Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to start a Story

Hey all,

Here's a lesson that I typed up for the USU Creative Writing Club that I wanted to share with you guys, hopefully it's helpful.

How to start a Story

What does a beginning need? (Not necessarily in order.)
1.Set the scene: establish the setting. What’s familiar about it? What’s different? What are “the rules”?
2. Establish the conflict: in other words what drives the story/what is the story about?
3. Introduce the characters: show who our narrator(s) is/are. Who’s our main cast? Who are the secondary characters of note? What are they like? How does the conflict drive them or not? Most importantly: what makes them different?
Overall: you need to prove that your story is worth it. You need to make sure that your story stands apart from the others.

Please don’t start out with:
1. DON’T start with the character waking up: it’s overdone and unoriginal and it puts the reader to sleep. (Rimshot.)
2. A character history: work the back-story into the story through subtext like how it should be.
3. Related to 2: no prologues. Like adverbs and Mary Sue’s kill them with fire!
4. A long time ago, once upon a time, this is based on a true story, legend tells of a...etc: especially don’t try to emulate classic novel openers that Dickens wrote, it’s weak and it shows that you aren’t very creative.

An additional note: I think that “catchy” and “witty” first sentences are overrated and are more of a distraction and a time sink to the author than anything. If you are focusing on making an original, innovative, and creative story you don’t have to worry about the first sentence because every word will captivate and enthrall your reader. A good story is catchy enough.

Thanks for reading, this year I'm going to be trying to update more often.

Questions or comments? Let us know!


Monday, September 26, 2011

My Reading Timeline


Pretend that it hasn't been so long since I posted anything and that this article is actually okay-ish. Are you pretending? Thanks, I appreciate that.

For my YA lit (Young Adult Literature) class we had to write a paper about our personal reading histories. So here's mine. It's only a handful of remembrances since I only skimmed the surface but I like it (I'm biased...heh heh). I'll probably try to improve and expand on it later but I still thought it was worth posting if only because I learned so much from writing this and it also brought back some good memories. Our reading histories are important because reading plays such a big role in our society, especially to writers! If you don't have the time to read a wide variety of books...I don't think that you'd have the time or desire to write. So here it is:

My Reading Timeline

It all begins with our parents, doesn’t it? Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my parents reading to me before bed. My favorites from that early period were “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” and “Goodnight Gorilla”. I liked active stories were things happened and the imaginative element was high.

When I moved to Logan and started first grade and (finally!) began to learn the “secret” language of reading and writing. I remember that it was so awkward at first. You’d have to read aloud to your parents and I’d stumble across words like “canoe” in a book (I remember it was about whales) but eventually after a lot of practice and help from my parents, I became a proficient reader. The key was to find something that interested me...

I can’t actually remember reading much of what I checked out from my elementary school library in those early years, I remember thinking that their selection was limited. However, there was a picture book section, a fiction section, and a non-fiction section; surely I could find something worth reading in there! I checked out books about black and white horror movies, the paranormal, a Disney book about thought, the story of Archimedes, books about soccer, and I even attempted Sherlock Holmes. But I was still an early reader; I needed to find my niche to help develop my reading skills to the next level of chapter books.

Then like a flame, Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone appeared, or actually was read aloud to me in second grade. The mythology of old made new in J.K. Rowling’s series spoke to me and to a lot others as well. It helped me make the transition to the new world of chapter books much like the Hogwarts Express took Harry to his. I could now find plenty of books to keep me engaged (my parents might argue that there were too many) I was now a bibliophile for life.

Growing up with Harry Potter, Star Wars, and other Sci-Fi/Fantasy books helped get me through some of the more boring books my teachers chose as part of their curriculum. However, my tastes weren’t just limited to “the awesome”, my parents instilled in me an importance for meaningful books via bribe around fourth and fifth grade. They told me that if I read the entire Newberry list or equivalent books, I could go on a trip anywhere in the U.S. Two great things resulted from this challenge: first, I learned that these were profound books that may not have space battles or wizards but that they were still fun- just in a different way and second; I got to go to Disney World.

I think that the High School teachers design their reading lists to be as boring as possible. I can only remember reading two books in High school English classes that I actually liked: “Something wicked this way Comes” and “To Kill a Mockingbird”. That’s it, end of list. Thankfully I had Chris Stewarts’ “The Great and Terrible” series to keep me occupied. This is when I discovered mainstream LDS fiction, I have to admit I ignore the romances like the plague but I love just about everything else.

Senior year I didn’t really have any required reading. So I started “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell to understand story and myth better (did I mention that I want to be a writer?) and the threshold YA book for me: “The Dark Divine” by Bree Despain. These two books are on my top five books list. They are great in different ways. “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” has helped me see how interconnected our stories are with our psyche and how we’ve always used these impulses to create stories old myths or new books alike. “The Dark Divine” helped me realize that the YA market wasn’t just comprised of pithy “Twilight” knockoff books about vampires, werewolves, demon hunters, and fallen angels. There are some high quality books out there; you just have to look in the right places.

Not much has changed since then, I’m still reading however there are more textbooks, writing instruction, and YA books thrown in now and I’m now on goodreads. (I love it! It does the math of how far you are in books for you!) I’m so grateful that I have the opportunity to be literate. I can’t imagine life without books or reading, I’d be miserable without them. I know that if we keep on reading and writing though, we can change the world.

And that's it! Any comments, concerns, advice, or emotional outbursts? Leave them in the comments section! I love to read them.

See you guys later!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Inspiration can come from weird places...


Pretend that it hasn't been an insanely long time since I blogged. Are you pretending? Good.

Our minds are strange things. What comes up with even stranger things is our subconscious, specifically in the dream realm. What is more amazing to me is psychoanalysis; making sense of dreams. (I wish I were capable of that, I'll have to read up on it and/or take a class on it.) But I invite you to attempt to psychoanalyze me.

I say that because I've recently hit an important milestone: I've had 20 dreams that were crazy and memorable enough to make it to my: "Weird Dream List". Here it is:

"Weird Dream List":

1. Star Trek Canyon
2. Dark and depressing “Singing in the rain”
3. Weird interview at Sports Academy
4. Four pronged trident
5. Three kids try to steal my car
6. I time-traveled to the D.C. of the early 1900’s
7. Greek Temple/ Hogwarts/ Logan High
8. I meet my sister and her classmates in Israel
9. Alternate ending to “New Moon” bonanza
10. I disrupt a class and the Teacher and all the students are angry at me
11. Two pairs of socks on with my shoes
12. The BYU “The Help/ Book of Mormon” play
13. Low Budget “Doctor Who” Episode Parodying the “Wizard of Oz”
14. Lindsey and I go to a college fair in Canada
15. The Harry Potter 7 part 2 movie involved water slides, submarines, and the tune to “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, all on top of a snowy vista
16. My Mom is given a baby sheep as a gift and we decide to keep it as a pet. We go to a gift shop to buy supplies for it
17. Three robins hatch fully-grown but one robin has a deformed arm and its mother abandons it so I decide to raise it
18. Giant Vikings replace the mountains and reenact “The Sword in the Stone” in the middle of a snowstorm and it scared me
19. I fly around a ballroom that has a painted three-dimensional sky in it. I get a bit cold from all the flying
20. Grave marker dogs that guard dead Spartan warriors come to life and I keep them. I also discover the grave of a young girl who wasn’t actually dead but in a coma and delegate her rescue

Why show them to you? Roald Dahl advised prospective writers to keep a pen and paper by their bedside so they could write down as many of their dreams as they could, because maybe one of them could lead you to "THE IDEA". (And their kind of fun just to read back on.) Oh, and you're welcome to use any of these dreams for an idea, the funny thing about dreams like stories I think, is that two people can be looking at the same thing but they end up seeing two complete different things.

So this was a little bit of a different article. Be sure to tell me if you liked it or not and if you want to psychoanalyze me go right ahead! ;)

On another note, school starts back up again for me tomorrow so I might be updating even less than usual, but who knows?

Thanks for your time!


Saturday, May 14, 2011

It's been awhile, but at least I've been tweeting!


It's been awhile but I promise that we will update more this summer! I just thought that I'd leave you with something light but substantial.

Here are my first 10 writing tips from twitter:

Tip #1:Read and write a wide variety.
Tip #2: Avoid the passive voice.
Tip #3: Write down all of your plot bunnies. Even if nothing comes from it, it's good practice.
Tip #4: If you're too tired to keep writing, you probably need to sleep.
Tip #5: Build up your wealth of knowledge, because it will show in your writing.
Tip #6:Read and write everyday.
Tip #7: Never forget your deadlines!
Tip #8: Prepare for a lot of rejection. A LOT.
Tip #9: "Follow your bliss." - Joseph Campbell
Tip #10: You have to actually sit down and write eventually.

And there you go! Also, have you guys seen my new twitter icon? It was drawn by a good friend and I think that she nailed it. When I get it scanned and colored I'll post the finished mascot here. (Do you guys get why we chose a goat? It's cause it's an animal that climbs on cliffs to go with our name. You probably already figured that out but oh well....)

'Til next time!


Friday, April 15, 2011

JK Website Entrance and...Twitter?


So, we've decided that we have our hands full already with this blog and our twitter account that we can't invest the time it would take to make the website great and not just a rehash of what we already have...so we've deleted it. (Sorry if that dashes any of your hopes)

But hey! We have created a twitter channel today!If you want to follow us search for "TheCliffhangers". I'm pretty excited about it.

See you around,


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

So...it's been awhile


So we're just in the middle of planning an action/fight scene heavy Cliff Hanger meeting, (which is going to be awesome by the way) we're trying to have it before Lindsey heads up back to the uninhabited land up north called Idaho for college. While we've been sorting this out I thought that maybe we should do a check up of where we were at on our old list of activity ideas. Here it is! Bolded ones are completed (or missed).

1. Behind the names
2. April Fools Day exchange We kind of forgot about this one...April fools?
3. Character exchange
4. Ski and write a-thon I guess that the skiing season is over, maybe we can change it to another Spring/Summer/Fall activity.
5. Write or die
6. Story playlists
7. Story prompt a day Lindsey and I did this when we were hanging out (it was a smaller meeting).
8. Board game stories
9. Ipod stories Completed! I'm working on polishing up mine so I can sell it to a magazine as a short story. :)
10. Box Stories
11. Edit Twilight
12. Movie review

We've done right by some and wrong by others as you can tell. We've done pretty good for starving freshmen/aspiring writers though in my humble opinion. One thing at a time!


Saturday, March 19, 2011

New Website

Hey Y'all

The Cliff Hangers finally created a website. It still in the work in progress stage but shortly it should have some awesome features.

Heres the link:


-Jori, Katie, Danny, and Lindsey