Exercise #5

We were asked to write a scene with specific details that would apply later on. Chekov’s gun: If you have a gun on the stage, it has to go off at some point. And the character must want something and have a weakness preventing them from acquiring it.


“Rich Sameuls, what’s a multi-millionaire doing in a warehouse with wanted felons?”

My eyes opened. Grimy floors and a ratty armchair made me want to get up. My hands tied with abrasive hemp rope kept me where I was. The smell of gasoline hit my nose and gave me a headache. My clothes were soaked through.

“Hey, Richie boy.”

I looked up, feeling weak. They must’ve heard about my recent influx of cash.

A man stood there in front of a limousine, the cigar in his mouth smelling sour and a suit too big for him — a little man trying to play it big. I needed a laugh, but a cigarette more.

“We put some bacteria under your skin. Hey, get the Doc.”

A reedy man in a lab coat was brought over at gunpoint. What a pitiful man. “You have 24 hours to live without treatment, maybe less. I beg you, give them what they want.”

“Account number, Rich.”

The money wasn’t mine to begin with. It was a dead friend’s, money owed to the Russian mafioso. Getting on their bad side meant death. “I’d settle for a cigarette. Don’t need your pesky antidote.”

“Fine, a cigarette and we leave you to the virus. Or your account number and treatment for your little problem. I have an ambulance waiting outside.”

“Can’t I have both?” I couldn’t give them the account number if I wanted to live. Nor go on living without that antidote. So many problems to deal with.  

“Get your mind onto something, Rich.” They walked into an office behind the limousine, leaving me tied to the chair — amateurs.

I pulled at the sandpapery ropes tying my hands. There was wiggle room, just enough to squeeze my hands through. A guy needed to relax before a cigarette could do any good. Anger killed the mood. If I was going to go, I’d be happy. I broke the wooden handle off the chair and broke a window on the limo with it. Working quick, I opened the trunk.

Mr. Cigar and Mr. Gun came running out.

I pulled the guns from the trunk and peppered the air with lead. Bullets flew back and forth, making a hell of a racket.

Mr. Cigar swung open a door leading outside and pulled Mr. Gun through behind him — cowards.

I ran out there with the biggest guns I could find.

My kidnappers were holed up in the ambulance. There was nothing else around for miles in the blown sand.

My leg was on fire from the bacteria eating into me.

“Last chance Rich, the antidote to your ills or death.”

“Know what I want?”

“Yeah?”

“I want a cigarette!”

I put the grenade launcher to my shoulder and fired.

An explosion filled the darkening sky.

Brushing the gasoline from my hands and face with sand, I pulled a cigarette from my pocket and lit up. With my leg killing me, I got in their limousine with the Doc riding shotgun. The driving wasn’t hard until I was crying out in pain. Turns out, I didn’t have a day.

GK

Exercise #4

We were asked to write a story less than 300 words including words from a list. The protagonist should want something and have a weakness stopping them from getting what they want.


What did it cost for a meal? Some would say a buck twenty-five, but you needed a restaurant, a place with appliances to cash that buck twenty-five. That shouldn’t have been all that hard with a forward thinking brain, which I lacked. Being in the middle of the desert did me no good aboard a car running on gasoline fumes. I hiked through the desert heat, tipping water into my mouth. The memory of water on my lips was all I had now. I schlepped through the desert heat. The heat was a tiger on my back, scratching with its claws of UV rays and sapping the life by eating away at me. A car pulled up alongside — how the angels smiled on me. A hand full of rings waved me to the door of my salvation, except her body seized and her eyes went blank.

I pushed the opposing lock free and got into her Cadillac. I searched for her pulse, and just my luck, she wasn’t pretending — she was dead. I pushed her into the neighboring seat, and I had to drive for her. Driving, looking like I owned her Cadillac was the trick, but who was I kidding when the cops pulled me over.

“I was driving her to the hospital, Officer.”

He dangled a carrot of Why don’t we call an ambulance? and quicker than that I was in the cage of the local jail.

“What’s a guy got to do for a meal?”

My stomach burned up with acid , like it was about to explode.

GK

Exercise #3

We were supposed to write a scene from the first-person point of view and rewrite it in the omniscient third-person point of view, where the writer gives the reader access to the minds of multiple characters within a single scene.


First-person:

Conversations buzzed around me as I reached into the fridge for my second and last crudité platter. All the wine we had was already in play. There wasn’t much more I could do with all the people walking in through our door. My husband was happy in a crowd, surrounded by strangers and grappling for attention. Brushing against people in the trip from the fridge to the table made me cringe. Setting down the platter and sidelining another group, I dropped into the couch to watch the game.

“Honey, could you get over here?”

Everyone looked in my direction as I waded through the crowd to his side, the receiver to his quarterback.

Dave, my husband put his arm loose around my waist. “This is Monica and her husband. They knew the previous owner.”

“Could we go outside to talk?” Getting their nods, I ushered them outside through the sliding door. I stood there with the little notebook from my back pocket to jot stuff down. I felt like a waitress.

Fifteen minutes later, their fire hose of gossip had dried up and seven pages were full of my scribbled writing. I took them back inside and found Dave sipping punch with the neighborhood Dads. Slipping Dave the notebook, I guzzled a champagne bottle into the punch bowl and the rest of the sugary tea base. Dave took my hand. We went through the party together. Here and there, I caught snippets of the game. Football wasn’t my thing. It was the way I related to people. It was my distraction from the crowd squeezed into our home.

Tired out from the social interaction, I sat down to watch the game and ate some Swedish meatballs.


Omniscient third-person:

Stephanie reached into the fridge for the crudité platter she had left. Her husband, Dave was across the room, entertaining the guest flooding their house warming party. Stephanie went through the room to set the platter were the empty one lay. She made her way to the couch to watch the game.

Halfway across the room, Dave made a discovery. Their neighbors knew the man that lived in the house a few months before Stephanie and Dave moved in. Stephanie would want a break, Dave thought. “Honey, could you come over here?”

Stephanie came over, feeling the press of the crowd once more.

“Honey, this is Mary and Chris. They knew the previous owner.”

“Oh?”

Mary and Chris nodded.

Stephanie brought them out onto the deck and took out a pocket notebook to jot down what they said. Chris hated their previous neighbor’s guts. There was a feud between them. Lawns were mowed without ownership. Sprinkler systems interwove. A few plants poisoned and trash jettisoned where it didn’t belong.

Having collected what they had to say, Stephanie passed their notes on to Dave. The punch bowl filled, Dave took Stephanie around the party, making introductions. All Stephanie wanted was a seat to watch the game. Wasted from the social interaction, Stephanie took the seat she wanted and ate Swedish meatballs. Football made talking to people easier, a common point of reference she felt awkward without.

GK

What Gets Me to Write

Knowing my “Why”

Knowing why you write is the most important realization you can make as a writer to get your words out into the world and to attract an audience. Your why leads back to what you believe. Anything that starts with a deep belief has the power to change the world. These are the reasons why I write and the beliefs tied to each one.


To find meaning in my life.

There needs to be a meaning to everything in my mind, or it risks falling into nihilism. What’s the point if nothing means anything beyond the observable and provable?

That questioning spirals into negative self talk, dragging me back into the wells of depression that meaning helps me escape.

I believe meaning comes from what we assign meaning to. Each person’s life is separate. A set of viewpoints should never be imposed on anybody, but actions that harm others still need to have consequences.

To not feel alone.

Writing helps me connect with readers and the imaginary characters I create.

We can never see a person as they actually exist. The brain constructs a model, a character if you will of that person and updates that simulacrum to match the inputs from the real world. We never interact with a real person before thinking how our model of them would react.

Writing about a character utilizes this faculty even more than interacting with an actual person, because it’s impossible to interview a fictional character. It all comes from the writer’s observations and empathy.

I believe people connecting with other people will make the world a better. Huddling in groups that only share our world view isn’t the way forward.

To feel what I never can.

I live a limited life as it is. Things required to keep me alive and my lack of ability keep me limited in real life.

In my imagination, on my computer, those limitations are smaller until they vanish. I can be anybody, anything, or all powerful in my imagination and hold onto it by writing it down.

I believe it’s better to have experienced something good even if it’ll hurt in the end.

To be heard how I want to be.

I have a speech impairment that limits how well I can be understood.

To get through a day and have my needs met is an exercise in patience, creative wording, and knowing the limits of what can be understood.

Sure, I could use a communication device that tracks the movement of my eyes, but not more than an hour, with the exact placement, and the time typing in something I

want to say.

Otherwise, I move my lips with a trace of sound to be understood.

On my laptop with a mouse and waccom tablet, I can type at a reasonable speed exactly what I want to say, how I want to say it.

Writing fiction gives me a perfect conduit to feel like I can be understood.

I believe everyone deserves an equal voice.

To reach flow.

Flow is a state by which someone is driven by a focused energy to be immersed and enjoy an activity without regard for anything else going on.

Achieving a state of flow requires something challenging, measurable, and rewarding.

Writing fills those three criteria for me.

I believe good things happen when people are challenged, have measurable goals, and are rewarded for their accomplishments.

Thank you for reading.

GK

How to get Better as a Writer: The Truth

There are a few things that worked for every writer

There’s no easy way to become a great writer.

There are ways to get better that have worked for other people.

1. Read in your genre.

You discover what exactly you’re trying to write.

It gives you a rolodex of techniques writers use to accomplish things.

Options you have with plot.

You can start in the middle and tell us the rest.

Start at the end and tell us everything.

Duex Ex Machina

Introduce the character that saves everyone from the beginning.

Describe a characters face.

A.) Have another character describe the protagonist.¹

B.) Wipe the characters memory so they discover their own face alongside you.²

C.) Have the character in a disassociated state looking in the mirror.³

D.) Have them wonder how that face can stand for the complex person they are.⁴

E.) Have a beautiful person describe how sentiments of beauty feel.

they’d tell me how pretty I was — but that comment really said nothing about me — Emma Lindsay

Understand of the rules behind those methods.

Describing a persons face.

Looking in the mirror describes vanity.

Otherwise, set up a situation where it’s natural to think about how you look.

That is the benefit of a writer reading books.

2.) Writing is the purpose of a writer.

There is no better way to get good at something than doing it often and for many years.

Writing is the only thing that will make you a better writer.

3.) Get feedback: the input guiding you how to write.

Writing for yourself has it’s benefits.

Writing for others came be far more rewarding.

Writing in an easily digestible form is impossible without feedback.

You can’t read your own writing without letting bias in.

Getting an interested outside opinion is the easiest way to figure out what you are doing well, and what needs work.

With that information, you can direct your efforts to correct your mistakes and capitalize on your strengths.

Editing your own work is the deliberate practice of a writer.

When you hit 10,000 hours of rewriting, you’ll be a skilled writer — Venkatesh Rao

Editing gets you to see what you’ve written from a position of reflection and optimization.

You see mistakes made and errors missed.

Editing is when you improve and grow.

Editing makes a huge difference. If it doesn’t, you aren’t doing it right.

That’s the writing process.

It has to be repeated again and again throughout your writing journey.

That’s the work of the writer. Used over and over for years and months will make you a great writer.

That’s all there’s to it.

Writing, editing, getting feedback aren’t the hard things.

Doing battle by choosing to write day after day, going on despite the rejection a writer faces, choosing writing above more socially acceptable things, and finishing.

Then starting again.

As much as we want a secret that we are missing, a secret to success — it doesn’t exist without the work of writing.

There’s a caveat here.

Some strategies help make you a better writer.

1.) Write every day.

Writing at least 300 words a day.

Start small.

I will think what to write every single day.

I will write something every single day.

Meeting this goal should be doable, but not too easy as well.

Starting to meet these goals turns writing from something fun you do when you have time into something that’s a required part of your day to feel happy.

2.) Write things you aren’t ready to write.

Some ideas are scary to write out.

A skill, understanding of the world, or writing ability isn’t quite good enough.

That’s where the possibility of growth lies.

Doing something hard puts you in a situation were stagnation means failure.

The only way to succeed is to grow.

Choose something challenging that isn’t so hard it crushes your motivation.

Repeated failure is a motivation crusher.

Success and growth keep you coming back day after day.

It’s hijacking your reward system to work for you instead of being led around by it.

3.) Take breaks from writing.

Writing can’t be forced.

Sit at your desk writing until the ideas stop flowing.

Take a short break.

Check facebook or whatever then return to writing.

Those things make a great writer.

GK

Defeating Anxiety: How to Write Awesome Content without Fear

Getting past the anxiety of writing.

Writing awakens your insecurities.

It’s logical.

Writing is a solitary activity. Other people aren’t going to constantly validate or demean your writing. People need that to stay in the game.

Without feedback your insecurities have free rein.

It’s like how you imagine seeing shapes or colors with your eyes closed. There’s nothing there, but something appears. That apparition is from the lack of sensory perception. There’s nothing to see except interference.

Getting feedback from another person or even yourself helps.

Reading over what you’ve written opens your eyes to what’s really there.

In a vacuum of perception, your fears, anxieties and insecurities take over.

Battling Anxiety

1. Before sitting down to write.

Follow your routine.

2. In the process of writing.

Read something you’ve written before that you know is good. Truth scares away anxiety.

3. After you’re done writing.

Ask someone you trust to read it and give you feedback. Don’t be blind to your successes or your improvement.

Perfection doesn’t exist.

Striving for perfection leaves you stranded.

Too scared to try or too scared to move on to something else that could work better.

The goal here is improvement.

Improving is growth. That’s all you want.

Unattainable goals like perfection sap away your motivation.

No matter how hard I try, my goal doesn’t get closer, so why should I even try.

Something achievable keeps you coming back each day.

Coming back day after day and putting in the work separates a great writer from a writer lost in the crowd.

GK

Don’t be a Slave to the Writing Process

Figure out your writing process. Don’t follow one blindly.

There are methods or a “process” that a writer uses.

You’ll be questioned about process if you ever get anything published in any meaningful way. But process can’t be transplanted from writer to writer. It’s something you have to discover for yourself.

Ray Bradbury wrote about his process.¹

  1. Make lists of what he’s thinking, short one to two word phrases.
  2. Find something that has a story behind it and write a lyric poem.
  3. Keep going as lyric poem turns into prose.

Following that process doesn’t work for me.

  1. I can’t write poetry.
  2. I can’t keep lists, because I barely have enough time to write as is.

My method is wildly different.

  1. Meditate daily.
  2. Come up with ideas when inspiration strikes or meditation leads me there.
  3. Run through everything I plan to write again in a meditative state.
  4. Sit down and type very slowly. That’s as fast as I can type.

That process isn’t going to work if your lived experience is different than mine.

Writing is an individualized act.

The product is generally recognized, but there are umpteenth ways to arrive there.

You’ll have varying success with everything you try.

It speaks to how difficult writing is.

You need to discover the process that best suits you.

It’ll be a mixed bag of the processes out there that no other writer uses to the letter.

Things like this are best figured out when you try things, everything you can find within reason until something gets you writing to the best of your ability.

It’ll be something close to who you are deep inside your soul.

Maybe you’re from the meditation camp or the poetry camp.

Whatever works is your process.

Resources

  1. Bradbury, Ray. Zen in The Art of Writing (p. 11-12). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

GK