K is the eleventh letter in our alphabet and today’s letter for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I was stumped. Looking for inspiration I turned to Wikipedia and searched for “K”.
Pretty easy definition until those last three words, “voiceless velar plosive.” My knee jerk reaction was, “Is this some kind of new storm that replaces the Bomb Cyclone? Or, some other kind of explosive that has a silent EX at the beginning?
If you are anything like me, you may have already clicked the link above (or you’re a linguist and already know what it is). So, down the rabbit hole of links I went. If you haven’t clicked on the voiceless link above you should.
This is where things started to get tricky. In my writing I like to come up with different ways to show my readers how my character feels without actually saying the word, like sad, happy, depressed, or bored. It is a real challenge. When I read the definition of voiceless velar plosive I thanked the writing forces I did not have to come up with that definition. My eyes started to glaze over.
The next hop down this rabbit hole was, “…and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is
k . X-SAMPA peaked my curiosity, and another click. There you will find, ” The Extended Speech Assessment Methods Phonetic Alphabet (X-SAMPA.” (Aren’t you glad you came along for this ride?) I have been sitting here, re-reading what X-SAMPA is, only to scratch my head wondering if they were talking about a computer language rather than language.
Scrolling down there is a chart of the X-SAMPA, IPA, and IPA Image for Lower Case Symbols (aren’t they letters?). Keep scrolling and you will find charts for Capital Symbols (upper case in my dictionary), Other Symbols, Diacritics, and so on. Reaching the bottom of the page I lost it. Go ahead…I dare you to make heads or tails of that last diagram.
Feeling like Alice in a linguistic Wonderland I had to bail out. I think I’ll stick with just writing the words and leave the reason for their existence to someone else. With that, I will enjoy each letter for what they are; twenty six opportunities to write words that start with the letter K.
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When I first delved into this writing adventure I thought it would be easy. In some respects it has been, but in others it has been a slog. My journey through writing began about six years ago when I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference that is held annually in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Since then, I have been blown from one book to another.
After that initial conference I was jazzed. I wasn’t necessarily looking to write “the next great American novel”, but I was excited to write the book I always wanted to read. Six years later, and five attempts later, I am still working to find my groove.
I did edit my great grandfather’s memoir on his railroading days at the turn of the 20th century. It was published privately with only three copies in existence. What did I learn? Even with something already written out it is a long road to publication. What was the worst mistake? I misspelled my grandfather’s name on the cover and on the title page.
I am working on several other books that, one day, will be completed. As I’m writing this post, I think of the first two attempts as stretching my legs. I got the feel for writing, editing, critiqueing, querying, re-writing, and re-doing everything. I discovered what I liked about the stories and what I hated about them, then drew from those lessons to start a third book.
The book I’m working on now has been my favorite. It is fun, light, and airy. I am learning that as an author I am better at seeing the lighter side of life which helps me to stay upbeat when I step back into my regular life. I am excited that this third attempt is also seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
Writing is not easy. If you are just starting out on this journey, I would say to you…try everything. In order to find your way through this journey you need to follow paths that might take you to dead ends, swamps, or it could very well take you to paradise. Most of all, enjoy the journey.
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I have been asked where I get my ideas for my short stories. Recently, because of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, my ideas have stemmed from the letter of the day. I like playing with names and discovering odd or silly sounding names like Greta Grimmward and Horatio Horrocrux. I pulled the character’s first names off of baby name lists, and the last names are twisted versions found off of surname lists. Then, I write the story based on who I think the characters are because of their name.
Another place to find inspiration are the many websites that specialize in writing prompts or theme generators. One of my favorite sites is Writing Exercises and Prompts. This site has a plot generator, random first lines, random subject generator, etc. I have had some great ideas blossom here.
Chuck Wedig’s blog is another place I have found ideas. Every once in awhile he hosts a short story writing challenge with prompts posted by his readers. I picked up on one prompt that turned into a short story about a guy named Bob. It was a fun way to flex writing muscles that I didn’t know I had. If you visit his blog, be aware that he does not soften the edges. He freely uses every four letter cuss word there is, plus a few shorter ones too.
What are some other ways to find inspiration? Just look behind you. Where have you been? What have you experienced? Family members can provide a wealth of story material. Got a crazy uncle? What about Great Grandpa? Was he a horse thief? Have you ever gone into Walmart to see who’s shopping there? You can find such a huge variety of characters in a Walmart.
Where do you find your ideas and inspiration? Share them in the comments. I love finding new ways to get inspired. Like this post which was inspired by the letter…..
“Why, hello Horatio. Having some trouble?” I leaned against the door frame watching Horatio scramble to reach the blade I put in him. For the first time in a millennial, I am happy. What the heck, it felt good to drive it in to him. What a jerk he’d been all these years. I just wanted him back, but he tripped over himself on a daily basis.
I grabbed my hair. Out of habit I untied and retied the band that held it back. “How does it feel Harry? Do you recognize it?”
He turned on me, “Don’t call me Harry! You know how I feel about that.” Horatio went back to grabbing at his back trying, in vain, to get the knife out. “Am I supposed to know something about the knife? It is in my back. It does hurt. Let me tell you what else I know about you Greta. You’re jealous. You just want what you can’t have. You’ve been a step behind me trying to steal my mist. Every time you’re too slow, and you can’t stand that I’m there first.”
Laughter rippled up from my stomach. Heratio Horrocrux was an idiot. It’s safe to say I never really liked the guy, but like every feeder I did have a sympathetic side. His paranoia was pushing him further and further into the dark places that feeders end up. The deeper he went the further he fell from the tribe and it was time for him to find his way back. My job was to see he came back in the fold and yesterday I finally caught up to him.
“OK. I’ll give you my snarky name calling Horatio, but you need to focus. Stop thrashing around and tell me about the knife.” I moved closer to Horatio. “It was your’s at one time. Have you forgotten? You spoke the first enchantment, and captured the first feeder.”
Horatio froze. Something seemed to wash over him and I hoped it was recognition. He was the first chaser for the tribe, but after a thousand years of huffing the fumes from the humans he forgot his place. He lost his way. Addiction replaced responsibility.
Lunging at me he roared, “No! I won’t go back! I won’t do it!” He turned on his heel and slid through the window. The human stirred. Thank the Tribe he didn’t break the pane in his rush to leave. I followed him knowing he wouldn’t get far. The addict never did. Once the knife finished it’s job, and chemicals were out of his system we could work to bring him back. It took time, but I hoped he would recover. Maybe it would work this time. Maybe.
This ends Part 2 of the Greta Grimmward and Haratio Horrocrux series. Read Part 1 here.
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Someone put a knife in my back yesterday and now I’m pissed. I had a list a mile long. Humans to feed on, fear and loathing to relish in, and death to ponder. Now, none of these things will get done. And worst of all? There’s a knife in my backside that I can’t get out.
What was yesterday? Yeah, now I remember – Monday. Mondays are a busy day for me. I relish the ooze that slithers in the ethereal stratum. Especially at first light. Humans hate Mondays. They drag from their beds with a luscious aura of dread. It is candy for me and I freely move from house to house, room to room, bed to bed, inhaling the raw bliss.
I remember most of yesterday with clarity, but toward the fifth or sixth house I felt a tickle. Or was it a niggle? Something was making the hair on my back ripple with static. I should have looked in the dark corners more closely, but this particular Monday was exceptional. My gorging distracted me. A floorboard creaked and a whisper of what I now know to be a blade being unsheathed.
The enchantment embedded in the blade was the crowning blow. The moment it pierced my flesh was the moment my ability to feed stopped. The abrupt cessation ripped through me with pain exploding along every nerve. I felt a raw surge of fire just before I blacked out.
I woke up just a bit ago with my face planted in a pile of dirty clothes. Normally I would have delighted in the sweet perfume that filth exuded, but not today. It was more like the vulgarity I usually felt with joy, happiness, or birth. All pleasures I felt yesterday were gone. I feel empty. Hollow.
Greta Gimmward’s name was all over this. She has been chasing me since…well, I’m not sure when. The first time we met humans they were barely scratching for survival. The fruits of their fear were less sweet than they are today. They existed back then without much regard for life or death.
We have competed for the same human feeding grounds, and I beat her to them nearly every time. At every village and hobble where humans gathered I was there feeding from the initial offgassing pouring off humans as they rise to face each day. It’s what we survive on. Greta Grimmward was always a step behind me. Always just a little too late, a little too distracted.
She warned me many times that she would catch up to me. “You’ll find a knife in your back one day. You’ll see.” I always waved her off like a speck of dust on my shirt sleeve. Then yesterday happened. I think I’m more mad at myself for letting my guard down rather than the fact that Greta managed to get an enchanted knife in my back.
Rubbing against the door frame proved futile in my attempt to remove the knife. It seemed to vanish whenever I tried to rub it off. Any attempts to reach to that one spot that, to all humanoid shaped creatures, impossible. Dancing in circles only made me howl at the sky. Like a scratch in the center of the back. Insanely impossible to reach.
“Why, hello Horatio. Having some trouble?”
This concludes Part 1 of Greta Gimmward. Tune in next time when the story continues with Heratio Horrocrux.
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In a writer’s life there is failure. It’s real. It happens. Take yesterday for example. During the month of April I am participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge where each day of the month (except Sundays) we have a post dedicated to the letters in the alphabet. Yesterday was the Letter – E. Did you see my post from yesterday (which I actually posted today)?
Error-404 was all I could manage. It was a very bad day in my neighborhood. I ran myself into a sh*t storm of stress. If things had gone better I might have actually gotten my Error-404 posted before this morning. Well, I didn’t. So…failure happened.
Today I am up and getting some attention paid to the Letter F. Failure Happens. If you haven’t experienced very much of it in your writing so far then either you are an amazing writer (NICE!!) or you haven’t stuck your neck out far enough. If you fall into the latter category, then you should know what failure feels like. Not so warm and fuzzy.
If it is OK with you I would like to re-name failure. Let’s make it, Challenge, Lesson, or anything besides failure. When that reject letter comes in the mail, or you miss a post you were determined to get done, or you can’t get a single word onto a page, then accept what happened, learn from it, and more on.
Someone once told me to be like a horse when I am faced with a challenge. Horses are amazingly smart creatures. They don’t get hung up on things that didn’t work out. If a horse is munching along, eating their grass, then bumps into an obstacle, they see what’s in they way, fix it, then go around and keep eating grass.
When faced with any obstacle in any aspect of life, be the horse. See what happened, make adjustments, move past the problem, and keep eating grass.
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You have decided to write a short story. Congratulations! Short stories can be great fun to write. They will also make you go bald from pulling your hair out. I’m here today to help you keep a full head of hair while diving into your story.
It is Short
The first thing to keep in mind when writing a short story is pretty obvious, but I will say it anyway. Short stories are…well…short. They can range anywhere from 1,500 words to 30,000. More than that and it falls into the realm of a novella. Personally, I prefer stories that are less than 20,000. I like to read shorts in one sitting, and anything longer seems a little too long for me.
It’s a Mini-Novel
Second thing to keep in mind is that a short story is almost a mini-novel. I want to emphasis the word almost. It is a mis-conception to think that a short story is written just like a novel because there are a lot of things a novel has that a short story doesn’t.
A novel is more likely to have many characters, places, and multiple story lines. A short story usually has only a few characters, they may visit only a few places, and the threads through the story are limited to one or two. Of course, there is an exception to every rule, butin general this is how a short story plays out.
It is like a novel in that it has a beginning, middle and end. There are protagonists, antagonists, an inciting incident, a challenge to overcome, and a solution to the problem. All of these are squeezed into a compact story rather than an epic novel adventure.
Give it a Plot
When writing a short story the plot needs to be tight and concise. In short stories, every scene, paragraph, and sentence needs to be spot on with the plot. If you find yourself
meandering between the North and South Poles then you might consider a novel instead.
In a short story the hook needs to come early. I would say that if it happens past the first page or two (depending on the story’s length) then you have waited too long. Basically, you want the story to reach out and grab the reader right out from the start. Keep the pace high and tight. You don’t want to lose your reader in long descriptions and arduous scenes. They will get bored and move on.
Drafting Your Story
Everyone has their own way of getting words from their imagination to paper. My version of writing may not fit your’s, but that’s the beauty of writing. You can test different methods and find the one that fits you. My method is a little sloppy, but it works for me. It’s a little like testing to see if spaghetti cooked; I slap it up on the wall to see what sticks.
My mind skips around like a leaf blowing up the street. Sometimes it goes in a straight line, and sometimes it gets caught up in a dust devil. So goes my writing method. I usually don’t have a plan, goal, or idea when I start. I just crank out words that pop into my head and write them. Within about five or ten minutes of pure nonsense a plot forms and the story takes off.
Sometimes I start with finding the main character’s name. I love odd or tongue-twister names. I wrote one story where I found the name Mrs. Quackenbush (this is a real name) and wrote a story around her.
The Hair Pulling
Once you have the bare bones of a draft you can move on to editing, revising, and hair pulling. During this phase you should be trimming the fat. Again, scenes need to be tight and concise. Make every word count.
The most important lesson I learned about writing short stories is to stay calm and don’t fiddle. Frustrations will get you down and kill your creativity. If you get your story pounded out, without editing or second guessing as you write the draft, you will have an easier time in the editing phase.
In the draft you have where the story will start, where it will grow and thrive, then where it will conclude. The editing phase should only be about tweaking what you already have. Don’t fiddle too much. Like the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Lastly, remember writing is something we enjoy doing. If you get too bogged down then write something far out and goofy. Write about how Ford Parker learned to drive, or Kenny Penny’s school days. There is always the story about Harry Baldz and his furry friend Woody.
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Today I am combining two blogging challenges into one post. Not only is the A to Z Blogging Challenge just getting started, but I also have the Insecure Writers Support Group that I do on the first Wednesday of the month. Today is A to Z’s letter ‘C’ and ISWG’s monthly post.
As writers we are hit with challenges every time we sit down to write. For me, the challenge comes with writing a multi-scene short story. I tend to get stuck at nearly every new scene which means my writing will slow to a crawl.
When writing a novel it can take me several months to get from one scene to the next. When I write a short story, the problem is the same if I want more than one thing to happen. Unfortunately, my story could take months to write which leads to losing the momentum to writing it.
Did you read yesterday’s story, Beatrix Button’s Clock? I was quite pleased that it only took a couple of hours to write. There is essentially only one scene so I could get it out quickly. I did attempt to add a couple of scenes and every time I did I was bogged down.
If I could use a wish to get through more scenes I would wish for my mind to open up. I would love to have words pour out of my imagination and land on the page and the scenes to grow effortlessly. (For those of you who are writers, there’s no need to comment about how NO scene flows effortlessly. I get it. I know it. But I can dream, right?)
Challenges to write plague all writers whether it is a short story, a novel, poetry, or a letter to Beatrix Button. To rephrase a popular quote by Joshua J. Marine, “Challenges are what makes writing interesting and overcoming them are what makes the story meaningful”.
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