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Writing Lessons from Snoopy

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As writers, I think we could learn a lot from Snoopy.

Here’s this dog — created by Charles Schulz for his famous comic Peanuts — who finds a typewriter and just goes to town with his imagination. There are plenty of comic strips where he’s trying out his stories, showing them to the other characters to get feedback, and sending them out to publishers.

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Even if, you know, the result isn’t what he wants. Nevertheless, he persists, even when he’s having bad writing days.

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You could always count on Snoopy breaking out his typewriter again to write, ever with the famous first line, “It was a dark and stormy night.” He took time to experiment with genres, switching it up once in a while to try science fiction, mystery, an autobiography, and even adventure stories with a beginning like, “He was a dark and stormy knight.”

No matter how many rejections from publishers, Snoopy always continued writing. He’d get tips and praise from the other characters — and the occasional snide comment or joke about his writing — doing his best to learn and grow with the critique but always staying true to his own style. To continue writing despite doubt, to continue writing what we want to write, to continue writing because we love it…

It’s why we became writers, isn’t it?

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Posted by on June 27, 2017 in Home

 

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Sunday Scribble – “Pancakes”

Pancakes

The scent of cinnamon-sprinkled apple pancakes awakened my nose and made me feel almost at home again.

This would never be home. Sure, the bed was comfortable, the sheets clean and soft, and they had given me the room with the view of the gorgeous woodlands behind the mansion, but I would never be able to think of this place as home.

A soft knock rattled my door. “Sierra, are you awake?”

I sat up, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. “Yeah. G’morning, Mrs. Foster.”

“I hope you had a good rest,” the woman said. “Breakfast is on the table whenever you are ready to come down.”

“Thank you,” I said, and didn’t move until her footsteps disappeared.

I took a deep breath and swung my legs over the bed, my feet landing in the plush rug. The sun was beginning to rise and I moved like an automated robot throughout my morning routine. It was strange, of course. I had new clothes and supplies since my house had burned down with the rest of my family.

At least, that was the story everyone was telling me. I don’t really remember much at all from that night. All I recalled was waking up in some sort of hospital room to the astonishment of the doctors that had been running tests on me. They had asked me the usual questions, how was I feeling, did anything hurt, that sort of thing, and I mentioned how loudly they had been talking. The three doctors had exchanged puzzled glances before one confessed that they hadn’t been talking at all right before I woke up.

“Perhaps it was a dream,” one had said.

Perhaps it was me, a voice had responded. None of the doctors had heard it, and I shook my head, trying to dislodge the ghostly voice.

It didn’t work.

I apologize, the voice had said, then rambled about the test results and what was going on with my body. It took a bit of time before I realized that it had been the heart monitor talking to me.

A machine. There had been a machine’s voice in my head, and it was totally unfazed that I was freaking out about it. I may have babbled to the doctors about it, but I got shushed in response.

“It’s okay,” one of them had said. “You’re safe here. Everything will be alright–”

“What happened?” I snapped. “Why am I here?”

They paused, a heavy pause, and no one spoke until I started writhing through the wires that were hooked up to me.

“There was an accident,” the doctor said, and that was how I was told my family was dead.

A fire had blazed through my house, and I was the sole survivor. I think I remember my father getting me out before returning to the house for my mother. Smoke inhalation had been my father’s killer. I was told Mom hadn’t even made it outside of the house.

You will be late for breakfast.

I winced at the voice. “Be quiet…”

Breakfast will be cold.

“Shut up.”

Do not be late—

“Stop talking to me!” The alarm clock fell from the nightstand with a clatter from the pillow I chucked.

“Sierra?” A firmer knock sounded on the door.

“I’m fine,” I said, trying to hide my heaving.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” I said, clutching the edge of my bed to help myself stand back up and ignoring the fact that I couldn’t remember falling to my knees. “I’ll be down in a few minutes, Basil.”

I heard him sigh. “Okay. See you in a few.”

I’m sure he’d come back for me if I didn’t show up, and that was the only reason why I composed myself enough in order to keep my word.

I was the last to arrive in the dining room and took my seat — the added seat at the table, the odd one out — next to Willow. Her eyes were bright with the morning, but her mouth was too full of pancakes to properly wish me hello. Mrs. Foster gave me a smile, which I returned, from her seat at the head of the table, while Mr. Foster nodded at me before returning to the stock reports in his newspaper. Azalea and Camellia across the table barely glanced at me while they gossiped. Basil caught my eye and I smiled at him as well, hoping to portray that he needn’t worry about the girl that could hear machines talk.

I began to eat, but the nostalgia of the pancakes struck me like a bolt. It was thoughtful of the Fosters to prepare my favorite breakfast, but it just reminded me that this was not my home, that I could never go home again.

Home is where your family is. This wasn’t my family.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2017 in Scribbles

 

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Do Over

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Not too long ago, I joined my friend, her husband, and her mother to a live “Whose Line is it Anyway?” show. The show was amazing, with the cast — Ryan Stiles, Jeff Davis, Greg Proops, Joel Murray, and the talented pianist Bob Derkach — keeping us laughing the entire time.

There was a game that they played that I unfortunately can’t remember the name of at the moment that consisted of a couple of the cast members acting out a scene while a third occasionally called out, “Do over,” or something similar, making the acting cast members revise their last spoken line into something else. There were so many different ways any of those scenes could have gone based off of the last spoken lines, and the cast of course tried to go with the most ridiculous route possible.

It’s an exercise that I’ve done with writing as well. I remember back in 11th grade about ten years ago (sheesh) there was this particular writing assignment that my literature teacher had assigned us. We were to rewrite the ending of the latest book we had read while using a line from said book to springboard our own ending.

I picked a really random line from the narration rather than a snippet of dialogue like half the class, and I just wrote. Pretty sure I ended up killing the main character due to lost love, and my teacher enjoyed it enough to recommend me a couple of books and suggest that I join the school’s newspaper team.

I’ve found myself doing the exercise on my own as well. I have plenty of plenty of do overs in regards to some of my own stories, either by taking them in new directions from certain scenes or switching up the main character or even something as simple as changing the point of view. It really helps whenever I may get stuck or just need to get recharged when writing the story.

I wonder what other “Whose Line is it Anyway?” games can be applied to writing…

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2017 in Home

 

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Sunday Scribble – “Evolution”

Evolution

An older couple entered the lobby. I sat back in my seat from behind the counter, watching them walk forward with the kind of “We’re too old to give a shit about anything” air. A teenage boy shuffled in behind them, making no effort to hide his awe of the facility. His wandering gaze eventually spotted me and he beamed. One side of my lips quirked in response before my eyes returned to my book. Firm footsteps reached my ears and I glanced back up to see Dr. Levi catch up to the couple with an outstretched hand.

“Hello,” Dr. Levi said, and introduced himself. “This must be young Edward. How are you today, young man?”

“Fine.” Edward’s tone was light, confident, but curt. His hands were stuffed in his pockets and his torso was angled back toward the exit.

“Good to hear.” The doctor smiled at the teenager before returning his attention to the older couple. “Thank you for coming here today. I’m sure you’re curious as to why we are interested in your grandson.”

“You said it had to do with his music,” the grandfather said. “Is it all the rock and rap crap that he listens to nowadays? See, Edith, I told you that stuff would rot his brain.”

“It’s a freedom of expression, Hank,” the grandma retorted. Her raspy voice cracked when she had tried to speak louder. “As long as he’s not smoking, drinking, or going out and selling his body–”

“Nana!” Edward, with his face burning, reached over and settled a hand on his grandmother’s shoulder. To me, it looked as if he wanted to reach further and cover up her mouth.

Dr. Levi cleared his throat. “Well, that’s not exactly why we contacted you… Have you folks ever heard of mutants?”

“What, is that a new drug?” Hank asked.

“No, not at all,” the doctor said. “See, when a species evolves–”

“Evolution is blasphemy,” Edith interrupted, her lips pursing, and I thought she would spit on Dr. Levi’s shoes for even uttering the word. Edward’s head dropped into his hands as she ranted. “If you were a God-fearing Christian, you would know that. When was the last time you stepped foot in a church?”

Dr. Levi took a step back and realized that the other doctors had disappeared, none willing to help him with the crotchety old couple.

“Last Sunday,” I said. Hank jumped at the sound of my voice and I waved when he looked my way. I continued on. “God created us, yes, but he had to give us the ability to adapt to this growing world, right? I mean, He promised He wouldn’t destroy this world again, so we need some help to keep up with the changes.”

“Girlie, you’re saying that evolution is an act of God?” Edith asked.

I shrugged. “It must be,” I said. “I’m proof of that. And so is your grandson.”

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2017 in Scribbles

 

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“Have a Prompt!” Saturday #99

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Posted by on June 10, 2017 in Prompts

 

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Reader Turn-Offs

We all know that feeling when you’re browsing the shelves of a bookstore, just waiting for something to catch your eye. A pretty cover, a unique title…

Then you spot it. A potential addition to your overflowing bookshelves at home. You look at the summary, your eyes skimming the words that you hope will keep you interested enough to lighten your wallet…

Then you read something that makes you huff out a sigh of disappointment as you gently put the book back on the shelf and move on.

As a reader, what are your turn-offs? Are there certain cover styles that make you pass over books? Maybe the font of the title and author are hard to read? What in the summary of the books makes you put them back down?

For me, I almost certainly get turned off when the summary describes the main, usually female, character meeting or needing help on her adventure from “the mysterious new guy” or a variation of the sort. Obvious love triangles and romances cut off my interest.

Don’t get me wrong, romance is nice, but I would much prefer for it to be natural in the story, not with me already knowing that it’s coming. There’s no tension in watching the relationship unfold when the summary already shoved the idea at me. That, and I don’t recall too many male-centered adventure stories mentioning their potential love interest in the summaries.

What about you? What turns you off from reading a book? 

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2017 in Home

 

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Reader’s Block

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Posted by on June 5, 2017 in Home

 

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