The Short Story by JM Paquette

Another story! This one is for Carlos Hoegg.

Stories My Friends Started

For Carlos Hoegg–

“It was a dark and stormy night……sigh.”

Lieutenant John Baker put the paper down, took off his glasses, and rubbed his eyes. His wife had insisted that teaching the creative writing class on Thursday nights was a great idea. He would get to interact with people who weren’t soldiers. He would get to talk about the written word again. He would rekindle the passion he had back in college, before the draft, before the war, before the world had gone crazy.

She hadn’t mentioned that he would have to plod his way through drivel that he would have been embarrassed to write back in middle school.

He sniffed, putting his glasses back on, determined to get through the stack of stories before him. They weren’t all bad. Some were actually quite good–inventive characters, clever dialogue, snappy pacing–all the things his degree had insisted were important when crafting…

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Some stories have been written by me.

A very long time ago…

inside this very galaxy….

I promised to write stories using the first lines supplied by my friends.

And I have. This one was from my old friend Bob Poore:

https://storiesmyfriendsstarted.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/of-goats-and-witches-by-jm-paquette/

And this one was from a sentence supplied by Austin Collins:

https://storiesmyfriendsstarted.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/marks-by-jm-paquette/

See? Writing (and in passive voice of course)!

…and I’m back!

Yes, it is completely normal for a writer to take a year hiatus from posting on a blog. Totally normal, I assure you. Grin.

Or maybe I got caught up in the swell of schoolwork, and even now am barely fending off the wave of student essays demanding the attention of my not-red pen. There’s this thing called tenure, and it does ask me to do some things.

Then again, maybe that’s just me being lazy and spouting excuses–like one of my students.

Ok then, writer. Write something.

Writing Advice from Terry Brooks

I just read Sometimes the Magic Works by Terry Brooks. He has some rules and advice that I thought were worth repeating:

#1: Write what you know.

#2: Your characters must behave in a believable fashion.

#3: A protagonist must be challenged by a conflict that requires resolution.

#4: Movement equals growth; growth equals change; without change, nothing happens.

#5: The strength of the protagonist is measured by the threat of the antagonist.

#6: Show, don’t tell.

#7: Avoid the grocery list approach to describing characters.

#8: Characters must always be in a story for a reason.

#9: Names are important.

#10: Don’t bore the reader.

–(pp. 113-134)

And then his “Final Thoughts”:

“Three character traits are essential–determination, instinct, and passion. Each has a place in a writer’s life; each acts as a a balance for the others. Determination teaches a writer to be patient; without it, commitment quickly fades. Instinct tells a writer which fork in the road to take; without it, as many wrong turns are taken as right. Passion imbues a writer with fearlessness; without it, no chances are ever taken. None of the three can be taught; all are a gift of genetics and early life experience.

There is a poetry in fiction. If you cannot see it and feel it when you write, you need to step back and examine what you are doing wrong. If you have not figured out how to write a simple declarative sentence and make it sing with that poetry, you are not yet ready to write an entire book.

If you do not hear music in your words, you have put too much thought into your writing and not enough heart.

If you do not ever wonder what happened to your characters after you stopped writing about them, you did not care enough about them in the first place and do not deserve to know.

If you think that by having published you will become a happier person, you are mistaken. If you think that the finished book is of greater value than what you learned from the writing process, you are mistaken yet again. If you think the acquisition of money and fame is the most important reason for writing and publishing, you need an attitude adjustment.

If you do not proof your work sufficiently, both as to content and grammar, you must not count on anyone else doing the job for you. You have a better chance of winning the Pulitzer.

If you are ever completely satisfied with something you have written, you are setting your sights too low. But if you can’t let go of your material even after you have done the best that you can with it, you are setting your sights too high.

If you do not love what you do, if you are not appropriately grateful for the chance to create something magical each time you sit down at the computer or with pencil and paper in hand, somewhere along the line your writing will betray you.

If you don’t think there is magic in writing, you probably won’t write anything magical.

If anything in your life is more important than writing–anything at all–you should walk away now while you still can. Forewarned is forearmed.

For those who cannot or will not walk away, you need only remember this.

Writing is life. Breathe deeply of it.”

–From Sometimes the Magic Works (p. 195-197)

 

Flight, Mental, & Cleft

Five minute story exercise using the three randomly chosen words above:

The flight seemed so boring, so ordinary, until the man who was supposed to be adjusting the tether to the right looked at his companion, opened his mouth as if to speak, and then fell face first to the deck. His hand held the lines in a death grip, and when he fell, he jerked the wing hard to the right, though Selma’s calculating brain insisted stupidly that it would be the starboard side, since they still used nautical terms even on these flying transports, even as she latched on to the railing at her side. The entire wooden structure veered sideways, slinging passengers and crew to the now vertical floor–and the unlucky few who happened to be looking over the starboard side when the bird turned flew into the open space where the railing used to be. Selma couldn’t even hear their screams as they fell to the earth. They were still moving forward so fast, there wasn’t even a way to turn this thing around before those people landed.

I knew I should have taken the boat, Selma thought, mentally smacking herself because she had known that nothing good could ever come from people riding on the back of giant beasts, no matter what the wizards said. Cheaper and safer, my ass, she thought miserably, clinging to the railing. Her hand started to slide as the ship jerked hard again, the bird knowing enough of physics to try to stabilize itself before it too plumetted to the ground, and she tightened her grip. Staring down between her dangling feet, what had seemed a solid and safe platform now just a wall to her right, she took in the empty space below, and then glanced up, rolling her eyes as she saw the mountains that lay ahead, the cleft path between their peaks way too far to the left as they zoomed towards the cliffs.

Selma winced. Why didn’t I just take the boat?

Greetings and Salutations!

And so it happened…

One day I decided that if I am going to keep writing cheesy fantasy novels, then I should probably get someone to publish them. And in today’s world of online magic, that means I need an online presence so that people can find me.

So, here I am. Hand raised high. Present!

Is this thing on? Taps screen.