Thursday, March 29, 2012

Finishing The Visitor short story

Anton Chekhov - St. Peter's Day
Anton Chekhov - St. Peter's Day (Photo credit: literaturarussa)
Update 6/13/12_Most recent draft will be on Opinari Short Story blog soon (last updated 4-22-13).

I dropped the pen name for this story.
I underestimated the short story craft in the past.The short story remains one of the most challenging genres for this writer.

Chekhov is a beloved Russian writer. He mastered and set a standard for the short story. It's worth the time to read one or two of his stories, at the least. Read more of Chekhov's stories (they appear in English and other languages other than Russian) and learn more.  

    I hope for comments because I think I should listen to voices of short story writing experience.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mystery Puzzle Development: THE VISITOR short story_Part II

This image shows the family tree of Noami, the...
This image shows the family tree of Noami, the narrator of Joy Kogawa's novel "Obasan". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Is the visitor mad (mentally unsettled)? Is the visitor correct? Is the narrator unsettled in her mind? Is the daughter imaginary? That last question the reader knows the answer for (as of Part II): the daughter (or not?) is a real person, a highly respected surgeon at a leading hospital and well-known as a teacher/public speaker as well. 
     How did this story begin to develop? Its opening scene just showed up, Part I.
Part II of The Visitor is now on-line. The Visitor comes into the narrator's home again and is, still, "unchanged." The fact that the visitor accepts an unlikely invitation to dinner (E's idea) fails to indicate to the narrator the change she feels she must see and believe. Yes, the visitor sits at the dining table; she meets and eats with the narrator and her two sons and their families; and she sees the family "hall of fame," as one son calls it, without comment.  

This time the visitor shows no sign of insistence that E is not the narrator's daughter, as she did the first time she came to the door, almost a stranger. And, there is no evidence that she holds it against the narrator that, on her second visit, she was not invited into the home again. 

However, her presence at dinner this time, in the home, does not include any acknowledgment that Elizabeth, known as E by her family and a prominent neurosurgeon, is truly the narrator's daughter, as the narrator claims. Accepting E's family identity is the change that the narrator is looking for in the visitor. 

I have wanted from the beginning to form a puzzle, like a little mystery, in this short story. Whether or not the mystery hides something highly or slightly significant is not yet clear. Two hints appear with Part II. One is visual and the other sits in the text. What will it take to solve the puzzle in the reader's mind? Perhaps Part III, not yet titled, will provide the answer. To solve the puzzle, the key question is about identity regarding one, single attribute. I wonder if any reader has guessed what that is. And why are we not told the narrator's or the visitor's names?

Alec Powers (c) 2012 - "I find the term 'psychological speculation' useful ..." (see When Nights Were Cold, below)

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pen Names and When to Admit Them

Holding a Ruling Pen.
a ruling pen_Image via Wikipedia
In the middle of writing the draft for the second blog installment of a short story effort called The Visitor,  it's time to mention that Alec Powers is a pen name.

Mark Twain, one of the most familiar pen names, may have been writing for quite a while before he owned up to being Samuel Clemens. Would we prefer that he had used his real name? I doubt it. 

Alec Powers is the second pen name I have used. Jane Bullard was the first, for Not All Roads Lead Home. I have written a few times about why I chose to write my first book as Jane, not publicizing that it was I who was the author. Using a pen name does not require giving the writer's real name

In this age when many authors do not use pens, but choose word processing, where are the pens involved most of the time? I miss the images of the inkwell and sharpened feather quills, the latter of which inspired pen name as a way to describe a writing name.

Who is surprised to remember that one of my favorite books is Gap Creek written by a man in a woman's voice. When I first read it, I wondered if Robert Morgan  was a pen name for a female author, but it does not appear to be so. He so effectively expressed the speech and patterns of a woman and a woman living in a remote area in the southern U.S.

I'll write more on this blog as I continue to practice the short story, for me a new genre and one of the most challenging.   

(c) 2012 by Author Support blog and Jean, Jane, and Alec

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Saturday, March 10, 2012


English: South facade of Church of Saint Simeo...
Image via Wikipedia-Syria, Church of St. Simeon Stylites

We do not have to form political or military opinions about what should be done by other nations as Syrians fight each other now. A harsh ruler uses military action against Syrian citizens, deliberately trying to end opposition by hitting the weakest in that country--women, children, the old. Almost anyone going outside, into the streets for any reason, reports have said, is in danger of being targeted. Fear reigns on all sides. One of many questions about the future is might a religious state arise that would not tolerate other religions?

Reports from Syria show photos and that is all we have to go on. We hear the numbers mounting, of people killed and wounded, of hospital shortages...not just of materiel and doctors but of hospital buildings. Basics of healing care in a modern age are stretched or lacking.

Given the military actions of the U. S. in Afghanistan after 9/11 and in Iraq, based on questionable reports of chemicals for warfare, and then Libya, Americans are skeptical about getting involved in Syria on the ground or in the air. Discussions and debates continue about whether or not arms should be sent to help the citizen opposition. How can we so far away reliably gauge the issues involved in this long-running strife that has recently re-flared. It is about freedom? Is it about politics? Is it about religion? What are the stakes according to both sides?  

Leaders of the country have defected. We have heard of two at least. Some of the Syrian military have done the same, according to some reports.

You probably know all of this and more than I know or could tell. I'm just remembering what I've heard reported over the past weeks. What can you and I do other than think, pay attention, and pray? That last one, prayer, is the one with the most power by far. We pray not only for better days soon in Syria. We pray also for lives to be saved, for families not to mourn more losses or annihilation. It is not our country. The world does not belong to any one nation or assembly of nations. We who value freedoms, however, long to see everyone free of war.

Remembering Sudanese people also in our prayers, we know that little help went to those on South Sudan who were being killed, run out, and the lives dismantled. We know that no one urged military action to help them, to intervene. As usual, thanks be to God, helping agencies got into Sudan as now they seek to get in and stay inside Syria. We can pray for them too.

We can pray for humanitarian workers who have colleagues nearby, for those who get cut off from their groups, or those who deliberately volunteer to serve alone. I once met a young woman at a church service when living in Geneva, Switzerland. She sat with my husband and me, and after the service she and I struck up a conversation. She was a westerner working with an aid organization in Chechnya, yet she was all alone, posted in an especially dangerous and isolated area. As a trained nurse and as a Christian, she had skills and hope to offer.

We can pray for people helped by such individuals and groups...trying to get into difficult places at war right now. We can do that much and that is a lot, considering the power of the One to whom we pray:

Lord, we thank You for hearing our prayers when we cry to You. We cannot claim any good on our own, and we rely upon Your goodness. We pray for Bashar al-Assad of Syria, that his cruelties will end. We pray for the oppressed and endangered, that they may escape the evils coming upon them. We pray for those who are trying to get food and medical supplies where they are most needed, and for people in Turkey and elsewhere offering haven to those who escape. We pray for those who apply healing care to others. We pray for all Christians in Syria, whatever their walks of life, that You will strengthen their hope and faith according to Your Word. May they comfort many, Lord, and their faith and strength be increased, their wisdom amazingly effective to help, protect, and shield, as well as to find ways of escape for their loved ones, neighbors, and themselves. In the name of Jesus we pray to You, that this war end soon in the best outcome possible. Amen.  

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Short Story-Developing part two: The Visitor Returns, Unchanged

Nederlands: Het Short Story bushokje op transf...
Image via Wikipedia

Alec Powers

The process underway is my first short story, about a main character who is a woman. I am working to get her "voice" just right. She is the one who entertains the visitor in the first installment of this effort to create a mystery of murder, no thefts, no kidnappings or ... threats?

The Visitor's main character had an older friend years ago whose granddaughter suddenly shows up at her front door. The woman opens the protective glass storm-door and invites the visitor inside her home. Before long the visitor becomes vehement and somewhat scary. At the least, she seems very strange as she insists that the woman's oldest child, a daughter, is NOT her daughter. The title for part one is now The Visitor: Atheism or Mystery. Original title was The Visitor: Atheism and its Effects. Working title for part two, underway now, is The Visitor Returns, Unchanged. 

Is the visitor mad (or, at least mentally unsettled)? Is the visitor correct? Is the woman a bit unsettled in her mind? Is the daughter imaginary? That last question the reader knows the answer for: the daughter (or not?) is a real person, a highly respected surgeon at a leading hospital and well-known as a teacher/public speaker as well.

How did this story begin to develop? Its opening scene just showed up. Might it be introduced into another story underway now but not yet posted anywhere? Might it fit into Lillie/Lyly's story? No idea...yet.

First challenge then is to learn how to write a short story as I go along, knowing the basics of fiction writing, having written a true story as true, yet in fiction style. That one was in first-person narrative. This one is also, and other characters will speak through her as she hears them and relates to them. Especially her oldest child of five, a daughter (?).

Copyright 2012 by Author Support blog for Alec Powers 
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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Story-Writing_Getting Started on The Visitor

by Alec Powers

A few days ago, I finished the opening parts of The Visitor, a short story for Opinari Writers blog. After I promised a second installment, I began to work on it, continuing to write in the voice of an older woman.

The story has an outline. I have main characters, contexts, motivations, story-line, and a mystery behind the bizarre behavior of the visitor. 

Now the challenge takes me toward readers while leaving them in the dark, putting some facts in the light of day. I do not intend to make solving the case too easy.

The main challenges of telling every story, whatever it's about, is building interest and suspense. It turns out that my story involves the Islands, England, Nordic heritage, to mention a few, but the location of the interactions does not change much.

For The Visitor, I don't intend to need shelves of research books. There will be some, but not intensive. I don't want to bog down in details. For now I've committed myself and will go forward.

You likely know what makes a story keep you glued to the pages if the subject can grab you.

Good-bye for now.  

Copyright 2012 by Alec Powers 
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