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Exercise Wednesday: Blind

January 28, 2015

I was sick this week, so I did what all first-world sick people do in the 21st century: jumped on Netflix. This time, I watched The Rockford Files. In one of the episodes, Jim has to protect a blind psychiatrist named Megan Dougherty from someone who’s terrorizing her. In the early parts of the episode, someone sneaks up on her in the hall outside her office, at night when no one else is around, and starts pawing at her. In a later part, someone gets into her apartment and re-arranges the furniture.

Think about that for a minute. You’re completely blind and you have your apartment arranged so you can walk wherever you need to without bumping into things and someone re-arranges your furniture. Think about the terror of that situation. Think about how afraid you’d be if someone violated your sanctuary and turned it from a familiar place of safety to a strange, scary place of danger and fear. And you couldn’t see anything.


We’re told that when someone loses one of her senses, the other senses tend to make up for that loss. Except maybe in a crisis.

Today’s exercise could be a crisis for you as a writer. Today, your character has to confront a crisis, but has to cope using one less than the normal five senses. But the lost sense has to be material. That is, you can’t put the person in a completely dark cave and say she’s blind.

This challenge will test your ability to tell the story without an important sense.

Time limit: 30 minutes

Sliding Into the Low Point

January 26, 2015

By Anne Hawkinson

It’s just a story, right?  None of my characters are actually real.  They’re just ideas, description, and imagination put to paper (or screen).  Right?

Anne Hawkinson - PhotoThen why is it so hard for me to watch my main character head to the low point of the story?  There’s no stopping her, no way to avoid it.  I want to help Maggie, but I can’t.  She has to go there (alone) or she can’t come out, be changed in some way, and finish the story.  Still, it’s painful to write, and sometimes I can only get Maggie so far before I have to step away from the computer and leave her, on her way to the low point.  I can’t even give her a hint or clue to let her know things will get better and encourage her to hang in there.  I feel like I’m turning my back on her in her hour of need.  Betraying a dear friend who trusted me.  Not only can I not help her, I have to make it as hard for her as I can.  It’s wearing, and I find that the lower she goes, I hunch more and more in my chair, apologize under my breath to Maggie, and hit the keys with the touch of impending doom.

Thankfully, the fact that I am a writer provides me with the ability to bring her out of the low point, relatively unscathed, and much the wiser.  Things will be looking up, she’ll have a new outlook on the world around her, and she’ll fulfill her role in the story as we tidy up the last, loose ends.

I’ve already planned ahead, so I know what wonderful things are in store for Maggie and the other characters.  I just need her to hang in there while I abandon her in this tough section.  I won’t be completely absent – I’ll be watching from the top of the hill.

Time for a change…

January 23, 2015

So, did you all happen to notice the awesome new FWA site? I’ve loving the new design and especially love the new header image (I am a design geek. What can I say?)  If you have had the opportunity to explore the new site at all, you may have noticed that the blog isn’t quite the same.

Holding A Stopwatch

That’s because the new blog is on the self-hosted version of WordPress. Some of the posts have already been moved by Mary Ann de Stefano, but more will be transitioning soon. That means this blog will also be moving soon as well. I will continue to publish the posts that come in as well as my own here for the next two weeks. After that, all blog posts will be on the new blog. I hope you’ll join us over at the new FWA home.

We will still have Chris Hamilton’s prompts as well as the other content you’ve come to expect from our regular contributors. Hope to see you there!

Until next time,


Exercise Wednesday: I really did that

January 21, 2015

Last week, I toyed with the idea of including Walk of Shame by Pink in the post. Couldn’t do it, issue with the lyrics. But it got me thinking about Pink’s 2014 Grammy performance, one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen.

Pnk is known for performing with ribbons. Not the kind of ribbons you put on packages. And not the kind you jump around with in rhythmic gymnastics.

She uses the kind that hang from the ceiling and invite you to do complicated gymnastic moves above a live audience without a net beneath you. Unfortunately, I can’t find a version I can embed here, but follow this link. It’s worth watching.

If you want to be further amazed, she was singing during that performance. Pink doesn’t lip sync.

How does it feel to accomplish something like that. It doesn’t have to be showing off amazing core strength and aversion to vertigo by risking your life on live television.

It could be completing a marathon or that first novel or giving birth to a baby or retiring. It could be looking back at your life as you prepare to breath your last and being content and satisfied.

Today, a character has accomplished something and has a moment to really think about it–or not.

At the end of the prompt, we should know how it feels to accomplish something truly amazing.

Time limit: 30 minutes


For the Love of a Character

January 19, 2015

CP Author PhotoBy CP Bialois

Good morning everyone!

I’m sure we’ve all read a book or books where we fall in love with a character to the point that it hurts us when they’re killed, am I right?

It’s usually something that comes to us as a shock. How many times have you looked at the offending scene and wanted to shout, or actually have, “But he’s/she’s a major character! You can’t kill off a major character!”

I know I did it when JK Rowling killed off Albus Dumbledore. I seriously read that scene a hundred times, each time expecting it to be different and to this day I refuse to forgive her (Just kidding… maybe 😛 George RR Martin is a close second after killing Draco, Ned Stark, and maybe the Hound. He’d better not kill Tyrion. lol).

To me, it’s the mark of a great author to “trick” us into thinking a character is safe and will never perish. I blame Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and JRR Tolkien for that. Had they not brought Sherlock Holmes and Gandalf back from certain death, it may not catch us (or just me lol) by as great a surprise.

If you think about it, it’s an easy enough concept to plan, but to pull off? That takes some work and good ole fashioned luck.

Think of it this way, how many times have we written a character with no more thought than they were meant to help our MC on their journey, and the supporting character became our readers’ favorite? Talk about being thrown a curve ball, right?

This happened to me in my Sword and the Flame series. A pair of characters I really enjoy became some of my readers’ favorites, but I didn’t find out until they suffered some setbacks (Sorry, no spoilers here). I got some pleasant love letters for that and once the shock wore off, I loved it! Their love affair with my characters was unexpected and, I admit, confusing at first. It wasn’t intended, but I’ll take it. If nothing else, it makes me look smarter than I think I am.

And that’s the beauty of it.

We can plot and plan everything we can down to the smallest detail, but all it takes is someone seeing that one idiosyncrasy that reminds them of someone and a new favorite is born.

How about you? Do you have a favorite character that got to you when they were killed off or have you done that to your readers?


Why Write?

January 16, 2015

There’s been a particular issue on my mind in the past few days and I wanted to put a post together about it. This isn’t to discourage anyone about writing, this is to give a bit of a reality check that might actually save your love of writing and the drive to do it. That reality check can be very nicely summed up in one tweet I did a little bit ago:

I don’t know about you, but I had high hopes when I released my first book. People who had heard about it seemed to enjoy it, and I loved every minute of writing it. People loved the cover I chose. I was anxiously counting down the days until my book came out. And then the release day hit and my high hopes were quickly stomped. Here’s the thing, though: I had those high hopes, but I was also preparing myself for the possible reality. I know an author who has a huge profile who had this to say about the issue of money. Kristin Lamb breaks the odds down even more. I know a lot of other writers who quit their day jobs on the strength of their initial books and are now back to working day jobs.

notebookSome people still do approach their writing career with stars in their eyes, and that’s okay. To an extent. If you don’t dream big and make the effort to make those big dreams happen, what’s the point? Still, I think there needs to be an even bigger motivation than making money: telling a story for the love of it. Moving even one reader with your words. Bringing those daydreams that haunt you to life. That’s what’s going to keep you going through the long days of struggling over a problematic chapter, the rejections that are inevitable in this field, the bad reviews, and the other obstacles that stand in the way. That love of words is going to motivate you to return to the page even when the sales figures aren’t so great.

Again, have goals and dream big. Just don’t invest so much energy and expectation of riches that you get discouraged if those sales figures don’t match up to the dream. That is the surest way to silence your muse.

Exercise Wednesday: Out of context

January 14, 2015

Once, while I was on the jogging path, a couple people on bikes passed me–a man and a woman–just as the woman said, “Yeah, I’ve had to take the walk of shame.” If you’re unfamiliar with the walk of shame, click here. There was a long, pregnant pause before she continued, “I’ve had my bike break down and had to walk it all the way back home.”

I was glad she said that because otherwise I’d have to sprint to keep up and learn the rest of the story. Most people don’t loudly admit to the traditional walk of shame on a bike path when the ride past strangers.

Today’s exercise is a variance on that theme. Write a story in which the protagonist says or hears something out of context that causes an emotional reaction.

You might consider starting with the statement and working from there. Or whatever else comes to mind.

Time limit: 30 minutes

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