Sunday, August 19, 2007

MMWUC for August 20, 2007

EXERCISE: Eyes hidden behind tinted shades, Leonard Elmore stomps into the packed room. Sweaty students cringe in fear and respect awaiting the fiery breath of the minimalism master to burn their pages with his rules. A Summer "Red" Tanager, Passeriformes Thraupidae, bloody from hours of attacking his image in the window, slides down a pane in exhaustion. Elmore eyes it. "Retrieve that dying ornithological disaster," he says. Elmore cradles the bird. A writing student, nurse by trade, passes him an eyedropper filled with sugar water. He feeds the Tanager like a new mother suckling her young. A smile cracks the dry canyons of his aged face. The bird revives, chirps, and then attacks his own image in Elmore's shades. They crack. Elmore screams. The bird flees with Elmore's right eye. He stumbles back, cracks his head on a riser. Blood oozes from his slumped body. The nurse rushes the podium and grabs the master's notes. "Don't breathe. Don't relax. Focus. Surprise your readers. Write for ten minutes from the protagonists POV, 'He crumpled where he once stood....'"

MUSINGS: I'm reading Elmore, Pickard, and Hammett, trying to inspire my muse to overcome my pedestrian writing with words that soar and plots that surprise so agents will sit up and take notice. I have to attack my own writing comfort zone, mix it up, make that right-angled turn into the "...and now for something completely different..." world of story-telling. I won't join a fight club, but I may get a dragon tattoo on my ass for inspiration. It's easy to fall into the trap of considering your twist different, but what is the litmus test for identifying your writing is really unique before being thumped by the industry professionals? How do you test your uniqueness?


Kimberly Frost said...

Hey Rick,

I saw you over at Nancy's blog and thought I'd stop in here too. I think you should tattoo the dragon on your ass, but know then that on graduation night you'll have to moon the WRW crew so it can be seen. ;)

Meanwhile, with regards to striving for uniqueness, maybe try an exercise I saw in a book. Come up with some seemingly impossible difficulty for your character and then make a list of 25 or more solutions. Start with the obvious one that springs immediately to mind and move to the absurd.

So if your character's on a plane that's going down, the first answer might be...uses a parachute to float to safety. The last answer might be an alien spaceship catches the plane in its tracter beam and sets it down. And you work your way through all sorts of scenarios so that you step beyond the obvious first choice that we've all seen in movies.

You might do the same type of exercise for characterization, etc. The main character could be an ordinary guy... or maybe he used to be a drug dealer, a circus performer, an alien...whatever.

Hope that's food for thought,
Kimberly (WRW)

Rick Bylina said...

Thxs Kimberly...25 ways to twist a tale to get it uniquefied.

I dreamt the plane carrying me to the next WRW event was going down in flames. When I trudged into the bathroom Bobbi Benton stood in the shower sudsing up. It was only a dream, and then I woke up and saw the stewardess crying mascara like blood.