Saturday, May 16, 2015

Developing Plot

Today's assignment to develop your plot by asking yourself questions about why the character was in a particular place, why s/he looked the way s/he did, where s/he was going, etc. This assignment had no length restrictions, so no excessive cutting was required (as it was in the last assignment).

I chose to continue the story with the rancher, linking him with the little girl I created last week. I chose to develop the plot through the eyes of another person, who will be one of the main characters in the story.

Jenna Dunlevy had admired the view when Mr. Tall, Dark, and Gorgeous climbed out of the fire engine red subcompact and settled his hat just so. But now that he was inside and wearing that horror-stricken expression, he didn’t look quite as handsome. Still sexy enough to stop traffic with those long legs clad in form-fitting blue jeans—and it was a form well worth a second look, or a sixth—but definitely shell-shocked, his wild-eyed gaze pinging from Frank Quiggley to her to little Maggie.

Maggie, who was holding Jenna’s hand like her life depended on it, skootched so close she might as well’ve been plastered to Jenna’s side, and asked again, “Wh-who are you?”

Cowboy Bob swiped off his hat, hunkered down in front of Maggie, and attempted a smile. “I’m Will Masterson. Who are you?”

Maggie’s gaze ponged from him to her to Frank Quiggley and back. “Margaret Elizabeth,” she whispered, then buried her face against Jenna’s side.

Will Masterson extended a hand, which Maggie didn’t see because she was busy trying to tunnel through Jenna’s ribs, then sorta sighed and pulled it back. “Pleased to meet you, Margaret Elizabeth.”

Jenna was impressed, but Maggie wasn’t buying. The poor kid wasn’t even window shopping, which was more—a lot more—than Jenna could say. She was definitely looking, and the display was…very fine indeed. Eye-catching. And sexy as hell, among other things, none of which she should be thinking about with a seven-year-old try to burrow under her skin. But since looking and admiring were all she could do—she’d sworn off men several years ago—Jenna intended to enjoy the view. Strangers, handsome or otherwise, were rare in Noblesville. Who is this guy?

Then he leveled those gorgeous but still slightly shell-shocked violet-blue eyes at her, and a little voice inside her shouted, Sexy as hell doesn’t begin to cover it, girlfriend! Not unless hell is the size of North and South America, with China—or maybe Africa—thrown in to balance things out.

“Ma'am.” Still hunkered down in front of her and Maggie, he nodded, but apparently didn't expect an introduction—which was a good thing because Jenna wasn’t sure she could speak without panting or squeaking or sumthin’ equally embarrassing. “Did you and Margaret Elizabeth also receive bequests from Shelby?”

Frank, who had been avidly watching the proceedings while pretending to sort through some papers, leaned back against his desk. “Maggie is your legacy, Mr. Masterson. Your daughter.”

Cowboy Bob—or rather Cowboy Will—fell on his very fine ass. Maggie burst into tears. And Jenna had to grip the lumpy leather sofa with the hand that wasn’t cuddling Maggie to keep from leaping like a hurdler over the downed cowboy and strangling Frank Quiggley.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Generate Something New

Task: Generate something new. Limit of 350 words.

I created a character to pair with the little girl I wrote last week. I have an idea for a novel in which they will be two of the three main characters. I had to edit down what I originally wrote because it exceeded the word limit by about 50 words, but I think the man's character is still apparent.

Will Masterson was an expert in the art of making commitments.

He made commitments to himself. To his family. To the people he worked with.

He’d commit his time, his money, and his energy to worthy projects.

But he did not make commitments to women. No sir, no way, no how.

He’d been there, done that, and had the scars to prove it, and he would never return.

Which begged the question of why he’d traveled halfway across the country to receive, in person as demanded, whatever the heck his ex-wife had bequeathed him.

Since she couldn’t lie to him, or cheat on him, or steal from him again, he figured she couldn’t hurt him again, so he’d agreed to come. But unless she left him a letter of abject apology and a check, he intended to throw the bequest back in Franklin J. Quiggley the Third’s face. The attorney could do whatever he damn well pleased with whatever the hell it was.

Spotting Quiggley's office, Will pulled over and parked. As he uncoiled his lanky frame from the rental car and clapped on his Stetson, he reminded himself that Shelby and all her problems were behind him now. Seven years, eleven months, and thirteen days behind him.

And yeah, he’d been counting.

A wise man learned from his mistakes and held fast to his principles. Will had been slow to wise up, but he’d nailed the learn-from-your-mistakes part on the first attempt. But since it was better to be safe than sorry, he mentally girded his loins as he yanked open the door of Quiggley’s office.

Dead silence greeted his entrance. Then he heard a little girl say, “Wh-who are you?”

Even as he wondered what a kid was doing in a lawyer’s office on a Thursday afternoon, Will’s gaze snagged on a pair of tear-drenched blue eyes—the same navy-rimmed violet-blue eyes he saw in the mirror every morning.

Will’s rule about commitment reared up and bit him in the ass. And he swore he could hear Shelby laughing.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Ideas for a Story

Task: Turn on the radio and take note of the first thing that is mentioned. Use it as the basis for either the start of a story or an entire story---whichever, it should be no more than 500 words.

(The first thing I heard, on the radio in a hotel room with the station chosen by a previous guest, was three curse words in the middle of a rap song.)

Maggie glanced up when the man said three bad words. He didn’t say ’em real loud and he hadn’t perxactly said three of them, just one. But he’d said it three times. Funny thing was, though, Miss Jenna and Mr. Quiggley—who was stupid, even if he was an adult—didn’t yell at him for sayin’ a bad word, like the teachers at school always did when kids said words like that on the playground, or threaten to wash his mouth out with soap if he said it again, like Jimmy Albertson’s mother was forever doin’. But you could bet that if she’d said that word, Miss Jenna and Mr. Quiggley would’ve had plenty to say to her.

That just didn’t seem fair, but Maggie was learning that sometimes life wasn’t fair.

Maybe Miss Jenna and Mr. Quiggley didn’t fuss at the man—Will Somethin’-or-Other—because he was so big. He was as big as the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk, but he didn’t look mean. He didn’t look very happy, either, and since Maggie was pretty unhappy herself, she wondered if maybe they could feel bad together. She had to do sumthin’ while they waited for her dad—which was whole ’nuther dose of unfair, ’cuz her mom’d said he was mean and hated her, and dads weren’t s’posed to hate their kids. But since there was nuthin’ else to do, and since Miss Jenna had been telling her all week that things didn’t seem as bad if you talked about ’em, Maggie pushed off the couch and walked over and stood in front of the man. But not too close. He was a stranger, and kids had to be careful around strangers.

She couldn’t ask him why he was unhappy—that would be pryin’ and pryin’ was rude—so instead she said, “Are you a cowboy?” She thought he might be; he kinda looked like the ones on TV.

Will Whatever-His-Name-Was stopped shoving his fingers through his hair, which was really mussed up now, with little curls sproinging up all over the place, long enough to look at her and smile. “Not exactly. I’m a rancher and a horse breeder, but I do have a lot of cows.”

He had a nice smile. Smiling put little crinkles at the corner of his eyes—which were purplish-blue, just like hers—but it was kinda hard to see the crinkles unless you were looking close ’cuz his skin was real suntanned, like he’d just gotten back from vacation in Florida or sumplace like that.

Maggie wondered if there were ranches in Florida, but before she could ask, his smile disappeared like it’d never been there. He looked over at Mr. Quiggley and asked, “What next?”

Writing Venues & Original Descriptions

Task: Imagine two different venues for writing – one that seems most suited to you, and one that you would find bizarre or too difficult. Write a paragraph describing two writers at work, one in each of the venues.

Writer A works at home, the moment she wakes up. As she walks past the kitchen, she pours a glass of iced tea, then sits in her favorite armchair, props her feet on an ottoman, picks up her laptop, and starts typing. Dressed in a nightgown, her hair curling wildly, her glasses sliding down her nose, she spills words onto the page for an hour or three, until the words stop flowing. Writer B wakes up, dresses for the day, tucks her notebooks into her bag, and walks to the coffee shop. Once settled into her chosen seat (which may or may not be in her preferred corner), she pulls out her notebook and her current favorite pen, sips her coffee, and begins writing. Some mornings, she writes frantically in her right-slanted script with its occasional calligraphic letters; other mornings the words come slowly, reluctantly, but they do come.

Task: Try describing something familiar with one or two ordinary words that you wouldn’t normally use in that context.

Hank Jones had not been known for using his head for anything but a hat rack.

On yet another hand—assuming that she’d suddenly sprouted one, which she hadn’t, but an octopus had nothing on Jenna Dunnley when she was wrestling with a thorny problem. On this third hand, how deep was his preternatural acceptance? Was it something that would wear off in a few days or weeks, like a cheap veneer? Or was it bred-in-the-bone, time-tested, forged by fires hotter than hell, and absolutely unshakeable?

More About the Girl in the Striped Knit Cap

Ellen Wilder’s hair was the bane of her existence. She didn’t count bad hair days, she counted good ones. And she was lucky to get two, maybe three, of those a month. She’d tried every product her friends recommended to tame her wildly curly mop, but nothing seemed to work. Her aunt’s often-voiced opinion was that Ellie was too impatient, that she didn’t that she didn’t take the time necessary to make the most of her hair. But since Aunt Catherine spent a good ninety minutes preparing herself to leave the house—time Ellie didn’t have to spare, and wouldn’t use primping even if she did—Ellie gave that particular bit of advice the same attention she gave the rest of her aunt’s admonitions: She ignored it.

From time to time, Ellie had given serious thought to cutting her hair, but she’d never succumbed to the impulse. In the South, the length of a woman’s hair was sometimes viewed as an indicator of her femininity, and with her beanpole figure, Ellie figured she needed any advantage her dusky shoulder-length curls, wild or not, gave her.

Thinking longingly of short, wash-and-wear hairstyles, she glanced at her watch, yelped, then gave up on her hair and grabbed her toothbrush. Her boss had been at his desk at 6:50 a.m. yesterday, and she wanted to get there before he did. At the rate he was going, though, soon she’d have to start sleeping at the office if she wanted to win the get-there-first battle.

For her, it was a matter of pride. He, however, didn’t have a clue that they were engaged in an ongoing war.

It was probably the few things Ethan Montague didn’t know.

Today, she thought, straightening the cuffs of her coral blouse, he would discover another.

Yesterday her diagnosis of an extremely aggressive cancer had been confirmed by a second doctor. Monday she started chemotherapy and radiation. This morning, she had to tell her boss, then her mother and Aunt Catherine tonight. Ellie strongly suspected that the corporate mogul was going to take the news better than the two former beauty queens, despite the fact that he was likely to lose his administrative assistant and translator for the duration.

After a final look in the mirror, Ellie buttoned her grey suit jacket, then turned off the light. In a week or so, she would not have hair to worry about.

It was a daunting, and rather frightening, realization.

The Girl in the Striped Knit Cap

This vignette was inspired by a video in which one had a brief glimpse of a young woman wearing a white knit cap with stripes of varying shades of red. The description could not exceed 200 words.

Ellen Wilder’s hair was the bane of her existence. She didn’t count bad hair days, she counted good ones. And she was lucky to get two, maybe three, of those a month. She’d tried every product her friends recommended to tame her wildly curly mop, but nothing seemed to work.

From time to time, Ellie had given serious thought to cutting her hair, but she’d never succumbed to the impulse. In the South, the length of a woman’s hair was sometimes viewed as an indicator of her femininity, and with her beanpole figure, Ellie figured she needed any advantage her shoulder-length curls, wild or not, gave her.

But yesterday the diagnosis of cancer had been confirmed by a second doctor. Monday she started chemotherapy and radiation. Today, she had to tell her boss, then her mother and aunt. Ellie strongly suspected that the corporate mogul for whom she worked as administrative assistant and translator was going to take the news better than the two former beauty queens.

With a final look in the mirror, Ellie straightened the cuffs of her coral blouse, tugged at the hem of her grey suit jacket, and walked out the door.

Fact and Fiction

This assignment required writing a paragraph that contained one fact and three fictions, then to write a paragraph that contained one fiction and three facts.

One fact, three fictions:

A medical examiner is an objective presenter of evidence. While not a law enforcement officer, Paul Hindemith was as much of an investigator as any detective, but his deductions were intellectual, his witnesses dead. His work area often stank, and he had not seen the burled maple writing surface of his desk in years. But his grandfather’s words of wisdom (memorialized in the sampler lovingly stitched by his grandmother) had proven true time and again: “When you hear hoofbeats, look for horses, not unicorns.”

Three facts, one fiction:

Waterloo was a ferocious battle: the defeat of an empire, inflicted on a Sunday afternoon on a field of battle a mere two miles long and two-thirds of a mile across. After the fighting, Napoleon blamed his marshals for the disaster, while officers of rival regiments on both sides bickered over which was the most heroic. Much has been written about the commanders and their strategies and tactics, but little about the men and their reasons for being there.

Neglect and Resurrection

After ignoring this blog for more than two years (due to a string of family- and work-related events that required nearly all of my time and effort), I am resurrecting it to post assignments for an online class I'm taking that requires me to write various things. 

Most of these assignments are likely to be contemporary, not Regency era.

The next four posts are for assignments already completed.