Thursday, March 8, 2012

Holding a Pineapple

There exists a short story. I wish I could expound on that a bit, but at the present moment, I can't quite recall the story's title.

No matter, the story itself is unimportant. The important thing is that at one point in the story, the main character knocks on a door. The door opens to reveal a man named Elroy Berdahl; Elroy Berdahl with silver-blue eyes like razor blades who is dressed in work pants and holds in his worn hands a green apple and a paring knife. When Mr. Berdahl first made my acquaintance, it was a lesson in characterization given by my creative writing teacher. After reading Mr. Berdahl's introduction, my teacher asked why the author had given this character a green apple to hold. When someone opens the door holding a green apple rather than anything else in the world they could hold, what does it say about them? Then he gave an off-hand and yet deeply wonderful thought. Allow me to share:

"There are some characters who could open the door holding a pineapple. Elroy Berdahl is not one of them."

Details are such a wonderful part of characterization. When someone with razor eyes opens the door holding a green apple and a paring knife, the readers instantly know this is someone completely different from a character wearing an argyle sweater who opens the door holding a pineapple. (That, by the way, would be my creative writing teacher. Yes, he is that fantastic.) The character didn't even have to speak, and the narrator didn't have to say a word about their past--we know them.

Look around you--what items and images paint a very specific mood or personality trait? Would that person open the door holding a green apple? How about a pineapple?

~ Lizzy
Current word count today: 448
Current song: Faithfully by Journey
Current quote: "I remember what you wore on the first day / You came into my life and I thought, / Hey, you know, this could be something." ~ Boys Like Girls ft. Taylor Swift [Two is Better than One]

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Facing Our Dragons

There exists a board game called Talisman. (I know, right??) Don't tell me you've never heard of it, because I just told you. Yeah, I'm awesome, you're welcome.

Writers need to play Talisman. Yes, need. Most specifically, writers need to play Talisman with the Dragon expansion pack. If you have access to this fantastic game with this fantastic expansion, play it now, and I need say no more because you will instantly understand my mysteries. (As well as the mysteries of the universe, the fabric of space-time, the intricacies of quantum mechanics, and a woman's mind.)

(Okay, maybe not a woman's mind.)

If you do not have access to such a resource, I shall explain so that you will be compelled to go acquire it. Talisman (with Dragon expansion) is a game of conquering small battles and building up your skills enough to tackle the final battle of the Dragon King. You choose a character to begin with and as they move around the board, battles with dragons will clog their path. Sometimes, these dragons are too strong, and the character dies.

Yep. Dead.

Well, crap. "Me mage's dead--whaddoido now??" The trick is that the dragon stays on the board until it's defeated. Sometimes in writing, we hit challenges that we can't for the life of us beat. The challenges won't just go away (if they do, that's not a good thing. We need challenges to make us and our writing stronger), so what do we do?

We do the opposite of what we do not do. We do not heave a sigh, say, "That's a shame" and put the board away. We do not delete the whole manuscript and curl up with a bowl of ben-and-jerry's-specialty-frozen-self-pity. Uh-uh, no way! The game ain't over yet!

In Talisman, you start a new character and approach the board all over again. In writing, we tweak, we redisign, we brainstorm, and we hit it from a new angle. The dragon won't change--it is the challenger who needs to.

~ Lizzy
Current word count today: 0 (Yeah, I'm fixing that now)
Current song: Severely by FT Island
Current quote: "Watson, don't be stupid. Bad people do bad things because they can." ~ Sherlock Holmes [Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows]

Friday, March 2, 2012


For anyone who joins me as a fellow Numb3rs fan, you'll understand the comparison I want to make today. Anyone who isn't a Numb3rs fan, I understand it's because you've never seen the show, and I forgive your unintentional ignorance. Netflix. Now. (Or, you know, buy it--that works too.)

In this wonderful show, the character Charlie is a mathemetician who uses his skills to help guide the FBI in investigations--finding suspect locations, future target points, mathematical patterns, etc. In the second episode of the very first season, while working on an equation to predict a team of bank robbers' future movements, circumstances change and Charlie gets overwhelmed. His brother comes home to find him working on a completely different equation, and when he confronts Charlie, Charlie utters this profound thought:

"Sometimes I can't choose what I work on. I can't follow through on a line of thinking just because I want to or--or because it's needed. I have to work on what's in my head."

Sometimes in writing, we hit blocks. We face problems that are just too overwhelming for the moment, and our brains stray to something else because we just can't deal with the problem at hand. That's okay. Push the problem to a little corner in the back of your mind and let it mellow. Work on whatever else is in your head. The beautiful thing about our minds is that even when you're not conscious of it (sometimes especially because you're not) it will still be working on that problem. And it will find an answer.

~ Lizzy
Current word count today: 327
Current song: Make Up Your Mind/Catch Me I'm Falling from Next to Normal
Current quote: "Work is the miracle by which talent is brought to the surface and dreams become reality." ~ Gordon B. Hinckley [Standing for Something]