Saturday Story Starter

August 17th, 2013

Welcome back to the Saturday Story Starter!

Thank you all for the stories you’ve shared so far (click here and here in the comments field to check them out) — I just love the hum and buzz of collective creativity!

As you know, the Saturday Story Starter is purely for fun, just as a way to exercise those writing muscles (think of it as Heather’s Literary Gym). There are no prizes, only the simple joy of putting words on paper (well, OK, computer screen). Also, I won’t be offering critiques, just brief words of encouragement, but I will read all your entries, that I can promise!

Here’s this week’s photo:

Strawberries
Strawberries happen to be my favorite fruit. These are Hood Strawberries, which are native to Oregon, where I live. They are UNBELIEVABLY delicious! They rarely make it over the border because they’re too delicate to travel, and they’re best eaten within 24 hours of picking. (Ours barely make it home from the farm stand before we’ve already started digging in.) They make the world’s best jam, too. Ooo, and homemade strawberry ice cream? There’s nothing better in the world….

STORY STARTER:  Write about your favorite fruit. Be sure and tap into the five senses as you write, as this really helps breathe life into words on a page (or a computer screen!). In fact, using the five senses should be a primary tool in every writer’s toolbox. The more you as a writer engage your reader’s senses, the more present your reader will be in your story, and the more alive and real it will be to him or her. So now, with this story starter, help us vividly SEE the fruit, SMELL it, FEEL it, TASTE it.  (We may or may not HEAR it, depending on whether it’s crunchy or soft.)

You can simply describe your favorite fruit for us, or, if you’d like, you can turn it into a story. It’s up to you.

Ready, set, write!

 

 

An owlish gift

January 4th, 2013

I’ve always loved owls.

Owl sculpture

 

Here’s one I bought in England when I lived there as a girl with my family years ago.  I remember saving up my allowance (“pocket money,” the British call it) for it, and the satisfaction I felt when it was finally mine.  He’s been perched on my desk ever since, his plump little self a talisman of sorts who keeps watch over me as I write.  I often find myself picking him him up, my fingers idly seeking out the familiar contours of his smooth terracotta body as I ponder and dream.

I’m not sure what it is about owls that appeals to me.  Is it their sturdily elegant oval shape? Their expressive faces? Those beautiful, unblinking eyes that watch over the world in silence?

Maybe it’s the mystery to owls that I find irresistible — their haunting call, or the way they whoosh silently out of nowhere on those great, wide wings.

Which is exactly what happened to me last night at dusk.  I was in the back yard, playing with our dogs, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a dark shape soar overhead and land in the maple tree.  At first I thought it was a hawk.  We have a lot of those here in the Pacific Northwest.  But then I saw that unmistakeable silhouette.  An owl!

He was so beautiful that for a long moment I couldn’t breathe. Then I whipped my phone out of my pocket and took a picture. In the fading light, the first shot looked like a blob on a branch, so I turned the flash on, hoping to catch the reflection of his eyes…

Owl January 2012

Success!

Isn’t he gorgeous?  (For some reason, I’m convinced it was a he.)  I still can’t  believe he was right there in my yard!  It’s not like I live out in the country (I call our neighborhood “rural suburbia”).   What a gift!

I soon realized that he was indeed a gift — from my muse.  She (my muse is definitely a she) can be a lazy sort, who often skives off  heaven-knows-where when I most need her.  Like now, when I’m writing a book.

Last night, though, she delivered.  The story I’m working on at the moment desperately needs an owl, and I didn’t even know it. Until she sent me one.

 

Monday musings: Inside the shell of character

November 26th, 2012

I love buying eggs from my next-door neighbor.

Aren’t they lovely?  So many different colors! On the outside, anyway — inside, eggs are eggs.  Lisa has at least four varieties of hens running around her yard, maybe even five or six.  It’s so much fun to look out my kitchen window and see them scurrying to and fro in search of bugs and other good things to eat.

We used to have chickens, too, but they eventually went into chicken retirement.  (You can read about that here.)  They provided not only eggs (and amusement), but also food for thought.  Click here for a link to a blog post from a few years back that was inspired by a little backyard observation.

That’s the best kind of observation, really, isn’t it?

So what does this motley dozen nesting on my kitchen table tell me today?  Well, perhaps that despite our outward trappings–race, nationality, gender, faith, age, political leanings, etc.–on the inside, where it really counts, we’re all the same.  As a writer, I’ve learned that it’s the inside of my characters that counts, too. Whether I’m writing about a girl on an adventure at sea in 1835 (THE VOYAGE OF PATIENCE GOODSPEED), a mouse who dreams of being a secret agent and the fifth grade boy who helps her out (THE BLACK PAW), modern-day stepsisters on the receiving end of a spell gone terribly wrong (ONCE UPON A TOAD), or a whole cast of moms and daughters who end up reading the classics together (THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB), it’s the heart of the matter that’s most important.

Sure, I need to pay attention to details like dress and appearance and mannerisms and all that.  It’s part of my job (and a very fun part, I might add) to make the window dressing as interesting and alluring as possible.  But what is it that really connects us to those who live out their lives on the written page? What is it that makes some characters wrap themselves around our hearts?  Think Charlotte and Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web.  Or India Opal Buloni in Because of Winn-Dixie.  Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird.  

It’s what’s on the inside, isn’t it?  It’s their hopes and fears and worries, their dreams and yearnings.  Those “inside the egg” things that each one of us can relate to, and that ultimately connect us all.  So when you’re writing, be sure to crack open that shell and breathe life into your character from the inside.

Give your character a heart, and it will speak to the heart in your reader.

 

 

 

 

 

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