Weekly Writing Challenge, I Remember: Part 2

In the second part of this week’s writing challenge, “I remember,” Altyira, the main character of my Dragonriders of Pern fanfics, remembers when she is first taken to her Uncle’s home. I’m not sure exactly how old she is, probably 2. I did really debate on whether to include speaking lines, as she is so young, and in the end decided for just a few. Scientifically we start having memories at 3, but since this is a huge change in her life, and fiction, it’s permissible that she remembers.

 

My uncle’s small hold was down a long, narrow road that wound past both fields of crops and pasture land for his herdbeasts. They were mostly runners, and this made sense to me as I had been told many times that that was his craft. His home was nothing at all like the main hold at Fort. My mother had had a room there, and a position in the Lord’s household. In comparison, my Uncle’s small home, part of Goren’s Hold, was not worth much.

            As we neared the small stone structure, it seemed more and more sad. While smoke rose from the chimney, the outside was dirty and unkempt, and there weren’t even curtains at the windows. A few hens squabbled in the yard as our runnerbeast approached, Lynia drawing in the reins until it stood still. A scruffy looking man appeared at the door, which had stood open the entire time, a wet dishcloth in his hands. But he smiled when he saw us, and as we came near, I could see that he looked somewhat like my mother. It was almost like seeing a familiar face, which, as young as I was, comforted me.

            I don’t really remember what was said, but words were exchanged, and soon I was lifted down from the runner and my bags handed over before Lynia dismounted herself. As we passed through the door, I gazed around, not sure what to think. The inside of the house was marginally better than the outside. It at least seemed to have been scrubbed recently—likely in the two weeks since my mother’s death, as he’d prepared for me.

            “I know it’s not much right now, but it’ll get there,” he said. “It’s only been me living here the last few years, and I don’t need much, you see.”

            Not knowing what to say, I merely nodded. Lynia, on the other hand, briskly handed him her cloak and walked around the room before.

             “Where is she to sleep?”

             Pulling back the heavy, faded curtain along the back wall, Uncle revealed a hallway. On one side was a large one, and on the other a much smaller one, along with the washroom. Lynia looked into the small one, me beside her. It wasn’t much, but the cot seemed serviceable, and the sleeping fur clean, if matted from previous use. Otherwise there was only one press, and it would easily hold the belongings I’d brought with me—a sevenday’s worth of clothing, another pair of shoes, and a few trinkets. There weren’t any cobwebs, but a few trundlebugs made their way up the outside wall toward the window.

               The whole place pretty much smelled like it did outside, with all the windows and the door open.

                “Don’t you have any…” I started, but Lynia stopped me with a hand on my shoulder. I didn’t know if I wanted to stay here, everything looked so rough and unlike what I was used to.

                Lynia took me back to the kitchen, where we sat at the table, and ate Uncle’s bland porridge. Despite his apologies, she told him it was a welcome break from rich food we normally ate at the Hold. I kept my mouth shut. A while later she was gone, and we were alone.        

 

I know this ends rather starkly, but be assured that Altyira quickly learns to love her uncle, the simple life, and working with animals. She is eventually Searched as a dragonrider candidate, and later becomes a queenrider at Fort Weyr. I may eventually post stories for her on Booksie.

However, I’d like to touch on some personal history here. Anne McCaffrey’s books were first introduced to me by my mother via Dragonsong when I was in middle school, and a self-insertion fanfic was my first attempt at writing. I read all the available books voraciously, and awaited new installments such as The Dolphins of Pern and The Skies of Pern, and became a walking encyclopedia of the Dragonrider world. I have also read a few of Todd’s books (Anne’s son and her designated writer to carry on the series), but I must admit most of the plots seem repetitive, and so I stopped reading them. I may try again in the future, though. That one first book lead to reading several series and novels by Anne (the Ship, Talent, and Crystal Singer series to name a few), and eventually lead to my current writing, so Altyira’s stories are something I occasionally pick up for work again out of both love and nostalgia. Sometimes it is amazing how much one can remember even after years of removal from something one has internalized, as I can still pull out reams of data and knowledge on the subject.

Although the characters here are original, the Dragonriders of Pern series is (c) Anne and Todd McCaffrey.

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Weekly Writing Challenge, I Remember: Part 1

This week’s writing challenge is on memories. This got me thinking on some of my characters’ first memories, and so far I’ve worked on two. Only 1 is done so far, however, so I’ll go ahead and post it here. There will be at least one more, and I’ll post them as I finish.

The first one was for Zaira, which went in a direction I didn’t expect.

Rays of light backed the farmhouse as I rubbed an eye, sleepy and somewhat impatient at the same time. The dew had woken me, dripping down on my face from the tall blades of grass, and soaking the pillow I had brought out with me in the night. It sometimes felt wrong, sleeping indoors, and so many nights I would end up out here in the field, on the porch, under my mother’s lilac bushes. Waking up outside was full of energy and living things.

            The sun had only just peeked over the eastern horizon, and already I could feel the dew starting to evaporate as the night sounds began changing into day sounds. Gathering up my pillow and blanket, I could feel Alana’s mind reaching out, making sure of where I was. She wasn’t usually up so early—it must be Saturday, and we were going into town today. It meant we practiced early, with the sun. That was when I turned to see the barn door was open a few feet, the light inside becoming pale now as the sun rose. Had he started without me?

            Leaving my bed things where they were, I jumped up and ran into the barn, grass sticking to my feet with the last of the dew. Dahan was, indeed, already stretching out for the session.

            “Dia, you started without me!”

            “Growing girls need their sleep, apa. Come give me a hug!”

            He always smelled of Alana and tea at morning sessions, he’d drunk green tea this morning. “You have trouble getting out of bed today?”

            “Only a little! Your mother’s hard to leave, some mornings.”

            “Cause she’s special.”

            “Mhm. Just like you. Now let’s get to it before we get cut short.”

            He continued his stretching, until we folded up into pretzels, and then he opened the doors wide, so we could do patterns, and the dust of the barn would drift out into the field and away on the wind.

She’s probably about four here, and yes, Alana and Dahan are her parents. She still calls them by their names, because they call each other by their names, I think. Dia and apa are Lupa words for father/daddy and an affectionate term for a one’s daughter, similar to “baby” or “little girl”, respectively. The Lupa are a species I created in my stories, who come from a planet very different from our own, and whom most of my stories are about.

Originally, this piece was going to be more about the house and/or Alana, but the fact that it was Saturday changed everything. As I thought about it, I realized that while I have done things with Alana elsewhere, Dahan usually doesn’t appear much, and I don’t know as much about him. It’s surprising what you realize sometimes when you write, even with characters you’ve been working with for over a decade–Zaira in this case.

Altyira, my Dragonriders of Pern fanfic character is up next, which I’ll post when it’s finished.

A Response to The Daily Post’s Serial Blogging

I note that the daily post @ wordpress is doing a serial blog on serial blogging, i.e., writing continuous blogs like chapters. While blogging and actual serious fiction writing aren’t the same, working in a format that has many interconnected pieces–like a novel, is fairly similar. As a writer, this is a topic I can easily pontificate on, so I will try to do so (briefly?) here.

First, throw away the notion that writers need to be published. This is not the case. Writing and dedication to that writing makes you a writer. Especially now that we can all write on the internet. But even then, the point isn’t writing expressly for other people. It’s writing to write. As a writer, I write nearly every day, and I write both seriously, and for fun. While all the stories and characters are important to me, it’s mostly about the amount of editing, and who sees it.

Writing or serial blogging is about doing it consistently. It’s about doing it every day. Even if you’ve only written a few sentences and spent the rest of the time day dreaming or frustrated. Consistency is the reason so many people talk about writing a book, but don’t. Consistency takes both time, and hard work, to build. Parents of young children rightly devote their time elsewhere, others to jobs, and others to hobbies they find more meaningful. Not everyone is a writer, and that’s okay.

If you do want to be a writer, though, consistency and serial writing is something you should aim for, for your own good. It will teach you to portion out your writing to avoid both manic writing and writer’s block. Many people think writing is easy, and sitting at home writing your next hit novel is a way to get other things done. But we know better than that. It takes hard work and discipline to build a writing regimen, and dedication to taking seriously the craft of editing. Things hardly ever come out right the first time.

I started writing fan fiction (for the Dragonriders of Pern series, by Anne McCaffrey) in middle school, eventually went over into original fiction as well, and never really stopped. So I’ve known I’m a writer for a long time. There have been times when I didn’t write every day, but I’ve always gone back to it. As a result of my own regimen, when I don’t write by 9 AM on a week day, no matter where I am, I want to write.

Creating a Writing Regimen

How does one build a regimen so that writing every day becomes routine?

1. Find a time to devote to writing. It should be the same time every day, whether it’s 20 minutes or an hour. You will eventually get used to writing at that time daily, and your brain will expect it. If you’re new to writing, you may want to start with a lower goal, like 20 minutes. Make sure your family knows when this is and to leave you alone. A good time to write is in the morning, as the mind works on things overnight. At bedtime is also a good time to write, especially if you’re a woman. Studies have shown that women who write before sleeping  sleep better, as it gives them a chance to clear their mind. Actually, one of my favorite places to write is in bed. You don’t have to do anything else, and it’s conducive to daydreaming.

2. Find things that help you write. Some important this are (a) a place where you can ignore distractions and concentrate on your own little world. For example, I take 2 40-minute train rides a day to commute to work, and this is when I write. (b) Find the right music. It’s an extremely helpful tool, whether it’s keeping you from being distracted or setting the scene you’re working on firmly in your mind. (c) Find out what method you prefer to write in–with paper and pen, laptop, or other. (d) Take care of other distractions, such as hunger, putting the cat in another room, or trips to the bathroom, before sitting down to write.

3. Do it. Even when you don’t want to, don’t feel like it, or your mind is blank when you sit down. When you are stressed (this is a great time to write, even if it’s just getting out your frustrations). It doesn’t matter what you write, just write. Many authors juggle different projects at once, and this will keep you from getting bored. When you get writer’s block on one project, you can pick up another. If you’re stuck because you don’t know whether to do a or b next, write both, and see which you like best.

How will one know when the regimen has worked?

When you sit down to write on a daily basis, and look forward to it, and write. When it stops being a struggle, and starts being a normal part of your daily life. You may find that you’ve come to know when to have shorter sessions, and when to extend them, or at what point to stop for the day. Distractions may become less noticeable as you sit down and concentration is easy. Most importantly, when you know whether you are a writer or not. Not that this is a litmus test for writers. But if you’re not one, writing every day may be a nightmare. If you are, you will most likely love it.

But Wait! What do I write about?

I often have people tell me they don’t like to read. I tell them to find books in the same genre as their favorite movies and TV shows. Many people don’t like what they read in school–myself included–and so they thing they don’t like books. But stories are stories, and one can always find stories in any medium. If you know what kind of stories you like, that’s what you should start writing–and reading! As you continue to write, you may find your focus and topics or genre’s changing, and that’s okay. Just because you normally write fantasy doesn’t mean you can’t write a romance or an adventure story.

If you prefer non-fiction, write about something you know a lot about. For example, I am very knowledgeable on horses, plants, corsetry, and fashion history. DH is knowledgeable on Star Trek, science and tech, and Christian theology. Also don’t be afraid to write fiction stories which hinge on areas you are knowledgeable in.

Once you know what kind of story you want to write, you will need a basic (very basic, I promise!) plot, and a character. Because the character will determine much of your plot, I highly suggest spending your first few sessions on setting up and developing your character. I have both standard and in depth character sheets which you are free to use if you like. In my experience, it always helps knowing as much about a character as possible before going into their story. Sometimes the character will change a bit, and that is normal, as well.

Most importantly, don’t write a story or about a character that you don’t feel anything for. Your character should be someone who intrigues, fascinates, disgusts, or terrifies you. If you feel nothing, or that the character mystifies you, you won’t have a good sense of them and it will come through in  your writing.

Well, I know I said I’d try to be brief, but clearly that hasn’t happened. Nevertheless, I hope that the effort is helpful to someone. If you’re a writer and want to share your experiences as well, please do! Same with questions, I’m usually always happy to talk about writing. The next one is unlikely to be as long, really…

Happy writing ^_^