Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Challenge!

challenge  n. 1. A call to engage in a contest or fight.
2. A demand for an explanation: a calling into question.
3. A sentry's call for identification.
4. The quality of requiring full use of one's abilities, energy, or resources: a career that offers a challenge.
5. A claim that a vote is invalid or that a voter is unqualified.
6. Law. A formal objection, esp. to the qualifications of a juror or jury.

and a few of the verb meanings:
2. To take exception to: dispute; challenged the statements.
7. To summon to action, effort or use: stimulate: a problem that challenges the imagination. 

2. To begin barking upon picking up the scent, as hunting dogs.

So, what is it my dear readers, my dear writers?
The Friday Challenge for me is almost always number 7 of the transitive verbs - to summon to action, effort or use - to stimulate.
And maybe a bit of the last one - I want you one and all to begin barking upon picking up the scent of your quarry. Well, perhaps not barking as that might alarm the loved ones but speaking your truth - writing the words that declare you are on the right track.

Today's challenge is to find a place you're stuck - a passage, a plot point, or just to get going at all and do a free-fall.  If you, like me, are in the middle of a revision that doesn't matter - there is some place in your manuscript where the words don't flow - they plod.

Exercise: Find a piece of your writing that you feel stuck about - a scene, a page, a chapter. Find one image in it that works for you. There must be something even if it is something like 'she turned her head at the sound of his voice' that you think captures what you're trying to do. Now take that statement and free-fall with it. Let every image ignite another - put your editor firmly behind you, waiting his or her turn, and let the words flow. Do not, for an instant, worry about whether it makes sense. Remember what it was like to run down a hill on a dirt road in the summer when your feet where going faster than you thought you could sustain. But you did! Or if you wiped out it was in a sort of bliss. Like that. I'll do one here just to give you an idea.
My stuck place this morning is where my protagonist, Libby, is going to her first Pow Wow with her long estranged father who is a member of The Blood Tribe (Blackfoot). She is being dressed in regalia by her step-mother and a medicine woman,Teesa, who has chosen Libby as her 'one'.  I want to describe the moment her father sees her in the regalia so here goes.

The colours were the turquoise of the Caribbean and the metallic blue of old tricycles, the hot pink of cherry popsicles with silver running through it all like a frozen stream. The noise was hushed and reverent and then voices gathering to sing the anthems, the ceremonial songs of war and victory or loss. Then it changed as the drummers entered and began and the dancers made their way to the arena – the sacred place and you could hear their breaths and their feet moving fast and soft on the ground. I could see my father sitting with Nancy on one of the chairs that ringed the arena – not a dancer’s chair though Nancy had told he’d have been dancing if it wasn’t for his injury. Nancy would’ve too but she said she was tired and wanted to watch. I could see my Dad’s face all soft and worn but pleased and I saw Nancy reach up and touch his cheek. Then I saw Teesa, all splendid in her ancient sticklike way moving towards me in her regalia of impossible amethyst and shimmering beads. She held a feathered fan in her bony strong hand and she held out a small pouch in her other. She gave it to me and motioned to where my father sat. I was confused but as usual did her bidding. That crazy old witch could make a crow sing like a lark if that was her desire. I walked around the dancers towards Dad and when I got there he looked up at me as I handed him the small leather bag. When I turned to walk back he was staring at me with a most peculiar air about him.

“What?” I whispered.

“That was my grandmother’s regalia.” He said looking at me intently.

I felt suddenly shy and that perhaps I’d messed up in some major way.

“She would be so proud of you. She was the one who chose Teesa.”

And he smiled at me.


Michele Emrath said...

Oh! Good job! This is a challenge for me...I'm heading to my MS to land on that stuck place and "free fall."

Thanks, Jan


Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I want to read more! Interesting challenge – I’m looking forward to finding out what happens when I try it this afternoon.

Patricia Stoltey said...

This post fits my writing situation to a T. I'm facing the challenge of a complete rewrite of a manuscript using a different POV. Although I love my story and characters, I've always felt uneasy that secondary characters overpower the story. I'm putting everything in my main characters third person point of view to keep the focus on her and tame those other strong characters. It should leave me with a lot of leftover backstory, maybe the makings of another book, or a series. Better get busy.

BTW, Jan, thanks for using the signature link to your blog. It helps to see some comments that prove it works. Might make others more interested in trying.

Jan Morrison said...

Michele - oh good! Let me know how it goes. It definitely worked with me and has got me out of a place that I was just grinding my gears on. Sometimes a free-fall just loosens up the work and reminds me that I don't need to put all that continuous comment stuff in!
Thanks Jane! I'll have to drift through it a few times to see what is usable but I'm happy so far. Sometimes with a free fall I might only get one usuable phrase but it usually moves me through!
Patricia - oooh! that's a big job ahead of you. You can do it though, no problemo! Hey - thank you for the signature thingy - it works a treat and I'm using it all over the place!

Clarissa Draper said...

Very nice. I'm currently stuck on a piece of writing and I might just take up your challenge. It's not that the chapter is not needed it's just that I have to spice it up a bit.


Jemi Fraser said...

I've got a spot that's been driving me nuts. I'm off to give this a try - thanks!

Jan Morrison said...

Hi Clarissa - excellent because you had a site noted on your site that I found very helpful - Points of Clairification - love it when it works!!
Jemi - let me know how it works out..