Writing Resource: First Lines #NaNoWriMo

Hile, my lovelies!

Today, with the pleasure of a thousand sheikhs bathed in chocolate, I bring you a creative writing exercise resource THING. As you might have noticed, of late I’ve become a regular reader of Chuck Wendig’s blog terribleminds. One of my favorites of his columns is his weekly, Fridayly (Fridaily?) flash fiction challenge. He posts a new one every week, and each one is a frolicking romp of a creative writing challenge, and it’s all muy inspiring and so forth and whatnot.

1stThe current challenge is to write an opening line (15 words max), which other writers will then use to craft a tale for next week’s challenge. Me, I’ve officially hied myself to the comments section of said current challenge and posted the following as my opening line:

“I can see why you don’t have any friends,” said the poltergeist.

After I posted this to Wendig’s blog, I thought that I should probably post it to mine own.

And after I thought I should post it to mine own, I thought that I should also post a few other opening lines just for fun.

And after I thought that I should post other opening lines for fun, I thought I should invite you all to use these lines as you see fit: either as inspiration for other opening lines, or as inspiration for stories, or as inspiration for poetry, or as inspiration for a collection of fictional tweets from the bathroom. It’s up to you.

At any rate, please to be finding below a list of first lines (some longer than 15 words). You have my permission to use them as thou wilt. If you get rich and famous off the resulting stories, though, do be kind enough to drop my name to the press, won’t you? Thanks.

Creative Writing Resource: Opening Lines (Free!)

The humans slept.

The book fell open to a well-read page, and what she saw there made her heart race.

After dinner, he took the guests’ tongues one by one.

He always knew some small thing would bring his destruction, but he’d never suspected a bobby pin.

“Ow, my elbow joint! Hand me that oil can, willya?”

The whispers wouldn’t stop.

Maybe nobody would think to look for her under the bubbles.

In the nineteenth year of Goriakin Warhound’s reign, the owl people came down out of the mountains.

“Try again.”

She stared out over the rim of her glass, still tasting the poison on her lips, and wondered which of her brothers had tried to kill her.

Look. I was just doing what I had to. Everybody knows the only good crilli is a dead crilli.

It wasn’t until he was ten that he realized he was the only one who could see the blood.

“Don’t you effing dare hang up on me! I have exactly three more points on my li–”

In a certain light, the back of the door looked pink.

The storm refused to break until the fever did.

The house was an adorable combo of Victorian frill and oversized 1980s slouch, and he was sure that it was trying to kill him.

I like music that tells a story. What was happening onstage was more like a tech manual for vacuum cleaner assembly.

“My goodness, get in here. What have you done to yourself? Your hair looks like a mullet.”

Years later, they would reassure each other that she deserved it.

When the priest levitated over the altar and up past the crucifix, Mrs. Denby finally bolted from the front row and ran shrieking down the nave.

He glanced at it just in time to see it move.

___________________

Annnnnnd that’s a wrap. Share your thoughts, inspirations, stories, world domination schemes, and whatnots in the comments!

Fantasy/Sci-Fi Resource: Ent Larva and Dances With Testicles

Or: Writerly shenanigans with words, cuz that’s how I roll.

In case you didn’t know, I grew up in Germany and speak German fluently. I also speak a fair amount of French and a smattering of Italian, and I’ve had four years of Ancient Greek. This is the reason why in many of most of my novels, I make up words such as “Saltmarch” and “banegold” and have characters who speak in dialects. (I’m trying to dial back the dialect stuff, since it turns off some of my readers. See? I love y’all enough to kill my darlings!)

*ahem* Where was I?

Oh. Languages. Yes. Well, today I read something German that included the word “heimsuchen.” I’ve always considered it a peculiar word. It’s used to describe uncomfortable or scary events, mostly related to natural disasters. It’s translated as beleaguer, infest, devastate, afflict, obsess, haunt.

So, a stalker “heimsucht” a victim. Or Moore, OK, was “heimgesucht” by tornadoes on May 11th. Or the spirits “heimsuchen” the graveyard. Et cetera.

But directly translated, “heimsuchen” means “homeseek.”

That just flips my bangerang switch penchants all over the place. Homeseek. It could be a verb: the action of a specially programmed missile. It could be a noun: a tiny creature you carry around with you on your quest, only for emergency use when you’re hopelessly lost in Thornbird Forest. It could even be an adverb, although I don’t recommend those and don’t know how you’d use “homeseekily,” anyway.

Ooh. A title. Pillars of the Twelve: Homeseek (totally arbitrary number). Go do something with that.

The more I thought about this strange word “heimsuchen” and its incorrect translation “homeseek,” the more excited I got about finding other German words or phrases to translate into fantasy/sci-fi inspiration. So I did some pondering and came up with the following. Use at will–it’s all free inspiration! Credit me if you like, or not. But don’t be surprised if I use some of these myself. ; )

German word: PECHVOGEL

Correct translation: jinx, unlucky person

Direct translation: tar bird

A mech bird that dumps tar or something equally unlovely upon citizens for public infractions? A bird made of tar, created by a wizard to plague people?

German word: SÄUFERSONNE

In this case, the correct and direct translations have to be one and the same, because I don’t know of an English phrase for this. The word translates to “drunkard’s sun” and refers to the moon: Either the person is too drunk to tell the difference and thinks the moon is the sun; or s/he spends the day sleeping off a hangover and never sees the actual sun, so the moon must suffice.

But it makes me think of the phrase “drinker’s sun,” which leads to “drink the sun,” which could be really creepy in some evil ritual by the bad guys in a fantasy story.

German phrase: HEILIGER STROHSACK

Correct translation: Holy mackerel!

Direct translation: Holy straw sack (Batman)!

German word: HEUSCHRECKE

Correct translation: grasshopper, locust

Direct translation: hay scare

German phrase: SCHWEIN HABEN

Correct translation: to be lucky

Direct translation: to have pig

I think this would be awesome in a fantasy novel with villager characters. : )

German word: EISBEIN

Correct translation: knuckle of pork (in cooking)

Old usage: ice skate (noun)

Direct translation: ice leg

German word: ENTLARVEN

Correct translation: to unmask

Direct translation: to de-larva

Maybe Tolkien’s ents start out as larva? I dunno. O_o

German word: ELFENBEIN

Correct translation: ivory (the dentine, not the color)

Direct translation: elf leg

What’s the connection between elves and elephants? Write it!

German word: HOTTEHÜ

Correct translation: horse (babytalk)

Direct translation: rightleft (noun)

German word: FRIEDHOF

Correct translation: graveyard

Direct translation: peace yard

German word: EIERTANZ

Correct usage: to beat around the bush

Direct translation: egg dance

BONUS: can also translate to “testicle dance” O_o

German word: JEMANDEN MUNDTOT MACHEN

Correct translation: to muzzle someone, to shut someone up

Direct translation: to make someone mouth-dead

So there you have it, folks! Some of my favorite, inspiring mistranslations. Feel free to share which of these inspires you — and then go write it! Or draw it, or paint it. Whatever you want!

Me, I’m having visions of mouth-dead elves made of ice, tending to peaceyards full of larva that hatch into tiny trees, all whilst dodging the tar birds sent to drink the sun.

Dances With Eggs. Because really, why wouldn't you?

Dances With Eggs. Because really, why wouldn’t you?

Three Poetry Faves: Existentialist Slithy Flues

I had the following stuck in my head earlier today, so I thought I should share it:

A fly and a flea and a flue
Were in prison,
So what could they do?
Said the fly, “Let us flee!”
Said the flea, “Let us fly!”
So they flew
Through a flaw
In the flue.

~Ogden Nash

I’ve read the fifth line with a different word order, namely: “‘Let us fly!’ said the flea.” But I’ve written it as I learned it back in 8th grade or whenever that was.

The fly and the flea and the flue naturally reminded me of another favorite, which goes like this:

There was a young man who said, “God
Must think it exceedingly odd
If he finds that this tree
Continues to be
When there’s no one about in the Quad.”

REPLY
Dear Sir:
Your astonishment’s odd.
I am always about in the Quad.
And that’s why the tree
Will continue to be
Since observed by
Yours, faithfully,
God.

~Richard Knox

That one just gives me a little existentialist chuckle. ; )

And finally, I’d be quite remiss if I didn’t make note of the master of all nonsense poems, in which the poet tells a complete and comprehensible story by way of words that make no sense at all because he made them up. BRILLIANT.

Jabberwocky

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

~Lewis Carroll

Dragon Vs. Turkey, Death by Hamster, and Writing Advice

Um. Hi?

I feel like I should be tiptoeing in here, and it’s my own blog. I’m sorry for the extreme silence lately, y’all. Honestly, the only thing I can tell you is that I’ve been pureeing pears and prunes. Seriously. Since the Itty Bitty started her foray into solid foods, I’ve felt as though I’ve been living in the kitchen.

Fortunately, I shall soon acquire a brilliant gadget unfortunately named “Babycook,” which shall do the cooking and pureeing for me and is, fortunately, not made from real babies.

Furthermore

My grand and good intention is to get back into blogging regularly — at least once a week. There won’t be another month-long hiatus if I can possibly help it (and I do think I can, Pauly). In the meantime, I’m also planning an updateish post to let you know what’s been happening in my writing world.

But that’s for later. Right now, I’m in the mood for silly, so silly is what you’re gonna get. Specifically, silly related to keyword searches.

You people are weird, and I love you for it.

Without further ado or adon’t, here are some of the keyword searches that, according to Google Analytics, have recently led y’all to my blog. And also my reactions to said keyword searches. BANGERANG.

1. would you please do me a favor

I never take requests unless asked, so yes!

2. what can be the misuses of having banana
common misuses of a banana

I take it back. You don’t get any favors. Sicko.

3. upside down scrambled cat

I don’t really understand, but okay….

scrambledcat

I didn’t know how to do the scrambled part, but perhaps this will suffice anyway.

4. what to do when your novel gets too complicated

SIMPLIFY.

No, really. Cut a character, erase a subplot or two, delete some scenes. If the novel’s too complicated, it means you’ve got too many cats in your frying pan. Toss a few of them out. You’ll end up overcooking them anyway.

5. sometimes a lady

…will have her cat cake and eat it, too.

6. should a writer listen to suggestions

For the love of all that’s good and true and writerly in this world, YES. Don’t be a precious snowflake.

7. scary hamster
hamster kiss
hamster suicide
dumb hamster
death by hamster
cool hamster

Okay, I can see why the hamsters might be kissing. Even furfaces like a little lip once in a while. And if a dumb hamster and a cool hamster are kissing, it might have entertainment value. Locking braces, awkward positions, AND SO FORTH.

But…but…why hamster suicide? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? And by Grabthar’s Hammer, what is death by hamster? Diana from “V” swallows one and chokes on it?

And why did these searches lead to my blog?!?

#whatisthatidonteven

8. novels — how long is too long

If you keep writing after the story is finished, then your novel is too long.

9. i have a bachelors in writing now what

Yes. Quite.

(READ: When I find out, I’ll let you know.)

10. dragon vs. turkey

dragonvsturkey

Of Figs and the 9th Circle of Hell

Sometimes, I am a nerd.

Okay, yes, most of the time. And nerdery happens on this blog pretty much all of the time. This post about Google Analytics is a good example.

I had an awfully cramazing good time with that post, and a few days ago I was tooling around in Google Analytics again, and I thought to myself, “Self, you really should write another blog post about keywords, because that was just rockin’ awesome fun,” and myself replied, “Heck YEAH.”

So. Here are a few recent keyword phrases that have led people to my blog. Some of them make sense. Some of them, in the timeless tradition of haiku about refigerators* ***, do not. But I am going to answer them anyway. Because that’s just the kind of sweet, kind, helpful person I am. Booyah.

Six Keyword Searches…

…in order of my amusement:

1. three creative sins

Not sure what we’re talkin’ about here, y’all. If it’s three sins in creativity, how’s about this?

  1. Letting other people tell you how to be creative.
  2. Telling yourself “I’m not good enough to (insert creative activity here).”
  3. Neglecting to hone your craft.

If it’s creatively-executed sins you’re looking for, this might not be the blog you’re looking for.

(Email me.) ; )

2. what is the german word for “here”

The German word for “here” is “hier.”

BANGERANG. Next question.

3. what to write on my first blog post?

Most importantly: WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? Why are you blogging? Why do you care? This is pretty much The Question you should answer for yourself before you even write that first blog post. If you do that, you’ll forge a connection with your readers before you even have any. Readers, that is. I know this is very meta, but trust me, I’m an expert**.

4. why are short stories short?

Um.

Because they’re not long?
Because they’re not novels?
Because short story cat is short story?

It’s because of reasons.

Oy.

5. why grocery shopping is the 9th circle of hell

Shopping carts in parking spaces. Packed aisles. Twenty-five cash registers and only 3 checkers. Sugar cookies jumping out at you from every endcap. The woman in bunny slippers, curlers, and a see-through blouse. The guy at the meat counter who turns to you with wide, shining eyes and says, “Have you tried this ground chuck? You should try this ground chuck!

I really don’t think I need to elaborate on this.

6. writing a story about court

You’re writing a story about ME? You are fantabulous! I love you! You are my new favorite person for the next ten minutes! Do I get a superpower? Oooooh, can I be telekinetic? And have vorpal unicorn morphing powers? I wouldn’t mind a teleporting ability, too, since I’ve kind of been wanting to go to Australia lately. Thanks!

_______________________

* I misspelled “refrigerator” as I was writing this post. I happened to be writing this post while at Consortium Time. I turned to Aaron and Becca and said, “I need someone to write a sci-fi story about a device that regenerates figs. It would be called a ‘refigerator.'”

They were not amused.
Although Becca said I had her until “figs.”

** Also, I seem to be a pathological liar.

*** Jessie mentioned haiku this week, which is why Japanese poetry is so randomly present in this blog post. Gadzooks, Brain.

Will You Be My Fracquaintribe?

Caveat emptor readtor:

This post might mirror my life: jumbled, disorganized, exhausted, frantic. (And yet, there’s a tranquil part, too, because I am SO THRILLED TO BE LIVING IN A HOUSE FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1996!!!)

You’ve been warned. ; )

Word cloud generated with Wordle.net

*ahem*

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the definition of “friend.”

I really started thinking about it when I first joined Facebook four years ago — and people started “friending” me. Not be-friending, mind you, just friending. Suddenly, “friend” could be a verb that didn’t require a prefix.

Friend Me! I’m Friendly! And I’m Not a Psychopath!

And it didn’t require close connection with the person in question, either. We got rid of the “be-” and, at the same time, got rid of the need for knowing someone before we call them a “friend.”

On Facebook, I discovered, friends were friends. Acquaintances were friends.

Annnnnnd…total strangers were friends! What?! Upon a friend-friend’s recommendation, I found myself friending someone I’d never met in person or even online. I trusted the friend-friend not to steer me toward a crazy person, so why not?

So. “Friend” no longer meant “person I spend lots of time with and trust with most aspects of my life.” In this brave new cyberworld, a friend was someone with whom I had a connection either through personal experience or through decent referrals.

How cozy.

Along Came Twitter

Since May 2010, I’ve been a Twitterer. Or a Tweeter. Over a year, and I don’t know the nomenclature for what I am. Identity crisis aside, I’ve been tweeting and re-tweeting for 14 months now…

…and, wonder of wonders, I’ve got better connections with my tweetlings (as I call them!) than with the “acquaintances” and “total strangers” whom I have friended on Facebook.

My tweetlings tweet and RT (read: re-tweet) about me, and I about them. I help them out; they help me out. There’s a lot of give and only a little take. Whereas Facebook “friends” will opine and argue (sometimes discourteously), tweetlings tend to be polite.

From what I can tell, the rule on Twitter seems to be:

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

I kinda sorta like that a lot.

Tribe Hummus*

The newest part of my What’s A Friend? Saga is that Dino Dogan of DIY Blogger NET invited me to join Triberr.

You can click through to read the whos and whatsits — but basically, Tribber is designed so that individual tribe members can automatically retweet each other’s blog posts, thereby giving each member access to the others’ followers.

I’m too new to tell, really, just how much Triberr is extending my reach…but extend my reach it does. When I tweet my blog posts, 339 followers see my tweet.

But through the members of my Triberr tribe, my posts reach 6,785 Twitter users.

That’s a lot of free advertising. ; ) It’s brought me some new connections, and I’m pondering setting up my own tribe. I’ll blog more about that in the future — so prepare ye for updates! ; )

Triberr members promote each other; simply by being a member, I’m doing something good for three other people. And by being members, those three people are doing something good for me.

Friends do that.

Fracquaintribes

So. What do you think of all this?

Ten years from now, will we still have friends?
Will we have acquaintances?
Or will we all be members of tribes or clans, less and less individualized and more community-minded?

Is any of this pointing toward a sort of hive mind?

Resistance is futile; you will be assimilated. All of this re-defining of relationships is interesting…but how far will it go before the intellectual exercise turns into a humanity we present-day Twitterers, Facebookers, and Triberrs no longer recognize?

If you’re reading this, you’re pretty much already in my fraquaintribe. So let’s talk. : )
______________________
*As I pondered the heading for this section, I Googled the word “tribe” for fun. “Tribe hummus” was one of the auto-complete options; it made me gigglesnort, so I kep’ it. ; )

I Wordled Myself

 

*ahem*

Git yer mind out of the gutter!

Wordle is a fantastic, fun site that lets you make pretty word clouds. Yay! Click here to go play with it!

Me, I made a word cloud out of my most-used blog post tags. Let me show you it!

Click the cloud to embiggen!

 
And that, my dear inklings, is pretty much what Courtcan.com is all about. : )

Let’s Talk About Mosquitoes, Hives, and Outlines

I love words and how other people use them. Sometimes, I’ll be reading a novel and enjoying it most thoroughly — and BAM! I hit a phrase that makes me sit up and say out loud, “Odds bodkins, that was perfect.” One of my most enjoyable challenges in life is learning how to do that to my own readers…and, as ever, I remain a work-in-progress.

But. I heart mightily (and sometimes, I even liver) how other people use words. So, for years, I’ve collected quotes. I buy nifty little notebooks in various sizes and scribble them full of the fun, inspiring, infuriating, thought-provoking, artful, and elegant ruminations of my fellow humans.

Courtney's Quotes Collection

Some of them are writers (my tribe! Woot!). One such is Laura Resnick, a fantasy author who penned the following gem:

“For the first half of a book, I’ll cling to my outline in helpless terror. Then I’ll start veering away from it, which will worry me deeply for weeks. When I finally finish the book, I’ll suddenly realize I haven’t thought about my outline in ages and don’t quite remember what was in it.”

Once upon a time, I did not believe in outlines. I’d never heard of this thing called “pre-writing.” My preferred method of starting a novel was to sit down at the computer, open a Word document, and start typing. And that, my dear inklings, is how in 2004 I came to be in possession of a 12,000-word chunk of fantasy novel that was supposed to be the sequel to an already-completed epic. Instead, more than six years later, it lies still in unfinished, digital ignominy. I hope to finish it someday…

…but before that can happen, I’ll need to do all the pre-writing: for nowadays, I’ve abandoned my lackadaisical ways (mostly), and I’ve converted to Putting Faith In Outlines. (Oy vey, was that a long sentence. Sorry.) Spontaneity is great, but when I’m writing, it just gets me stuck in squelching, mosquito-infested bogs.

I don’t like mosquitoes. They give me welts. And sometimes hives.

So I’ve learned to appreciate outlines, and I’ve learned to like outlines, and I’ve learned to trust outlines. And, like Ms. Resnick, I’ve learned The Desperate Writer’s Clutch (by which I do not mean a purse). The spectre of that 12k-word unfortunate loometh at the edges of my writerly consciousness, yea verily and forsooth. While working on my current rough draft, I even printed the outline so that I could have it well within clutching distance instead of having to switch from the novel doc to the outline doc. (It’s nice to have one’s comforting blankie in sight at all times.)

That said, the second half of Resnick’s quote resonates with me just as much as the first half does. I’m thirteen chapters into the rough draft of a 15-chapter, paranormal fantasy novel. For the first eleven chapters, I hobbled along, using my outline as my crutch. Sometimes, I felt strong enough for a steady walk. Rare bursts of enthusiasm gave me the power to sprint. However, whether walking or sprinting, I never let go of that blankie crutch outline. I still needed something to lean on.

Chapter 12 changed a few things. I didn’t look at my outline for days! Characters talked and did, and they talked and did without a whole lot of help from me. What made the difference? I think it was my deeper understanding of my characters.

When I started writing their story, I didn’t know them well enough just to give them free rein. Every time they spoke or acted, I had to check the outline: Is this how it’s supposed to go? It is? Okay, then, tally-ho. I couldn’t trust my characters yet. I didn’t know them.

Now, we’ve been through twelve chapters of adventure together, and I’m starting not just to know these people but to know them. Their edges aren’t so blurry; I can see some sharp outlines. Ephemeral wisps on the wind have solidified into distinct voices. I’m seeing the shapes of their souls.

There comes a point at which the characters, not the outline, lead my thoughts and guide my fingers. And that’s where the magic happens. And it is glorious.