short fiction

The Curious Case of Sadie: A Flash Fiction Piece

Back when I was five and starting kindergarten, I had wished upon a star for a guinea pig. My parents had been against the idea of having pets. I recalled them saying, “We are not getting a dog or any kind of pet,” right before that moment. They’d ruined my mood and I had almost wanted to give up my flower girl role at my aunt, Katie’s, wedding back then.

             Fast forward nine years later, and I neared the start of my first year of high school. I looked outside my window, and saw a cat. I didn’t know if it belonged to anyone. It could’ve been a stray. We did live in a rural part of Pennsylvania.

             I turned away and sat on my bed. Ninth grade would start tomorrow.

            “Michelle?” my mom called me.

            “What is it?” I answered.

            “Can you help me get this rat out of the kitchen?”

             I paused. Then I opened the door. “Why do you need me?”

             “Because I’ve got cookie dough on my hands!”

             I sighed, but went downstairs anyway. I entered the kitchen. A white rat stood on the corner. It ran into the hole in the wall.

            “Mom, why don’t we call the exterminator?” I asked.

            “Because it’s Sunday,” my mother said.

            “The rat already escaped.” I looked into the hole, seeing no sign of the critter.

            “Go outside,” my mom said.

            So I went out to the backyard. There was no rat. But I did see the same cat as before. It was black and white.

            The cat stopped at stared at me. I smiled. But it came up to me. I turned around and went back inside.

            “Michelle, did you see the rat?” my mother asked.

            I shook my head.

            “I guess it escaped.” My mom shrugged.

            “Yeah, probably,” I said.

            But there was a squeak inside the kitchen hole. I looked inside. A rodent nose stuck out. But it showed itself. It turned out not to be the rat, but… a guinea pig?

            No. That couldn’t be right. I closed my eyes and shook my head. I gazed at the creature again. Yup. It was a black and white guinea pig. It came running toward me. I gasped and bolted up.

            The guinea pig came out of the hole. My mom saw it and screamed.

            “Mom, it’s just a guinea pig,” I said.

            But the guinea pig spun. It sped up and transformed into a black and white cat. My mom yelped. “What’s going on?”

            The doorbell rang. My mother answered to Mrs. Katz, our next door-neighbor.

            “Have you seen Sadie?” Mrs. Katz asked. “My kitty?”

            “You mean the one that turned into a guinea pig?” my mother asked.

            “What?” asked Mrs. Katz. “I mean… I’ve seen it turn into a rat, but not a guinea pig.”

            The cat meowed and ran up to Mrs. Katz.

            “Sadie, what have you been up to?” Mrs. Katz picked her up. “I’m taking you to the vet to cure this problem.” She closed the door behind her and left.

            I stood by my mom and watched Mrs. Katz carry Sadie back to her house.

            “What kind of vet could cure a cat like that?” I asked my mother.

            She shook her head. “Perhaps, it’s best if we don’t know.”

           

Writing

Story Too Complex to Tell? Don’t Sweat it—I’ve Got Tips

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Stories come in all forms, sizes, moods, and so forth. No two plots are alike. Some are similar. Some differ drastically. Some are short or long. And some are simple or complex.

Of course, each story will depend on audience, trends, and so on. Here, I am going to discuss tips for handling a complex story.

Obviously, your book will be short and sweet and well as very basic if it’s a picture book. As the audience gets older, the stories will lengthen and become more complex. And that doesn’t only apply to writing and plot, but also subplots.

Subplots are secondary storylines in a book that weave into the main plot and they all are important for the tale. If you’re writing for middle-grade children (about 8-11), you may only need one or two subplots at most. If you’re writing for teens (aka the young adult readers) or adults, you might need more subplots. Depending on your skill-level and storyline, up to four subplots might be enough.

However, if you feel you are getting too overwhelmed with subplots or storyline complexity, or readers aren’t receiving the right message you’re trying to communicate, don’t be afraid to remove content that doesn’t add or is not crucial. That includes subplots. Depending on your readers’ ages and levels, you can simplify your plot. If you feel you can’t remove a subplot or two, however, that’s okay. Sometimes, complex material is too important to be scrapped. If it takes you years, especially if you’re just starting out as a writer, don’t worry. Some authors have taken ten or more years to work on a story. One of my works took nearly three years to complete.

Remember, write from your gut as well as what you are passionate about. That is how you will improve and have fun.

Writing

I See My Many Colors Writing Through

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Yup, I enjoy handwriting in different colors. Of course, that’s only if it’s independent work, not assigned. And the first project I experimented with is my novel-in-progress.

I’ve discovered that writing my novel-in-progress in different colors actually makes a difference. It’s easier to distinguish chapters and the events that occur in them.

I also use pens instead of pencils. It keeps me from stopping to erase, dealing with graphite smudges, and fading. I do use whiteout when I make mistakes, though.

I have a pack of pens in various colors from blue to pink to brown. Some are bold, some sparkle, and some shine like metal. It’s really interesting. And no, the shining and sparkling do not distract me.

The only rule for myself is not to use light colors, such as yellow. Like everyone, I was taught this as a child. It’s hard to read, obviously. Need I say more?

I also have to deal with the running out of ink. Unfortunately, the colored pens I have run out quickly. That doesn’t stop me from keeping the multi-colored handwriting, though.

I discovered some colored pens work better than others. Of course, everybody differs. Some hold certain pens better than others. Some prefer pencils over pens. Many people favor typing over handwriting and all black or blue ink instead of different colors.

I do think writing in different colors, either by typing or by hand, is worth trying. I am glad I discovered this method worked for me. It has helped me a lot.

 

short fiction

It’s a Wonderful Week: A Flash Fiction Piece

I wish an alarm would notify me whenever I had to complete a task from my to-do list. I get overwhelmed by all the things I have to do, especially when it’s a lot.

            In about a week, I am moving out to college. It’ll be about three hours north. I’ve already met my roommate. Her name is Sienna. She comes from California.

            I have to buy my supplies, for both my dorm and classes. I also have to pack. My mom suggests two weeks’ worth of clothes. Then she would send me warmer clothing as the weather cooled down.

            I am sitting in my room right now, looking at my high school graduation pictures as well as my eighteenth birthday photos from March. I am going to miss my high school friends and their nickname for me in stage crew “Glitters” rather than my real name, Amanda.

            Freshman orientation will happen for the first three days. Then classes will begin. I’ve heard rumors about college and how scary it might seem, especially for first-years.

            My older brother, Winston, had commuted. He graduated last year, when I completed the eleventh grade. Despite his time living at home and attending college, he wouldn’t talk to me a lot about the experience.

            I close Facebook and turn off my computer. My friend, Lola, also living at home for college, is going to hang out with me in about an hour. I will enjoy the last week here in Connecticut until I bid goodbye to my house.

Writing

Bulleting Your Outline Points

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We all outline our works differently. Some of us use the snowflake method, or index cards, or mind maps. Some folks do not like to plan and writing the story or project as they progress works best for them. However, my method has been different both in the past and now.

For a few years I have used chapter by chapter summaries in Word to outline. Now, though, I discovered a more effective and quick way to get my stories down. And that is bulleting.

I write the chapter number and bullet the events that happen in each chapter. I check them off one at a time as I complete them.

On the flipside, though, it can be time-consuming to get all the chapter bullets for your whole story, depending on its length or complexity. In fact, I have yet to complete the outline bullets for the nearly second half of my story. I am writing the story and outlining simultaneously. In the past I have outlined the entire story before writing. Or sometimes, I have outlined as I went. I have tried being a pantser rather than a plotter. But planning helps me the best. Writing and planning at the same time is not always easy.

On the bright side, it is easier to follow the bulleted outline and not unintentionally change things. There were a few exceptions for me where I either removed or changed bullet points. But generally, I follow the bulleted events better than the summaries.

 

Writing

Hasten Up with Handwriting

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Who says you can only type your work on the computer? Yes, we have programs beyond Word, such as Scrivner. But nothing writes better than the hand if you want to be quicker with your writing process.

When you handwrite, you have no distractions on the Internet or the computer in general. No pop-ups, Facebook notifications, computer crashes, etc. Just you, your notebook or any form of paper, and a pen or pencil.

I actually am writing my current W.I.P with a notebook and pen. I am also using different colors for different chapters. It’s easier to read, believe it or not, as long as you don’t use colors that are too light, like yellow.

I have aimed for 2-3 chapters a day. Some days were less, though, especially if I was busy. Another pitfall is that I wasn’t focused on much else.

So now I am limiting to one or two chapters on the weekend and as much as possible during the week.

I try not to write at home too much. I either go to the library or cafes that are not too noisy and are painted with light colors. Yes, that does make a difference.

The library can be a little better, though. You don’t have to buy anything and it couldn’t be any quieter. With two libraries near my house, you don’t have to be a member to just sit and do work.

After I handwrite the current draft, I am going to type it on the computer.

Writing

Want to Publish a Book? Here’s What I Learned

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We all dream of being published authors with people enjoying our books and getting the same popularity and attention that big authors, such as J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, have received.

However, it is not easy to become just a decently well-known author, even for those like Alice Hoffman or Gail Carson Levine. What I wished I had done before publishing two books (which, unfortunately, are temporarily going off the market), was building a platform. No matter what route you take, whether it’s traditional, hybrid, or self-publishing, you need to establish a fan base before.

Even if you get accepted by a big publishing house (which is extremely difficult), they want to see how many people have heard of you and admire what you do. That excludes people you know personally. Think the publishing house will market your book for you? Think again. These days, regardless of what publishing route you select, you need to market your book on your own.

I self-published my novels without building a platform prior and knowing that children’s self-published books are among the hardest to sell. While I did a free promotion for five days, and got 1662 free downloads during that time, my sales were only around 25 a year, even after the free promotion ended.

I am working on a non-fiction book and am considering hybrid publishing it. Hybrid publishing is a mix of traditional and self-publishing. They accept and reject books, but let you keep some control. They are not all alike though. Some lean toward the commercial method, where if they do accept your story, they have all the control for its production, cover design, title, and even content, and some lean toward self-publishing, where they let the author keep the control, but might not care much about the content, title, or design.

If the non-fiction book is successful after release, then I will re-publish my novels. But having a platform (Facebook fans, Twitter followers, etc.) is absolutely important. I have done a ton of promotion and marketing techniques for my novels. I could go on and on with a list, but everything I have done has gotten me little to nowhere. People don’t usually like to buy books from unknown authors, because they worry about wasting their money. That is why every aspiring writer or any kind of creator needs a platform.

**Update** I have self-published my non-fiction novel through Amazon KDP instead.

Writing

Why You Should Let Inspiration Come Naturally

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We all know what inspiration is and does. A good majority of creative works, whether it’s art, writing, acting, music, or anything else, has some sort of inspiration behind them. Popular sources for inspiration may include life experiences, dreams, other creative works, inventions, and more.

One important thing about inspiration, though, aside from it not being the same as copying, is that it should come to you naturally. That means you should not force something to inspire you for any reason. I’ve tried it so many times, and guess what—it backfired. I got bored with the projects and abandoned them.

Just because you have a goal to complete, whether it was your choice or someone else’s assignment to you, that doesn’t mean you should force something into it that doesn’t feel natural. Unless someone requires you to use something that doesn’t appeal to you, you really should do what works for you, personally.

Not everybody has the same methods of getting inspired, and that is what makes each one of us special and unique. However, just like you wouldn’t force yourself to enjoy something others love, even if it’s incredibly popular by the general public or your friends, you shouldn’t push something to inspire you to complete something. Listen to your (internal) conscience. You will not only complete your projects more quickly, but you will also have more fun than if you push yourself to do something that doesn’t work.

 

Writing

Do I Like These In Fiction? No Way… Too Clichéd!

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If you write prose, you should be aware to avoid clichés, such as “crystal clear” or “a piece of cake”. Readers have seen and heard those phrases so many times they had enough of it. Instead you should change the wording, but still make it clear to your audience. For example instead of saying, “Pearly white,” another cliché, you could say “diamond white”.

Clichés can also be overdone things that happen in any form of fiction, whether written or on screen, like high-pitched singing causing a glass to break.

Here are some clichés I found through fiction, regardless of time of release, genre, or form. And these I have gotten sick of over time.

Before you keep reading, though, here is a disclaimer: All these clichés are my own opinions. You can feel free to disagree with me in the comments. However, please don’t be rude. We all need to respect each other’s opinions. Thanks.

 

1: A cute little girl named Susie

 

I have seen this so many times. At this point, I would consider Susie a default and lazy name for a cute little girl. Maybe an adult woman or teenage girl named Susie wouldn’t bother me as much. Maybe naming a little girl, Susan or Suzanne, would be fine with me, too. But Susie? Why not Michelle? Or Jessica? Or any other girl’s name?

 

2: White Christmases

 

I get that feeling that getting audiences into the Christmas spirit. Christmas falls in the winter in the northern hemisphere. And many people think snow when hearing the word, “winter”.

However, although I’ve lived in a cold climate for most of my life (Long Island, NY), I cannot recall a White Christmas during my life in my home. I don’t think I ever had one. Even before the temperatures changed in recent years, thanks to global warming, it has snowed early December and the following winter months. But never on or around Christmas.

I’m not saying stories set on or around Christmas should follow weather patterns the same as we experience in real life. But can’t there ever be a Christmas tale without snow? There is only one I can think of and that was the Christmas special for “The Wild Thornberries”.

 

3: Surprise Parties

 

Maybe back in the day, people would take little to no part in planning their own parties more often. I could be wrong about that. But today, it is common for people to want to plan their own parties. Of course, Surprise parties still happen a lot. A few of my family members had received surprise parties for anniversaries and birthdays.

However, in fiction, I have seen too many surprise parties, especially in movies and TV shows. In books, I have seen characters who were aware of their parties before they started, even if they didn’t get very involved in the planning. But unless it is absolutely crucial for a character’s party to be a surprise, I would rather they know about their bashes beforehand.

 

4: Fiction Schools Performing “The Wizard of Oz”

 

This is, perhaps, the most annoying cliché for me (no offense to anyone who really likes this). I’m not saying “The Wizard of Oz” is a bad story. It’s a fantastic classic. But too many stories, whether they were written prose, movies, or TV shows, have had their schools perform “The Wizard of Oz”. This has gone from past decades to more recent years.

Like naming a cute little girl, “Susie”, I find having that a fictional school do “The Wizard of Oz” as its play is too overdone. Why not have your fictional school perform a different show, like “Annie”, “The Sound of Music”, “Beauty and the Beast”, etc.? If you’re writing for children, I would understand avoiding schools performing shows that are too mature or inappropriate for kids, like “Anything Goes” (probably fine for Young Adult, though) or “Miss Saigon”. If you’ve already published something where the main character’s school performs “The Wizard of Oz”, that is fine. But for those who haven’t written your dream stories yet, I would suggest picking a different show. But, of course, be mindful of your target audience when selecting a play.

 

Are there any unique clichés in fiction you’ve noticed? Please mention them in the comments below.

Writing

When Child Characters Need to Rely on Adults

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A while back, I have watched a video about developing children’s novel characters. The person in the clip said that the characters have to make their own decisions at all times. She also said that adults should be kept out of the story as much as possible. I’d say, “Yes and no.” It really depends on your story’s setting and plot. If it’s olden times in history, when children were expected to have more independence and it was considered standard and safe during that time, then it make sense to keep adults out. Or if your story is set in another country that has different laws from the US about child safety and restrictions, then being 100% independent can work as well.

However, if your story is set in modern times, and in a country like the US, Canada, UK, etc., depending on your novel plot, it can be harder to keep adults out of the story. Of course, you shouldn’t have your child character ask his or her parents for homework help. But, depending on the kid’s age, they can’t do certain things too independently, otherwise, readers could expect CPS to show up at the character’s home.

Bringing me to the purpose of this post, I am now going to give examples of when a child character needs to rely on an adult.

 

1: Provide family income and shelter

 

This is an obvious one, even if it doesn’t play a role to your story. You cannot have a kid live by him or herself unless your story is set in a very poor place or a very old time, like an ancient civilization. But it’s just not possible.

 

2: Being Driven

 

Unless your character is old enough for a license, he or she is going to need to depend on an adult to drive him or her. That being said, they can still think about their own decisions while in the car or whatever vehicle he or she is in.

 

3: Having certain papers that require parent/guardian signatures

 

From legal documents to school permission slips, a child will need to have an adult sign these types of papers to make the story believable. Unless it’s necessary for your plot to have the kid forge the signature, he or she has to get an adult.

 

4: Being escorted in places forbidding un-accompanied minors

 

With so much security and surveillance today, it would be hard to have a child character go somewhere like what is mentioned above without adult supervision. Of course, this also depends on your setting. But if it’s modern times in a nation like the US, then it would only be believable if the kid is escorted by a grown-up.

 

Other than these exceptions, your child character should make his or her own decisions and be independent. Do you have any examples of when child characters need to depend on adults? Please tell me in the comments below.