Prince Ilvarin Short Story

I’m feeling pretty heartbroken about Notre Dame today. It has family significance as well as being a beautiful piece of human history. My heart is in Paris tonight.

Oddly enough, what I had planned to post today is about fire and destruction and death (although thankfully, nobody died in the Notre Dame fire). This is a legend one of the characters tells in my Camp NaNoWriMo story that will almost be cut from the final product in its entirety, but I liked it anyway. Hope you do too.

Prince Ilvarin and the Death God

Before the people came north, before our blood mingled with that of the humans, before the stars were written in the sky, there was an ancient prince. Prince Ilvarin was wise and clever, and he loved his people more than his own life.

One year, the world passed too close to the sun and even Fenthal could not ward it back. The world began to burn. Smoke filled the skies and the trees and plants withered. The elves lay in what shadows were left and drank until the water was gone and hope was fled.

Prince Ilvarin could not bear to see his people suffer so. He was the strongest among them, least burdened by heat and thirst, and feared he alone would survive this disaster. And so he decided to seek out Death and trade his life for that of his people. Taking only his cloak and his sword, Prince Ilvarin set off north for the sylvan homes of the gods.

Want to read the whole story? Click here.

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Reblog: The Beat Sheet

I just spent an hour writing and rewriting this post and, forget it, I’m clearly not ready to talk about it. Suffice it to say that I just had an absolute nightmare of a weekend and it’s a good thing I’m scheduled for a reblog today.

The Beat Sheet was a recent discovery and I’m still figuring out how it fits into my outlining style. I’ve experimented with following it exactly, and not at all, and with a few variances in between. We’ll see what I settle on in the end.

Not sure what the Beat Sheet is? Let’s ask Rob Price of SAGU’s Thought Hub!

Your Screenplay and the Beat Sheet

Blake Snyder’s beat sheet from Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need is the primary structure or foundation by which we are going to build our story. It’s the skeleton of the screenplay on which we will soon put on flesh. The beat sheet is a lot more than just Act I, Act II and Act III.

Snyder offers 15 different “beats” that writers of a screenplay should be cognizant to include in the storyline. The numbers next to each of these beats represents approximately on which page or page range they should occur (given that each page of a screenplay is typically about one minute of screen time).

By the way, assembling your beat sheet is the fourth stage that Snyder recommends when preparing your screenplay. If you’re interested in reading about the other stages in a screenplay, check out my 8-Step Guide to Writing Great Screenplays.

The Beats of a Screenplay

Opening Image (Page 1): This is the first impression of the movie: tone, mood, colors, type, scope, genre, the frame universe of the story.

Theme Stated (Page 5): Someone poses a question or makes a statement that reveals theme, but make it a passing offhand comment. Should not be “on the nose” or “too obvious.”

Set-up (Pages 1-10): This is the “make or break” section where you must grab audience or else lose them altogether.

Catalyst (Page 12): This beat can also be called the inciting incident or new opportunity. It is the moment that sets the rest of the film into motion.

Debate (Pages 12-25): The debate gives the hero the chance to say “should I really do this?” and shows how the hero could possibly answer the question or solve the problem, which leads to a firm decision to…

Break into Act II (Page 25): In Act II we leave the old world (the thesis) and journey into the upside down new world (antithesis).

Ready to read the rest? Head on over to the Thought Hub for more!

Prep Work

Prep Work

Hello, friends! It’s Camp NaNoWriMo time again! And that means- bad art! reblogs! now later than ever!

I don’t think anyone could argue that any of the NaNoWriMo sessions churn out polished masterpieces, but lemme tell you, I needed this. I’ve been in an awful slump since… well, since last November, really. It’s nice to feel excited about a new project again.

Speaking off, I haven’t hit my word goal for the day yet. I’d better to see to that. Happy writing!

I Miss Plastic, and Other Tales of Woe

seal paintI stood helplessly in the grocery store last Friday, wandering in bewilderment up and down what had to be miles of grocery aisles. Everything I could possibly put on my grocery list was right here, but I couldn’t seem to buy any of it. I stared at racks that soared over my head and thought, ‘I just… I just want to make rice krispie treats.’

A little background: each year, my family observes its own weird version of Lent. It’s not a part of our religion, but we’ve decided it builds character. And since we subscribe to Calvin’s Dad’s School of Character, calvin shovelingwhat it usually boils down to is forty days of making ourselves as miserable and deprived as possible. This year seems to be the granddaddy of denial and, guys, I don’t know if I’m gonna make it.

My kids and I have been worrying a lot about penguins and baby turtles and dolphins and stuff, and so we decided to give up single use plastic. This wasn’t a completely naïve decision- I had been working at cutting back on plastics for several months going up to it- but holy guacamole, I don’t know if this is even possible in Fairbanks Alaska. We knew we would have to make exceptions for things like milk and medicine, but this is nuts.

Did you know that paper ice cream cartons are lined with plastic? And really any paper food container, such as shortening or my favorite almondmilk? As well as metal cans and aluminum soda cans? And the looks-like-metal-to-me twist off caps of glass bottles? The stickers on produce? Like everything ever? It makes me angry that I researched this at all because I thought things like glass bottles and fresh fruits and vegetables were safe. What the heck are we supposed to eat until Easter?

The thing is, the closer I look at my habits as a consumer, the more I notice all the ways I am a bad hippie (and, at least this year, a bad observer of Lent). Sometimes, when I’ve done everything I can do and it still doesn’t feel good enough, I just have to make a mental note and move on and hope that maybe, in a more perfect future, this will be fixable.

There’s a writing lesson here too. (I know you were waiting for it. [Although, really, I did just want to complain about plastic. Man, I would do some horrible things for a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips right now.]) Everybody knows that first drafts are pretty ugly little things, and that can be for a lot of reasons. Maybe the characters don’t feel real and layered, or maybe the plot got a little off course somewhere along the way. But one of my omnipresent reasons is the abundance of writing tics that slip in uninvited.

Writing tics vary from person to person. Some people find themselves using tons of brackets, or dropping necessary helper verbs, or writing in passive voice, or using the same three actions over and over. But the common thread is that these are the same sloppy little quirks that sneak into your writing over and over again, without your even noticing them. Drafting from scratch tends to dredge them up the most frequently because that’s when the ideas are first forming out of nothing, producing large streams of text for tics to sneak in with. Drafting is when we are most likely to write the way we speak, complete with all the hedges, repeats, and asides that are totally normal and acceptable in casual speech and informal writing, but less so in a finished piece.

Going back to edit is when I tend to notice my tics. And much like plastic in a grocery store, once I start looking, it’s everywhere. I swear, not a paragraph goes by without someone sighing. If I really want to shake it up, maybe they’ll roll their eyes instead. OR BOTH. But even knowing about the sorts of tics that I gravitate toward, I can’t seem to stifle them when I draft. They’re like dandelions.

Next month is Camp NaNoWriMo. I have been failing miserably at pretty much all of my goals so far this year, so I am determined to pick up the slack and get this thing back on track. I’m going to draft a brand-new story (a side story in-betweener novella in a series I’ve been working on forever), and I’m already anticipating all the funky little quirks that I won’t notice until the editing stage begins.

Your tics and mine are probably different, but just for fun, here are my most common writing tics. Maybe you’ll recognize a few from your own writing!

JUST, A LITTLE, SORT OF Okay, maybe I just like to hedge a lot. (I see you there, Just.) And on the other hand…

A LOT, VERY, SO Same issue, just bigger. (I can’t un-see all these ‘just’s. I’m not doing this on purpose.)

PET VERBS like sigh, pause, grin, and hesitate. Just these four words are probably a pretty good synopsis of most of my first draft stories. Look out for the pregnant pause. (Oh my gosh, there’s another ‘just’. Normally I would fix these, but I’m leaving them in for your benefit. You’re welcome.)

UNREASONABLY LONG SENTENCES It’s not editing unless I’m breaking behemoth sentences down into two, three, sometimes four much more digestible tidbits.

There are definitely more tics. Soooo many more. But at least I’m not quite as food obsessed as I used to be. I’d wedge in these Redwall-esque banquets and I swear, my characters did nothing and said nothing without a wad of food in their hands. Now they just fold their arms and slouch in doorways instead.

How about you guys? Any tics tend to crop up in your writing? Let me know in the comments! And until next week, happy writing!

Blogiversary Episode VI: Escape from Wordhaven Books!

Hello, friends! Sorry about missing last week’s post. I didn’t manage my time very well, and then I found myself suddenly out of town without my laptop and all the files therein. Oops.

But exciting news nonetheless! This week marks the sixth anniversary of this doofy blog! Hooray!

fanfare

In celebration of this most momentous occasion, I knew I wanted to do something bigger than my usual posts, so it’s been on my mind for a while. A few months ago, I was sitting around with my husband listening to a really fun escape room/ role playing podcast called Escape This Podcast, and I decided I had to do one- or at least as close to one as I could do on a blog. So here it is: Escape from Wordhaven Books!

In this CYOA puzzle, you are a detective hired to figure out what a disgruntled employee is up to at a local book shop. But when you find yourself locked in the shop alone after closing, you must find and decipher the clues hidden around the room to solve the case and get back out before it’s too late!

A few suggestions as you start the escape room:

Have something to keep notes on- sequences, hints, door codes, keys, puzzles, etc. You’ll save yourself a lot of running back and forth if you write things down.

Locks are simulated by password protected pages. Most of them are numeric codes, but some use ‘keys’. The keys are used by typing in what is written on the head of the key. (Remember, keys are case sensitive.)

While it helps to have some literary knowledge, it isn’t necessary. All the required information is available within the story, but you might have to look in a few different places to find it.

Only look in Mr. Haven’s notebook if you need a hint. The escape room can be solved without it.

If you’re having a hard time, try the puzzle with a friend- two heads are better than one!

Begin your adventure here!

Reading with a Goal

GoalMy family doesn’t really need excuses to make fun of each other. But I left myself wide open for it when I mentioned my reading goal for the year to a brother- the goal in which I’m trying to read twenty-four books, at least half of which are nonfiction. He thought it was a little ridiculous to even keep track of my reading like that, let alone to have goals for what I’m reading and how much. Didn’t I graduate like a zillion years ago?

Of course, I didn’t respond with my reasons for such a goal. I insulted him instead. This is family secret code for: “You are wrong, but I love you anyway.” As the conversation progressed, he conceded that probably anything that involved reading was a good idea and we chatted about good books we’d read lately. Mockery is just our knee-jerk reaction to everything, even when we agree.

But I don’t think he was alone in his initial reaction- seriously, why would someone want to keep track of their reading? Especially someone who does a lot of reading anyway? (Which, in America, apparently means like more than four books a year. *weeps for my people*) Well, hypothetical naysayer, let me tell you!

For any of this to make sense, I’m going to have to delve into specifics. In the New Year post, I stated that I wanted to read twenty-four books, at least half of which were nonfiction. But there’s a bit more to it than that. (Nobody likes dweebs, but bear with me here.)

For nonfiction, I give myself a pretty free hand to read whatever I want, which usually ends up being a lot of history, foreign culture, and science, although I do like to lob some linguistics and anything to do with corpses in there for fun. All well and good.

My fiction goals get a little more finicky. Of course, I let myself read a book if I really really want to. I mean, I work in a library. I would go bonkers if I didn’t grant myself some leeway. But of the twelve fiction books I hope to read this year, at least eight of them will be in genres I am actively writing in. Of those eight, four will be classics- the books everyone has heard of and loves, the sort of books that show up in college courses about this genre- and four will be published within the last five years. At least three of the twelve books will be Own Voices (but ideally it would be more like six or up), and at least six of those twelve books will highlight a group or culture beyond my own (Christian, non-disabled, white, female, etc); ideally the Own Voices three-or-more and the not-about-me six line up, but I’m giving myself a little leeway and here is why:

While I definitely support Own Voices and better representation in stories, it gets a little blurrier when it comes to a person’s gender, sexuality, beliefs, and maybe some other categories too. I don’t feel like it’s any of my business to try to figure out whether the author is or is not a part of whatever marginalized group they’re writing about to see if a story is Own Voices or not because, while I absolutely want to get in a character’s head, that’s pretty private business when it comes to the author. If I’m not comfortable asking a person these questions face to face, and wouldn’t be comfortable with someone asking me, I don’t really feel right internet stalking someone to try and find out. If it’s super out in the open, I’ll probably come across it and chalk it up as Own Voices, but I’m generally not going to go digging for that information. That said, I’m still figuring these waters out and would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments!

Okay, so: twelve nonfiction; eight fiction in my genre (four classics, four newbs); six diverse fiction (minimum three Own Voices); and a little wiggle room because I have low impulse control. I chose these proportions carefully. I would be super duper happy to just read any old thing, but I’ve ordered my reading this way in the hopes of fostering my own writing and broadening my understanding of the human family and the world in which we live.

The reading within genre obviously has benefits for my writing. But so does the nonfiction. I get tons of writing ideas from reading nonfiction. Plus they’re just fun! And sparking my curiosity in one aspect of my life always feeds it in other aspects; any creative act- playing music, building, crafting, cooking- has been shown to foster creativity in other aspects of life as well. And reading outside of my socioeconomic group not only fuels my creativity and human empathy, but also helps me to write those characters more realistically as well.

Really, I could probably do any reading at all and it would be good for my own writing (as well as my soul) in some way. But by choosing what I read more thoughtfully, I can not just have fun, but improve myself and my writing too. Fun!

And if my doofus brother can’t see that, then too bad for him. 😛