Short Story Contest

Here is a contest some of you writers out there might want to chance. It’s run by Owl Canyon Press. There isn’t any cost to enter. The stories must be in English. The catch is to use only 50 paragraphs total and each paragraph must have at least 40 words. There isn’t a maximum word count. Owl Canyon Press also provides the first sentence and the 25th sentence. Interested? Go to http://www.owlcanyonpress.com to enter and further instructions.

Let’s see how clever and wise you are.

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Mystery Writers Info

I found out about the NW chapter of the Mystery Writers of America while I was at the PNWA writing conference. For those who are writing mysteries and thrillers, this a great bunch of people that have organized meetings for mystery writers. You can join on Facebook without any fees. I went to their meeting last night. They had Criminal Judge Sean O’Donnell as a guest speaker and I was glad I went after hearing him speak. He was a prosecutor during the Green River Task Force. The killer was Gary Ridgeway that murdered many young girls, especially street walkers, by choking them, then raping them after they died. During one of his killing sprees, Gary had his sleeping eight year old son in the car! When one of the detectives asked Gary what would he have done if his child had woken? He answered, “Well, I couldn’t have any witnesses, so I’d kill him.”  Ridgeway also posed his victims after death. He did this because he didn’t want rigor mortis to set in, so he could defile and have sexual acts with the bodies. He was one sick-o!

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Anyway, for those writing crime mysteries, Mr. O’Donnell said in King County of Seattle, the prosecutor and ME come with the homicide detectives on a case. The Coitus program for DNA kits didn’t exist in the 70’s & 80’s. One detective made Gary Ridgeway chew on a piece of gauze to get a sample of his saliva. They saved it all those years until those tests were available and linked him to some of the murder victims. Smart!

Tips on Writing Urban Fantasy

I listened to Craig English, a teacher and author at the PNWA conference about how he creates urban fantasy. He said urban fantasy is something freakish or a personal moment of otherness that happens to a character. The character might not embrace the strangeness at first, depending on their background, turmoil, and religious preference. Then up the stakes after the odd episode and see how the character deals with it. It could be a flexibility of reality. Establish the mundane world, then the fantasy, and balance the two. Decide on a theme and the rules of the weird. The character realizes the world is not quite what it seems.

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Creating The Magic

I attended a writing class discussing magical symptoms in SF, fantasy, and paranormal. So here are some things to bring your writing up to par dealing with magic elements. Ask yourself, how do you plan a rational symptom? These are some guidelines:

  • where does the source of the magic come from?
  • if it’s from an energy source, are there constraints using more or less energy?
  • how can it go wrong?
  • can anyone access the energy source?
  • if the person is tired or drunk, are there consequences to the magic?
  • how did the person get the magic?
  • who else can cast the magic?
  • what are the set of rules using magic?
  • how could the power get abused?
  • how important is the magic to the plot?
  • what are the trials & tribulation to do the magic?
  • what are the physical & mental costs using magic?
  • what kind of magic are you using? There are 4 different choices: arcane, divine, elemental, and demonic

Arcane is the inner ability to do spells & incantations. Divine is god-like beings. Elemental is the use of fire, earth, wind, and water. Demonic is obvious powerful being.

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Reflection

Capturing that vision in mind, the story unfolds from the tips of the writer’s fingers into printed word. It dances in front of the reader and dazzles him until the story ends. This thought came to mind after listening to various speakers at a writers conference.

For those of you that like to write mysteries or are thinking of writing one, you might like this information. A panel of agents and editors broached the subject, what is the difference between a mystery, thriller, and a horror novel.

Mystery has a puzzle and clues to follow. It’s usually not terrifying, has a broad crime or a murder.

A thriller or suspense: existence of hope, heightening of suspense, the unknowing, doesn’t need to be a murder to justify action, revelations through the story. specific pacing involved. Serial killers in a story are expected to be a thriller.

Horror: something awful happened, worst feeling, exploits fear, darkness within.

Thrillers are plot driven. They kick start with conflict and the stakes are raised frequently. In a horror, something about the story sticks with you.

Editor, Jenny Chen recommends mysteries should be written in third person, instead of first person, so the story doesn’t drag. It gives a window for the reader to understand the mystery.

I hope this helped some of you. Happy writing.

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Plot Elements

I attended the PNWA conference and one of the speakers was Cherry Adair. She talked about plot. For a good plot it must have these elements: story goal, scene goal, and black moment. A story also needs these 7 things:

  • a succession of significant events with consequences
  • things characters do, feel, think, and say
  • a way of looking and doing things
  • deciding what’s important and showing it to be important
  • showing what matters to your main character
  • one or more characters have something vital at stake
  • something happens

Cherry also suggested not to bog down the opening with details and descriptions, but open with a bang. In other words, start novel with first crisis. There must be some kind of struggle for your main character for the reader to care. The first quarter of the book is the buildup. The middle is the emotional journey and always in trouble. The last act ties up everything. Give characters choices. The main character must grow in some way by the end of the novel. Each scene must have a motivation, goal, and conflict. The higher the stakes the longer the scene.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the point of the scene?
  • What does the reader need to know?
  • What does your main character have to find out?
  • What backstory do you want inserted?
  • What is the time and place?

Emotion, thought, decision, action moves the plot. Define the character’s needs and create obstacles.

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Filtered

Are you trying to make your writing stronger, but don’t know how? Here are some tips. Get rid of all those filtered words and make your character’s POV come alive for the reader. These words include:

  • decided
  • entered
  • noticed
  • looked
  • felt
  • heard
  • saw
  • started to
  • smelled

I know I’ve used these words myself. Every writer knows the rule, don’t tell but show, but for novice writers it may be hard to figure out. Use your five senses and the reader can visualize your story. Drop all the adverbs and use stronger verbs. For example instead of Mary looked up at the stars, try The blue glow of the stars illuminated the moon. Instead of impatiently waited, try I shifted my weight from foot to foot. Get the picture?

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