Some call 4:30am the ungodly hour. For me it’s the time when my son and wife are peacefully sleeping. It is the time I launch myself into another universe…a universe only I know. There are so many reasons why I write. There are so many reasons why someone should go to the gym instead.
I write because it is like television in my head. I didn’t really love writing until I reached undergrad at Chapman University. My writing tool of choice was a Mac Classic which was essentially a very large, beige box. I dragged it to college and back home in order to work on mediocre student film scripts. Each was fun, but looking back, each was terrible.
However, I soon learned a valuable lesson in writing good dialogue. Writing good dialogue can make or break any book, movie, or television show. As an author, I place a high priority on making sure my dialogue is exciting. Originally, my book was about a boy who wanted to be popular. It was cute and charming, but that’s all it was. In many respects it was like the beginning of the film Super 8. Nothing really happens, but we like the characters. I did a dialogue pass in order to build each characters voices.
I revised, expanded and soon eerie, bizarre things began to occur to my lead character, Brian Leonard. I wanted the kind of memorable dialogue that people quote as they exit a movie theatre. Eventually, Brian and his best friend Johnny became slightly sarcastic. Their wit became charming to me.
One of my favorite movies that has great dialogue is Bull Durham. To many viewers, it is a great sports film. To others it is a great love story. Ron Shelton (the writer) wrote a masterpiece. The lead character Crash Davis (played by Kevin Costner) is a minor league baseball player who is beyond his prime. The Durham Bulls have hired him to mentor a young, up and coming pitcher. During one of the locker room scenes Crash dispenses advice. In my head, I can visualize Crash leaning forward on the stool next to a locker.
“Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You'll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you'll be classy. If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press'll think you're colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you are a slob.”
My main character is a middle school boy. However, building memorable lines was still important to me. What dialogue in The Magical Adventures of Brian Leonard was memorable for you? I’d love to know. You can contact me on Facebook.
About Mr M
Mr. M graduated from Chapman University with a BFA in Film and Television Production. He received his MFA in screenwriting from the American Film Institute. As a television executive at CBS, UPN, and ABC he worked with writers and producers supervising comedies and dramas for the networks. Some of the shows Mr. M worked on were Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Girlfriends, Alias, George Lopez, and the short lived Invasion. Mr. M was always interested in teaching and decided to make a career change. He attended Pacific Oaks College where he earned a Masters of Human Development and a multi-subject credential.
Mr M's Facebook:
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Hi everyone, long time no write. The last three weeks have been some of the most hectic, overwhelming, incredible, fun, tough, and exciting of my life. On the 5th of January I became “one of those employed people”. I am a fully-fledged radiographer, taking x-rays and being all professional and stuff.
Unfortunately I have already let one of my New Year’s Resolutions slide. I haven’t really written, well, anything. I promise I will get back on track! Hence, I am here again.
Before I began work I was worried about such silly things as: Will I be good enough? Will they like me? Will I fit in? What if I make mistakes and I don’t meet their expectations? What are their expectations anyway?!
Now I see how silly I was being. When I began working all these worries went out the window as the first week saw me so incredibly busy that the only worry I had was whether I was getting behind in my work flow! My colleagues are kind and willing to teach me the ropes. I am also realizing that it is okay to make mistakes occasionally since I am new, as long as I learn from them. Not to mention that this mythical thing called “Pay” is amazing! (I now have a new handbag)
The scary part is that I feel like I have officially started life. Yet, it’s exciting to think of what is to come. I am independent and I know that for the next however-many decades this is what I’ll do. Yes, it’s terrifying. As a kid you dream of being a working adult, earning money, doing adult things… then you become one and you think, “Can’t I just stay a kid forever?”.
Well, I guess that is where fiction writing comes in…
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
How would you like to travel to a new place and discover that your room is actually a cottage in the woods or even a furnished apartment in a century-old stone building? What if that cozy living space came complete with hot meals and interactions with other writers?
Welcome to the world of writing residencies.
First, know that there are two broad types of residencies. The first are called residencies but are technically writing retreats. These intensive workshops, often about a week long, are led by a famous (or semi-famous) author or editor. They always cost a ton of money, they always schedule every minute of your day, and they don’t always include a place to stay. As for meals? Um…rubber chicken, anyone?
The other type—the kind we’ll be looking at here—embody the original concept of residencies. These programs are hosted by organizations looking to bring authors and artists into their communities. Although you can find residencies that are only a week or two long, most span 4 weeks. A good portion offer 8 or even 12-week residencies, while a few extend as long as a year.
Writing residencies are everything you’ve dreamed of. They offer long stretches of time uninterrupted by the usual demands of work, family and home. Since the hosts understand that art is created in settings that stimulate the creative mind, often your rooms will be decorated with original art and beautifully furnished. Even in rustic dwellings, though, the most inspirational part is the setting.
Residency programs can be found in major cities, small towns, and national parks. Among urban offerings, authors might be housed on a university campus, in the heart of downtown, or within walking distance of the historic district. Rural residencies can land you in a log cabin on a mountain, a tiny house in the midst of working farmland, or perched atop a promontory overlooking a lake. Interweave your writing time with plenty of walks, and you have the perfect setup for success.
Before you consider residency programs, though, be aware of a few expectations. You might be asked to provide something for the local community like a public reading or a short workshop. Although most programs provide you with kitchen facilities, you might be housed in a building with other artists. Many residencies do not allow overnight guests, even spouses or life partners, so be prepared to go without your main squeeze for a time. Although most locations now have wireless, take your laptop and be prepared for abysmal internet speed and potentially frequent outages.
So, considering all you give up, what do you get back? Thirty blissful days where your only decision is whether to have breakfast before or after writing your first pages. Mornings that streak by because you’re not being pulled in eighteen different directions. Afternoons that glide seamlessly into evenings where you can engage with other authors and artists. Connections with other dedicated authors. And, of course, the validation of adding a residency program to your artistic bio.
The Anderson Center, Red Wing, Minnesota
Ucross Foundation, set on a 20K-acre working cattle ranch in Wyoming
Residencies available inside national parks
Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, on 400 acres of the Blue Ridge Mountains
Writing Between the Vines, residencies at vineyards!
The Rensing Center, an environmentally forward-thinking program on 20 acres of farmland in South Carolina
About Laine Cunningham
Laine Cunningham is the author of two paranormal thrillers. The first, Message Stick, takes place in Australia’s outback. The novel won two national awards and was created during two month-long arts residency programs. Her second, He Drinks Poison, was shortlisted for national fiction awards and was supported by two additional writing residencies. Both are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play. Laine is also the owner of Writer’s Resource, and helps authors enhance their work, pitch manuscripts to publishers worldwide, and sell their published and self-published books with Amazon bestseller marketing plans. Currently 47 titles are under contract with agents or publishers.
Laine’s book website: www.LaineCunningham.com
Writer’s Resource: www.WritersResource.us
Publishing and book review blog: www.WritersResourceBlog.com
Personal blog with book reviews: www.DancingTheBlade.com
I was stuck. The big hole in the WIP was the motivation of the villain, his goal, why that goal, and what exactly he wanted to accomplish. Was he a thief, a con man, an assassin, an anarchist? Working alone? Betraying his companions? Masterminding a devious scheme?
I did some research into villainous motivations when my muse decided to take a three-hour lunch without me. I found an article by Janice Hardy at Fiction University about Michael Hague's description of inner conflict and the intersection with the plot. I'd never heard of him, but the descriptions gave me a better exercise for re-thinking this character.
I made a summary, below, to help me work through the character. It was so useful that I tried it on several minor characters, who do have their own stories, and it gives me a better insight into how and why they get in the protagonist's way even when trying to help.
Hague's basic inner conflict arc:
1. Longing or Need: The thing the character needs emotionally: inner goal
2. Wound: A hurt that is a current, unhealed source of pain: backstory
3. Belief: What the character believes due to the wound: worldview
4. Fear: fear of experiencing that wound pain again: stakes
5. Identity: emotional armor, protection from the pain: fake persona
6. Essence: What lies under all the emotional armor: true self.
The acceptance of the essence is often what allows them to figure out the plot piece they need to win in the climax, so this is closely linked to the plot arc:
a. Inciting event: first failure establish identity
b. Act one climax PP1: second failure, a hint of the essence is revealed
c. Mid-point reversal: first attempt to live in the essence, doesn’t go well, but the essence is seen and realized
d. Act two climax PP2: fear of failure makes protagonist run from their essence instead trying to embrace it like they did at the mid-point
e. Climax: The protagonist digs deep, embraces her essence, and wins. The antagonist, however, loses because she refuses to risk that vulnerability.
Finding the villain/antagonist's motivations and goals drives the plot, especially when the story is summarized from her point of view. She has her goals, needs and wounds; she is the protagonist of her story, and your main character blocks her success.
In the Star Wars epic, for example, starting with Part IV, we don't know what Darth Vader's part is, other than "For the Evulz," but he drives the plot, forcing Luke to grow. The longer epic, at least until part VI, shows his descent to the dark side and his redemption. Luke, not so much.
A danger in this, of course, is that the villain may be more interesting than the protagonist. Consider what your protagonist would do in the villain's place, given the same goal.
About Charlotte Henley Babb
Charlotte Henley Babb works as a web designer and college writing instructor in Spartanburg, SC. She brings to any project a number of experiences, including work as a technical writer, gasket inspector, cloth store associate, girl Friday, and telephone psychic. Having big feet, gray hair, and a mischievous twinkle in her eye, Charlotte Henley Babb writes fractured fairy tales, steampunk adventures and science fiction.
Her first novel, Maven Fairy Godmother: Through the Veil, was released in 2012 and won 2014 Sharp Writ Book Awards for Sci-fi/Fantasy and an honorable mention in the 2014 National Federation of Press Women communications contest for adult novels.
A dead cellphone calls with a job offer and a promise of dragons.
Down and out, Maven Morrigan is ready to give up what's left of her self-esteem for a cup of coffee when her last chance to redeem her life comes as a job offer to be a fairy godmother. But Faery is shrinking, the other fairy godmothers have disappeared, and nothing she does turns out right. How can she put together the happily ever after each of her clients wants with her boss standing in her way?
Happy New Year everyone! 2014 was an amazing year. I can’t say I kept all of my resolutions for the year but I definitely made the most of it. I finally published my debut, YA fantasy novel, Sky Stone. I learnt so much about publishing as I muddled my way through self-publishing with CreateSpace. I also graduated from university and am now a qualified and registered radiographer. I’m ready to jump into 2015 and begin a new phase of my life.
I expect a lot from 2015. I commence work soon, finally being paid for what I have been training to do during the last four years. I am no longer the student (although I will always be learning) and will be mentoring university students when they attend my site of work. I can begin to stand on my own two feet in this wild world.
So what are my resolutions for this year?
What are your resolutions for 2015, be them writing related or in general?
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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