An unselfish wish made on the horn of a unicorn will come true. Our wish? To support the writing community by giving constructive tips and criticism through submissions. Check out the submissions tab for more information. We can survive the crucible of fire together.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Let's Talk First Lines

Don't forget to sign up for our Blogfest! Click for Mr. Linky, pictures and the guidelines.





Okay, how are you doing? I feel like I'm completely out of touch after a month with no computer.

What are you working on right now? How can we help at UB?

We would really like to know.

To go along with Marcy's first chapter critiques she started, this week I want to gather your first lines. Just the first sentence.

I'll post them all on Thursday and then we can all comment on which ones catch our attention. I'm not going to post genre or title with it so you can tell us what genre and age group it sounds like to YOU. This could be very eye opening for all of us.


Send your first sentence to unicornbellsubmissions@gmail.com with First line in the subject line.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Picture Paints 1000 Words

First, I have a little unfinished business to take care of. I signed our little blog up for Rachael Harrie's Fourth Platform Building Campaign right before my computer died. I've been AWOL ever since.

I apologize, and want to say THANK YOU to those of you who have stopped by. I'll start my rounds this week visiting your blogs.

Now for some new business.

Remember when we talked about blogfests a few weeks back? Well, I think it's time we hosted one here on Unicorn Bell. How about you? Introducing...
Here's how it will work:
1. Sign up in Mr. Linky below.
2. Tell your friends any way you want and send them over to sign up for the party.
3. Choose a picture to inspire your short story (the story can be about what you see in the picture, or just something that it sparked in your imagination.)
4. On Monday-Wednesday (March 26-28), post your story of 1000 words or less and go around to visit the other participants. You may want to post early, see below.
5. The four of us at UB will do the same and pick our four favorites to post links to on Wednesday night.
6. On Thursday you get to read the four and vote for your favorite.
7. The winner will be announced on Friday. They will have a choice between a first chapter critique from those of us at UB, or a $20 gift card to Amazon (courtesy of me).

And now, the pictures. They lean more toward the fantasy and sci-fi genres, but that seems to be what most of our commentators write. Feel free to tweak it to your personal style. Most of all, have fun! I found the first half on Fantasy Art Design, the rest were on my computer in the sample pictures.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
CD, Marcy, Jeff and I can play, but will not be in the running for prizes. :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Choice Submission


Questions for our followers
Do I start new paragraphs when new thoughts occur?
Or a new Speaker?
Such as, should I start a new paragraph whenever Anoria has internal dialog with herself?
I begin internal with a new paragraph. But it depends on the context.
In this submission, I adjusted the paragraphs according to the method I would use but this is only my opinion. Any suggestions Followers?
Also. I know I do the Adverb, Sentence thing too much
Actually not too bad.
Do you need back-story?
IMHO, you did a great job inserting backstory here.
Do you need lead up? More info on the book?
I like to guess sometimes. In this case, there is definitely a futuristic element. Sci-fi thriller? Did I guess correctly?

What follows is my crit:

“You will give me that key!” His long fingers clamped down on her upper arm yanking her off balance.
Clutching the key in her fist like a claw, just like Braedon taught her, she struck out at his eye. He saw her coming and no need to explain jerked his head back. But she managed to catch caught the edge of his cheek, gouging a ragged tear from his eye to his jaw. He cried out and dropped her arm. Anoria didn’t hesitate before spinning on her heel and tearing down the dark hallway.
Most of her movements are implied. I suggest editing much of the ‘ing’ words. 
Simplify: Anoria spun on her heel and tore down the dark hallway.
Blindly, she raced through the stone building. What the hell is this place...a goddamn castle? Pushing open doors at random She flung doors open at random until a staircase appeared behind one. she finally found one leading to a staircase.  The steps lead up. She lunged through it, throwing and threw herself up the stairs. Seconds later, she heard implied his feet hit the bottom step.
Crap. Crapcrapcrap. Greatgreatgreat
She threw her body against the first door she came to and tumbled out onto a catwalk. Into a pouring rain storm.
Of fucking course. Again, super.
Above her, the thrum of the giant brass energy coil was almost deafening and her hair scalp? started to prickled despite the rain.
This is NOT a good place to be, Anoria...
Desperate, she looked for a place to hide. The catwalk was completely empty. Solid, wet, dark stone.
Choosing a direction at random she started running seconds before the stairwell door crashed open again. Suggestion: Seconds before the stairwell door crashed open, she ran into Even through the driving rain. In the blowing wind and thrumming coil she heard him power on power-on his side-arm.
She froze.
“You know you can’t outrun this. Now. Drop the key, Anoria.”
Brilliant idea.
Slowly, she turned so she was facing him. “Shep. Long time. Nice to see you.” Keep him talking, Anoria. She held out her hands in a gesture of peace. “What could you possibly want with this rusty old key for anyway?”
She spread her arms wide to either side of her body, almost touching the low wall of the catwalk.
Damn, gonna have to move closer.
“You know perfectly well why, Anoria. Now, if you please. Kindly place the key on the ground and walk away. I’d dislike having to burn a hole in your skull.”
I’m sure. Just a little further...
Anoria inched closer to the edge of the catwalk. “So, you truly believe this silly little key can end this war?” She shifted her weight to her right hip as though she were uncomfortable and simply changing position. “This key?”
His eyes narrowed.
Damn. Caught on. Not dumb, this one. Fine. All in!

With a leap, she heaved herself at the low wall and held her arm over the edge. “THIS key? You’ll have to jump pretty far for this one, Shep.”
His eyes widened. He growled deep in his throat, grasping with his hand,I don’t understand this action. Was he reaching out instinctively with an empty hand? but it was already too late. The wind buffeted her as she held her thin body far out over the edge of the stone catwalk and forced her hand open. She had a solid four seconds of silent, slow contemplation, watching the key tumble down through the darkness. Then, a bright searing pain picked her up and threw her ten feet. Landing her against the wall, knocking her almost unconscious.Lots of ‘ing’ words here. Suggestion: Then a bright searing pain picked her up and threw her ten feet into a wall. When she was able to breathe again, she was looking stared up into the cold, grey eyes of The Shepherd. First Gatherer of the Orion’s.
Nope. Definitely Not a good place to be, Anoria.

Oh. Wow. Very cool. I stopped critiquing to read to the end. Now, dang it, it IS the end. I want more.
You’ve given me sounds and sights. Can you find a place for a smell? A moldy hallway. The hospital smell of antiseptic. An office building smells like paper and toner. An abandoned building that smells like mildew. If you give the reader a smell, they will make the connection to what kind of place this is. Don’t say, ‘smells like a hospital’. Instead, mention ‘the iodine smell bit her nose’. If you give context, it will bond with the reader and draw them into your story.


The original, uncritiqued submission:



“You will give me that key!” His long fingers clamped down on her upper arm yanking her off balance. Clutching the key in her fist like a claw, just like Braedon taught her, she struck out at his eye. He saw her coming and jerked his head back. But she managed to catch the edge of his cheek, gouging a ragged tear from his eye to his jaw. He cried out and dropped her arm. Anoria didn’t hesitate before spinning on her heel and tearing down the dark hallway.


Blindly, she raced through the stone building. What the hell is this place...a goddamn castle? Pushing open doors at random she finally found one leading to a staircase. She lunged through it, throwing herself up the stairs. Seconds later, she heard his feet hit the bottom step. Crap. Crapcrapcrap. She threw her body against the first door she came to and tumbled out onto a catwalk. Into a pouring rain storm. Of fucking course. Above her, the thrum of the giant brass energy coil was almost deafening and her hair started to prickle, despite the rain. This is Not a good place to be, Anoria... Desperate, she looked for a place to hide. The catwalk was completely empty. Solid, wet, dark stone.

Choosing a direction at random she started running seconds before the stairwell door crashed open again. Even through the driving rain, blowing wind, and thrumming coil she heard him power on his side-arm. She froze.

“You know you can’t outrun this. Now. Drop the key, Anoria.”

Brilliant idea. Slowly, she turned so she was facing him. “Shep. Long time. Nice to see you.” Keep him talking, Anoria. She held out her hands in a gesture of peace. “What could you possibly want this rusty old key for anyway?” She spread her arms wide to either side of her body, almost touching the low wall of the catwalk. Damn, gonna have to move closer.

“You know perfectly well why, Anoria. Now, if you please. Kindly place the key on the ground and walk away. I’d dislike having to burn a hole in your skull.”

I’m sure. Just a little further... Anoria inched closer to the edge of the catwalk. “So, you truly believe this silly little key can end this war?” She shifted her weight to her right hip as though she were uncomfortable and simply changing position. “This key?”

His eyes narrowed. Damn. Caught on. Not dumb, this one. Fine. All in! With a leap, she heaved herself at the low wall and held her arm over the edge. “THIS key? You’ll have to jump pretty far for this one, Shep.”

His eyes widened. He growled deep in his throat, grasping with his hand, but it was already too late. The wind buffeted her as she held her thin body far out over the edge of the stone catwalk and forced her hand open. She had a solid four seconds of silent, slow contemplation, watching the key tumble down through the darkness. Then, a bright searing pain picked her up and threw her ten feet. Landing her against the wall, knocking her almost unconscious. When she was able to breathe again, she was looking up into the cold, grey eyes of The Shepherd. First Gatherer of the Orion’s. Nope. Definitely Not a good place to be, Anoria.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Choices


I call it the Oh Well factor. When a problem arises and no solution is all wrong or all right. Or in other words, the outcome sucks both ways. Later I’ll give you an example to illustrate this.

Your characters should face the occasional no-win scenario, their Kobayoshi Maru*. That no choice is perfect. No light shining from above saying, ‘Well done’. Or that a Pit of Despair complete with ROUS* awaits them.

Do your characters face challenges that cannot be resolved?

It can demonstrate your MCs turning point, that exact moment when life will never be the same.

Submit a 500-word excerpt and we’ll roll up our sleeves and look it over.

Now for my real-life example of Oh Well in action:

I have inside cats. They get hairballs. But over time, I’ve trained all but one to leave their little presents in one room.

One isn’t grasping the concept. He continues, er, blowing his cookies somewhere other than this particular room.

My Oh Well came the day I heard that sound (never mind) that indicated Vesuvius was about to blow.

I was happy to see him doing it in the correct room.

Not so much when I realized he was doing it in my jogging shoe.

So what do I do? Yell at him and ruin weeks of training? Or praise him and clean the shoe.

I cleaned the shoe. I might throw it away.

Send a scene of conflict that has no right or wrong outcome.

*Star Trek
*Rodents Of Unusual Size—The Princess Bride


Monday, February 20, 2012

Critique Partners and Betas


If there is one constant in a writer’s world, it is the relationship of the critique partner.

The birth of a novel begins with an idea. Whether you are a pantser or a meticulous outliner, you will paint the picture of you idea with your fingertips.

After that, self-editing can only take you so far. You must have that ‘fresh eye’ to view your work.

The best critique partners and betas give honest, in depth opinions. They aren’t there to massage your ego. Their worth is in the firm and sometimes brutal suggestions.

Listen to them. Weigh their judgment against yours.
Only you know what works. Only you know where your storyline is taking the reader.

But give your CPs equal time in that inner debate. They might see something you missed.

To the CP, be honest but use tact. Give opinion but never with a slap. Do not view a crit as punishment or the chance to show YOUR ego. You are the sounding board for a writer looking for help.

Speaking from the side of a critique partner, a beta, and a writer, let me say I love to crit. It is a privilege to read our submissions.

What do you need critiqued this week? First pages? Your query? Violent scenes? Dialogue? Loglines?

Send us newborn prose or pages you've edited from earlier submissions.

We are all on the same journey and a helping hand aids all of us.


Friday, February 17, 2012

WE OF THE UNIVERSE - part three

Today is the third and final part of Rachel's first chapter:



So it continued. Fast, exhilarating spinning and then a slowing down. A cautious circling around a shadowy faceless figure and then off again in a ball of blue light. Always the endless excitement. Could this be it? And then the sadness that it was not so. Then suddenly she was stopped, and the music seemed to form fever pitch, the disc beneath her vibrated with the sound. She could just make out his features. He was solid; his face square, with a solid jaw. Everything about him seemed rough and foreign, not like any other man she had met, (Has she met a lot of men? It seems her life has been very sheltered but maybe not…) and yet his eyes were soft as they met her gaze.

“May you forever be part of the whole.” She mouthed the lines she had been taught, though they seemed inadequate for the moment. He reached out a palm to her. This was not part of the ceremony, there was to be no touching. Yet she could not help reaching both hands out, reaching for him; before she could realise quite what was happening he had drawn her in for a kiss and the shock of intimacy.

The feeling of his mouth on her lips was pleasant and warm and yet before she could enjoy it, his face turned into particles of blue light as her body seemed to tear itself apart, back through the portal and reformed. She found her mouth was still puckered, as if she was still kissing him, and she quickly adjusted it so the evidence did not show on her face.

She was deeply conflicted. (Instead of telling us she was conflicted, show us. How does she react? Does she recoil from the kiss? Is she angry with herself for allowing it? Did it secretly thrill her?) She knew what he had done was forbidden and he should be reported, (but didn’t she allow it, too?) so he could be given the adequate lessons to rewire his thinking, (Oh! I don’t like the sound of that. In fact, I’m sure I don’t want my thinking rewired.) and yet she had enjoyed it and it had not felt wrong. She did not want to be shown how it was wrong, as she would be if she told, she wanted to keep it for herself. She was tired and weak, her body heavy despite the soft carpet.

She felt suddenly queasy and gagged, only to have a tough hand grasp her jaw, jerking her head up.

“Not on the carpet dear.” The Matron said and she felt a small needle jab in her neck and the queasiness was gone, giving her the strength to get up off the ground.

The Matron stood in front of her, a slightly unfocused, slack-jawed look on her face, as she looked Inner. (what does this mean, looked Inner?) She had the fat, sexless look of one who would never participate in the Dance of the Suns. Legeve was a breeder, but those who were deemed inadequate for breeding became workers who were sterilised.

“A very strong match indeed,” the Matron congratulated her. “The future's children will do us proud.”

“Indeed,” Legeve replied, but it felt rather flat. Her feelings were going against years of teachings. The way they did it (the way who did what? I think you need to be clearer here.) was superior to the rest of those who lived in the universe, because Legeve of their kind were of the universe itself. (I’m confused by this phrase. What does it mean? Or did you mean, Legeve and her kind?) Not for her the random meetings and awkward fumblings of lesser beings. Somewhere out there, the genes of that man and her own were being combined, and they would become the children that would one day replace her. Not her children, but the universe's children.

As the room faded and she found herself in her own room, she found herself questioning for the first time her society's teachings. Not enough to abandon them all, but a seed had been planted with that kiss, and safety in her small room somehow no longer felt enough. Is it the kiss that has made her question her society’s teachings? That doesn’t seem like enough to me. I could see her yearning to know more about kissing, especially as it seems that reproduction here is sexless (Ach! How boring!). But does she know what sex is?

Overall, I’m very curious about this society and I’d be interested to find out more about it. I’m also curious about Legeve and I think more showing and less telling will go a long way toward making the reader really feel for her. I wonder if at some point, when she's feeling especially nervous and unsure, she could recite some of what she’s been told about her duty in an effort to calm herself. This could also serve as a means to give the reader some info about the society at the same time. Then when she gets back in her room, how has she changed in the time she’s been gone? Does she feel different inside? And if she’s thinking differently, what has made her do so?

Now, I'd really like to hear what everyone thinks about this first chapter because the more people that comment the more helpful it is to the author. And don’t forget that comments count toward winning our monthly prize, as do submissions - whether or not they were posted. Lastly, just a reminder that my comments/suggestions are my own, what I think will work. Ultimately, the author knows best. 

Next month, I'll be posting two more first chapters so get your little red pens out!
 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

WE OF THE UNIVERSE - part two

Today we have the second part of Rachel's chapter one:

 
Finally it was her turn; she was waved through by the Matron.

Up close the door looked like rippled glass, but instead of shining in the light it seemed to suck light into it. She put her hand to it and it shifted and moved to encase it; the surface rippled, showing the dark space behind it. As she stepped through, it seemed to stick to her skin, and as she stepped out, she felt like she was taking some of it with her and it was keeping some of her. (Interesting) She was in a dark void, where tiny lights pulsed in the distance, too far away for her to feel any heat or for their light to offer comfort. Even if she had not known what was expected of her, she would have headed towards the lights for the comfort they offered. She missed the light feel of the previous room. She scanned the dark, noting their distance, some closer and some faint, far away. She heard the faint music in tune with the pulsing of the lights, fast and sprightly, deep and loud, soft and mournful, each different and contrasting and yet together sounding beautiful, each building to a personal and yet combined crescendo. She swam in the darkness towards the light that had first caught her interest. I like this description, but as you can see the word ‘light’ has been used a lot. I’m not sure how you might re-write this or what word you might use as a substitute but I’d try.

It (the light?) was a deep blue and its music was a rigorous, marching beat. It sounded purposeful and dutiful, just like she wanted to be. Each note seemed to be played louder and louder as she swam through the void; as she came closer, the light grew bigger and brighter until it filled her sight.

A bronze disc awaited her, two marks dug into it for her feet. She stepped onto it and felt the metal shift first over her toes and then over her feet, encasing them. As it began to move, she felt a great feeling of excitement as she was moved around the light, becoming one with the universe, the light and the sound making it impossible for her to feel any more fear. (what happens to her body when she feels this excitement? Does her heart race? Does her body tense? Or does she relax into it because she isn’t afraid? Instead of saying that she felt a feeling of excitement, show us that she’s excited.) Then the disc started spinning, slowly at first and then faster, causing bile to come to her throat at the disorienting effect. Nothing unexpected though, she had been warned that there would be that effect at first as she adjusted to the movement. I think this would be a better, more exciting paragraph if more active verbs were used.

After two circles around the light, she had become became used to it and was almost enjoying herself again when she came to a sudden stop, jolting her spine. It had been her fault. She had been told it would be sudden and now her back aching marred the experience. Her head was still off spinning around the light, making it hard to focus. The disc was moving more slowly now and a shadow alerted her to something above her.

She looked up to see a disc resembling her's, with a shadowy figure upon it. She waved in greeting, and he acknowledged her with a salute, and yet she was not allowed to enjoy the meeting between companions because her disc started spinning again, faster and faster. She could not help the A crush of disappointment that overcame her, and yet what had she expected? It very rarely happened the first time.Hmm, what rarely happens the first time?

My main concern with this middle passage is that there are a lot of 'to be' verbs. These verbs - was, is, has been, etc - are very useful, but using them too much makes our writing passive and a bit dull. I'm not a huge advocate of ridding our work of every single 'to be' verb but I do think we need to limit them. This passage would be hugely improved if it was made more active. I'd love to see what it would look like then. Now, what do you guys think? And can you think of any words that could be substituted for light? That's a hard one.

Tomorrow, I'll post the last part of this chapter. 

ps don’t forget that comments count toward winning our monthly prize.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

WE OF THE UNIVERSE

Today I am pleased to bring you the first part of Rachel Cooper’s Scifi novel, WE OF THE UNIVERSE. As always, my comments will be in purple…


Legeve
(I am curious about the pronouncement of this name. I want to say it like this: Leg-eh-vee.)
 
Legeve awoke and rolled over into a hunched position, her feet touching the floor. The A cold gust of air from the vents dissipated as it had fulfilled its role, though the goose pimples on her naked skin did not. (<<this is an awkward sentence. How about something like this: A cold gust of air from the vents dissipated, raising goose pimples on her naked skin.) She ran her hands up and down her arms, bidding the cold away while slowly lights began flickering  flickered (passive vs active) up and down the walls, showing that the station was awake. (new paragraph here, I think>>) Her room was a tiny metal box, her bed a metal slab cut into the wall. This  It was like a womb. It had tended to her and kept her safe better than any physical, weak form could have. Beyond the room were dangers and here they could not penetrate. It was a perfect safe haven for her body while her mind was guided and lived outside the bonds of physical reality. Okay, now right here I want to know lots more about her mind being guided and living outside the bonds of physical reality. I’m torn between wanting a bit of explanation while savoring the anticipation of knowing more. What do you guys think? Wicked cool idea btw.

She got to her feet and walked over to a steel table in the centre of the room, its only ornamentation. In the centre of the table was a deep groove slowly filling up with liquid; to the right of the groove was a cup, ready to be filled to the brim and drunk from. Legeve felt her hand shake as she reached for it, a quivering feeling in her belly. Today was not just any day of virtual simulation and guided activity. Today was the day she would dance the Dance of the Suns, and become a true woman of the universe. Hmm, I’m already curious as to what this will entail…

Taking the cup, she dipped it into the liquid, gulping it down because the taste could never be (how does she know this? Can she visit the future? Or do you mean ‘because the taste was never pleasant,’ ?) pleasant. The room she was in seemed to fracture; once it had reformed, she was in a completely different place all together. It was wide and open, despite the many girls that lined up waiting to step through the gateway. There was soft carpet beneath her feet; instead of flickering lights, there was a steady warm glow. Try to make some of these sentences more active. For example you could say: “The room fractured, and once it had reformed, she was in a completely different place all together.” Love that idea, btw. I get a great picture in my mind.  

Legeve took her place behind a girl she recognised from a group simulation. “Emona,” she said, tapping her gently on the arm. The girl turned, not friendly and yet patient.

 “This feels so strange.” (I think you're going to need to be clear here who is speaking.) I think I'm afraid she realised. This was not routine, it was something different, something and she had not been trained for the unexpected.
“Oh, first timer are you?” The girl nodded in understanding before Legeve had time to reply. “You have been instructed haven't you? Can't offer any better advice than what is offered by the superiors.” 
I've separated out the dialogue the way I think it should be, but it may have been formatted wrong - no fault of the author. I might lose a few dialogue tags.

Emona turned around, feeling her obligation was at an end, telling Legeve nothing that she had not been instructed in already. The tear in reality that was the doorway was unnerving. (What tear? I might mention this sooner, along with her reaction. It could elicit sympathy for Legeve earlier.) It looked like a gaping wound cut into the very fabric of the room, and yet girls marched through without a glance backward, the very ideal of duty. They may have the same look as her, the same white blond hair and build, but inside she seemed to have many feelings and emotions that they did not. She lacked (lacked or had not yet participated in?) this duty, and had been guided in many lessons to bring her back into line. She repeated the mantra in her head, A single star, going on its own path brings chaos. Only unity brings the strength of the universe..



 This is a pretty cool beginning. I'm definitely interested in this character and her strange life and this duty (WHAT IS IT!!!). I want to know more about her past (It sounds empty - except for the living outside the bonds of reality) and her future, which obviously involves this duty. There's a great mystery here along with a sympathetic character (where are the people who love her?). I think this chapter just needs a little tweaking to be kick-ass.

What do you guys think? Agree or disagree? Do tell.

Monday, February 13, 2012

An entire chapter - and yes! I mean an entire chapter!

Because the first chapter of our novels are the ones that can get us in the door, this week I'm hoping one of you brave souls will send me yours, to critique here. I will post it in three parts (W,TH,F) with my comments. Let me know if there is anything specifi9c you want looked at. Oh, and you can be anonymous if you like - or not!

If I get more than one submission I'll do this again next month.

What say you?

ps don't forget that submitting gets you into the running to win this month's prize, HOLD ME CLOSER NECROMANCER.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Prompt for Prose

We come now to the end of my introductory week here at Unicorn Bell. I hope it's been a successful one. It sure seems to be from what I can tell, but sometimes appearances can be deceiving, at least in my experience.

The haikus you provided yesterday are totally awesome. I'll go back through later today and comment on them as I'm a little pressed for time this morning. However, I do want to get you set up for the final prompt. After all, this week has really been about getting you into the act of writing through inspiration. At this time, I'd like to share one of my photos with you, taken a couple years ago, in the hopes that you might find it inspiration.

What follows next is the image of my trip to Whistler, Canada, back in Summer of 2010. On the surface, there may not appear to be much going on in the way of action, but that's where you come in. Bring some action to the scene. Show me what's happening, or what could be happening. The only limit here is the one your imagination sets. The more creative you are, the more Kudos Points you get. (Limit 5 per customer today, please.)

Without further ado, here's my photo. Enjoy your weekend, everyone, and I look forward to seeing you again in March!

A lone van driving further up the mountain, away from civilization...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Pair of Prompt Days!


This week, I’ve been focusing on the matter of getting inspired to stay in the writing game. There are oodles of sources for inspiration. You need not look much further than internally (like dreams for example), or maybe even just what’s in front of your face for the external. It doesn’t require a scientific expedition necessarily to locate a treasure trove of literary stimulation.

But then there are times when the inspiration doesn’t come as quickly as we like. Sometimes we need a little nudge, or in the extreme cases, a great, big shove. (Gentle shoves, please. No one falls into the mud on my watch!) This is where writing prompts come in handy. I’ve got two sets of them for you. Today, a prompt for poetry. Tomorrow, regular prose.

My favorite form of poetry is the haiku. Not only is it fun to try and come up with the 5-7-5 syllable verses, but I’ve found some amazing stuff that can come from it.

Your challenge today is to try and form haikus using any of the following items listed below. (One point of kudos per item listed.) Or if you’re so bold, go for broke and come up with a haiku entirely on your own. (5 big Kudos points here for striking it big by standing out!)

The word choices:

Dolphins     Apples    Seven
Pink           Flour        Jets
Spiders      Sunshine   December
Velvet        Books      Running
Dancing     Skipping   Dogs
Jousting     Sleeping    Cameras
Blue          Roosters     Brown

By the way, a quick word about Kudos Points (KP). I like to think that despite of the “competition” in the writing industry, we’re really just competing with ourselves to write the best poems and stories we possibly can. So I won’t be keeping track of KP, but if you want to shout-out your KP to the world, feel more than free to do so! Woohoo! Now let’s see some haikus!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Even Small Steps Count


In my opening post here at Unicorn Bell, I stressed the importance of making sure you don’t give up on your writing. There’s a very good reason for it. You probably want it bad enough if you’re writing. It’s okay if you’re still unsure whether or not you truly want this, by the way. It takes time to explore something. If at the end of the day you find yourself not really as passionate for writing as you believed, that’s okay. You can take solace in knowing that you at least tried something.

For those who are struggling with writer’s block, allow me to share this bit of knowledge with you. Write as if today were your last chance to ever write. You don’t have to pull out a NYT bestseller in one session. (It takes lots of diligence, patience, and years for that.) You can start with something as small as an email or a blog post. You could even write a haiku. So long as you’re getting words down on paper or on the screen, you’re engaging in the physical act of writing.

Tomorrow and Friday I’ll share some things with you that may get those creative juices flowing. For now, why not go revisit your favorite book as a starting ground for inspiration? Reading also helps, you know. See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Introducing Jeffrey Beesler!


It all starts with a single letter, one out of twenty-six hopefuls aspiring to be that first one chosen, the one that brings about a succession of words, paragraphs, chapters, stories. Language flows like a river from the furthest depths of my mind to my fingertips and beyond.  A prisoner to my own literary impulses, I chase after these words, these essences of linguistic life, in search of the perfect word. I pray to never find it, for it is the very thrill of the chase that drives my heart insane with passion, my brain with purpose.

I have never shied away from the page. The blank sheet on my screen or in my spiral notebook is a canvas, waiting for me to fill it with my art. And fill it I shall. It is my hope that my art endures for several centuries after I am done on this world.

But as much as I enjoy the pursuit of writing, the pursuit of publication, a sad fog creeps into my heart. Somewhere out there is a soul who longs to create, who strives to get their message, their vision, down on paper, or on the screen. Only something gets in the way. It could be real life, writer’s block, lack of inspiration, fear of rejection, or simple compulsive excuse-making.

This travesty must simply end, especially in the digital age. If you have something to say, you should say it. People might not always like what you have to say, and there is a chance you might offend someone. But if there’s a chance you could make someone’s life better, even for a second, shouldn’t you take it? Even if that someone turns out to be you and none other, go for it. The only absolute way to fail in writing is to never try.

My name is Jeffrey Beesler, and it’s a pleasure to meet you. I live near Bremerton, WA. I’ve been writing since probably grade school, and reading ever since I could make out the words on an interstate freeway marker. I look forward to checking out your words.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Story-Worthy Problem

For those of you who follow my personal blog--sorry that I'm double posting the same thing today. Please forgive me, but my brain is slow on ideas this week, and this was a good one. ;)

I've been reading this book...
Find on Goodreads
I highly recommend it. One of the things that really hit me this first read through is the story worthy problem. In the past I thought about conflict, tension, the problems that come up, etc, but I never thought about the one deep seeded problem that drives the whole story. It's there in Sendek, but I never named it. And never naming it explains why I still feel like something is missing or not quite working. Let's take a closer look. Story-worthy problem vs surface problems.
A story-worthy problem always relates more to the inner psychology of the protagonist and has to be big enough, dramatic enough, to change the protagonist's world and force him on a journey of change. Surface problems, on the other hand, are more like bad situations that reflect the actual story-worthy problem, but that aren't sufficient on their own to sustain and entire story. ~Les Edgerton, Chapter 3.
In another spot in the book it mentions how the protagonists thinks they know what the main problem is, but they are almost always wrong--just missing the real thing. Their journey leads them and the reader to the story-worthy problem. Using those two things, let me give you an example from Sendek. Talia thinks her problem is that she's going to die a horrible death at the hands of the Draguman if she can't convince someone they exist, are coming, and the people of Sendek need to prepare to fight. That is a great bit of conflict. It builds tension throughout the story, but in the end it isn't the story-worthy problem. The deeper psychological issue is that when Talia's family died, she stopped living. Her real problem is learning to live again by letting others into her life. Being willing to hurt again in order to feel love.
But she doesn't recognize that until the very end. In the meantime there are lots of surface problems that move her closer to realizing that story-worthy problem. Her reaction to each surface problem has an effect on whether she is a success or a failure at the story-worthy problem.
Every problem--story-worthy and surface--has its own corresponding resolution or goal, so the resolution of a surface problem shouldn't also be the resolution to the story-worthy problem. Instead, the resolution of the surface problem should contribute to the resolution of the story-worthy problem. ~Les Edgerton, Chapter 3.
Maybe this is all old news to you guys, but this is going to make my current and future WIPs 100 times better. In knowing the difference between the problems I can plan/plot/outline better and keep the end goal straight in my head. Each surface problem can be crafted to better define and guide my character to reaching the ultimate goal. Finally, Edgerton talks about digging deep to find this story-worthy goal. Deep into our own selves. Let loose your own personal demons and you will find the stuff of greatness. If you are emotional about the problem, it will come through your writing.
That means you have to let yourself out of the box.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Winner of the January Commenter Award

The winner of Substitute Me by Lori Tharps is...


Thank you for your comments and participation on Unicorn Bell. Please email me at Charity(dot)Bradford(at)gmail(dot)com with your mailing address and I'll drop the book in the mail for you.

Review from front cover:
"A great read! I can only imagine the discussions this novel will stimulate in book clubs." Kathleen Grissom, author of The Kitchen House.

Blurb from the press release:
"Zora Anderson, an African American 30-year-old college dropout with wanderlust, leaves her accidental au pair position in Paris and returns to her hometown of Ann Arbor with no life plan in mind and no real goals on the horizon. With pressure mounting from her well-educated, upper-middle class parents to do something useful with her life and with her own self-doubt growing, Zora decides to start over in New York and sublets a small Fort Greene studio apartment from a friend who is attending college in Massachusetts. After combing the newspaper classifieds and finding a want ad for a “substitute me,” Zora lands a job in Park Slope with a Wasp-y professional couple in their 30s, Kate and Brad Carter, to look after their young son, Oliver.

Although Zora’s primary goal is to merely keep the rent money coming in to pay for her sublet, she soon becomes attached to Oliver, a baby with a sweet disposition who is adored by his parents. But as happy as she is with the Carters, Zora keeps her job a secret from her parents whom she is certain will view her position as demeaning and not much different than one of servitude. While Oliver’s mother, Kate, initially feels ambivalent about returning to work after her maternity leave, she soon adjusts to being back in the office and spends long hours there as she keeps a close eye on a competitive colleague who wants her job. With Kate’s new long hours, Zora begins working overtime to accommodate her employer’s hectic schedule and becomes a true substitute in the Carter household in ways she never would have imagined."