I meant to write a nice long post ranting about the sad state of affairs in the world today…but I ran out of time (it IS a big topic, after all), and I’ve got an appointment with a hot, sweaty lecture hall and 80 or so students in about 20 minutes…soooo, here’s a writing prompt instead 🙂
You know the drill: take these elements and sit down and write a new story. Don’t obsess. Don’t over-think. Just do it. Who knows? Something glorious may come out.
Plot element: something goes “bump” in the night
Setting: at sea
Character: a clumsy witch
Wild card: a family heirloom
Well…have at it, and let me know if you come up with anything good.
If that got you thinking and you’re looking for even more detail on getting the plot and narrative structure right, consider reading Alexandra Sokoloff’s Story Elements Checklist. She breaks down the 3 Act structure in what I found to be a really useful way.
Now that we’re rolling, you might also want to give Wendy Wagner’s advice on outlining a look. It’s over on Inkpunks and also includes a link to the aforementioned story elements checklist and other goodies.
Well, the stomach flu happened, despite my best efforts to avoid it. A nasty, highly contagious, very violent stomach flu. It had been making its way through my family while I was out in Seattle, so I postponed my trip back to New York in order to: a. avoid getting sick while on the plane, and b. avoid infecting my husband, who’s had a hard enough month as it is. I imagined I’d be upchucking in a big old plastic cake lid that has long served as the go-to bedside vomitorium in my childhood home. I had accepted my fate and even got a little nostalgic about using the ole cake lid once more.
But, in fact, rather than rendezvous with the cake lid, I appeared to have dodged the bullet. Seven days and no virus! I merrily hopped on the plane and headed home…and promptly began to get sick. Life’s been giving us the big middle finger this month, so of course I did. I barely made it off the plane at JFK in time to heave in the relative comfort of our Brooklyn bathroom.
I’m not gonna lie. It was bad. That was Saturday and I’m only just starting to feel up to eating again. The moral of this story? Not sure. Maybe that you can’t outfox a stomach virus. Or maybe that when it rains it pours – I mean, after the grief of the unexpected death of my father-in-law a few weeks ago and ongoing difficulty of dealing with the aftermath of that…obviously what Sid and I most need right now is a horrific stomach flu.
But what I choose to take from it instead is that shit happens and you’ve just got to roll on. That’s life. Both the human body and human spirit are remarkably resilient. Yes, my husband and I are feeling low right now, but we are lucky in many ways. We have each other. We have jobs we love, and amazing friends and family. And the sun is out and the brutal heat of summer is fading and we will get through this – virus, death, and death’s coldly practical, financially stressful, and emotionally draining aftermath.
So, onward. School starts next week – a bright spot on my horizon. And this has been a surprisingly good summer for writing, especially considering the circumstances. I’ve got some book reviews planned for the blog. My husband is getting back into his groove at work and we don’t have a single trip planned until late September, so we’ll actually be home for a whole month continuously. Maybe we can find the new normal around here. In fact, I know we will.
Still, reflecting on it, I would have preferred to have gotten sick with my arms cradled around the cake lid, to feel my mom’s warm hand on my back and her voice telling me everything will be okay, just like when I was a kid.
Welcome to this writer’s workspace. Here’s what’s happening liiiiiiiiiiiiiive at Miranda’s desk:
What I’m working on: Well, my “desk” this week is actually the kitchen counter in my parents’ house on Vashon Island, Washington. I’ve been out here about a week. I was supposed to travel home to New York today but, of course, because this month has decided to crap on us, there’s a highly contagious stomach flu tearing through my family (introduced, naturally, by my sister’s wee ones ;). Anyway, to avoid getting violently ill on the plane or carrying the virus home to my husband, I’ll be staying out here till Saturday (hopefully not – but probably- doubled-over in gut-wrenching pain…). In the meantime, I’m trying to enjoy the gorgeous weather and good company of my family.
I’m also trying to get a little work done. The semester starts back up in about two weeks, so I’ve got syllabi and such to prepare. And, as always, there’s writing to do! While out here, I’ve done a little research for Project Awesome, which is set in the Pacific Northwest. I visited Greenlake, a neighborhood where the protagonist’s family lives, as well as the Fremont Troll, a spot that will feature heavily in some of the darker scenes of the novel. I’m currently working on a section of the novel set in Pioneer Square. Here’s…
…a snippet from the screen: “I parked the Ramirez and Sons truck on Yesler and headed down the hill toward 1st Avenue, nerves scrabbling in my gut. I’d tucked my rat in the pocket of my raincoat. He was curled in a tight ball. Like me, he could sense Kin all around us. Kin behind storefronts and Kin on park benches. Kin sizing me up as we passed on the sidewalk and Kin moving around underground like cockroaches. I tried to swallow, but my mouth was dry. Full dark smothered the last of the light as I rounded the corner. Down the block, the windows of Bitter and Dark shone with a lantern-light glow. With the sun gone, cold drew in around me. I hunched my shoulders and headed for the coffee house.”
On the iTunes: Wallflower by Uncle Earl — my mom is always introducing me to fun new bluegrass and folk bands. Uncle Earl is an awesome all girl band, full of spunk and perfect for a beautiful summer day.
In my mug: I’ve converted my parents to the dark, steamy joy that is Yorkshire Gold, so they’ve got a massive box in their house now too 🙂 I’m doing my part to help them tear through it.
Keeping me company: In lieu of Mr. Ramses, I’ve got my parents’ Havanese, Scout, to keep me company while I work. He’s much lazier but also a lot sweeter (and therefore much less likely to bite me). I still miss my fuzz-monster, though. With so much travel this summer, I feel like I’ve barely seen him. He probably knows the pet-sitter better than me these days 😦
Out the window: Well, here’s the part where you’re really going to hate me. My mom has a world-class 16-acre garden, so the view from the porch (or out any window) is pretty much a paradise. I’ve included a few photos to share the joy.
Well…that’s about all from here. Time to get in a bit more writing then go help my mom in the garden. Gotta earn my keep, after all!