Human Illumination – Writing Exercise

This post is approximately 450 words. Just a little something I wrote to see if I could capture my ideas.

In the city, there are lights to illuminate you

A thousand, a million

They cast you in their glows.

Others see you; you see yourself:

A combination of flaws and perfection,

Truths, and the lies that we tell ourselves,

That others interpret.

And while some lights go out, they are but few.

There are always more.

The darkness that falls upon you is scant,

If you are ever shadowed at all.

People never see themselves by the light of a single source.

And they never truly disappear;

Though perhaps they are never truly seen.

In the country, where there are fewer lights

A handful, a dozen,

Few and far between.

Defined as much by the darkness between them,

As by their shine.

Each precious in its illumination,

Though less stark in contrast,

And we all are deemed the same

In the same light

A single one extinguished has a meaningful impact

In what people see; how people see you.

You might lose yourself in the night,

Or reveal only those parts of yourself you wish didn’t exist.

And yet, when there is naught but darkness around you

You can see the brighter universe.

Take comfort knowing that light can never be extinguished,

And you will never truly disappear into the black,

Though it remains a reminder

That there are never enough stars to conquer the night.

 

Closer still, the horizon glow:

A welcome promise of light still existing.

Few or many, free to embrace.

They will shine upon us,

And we will be grateful to be seen,

Even if we do not always accept what we show.

This sprang up from the simple idea of using lights as a metaphor for people. We often see ourselves differently because of others. We might be surrounded by people, yet alone. The loss of people in your life could be more impactful, depending on where you live.

As a person who’s lived in rural America and her suburbs, I’ve experienced many of the things described above. If I may be so bold, read the text again and see if you recognize similar events in your own life.

The purpose of this post is not about wowing you with artistic imagery or showing off my poetry skills, diminutive as they are. I’m sure similar things have been created before. It’s an example of what can be done in about thirty minutes (including some minor editing and re-organization). Thirty minutes to exercise your writing brain. We all have time for that.

–Mike

PS: Click for more examples of writing exercises

 


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© Michael Wallevand, August 2019

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Writing Exercise #8 – Whimsical Horror

This is post is approximately 650 words, many of them silly nonsense, but limned with a sinister tone, I hope.

I like fun and I like whimsy, and I like them mixed with horror. In the appropriate proportions, of course. Without the proper balance, a story is either too dark or too goofy. It’s something I’m managing in certain parts of my current manuscript.

I think this penchant comes from fairy tales I read in childhood. They’re cautionary stories, of course: stay in bed, eat your peas, don’t lie! They all promise horrible fates to children who fail in some regard. Take Little Red Riding Hood, who was devoured by a slavering wolf before a woodcutter sliced open the beast’s belly to free her.

In deliberate contrast to the horrors of the story, the pages often featured colorful illustrations of cherubic tots venturing obliviously into danger. After a few similar stories, we all knew something bad was coming, despite the innocence of the art. And we loved it. As kids, we were practically watching them through half-covered eyes, gleefully anticipating their demise as we imagined their chubby little legs carrying them toward certain doom.  Continue reading

Wonder – Discovery – Adventure

I started this post in June, but set it aside as part of the writing break I described in my last post. The title comes from three words I wrote as they came to me. Behind my office desk, I might refer to them as ‘guiding principles’ or ‘fundamental values’. But we’re talking about writing today, so no stuffy corporate phrases allowed!

macbook pro beside white cup and saucer on table

Here’s what they really are. They are the heart of Tildy’s character, and therefore, the heart of her story. Of all the words in the English language that I could use to describe her, these three are all I need. Everything I have written so far – and everything I will write – needs to convey this or I haven’t adequately transported the reader.

The amount of thought writers put into their works might surprise people. Using a scientific measuring tool known as ‘my gut’, I’d estimate nearly half of my time is spent thinking about the story. Yeah, it’s not all butt-in-chair, typing away like a half-crazed hermit. Whether I’m walking in to work, driving, or waiting in line for coffee, I’m thinking about where the story is going. What happens beyond the first book? Am I doing my female protagonist justice? Is it marketable? There are myriad questions, and if a writer isn’t focused, it’s easy to deviate the story too far from your original intent.

Continue reading

Celtic Christmas Poem

When I read ancient tales like Beowulf or the Odyssey, I like to consider the challenges faced by translators. It’s not simply replacing one word for another; in some cases, it’s also preserving the rhythm, often at the expense of what we’d consider ‘standard grammar’. Rhythm is a critical component of memorization, which was essential for stories that passed from mouth to ear, rather than by written page.

I kept that in mind when I wrote this poem in 2005. I put myself in the mindset of a translator struggling to capture the flow of some ancient chant. To me, it’s a combination of science and art, with the latter given preference. You’ll hear similar things in modern music, when the lyricist chooses rhythm over the rules taught in high school English.

Without further preface, my Celtic Christmas poem:


Come, my dear friends and do hearken
And sit by my fire for awhile.
For I am about to regale you
Of the Scourge of the Emerald Isle. Continue reading

Shine a flashlight in the dark

This post is approximately 550 words and deals with the topic of sexual assault. This isn’t some lame attempt to drive traffic to my blog by tapping into a popular social movement. That’s why I’m not using the hashtag or any other tactic to increase the visibility of the post. It’s just me, writing about something I care about, which is the entire point of this website.

On Monday, a Facebook friend boldly stated that she had not and would not participate in the “me too” movement. She meant to say that, sometimes, people don’t realize that their words qualify as harassment, and that without specific examples, we can’t correct them. But she also said, “just telling people you’ve been victimized doesn’t raise awareness.”

I disagreed.

And I think she missed the point. This movement isn’t simply about wolf whistles and “c’mere, honey”, though that’s part of it. My response received positive feedback, and so I share it here because I’m proud of what I wrote (lightly edited for this platform).


I write this as a man, and as a person who has never been sexually assaulted.

My opinion is based on women who have confided in me. Like the drunk woman who woke up naked with a man on top of her. Or the woman who lied about being on her period to avoid rape. Or the woman who kept silent for more than 20 years because she knew no one would believe her. Or the woman who blamed the rape on herself because she had a reputation for being easy.

Much like a crowd shining flashlights in the dark, this movement shows people they are not alone. That there are far more people than we ever thought. To show that such a thing might have hurt a person, but they did not let it defeat them.

I particularly disagree with the statement “we all know basically every woman has experienced” this. Regardless of whether “we all know”, the complacency of that argument is part of the problem. We still live in a culture where men and women blame rape on a woman’s attire. Or her job. Or because she is subservient to men. People dismiss “grabbing her by the p****” as locker room talk because his political affiliation says (R), when they’d give a (D) holy hell for saying the same thing.

However, this movement isn’t targeting the small-minded people, not really, because they will never change their minds. Nor is it seeking the blessing of the enlightened. I think there are many people who really aren’t aware of the size of this problem, and for that, I applaud the momentum behind this movement.

I also disagree that writing out the specifics on Facebook is a better approach. We should believe that people have been attacked without having to read the sensational details. There are myriad reasons victims don’t come forward, but recounting the attack shouldn’t be the price for my sympathy or belief.

I would have believed my friends if they had simply said, “Me too.”


It’s only a Facebook comment, and not intended to be high literature. But I believe in writing things that are important, things that connect people, and things that can make the world a better place.

I know you do, too.

–Mike


© Michael Wallevand, October 2017

Writing Your Goodbyes To A Colleague

This post is approximately 600 words.

In most of the jobs I’ve had, when someone leaves, we pass around a card to sign. Sometimes we chip in for a gift. Writing the perfect goodbye without getting sappy isn’t easy. At least, not for me.

DragonbardWhen I learned my manager was leaving, the wheels in my head started turning. We share a love of gaming, and it occurred to me that a custom mini from Hero Forge would be the perfect gift (I love their website and have designed figures based on my characters: Tildy and the Witch – and no, I’m not a spokesperson). My colleagues agreed and we all chipped in.

Unfortunately, he would be leaving before the figure arrived, and I didn’t want to give him an empty card. But as I stared at the rendering I’d created, my character began to breathe. With a little effort, I could bring him fully to life, borrowing some characteristics of my manager along the way. Being a fantasy writer, I easily whipped up 350 words in 30 minutes. Now I had something – and something special – to place into the envelope.


The Short Tale of Grashlor

Nine hundred ninety-nine years ago, a greyblight soulcaster stormed Dragonback’s shores, seeking vengeance on the firedrake wizard, Grashlor. During the previous Wintersfall, the dragon had killed the man’s thieving sister whilst defending his enchanted hoard. By the governance of Man and Dragon, the death was just, though laws matter little when viewed through the eyes of grief.  Continue reading

Writing Exercise: Discovering Chris Cornell

This post is approximately 500 words. Occasionally, I write about artists who inspire me. I should probably do that more.

chris-cornell-3Today is a day much like one twenty-five years ago. I’m in blue jeans and flannel, and outside it feels like Autumn is being carried away by the harbinger winds of Winter. I’m listening to Soundgarden’s magnificent Badmotorfinger, though unlike today, in 1992 it was my first play-through, I was sitting in my freshman dorm room, and Chris Cornell was still alive.

I was fortunate to have a roommate who brought a large CD collection to college, and I recall pawing through discs to satisfy my ravenous appetite for music. I discovered three albums that I distinctly remember to this day: Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits (74-78), Metallica’s Master of Puppets, and Badmotorfinger.

 

 

Continue reading