How (Not) To Begin a Story

Happy Monday, internetz! I think I’m coming down with something and my brain isn’t functioning properly, so it’s gonna be a short one today. Inspired by bad prologues, pilot episodes, and opening sequences the world over, I give you…

How To Begin a Story in 7 Easy Steps*

1. Flashbacks! Why limit yourself to only one flashback? Start off nice and easy with the first flashback, and then once you’re inside that flashback why not flashback another few years? Then, try a century or two! The more flashbacks, the better.

2. Stereotypes! Listen up folks, this one is important. This is the beginning of your novel. How will anyone be able to relate to your characters if they aren’t obvious stereotypes? Pick conventional archetypes that everyone will be able to recognize. You’ll need a bitchy cheerleader (remember, lipgloss makes you evil), a sensitive guitar-player (no one’s noticed he’s handsome because he’s quiet and writes poetry), an arrogant rich boy (only the right girl can redeem his damaged soul), and a manic pixie dream girl (she makes her own clothes). Voila! A perfect cast of conveniently pigeon-hole-able characters.

3. Disjointed Mythologies! There are so many world mythologies, and it can be tempting to just pick one. Don’t do it! Use them all. Norse, Greek, Japanese, Judeo-Christian–jam them all together! But don’t bother synthesizing them into one coherent hybrid mythology. Are you kidding? That would be way too much effort.

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Sea Change: How to Revise Out the Bad and Keep the Good

"Is this wheat, or chaff?" "It's cotton, stupid." Image courtesy of Winslow Homer.

“Is this wheat, or chaff?”
“It’s cotton, stupid.”
Image courtesy of Winslow Homer.

I will readily admit that revisions are extremely difficult for me. One of the things I dread most about finishing a project is the prospect of then having to begin revising it. It’s difficult for me to precisely identify what it is about revisions that bothers me so much; some times I feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of imperfect material that I have to slog through, while other times it’s a question of beating down my ego in order to recognize what is wheat and what is chaff, and how to separate the two.

Point is, revisions are not my favorite thing.

These pencils. In my eyes.

These pencils. In my eyes.

More often than not during the revisions process, I find myself staring at my manuscript until the black words marching across the page begin to swirl like ants being flushed down the toilet. I’ll force myself to tinker with a few sentences here and there, rearranging words without much confidence that any one phrase is better than another. And then I’ll give up, shuffling off to stab pencils into my eyes out of pure frustration.

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Top 5 Fictional Boyfriends (You’d Never Want to Actually Date)

In honor of Valentine’s Day tomorrow, I thought I’d write a fun listy-post about fictional leading men. Now, I’m a sucker for romance. There’s nothing I love more than a good love story, where a swoon-worthy gentleman does everything he can to win the hand of his special lady. But sometimes, right in the middle of all the warm fuzzies, a little voice whispers, Wow, that guy would be a terrible boyfriend in real life.

So, this is my paean to all the handsome fictional boyfriends out there who also happen to be obsessed, emotionally manipulative, or just plain damaged. I love you, but I wouldn’t want to date you.

Damon Salvatore, from The Vampire Diaries

9 am? Time for a scotch and a blood bag.

9 am? Time for a scotch and a blood bag.

Oh Damon. From the moment you swaggered onto our screens looking like a slightly sinister young Rob Lowe we couldn’t resist you. Your smoldering baby blues pierce us to our souls and your abs are splendid. Your undying (pun intended) devotion to Elena Gilbert makes us feel all fluttery and warm inside. Your day-drinking is as endearing as your penchant for breaking peoples’ necks.

Oh, wait. Maybe not that last one. On top of being an alcoholic and a blood-oholic, Damon also seems to really enjoy killing people, especially if, God forbid, they annoy him. He tends to show zero remorse, even when the new corpse in question is a friend or relative. Damon also spends a solid three seasons trying to steal his brother’s girlfriend, after spending one hundred and fifty years holding a torch for the evil vampire who lied to him, betrayed him, and turned him into a vampire against his will. So yeah, he’s beautiful, but that hardly makes up for being an obsessive sociopath with a rage problem.

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Fire in the Hole!

I don’t usually like to write from prompts, but for some reason I’m having trouble coming up with a theme for today’s post. I could talk about how my husband sleep-talks like a robot (I know) and how I dreamed about taking a writing workshop with Neil Gaiman (and it was awesome) but all together that takes up like…yeah, one paragraph.

So, I toddled over to WordPress’ Daily Prompt section to see if they could offer me any brilliant ideas. Happily, I came across this little nugget:

Your home is on fire. Grab five items (assume all people and animals are safe). What did you grab?

*sad face*

*sad face*

On first glance this prompt seems quite banal. Saving five items from a burning house, yawn. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it, and here’s why. Asking someone which five items they would rescue from their burning home is really just a roundabout way of asking someone, “What’s important to you, really?” People and pets are a given, and the question isn’t asking about them. It’s asking, “When you pare down your life to the barest of essentials, what really matters?”

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25 Things I Learned before 25

Tomorrow is kind of a landmark: I’m going to be a whole quarter of a century old! So in lieu of my usual Friday book review, I thought I’d do something a little different.

I’ve been reflecting on what it means to grow older, and how I’ve changed and matured in the years that I’ve been a resident of Planet Earth. I thought I would share some of those insights with the internet in the hopes that they might amuse or delight.

So, with no further ado (and in no particular order), here are twenty-five things I learned in the twenty-five years that I’ve survived as a human being!

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Dinner Party: My Five Fictional Guests

So,  I’ve decided to host a dinner party, but none of my friends seem to be free! Dear me, what shall I do? I suppose I’ll have to invite five of my favorite characters from literature, instead. (This actually happens a lot….)

Who shall I invite? Only people from books shall do…

1. Jay Gatsby, from The Great Gatsby


Just don’t let him drive that thing
after he’s had a few to drink.

This guy has it all. Good looks, money, fast cars, mansions, a library full of (unread) books, swimming pools, lots and lots of money…you get the picture. Gatsby is also a man of hope and longing, forever pursuing the one woman he truly loved.  Honestly, his conversation might be a bit dull, but I’d mostly invite him to my dinner party because he’d make sure the champagne kept flowing. He’d probably encourage us all to go skinny-dipping in the moonlight and later, there might be dancing on the tabletops. Don’t worry, we’ll confiscate his phone before he can drunk-dial Daisy. Life of the party, this guy.

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