Monday, May 9, 2011

Five stories you'd like to write someday

We are being taught to be ashamed of not being 'outgoing'. But a writer's job is ingoing ~ Ursula K. LeGuin

This is a really interesting exercise: think about five stories you'd like to write someday. Do they have any themes in common? Then look at five stories you've already written (novels or shorts). Look for connections between them, and then for connections with what you'd like to write in the future. My results surprised me when I did this! (and yet, it all made sense). More about connections and themes in a moment...

Progress update for Round of Words in 80 days: I had another good week toward my goal to revise my YA novel. Two chapters re-written (about 5000 words). I  also did searches on those be-careful-you-don't-overuse words and happily discovered I'm no longer overusing "just" and "feel/felt" so much. But  "was" "it" and "had" - my goodness those three little words breed like rabbits! And they can be really, really hard to replace.

I spent HOURS re-writing sentences from passive verbs to active verbs and trying to come up with ways to reduce "it". Why is it the shorter the word, the more troublesome it is? (Look, two more "it" words cropped up in that last sentence. Arrgggghhh. I challenge you to re-write that sentence without using "it".)

I have to give Sheri Larsen, Susan Kaye Quinn, and C. Lee McKenzie a lot of credit for keeping me motivated with my rewriting - they are awesome ROW80 buddies here in my comments and on Twitter. Stop by and give them an encouraging word, too, if you have a chance.

Now, more about finding connections and common themes in your stories.

This was the third exercise from the Online Persona Workshop, at the wonderful blog for introverts and writers, Shrinking Violets Promotions.

I started this workshop with the idea of getting my blog a little more focused. Right now the only thing in common in my posts is that I try to link them to writing or storytelling some way. That's pretty broad - but for now it's just staying that way folks. Maybe someday I'll find my online niche, but for now I'm happiest just being my somewhat random self here, and connecting with other folks that love writing and reading, or mythical creatures, or virtual teas parties, or deep discussions/soul talks.

Instead of helping me with a focus on blog topics, the workshop took me off in another direction as it challenged me to look at all my different layers. It's really helped me distill the theme of the story I'm working on right now, plus it's been a fascinating inward journey for me. (I won't bore you with the details. They are better presented in story form in my fiction.) I still really, really recommend the Workshop though and I plan to continue it...I've only done 3 out 8 exercises, and what a journey it's been so far.

Okay, so I just said I wouldn't bore you with the details, but I may bore you with the conclusions. So I take no offense if you skip the next part.

More for my sake than anything else, I'm recording three of the interesting connections I discovered between my present, past and future writing, and also in my work and favorite recreational activities.

The first connection I noticed has to do with seeing something about the world in a new or unusual way. I love stories/movies that have some mind-bending twist in them that gets you to look at the world (real or fantasy or SF) in a new way. Robin Bradley posted this amazing video that's a great example of this (the beginning is a little slow: you might skip the first 30 seconds. Our time is valuable but really this is a neat story!)

Leave Me from Ryan Dunlap on Vimeo.

The second connection I noticed was how I am a "slave of my moods." (chocolate, anyone?) A theme I'm exploring in my writing (and my life) is recognizing the lies our own minds tells us (via how we've been raised, or culture, or other experiences), and how our minds are so talented at rationalizing and justifying. How the truth is often concealed or only revealed through testing/trials.

The third connection I noticed is looking deeper at people, places, things, events to see beyond initial impressions/prejudices. At work, I am a GIS analyst. Geographic Information Systems combines maps to help you see new spatial patterns and relationships you wouldn't have seen, just looking at things individually. I see a strong parallel in life. Putting things together and learning to see things in a new way. It's fascinating to see how this plays out in so many stories and sometimes in people's real lives, too.

What was REALLY super cool about these three things is when I distilled each of them down to a few words, they are all about seeing in a new way. That's my theme, folks.

So, do any of you have an overarching theme(s) that permeate your writing? Or even your life?

And because I've already crammed way too much into this post, I can't help but share another amazing video that I found via Erica and Christy's blog. It isn't a story, but it's still about seeing in a new way.

The Mountain from TSO Photography on Vimeo.

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