Words

Words—A meaningful unit of language sounds. By Cheryl Owen-Wilson

Of late, I have been contemplating the power of words, to an even larger degree than the fact that they consume my writing life. I particularly like the above definition of “words” and pondered if I consider each word I utter, or write as a meaningful unit? Do you? In further thinking about the use of “words”, I found I had many questions. Could answers to these questions improve my writing?

1

To Express Something

Do the people who populate your stories choose their words wisely—are they a man or woman of their word—as good as their word? Or, are they someone who just blurts out what is on their mind, without thought, no matter the consequence—a person who bandies words about?

Worded Correctly

I’ve known people who sit paralyzed at the thought of stringing sentences together for fear they will portray the wrong words. Many an author has shared the horror they feel at the thought of a first draft manuscript falling into the wrong hands.

Then there are those writers who break all the rules and intentionally use words incorrectly. In my writing I use southern slang and cadence, which results in many incorrectly spelled words. Can you think of an author who uses words incorrectly?

To Provide Information

I believe this particular use of “words” is what has had me so intently contemplating the immense power of words. How important is accuracy when using “words” to provide information? Do our readers hold us responsible for said accuracy? Should they? Does it depend on the genre your writing? In fantasy, for instance, must elves always have pointy ears? Do you as a reader take the time to research the information provided to you?

To Command

In using words to command, do the words themselves have to hold an element of control? Couldn’t the intent of a command come through without the commonplace words used, by the sheer nature of a character’s personality alone?

To Promise

In romance novels the unspoken promise of the word love is always present. Then there are the many definitions for the one word—love. In your story is it romantic love, love of a child, etc.? Then there is a broken promise. The use of words to relay whether the people in your stories keep or break promises, can be used to give your readers a deeper look into their personalities.

To Spread Rumor

The use of rumor can be used to plant false information in a story, without actually lying to our readers. After all we aren’t saying it’s true or false are we?

To Elicit an Emotional Response

We as writers strive tirelessly to accomplish this particular use of the written word—to elicit a response from our readers. It is our hook. It is how we draw them in and take them on the journey of story. When you know your characters well enough to care about them, then your readers will do the same. The emotional connection must always be present.

2

 

To Put Words in Someone’s Mouth

I’ve always enjoyed the visual of this phenomenon. In my visual, I see someone actually shoveling words, from a pile kept in a wheelbarrow, into someone’s mouth. But more importantly, wouldn’t those words then enter that person’s psyche and alter their view of the world? For instance, negative words. Let’s feed our protagonist only a negative view of their world.   So when they are finally introduced to a kind or positive word, would that not elicit a momentous emotion from them as well as your reader?

The Turn of a Good Phrase

We as writers move words about like pieces on a chessboard as we edit and re-edit our stories. We also quote other authors written words. I often wonder if the writers I quote had the same tingling sensations I receive when I know a sentence I’ve written might be quote worthy. However, if something I wrote were ever to be quoted back to me, I’m pretty sure I’d faint dead on the spot.

-3.jpg

Words—They have the power to topple or rebuild empires.   For the creation of story, they are the only building blocks in our procession. Through them, we can reinvent and influence worlds from past, to present, to future. What words spoken or written have most affected your lives; your writing?

 

 

Let The Light Shine Through

3

Let The Light Shine Through by Cheryl Owen-Wilson

Throughout history story has spoken. From papyrus pages, to the blue light of the electronic devices of today, story speaks.   And it speaks in many voices.

First there is the actual story. It’s spoken through the words woven together by the author. It will have a protagonist, an antagonist and hopefully an interesting plot.

The second story is spoken within the recesses of the readers mind. It speaks through the many filters of the reader’s own life experiences.

The third story remains silent, waiting for the reader to understand its language. It is the hidden voice, the underlying message, the writer intended the reader to receive beyond the story itself.

In my vision of these three scenarios I first see words dancing on a page. They line up perfectly to create the original story. But as they enter the readers mind, they rearrange and become filtered through that reader’s knowledge creating the second story. I visualize the final story as a bright light shining through each blank space on the page. This bright light is the underlying message the author hoped to convey to his reader.

A very simply analogy for this would be the story most every child has heard “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”. The light shining through this story is quite simple. Don’t lie.

What is the bright light shining through your story?

The words written above were to serve as my very simple blog for today. However, I felt compelled to add the following.

Today, many of my writing friends are struggling with creative paralysis.   Said paralysis is due to the aftermath of our Presidential Election of last week. I was also paralyzed for several days. So, I will address this strictly from my perspective.

I had a very visceral reaction to the headline in my local paper on November 9th. I knew when I went to sleep the night before, what the outcome would be. I did not anticipate my severe reaction upon seeing it in huge black lettering splashed across the front page. Such is the power of the written word. I’m not going to go into the “whys” of my reaction. But I do feel my journey to understanding and ultimately breaking through my paralysis bares relevance in regards to having an artistic block of any kind.

After my initial reaction to the newspaper, I attempted to plug ahead. I tried placing words on the page for my current work in progress. But the voices in my head, my muses, my friends, would not speak to me about my WIP. No, they were a mess, confused, angry and yes very depressed. I tried silence them, but they wouldn’t listen. So I sat down and listened to them. They had a lot to say. Then I did what I always do. I wrote what they had to say. What came of it was this poem. Not a great poem, but I hope my message does shine brightly through the words.

I Believe

I believe in equal pay, for an equal workday.

I believe in a woman’s right to choose. It is her body. It is her views.

I believe no one should dictate whom you can, and cannot choose as your life partner. With love there is no compromise, no barter.

I believe Mother Earth needs more tender loving care. Climate change is here. Just look. It is all around us. It is everywhere.

I believe the seeds of hate are sown through fear, and some wield it like a victory spear.

Above all I believe in the innate goodness I see shining from every face. Regardless of its color or its race.

Finally, I believe, it is what we believe that shines through between the blank spaces in our stories.

Once my voices felt heard, they settled back into the rhythm of my current WIP. However, when I started placing words to page, I realized I had a new, hyper sense of being. I recognized my antagonist had become darker, and my protagonist more determined in her quest. My plot had grown more complex and strewn with innumerable obstacles. When I began, I had a vague sense of a positive resolution in my story. While that hasn’t changed, I now know it will be quite a long road before the final victory.

Then there is the flip side of my creative mind. It is my painting world. I can’t wait to start placing color, much color.   You might even say a rainbow of color over large patches of red.

Yes we artists speak in many ways. We have many voices.

What is the first thing a civilization saves when it is threatened? It saves the writings and art created by that civilization, because it is the only way to record for all eternity the diversity of so many.

So dear friends if you’ve found yourself, if not blocked, at least at odds with your current environment, I encourage you to write. I encourage you to paint, draw, and create. Let your voices be heard, let the light shine through speaking loudly.

1493276_573766642702489_1118228051_n

“Story Time” Original Art by Cheryl Owen-Wilson

The Accidental Blog

87df56eb71ff0ef673ccb62fa865827b

By Cheryl Owen-Wilson   Following is how this blog was born, even though I tried to blow it off. I really did try. I’m on vacation, I reasoned. I deserve an entire day of no obligations. I’ll do it tomorrow, what difference will one day make? You get the idea.

So there I sat mid-day today reading my friend, Lisa Alber’s newest book, “Whispers in the Mist”.  I was quite content in the fact that I could just let the blog go for the day. I’d intentionally kept this book unread until I had time to spend an entire day immersed in the misty fogs of Lisfenora, Ireland, where the book takes place. And I was there, happily reading away, when the atmosphere in her novel caught me, spun me around, and said, the weather in this book is as much a character as the actual humans are. So I blame you Lisa, for giving me a perfectly good idea for a blog, that I now have to write so I can get back to finishing your amazing new book.

“The storm starts, when the drops start dropping
When the drops stop dropping then the storm starts stopping.”
Dr. Seuss

Here are just a few of the many ways weather can enhance your fiction:

Atmosphere or Mood: My writing contains many references to the Deep South of Louisiana. From heat that flows around you like cane syrup, sticky and sweet, to rain that hits so hard you have welts on your skin for days. My characters are steeped in the slow pace caused by my home state’s oppressive heat. Lisa used the fog and mist instantly associated with Ireland to draw readers into her evolving mystery. Many horror writers use storms under the cloak of night to create the appropriate atmosphere. What type of weather could you use to draw your readers in?

“Summer in the Deep South is not only a season, a climate, it’s a dimension. Floating in it, one must be either proud or submerged.”
Eugene F. Walter, The Untidy Pilgrim

“The rain thundered down so heavily that Pritam could imagine that space itself was made of water and was pouring through rents in the sky’s tired fabric.”
Stephen M. Irwin, The Dead Path

Tension: My writing mentor forever lives in my brain. This is one of many things she whispers while I write. “Just when you think you have enough tension in your story, make more.” My characters are human with human limitations. I have to give them plausible situations, believable responses. But when I throw the unpredictability of weather into the equation, well, that is a whole different set of rules. Hurricanes have been featured in my stories. They’ve possessed gale force winds that left fathers dead in branches of the only cypress tree left standing, and chickens flying past second story bedroom windows. “Twister” is one of my favorite movies. Given the recent weather in my home state, which caused extensive flooding, I now have a new story percolating. Imagine what creatures a spontaneous flood could unearth! What natural disaster might befall your characters? What would they learn about themselves, or others, as a result?

“Dark and pregnant clouds gave birth and fist-sized stones of hail hammered the earth.” ― Michael R. Fletcher, Beyond Redemption

“The November evening had a bite; it nibbled not-quite-gently at her cheeks and ears. In Virginia the late autumn was a lover, still, but a dangerous one.”
J. Aleksandr Wootton, The Eighth Square

Irony: It doesn’t always have to be nighttime and raining when the bloody corpse is discovered in a field, amongst trees who’s naked limbs reach to grab any passers by. What if it’s a perfectly beautiful day and your protagonist is strolling leisurely through a field of wild flowers? She’s just reached down to pick a flawless daisy when she notices the ruby red liquid dripping from its white petals and looks around to see severed limbs nestled within the field of vibrant spring colored flowers. A bright, sunny spring day filled with bloody body parts makes a very interesting contrast. So next time you go for the dark and stormy night switch it up a little, and see where it takes you.

“It is a common fault of men not to reckon on storms in fair weather.”
Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

 

“It’s so dry the trees are bribing the dogs.”
Charles Martin, Chasing Fireflies: A Novel of Discovery

 

In conclusion remember, unless atmosphere/weather happens to be an actual character in your novel, don’t drown your reader with too much of it. Small doses interspersed to give the proper setting, or steer your character in the right direction, are all that is needed.

 

“one day you stepped in snow, the next in mud, water soaked in your boots and froze them at night, it was the next worst thing to pure blizzardry, it was weather that wouldn’t let you settle.” ― E.L. Doctorow, Welcome to Hard Times

 

I do hope you write a vicious storm, snowy blizzard, sun-baked day, torrential rain…the variations are endless, into your next story. As for me, I’m going to cozy back up with Lisa’s book. The atmosphere outside where I am vacationing, here on the Oregon coast, is perfect. A fog is rolling in and I can literally feel the waves pounding below my balcony.

 

Have you found other ways in which weather has enhanced your own writing or a favorite book?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Your Voice Through The Chatter

writers-voice

By Cheryl Owen-Wilson

What is Voice, and how does it inform your creative life?

Is it just the sound emanating from your throat as your words bounce along your vocal cords? Or is it the tape loop of non-stop chatter playing in your brain? The chatter more commonly known as your monkey brain, since it generally swings from one topic to the next—yes, that paragraph is perfect for the beginning chapter—to just a few minutes later—what were you thinking, no one will read past this paragraph if you start the story there. And with all the noise of your monkey brain how do you even begin to find your—Voice?

Voice—such a small word for such a large topic when discussing creativity. Because ultimately we creative folk would love it if the world at large wanted, no not just wanted, but craved to read the stories we’ve written. Stories created by our own uniquely filtered—Voice.

The monkey brain I discussed earlier, has reminded me on more than one occasion of the old saying—Everything has already been written, every story already told.   If that is true, why do I continue to write? Why, because eventually my monkey brain swings back and reminds me of those unique filters only my, Voice can create..

  • My time in history, I am a witness and recorder of this moment. No one else will live it, see it or record it in the same way, as I will. It is filtered through my life experiences, my traditions, beliefs and feelings and even if I’m not writing current day fiction, those filters still apply when I delve into past history.
  • The old adage—write what you know—well, I know about being a mother to eight children—seven of them girls. Combine that fact, with growing up in a matriarchal family and you will understand why most of my stories center around the relationships of mothers and daughters.
  • My own rhythm. In music, you can have three different people sing or compose the exact same song; however, when you hear it, it will sound different with each new player or singer. This is also true in writing. There is a cadence to each individual’s writing, their own rhythm, as they string words together to paint a picture in the readers mind. My writing has the slow rhythm of the Deep South of Louisiana since that is where I grew up. Another writer growing up in a large city would more than likely have a different cadence to their stories.

I’ve spoken to many writers and painters over the years and I often hear, “When I found my Voice, everything fell into place.” Unfortunately we live in a mainstream educational society, which might attempt to silence your distinctive Voice before it is ever fully developed or heard. They may cover it with grammatical rules and years of societal norms of what your writing should or should not be. Some have even been encouraged to pursue other careers by well meaning scholars, because their writing was too radical, too outside the box. Please never let your Voice be silenced in this manner.

I encourage you to continually seek out your own exclusive Voice. But remember, just as we evolve and change through time, so might your Voice. So listen to it closely and when your monkey brain intrudes, enjoy swinging from vine to vine. Because it can take you to many amazing places, if you just sit still and let your Voice shine through all its chatter.

Unknown

Tools of the Trade

-3

By Cheryl Owen-Wilson  

I think we can all agree—writing is a most solitary art form. While I can paint with a room full of other painters exchanging ideas and telling stories, when I write I require either complete silence or music of my own choosing. There is no one sitting behind me handing me ideas as my fingers fly over the keyboard or whispering suggested words when I am stuck in the middle of a too often used, tired cliché’. Close your eyes and visualize your picture of a writer. I’m certain they are sitting in seclusion, even in a noise filled coffee shop, brow furrowed, possibly staring at a blank white screen/page or hopefully they are frantically writing before the words disappear “poof” from their brain’s frontal lobe.

So given the seclusion of writing, I was quite taken aback when attending a recent event in which the speaker, an author, eschewed the benefits of “Writing Critique Groups”. Said author went around the table of attendees and asked. “Who belongs or has belonged to a writing critique group?

Of the roughly sixteen people in attendance I quickly ascertained most were new to the writing community. Three of us said we benefited from our writing groups, one said they did not, and the remainder had, as I mentioned, no experience. The author then proceeded to give a lengthy dissertation as to why she did not think writing groups were beneficial—her two main complaints were—too much socializing and not feeling her writing benefited from any critique another writer could offer. She also placed writing conferences in the same bucket—adding cost to her other arguments listed above. I sat stunned for the remainder of her presentation.

When I left the building my mind would not stop rebuking me for not speaking up on the benefits I personally have received from my 20 plus years in and out of writing groups. I kept envisioning those new writers in attendance who might—given the speaker’s vehement aversion—never know the many benefits I and many published authors I know, have obtained over the years.

Without  writing groups and conferences I would not have the readily available support of a wide community of writers, not to mention the value of life-long friendships. If you are at the beginning of your writing life, I feel these are valuable tools that will save you many hours of trial and error. With the way the industry is evolving I feel it’s more important than ever to have a strong, core network, and that can start at conferences or within writing groups. Following is a very brief synopsis of how my writing groups have benefited my continuing evolution as a writer, and artist:

Cheryl’s Writing Groups

The first 8 years—“Wild Women’s Writing Group”—We were four very green individuals who have remained friends to this day. Both fortunately and unfortunately we fell into the biggest pitfall—as mentioned by the guest author above—we became more of a social group. However, two of us have continued writing.   One of the four was only eighteen when she started, and may not have the 10+ books she has published today if not for this first writing group.

The next 12 years—“The Inklings”—While there have been months where this group did not exist it always rekindled and began again. Different individuals have populated it, but two of us have remained through it all. I can now count myself a published short story author, published illustrator and creator of a book cover. None of which would have happened without this current writing group. I can’t speak for them individually, but I can say they are each published as well. One member in this current group, began a career in a new genre due to the success another member was having in the genre.

I can also say, at this very busy stage of my life—family, day job, artist—without a writing group to hold me accountable to put words on a page I might not achieve even the small—by comparison to the others in our group—word count I do manage to turn in at each meeting. After each meeting—critiques in hand—I feel I’m one step closer to completing a short story—one step closer to finishing a novel—one page closer to having a larger audience read my stories.

Long ago I was given a very simple outline on how to begin a writing critique group. Here is how it has evolved over the years:

  • Meet the same time, same day of the week—weekly, bi-weekly, monthly—whatever works best for the group.
  • Keep the group number to 4-6 attendees.
  • Set a maximum word count based on the size of the group, and how long you wish the meeting to last.
  • The meetings are no host meetings. You are there to critique not to socialize—as I mentioned this is the biggest pitfall to a successful group.
  • Each member is to submit via email, what they wish to have critiqued by a specified date prior to the meeting.
  • Come to the meeting with printed copies you have already read, and which you have written your critiques upon.
  • At the meeting your submission will be read by another attendee—this is fabulous not only for individuals who have a hard time reading their writing in public—but there is great benefit in hearing your writing in a voice other than your own.
  • The person who reads will critique the piece first. You will then go around the room and each give additional commentary. If necessary have a timer for each critique. Please remember to comment on what you like as well.
  • The author is then given each copy—with the name of the person, who gave the critique, in the event they need further clarification—to take home so they can begin the fun of editing of their story or not. Remember your writing group is for your benefit.

It’s as simple as that. You say you’re not ready to have anyone critique your work? That’s fine too. But I personally think you’ll be missing out on what might be a lifeline to sanity. There really are other people out there who have voices in their heads wanting to live on the written page. Now, you can still go back to writing in solitude and seclusion and ignore everything I’ve just said, but I felt it important to say it.

Before you go, please give me your positive or negative experiences/thoughts regarding writing critique groups.

-4

An Exhibit for Writing by Cheryl Owen-Wilson

I enjoy visual art in every form. It feeds an energy within me like food fuels the body. So when I’m visiting a new town the first thing I search out are the art venues. I recently visited Austin, Texas and toured The Blanton Museum of Art. I had two glorious hours to roam before being confined in a hotel conference room for the remainder of my stay. I play a game with myself when viewing art installations. First I visualize what the piece is saying to me. Only after I hear it speak do I read the artists statement to see what the artist wished to convey. Two of the installations spoke loudly, causing me to pause and view my chosen forms of creative expression in a new light. Each form of expression I use is tangible; however, until I was exposed to these particular art pieces I had not realized how much one (painting) was more so than the other (writing).

In my home, in the time it takes me to walk from the entryway and turn right into the living room I can view the progress I’ve made as an artist. Paintings from my early endeavors, to current day, hang side by side. If you were to enter my home and turn left from the entryway and walk down the hallway, you’d be in my studio where it’s quite apparent an artist is in residence. In the studio other than the usual paint spattered easel, paint tubes and paint brushes, you’ll find vertical stacks of framed, not framed, wrapped and not wrapped canvases. Some are complete, some are in progress, some are stark white just waiting for a vision to be created; and finally some would better serve the world if they became kindling for a nice campfire. Yes, from the visuals to the smell of oil paint and turpentine you and I would both know I’ve spent many, many hours painting. And if I so chose, I could display my art in an exhibit to a much broader audience. Thus my painting is a very tangible part of my home.

On the flip side, my other creative outlet of writing is not evident when entering my home or as I walk around searching for a muse to suit my current story. The only tangible evidence would be if you or I spent hours sorting through the many books on my bookshelves. There we would find Shadowspinners, A Collection of Dark Tales. Within its covers is a short story with my name as author. I do have many notebooks hidden in drawers, stories packed in plastic bins and of course my computer holds file upon file of the imaginary lives I’ve woven into short-stores, poems and even a half-finished novel or two. Don’t you as well? But as I said they are not evident, not hanging from walls. Even in the homes of my prolific, and well-published writer friends, while they have their books scattered amongst others on shelves, there is little evidence of the months and years they’ve spent stringing word after word together to create story. And now in this era of e-books and e-zines, holding your printed story as it sits between two covers is even less likely to occur. So instead of a pile of published books you have an inventory of e-books on sites such as Amazon. I’ve spent just as many hours placing black words on white paper as I’ve spent brushing paint on a white canvas. I realize writers can have an exhibit of sorts , when they publish a new book and they have a book signing. If you are lucky enough to have printed copies what a wonderful feeling of accomplishment it must be to sit at a table surrounded by your creations. But the realization that writing is not a tangible presence I can view as I walk through my home struck me as quite unfair.

The art exhibits I alluded to at the beginning of this blog led me to ponder how to exhibit, in my home, the many hours I spend writing. As I mentioned, the thing I most love about art is how each of our interpretations is filtered through our own view and lives. I’ve listed the artists name and gallery below each photo as I’m only giving you my interpretation of the piece. Each of these artists have a much more profound statement they wish you to understand when viewing their art. The deeper meanings revolve around their own unique time, political atmosphere and country in which they originated. I encourage you to view the artist’s statement of each piece.

In the first exhibit the artist marks the passage of time by creating one-inch thick plaster tablets each day. The number of tablets created each day varied depending on how much time the artist had available to create them. Each tablet is stamped with the date it was produced and organized into stacks recording each day’s labor.

DSC05094

2244 Modules” Isabel Del Rio                  The Blanton Museum of Art

         While viewing this piece I was a voyeur into writers workspaces prior to the computer age. It reminded me of the photos I’ve seen of mounds of paper surrounding infamous writers in the offices or closets where they created life-altering works of fiction. After viewing this piece, in my mind, I was pulling all those stories that lay hidden in bins and drawers and printed pages from my computer. I could see them stacked in towers based on year or month created. I may actually take the time to do this someday, but for now just the image floating across my brain makes me smile. What an exhibit it would make! How many rooms would your stories fill? How many homes?

In the second exhibit the 600,000 coins on the ground represent for me each word placed on a page or typed on a screen. The 2000 suspended cattle bones represent each story agonized over until it’s finally sent out into the world for acceptance or rejection. This gave me the idea for a small exhibit I can actually display in my home. I will place a coin in a beautiful glass bowl for each page I write in the year 2016. Perhaps I will place a penny for a page or a nickel for a short story or a quarter for a chapter. It matters not what my final decision is what does matter is the visual it will represent. It also doesn’t matter if an hour later I delete the entire paragraph or chapter. What does matter is it existed and is a part of my journey as a writer. Unfortunately I don’t think I can find enough bones for the agony portion of my exhibit. But, I am most pleased that I will now have something tangible to represent writing in my life. Each time I add a coin to my bowl the mere sound will reflect another page in a story. And as I walk through my home and reflect on the paintings covering its walls and by the ever-increasing bowl of coins I will know I am progressing, not just as a painter, but as a writer as well.

DSC05097

“How to Build Cathedrals” Cildo Meireles             The Blanton Museum of Art

          I’ll happily share a photo of my overflowing bowl at years end. What will the exhibit for your writing be?

DSC05121

 

To Game or Not to Game and The Art of Story by Cheryl Owen Wilson

Herein lies the tale of a six-year-old boy named Max who taught his nana, whose writing had become flat and lifeless, how to rediscover the joy of story.

It’s the year 2016 in the town of Eugene, Oregon, where Max and his mommy live with his nana and papa. Now Max is a typical boy of this era. When not in school you will find him on any number of electronic devices from his mom’s I-phone to her laptop, to his I-Pad or, as he prefers, his Nana’s I-Pad and on occasion you may find him interacting with the television through a device called a Wii. All was well in Max’s world until one day he heard his nana and mommy talking.

Nana whispered in her serious voice, “Hilery we will abide by whatever you decide, but his papa and I think he spends way too much time on his electronic devices. What do you think about having a, no electronics at the dinner table, rule?”

Max could not believe his ears when he heard his mommy say, “Ok, let’s give it a try.”

On the first few nights without his I-Pad Max answered the questions posed to him with one of two phrases. “OK” or “I don’t remember.” Max, by nature was quite a chatterbox, so by the next week Max was bored with his self-imposed silence at dinner. That is when he came up with his game.

That night at dinner he looked around the table and said. “I have an idea. Let’s make up a story. I’ll go first, then papa, then nana, then mommy, then me.” Everyone agreed and thus began several nights of creating stories around the dinner table. Max always started the story, and felt it necessary to correct anyone else who added something to the story he did not agree with, and Max was always the one to end the story. So the story was ultimately just as Max had envisioned it.

After the first week he heard his nana, once again whisper to his mommy, but this whisper was different. “His stories are so complete, plenty of conflict, a protagonist, an antagonist and always a resolution at the end. And his world building is complex. Is he just repeating things he’s seen or heard? “

Of course Max knew his mommy would say, “No, they’re his own made up stories and places.”

Now Max knew the secret to why his nana liked his stories, but he also knew his nana would never believe him if he told her. So, he came up with another plan.

The next night at dinner he looked over at his nana and said. “Nana, now, we’re going to write a ten chapter book about robots and the things who built them. “

Over the next few weeks Max’s nana not only participated in the building of the chapters in his book, she started writing down every word he said and over time it became just Max and his nana writing the story. During dinner he’d whisper things to her so his mommy and papa couldn’t hear. Things like, “Nana when we get to chapter eight there’s going to be a new villain or when Robot X gets poisoned, what the villain doesn’t know is that Robot X has pipes in him that will turn the poison to a healing potion, so he can give it to the other poisoned robots.”

One evening nana came to dinner late and saw Max at the table with his I-Pad. He tried to show her what he was playing. He called it Minecraft and began to tell her about the city he’d created. He offered to build one for her, but she just said. “I’m going to get my dinner now Max and you know the rule, no I-Pad at the dinner table.

The next morning Max had to ask his nana if it was OK to put a new game on her I-Pad as her device was newer than his and supported this new game. He excitedly went to her, and said. “The game is called Love You to Bits and you have to travel all over the universe to find the pieces of the robot girl and put her back together after a dragon blows up her ship.”

“A dragon blows up her ship? Isn’t that scary?” His nana asked.

“No nana, it’s really cool. You have to find clues and when you do you can put her back together just like new.” Max was surprised when his nana sat next to him so he could show her his game as he continued to explain the rules.

The very next day his nana let him show her the city he’d built in his Minecraft game. He couldn’t believe it when she asked him to build one for her. Then he showed her the Plants vs. Zombie game. She really liked the zombies.

That night at dinner he listened to his nana with her happy, excited voice telling his papa about all the games he played. He always knew she’d like them since she liked the stories he made up. He was happy she now knew it too. He didn’t really understand everything she said, but he liked that she was talking about him. “You wouldn’t believe the worlds in these games he plays. Watching him play them made me realize how they’ve given him the tools for world building just as well as any class or book I’ve ever taken or read on the subject. Because of these games when he creates a story it just comes naturally to him.

Papa smiled at his nana and said. “Back when you were a teenager didn’t you ever play Dungeons and Dragons?

“No I always thought it was a waste of time, just like I thought…well never mind what I used to think. What I know now, is gaming is perfect for a writer to learn how to add conflict and tension. You know, amp it up one more notch? In these games there’s another obstacle around every corner so not only is he learning story structure but conflict has become instinctive to him. Not to mention he has to resolve each conflict before he can continue to the next part of the game.”

Max’s nana looked over at him and said. “Max you just taught this old dog a new trick.

Max had no idea what nana was talking about. They didn’t have a dog. So he just watched as papa, and his mommy, and then nana started laughing. He didn’t know why they were laughing. But he started laughing too, because now his nana knew how he made his stories and that meant they could write lots more.

When everyone stopped laughing he said, “Hey nana we need to finish chapter nine and ten. Cause I have a new story for us and this time you’re going to really like it ‘cause mommy says you like ghosts and this one is going to have 20 chapters!”

So all was well once again in Max’s world. He still couldn’t have his I-Pad at dinner, but it was fine, because he was writing stories instead.

Nana says. “The moral of this story is to remember the most common rule in any artistic endeavor. Always try new things, and never say never.”

 

-6