Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"60 vs. 16"

Exercise #65 : "60 vs. 16"

Suppose you re, or your character, is 60 years old. In your (or his/her) opinion, in what ways does a 16-year-old lack wisdom and/or perspective?

I can always tell when I don't really like an exercise when I type it into the little entry box in blogger and immediately open facebook in another tab... I mean, this is a good exercise. It gets me to thinking about the perspective of a 60-year-old. If I ever plan on writing older characters, this is good... so why am I having such a hard time simply sitting down and writing this? Being that it's 4pm, I'm already running late on this post. Well, I guess it's time to wing it.

I am going to do this exercise (and probably all of October's exercises) in preparation for my NaNoWriMo idea. I've actually decided to take my current work in progress and transfer it to NaNoWriMo. You see, the problem with this particular story is that I have a good portion of the plot figured out, I know my main characters, and the only thing left to do really is sit down and friggin' write it. I think NaNoWriMo will be good motivation for me. Of course, the initial product at the end of November will probably be a piece of crap, but it will definitely be a strong jumping off point. All in all, I'm very excited.

Ok. So the character is the lead male, first mate aboard a smuggling / privateer vessel. In accordance with this exercise, he is now 60 years old.

Begin...

Look at him. He's so green that you can practically smell it. The way he holds himself, he's so eager to please, so unaware of how tough life is going to be from now on... Part of me wants to tell him, but another part of me - the smarter part - knows that's something he has to learn on his own. And he will learn it, one way or another. It's not like anything I would say would make a difference, anyway. He would be just like I was, certain that his experience would be different, that he would be happy and successful in the end. Success may become his, but happiness? A shred of it, perhaps, but certainly not in any way that he expects.

Uh... This isn't nearly 5 minutes, but I can't think of anything else to put. So... End?

haha

Anyways, that's it for today. Sorry this post was so horribly delayed. Oy.

Peace.
Stef.

"A Little Scene" & an Announcement

I'm going to be a jerk and make you wait until the end of this post for my announcement. teehee

Exercise #64 : "A Little Scene"

The aunt loves to play the piano, but she has arthritis. Her niece comes to visit. The niece offers to play the piano. Write the scene.

This seems very mundane to me. Or... at least it has the definite ability to be verrrrrrrrry boring. So I guess I'll just try to spice the crap out of this prompt and try to add as much conflict as possible.

Go.

Maria Petrakova slid her hands gently over the ivory keys of her antique Steinway. The keys were well-worn, but that was to be expected. She had played on it since she was young. Closing her eyes, she began to play Rachmaninoff's Nocturne - op. 10, n°1 - feeling the music rush through her like a tidal wave, making the tips of her fingers tingle with excitement. A few minutes into the piece, she neared the climax. The notes became more dense, the dynamics rose dramatically, her breathing intensified, but she could not continue. Her hands, crippled by severe arthritis and age refused to go on, spasming in protest. With a sigh, she removed her hands from the piano and lowered the lid to cover the ivories.

A few seconds later, there was a knock at the door. Raising herself from the piano bench, Maria walked to the door and opened it to reveal her niece, Amelia, smiling brightly with a bouquet of flowers wrapped in cellophane.

"Hi, Aunt Petrakova!" she beamed.

"Hello, dear," she said. "Those flowers are lovely."

"I know, right? They're from Mom and Dad. Where do you want them?"

"I'll take them," she said. "Come on inside."

Maria took the flowers and disappeared into her kitchen to retrieve a vase which she then placed on her coffee table, the flowers triumphantly bursting from the mouth. When she looked back up at her niece, Amelia was looking intently at the Steinway, slowly perusing its glossy surface.

"I've had that piano since I was a little girl," she said. Amelia was startled by her aunt's comment but immediately smiled.

"Really?" she said. "It's beautiful. Mom and Dad had me start piano lessons a few years ago, and, you know, I actually really love it."

"That's wonderful to hear."

"I actually heard you playing as I was walking up to your door," Amelia said sheepishly. "I stopped and listened for a little while, but you stopped so suddenly that I thought you'd heard me so I knocked." She chuckled as she looked at the ground.

"Oh, no, I didn't," Maria said, looking at her enlarged knuckles, the twisted fingers. "My hands. They've just gotten too old for playing the songs I used to play so well."

"Oh," Amelia said. Her cheeks blushed slightly. "Would you like me to play something? I'm not nearly as good as you, but I have some songs memorized." She looked earnestly into her aunt's eyes.

"Of course!" Maria said, a wide smile blossoming upon her face. "I would absolutely love to hear you play."

END

I liked that one. :) And it makes me miss playing the piano. I should get on that.

And now for my announcement!

Duhn da DAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!

I will be taking part in NaNoWriMo in November!! Oooooooooohhhhhh... hah It's something that I've hesitantly thought about taking part in it for a few years now, but my trepidation of the whole idea (writing an ENTIRE novel - at least 50,000 words - in a single month) overwhelmed me. As a result, I chickened out. So this November I will be driving myself crazy with this lofty goal for the first time ever! Ahhhhhh!!!

Is anyone else taking the plunge into NaNoWriMo? Or are all of you seasoned veterans with years of 50,000-word novels under your belt? Do you have any sage words of advice for us newbies who are scared out of our minds?

Would love to hear your viewpoints! :)

Peace.
Stef.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Princess Di"

Exercise #63 : "Princess Di"

This is an exercise to explore and help round out one of your characters. Take one you have already written about - or one that you have a mind to write about - and answer the following questions in a single sentence. The first thing that pops into your mind is usually the most revealing.
  • What would he or she think of Princess Di?
  • If he or she were to have met Princess Di in person, how would he or she have behaved? Be as specific as possible.
  • If he or she were to come across a book about Princess Di, what would he or she do with it?
  • What would he or she think of Princess Di's marriage?
  • Of Princess Di's affair with Dodi al Fayed?
  • What would he or she believe about Princess Di's death?
  • What would he or she do or say (and to whom?) upon learning the news of Princess Di's death?
If you have time, make up and answer more questions along the same lines.

I'm going to go with a character who is, at this point, unnamed. She is a part of my work in progress (which is still, by the way, in the very beginnings of any sort of production...). I guess I should give you a background setup.

The story is set in the distant future. Space travel is possible, but it is still new enough for there to be quite a bit of exploration to do. For example, we have opened up trade routes with several alien races but have not yet visited their home planets / galaxies. My character - let's call her... uh... Lia - is the daughter of a wealthy tradesman, very high up in the bureaucratic chain, so high up, in fact, that he has quite a bit of political clout.

Piracy has grown over the years, and no spaceship is safe. As a result, many of Lia's father's ships have been hijacked and plundered, and he has begun a political movement pushing for tighter security and harsher punishment for apprehended pirates.

Lia's life is lived publicly, and she learned early on that a quiet daughter was better than an outspoken one.

Keeping all of that in mind, let's begin, shall we?

I think I'll do this in the format of an interview. We'll pluck her out of the future and put her in the past, just a little bit after Princess Di has died. I will address the question about her behavior upon meeting the Princess afterward in paragraph format.


Stef (Me): So have you heard about all of this Princess Di business?

Lia: Yes, I have. It's tragic.

S: What did you think of her?

L: I thought she was lovely. Wonderfully composed, giving, nurturing... She was a person to emulate. For a while, I actually bought as many books about her life as I could and read them cover to cover.

S: And what about her marriage to Prince Charles? Were you a supporter of this union?

L: It was unfortunate, but I can understand her actions. As a woman of high society, she was expected to marry within that group of people. She didn't marry for love. It was a business agreement. Sadly, it didn't work out, but I think Princess Diana was able to accomplish much more than she would have been able to had she not married him.

S: Interesting. What were your reactions to her affair with Dodi al Fayed?

L: Can one really classify her relationship with him as an "affair?" Her divorce was finalized in 1996 but had been going on since 1995, and she began seeing not al Fayed but Hasnat Khan during this time. Only 2 years later, when Khan ended the relationship, did she begin seeing al Fayed. I believe that she has the right to her own privacy, and that privacy should be respected.

S: Do you believe any of the conspiracy theories surrounding her death?

L: I don't know, and, like I said before, her right to privacy should be respected.

S: What did you do when you heard?

L: I wept. The world lost a great woman that day, and I felt a terrible loss.

End of interview.

If Lia met had Princess Di, what would she have done?
Lia would have treated her with admiration and the utmost respect. In the end, she would probably have remained quiet and reserved in her presence, hoping not to step on anyone's toes but hanging on her every word.

5-ish minutes up. More like 10... But who's counting? :) This was fun, and I think it actually helped me with my work in progress... Wahoo!

Speaking of which, when I actually get some of this story down on paper, I think I may post a little of it here... Of course, it's scifi, so it doesn't appeal to some, but that's ok. Those of you that hate it can just skip those posts. :) That won't be happening for a while, however, but I'll let you know when an excerpt is coming up.

I am unsure, though, how I should post excerpts. Should I do them in actual story order, or should I do bits and pieces scrambled all over the plot? How do you guys do it? Any advice would be appreciated.

Peace.
Stef.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Additionally.......

My recital went wonderfully yesterday. :) Thanks to all of you who were sending good thoughts my way!

I know some of you want to see the footage, so I'll have a few clips posted from it sometime next week. :) Yay! I'm so glad to be done.

Peace.
Stef.

P.S. Blog hits have been extra dismal for the past few days. Help spread the word for 52 Weeks of Wordage!!! :)

"The Piano Tuner"

Uhhhhhhhh... I forgot today's post! Whoops! :) Well, here it is.

Exercise #62 : "The Piano Tuner"

Describe the piano tuner. What did he do to the piano bench?

I feel like I'm missing part of this exercise... I mean... Why does the piano tuner mess with the piano bench? But I guess that's the point...........?

Uhh... Start?

Geoffrey Martin stepped out of his company van, his tool box in tow, and began to walk down the sidewalk that lead to a large, mahogany door with ornately carved lattice work and clear glass. Another one of those yuppie families... he thought. Knocking on the door, he prepared himself for the worst. Would it be a cold and calculating wasp or an overly outgoing woman with newly acquired money?

After a few moments, a young woman - probably in her mid-20s - opens the door. She is tall and thin with blonde hair and brown eyes. She smiled.

"Hi," she said. "Geoffrey?"

"Yes, ma'am."

With a quick gesture, she beckoned him inside. "Come on in. I'm Alicia."

He stepped inside the foyer and glanced around. "You have a very nice home."

Alicia seemed confused for a few seconds but immediately recovered, "Oh, this isn't my house. I'm just the maid." After a short pause, she added, "I wish!"

Geoffrey smiled. "Don't we all?" he said. "So where is this piano?"

"It's in that room over there," she said, pointing to her right.

"Alright, I'll go get on that."

"Ok," she said. "If you need anything, just listen for the sound of the vacuum cleaner." With another smile, Alicia waltzed up the stairs and disappeared from sight.

Geoffrey found the piano and sat down at the bench to begin work. A neatly written note lay folded on the music stand, reading "Piano Tuner."

When he opened it, it read as follows:
To Whom It May Concern:

It is imperative that this piano be tuned in the equal temperament style close to perfection. Our last tuner was dismissed because he simply could not tune to my standards, and I can only hope that you will be able to fill his position more aptly than he could. The piano must be tuned once a week as it is an old instrument and easily loses pitch, and I expect you to be punctual week to week.

Thank you,
Mrs. Lucas Robinson
"You have got to be kidding me," he said aloud. He had several clients who were particular, but this one, he could tell, was the worst. She was a music officionado, which was fine, but she was the sort that was insufferable, the type that required him to spend five times the time allotted to get anything done.

After taking a moment to focus, Geoffrey stood up from the bench and opened up the hood, placing it atop the long stick. It was a beautiful instrument; he at least had to give the woman that much. Pulling out his electronic tuner, he leaned over and played C4. It was a quarter of a step flat. As he stepped backward to fiddle with the C4 string, he noticed a small scrape on the top of the bench.

Crap, he thought, looking down at the keys hanging guiltily from his belt loop. What now?

5 minutes up. I wanted to write more, but... I went a little over 5 minutes to begin with and simply had to explain what he did to the bench. haha Oh well. Maybe I'll go back and finish it. Oooh, maybe that will be a good #fridayflash submission! hah Probably not. I'm not really a big fan of the story. Oh well... Back to square 1!

And with that I will leave you today with a WONDERFUL quote by Milan Kundera...

"A mismatched outfit, a slightly defective denture, an exquisite mediocrity of the soul-those are the details that make a woman real, alive. The women you see on posters or in fashion magazines-the ones all the women try to imitate nowadays-how can they be attractive? They have no reality of their own; they're just the sum of a set of abstract rules. They aren't born of human bodies; they hatch ready-made from the computers."
~The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
Milan Kundera

AMEN!

Peace.
Stef.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Orange Traffic Cone, etc..."

It is my pleasure to announce that I am not writing today's blog. hah I called on Dan from The Man Who Painted Agnieszka's Shoes to help me out with my stress level today, and he has kindly agreed to complete the requirements of today's exercise. Everyone, go look at his blog! Also, read his book! It's wonderful! To get a little info, read my last post.

It is without further ado that I give you Dan!!

Exercise #61 : "Orange Traffic Cone, etc..."

Write a brief scene that incorporates the following: an orange traffic cone, a miniature cat, fried fish, velcro, Teddy Roosevelt, and polkadots.

"Exercise Video"

Tom put down his beer and picked up the remote. He flicked through the usual channels, through the fake gold necklaces and football games he'd seen so many times even the commentator's voice seemed to have slowed. Through the self-help and the freak shows, plastic surgery and miniature cats.

He watched the rolls of fat ripple down his front as he laughed at a sixteen year old guy who'd run off with his best friend's career. His eyes moved between his stomach and the television. There's the soft, glutinous flesh, he thought. And there's that black and white movie again, the one with the two old ladies and the crazy guy who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt. And the slow, formless flab he knows is part of him, however foreign it feels.

He was in a loop, turning and turning in on itself like an eel swimming endlessly round its tank.

He threw his fried fish supper on the floor, fired the remote at the TV, watching the picture shrink to zero, and headed for the front door, carrying his bulk with him. This is it, he thought. This is the last chance I'm gonna have to get out of the loop.

The air hit his lungs as he opened the door, and he felt it flex through his body. At once he felt his skin, his flesh, his mind become part of him. It was like he'd been looking down on a so-called life from above for all these years, watching it play out until it faded to nothing, and now he was part of it again. And it didn't have to fade. Not yet.

He strode down the sidewalk, his steps getting longer, more confident. Each time he planted his foot more firmly, taking in the myriad new sites and sounds as he did. The noise of his street, of his town, of his life.

He put his foot down with a joyous confidence. His knee buckled. That was odd, different from the other footsteps.

Tom looked down at the dark surface beneath him. That's not pavement he thought, and glimpsed the curb he'd stumbled down. It took a moment, took the sight of the orange traffic cone, and the unfamiliar roar for him to put the information together.

A road. His road. And a car.

And polkadots of what had been Tom splattered red on the sidewalk.

END

Oooooooooooooohhh... Twist!

See? That was great, right? If you didn't visit his blog earlier, I'm pretty sure that you've been convinced you should take a hop on over there now. 1, 2, 3, GO!

I am such a giddy little girl right now. Part of it is the nerves due to my recital being today, but most of it is because Dan is the first guest blogger I've had on my blog. It's all very exciting. Of course, 52 Weeks of Wordage is my baby, and I am very protective of her, but I love the idea of a bunch of people taking part in these exercises, whether it's in the comments section or the posts themselves via guest blogging. I can learn so much from all of you, and I would be honored to read your exercises. :)

Thanks to Dan!

Peace.
Stef.

P.S. The recital is today at 5:30pm. Ahhhhhhhh!!! :)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fun News!

Since tomorrow is going to be so busy for me, I am pleased to announce that Dan from over at The Man Who Painted Agnieszka's Shoes is going to provide us with our daily writing exercise! Very exciting as I have never had a guest blogger before. Dan is a wonderful writer with an amazing amount of talent, and I can't wait to see what he comes up with. I very highly suggest that you check out his blog. He also wrote Songs from the Other Side of the Wall, an interactive facebook novel which is available for free via smashwords.com.

"18 year-old Szandi is part of Budapest’s vibrant, cosmopolitan art scene, sharing a flat and a bohemian lifestyle with her lover and fellow sculptress, Yang. Then a letter arrives that threatens everything, and forces her to choose once and for all: between the past and the present; between East and West; between her family and her lover."
from smashwords.com

I'm in the progress of reading it, and it's great. It's thought provoking and shocking but beautiful at the same time. Download the book now and read it!! :)

In the end, I am super excited to read his post tomorrow, and I hope you guys are, too! It's going to be great fun.

Peace.
Stef.

P.S. Wish me luck on my recital tomorrow!! :)

"If... Duh!"

Exercise #60 : "If... Duh!"

This is a simple exercise in writing comedy. In an interview in Esquire a couple of years ago, actor Benicio del Toro said, "If my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle." The other week on TV, I heard actor Jimmy Fallon say (more or less), "If George Washington were alive today, he'd be, like, oh my God, I'm 274 years old, what's wrong with me? Why can't I die?" The exercise is this: take some phrase that begins with "if" and then, as did del Toro and Fallon, tack on the "duh," the absurdly obvious conclusion. Do as many as you can in 5 minutes.

I very rarely make immediate decisions about anything. I like to approach a topic from all sides before giving it the thumbs down. That being said, I am not going to do this exercise. I like to think that I have a sense of humor, but it's comments like del Toro's and Fallon's that simply don't make sense to me. I get the fact that they're absurdist. I get that they're the kind of jokes that make someone say "Wait... what?" What I don't get is why people think they're funny. Fallon is rarely funny anyways, so I don't think using any of his jokes is a good idea if you're planning on making people laugh...

But don't worry! I will be doing an exercise today! A little over a week ago, I posted a blog asking for writing exercise ideas, and today I will be using Lisa's idea of a visual prompt. I love these and am actually quite surprised that I've not done one on here as of yet.

Step 1 : Go to this site to generate a few random images pulled haphazardly from the unlimited expanse of the internet.

Step 2 : Pick an image that speaks to you. Maybe you think it's funny or poignant... Whatever the reason, pick one.

Step 3 : WRITE! :)

My picture -

And begin...

Oliver had always wanted to visit Ireland, and when he finally got his chance, he had taken full advantage of it. He had even visited several tourist traps, buying into the kitschy crap that was almost offensively Irish such as a leprechaun costume complete with a green top hat and ginger beard. His trip eventually ended, however, and he was forced to board the series of planes bound for his home in Albion, Nebraska.

But the Irish spirit had not left him even after the jet lag wore off. The next day, as he left for work, he grabbed his comical hat and beard and made his way to the post office, ready and raring to walk his daily route. At first, people were unsure as to how they should react to him, but as the day wore on he was receiving greetings and smiles from the houses he visited. A little Irish never hurt anybody.

END

hah. That one was kind of fun. I think I may do a weekly visual prompt from now on. I had forgotten how much I loved doing these.

Consider this the first installment of Visual Prompt Saturday!! ... ... ... Well, that's a stupid name, isn't it? Well, maybe not stupid so much as boooooooooring. Hmm... Will have to do some brainstorming over the next week for a catchier title. If anyone has any lightbulbs, let me know!

Feel free to take part in today's exercises and post your results in the comment section! I'd love to see what you all come up with when you look at this picture! :)

Peace.
Stef.

P.S. Does anyone else think that Jimmy Fallon's humor is as dismal as I do?

Friday, September 25, 2009

"Born on February 29th"

Exercise #59 : "Born on February 29th"

Use this as your opening line:
I was born on February 29th.

Un, Deux, Trois...

I was born on February 29th, 1964, and I am technically only 11 years old. You don't even know how many times I have been jokingly refused a drink. I can't even laugh at the quip anymore. I used to have the willpower to force myself to smile at least when someone thought they were the first one to think of such a hilarious joke, but now... Well, now I just sneer. Either that, or I completely ignore them. I'm not sure which is the better response.

Everyone assumes that, since my technical birthday only happens every four years, I only celebrate my birth every 4 years. That's crazy. I mean, absolutely crazy. I usually celebrate my birthday the day before unless someone has planned something special on another day. I consider myself lucky. Who else has such a flexible birthday?

END

Today's was a bit short. Sorry about that. My mind is kind of elsewhere at the moment because of my recital coming up this weekend. I promise things will get back to normal after Sunday. In fact, the posts should be of much better quality than they have been as of late. Whoops. :)

As far as #fridayflash goes... We'll see if I get there. I have a ton of stuff to get done tomorrow (I know, I know... Excuses, excuses...), and the only time I'll be able to get it done will be much later in the evening. I may have to postpone until next week. I'll let you know in tomorrow's exercise.

Peace.
Stef.

P.S. Do you know anyone that was born on Feb. 29th? I actually knew a guy when I was in high school, and I can remember how everyone teased him. I can't imagine how annoying that must have been.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"So Terrible. So Awful."

Exercise #58 : "So Terrible. So Awful."

In the women's locker room at her health club, C.M. Mayo overheard this scrap of dialogue:

A: Therepists, what they charge...
B: Horrible. That's why I quit.
A: So terrible.
B: So awful.

She says, "I love the shape of this, the way the women echo the sounds and rhythms of each other's words. Notice the rhyme of 'horrible' and then 'terrible;' the repetition of 'so.' Another interesting aspect is B's interruption of A."

Here's the exercise: take this dialogue; add some names, descriptions, gestures, etc, and flesh out the scene. You might change therapists to "dentists" or, say, "contractors," or "piano teachers" -- what have you.

GO!

Anne Marie put one leg up on the wooden bench, reaching down to tie her sneaker. She was just pulling the knot tight when Julia Chase walked out of the bathroom, water dripping from her wet hair. Anne Marie had never seen Julia right after a shower, and she was taken aback for a short moment. The usually flawless woman closely resembled a gaunt, wet dog.

"Anne Marie!" she called with a wide smile full of false affection. "Sweetie! How are you?"

"Hi, Julia," Anne Marie responded with much less enthusiasm. "I'm well. How about yourself?"

"Oh, just duckie, dear," she said. "Wouldn't you know that James's foray into stocks turned out to be a complete success?"

As if that insufferable man needed any more money, Anne Marie thought. James, Julia's husband, was a well-known philanderer among their group of friends, and everyone but Julia had caught on to his ways.

"Oh, that's great, Julia," she forced herself to say. "Good for him." You're husband's an asshole.

"Enough about me, though." Julia sat down on the bench next to Anne Marie's foot. In an attempt to make their conversation more private, she lowered her voice and leaned in close to her. "How are the therapist sessions going?"

It's none of your damn business, you fake little -- "I'm not going anymore," she said.

"Oh? Is this a good thing?"

"I don't know. I just can't afford the rates."

"I know, right? Therapists, what they charge..."

"Horrible. That's why I quit." Leave me alone.

"So terrible." Julia crossed her perfectly sculpted legs and leaned backward, the top of her spine resting against the metal lockers behind her.

"So awful."

5 minutes up.

Actually, the technical 5 minutes ended at "So terrible," but I felt the need to finish... Just for the sheer rush of completion. :)

And with that, I leave you. Time to go work on my recital stuff for a bit. I probably won't get a post of it up until later next week, but I'll get it up here eventually, I promise.

Peace.
Stef.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Today's Blog Post...

I did not manage my time well and, as a result, have not planned for things that I need to get done today... So sadly, I must claim defeat. Today's post will be postponed until tomorrow.

I have a reason. I promise. I have a recital coming up on Sunday (I study opera performance at Belmont University.), and all of my extra time is being devoted to preparing for said performance. Lots of stuff still to do, and my run-through / dress rehearsal is this evening. Oy gewald. Shoot me now, please.

Anyways, I appreciate you all and hope that my lack of planning hasn't altered your day too much (hah!!! I'd be a little concerned if that were the truth, guys. I mean, they are just writing exercises! teehee).

Much love to you all, and I will see you tomorrow!

Peace.
Stef.

P.S. I have had requests from some of my readers to post the video of my recital online (It's 30 minutes long.). Would that be something you guys would be interested in? If so, let me know. I'll be happy to add a little blog post about it with information on the songs and translations / whatnot.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Marathon Post #3 : "Down into the Cellar"

The final entry for today, thank goodness. This one is a little later than previously planned, but who's counting. Give me a break, eh? hah

Exercise #57 : "Down into the Cellar"

The ancient door creaked open, and from the darkness she caught a whiff of something like old apples. She pulled the string to the lightbulb; the stairwell remained dark. "Bulb's dead," he said.

Write on!

"Apparently mom and dad don't like to replace lightbulbs," she said. "Isn't there an old gas lantern down here somewhere?"

"How should I know?" he said. "I haven't been down here in years."

She paused for a moment, picturing how the stairwell looked if there had been light.

"Ok," she said. "The lantern should be... here." She reached forward and grasped blindly in the dark. At first, there was nothing, but after a bit of reaching her fingers touched something cold and metal. "Ha!" she cried.

Reaching to grab the handle, she pulled it away from the wall. "Do you have any matches?" she said.

"Yeah," he said. "Hold on." She heard him fumbling in his pockets, and a few seconds later he was shoving a book of matches against her arm. "Here."

She grabbed the matches and lit the lamp, revealing a dirt-walled stairwell with dangerously steep, half-rotten steps leading into darkness.

"You have got to be kidding me," he said. "There's no way I'm going down there. I'll break my neck."

"Well, I can't carry all of those bushels up by myself," she said. "I can't even carry one by myself."

5 minutes up.

Hmm... Interesting. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that one. I mean, it was a good exercise; I'm just not sure about my execution of it. Meh...

Finally! The blog marathon is over! Glory be!

Peace.
Stef.

Marathon Post #2 : "Wondrous Winter"

Exercise #56 : "Wondrous Winter"

Your character is an adult who has never before seen or experienced winter. He (or she) arrives in a large, mid-western city today. Describe his or her journey into the city.

You know, up until I moved to New York in 2005, I was certain that everyone in the United States had witnessed at least a tiny bit of snow fall. Even I, who had lived in Arizona, Mississippi, and Tennessee, had seen the lovely snow fall. I've always been told that, since I've lived in the south my whole life, I was more appreciative of snow than, say, people from Michigan, and I guess that's true. I don't know... I love winter. It's my favorite season. There's just something about the crispness of the air that gets to me. There's also nothing better than sitting in front of a fire, snuggled in the deepest recesses of an oversized armchair, and reading a novel (or writing one!). Sighhh... Only a few more months, and the weather will be better here. I loathe summer...

That's not my point, though... When I moved to new York I met a group of people who had just moved there from Florida, and they were absolutely mystified by the fact that it snowed regularly each winter. They were shocked, even, that the temperature steadily stayed below 30 degrees.

But what am I doing?? There's an exercise that needs doing!

Cayleign Mitchell pushed her foot further down on the pedal, pushing her 1995 Buick Century further than it was probably wise. The dark clouds quickly approaching from behind worried her. The world below looked desolate, bleak, and uninviting. So Cayleign sped onward.

Why now? Why this weekend when they knew a big storm was coming in?


Her parents had made plans for their vow renewal service months ago, so she couldn't blame them. Not really, even though it made her feel better to do so.

The drive had been long - all the way from Miami, Florida to Somersworth, New Hampshire - but she was almost there and had enjoyed the time to herself. Her job was not only demanding and time consuming, but she was constantly surrounded by people, and any respite from such an environment was appreciated.

Cayleign looked up at the sky. The clouds had caught up to her. Easing up on the gas pedal, she consigned herself to driving through the storm, but after a few minutes passed, she was surprised to see little white fluffs of down falling from the sky.

"Are you serious?" she said aloud. "It's snowing?"

As the flakes hit her windshield, they immediately transformed into beads of water dripping down to the hood of her car. Completely fascinated by this weather phenomenon, Cayleign nearly hit a tree but swerved in time to miss it. She pulled over to collect herself, but she couldn't turn the car back on until she stepped out to do something she'd always dreamed of doing.

She pushed open the door and pulled herself out of the car, the snow falling silently on her exposed arm. She hadn't thought to prepare herself for cold weather, but she didn't care. Turning her head upwards, she spread her arms, opened her mouth, and stuck out her tongue. A small flake landed on the tip of her tongue and, like on her windshield, dissolved into sweet nothingness. An uncontrollable giggle escaped from within her, and she sat back down in the car. A few minutes later, she arrived at her parents' home.

"5" minutes over.

This was another one that I got carried away with. Whoops. I was writing, and all of the sudden several more minutes than 5 had passed. Oh well. I had a good time, so that's all that matters, I guess.

Do any of you live in climates where it never snows? I live in Tennessee, and, while we don't get a ton of snow, we get a little bit every summer. The idea of a place where it never snows completely boggles my mind.

Blog post 3 will be up at approximately 2pm. See you then.

Peace.
Stef.

The Beginning of Today's Blog Marathon

I'm behind. Harumph... My internet connection, as stated in my previous quick post via my cellphone, has been shoddy at best for that past couple of days (Thank you, Comcast for your stupid, inconvenient upgrades...), and things seem to be back to normal. But that's neither here nor there. In an attempt to catch up, I will be participating in an exercise posting marathon: 3 in one day!! hah Either way, check back regularly today for updates.

And so it begins.

Exercise #55 : "The Ironic Fortune Cookie"

The fortune in the fortune cookie read, "Elegant surroundings will soon be yours." This turned out to be ironic. How so?

Oh, depressing. So many thoughts immediately started flying around in this crazy brain of mine... The poor sap that I'm going to be writing about today is going to hate me. Really...

Time to write. Buhn bah BAH!!! (That was my attempt at onomatopoeia-ing a trumpet fanfare... And yes, I just made a verb out of onomatapoeia.)

5... 4... 3... 2... 1...

Ok. I fooled you all. teehee I was having a tough time coming up with this one, so, in an act of desperation, I went searching online for "ironic fortune cookie sayings" when I stumbled upon another blog whose author did the same thing I am doing now: going through C.M. Mayo's year-long list of writing exercises. It seems that she has since stopped with the exercises, but I thought I'd showcase her entry for this particular exercise. Interesting stuff.

Her post is as follows:

“God is an iron,” Spider Robinson famously – or infamously – wrote. At least he’s famous with science fiction buffs and gamer geeks like me. His reasoning went something like this:

felony is to felon as irony is to iron.

Since God commits so many ironies, he must be an iron.

Take my fortune, for instance. “Elegant surroundings will soon be yours.” I never place much stock in these things, and usually add the ubiquitous “between the sheets” afterwards. Hey, a guy like me doesn’t get paid much; I have to amuse myself.

Anyways, so I got this fortune recently. Elegant surroundings. I would have thought, if I’d thought about it at all, that it meant I’d hit the lottery and get a house. Or get a promotion at work and maybe get into a nicer cubicle, one with a view.

But no. Instead what I got was a lousy bonus, too small to do anything with other than drink up. So I did, of course. I drank the whole thing up. And then, like I’ve done a bazillion times before, I drove home. Never seen that tree before that night, though.

The inside of the coffin is really nice. “Elegant,” even. God is, indeed, an iron.

End.

If you wish to visit her blog, click here. It has some pretty great stuff on there.

Blog post 1 of 3 finished. Whew!

Check back in approximately 2 hours for post 2 of 3. It's a good thing I don't have class today until 2pm. :)

Peace.
Stef.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Blargh...

I have been having internet connection problems on my computer for the last two days, which is why there has been radio silence. I called and complained, so we should be back up and running tomorrow. Stupid comcast...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

"Jamilla, Joyce, and Larry"

Exercise #54 : "Jamilla, Joyce, and Larry"

In no more than 10 words for each, sketch the characters named Jamilla, Joyce, and Larry. Once you've done that, answer these questions quickly, without thinking:
  • Where are they?
  • What do they want from one another?
Jamilla - redhead, earth mother, fiery, striking, kindhearted, deeply sensitive, enabler
Joyce - blonde, deceptively ditsy, genius, sorority girl, cat-lover, snobby
Larry - angry, technophile, WOW player, low social skills, average intelligence

They are in Larry's living room.

Larry wants to bonk both of them, but neither of them are interested.
Joyce wants to do experiments on Larry and is using her feminine wiles and her knowledge of Larry's horny nature to get him to take part in the experiments.
Jamilla simply wants to meditate, sitting cross-legged on her yoga mat.

That was less than 5 minutes. But I guess since I've gone over the time limit on a few of the previous exercises that I can allow a shorter post this one time.

In other news, thank you so much for your overwhelmingly welcoming responses to my #fridayflash post yesterday. It was so exciting to be a part of such a neat writing community and can't wait to participate next week.

Peace.
Stef.

P.S. Posts I still need to write:
  • the henna hair dye post - This one will probably be in a week or so. I haven't completed the process, so I haven't gotten my final result. It'll happen, though!
  • movie review - Tim Burton's "9"
  • rewrite of "Meet Chuck"
  • completion of "Popul Vuh" exercise

Friday, September 18, 2009

#Fridayflash Attempt - Be Merciful

As promised, here is my first attempt at a #flashfriday submission... Wahoo.

(DISCLAIMER!: I had a really hard time with this one simply because I have always had a problem ending stories, and this one was no exception. I think I also chose a topic that wasn't really good for a less-than-1000-words limit, so I pretty much kicked myself in the butt on that front. Either way, please be merciful with your reviews. I am a mere fledgling #flashfriday participant and hope to improve.)

Many years had passed since the bomb had dropped, but the city had not been rebuilt. At the time, there had been no resources to repair the damage, and efforts to restore it were soon forgotten, the surviving inhabitants moving to other nearby establishments. The area was large, spanning nearly 100 miles, and the dismal landscape was dominated by the charred ruins of buildings that seemed to have been thrust violently through the earth's surface in a sudden, catastrophic upheaval.

But there were those that still dared to live in the Barren Zone, scavenging for their lives. They were the Exiled, the Shunned. These people - often referred to as Sub-Humans - were forced into lives of abject poverty after being charged for crimes against humanity that they were accused of committing after the initial explosion.

"It's time," said Joseph, the self-appointed leader of the Sub-Humans.

"But, sir," said Nicholas, his right-hand man, "We're not reaady. We don't have enough supplies."

"We'll never have enough supplies. We have to make do with what we've got."

"But-"

"Enough," Joseph said, cocking his rifle. "I've made my decision."

Joseph was a strong man, one of the first to be sent by court order to the Barren Zone, but he was rash, too eager to fight. Most of the Sub-Humans trusted him blindly to guide them to freedom and peace, but there were a few who doubted his ability to lead them safely.

As Joseph walked away, Nicholas ran after him.

"What are you going to tell them?" he said.

"The truth," Joseph said without stopping. "We're moving out tonight, and only those interested in leaving this godforsaken place need to come along with us."

"There will be many who will refuse. The people are simply not ready." Nicholas grabbed Joseph's elbow, and Joseph whipped around viciously, grabbing the collar of Nicholas' shirt and lifting him, his feet almost off the ground.

"I'm sorry, Sir," Nicholas said quickly, immediately regretting his action. "I spoke out of turn."

"Learn your place, Nicholas," Joseph hissed. "Tell everyone to meet by the Empire State Building's foundation in one hour."

He placed Nicholas back on the ground and walked away saying, "It's going to be a long night."

End.

Once again, I beg for mercy in your reviews. Of course, any and all critiques are very much appreciated.

Why do I feel nervous???

Peace.
Stef.

"Hank & Helen: The Beachfront Condo"

Exercise #53 : "Hank & Helen: The Beachfront Condo"

This is a dialogue exercise. Hank and Helen are married. Hank is a pessimist. Helen is an optimist. They discuss whether or not to buy a beachfront condo.

GO! Tick tock, tick tock...

Helen: It's beautiful!

Hank: Yeah, it's nice.

Helen: "Nice? Nice? This is better than nice, Hank. This is luxurious!

Hank: I mean, it's beautiful and all, but I don't know... I'm not sure this is a good idea.

Helen: Sure it's a good idea. What don't you like about it?

Hank: It's so... open. There is absolutely no cover here on this veranda. Great view and all, but there's not a single bit of privacy.

Helen: It has plenty of privacy. It's high up enough on the beach that people won't really be looking at us. If it bothers you that much, we can always add tints to the glass paneling surrounding it.

Hank: I guess that's sufficient...

Helen: But?

Hank: But can we really afford this? We're not Bill Gates, you know.

Helen: Enough already! We can afford it.

Hank: I'm just not sure.

Helen: Well, I am sure. What can I do to help convince you?

Hank: That's not fair. You can't muscle me into making a decision when I don't feel right about it.

Helen: No, I can't. But I can help you to see it my way, because... well, because I'm right in this instance.

Hank: Let's just sit on it for a while, ok?

Helen: We'll lose this great place if we "sit on it for a while."

Hank: I can't be forced into such a serious decision simply because an opportunity that will reappear again in a few weeks might disappear.

5 minutes up.

Oh, Hank. Silly, silly Hank. When will you learn to let loose and fly by the seat of your pants?

How about you guys? Are you fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of person or do you plan, plan, plan before doing anything? Or are you somewhere in between that?

Peace.
Stef.

P.S. Thanks for your comments on the last couple of posts. I'm looking forward to using your ideas!

P.S.S. #Fridayflash to follow later on today! Wahoooooooey!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ahhhhhhh!!

So I'm not at my house. Not only that, but I don't have my list of writing exercises with me... So... No writing exercise today. :(

Here's how I've decided to justify this:
  • It gives me more time to work on my #fridayflash!
  • I can work on my WIP
  • I can work on editing both of those stories ("Meet Chuck" and the story that was spawned by one of the exercises)
  • I can plan ahead and think of some more really friggin' awesome ideas for future blog posts...
That's all I can come up with right now, but I'm sure I'll add to the list later on. If you guys have any thoughts about what you'd like to hear from me in the future, drop me a comment. It'd be fun to see what you'd like me to write! Also, if any of you want to guest blog, ask away! I'd love to highlight people doing the writing exercises, or if you have a better idea, let me know.

Can't wait to hear from you.

Peace.
Stef.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Airplane"

Exercise #52 : "Airplane"

This is an exercise about generating specific sensory detail. On a typical flight, what are:
  • 5 things you might see
  • 5 things you might smell
  • 5 things you might touch
  • 5 things you might hear
  • 5 things you might taste
5 Sights:
  • the stewardess with an overly perky, blindingly white smile, directing me to my seat
  • the grey / cream, plastic interiors that house the storage units
  • people sitting in plush seats, praying that the seat next to them will be left empty
  • a woman clutching the hand rests with her eyes closed (She's afraid of flying.)
  • the fancy business people sitting in first class
5 Smells:
  • the sterile, just Lysoled smell
  • the smelly dude in the seat next to me
  • the minty gum of the teenager sitting behind me
  • the poopy diaper of the crying baby in front of me
  • the mothball-y scent of the clothes of the old lady who just walked past me
5 Touches:
  • the coarse fabric of my carry on bag
  • the velvety fabric of the seat
  • the air bursting from the overhead ac onto my face
  • the feeling of my comfy travel clothes
  • the rumbling vibrations of the engines
5 Sounds:
  • the crying baby in the seat in front of me
  • the teenager smack smack smacking her gum behind me
  • the Chatty Cathy having a private conversation loudly to my right
  • the whirring ac
  • the engines of the airplane
5 Tastes:
  • the Dr. Pepper that I ordered from the stewardess earlier
  • peanuts (Does Southwest still give these out? I haven't flown in a LONG time.)
  • the crisp, heavily filtered air
  • gum (which I am chewing silently, thank you)
  • uh... I opt out of this one because I can't think of anything
5 minutes up.

There was a time when I would take trips via airplane several times a year, probably around 5 or 6 times. Granted, that was when I lived in New York and went home to Nashville for vacation. I'm ok with not flying as much, however. I figure that I'll be doing it frequently for work after I finish all of my schooling, so a little reprieve from taking the world by storm, I think, is a good idea.

Anyways, it's time for me to relax a bit.

Peace.
Stef.

P.S. Blogs to come up in the next few weeks:
  • dying my hair with henna
  • #fridayflash
  • 9 movie review
  • rewrite of "Meet Chuck"
  • completed "Popol Vuh" exercise
Wahoo. Exciting, huh?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Extremely Famous"

Exercise #51 : "Extremely Famous"

You (or your fictional character) are suddenly extremely famous. In what ways does your (or your character's) life change?5 minutes start now.

It's official... I don't like being famous. I'd always known that fame wasn't worth it, that it ended up eating out your soul, but this quickly? The novelty has worn off, and the people staring is an annoyance. Yes, I know you know who I am. Good for you. Now leave me alone!

Of course, there are certain perks to being famous. If I show up at a restaurant or hotel (I've been spending a lot of time in hotels as of late...), I am immediately ushered in - usually through the back door - to their best space, their most secluded table or their largest suite. People give me gifts, too. A new skin care line that has diamonds in the paste to help exfoliate (It costs a whopping $3,000, folks.), a dress designed by Vera Wang herself, thousands and thousands of fan-sent teddy bears... All of these things come to me simply because people know who I am.

Either way, the perks are nice, but the whole fame thing... Well, it sucks. I can't go out to get munchies from Kroger if I get a sudden, insatiable craving because I'll be mobbed by everyone who sees me. As a result I've been issued with a crew of underlings meant to get my munchies for me and other various tasks that I once loathed doing. Now I kind of miss them.

5 minutes up.

Well, now you know that I have relatively strong feelings about celebrity. I honestly have never heard from anyone that they've enjoyed the teeming throngs that throw themselves at him or her simply because they saw him or her on the front of People that morning. It's ridiculous.

To be completely honest, the idea of "celebrity" completely boggles my mind. Why do we put these people on a higher pedestal than others? They're not any better than Joe Schmoe over here who works as a bank teller or Jane Schmane who works at the local CVS. So why these specific people? Why actors and musicians? Not only that, but why is it that the people who are honest-to-God talented are usually the ones who aren't necessarily famous as, say, Britney Spears? I mean, don't get me wrong. Britney Spears is an amazing performer. I'll give her that much. But her singing voice is mediocre at best, and her songs are... meh. Compare her to some of the local artists here in Nashville (or anywhere, really), and they'd blow her out of the water. Once again... I don't get it.

In other news, I henna-ed my hair last night. :) It's so pretty now! Of course, the color is going to alter slightly over the next few days, but I'm in love with it. I'll be posting a blog sometime this week on my exploits. It will be great fun, I promise.

Peace.
Stef.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Welcome & "The Unwanted Gift"

First, let me express my thanks and gratitude to those of you who have recently begun to follow my humble little blogette here. I am so excited that you found something about my blog to be of interest and can only hope that I keep you entertained as the year progresses. If any of you, my lovely readers, have suggestions as to making the site run more smoothly or just writing critique in general, please let me know. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Now on with the exercise!

Exercise #49 : "The Unwanted Gift"

Make a list of 10 unwanted gifts. Then choose the one you find most intriguing, describe it, and start writing.

You know, I have been blessed thus far in my life to acquaint myself with people who think seriously about the gifts they give. As I think back on it, I can't really think of any gifts that I was really unhappy with. Nothing came from out of the blue, I've never received a re-gifted fruit cake, etc... So I guess I'm lucky in that respect. Of course, my family is a big supporter of the "give them money so they get exactly what they want" gift, but they're good thoughtful gift givers, too.

Anyways, enough of that.

Start your timers!!!

  1. fruit cake
  2. tacky Christmas sweater
  3. non-refundable gift card to Hot Topic
  4. an STD (Sorry, it popped into my head, and I simply had to say it.)
  5. tongue cleaner
  6. chia pet (ch-ch-ch-chia!)
  7. a José Canseco bat (Thanks, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
  8. a turkey beard (I wouldn't wish that on anyone.)
  9. hotel shampoos and / or conditioners (I mean, these are nice, but really? They were free.......... Am I being selfish here?)
  10. an 8-track player
Here's the sad part : 5 minutes up. :( I may come back and write about one of them eventually, but I'm kind of pressed for time as it is and need to pop off to work for a bit.

For more awesomely bad gifts, visit the link below. It's hilarious to see what people actually have the stones to give to others.
http://www.badgiftemporium.com/

Peace.
Stef.

P.S. I have decided to immerse myself into the world of #fridayflash. Expect an official submission this coming Friday, that is, if I don't drive myself crazy first. Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Zizi and Zulie"

Exercise #50 : "Zizi and Zulie"

This is an exercise in plotting. Assume you are writing a children's story. Zizi and Zulie are miniature dachshunds. One day they dig their way under the fence and escape into the next door neighbor's garden. The neighbor is a very lonely old lady. She takes Zizi and Zulie into her kitchen and feeds them and pets them. All afternoon they watch TV together. But then, when Zizi and Zulie's owners return home from work, the neighbor cannot bring herself to return the dogs. What happens? In outline form, plot the rest of the story.

Oh, outline form. I love outlining. It makes me feel like I'm actually getting something accomplished. haha Yay for bullet points! The only thing I'm kind of worried about for this one is that children's books and I don't really see eye to eye. To be completely honest, the young mind completely evades me. We simply do not understand one another.. Either way, time to start!

And START!!!!!!

I. Zizi and Zulie's owners come home
....A. Lonely old lady sees them drive into their garage
.........1. Instinct tells her to put the dogs in her bathroom
.........2. She contemplates whether or not she should say anything.
....B. Neighbors notice their dogs are missing
.........1. They look all over the house
.........2. They look all over the back yard
.........3. They visit the neighbor on the right side of their house
.............a. No one's home
.............b. They look all around that house but find nothing
.........4. They visit the old lady's house
.............i. At first, she doesn't answer the door
.................a. She is still torn about how she's going to handle the problem
.................b. She hides in her bedroom in hopes that they'll just go away
............ii. The neighbors start to look around her house, calling for the dogs
...........iii. The dogs hear their owners and start to whine
...........iv. The old lady tries to muffle the sounds
............v. The neighbors hear the dogs and come back to the door
...........vi. The old lady comes to terms with the fact that the jig is up
..........vii. She answers the door
.........viii. They come inside, and the old lady gives them the dogs.

5 minutes up. Man, I'm usually so good at outlines! Oh well. I think I let the fact that this was supposed to be a children's book outline get to me and affect my writing. Darn. Good thing this was a writing exercise and not a real outline. If it was, I'd definitely be scrapping it.

If any of you have written children's books, I'd love to hear what you would do with this story arc.

Peace.
Stef.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

"Your Best Friend is a Mirror"

Exercise #48 : "Your Best Friend is a Mirror"

Make this old saying your first line - and start writing.

This must be a very, very old saying, because I've never heard of it. Now, I've played that game where you stand facing someone and then either you mimic them in your movements, or they mimic you, but I have never used it as a saying. Time to go looksie on the internet because I'm intrigued.

And the internet search proves - drumroll, please - zilch. Great. I have no idea what that saying means, so I'm going in blind. Oh well... I'll just make it up as I go. If anyone has heard of this phrase, please enlighten me.

Here goes.

Begin 5 minutes.

"Your best friend is a mirror," Melissa says, mindlessly twirling her fork in the angel hair pasta on her plate.

"Wait," I say. "What? What does that even mean? He's a human being."

"Well, of course she's a human being," she says, rolling her eyes at my confusion. "But that doesn't mean she can't be a mirror, too."

I am nonplussed. Melissa has finally misplaced her mind. I've been waiting for it to happen for a while, and there is a certain amount of peace to be had now that it has happened.

Melissa notices me staring at her and sighs. "Stop looking at me like that. I'm not crazy."

"Ok," I say. "You're not crazy, but what do you mean?"

"All I mean is that Ephraim reflects you."

"And?"

"Well, you might want to think about that." Deciding that the pasta is not to her liking, Melissa picks up the paper plate and tosses it and the food into the garbage can.

"Think about what?" I have moved past nonplussed on to complete and utter confusion.

"The fact that Ephraim reflects you," she says. "He's not exactly the most reputable character."

All of a sudden, it hits me. "Ohhh," I say. "Gotcha," and then, "You're an ass."

5 minutes up.

I did my best. That's all I can do, I guess. :)

Peace.
Stef.

Friday, September 11, 2009

"Windy Weather in the City"

Exercise #47 : "Windy Weather in the City"

With specific detail that appeals to all the senses - sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell - describe windy weather on a city street.

This episode reminds me of the 2 years I spent in NY, so I'm going to base this exercise on some memories I have there.

5 minutes start now.

There's nothing better than New York City in the fall. The whole city is transformed into a crisp, clean-feeling place which is greatly appreciated after a humid, rotten-smelling summer filled with sweat and armpit stained shirts.

There's something about the wind as it rushes through seemingly endless skyscrapers. The way that the buildings are situated turns each space in between them into a wind tunnel capable of knocking you over if you're not prepared. It whips at your face, blowing tendrils of your hair every direction possible, and you feel as if you're being lifted gently from the pavement below. Every once in a while, trash from the street is flipped into the air and rotated in a minute twister.

5 minutes up. That one kind of ended abruptly. heh

Thanks to Troy Mayr for his picture of the wind blown trees. Stunning.

Peace.
Stef.

Revisiting the Past

So I was through my portfolio the other day, and I came across an old short story of mine that I wrote for English class in high school. I remember thinking, at the time, that it was awesome, but looking back... shewwwwwww! I like the idea, so I may very well be revisiting this story later on to rewrite it or just do some edits, but man alive. It's in dire need of reworking. I am posting the story below to give all of you a nice, hearty laugh, sans edits, so please forgive the grievous errors I committed when I was a mere sapling of a human.

And without further ado, "Meet Chuck."

A shiny, black beetle scuttled across the linoleum flooring at an alarming pace, flailing its legs as quickly as it could; it was in open territory and needed even the smallest amount of a refuge that it could find. Then, there it was. A shadow caused by an industrial sized metal shelf appeared ahead, so the beetle made a mad dash into hiding. Unfortunately for the beetle, however, Tilly Montreau, a precocious child of six, was watching its every move. Before the bug could escape from her gaze, she placed a plump little hand in its path. The bracelet that she wore clicked quietly against the floor. Its blue beading was scratched and the clasp was nearly broken from several years of constant wear, yet Tilly never took it off because it was a gift from her father before he left for the Vietnam War. He never returned.

Tilly picked up the beetle with her round fingers and held it in her palm while she stared at it with her intense green eyes. She had gotten those eyes from her father who was a good looking man, robust and healthy. His Irish descent had given him fire red hair and eyes that sparkled like the greenest emerald anyone had ever seen. Not only looks made him attractive, though. He was a loving man, unafraid to show his love for his family. Before he was killed in battle he had sent one letter every day to them. Sometimes, he had even sent two.

Just as Tilly was about to experiment with the insect’s anatomy, her mother called her.

“C’mon, Tilly, stop dawdlin’. We don’t have all day, y’know,” she chided. Tilly’s mother had always been beautiful. Indeed, she was much like wine; she improved with age. Every fine wrinkle that formed on her face added to her gracefully wise appearance, and every grey hair made her look as if a light halo surrounded her glorious face. When her family received the notice of her father’s untimely death, her mother became unattractive for nearly a year. There was no grace in her step, no cheerfulness in her demeanor. She appeared plain even to those who knew her previously. Her beauty returned, though, after a while.

Tilly stood up and carried the beetle over to her mother, “Meet Chuck,” she said while motioning to the insect.

The mother shrieked in disgust, “Put that thing down!”

Tilly’s bottom lip quivered. “But—" she objected. Her mother gawked at the repulsive insect in horror until Tilly carefully laid the bug on the ground. Once it was free, the bug joyfully disappeared under a shelf.

While Tilly mourned for the loss of her dear friend, Chuck the Beetle, her mother continued shopping and stopped at a shelf full of spices where she began muttering about cilantro and how to make some sort of sauce. Her fingers glanced over each bottle of spice, and she soon became so entranced by her shopping that she did not even notice that her daughter was gone.

Standing by the cart watching her mother shop for spice had bored Tilly, so she made her way to the adjacent aisle where the cookies were. Sweets were a much more enjoyable thing to shop for. Just as she was reaching to grab a pack of her favorite brand of cookies, a loud BANG echoed throughout the store followed by a bloodcurdling scream and several inaudibly harsh shouts. Tilly was too young to know for sure, but she could have sworn that the bang sounded like a gunshot.

Interested in the origin of the sound, Tilly made her way to the front of the store, but before she got there, she heard her mother calling out to her.

“Tilly? Tilly, where are ya?” she called. Her voice sounded strangely frightened.

Tilly nearly went to her mother, but her curiosity got the better of her and she made her way once again to the front of the store. As she walked up the aisle, she noticed that it was deserted. Where had everyone gone? It gave her an eerie feeling. She would have turned around and gone back to her mother, but she was much too intrigued at that point to turn back. Tilly was near the edge of the aisle 

when another shot rang out, much closer this time, and a box of Cheerios exploded to her left. Tilly’s first reaction was to duck to the ground, her hands over her head.

The shot was immediately followed by “Get away from me, you dirty Jap!” The oddly familiar voice was old and worn but full of malice and rage. Tilly crawled forward and saw the man who was responsible for the disturbance. She was quite surprised to see her next door neighbor, Mr. Vetran, a bedraggled looking old man with a hatchet-like nose with a very sharp point at the end of it. His dark hair was matted to his forehead, and his eyes were small and beady despite their clear blue color. He was wearing a beat up pair of work boots, orange pants with several rips in them, and a dirty t-shirt that could have possibly been white at one time. He looked as if he had not showered in weeks.

A woman to his left attempted to calm him by speaking to him in a soothing fashion, but his mind was bent on war. He meant to kill. In his mind, everyone that approached him was a possible enemy.

“Mr. Vetran,” she said softly, “Put the gun down, Charles.”

Mr. Vetran’s eyes flared with terrifying hate as he shot the woman in the stomach. She collapsed to the floor in a heap; no one moved to help her. Fearfully, Tilly inched forward to hide behind a cardboard display of melons. Was this what father would have been like if he had returned from the war? Maybe it was better that he did not come back. Tilly hid without being seen by anyone and found a hole in the cardboard through which to spy safely on Mr. Vetran. She felt like a real secret agent.

Tilly’s imagination was permanently halted when her mother ran toward Mr. Vetran asking about her missing daughter.

“Mr. Vetran, have you seen Tilly? I can’t find her anywhere,” she cried. Her face had an expression that Tilly had never seen before. She was about to respond when Mr. Vetran whipped around to face her mother and delivered a blow to her mother’s temple hard enough to knock her unconscious. Like the previous woman, her mother fell to the ground. Mr. Vetran then opened fire on the whole store. It was not until the police arrived that he stopped shooting, and even then they were forced to shoot him in the thigh to force him to acquiesce to their requests to cease fire.

As the police began securing handcuffs around his wrists, Mr. Vetran seemed to be jerked back into reality. He was not overseas. He was not in danger. He did not need to defend himself. The scene in front of him was gruesome: several people, his friends and neighbors, were lying on the ground, some of them mortally wounded. Those wounds were his doing. All of the sudden, Charles Vetran fell to his knees with an uplifted head streaming with tears, “Lord, forgive me, for I know not what I have done!”

With that, the police picked him off the floor and dragged his limp body out of the grocery store, tears still falling from his eyes. People began to stir as he and the officers walked out through the door. Among those stirring was Tilly’s mother. She sat up, completely unaware of where she was. Then she remembered: Mr. Vetran had hit her with his gun. Tilly was missing.

The mother stood up and looked around the store. Tilly was not in sight among the bodies. Just as she heaved a sigh of relief, her eyes were directed to a damaged melon display with several bullet holes in it. She unleashed a horrified scream at the sight of a pudgy little hand with a worn bracelet around the wrist appearing on the floor behind the display.

END

And that's that. Wahooey.

Peace.
Stef.

P.S. Today's exercise is going to be posted at 2pm. Come back for a visit! :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Falling Snow"

Exercise #46 : "Falling Snow"

With specific detail that appeals to all the senses -- sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell -- describe falling snow.

Snow, white and pure, floats downward from a light, cloud-filled sky, soundlessly settling on roofs, tree branches, ground and enveloping the world in a cozy comforter of bleached down. It's my favorite part of the winter, w
hen time seems to hold still for the briefest of seconds, allowing all who are willing to take a moment to acknowledge the beauty. I frequently stand in the middle of my back yard, arms out stretched, mouth opened wide, and sticking my tongue out. The flakes land lightly on my tongue, cold and wet, and I can't help but to smile. With eyes closed, visions of Christmas flash across my eyelids, and, despite the cold weather, I am warm from the inside out.

5 minutes up.

Sorry for the late post, my lovely readers. Today would not have been qualified as a good day, so I was bogged down with a lot to do. Hopefully the next few weeks will get better. This past week has been... hell, to say the least. Keep me in mind this wee
k, as I still have a lot of healing to do.

Peace.
Stef.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Charlamagne, the Boy Cat From Upstairs

I'm playing catchup, because this was supposed to be done this past Saturday, and we all know I wasn't here for that. :)

This is Charlamagne, the chill cat of the house. He is my upstairs roommate's cat, and he's a total teddy bear. You can do pretty much anything to him, and he'll just sit there. He may even give you kisses every so often. His meow is unique; it almost sounds like a cackle, and it makes me smile.

As you can see from the picture, Charlie is a little bit of a tubbers, but it's so cute that it's ok. He's on a diet, though, and we have to make sure that he doesn't eat any of the food I set down for Kitty Kitty and Lily.

He's an affectionate cutie, but don't let the adorable-ness fool you. An antagonizer at heart, he finds joy in pouncing on Lily and fighting her until she scratches the crap out of him. He learned quickly that his battles with Kitty Kitty were not only unnecessary but harmful to his person, so he doesn't pick fights with her. Smart boy.

Anyways, that's the upstairs cat. He's pretty great.

Peace.
Stef.

"Shelly's Scene Objective"

Exercise #45 : "Shelly's Scene Objective"

In The Power of the Actor, Ivana Chubbuck shows actors how to use their emotions to empower a goal. Actors identify their characters' overall objective, as well as their scene objective. Applying this to writing, assume your character is "Shelly;" her overall objective is to get married, and her scene objective is to get "Kyle" - whom she has just met, say, in a coffee shop - to ask her on a date. Write the scene from Shelly's point of view.

I don't understand Shelly's type of woman. They just don't make sense to me. The manipulation, the I-have-to-get-married syndrome... It's all a complete enigma that evades my thinking processes. Not only that, but it infuriates me. Maybe I'm just bittered by the lingering break-up sadness, but it's ridiculous. IhavetogetmarriedIhavetogetmarriedIhavetogetMARRIED!!!!! Ludicrous. What's the point? Someone please tell me.

Sure, there's something to be said about being in a relationship. It's great. There's always someone there to talk to, to be excited with, to call when you're upset. But it's not all unicorns and glitter farts. Relationships are hard, and if you rush them they're doomed for failure (I know, I know... There's always an exception to the rule, but we're not talking about the exceptions here.).

And I've just now realized that I - a recent dumpee - am doling out advice on relationships......... Probably not the smartest thing...

Either way, I'm really annoyed now. Feel free to take part in this exercise and post your responses in the comment section. Lord knows I'm not going to do it.

Peace.
Stef.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

"St. Valentine's Day Massacre"

Exercise #44 : "St. Valentine's Day Massacre"

This is a plot-generating exercise.
  1. List 5 small gestures Bob makes that show he loves his wife, Betty. For example, he might do the dishes, buy her jewelry, etc.
  2. List 5 actions by which Betty reveals that she no longer loves Bob. For example, she might not pick up the phone when she sees the caller ID that shows it's him or she might travel on business when she doesn't need to.
  3. List 3 ways Betty could kill Bob.
  4. In three words -- no more -- describe Betty's secret boyfriend, Jeb.
  5. Where did Betty meet Jeb.
  6. Finally, in what way is Jeb a surprising character? Answer in only 2 adjectives.
Well, goodness gracious, isn't that depressing? I don't like Betty. What a backstabbing little... Grr...

5 minutes START!

Bob's 5 gestures:
  1. making the coffee her way every morning: super strong
  2. take her out dancing every Thursday night
  3. frequently buys / sends her flowers "just because"
  4. lets the dog sleep in the bed with them because she likes it
  5. he once upgraded her ring to a 2 carat diamond
Betty's 5 jerky behaviors:
  1. goes out of her way to not laugh at his jokes
  2. makes sure that the dog sleeps between them at night
  3. lets the flowers he sends die instead of watering them
  4. always fakes a headache... you know what I mean
  5. never buys him presents for holidays / birthdays
Betty's 3 murder plots:
  1. poison the coffee he makes every morning
  2. suffocate him while he is sleeping
  3. shoot him with a silenced gun
Jeb: down-home corn farmer

Betty met Jeb at the local farmer's market. He is a farmer and has a couple hundred acres several miles outside the city.

2 adjectives: surprisingly intelligent

5 minutes up. It was actually a few more than 5. I felt that I needed to finish the whole exercise, so the 5 minute rule was kind of thrown out of the window.

Let me first say that I am so thankful for all of my wonderful readers. Your words of encouragement and thoughts were very much appreciated over this Labor Day weekend.

To those of you who haven't yet heard, my boyfriend of 1 and 1/2 years broke up with me on Thursday evening, and I needed to take the weekend to regroup. It was a shock that I am still coping with, but it has gotten easier. After thinking about it, I'm starting to realize that the choice he made was probably the right one. We are now in talks concerning our friendship, and, while he hurt me pretty badly, I am not willing to shove him out of my life because I'm pissed at him. The anger and pain will go away. In fact, it has already started to disappate. He is one of my best friends, and I can't imagine him not being involved in my life, even if his involvement is only platonic. I love him and always will, but we work better together as friends. So that's that. I can only hope that we can push through this while remaining close friends, because he's incredibly important to me, and I care so much about him.

Once again, thanks to all of you that were so supportive. You're wonderful.

Peace.
Stef.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Until Tuesday.

I have had a personal emergency present itself and must take some time to be alone over the long weekend. My posts will resume on Tuesday.

I'm sorry that I am unable to maintain my normal posting schedule until then.

Peace.
Stef.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

"Message for a Stranger"

Exercise #43 : "Message for a Stranger"

Today's exercise was inspired by an essay published in the Washington Post by Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood. She wrote, "Writing, like sewing, was always for someone, even if that someone was yourself in the future. Writing was a way of sending your voice to someone you might never meet." Imagine that tomorrow a stranger will pick up the scrap of paper on which you have written something.
(Note: This exercise is especially fun if you really do leave the scrap of paper somewhere for someone to find it -- perhaps on a park bench or in an elevator.)

Interesting. I like this idea. Thanks, CM Mayo, for coming up with it.

Andddddddd... go.

To You. Yes, You!

Chances are you don't know me, and that's ok. In fact, knowing that I'm writing a letter to someone I don't know is kind of freeing. I can say whatever I want, however I want. Lovely, says I.

I guess my first order of business is to make a stereotypical "Seize the day!" comment.

Take today and smile at it. Not only that, but take it a step further. Laugh at it. Even if something that you perceive to be bad happens. It makes the day bearable and - gasp!! - fun.

Find humor in the mundane things. That way you'll never be bored.

The next time you get fast food through the drive-through, attempt to be a different nationality. I've always found great fun in that. I mean, think about it. I doubt anyone is an expert linguist at Burger King, so you could even make up your own accent if you don't have an ear for real ones. And if someone does call you out on it, feign offense and drive off in a huff. It's always entertaining to throw a temper tantrum when you know you're never going to see that person again. It's actually quite cathartic.

Speaking of the word cathartic, I am ashamed to admit that I only just found out a few weeks ago that it was spelled catharTic and not catharDic. Silly me. And I usually spell so well...

Watch The Fall by Tarsem Singh starring Lee Pace. It's an amazing movie, and it didn't get the acclaim that it deserved.

I'm not sure if I have much of anything else to say. You know what? I'm not going to say anything else.

Have a lovely day,
Me.

As is usually the case, this one was harder than I expected. I assumed, going into it, that a lack of limitations would open up a world of topics. Strangely, however, I found myself to be almost claustrophobically (Is that a word? Oh, well... I just made it up.) contained. The lack of guidelines made the list of possible topics overwhelming and stifling. Harumph... But it did get me to think a little bit, which is the purpose of these exercises.

Have you actually done this? What did you say? If you hadn't, what would you say?

Peace.
Stef.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

"Popol Vuh: Seven Random Bits"

Exercise #42 : "Popol Vuh: Seven Random Bits"

I just pulled the Popol Vuh off the shelf and found these seven random bits:
  • sweet drink!
  • Jaguar
  • undone
  • you tricksters!
  • And they remembered what had been said about the East.
  • vagabonds
  • corn with fish
What can you write in five minutes that incorporates all of these?

5 minutes start now... BEEP!

The vagabonds trudged through the dry sand, the sun beating directly on the top of their heads. Each step brought them closer to exhaustion.

The first vagabond, the one with the deep scar on his cheek, was sweating profusely, but he was walking faster than the other two, charging forward with the determination of a bear.

"Hurry up!" he barked. "We have to be quick!"

The second vagabond fell to his knees. "I can't," he said. "I can't go on. We've been walking like this for 3 days. We are out of water and food. If we continue, we'll be dead in mere hours."

The scarred vagabond scoffed at his fallen comrade. "If you don't get up, we'll leave you here, and then you will die, most assuredly. If you stay with us, at least there's a chance that our luck lies to the East."

With all of the strength he could muster, the second vagabond pushed his body upward, sand and dust falling of his shoulders in clouds. His face cover button had come undone in the fall, so he draped the fabric across his mouth and refastened it before moving onward. Once the scarred vagabond was certain that his weaker fellow was not going to hinder their progress any longer he turned and began to walk toward the East, but he had walked less than 5 steps before he was halted.

"Excuse me," said the third vagabond, a woman, "but I believe you are going the wrong way."

Whipping his body around, he charged the young woman whose red hair was falling out from under her head scarf and flowing freely down her back.

"Would you mind saying that again?" he snarled. His eyes suggested that if she were to repeat herself she would suffer greatly, but she knew she had to speak. Otherwise, they would get lost and perish, hopeless in the desert.

"You are heading North, not East," she said, looking him directly in his red-veined eyes. All of the sudden, the two men remembered what had been said about the East.

Before they had left on their journey, they were having a farewell dinner with the leader of their nomadic tribe. It was a feast of sweet drinks and corn with fish, a meal that took his people several weeks to gather. It was an honor to receive such treatment.

"You must be wary of the East," their leader said. "It is elusive and frequently shrouds one's thoughts in confusion, making one unsure which direction they should be heading."

"Mysticism?" said the scarred vagabond.

The female vagabond, who was sitting next to the elder, added, "Or possibly just the heat and exhaustion."

The elder nodded his head. "It could be either of those, among other things."

"But how can we know if we are going the right way?" asked the second vagabond.

"Your lady here," the elder said, gesturing to the woman, "is of the Jaguar. Her directional capabilities are unmatched across these lands, and she will be sure to lead you toward your goal."

"Sir," interjected the scarred vagabond, "You cannot expect us to bring a woman with us."

"I do," he said, "and you will."

5 minutes up.

Wow, I wrote a lot for that one. That couldn't have been just 5 minutes... Oh. hah It wasn't. It was around 8 or 9. Whoops. I guess I just lost track of time.

Part of me wants to go back and see if I can find somewhere to add in "You tricksters!" but I won't alter it here. You know, I may even add it into my work in progress.

Speaking of which, I may eventually start posting excerpts and story ideas for the aforementioned work in progress. Right now, I don't really have anything prepared, but if I get something together I'll let you all know.

Peace.
Stef.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

District 9 : 2 Hours of Non-Stop Intensity

I saw District 9 Sunday evening with my roommate, and I'm still recuperating. I was surprised that I was able to sleep that night.

IF YOU DO NOT WANT THE PLOT TO BE SPOILED, DO NOT READ ON. GO READ THIS.


District 9 was set in Johannesburg, South Africa and spent most of its time chronicling the last days of Wikus van de Merwe (played by Sharlto Copley), a Multi-national United (MNU) field operative. We join him as he is preparing to visit District 9, a glorified concentration camp for Prawns, a race of aliens from a distant planet who resemble the sea-dwelling Decapods.

Several years prior to the start of the movie, an alien ship appeared over Johannesburg, but instead of moving on to another city or leaving altogether, the ship stalled, simply hovering miles above the city's inhabitants. After there was absolutely no interaction from them, the government intervened and cut their way into the ship, hoping to make first contact with extraterrestrials. What they encountered was much worse. 1.8 million aliens huddled together in the belly of the ship, malnourished and leaderless. Feeling compassion for the creatures, the government created an area in which to house them: District 9. Soon after, the district became a slum, filled with crime and disease, and the people of Johannesburg began to complain. 20 years later, the complaints turned into riots, so the MNU stepped in and created a new housing area for the Prawns which is located several miles away from the city. This is where we join in on the action.

Wikus van de Merwe, as stated earlier, is preparing to visit District 9 for the sole purpose of informing the Prawns that they are being evicted and transferred to another location. While there, he finds a particular illegal stash belonging to a Prawn named Christopher (his government-given name, of course). In it is a tubular container, filled with a strange liquid that took Christopher 20 years to create. By accident, Wikus is exposed to this liquid and soon begins a transformation not unlike the character in Kafka's "Metamorphosis" (I'll leave the gory details for when you see the movie yourself.).

In the end, Wikus joins forces with the Prawns in an attempt to revert back to his human state, but he is forced to make a choice: Which is more important? His life or the lives of a newly gained friend (pictured above) and his son? You'll have to see the movie to find out what happens.

I won't sugarcoat it. This movie is gory. Not Quentin Tarantino gory, but darkly gory. There are shots of people being eviscerated by an alien weapon, blown up, and decapitated (among other various and equally disgusting ways), and we all know how I feel about that (see this post). Not only that, but imagine this man's transformation from man into Prawn.

Besides that, however, this movie is excellently executed. It's filmed in the style of a documentary, and I must say that I haven't seen a movie as deceptively real as this one. I believed that Wilkus was a real person and that he worked for the MNU. Additionally, there's the whole issue of the aliens. Now, we were alive during the 90's. We know that there was never an alien spacecraft hovering above Johannesburg. Despite that fact, however, I believed it.

It also goes without saying that the acting was phenomenal. It's incredibly difficult to portray a character that seems like a person we talked to earlier that day, but these actors did it with ease. Impressive, says I.

And then we have the special effects. The CGI was absolutely amazing. If I was completely shut away from the world and didn't know anything about the modern movie, I would have been absolutely convinced that this really did happen.

That being said, I will most likely not be seeing it again for the sheer fact that my heart was racing the whole time. There was not one cathartic release throughout the entire movie, and 2+ hours of nonstop action just exhausted me. I was still shaking for several hours after the movie ended. Actually, funny story. I bought Jr. Mints on my way in to the theater, and when the box was empty, I proceeded to tear the box into pieces. Tiny, little, minty-smelling pieces. By the time the credits began to roll, over half of the box was decimated and laying inside the remaining portion of the box. The pieces I ripped were barely the size of my pinky nail. Stressful. Very, very stressful. But still excellent. Go see it, if only once.

Peace.
Stef.

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