Hump Day Writing Prompt: Your Story’s Soundtrack

Every Wednesday, I post a writing prompt here. You write about it, if it tickles your creativity bone, and then come share what you wrote on Facebook to get some feedback and see what the other Ninjas have come up with. My goal with these prompts will to be to make them something that can move your current work-in-progress forward.

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Hump Day Writing Prompt-Your Story's Soundtrack

So a funny thing happened at my MFA residency.

I shared a room with a super sweet girl from New Jersey. It was fun having a roommate and living in a dorm room–I didn’t have that experience when I was young. But, it was also slightly strange to work in a quiet environment, but not alone.

So I listened to music, with headphones.

Until that week, I’d never (I mean ever, in my life) written with music on. I didn’t think I could. I thought it would distract me to much. I’ve tried just having music on in the room when I was trying to work and it made me crazy.

Turns out, I was wrong. I still don’t like music on just in the room (I tried again when I got home), but music with headphones is different or some reason, It gives me this weird bubble feeling, like it’s just me, my story, and the music. The rest of the world falls away. Pretty cool.

I thought it would be fun today for us to spend some time thinking about soundtracks for our works-in-progress. Even if you don’t listen to music when you write. Think about a few songs that might inspire your story. If the world fell away to just you and your story and some music, what would that music be?

My Turn

Here’s my soundtrack:

With or Without You: U2
Smells Like Teen Spirit: Nirvana
Fix You: Coldplay
Dissident: Pearl Jam
Try: Pink
Mockingbird: Eminem
Just Like Heaven: The Cure
Slide: Goo Goo Dolls
Ring of Fire: Johnny Cash
Bring on the Dancing Horses: Echo and the Bunnymen
Take me to Church: Hozier

Your Turn

Are you writing this week’s prompt? Leave a comment and let me know! Come on over to the Ninja Writers Facebook group and share your work. Get some feedback, leave some feedback–get involved in the community. I can’t wait to read what you come up with! Also, if you’d like to get a PDF of this post and every Hump Day Writing Prompt, head here and sign up for the Ninja Writers Binder Club. Every month I send out a newsletter that includes those links. Help spread the Ninja Writer word! Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Send a link to it to one writer friend.

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Ninja Writers Academy: Show Vs. Tell

Ninja Writer Academy is a weekly series. Every Saturday morning, I post a lesson here. You can do the work, then come share it on our Facebook group. I’ll be on Facebook on Sunday for Office Hours so we can discuss the lesson, or anything else writing related. If you’d like to join the Academy and get an email on Saturday with a link to the lesson, plus notification when Office Hours start, Click Here.

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The Put Me There Assignment

Ninja Writers Academy-The Put Me There Assignment

Someone posted in our Facebook group about showing and telling and I thought–what a great topic for this week’s Academy post.

Let’s start with some definitions.

SHOWING is scene. It puts the reader in the time and place of the events in the story. When you show, you take the reader to the party with you.

TELLING is narrative or exposition. It leaves the reader in their own time and place, learning about an event that took place somewhere else, sometime else. When you tell, you tell the reader about the party after it’s over.

There is a place for exposition. Sometimes you just need the reader to know that something happened, but they don’t need to actually be at that party with you. But, if you find yourself with pages and pages, or worse chapters and chapters, full of telling, it’s time to unpack some of that into scene.

This week, I’d like you to look at your manuscript. Try printing out some of it, if you can. Highlight showing in one color and telling in another. Look at the telling and ask yourself if any of it should be expanded into a scene.

Scenes usually have dialogue–either between two or more characters or interior dialogue if the character is alone. Scenes unfold for the reader as they unfold for the characters.

My Turn

I’m just going to give you an example this week.

Telling

Rob watched the ambulance leave with Mattie in it. The cop had him in the backseat, because he was brown. Guy was standing on the lawn, because he wasn’t.

Showing

Rob couldn’t see or hear what happened between Mattie and the paramedics, but when the ambulance pulled away, Guy was still standing on the grass.

“What’s your name?” He asked the male cop.

“Farmer.”

“Officer Farmer.” Rob tried to be authentically respectful, but didn’t think he quite made it all the way there. “I have ID in my wallet. In my pocket.”

Farmer didn’t move for a long moment. He watched Guy pacing the grass. Finally, he got out of the back seat of the cruiser and came around to dig Rob’s wallet out of his pocket.

He opened it and found his driver’s license. “Shit.”

“Right?” Rob said. “Want to let me go?”

Farmer uncuffed him. “I’m just doing my job.”

“And I’m the brown one. I get it.”

“It’s not like that.” Farmer walked toward his partner, then stopped and came back. “I’m not like that. Griffith!”

The female officer came toward them.

“This is Robert Huntington,” he said. “And this is his house.”

“He does not own this house.” Guy kept back, on the porch, as if he wanted to keep his claim. “Not anymore anyway. And he broke my nose.”

Griffith came closer to him. “The EMTs should have taken a look at that.”

“I’m fine.”

“You’ll need to have it set.”

“Why aren’t you arresting him?” Guy swung an arm toward Rob.

“We’ll get a report from the girl,” Farmer said.

“Where are they taking her?” Rob asked, ignoring Guy.

“UMC.” Griffith looked at Rob for a moment, then her partner. “Go on.”

He took his wallet back from Farmer and fumbled Frank’s keys out of his pocket.

Your Turn

Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know. Ninja Writers are ALL about the big A word: Accountability. Post here that you’re going to be part of the Academy this week, then do it, Ninja.

Pick a an expository piece from your work in progress and open it up into a scene.

Come by Facebook and share your scene, both ways. Office hours are at noon PST tomorrow (Sunday.) See you there!

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that. It’s totally free–when you sign up, I’ll send you a link.

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Hump Day Writing Prompt #19: Chink in the Armor

Every Wednesday, I post a writing prompt here. You write about it, if it tickles your creativity bone, and then come share what you wrote on Facebook to get some feedback and see what the other Ninjas have come up with. My goal with these prompts will to be to make them something that can move your current work-in-progress forward.

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Chink in the Armor

Hump Day Prompt #19Chink in the Armor

I just finished reading K.L. Going’s incredible book Fat Kid Rules the World. It’s one of my very favorites and it was fun to read it again for my MFA program.

There’s a part of the book that’s stuck with me since the first time I read it. The two main characters, Curt and Troy, are in a diner and Curt is trying to explain something to Troy that he feels wrong even talking about (he relates it to talking about God), but he tries anyway because Troy is so important to him. He asks Troy to watch two seemingly perfect people, a man and a woman who look like they stepped out of a magazine, eat.

It takes half an hour, but all of a sudden Troy sees the chink in the perfect armor. He sees how hard they’re trying and it’s like seeing the man behind the curtain. Punk rock, Curt tells him, is playing music in that space and Troy lives there.

So, I thought this week for our writing prompt, it might be fun to think about where that chink in the armor is for our characters. What is it that your protagonist (or another character, or all of your characters) tries too hard to hide? What is the chink in their armor? What is the thing that, if they could just play there, would make them punk rock?

This is a good exercise, I think, because it deepens our understanding of our characters. No hero should be entirely heroic and no villain should be entirely villainous. Those chinks let their humanity through.

My Turn

My protagonist is Rob Huntington. He’s smart and attractive and highly privileged–the heir to a Las Vegas casino. He’s a teenager, recently orphaned, who at the start of the story suddenly finds himself disconnected from this privileged life that he’s always led.

It took me a little bit to figure out what it is that Rob’s built an armor around–what he tries too hard at, that he wants the world to think is easy. I finally realized that he’s spent his whole life being compared to his larger-than-life, universally well-loved father. He knows, has always known, what his path is: he’ll finish his fancy boarding school (the same one his father attended) and go to Stanford (also like his father) and he’ll marry is best friend Mattie and someday, when his father retires (he never thinks of his father as dead until it happens), he’ll take over the Nott. But, he has to work hard to project to the world that he’s actually capable of any of that (except the being with Mattie part. That’s the only thing he’s certain of.)

He doesn’t think he’s smart enough. He doesn’t really believe that he’ll ever be able to fill his father’s shoes.

Those chinks in his armor–the flashes of the bullshit underneath–show in a couple of ways. He overcompensates and it comes across as arrogance.  And he hesitates when hesitating could mean the difference between life and death.

I’ll talk about my antagonist, too, because this exercise really helped me with him. Guy has built a whole suit of armor around himself, to hide the fact that he feels inadequate. He was raised by his uncle in the same place as Rob, under similar circumstances–but he doesn’t have what Rob has. It seems to him that Rob has everything handed to him on a silver platter and that those same things are always just outside Guy’s reach.

It’s Guy’s flashes of envy that are the chinks in that armor. He has the potential to be a good man, to have a good life, but he tears it apart because nothing is ever good enough. He tries too hard to be better than a boy who he has no reason to even feel competitive with in the first place. It’s Mattie who sees those chinks the clearest, mostly because she also sees the potential in him the clearest.

Your Turn

Are you writing this week’s prompt? Leave a comment and let me know! Come on over to the Ninja Writers Facebook group and share your work. Get some feedback, leave some feedback–get involved in the community. I can’t wait to read what you come up with! Also, if you’d like to get a PDF of this post and every Hump Day Writing Prompt, head here and sign up for the Ninja Writers Binder Club. Every month I send out a newsletter that includes those links. Help spread the Ninja Writer word! Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Send a link to it to one writer friend.

Continue Reading

Ninja Writers Academy: Voice

Ninja Writer Academy is a weekly series. Every Saturday morning, I post a lesson here. You can do the work, then come share it on our Facebook group. I’ll be on Facebook on Sunday for Office Hours so we can discuss the lesson, or anything else writing related. If you’d like to join the Academy and get an email on Saturday with a link to the lesson, plus notification when Office Hours start, Click Here.

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The Who’s Telling This Story Assignment

Ninja Writers AcademyThe Who's Telling This Story Assignment

I know we’ve talked about point of view and tense before, but I want to spend some time today talking about how those things contribute to voice.

Tense and point of view give your reader a sense of who is telling your story and from what distance.

For instance, a story told from an omniscient point of view (this is someone outside of the story relating it to the reader, a god-like narrator who has access to any character’s thoughts and experiences) in the past tense from a point in time far removed from the events tells the story with a wide lens, from a far distance. It’s like sitting around a campfire and being told a story.

A story told in the first person, present tense has a much narrower lens, right? It’s like the narrator (who is the protagonist, usually) dragging you through the events of the story with them, as they are happening.

So, take The Book Thief. It’s told from the omniscient point of view of death from a distance of decades after the events of the story.  It does feel like you met death one day and he’s all–hey, let me tell you this story about this girl. It’s moving and it draws you in, and it’s powerful. There’s lots of space for reflection, because there is so much space between the story that’s being told and when it’s being told.

Then take The Hunger Games, which is told in first person, present tense. It’s so immediate that the reader barely has space to breathe. You feel it right down to your toes when Prim’s name is called at the very end of chapter one and when Katniss yells “I volunteer as tribute!” you’re right there with her.

This week, I’d like you to take a look at your Work-in-Progress and think about the tense and point-of-view of your story, and think about whether or not it reflects the voice you want to employ to tell your story. If you’re not sure, play around, change the tense for a scene or two. Come on over and share a piece of your writing that really shows off your voice.

My Turn

My work in progress is called The Undergrounders and is a Robin Hood retelling set in modern Las Vegas. It’s told from a third person point of view, alternating between the point of view of Rob and Mattie (my Robin and Marion characters.) It’s told in the past tense, from a distance of a few months after the events of the story–so fairly close.

Here’s a scene from Mattie’s point of view, the way it is now in my manuscript:

Mattie eased her father’s bedroom door closed, holding the knob until it latched into place. She resolved, for the hundredth time in the last several weeks, to make him go to a doctor.

She wished she could remember better the last time he’d lost himself this way. She was only six when her mother died. Back then it felt like she’d lost both of her parents.

She knew now that he’d become addicted to the opiates that controlled the pain from his back injury, and that while he struggled with his addiction, Jack took care of them both.

Jack Huntington saved them by moving them into a villa at The Nott and moving with Robin into the villa next door. He’d always been Mattie’s hero. He brought her dad back to her. And now they were both gone.

She couldn’t decide if what was happening to Frank now was a relapse into his addiction, or something else. She didn’t know which to hope for. He could recover again, if he’d relapsed. At least it would be the devil they knew. If he was sick—she shook her head, unable to even follow that thought through.

Every time he slept, she had a surge of hope that he’d wake up and be her dad again. Her real dad, not this alien who had taken over his body.

She was afraid of what the doctor would find wrong with him. It could be something terrible—even worse than addiction. A brain tumor or cancer or some freak mental illness.

Here’s the same scene, re-written so that it’s told in the present tense from the first person point of view:

I ease my father’s bedroom door closed, holding the knob until it latches into place. I resolve, for the hundredth time in the last several weeks, to make him go to a doctor.

I wish I can remember better the last time he lost himself this way. I was only six when my mother died. Back then it felt like I’d lost both of my parents.

I know now that he became addicted to the opiates that controlled the pain from his back injury, and that while he struggled with his addiction, Jack took care of both of us.

Jack Huntington saved us by moving us into a villa at The Nott and moving with Robin into the villa next door. He has always been my hero. He brought my dad back to me. And now they are both gone.

I can’t decide if what is happening to Frank now is a relapse into his addiction, or something else. I don’t know which to hope for. He can recover again, if he’s relapsed. At least it would be the devil we know. If he is sick—I shake my head, unable to even follow that thought through.

Every time he sleeps, I have a surge of hope that he’ll wake up and be my dad again. My real dad, not this alien who has taken over his body.

I’m afraid of what the doctor will find wrong with him. It might be something terrible—even worse than addiction. A brain tumor or cancer or some freak mental illness.

Can you see the difference in voice between the two scenes? With two point of view characters, I probably won’t use a first person point of view in my final draft. (I’ve seen that done, but I have never liked it.) I’m not sure if I’d like third person, present tense either for this story. I like having some space for reflection.

Your Turn

Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know. Ninja Writers are ALL about the big A word: Accountability. Post here that you’re going to be part of the Academy this week, then do it, Ninja.

Pick a scene from your work in progress and play around with the tense and point of view. Is it portraying the voice you want it to? 

Come by Facebook and share your scene, both ways. Office hours are at noon PST tomorrow (Sunday.) See you there!

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that. It’s totally free–when you sign up, I’ll send you a link

Continue Reading

Writing Prompt #18: Gender Swap

Every Wednesday, I post a writing prompt here. You write about it, if it tickles your creativity bone, and then come share what you wrote on Facebook to get some feedback and see what the other Ninjas have come up with. My goal with these prompts will to be to make them something that can move your current work-in-progress forward.

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Hump Day Prompt #18Gender Swap

I just finished the first residency for my low-residency MFA program (at Sierra Nevada College, which was absolutely wonderful and I’ll write more about later.) One of the writing prompts I was given during the residency was to write a scene where I change the gender of my main character.

It was more eye-opening than I thought it would be, because it forced me to think about why I chose to write a male protagonist, and also how the gender of the characters matters to the story. And on a smaller, but also maybe deeper level, how my own gender biases show up in my writing.

I ended up rewriting a scene from my book, which I’ll share below. I swapped the genders of both of my protagonists and my main antagonist. In the original scene, the antagonist (Guy) tells the female protagonist (Mattie) to change clothes and her sort of submissive reaction to that is a flag to the male protagonist (Rob) that something has happened between the two of them. When I tried to just straight up change the genders and keep everything else the same, it didn’t work very well. A 27-year-old woman telling a 17-year-old boy to change his clothes isn’t the same as a 27-year-old man telling a 17-year-old girl to do the same thing.

The prompt this week is to write a scene that changes the gender of at least one of your characters.

My Turn

“Pretty sad that it took this to bring you home.”

Robin clenched her jaw, trying to bite back her anger. If Gail didn’t get out of her space, she was going to lose it. “Is there any way we can just do this some other time?”

“Everything’s always about you, isn’t it, Robin? It always has been.”

“Come on. I just found out like twelve hours ago that I’m an orphan. I can’t deal with you right now.”

Robin started to walk away, back toward the ballroom and all of the mourners who seemed intent on passing a few ounces of their pain and grief onto her. She already felt like a pack mule, staggering under the weight of all of the I’m-so-sorries and your-dad-was-such-a-good-mans.

At the last minute, she diverted, headed toward a familiar hallway instead. Down to the end, then a left, then a right, then down a half-flight of stairs, and finally out a heavy door into the shimmering, dry heat.

She inhaled the hot air and looked at the little pool. It was lined with thousands of tiny tiles in a dozen shades of blue that had always looked like jewels to her when she and Matt were little kids.

Her father kept this pool pristine—officially for the staff, but everyone knew that it was Matt and Robin’s pool. She kicked off her tennis shoes and stood on the first step. The water was bathwater warm.

Her lungs hurt, like she was storing up every tear that wouldn’t fall there and they were full to bursting. She pressed the heel of her palm against the center of her chest, trying to ease the pressure.

It didn’t work.

The door behind her opened, and she said, “I get it Gail, okay? I’m sorry, I’ll go back. I just need a minute.”

She turned to look at the Gail, and suddenly Matt was there. Finally, he was there. She tried to breathe, but her face crumbled and the pain in her chest burst.

He kicked off his own shoes on his way to her and stepped down into the water, even though he was wearing jeans and they got wet to the middle of his calves.

Matt wrapped his arms around her and finally she cried for her father.

***

“Remember when this pool was our favorite place?” Robin said.

“Of course I do.”

“Our lagoon.” Robin sat on the edge of the pool and kicked one foot up, splashing.

Before Matt could answer, the door behind them opened again. No soft swoosh this time. It slammed open and Robin turned around just in time to see Gail throw her hands up as it bounced against the wall and came back to nearly catch her in the face.

“Philip’s looking for you,” she said, when she’d recovered. “You aren’t supposed to be here.”

“I know.” Guilt brought Robin to her feet. All of those people, desperate to tell someone how sorry and sad they were. It was her job to be there for them. “I’ll come back in a minute.”

“Philip wants you now.”

“I know,” Robin said again, trying to keep her battered emotions in check.

“She’ll be there.” Matt stood up, away from the pool. “Relax, Gail.”

Gail’s eyes widened and she pulled back, like he’d physically lashed out at her instead of just lobbing a mild rebuke at her. “You should go change.”

“You mean I shouldn’t go into Jack’s memorial soaking wet?”

She winced and Robin felt a little sorry for her. That feeling dissolved when Gail turned back to her and said, “And you look like you pulled on whatever you found in the bottom of your laundry basket. Pull yourself together.”

“Go to hell, Gail. Really.” Robin bent to pull her shoes onto her still damp feet.

“You can’t talk to me that way.”

Robin straightened. She hadn’t seen Gail in two years. Not once. She’d gotten prettier and nastier. “Yes. I can.”

“No, you can’t.”

“Fuck you.”

Matt choked back a laugh and said, “Robin.”

She shook her head and pushed past the both of them, back into the casino.

Your Turn

Are you writing this week’s prompt? Leave a comment and let me know! Come on over to the Ninja Writers Facebook group and share your work. Get some feedback, leave some feedback–get involved in the community. I can’t wait to read what you come up with! Also, if you’d like to get a PDF of this post and every Hump Day Writing Prompt, head here and sign up for the Ninja Writers Binder Club. Every month I send out a newsletter that includes those links. Help spread the Ninja Writer word! Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Send a link to it to one writer friend.

Continue Reading

Ninja Writers Academy: Dialogue Between More Than Two People

Ninja Writer Academy is a weekly series. Every Saturday morning, I post a lesson here. You can do the work, then come share it on our Facebook group. I’ll be on Facebook on Sunday for Office Hours so we can discuss the lesson, or anything else writing related. If you’d like to join the Academy and get an email on Saturday with a link to the lesson, plus notification when Office Hours start, Click Here.

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The Three’s a Crowd Assignment

Ninja Writers Acadmey-The Three's A Crowd Assignment

Continuing our little series on writing dialogue, I thought that this week we’d talk about writing a conversation between more than two people.

There are some special considerations to keep in mind when you’re writing dialogue that involves more than two people. Attribution becomes more important. When two people are talking it usually looks something like this: A, B, A, B, and so on. Two people generally take turns talking, which makes it super easy for the reader to keep track of who is saying what.

But, add in even one more person and suddenly things are way more complicated. Because three people don’t usually take turns the same way. A three-way conversation doesn’t usually look like this: A, B, C, A, B, C. It’s more like A, B, A, B, C, B, A, C, B, C, B.

You’ll need to attribute more often. You can do that with simple attribution: “Dialogue,” she said.

Or with a beat: “Dialogue.” She did something.

Or with one character saying another’s name, which is something that happens more often in natural dialogue when there are more than two people involved.

Often there is a focal character in any round of dialogue. One person who both (or all) of the other characters are talking to. The cadence would look like this, then: A, C, B, C, A, C, B, C, B, C — and so on.

I will pretty much always fall on the side of less wordiness, so my advice is to use as few words of attribution as you can get away with. If you have three people talking to each other, but two of them have a back and forth, the reader should be able to follow that without attributing every line. Beats should always do double duty, attributing AND somehow moving the story forward with character or plot development.

My Turn

Here’s a little bit of dialogue from my work in progress, a Robin Hood retelling. This is a confrontation between my Robin, Marion, and Guy of Gisbourne characters. Robin and Mattie arrive at Locklsey, Robin’s childhood home, and find Guy living in it.

This is a good example, because you can see how Guy is the center of this conversation. Rob and Mattie take turns talking to him. It’s more important for me to attribute Rob and Mattie’s lines of dialogue than Guy’s, because he’s speaking every other line. There’s also a part where Rob and Guy have a back and forth, which doesn’t need as much attribution.

“Stop it.” When Guy bucked again, Rob let go of one of his arms long enough to slap him across the face, once, hard. “Why do you have to be such an asshole?”

The slap did the trick. Guy went slack. Rob looked at him through a breath or two, then started to get up. As soon as he had his feet under him and was baring his own weight, Guy pushed him with both hands and sent him sprawling.

“Enough!” Mattie put herself between Guy and Rob again. “What’s wrong with you?”

“What do you think you’re doing, Guy?” Rob asked when they were both on their feet. Guy fought like he was protecting his home.

“Jack left this place to Philip. And Philip gave it to me.”

“What are you talking about?” Rob looked around, desperately trying to bring up something. Some memory. Anything that would verify to himself that Locksley was his to fight for. “The will was just read an hour ago. How long have you been here?”

“Your father left it to rot. I’m the one who’s brought it back to life.” He reached a hand toward Mattie. “I was going to show you. Soon.”

“Guy.” Mattie took a step closer to Guy, but stopped when Rob shot her a look. “You had to know this place wasn’t yours. Not really.”

“Jack left it to Philip.”

“Does that even make sense to you?” Rob asked. “My dad’s only been dead for twenty-four hours. Did he know you were living here?”

“You don’t deserve Locksley. You don’t deserve–” Guy shifted his gaze to Mattie, then launched himself at Rob again.

Rob was ready, even desperate for it, but Guy’s next shot was interrupted by Mattie when she stepped in front of him.

Your Turn

Here’s your homework this weekend, Ninja!

Are you in this week? Leave a comment here and let me know. Ninja Writers are ALL about the big A word: Accountability. Post here that you’re going to be part of the Academy this week, then do it, Ninja.

Write a piece of dialogue that involves more than two people. Pay attention to how you keep who is talking straight.

Come by Facebook and tell us about your MC’s clan. I’ll be out of town tomorrow again, so office hours are TODAY at 5 p.m. PST.

Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and spread the word about the Ninja Academy.

If you haven’t joined the Academy yet, you can click here to do that. It’s totally free–when you sign up, I’ll send you a link

Continue Reading

Hump Day Prompt #17: What’s For Breakfast?

Every Wednesday, I post a writing prompt here. You write about it, if it tickles your creativity bone, and then come share what you wrote on Facebook to get some feedback and see what the other Ninjas have come up with. My goal with these prompts will to be to make them something that can move your current work-in-progress forward.

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What’s for Breakfast?

Hump Day Writing Post #17What's For Breakfast (1)

Sometimes it’s the little things that make the difference when you’re writing about a character. The things that might not seem important on their own, but that open your character up to the reader.

Think about this for me. How intimate and sort of exciting is it to know what your significant other likes to eat for breakfast? Not what they’d order in a restaurant. Not what they will eat if someone else is serving them. I’m talking about what they’d eat at home, when they can choose anything.

Is it a cold Poptart? A bowl of oatmeal with maple syrup? Scrambled eggs and sourdough toast? Leftovers from dinner?

Today, take a few minutes and think about what your hero eats for breakfast. Who do they eat it with? How do they eat it? When do they eat it? Is there some food they have to have in the morning that they’d leave the house for if they woke up and found they were out of it?

My Turn

My work-in-progress is a Robin Hood retelling set in modern day Las Vegas. My hero is Rob Huntington, whose father owns a small casino on the Strip and who grow up as Las Vegas royalty. After his mother died when Rob was six, he and his father lived on the Casino grounds.

Even though Rob has access to just about every breakfast food known to man–he could eat at a buffet every morning if he wanted to–his favorite breakfast, growing up, was eating with his best friend Mattie at the cabin next door. Most of the time they ate cold cereal at her kitchen table. He has a sweet tooth and she doesn’t, so he spoons sugar over his Cheerios.

He’s been gone for a while, nearly two years, but Mattie still knows that he takes sugar in his coffee or tea. He’s grieving after the death of his father, they both are, so he draws comfort from the fact that Mattie knows him well enough to know these little things about him. She fixes him a cup of tea the first night he’s home, in the middle of the night when ghosts won’t let him sleep, and he notices that she doesn’t have to ask before she spoons in the exact right amount of sugar and keeps her’s black like she always has.

Your Turn

Are you writing this week’s prompt? Leave a comment and let me know! Come on over to the Ninja Writers Facebook group and share your work. Get some feedback, leave some feedback–get involved in the community. I can’t wait to read what you come up with! Also, if you’d like to get a PDF of this post and every Hump Day Writing Prompt, head here and sign up for the Ninja Writers Binder Club. Every month I send out a newsletter that includes those links. Help spread the Ninja Writer word! Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Send a link to it to one writer friend.

 

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Ninja Writers Academy: Writing Beats

Ninja Writer Academy is a weekly series. Every Saturday morning, I post a lesson here. You can do the work, then come share it on our Facebook group. I’ll be on Facebook on Sunday for Office Hours so we can discuss the lesson, or anything else writing related. If you’d like to join the Academy and get an email on Saturday with a link to the lesson, plus notification when Office Hours start, Click Here.

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The Little Things Assignment

Ninja Writers AcademyThe Little Things Assignment

Last week we talked about attributing your dialogue. Today I want to go a little deeper into the idea of using beats to enhance, direct, and clarify your dialogue.

A beat is a small bit of action that is attached to a line of dialogue. Instead of writing ‘she said’ or ‘he asked’, a beat not only lets the reader know who is speaking, it builds the scene by giving the reader a visual. A beat can also help with character and setting development.

It’s always a good thing when your writing is multi-purpose. A straight up attribution does one thing: it tells the reader who is speaking. Nothing more, nothing less.

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Hump Day Writing Post #16: The Kiss

Every Wednesday, I post a writing prompt here. You write about it, if it tickles your creativity bone, and then come share what you wrote on Facebook to get some feedback and see what the other Ninjas have come up with. My goal with these prompts will to be to make them something that can move your current work-in-progress forward.

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The Kiss

Hump Day Prom

Reading Truman Capote’s novella ruined the movie version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s for me. (If you ever want to read a truly perfect story, pick up this one.) Even though the book is a thousand times better than the movie, the film version still has one of my most favorite Hollywood kisses of all time. Everything about the end shot of the film is just right–the rain, the silly wet cat, Audrey Hepburn’s face, Moonriver playing in the background, and that kiss.

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Ninja Writers Academy: Attributing Dialogue

Ninja Writer Academy is a weekly series. Every Saturday morning, I post a lesson here. You can do the work, then come share it on our Facebook group. I’ll be on Facebook on Sunday for Office Hours so we can discuss the lesson, or anything else writing related. If you’d like to join the Academy and get an email on Saturday with a link to the lesson, plus notification when Office Hours start, Click Here.

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The Who Said What Assignment

Ninja Writers Academy-The Who Said What Assignment

Whenever I ask what Ninjas would most like to learn about writing, dialogue always comes up. It’s one of those things that is both super important and often difficult. I thought we’d take the next few weeks and break writing dialogue down to a few elements.

Let’s start with attribution.

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