storytelling

Prompt: Never Loving Nor Giving

The prompt today was:

It was never loving that emptied the heart, nor giving that emptied the purse.

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Tell Me a Story

The following is by Writers in the Grove member, Bev Walker, based upon the prompt, The Roles We Play.

“Why can’t a woman be more,
More like a man?” he said.
“Because then you wouldn’t be here,” says I.

Would I trade having kids,
Watching them grow,
Laugh, learn,
For the hard labor of a
Construction site?
Or sitting in an office all day?
No.

Would I trade the warm scent
Filling my kitchen
As I take loaves of fresh bread
Out of the oven,
For the oil and grease
Of a mechanic, a factory,
Or the dry sterile atmosphere
Of a skyscraper downtown?
No.

Would I like to be an astronaut,
Like Peggy Whitson,
Out there, exploring the stars?
Yes!

But the time is not,
Nor ever was,
For me to fly to the moon,
Discovery electricity,
Romance in Paris,
Dance across the Great Wall,
Or pet a tiger.
But I can.

I can do whatever anyone
Throughout time has ever done,
Feel what they’ve felt,
See what they’ve seen.

So, show me, storyteller.
Where have you been?
What have you done?
What have you seen?
Tell me a story
So I can go, too.

8 May 2017

Prompt: Humor in the Yarns

The mystery of knitting … remains a mystery” was published in April 2017 on The Christian Science Monitor by Murr Brewster. Her essay went viral and became our prompt this week.

That’s just freaky. Because knitting makes no sense at all. A knitter, by definition, creates holes by surrounding them with string, using sticks, a clickety-clickety noise, locally sourced air, and goodness.

Those of us who suspect we are not innately good can barely aspire to the art. And yet, I so aspired. I wanted a hat.

I bought a ball of string and some sticks and I found a tutorial online. After stopping the video four or five hundred times, I cast on 50 stitches. Then, staring hard, and trying to make my sticks and string match up to the video, I succeeded in making an entire knit stitch.

Then I made another one. And somehow, with great care and deliberation, I soldiered my way to the end of the row, 50 knits in a line. It was a triumph of historic proportions.

Slow, yes; challenging, sure; and yet majestic and powerful. I felt like Hannibal marching his elephants across the Alps into Italy.

I consulted the tutorial. They don’t warn you about this when you’re learning how to knit, so I’ll tell you now: You can’t just learn to knit. You have to learn to purl, also.

“Hit the boats!” I heard Hannibal shout. “We’re headed to Sardinia!”

Nuts! I studied the video again, and I manufactured a single purl stitch, and then another, and eventually rowed my way back to the beginning. According to the calm and cheerful woman in the video, that’s all there is to it. If you can make a knit stitch, and you can make a purl stitch, you’re on the road to glory. You can make cable-knit trousers for an octopus. I was beginning to be suspicious of her, but I carried on.

Our prompt, based upon this article, was first to study it and discover what made it work, and not work. We explored:

  • Storytelling structure: Does it have the right storytelling structure? What is the structure?
  • Audience: Who is the writer talking to? What does it tell us about the audience?
  • Purpose: What is the purpose of the article? What does it tell us about the author?
  • What tools were used: How were metaphor, simile, humor, drama, and other writing and storytelling tools used?

The next part of the prompt was to write something based upon this example and use humor.

Storytelling Week Starts April 1, 2017

The Art of the Story: 13th Annual Storytelling Festival presented by the Washington County Cooperative Library Services begins April 1, 2017, and runs through April 8.

If you haven’t done this before, it is a must-see, must-listen event. The storytelling is spectacular, and you are guaranteed tears and cheers by these outstanding storytellers.

The festival this year features four professional storytellers from the Pacific Northwest, and four Story Slam contestants. They include:

Admission to all events are free. The festival performances are designed for adults, though there are several shows that welcome children.

The schedule is:

  • Saturday, April 1 – Beaverton Library: 7 – 9 p.m. – 12375 SW Fifth St, Beaverton, OR 97005 – Story Slam Contest (Adult program) – David Alexander, Brian Belefant, Maura Doherty and Janis Collins
  • Sunday, April 2 – Hillsboro Brookwood Library: 2 p.m. – 2850 NE Brookwood Pkwy, Hillsboro, OR 97124-5327 – Norm Brecke: The Lighter Side of Lincoln (Adult program)
  • Monday, April 3 – Tigard Library: 7 p.m. – 13500 SW Hall Blvd, Tigard, OR 97223-8111 – Norm Brecke: The Rough Edge of the Ocean (Adult program)
  • Monday, April 3 – Walters Cultural Arts Center: 7 p.m. – Co-hosted by Hillsboro Library – 527 East Main St, Hillsboro 97123 – Brianna Barrett: True Love and Other Noncommunicable Diseases (Adult program)
  • Tuesday, April 4 – Cedar Mill Library: 6:30 p.m. – 12505 NW Cornell Rd, Suite 13, Portland, OR 97229-5688 – Norm Brecke: Spaghetti Squids & Zombie Arms (Adult program & ages 6+)
  • Tuesday, April 4 – Forest Grove Library: 6:30 p.m. – 2114 Pacific Ave, Forest Grove, OR 97116-2497 – Brianna Barrett: Can My Imaginary Friends Come Too? (Adult program)
  • Wednesday, April 5 – Elsie Stuhr Center: 2 p.m. – Co-hosted by Beaverton Library – 5550 SW Hall Blvd, Beaverton, OR 97005 – Norm Brecke: Sweethearts, Swings and Misses (Adult program)
  • Wednesday, April 5 – Sherwood Library: 7 p.m. – at Sherwood Center for the Arts – 22689 SW Pine St, Sherwood, OR 97140 – Kevin Locke: Story of Standing Rock (Adult program)
  • Thursday, April 6 – Banks Library: 7 p.m. – at Banks City Hall – 13690 NW Main St, Banks, OR 97106 – Ingrid Nixon: Starry, Starry Night (Adult program & ages 12+)
  • Thursday, April 6 – Garden Home Library: 7 p.m. – Co-hosted by West Slope Library at THPRD Garden Home Rec Center – 7475 SW Oleson Rd, Portland, OR 97223 – Kevin Locke: Mni Wiconi (Water is Life) (Adult program)
  • Friday, April 7 – North Plains Library: 6:30 p.m. – at North Plains Elementary – 32030 NW North Ave, North Plains, OR 97133 – Kevin Locke: Love Stories (Adult program & ages 6+)
  • Friday, April 7 – Aloha Library: 7 p.m. – 17455 SW Farmington Rd, Ste. 26A, Aloha, OR 97078 – Ingrid Nixon: Adventure Calls! (Adult program & ages 6+)
  • Saturday, April 8 – Garden Home Library: 1 – 2:30 p.m. – at THPRD Garden Home Rec Center – 7475 SW Oleson Rd, Portland, OR 97223 – Indigenous Flute Workshop with Kevin Locke* – *Advance Registration Required – spaced is limited – contact the Garden Home Library. – (Adult program & ages 10+)
  • Saturday, April 8 – Festival Finale – Showcase Concert – Arts & Communication Magnet Academy auditorium – 11375 SW Center St, Beaverton, OR 97005 – Reception: 6:15 – 6:45 p.m. – Complimentary beverages and hors d’oeuvres. – Showcase Concert: 7 – 9 p.m. – (Adult program & ages 12+) – Story Slam Contest: Winner – Brianna Barrett: Fixated – Norm Brecke: I am a Singing Cowboy…Really? – Ingrid Nixon: Never a Dull Moment – Kevin Locke: Hoop of Life

Many Writers in the Grove members carpool to these various events, so check with each other to determine who will drive.

NaNoWriMo Tips: Point of View

NaNoWriMo isn’t about writing just one thing. It is also a time for experimentation, which can also spice up the chore of your 1,667 words a day. Try experimenting with point of view.

Write a scene told from the perspective of the main character, written in third person.

Write the scene as told from the perspective of an omnipotent narrator.

Write the scene as told from the perspective of one of the other characters.

Write the scene as told from the perspective of one of the animals nearby, a bird, cat, dog, snake.

Write the scene in first person.

Which works better? Should you change your story’s point of view? Or keep it? Either way, it mixes things up for a writing session, and helps you see your story from another perspective.

You can find more writing tips, NaNoWriMo prompts, and writing tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

NaNoWriMo Tips: How Many Ways to Write a Scene

A novel is a collection of scenes, held together by chapters. During NaNoWriMo, you will write dozens of scenes, each one adding to the plot, taking the reader, and your characters, on a journey.

Think about a single scene. How many ways can you write it?

Let’s set the stage. A woman is sitting in her car in rush hour traffic, going nowhere. The man in the car next to her turns his head and looks at her.

How many ways can we tell this story?

  • From the perspective of the woman?
  • From the perspective of the man?
  • From onlookers watching the two from their cars?
  • What if it is hot out and their windows are open?
  • What if it is cold and they have to wipe the condensation from the window to even see each other?
  • What if one of their cars has smoke or steam coming out from under the hood?
  • What if one has a coffee cup or a lunch bag on the roof of their vehicle?
  • What if one vehicle has a low tire?
  • What if one of the car is an expensive luxury car and the other isn’t?
  • What if one of them is poor and just evicted from their home and their car is their only safe place?
  • What if they know each other?
  • What if they knew each other as teenagers?
  • What if they are married?
  • What if they were married and just drove away from the lawyers office after signing the divorce papers, and each are the last person they want to see?
  • What if there is a dog in one car?
  • What if one of them is depressed?
  • What if one of them just got a raise and is overexcited?
  • What if one really likes the look of the other?

We could go on and on with all of the perspectives, points of view, and what ifs.

What if the scene is critical to the story, and you don’t want to go off on a bunch of wild “what if” theories. How could you tell the story differently and keep the story line the same?

  • What is the emotional state of the characters? Can you change one or both of them?
  • What is around them that they have to or might interact with? A gear shift? Squeaking brakes? The steering wheel? How would they handle it?
  • Use your senses. What do they smell, feel, temperature, body pains, body positions, hear, see? Which details add or subtract from the scene?
  • What if you threw another character into the mix? A person pops up in the backseat or someone honks behind them? How will each character respond?
  • Can you show the scene from the perspective of a memory?
  • What if they are anticipating seeing each other in traffic and it hasn’t happened?

Other than changing the location, time, and weather, brainstorm all the different ways you could write the scene and then pick from these when it is time to edit – in December.

You can find more writing tips, NaNoWriMo prompts, and writing tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

Good Enough

The following is from our Writers in the Grove member, Lorelle VanFossen, for our prompt-a-month series for July, based upon the prompt “garden.”

Sunflower, close upThe petals radiated out in a burst of sunlight, yellow, softly moving in the breeze. A bee landed on the center, climbing around the pistil and stamens that would soon become the seeds I’d snack on over the winter. They were so good, my mouth watered.

The center pattern of the sunflower is considered by many to be a mathematical marvel. I find it hypnotizing. While many believe it is a helix pattern, I trace the Fibonacci sequence from the center, spiraling out, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55…each number a sum of the previous two numbers. From the center, the future seeds curve curves out in two series, each winding in the opposite direction, stretching out to the very petals, each seed aligned with its neighbor, a mosaic found throughout history in the ancient tiled floors of the Byzantines, Romans, Greeks, and Moors. Or so my text books say.

The bee leaps off the flower as the wind tilts the flowery landscape, then returns, a black and yellow fuzzy creature crawling around the spiraling maze.

A thump on the ground next to me draws my attention back to earth. It’s my sister. She tugs on the soft green leaves of the plant. The bee loses its purchase and flies away.

“Whatcha doing?”

“Counting.”

She’s heard this before, and she never asks the obvious next question. She doesn’t care much about the world beyond her nose.

“I’m bored.”

I have no answer for that. It’s a statement that stymies me every time. How could anyone be bored. There is so much to see, so much to do, so much to learn – even the flowers teach us math and pattern. To her, this is an old song. The responsibility of the world is to entertain her, and right now, we are failing her.

A hawk stabs the air with its cry. I lean back to see it circling overhead, lifting on the warm current. A small bird dives out of seemingly nowhere to jab at it, warning the giant predator that it has been seen and it is not wanted. I swap a mosquito buzzing around my ear and wish I could do the same to all the mosquitoes this time of year.

“Let’s do something,” she orders me. I think we are. Clearly, not enough for her. “There must be something for us to do around here.”

A chill runs up my spine. This was a warning sign. Trouble was ahead. A bored Cindy was a danger to all peaceful and good creatures.

Action was required. I stood up, dusting off the dry dirt and leaves from my backside. Without another person in sight, the job to entertain my sister and keep her and all around her from harm became my responsibility.

On my list of chores and things-to-do I found enjoyable were mucking out the barn, pulling weeds, refilling the horse trough, and checking on the chickens. None of these passed Cindy’s criteria for amusement. These were my times, time spent on repetitive tasks so ingrained, I moved through them without thinking, my find free to wander, explore, and revisit books and text books, absorbing and processing the lessons from school and all around me. She found these tasks, in her words, “utterly boring and mundane.” Big words for a little girl in a frilly white and yellow lace dress with sparkling silver shoes, a fashion statement at odds with the farm.

“Want me to push you on the swing?” The rubber spare tire swing hung sadly from the old pully pole on the barn.

“Nah, did that yesterday.”

“You seemed to enjoy it.”

“Yeah, but that was yesterday. It’s boring now.”

“We could go down to the pond and skip rocks.”

“It’s too far.”

“It’s a three minute walk.”

“I said it was too far.” (more…)

Are We There Yet? How Long Does It Take?

Ever wonder how long it takes to travel?

This is more than an answer to “Are we there yet?” It is a challenge that faces ever writer when their character leaves the comfort of home or work and must travel to another location.

If traveling by foot, how long does it take? By car? By bus? By train? What about by horse? The time spend traveling across the same difference changes with the mode of transportation.

The folks behind The Writer’s Handbook found a chart that answers some of these questions if you are considering traveling by horse, sea, foot, or pigeon. This is a great tool to add to your writer’s toolbox.

Another travel time chart to keep in your writer’s toolbox comes from Lapham’s Quarterly.

What about calculating for traffic congestion? It might take you 30 minutes to get to Portland, Oregon, in the middle of the day, and 3 hours to travel the same distance during rush hour. There is much to think about when you take your character traveling.

Here are a few more examples:

  • A healthy person can walk 3-4 miles an hour on flat and even ground (36-48 miles a day possible)
  • A healthy person can walk 1-2 miles an hour on rugged terrain, less if off-trail
  • By horse on roads or trails with level or rolling terrain – 40 miles per day
  • By horse through mountainous terrain on roads or trails – 20 miles per day
  • By horse through hilly grasslands with no roads or trails – 25 miles per day
  • By horse through rugged mountainous terrain with no roads or trails – 10 miles per day
  • By horse during Roman Era on roads or trails with level or rolling terrain – 20 miles per day
  • By horse during Roman Era on level or rolling terrain with no roads or trails – 15 miles per day
  • A wagon can travel 15-25 miles a day depending upon size, horses, path, and load
  • A league is 3 miles, the distance someone could travel in one hour.

Other tools to help you estimate travel times include:

This is just the tip of the travel time iceberg. What about travel by train? By skateboard? By bike? By helicopter? By skiing? By air balloon?

It’s your imagination traveling with your character. Add their travel type and estimates to your writer’s toolbox as a guide to help you estimate travel times.

Writing Your Book: Plots and Stories

Tameri Guide for Writers by C.S. Wyatt and Susan D. Schnelbach includes “Plot and Story,” a fabulous breakdown of the basics you need to know about crafting your plot and story.

A plot is not a story, nor does every story have a strong plot. Good writers know the importance of both plot and story, especially before they dare to write a story with a “weak” or “thin” plot. Any plot can feature a love story; that illustrates the difference. Plots are events, stories reveal how characters react to those events.

The study of crafting a successful book goes back thousands of years, and stands the test of time as millions of books have been published covering billions of topics all on this timeless structure of storytelling. Your story has a beginning, middle, and end, but where do you take the reader along that structure?

This guide goes in depth into plot and story structure to help guide you on the path of developing a story that takes the reader on the journey with you.