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The Beggar’s Billions

“The Beggar’s billions,” he said. “We’ve got work to do.” It was then that his appearance changed before me: where a moment before stood Lucifer, Prince of Darkness, now stood a figure familiar to billions:

A rotund, jolly, jowly red-cheeked, bearded man bedecked in a festal red suit. Where there had been cloven hooves there were now black boots.

“Come along, Rancidspoor, we’ve the Beggar’s billions to deceive,” he said, donning his Santa cap. “Ready to be an elf?”

“Tis the season,” I replied, reflecting upon the chance encounter with Beelzebub in the lower echelons which led to this sugar plum of an assignment.

“Ho, ho, ho,” Santa said. “Let’s go.”

—————-

This piece is part of a sudden writing challenge issued by Joseph Craven and Ricky Anderson. The requirements were to:

Call the story “Beggar’s Billions”
Have a Santa cap
Include a chance encounter

I had fun doing this, and look forward to future challenges.

God Didn’t Make Me Fast: a Post About Why I Write

This is a great scene from the movie, Chariots of Fire, where the character Eric Liddle is talking about why he runs. He says that although he feels called, and will return, to the mission field, he is compelled to run.

“Why?” his sister asks.

“Because God made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

I love that!

Now God didn’t make me fast, but He did make me with a love of the written word. It’s what keeps me coming back, again and again, to the blank page. And when I write, no matter what it’s about, I feel His pleasure. It’s as if He’s standing over my shoulder, saying, “Yes, son! This! This is why I gave you an imagination.”

He perhaps didn’t make me to build empires, run marathons, or for acclaim. Or even to succeed.

No, He made me to create, out of the raw materials of life, out of sense (and nonsense), out of starry, wide-eyed wonder, stories for His pleasure.

How about you?

What did God make you for?

Science Can

Science can

Tell us how much a heart weighs

(Down to the gram)

Chart the process of decay

(This, the measure of a man?)

But it can’t tell us where the soul goes:

For life is more than chemicals

Sudden Writing Challenge

The other day I was tasked with taking part in a writing challenge. The brain children behind this exercise are Joseph Craven and Ricky Anderson. The following is the text of an email I received from young master Craven describing the challenge:

“Oh hello there.

Earlier today, Ricky Anderson and I were chatting and he told me of an idea he had to try to get a handful of people involved in a fun little game. We would come up with a general topic and then have to write a short story about it. Nothing huge, so we don’t have to worry about making it super fancy or fully fleshed out or anything like that. Just sort of a spur of the moment thing.

Since it’s a little similar to the concept in the 48 Hour Film project, we thought, “Hey why not just basically do it the way they do?” So we will give you a general topic and three things that MUST be included. The rest is entirely up to you.

So here are the details. You only have until Friday, August 23 at noon Ricky time (mountain time) to finish the story. Exciting!

The Category: A Caper. Now, this isn’t limited to a bank heist or something (though that’s definitely an idea!), but it’s definitely not an action-hero shoot ‘em up. Use your imagination with it, because it can be serious or humorous or anything you want it to be, as long as it sticks with the general concept of a character in a tight spot having to figure a way out.

Required Elements: These can be used as little or as much as you like, but must be included.
1. A rooftop
2. A custodian named Glenn
3. The line “Well, that’s not how I would have planned it.”

What follows is my attempt to craft a story which technically adheres to the rules, but which also subverts them. What is on display is my philosophy of writing, my rules for good writing:

1) Know the rules. Know when/how/why to break them. (i.e, show, don’t tell–but know when to tell)

2) Less is more. The most evocative writing leaves readers wanting more.

3) Characters must have believable motivations. If they do, oftentimes other story flaws will likely be overlooked. Otherwise, if the motivations are murky, or unbelievable, you lose your readers faster than the Roadrunner making a beeline away from Wile E. Coyote.

I’m no expert, but I think those things elements worked out very well for me in the following:

—————————–

“How did I get myself here,” Glenn Bateman mused to himself. Of all the pickles he’d been in in his life, this took the cake. What a joke! From the pinnacle of the financial world on Wall Street, to this: custodian for an elementary school. Only he wasn’t “Glenn Bateman” anymore; no, he was now “Overstreet,” Dal Overstreet. Bateman had a record. Overstreet was a clean start. Or was supposed to be. It was supposed to be a simple grab: take the money, and run. Only it didn’t quite work out that way. No…

Which was why Overstreet was here, wounded, on the rooftop of an abandoned warehouse, awaiting his fate.

“I’ve got no fight left,” he said to himself. The overhead sun baked into his brown custodial uniform. “Why…” he coughed, wiping blood on the back of his hand. It was only a matter of time now… He staggered to his feet, walked to the edged of the rooftop. A trail of blood followed him.

“Well, that’s not how I would have planned it,” he said, shading his eyes from the fiery sun, looking down to the pavement below. He was a man truly alone–without a hope, or help, in the world.

“Well, that’s not how I would have planned it,” he repeated. He could hear the sirens of the approaching police cars… The cops were coming. His boss, Mr. Cortwright, was coming.

There was only one way out of this, and Bateman took it:

Launching himself from the roof as best he could, he said, again, “Well, that’s not…”

———————-

As I said above, I technically adhered to the rules, but in my case the caper happens offstage. I did this because that–the caper–wasn’t the most compelling element of the story to me; rather, it was Glenn’s state of mind. In order to get you into the action, I employed the time-honored literary technique known as “In Media Res,” meaning that I gave you the end before the beginning, or middle. (If I wanted to continue this story, I could go back in time, show Glenn’s fall from grace, etc). I had to deliver believable motivations for both perpetrating a crime, and according to the rules of the challenge, give him a (believable) way out. I’d like think that I also followed my own writing rules, told you an effective story, and yet left you wanting more. It was a fun exercise, and I’m glad I took part. I almost didn’t. Tell me what you think in the comments.

I’m Back… Did You Miss Me?

So I’ve taken some time off this summer to get out and live! I’ve discovered that there is indeed a whole wide world out there apart from social media, blogging, Facebook, etc.

Who would have thought? ;-)

As those of you who’ve stopped in before know, my wife and I have been living out that “in sickness” clause this year. Indeed, the last year and a half has been tumultuous to say the least. Which is why, when she was feeling better, we vacated the valley where we live for cooler climes. It was glorious waking up to views like:

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What’s not to love about that?

We spent a considerable amount of time just driving around admiring the different views. And eating ice cream. A lot of ice cream. :-) (Seriously, my pants are tighter).

image

This place was decent, but their ice cream wasn’t kept quite cold enough. More’s the pity.

Here are some more gratuitous landscape shots:

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Are you jealous? ;-)

As indicated above, I’ve taken some time away this summer to travel, spend time with family, and to live. This doesn’t mean I haven’t been working; on the contrary, I’ve got some irons in the fire that I’m really stoked about <--see what I did there? Fire/stoked. ;-)

One of these irons is a blogging eBook with Chris Morris and Tim Gallen. We have a structure, a theme, and some preliminary pieces written. When it’s done it should be a hoot! Can’t wait for you to read it!

Another project is a semi-irregular podcast with Ricky Anderson (because neither of us can commit to “regular”–maybe we need more fiber in our diets?), called Faith, Culture, and… You. This idea grew out of a conversion he and I had via Words With Friends chat (if you can believe it) about Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz movie. I liked it, but Ricky not so much.

Should be fun.

As for personal writing projects, I’ve an idea about a couple and and weekend trip gone horribly wrong. But like the late Orson Wells, I’ll sell no wine (in this case, story) before its time. I’m calling it Casita 106 At the Red Pines.

By the way, if you’ve been looking for something to read, I can’t recommend Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game highly enough. (I’ll leave it to you to make up your own mind about the sequels, although I’m tearing my way through them).

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Peace out,

Chad

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