Friday, May 11, 2012

Write Now: Writing What You Know

For every writing class, my professor always begin by telling everyone in the class that she does not want any stories about vampires, zombies, werewolves, or any other fantasy creatures. Her objective is to teach us how to write, to give us the basics, and to learn how to tell a story. On our own, we are free to write in any genre we choose, but for her class, we must stay in the real world.

There was a lot of grumbling and complaining, but she's write. In anything you do, you must start with the basics. At writers conferences, I've met people who amaze me. They don't read. They aren't interested in story. They think it will be easy because they have a wonderful idea. And they think they will instantly make a lot of money.

Writing is about perseverance. Writers write. Writes write what they know. And here is your assignment, it is one of my favorites when I get stuck.

Think of your childhood home. Draw a diagram of the layout of the house showing the different rooms and how the furniture was laid out. Now think of the walls and floors. What colors do you see? Is there carpet, linoleum, tile? Which is your favorite room? What do you see, smell, taste, feel, and hear? Use your senses and write about what you know. Some of these quirky little details always seem to make it into my work when I write. You can also apply this exercise to other places.

This is a paragraph from my story, "Bird Watching."

The Budweiser clock on the wall echoes with each passing second. Mama won it when I was fifteen. She was always entering contests. Dad would tease her about it, but she would always say, “The only way you can’t win is if you don’t enter.” They had switched to Budweiser for their evening drink because Dad’s doctor told him he had to give up his evening Scotch. They switched to beer. I don’t think that is what the doctor had in mind. The Clydesdale horses regaled in Christmas attire prance on the face of the clock above the huge Budweiser logo. I used to try to get Mama to put it up after Christmas, but she always said no. She won it. She liked it. It was staying. 

I needed something to let the reader have a moment to breathe. I also needed a little humor. My Mom really did have a Budweiser clock she won in a contest.

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