2011 Write-a-Thon, Week 2

Hello, friends of Clarion!  Week Two of the Clarion Write-a-Thon has begun, and it’s time for some new challenges to keep you on your toes.  But before we begin, it’s time to honor those who have gone above and beyond so far in our fundraising effort.  Our total number of participants has exploded to 147, and of those, the following ten people have risen to the top of the heap and are very much in the running for our top prize: an iPad 2!

  • Ferrett Steinmetz
  • VictoriaGriesdoorn
  • Amelia Bruce
  • Kelly Lagor
  • Liz Argall
  • Nathan McDaniel
  • Keffy Kehrli
  • Dallas Taylor
  • Rachael Acks
  • Donaya Haymond

Week 2 Writng Challenge

This week’s writing challenge is actually a revision challenge.

Look back through your work to find a passage that is mostly dialogue between two characters.  Failing that, find a fight scene or other scene where two characters are acting and reacting against one another.  Now consider both of these characters, and take a moment to write three to five adjectives that most completely and thoroughly describe each character.

This part of the exercise in and of itself should take a while, as you want these adjectives, as much as possible, to encompass the entirety of the character’s temperament and personality.  This means they will need to be just the right combination of general and specific, and it would be best if the words do not overlap in meaning.  Do not use both “moral” and “honest,” for example, since honesty can be considered a part of morality.

As an example, if you were using Indiana Jones, you might use “brainy, arrogant, passionate, and courageous.”  The main character of my own novel-in-progress is “tough, clever, loving, and tactless.”  Be sure there is at least one good quality in the list and one bad quality; if not, either your character may not be well-rounded enough, or you may not have thought fully through the whole of his personality.

Once you have your list of adjectives, look over your scene.  Do these traits show up there?  As an experiment, revise the dialogue or action scene so that each one of those character traits shows up at some point in the passage.  Make Dr. Jones just a bit more arrogant in one line, and let his passion show through in the next.  When you have done this for both characters, do you find it easier to tell who is saying what without dialogue tags?  Does more conflict seem to bubble up between them?  Post both versions, if you are willing, and discuss the results.

Week 2 Fundraising Challenge

Do you have a blog or web site?  If you are not already doing so, post a fundraising goal for this week and offer a “reward” to your audience should you reach it.  Last year one of our writers, a singer who rarely performs in public, offered to post a performance on YouTube.  Perhaps you have an item of value that you could give away, or a service or skill you might offer for a lucky donor.  Or dare you offer a critique of your own?  Everyone needs readers.  Mull it over and see what you can come up with to lure a few reluctant donors from your internet “fan base.”  Good luck, and see you next weekend!


10 thoughts on “2011 Write-a-Thon, Week 2

  1. To give everyone the most up to date information possible I just ran a fresh update things have certainly changed in the last 24 hours! We see a change in the order and a fresh name.

    Ferrett Steinmetz
    Amelia Bruce
    Kelly Lagor
    Liz Argall
    Nathan McDaniel
    Keffy Kehrli
    Dallas Taylor
    Rachael Acks
    Donaya Haymond

    1. I just noticed that some of my favorite creative write-a-thon projects (I blog about them here http://bit.ly/k3sMbT) are by writers who just so happen to be in the top 10. Coincidence?

      Creative projects certainly seem to be a great way to go if you have a mind that thrives on that kind of chellenge (as long as this is combined with telling people you’re doing it… I wonder if in part it just makes it easier to ask people to sponsor you).

      1. And oh for an edit button, perhaps I should pretend chellenge is how we write it in Australia…

  2. OK, I’m not participating in the fundraiser myself but I am supporting my fellow Kari 🙂

    Here is my exercise: (I’ll just keep the POST to save space)

    Willem’s adjectives: irascible, brave, street smart, witty, brusque
    Jonathon’s adjectives: well heeled, young, morally rigid, optimistic and more cautious

    “I wanted to thank you for this morning,” Willem said. His mouth was full and he was staring into his plate as he spoke. “Didn’t think you had it in you.”
    Jonathon froze with his fork suspended. He could see Willem’s lips moving but the words sounded like a compliment. “Don’t mention it.”
    “Never had my life saved by a bundle of lace.”
    “It was a board,” Jonathon corrected. “Pillow lace is wrapped around a flat board so it doesn’t lose its shape.”
    Willem rolled his eyes. “Well I’m glad you left the pillows behind; can’t imagine you’d threaten a man with that.”
    “What does that mean?” Jonathon asked after sipping his tea and concluding the comment was condescending.
    “I’ve seen how you take care of your pillow cases. But my men,” he paused to gesture towards the bow, “All they care about is that their berths not have fleas.”

    1. We Karis need to stick together. It’s a cold, hostile world out there if you’re a Kari. There are ALLIGATORS. The alligators have KNIVES.

      I’ll try the exercise later, but for now: well done, Fellow Kari.

      1. hehehe… I’ll be checking back for your post to this! Hope your day is going well. Take care.

  3. Okay…I tried. I may have cheated a bit, but I’ll explain why. The adjectives are partly derived from last week’s exercise, though after I had thought about it for a bit, I shifted things around slightly.

    Freddy: angry, clever, practical, cowardly, self-deceiving.
    Josiah: logical, hypocritical, sarcastic, audacious, blunt.


    At the bell, she shot out into the hallway once more. She wasn’t fast enough this time. “I think you’re trying to avoid me,” said Josiah, who was taller than she was and could walk faster as well.
    “No,” Freddy lied.
    He cast his eyes to the heavens. “Yesterday, you were a duckling; I couldn’t get rid of you. Now I have cooties, do I? What’s changed?”
    Freddy quickened her pace. “Haven’t you ever been to high school before?”
    “Loads,” said Josiah. “Endless, boring loads. So?”
    “So you don’t know how to act,” said Freddy. “And you made me say…stuff…in English.”
    As they started up the stairs to the third floor, Josiah said, “Excuse me? I don’t remember making you say anything.”
    “I don’t do things like that,” said Freddy.
    “You should,” said Josiah. “That teacher needs to be head-butted violently in the nose.”
    “Well, I don’t,” said Freddy, practically running out into the hallway once more. “Stop following me.”
    “I’m not,” said Josiah. “You’re following me.”
    “I’m not—” Freddy was starting when the hideous truth hit her. They came to a stop together at the door to their math classroom.
    “I think someone’s given me your schedule,” said Josiah. “It’s worrying.”

    I have not changed it at all. This is terrible of me and seems very arrogant, but here’s the thing: I have been working madly on this story for months now. I have edited it again and again. Something very like the proposed exercise is in my mind while I edit; I know it is important to ensure that characters have individual voices and are not interchangeable. I have little doubt that the first version of this passage would have needed a lot of tweaking, but I read it through carefully before I posted, and I do think all the adjectives are there now (feel free to disagree; I have read the story so very many times that I’m sure I frequently imagine it contains elements that actually aren’t there). I would post the original version if I still had it. I do not think the passage is anywhere near perfect, and I expect I’ll refine it some more eventually.

    Mini-justification for my self-judgement (to make up for the cop-out of posting only one version): Freddy is taking her anger at herself out on Josiah, who didn’t actually “make” her say what she said in English class. Her cleverness and her cowardliness are here conflated; she understands how high school works and deals with it by “knowing how to act.” She also starts out trying to avoid a confrontation with Josiah, though when he pushes, her practical nature kicks in, and she deals with his questions in order to get rid of him more quickly. The self-deception is probably her dominant feature in the passage; she outright claims that she doesn’t behave the way she just behaved.

    Josiah approaches everything like a logic puzzle. He demands that Freddy justify the way she is treating him today in terms of the way she treated him yesterday. He also offers Freddy a logical justification for her behaviour in English class, though she doesn’t notice. However, he applies logical selectively, insisting that Freddy conform to it while he does not; he criticises her for changing her attitude towards him but neglects to mention that he has also changed his attitude towards her, suddenly and for no apparent reason. Every other sentence he speaks is dripping with sarcasm, and his audaciousness comes through in his theory of what the English teacher deserves (in fact, he would have no problem with saying it to the teacher’s face). The bluntness is inherent in both the comment about the teacher and the way Josiah challenges Freddy’s behaviour.

    I do think I could remove the speech signifiers in this scene and still know who was saying what. I have other scenes that still need work in this regard, but I couldn’t use them for the exercise because they involved three or more speakers.

    Sorry for the length. It was difficult to complete the exercise without making it huge and unwieldy.

    1. HI 🙂 I admit, I had to orient myself that ‘freddie’ was a girl and ‘josiah’ a boy. Hehe. Once that was settled I got the cadence of it and picked up on the tension right away.

      I’m with you… I dind’t change my passage much, but I did round it out (in the first draft it was ‘a board wrapped in lace’, and the second draft ‘pillow lace wrapped about a board so it wouldn’t lose its shape’). I also made Willem’s dialogue more caustic.

      I’m glad to read others rewrite scenes over and over again. Ive now scrapped my chapter one and started fresh seven times. Oh, and I rewrite each chapter 6-10 times. Please someone tell me you get smarter at this.

      1. Heh…yes, “Freddy” is a cruel name to give one’s female protagonist. “Josiah” is actually a very old name, and it’s definitely for guys only, but it’s not used all that much any more.

        My rewriting process tends to involve a lot of little tweaks and shifts. I write with too many adverbs, then get rid of most of them later. I smooth things out, switch stuff around, and make sentences easier to read. Occasionally, I radically rewrite scenes, though usually that happens while I’m still on my first draft. I did rewrite half a chapter recently because two of my characters were effectively having the same fight twice.

        I’m not sure it’s necessary to get “smarter” at this. Revision can be frustrating, but it’s an essential part of the creative process. Hurrah…?

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