Writing Prompt #132

I’m giving myself a week to finish the first draft of the story I’ve been working on. I can feel it. I’m near the end, and I’m so ready to work on some other things…like writing prompts. There have been so many recently that I had an immediate idea for, I just haven’t been able to focus on anything beyond “the story”.

Are you feeling inspired?

I hope you’ll join me in this week’s challenge! Happy Writing!

Writing Tip Tuesday #3

There are a lot of reasons a writer’s life is frustrating. I think we can all agree that one of the more disheartening moments for us is when the muse has shown up, we’re writing tenaciously, and then suddenly, our mind goes blank in regards to what should happen next.

The mind becomes a barren wasteland of inspiration. The fingers hover over the keys. The eyes stare off into the distance in vain hope that the answer will reveal itself. A minute passes. Dread sets in. Self-doubt creeps up our spine. Frustration grows until we finally give up.

What a delightful path we’ve chosen.

The other day I was on a roll with my story when I suddenly got caught up in a moment and didn’t know how to proceed. I knew the scene I wanted to go to next, so instead of stopping the flow, I made a note of what I wanted to happen and continued on.

I don’t know where I learned this, but it’s one of those tricks I’ve picked up along the way, sometimes fail to remember its use, but appreciate when I do, so I thought I’d share.

If you don’t want to lose your momentum, but are stalling because of a scene, or dialogue, or what-have-you simply do something like this:

[fight sequence]

* bittersweet farewell

(convo about the past and sudden realization)

I often color code text that needs to be revisited. I’ve even written short paragraphs so I don’t lose the idea or feeling I want to impart. It’s like a sticky note, and it’s a simple trick, one I wish I had learned about years ago – this has been a more recent discovery – because I have wasted a lot of time staring in vain.

Watching that little blinking cursor remind you that it’s waiting can genuinely ruin your productivity, so when you have more time to sit with the difficult, time consuming passage, you’ll have a clue as to what you wanted to write about without having lost your rhythm.

Because if the faucet is on, let it flow.

I hope you find this useful. Feel free to share any tricks of the trade you’ve picked up along the way.

Happy Writing!

Quote of the Week

July 2nd was the halfway point of the year, so I thought it would be a good time to reflect on where we are with our goals.

I have set goals for myself the last few years because somehow, one time, the whole year had passed and I hadn’t read a single book or watched more than half a dozen films. Who knows what that meant for my writing…

What happened that year?!

When I came to that realization, I started to create a list of goals I wanted to accomplish each year. Call them goals or resolutions or even part of your “to do list”, but without some sort of structure, a clear path to follow, it’s easy to allow them to just remain an idea, a figment, a wish.

Goals do not have to be secured at the beginning of the year, we can create a new one anytime. We don’t have to wait for November to power through a writing challenge. Every day is a chance to start. Each day is an opportunity to get a little bit closer to where we want to be.

So whatever goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the year, check in on your progress. What adjustments need to be made? If you want to create a new goal for yourself and/or your work, do it. Make a step-by-step list of how you can and will accomplish this task. What do you need to do? Who can help you? What is a realistic time frame? Are there tools that would better help you if you had them available? Set a deadline for yourself, or find an external one, like a contest entry that will keep you on track. What steps will bring you closer to achieving your dream?

Write it all down. Make it visual. Sometimes seeing a large goal is overwhelming because there is a vagueness in how you might get from A to Z, but when it’s broken down into more manageable steps, the objective doesn’t seem so unattainable. Also, small steps toward the larger goal can help maintain your positivity and momentum as you see yourself checking off those tasks.

I am in no way always successful, but I’ve come to the conclusion that by at least acknowledging the things I’d like to accomplish, it gives me something to strive towards, even if I sometimes fail.

I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors, and if you ever need a cheerleader for a bit of encouragement, you know where to find me. 😉

Rambling Review: Kiki’s Delivery Service

Warning: Not an overly complex plot to spoil but there will be some spoilers.

I haven’t done a film review in a while, and I was so…confused by the overwhelming response to Kiki’s Delivery Service, a 1989 animated film from Studio Ghibli, that I was compelled to write about it.

Maybe some of it has to do with age. As an adult versus being a preteen, which is when this film should be watched, it spoke to me differently. My introduction to the work of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki was Howl’s Moving Castle, a dark and strange film but intriguing and beautifully drawn.  The studio has a glowing reputation, so much so a theme park dedicated to their films is planned for 2022, and after Howl’s I wanted to watch more.  With the disappearance of video rental brick and mortars, finding these imports via streaming services was difficult until HBO Max finally brought them stateside.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is the story of 13 year old Kiki, who according to tradition, must spend a year away from home to train to become a witch.  With her friend-cat, Jiji, Kiki finds herself in a seaside town reminiscent of various European towns set in the 1950s.  Kiki’s story is a coming of age tale, the desire for independence and social acceptance while learning to embrace what makes you special.  While all of this is well and good, the glaring problems overshadowed the simple plot, and I couldn’t get over them the entire movie. 

The film is based on a novel, so maybe some of the issues I have with the story are better explained in the book but this is a film review, so we’ll work with said material.

Kiki is preparing for her yearlong study abroad when the film opens.  Her mother remarks that she hasn’t had time to train her and her father asks her to write to them, if she can. This led me to believe that wherever Kiki was going, she would most likely be busy and ill prepared.  What we learn is that there is no real preparation for Kiki’s training.  There is no guardian awaiting her arrival, no school to attend, not even a mentor or senior witch waiting to teach her their knowledge or skills. She doesn’t have a place to stay lined up, nor even an inkling of an idea as to where she’s going.  She is just sent out into the world under the guise that she will teach herself what she needs to know wherever she ends up.

What?! 

Her only witch talent is flying, and initially she isn’t even very good at that. The only other indication of any special ability is that she can communicate with her cat.

Fate clearly plays a part in her journey as it allows her to find herself in a nice place with kind people who look after her, but I couldn’t get over the fact that her parents sent her away without knowing if she would be okay, for a year, with a sandwich, a bit of pocket money, and the promise that she would write when she could. This was problem number one for me.

Problem number two – how do you train to become a witch without someone to advise you?  How do you discover your talents or abilities without someone challenging you to explore what you’re capable of? She has no teacher, not even a book to use as a reference, and apparently her mother ignored the lessons she was supposed to impart, but sure, go out into the world and be a witch.

Problem number three – she isn’t given any challenges where she might learn another ability, or at least attempt to discover some hidden talent, she just flies on a broom, which is fine, but given the premise of the film, she should be learning more. I understand that this is probably a metaphor for finding your place in the world, just as you are, but I just think that with a character defined as a witch, she should have been more inclined to magic.

She creates her “delivery service”, a business delivering goods around town using her flying in order to survive in this new place. She meets new people who challenge her and introduce her to new things, and as she comes of age, struggling to maintain her confidence and her desire to fit in, which are universal themes, she stumbles and has to ask herself a question that often plagues us – are we good enough?

While I appreciated the themes, I think they could have been executed differently. As a writer, I often wonder how a story could have better approached a topic because it’s a world I want to be a part of. I could not get past the problems which I found to be irresponsible, bordering on dangerous. At one point, Kiki hitchhikes with a woman who lives alone in the woods. What sort of message is that?

Now, I understand this is an animated tale, and fantasy at that, but the audience for which it is intended is impressionable. I may be overly sensitive. While I didn’t hashtag the MeToo movement, I do have a number of my own stories, and sending a child out into the world without any protections, under some misguided pretenses, is just not a story I can get on board with.

Well, that’s a whole lot of ramble and I didn’t even get to a couple of the things I had initially planned on.

Have you watched Kiki’s Delivery Service? How old were you when you watched it? Do you think that makes a difference? Share your thoughts.

Writing Tip Tuesday #2

I write sci-fi and fantasy. I remember hearing people say that there wasn’t any “truth” to be found in such genres. This always confused me, and I presumed it was said by people who didn’t enjoy those types of stories. They are among my favorites which is why, after some time, I embraced it.

When I was younger and first starting out, I was drawn to historical romance because in an effort to get me back into reading, my mother introduced me to the genre. Somewhere between middle school and junior high, the forced reading assignments had turned me off. So at fourteen, fifteen years old, I’m reading these sweeping, epic romances and falling in love with these fictional men, to whom no real man could ever compare, and I thought, “That’s what I want to write.”

Ridiculous, I know.

My circle consisted of high school boys and they were no inspiration.

And back then, I didn’t discover any hidden “truths” in such stories, and so it became this sort of elusive idea. What books consisted of it? How would I know when I found it? Until I wrote my own story, and then, not until years later, was I able to see that my tale of a woman kidnapped by pirates was really an allegory of my secret hope – that one day, my “real” father would come rescue me.

It’s easy to glorify the idea of someone you don’t know.

I never finished the story. Sometimes I think it would be fun to revisit it now that my writing has changed. And that’s because as we continue to evolve and experience new things, experiment with our creativity, that we discover our voice, our truth.

I don’t know who said this quote that I have above my desk, but it changed a lot for me when I first discovered it.

Fantasy insists that the writer address the cultural, societal, and political times in which they live.

It took some time to understand that I could incorporate all the things I loved – period pieces, romance, fantasy, sci-fi, art, music – into my writing while subtly using it as a vehicle to explore deeper meaning. I could include my concerns about the environment in a story about fairies. I could blame the state of the world on the past mistakes of the Greek gods. I could use a spy story as a way to convey worry over the machinations of men and technology.

I still wonder sometimes what the “truth” is that those people thought I wouldn’t share by writing in magical worlds. All writing is magic. We create people and places from our imagination. We share in their triumphs and their losses. We cheer them on. We love to hate them. If that isn’t some sort of truth…

So I suppose the tip I wanted to convey today is…write what you want. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s supposed to be this way or that. Writing is a freedom and you don’t have to conform to anyone’s ideas of what it should be like. Let it be a mashup. Let it be weird. Let it be whatever you want it to be. It’s your story.

Happy Writing!

Writing Prompt #130

Happy Wednesday!

Ready for this week’s challenge?

I’m still consumed by the one story I’ve been working on for a while now. About halfway done, I imagine, but I’d like to start exploring the images I’ve shared as well. Sadly, there are only so many writing hours in a day. I’ll happily live vicariously through your words in the meantime.

Happy Writing! And don’t forget to share!

Quote Monday

I’m currently reading Chuck Palahniuk’s Stranger than Fiction and I came across this text in one of his nonfiction essays. Among stories about public sex acts and learning not to care what people think of you while dressed as a dog, I discovered this nugget that, truthfully, was the most startling thing I’ve read so far.

The worst part of writing fiction is the fear of wasting your life behind a keyboard. The idea that, dying, you’ll realize you only ever lived on paper. Your only adventures were make believe, and while the world fought and kissed, you sat in some dark room, masturbating and making money.

Chuck Palahniuk

Why did this unsettle me, you ask? Because until he said it, until I read it, I didn’t know this was something to worry about.

And then my mind spiraled.

I am a homebody, an introvert, a writer of sci-fi and fantasy. I know as a writer I have to get out and experience the world in order to have those things stored in the “bank of creative tidbits”, but honestly, sometimes I’d prefer not to make the effort, and I know that’s a shortcoming. I have plenty of interests to keep me occupied but if I only ever run in the same circle, I’ll never learn and grow, experience awe or displeasure. I’ll never be exposed to new ideas and new things by experiencing them firsthand.

It wasn’t until I read these words that I started to wonder about the subjects I’m drawn to and the stories that resonate with me – they’re lives I’ll never lead.

I’ll never be a woman with a mythological god as a best friend. I’ll never be the woman traipsing across the stars in an alien space ship in search of her sister. I’ll never be a spy. I’ll never save the world.

These are adventures I can only have on the page. They are unlikely, imaginary scenarios, and that’s why I write them, so I must be content with those adventures that are available to me, and as writers, we can’t forget that. We need to get out, we need to observe and feel so that we not only live, but can also create.

And maybe not worry that we’re living vicariously through our characters.

I may not be as daring as Chuck Palahniuk, willing to put myself at physical risk or in compromising situations to experience all the different facets of humanity, but I can make more of an effort to have a wider understanding of the world around me. We may not learn, see, and do everything we want – there’s so much more to explore than once person could ever do in a lifetime – but there’s no harm in at least attempting it.

That was my takeaway, at least – be more willing to get out (of the house).

Happy Writing!

Writing Tip Tuesday

I didn’t see a quote yesterday that really spoke to me but I did find this writing tip that I have had to remind myself of a time or two, so I thought I’d share it in the hopes that you would find it useful too.

I somehow had it in my head that I could write and edit simultaneously. It was a terrible habit I had formed and took quite a bit of effort to break. I still catch myself doing it from time to time and have to remember that those two sides of my brain need their own time in order to be most effective.

A lot of professional writers say the same thing about getting the first draft written quickly. In that draft you are telling yourself the story so you need to write it out while it’s fresh. If you stop to edit, you’re breaking up your momentum. When I came to this realization and finally just wrote, I created a full length feature script in two weeks. Was it good? Eh, it wasn’t my best work but the essence of the story was there because I didn’t stop to fix things along the way. And as they say, all writing is rewriting.

I think I was also using this technique as a way to procrastinate. We make a lot of excuses for why things are the way they are, and fear is a big one. If I was constantly working on a script and yet not finishing it, it wasn’t going to go out into the world and disappoint. Oh the way our minds work.

So, if you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, I hope this tip helps you in your own process.

Happy Writing!