Category Archives: Fiction

great expectations – the gap between what we want to write and what we actually produce

Does the end result of your story stop you from even beginning? That seems to be my current problem…

“I dream of an Eagle, I give birth to a Hummingbird.” ~ Edith Wharton

There is a gap many writers experience. Between the expectation and the final product. In my head it’s a beautifully weaved quilt of literary genius. On paper (or screen) it’s a mess of my random connections between characters, inner intentions and very vague symbolism. An example is one scene I wrote in the Finding your Writer’s Voice Workshop… (can’t believe I’m sharing this; don’t stone me!)

Tiffany saw the way the Earth looked at dusk, but never from yards above the rooftops. She didn’t expect it to be so cold and wobbly. Though Gretchen did say there would be flashes of lightning.

“All the better to see you with, my dear,” she had said in her wicked witch voice. Complete with a cackle.

Tiffany couldn’t get used to that voice on Gretchen. But she really couldn’t get used to the energy that surged under her skin and lifted her feet from the ground.

“The umbrella is for effect?” She asked Gretchen.

“No, Mary Poppins, the umbrella is for control. The wind will carry your five foot frame wherever he wants, but at least you can guide the journey.”

 Journey. Exactly what Tiffany had wished for at the beginning of the summer. This is not what she had envisioned.

When Dad came home alone from the hospital last month, Tiffany just thought the baby needed more time to grow, develop, heal. And mom, too. But Dad’s face…

The image that prompted this rambling start of a YA story is pictured below (the girl holding the flying umbrella.)

top row, third from the left

Yes, this scene is very disconnected, riddled with grammatical errors and paced awkwardly. Given, it was written in Three Minutes. So, I need to forgive the drafting phase and remember…

“Value the process, not the product.” ~ Jane Yolen

How are you valuing your process? Do you have rituals? Ways to work through the doubt, through the Big Expectation?

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Filed under Advice, Believe, characters, Fiction, Inspiration, procrastination, Voice, writers, writing inspiration, Writing prompts, Year of Nurturing

Finding your Writer’s Voice

My NaNoWriMo group met at the library a few weeks ago to practice an exercise our liason learned in a workshop.

This is Intense. It WILL resurrect your creativity.

  1. You should have at least one partner, but a group of 3 or 4 works best.
  2. each writer brings 3 pictures to the workshop (cut from magazines, printed from online, taken from your own camera) images should be interesting because these will be used to prompt ideas
  3. everyone lays their pics onto one table and each writer selects 2-3 images that really pique their interest or speak to them
  4. back at your notebook or laptop, one person sets the timer for THREE MINUTES
  5. as a group, pile your pics together and choose one picture to start with, study it, let your mind churn out characters, settings, story lines or dialogue and get ready …
  6. Timer goes – Start writing! Write as fast as you can, no thinking, no plotting, No EDITING
  7. Time’s UP! Stop writing even if in the middle of a sentence.
  8. Flip to the next picture, look it over quickly – you should only have 60 seconds before starting the next round.
  9. Timer starts – Start Writing again! THREE MINUTES. This should be an independent scene or story idea from the first one you started, though if you’re an amazing prolific writer, you can connect the scenes….
  10. Repeat these writing sprints through your stack of images (should have 9 total).
  11. After the 9th scene is written, take turns READING aloud your story snippets to the group. You should read them straight through, pausing briefly between to give your partners time to jot down some thoughts on your work.
  12. After each writer has read aloud, offer your feedback. Feedback should remain positive  – think of it as writing a fan letter to your favorite author. These are all very rough drafts, remember.
  13. One more time, each writer reads aloud straight through all 9 snippets of their writing.
  14. This time, each writer will offer feedback based on:
  • How each scene made them feel
  • What genre they believe this scene would fall into
  • Ask what the author had in mind for the story plot and the ending
  • Which of the 9 was the strongest story

At the end of this fun, fast workshop, you will each have 9 story starts, a full tank of confidence and a better idea of your writer’s voice and the genre that you write the best.

Here are the pics my group used:

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Filed under Advice, Fiction, Inspiration, NaNoWriMo, teaching, Voice, writers, Writing prompts

Dear Words: I love you! Forever yours, me

“Don’t forget to be grateful that you love words.” ~ Monica Wood

I LOVE words. I do. And I don’t care who hears me:

I LOVE WORDS!!!

Say it with me!

I LOVE WORDS!!!

Create words or unique ways of using them: “green” as a Verb?

The sun greens the Earth.

“Spoon” as a Verb?

She spoons the terrier pup, feeling his warmth and heartbeat.

How about “racket?”

Sammy is racketing across the yard, much to the dismay of the delicately balanced tea cups.

What other nouns or adjectives can you use as a fresh verb?

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Filed under books, Fiction, Voice, writers block, writing inspiration, Writing prompts

Writing Backstories – Guest Post & Book Giveaway!

Writing Backstories

By Karen Wojcik Berner

Thank you so much, Mary Jo, for inviting me to guest blog today. I am very excited to be here.

You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack

And you may find yourself in another part of the world

And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile

You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife

You may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”

Talking Heads. “Once in a Lifetime.” Remain in Light. Sire Records, 1980. Vinyl.

This song pops into my head all the time. Not only were the Talking Heads one of my favorite bands back in the day, but it also helps put me into the proper writing mode to create a character’s backstory, which happens to be every time I begin writing a Bibliophiles novel.

Most series focus on the adventures of one main character. I decided to switch things up a bit. Each novel in my series spotlights one or two members of a classics book club and tells the story of their lives up to joining. The book club storyline is furthered throughout the series.

Win this Book!

For example, A Whisper to a Scream (The Bibliophiles: Book One) is about Sarah, an overwhelmed, stay-at-home mom, and Annie, a P.R. executive dealing with fertility issues. My next book, due out in spring 2012, follows Bibliophile Catherine Elbert as she bounces from coast to coast in search of her true self.

Backstories are a big part of all fiction, don’t you think?

I start with the standard journalism questions: who, what, why, where, when and how. I can’t help myself. I was a magazine editor for ten years and a newspaper freelancer before that.

Who is this person? How old? Where does he or she come from? What kind of family? House or apartment? Rural, city or suburb? What school? What does she look like? What kind of family life did he have growing up?

Relationships, or lack thereof, with siblings or parents. Goals and dreams. Clothes? Music? Cars? Drinks? Favorite food? All these things help create well-rounded characters. As you make your choices, be careful not to make your new character a stereotype. Mix in some seemingly conflicting traits to shake things up a bit.

The main question I think backstories should answer is how did this person get to this point? What are the ramifications of the past upon the present?

Also, don’t forget to include the things that just spill out while you are writing. Most of the time, these can be the best details, even though they might change your previously conceptualized notions about your character.

That’s okay. It’s your world. You can alter it however you please.

Don’t you wish life had that option? I know I do.

About the Author:

Karen Wojcik Berner lives a provincial life tucked away with her family in
the Chicago suburbs. If it was good enough for Jane Austen, right?
However, dear Miss Austen had the good fortune of being born amid the
glorious English countryside, something Karen unabashedly covets, so much
so that she majored in English and communications at Dominican University.

Like the magnificent Miss Austen, Karen could not help but write about the

Society that surrounds her.

A booklover since she could hold one in her chubby little toddler hands, Karen

wanted to announce to the world just how much she loves the written word.

She considered getting a bibliophile tattoo but instead decided to write about

the lives of the members of a suburban Classics Book Club. The series is called,

of course, The Bibliophiles.”) When she isn’t reading, writing, or spending her
time wishing she was Jane Austen, Karen spends her time can be found sipping

tea or wine, whichever is more appropriate that day, and watching Tim Burton

movies or “Chopped,” her favorite foodie TV show.

Just Thought You Should Know:   A Whisper to a Scream is Book One of a series called The Bibliophiles. The second book in the series will be released in February 2012. Stay tuned!

Author’s Websites:                                                  
Karen Berner’s website:  http://www.karenberner.com/index.html

Leave a comment or a question and Random.org may select You as a winner!

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Filed under Advice, books, Fiction, Give Aways, writers

A Short Story by a Young Writer

Please give a warm welcome to a student of mine, Fiona. Fiona has taken my writing workshops for several years now. She is a gifted writer, who has a talent for descriptive word choice, emotion-filled stories and the very important “showing, not telling” technique. Enjoy this short story and please leave an encouraging comment for this young author! (For details on my workshops, click HERE.)

Crushing Candies

By: Fiona, 6th grader

I stepped into my room, dropped my backpack, and flung myself into my desk chair.

“Can you believe it Paisley? Summer already!”  I listened to her go on and on about how amazing her boyfriend is.

“Got to go Paisley, I’m late for work!” I hung up the phone and dug for my apron in the hamper.

My job was manning the cash register for our candy shop, Millers Candy. My dad worked in the office paying overdue bills and making orders for Three Musketeers, Butterfingers, and a wide variety of hard candies. In the kitchen is where toffee, chocolate, and other good stuff were made.

A mom and a little girl walked to the mini fridge covering the peeling yellow paint. The mom took a little paper bag to fill with  ten-cent candies, and the little girl asked for almond bark. She looked like the perfect girl to be my little sister that I wanted.

Right then, a man in a black suit walked through the doors. I recognized him from the coffee shop. His name was Mr. Johnson.

“Hi, Mr. Johnson! Would you like a toffee sample?”  I said with a cheesy grin.

Mr. Johnson’s Bistro coffee shop has been a success since it opened. My mom walked in wearing her apron covered with flour. She greeted Mr. Johnson.

“So Kerri,” he began referring to my mom. “Your candy shop has been getting in the way with my business.” He said with a fake smile.

“Hmmm… and how so?” my mom said with her hands on her hips.

“With your intimidating sweets around my sales are going down.” He replied.

“Intimidating?” my dad said walking out from his office with a raised eyebrow.

“So what you’re saying is no other stores in Red Oak have a problem with our sweets but you do?” I butted in.

“No, what I’m offering is a large amount of money to shut you down.”  He said with his head up tall.

“We’re going to have to ask you to leave Mr. Johnson and have fun getting us out.” My mom said.

At five o’clock I closed shop and swept the floor to go eat dinner. When I was deep into my steak, I reached for my phone in my pocket, but it wasn’t there.

“Mom can I go get my phone from down stairs?” I asked.  She handed me the keys.

I headed toward the stairs and went down. When I reached the shop I couldn’t believe my eyes. Little rats lay in the ten-cent candy baskets and in the cotton candy loft. Their red eyes were staring at me and their rubbery pink tails twitched.

“MOM!!!” I shouted. She came running down the stairs with a first aid kit and fire extinguisher. Her over protectiveness was shining like a sun.

“Rats” my dad yelled and ran down the stairs. He came back down with floral garden gloves and a lidded bucket. He collected each one.

My mom called the Health Department from the wall phone in the kitchen. I could tell she was freaking out a little bit or maybe a lot.

I took out my phone from the cabinet next to the register to call Paisley. But there was no answer. I went upstairs to my room and I could see the Health Department van in the driveway. Four men came out in blue disinfectant suits.

I saw a little girl with her mom walking down the sidewalk. I could imagine her being my little sister. She could sweep the floor and pass out samples. I suddenly got a text from Paisley. It read:  hey, with Josh and can’t come.” I sighed of loneliness. No siblings, no friends, no boyfriend.

Life is just great!

It’s ten p.m. and the men are still here. A familiar voice called my name. Paisley was standing in our kitchen. She knew we never locked the doors.

“Can I sleep over” she asked.

“Sure whatever” I replied moaning.

“Claire, come with me.” Paisley said motioning towards the hallway.

I grabbed my umbrella and walked to the door out of the apartment complex. Paisley stopped in front of the store. She told me to look at the door sign.

Closed by the Health Department

Until Further Notice

I nearly fell down on the wet sidewalk. It was like the sign said DEATH TRAP! NEVER SET FOOT IN THIS AREA!

“Mr. Johnson did it! He put the rats here!” I cried to Paisley. Soon my parents walked outside.

“Claire, the test will be in by Tuesday to narrow the search down.” my mom whispered.

“Search?” I asked to my mom. 

“Yes, our store is perfectly clean, so it was a scam.” dad replied.

Cool relief filled my body.

“Well your father and I are going out to celebrate!” my mom said.

“Celebrate what?” I asked.

“The adoption of your baby sister!” My mom said.

I started to jump up and down. Paisley and I grabbed some toffee and went to my room.

“Maybe she’s Laura’s age?” Paisley wondered. Laura was her sister.

I sat on the store steps jotting down names for my sister. My favorite was Fallene. Tuesday was here. FINALLY! I thought to myself as the same truck pulled up. I brought the men to the living room. About to make them coffee, I noticed their Java World cups in their hands. That was Mr. Johnson shop.

They said that the man worked with coffee. (Mr. Johnson) and he had brown hair (Mr. Johnson!)

“MR. JOHNSON!” I blurted out and was sent to my room.

After many hours with the police, my mom finally came in and said that Mr. Johnson was on his way to jail.

“Really?” I shouted “I can’t believe it!” I said jumping up and down.

I called Paisley to tell her everything. She was awestruck.

1 Year Later

I waited for hours tapping my toes and wringing my hands. My parents walked in the doorway with a 14 month old baby in my mom’s arms. I ran to the sleepy child.

“Isn’t she beautiful?” my dad said loud enough to wake the baby up.

“She’s more than I ever wanted” I whispered.

Everything was great and getting better.

The End

BIO: Hi, my name is Fiona and I have been taking classes with Mary Jo since I was in second grade. I am in sixth grade and writing is one of my many hobbies. I love writing fantasy stories and short novels.

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* How would you like to take a writing workshop with me? Send me an email for details! mjcriter at comcast dot net

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Filed under Believe, Fiction, Inspiration, Young Adults

Interview & Book Giveaway: Amira Aly, Egypt: The Uprising

Amira Aly

Please welcome, Amira Aly, author of the YA novel, Egypt: The Uprising. Amira answers my questions on the timeliness of her novel, being a doctor and a novelist, writing against the regime without fear and her secret writing weapon. Enjoy this fascinating interview and be entered in the ebook giveaway drawing by leaving  a comment or question for our author. Entries will be randomly selected on Wednesday, August 10.

Interview by Mary Jo Campbell

Welcome, Amira! Thank you for taking the time to answer my interview questions. I’m sure my readers will glean much from your responses.   In your unofficial bio on your site, you say “Oh, {I’m} also a full-time writer and part-time doctor.”  I Love that irony! It’s unique to see those who study medicine/science also having a passion for creativity and art. How does one help the other in your life?

Thank you Mary Jo. It’s funny because there is a long line of doctors-turned-writers in Egypt. I guess it stems from the pressures Egyptian society exerts on us. We, ‘artsy’ types with scientific potential, are usually cajoled into pursuing a more traditional career. I think we end up studying medicine because deep down in every writer there’s a romanticism that lends itself nicely to medicine.

Studying medicine, and practicing it in the setting of a developing country among the poor of the nation, has enriched my understanding of human beings and exposed me to the most interesting characters one can come across. I also think that seeing and experiencing suffering first hand taught me a lot about human nature and how people react to trauma–things that I would not have otherwise been exposed to in my otherwise sheltered life.

Post-apocalyptic stories seem the new trend, but your book has a slight edge, as Egypt has already been dealing with political uprisings, the most recent being broadcast world-wide in January, 2011.  First off, when did you begin writing the ideas of this book and how long was the publication process, from brainstorming to finished product in hand? It seemed perfectly timed with the riots.

I had been fiddling around with the idea of a book set in post-apocalyptic Egypt where the goddess of justice, Maat, meets up with a young Egyptian girl to help her on the quest to “set things right.”

When the uprising broke out, I felt like this was a perfect opportunity for Maat’s intervention in modern history–after all justice and equality were the demands of the protestors.

I had all the Egyptian mythology research ready (approximately two years worth) and various character notes. I wrote the book in a little under three months.

 

Have you had any political resistance to the release of your book? I’m thinking back to the internet being shut down during the uprising in January and how scary that must have been for the citizens.  Were /Are you concerned for your safety while writing and/or releasing this book?

Win this ebook!

When I started writing the book, I had no idea that we would “win” and that Mubarak will be ousted.

Being politically active on the internet through social media, I’d made it abundantly clear that I was anti-regime. So I suppose that I would’ve been rounded up with the rest of the “virtual” activists had Mubarak stayed in power.

But I was not concerned about that. There was so much more at stake that my safety somehow just felt of secondary importance. The young innocent lives taken by the security forces and regime thugs left a bitterness and aching in me that superseded any other feeling.

 

 

Can you tell us a bit about your writing practice – any routines, quirks, rules you follow?

I, unfortunately, am very peculiar when it comes to my writing habits. I can only write when it’s cool (my AC bill always speaks for how much writing I get done in the summer.)

When working on my novels, my best writing comes when I am in the “twilight zone,” not fully awake and alert, usually late at night or just after I wake up and before my morning coffee. Sure, the writing is usually full of typos, but I feel like this is when I best access my creativity.

I also have a secret writing weapon–my husband! Without him, I’d be totally lost.

He takes my toddler and 7-year-old daughter out whenever I need some alone time to concentrate on my writing.

 

Can you share your tips for research?

After extensively researching Egyptian mythology I thought I had everything figured out. But when I started writing, this turned out to be far from true. I heard some writers talk about a research-as-you-write process, and I think it is an excellent idea which can significantly cut novel writing prep time.

 

Anything unusual you found while researching for this book?  Can you give us an example of how you merged factual data with your fictional world?

 

Many unusual things came my way during researching the ancient Egyptian mythology and culture. Most interesting was that the known ‘myths’ or accounts of the relationships between the Neteru, or gods, are not ‘set in stone’ (pun not intended.) They vary depending on where in Egypt the information was found and during which dynasty. Some like Seth, god of the underworld, for instance was not vilified until later in ancient Egypt’s history. Earlier accounts of him talk about him being an ally of the sun god Ra.

There is a lot of room for interpretation of Egyptian myths. And I had a pretty set idea about which bits and pieces I was going to mix together.

Fact meets fiction many times in my book, starting with the Egyptian revolution of January 25th 2011 of course.  The looting of the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities in Tahrir Square is the quintessential fact upon which I build my world.  The museum was in fact looted by pro-government thugs during the uprising; I  fictionalize why that happened and present an interesting theory about the onset of the revolution.

One key artifact in my story is the gilded Trumpet of Tutankhamen, a trumpet which was dubbed “the trumpet of war” and postulated to possess a magical ability to start war. Egyptian Minister of Antiquity, Dr. Zahi Hawass, had even issued a statement about some Japanese delegation sounding the trumpet one week before the revolution started!

I’d chosen to include that trumpet in my story ever since I saw that it was on the list of the missing artifacts from the museum, even before Hawass had made that statement, but when he did I decided to add a Japanese element to my mix.

I also have a fact or fiction section on my website  http://www.battleformaat.com/p/fact-or-fiction.html to specifically address all questions I receive about sorting out the factual from the fictional.

 

What’s next for Amira? Are you staying on the writerly path or devoting your time to medicine?

The writerly path it is! Being a novelist is an addiction I cannot cure myself of I am afraid.  I want to tell my stories to the world. Now that I’ve started, there is no stopping me.

About the Author…

Amira Aly lived in Canada up until her first year in university when she moved to Egypt to study medicine at the University of Cairo. It seemed she was on the traditional route of a medical career working as an intern and teaching assistant in the surgical pathology department. But then she discovered the wonderful world of freelance medical writing. And who could resist its charms?

Egypt: The Uprising isn’t Amira’s first book. There was that picture book she wrote when she was five years old. Sadly, publishers didn’t recognize its brilliance but it was the first step on a life filled with a love of writing.

When she isn’t writing Amira likes to read her favorite authors Anne Rice, Stephen King, and F. Scott Fizgerald. She also spends time dancing, playing video games, and eating her favorite food Molokheya (an Egyptian green soup). She’d like to squeeze in time to learn a fourth language. She already speaks English, Arabic, and French. Amira lives in Cairo with her husband, 7 year old daughter and 17 month year old son. Her children would like to add a dog to that list but Amira, still traumatized by the loss of a pet turtle, has sworn off pets. That, and she knows she’ll be the one walking the dog even though everyone promises they will.

http://www.battleformaat.com/

http://amiraaly.wordpress.com/

About the book…

Aya is a teenage girl trying to live through the Egyptian Revolution of January 2011 with her brother and aunt without getting swept up into the demonstrations and violence. But fate has something else in mind for Aya. What starts out as an attempt by Aya to drag her brother and is friends away from the demonstrations transforms into a battle with ancient Egyptian figures who have returned from the past to take control of modern Egypt. Can Aya learn enough about her mysterious past and powers in time to save her world from the evil threatening it?

Egypt: The Uprising is a fascinating combination of modern events, historical figures, secret organizations with magical powers, and adventure that keeps readers on the edge of their seats.

“Reminiscent of National Treasure, this young adult book has a little of everything for reader – sibling rivalry and love, family dynamics, young crushes, loyalty, magic,fabled creatures and beings, strange worlds and journeys.”

- Shaeeza Hanif, Amazon Review

“Very few people could have pulled this off and created a story with such layering, a story that reads like a credible Hollywood screenplay in the mold of Raiders of the Lost Ark with the scholarly underpinning of a National Geographic documentary.” – Amazon Review

Egypt: The Uprising is available for purchase in print and e-book formats at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, in various e-book formats at eBookIt!, and for the iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch at the Apple iBookstore.

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Filed under Author Interviews, books, Fiction, Give Aways

5 prompt Friday

         Here we go again…

  1. The empty feeling in my stomach spread to my chest and head, threatening to pull me inside out.
  2. How do I say this to you?
  3. On her wrist was a bracelet made from multi-colored paperclips.
  4. His voice crackled through the walkie-talkie, “The Eagle Has Landed.”
  5. Are you ready to do this?

Have a story or prompt to share? Post it here : ) Happy writing!


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WINNER! and Reader Wednesday

Random.org selected commenter # 1 - That’s you, Beth MacKinney!

Congrats! Pls send me (mjwriter”at”comcast.net) your email contact  info and Mari L.McCarthy will send you her ebook: 27 Days of Journaling to Health and Happiness

 

And now back to our scheduled programming….

What I’m reading now

 

From Plot & Structure, by The Great James Scott Bell

Stretching the Physical (tension)

Questions to ask before you write a tense scene involving physical action:

What is the worst thing from the outside that can happen to my character? (This may be in the form of another person, a physical object, or a circumstance outside my character’s control.)

In my Novel-in-progress I’m thinking of a scene in the woods where Lily and Frank are digging up old relics in the dark. They’re found by Frank’s older brother, Vince, who’s been drinking and is belligerent.

What is the worst trouble my character can get into in this scene? (You may come up with an instant answer. Pause a moment and ratchet it up a notch. This may suggest further possibilities.)

Currently, Vince seems like a dangerous physical threat, but Lily fakes him out and she and Frank speed off on the mini-bike, avoiding any real danger. Too boring. Have you ever heard the advice to keep your characters in the room? It’s easy to get them out of trouble quickly and change scenes. But easy doesn’t make for interesting, tense reading. And building trouble, not dodging it, is the key to memorable scenes. So, Vince needs to get closer – be a real threat  – a hint that something terrible could result. Lily, a drunken boy. The dark woods. A scared little brother. Who’s going to be the hero? Will they be too late? How will this scene change the rest of the story? Change the characters?

Have I sufficiently set up the danger for readers before the scene? (Remember, they need to know what’s at stake before they start worrying.)

At this point in the story, Lily is no stranger to verbal abuse, but I don’t show any physical abuse. Perhaps that needs to explored. At this point, we also know that Lily is a tough girl with a sassy mouth, but we haven’t seen her in any confrontations. I think I need to add a few flashbacks of how Lily reacts to her mother’s abuse (cowers from her, folds into herself) to see how she will react to Vince’s threats.  Hm, sounds like I have some re-writing to do!

How can this exercise help your story? Which scene are you working on and what will you do differently to build that physical tension? *Next Week: Building Emotional Tension!

 

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Feel the inspiration reaching out from the screen? Feel it faster – SUBSCRIBE to this blog and rec’v an email every time a new post appears. Poof!

 

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Tuesdays with…Linda K. Hubalek: Writing Fiction Based on Factual Events

author-Linda-Hubalek

Today, please welcome, guest author, Linda K. Hubalek, author of Trail of Thread series, as she explains how to write fiction based on factual events. Linda is also giving away a Kindle edition of her latest book, Trail of Thread to whomever can answer the question correctly. (Scroll to the end of this post for the question. If there are more than two correct answers, the winner will be chosen at random.)

Writing Fiction Based on Factual Events

ByTrail of Thread Series author Linda K. Hubalek

I’ve written ten historical fiction series about ancestors that homesteaded Kansas during the 1850s to the 1860s. While I base my stories on facts or photos I’ve found on my main characters, I still need to expand the story to bring the people and places to life.

Quite often a piece of information will only lead to more questions —which I think is the fun part of researching.

For example, the picture featured with my article is my great-great grandfather John Pieratt and a young woman.

Researching my family tree, John (1817-1868) and his first wife, Deborah (1821-1859) left Kentucky in 1854 to move to the new Territory of Kansas. (Their journey was the basis of my book Trail of Thread, which is a great book to use as a class project about traveling by wagon trains during the 1800s.) They were both listed in the 1850 census of Bath County, Kentucky, but John and his second wife, Nancy (1830-1863) were listed in the 1860 census of Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas.

Looking at these two people in the photo you see a big age difference between them.That leads me to believe the woman with John was wife number three, Sarah (1846-1914) whom he married in 1865. Notice she is holding a bible in her lap? That gesture was seen in photos of that era if the woman was pregnant.

John & Sarah Pieratt- circa 1866

So, I already know that John lost two wives and was 29 years older than his third wife when this picture was taken, probably in 1866 when Sarah had her first child. Imagine the stories you could write—and the emotions of not only John—but his children of his first marriage that were older than Sarah?

Add stories from newspaper clippings of Lawrence’s problemsduring the Bleeding Kansas era and the Civil War (which are featured in my books Thimble of Soil andStitch of Courage), and it’s easy for me to write fictional accounts of what was going on around their area, and the emotions that had to be felt by my family during that time period.

One more look at birth and death dates and I realize Sarah gives birth to her second child two days after John dies from blood poisoning.  Oh my! Can you imagine what she went through?!

I just put myself in Sarah’s place and pour her emotions into my words. Is it fact or fiction? It doesn’t matter to the reader at this point because the reader has become a young mother and widow in 1868…

 

For more information about Linda Hubalek and her books, please look at these websites.

Website: www.LindaHubalek.com

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Win this book!

Linda will be giving away a Kindle edition of Trail of Thread to a lucky reader. Please answer this question in the comments box to enter the drawing. What states did John and Deborah Pieratt travel through to get to their new home?

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Filed under Advice, books, Fiction, Give Aways, Novels

5 Prompt Friday

Leave one, take one… prompts for writing!

  1. A woman leaves several messages on your home answering machine desparate to speak to Sergio. You are not Sergio, nor do you know any Sergio.
  2. Your character is starting his/her own business – what is it? What does the website look like?
  3. What ring tone plays when your antagonist calls?
  4.  Vanilla or chocolate?
  5.  Car shopping! What kind of vehicle is your character looking for?
  6. 

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Prompt me, baby, one more time! Hit SUBSCRIBE and you won’t have to remember when it’s TGIPF (Thank Goodness It’s Prompt Friday!) ; )

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Filed under Fiction, Writing prompts, Young Adults