Making Flash Fiction Your Bitch


Get it? "Flash" punching a dude into submission? :: ahem :: Anyway...

Get it? “Flash” punching a dude into submission? :: ahem :: Anyway…

Ever on the lookout for blogging inspiration–no matter what bush it peeks out of–this Facebook exchange with my writerly friend, Brittany Larson, has a good feel to it. Blog-worthy, I believe. From a random interaction amongst the social media bushes: Making Flash Fiction Your Bitch.

Brittany: HEY! I need some advice on some writing!

Lucas: Ok. I’ve got a few minutes. What’s up?

Brittany: Well I have this story idea swirling around my head about the 3 Archangels Micheal (The Angel Of Mercy) Gabriel (The Messenger Angel) And Azrael (The Angel of Death) And they are all fallen. And Iwas thinking Gabriel and Micheal stay faithful to God while Azreal goes rogue. He makes a deal with the devil that’s simple Bring me Rachel (My girl protagonist) and I will make you more powerful than God. God appears to Micheal and Gabriel and says stop him and you’re back in heaven. And I am thinking that Micheal will be my main male protagonist (Gabriel more as support) so what happens when Micheal falls in love with Rachel and doesn’t wanna go back to Heaven. Something along those lines. So the first question is: sound good? And also I don’t know if I wanna just start writing now or save it for NaNo.

Lucas: Is this a story you will try to market to agents/publishers? I only ask because a few months back many were groaning about the massive amount of “Angel” stories: fallen ones falling in love with a human. There are a lot of those on the market already. So, it’s a trope the pros don’t much care for anymore.

Brittany: Yeah…see I am not too sure. I am thinking. Truly I have never made it even far enough to think about sending it to publishers.

Lucas: A twist would be good. Can they be fallen gods instead of angels? And love triangles are always sellable. Maybe one naughty god in love with your mortal, Rachel, but a second god in love with the first & fighting the matchup? Or, make them aliens, or zombies, or any other creature. Then you could go with the same basic plot without stepping into the Angels theme. If you’re not going to shop it, then just go with whatever the heck makes you happy as a writer!

Brittany: True…true. That would be interesting. And yeah…see I am still debating whether to just write it or save it for NaNo…because I mean I have it written down so I don’t forget it.

Lucas: You’ll have more ideas before Nano! It’s always good to keep writing. Like flexing your muscles to make you stronger.

Brittany: True true. And I sure hope so. This is the Biggest Aha! Moment I have had in a while. My Nano idea wasn’t this solid.

Lucas: Here’s a cool trick for discovering ideas that are novel worthy: just start with a flash fiction of your story. Write out a key scene in 1000 words or less. Focus on using as little words as possible to convey setting, character, conflict.

Brittany: Thanks That really helps

Lucas: Still have the story arc of intro, conflict, climax, closure. This helps me weed out ideas as either long-running or short lived. If the idea feels “done” or exorcised, then cool. You have a flash fiction story. But, if you find the character’s voice and keep thinking about his/her life, then it’s time to plot for a longer work: short story, novella, novel.

Brittany: Yeah. Thanks for the advice

Lucas: You’re welcome, yo. Mind if I post this interaction on my blog in a few days? “I’d rather not” is an acceptable response. 😉

Brittany: Oh that’s fine. I really don’t care…I mean it wasn’t personal or anything:)

Lucas: I can keep you anonymous or remove/summarize your novel idea if you’d like.

Brittany: No it’s fine…put in as much detail as you’d like. I’m not shy.

Lucas: Done! Do you have a blog or Twitter account I can link to? Such things often bring you new followers.

Brittany: https://twitter.com/thegirlonfire16

So, let’s get Brittany some new followers.

And, let’s get to using Flash Fiction as a test-run for those awesome ideas we keep coming up with. It tests their mettle, and keeps us flexing those writing muscles. Better to weed out the losers before we invest a half a novel’s worth of time before discovering they suck. Also, our writerly friends are awesome sounding boards for our new concepts. They can often spot holes, provide useful feedback, and tune us in to stuff they’ve stumbled upon in the publishing world but we have not.

Now, you know one of the secret tools I use to tame my overzealous ideas. What do you think? Is it worth slipping into your own bag of tricks?

Reporting from the bushes, this is Lucas, signing off.

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Thoughts on, like, voice. Or something.


Angela Chase + Jordan Catalano

Angela Chase + Jordan Catalano

So, I’m in training for this new job, right? Today is Day 3 of an 8-week session. Which, on the surface, sounds like a long time to train for a Customer Care Rep position. But the amount of info and data we have to access & interpret makes me believe this timeframe is fitting. Also, a large portion of this time will be hands-on, in-the-trenches, with coaches hovering nearby. If we newbies hit an issue we can’t deal with, we [literally] flip up a little, red mailbox flag and a coach will swoop in to bail us out.

I could definitely run this post in the direction of:
Wouldn’t it be cool to have little, red flags in every day life? We encounter some random patch of trouble, so we flip up our flag, and a hero comes swooping in to save the day?

But, instead, I’m gonna head in this direction:
My trainer has a lot of repetitious catchphrases.

I recently re-watched all 19 episodes of the My So-Called Life series from the mid 90’s. If you’ve experienced the show, then you may remember that it has a very distinct “voice”. For instance, the teen characters always seem so non-committal about most everything they say.

“I was just, like, thinking, that maybe we could hang out. Or whatever.”

“I mean, it might be fun to, like, go to the party. To try it out. Or something.”

Another recurring element which I couldn’t ignore was how everyone used whole names when referring to another character. Even though both teens in a given conversation totally, like, knew the 3rd party, they still added the last name for like, clarification. Or something.

Angela Chase
Jordan Catalano
Rayanne Graff
Rickie Vasquez
Bryan Krakow

I counted the occurrences of this phenomenon in one of the episodes: 25 times in an hour-long [Minus commercial breaks] show.

[Fun fact: The exception to this full-name-rule is, of course, “Tino”. He is the supposed leader of Jordan Catalano’s band, Frozen Embryos. He is mentioned in almost every episode, but is never seen on-screen. If he has a last name, it’s never spoken.]

At the time, I pondered my own writing and looked for my personal go-to phrases.

My trainer has me doing that again.

I’m sure some of his style/voice comes from the Official Trainer’s Training Guide. Here are some examples.
1) If anyone enters the room, like, for instance, the HR guy, a supervisor, or an employee who’s coming to share his/her work experience with us, we must clap. Before we even know who it is, we clap as they walk in. They speak, we ask questions, and then we clap again when the visitor leaves.
2) When a trainee answers a question, the trainer repeats the answer back. Every time.
3) Once the answer is repeated, the trainer follows up with a pat-on-the-back word: cool, awesome, good, sweet, nice. Every time. These words are also used to signal the completion of a given activity or module. You could set your watch by them.
4) Then there’s this one: After learning a new aspect of our positions, What questions do you have for me? Not, Does anyone have any questions about what we’ve just covered? But, What questions do you have for me? [Note: I may count the occurences today.]

These aren’t criticisms, mind you. Simply observations. And they have triggered me to analyze my own speech patterns, and any repetitious phrasing I fall back on in my writing. Not that a pattern is a bad thing. Certain identifiable ‘markers’ can go a long way towards establishing voice. The speech in My So Called Life and my training class are irrefutable proof of that.

Cool.

So, those are my thoughts on such things. Or whatever. I challenge you to listen to the folks around you and see if you can pick out phrases and physical cues which make them uniquely them. Since you don’t have a little, red flag to flip up, this exercise might help when it comes time to create your next character. I mean, it might be useful. Or, something. Maybe, paying attention to real people will make the fictitious ones more solid and believable. Or, whatever.

Sweet.

What questions do you have for me?

Green Cursive Encouragement


NOTE: My writing station just received a much needed cleaning & organization. During the process, I re-stumbled upon the green cursive mentioned in this post. This was originally posted in March of last year. In quasi-time-travel fashion, I’m zipping it up here to the present day. 

 

I’m not really in the market for encouragement at this time, but I’m always up for some freebies/giveaways. I mean, what idiot would turn away uplifting words?

This post is one that has been skating around in the back of my mind for a while. A few months back, I came across an old box of comic books (don’t ask…) in my garage. Sharing equal space in that box was a batch of my old writing. Included in that mix, were essays and creative writing assignments from back in college.

As I began thumbing through them, I came across the comments of my professors scribbled in green pen at the end of each one. Other than a few early notes to correct my issues with pronoun-antecedent agreement, and the use of imperative sentences, their remarks were extremely positive and encouraging.

I have just resurrected those writings from storage. Here are a few of the comments:

“I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. You created great imagery with the sensory language! You are a very good writer. What is your career interest? You should consider writing professionally.”

“The tongue-in-cheek humor and satiric advice were great attention sustainers. Well written, as usual.”

“An unusual comparison but, of course, well done! What is your career choice? You should do something that involves writing.”

“I have enjoyed reading your papers this semester. I think I’ve asked before, but again, what is your major or career choice?”

Back then, I was aiming for a career in Computer Programming. That goal was more about my electronic aptitude and dollar signs than anything. These comments, however, gave me an inkling that perhaps my creativity and love of writing could become more than just an easy “A”.

I pursued writing articles and had some success; but life got in the way. Since that time I have held a strange mix of postions: free-lance artist, clergy, General Manager of a sanitation company, a variety of tax/payroll/accounting positions, Office Manager for a government facility, and currently, an antiques dealer. Writing has run in the background in one form or another through all that experience.

So, here I am again plunging into the writing-as-profession waters. We’ll see how things go. I keep seeing those comments blazing in cursive-green in my mind to spur me on–encouraging me whether I’m in the market or not.

There Aint No Formula


Deviation

Yesterday, a friend in an online writing community noted that I hadn’t blogged in a couple weeks.

Have you noticed? There aint no formula for juggling all the stuff in our lives. I feel like I ought to tell y’all why I’ve been away. Like submitting a report to a boss or something. Here are some of my goals outside of blogging which have been keeping me from it:

There have been creative things. The biggest of which was completing a series of pieces for an exhibition which opened this past Sunday. The show is running on autopilot, so I’m over the hump on this one.  [Btw, the copper-clad, taxidermied bear was a huge hit.]

There have been business-related things: auctions, a ton of Ebay listing, and prep for the massive biannual show at our antique space down in Columbus. All the green tags are up and the stuff is selling like mad. This creates the need for regular trips to keep it fully stocked and maintained. The pressure will let off a bit when the sale ends this coming Sunday. Until then, the goal is to sell a ton of shit.

Ahhh, intellectual things. Catching up on some reading and helping a bud with his college Stats class. I know some folks may vomit at this statement, but…

I ❤ math.

Even though I never took a Stats class, I dig it. Part of the reason I like this task is because I’m only functioning in the role of tutor. The final grade isn’t up to me. I just get to assist, make observations & suggestions, guide the guy through the process and try to help him understand the concepts. He has failed this class twice already and it is the last monster keeping him from his degree. Once it’s slain, he’s got an easy ride. My goal is to help him skewer it. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot of concepts on number-crunching and have memorized the algorithm for Sample Standard Deviation. [It’s that lovely image serving as the intro to this post.]

As for writing, I’m continuing to hammer away at Phreak Show. Somewhere along the way I got a wild hair to check out paying markets for short stories & flash fiction. So, there has been a lot of editing of existing pieces and the creation of some new ones. The first batch goes out next week. My goal is to complete Phreak Show by March and have some shorter works out fighting for their right to be published.

Then there’s this: I start my new job this coming Monday.

The antiques business is a lot like gambling or playing the stock market. There are wins and there are losses, peaks and valleys. Expenses drop in massive chunks, then profits roll back in unpredictable waves. It’s cyclical. Feast or famine. All that. So, to augment that fluctuating income, I’m getting a day job.

Now, the search for this began 12/31. Part of the looking back at last year and moving forward, what do I want to accomplish this year process. A piece of that is knocking down some debt and doing some travelling. A solid way to make that happen is to have a steady, reliable income so I can set a monthly budget and plan ahead. [Which is kind of fun in and of itself.  I ❤ math, remember?]

If I was keen on being a Truck Driver, an assembly line worker, or a CNA – I’d have no trouble finding a job. Those are just not my jam. There are more *interesting* job titles out there, but they’re not quite what I’m looking for either. Here are a few available positions from today’s feed:

“Swine Baby Pig Attendant”
“Nephrologist”
“Special Agent (Cyber Crimes)”

My job title sounds pretty banal. I snagged an entry-level position as a Customer Care Representative just a short drive from home. You know the guy [or gal] that answers the phone when you call your cell company to ask about issues with your bill? Yeah, that. The position doesn’t use much math. It doesn’t tap into my years of management, payroll & human resources experience. As far as I can tell, I won’t touch a single spreadsheet. [Sadface.] The pay is, uhh, mediocre. But it will be steady money rolling in. The culture of the place seems very employee-friendly and I’ll only be dealing with inbound calls–not outbound telemarketing–so that’s a plus.

It’s all about the goals.

See, I like having a carrot to chase after. And there are solid opportunities to move up within the company. So, while I’m correcting billing mistakes and explaining why a client received Canadian Roaming Charges, I’ll be striving to be the best damn Customer Care Rep I can. Hitting the quality metrics. Making folks happy. Being a team member who’s pulling his own weight. Basically, excelling so I can move up one rung at a time. It’s happened in every job I’ve previously held and I plan to do it again. Supervisor in 6 months? We’ll see.

So, dearest-bosses-I-love, that’s my report on what I’ve been up to and some of the goals staring me in the face. I’ll do my best to be a better blogger boy. I’m still working out the algorithm for squeezing all these variables into my life. I’ll keep plugging in data and simplifying until I reach a solution. In the meantime, I’d encourage you to set some goals of your own. The final grade’s yours, not mine. It’s all on you. Consider this post a kick-in-the-rump tutoring session.

Whatever those goals of yours are: Quit stalling and make them happen. There aint no formula, but you can plug the data into your made-up one until an answer comes.

And if anyone lands the Swine Baby Pig Attendant position, send pics.
And (later) bacon.

Get With It, Boy Wonder


BatmanSlappingRobin

Not that I’m gonna start jam-packing my blog with memes & gifs, but I was somehow moved to create this dandy yesterday.

Apparently, the slap from the caped crusader worked. Yesterday, the writer in me stretched and yawned and came out of hibernation. I read through the last 3 chapters I had written for Phreak Show to get the style/voice/continuity back. Here’s what I found:

1) The story is still rockin’. Even if I hadn’t written it, I would totally read it.
2) It is so so so so difficult to simply read a draft and not edit. Despite my best efforts, I absolutely had to scribble a couple minor notes…
3) I was able to jump right back into the rhythm. Even after stepping away for 6 weeks. So, another chapter is written and the final few will quickly follow.

The seal on the writing cave has been [re]opened.

Because, after all, the damn novel can’t write itself.

Alfred, go get me some more coffee.

Action! [And Invisible Ink?]


Oscars

Being burned out is different from needing a break.

Other than brainstorming for some flash fiction, I haven’t written for six weeks. [Unless you count writing checks for bills or revising my résumé. Shite. I haven’t even been blogging as regularly as I ought.] That is by far the longest non-writing spell I’ve had during the last 2 1/2 years.

It’s odd how the process for Phreak Show has been so different from my previous novels. As always, the premise & ideas developed over time. They simmered and congealed in my head for months. I scribbled a few gems down so as not to forget them, but then held all that info in a sort of suspended animation in my head. In a moment of weakness, I drafted and revised the opening page before a conference.

And then I made myself stop.

I was holding out for NaNo. I remember dying to get the words out. The characters were yapping all the time–developing and morphing and becoming folks with their own rich, private histories. I’ve never been on a movie set right before filming begins, but that’s what I felt like was going on. The actors were getting to know one another, practicing their lines, feeling one another out. Alliances and enmities were formed. Flirtations began. Evil eyes were cast.

Then the planning and gap-filling for the novel took place. November came, and the mad, loose drafting started. I hit my personal goal of 60k by Thanksgiving. And without backtracking, reading, or revising, I set the world aside.

And then I made myself stop. Again.

I haven’t touched it since. And that is something I’ve never done before.

Normally I blaze through the first draft, maybe take a few days off at most, then dive back into revising the story. Not so with Phreak Show. I didn’t lose interest in it. I definitely didn’t burn out on the characters or the storyline. I didn’t lose steam or get stuck on which way the tale would turn next. There was something about how well the narrative was going and how amazing everything was coming together that made me not want to screw it up. Or something.

Is  it a line from a movie or a statement from an actual friend I’m remembering right now? Something about a guy getting his hair cut three days before a wedding so he would look well-groomed but not like he had gotten his hair cut the day before? That is where I’ve been with the drafting of Phreak Show. Another hair analogy [what’s with all the hair?] which comes to mind is planning a dye job a few days before an important event. That first day, the new color is screaming and vibrant. But almost too vibrant. Know what I mean? Like the fiery-red needs to chill out a minute, rest, relax, calm down, age, mellow, whatever.

Phreak Show has been doing all those things.

But, the characters are stirring. The break is over and the cast members are stumbling back onto set. A few are groggy and apparently hungover. Others are chipper and almost too eager to slip back in front of the camera. The propmaster is dusting off the creepy specimens in the Odditorium. The gaffer is ensuring that the sideshow’s Tesla-inspired lighting system is ready for night taping.

If I’m going Paparazzi-Reporter for a minute, I feel compelled to divulge that Tera, in particular, is battling with her nerves. She has recently discovered her new role in the twisted plot and really wants to nail this next batch of scenes. [Sources say she is deadset on an Academy Award this year.] And the growing connection with Niko? Well, they’re both remaining silent on the topic, but they were recently spotted with their lips locked beneath the downspray of a public fountain in Savannah. Not exactly a platonic co-worker kind of move.

So, the stage and actors are ready. So is the Director. I have the loft all to myself for the next 5 days. Guess what that means? We’re gonna finish shooting this thing. Just a few final scenes–jam-packed with emotion, action & major sacrifice–and then we’ll wrap it up and head to editing.

Wish us luck. Tell us to ‘break a leg’ and all that. We’re going back in.

Ahhh! Finally, some more invisible ink. While the “ACTION!” has been slowly building in my throat and moving to the tip of my tongue, a recent event has smacked my back and made me spit out the word. A few days ago, Lit Agent Louise Fury followed me on Twitter. Out of the blue. Like, I haven’t been talking about writing or #PhreakShow or anything. In fact, in the thrust of the holidays and a general hiatus from all things writerly, my Twitter presence has diminished of late. I previously queried her with two other projects and I’m sure I was following her at one point. But when I checked, I had to ‘Follow’ her again. So, I thought the whole thing was interesting, but didn’t revel too much in the thought.

Then, today, I got notification that I had a new comment on the Phreak Show page of this here blog. Guess who it’s from? Yep. Go check it out.