Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Steering the Craft: Part One: Being Gorgeous

If you've been paying attention to this space at all in the last 6 months or so, you know that I've been in something of writing rut. I've got good concepts I just can't get traction. I hit the same wall on my NANO project that I was very excited about (think the geo-political fallout of the movie FROZEN) and stalled at around 15k words. It's the lower end of my threshold to project commitment. Once I get over the 15-20k mark, a project becomes real. So, none of my projects have cross that threshold since the Spring.

A few months back someone online suggested I read a book called Save The Cat! and it was enlightening. Helped me think of the story as a whole and made me think about planning a little more than I already did. Then I started looking at things that were being said about my writing and decided that maybe I needed to work a little on my craft, so I started checking out writing books. I usually loathe these books because they cater to a lot of writers that are beginners or, quite frankly, people that have no idea what writing is or how to do it. When I discovered that the great Ursula LeGuin had written a book called STEERING THE CRAFT, I got excited...because URSULA LEGUIN. When I found out it was a book not for beginners but more experienced writers, I was stoked. I started reading it and found out there were exercises for writers to practice and improve upon the craft,

As I started doing the exercises, I decided that maybe sharing these exercises in a public space might be just the thing to jump start my writing, so here's part one.

Exercise One, Part One: Write a paragraph to a page of narrative that's meant to be read aloud. Use onomatopoeia, alliteration, repition, rhythmic effects, made-up words or names, dialect, but NOT rhyme or meter. Here's my attempt:

            The chairlift clanks and rattles as it raises up into the night. A gentle breeze blows followed by a squeak. She smiles. He smiles. It’s a moment. The moment you seen in movies. The moment you read about in books. Skin prickles, more from the moment than the air. Neither says a thing, letting the moment hang in the air between them. They look up at the white pinpricked blanket of night just in time to see a loop of white light streaking across the black from left to right, swallowed by the bony fingers of the woods.
            “Make a wish,” he says.
            “Like the song?” she asks.
            “Yes,” he says. She does.
            “Can I tell you?”
            “I don’t know the rules.”
            “You seem like the kind of guy that knows all the rules.”
            He says nothing in response. The cable whinneys as the ground swoons up, the vague rhythm of music coming from the attendant’s cabin matched the chug-a-chug of the spinning mechanism that returns the empty chairs to the mountain base. The night becomes a hum and they rise as one, their skis scraping the packed snow of the ramp. He adjusts his goggles. She jostles into her poles. The chair kathumps into the backs of their thighs, sending them swooshing down ramp, looping around the attendant’s cabin to the top of the trail.
            She adjusts her googles.
            He jostles into his poles.

            Skis splunk and scratch as they push off in unison, like awkward newborns. Gravity takes over. Feet slide together, skis sliding closer as they separate, two dark loops streaking across the white.

Exercise One, Part Two: In a paragraph or so, describe an action, or a person feeling a strong emotion-joy, fear, grief. Try to make the rhythm and movement of the sentences embody or represent the physical reality. Here's my attempt:

            It starts with the ears. The wooshing. The heat. Rushing up my neck from deep inside my core. My vision: red. My fists: clenched. The tremble comes next. It’s not visible. You wouldn’t notice it by looking at me, but I feel it. A twist of the stomach, a knot of my own making. My teeth grind as I stare at her, her words still rolling around in my head, seeking purchase that never comes. The knot writhes. More heat, in my neck and cheeks this time as her mouth moves and her eyes roll. The words die in the air. They mean nothing because I know, in the end, I am powerless. The rage subsides, dying embers that remind me of my weakness.  
Critique. Comment. I'm eager to see what your thoughts are. 

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