“Into the wild blue yonder”
I spent the evening watching my kindergartener receive a certificate and getting ready to move into First Grade. He’s already been at the same school for three years, and is moving on to…the same school, but next time in 1st Grade.
Still, it was an ending, a moment of transition, a biggish deal (mainly because the grown-ups made it that way).
So today’s prompt is:
Today’s article is a guest post by Kirsten Simmons, host of The Interactive Novel. Thanks, Kirsten!
“The first professional writing job I ever had, after seventeen years of trying, was on a movie called King Kong Lives. I and my partner-at-the-time, Ron Shusett, hammered out the screenplay for Dino De Laurentiis. We were certain it was going to be a blockbuster. We invited everyone we knew to the premiere; we even rented out the joint next door for a post-triumph blowout.Nobody showed. There was only one guy in line beside our guests, and he was muttering something about spare change. In the theater, our friends endured the movie in mute stupefaction. When the lights came up, they fled like cockroaches into the night.”
~Steven Pressfield, Do The Work
The movie, as Pressfield goes on to describe, was an unqualified disaster. It was roundly panned by the critics and barely registered on the gross lists.
How did something which had such promise in the eyes of the authors go so totally wrong?
I’ve never spoken with Pressfield, so I can only guess at the reasons behind the tanking of King Kong Lives. But if I were to guess, I’d say it has something to do with community.
We tend to believe that writers work in seclusion. Think of the stereotypical writer pounding away at the keyboard all by his lonesome. This is especially true when there’s money attached to the work. The people paying us don’t want too many people to know the story, after all, otherwise who would buy it down the road?
But this brings up some problems, because the worst person to judge a piece of writing is the author. We’re far to close to our work. When I’m trying to edit anything I’ve written, I either think it’s brilliant or I see flaws that don’t exist. In my earliest writing days, I ruined dozens of perfectly good stories by tearing them apart to fix perceived flaws in the ideas. (My mechanics, on the other hand, were rarely the target of my edits, despite needing a fair amount of help.)
What’s changed since then? I found a community.
All writers need people they can turn to for additional opinions when they run into problems. Outside eyes can offer a fresh perspective and are much more likely to identify the problems in our work. Communities like this one are essential to achieving a finely tuned, structurally sound story.
When you find your community, love them and hold them tight. Thank them profusely for their input (even if it’s not what you want to hear) and offer at least as many insights as you receive. Every amazing writer has a strong community behind them. We are nothing without our people.
Kirsten is a student, entrepreneur and author taking the idea of community to a whole new level. The Interactive Novel, about a girl who disappears without human touch, is evolving entirely in public with audience feedback. Come check it out!
The author, Kirsten Simmons, suggested today’s prompt. What can you do with:
(He was super-cute, by the way. Lots of hair.)
Anyhoo, it struck me, as we chatted, how completely huge this moment was for her. My kids are ancient now (8 & 6) and motherhood has sort of crept up on me. It’s only now, hearing my friend say “we’re getting the hang of things” that I can look back and appreciate how completely my life changed the moment I carried that first baby through the front door.
There are so many moments in so many lives — Tiny things, big things, things missed — that change a life completely. The protagonist doesn’t always appreciate the significance of the pivotal moment at the time. But short stories can highlight them beautifully.
I spent Saturday afternoon at a small town annual parade here in the eastern part of the US. There were marching bands, local civic organizations and even Mummers from Philadelphia.
Small towns breed all kinds of stories and traditions and secrets. They are ripe settings for stories, especially when you set your story in or around an annual event.
This is close to my heart, not only because I love mysteries in general and Holmes in particular (and everything it has inspired), but also because, when I was at university, I used to go past Sir Arthur’s old house every day: he was a student at Edinburgh University and his lodgings are still in use by the university.
So, today’s post is:
It needn’t be a mystery or a Sherlock Holmes-like story, but perhaps you could have a faithful sidekick whose job is to stand around and say ‘what did you just do there?’ like Dr Watson. Or perhaps you’ll use the word ‘elementary’. Or write something with a brilliant, or manic, or extremely logical lead.
On May 20, 1932 at 7PM, Amelia Earheart set off from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, Canada, to become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. The flight took 13 hrs and 30 minutes. Now there are somewhere around 300 transatlantic flights every day, carrying hundreds of passengers each. Five years after her historic flight, Earheart would disappear, along with her navigator, Fred Noonan, between Lae, New Guinea and Howland Island.
I think this suggests a prompt in lots of different genres: speculative fiction and historical; stories set on planes, stories set across continents and cultures; explorers; innovators; tragedy; scientific inquiry…so today’s prompt is:
Your prompt today is to write about something that is inexplicable to the people in your story. You may choose to offer, as a twist, a modern, scientific explanation, or you may leave it to the imagination of the reader.