Category Archives: Fiction

Exploring Doodling Again

Teachers Write never ceases to amaze and surprise me. Today on Kate Messner’s blog,  guest author Elizabeth Dahl explains how she became a writer, and how doodling while writing helped her with that process. She challenged us to give it a try. I have to admit, this is one of the hardest exercises I’ve tried this summer. I was an art major way back when, but quickly changed my major when I realized I could not compete with those more talented than I am. When I set out to doodle today, I couldn’t do it… at first. Then, just like with writing on that blank white page, I started and before I knew it, I was lost in the creative process. What I produced is not extraordinary by any means, but it was fun to do! So much so, in fact, that I plan to doodle as much as possible from this point on. Who knows, maybe I’ll one day illustrate a book (yeah, ok).

Anyway, here are my efforts from today. What do you think?

(c) 2015 W. Scalfaro. All rights reserved.

IMG_20150727_164610152

IMG_20150727_164619018 IMG_20150727_164624707

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Fiction, Inspiration, Writing

Learning More About My Characters

Kate Messner’s guest on Teachers Write today is Heidi Schulz, and she teaches us about Creating Compelling Characters. Here are two brief interviews with my protagonist and a supporting character.

LILY: More than anything, I want to be reunited with my mother. This never changes, but I realize that I can’t wait for her to figure out where I am. I have to do something to help her get back to me. However, I learn that something may be preventing her from finding me, so I have to go search for her. I’m afraid that, even if she has a job now, she still won’t be able to take care of me, and that I’ll have to stay in this orphanage until I’m 16 and am forced to live on my own. I would sacrifice anything to have my Momma and me together again.

SISTER MARY ROSE: I want more than anything to teach all children the love of Jesus, and how to live in order to glorify Him. However, Lily is teaching me that children must feel loved themselves, before they can understand Jesus’ love. Secretly, I wish I had never lost my family when I was around Lily’s age, and this makes me want to do what I can to help her be reunited with her mother. I’m afraid that she will be heartbroken that her mother cannot support her. I would sacrifice anything to protect Lily and the other children.

This was a great exercise for helping me get to know my characters a little better. I plan to “interview” all of my characters in my novel.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction, Writing

Exploring Setting from Different Points of View

Author Elana K. Arnold presented the Tuesday Quick-Write on Kate Messner’s blog today. She had us shift points of view and describe the same setting. Here are my descriptions. They’re very rough. I have not worked extensively on any of them, and have not spent time editing them.

A description of my surroundings

I live on a corner, where one street is busy and the other is a side street. We have weeds – which we call alien plants because they grow so quickly – bordering the property line on one side. The birds love these weeds because they can hide in them. Our neighbor behind us mows his law a couple times a week, and is precise about where his (unmarked) boundary is. He’s planted a shrub – possibly a lilac – on the side. Across the street is a young motor head. He fixes cars in his driveway. His next door neighbors hate him and spy on his constantly. We all jockey for a parking position on the street because no one likes these neighbors.

 

The same surroundings, now from the POV of a lost six year-old child. 

I don’t know this neighborhood. How did I get here? The streets are strange. There’s a dog barking somewhere. I hope I don’t see it, or if I do, I hope it’s friendly. Should I go to someone’s house and tell them I’m lost? There’s no one outside, so I don’t know if anyone is home. There’s a motorcycle parked in front of this house. Cool! My mother said never to go near anyone with a motorcycle because they make bad decisions. Some houses have nice yards. Oh, there’s the dog. He’s a huge, black, furry dog! And he’s barking a deep booming bark. I’m not going near him! Now I see a lady with two kids. Mom always said that if I got lost, to find another mom and ask for help. I’ll go ask because she looks nice.

 

The same surroundings, now from the POV of a housecat. 

Ah, I love it out here. I think I’ll just creep under these bushes and wait for the birds. It’s dark and cool under here. What’s that? Oh, a bug crawling over the stones. I’ll just watch for a while. Maybe give it a good sniff. I’ll try smacking it with my paw. Here come the birds. They don’t know I’m here. I’ll watch them preen and chirp. Hey! They’re flying away! Oh, it’s the woman and her two kids. They scared the birds away. I think I’ll take a nap now.

 

The same surroundings, now from the POV of aa fifteen year-old whose parents are divorcing.

I’ve always hated this place, now I hate it even more. Dad’s leaving. Figures. I have to stay here with Mom. Not that it matters. She’s never here anyway. NONE of my friends live around here. Dad used to take me everywhere because he works from home. From this home. House. It’s not really a home. And this neighborhood is not really neighborly. Bunch of old people, or people with little kids. They always look at me funny, like they’re afraid of me or something. Like I’m gonna hurt anyone. I’m too puny anyway. All I have is this stupid skateboard. That doesn’t get me very far. And the stupid sidewalks around here are all cracked and broken. There’s parts where the tree roots have pushed sections of sidewalk up. I have to stop when I get to them. Or I could ride in the street, like I see everyone else doing. Mom would have a fit if she saw me do that. Too bad. I’m going down this person’s driveway. The yard is up so high that the apron of the driveway is a ramp. I put my earbuds in and crank up Eminem. I’ll get a good start on that and just ride down the street, away from this house.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction, Inspiration, Writing

An Interview with one of My Antagonists

In today’s lesson Teachers Write on Kate Messner’s blog, author Tracey Baptiste explores Voice. Two of the exercises have us become one of our characters and answer interview questions, and then flip the switch and become the opposite of that character and answer the same questions. Here is what I wrote as a result.

 

Exercise 2: Becoming Your Character

I love my country more than anything else. I hate anyone who makes me out to be anti-American, or not loyal to my country. I am jealous of anyone who has a higher status than I do. If I could do anything, I would convince my husband to ask for a promotion at work, so we could buy a nicer home. My biggest secret is that my mother hated this country. She never wanted to leave Germany, and so she never learned to speak English. I was teased by other children because of her; Therefore I did not love her.

Exercise 3: Flip the Switch

I love my family more than anything else. I hate when people are teased or called out for being Anti-American, when they have given their whole lives to pulling their own weight in America and building a life their ancestors would be proud of. I’m jealous of women who can have more children. If I could do anything, I would have my husband take more vacation time so we could go to the shore.

These exercises helped in that I was totally surprised by Mrs. Schmidt’s biggest secret. I had no idea!

Try these exercises and see what your characters reveal to you.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction, Inspiration, Writing

A Character Sketch

Here’s the character sketch I wrote today, in response to the mini-lesson from Melanie Crowder on Kate Messner’s blog for Teachers Write.

This is my protagonist.

Lily, age 12, has two items in her possession: the book, The Secret Garden and her doll, Molly. Lily’s mother made the doll, and it was the one item they made sure she had when they left their apartment for the last time. Molly represents love and safety for Lily, which is especially important because Lily ends up in an orphanage. She has the doll with her as much as possible, or she has her in a safe place where she can retrieve her when she needs her. The Secret Garden is another representation of love, but the nurturing kind that Lily can give. It’s also her source of strength and determination to go on, and helps her understand the world around her.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction, Inspiration, Writing

A Quick Poem about my WIP

This “poem” is the result of a prompt from Jo Knowles’ blog for Teachers Write.

Lily,
Age 12,
a child growing up during WWI.
Her desperate mother,
places her in the care of a cruel woman,
who dumps her in an orphanage.
Feeling torn away from her mother,
she nonetheless
does as she’s told.
She finds solace in nurturing her garden,
kindness from a loving nun,
and a friendship,
that challenges boundaries.
Until a tragedy opens the door to freedom,
but makes her question what really matters.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction, Inspiration, Poetry, Writing

Review of The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner

Rarely do I read a book more than once. This book is the exception. I read it once, loved it, put it down, misplaced it, found it, and then read it again. It’s not your typical coming-of-age novel, but then again it is. Nick reluctantly follows Jaycee on a journey, fights some demons (internal), and comes out stronger in the end. I loved the characters immediately. Nick is funny and insecure, and Jaycee is quirky and adorable. Polisner gets into the head of a 15-year-old boy, conveying convincing inner dialogue, and adeptly relaying his fear of uncharted territory: first love, the potential for a first kiss, staying in a hotel with a girl, and wandering around an unfamiliar city. Nick feels most comfortable when faced with Jaycee’s fever because he’s been through it himself. He is the Fever King! However, he still feels a bit of anxiety over whether he’s doing the right thing. Polisner does not portray him as an over-confident, unbelievable teen. Just when he’s starting to feel comfortable with the idea of being away from home with a girl, he makes a discovery that turns his world upside down. He’s angry and depressed and resentful. Just like a typical 15-year-old would react in this situation. Get this book. Read it. And maybe read it again. And then you might want to go out and get Of Mice and Men and read that again.Pull Of Gravity

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

Review of Dead of Wynter by Spencer Seidel

Prepare yourselves for a murder mystery/thriller that grabs you from the Prologue and refuses to let you go until the last word. The main character, Alice Wynter, is in constant turmoil over her past as well as her present. The sudden death of her father, and ominous disappearance of her twin brother draws her away from her broken marriage. She reluctantly returns to her childhood home in Redding, Maine to help her mother, but finds herself involved in helping to figure out who killed her father. She tries desperately to keep the pain of her past buried deep inside, but as she resigns herself to solving her father’s murder and finding her brother, her secret starts clawing its way back. Seidel has crafted a story that is both engaging and disturbing. His characters are complex and realistic. This debut novel has made Spencer Seidel a new author worth following. My only regret is that I let this book sit buried in a stack of other books for almost a year!

Disclaimer: I won this personalized autographed copy of Dead of Wynter in a giveaway in May 2011.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction, Reading

Review of Room by Emma Donoghue

Jack and Ma live in Room. The people, places, and things on TV are fantasy. Only Ma and Jack are real. This is the story of how Ma and Jack came to live in Room and how Ma is determined to get out. Told from 5-year-old Jack’s point of view, Room is a gripping, gut-wrenching, thought-provoking, and ultimately rewarding read. Donoghue’s characterizations are dead-on accurate. The reader is always in Jack’s head, but also able to understand the motivations of his mother. With Jack we seek the secrecy of the wardrobe, the comfort of nursing, and the joy of seeing “friends” on TV. Through Jack we see a mother who is sometimes “gone” for the day, and also one who diligently feeds her son and tends to his every need. Our muscles tense as Old Nick visits at night, when Jack is thought to be asleep. We experience Jack’s fear when Ma unveils her plan to escape captivity. We feel Ma’s desperation as she struggles to maintain her sanity. The detailing of each mundane day-to-day activity serves to create a believable – and yet unbearable – world, and build the character of Jack. The story is like an accident scene: we don’t want to know, but we can’t look away. You will not be able to put the book down. Donoghue has successfully created a character and a story that will not soon be forgotten.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction

When Your First Love is Young Adult Fiction

As I’m writing this post, I’ve just come out of #TitleTalk on Twitter. This chat was only the second one I’ve attended, and it was a whirlwind adventure! While not all of the participants of #TitleTalk work with young adults, many of them do, and the talk about YA literature was fevered and vehement. People don’t just like YA fiction; they LOVE YA fiction.

The reasons for a reader’s devotion to YA fiction are varied and can be quite personal. I chatted recently with a few YA devotees and discovered that, for the most part, the characters are the main reason to keep reading. My friend, Jessica told me, “I… love being thrown back into my youth. [The stories] bring back memories of a time of uncertainty and exploration of the world. I can relate with the characters and I find that each character teaches me a lesson about my past or even myself as an adult.”

Writer Jenny Moss also feels deeply drawn to YA books. “Most of it for me is emotional resonance – YA books find that sharp, deep emotional place that our younger selves are so much in touch with.”  I think many of us who connect with YA books do so because we’ve always been book-crazed in general. If we began our early reading lives finding the things in stories that mean something to us, we’re going to attach ourselves to the fiction of our teen years because we’re seeking some kind of affirmation that we are not alone in the way we feel, think, or act. Or sometimes we just want to escape our own world and live vicariously through another character whose fictional life is so different from our own as to be unattainable. It’s a safe, drug-free (although addictive) form of escapism!

One genre of YA fiction that has the most fervent followers is fantasy. My fantasy-loving students are easily the largest segment of my readers. Stacey O’Neale recognizes that YA fantasy fiction has a huge following, so she has created the YAFantasy Guide, where she brings numerous fantasy resources under one site.  Stacey appreciates YA fiction as a reader and a writer. She states, “I love romance and most YA is chock-full of it. There’s something special in that first love that draws me in. I also enjoy watching characters evolve as they move toward adulthood and their lives become gradually complicated. As a writer, it gives you a large pallet to paint with.”

Although all of us read adult books from time to time, high school English teacher Cindy Minnich says, “I love YA fiction because the
storylines are every bit as good as the ones written for adults. And I have tons of S[tudents]s to discuss them with!”And for those of us who do work with teens, sharing book recommendations and talking about what we read is what it’s all about.

Why do you love YA fiction? With what characters do you connect the most and why. How do you share this love of YA fiction with others? I’d love to hear your comments.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction, Reading, Writing, Young Adult Fiction