Why Every Writer Should Write Microfiction

880407114a47afbcd534263797277b39One of my personal favorite types of stories to write is microfiction. Not only are the little buggers challenging to construct, an excellent substitute for free writing and decent stress relief, they’re also lots of fun, especially when several writers are working off the same prompt. Despite not having a universally established word count, you’ve probably tried your hand at microfiction at least once. But if you’re anything like me, you tend to forget these short shorts exist. It’s kind of a hazard of writing fantasy. When we sit down to tell a story, we’re having to build everything from the ground up, to explain not only our characters and what’s happening but their environment and sometimes its history too, and that simply takes a longer story.

Today I want to make a case for not only keeping the art of microfiction in your repertoire, but also utilizing it frequently. First though, because there isn’t a well established way to identify the word count associated with each name (which includes flash fiction, sudden fiction, postcard fiction and short short stories), here’s how I break it down:

Microfiction – less than one typed page in Times New Roman 12 point font

100 word shorts – literally 100 words or less, not including the title

Short shorts – two pages or less, in the same formatting as microfiction

Short story – anything over a short short, but smaller than a novella (which is usually between 17,000 and 40,000 words) Continue reading

WorldBuilding: Writing Brilliant Mythology

A depiction of Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt, the moon and childbirth

A depiction of Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt, the moon and childbirth

Mythology as we know it has a couple of different components. Primarily, mythology conjures scenes gods and goddesses in resplendent elegance or fierce battle. Every society to have ever existed has acknowledged powers greater than themselves: things like light and dark, flood and drought and the changing of the seasons. It’s easy for us today to see how placing these things within spirits that resembled human beings was a way to make sense of a chaotic and often dangerous world and to make someone or something other than ourselves accountable for life’s difficulties and blessings.

The second part of mythology is the stories of human or semi-divine heroes: men and women who went to the extremes of human existence and thereby highlighted the peaks of what we are likely to experience in our own lives. Things such as sadness at illness, grief in the face of death, love and all of its many strings and the need to fight for our own space in the larger world are all taken to almost super-human ends to demonstrate hope and courage. Continue reading

How to Write Grieving Characters

Putting grief into words is futile. And trying to do so would bankrupt the vocabulary of all languages. -Mark Twain

20150922_085247Grief is a heavy and relatively ever-present part of life. Just as surely as we are born, we have to die too. While it’s true you and I, by virtue of sitting here, are still alive, we’ve all had to say goodbye to someone, and regardless of how deeply felt that loss might have been, grief changes who we are on a fundamental level. It makes us question our existence, how we function on a daily basis and what we really want for the short time left to us.

Characters dealing with a recent loss is not generally something you read in the scope of fiction, where there’s a plot to get about. And it stands to reason; it’s hard to write about things for which our languages all fall short, and that much intense emotion tends to overtake the other plot elements. Don’t get me wrong: getting grief to play along with the other plot elements can be done, it just takes a lot of finesse and careful respect.

Here are seven things to keep in mind when creating a character in grief:

Don’t create grief lightly – It’s like creating a character death – it can’t just be a plot point, and it has to be earned through the storytelling. A character who has recently experienced a loss is going to have grief at the forefront, and it’s probably going to be unwieldy to work with because of how poisoning and unreasonable it can be. If you need a loss to play more subtly into the character, consider putting some time between your story’s present and the death. Continue reading

Unfinished Nursery

20150813_125542Her nursery is unfinished. It’s been this way for quite a while.  I can’t bring myself to change it because it is supposed to be so different now. And if I cannot have what it was supposed to be, I don’t want it to be anything else.

Her nursery is bare. The hardwood floor is unadorned by the nursery rug I wanted, and the walls are only painted one color. The wall shelves were never bought, the books we wanted to read her are still only on our wish list. Her clothes are hanging and folded, most unwashed and tags still on. The receipts are in a box, kept in case we needed to return anything, and I think now I should throw them away. I chose a rocking chair. The baby registry is still open.

My child’s crib is empty. It’s there, in one corner. There are no sheets or pads. The mattress is still in plastic wrap. The dolls I made for her are there, collecting dust and cat hair. Her empty baby book lies there too: Here was a baby who should have lived.

My child’s grave seems lonely, and when I visit I wonder how many people try to pry their dead loved ones from their resting, to hold them just one more time. I sit at her grave the same way I sit in her nursery. I think and I remember. I grieve and I wish.
Her nursery is my silent hell. It echoes with the crying of an infant only I can hear. It screams at me to fill it with love and light and laughter, telling me of how I have failed. Someday, I think, things will be different, even though now I am so broken that I do not wish to be put back together. Someday, I might have a living child. But for right now, her nursery is unfinished.

WorldBuilding: Crafting Magic

“He will hear my call a mile away. He will whistle my favorite song. He can ride a pony backwards, he can flip pancakes in the air, he will be marvelously kind and his favorite shape will be a star. And he’ll have one green eye and one blue.”

“I thought you never wanted to fall in love.”

“That’s the point. The guy I dreamed up doesn’t exist. And if he doesn’t exist, I’ll never die of a broken heart.”

-excerpt from Practical Magic (1998)

20150701_142420Fantasy is virtually synonymous with magic, all the way from fireball wielding sorcerers to dragons to simple elemental manipulations. It is in our epic tales, slaying wicked villains, enabling bold heroes, creating social divides and protective wards alike. Given how varied in trait and definition “magic” can be, you’d be hard pressed to find a fantasy story that doesn’t touch on the mystical stuff, even if only to say that it used to be a prevalent force.

Writing magic is a lot like writing dragons – it tantalizes and entrances and stalwart fantasy readers love a good magically-enabled tale. And like writing dragons, it’s incredibly easy to mess up. Magic is not and should not be this… um, well… magical solution to everything that goes wrong in your plotline. It shouldn’t be an all powerful thing with no rules, no limitations and no price tags. It’s like everything else you write into your stories; it needs ground rules. They’re just ground rules you can write for yourself.

Consider these when you begin writing a magic-based story:

Continue reading


Anyone who has checked out in Invisible Ink recently will quickly discover that I am a baby loss mother. We passed what would have been my daughter’s first birthday recently, and like anyone grieving can tell you, it’s hard. You’re living in this constant duality: the you who functions (albeit differently than before) and the you that’s always screaming inside your head. Baby loss parents master this internal conflict very quickly because we have to cut down on the casualties of grieving. It’s soul-shattering, bone-weary exhausting, and there are days when you wish you could just die from a broken heart.

But every once in a while, you encounter something heart-warmingly bittersweet that convinces you to keep moving forward. Yesterday morning I went outside to water the garden and found something that brought me to tears: daisies. Being the flower of April, it’s a flower we’ve associated with our Eevee since the day we laid her to rest; I’m growing my own right now, and when we sent out memorial cards on her day we included daisy seeds so that our friends and family could watch their flowers grow and be reminded of how beautiful life is.

The thing is though…there have never been daisies in this spot, they weren’t there the day before and I didn’t plant them. I know logically speaking they were probably carried into the yard by the wind or an animal, but it’s more comforting to think it’s her saying hi from her plane of existence. And if a little illusion offers a grieving woman some small measure of comfort, who can find fault in that?

On Fan Fictions

Over the past weekend I happened to be reminded of the existence of some of my early short story and novella writing attempts. As I poked around my profiles on FanFiction.net and Fictionpress.com two things were apparent: I’ve improved drastically in my writing ability and style, and… who writes fanfics anymore?

Okay, okay, clearly it’s more a rhetorical question than anything. Of course there are still dozens of fanfics being written every day, and with the um…*cringes* I can’t say “success” but, um… how about curiosity around 50 Shades, it’s clear that even something based on someone else’s ideas and structure can have real world merit in its potential for marketing and making money. But that lovely little series notwithstanding, it’s largely teenagers and avid fans writing fanfics, right?

So I want to know… what do you guys think of fanfics? Did you write them as a teen? Are you still writing them?