Exercise 10: A terrible thing to do

I know it is already Thursday, but this week was just too stressful to post any sooner – and besides, a writing exercise seemed unimportant compared to the elections in the U.S. The continuing uncertainty is still stressful, but I have gotten a bit more used to it. So, to pass the time, here is the last of the writing exercises from Steering the Craft.

Chapter 10 is called “Crowding and Leaping” and deals with narrative flow and what details an author includes and what they leave out. One line from the chapter that I particularly like was: “Some say God is in the details; some say the Devil is in the details. Both are correct.” Page 118

Le Guin also says that there isn’t really an exercise she could come up with on this topic – it is such a fluid thing and unique to each story (and storyteller). So for a final exercise, she gives us “a terrible thing to do.”

“Exercise 10: A Terrible Thing To Do

Take one of the longer narrative exercises you wrote – any one that went over 400 words – and cut it by half.

If none of the exercises is suitable, take any piece of narrative prose you have ever written, 400-1000 words, and do this terrible thing to it.

This doesn’t mean just cutting a bit here and there, snipping and pruning – though that’s part of it…” Steering the Craft, Page 124

I chose the 1285 word short story I wrote for Exercise 4: Again and Again and Again. To see the original, full length story, go here to that post. I was able to edit it down to 628 words…so here is the shorter short story!

Continue reading “Exercise 10: A terrible thing to do”

#Review AGENT 355 – Revolutionary spies and one remarkable woman

Agent 355 by Marie Benedict, cover illustration, book review, short storyAnother Audible Original short story!

I recently listened to “Agent 355” by Marie Benedict, the fictionalized story of a New York woman who became an integral part of General Washington’s famed spy ring in and around New York and Long Island. I liked it! Continue reading “#Review AGENT 355 – Revolutionary spies and one remarkable woman”

Exercise 8, Part 1: Changing Voices

Did I say last week “haven’t we had enough POV exercises?” – because I didn’t mean it. After going through Chapter 8, I’ve realized that Ursula Le Guin cares deeply about POV. Chapter 8 is basically an extension of Chapter 7 but deals exclusively with the idea of how to change POV characters safely and effectively within a story. My impression from Chapter 8 is that Le Guin is bearish on changing POV characters and takes a skeptical view on doing so. I felt slightly chastened reading this, since it is almost my favorite thing to do when writing fiction. Certainly in real life, you only get your own point of view, thus some of the fun of fiction is getting to experience the story from multiple narrators and POVs.

Le Guin says we can keep using the story from Exercise 7 – but I decided to come up with a new one – based on another true story. I was stuck in traffic one day when I realized the car in the lane next to me had a very unusual passenger sitting in the front seat…

Continue reading “Exercise 8, Part 1: Changing Voices”

Exercise 7, part 4: Involved Author POV

This is the last part of the exercise for Chapter 7 – the Point of View chapter in Steering the Craft. I’ll be honest, I was tempted to skip it, because hadn’t we had enough POV exercises already? But in the spirit of completion and to get outside my POV comfort zone, I stuck to it and did part 4. So here’s one last version of “The Mountain Lion Killing” – and this time we get the whole back story.

To review Le Guin’s directions for the exercise:
Exercise 7: Points of View

Continue reading “Exercise 7, part 4: Involved Author POV”

September Write Day: Marching Onward

Update: I somehow wrote and published this post without actually setting any goals for this month… so I fixed that. See my goals at the end.

August was tough for reasons other than anything writing- or family-related. I took last week off from writing a real post because I just did not have the mental energy. I’m not yet convinced September is going to go much better, but I’m excited to share some news in this post. Continue reading “September Write Day: Marching Onward”

Exercise 7, part 2 and 3: The Mountain Lion Killing

Last week, I introduced Ursula Le Guin’s exercise for chapter 7, which is her chapter on point of view. This week, she has us using the same story from last week (if possible) to explore less common POVs. I found I was able to use my story from last week and keep it going – so we are back in the campground with a freshly dead Mountain Lion.

To review Le Guin’s exercise instructions:
Exercise 7: Points of View

Think up a situation for a narrative sketch of 200-350 words. It can be anything you like but should involve several people doing something. (Several means more than two. More than three will be useful.) It doesn’t have to be a big, important event, though it can be; but something should happen, even if only a cart tangle at the supermarket…

Please use little or no dialogue in these POV exercises. While the characters talk, their voices cover the POV, and so you’re not exploring that voice, which is the point of the exercise.

Part 1: Two Voices
POV was Third Person Limited, two versions, two different characters. (If you’d like to see what that looked like for my teeny tiny story, go here.)

Part 2: Detached Narrator
Tell the same story using the detached author or “fly on the wall” POV.

Part 3: Observer-Narrator
If there wasn’t a character in the original version who was there but was not a participant, only an onlooker, add such a character now. Tell the same story in that character’s voice, in first or third person.”
Steering the Craft, Pages 71-73

Continue reading “Exercise 7, part 2 and 3: The Mountain Lion Killing”

Exercise 7: POV – The Mountain Lion Killing

Ursula Le Guin talks about how points of view in fiction come and go in popularity, with first person and limited third person all the rage for the last 100 years or so. I had never thought of point of view as a “fad” (even if a relatively long lived fad), but I guess that all depends on your point of view!

Her goal with chapter and exercise 7 is to define and get you to experiment with different kinds of point of view, especially ones you are not comfortable with. The exercise starts out with the one of the POVs currently in style, limited third person, and then expands to other less common POVs.

For this one, I’m telling a tale that was told to me at a work happy hour. It was related as a true story, but you know how happy hour stories go…

Continue reading “Exercise 7: POV – The Mountain Lion Killing”

Exercise 4, Part 2: Again and Again and Again

Of the two exercises in Chapter 4 of Steering the Craft, I thought this one was the harder. It was also the first time Le Guin gave us the option to write a complete short story.  The other exercises had pretty tame word counts – 150, 250, 350 words – but this time, she didn’t limit us. And if Ursula Le Guin suggests doing something, I figure it is worth a serious listen.

“Part Two: Structural Repetition

Write a short narrative (350-1000 words) in which something is said or done and then something is said or done that echoes or repeats it, perhaps in a different context, or by different people, or on a different scale. 

This can be a complete story, if you like or a fragment of a narrative.

(Page 41-42 of Steering the Craft, by Ursula Le Guin)

I did try to make it a complete story – came in a 1285 words – woo!

Personal Earthmovers

Even though the surrounding hills were lined with tract houses rising side by side up gently curving streets, it was still shocking to see the denuded foothills straight ahead on the freeway. The yellow and brown chaparral, which burst into green every spring as long as rain fell during winter, was now raw dirt. Earthmovers and bulldozers were leveling terraces for another development in another Los Angeles suburb. They pushed the heavy clay soil to and fro across the face of the mountain.
Continue reading “Exercise 4, Part 2: Again and Again and Again”

#BookReview: FORGET NOTHING, great intro to GALAXY’S EDGE universe

Another Audible Original that I’m glad I listened to. “Forget Nothing” is a military sci-fi short in the Galaxy’s Edge universe of stories, which is apparently huge.

I’d never read any of the Galaxy’s Edge stories, so this was a good introduction, and has me interested in picking up more. Continue reading “#BookReview: FORGET NOTHING, great intro to GALAXY’S EDGE universe”

June Write Day: #Gains

I can’t really tell if May flew by or dragged its feet. On one hand, I can’t believe it’s already June, with summer weather in full swing in MD. On the other, it feels like a lot has happened in the last month, both personally and otherwise.

My short take on current protests around the US:

Black Live Matter.

Now then, onto events primarily taking place at the simple new desk pictured above. Continue reading “June Write Day: #Gains”