Favorite Poems


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It is April 30, which means it is the last day of National Poetry Month. I shared some poems I’ve written, and now I’d like to share some of my favorite poems by other people.

“This Be the Verse” by Phillip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

This poem is exceedingly relevant in my life.

“maggie and milly and molly and may” by ee cummings

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

I really love the rhythm and rhyme in this poem.

“Afternoon on a Hill” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I will be the gladdest thing
   Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
   And not pick one.
I will look at cliffs and clouds
   With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
   And the grass rise.
And when lights begin to show
   Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
   And then start down!
Here is this poem in choral form: Afternoon on a Hill I performed this piece many years ago, and it still holds a dear place in my heart. I love the poem’s simplicity and its concrete images.
I do not read nearly as much poetry as I should. I might start doing a “Poem of the Month” kind of thing where I present one poem each month to talk about. We’ll see.

Fighter’s Block: My first 500 words after 3 dry years


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Writer friends! You should check out this website: Fighter’s Block (http://cerey.github.io/fighters-block/).

Basically, the idea is that you have an avatar and you set a word goal and then your avatar fights a monster as you type, and if you slow down the monster attacks. I thought it was a cool idea, so I tried it, and I actually wrote 500 words for the first time in 3 years.

I’m including it because I’m just happy to have actually written something, and, although it is garbage and I hate it and it would definitely need a LOT of editing and some serious fine tuning on style/characterization/voice if I planned to publish it, it only took like ten minutes to write and it is not the worst thing I have ever seen. Which to me just means that it’s not going to be as hard as I thought to get back into writing and to get better.

(Side note: Part of why it doesn’t seem to really have a direction is because I had nothing when I started. I just started typing and went one word at a type. It stopped abruptly because I reached my goal and still had no idea where I was going.)

I know I should have told them the house was haunted when I rented it to them. I know. But I didn’t. People don’t like to hear that their house is haunted. If I had told them the house was haunted upfront, they would have taken their money and left, and I reeeeeally needed the money.

Why do I need the money? Well, why does anyone need money? To live, of course. They need to pay the rent and buy food and buy clothes and pay off credit card bills and go on vacation to the Bahamas. You know. The essentials. (Get a better reason here.) I just need the money and, honestly, working at a feed store in the middle of nowhere doesn’t really make you enough to put away any money.

It’s just hand-to-mouth living is what it is. I have not had a day off in like six years. Six YEARS, man. No holidays (seriously, every guy just has to get his mother a pair of cowboy boots on Christmas day because he forgot to get her anything until the day before). No paid time off. No sick days. Well, one sick day. I once ate an undercooked chicken leg at my niece’s high school graduation barbecue because my brother dared me to. Got food poisoning and ending up shitting myself for the next two days straight. I definitely did NOT go to work that Monday. Aside from that day, I have worked every Monday through Friday from seven in the morning until five in the evening. Loading hay into flatbeds with the mudflaps with the naked ladies on them, stacking Stetsons, folding Levi’s, doing donuts with the forklift in the parking lot. Every day for six straight years.

And it is time for a break, I think. So, last week I rented out the bottom two floors of my house to this nice Midwest couple, their dog, and their two-point-five children. (They don’t really have two-point-five children, but how cool would that be? Half a kid. How would that work?)

I kept the top floor for myself, of course. I still needed a place to live. The plan is to continue working at the feed store for the basics, and then I can just thro the money from the rent into a jar and once I have enough to cover the time I’ll have to take off work as well as the cost of the vacation, then I’ll buy myself a ticket to…I don’t know. Fiji, maybe? Someplace tropical. Someplace that is not this podunk little town I was born and raised in.

So I show the place to this couple, right, and they want to sign the lease right away. Of course, I forgot to even write up a lease, so I tell them I have another prospective renter coming in after them and tell them I’ll make my decision soon, and I push them out the door.

National Poetry Month


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Since it is National Poetry Month, here are some poems I wrote myself, since I don’t normally post my own work here. (I figured I’ll want to officially publish them some day or enter them into contests, but do you know how many contests I have entered in the last three years? Zero. So I figure maybe posting my work here will motivate me to write more. And, as much as I love my work and would like to publish it, if I actually sit down and start writing again, then I can guarantee that I will write something better. Not write away, but eventually, I will.)


I make my home in fire.
I sleep where others cannot tread.
I swallow flames,
red tongue licking lips,
and spit out the bones,
charred, cracked.

Your blazing breath does not burn me.
I’ve been to Hell to bathe in the gift of the gods,
but the flames did not consume me
the way you do.

This poem I wrote in my…second? year of college and it was published in our literary journal The Manastash.

“To That Narrow Bed”

I really want to go to sleep.
I close my eyes but try to keep
from drifting off while I’m in class.
Once work is done, I’ll sleep at last.

I wrote this brief poem as an exercise in class. Iambic tetrameter, I believe was the assignment. This one actually caused a bit of argument because my professor believed that “but try” is a trochee, not an iamb, with “but” taking rhetorical stress. I argued that no, it is an iamb because, while “but” is usually a pretty important word and often would take rhetorical stress, the important word is actually “try” which would take not only rhetorical stress, but also metrical stress. Of course, this led to a conversation about “Once the writer releases the work, it becomes subject to the interpretation of the readers, and writer intent means nothing.” Morals of the story: Don’t argue with your professor; he probably knows more than you do. And readers will always interpret your work in different ways, not all of them the way you intended. Don’t get too worked up about it. Just keep learning and keep writing.


It’s late October,
and as I follow my parents
up the steps and through
the Great Doors of the chapel,
perspiration builds between my breasts,
and I know I’ve entered

It’s October,
and the devil behind the pulpit,
in a voice that wobbles
like my knees after a night of
vodka and coke and Premarital Fucking,
tries to seduce the congregation.

It’s October,
and though I know this will all be
on the final exam for Salvation,
I lay my head down on the pew in front of me
and dream of Graduation.

Guys…guys…I was so burnt out in college. The only thing I could compare college to was being in Hell. And the only thing I could compare Hell to was being in church. Also, some guy in my class thought I missed a “prime opportunity” to say “sweating like a whore in church.” I thought the point was to be original?

“Baby Blue”
based on Joyce Carol Oates’s “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” 

 Gonna get you, baby, says the stranger in the golden jalopy, wagging a crooked finger at Connie and grinning, his white lower lip drooping like he’d pinched it with a clothespin and it had gotten stuck that way. Gonna get you, baby.  It’s 1966, and Connie is fifteen. Her sister June is the perfect daughter. She cooks, she cleans, she doesn’t fill her mind with trashy daydreams or buy burgers with boys she barely knows. Gonna get you get you get you, baby. Connie repeats the words in her head over and over, again and again until they sting, a sore in her mouth that she can’t stop running her tongue over, praying she could make it go away. Gonna get you, baby. Left alone at home by her family, Connie blasts Bob Dylan and paints her nails–fingers and toes, electric blue. As she dances around her bedroom, shaking the paint dry, a car pulls up. Gonna get you, baby.  The devil steps from his golden Pontiac, calls Connie to the door. Flirts and flatters and smooth talks. But Connie’s smart, knows not to get into cars with creeps in dirty white tees and tight jeans. Gonna get you, baby. The lecher lurches toward her, wobbles in his boots. He promises in his honey voice not to come inside; he’ll wait for her out here. But if she tries to calls the cops, all promises are off. Gonna get you, baby. Her daddy, her mommy, and June, all at Aunt Tillie’s barbeque, are all gonna get it, he tells Connie, unless she runs to his arms like she knew he was her lover. She locks the screen door and grabs for the phone, but her fingers grow too weak to dial three numbers. When the wailing that fills her ears dies and her stabbing breaths begin to calm, Connie watches herself walk out to the old fiend and join him in his car. I told you I’d get you, my sweet, little blue-eyed girl, he says, and kisses her hand like a gentleman, a gentleman who doesn’t know his lover’s eyes are brown.

I don’t think you guys understand just how much I love Joyce Carol Oates’s “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” I love it, you guys. LOVE it. Anyway, the prompt was to write a prose poem. I tried to emulate Oates’s style. She uses a lot of complex sentences.


When Dorothy was just nine years old and
Timmy was only seven,

he told her he was scared of pumpkins.
He was sure, in October,
when the fog rolls in and the sky dims—
pumpkin bins in every store—
the pumpkins would rise and steal his head,
and replace it with a gourd.
Then with tiny carving knives and spoons,
the pumpkins would scoop out his
seeds for brains and cut holes for his eyes,
and though he’d try to get free,
they’d slice him a grin of jagged teeth,
and that’s why he hates All Hallows’ Eve.

I just love Halloween and wanted to try telling a story in poem form.

“Petting Zoo”

Do not ride the llamas. Do not even try.
They have not yet been trained.
They’ll step on your feet and spit cud in your eye.

We, the professionals, must always be nearby.
Should the llamas attack when you pet them, they’ll have to be restrained.
Don’t EVER ride the llamas. Do NOT even try.

Sometimes it calms them if you sing lully-bies.
but beware their hooves. Though they’re detained,
they’ll step on your feet and spit cud in your eyes.

The special saddle we’d need costs WAY too much to buy.
Even gently used ones often come bloodstained.
So do not ride the llamas. PleeEEEEeeease don’t EV-en try.

If you try to ride the llamas, you’ll most assuredly DIE,
and llamas, you know, are really hard to sue, even rightly blamed.
And they’ll step on your feet and spit cud in your eye.

Llamas are e-vil-er than parking-spot stealers and people who cut in line.
For everyone’s safety keep all of them chained.
And absolutely never ever ever ride the llamas. Don’t even try.
They’ll step on your feet and spit cud in your eye.

Villanelle. I used to own llamas. Someone in the class tried to argue that “eviler” in not a word and so I shouldn’t use it. As though this poem is 100% serious and people don’t make up words all the time.

This next poem is actually more of a parody. It is to the tune of “I’m Through with Love.”

I’m through with class
I’ll never go again
Bid adieu to class
I cannot stand it when
I am forced to write six papers
All at the same damn time.

My brain’s shut down
It really hurts to think
My stomach aches
I must be on the brink
Of complete psychotic breakdown
And so I’m through with class.

Why did you lead me
To think I’d be fine?

“This class is easy”
“You’ve got the time
To spend your evenings
Cramming and crying
For hours on end for English class.”

Goodbye to life and all it meant to me.
It will never be the thing it used to be.
For I spent my whole life studying
Now life has passed me by.

I was so burnt out, you guys.

Anyway, those are some of the poems I have written. Maybe next post, I’ll post some of my favorite poems that I didn’t write. Hell, maybe eventually I’ll post some prose. I’ve got one piece I think you’ll like.

Until next time.

Stories that Fucked Me Up


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Here is an incomplete list of stories that disturbed me as a child, teen, and/or adult. I recommend you check them out.

“The Green Ribbon” by Alvin Schwartz–A girl always wears a green ribbon around her neck. Why? The ending of this fucked me up as a child because it was so abrupt and I wasn’t expecting it.

“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson–A small town has an annual lottery where they choose someone to sacrifice in order to ensure a good harvest.

“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin–Omelas is this absolutely perfect town where everyone is happy. What is the dark secret that makes it so happy?

“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates (This is my all time favorite short story.)–A young girl is visited by an old fiend. Implications of rape and/or murder. Inspired by serial killer Charles Schmid, aka the Pied Piper of Tucson.

Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac–I don’t remember this one much, but I remember a scene about a guy who went camping and burned his finger and put it in his mouth to cool it down, tasted his flesh, and then promptly began eating all the flesh off his body.

“High Beams” from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz–A girl is followed by a guy who keeps flashing his high beams at her, but is he the real threat? (This is one of the only stories I remember from Scary Stories that I clearly remember and know for certain it came from Scary Stories.)

“The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs–A magical monkey’s paw grants wishes, but wishes always come with a price.

“Borrasca” by CK Walker and “Penpal” by Dathan Auerbach are two stories originally published on Reddit that, while they could probably use some good editing, are very unsettling. “Borrasca” is about a small town where young girls tend to disappear. When one girl disappears, her friends decide to go looking for her and they uncover…a lot of weird shit, let me tell you. “Penpal” is a collection of various strange stories that happen to the protagonist from like kindergarten through sometime as a young adult that chronicle him being stalked. For both of these stories, it’s the endings that are really fucked up.

The urban legend of Bloody Mary (The first time I heard this story was in the middle of the woods with a bunch of other preteen girls.)

I am also currently reading The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and let me tell you, I haven’t gotten very far and I am already fucked up. This is not to say that the beginning is particularly scary. But I it is uncanny how Shirley Jackson was able to capture my inner turmoil in the character of Eleanor. I’m scared to read on, knowing this is a horror novel and it’s not going to work out for Eleanor.

I also really want to read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. This one might be a little too  relevant for today, though.

Acts and Outlining


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When I was in elementary school, they taught us that the shape of a story was a triangle, with Exposition at the beginning, the first slope up being Rising Action, the apex being the Climax, the declining slope being Falling Action, and the end being the Resolution or Denouement. Exposition was meant to set up the story, Rising Action established the stakes and the actors first moves until the story exploded at the Climax, winded down with the Falling Action, and was finally all resolved with the Resolution.

This story form followed me up through high school. However, I believe it is too simplistic and even misleading. This story arc was always drawn as an equilateral triangle with the climax as the midpoint of the story.

It wasn’t until I starting taking creative writing courses in college that I was introduced to the idea of putting the climax much closer to the end of the story. This placement can be seen in both the three-act structure and the five-act structure. While acts are most commonly associated with plays, stories can also be broken down into acts, or segments defined by a main part of a story.

The three-act structure is, coincidentally, broken into three main parts: Set-Up, Confrontation, and Resolution.

Act one you introduce your characters and their desires and goals. You introduce us to the problem, and you end act one with a “turn” or a plot point that changes things. My writing instructor, Professor H., described a turn as “A stranger comes to town or a woman goes on a trip.” Of course, this is to be taken completely metaphorically. The stranger coming to town could be a letter arriving. The woman going on a trip could be the loss of a child. Writers interpret it as you will. Something happens that changes the game.

Act two your characters go on a journey and experience obstacles. The act ends with another turning point.

Act three, according to John Yorke’s Into the Woods, begins with the crisis, or “the moment when [the hero is] faced with the most important question of the story – just what kind of person are they?” It is the moment when all hope is lost. This is followed by the climax, the scene where the protagonist applies the skills their learned over their journey and engages in the final battle. And then the resolution. All the necessary threads get tied up.

According to Yorke, the five-act structure is “merely a detailed refinement of [the three-act structure].” Professor H. taught the five-act structure in great detail. He went so far as to tell us the exact point of when something should happen in a story (eg. if your story is 250 pages long, on page 7, a character should say the theme to another character.) Now, I don’t think I agree that everything needs to happen at a precise place (or even if the theme ever needs to be explicitly stated), but the structure made a lot of sense to me.

Act one is the introduction where you get the main character on stage, introduce some other characters, clue us in to the time and place. We need to know what drives the character and the complication to that drive. The rest of act one is resistance to the complication, but in the end, the character realizes resistance is futile.

Act two is the intensification. The complication worsens at first. Then things start to look up. A plot point happens that catapults us into act three.

Act three is the separation. The crisis happens. The characters respond to the crisis and a plot points catapults them into act four.

Act four is the re-evaluation. According to my notes from my class, this is where the darkest hour occurs. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure how that is different from the crisis, so take that as you will. According to Yorke, the crisis happens at the end of act four. He later goes on to talk about the midpoint, which happens in act three and “marks a massive escalation in jeopardy” or “the moment something profoundly significant happens.” So, let’s just say that in act three the midpoint happens, and in act four the crisis happens. In this act, the hero gets a new insight into the problem of not getting what they want. Final plot point catapults us into act five.

Act five is the resolution. Here, the climax and resolution occur. We gather all the characters and settle the scores.

Now, here is where I find the act structures to be useful. They are already set up as an outline of how a story is structured, so why not use it as a guide for your own outlines?

Take the five-act structure (or three-act, I prefer five because it is more detailed). In five sentences you can outline an entire story. Act one, introduce. Act two, set up the complication. Act three, a significant event occurs. Act four, the darkest hour occurs. Act five, the final battle and resolution occurs. Write one sentence for each act describing what happens in your story. 

If that is too much for you right now, try this: Complete the sentence “It’s about a [man/woman/dog/alien/whatever] who…” Keep in mind what do they want, why can’t they get it, and what are they going to do?

Of course, there are many ways to outline. What’s your favorite way to outline?

Write what you know


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If I had to list the three writing tips I heard most often, they would be 1. Read all the time, 2. Write every day, and 3. Write what you know.

Now, while not all writing advice works for everyone, for me, this is pretty solid advice. (I hadn’t meant to talk about tips 1 & 2, but let me touch on those briefly anyway.) The best way to not just understand writing and story structure but to internalize it is to read. 2. I don’t actually think you have to write every single day, but the gist of the tip is that if you want to actually finish something you need to actually write. It could be every day, every other day, just on the weekends, once a month. Whatever works for you and your writing goals.

I think there is a lot more to be said about writing what you know. A lot of people take it at face value. They get hung up because they don’t want to write about growing up in the middle of nowhere with four siblings, 3 cats, and 6 dogs. They want to write about ghosts and monsters, magic…murder. Now, obviously, (hopefully?) we don’t know about monsters and murder. Some of us have never seen a ghost or don’t believe in magic. I’m pretty sure that Patricia C. Wrede has never talked to dragons.

Now, we can take “write what you know” two ways: literally and figuratively.

Literally: if you want to write about something you don’t know about, then research it. Google it, find some academic articles (honestly, depending on the story, wikipedia isn’t a bad source. Wanna write about fairies? Probably not too many academic articles on that. Taxidermy, on the other hand…), talk to an expert. Seriously, pick up the phone and call your local taxidermist or whatever. Research it and then it is something that you know. Write what you know.

Figuratively: what it comes down to is emotions. You’re human, you have presumably had some experiences and felt some emotions. Make your piece relatable by helping us to feel what you have felt. 

I would say that stories are best taking a combination of these. Make sure you do enough research to know what you’re talking about, but don’t forget to add the emotion. That’s where you really hook a reader. 

This is not to say you shouldn’t write about what you know. By all means, if you love to ride horses and you want to write about a girl taming an unruly horse and winning a race with it, go for it. Just remember to make us feel.

As a final note, if you do want to write about your life, maybe consider creative nonfiction?


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So I have been thinking a lot about my own stories and what made some of them successful and others not, why I have had a hard time continuing with most of my stories since graduation. (Aside from the fact that I am no longer being graded.)

While I have not written much since graduation, I have come up with a lot of story ideas. Around the time I graduated was also the time I finally admitted to myself that I probably had depression and actually went in and got diagnosed. Now, aside from being tired all the time and never wanting to do anything, I do still have the desire to write. Where a bigger problem for me lies is that I have a hard time thinking of character motivation.

See, I have no motivation myself. If I’m not obligated to do something, I probably won’t do it. Which makes it hard for me to give my characters motivation. I try; I mean, I know that characters need to want something. But whenever I try to give them a motivation, it feels fake, because for me, I feel nothing.

For example, I was trying to write a horror story about a girl who is driving and her car breaks down in this tiny little town in the middle of nowhere and weird shit happens. (Original, I know. Inspired by a stint I did at a Feed Store.) Of course, the question came up: Why was she driving and where was she going? I thought, maybe she was essentially running away. I have always dreamed of just throwing my stuff into my car, throwing my phone away, picking a direction, and just driving. Why don’t I just give this to a character? Well, what is she running away from? I thought of the obvious reasons: a bad romantic relationship, a bad family relationship, not liking her job, etc. These reasons all just felt so mundane and not entirely….tangible, I guess? They did not feel strong enough or creative enough.

One story I wrote that I felt was successful was exactly the opposite. It was entirely 100% character motivation driven. It was called How to Become a Princess and it was literally just about the lengths a peasant girl went to to secure herself a prince and a throne. What it boiled down to was this girl wanted to be a princess (motivation), but she was poor (obstacle), so she did X to get what she wanted, but (obstacle) happened which she overcame by doing this other thing when another obstacle presented itself and so on.

And that is essentially what a good story is. You have a character who wants something but something is standing in their way so they try to overcome it and maybe they do or maybe they don’t; either way, there is a bigger obstacle just around the corner until they finally reach the biggest obstacle (crisis) that makes them question who they are as a person and if they really want to achieve this goal or if their goal has changed. Then they act on that decision in a climactic battle (figurative or literal) that leads to the resolution of the story.

Anyway, it’s back to the drawing board. This time, I’m going to start with character motivation.

Diversity in Writing


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Diversity of characters, in my opinion, is one of the most important aspects of a story. I don’t just mean making your characters have distinct personalities. I’m talking race, gender, religion, sexuality, and much more.

Regardless of whether or not most stories are about straight white people (they are, at least the ones that get super popular), it is still important to have diversity.

The way I see it, good, well-researched diversity has two effects: it shows those people who identify with the character that they are not alone, and it educates those of us who have not experienced life the way the character and other people like the character have.

Now, there is something to say for not having diverse writing. I’ve seen people complain about how they always imagined their characters one way and then get upset when people suggest they make their stories more diverse. The response is always “well, of course you don’t have to do what other people want. It’s your story. Don’t try to force it. Yadda yadda yadda.” Yeah, sure, it’s your story and you should never force anything. Believe me, forced diversity usually just comes out at tired stereotypes. But maybe you should take some time to reflect on why you can’t add diversity to your story. What is making it so hard? Why don’t you want to include other types of people? 

One reason I predict is “but I don’t know anything about x people.” Of course not. No one can know everything about everyone else’s experience (and let’s be real here, if you’re so resistant to adding diversity then you are probably pretty privileged which will make it hard for you to see the need for diversity). 

Another reason could be fear. I know that I, as a white, cisgender, straight passing female, I have a lot of fear about writing other races and genders wrong. I fear writing something that will hurt others, stereotypes that perpetuate stereotypes.

To both and any other possible reasons for not writing diverse characters, the answer is research. That is a large part of the writing process anyway. Research. Research. Research.

Read accounts by people of other races, religions, genders, etc than you. Talk to then. Get their story about what life has been like for them. And actually listen. Go even further and discuss with them what kind of things they would like to see in stories about them, how they would like to be portrayed. Read books (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, everything) about minorites and by minorities. 

Be less egocentric and more compassionate and considerate in your writing.

What are some of your favorite (for lack of a better term) minority authors?

Honesty Time


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I am really struggling with this blog. I said I would do a weekly post (ha), and that was really just to get me writing. I haven’t written really anything since graduating, and I feel like I’m wasting my degree.

I want to write. Honest. I have lots of story ideas.

But I’m not passionate about writing. 

Here are some things I am passionate about: Sondheim’s Into the Woods. Ghosts/ghost stories/spooky stories. Stories in general. Editing.

I am very passionate about editing. I love fixing stories and sentences and scenes and structure. I love talking about grammar and structure and all the rest. But I feel like this blogs has been me talking about writing as a writer, not an editor. But since I don’t have professional editing experience (just when I tutored and workshopped in college and a little volunteer work recently), I don’t feel qualified to talk about editing, since I don’t actually know the business. :/

I think, going forward, maybe I will talk about the things I read in craft books and ways I would have edited something differently in novels/poems I read.

What is a story?


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For Christmas, my friend got me john Yorke’s “Into the Woods, a five-act journey into story.” The book mainly focuses on film, but I think a lot of what is said (at least what I’ve read so far) can be applied to novels as well. (He also provides lots of sources and notes, which is nice.)

Chapter one delves into what a story is. For most of us, when asked what makes a story a story, we would probably say something like “something happens to someone.” That someone being the protagonist and the something being conflict. According to Yorke (and I think most of us can agree with this), “the ‘something’ is almost always a problem, sometimes a problem disguised as an opportunity.”

So we have our protagonist living out their day to day lives and something happens that changes that. 

One thing that I’m sort of confused about is that he talks about the characters needing to have a desire (of course) and then later he talks about the inciting incident being the catalyst for the desire. So does the protagonist have this desire in her day to day life, or does the desire only occur after something happens to start the action? And if the desire was not previously there, what did the character want beforehand, because our characters must have pasts before this inciting incident. 

Now that I think about it, when Yorke talks about protagonists, he mentions that the protag’s desire shouldn’t be abstract (instead of wanting love, the protag wants the quarterback to ask her to the prom, for example), but I think that before the story starts, an abstract desire is ok, and then the inciting incident happens that makes the protag’s desire manifest as something more concrete. Maybe. I don’t know.

One thing I kind of struggled with was the concept of character flaws. As a baby writer, I thought flaws were simply meant to make the character more likeable and less of a Mary Sue. Yorke states that flaws are basically the same thing as needs for characters and “what they want stands in direct opposition to what they need.” This of course is all the set up for the internal change or growth of the character when (if?) they don’t get what they want. 

Again, this book is great stuff. You should check it out. I’ll probably revisit it again when I get farther along in it.

Has anyone else read it? What did you think?