Freddie Award for Writing Excellence (FAWE) deadline extended!

Calling all writers!

Due to the recent hurricanes we’ve experienced nationally, MWA Florida has extended the deadline for our annual writing contest.

If you’re interested in entering the Freddie Award for Writing Excellence (FAWE), the deadline is now November 15. Details are at :¬†http://mwaflorida.org/contest/

Nana’s Teapot

I’ve been sharing recipes and will again. Today I’m sharing my grandmother’s teapot.

Dorothy H. Richardson died January 3, 2017. We called her Nana. She was born in 1914, and Thursday would have been her 103rd birthday. Longevity runs through the maternal line; her mother – my great-grandmother, called Grammie by my generation – died several weeks before she turned 102. They had the usual mother-daughter tensions, and I sometimes thought Nana wanted to live longer than Grammie just to say she had.

She was an avid reader as long as I can remember, and the first Nora Roberts book I read was one of her earliest category romances for Silhouette, borrowed from my grandmother during a visit to my grandparents’ home.

Nana had a way of doing things throughout her life that were givens. Fresh flowers on the table was one of them. My husband made a big impression on her when he met her for the first time, using the best flowers from my aunt’s Christmas arrangement and mixing them with new flowers from the florist to create the centerpiece for dinner. She was struck by several things, not least of which was his ability and willingness to do this.

Age and illness had taken their toll on Nana. She’d been living in an assisted living facility for the past several years after leaving Hospice care. At the time, she and her doctor thought she was close to the end. She entered Hospice, went off all her meds, and got better. The decision to leave was mutual: Hospice had a policy that precluded extended stays, and Nana was getting depressed seeing the friends she made while she lived there dying.

When she turned 100, we surprised her at lunch on her birthday. Both of her children, all five of her grandchildren, and a couple of her great-grandchildren were there, and she Face-Timed with a great-grandchild and her only (at the time) great-great-grandchild. She wasn’t up for a long visit and went back to her room after a short time, overwhelmed by the number of people celebrating what she hadn’t considered to be a big accomplishment.

Fast forward to the week before Christmas 2016. She decided she would leave on her own terms, and made the decision to stop eating. My mother was scheduled to go to New Hampshire January 4, but her brother called the week before to say she needed to come sooner. Mom flew up to NH from the family gathered for the holiday in Jacksonville, Florida. She visited with Nana for a couple of days before the morphine that eased her pain ended conversation. Nana died a short time later.

She liked her tea, and her teapot is below. My mother brought it back from New Hampshire to St. Louis, and gave it to me when I was in St. Louis two weeks ago. Not wanting it to break if I carried it on the airplane, I opted to have FedEx deliver it.

I haven’t used it yet – I know she’s gone, but I feel like the first time I use it will reinforce her absence. For now, I have it on the counter as a reminder of my proper grandmother who sent thank you notes, wore scarves around her neck almost daily, and loved her tea.

Writing Fiction: Ideas Ripped From The Headlines

Writers are often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” Some TV shows, such as Law & Order, have episodes that are ripped from the headlines. What exactly does that mean?

For me, it’s a merging of an idea I had (What if …?) with something I read or hear about. This past weekend, I saw two articles that crystallized a couple of ideas I’ve had in the back of my mind.

Friday: The Vero News is delivered, and the first headline I see says “Accused slayer of Diana Duve fears dying in prison.” I am very familiar with this case, both because it was a local crime and because Diana’s death was one of four within a 24-hour period on the Treasure Coast.

This article, focused on the killer, had a sentence that pissed me off. Taken from videotaped jailhouse visits, he talks about his grief over losing Diana and how much he misses her, and how he fears dying in prison. 

Boo-f***ing-hoo. This is not a case where law enforcement believes he did it but can’t prove it. This is a case where he’s seen on video getting into a cab near the vehicle she was found in. Local law enforcement has indicted him for first degree murder and the death penalty will be pursued. Indian River County is waiting their turn to prosecute him for this crime, because he is currently in jail in Broward County. They have charged him with violation of probation from an aggravated stalking charge, and are looking at possibly a charge for manual strangulation after looking more deeply into his past.

Saturday: People magazine has an article about Timmothy Pitzen, missing since May 2011. His parents dropped him off at school, his mother returned shortly after and took him with her, and several days later she had killed herself and Timmothy had disappeared.The title of the article is “A Mother’s Chilling Vow ‘You Will Never Find Him‘.” 

I read this article, and thought about what the story might be, from both the father’s and the mother’s perspective. 

I’ve been involved with SafeSpace for several years. Domestic violence has been an issue I’ve felt strongly about for 30 years. My experience and knowledge informs how I process everything. Knowing more details about one situation and nothing more than what I read in the article about the other combine in my mind.

Reading these two articles, so closely together, flipped a switch in my imagination. What if … coalesced into a more fully formed story idea, with characters, situations, and a rough plot. I can use the headline, and make up my own story. There might be similarities to the actual stories, but only in the sense that similar crimes have similar circumstances. My characters aren’t any of the real people in these two articles, but constructs to further a story.

Writers get their ideas from everywhere, and nowhere. Ideas are in the ether, and we just need to be open to receiving them.

Post a comment – I’d love to hear what you think.

Screenwriting Tips for Novelists

It’s all about Story.

Whether you are writing for page, stage, or screen, you want to write a compelling story that keeps the reader/viewer enthralled to the end. Screenwriters and novelists can look outside their box to see how the other guys do it, and take some tips and tricks from each other.

As a novelist, I’ve read several books on screenwriting, particularly Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need! by Blake Snyder. He died at a young age, but not before sharing his thoughts on how to write a script that sells. He also showed how to use his Beat Sheets to write a novel.

He breaks down the  three-act structure into smaller, discrete pieces that move the story from inciting incident to satisfying conclusion. He talks about using log lines, high concept, and pitches. If you can distill your story into a log line, a tag line that would go on a movie poster or novel cover, you are well on your way to breaking your story down into the elements that people subconsciously look for.

Alison McMahan is an award-winning filmmaker and award-winning novelist. A member of Mystery Writers of America – Florida Chapter, she spoke at our meeting Saturday, October 17. She talked about “Screenwriting Tricks for Novelists” and gave Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! as one example.

Another was using Chris Soth’s Mini-Movie Method, which essentially breaks down a movie or novel into eight mini-movies, each with their own tension arc.

The takeaway for a novelist is to look at how screenwriters break down their story, and use whatever methods make sense for you to break down your novel. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by thinking of a 50,000 word Act II, and not knowing exactly what to write. Utilizing screenwriters methods can break that huge task into smaller, easier to digest chunks that when outlined are a road map to completion.