You’re kidding. What do these have in common with writing? Words . . . not just any words, but words with ideas.
Late one afternoon, a few of my book club members decided to go out for an oriental dinner before the meeting. Some of the members are writers and others readers of books. After the last course, Fortune Cookies became the centerpiece of the table. A ‘savage’ grab got our fortune right in front of us. One by one, we read our fortunes out loud. Voices got softer as each cookie not got read.
“Stop,” one in the group hollered. “These are all about kidnapping, murder, and death. Who did this sinister trick, and no, it is not funny.” We looked around the table. No fingers pointed to another. No eyes stared at a specific person. One lady, a writer of mystery answered, “This helps me know which character will go over the edge.”
“Why not put all of our fortunes together and see what we have,” I said. “We might be on to the beginning of a fantastic book.” All I got was silence and big eye stares.
After our review of the book for the evening, I returned home and begin thinking about fortune cookies and writing. They do have a lot in common. First, someone has written all of these proverbs, humorous sayings, statements, predictions, advice, and messages. Fortune cookies are not new and have been around for a long time, and remind me of words at play. Isn’t this what a writer does? Play with words until the right ones enter the mind and the fingers make this known on the keyboard. Here you get a good meal and at the end, possibilities for a new story.
The next time you open a fortune cookie, keep your message. No you cannot borrow or exchange your cookie with others. This was the message YOU picked up. It is YOUR personal message. Think of this as a prompt for your writing. Start keeping these fortune cookie messages in a jar, box, envelope, or what you have handy. Now, you have your own Fortune Cookie Prompt Jar. When you get stuck, dig in and find a new message. If you’ve used it before, replace and get another. Think of all the story starters these create and enjoy your Fortune Cookie Treasures.
How much time do you spend looking at Book Covers? This could be at an independent book store, in a small area of a department store, or online. What draws you to certain books or even a genre you don’t read? Does the cover ‘speak’ to you? Do the colors remind you of something or someone special?
What about children? I remember when bookstores had a children’s department. Many time I’ve heard squeals of delight at the sight of certain books. Why? Some of the young kids couldn’t read yet, but saw something on the covers that excited them.
On a recent day, I walked inside our branch library and watched a storyteller hold up a book, and then let each child have a moment to touch the book before passing it on to the next child. Some did and some did not want to turn loose, running their fingers over and over the cover as if mesmerized by either the picture, the colors, or maybe both
I meandered to the reading area. Men and women sat at tables or in soft chairs devouring magazines, periodicals, and different newspapers. Some would stand beside the magazines and stare before picking one up. I did notice the more colorful covers were the first to be read.
Next, I roamed up and down the aisles of books with only the alphabet of the authors in that particular section available and the covers of their books. I found myself pulling some out, looking at the covers, before sliding back in their special place. I began to laugh as I imagined all the books naked. No not really, but wrapped in brown paper bags without a special section or genre, only the author’s name. No bright covers, no illustration to give the reader a hit, and no title. What confusion this would be for the reader. What would this do to advertising for a book publisher, bookstore, and the author? How could a reader and an author connect?
As readers, we need not only to see the book, we need to feel the book and this comes from the cover. As a wonderful author, noted for a long time, or a new author attempting to break into the world of writing and publishing, the cover is the first introduction to the story inside.
May you always see bright, interesting covers on the books you pull down to checkout or purchase. May young readers enjoy the covers of their books with squeals of delight. May books never dress in a brown paper bag or GO NAKED.
What a puzzling question? This came to me as I was revising some pages of a new novel in process. I read through and decided this needed to be changed, the flow might fit better if these paragraphs were moved to another section, and for some reason my character’s name became a prominent area. During the writing process, my character had grown up and was not happy with her girlhood name or nickname. Why hadn’t I noticed this before? Because my character and characters were quiet, letting me take them into uncharted areas. Not anymore.
As I attempted to revise, making notes as I changed a scene, I found my fingers did not flow over the keys. I misspelled words, left words out, and forgot dates that at first were SO important. My characters did not just play with me, they turned obstinate. I felt their heels dig into the page and no amount of pressure on the keys made them move. Giving them some room to realize their stubbornness, I paged forward to another chapter. Same scenario. Why do you hate me when I am trying to bring you to a new story and become ALIVE?
Now what? I’m one-hundred pages into this new novel, research done, a critique partner okay with the first fifty or so pages, so I saved this version and started a new version with a different title.
The story line I kept in tact, but changed the location Hey my fingers are flowing over the keys. Next, my main character showed up without an invitation and began crawling through my thoughts. I listened and learned she did not like her name, the color of her hair and was NOT a teenager any longer. When had she grown up? Because this was MY story to write and she was only a character. WRONG. At the beginning, I created her, but as the story proceeded into new and different areas, I forgot to grow my character and it was retaliation time again.
We took a trip together and became writer, character, and friends again. She let me know with keystrokes what she wanted and if now, well you guessed. . . . my fingers hit the wrong keys. Sometimes, it is so hard to be a creator of characters, an author who follows some of their wishes, and in the end makes the story shine.
Make sure you give your characters a wide array of choices and let them lead your fingers to the ‘write’ keys. This keeps everyone happy and your story will flow from author to character and from character to author.