Throwback Thursday…in words

Hello all,

I finally gained access to some files from my old computer. I had backed them up properly but when I took the files from my external hard drive to my new computer, I didn’t have permission to access them. Sad day. After much hair pulling, googling, and trial and error, I have permission to view them again! Happy day!

And then I found all these old writing files with short stories, free writing, ramblings and such and I thought, maybe my blog is a place for these. I also found some old writings from high school, so that was fun 🙂

So to kick off what I hope might turn into a recurring event…here is my first Thursday Throwback to a story I wrote four or five years ago. I believe it was based off of a prompt I found online, and had to be under a certain word count, but I can’t say for certain. It’s not a piece I would normally write so it must have been a free writing exercise or something and I’m still conflicted about how I feel about it…anyhoo…here it is

Silence of the Rain

She expected no one to acknowledge her interruption. Feeble as it was. The assertion of a woman accustomed to being ignored. But however self-fulfilling this prophecy should have been, someone did notice.

“Do you have something to add, Mrs. Forsythe?”

She froze. A reply had not yet formed in her mind. So sure of her absolute insignificance, she had scarcely thought beyond her first tentative question. Slowly, heads turned and she was thrust to the forefront of everyone’s attentions. She felt a stirring in her breast, a jolt within her gut, and she was acutely aware of the sudden trembling in her hands. There was panic, but something more profound and unnerving alighted within her mind. She felt the blooming sensation of influence….of power.

The wave of anticipation swelled with each tortured second. Such a pressure she had never felt. Expectation…excitement that they believed she might provide something of interest and so opened themselves to her opinion.

These, who had gathered in support of women such as herself, were not only interested in her situation, or, more accurately, her previous situation, they seemed interested in her as an individual. To them, she was a person able to offer something of value, and with a voice worth hearing.

She had arrived in the darkest hour of night, when even nocturnal creatures dare not traipse about. Though haggard and lacking any physical possessions, save the dripping clothes on her tiny frame, they had welcomed her. The gentle smiles and engaging conversation appeared genuine, lacking the softened gaze of pity.

It was never called her new home or even a place for recovery. Always, it was the “Greenhouse,” a place to grow. A secluded haven and open forum with inspiring atmosphere and dialogue. And now, having lodged here for only ten nights and attending even fewer meetings, she was offered the floor.

Standing before them, she became more than a slight woman of thirty-five, disposed to averted gazes and mumbled apologies. She was not dull or lacking in capabilities envied in other women. For once she knew the curious looks were not appraising the fading bruise carefully concealed on her brow or the slow, shuffling way she walked.

Here was a chance to use her voice, so long silenced. And stand, though accustomed to crouching in shadow. A great weight settled upon her thin shoulders. It whispered in her ear of disillusioned dreams and a life of solitude. Surely these people knew more than she, women who had experienced far worse, women who were stronger, braver, and more eloquent. What could she offer that wasn’t already present in their minds?

But is that not why she had come here? As proof to herself that she was, in fact, capable of a life alone. And now, after only days, an audience sat at her disposal. They gazed at her with an interest he had never shown her…at least not in many years. Here an audience of strangers, or very nearly so, seemed enraptured by what she might profess.

Her tongue turned to stone. Her heart fluttered painfully, erratically within the cage of her defeated form. Words fought to tumble from her thinly set lips, but were not granted passage.

It would take but a shake of her head. Nothing more than a tremble, and the attention would shift. The meeting would continue.

She would be forgotten.

She could slip away and slink along the darkened streets. Following a path well known to her, she would cross beneath the white arbor and knock quietly at the door, clean and freshly painted. She would stand demurely, and gaze upon the daffodils she had planted last spring. She would not reach for her key. She would wait for him to grant her entrance…if he would take her back.

But no, she had fled that life, and no road she traveled this night would take her there by morning. Harshly she scolded herself for considering such an ill fated course. It was nothing more than a moment of doubt, fueled by her current uncharacteristic predicament, but extinguished by the room of understanding peers.

She flushed, embarrassed that her musings had caused an obvious pause while awaiting her reply. Only moments had passed, however, and none noticed her conflict.

In such unfamiliar surroundings, she knew not which would disappoint most, her words or her silence.

She breathed deeply, quieted the soft wavering of her form. And, with her gaze lifted, she spoke.


Pilfered Ideas, Stolen Dreams

Ok, so the title is a bit dramatic, but this post is about the fear of having one’s idea(s) stolen.

I’ve seen it posted many times, and I myself have wondered…should I share my work online? Should I share my ideas online? Won’t someone steal my work? What if they steal my idea?

After much contemplation, I have reached the following conclusions:

  1. If someone steals my exact words, word for word. That is plagiarizing. I can’t stop someone from stealing from me, and some might say “Well you make it pretty easy to steal by posting online.” But I would say, it might be easier to steal but harder to get away with since it’s online. There are many programs now that crawl through the internet and detect work that has been plagiarized. Or maybe I’m just being optimistic.
  2. If someone steals an idea, well…ideas are meant to be shared and once someone takes an idea they can make it their own. Look at how many times fairy tales such as Cinderella, Snow White, etc. have been retold. They all share the basic idea, but each retelling is so different from the one before because a different person took an idea and made it their own. We don’t all write the same. We don’t all think the same. So if someone gleans a bit of inspiration from an idea read here on my blog, I say go for it and good luck!

So what is this post about then?

Good Question…sometimes I don’t even know.

I wanted to post about the second point. The fear of ideas being stolen.

I am reading “The Writer’s Digest Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy”, by Orson Scott Card,  at the moment, and I came across an incredibly interesting passage. Well I found it incredibly interesting, you might find it as interesting as a box of rocks.

Unless you’re an archaeologist, then you might find both the passage and the box of rocks interesting.

Or just the box of rocks.

The passage from page 51 of “How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy” is discussing a brainstorming event Orson Scott Card hosted during a Science Fiction Convention. During this session, the group imagined a species of aliens that couldn’t communicate by speaking. Instead they send chemical signals in the water and memories are passed directly from one alien to another. The memories become so integrated into the alien that the alien receiving the memories remembers every incident as if it had happened to him.

And now the passage which I felt was of particular interest:

Someone in the group objected that they would eventually overload, remembering everything that had ever happened to everybody who had ever lived. So we decided there had to be a mechanism for forgetting –but not irretrievably. We imagined that they would have developed a way of encoding memories in solid form, building them into structures, perhaps even large edifices composed entirely of memory; and there would be many aliens whose sole job was to remember where memories were stored –librarians, in other words.

Does this passage make you think of any particular aliens?

Maybe you aren’t thinking of the same ones I am, but a certain movie instantly popped into my head when I read this passage so imagine my surprise when I then read this passage on the next page:

It was a terrific base for an alien society, with a lot of story possibilities. Then, only a week later, I found myself in Gaffney, South Carolina, talking with Jim Cameron about the novel version of his movie The Abyss.

Could Jim Cameron be the more famous James Cameron?

When I read the first passage, I immediately thought of the aliens in Avatar. Remember how they had the trees which stored their memories and they could “log on” with their tails to access all the memories? Then imagine my astonishment when on the very next page I read that Orson Scott Card discussed his memory storing aliens with none other than Jim -better known as James- Cameron!

Two brilliant minds of science fiction discussing and sharing ideas.

There is no mention of one being nervous that the other might steal an idea or take it and make it his own. Instead, the meeting was seen as an opportunity to share inspiration and draw upon one another’s experiences and ideas to create something even better.

Orson Scott Card drew upon both the brainstorming session from the convention and his talk with James Cameron, to further develop his own version of his aliens, while we see where James Cameron’s takeaway from that discussion took him.

I’m making a lot of connections from only one passage, and I’m sure both men had other sources of inspiration for their work, but I find this anecdote so fascinating in that it is a perfect example of sharing ideas. Drawing from someone else’s idea and making it completely, and wholly your own.

Orson Scott Card’s story will always be different from James Cameron’s story and your story will always be different from my story.

This is why I have decided to share some of my writing on the blog more freely now, when I was more hesitant before, and also why I share writing prompts in the hopes that you all will participate. I think prompts are a great way to spark ideas, start discussions, and give us a chance to work together.

I’m excited to share my thoughts, writing, and ideas with all of you, and I’m so excited you stopped by.

Happy writing!

My Writing Prompt Response

I must thank a fellow blogger for this post. Trisha, over at trishajennreads posted a Wednesday writing prompt , and I felt particularly inspired. You can click through the link to visit her site or I have pasted the prompt as follows:

Write 250 to 500 words on this prompt:

Very little grows in the desert.

Go ahead–get writing! Write whatever comes into your head and just let the words fly. Don’t worry about editing. Just write. Share your scene or story in the comments of tomorrow’s post.

I have several writings in progress (WIPs) but one in particular I have been working on a lot recently. I’m not sure where the story is going and I don’t have all the details ironed out, but this prompt led me to write a scene.

This has been the method to my madness lately, scene by scene writing. The scenes are not necessarily related and I write them in no particular order. When the characters pop into my head doing something, I write it down. I’m letting the characters lead me and I’m hoping it will all come together in the end. And if not, well it’s still been fun 🙂

And now here is a portion of the scene which was inspired by this prompt. This is unedited and just for fun. It may or may not make it into the final version of my story but for now, my two adventurers are discovering very little grows in the desert…

“Very little grows in the desert.”

“I’m forgetful, not stupid Axel.”

“One can never be too sure,” He purred, pleased with himself. Andarra huffed and set off down the dune, slipping and sliding in the deep sand.

“Where are you going?” Axel called, not wanting to leave his perch aboard their ship.

“There.” She pointed, and in the distance Axel could just make out a glimmer of green against the backdrop of black sand. He sighed.

“It is likely a mirage.” He grumbled. “As I said before…”

“Very little grows in the desert.” She mimicked him, adding a growl at the end. He said nothing but leaped from the bow and padded gracefully down the steep slope.

“We shouldn’t be here. There are tales of this planet. True tales. Terrible tales.” He stepped gingerly next to her, the sand hot against his paws. She didn’t acknowledge his words and scarcely acknowledged his presence. “Do you know where we should be?” He growled at her silence and his burning paws. “If you insist on running away, there were other worlds to pick from. Why this world of all worlds?”

“I have a feeling.”

“Oh, a feeling! Your feelings got us into this mess. Maybe you should follow those feelings and return to the High City.” He hopped along the sand, hissing with each step.

“You have boots.”

“You are changing the subject.” He hissed. She shrugged.

“You should wear your boots.”

“Well, we don’t always do as we should.” He glared at her. She held his gaze but said nothing. “Boots are undignified for one such as myself.”

“Shall I carry you?” She smirked. “Or is that undignified for one such as yourself as well?”

He leaped to her shoulders and kneaded his aching paws into her thick shawl.

“A king is often carried by his servants.” He purred. “Quite dignified indeed.”

Technically we are supposed to share our responses to the prompt tomorrow, but I just loved this prompt for some reason and wanted to share it with all of you in the hopes that you might be inspired to write as well.

I would love to hear what you come up with, or head over to Trisha’s blog and share your response there. It’s always great to comment and build the blogging community!

Happy writing!

Three Show Saturday!

I have not been a diligent blogger lately.

My life has felt like a three show Saturday or maybe even a three ring circus as I attempt to get my shop ready for business.

I’m looking forward to having time to get back to my blog schedule once the shop is open 🙂 I’m still reading and reviewing books, just haven’t posted as often as I should.

So today is really a three show Saturday because I’m bringing you writing prompts, book reviews, and some quotes!

Too much?


Who wants writing inspiration?

I do! I do!

I’d love to hear some of your favorite quotes in the comments below or let me know what you’re reading this week 🙂

And now ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages…on with the show!

I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.
– Stephen King

I love thrillers. I don’t care for horror so much, but nail-biting, what’s inside the closet, don’t look under the bed, kind of stories are the best. I love to think about what might be lurking in the abandoned house at the end of the road.

This children’s book isn’t exactly creepy or a thriller, but it is strange.

Rosie the Raven

Written and Illustrated by Helga Bansch

rosie raven

Rosie hatches from an egg just like her brothers and sisters, but that is where the similarities end. Sure she’s a little different, but she’s still a raven….right?

“Rosie the Raven” written and illustrated by Helga Bansch is a bizarre, but enjoyable story. The illustrations are incredible and the book could be read over and over just to look at the pictures. The story itself may not be for everyone. Rosie is a tiny human hatched out of an egg and raised by Ravens. There is no explanation given for this, but that’s ok, it works. Rosie is precious and her raven family appears to love her very much. The family dynamics are cute and the message of being confident, even if you’re different, is a great one.

I read something recently that said sometimes as a writer, we are too nice to the main character. This was eye opening for me. In some of my favorite stories, the protagonist suffers greatly and has to overcome so many obstacles, but often in my own writing I didn’t want to cause my precious protagonist any undue stress or pain.

Make your character suffer.

It makes sense really, but it’s definitely hard to let bad things happen to your beloved characters. As a fun exercise, take your character and put him/her in a mundane situation, then think of all the things that could possibly go wrong. How does your character respond?

A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God.
– Sidney Sheldon

I am loving Zondervan publishing. They make such wonderful Biblical themed books for children. I also didn’t realize Christian/Biblical fiction was such a huge thing. I remember reading the Left Behind series years ago, but otherwise, I’m pretty unfamiliar with this genre.

The Adventure Bible: Great Stories of the Bible

Pictures by David Miles

great stories of bible

From the Adventure Bible series comes another great collection of I Can Read stories bound in one hardback volume. This great collection of six stories includes fully illustrated Old and New Testament stories. From the creation story to parables of Jesus, each story has been carefully summarized from the Bible in words beginning readers will easily grasp. Engaging, exciting and incredibly illustrated, this book will be treasured by parents and children alike.

In “The Adventure Bible: Great Stories of the Bible”, Zonderkidz delivers another great selection for beginning readers. Geared toward newly independent readers aged 6-8, this book may be enjoyed by children reading alone or with the help of an adult. Short, interesting sentences and beautiful illustrations will keep the attention of even younger children. Some stories include a short Biblical passage, but every story includes a summary page at the end with more information from the Bible. A great resource for churches and youth groups, this is truly a beautiful collection of stories that would make a lovely gift.

I love the idea of retelling old stories. Whether drawing inspiration from religion, or from other ancient tales, there are themes of love, loss, betrayal, deceit, faith, and forgiveness that resound across culture and time.

Think about your favorite parable from Jesus or another of your favorite stories. Think about the characters and their motivations. What if your character was in the same situation? How would your character respond? Does your character seek forgiveness from someone? Why? Did your character betray someone? Why?

In stories and in real life, I love attempting to understand what motivates people. We all react to situations in vastly different ways and our characters do to.

The wonderful world of writing! These are the reasons I love it 🙂

Thanks for stopping by and happy writing!

I review for BookLook BloggersReviews PublishedProfessional Reader

Thank you to BookLook Bloggers and Net Galley for copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.

The Unbound Book Festival 

Last weekend I attended the inaugural Unbound Book Festival in Columbia, Missouri.

The event was completely free and I didn’t really know what to expect, but the schedule had a fantastic lineup of authors and panels so of course I was fan-girl excited.

The festival was absolutely incredible!

My friend, Emily, and I only attended two panels due to our schedules, but we will plan better for next year. There were numerous authors, editors, agents and panels scheduled all across Stephens College over the course of the day. It was a bit overwhelming in a “Have I died and gone to book heaven?” sort of way.

This sign was inaccurate. There could be no dawdling if you hoped to see everything 🙂

Oh and there was fabulous food available too! Seriously, the day could not have been better. Well, if I had remembered a pen or a notebook, that would have made the day better. Who goes to a book festival without a pen? Me. And Emily. But look! Tacos!

And here we are without our pens.

2 girls. 1 festival. 0 pens.

Despite the lack of pen and paper. I managed to take a few mental notes and get super inspired.

An Abundance of Lauras

The first panel we attended was “An Abundance of Lauras”. No lie, there were a lot of Lauras!

Laura McHugh (Weight of Blood), Laura McBride (We Are Called to Rise) and Laura Seeger (Children’s book author and illustrator)

Funny. Engaging. Intelligent. Creative. There are so many words to describe these authors.

They each talked about their creative process, balancing work and writing life, inspiration and more, but my biggest takeaway came from Laura Seeger.

She keeps journals filled with all her ideas and inspirations for current and future projects. The journal wasn’t fancy, it was just a blank notebook filled with doodles, words, magazine clippings, and anything else that had caught her eye or crossed her mind.

This in itself is fun but not too out of the ordinary. The really cool thing she does with the journals though is create a content page for each of them. Sort of a table of contents which she can easily reference when she’s working on a project or has another idea and needs to reference some of her brainstorming material.

I loved this!

I have notebooks and journals and computer files all over the place with doodles, quotes, and fragmented sentences that are all supposed to be a record of my ideas, but I have no way of finding anything again unless I go through every single notebook.

She said it doesn’t take much time but she usually keeps up with the content page as she goes.

I need to get started! 🙂

First Page Rodeo

The second panel we attended included a group of experts sharing their thoughts on first pages of novels which had been submitted to the festival.

The panel included Margaret Sutherland Brown (New York literary agent), Greg Michalson (Senior Editor at Unbridled Books), Eleanor Brown (author of The Weird Sisters), and George Hodgman (New York Times bestselling author).

Lots of fabulous insight into the submission process at this one. Since the panel was critiquing first page submissions, it provided a unique view of what agents and editors look for and what will get a rejection or a full manuscript request.

Again, a pen would have come in handy, but the key point that stuck out the most in my mind came from George Hodgman.

In reference to first page submissions, he said never start off with a passage that must be reread to be understood. Avoid confusing phrasing, complicated passages or anything that might pull the reader out of the story before they even get into it.

This tied in with the other panelists’ advice to avoid excessive backstory in the first page or even in the first chapter. The recurring theme seemed to be, keep the action going on the first page. The first page needs to grab the reader’s attention and keep it until they start to care about the characters.

I loved this advice because I am always tempted to explain all about a character or give a lot of backstory when the backstory should really come later in the story or maybe never.

The festival was amazing. The speakers were insightful. And I left completely inspired to write.

Looking forward to next year already!


Like Sand Through The Hourglass…

“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”
― C.S. Lewis

I remember when I started college, everyone complained about how many years they would be in school if they decided to become a veterinarian.

Four years of undergraduate study! Four years of veterinary school! Eight years of classes and exams!

Perhaps eight years is a long time. For an 18 year old, that’s 44% of their life. For a 24 or 25 year old, that’s about 33%, or 1/3 of their life. That’s a lot of time to devote to something.

But then I remember someone saying…the time will pass anyway.

I googled this to see if there was a quote this statement originally might have come from and I found this wonderful gem:

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”
― Earl Nightingale

Often a situation just needs a new perspective. In this case, everyone was complaining about how long it would take to achieve the goal of becoming a veterinarian. But, it’s not really about the time is it?

4 years, 8 years….time passes anyway. But will you be a veterinarian at the end of 8 years? Will you be an author? A pilot? A teacher? An electrician? Or will you be in exactly the same circumstances as you were at the start of those 8 years?

Will you use your time to achieve a dream? Or will time just pass?

Sometimes with writing, the word counts for novels can be overwhelming. How could I ever write a 65,000 word story? Or even 20,000 words. That would take so much time!

But then I try to remind myself that the time will pass anyway.

“You may delay, but time will not.”
― Benjamin Franklin

If I wrote 1,000 words a day, at the end of 20 days I would have a rough draft of a middle grade book, or in 65 days I would have a rough draft of a young adult book.

One month, two months….where will I be?

Will I have a draft to work with at the end of two months or will I still be sitting and dreaming?

As I’ve been reminded in many books I’ve read lately, time is not guaranteed to anyone. No one knows how much time they have and yet it’s often perceived as both a cheap, infinite resource, and as an expensive, limited one.

“I have all the time in the world to get that done!”


“That would take too much time!”

It’s not always easy to remember. Dreams can seem overwhelming. Other aspects of life get in the way and use up precious hours, but things worth having are always worth the time.

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

The Trouble with Time

I remember reading an analogy when I was little that compared a person’s day with a vase full of rocks.

If you pour the little rocks in first, the big rocks won’t fit. The little rocks will fill up the bottom of the vase and the big rocks will try to fit on top but there will be lots of gaps between them and they won’t all fit.

If you place the big rocks in the vase first then pour the little rocks in, the little rocks can fill in all the gaps between the big rocks and all the rocks fit in the vase.

The vase is all the hours of a day and the rocks are daily tasks. Big rocks = big, important, or time-consuming tasks. Little rocks = small, less important or quick tasks.

For some reason this analogy has always stuck with me.

What color is this vase? Irrelevant, you say? Fair enough.

There are so many distractions around us with the internet constantly clamoring for attention. How many times have I wasted an hour on Facebook when it felt like fifteen minutes?

Or felt like I needed something to pass the time, so I pulled out my phone to play a mindless matching game.

Oooh! I unlocked a new level!

Growing up I don’t remember feeling this desire to be doing something constantly. I remember enjoying quiet moments. Times when I could sit and think and make up stories.

I loved to watch TV and play Nintendo, of course, but I was reaching for a book instead of my phone before bed. I could take a walk in the woods and not be connected to anyone.

I only purchased a smart phone two years ago. Before that I hated the idea of a smartphone. I didn’t want to be connected to everyone all the time. I liked feeling disconnected. I liked living in the quiet spaces of my mind without the constant buzz of data humming in my ear.

But oh how addicting that smart phone is!

It’s a strange sensation now to go anywhere without my phone. I was on call 24/7 while I worked with the circus, so that helped form this attachment, but then it simply became a habit to take my phone everywhere.

Check emails. Check Facebook. Check my blog. Check twitter.

So many things to look at!

So many distractions!

So many small rocks!

Dear Google, What is the composition of these rocks?

My phone, and the constant checking of emails, social media, etc. was chipping away at all the hours in my day.

My phone time was a bunch of small rocks. Small rocks filling up the bottom of my vase and leaving me with less time and focus to fit in all the big rocks.

I wasn’t giving myself moments of quiet. I wasn’t sleeping with a book next to the bed. I wasn’t daydreaming.

I’ve been focusing on big rocks lately. There are still a few big rocks that involve the internet or my phone. Big rocks like my blog and book reviews, but there are also a lot of little rocks like Facebook and Twitter that need to wait their turn.

Writing is a big rock and it’s amazing how much I can get done in the same amount of time I might have spent on Facebook.

Leaving my phone at home is an easy way to eliminate lots of pesky little rocks from a day I’d like to fill with big rocks.

Little rocks are sneaky, they slip into the vase and before you know it all the big rocks are spilling off the top and another vase is full.

Another day is done.

Excuse me, I’d like a bigger vase.

Write, Now

I have so many writings in progress, it’s getting a bit ridiculous. It’s not that I don’t want to finish these projects (I do!), it’s just that it feels like I have all the time in the world.

What’s the rush? Now isn’t the perfect time. I’ll have peace and quiet tomorrow.

I can get to that later….right?

Recently, the theme of living in the moment has been hitting me over the head, both in the books I’ve read and in real life.

When I worked at the circus, it was easy to take things for granted. I saw elephants everyday. I could get up close with a tiger almost anytime I wanted. Cuddling with camels? Absolutely! Snakes, poodles, cockatoos, horses and one fickle donkey…so many animals to love and so little all the time I needed.


But then I left the circus.

No more crazy animal cuddles.

But, wait! There was always time to visit. I could go back anytime I wanted. My friends would be there. The animals would be there. It would be just like old times, but better! No work and all play….right?

Sure, unless the animals are taken away.

As many now know, the elephants will be retired from the show much earlier than expected.

They will live out their lives well cared for and loved, but when I visited Cincinnati last week, that was likely the last time I will see those specific elephants and possibly the last time I get that close to an elephant ever again.


Me and Asia

The abrupt departure of elephants from my life, along with all my favorite circus people, got me to thinking about what I love most.

Living in the moment, being thankful for today and making the most of it, these aren’t new concepts, but sometimes it takes something big (like elephant big) to remind us of the uncertainty of life.

Someone dies or moves. New job or no job. New births, new pets, new friends.

Tragedies and triumphs, these moments are needed to remind us, nothing is forever on this earth.

So while I’m waiting for the perfect moment to start (or finish) a story, life is moving on all around me. There will never be a “perfect” time to do what I want to do. I am not guaranteed a tomorrow, let alone a perfect tomorrow where I have copious amounts of time for writing, visiting friends, starting new projects, etc.

I’m so thankful for the many wonderful memories I have from the circus and all the time I got to spend with the elephants.

I’m also thankful for the reminder that right now, this moment, is all I have.

So I need to write, now.


All those elephant feels 🙂

Stories With Holes

When I was in school, one of my teachers loved word games. She loved puzzles of all sorts but she seemed especially fond of word games.

One of the best games we played was called “Stories With Holes”. In reality, they are called lateral thinking problems, but Stories With Holes sounds way more fun.

Anyway, the object of the game is to figure out which part of the story is missing. Someone would read the story aloud (and then look at the answer), then the rest of us would take turns asking questions. The trick is all questions had to be answerable with a “yes”, “no”, or “irrelevant”.

He definitely has two hands? Irrelevant!

As with all things, some of the stories were awesome and some were absurd. Some stories had logical answers, easy to guess answers, or satisfying answers. Others were so far fetched we were left wondering if there had been a misprint. But all the answers had one thing in common (yes even the terrible ones), the answer always seemed blatantly obvious once we knew it.

I loved Stories With Holes. What dastardly clue was missing? How did those people wind up dead? Why did she have long hair? Was it the cat? Do they even have a cat?


The answer all players dreaded. It meant a wasted turn. A dead end.

It meant I wasn’t looking at the story from the right angle. It meant I was focused on all the wrong parts of the story and completely missing the giant plot hole staring me in the face.

Plot holes. Who needs ’em?

So I was thinking about Stories With Holes and it suddenly hit me that this frustrating soul-crushing brain altering wonderful game was a perfect analogy for writing.

Writers are often told they’re too close to their work to see the flaws. Too emotionally tied to this thing they created to ever think it’s anything less than perfect. Maybe some writers are, but I know a lot of writers (myself included) who agonize over their work and tear it to shreds and then offer it up like a sacrificial lamb for a (hopefully exceptionally critical) critique.

I think swapping manuscripts and having a fresh pair of eyes on your work is wonderful. I love critiques, but this post is not about critiques, at least not about critiques from other people. It is about being able to see the holes in your own story.

I do think there’s something to be said about writers being too close to their work, but I don’t think the fault lies entirely in emotional attachment, rather it’s from knowing the whole story.

As a writer of fiction, I have inside knowledge about my characters and plot. I know why a character cries when Barney sings, loves cats riding roombas, and never wears socks to bed, but sometimes, because I know all these things, I might assume everyone else does too.

You have a character named Gary and you’re really stoked about his rainbow shoestrings. So stoked, in fact, that it’s easy to forget to mention how much Gary hates blue M&M’s, but such information plays a pivotal role in the plot three chapters later.

Sometimes, I forget not everyone knows my characters like I do, and something that appears blatantly obvious to me in the story, is actually terribly confusing for someone without insider knowledge. It’s like watching the Harry Potter movies without reading the books…you may not have completely understood Horcruxes, among other things. People who read the books, loved the movies (as much as anyone can love a movie after reading the book) but they had insider knowledge. When the movie glossed over certain aspects of wizarding lingo, their brains just plugged in the plot holes with information pilfered from the vast Harry Potter library.

Without even realizing it, my brain glosses over these same holes in my own writing.

I realized this was a thing my brain did after coming across an old writing in progress. It had been so long since I’d worked on the piece that I barely remembered the characters and scarcely recalled my intended direction for the plot. It was like reading someone else’s work. I was intrigued.

Hey, this is pretty good! Wrong.

 I was kicking myself for not making an outline because I was really curious how the story ended, but my main takeaway was that I didn’t really know what was going on. It was only the beginning of what was expected to be a much longer piece, but it got me to thinking about all my other writing where I struggled to make things fit together….stories where something always seemed to be….missing.

I was writing Stories With Holes and didn’t even realize it. Sometimes the holes were small, and sometimes they were huge! How in the world did I not see that the reader would not understand Gary randomly tucking a blue M&M into his pocket in chapter one meant he would later use blue M&Ms to tame the the terrifying hunger of the dragon in chapter seven, who just so happens to LOVE blue M&M’s. Oh I also forgot to mention Gary hates wasting things. He hates throwing things away so he keeps the blue M&M’s in jars in his closet.

Oh hey, but did I mention his rainbow shoestrings?


Do I think authors are too close to their work sometimes? Yes

Do I think the reason they overlook flaws is always because they love their work so much? No

Do I think my dog makes a terrible writing coach? Irrelevant!

Writers are often told to step away from their work for a while so when they look at it again they will see it with fresh eyes. I’ve always loved this advice but maybe for the wrong reasons. I thought if I stepped away, I would grow less attached and love the story less, thereby allowing me to make objective judgments concerning its worth when viewed again.

Now, I think time lets you forget some of the things you know, lets some of the details slip from your brain. And when you look at your story with this new fresh brain, you are incapable of filling the holes.

You have to figure out what’s missing on your own. It’s like reading your very own Story With Holes, and you need to figure out which questions to ask. Are you asking the right questions? Is it clear what motivates your characters? Is the plot driven by the characters actions?

Did it rain three times in one day, somewhere, once?


Cheese should have holes, stories should not.

Hopefully this story didn’t have too many holes. If it did, feel free to ask me a Yes, No, or Irrelevant question in the comments. I think I’d prefer Irrelevant questions actually 😉