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Useful Life Skill   12 comments

Did you ever get picked last in gym or some other class? Have you used that in your writing?

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Of Course!

I’m 5’1″. I wasn’t always short compared to my classmates. I hit my growth spurt early, so I was one of the tallest kids in class … in the 4th grade — and I was average until junior high when some of my fellow students started growing and then ….

Norwegian with a fish bat

I’m an athlete — in the water. I could outswim anyone from the 4th grade on. Even in high school, I came in at respectable times in girls’ sprints and I could even beat slow boys in the longer events. I was a top-rated distance swimmer in the State of Alaska. One of my records (for the 400 individual medley) still stands (so my son says from when he was swimming seven years ago). I was a great athlete … in the swimming pool.

Or if you wanted me to do something involving my legs for a long time — like the Equinox Marathon. The Equinox is considered the 2nd hardest marathon in the US (second to Pike’s Peak) mainly because it is usually started at hypothermic temperatures and sometimes (depending on the vagaries of Alaska September) finished at sweat-inducing temperatures. It also goes up and over the +2000-foot Ester Dome. I’m not a runner, but I’ve done the marathon route as a hike a few dozen times. I competed in the official marathon four times and finished it twice. I came in not in the bottom 20 both times, beating old people, the obese, and small children both times. A lot of actual marathon runners don’t finish the Equinox, so that’s not a bad record.

Back to the Gym Picks

I’m 5’1″. I wasn’t any taller in high school, so of course, I was always picked last for most team sports. I didn’t really care because I hate sports that involve teams. Yeah, I was on the swim “team”, but swimming is an individual sport. You compete against yourself and sometimes you beat another swimmer, but you really don’t have to rely on the athletic ability of someone else. And nobody else had to rely on my athletic ability. I obviously was no competition in basketball and at 100 pounds, I wasn’t hitting a baseball to the outfield. So I was always picked last.

Including the swimming section we had to do in sophomore gym. Technically, my high school didn’t have a swim team. It was a community team that the high school didn’t claim until my junior year. You’d think my classmates might have noticed that I came to first period with my hair wet from practice, but that apparently never connected because Joyce — a high school athletic goddess who was center for the girl’s basketball team and took our girls volleyball team to State three times — picked me last for “races” in swimming. Hey, at least she picked me over the girl who floated like a balloon in the water. Feeling my oats because I knew how good I was in the water, I joked that I had all the buoyancy of a brick (which was actually true; I had a very solid core — another clue Joyce missed when I walked out in my swimsuit.) I then proceeded to beat EVERYONE in every event. I beat girls who were 6-inches taller than me. I didn’t compete in sprints, but I still won them that day. against non-competitive swimmers. We only went up to the 200 meter and I won that by a quarter of a pool-length and Joyce was my closest competition. Boys and girls were in separate classes back then, but the teacher reported a few days later that I beat 80% of the boys’ times. The four boys I didn’t beat I knew from the Midnight Sun Swim Team. Of course I didn’t beat them. They were swimmers … and I had beat one of them in a practice race the week before. Because I swam the longer races, it was hard to get up for a race without competition and not a lot of girls locally swam 400 meters, so I practiced against the boys…and very occasionally beat the slower ones.

That summer, the school district adopted Midnight Sun as the school’s swim team, so I didn’t have to attend gym any longer, so it wasn’t until our 10-year reunion that I realized the impact of simply doing what I knew I was capable of doing had on my classmates. Joyce, ever the organizer, got the great idea to do some competitive athletics as part of our weekend. Some woman I don’t even remember from high school picked me first for the water monkey-in-the-middle team. I acquitted myself well because even though I haven’t grown since high school, I played water polo in college. My taller competitors wondered how I got my toes into the hems of their bath suits to propel myself above their heads. While that is an illegal move in water polo, it’s also a common move when the refs can’t see it and, well, monkey-in-the-middle doesn’t have any real rules.

Then one of the men picked me first for his norwegian team. Norwegian, or Eskimo stickball, is pretty similar to brannboll, though Alaska Native villages have some variations and it probably predates baseball in Alaska; sometimes called “anauligatuk”, “anau” or “laptuuk”, it’s called “norwegian” in the Interior villages and nobody seems to know why. Rod picked me for norwegian because he thought I was part-Alaska Native (I’m part-Lower 48 Indian) and had to have played a lot of norwegian growing up. Fortunately, I learned the game when visiting Ambler Alaska and played it with friends since — otherwise, that would have been incredibly embarrassing. Since I was the only woman on the two teams who had ever played before, it was kind of fun to watch those girls who never picked me look foolish for one afternoon. I worked extra hard to be very gracious in teaching them how to play the game.

Have I Ever Used Being Picked Last In My Writing?

The “picked last for gym” scenario is a children’s literature trope and I don’t write children’s literature, so I haven’t used it yet, but I recently drafted a scene for the next book in the Transformation Project series where Jazz tells Shane about why she took up running and shooting. I didn’t know about this writing prompt at the time. It was just a happy confluence of ideas.

Being Picked Last Sucks, But …

It’s character-building. I look back at the kids who were always the first on the pick-up team and I think they could have used being picked last a few times. I think it teaches you to be a better sportsman. For me, it taught me to be comfortable with the sports I was good at and not sweat the sports I wasn’t made for. It also taught me to not pick the best athletes myself. Everybody, even great athletes, needs the experience of being picked last just so they can know what disappointment feels like. Graciousness is a useful life skill.

Posted February 15, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Open Book Blog Hop – Story Ideas   1 comment

Do you get story ideas that you know you’ll never write?’

Realisation of my idea for a gingerbread and chocolate house diorama

I have lots and lots of story ideas. Everywhere I go, every time I do research, and every time I read a snippet of history, I get stories ideas. There are so many fascinating places, people, and innovations out there, but there is only limited time to write stories. I work full time and have a family so time is my most precious commodity and I have to decide which story ideas to pursue and which to leave for the time being.

I have a number of half written manuscripts on my computers including another middle school book called Silly Willy goes to London, a cli-fi book about genetic engineering and the fourth industrial revolution (I wrote the first 40 000 words and plotted out all three…

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Posted February 10, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

NVDT #79 – Pepper Jack Cheese   Leave a comment

Not Very Deep Thoughts

PART OF OPEN LINK BLOG HOP

Prompt – Do you get story ideas that you know you’ll never write?

Constantly. Scenes, stories, this thing clicks with that visual, what were they talking about, who were they, what was going on and I’ll shell the scene into some characters and, well, they start talking and this happens. The following is a live jam, forgive the slop.

“Either a you morons seen my brother?”

Austin kept his eyes on the insulated half-gallon YETI tumbler he was filling with Coke. “Since when?”

“Since recent, retard.”

“You gonna drop that baby on us right here, Cheryl?”

“Austin, you know that’s not an approved refill cup.” Her eyes shifted to his carbon copy sidekick. “Donnie, you got somethin’ clever needs sayin’?”

“Nope.” He grinned, elbowed Austin’s shoulder. “I tell you what.”

Austin snort laughed, snapped the top on the YETI. “Harper ain’t been…

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Posted February 10, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

On Writing: The Junk Drawer of Ideas   Leave a comment

Lines by Leon

(Thanks, Stevie Turner, for the inspiration for this post! )

Everybody has at least one. Only one if they are lucky. One in the kitchen (pencils, twist-ties, battteries, keys, etc.), one in the workshop (old bolts, screws, extra IKEA parts, allen wrenchs), well, you get the idea.

Writers are the same. I know I always have ideas floating around that if I don’t write them down, I’ll lose them. So I jot them down. A title: Sometimes They Leave, an opening line: “It was a dark and stormy night…”, or a catchy elevator pitch: Rambo moves in with Sheldon Cooper. Oh, the shenanigans!

Without ideas, there’s no possibility of a creation. Here’s a glimpse into Mr. Einstein’s notebook:

I suspect that many of my ideas won’t go any further than just that, but there is always a chance that I’ll be inspired to revisit one of those ideas and…

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Posted February 10, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

More Ideas Than Time #OpenBook Blog Hop   Leave a comment

Source: More Ideas Than Time #OpenBook Blog Hop

Posted February 10, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Open Book Blog Hop – February 8th   1 comment

Stevie Turner

Welcome to this week’s Open Book Blog Hop. Today the topic is:

‘Do you get story ideas that you know you’ll never write?’

I don’t often get inspiration, but when I do it’s rather annoying as the story goes around and around in my head and I have to write the thing down. The story I’m writing now demanded to be written, but when I’m done that’ll be it for a few months and I’ll take the summer off to enjoy my caravan (as long as Boris lets me).

I’ve had ideas for stories but because they would take a lot of research it kind of puts me off. I prefer to write ‘off the top of my head’ so to speak, and do only the minimal amount of research so that it’s my words on the page and not information I’ve gleaned from the internet. Yes I’ve done a…

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Posted February 10, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

The book I never wrote   Leave a comment

Richard Dee’s blog post.

Posted February 10, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Dividing the Dump   4 comments

What’s your best technique for working around backstory dumps?

Info Dumping and How to Avoid it | Paid Author

Rules:1. Link your blog to this hop.2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.<!– start InLinkz code –><div class=”inlinkz-widget” data-uuid=”c62dd3bf6abd446ea0088f3e129f24e6″ style=”width:100%;margin:30px 0;background-color:#eceff1;border-radius:7px;text-align:center;font-size:16px;font-family:’Helvetica Neue’,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif”><div style=”padding:8px;”><p style=”margin-bottom:15px;”>You are invited to the <strong>Inlinkz</strong> link party!</p><a href=”https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/c62dd3bf6abd446ea0088f3e129f24e6” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow” style=”padding:5px 20px;background:#209cee;text-decoration:none;color:#efefef;border-radius:4px;”>Click here to enter</a></div></div><span style=”display: none;”><script async=”true” src=”https://fresh.inlinkz.com/js/widget/load.js…“></script></span><!– end InLinkz code –>[fresh_inlinkz_code id=”c62dd3bf6abd446ea0088f3e129f24e6”]https://fresh.inlinkz.com/p/c62dd3bf6abd446ea0088f3e129f24e6

Don’t Bore Your Audience

Our characters come with histories. Shane had 27 years of living and five years of trauma and war stories before he returned to Emmaus. Peter didn’t just one day wake up a teenage alcoholic. There were 17 years of scar tissue built up before he turned that corner. And some of that history is critical to understanding what motivates the character. But to an outsider — your reading audience — a big dump at the beginning of the story is just boring.

I must have tried to read both Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit two dozen times and always stopped before the end of the backstory dump that both books start with. It wasn’t until the first LOTR movie came out that I could read the book. The backstory was hardly touched on by the movie, so I actually found the information interesting because it explained so much about the characters who I had previously become familiar with. Even great writers with enormous followings make this mistake, but I try not to do things that cause me not to read a book because I figure my audience will have the same problem.

How Do I Avoid It?

My best technique for working around backstory dumps is to write them. The written backstory is for my benefit. I suspect all written backstories are for the benefit of the writer and they make it into the published book because the writer can’t separate himself from his audience. With that in mind, I drag the backstory into another file and keep it for future use. At no point do I use it as a mega dump, dropping the whole landfill on the reader in a “Hey, this is the whole story” moment. Instead, I dole it out slowly mixed in with the current story.

Even in an apocalyptic where there’s intense action most of the time, there will be times when the characters slow down and have a moment to think. In Objects in View, Shane starts the novel in a bunker waiting out the nuclear rain and he has nothing to do but think. During those pages, I throw in some elements of his backstory (liberally mixed with his current-situation thoughts in a kind of stream-of-conscious manner) because that’s when real people think about their pasts. Throughout the series, there are similar small backstory dumps — one or two sentences, a paragraph or two, sometimes stories told by another character — that inform the reader of some of the history that brought Shane to the point he is at now. In Winter’s Reckoning, readers finally learn the full story of the most traumatizing event in his life. We also learn how Shane’s father Rob became a Christian and the “dead body” of guilt he carries. It’s just that sort of book in the series – a turning point where some information needs to be shared so that the characters can turn a corner into another phase of the story. But that full story has been teased at multiple times, in comments dropped or brief thoughts or in the flashbacks that are a symptom of Shane’s PTSD. The reader knows some of it before the whole story comes out.

A salient point of Peter’s history in the “What If Wasn’t” series is that his mother sexually molested him and he has never told anyone the full story. Rather than start the book with a backstory dump, I wrote the first scene of Red Kryptonite Curve with Peter coming down off a month of drunken partying across Europe and dreaming about something that happened in the past. His mother touches his chest and … Peter wakes up from the dream and never really revisits the event again during the course of the book. I teased the reader with the backstory, allowing them to draw their own conclusions. The hope is that whenever Peter does something stupid and self-destructive they will remember there is more to the story than even Peter is willing to admit. Right up until the end of Dumpster Fire, he still hasn’t dealt with it and it has brought him to a very horrible place.

Now, I followed a totally different technique for doling out backstory with Alyse, Peter’s sister. She’s cast as something of a sympathetic villain in the first two books, but how did she get there. She was a part of what happened too and and no less touched by their mother than Peter was. In the third book, because she is dead, characters mourning her relive their memories of her life that show how she ended up where she did. Again, it’s just short little fragments that allow the reader to guess at the whole.

Take Your Time

Absolutely we need to deal with the history of our characters because it makes them more multilayered, but we don’t need to give the reader the whole landfill at the beginning of the book. Yes, it feels wonderful to write such great history, but nobody says you have to deliver it all at once. Take your time. Remember the needs of your audience should come before your needs. Yes, your characters have a great backstory, but refrane from having a Forest-Gump-on-the-bus-bench moment at the very start of your book.

Posted January 25, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Writing to the Rhythm #OpenBook Blog Hop   Leave a comment

Source: Writing to the Rhythm #OpenBook Blog Hop

Posted January 4, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Open Book Blog Hop – 4th January 2021   1 comment

Stevie Turner

Welcome to the first Open Book Blog Hop of 2021. This week the topic is:

‘How do you keep focused during long writing sessions?’

When I started writing novels back in 2013 I could write for hours to the exclusion of everything else. After I had been writing for a year or so I learned that I had to build a writer platform to get noticed. To do this I had to engage on social media with writing groups and other authors, and … reader… that’s where the rot set in.

The little red notifications on Twitter and Facebook and the orange ‘bell’ notification on WordPress meant that there was a new comment to answer. I didn’t want to store them all up and answer them in one long session on social media, and I didn’t want people to think their comments were going unanswered. Therefore I answered comments as…

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Posted January 4, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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