Thursday, May 28, 2015

Complex Villains

Villains always cause me problems in my stories. Not only do they hide their identity, but they hate telling me anything about themselves. 

So, when Sisters in Crime offered a class on crafting characters, villains included, I signed up. My membership in SinC and their offshoot, Guppies has been invaluable to me. If you don't belong to some kind of group of authors helping other authors, please check out the options in your genre. I also belong to RWA (Romance Writers of America) and its sub chapters, KOD (Kiss of Death) and FF&P (Fantasy, Future and Paranormal).

The day-long workshop helped me diagnose my villainous problems and have a great day with like-minded writers. I was so impressed that I wrote a post with links to other nefarious sites about villains. Click the link at the top to get there.

As always, keep writing!      

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mondays Finish the Story 5.11.15

Mondays Finish the Story

A writing challenge from Barbara Beacham that supplies the first sentence and a photo prompt. Write the story with 100-150 words not including the sentence provided.

Here is the photo and my story - Word Count 130:

Not To Worry

Arriving at the beach, she reflected on her life.

True, it hadn't been too wonderful lately, but on the whole she was happy. Her children were adults, living on their own.

The little problem with her husband and his side dish had been difficult. She hadn't seen it coming. But she wasn't about to let some home-wrecker steal everything they'd built up together in a messy divorce.

She smiled as she listened to the surf. Too bad about the accident. They say it was alcohol and drugs.

After the funeral, she'd taken her devastated husband out here to recuperate. Poor thing. He was inconsolable. It would be a shame if he tried anything foolish. What he needed was a good drink.

She smiled again, looked out at the blue water, and cradled the bag of pills in her pocket.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Lose Some Weight--Write Tight!

Writing critiques have often pointed out that I add superfluous information to my scenes. Sometimes, I have superfluous scenes. Sigh. Writing isn't easy.
Lots of people have the same problem. If you're one of them, fear not. I've found a wonderful antidote to that particular dilemma--a cool exercise that's helped me tighten my writing. Flash Fiction!

A few years ago, my friend Dianne encouraged me to enter a flash fiction contest at a the Crime Bake writing conference. The challenge was to write a short story having to do with a mystery or crime. Okay. That didn't sound too bad, although I've always had trouble writing short stories. I tend to take up too much time setting up the plot and adding (you guessed it) superfluous information. Still, I thought I could do something.

Then she added the kicker. "It has to be under 150 words."
What? Not only was I certain that I couldn't write a story with so few words, but we also had to use ten of twenty words given to us. My first thought was, Impossible. Dianne assured me that not only was it possible, but it was attainable. She had done it the previous year. My back straightened as my competitive streak took over. If she could do it, so could I.

I began searching for a story idea, wishing I'd never agreed to write the stupid thing. It took many attempts before I found something I could live with. The story would be about a little boy whose family had just moved to the area and, to his parents dismay, had acquired an imaginary friend. I decided to center the story around the boy's fifth birthday party where an old mystery is solved.
Things I wanted to include:
  • ·      That they'd just moved to the area
  • ·         That neighbors were aware that the boy talked to himself or some imaginary person.
  • ·         That the boys invited to his party had never met his "friend".
  • ·         That there had been an unsolved kidnapping of a young boy twenty years before whose name people would recognize.

I wrote the bones of the story, inserting everything I deemed necessary and making sure to use ten of the twenty words on the list. The finished piece was clever, interesting, and long-- way too long.
It took me days of re-writes to finally get a crime story that adhered to the rules. if you're interested, you can find it on my blog at the bottom of the page under Exciting WritingChallenge. Here is the photo of the happy winners. Dianne (on the left) and I (on the right) were both shocked to find out we had each won.
Encouraged by my success, I entered the flash word competition for the next two years, and made the winner's circle each time. Me! The person who couldn't pull together any kind of a short story. How did I do it? Let me tell you what I learned and how I try to keep the lessons fresh in my mind, because they work as well with my full-length manuscripts.

I know that all first drafts are important. They spell out the plot and allow the writer to get a handle on characters, motivations, and themes. That draft allows me to see the big picture before I start editing. When I begin the edit, I go back over the manuscript and delete all the irrelevant material. Next, I focus on each scene as if it were a short story. I decide exactly what I want the reader to take away from it and then make sure I have all the necessary elements. This is the same exercise I use in my flash fiction.

After that, I look for things I can combine. In flash fiction, each word must be essential. Redundancy won't fly. It's the same with my manuscript. Once I've ousted the unimportant information, I have to make sure I've included the necessary. The reader needs to be able to see the scene in his head, with all the  images, smells and sounds. When I write, I know exactly what I want to convey, but I often forget that the reader can't see into my mind.

Finally, I read it again, looking for the flow. During this process, I usually consult my writing group, getting critical help as well as new ideas.

Since my introduction to flash fiction, I find it much easier to spot areas where I can tighten my writing. Not all the time, mind you, or perfectly, but I've done so much better. Often, when I read over what I've written, I'm amazed. It's difficult to believe that I could lose so much weight without harming the story. Writing tight keeps the reader involved. Add a few hooks at the end of scenes and chapters, and you'll have a bleary-eyed reader, too caught up in your story to go to sleep. 

I highly recommend flash fiction contests. Try these: Mondays Finish the Story, Three-Line Thursday, Microbookends, and Friday Fictioneers. They're easy to enter and fun to do. Many blogs have them, usually with pictures or word prompts. You can some I've entered below with their photo prompts.

Have a little fun, see how much weight you can lose, and, remember--Keep Writing!

Purloined Prose or Synchronicity?

Check out my new post on Mostly Mystery. Why do the same stories repeat over and over in movies and books? Check out my latest blog post.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

How It Starts

 Hi All,
I'm a little late, but this is my story for the Mondays Finish the Story challenge. We're given the first sentence and a picture and asked to write a 100-150 word story.
Here's mine:
© 2015, Barbara W. Beacham
After losing her head, she realized that the rest of her body was falling apart. Not actually falling apart as much as being ripped apart.

Junior laughed and punched his horrified sister, Mindy as she cried, "You killed my doll."

"Shut up you little baby, or I'll hit you again."

Mindy cringed and backed away from her brother.

He picked up all of my pieces and took me to the woods outside the house. When he dug through the dirt, I saw something--a little yellow piece of fluff. Oh no. Mindy's cat. Poor Max. Junior delighted in killing everything Mindy loved.

When he grabbed my head, getting ready to toss it into the hole, my painted eyes widened. Another deep pit lay next to mine, empty and waiting. Oh dear--just the size of my poor little Mindy.