A Sort of Introductory Ramble:
I'm borrowing my blog format from K.J. Harrowick because she did it so well! This will be my first Writer in Motion. I'm a NaNoRebel this year, working on edits for my novel and this seemed like a great way to make some new friends and practice one of my new favorite things: writing short stories.
At the Writer's Digest Conference in NYC my friends Wendy Stone, Patricia Powell, and I went to a class titled Selling Short Stories & Flash Fiction with Windy Lynn Harris. Originally, I was just tagging along to be a nuisance to my friends (as I am wont to do) but it ended up being one of the most influential sessions I attended. I bought Windy's book and devoured it, writing my first piece on the plane home. It was written, edited, picked up, and published within two weeks. I highly recommend Windy's book for writing short stories and you can listen to her on my podcast here!
One of my favorite things Windy mentions in her book is about the setting of a story. As my CPs will tell you, I am a SUCKER for description. I live for it. But in short fiction, you don't really get the time/space to describe EVERYTHING, so what you do note needs to serve up a heaping pile of emotion and context. She says this better than me, which is probably why she wrote the book and I didn't.
Basically, everything you do when writing in this short form -- especially if you are a longwinded novelist like me -- needs to pack even more punch. No pressure though.
My first thoughts when looking at this photo were some iteration of "Well I'm screwed". It didn't look like any of the stories tumbling around in my brain and it wasn't dragging anything up from the murky depths of my creative psyche.
K.J.'s blog post this morning went over her ideas and brainstorming process, so I'll confess I borrowed some of those tactics as well. Pinterest is always where I go for story ideas, but I hadn't thought of doing that because I already HAD a picture that I had no idea what to do with. Plus, I knew if I started perusing pins I'd find myself making a new brownie in a mug recipe that only takes 8 seconds to make and has a starburst ribbon or something. NATALIE FOCUS.
So then I broke down the picture as K.J. described. When I step away from seeing the whole, what details stand out to ME. I picked up on a few things: the flare (being lit during the day), the texture of the stone beneath her feet, how seemingly unbothered she appears considering she is hanging off a building and apparently in need of assistance. Girl who cried wolf much?
Anyway, so I ended up on Pinterest and the mug brownie just has m&ms and marshmallows in it. But also, I did finally get some inspiration!
(Actual footage of me borrowing K.J.'s process)
I know you're going to be surprised by this. Surely, I'd be sound of mind enough to SAVE the pictures that inspired me. But as we established in the previous section, I am at best an adorable, starving vermin. Why think things through when you can NOT do that?
So we'll work with some substitutions while the Pinterest algorithm cackles blithely in the background, refreshing evermore.
But before we do that, I found this while trying to locate the originals. It is an important and influential piece I felt I must share.
I'll have you know this is a poor substitution for what I originally saw, but it is no less than I deserve. The story started to grow around a subversion of a familiar fairy tale -- a woman stuck in a tower. But what is she looking down on? And in relation to the prompt photo, why does she look so calm when lighting a flare for help?
WELL maybe it's because she isn't the one in need of help...so who is?
Enter the alternate flare. A photo of people placing lanterns in water during the day, a proposed "life below the tower". Again, but why? What exactly are they seeking help for?
I knew immediately that I didn't want to see the monster. The idea and threat of the monster need to be clearly communicated to MC but she's not on the ground. ENTER FOG. Oh and screaming.
Basically, Fairytale/Fantasy but make it monstrous. Ya dig?
I won't get into too much more detail. Gotta save a little juice for the real deal on Friday. But for now think Rapunzel meets The Fog.
1) Cry for approximately 20 minutes
Not really. It'll be more like an hour.
But in all seriousness, I'll probably use my little buddy the Neo2 to draft the whole thing in one sitting so I don't give myself time to stew and doubt. If I don't see the words, they can't betray me.
Then I'll make another mug brownie to celebrate.
Natalie Lockett is a real estate agent, videographer, and unacclaimed one-on-one comedian you didn't invite to the party.
She's been featured in Bob Eckstein's LitHub piece about the Writer's Digest Conference and her personal essay Rural in the City can be found in Across the Margin.
Natalie is also the producer and host of the podcast Write Away with Natalie Lockett, on which she interviews writers and publishing professionals. When not writing, she can be found running a small marketing company and trying to convince herself to switch to decaf.
Talents include being caught on film laughing in really unflattering ways.