Writing Prompt Thursday

Focus

I like using a prompt on Thursdays, so I headed over to Discovery and found
Focus.


One suggestion was to talk about a sound, smell, or other stimulus that makes it easier to focus.

For me, the stimulus has to be internal. I have to feel that interest, that drive, that get-up-and-go to be able to focus on something. If I don’t have that, nothing works. If I can get into the Zone, I can often stay focused for hours on end. The next day, this might happen, but it could easily be for a different project.

To end this bouncing from one project to another, I’m thinking about trying a routine. If I focus on my goals, then maybe I can finish a writing project. If I focus on what I love about the project I need to be working on, then maybe I can find that internal stimulus that will focus me and put me right in the middle of the Zone.

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Books, Letters

A Letter to My First Reader

Dear Reader,

In January 2020, Wounded Bride was self-published through FriesenPress. One eBook copy was sold in February, so whoever bought it is my first Reader. I want you to know that you were the first person in the whole wide world to take a chance on a book with no reviews; one that had only been out for four weeks or so. To you who purchased my newly-minted book, thank you. I may never know your name, but you will always have a special place in my heart and mind.

I know that there are a few more copies of my book out there, because I did a giveaway for Leap Day 2020.

Please let me know what you think of Wounded Bride by posting a review on the website or app where you got it.

Yours truly,

Hyacinth Grey

NaNoWriMo, Writing Advice

Writing Advice – Tell a Story

There’s a lot of writing advice out there. Following some guidelines, such as the ones in my post about dialog attribution might make your writing more pleasant to read, but don’t let writing advice bog you down.

Things can be fixed later. There’s no need to wait until your idea is perfect, or until you’ve mastered all the conflicting writing advice in the world. If you try, you’ll never write another word. You can revise your rough draft, and even then, a book is not a perfect thing.

The true goal of writing is to tell a story, not to be perfect or even amazing. Sure, having your writing considered great would be nice, but the ultimate purpose of writing fiction for an audience is to tell a story. Starting may be a struggle. You might be uncertain of what you want to write, and there may be a voice inside your mind telling you that this won’t work or that that sentence you just wrote is bad. You might feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. That’s okay. It doesn’t matter. Just keep writing. Write until the end of the story you are telling. Write until the end. You can and should take breaks to eat, sleep, and do other things, but do not neglect your story until you’ve reached the end. (You can write the actual words “the end” and then remove them later, or just say them out loud while you save your document.)

So here’s my advice for today. Get your favorite pen or keyboard, find a good place to work, and start to write. In the words of NaNoWriMo, “the world needs your story.”

Random

Stuck in my Head

What do you do when you get the name of the WordPress.com anti-spam feature Akismet stuck in your head? I mean, it’s a catchy name, but really, I could have a much more relaxing day without those three syllables rolling around inside my cranium. Strategies I use to get things to leave me alone include trying to ignore them, researching them until I’m too exhausted to care what I’ve got in my gray matter, or saying them out loud to drive everyone around me crazy but leave me free to move on with life. For this one though, I think it’s too catchy to ignore, not really fascinating enough to research, and saying it to annoy somebody to death just isn’t done during quarantine. So to Akismet: you’re wonderful. Go somewhere else other than my brain. Your name starts to behave a little like “I kiss,” if you give it a Southern accent, so how about “a-kiss-spam-goodbaaa.” 😘🚯🚮⏏️

Sharing Sunday

I Love to Share

This is a list of all the blog posts I’ve ever liked. I haven’t been using the Reader for very long yet, so there are seventeen of them so far.
The list goes from first liked to most recently liked, so the numbers don’t reflect how much I liked the post.


  1. The 5 Tricks That Will Instantly Get You More Followers by PoojaG from lifesfinewhine
  2. Virtual Book Marketing in a Self-Isolated World by Outskirts Press, Self-Publishing News
  3. Vegan: Endive • Fig • Onion • Flour Sprout 🌱 by Mums – the food blog
  4. Welcome to the Weekly Blog! by dudelmtu from Dude, Let Me Tell You
  5. Writing Stamina is a Real Thing by ssjcedar from Writes Of Passage
  6. How to Grow a Vegetable Container Garden for Beginners by Robin at Haphazard Homemaker
  7. Why Your Blog Is Not Growing by PoojaG from lifesfinewhine
  8. Vegan: Salsify • Purple carrot • Apple • Wild garlic 🌱 by Mums – the food blog
  9. The Secret Of Success by Tony Bologna, tonysbologna : Honest. Satirical. Observations.
  10. Expert Advice: Get Started on Your New Website by Selena Jackson, The WordPress.com Blog
  11. How To Work From Home Effectively by A Curious Mind 🙋🏻‍♀️, Share What You Feel
  12. Read Your Interests by ssjcedar from Writes Of Passage
  13. Vegan Dalgona Coffee with a Trio of White Asparagus 🌱 by Mums – the food blog
  14. Stupid Phrases Part 3 by Tony Bologna, tonysbologna : Honest. Satirical. Observations.
  15. Stupid Expressions by Tony Bologna, tonysbologna : Honest. Satirical. Observations.
  16. Discover Prompts, Day 22: Tempo by Krista Stevens, Discover
  17. When Blogging Sucks by Cristian Mihai from The Art of Blogging

  18. What’s your favorite blog post of all time? If it’s one of yours, that’s okay, just make sure you link to an actual post in your comment and not the main page of a blog.

Books, Letters, Random, Short Stories, Writing Advice, Writing Analysis, Writing Process

Two Weeks

I’ve posted something each day for the last fourteen days. I find myself wanting to harmonize the spelling of “week” and “streak,” so instead of calling it a “too weak streak,” I’ll go with a “strong two-week streek.”

Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Indie April Why I Write What I’ve Learned The Choice – Part 1 The Choice – Part 2 The Choice – Part 3 The Choice – Part 4
The Choice – Part 5 The Choice – Part 6 My Writing Space and a Question for Readers Writing Advice – Dialog Attribution A Letter to the Pacific Ocean – Ocean and humans, / Pacific, no more conflict, / World without stories. Tempo The Dark Tide – Part 1
Short Stories

The Dark Tide – Part 1

This is a work of fiction.

Die Religion … ist das Opium des Volkes.

Karl Marx
Everyone had been called to Worship. I stood outside the temple, and waited for the doors to be opened. It was early morning, and very bright, with sunbeams reflecting off the snow that had fallen the night before. I felt exposed, standing as I was on the mountain top, near the greatest temple in the world, or at least to my knowledge.
The time between call and opening was usually about an hour. Today, by the glowing dial on my right wrist, it took fifteen minutes.
Once the doors had been flung wide, we all began to file silently inside. I’d been in the temple many time in my life, but the place never ceased to leave me awe-stricken. Everything in it was made of stone, because wood is living material, metal is forged by humans, and only rock has no ancestry.
The two Leaders of Worship took their places at the front, between two columns of stone. They linked hands, and each put their other hand flat on the stone beside them. They looked around at us, and their expressions dwindled from gentle smiles to sadness, through desolation, and then shrank down in horror. A hush fell over us as we listened. The one on the right spoke.
“The dark tide will soon be upon us,” she said. The man on the left nodded. Tears began to flow down his cheeks. “We have displeased the gods, and this is their vengeance.” In the silence that followed these terrible words, I could hear people’s breathing quicken, and some began to gasp for breath. A few children cried, and a few looked at their parents’ frightened faces in bewilderment.
Through his tears, the man said, “There is nothing that can be done, nothing that can placate them now. You may grieve, but there is no point. Soon, this whole city will be utterly destroyed. Our only hope is to leave before the dark tide sweeps us all away. Let us pray now, and hope that the gods will see fit to tell us when the dark tide might arrive.” They both gestured to us and on shaking legs, I stood. Parents pulled their children upright or took babies in their arms. We all moved toward the nearest stone and put our hands flat upon it. The wall was cold under my palms and I was shivering. The rock seemed to draw out all the heat in me, to suck away the warmth of my blood, and to be trying to remove my soul from my breath. The gods were definitely displeased. I wished with all my pounding heart to be told when the dark tide would come.
A few minutes later, the Leaders of Worship shook their heads, a signal that our request to know when the dark tide was coming had not been granted. That was when the wailing started. It hurt my ears, and careful not to lose contact with the stone, I began to edge my way toward the great doors. I was close to the back, and it only took me thirty excruciating seconds to leave, but I was afraid my ears would burst with the terrible sounds the women made. Outside, I kept my hands pinned against the stone of the gods and shivered with cold and fear.
The wailing and grieving went on for hours. The cold grew more intense, and my fear ever greater.
Finally, just after sunset, the crying died down, and I re-entered the temple to see the two Leaders of Worship still standing silently between the pillars of unyielding godly rock.
After about half an hour, the Leaders of Worship nodded, and the moaning subsided into silence.
The woman said, “We have been given a sign, and now we know when the dark tide will come.”
“Hurry home,” the man said, “for in one hour, the dark tide will come, and out of the earth shall emerge a roiling cloud of dark charcoal gray, as a flood, not of water, but of destruction and damnation.”
Both Leaders of Worship signaled us to depart in orderly fashion, and that Worship was at an end. We all let go of the stone walls and the nearest to the back left first. My wife and daughter were near the front, so I left before they did. Their poor throats must have been so raw. There was no running water in the temple, so they would have to wait until they got home. I also worried that either of them could be injured if the crowd exiting from the temple descended into disorder.
Our home was a ten-minute walk down the mountain from the temple. The snow crunched under my feet as I made my way toward it.

My wife and I didn’t own a bicycle cart, so we’d flee on foot with our daughter and whatever we could carry.

I went into the master bedroom and looked at the bed where my wife and I had first made love, and was overwhelmed by sadness. There was nothing I could do, and it was time to pack.

I heard my wife and daughter coming in and going into the kitchen, and I savored a moment of relief that they had made it home safely. I listened until I heard the clanging of pots and pans being packed, and then I went into the closet and began packing our clothes. It would be warmer in the valley below, I reasoned, so we didn’t need to bring our heaviest winter coats, but I did pack our spring ones.

Ten minutes passed and then my wife called to me from the kitchen.
“We’re going now. Are you ready?”
“I just need to get a few more things and then I’ll follow.”
“Yeah okay, but hurry up.”
“I will, but don’t wait for me. We can find each other later.”
I heard them leaving and I tossed the last of my daughter’s socks into the bag. All I needed to pack now were her sketches. I slung the bag over my arm and opened the drawer where I kept the folder of drawings that she’d given to me on my birthday and other occasions for the last sixteen years. I opened the folder and looked at the first one that she’d made at the tender age of two. It was a stick figure that I knew was supposed to represent my wife. She’d drawn it with a black pencil on white paper. It wasn’t very good, but it was her first. I took all of them out of the folder, intending to count them and make sure they were all there, and began to flip through them. The one she’d done when she was three was more elaborate, and showed the three of us, sitting on the grass in the summer, with flowers all aorund us and in our hair.
A gust of wind against the house startled me, and I dropped the papers.

“No!” I bent down, and began to pick them up one at a time. I would now have to count them three times instead of only once, because dropping precious things displeases the gods and counting them would restore order.
My fingers were clumsy and my heart pounded as I picked up sketch after sketch, my mind chattered at me to hurry up, but I would not risk sliding into disorderly haste.
Finally, I had them all in the folder, and began to count. I made it to 287 and then started again. I made it to 287 for the second time, but after the third count, I only had 286. I’d have to count them until I got 287 three times in a row.
When at last I was sure I had them all, I’d counted them fourteen times over. I put them carefully back into the folder and put that into my bag. I zipped it closed and then I looked at the time. A lot more than an hour had gone by. The dark tide must be very near. How long before it burst into my house and consumed me? I rushed to the door and flung it open. It was dark, snow was falling, and the wind gusted hard and fiercely against me. I hoped my wife and daughter had caught a ride with somebody who had a bicycle cart, or they’d be caught out in this, and wouldn’t get far before the dark tide overtook them. I, on the other hand, had to decide if I wanted to walk into a storm, or if I prefered to die holding my daughter’s sketches in the warmth of my home.

I stepped out into the storm. The icy wind blew right through the winter coat I’d donned, and threatened to tear the bag containing my daughter’s art right out of my hands. I clutched it tightly and began to walk. I had taken only a few steps, but I could just barely see my house. How could I find anything in this? It was night and not a single light was visible. I turned back and made it to my door. I practically fell inside, went into my daughter’s room, and curled up on her bed with the folder of sketches in my arms.

Literary Analysis, Writing Prompt Thursday

Tempo

Today’s post was inspired by this writing prompt:
Tempo
.
I’ve been thinking about this poem lately, so when I read the section in the above post aimed at poets, I thought of it right away.

E. J. Pratt’s “The Lee-Shore” is about the Atlantic Ocean, but while drafting

A Letter to the Pacific Ocean

, I had it in my head when contemplating waves on the shore.

I first read it a few years ago, and my memory is of a fast-paced poem, but when I re-read it, I found three semicolons, which slowed it down considerably. I feel that the poem’s overall tempo is moderate, but parts of it are fast and some are slower.

The female narrator’s heart cries, “Come home, come home,” and presumably these words come in a flash of panic. I think that the melodic flow of the poem prevents any part of it from becoming very fast or really slow. How good is she at reading the signal light? How many times is the signal sent? Does the signaler make mistakes and need to repeat? Her love out there on the ocean is probably scared too, so maybe his hands aren’t working too well and perhaps she’s having trouble understanding the signal, so it’s possible that there’s repetition involved and the time needed to send and receive “not to-night” would take more time than the poem shows.

Reading about something is so much different from the real events. The poem (or a story) is like a summary of things, but the reader has to feel the emotions and imagine the fits and starts of events. When a great big wave comes rolling in, maybe her panic blooms, and then dies down a little when there’s a moment of relative calm. In a way, the tempo is quite fast, considering how packed with events the poem is. To complicate things just a little more, there’s also a sad rhythm of longing for her love to be with her. If her fear is greater than her feeling of missing him, then the rhythm of events would be a lot faster than if she’s mostly wishing he were there with her. I think the latter is possible; it almost seems that the storm is trying to help her when the foam says, “Keep away from the crash of the storm at its height, / Keep away from the land, keep away.” This warning is quite musical, as though the sea were saying not to worry and to try and get some sleep.

So much of writing is condensed and left to the Reader to imagine or fill in. For example, a slow going romance novel leaves things out, sometimes because they don’t add anything to the story, or because they’re more fun to imagine than to state plainly. An example of the former is if the main character gets a call from a telemarketer that has no impact on the budding relationship. Readers probably wouldn’t care if somebody doesn’t want to buy some product. The writer wouldn’t be serving the story very well if they included some random sales pitch in it. The latter point about leaving things to the imagination is more subtle. In Pratt’s poem, it doesn’t seem as though much is being left to the imagination until we consider tempo. Even if you don’t live by the ocean, I’d wager that everybody has experienced some kind of storm in their lives, and filling in those details allows Pratt to let the poem flow in a musical way, instead of having to try and capture the cacophony of the waves and wind. By doing so, he makes the storm seem friendly and lets us imagine what it must really have been like to be there. Our hypothetical romance works because most people know what love is, and also how it feels to struggle with wanting something that maybe isn’t attainable. We can fill in the details of the mundane and also put ourselves in the characters’ shoes to experience the love that might be made, or the tension in the room while important words remain unspoken.

In writing, tempo is probably going to be faster than in real life, but also flatter, because the writer can smooth out the jumps and the waves if desired, but they also have the opposite option of varying the tempo throughout. A romance can go along smoothly for a few pages, and then suddenly jump with tension. On the other hand, a poet writing melodic verse might be taking a risk if they tried to vary the tempo in the poem, but it wouldn’t do any harm to try it. Maybe Pratt’s storm is unrealistically personified, but it’s appealing nevertheless. It keeps the poem moving along effortlessly, and I wonder if Pratt was trying to make the point that if you pay attention, the sea usually gives warning of impending disaster, and nature isn’t bad or uncivilized.

Letters, Random, Writing

A Letter to the Pacific Ocean


Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Ocean and humans,

Pacific, no more conflict,

World without stories.

Photo by Gantas Vaiu010diulu0117nas on Pexels.com


Dear Pacific Ocean,

I’ve been reading a book about you. It’s called Pacific, and it’s written by Simon Winchester. It’s also Earth Day, so I guess I’ve been thinking about you lately. My publisher,

FriesenPress

, also lives about a ten-minute walk from you, so you seem to be dominating my life and my thoughts right now. But I also just kind of like you, and I’m beginning to believe that every wave can inspire a story. They might be able to tell stories too, but I don’t think they speak a language anybody else can understand.
There are a couple of reasons why you inspire me. The first is movement. When I’m in a boat, rolling along, the rhythm takes me to a place where ideas are as thick on the ground as snow in a midwest winter. You take me to a space of safety where only good things can go on. That said, I don’t want to be anywhere near you when you’re having a “tempest tantrum!” You were named “peacful ocean,” but sometimes, you act like you would rather make war. That’s not very nice, but I suppose you can’t help what you are any more than I can help who I am.
Another reason you inspire stories is your great depth. Your grandure is not to be diminished or ignored, and, being the largest ocean in the world, you command the title of champ, and you could be called Earth’s representative. You may wear that badge proudly, but with power comes a certain responsibility. I hope that you understand how big, profound, and beautiful you are, because all of that inspired me a while ago, and I still haven’t quite gotten over thinking about miles of water below a boat above the Challenger Deep.
Your job isn’t to try to be what you’re not, i.e., always living up to your tranquil name, but to thrash and roar when we pour pollution into you and to pound your shores with all your might when we don’t show you the respect you’re due.
Your twin nature of bellicosity and pacificity makes me think about human nature, and also about writing. Yes, I know, I’m always thinking about writing, but really, there’s a parallel here. Whenever I did book reports in school, I was always asked what the conflict was in the book. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever once read a story that didn’t contain some sort of argument, problem, war, or disagreement. It’s what causes tension, even in a romance. It doesn’t have to be a fight between individuals or nations, it can be a struggle within oneself.


I love her, but what will Dad say?


I love him, but if we start a family, what will happen to my career?


Fiction is built on conflict and resolution. Maybe a friend spills the beans to Dad and he thinks the girl his son loves is great and asks when the wedding will be. Maybe the woman chooses career over a family or the other way round, or maybe she finds out that her boyfriend wants to become a stay-at-home dad.
Nonfiction also offers problems and their solutions. A surgical textbook explains the fine points of operations so that surgeons can correct problems in their patients’ bodies. A book about marketing strategies helps people to find ways to sell their products so they can solve their financial problems. In other words, every single book you ever pick up will contain some type of conflict.
With technological advances enabling us to kill enormous numbers of people and devastate huge tracts of land and put terrible amounts of pollution into your waters, there is the potential for severe global harm. COVID-19 certainly doesn’t make us feel confident about the future. And yet, fear and uncertainty in our conflicted lives lead us to write many stories that thrum with tension. Imagine a story without conflict. It would be a long list of things people did, and might read something like this.


She woke up and ate breakfast. She went to work. Everything went well during the staff meeting. She ate lunch, worked at her desk for two hours, and then drove home. Her children greeted her with delight, and her husband had also had a great day taking the kids to the park and reading them stories when they got home. The family ate dinner together, and then she put the kids to bed. She and her husband spent some quality time together, and then they went to bed.


An entire book that was nothing but a litany of what people did would be about as appealing as being caught out in a small boat in a big storm. Sure, a bit of quiet routine is great between tense moments, but by itself, it’s incredibly boring. So now, imagine a world without conflict, and I think that if there were no arguments, no dilemmas, no disagreements, and not a single problem to be solved, that our ideal world without conflict would also be a world without waves, without inspiration, and worst of all, it would be a world without stories.
Yours truly,
Hyacinth Grey


What do you think about the Pacific, Earth Day, and conflict and resultion in writing? Please leave a comment.

Writing Advice, Writing Process

Writing Advice – Dialog Attribution

You’ve probably heard the phrase “show, don’t tell.” I’d like to show you why I think this is good writing advice when you’re writing dialog.

Here are a few sample sentences written solely for this post.


“Not again,” she sighed.

“My best friend forever doesn’t want to talk to me anymore, and I’m completely and absolutely heartbroken,” she sighed.

“That’s hilarious!” he laughed.

“I can’t believe you bought me a new TV after all these years of saying TV was bad for me,” he laughed.

“I’m so happy to see you,” I smiled.

“I understand,” I nodded.

“I disagree,” I disagreed.


Now, try to act out these sentences. Can you sigh, laugh, smile, nod, and disagree them out loud? Do they sound natural?

“Thahahat’s hihilahariouhous!” he laughed.

“I ca-han’t be-hee-hee-lie-hieve you-hou bough-hought me-hee-hee a tee-hee-vee-hee-hee ahh-hafter all-hall thee-hee-heese yee-hears o’ say-haying tee-hee-vee-hee-hee was ba-had for me,” he laughed.

I suppose you could have a character laugh a sentence like tha-hahahaha-hat, but then you don’t need to say that he’s laughing; it’s already there.

I don’t know about you, but I had a really hard time nodding anything except “yes.” I also found it physically impossible to smile what I wanted to say.

I think that what people really mean when they write things like that is that the character is nodding or smiling before, during, or after speaking. The problem is how it’s being written. You could certainly go with these.

“I understand,” I said and nodded.

I nodded and said, “I understand.”

“I’m so happy to see you,” I said. You don’t need to include the fact that you’re smiling; it’s built into the phrase “I’m so happy.” You only need to include it if it’s at odds with what your character is saying.

I frowned and said, “I’m so happy to see you.”

As for sighing and laughing, you can definitely do that with one or two words, but it gets harder to believe the longer your sentence is. I think it should also be limited to a few instances in your story to keep things more realistic and less repetitive.

If you want people in your stories to sigh and laugh, they can do so, just like they can nod.

He laughed and said, “That’s hilarious!”

“Ha! That’s hilarious!”

Reader sighed and said, “I hate writing advice. I’m going home.”

“Please, stay just a little longer,” Hyacinth said. “We haven’t talked about the verb ‘to disagree.’ When your character says, ‘I disagree’ in the dialog, you don’t need to add that verb into the attribution. You can use the verb ‘to say,’ or if it’s clear who’s speaking, you don’t even need an attribution.”


Are you interested in more writing advice topics? If so, please leave a comment.

Are there times when “show, don’t tell” causes you headaches? I’d love to hear about your writing experiences.