Hi all! Please welcome Alana to My First Book. She explains her blog, Writercize much better than I can, so I’m going to leave it to her. All I’m going to say is that it’s a great stop when you want some inspiration.
I have a confession to make. This is my virgin guest blog post and I’m feeling a little nervous about writing it. Call it blogfright, I suppose. Strange, right? I log in four days a week to post to my own blog; I leave comments on other blogs; I am a freelance writer always happy to see my byline, and yet writing a spot on someone else’s blog, their baby, is a little, well, unnerving.
So, that said, I’ll stick to my style and technique and hope that all of you Misha fans enjoy! And participate(!), because you’ll be asked to answer a question in the end.
First, a little background. I author a blog called writercize, a portmanteau of the words write and exercise … with a spelling twist. It’s basically a place for writers, teachers, students and people of all sort to practice their writing. The slogan, if you will, reads: “exercises to inspire word play, hone the craft of the written word and bulldoze writer’s block for authors, bloggers, poets, freelancers, teachers, students, dreamers and writers of all kind.”
I write a mix of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and word play, so while thinking of what to focus on for this guest post, I wanted to nail down a topic that all writers can relate to. That, I have decided, is people-watching. Don’t cringe – you know you do it too!
Any writer worth their chops loves to observe people and draw conclusions based on how they are dressed or body language, maybe even listen in on snippets of conversation at Starbucks. For a writer to compose a story, be it fiction or non-fiction, s/he must first understand human nature and interaction, for it is only with relatable characters that an audience will care, and only by engaging that audience’s interest that they will come back to read more. What better way to create a character than to watch someone in real life and create their backstory?
I find quirky or secretive types the most appealing. I have to admit I’m also drawn to first dates; I find myself completely unable to turn down my close-range hearing when seated nearby a first date couple at a restaurant. There’s so much at play – yearning, embarrassment, bravado, curiosity, fear, wonder, discomfort – it’s rare to find that same emotional combination in normal day-to-day life.
When you see someone who piques your interest, imagine yourself interviewing the subject, but not the type of interview Us Weekly might write up. Imagine interviewing the subject as an intimate friend or a paid psychiatrist, someone who is allowed access to the inner-most thoughts, desires and pains that person may have.
So, I will challenge you with a backstory writercize. Here’s how writercize works – take a minute, or take five, to test out the writing exercise below, then share as a comment if you feel comfortable. This is a no judgment thing; it’s not meant to be the next award-winning short story (though Kudos if you make it into one!) – it’s just meant to loosen your mind and get your fingers tap-tap-tapping away at the keyboard. Here we go.
writing exercise: It is 2 p.m. A purposefully dressed but not entirely stylish woman walks briskly out of a hotel, glances at her watch and hails a taxi. Just as the taxi driver pulls over to pick her up, her phone rings, one of those quick beeping rings, nothing fancy. The woman reaches into her purse to answer, listens for a moment, drops the phone as her face turns white as a sheet, and waves the taxi along. What is the story?
On my blog, I always leave a “writercizer sample response,” so I’ll do the same here. If you want to play along without reading a sample, please scroll along quickly to the comment section now so that your thoughts aren’t spoiled by my take.
sample response: When Monica walked into her bedroom that fateful morning seven months ago, she was shocked to find her husband in bed with someone else. She was even more shocked to see that it was another man.
Monica had been working the night shift at the hospital, where she was known to most as Nurse Mon. She was supposed to work another hour or two, but she was getting older and the all-nighters were starting to wear on her, so when the morning came and the patients were just barely trickling in, she asked to head home for a bit of shut-eye. All she had wanted was a little sleep, alone, in her bed. Her husband should have been on his way to work, but instead, here he was, in the bed she wanted to sleep in, not sleeping, with this man.
Never one for infidelity, but generally one for manners and an open mind, Monica walked over to the bed she had shared with her husband going on 30 years, introduced herself to his lover, shook the stranger’s hand, turned to her husband and said with nary a stumble, “Well, you might have just told me that we were finished. This is hardly the way to tell me, you know. I’ll, umm, I’ll just be leaving now I suppose.”
She had then gathered her belongings and walked out the door. After spending a few nights in empty hospital beds at work, one of the other nurses, whose husband managed a hotel nearby, told her that he was willing to put her up in the hotel for a good price, about the same as rent on a one bedroom, at least until she got herself together. She wouldn’t have maid or room service, but she’d have a furnished room with a mini-fridge and all the utilities covered, and she would be just a few blocks from her work. She’d been living there ever since.
Today was the day that she would head to the courthouse, sign the divorce papers, get a settlement, and begin to move forward with life, maybe buy herself a little home. Not too big; she wouldn’t want to feel lonely by herself; she’d never slept alone in a building before after all. At home she had her husband, then she was in the hospital where there were always patients and nurses and doctors and the hotel with other guests and hotel staff. There were always people around and she took comfort in that. She knew from working in a hospital that if disaster strikes, your chance of survival increases if there are people nearby to get you help quickly.
She checked her watch to be sure she was on time, hailed the cab and prepared to step in and face the crux of her past and her future, no more of this limbo business. Just get this divorce over and done. The phone rang. It was the hospital and she answered.
“Monica, your husband, he’s here. Heart attack when his lawyer picked him up to drive to the courthouse. Might not pull through. We’re going to do all that we can, but he just keeps mumbling that his heart can’t keep beating knowing that he’s lost you. You’ve got to get down her now. He needs you. I know you’re not on the best of terms right now, but it’s life or death. Come.”
Prepared to lose her husband to divorce, Monica had not considered losing him to death, and she was shaken to her core. Her phone smashed to the ground. She could hardly see the question in the taxi driver’s eyes as she realized he was still waiting for her, so she waved him along and tried to build up the courage to turn around and walk the four blocks from the hotel to the hospital. As she walked, the seven months of betrayal and anger and confusion floated away and she could only think of holding his hand, stroking his forehead and promising him that things were going to be alright.
Thanks, Alana, for this interesting take on GPF! Now, ladies and gents, I have exactly three slots open. So if you still want to do a GPF post in this year, I suggest you contact me ASAP. My e-mail address is mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com.
I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with from the prompt. ^_^ I’m leaving mine too. Have a great weekend!