Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Finding the frog was supposed to be the easy part

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!
“Finding the frog was supposed to be the easy part,” she muttered as the branch her friend released hit her in the face and she swore vehemently.
“What’s that, Beth?” her friend asked.
“The frog! The damn frog!” she exclaimed as she tried to lift her feet from the cloying mud.
“I know, right? How hard can it be to find a frog in a swamp?” Her usually klutzy friend Lori, seemed to be navigating the swamp with much more ease. She delicately pushed the hanging moss out of her face.
“Oh, no but this is a special frog,” Beth whined.
“Well it doesn’t talk like the ones in the movies or the variety shows, but it is meant to be special.”
She gaped at Lori. “Oh, my God... you believe it?”
“That this thing can work.”
“The old lady said it could.”
“And you believe everything old ladies tell you?”
She shrugged. “Well... no... but she seemed very clear about it, and if you don’t believe, why the heck are we taking this stroll through the swamp?”
Beth shrugged. “Last ditch effort?” she asked.
“If you don’t believe in it, it will never work. Magic requires conviction.”
Silence as they both searched the undergrowth. Lori was searching with much less effort than Beth.
“So we catch it when we find it?” Lori checked.
“Yep. She gave me something to put it in.”
“And then what?”
“I don’t know... she boils it up in a tea or some potion for me to drink.”
“That seems kind of cruel,” Lori mumbled.
Beth hadn’t missed her comment. “What do you care? It’s a frog.”
“Frogs are important. They are like the barometers of environmental change.”
“Good God! Who have you been talking to?”
“I know about environmental change,” Lori defended.
Beth snorted. “Since when?”
She grinned at her friend. “Since that cute eco warrior dude I ran into at that protest. The guy with the dreads.”
“You lied to me.” Beth’s eyes narrowed. “You said you did not have sex with him.”
Lori rolled her eyes. “I knew you’d get all moral on me.”
“Moral? It’s not moral to want to get to know a guy before you have sex with him! You met him that day.”
“Oh, right... says the girl who is in the swamp looking for the ingredients for a love potion.” She said love with several vowels and extra r’s. Luuuurvv.
Beth’s mouth shut with a snap.
“And I got to know him just fine,” added Lori. She sighed happily.
“Ugh,” Beth grunted and pretended that she was searching under a log. “Bet you’ve never seen him again,” she muttered.
Lori stifled a laugh and that just made her friend more annoyed.
“You could help me, instead of standing there laughing at me,” she griped.
“Fine. What colour was it again?”
“Blue; bright blue with black markings.”
Lori tilted her head, reached out both hands and carefully scooped up the small blue and black frog that had landed on her friend’s back. She took several steps back, her hands cradled in front of her chest, and then announced, “I’ve got it.”
“REALLY? Aack,” she complained as she banged her head on the log. “Let me see.”
Shaking her head, Lori drew her hands away protectively. “No. You’ll hurt him-” She peered into her clasped hands. “-and he’s such a cute frog.”
Snort. “How do you know it is a ‘he’?”
“I know a fine male when I see one.”
“Whatever.” She shook out the bag from her pocket. “Hand him over.”
“No. I don’t want him to be boiled.”
“It’s what we came for.”
“I know. But I've changed my mind.”
She ignored her and held out the bag. “Put him in here. And I can’t believe I called it a him.”
“No. Look at him! He’s adorable.” And she kissed the frog.
“Ugh! Are you kissing that?” Beth looked horrified.
There was an odd silence followed by a weird buzzing hum. The air felt statically charged. Lori dropped the frog. Beth wailed as she saw it start to fall. But it stopped and hung in the air.
And then there was a loud pop; like a balloon bursting.
A tall, dark skinned man stood in front of Lori. He looked almost as surprised as she did but then his face softened and he stared at Lori with a look of wonder before he grabbed her hands. “Thank you,” he said.
“Wow.” Lori blinked. “I kissed the frog.”
“Yes, you did.” His voice was low and throaty.
“Aack! He’s naked!” Beth protested.
“He’s gorgeous,” Lori corrected. She glanced down and then made a small happy sound. “Ha. I can definitely pick a fine male when I see one.”
“I am so thankful,” he crooned to her.
“How thankful?” she asked. She leaned towards him and brushed a fingertip seductively down his bicep.
“Seriously?” Beth snapped. “Are you kidding me?”
“Hey, he’s mine. I kissed the frog and I believed.”
“That’s how it works,” he added.
“No boiling,” said Lori. “I knew there wouldn’t be boiling.”
“No.” His arm reached around her hip and pulled her in against him.
“Oooh,” Lori hummed as their faces got closer together.
“Ahhh! Sex? Here?” Beth screamed. “I am not watching this!” They ignored her. “I am going back to the car.” She took a final glance at them before she made another frustrated noise, waved her arms around and then tried to stomp off through the swamp. It wasn’t successful because they were too busy kissing to even notice her leave, the mud did not allow adequate noisy stomping and after some minutes progress, she had to stop. “Which way is the damned car?” she shouted.
No response, unless you counted a breathy moan.
“Oh, my God,” Beth swore.
“Can you grow dreadlocks?” she heard Lori ask before she stomped away again. She sat on a log that she hoped was bug free and put her fingers in her ears.
“Is she going the right way?” he asked Lori.
“No... and anyway, I have the keys.”
He laughed.
“Oh I like the sound of that laugh.”
“Just as well; you’re stuck with me.”
“Are you, by any chance a prince?”
“Sadly, no.”
“No problem. I rather not have a prince.” She kissed him quickly. “I am willing to bet that you’re an environmentalist.”
“Frogs are important,” he said with a grin.
“Don’t I know it!”
© AM Gray 2014

Friday, 29 August 2014

I think I’m a gardener

Not in the real world sense but in the writing sense. There is an idea that you can be a story architect who plans it all out to the ‘enth degree and builds a beautiful constructed story OR you can be a person who throws out a whole lot of seeds, sees which ones come up and then prunes them or transplants them until you have a finished story.
This is often termed plotters and pantsers - as in they work by the seat of their pants.
To think of writer examples, Ken Follett - Pillars of the earth - is a plotter/architect. He starts with a plan for each chapter and then expands it all out. He talks about it here in his masterclass lectures.
He thinks it out and writes a twenty five to forty page outline. It contains everything chapter by chapter that will happen in the book. He also writes out biographies for each character. This process takes him about a month. He is famous enough to then send that outline to his agent or publisher and, if they approve, he can get paid for writing it. That’s a pretty big incentive in my eyes.
The snowflake guy, Randy Ingermanson, does a similar thing. He starts with a one sentence synopsis and expands that to one paragraph and then expands that out to one page and so on…  
I have read all about this method and I have downloaded a template for Scrivener and I have tried to use this method but… it’s just not me.
Examples from the other end of the spectrum are Dan Wells, the horror writer, and George RR Martin, Game of Thrones writer. Terrifying isn’t it? The guy who makes up the incredibly wordy, detailed and complex world of Game of Thrones is making it up as he goes along.
Dan has a rough plan, not for the story itself but for the marks it should hit. He calls it a seven point plan. He has uploaded some lectures on this to YouTube and the link is on his website. The marks are things like: the hook - the idea that grabs you as a reader, the turning point, and the resolution.
Or here for a pdf slideshow.
Brandon Sanderson, epic fantasy writer, says he is somewhere in the middle. He outlines the story but his characters emerge as he writes it. In this situation, how will my main character react?
Neither way is better than the other; they are just different.
Having tried both, I think I lean towards pantser/gardener.
My most popular fanfiction stories were written in pretty much the order they were posted with daily updates loaded as I wrote them. I had a vague idea of the ending; very vague - as in X ends up with Y and they are happy and to get there and this has to change about Y. I totally wrote Apologies in six weeks (all 90k words of it) and pulled the ending out of my ass in the last chapter and I had one review that said I had intricately planted this winding thread right through the story. I wish I had planned that, but… Nope.
Same with Best Friends share everything. I was just writing sex and then had to go back and find the story. Maybe I left some hints for myself? I don’t know… but I had to make sense of it all later.
I have been trying to be more planning oriented and in the process I think I have squished myself worrying about what my main character’s favourite food is or whatever else I am meant to be filling out in his character sheet.
Start at the end, start in the middle, or fill out characters later - whatever. Who cares, as long as you are writing?

Friday, 15 August 2014

Is it worth five stars?

Goodreads has a star rating system. According to the site, the stars have the following values:
·       1 star - I did not like it,
·       2 stars - it was ok,
·       3 stars - liked it,
·       4 stars - I really liked, and
·       5 stars - it was amazing.
At its most basic, the star system has four positive stars and one negative. If everyone gave every book five stars, the system would fail.  So I don’t know where this idea came from that your book has to get a five star review or it is a failure. It has made Goodreads into a world where sock puppet authors give themselves five star reviews and other authors attack readers who post a negative review. Really, people? Really? Aren’t readers your market? Be nice to them. Or at the very least, don’t attack them in an environment that is supposed to be for them.
I've talked previously about how not everyone will like everything you write and they shouldn't. If you see a book with a few reviews and they are all five stars, then there is something off.
Last night I watched Priest on DVD. It is based on a Korean manga and is a fantasy movie set in a theocratic world where humans and vampires are at war. You give confession in a line of automated booths that look like portable toilets.
Humans have selected and trained a group of elite fighters to defend them and they have heightened senses and super-fast reflexes. The world is a gritty, quasi western world but they have awesome weapons, incredible looking dirt bikes and it is all very stylish and very dark. The vampires are genuinely terrifying and like nothing you have seen before. Vampires, who are supposed to be wiped out, kidnap the priest’s niece. It stars Paul Bettany as the priest, Karl Urban as a wonderful bad guy called Black Hat, Lily Collins as the niece, Cam Gigandet as a local Sherriff literally called Hick (bwahaha) and the wonderful Maggie Q as a fighting priestess.
It is not a five star movie; it is what people might call a guilty pleasure - although I object to that term. Things that please us and do no harm should not be felt with guilt.
It gets a rating of 5.7 out of 10 on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes gave it 16%. Its budget was $60m and it made $78m worldwide, but was considered a financial flop and I doubt the obvious sequel will ever be made.
Would I give it five stars? Heck no. Did I enjoy it? You bet I did.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Scrawling your name onto my skin

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

The bandage itched and the area underneath it felt sore and tender. He kept touching it; pressing against it as if to remind himself that it was there.
He did it again; his eyes closed in something close to ecstasy.
When he opened them she was standing in front of him. “Hey.” His voice managed not to squeak.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
Her solicitous look nearly unnerved him.
“I’m... fine.”
She glanced at his hand where it pressed over his heart. “Are you sure?”
Her head tilted. “Really? ‘Cause you look like you are having a heart attack.”
A nervous laugh escaped him. “My heart is fine,” he assured her. If by ‘fine’ you meant it started beating faster whenever she was around. If by ‘fine’ you meant his heart belonged to her. And she didn’t know. He had never told her.
It must have been the way he looked at her that gave him away because suddenly she put her hands on him. She lifted his shirt.
And his secret was exposed.
She stared at the tattoo under the cling wrap cover.
“What is this?” she asked in a low voice.
He couldn’t answer her.
She tried again, “That... that’s my name.”
God... as if he didn’t know that. He had it marked on his skin with a heart. He could only nod.
“My name,” she repeated. “But I don’t think of you like that.”
“I know-”
She looked guilty.
“-and that’s okay,” he continued. “The closest I will ever get to you is scrawling your name onto my skin.”
And the day he got it done... she had touched him.
© AM Gray 2014

Kid 2 tells me this is super creepy…

Sunday, 3 August 2014


In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!
He laid the book on the shelf instead of putting it back where he’d found it. It might be a giveaway; he should not be here, let alone be looking for ancient papers hidden inside old tomes.
He was putting aside the ones that seemed to have thicker pastedowns inside the front or back covers. Promising endpapers as it were. In the past he had found one or two pages hidden in this manner. He was also looking down the back hinges of a few. A small, folded piece could be slipped down behind the headbands.
A glance toward the windows showed no light in the sky. Did he have time to finish his search? He had to. He would not get another night.
A noise in the hallway; as if the front door was closed very carefully. He doused the light but probably too slowly. Backing away into a dark corner, he held his breath.
The steps stopped at the library doorway.
Please go away, he prayed silently but it didn’t work. The door pushed open, and a girl who walked with a slight stagger lurched in and threw herself down on the settee under the window. She didn’t even see him.
He stood there and waited.
She made a heartfelt sigh and then she fell asleep.
He should have picked up the books he had put aside and left the room, but he didn’t.
Creeping over, her looked down at her. Her cheeks were flushed, her lips very red and her hair lay in a tousled mess around her face. He had a sudden urge to brush it away from her face.
Her eyes fluttered open. He was too slow to move and she just looked at him. “Oh,” she muttered, “You’re real.”
He had no idea what that meant. Flustered and with no time to run, he whispered to her, “Go back to sleep.”
“Okay,” she agreed happily.
When her eyes closed, he succumbed to his impulse and brushed the hair from her forehead. She smiled at his touch.
He didn’t take the books. He felt guilty.
He asked around and he found out that the niece of the old man who owned the estate was visiting for the summer. That must be the girl who had disturbed him.
But he wanted those books. And he was frightened that the girl would recognise him. He kicked himself for being so sentimental as to leave them behind.
And he wondered what her comment about him being real meant.
He changed his hair parting and allowed his beard to grow a little before he was brave enough to approach her at a regional function. It was a children’s performance or some such. He took little notice. Once he had talked to her for most of the night; she seemed unwilling to desert him, as well.
Now he wanted both; the girl and the books.

© AM Gray 2014 

Monday, 28 July 2014


I’ve been watching Millennium on DVD and I’m up to season 2. I saw bits of it when it was on TV back in 1996 but I missed too much to have any real concept of what was going on. (imdb)
It was a Chris Carter production; the same guy that made the X files and it is very well written.
The main character is Frank Black played by Lance Henriksen. I could listen to him talk for hours, I tell you. As I was watching, Kid 2 walked past, stopped, reversed, listened for a minute and made some comment about his amazing voice.
Carter has said that he wrote it with Lance in mind. For him, there was no other actor to play the lead.
Frank works as a profiler for a shadowy organisation that is dealing with an increase in odd crimes as the earth counts down the days to the end of the world; the turn of the millennium and the beginning of the year 2000. The purists will tell you that the actual turn of the millennium is the end of the year 2000, not the start. Ten is in the last decade not the first year of the next; that would be eleven. The Groups’ symbol is the ouroboros; the snake that eats itself and each time he turns on his computer the symbol displays and tells him how many days are left.
Back then, people really thought terrible things were going to happen. The Y2K bug was supposed to make all computers fail. I was living in a third world country at the time and the company made us go home, just in case they couldn’t get us out if they needed to. Believe me, we got evacuated every year for one reason or another so they were right to be concerned. But they would not listen to us tell them that it wasn’t computerised enough to have an issue. Hey, free holiday for us!
But in any case, Frank Black is some kind of psychic.
He touches things and gets messages in a flash of vision or insight. At first, we aren’t sure whether it is just an observation and logic process a la Sherlock Holmes, or if he has a gift. Once we see his daughter has it, too, we know it isn’t logic.
Will Graham, the Thomas Harris character, does it on Hannibal or its earlier versions like the movie Red Dragon. And in another Danish show that I watch, Unit 1 (Rejseholdet), one of the detectives, Thomas La Cour, does the same thing. Leaps of intuition that seem to come from nowhere when they mystically channel the victim or the perpetrator. Often, they know so much they are suspected of the crime.
I guess as writers, it allows you to cheat a little.
Provided that your viewers believe your character can do it, it will work.

Friday, 25 July 2014

The giant’s causeway

Giant’s causeway

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

Picture Source:
Clochán an Aifir - the giant’s causeway
The witch-light glowed as it floated gently above the palm of his right hand. His left held the head of his cane. The rocks of the giant’s causeway were slippery and treacherous and he needed the cane for stability. The last thing he needed was to fall and let the light go out.
It took much concentration to maintain the magic light for such an extended time. The night was passing quickly and he had to finish this before the dawn.
His familiar flew overhead in her preferred bird form. The kite’s eyes were better than his.
He strode over the hexagonal basalt columns looking for one in particular; an octagonal one. Using an artificial light like a lamp or a flaming torch would not help; the stone would show only under a magic flame. A kind of test of your ability. If you couldn’t even find the stone, you could not gain entry.
And that was what he wanted.
He was searching for what lay under the giant's causeway. He was searching for Finn MacCool, the man who made the causeway according to legend. He wasn’t actually a giant; the stories had that wrong. Perhaps his size had grown as his reputation did. But he did have supernatural abilities and as the world changed, he had retreated to the world of the fae. The octagonal block marked the entrance like a door handle.
A whistle from the kite and he saw it. A blink at the edge of his vision.
The kite swooped down and landed on his shoulder.
“Ready?” he asked her.
© AM Gray 2014