July 31, 2013

Chrys Fey’s 30 Day Writing Challenge

A while ago I was trying to find a writing challenge to complete. I scrounged the internet and found a couple, but was not satisfied with their quality, so I created my own!

The goal of my writing challenge is to give you ideas for future stories and characters, but also to get your creative juices flowing by writing about memories and even wishes. The best thing about my challenge is that there are no guidelines. You can write two sentences, two paragraphs, or two pages; whatever moves you! You don’t even have to do the challenges 30 days in a row. You can do multiple challenges in a single day, one once a week, or pick and choose the ones you want to do. 

Shortened prompts that you can save, use, and share on social media.

1. Start a piece with: “Once upon a time…”

2. Open a book at random and pick a line. Use that line as the beginning of your piece and continue writing from where it leaves off. Pen the first thoughts that come to mind and don’t revise it.

3. If you could go on a vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go? Use vivid details and prose to describe the experience you would like to have.

4. Create a character off the top of your head and write a short history about them.

5. Write about a dream or nightmare that you’ve had. Turn it into a short-short story.

6. Start a piece with: “I am standing at my kitchen window…” (Be creative! Make the piece fit a specific genre such as mystery, horror, romance, etc.)

7. What is your favorite season? Use vivid details and even include memories you have of that season.

8. Pick the title of one of your favorite songs and write a piece about it. Give the lyrics meaning by creating a story for it.

9. You’re sitting in a coffee shop when you look up and see _______. Write a fictional piece about what would happen if you saw a celebrity in a coffee shop. (Humorous/suspenseful)

10. Find something that you wrote a long time ago (published or unpublished) and rewrite the beginning. Give it a different tone.

11. Write a short nonfiction piece about your first job.

12. Turn someone you know and love into a character. Write about them. Give them a fictional life.

13. Describe your dream home as if you are living in it now.

14. Recreate the sentence: “It was a dark and stormy night.” Expand it into a paragraph or two if you are so moved.

15. Write about a memory from your childhood. Good or bad. Give it new life and insight.

16. The next time you are eating, write about the food on your plate or in your bowl. Describe every portion. And as you are eating, write about all the tastes on your tongue.

17. What is your favorite holiday? Write a short-short about a character experiencing that holiday and everything you associate with it.

18. Think of your favorite book growing up. Use the title as inspiration for your next piece. What do you imagine when you read that title? Write a poem or a paragraph.

19. What were you like as a child? Describe little you as you would a character in a book. 

20. What is your sun sign? (Aries, Virgo) Use your sign as inspiration for a character (protagonist or antagonist) or setting (world or made-up town).

21. Go outside. Sit on the porch, in the garden, or at the beach, and write about nature.

22. Create a past life for yourself. Who were you? What did you do?

23. Write a journal entry for your favorite fictional character.

24. If you went on a road trip or cruise, describe the experience you would like to have and places you’d like to see.

25. Theme: Water (Write anything that comes to mind involving water.)

26. What do you imagine the future will be like? Write a short science fiction piece.

27. What is your favorite fairy tale? Give it a new ending.

28. What are you like now? Describe yourself as if you were a character in one of your books.

29. End a piece with: "But that wasn’t the end."

30. Write a letter to your muse. (Dear Muse,)

I hope you have fun with this challenge! Thank you for participating!

July 30, 2013

Rules For Writing: Don’t Repeat Words

There is a rule I’ve heard (from authors) that you shouldn’t repeat the same word within the same paragraph (referring to adjectives, adverbs, and verbs), or if it is a word you don’t hear often like “gargantuan” you shouldn’t use it more than once in a whole piece.

I believe this writing rule and I will explain why.

Writers shouldn’t repeat the same word(s) in a single paragraph or in the same scene, because it only shows a writer’s weaknesses.

For example: if you are writing a fight, you will find that you tend to repeat the same sort of action verbs over and over again. There are only so many ways to describe the action, but that’s where you have to get creative, search a thesaurus, or use Google to find alternative words, because recycling the word “slammed” gets old rather quickly. A reader will immediately notice the overuse of such a word, and then the fight scene you wrote won’t flow as well.

Here are other verbs to try for a fight:

Photo by Chrys Fey

There are a lot more than I could think in one sitting so go ahead and use them all!

A fight isn’t the only event that this rule applies to, but any type of event you may be writing (childbirth, a love scene, torture, etc.) If you overuse a word that describes an action in a single scene, you threaten killing it. And no, I am not being a dramatic writer. When you write a word repeatedly, and in close proximity, you literally risk that word from losing its impact and meaning. But more importantly, you put your work in danger of becoming boring and lazy, if all of your action scenes repeat the same verbs.

This is especially true for a powerhouse word. A powerhouse word is a word that you don’t hear every day, or even read in every book. Like: magnanimous, lickerish, bombastic . . . Using these words is great, but since they stand out so much only use them once! And make sure you’re not just using them to have them in your book, but that they have a real purpose.

TIP: Keep a list of words that you can look at, so if you're tempted to overuse a specific word (such as a verb) you can quickly check your list of favorite synonyms to swap it out with. This idea can even be used for alternative words/phrases to begin sentences.

QUESTION: Do you agree or disagree with this rule? Why or why not?

July 23, 2013

Writing About: An Interrogation

For a mystery novel, or a story about murder, you may find you need to write about an interrogation, as I had to.

Interrogations are meant to exploit a person’s weaknesses with dominance, control, and consequence. The goal of an interrogation is to always get a confession. To write a convincing interrogation, you really have to understand the role of the police officer in the scene as well as the suspect’s role. 

#1 Decide on the interrogator’s stance.
A.   The police officer should either try to get on the suspects good side by letting the suspect know he/she can trust them, and voicing that they are there to help and the only way for them to do that is if the suspect is completely honest. In other words, be the “good cop”. 
B.   Or the police office can play the “bad cop” (my favorite tactic), and browbeat the suspect into confession by getting in their face, scaring them with the facts of what they are facing, and even lying about evidence to get a confession.
#2 Pick the suspect’s role.
A.   If the suspect is innocent, or you want to paint them that way, the suspect should seem confused and horrified at what is going on. They can portray nervousness because they didn’t do what the detectives are claiming they did. They could even show fear for their own lives or for someone they know. 
B.   If the suspect is guilty you could still use the technique from A, but make them jittery and more nervous to portray the fact that they are lying by stuttering, backtracking their statements, and not being coherent. Of course, there is another route to go here. The road where the detectives know the suspect is guilty, and heck, the suspect knows it too! This is where the suspect will be cocky, find humor in the situation, mock the detectives, and not show an ounce of concern for the crime committed. 

Image by Chrys Fey

Next you have to understand interrogation techniques. In the initial interview, which determines guilt or innocence, the detective can use casual conversation to get the suspect talking so they might be thrown off by questions about the crime and have a difficult time lying.

Interrogations 101:
· The detective will present the facts of the case and the evidence against the suspect. 
·  The detective could create a story for why the suspect committed the crime. 
· The detective will cut off the suspect when he/she begins to deny their involvement. 
· The detective could encourage the suspect to talk about the crime.
What happens during this process depends on the roles you chose for the characters and the outcome you want to occur. Plot is always something you have to keep in mind!
FACT #1: When the suspect is remembering something (that happened), his/her eyes will often move to the right, but when he/she is thinking about something (like a story or a lie) his eyes might move upward or to the left. 
FACT #2: If the suspect starts fidgeting, licking his lips, or running his hand through his/her hair, these are signs that he/she is lying.
To help you further write an interrogation, research police interrogations and psychological police tactics. And yes, watching shows and movies can be helpful too.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I am not a professional. I do not know everything about interrogations, just enough to write a fictional one.

July 16, 2013

On My Shelf: Hello, Darkness by Sandra Brown

Hello, Darkness by Sandra Brown is a really good book. She successfully cloaks the protagonist, a female radio personality, in mystery. Why does Paris Gibson wear sunglasses all the time, even in dim lighting? Every time Sandra Brown would show a glimpse of Paris’ past I’d literally ask out loud, “But why does she wear sunglasses?”

Sandra Brown was great at keeping the killer a secret too. Normally, I can figure out who the bad guy is half way through a book, but when I thought it was one character she’d make me believe it was another. She definitely tricked me at the end! So I give her props for that! It’s not easy to trick me.

If you want to learn more about adding a splash of mystery around a character and how to trick your readers with the identity of the killer, read this book!

I tried to pretend I was Paris Gibson . . .

The only downside that I found difficult while reading this book was all the different perspective changes, which is sort of a trademark for Sandra Brown. Each chapter was from another character’s point-of-view, and I lost track of how many perspective changes there were. At times, it became hard to follow and I’d have to remember who the character was. But somehow she made it work.

As a reader though, I find that when I’m reading a book that switches perspectives I always anticipate the return of the protagonist, the character who I feel more of a connection to. When I’m reading a chapter about a whole other character, I don’t care as much.

Writing a book with many character perspectives is an art form. You have to do it just right or you’ll muddle the story and confuse your readers.

TIP #1: When you’re writing a book that needs more than one perspective, two is always a good choice because it’s easy to write, and to follow as a reader. If you must have more, I wouldn’t pass four key players. Anymore than that and you risk your reader’s sanity! Also the plot could take a hit from so many perspective changes. Of course, this is just my opinion. 
TIP #2: Read books by authors who have mastered multiple character perspectives. Study how they keep the story going while flipping from character to character.

QUESTIONS: Do you like books with multiple perspectives? Do you have a favorite Sandra Brown book?

Mine is Chill Factor. This book is a great example of how to successfully write multiple perspectives. Chill Factor will give you frostbite in the heat of summer, and make you question every character’s innocence. 

July 09, 2013

Writing About: Fictional Terrorism

Author’s Note: This post is for literature purposes only! It is meant to instruct writers on how to write about a fictional act of terror, or other such tragic event, in their book.
Chapter Thirteen in WIP is about a devastating event that kills countless people. It is an attack that cripples my fictional world and leaves the protagonist in shambles. Writing this chapter was difficult for many reasons, but I will share how I accomplished it.
First, you have to know what you’re going to write and it has to make sense to your story. That is always key!
·  What is the event? A bombing? A massacre? A fire? 
·  Who are the victims and who are the enemies? 
·  What does your protagonist do? Does he/she witness it happening? See it on the news? Or does he/she respond to it as a firefighter, police officer, or medic?
Photo by Chrys Fey
Next, you have to plan out everything that you want to happen during that tragic event. If you are writing the event as it happens, you will want to reveal the enemies point -of-view and every hideous thing they do.
TIP: Watching war movies can help you to figure this out.
You don’t have to describe the event as it happens though, but once your characters and readers are made aware of it, it is your duty to describe the aftermath.
How much you reveal depends on your protagonists’ role. If your protagonist finds out about it on the news, the details will be coming to them secondhand. There have been many tragic events we have watched unfold on our television screens . . . recall what ran through your head and how you reacted during those moments to capture your character’s feelings.
If your protagonist is in the midst of the chaos, you really have to dive into the action. Use descriptions to bring destruction and death to the page, and make your readers feel as though they are standing right next to your protagonist while everything is happening.
· Sight: Is smoke blackening the sky? Are buildings ruined? Are bullets on the ground? 
· Smell: The arsenic burn of fire? The stench of death? 
· Hear:  Are there sirens? Are survivors screaming? 
· Taste: Is smoke on their tongue? Or bile from their fear? 
·  Feel: Do they have blood on their hands?
Photo by Chrys Fey
Use every sense possible and go with your protagonist every step of the way from the second they arrive on the scene to when they leave.
Finally, you must bring the event full circle by writing about how it ends. This task took me a few chapters to write because there are several stages. First, what does your protagonist feel afterward? What is their emotional state? How does it directly impact their life? How does he/she move on? In my book, I give details to the search and recovery process, the cleanup, as well as the memorial service for all those lost.
The very last thing you have to consider is how this event works into the rest of your story. In my book, it causes a war.

SHARE: Your tips for writing about a tragic event.

July 02, 2013

Ten Tips On How To Be A Better Writer

Throughout my writing journey, I have learned a lot about writing. And I want to share with you what has made me a better writer.

Here are my Ten Tips on How To Be a Better Writer:

1.  Be open to criticism. 
Criticism, when given in the writing industry, is often given to help you, not criticize you. If an editor or agent scribbles a note on your query letter or in the margins of your story, pay attention to what it says because the fact that they took the time to actually jot it down for you is a big deal. Not many will do that, especially on a story they don’t want. And if you passed your story onto a trusted friend to read, listen to what they have to say even if it ruffles your feathers. After you cool down, you might realize that what they said was true and very helpful.  
2.  Never be afraid to rewrite. 
We may hate it, but rewriting is how we expand and perfect our writing skills. If something doesn’t feel right about a certain scene you were writing, take a step back, picture the scene in your head, and make notes. Then rewrite that scene from the beginning using your notes and the trapped imagine in your mind. I bet it will come out better! 
 How To Rewrite A Book
3.  Don’t ever let anyone discourage you, especially yourself! 
I am my own worst biggest critic when it comes to my writing. I read books by other authors and sometimes slam it shut on the first page and say, “Jeez! I don’t write like that!” Then I get all full of anguish and start to doubt myself and my writing ability. But I am a talented writer. When I go back and reread what I have written, I often am amazed that I had written it. You have to remember that you won’t sound like other authors because you are unique and what you write is amazing in its own right. When it is someone else who is discouraging you, brush them off because you don’t need them anyway!  
Don’t Give Up!
4.  Write every day! Or at least try to write every day. 
Pick a time of day that is best for you to write, and tell yourself, “This is my writing time! Nothing is going to stop me from writing!” Make it a rule that you are off limits during your writing time. No kids, husbands, pets, phone calls, tweets, or status updates will interrupt you! Once you get into that mind frame you will have a much easier time writing. 
I usually write every day, but sometimes I just don’t feel like it, or life gets in the way. The thing with writers is that we don’t really get a break from our job. Workers can clock out at 5:00pm and go home, but writers are always on the job.  
“A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.” –Eugene Ionesco   
5.  Read, read, and read some more. Definitely read outside of your genre. 
Aside from writing, reading is the best way for a writer to grow and learn. Read books by authors you love. Even pick up a book from an author you say you don’t like, because their books are now movies and you’ve decided to boycott them. You may be surprised, or you may read the first page and see you were right to not like them after all. Definitely read books in your genre, but most importantly read books outside your genre. You can learn so much about writing by reading different types of books. 
If an editor or agent sees either of these things in your story, they will most likely pass on it if there is too much to fix. Save yourself time and rejection by cutting out as much as you can now! 
6.  Avoid clich├ęs and passive voice. 
7.  Keep learning about the craft of writing. 
Nothing can make you a better writer than continuing to learn about writing. You can pick up books from libraries like “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” by Anne Lamott or Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. There are many books written by authors about writing and the writer’s life. Joining a writer’s group or association can also teach you a lot. Obviously, writing classes can also benefit you in honing your skills. Even when you’re published, don’t stop learning about writing!   
8.  Edit your book 3 times then step back with your hands in the air before you kill it. 
Editing is the most frustrating part of writing. You may end up thinking you’re only going to do it once, but once is never enough. You should read your book first with an editor’s eye to catch grammar mistakes, passive voice, and to fix sentences. Then read it a second time as a reader to see what someone else might experience while reading your book. This gives you the chance to fix any discrepancies in the story. If you must, go over it a third time, but no more than that! You have to know when to leave it alone and move on. I did. 
9.  Make sure you understand the rules of grammar or know someone who does. 
I may be a talented writer, but I am not so good with grammar. And that is not a crime! All you can do is learn as much about grammar as you can while you are writing, and then find someone who loves grammar to proofread your work when you finish editing it. 
10.  Write outside of your comfort zone whenever possible.
Writing outside of your comfort zone strengthens your writing and can even reveal skills that you never thought you had. I don’t just writer thrillers or stories laced with the supernatural, and the subject matters in my stories are also vastly different. I have even written in the first person. If you try your hand at many different genres, subjects, and point-of-views, you will a better writer! Guaranteed!  
SHARE: Your tips to becoming a better writer.