It’s Wednesday! Writer’s Prompts and Inspirations Day.

chalkboard-3-AMaking friends is the theme of today’s Prompts and Inspirations.

People have craved friendships since the beginning of civilization. For some, the process of making a friend is easy, while for others…it’s a mystery. Children, I have noticed, need only be close in height to start a conversation with another child. Women…. Well, although I am a woman, I am also a writer, which in my case means that my best friends are the characters I create. Men? I’ve never been one, so this is unfamiliar ground. You men out there should feel free to click on Comment under this post’s title and share how you make friends. Frankly, I’d love if everyone reading this post would share their most tried and true methods of making friends.

Here are a handful of ways available to us to start a friendship:

1. Greet and start a conversation with your neighbors. (“Good Morning, Mr. Brown. How many times does this make it that the snow plow has taken out our mailboxes?”)

2. Working on homework with someone from school. (“Didn’t we just have a test last semester?”)

3. Chat with the person in front or behind you while waiting in line at a store. (“Oh, I see you like Hummus, too. Don’t you think it tastes better than it smells?”)

5. Someone next to you on an airplane. (“Are we there yet?”)

6. A misaddressed letter. (This actually happened when I was a child. A letter with the right P.O. Box, the right town, but the wrong state arrived in our mailbox. My mother mailed the letter back with a clever poem, telling of the adventure the letter had. A phone call followed by the family in Vermont. After a couple of hours on the phone, my parents discovered they had scads in common with this lovely couple, so much that we took a vacation to meet them.)

7. Need I mention the internet? (Where do I begin?)

I saw a movie in which a friendship developed when a balloon, with a message tied to the string, drifted into someone’s backyard.

Here is this Wednesday’s prompt and inspiration.

Let’s pretend that tying a message to the string of a balloon is the only way to start a friendship. What message would you write? What do you want the stranger who receives your message to know about you? Will you write a quick sentence, merely asking for friendship? Will you write pages, telling of your likes, loves, dislikes, hardships, wants, needs, colorful past, and dreams for your future? Will you send a list of your hobbies and interests, hoping the one who receives your balloon likes knitting, classic black and white movies, and writing, too?

or…

Suppose a balloon with a message drifted into your window. What message might you respond to? We receive countless e-mails throughout the years. Some e-mails are advertisements, some are Facebook notifications, and updates from friends and family. What causes you to respond to an e-mail? What would the anonymous stranger need to write to get you to write back? Would having a hobby in common be enough? Would simply needing a friend be enough?

As always, I’d love to hear from you! Just under the blog post title you’ll see the word Comment. Please click and share.

Can I Quote Me?

Blog post after blog post, writers (myself included) love to quote the profound musings, thoughts, and philosophies of great writers and other famous individuals.

WHY?

Because we read those brilliant phrases and think to ourselves, gosh, I can’t believe how much Hemingway and I have in common. Imagine both of us feeling the same way about the writing process…. Sigh.

Don’t we all, in our various professions, (writers included) have thoughts worth sharing? Aren’t we all brimming with quotable feelings on the subjects closest to our hearts–thoughts so profound they deserve to go viral? Okay, I’ll back off a tad…. How about, quotable feelings so profound they deserve to get tweeted a few times?

Today, I have decided to quote someone who isn’t famous. She is a writer like so many other writers in the world. She sits at her computer daily, pouring out her inner most feelings, eats low-prep meals, drinks coffee in excess, dresses frumpy, celebrates the hole in her sweater, labeling it Wabi Sabi (see earlier post) for its natural, imperfect beauty, snarls at the ringing phone for snapping her from her stream of thought, ignores the precarious pile of crusty dishes in the sink, and sprays scented room freshener on the heap of smelly laundry. (Actually, it isn’t quite that bad…)

You’ve waited long enough. Drum roll, please…quote-me

To leave a comment, scroll to the top of this post and click Comment under the title.

The Power Of A Mask

Minesota leaves-bannerAutumn is my favorite season. Fat pumpkins sit on the front steps of the neighborhood houses. Farms in my rural community open their gates to the public, welcoming them with horse or tractor-drawn hay rides, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, face painting, and stands with tummy-tempting, hot, spiced, apple cider and applesauce doughnuts.  This outing is the highlight of October for my family.  (That, and the chocolate chip pumpkin bread we bake together.)

And what has this got to do with writing?

This year at the farm we visit, I decided to conduct an experiment in altering one’s personality.

As writers, this is exactly what we do when we create a character.

My unsuspecting volunteer… none other than my daughter.

maze-4034The three of us wandered around the farm, petting goats, jumping in piles of corn, climbing enormous, rubber spider webs, and then, as the wind pulled up, and the sky darkened… we entered the seven acre corn maze. (Actually, it was a warm and sunny day, but didn’t that make it more seasonally dramatic?)

Families were charging around the rows, walking into dead ends, retracing their steps, laughing and asking everyone they passed if they knew their way out. (We got there early enough to make sure we’d have plenty of daylight to get ourselves ‘un lost.’) As a large group was following us, I stopped and asked my daughter, who is nine, to pretend she was a cat.

“Go ahead, honey,” I said, “meow, paw at the air, pounce on something.”

She looked at me with that  you-have-got-to-be-from-another-planet  look and started walking away from me a little faster.

“Oh, come on,” I coaxed.

She hid in the cornfield.cat-4038

This is where the experiment began… “Well!” I said, “Would you look at the strange thing I found in my purse?”

That got her attention. She peered from behind the dried corn leaves, eyes widening as she saw the paper, cat mask I pulled from my purse.

“Wow! You brought that for me?”

cat-2-4034She put the mask on and instantly lost her shyness. She couldn’t care less what the families around her thought or said. Behind that mask she could be anyone. And at that moment, she transformed into an amazing cat. She hissed, she pawed the air, she pounced, and she couldn’t stop posing for the camera.cat-4041

Isn’t this, to some degree, what we do when creating characters? Aren’t we giving them masks to try on as we write and rewrite their personalities?

 

 

Here’s a character making example:

We give our character a name.

We give them an appearance.

We add some quirks or habits.

We sometimes  add a phrase or comment the character says.

We give them history/background info.

We give them a family.

Eventually, we have created a character we can move through the pages of our novel.

But what happens when a personality trait doesn’t mesh with a twist in our plot?

I’ve created a fairly confident character. He’s accustomed to winning. A big annual competition is coming up at work, and he’s already won five years in a row. When the scene comes up, will my reader perch on the edge of their recliner with streams of sweat streaming from their brow, wondering, hoping (knowing) he’ll win. Nope.

We switch gears and change our gallant hero to the underdog. He’s quiet, a tad on the shy side. This poor guy has been teased by his older brothers since he could talk. He’s never had enough money to buy any stylish clothes. Girls don’t notice him. He always gives his best, but always falls short of winning. This likable guy needs this win if only to give him a taste of success.

So, we find that changing the personality of one of our characters is similar to trying on different masks. Except as writers we exchange paper masks for words.

It’s Wednesday! Writer’s Prompts and Inspiration Day.

chalkboard-3-A

How often does the opener of a new writing project have you staring at a blank computer screen for an unacceptable amount of time? Some of us become nearly paralyzed over those first words. Why isn’t sentence number two, three, or four this darned hard? It seems once sentence number one is written, the next words flow freely! Probably because the pressure is off, our brains unclamp, and the story takes form.

Here is a typical scenario of my writing process…

An idea comes. I feel a rush, typing that first brilliant sentence. Then I read those earth-moving words and…delete it, retype it, and delete it again. “I’ll bet agents have seen this kind of opening line before.” delete, delete, delete. “This isn’t even original!” delete, delete. “Billions of words in the world, and all I have to do is choose a handful of them, group them in the right order, and I’ll have it!”

Today being Wednesday, it’s time for another installment of Prompts and Inspirations to get your creativity flowing. And speaking of first sentences, here are the first sentences from some of my all time favorite books.

1. You wouldn’t think we’d have to leave Chicago to see a dead body.  — Richard Peck, A Long Way From Chicago

2. Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away.  — E.L. Konigsburg, From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

3. There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.  — Louis Sachar, Holes

4. It seems there should have been some warning, but I felt none. — Marlo Morgan, Mutant Message Down Under

5. Until almost the very end, Han van Meegeren thought he had committed the perfect crime.  — Edward Dolnick, The Forger’s Spell

6. There’s something frightening, and magical, about being on the ocean, moving between the heavens and the earth, knowing that you can encounter anything on your journey.  — Lynne Cox, Grayson

7. I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid.  — R.J. Palacio, Wonder

Now it’s your turn. The pressure is off. After all, this is a writing game to loosen up your thinking, open yourself to crazy ideas, hilarious ideas, or darned serious ones. And what if one of these “just for fun” sentences spurs on your next novel?

A friend of mine lent me his/her favorite book, and the first line took me by surprise. Chapter one began…

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Want to share a first sentence from one of your favorite books (current or classic, it doesn’t matter here.)