Last Stretch — Short Story Challenge Update

And now it’s the last week of the challenge, and so far I’ve been on track. Though I could have some better time management, instead of rushing everything at the last minute. I’m thinking lists, since schedules are a bit too much for me.

Also, hey, Camp NaNo is coming up! Which means I have to figure out what I want to do. I’m thinking more short stories, editing what I have, some worldbuilding, maybe revisiting an older work to keep myself from getting bored.

So, eight more short stories to read and one more to write. Let’s see how it goes!


Week 3 Update + Plans for Week 4

Life has been hectic since I started classes again on Monday, which has led me to revise some of the plans I had, not only for the blog and writing but also life in general. I’ve decided to give up the volunteering I was taking part of in my faculty’s library, because, while four hours per week might not seem that much, I have a feeling that they will be important, especially when work starts to pile up during mid-semester. It doesn’t help that I joined my course’s student comission, though I don’t know how much work that will mean just yet. The worst might just be that I’ve found that having classes until 8 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday exhausted me more than I expected. Maybe it will get better as time passes and I adjust, but this means that, at least for now, on Mondays I will only be able to work during my two hour break, while on Wednesdays I won’t be able to get any work done at all.

As for my writing, I have been wondering about the plans I have for the upcoming months. Camp NaNoWriMo is coming up, and my idea was that, during March, I would blog about my planning for the event, which is why Planning is this month’s second Writing Craft Element. Then, during April, I would blog during Camp NaNo– my progress, thoughts, general notes, that sort of thing. Now, I’m still planning to do all of this. I don’t have any other alternatives, and I really wanted to do something different from what I’ve been doing so far. Only time will tell whether I’m going to be able to do this, and hopefully I will be prepared if it comes to the point when I decide that I just can’t deal with all the work.

That being said, here’s this week’s post!

Week 3 Update

Prompts: This week’s prompts were:

  • “Where is the baby!?” She screamed. [x]
  • The Reaper takes on a different form for everyone. You’re a notorious killer, but yours is a kindly grandma for some reason. [x]

This week I wrote a total of 2507 words, 1217 for the first prompt and 1290 for the second. I really am seeing a pattern in my writing flow: the amount of words I write decreases from the second to the third week. Last month was due to demotivation, this month, I believe, has to do with the start of the semester. I wonder what else I’ll see in the future!

Craft Book: This week’s chapters focused on Characters and Dialogue.

Characters are the heart of the story, and if your characters are unconvincing, then your story will be as well. Great characters make for memorable stories. Ideally, the characters and plot must influence themselves mutually, characters must be proactive and evolve throughout the story.

There are different ways to create characters:

  • Base characters on real people, mixing and modifying traits to make them unique. You can even use pictures of real people who look similar to your characters in order to visualize them better (people who can draw can sketch their characters, unfortunately not all of us are well rounded artists)
  • Interview your characters, noting down basic information and putting them in different situations to know how they react. There are thousands of lists online of questions to ask, these are the traits the author suggests if those lists seem too much:
    • Name, Age, Gender
    • Ethnicity and Nationality
    • Physical traits
    • Psychological traits (positive and negative traits, quirks, hobbies)
    • Illnesses, Disabilities
    • Family life (marital status, family relationships)
    • Social life (friends, clubs)
    • Love life, Sexual orientation
    • Religion and spiritual life
    • Political opinions
    • Inteligence
    • Culture, Education
    • Employment, professional ambitions
    • Discourse (formal, informal, coloquial, etc)

Something to consider when creating a character is the name. Was it common in the time and place the character was born, or will it stand out in a negative way? Does it point to attributes or weaknesses? Giving a character a nickname can also help point to different levels of intimacy with others, or even to important events of the character’s life. It is also important to not give similar sounding names to characters, or else you’ll confuse the reader.

When choosing traits, it’s important to give both positive and negative traits to every character. This produces three-dimensional, realistic characters, rather than carboard cutouts and clichés. Taking an object that is important to the character and defining them around it also helps to create depth and a deeper understanding of the character.

When it comes to dialogue, it’s important to know the roles it serves in a story. It can move the action forward, reveal the character’s state of mind, highlight a conflict and create suspence, and add to characterization. Dialogue must be natural, but shouldn’t be exactly like a real life conversation, it should be concise and relevant. It must be fluid, have short sentences, breaks, hesitations and interruptions; limit the use of references (said Alice) to only when it is relevant, and you can use gestures when you need to refer to a character. To make sure dialogue is fluid, read it out loud or act it out. Dialogue works best with characters in conflict, creating tension. Dialogue must show the character’s intentions without spelling it out. A good way to use Dialogue is through internal monologue, revealing the character’s thoughts to the reader.

Course: This week’s lesson dealt with Research.

Research in Creative Writing is needed to create the world of the story and make it realistic and persuasive, no matter what kind of story you’re writing. There are three kinds of research:

  • Functional, which not only involves researching in books, the internet and other sources, but also visiting the places and talking to the people you’re writing about.
  • Inspirational, in which you take inspiration from books, music and other sources for new ideas.
  • Imaginative, which is the act of planning and thinking of your story. It is no good if you have a lot of facts and ideas if you do not use your imagination to think of how they can fit in your story. It’s also important when you are writing about a place you cannot visit, or when developing a space you are imagining yourself.

It’s also important to know that, while research is important, it’s also important to not research too much. Know enough to visualize the setting and add details that will persuade readers to believe your story, but you don’t need to know everything.

Being familiar with the setting also helps to avoid stereotyping characters and cultures and clichés related to them.

Plans for Week 4

This week my focus will be on consiliating my writing, my academic responsibilities, and have enough free time to not exhaust myself. I still have to researh the Writing Craft Element, which I neglected this week due to my aforementioned problems, but I will definitely do it. Hopefully, this was all just the effect of the first week and I will be able to adjust myself.

Week 3 Update + Plans for Week 4

This week saw my motivation drop a bit, as real life made itself un-ignorable and I lacked the mood to properly deal with it, and I had some responsibilities that made me reorganize my time and put off some things for longer than intended. Still, I managed to achieve almost all the goals for the week, and I’m determined to continue my goal of writing on this blog during this year, no matter what!

Week 3 Update

Novel: Read 5 chapters of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Now the story is shifting from Tom’s day to day to the novel’s main conflict.

Short Stories: Read two short stories, “Brandina ou o Silêncio dos Produtos” [Brandina or the Silence of the Products] and “Últimas Notícias” [Latest News]. Something I neglected saying about this book is that it’s divided into 4 parts, and it’s clear why: the stories this week were significantly shorter than those in the first part (no longer than three pages) and there’s distinct shift of tone, at least in these two stories, though right now I’m not finding the words to describe it. Still about the book’s structure, the last part is composed by travelling stories and is entitled “Viagens que não fiz” [Travels I didn’t make].

Prompts: My promts for this week were:

  • Your character goes on a camping trip with her friend and the friend’s boyfriend.  In the middle of the night, she wakes up in the dark tent and feels a hand on her arm.  She touches the hand — it’s her friend’s.  Then the friend’s finger starts moving over her arm, and your character realizes that she’s drawing the shape of letters, that she’s trying to tell her something…
  • Write a story about a meeting between two characters.  Halfway through the story, switch from one character’s point of view to the other’s.  Have the meaning of the meeting change depending on whose point of view it’s told from.

This week, I wrote a total of 2297 words! The first ended up being 954 words, while the second had 1343. Although my self-imposed minimum for each story is 500 words, I was a bit disappointed at how short the first story was. I have to admit that I was a bit distracted and couldn’t really concentrate on writing it, my inspiration had escaped me. Still, I presevered and wrote, and that’s what really matters. Besides, short stories come in all lengths, and this one can always pass the 1000-word mark during editing.

Craft Book: I also didn’t talk about the structure of A Field Guide to you Imagination, which is important in order to understand the book’s goal. It’s divided into two parts, “Your Imagination & You” and “Your Imagination & Your Writing”, the first one dedicated to imagination in our day to day lives and the second focusing on the role of imagination in writing. This week I started part two.

The first exercises are dedicated to imagination itself, how it looks like and how to travel in it. My imagination shifts in space, depending on whatever it’s obsessed about at the moment. It can be a place in some book I’ve read/movie or show I’ve seen/podcast I’ve heard, or a place I imagined from scratch. Hell, sometimes it’s even a place my imagination created in said book/show/movie/podcast. All that matters is it’s where my characters (and characters of those books/shows/etc) hang out, and from there they go to other places to have their adventures when I’m day dreaming. I don’t directly interact with them, though you could say I can control them (though they do seem to have a mind of their own most of the time). I may have a character that represents me, but it’s an entity separated from who I am.

An interesting thing mentioned in this exercise is the “mind palace”, which I have been really curious on trying. It would at the very least help me with studying, haha.

Craft Element: Remember how I said I had “managed to achieve almost all the goals for the week”? Yeah, here’s where the “almost” comes in. Due to ~reasons, I didn’t research my weekly Craft Element, which was Description. This is something that I really should research and study, because I’m often at a loss on how much I should describe and how to do it. Characters I’m usually ok with, I’ve even had people giving me good feedback on how I manage to blend the narration with the character’s description (like physically describing a character while it performs a task). Describing space is something I have more of an issue with, because it often involves interrupting the narration and I’m not always sure about how much description is truly necessary. Basically, my fear is over-describing something, and this ends up with me sometimes not describing at all.

This reminds me of something I learned in an English class this semester, which was to plan the description before writing it. My teacher showed us a water bottle and asked us to write ten sentences about it, five on its physical appearance and five thoughts/abstract sentences. Then we had to bring them all together into something cohesive, a descriptive text that not only described the water bottle but also the thoughts it provoked in us, which would then add flavor to the text. I swear that there are few things in my life that clicked in my brain the way this did. It had never occured to me to plan description. Suddenly, I had something that would help me add description to my narration without overwhelming me with doubt. I’ve yet to apply this to my writing, I admit, but now that I’ve remembered it I will do my best to do so.

Plans for Week 4

This will be the last week of January. I know that, in the Map, there are five weeks, but I’ve decided that, for me to better organize myself, it’s better if each month only has four weeks. I will start February on the 29th of January, since the 1st of February is on a Wednesday.

As I mentioned, I will be preparing a masterpost on this month’s Craft Elements. I’ll also be researching this week’s Element, Setting, and adding it there. In total, there are going to be three posts this week: the Elements Masterpost, the Update for Week 4 and Reflections of the Month, and Map for February. I’m expecting February to be different from this month, which I will explain better next week.

Have a wonderful week, and may the winds take you to exciting shores!