These past weeks, my writing students are exploring the sci-fi genre. At first, they were skeptical. Why sci-fi? Why not fantasy or romance or horror?
Because I'm the teacher, and I want to learn more about writing science fiction. I've never written anything in this genre. While my list of favorite movies includes more sci-fi than not, I don't read the genre nor do I right it.
Time for a change.
This has been my game plan so far:
1. Learn about the Moon. We spent a few weeks looking at images, reading poems, watching historical footage, and writing about our lunar satellite. We kept watch of the moon in the sky, and we reported back on what we were doing when we saw it, or what we thought it looked like up there. We created a list of facts and myths.
2. We watched Pixar's La Luna. This animated short helped students understand the basic elements needed to tell a story. Plus, the Moon.
2. We practiced writing sprints. Students wrote for five to eight minutes on Asteroids hitting earth, something coming around the corner, and what it would be like to be on the moon.
3. We remembered stuff. Students made a list of ten things they remember. For these writers, that's about one item a year since age two or three. Next, we chose one memory and wrote as much about it as we could remember.
4. We watched a montage of great sci-fi flicks and recorded the science-y piece in each. Movies included: Terminator, Jurassic Park, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. From these films, we created weird things found in sci-fi.
Here's a few on our list:
-humans acting like machines
-machines acting like humans
-humans with animal qualities
-animals with human qualities
-robots, computers, and cyborgs, oh my
-altered retellings of historical events
5. Now we are taking our memory and adding something from this list.
I write with my students, so I am also developing a sci-fi short story. Hopefully, when we finish--in about six weeks--I will post their stories here.
I am having a blast developing my story, and it's easier than I thought. After all, science fiction is simply a real story with a little bit of science to take it in a whole new direction. Like I tell my students, tell your story about when you fell off your bike, then ask yourself, "what if..."
What if ... the bike started talking because it was an alien ... your wounds healed automatically because of the bike grease ... your bike could take you through a time portal ...
Once you start with the what if's, there's no telling where your story will go.
Do you write science fiction? How do you get started?
That's my story.
Sitting in front of my laptop, day in and day out, tunneling inside my head to find the very last bread crumbs of creativity, I often wonder what I'm doing.
The short answer is: writing.
The long answer is much more complicated.
Telling a story is not easy. It's more than having an idea and some characters and a setting. There are layers. The idea needs to be complex, a conflict that branches off onto another path. The characters must be rich and flawed but believable. The setting requires details--but not too many--and imagery. It must all come alive before the reader's eyes and live within the reader's imagination.
Storytelling calls for all of this plus heart and movement.
Read all of the books you can on writing; study great writers; practice, practice, practice. It will still be hard.
No one said it would be easy.
Don't give up. Give in, and write. Every. Day. Every. Moment.
You are never not a writer. Even when you are doing the other mundane chores that humans must do, even then you are a writer. Writers must take out the trash, wash dishes, pee, buy eggs, carpool the soccer team, shop for new underwear.
You are human. Live your life, but always live it as a writer. Everything you do requires you to be on the alert for the next great line, quirky character, unusual plot, or brilliant setting.
This is not a pep talk, this is a shoulder hug, a you-can-do-it-stop-complaining self-talk, a remember-why talk. Don't write because you want to, write because if you don't, you would die, life would evaporate before your eyes, and you would disintegrate into a pile of dust to be swept under a rug.
Writing is the fire that burns inside me. I write for me. I write because I must.
That is my story. What's yours?
Every night before I sleep, I pray to the grammar gods to grant me one more inch of knowledge. No matter how many times I look up a rule in STRUNK & WHITE or THE CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE, I can't retain it.
Even though I call myself a writer, I sit and wait for someone to knock on my door and say, "The gig's up, lady. If you don't know the difference between lie and lay, get out of the game!"
So far, no one has shown up. This leads me to the conclusion that writers don't need to be lords or ladies of the Oxford comma or champions of the ellipsis.
Hi, my name is Ellen and I misuse grammar.
Lucky for me--and the rest of you!--there is the internet.
Today, we will practice with my favorites: homonyms.
First, it helps to know this:
The prefix homo- means "one and the same."
The root graph means "word or story."
The root nym means "name or word."
The root phone means "sound."
HOMOGRAPH: each of two or more words having the same spelling but different meanings (lead the parade/lead pipe; fly away fly).
HOMOPHONE: each of two or more words pronounced the same but having different spellings or meanings (new/knew; red/read).
Both of these types of words are known as homonyms because they share something the same--spelling or pronunciation.
Fun with homographs:
You can bank on me putting this money in the bank.
He refused to back the horse with the broken back.
A tear rolled down her cheek after seeing the tear in her wedding gown.
Have your own fun with these: digest, type, match
Fun with homophones:
John won one rose for his sweetheart.
She stared into the sun as her son flew his kite.
"Wait!" she cried. "I don't want to see my weight today."
Try your fun with these: cell/sell; tea/tee; bare/bear
It's pretty near impossible to know how to use every word in the English language. Give yourself a break. Write because you love to write and let the Internet and grammar gods help you with the rest.
You are a fantastic writer because you can tell a story, not because you know the proper use of bare .
What are your grammar gripes? Let's talk.