Mmm… minty pt. 2

 

Continuing…

So, I picked out a sample of my creative writing to submit to the Story Refinery on The Story Mint.

Nostalgia

Hearing your love story.

Feeling throbs through the space. The coziness of cushions and familiar shudder-clink of radiators give way to the jagged edges of anticipation and unasked questions, to the heavy reflection on the tangible ache of a sepia view, to the manic happiness of spiritual orgasm, filling lungs and stomach and heart with air sucked from the midst of a freefall.

Wine is drunk but not savoured: an excuse for motion by bodies fettered by the tale’s thrall, while the flitting anxious emancipated imaginations predict resolutions. A story crafted for emotional emphasis, made satiating with months of hinting and hesitation. Clichés bound about, unexpected and only summoned at vocabulary’s end out of a mouth made innocent by word choice, ancient by crushing feeling.

Then reduced to sound, sigh and gesture (words have failed), the storyteller squirms and pushes at space and carpet, clutches clothes and chews chocolates, wind velocity (that is, air intake and release) conveying more than English can confine in definitions.  Accompanying onomatopoeia assist.

But maybe words have not failed but filled, and the space has only room left for deep breaths and smiling whimpers.

The storyteller begs to clear the air of thick, contemplative words by forcing another’s talk. She grasps at big questions and throws them at listeners with accuracy. The conversation turns.

(© 2011 S.E. Lund All Rights Reserved)

Eager for feedback, I was amused but disappointed when this screen came up:

Result #1

Apparently I am just too creative. Or, more likely, the system administrators only have a limited amount of sections of books cataloged. My second attempt was much more successful. This time, I chose something a little less poetic: the opening scene of a long story.

Chapter One

Carolyn leaned heavily against a worn oak desk. The cash register to her right was napping, wrapping itself in the thin layer of dust that covered every surface left disused for even an hour in the fusty second-hand store. The faded books in the stack on her left waited patiently to be shelved with their fellows, ignored but not neglected; Carolyn would get to them by the end of the night.

At that moment she was leafing through a photo book of lake country, her chin perched in the palm of one hand with her elbows resting on the edge of the desk. Her other hand clutched a pen as she flipped the pages with a careless snap.

The playlist that spilled through the store was an eclectic mix of Carolyn’s favourites. Punk followed banjo music which flowed into a string of motown hits. When the last notes of the final song drifted into nothingness, she was too tired to notice.

Her head wavered on her arm and her eyes drooped. “Hò-bhan, hò-bhan, Goiridh òg O, my love was not where I left him,” she hummed, oblivious to her own voice and the symbol she had started to doodle down the side of the book. A long wavy line traced its way down the length of the page in thickening black ink. A second line, separate at the top of the page, gradually overlapped and then appeared to twist itself in ever-tightening spirals around the first until the two ends connected at the bottom of the page in a crude imitation of an intricate v-shaped charm.

Carolyn’s chin teetered dangerously on its balance point, spilling long strands of her chestnut hair across her forehead. Her large hazel eyes flew open and her humming stopped.

“Damn” she said, examining her handiwork. She wasn’t nearly as irritated at herself for defacing the store’s property as for drawing that particular symbol. It seemed to spill from her pen independent of any conscious thought. She resented that the shape stuck in her mind after so many years.

She slapped the heavy covers of the book closed and grabbed the rest of the books that needed to be shelved. The desk groaned as she lifted the pile from its wizened top.

Carolyn didn’t need to think much as she distributed the books to their rightful places. The layout of the store made sense to her in a way that was second nature. Aside from the owner, she was the only one who could boast of this intuitive knowledge of Pendham’s Used Books & Oddities. Most people, customers and the few staff alike, got lost in the small store with its cache of very hidden treasures. They were used to box stores with logic and labels to lead them, and couldn’t understand the owner’s distribution of stock foremost by mood, then by author.

The store was created as a shelter and a maze. People who fought the feeling of getting lost, the notion of browsing, never felt quite comfortable among its shabby shelves.

Carolyn walked to the Regional Interest section with her drawn-in pictorial. The section, her favourite, was tucked into the back corner of the small space and had the most eclectic collection of items in the store.

Her eyes scanned the piles of mismatched travel stock in this “catch-all” section of the store and she shuffled her book, with much difficulty, into a pile of pictorials in similar condition. It was a beautiful area, she thought, running her fingers across the white-capped water on the cover of one of the display books, but then caught sight of the watch on her wrist. She ran through the to-do list in her mind. Dust, lights, lock up, home… mail, calculus, alarm, bed. It would be a late night, but her last late night for a while. After tomorrow, high school would be all but finished. She allowed herself a satisfied smile and then walked back to the desk, stifled a yawn, and took out the dust rags and wood polish.

(© 2010 S.E. Lund All Rights Reserved)

 

The Refinery compared my excerpt to Wilkie Collins’ ‘Poor Miss Finch’ and an extract from Thomas Keneally’s, ‘Schindler’s Ark.’

The suggestions you receive when you use the Refinery are lengthy but some of the notes I got are, “Keneally’s style is pronounced by its concrete descriptions. […]The reader is not part of the scene suffering the horror the passage describes. The reader stands outside of it. Is this the effect you are looking for? Does it serve the purpose of your story?”

and,

“The story is told in the first person so the narrator is describing the events as he sees them and as he reacts to them. […] Consider how you have put words together. You won’t have done exactly what Wilkie Collins has but you may have used similar words and coupled them with concrete words like apple, girl, child. […] Collins uses subjective words like irresistible, poor and useless but the reader has to decide what he means by those. Sometimes his approach works well. However, check  if there is a need for more detail in your submission.”

 

My advice? Test it out! It’s interesting to get feedback from a completely dispassionate source.

 

Refinedly yours,

 

S.E. Lund

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Mmm… minty pt. 1

The Story Mint was launched on March 30, 2012 and I’m infatuated. I don’t want to be the type of person who calls it “love” after a first date, but this site made such a good impression. Sure, The Story Mint isn’t as attractive as some other sites. And yes, there are strings attached (the site is free for now, but will eventually be  a paid service), but that can’t overshadow the excitement of the first minutes of our relationship.

The Story Mint is a simple, three-part site. In the first part you can read and edit, or sign up to add to, a serial story. The latest serial “Thabazimbi Heat” is now underway. You can also read the recently completed serial Deep River here.

The second part of the site is called “The Story Refinery”, where you can submit a sample of 250-2000 words and the generator will analyze your work and compare it to sections of other books (look for my results posted in “Mmm… minty pt. 2” later today). This comparison gives you constructive feedback on the stylistic techniques you are using and how they do/do not work for some authors. It also provides you with a series of questions to think about when going over your work. Though I’ve only submitted a couple pieces of creative writing to this site, I’ve already found that the feedback I received (again, posted later today) has made me notice things about my writing that I had been doing unintentionally, and the literary consequences of those choices.

The third part of the site allows you to submit a manuscript for assessment and feedback: “If you have a novel at its third draft and not larger than 85,000 words and would like an assessment, please submit it to us here.” I have not yet taken advantage of this feature, and likely won’t, as I’m a bit paranoid about sending my material off into cyberspace.

I’ll write more (with pictures and actual samples of my creative writing! Yay!) later today. Keep checking back, reader!

Mintily yours,

S.E. Lund

Challenge yourself to write less.

Can you write a story in 50 words or less? That’s the goal of fellow writers & bloggers at 50 Items or Less ,”a digital community that seeks to foster creativity and inspire each member to challenge themselves to think differently, deeply, and without limitation.” The only rule of the group is to keep their creative “mini-sagas” to exactly 50 words, or sometimes fewer if the integrity of the work would be challenged by pushing it to 50.

 

One example I like, by Kristina Skaggs on March 12, is as follows: “I will see her after we graduate college. She looks the same; her hair is the same, smiles and giggles the same. I’ll look in the crowd for someone else to talk to; she’ll be doing the same, because we have nine years in common and nothing to talk about.”

 

Here is my first attempt: “The big hill in my parent’s yard is dew-filled, cold, after dusk in September. I shiver, need a jacket, pretend I’m warm, climb to the top. Laughing, I lie down and start to roll again. The world is chilled giddy chaos, but rights itself when I wrap around his sneakers.”

 

Thoughts? Post your own attempt in the comments section, or email me at hourtenthousand@hotmail.com and I’ll add it to my next post!

 

Creatively yours,

 

S.E. Lund