Paradise

I guess I’ll take the weekends off for the month, unless I have time on one of the other weekends. I like the premise here and may try to clean it up and submit it somewhere, or eventually expand it to a full novel/novella.

The Ugly Duckling Story Structure
Continuing our look at story structure, today I have a structure based on the story of the ugly duckling.
The prompt
Write a story based on the Ugly Duckling structure

How To Write An Ugly Duckling Structure Story
Write a story based on the ugly duckling structure, with a life-changing moment or realization or event that comes in the middle.

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It’s another day in paradise. That’s what we tell each other anyhow. Every day when we step out of our rooms to face the day we tell each other it’s another day in paradise. None of us know when it started. Truth is, we don’t know much of anything.
I know this life. Getting up, saying it’s another day in paradise. Going to the small room to eat, going to the big room to ride. Back to the small room to eat, and back to my room to sleep. I don’t know anything more. I don’t know how many days in paradise there have been. I don’t know what happened to the person a little while ago who stopped coming to the small room to eat. I don’t know what there is to not know.
I want to know. I want to know why we say it’s another day in paradise. I want to know why we ride in the big room whenever we are awake. I want to know how many days we’ve been riding. I want to know why I cannot go to a different room. I want to know what happens when we stop coming to the small room.
I want to, but I can’t. When I open my mouth to ask someone the only thing I say is that it’s another day in paradise. When I try to stop riding I cannot. When I try to go to a different room after we eat I find myself in my room. I can’t know. Instead I return to my room after another day in paradise.
Something isn’t right today. The door is open. It never opens until after I am ready for the day. Today it is open and I just woke up. Every day I wake up, get up, get ready, and the door opens. I haven’t gotten up yet. I am awake, the door is open, but I am not getting up. Something is definitely wrong.
I start to get up and feel my ear sticking to the pillow. I turn my head and see red. My pillow isn’t supposed to be red. I look around. The room looks right, except the pillow. And the door. I get ready.
The water is red when I wash my head. My right ear. It hurts a little, on the inside. Putting my clothes on feels strange. They don’t fall gracefully into place. I struggle to get them fastened. This is not right.
I step outside to say it’s another day in paradise. Nobody is there. The hall is empty. The doors are all open. I go to a different room. It works. I can go to a different room. I know it’s a different room. The pillow isn’t red. The number above the sink is different. I go to another room, another. Room after room all with different numbers and white pillows. I don’t say it’s another day in paradise. I don’t say anything.
I go to the small room. It is almost empty. There is a plate of food in my spot. I open my mouth to speak, but don’t know what to say. I look around again and still see nobody. I go to my plate and eat my food. After I eat the plate sinks as always. I look around again, then go to the big room.
Here they all are. All the other people are riding. The noise is deafening. This is wrong. There has never been noise before. I cover my ears without thinking and the sound becomes bearable. I look around. My ride is empty. Nobody looks at me as I go to look at it. I sit, but I cannot ride. As soon as I take my hand off my ears the sound hurts. It takes hands and feet to ride. I go stand by another person. I bump them, but they keep riding.
I notice a door on the far side of the room. It opens when I walk up to it. When it closes behind me I can take my hands off my ears. I know what to say now.
“Hello?” The sound of my own voice shocks me. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t speaking in unison with everyone else. “Hello?!” I look around and see nobody. I see nothing but a hallway in front of me.
Click. Click, click, click. Click click click click click. Clickclickclickclickclick.
Lights appear in the hallway. They start by me and extend to a bright spot in the distance. I follow them. I can’t help myself, I need to know.
At the end is another door that opens for me. Inside is a chair.
“Please sit.”
I didn’t see anyone. “Hello?” This is not right.
“Please sit.”
I sit down. “It’s another day in paradise?”
“Hehehe. That won’t work for you anymore. Let’s see here…”
In front of me part of the wall fades, words and numbers forming in it’s place.
“Looks like you’ve been in there 3 years, 7 months, and 22 days. One of our shortest times.”
3 years, 7 months, and 22 days. I know how long. “My, my pillow was red. The door was open and my pillow was red.”
“Yes yes, that’s what you tell us when you come out. It’s not your fault. The implants have a failure rate just like everything else we make and remembering tends to tax them to an early failure.”
“The other pillows weren’t red. They were white.”
“I see. Had you looked at the other pillows before?”
“No. When I thought about going to another room before I always ended up back in mine.”
“Yes and no. The implant told the room who you were and gave it the right number. We find that tends to stop the decline more often than overriding your steps. Makes corralling the displaced unit a pain in the ass though.”
The rooms changed. I was able to go to another room. “I just wanted to know.”
“That’s interesting. Usually when someone ends up here they feel wronged. They think we made a mistake so strongly it overrides the implant. Often they’re right.”
Others have come here. “The ones that stop coming to the small room. They come here?”
“You got it. The lighting in the gen room covers their exit quite well, but they come here.”
“Gen room?”
“You call it the big room. It’s a generator.”
Generator. We ride in the generator. “I know now. I know why we ride. “The generator is paradise?”
Muffled voices. “What? Paradise? No, the facility is owned by Paradise Power. The generator is just a generator, and far from paradise.”
“Far from paradise?”
“Yeah. Look. Your case is going to be examined. If everything checks out you’ll be set free. If not you’ll restart your sentence. In your case that’s, let’s see, 50 years.”
“My case? Sentence?”
Muffled voices. “Yeah. Look, buddy. Something is different here. The implants usually fail due to strong feelings of innocence and remembering why you are where you are. You don’t know what’s going on at all?”
The voice sounded distressed. “I wanted to know. I know now, I can go ride again.” I just wanted to help the voice. “All I ever wanted was to know.”
A door opened to the right.
“Look. Go through the door on the right. I promise everything will be figured out. Either you’ll get to ride again, or you’ll know more than you could ever imagine.”
I stood up and looked around. I saw the words and numbers. I looked at the door. I know now. I know enough now. I walked back down the hallway.

This week.

This week I fell a bit behind in writing. It’s not because of the Story A Day either.

The job hunt continues. More leads this past week which I’ll hear updates on next week. It continues to be a process.

The novel was slowed down because of job hunt activities. I really still want to see it ready for beta readers by the end of next week, which means the draft should be done by Wednesday. I think I only have 6,000 words or so left, so it’s doable. The story will dictate how many words I really do have left though. Incidentally, if you read the excerpt earlier this week – Grandpa’s Dog Story – it’s not my favorite part of the book. I anticipate that chapter and the chapters on either side getting re-worked once the full story is done. After the draft finally makes it to the end I think I’ll do a self-edit pass to make sure it maintains continuity and that overall voice feels right to me.

I managed to get through a couple of webcasts related to freelance writing. If anyone has a need or knows of a need for freelance writing please reach out. I would be happy to discuss any needs and how I might be able to help fill them.

That’s all for now, Happy Mothers Day all whom it applies to!

Grandpa’s Dog Story

Today my computer crashed, and I had a web conference I was trying to pay attention to. As such I didn’t get as much written. On the bright side, my novel is full of characters that aren’t me. One of them needed to tell another one a story, so today you get an excerpt from the first draft of the novel.

When Your Character Is Not Like You
Today we’re turning yesterday’s prompt inside out.
The Prompt
Write a story about a character as unlike you as you can manage

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First Flight

In the interest of readability I am deleting the tips from the writing prompts going forward.

This one feels pretty good. I figured out the ending about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way through and on a quick scan I’m happy with how it turned out. If I knew more about short story publishing I would probably hold it back, do a good thorough edit, and then submit it various places. Since I don’t really know much about the industry I’m posting it here for all to enjoy. (And share. Please, feel free to share.) As always feedback is appreciated, whether public or private. In addition to getting ideas which support the novel I’m writing I am trying to become a better writer through this.

When Your Character Is Like You
Today I’m limiting your character choices.
The Prompt
Write a story featuring a character very like you

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The Clinic

The spacing when I copy over to word press on these stories isn’t very good. I apologize for that. I’ll try to take time in the future to edit them a little more. For this one I had no idea where the story was going from one line to the next. I still don’t really, but I wrote it. that counts for something.

Writing Prompt: First Person Story
Some people love first person some people hate it. Either way you’re using it today.
The Prompt
Write a story in the first person
Tips
In many ways, first person is the most natural way to tell a story because it’s how we tell stories all day long. “How was your commute?” “Where did you park?” “What did you do this weekend?” All of these questions invite stories. You answer them every day, in the first person.
Hopefully, as a storyteller, have good answers to those questions and can entertain the people around you, spinning yarns and put your everyday stories to good use. Or maybe you’re the type of person who hates those questions and clams up because you’d rather be alone with a pencil. Either way you do know how to tell a story in the first person.
The most important thing to remember about first-person is that the reader is only ever privy to the thoughts of the person telling the story. They can infer, from other people other people’s expressions, what they’re feeling, but you can’t know for certain. You can’t tell me exactly what your spouse was thinking when you took a wrong turn. You can tell me what they said and how they said it….
Think of the character whose head you would like to get inside. It can be somebody you already understand, or it can be someone you don’t yet understand. (Picking a politician from a party you don’t support support, or one of their supporters, is an obvious way of finding a character that you simply don’t understand).
Take one tiny incident from this character’s life. Have them describe the incident and the effect it had on them. Show us that the effect. Walk us through it.
The character can be self-aware or self delusional or mixture of the two.
There’s a growing trend to write first person present tense. It’s good for keeping tension high if we don’t know whether the characters going to survive at the end of the thriller, but it can feel a little foreign. Feel free to stick with past tense.
If you’re having trouble coming up with this style, browse some books that are written this way: thrillers and mysteries, young adult fiction chick lit. Or read a sample of To Kill A Mockingbird.
Go!

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The Trial

There have been two prompts each of the last three days. I’m not sure if that’s front-loaded or going to happen the majority of the month. I’m only writing to the main prompt, not the guest prompt each day. Should I have the time or one just speak to me I may write to the guest prompt as well though. I may also miss a day if I am just rocking it on other projects such as the job search, the novel, or figuring out freelance writing.

Write A Drabble Today
Don’t expect this to be a super-quick exercise…
Today you’re going to write a were a story in 100 words. This also known as a Drabble.
The Prompt
Write a story in 100 words
With a story this short, you have about 25 words to open the story and about 10 words at the end to wrap things up. The rest of the words hold the meat of the story.
Often it’s easier to write the story a little longer and cut it down.
Being concise doesn’t mean leaving out detail. You just have to make sure (probably on a rewrite) that every word is doing double duty. If you’re describing something make sure it reflects the mood of the character as well, for example.
Don’t expect this to be a super-quick exercise. A hundred words is not many and it can be difficult to shoehorn a story into such a small space. You are going to need to build in time to revise it.
The good news is that writing a 100 word story and revising it still takes less time than writing a 3,000 word story.
If you need some inspiration check out the site 100 Word Story. Read a few to get the idea of what can be done with so few words.
Go! (329)

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The Playground

One comment on this one, about 2/3rds of the way through I realized I was writing a scene, not a story. As a scene it was coming along great. As a story it wasn’t doing much. I didn’t re-write the first part, just tried to make some kind of change happen as a resolution, so, meh.

Fourth Grade Spelling List
This is a ridiculous and fun little exercise. Try it!
Here’s another prompt that’s going to make it difficult for you to try to write a brilliant story. We’re focusing this week on productivity, quantity not quality. And here’s the secret, when you’re not too worried about the quality, you quite often find that your writing is better than you expected.
The Prompt
Write a story containing all of these words from a fourth grade spelling list.
Blame
State
Frame
Holiday
Relay
Waist
Pail
Gain
Raise
Mayor
Airplane
Remain
This is a ridiculous and fun little exercise. Try it!
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The Stained Napkin

First, some background. Then the story.

I found a website last year which gives out writing prompts every Wednesday to assist in writing short stories. In May they do a short story version of NaNoWriMo. (National Novel Writing Month. November if you’re interested.) They call it Story A Day May. Last year I didn’t get very far with it. This year I have more energy and commitment. My failing will be that I still have a novel I’m working on – trying to finish to finish in the next week or two to be more precise.

So, that said; I’m going to try posting most of the stories out here. (Along with the prompt that birthed them.) They will be posted straight from my writing software. (Scrivener) I’m also trying to write them in the same world as the novel I’m making. The hope is to create material for an eventual marketing campaign which uses free short stories to build interest in a paid novel. I’m not sure if that exact campaign will work in this case, but it’s what I have right now.

Write a Story in 30 Minutes.

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Is it Saturday already?

In my defense I was hoping to get more writing done last night; it just didn’t happen.

The previously mentioned job prospects fell through. We’ll see what happens in the next couple as there are some new early inquires next week. I try not to get too excited unless I’m getting to second round interviews. I had a virtual conference and a networking event both this week. Add in some errand running and the rest of my updates aren’t as good as I would like.

I didn’t make progress on freelance writing. That aspect of my three things seems to be the one falling by the wayside when life and job interviews happen. That should tell me something, but I’m stubborn and still thinking I need to pursue it.

Novel writing will not result in a first draft, uh, today. By my estimates I have a good 1-1.5 weeks left before it’ll be done depending on the time I am able to commit. I don’t see this as a missed goal as I took a week after the outline was finished before I really got into writing the story. That was my bad. Also, my speed is increasing as I get used to writing the story and get to know the characters better. In the past I’ve always had that non-writers raised eyebrow when I heard writer’s talk about their characters not co-operating or surprising them. This morning as I finally figured out what to give my characters to move the story forward they responded by ignoring the beats of my arc and taking the event in a different direction than I expected. They’re still where I need them now, but they got there a different way. Honestly it’s a better way than I thought they would and I’m happier with it though.

That’s all for now. I’ll be reaching out to some specific people for beta reading when the draft is done, or almost done. If you are interested in being on that list please feel free to contact me.

Not yesterday afternoon.

That’s right, this is late. We had other commitments yesterday evening so this is coming now instead, after doing some house cleaning.

On the job front I was beaten out by an internal referral again. Additionally it looks like the chances of the other good lead I had panning out are now down very far. I’ll know for sure by Tuesday, but I’m not holding my breath. It’s a bummer because both of these were more than just a recruiter asking to put me in, or me putting in to a resume hole/recruitment firm. Anyhow, that continues to be a search. On the bright side it seems Heather will be able to continue as a remote employee for the next few months. (She may argue how much of a bright side this is, but it is income.) We just need to figure out what the summer schedule is going to look like if a) nothing changes, and b) I get a full-time job.

Freelance writing took a backseat to novel-writing this week. With the job search activity a little heightened due to actual traction on some leads I had less time for other things, so that’s what suffered. I’ll have that down as a priority for next week. If I can get some freelance writing gigs I’ll at least be able to get some income, maybe even enough to look like part-time employment income.

The novel is underway. The story is coming out without a ton of coaxing. I’ve already gone somewhat off-script from the outline, but that’s fine by me. I see the outline (beats in some writing circles) as a guide for the story. The story itself is filled in by the characters, so it may not match the outline perfectly. The outline was informed by the characters though, so it’ll be close.

In other news, I just put the standing desk back together after cleaning up some. I am typing this standing. I’m going to try out writing in this position next week and see how it goes. I think it’ll work so I look forward to seeing if I’m right. I get exercise if I walk the kids back and forth, but otherwise it’s tough for me to remember to go out for a walk. I even have podcasts to listen to while walking, but usually end up not getting it done. They tend to get listened to while playing minecraft to wind down for the night instead.