Writing

Muse Monday: Spice Up Your Writing

Last month, I read an article (and posted it on my Facebook page) by Jon Morrow of Copyblogger fame (If you haven’t yet checked out this site, you should. I highly recommend it).

Anyway, this article was called 5 Strange and Wondrous Techniques for Spicing Up Your Writing. I’m not going to rip off, or recap, everything that was in the article. I’ve included the link so you can go check it out for yourself.

This article appealed to me for several reasons:

  1. I love anything even remotely strange and wondrous, so I was intrigued from the very first words of the title.
  2. I’m always looking for ways to improve my writing (what writer isn’t), so the end of the title won me over too. I knew that I had to read this article.
  3. The article was really well constructed and easy to skim. This was, after all, an article by Jon Morrow.
  4. The points were unique – not the same old stuff that gets repeated over and over and doesn’t offer anything new (Don’t you hate wasting your time by reading articles like that?)

I was especially drawn to exercise number three (in which Jon tells us to write a steamy sex scene). I’ve never done this before, and since I’m working on building my romantic fiction repertoire, I thought this might be a useful thing for me to try. Not that I would really ever put a sex scene in one of my novels. I prefer the sweet, cleaner romances. Sex scenes (if tastefully done) don’t bother me. There’s just such a fine line between sex scene and pornography…I’d hate to cross that in my own writing. I really don’t even like reading books that seem to cross it.

I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination. I just tend to believe that too much sex in a literary work ruins the literary part. It just turns it into trash. But this wasn’t meant to be a diatribe against sex in fiction…I’m just trying to make the point that exercise number three (at least for me) would be a really hard thing to do because it would take me way out of my comfort zone. I think the challenge of it is what intrigued me the most.

Number one just didn’t sound like a good thing to do at all. I do number two pretty regularly. I’m working on number four by outlining and beginning to write my book about the Faith-Gratitude Connection. And I’ve already (in a way) done number five. You can read the results of that here.  

So, really, number three is all I have left…And, as I mentioned before, it might actually be relevant to some of my future writing. I haven’t tried it yet. And, when I do, I won’t likely post it here. I’m trying to keep this blog at least PG-rated, if not G-rated. Since I’ve just recently discovered the beauty of Google docs, I might post it there and leave a link in a blog post one of these days. Maybe.

Now what does all this have to do with creativity? And how can you use it to develop your own writing/creative muscles? Well, it’s simple. Read the original article. Pick one of the exercises, and do it. Then post the link to the results in the comments. I can’t wait to see what you all come up with!

Writing

Rory’s Story Cubes Review and Story Example

rory story cube reviews

Today I thought I would talk about what just might be one of my favorite products EVER – Rory’s Story Cubes.

I first discovered this game when I was researching an article on fun learning games for elementary school-aged children. Now, even though I’m not in elementary school and my girls aren’t yet old enough to be in elementary school, I immediately saw the creative possibilities this little game could have for adult writers who find themselves blocked.

So I bought it.

And I played it

And I immediately fell in love with it!

As soon as I had the opportunity, I took my little set of Rory’s Story Cubes to my local writer’s group meeting one Saturday evening, and the group went wild for it! I mean, they really loved it! In just fifteen minutes, we were able to come up with some wildly creative stories using these little dice.

How do you play? It’s easy!

As the instructions on the box state, there are actually three ways to play, but I usually only use it one way. You just roll all nine cubes and try to connect the images on the face up  into one cohesive story.

For example, take this roll…

And now come up with a story connecting all the images pictured. I’ll do one for you as an example.

My mail came early that Saturday morning, and I eagerly opened the envelope with the return address I knew so well. It was an invitation from my eccentric aunt to visit her cozy beach bungalow in the Florida Keys. 

“I’ve missed you so much,” her letter said. “Please visit as soon as you can.”

I hurried over to my desk calendar and checked my appointments and obligations. The next few weeks were pretty wide open, so I called my travel agent to make the necessary flight arrangements. 

“When would you like to fly out?” she asked me.

I shrugged before I realized that she couldn’t hear a shrug over the phone. “I’m not sure…It doesn’t really matter. What’s the earliest flight available for the best price?”

“There are a few seats left on the 6:00 a.m. on Southwest Airlines leaving tomorrow.”

I grimaced at the mention of the time. “Um…no. That’s not quite what I meant when I said ‘early’. I don’t do mornings very well.”

I heard the travel agent sigh on the other end of the line. “Well, the latest direct flight out today is at 7:45 p.m.”

“I’ll take it!”

I spent the rest of the day making arrangements for my departure. I had to pack. Then I needed to find someone to take care of my pet cat while I was gone. Then there was the little matter of calling my boss and letting him know that I wouldn’t be coming into the office for the next week. I didn’t think he’d mind too much because this was a slow season, and I was right. He just told me to have a safe trip, and he told me that he’d see me the next Monday. 

I hummed merrily the rest of the day, anticipating a relaxing, restful vacation. I didn’t, of course, have any idea what was in store for me that evening.

I got to the airport without incident, although I did notice the increasingly dark cloud cover moving in over the city. It seemed to be going south…headed in the exact direction my plane would be going. I frowned. It didn’t look good at all. 

Still, the flight crew apparently didn’t think it was going to be a problem, and we boarded the plane and took off right on time…unusual for almost any flight. I think the fact that this was the last flight of the day had something to do with the prompt departure. 

Within minutes after we were in the air, though, the little plane the twenty-five other passengers and I have been crammed onto was tossing and turning in the turbulent storm. Lightning flashed around us, and I heard a crackling sound as one of the engines caught fire as a bolt hit its main target – our airplane!

Although every single passenger on the plane (including me) was panicking in an instant, the flight crew remained calm. The head flight attendant picked up the handset for the plane’s intercom system and spoke quickly, but serenely. “Please don’t panic. There is a parachute located under every seat on this plane. Please remove it from its locked position and strap it on your back.” She then took her own parachute and proceeded to show us how to strap it on. 

Parachute? I thought, as I fought to regain control of my overanxious brain. That could only mean one thing – the plane was going down, and we needed to make a hasty exit. I looked out of the nearest window from my aisle seat and saw only sky and water. Why are we over water? We shouldn’t be at the ocean yet! 

I removed my seat’s parachute from its hiding place below my seat and quickly strapped it onto my body. The pilot’s voice soon boomed over the intercom system. “We are currently within a few miles of our final destination. We are making a wide circle around the Keys, but if everyone exits the plane within the next fifteen minutes, we should be able to land safely on land with the aid of our ‘chutes.”

My face registered my doubt, but no one was paying much attention to my facial expressions. They were all too concerned with saving their own skins. 

The patient flight attendants did their best to herd us all to the front of the plane in an orderly fashion. One by one, the frantic passengers jumped out of the plane. Some, understandably, were more hesitant than others, but no one was left behind. We all jumped. The thoughts of crashing to the ground in a speeding airplane or burning up in a massive engine fire spurred us all into action. At least, with the parachutes, there was some chance of a safe landing. 

Drifting down to the ground with my parachute was a much more calming sensation than I’d previously thought it would be. My fellow passengers drifted down with me in various stages of progress – some below, some above, some beside me. But we all (seemingly) landed safely on a sandy beach somewhere in Florida. 

My landing was not a graceful one, and as I stood to my feet I noticed how beautiful the moonlight looked against the calm ocean. The storm had passed, and I was safe.

Several feet off in the distance, I noticed a steady dark line moving off into the water. Some of the other passengers and I were drawn to this line by a force that we couldn’t identify and couldn’t define. 

When we neared the dark line, we saw that it was made up of little baby turtles…new hatchlings making their way toward the sea and the welcoming moonlight. I smiled at the promise of new life and turned and walked away from the ocean in the direction of some distant city lights. 

And that, my friends, is an example of how you can use Rory’s Story Cubes to quickly and easily get you back to writing again. That little story took me all of 45 minutes to write.

Have you used Rory’s Story Cubes before? Are you interested? Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

Writing

Muse Monday: Writer Igniter Exercise

I’ve spent some time away from this blog… At least, I’ve spent time away from seriously getting into it and planning out what I was going to blog about every day, or every week, or however often I was going to post. For the past few months, I’ve relinquished the majority of this blog to guest bloggers…

Now, don’t get me wrong—I love guest bloggers. I love giving the opportunity to let other people post links to their articles, books, and whatever else is important to them. And I love the convenience of not having to worry about what I’m going to posting on any particular day.

The fact is, though, that this is my blog and, as such, I should take control of it. I should be posting here more than anyone else, so I’m going to make a conscious effort to do that. And, to that end, I’ve created three fun features that will begin today:

Muse Monday—basically anything to do with enhancing creativity and getting the writing juices flowing. I know I need this as much as (or more than) the next writer.

Word Wednesday—On this day, I’m going to be highlighting words…definitions, how they’re used (incorrectly or correctly), and just any interesting facts that I come up with about certain words. Kind of like a “Word of the Day” post, only better (I hope).

Friday Free-for-All—This is the day I’m going to post all the guest blogs, author interviews, and book reviews that highlight fellow authors. These things MIGHT appear on the other days (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, or Sunday), but I’m specifically purposing Friday to be the showcase day. That way I can leave the other days open for posting articles that don’t really fit in with any of these three themes.

So, with that in mind [insert trumpet fanfare here]…

I’m kicking off Muse Monday with a short piece I wrote based on some fun writing prompts I got from the Writer Igniter. If you haven’t checked out this site yet, I strongly recommend you get over there right now. It’s fabulous, and it really is a fun way to spark your creativity.

 

Here’s the result of my latest venture to the site.

My character is a taxi driver.

The situation is that the taxi driver gets a cryptic letter.

The prop is a lucky penny.

The setting is a rainy city street at night.

 

Now I have to take these five elements and write a story using all of them–ALL of them—together. It took a while for the story to start forming in my mind, but now I think I have it. I’ll post the result in a few days.

I did want to mention that it seems like these five things always come up the first time you enter the website (at least they did for me each time I kept going back to it—and that was several times). All you have to do, though, is click on “Shuffle,” and you have a whole new group of words/phrases you can use to create your next masterpiece.

The “shuffle” feature seems to come up with a new group of words each time you click it. I’m not sure how many different situations the randomly generated prompter comes up with, but so far I’ve come up with a different one each one I’ve clicked on it.

I just tried it again, and the things I came up with this time were even better.

A tattoo artist hosts a horror movie marathon. The prop is dried flowers, and the scene is a creepy gazebo-looking thing. Oh, the possibilities here! But that’s a story for another day…after I finish the taxi cab story. Keep watching!

And if you try this writing exercise for yourself, I would love it if you shared. Just post a link (or the result) into the comments. 🙂