With the help of her old friend Dr. Hassan, Lily departs on her final voyage through the cosmos and across the plains of Egypt. On the journey, she will transform into the being she is destined to become.
Reunited is the heart-pounding conclusion to the Reawakened series. It is time for Lily to find her sunset.

For those of you who can’t wait, here’s an excerpt.

Each step I took was weighted, like I was trying to stay upright as I strode deeper into the ocean. The further I went, the more the risk of drowning. Even though I was disguised, I felt recognizable, out of place, like a flower in a fruit basket. I nodded at people when necessary and made my slow way over to the bar. When the man asked what he could get for me, I stared at him mutely for a moment and then said, “Just some water, please.”

He slid me a sparkling water and I took a seat, sipping on it as I scanned the room. Nilima was the first person I noticed. She entered the party wearing a beautiful dress. Her smile was brilliant as she took the arm of a tall man that looked vaguely familiar. I sucked in a breath when I realized who it was—Anamika’s brother, Sunil. He looked just as happy as she did and much more comfortable than I would have expected considering he was from a different time.

Looking around, I recognized a few of the people who worked for Rajaram Industries. Sipping my drink, I studied Nilima and Sunil. He was deftly keeping all the other men wanting to dance with Nilima at bay. His hardened expression when anyone approached was very effective. Seeing her glare at him and lean close to give him a lecture was heartening. I smiled, happy that Nilima might have found someone and I hoped when I told Ana that she would be pleased.

Despite my interest in them, they weren’t who I’d come to see. A kind of breathless anticipation, a churning in my stomach, stole through me. When the bartender asked if I wanted a refill, I gave him a curt nod. A trickle of sweat crept down the back of my neck and I tugged at my collar, feeling hot.

Then, all at once, the music halted and a new song began—a lovely one I remembered that Ren had written for Kelsey. My heart wrenched. Almost as one, the expectant crowd turned to watch the front of the room. Before I could prepare myself, they were there. The wedding guests cheered as the couple entered the room. Ren beamed and waved a hand as he proudly guided his new wife. He looked dashing in his sherwani coat, his dark hair slicked back, but Kelsey was breathtaking.

Wow! I can’t wait to read that book :D. I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. Don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of books by me, Kaitlin Bevis, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 2. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the pink team and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

#YASH #TeamPink
CONTINUE THE HUNT
 
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author, MAY FREIGHTER! Don’t forget to comment below for a chance to win an audio copy of my novel, Persephone.
 
 

 

Mythology Monday: Hera

Hera, Goddess-Queen, Greek Mythology, Daughters of Zeus series, Kaitlin Bevis

I killed the gods. Isn’t that what you wanted to know? I see no reason to go through this charade. We both know where I belong.

But you won’t put me there, will you, Hades?  You can’t stand the thought of me wasting away in your hell-realm of darkness. Waiting in the endless shadows like The Before.

You love me too much for that.

~@~

Oh wow, where to begin on Hera. She is featured in nearly every Greek Myth, and personality wise grew more volatile with each retelling. Most of her mythology has actually been covered in other blogs, but this still may run a little long. Here goes…

Hera was the youngest of the “Big Six,” the children of Cronus and Rhea who led the rebellion against the Titans. I feel like I’ve discussed the Titanomachy, the myths surrounding Creation, her role in Jason and the Argonaut’s adventure, her role in Hercules, Dionysus, and Hephaestus’s life, and the Judgment of Paris enough in other blogs. She was the God-Queen, wife of Zeus, and the goddess of marriage, which was somewhat ironic because you’d be hard pressed to find a less faithful husband than Zeus. But Zeus was nothing if not charming. He won Hera’s heart by transforming into her favorite bird (a cuckoo). She took him home, made him her favorite pet Shaggy Dog style, and Zeus took notes on how to win her over.

At their wedding, Gaia gave her a grove of beautiful golden apples, which the Hesperides guarded until Hercules came along. 

Hera had several children by Zeus: Hebe, Ares, and Eilythia, and possibly Hephaestus, though he might have been created by Hera alone as revenge for Athena. If not, Hephaestus, then she gave birth to the monster Typhaon by striking the earth crying out…

“Hear now, I pray, Gaia and wide Ouranos above, and you Titanes gods who dwell beneath the earth about great Tartaros, and from whom are sprung both gods and men! Harken you now to me, one and all, and grant that I may bear a child apart from Zeus, no wit lesser than him in strength–nay, let him be as much stronger than Zeus as all-seeing Zeus than Kronos!” Homeric Hymn 3 to Pythian Apollo 300 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th – 4th B.C.)

Hera was nothing if not dramatic.

This is also likely how the War of the Giants started because turns out, Typhaon was ugly and Hera was ashamed of him, so she threw the child away (or gave him to the drakaina), and he caused all kinds of trouble with men before trying to take over Olympus.

According to some sources, she was a little like Persephone because she had different names depending on her stage in life. As a maiden, she was known as Pais (which also means girl), as Zeus’s wife, she was Teleia, and as a “widow,” (not in the sense that her husband was dead, just dead to her because she was so mad) she was Hera. You can guess which stage of life she lived in the most.

On at least one occasion, she and Poseidon were at odds over the worship of a particular region (Argolis). She claimed the land, but they lived off the sea, so he withdrew the sea because he’s petty like that. The rivers in that region are only rivers when there’s been rain from the sky.

An endless string of women (Semele, Leto, Callisto, Aegina and Aeacus, Elara, Echo, Lamia, Io— turned into a cow, Inyx– turned to stone,  Othries-learned enough from the other two to go into hiding and just leave her child out in the woods rather than risk a lifetime of pain, Gerana– claimed to be more beautiful than Hera and got turned into a crane, Chelon- disrespected Hera and got turned into a turtle,  and even Aphrodite to name a few) suffered Hera’s wrath along two notable men. One named Ixion. He tried to rape her, so she had Zeus tie him to a wheel, set it on fire, and used the  air keep it in motion. The other was a prophet referenced in the Iron Queen named Tiresias. Tiresias had been changed from a man to a woman back to a man again at the amusement of the gods. When Zeus and Hera asked him which form got the better deal when it came to sex he declared that “on a scale of ten, women enjoy it nine times to men’s one.” Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 71 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :

Hera didn’t like his answer so she blinded him, but Zeus was pleased enough that he turned hm into a prophet.

Sometimes Hera was nice. When a priestess of Hera impressed the goddess with her devotion so much that Hera offered her anything she wished. The woman wished for the best gift Hera could give to her children, so Hera promised when their time came, they would die peacefully in their sleep.

You’ll notice some names missing, like Minthe and Leuce. Hera had nothing to do with their transformation, nor did she and Hades have an epic romance as my book insinuated. But if they had, cursing those two women would have been very much in her character, so I figured that added a layer without too much of a stretch.

Hera is a complex character, and I’ve likely only scratched the surface of her mythology.