Tag Archives: novel

Writing on the Wall

Once, when I was traveling through Arkansas, I stopped at a rest stop for a bathroom break.  Graffiti in such a place can always be entertaining in some fashion, although sometimes it is just childish and/or repulsive.  I happened to find a note, however, written with what looked to be a yellow highlighter on a mustard yellow door.  It went something like this:

“PLEASE HELP! My name is Brandee Johnson and I am 9.  My mom’s boyfriend has kidnapped me.  I can’t get away, but I want to go home.  My mom is Carla Johnson and live in St. Louis.” 

It was written in a child’s big scrawl and very hard to read.  I was terrified for her.  There were no bathroom attendants or anyone else to ask about the date of this message appearing.  I didn’t know what else to do, so I called the state police and told them about the message.  I also called 1-800-THE-LOST in case the missing girl had been reported as lost.  I also wondered if it was just a childish prank and I was a fool to think it was real.  Or perhaps it had been there for months and Brandee was long gone. 

Fifteen years later, I still sometimes think about what might have happened to her, and if it was a real cry for help, or a prank. 

Write a scene that includes graffiti and what it might or might not be trying to say.

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Go Through Any Door

On “making it” into the world of comedy.

Sage advice from a comedienne who started her career writing bits for a puppet (Topo Gigio on the Ed Sullivan Show).  You cannot afford to wait around for the perfect situation.  Get your foot in the door and then your elbow and then, like the hokey pokey, your whole self.  I’ve been waiting for a very long time for the stars to align, my writing room to be completed, my favorite pencils to be on sale…yadda, yadda, yadda.

Once you have decided that you aren’t going to wait around anymore, be vigiliant for those cracked doors just waiting for you to insert yourself.  You are the only one who puts limitations on you.  And, likewise,  you are the only one who can strip them away.

Get to stripping, do the hokey pokey, and get in the door!

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Desire Defines Us

Advice from a master

It keeps me up at night…trying to figure out what a character wants.  They are born and living only in my brain until I relinquish them to the world at large.  I think this snippet of advice from Mr. Vonnegut is true.  And as simple as it sounds, actual human beings are pretty complex and often times have no idea what they really want.  Our friends may be better at knowing what we want than we do ourselves.  I say I want a different job, but what do I *really* want?  More money? More security? To be my own boss?  To not have anyone to tell me what to do? Freedom?

Consider what your character(s) want/s.  If it isn’t clear to you, workshop that character until they have it:  desire.  For something…anything.  If they do already “want” something and it is something simple (like a glass of water), why is this simple thing so important?  Does your character get what they want or not?  Do they even understand this about themselves, or are they, like most of us, oblivious to this driving force?  If they DO get it, is it everything they hoped it would be?

After pondering these questions…write for 15 minutes and see where you, and your character, end up.  Good luck!

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A simple quote…

From a dream I had.

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NaNoWriMo and A Word of Advice

Imagine:  Fanfare, trumpets, and a snazzy drumroll!

I registered for NaNoWriMo!  Huzzah!

Yesterday was the official NaNoWriMo “prep day.” I have already recently stocked myself with fresh ballpoints and pencils and five or six new notebooks (overkill, I know). The only thing left to do is set up some folders on the old laptop and I am ready to rumble! I *have* also informed my family that I will be writing from 10-11 (or longer) every night in November, so they are all aware and, not so surprisingly, on board with my plan. Huzzah, again for supportive family-members (although the dogs are probably not going to be so understanding when they are ushered into their crates about 30 minutes earlier than usual)!  Oh well!

And I have been trying to glean from other writers what they do for time management, in pursuing the writing life…the first kernel of advice:  from a  Writer’s Digest article by Carolyn Marsden, “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far.”

“4. Write anywhere and everywhere. In working on my first books, I found myself faced with revising the plot from the foundation up a couple of weeks before copyediting. I learned to be extremely flexible about where, when, and how I worked. I have written on cruise ships, while having an operation on my toe, in lines at banks and at the DMV, and even at red lights. If you want to be a writer, don’t wait for the muse to strike. Don’t be too particular about working conditions.”

On one hand, it is a relief to hear that I am not the only one who writes at red lights (only as necessary to not lose ideas), but on the other hand, it also reminds me to stop daydreaming of the “perfect writer’s office”…which, right now, is dominated by image searches of “treehouses.” This one, in all of its rustic seclusion, keeps catching my eye, though there are far more luxurious ones…

So, now…only thing left to do is…write.

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Branching Out

In my efforts to make this a home base for my future, I have decided to do make some alternate pathways for Write Under Your Nose. 

First, Twitter.  You can follow me @writeundernose.  It’s a little disappointing I couldn’t fit the “your” in there, but…oh well.  I’ll be tweeting writing prompts and mini-exercises and links to my posts.  I will probably also share quotes that I find inspirational from other writers.  If you follow me, I’ll follow you, too…I hope to dive right in to this “community of writers” one way or another.

Secondly, Pinterest.  You can follow me there at http://pinterest.com/writeundernose/ and I hope to promote similarly inspiring ideas/thoughts/images.  I want to start crafting some prompts associated with images, so if seeing something helps you visualize your stories/settings/etc…go there!

Thirdly…you’ll have to wait and see, but it starts with F and ends with k…okay, that sounds terrible…it IS more than four letters, though, promise!  🙂

See you there!

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To Every Season…Turn, Turn, Turn

It seems, as I get older, I both enjoy the seasons and despise them. 

I like the way the light starts to shift in early autumn–it makes me see the late summer greening that happens in Texas in a different way.  It’s a melancholy wistfulness that takes over me…remembering times from my childhood when I spent these days playing in the woods and romping through fields after school and all weekend long.  When a day somehow stretched beyond itself.  

One day it will seem like “fall has arrived” and the next will seem like “it’s spring again.”  We will get a good chill in the air, overcast days with damp, blustery breezes, and the heavier blankets come out and windows get opened at night.  I can start making soup and chili again (with a pan of hot cornbread to go with it, yum yum)…and then along comes an Indian Summer and everything gets put away/shut again…I can’t drink enough iced tea to stay cool.  Of course, living in Central Texas, the changes here aren’t as pronounced as they are in more northern regions, and we usually always have cycles of warm/cool as opposed to straight cold through to March.   

The pecans have started falling, and I have taken the kids gathering.  East/Central Austin is densely populated by big, well-established pecan trees, so they are free for the picking on school grounds, at several parks, in parking lots, and all over the streets and sidewalks.  One time we went picking pecans, we were all layered in hoodies and jeans, but the next time we were in shorts and flip-flops and the boys wanted to take their shirts off because it was so hot.  It is an odd, shifting dance, this, a Texas autumn.

And I do look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years, so there are the coming festivities.  Peppermint mochas and pumpkin spice lattes are back at Starbucks.  Shopping will become a passtime, the gift-giving a happy/fun/excitement that shines in everyone’s faces.   All of those gathered pecans will be made into pies, cakes, candies, and such.

So…what’s not to like? 

The obvious passing of time.  The shortened, dark days.  Being cold.  Having to wear so many dang clothes that it necessarily multiplies the laundry chores.  Dry skin.  The unrequited craving for a beach trip that would allow me to actually get in the water.  Wishing the drab, dreary brown could be green again.  Hearing those less-than-joyous opinions/attitudes during the holidays–nobody can be happy all the time, sure–but those people who are actively harsh on the cheer of the season…oh, they wear me down, and I just want it all to be over…back to “normal.”

But the real thing is the dark.  I love the night, but I don’t want it starting at 5:30…that’s still daytime.  I feel…pressured…to get all of my daytime stuff done before the sun sets, because after the sun sets, that’s when I need to think about writing and being creative.  If I still have to deal with chores and errands and cooking and cleaning and going to the grocery store and sports practices…blah, blah, blah…how do I set to paper all the background thoughts that are whirring away in my mind?  It is a constant sense of “do it” stacked on top of “not right now” that happens every day for almost half of the year.  During the Spring/Summer months, I can do all of my “life stuff” before the sun sets and THEN it’s time to write.   It’s nice and clear cut.   In the Fall/Winter, it gets all messy in my head.

So.  How to unmussify?  I have thought about this long and hard, and I have decided it must be managed.  No more excuses like “it’s cold and dark, I have to do the dishes, and the laundry, etc., and now I’m too tired, and it’s time for bed.”  That’s pretty lame.  And I know what I am going to do:

Make a plan!

1.  Enjoy the good parts of the seasons changing.  Hooray for Peppermint Mochas!

2. Make time for your vocation everyday, no matter the season, no matter the day. 

3. Stop making excuses and get down to the nitty gritty!  Roll up your sleeves (or put on your pajamas), and get to freaking work already.

AND so, it comes time to think about a writing prompt.  I think a good one, given my personal discontent with the shortening days, is to include the details of the season in the setting of a scene.  Capturing all the sense details…sights, scents, sounds, tastes, how things feel to the touch…specific to the season will really “solidify” and paint the scene/setting in which your characters are operating.  Also, consider a feature of characterization:  How does your character feel about long days? Snow? Holidays?  The only caveat I will put next to this exercise is to make sure you are “showing” and not “telling,” and don’t let too many details bog down the flow of your writing.

Good luck!

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