When Life Gives A Writer Lemons (Writers Reveal)

Hello, and welcome to the June round of Writers Reveal! This month’s topic was sent to us by Melissa of Melissa Writes. Her topic for us is: “When life gives you lemons… how do you keep on writing?” Challenge accepted! Thanks for the prompt, Melissa!

What to do when life tries to give you lemons?

Everyone knows that famous saying: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” We also understand what it means: instead of getting discouraged about life’s challenges (the proverbial lemons), one should strive to turn them into positive experiences (the proverbial lemonade). So we take that advice to heart and try our best to live with optimism, because we know deep down that life is best experienced with sweet refreshing lemonade as opposed to a pile of yucky sour lemons.

Lemons - Portal 2This is what “normal” people do. But not writers. We do very different things with the lemons life gives us. Not always, but often. Why? Because sour or sweet, they pose equal safety and risk to our writing. Yes, pure lemonade is great, but while it’s beneficial to real life experience, time spent making it is time taken away from the art that in many cases thrives on the lemons as well.

So what does my inner writer tell me to do when life tries to give me lemons? It depends on the situation, but she sometimes likes to take an alternative route to the traditional approach.

Throw the lemons back!

When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don’t want your damn lemons! What the hell am I supposed to do with these? Demand to see life’s manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am? I’m the man who’s gonna burn your house down! With the lemons! I’m gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that burns your house down!

– Cave Johnson, Portal 2

OK, so I wouldn’t go as far as trying to invent combustible lemons, but sometimes when life drops too many obstacles at once into my course of writing, I just get frustrated. I wish I had the motivation to be optimistic all the time, to keep on creating the stories that so often themselves are the lemonade of my life. But the types of challenges I usually face actually keep me from making that lemonade and instead seem to push me into making some kind of lemon sorbet. And while I do come out of them a better person each time, how fulfilling can that truly be if they rob me of the time to put that new experience to the best use I know how?

So once in a while, when I’m tired of being bombarded with life’s lemons, I grab them and throw them back. I refuse to make anything out of those lemons. I try to forget they exist and just concentrate on writing about things completely unrelated to whatever I’m going through at the moment. Is that irresponsible? Maybe. Almost definitely, in fact. But that’s what I do. There are times when I need a break from life altogether, and more often than not, writing is just the thing to help me recharge so that when life decides to throw those lemons at me a second time, I’ll be ready to turn them into some darn good lemonade.

Make your own lemons! Whaaat?

Life isn’t really life without its fair share of challenges, but some of us are lucky enough to experience an opposite kind of existence, where lemonade is constantly handed to us free of charge and all we have to do is sit back and enjoy. I’m fortunate enough to live without major struggles that relentlessly test my inner strength and push me to a potential breaking point over and over again. I am one of the lucky ones. Life gives me more lemonade than lemons, and for that, I am grateful.

Having said that, this also poses a hazard to writing. Nobody wants to read stories where everyone is happy all the time and nothing bad ever happens, because those would be ridiculously boring. As much as they threaten our creative time, writers need lemons because they provide inspiration for the conflicts in our fiction. So what do I do when life won’t give me those lemons? I make my own.

Lemons - Phil Dunphy

I know it would be unwise to purposely create complications for myself (which I sometimes do anyway, but that’s beside the point). Life is going to hand out plenty of those on its own, so there’s no need to add to the burden if it can be avoided. Instead, I try to imagine challenges I’ve never personally faced… and then make my characters face them. Essentially, I play the part of life by giving out the lemons.

I’ve written stories about forbidden love, prejudice and senseless hatred. I’ve pitted characters against each other in action scenes fraught with violence. I’ve made them face all sorts of creatures from dragons to giant robots. I’ve subjected them to enough emotional stress to drive a real person close to a breakdown. But the best part of it all is making my characters take on all these challenges and overcome them. In a way, it’s reassuring to see them take all the lemons I give them and turn them into lemonade, because it’s as if my subconscious is telling me that if my own characters can make the best of an imaginary life, then I can certainly make the best of a real one.

When life gives me lemons, how do I keep on writing? Sometimes I don’t, but when I do, I do my best to turn those lemons into the most delicious lemonade ever.

What about you? What do you do with the lemons life gives you?

This has been a special topic post for Writers Reveal, a monthly blog swap among several talented writers. Be sure to check out the other blogs participating in the event. Thanks for reading!


Other bloggers in Writers Reveal
Melissa Khalinsky: Melissa Writes
Becky Fyfe: Imagine! Create! Write!
Ashley Howland: Ghostnapped
Emily Hawker: You Learn Something New Every Day

Playing with Magic (Writers Reveal)

Welcome to another round of Writer’s Reveal! This month’s topic was sent to us by Rhianna of A Parenting Life, who suggested the prompt “a tale about siblings with a magical twist”. Here’s a short story I wrote based on that idea. Hope you enjoy! Thanks for the topic, Rhianna!

Playing with Magic

Bunny with Blue Ribbon“My turn, my turn!”

Amy reached her arms out for the toy in her elder sister’s hands, but she pulled it away.

“Wait! Just one more.”

“No, Brenda! You had him a long time! It’s my turn!”


With a sigh, Brenda handed over the toy. It was an old plush rabbit, covered in gray fur that had once been white and sporting a blue ribbon around its neck. The younger girl laughed as she squeezed it with all the strength a five-year-old could muster.

“Careful, Amy!” Brenda frowned at her little sister. “Don’t hurt him! Remember what Grandma said.”

Amy seemed reluctant to loosen her hold, but she obeyed nonetheless. After rising to her feet, she closed her eyes, whispered into the rabbit’s ear, and spun around once on her toes. When she opened her eyes, she was draped in an opulent pink dress. Brenda rolled her eyes.

“A princess again?” the eight-year-old sighed. “Pick something else already!”

“But I like being a princess!” said the younger girl. “It’s my favorite!”

“Don’t you wanna try something different?”

“Like you?” Amy pointed at the fairy wings on her big sister’s back. Brenda nodded.

“Yeah! He can make you anything you want!”

“OK, show me something better than a princess!”

The five-year-old handed the toy back to her sibling and sat back in her seat at the tea party table. Brenda rose from her chair and followed the same procedure as her sister, closing her eyes and whispering in the rabbit’s ear before spinning on the spot while hugging it tight. When the older girl stopped and opened her eyes, Amy fell into a fit of giggles at the sight of the furry ears and tail that had appeared out of nowhere.

“Kitty!” she laughed. “That’s funny! I wanna try too!”

Brenda took a bow as her sister applauded. Before she could return the rabbit to Amy, however, there was a loud click and the front door started to open. The girls froze, knowing this could only mean one thing: their mother had come to pick them up early!

The sisters glanced at the door before turning to each other with panicked looks on their faces. What would she say when she saw them? There was no time to wish themselves back to normal; they would just have to face her and hope their grandmother could explain everything.

Brenda dropped the rabbit and stood up straight with Amy just as their mother appeared in the doorway. The woman immediately looked her daughters up and down as she walked in, but to their surprise, she didn’t seem to mind the dress or the cat ears at all.

“Hello, girls!” she said with a smile. “Did you have fun with Grandma today?”

The children nodded, maintaining innocent expressions while secretly trying to make sense of their mother’s indifference. Just then, their grandmother walked into the living room with a tray of cookies in her hands and a smile on her face.

“Oh, hello, Martha!” said the old woman brightly. “We weren’t expecting you yet.”

“Hi, Mom”, Martha replied, walking across the room to greet her mother with a kiss on the cheek. “Meeting finished early. Sorry to surprise you like this.”

“Don’t be silly; it’s always a pleasure to have you here! Right, girls?”

Both women turned to Brenda and Amy, who once again nodded without a word. They were still waiting for a reaction to their bizarre appearances.

“So what have you been up to?”

It took the girls a moment to register their mother’s question, but before they could reply, their grandmother spoke up.

“They were just playing with Cottontail. He was keeping them company while I was in the kitchen.”

“How nice!” said Martha as she glanced at the toy rabbit lying beside the tea set. “You know, your Aunt Sara and I used to play with him all the time when we were your age. I hope you’re having just as much fun with him as we did!”

While the children exchanged looks of surprise, their grandmother invited her daughter to stay for tea and cookies. Brenda and Amy enjoyed the rest of their tea party as casually as they could in cat ears and a princess dress, until at last their mother told them it was time to go home.

“Oh, I forgot the tablecloths in the car”, said Martha. “Say goodbye to Grandma, girls. I’ll be right back.”

The moment their mother was out the door, Brenda and Amy turned to their grandmother, and the elder sister asked the question on both their minds.

“Grandma, why can’t Mommy see us?”

The old woman smiled. “For the same reason only Mommy and Aunt Sara could see each other, or why only my brother and I could see each other. That’s just how Cottontail works. Now you should change back before your mother gets here.”

The sisters did as they were told, having Cottontail return them to normal before bidding their grandmother farewell. A minute later, Martha had returned a stack of dry-cleaned tablecloths to her mother and was ushering her daughters out the door. As they walked behind their mom to the car, Amy whispered to her sister.

“Brenda, do you think Cottontail could make everyone see us?”

The older girl shook her head. “I don’t think so. Only brothers and sisters see each other, that’s what Grandma said.”

“Too bad. I kind of wanted Mommy to see me as a princess.”

Brenda wrapped an arm around her little sister and laughed. “I’m sure she already does, Amy. I’m sure she already does.”

This has been a special topic post for Writers Reveal, a monthly blog swap among several talented writers. Be sure to check out the other blogs participating in the event. Thanks for reading!


Other bloggers in Writers Reveal
Melissa Khalinsky: Melissa Writes
Becky Fyfe: Imagine! Create! Write!
Rhianna: A Parenting Life
Ashley Howland: Ghostnapped
Emily Hawker: You Learn Something New Every Day

The Habits of a Quirky Writer (Writers Reveal)

Welcome to another round of Writers Reveal! Once again, I’m pressing pause on the story behind my first “novel” to write about a topic sent by one of the amazing writers in our group. This month’s prompt comes from Ashley Howland, who suggested we write about “quirky writer’s habits”. Thanks for the prompt, Ashley! Here goes nothing!

The Quirky Things I Do

Someecards - Talk to MyselfYes, I consider myself a quirky person. What writer doesn’t to a certain degree? We all have our strange habits: some help us find inspiration for our writing, some give us the motivation we need to create, and some are just byproducts of the odd ideas in our minds. But they’re all part of what makes us the unique people we are.

So what are some of my quirks? I have quite a few, actually:

  1. I get up and walk around while brainstorming for a story.
  2. I make faces and mouth words when thinking about the dialogue between my characters.
  3. I sing and/or dance when I’m alone (or at least I think I’m alone).
  4. I reread favorite books from my childhood out loud.
  5. I talk to myself as if the voices in my head are having a conversation.

And these are just the quirks related to my writing!

Old Habits, New Ideas

I’m not afraid to admit my quirks, but don’t mistake them for the random acts of a geek (which I am, but that’s beside the point). Although I’ve been practicing these habits for a long time, they’re almost always helpful to my writing, even if it’s just to fight off the inevitable stress of a creative block. How so, you ask?

1) I walk around because I’m the type of person who thinks better when moving than when sitting still.

2) I subconsciously move my face in sync with scenes playing out in my head. This helps me get a better sense of how certain ideas will (or won’t) work in a story I’m planning.

3) I sing and dance to release tension. Music inspires me to create and motivates me to keep writing when I feel stuck. Plus it’s loads of fun!

4) I read books out loud as an exercise to get a feel of narrative voice. This is especially fun to do with Dr. Seuss’s stories, which almost always have rhyme and rhythm.

5) I talk to myself to get the words in my mind out in the open. I don’t care if it makes me seem crazy sometimes; it’s a great way to clear my head and hear how some of my ideas sound out loud.

Writers have their fair share of quirks (as most artists likely do), but in the best cases, we can make them work to our advantage. Our habits are much more than average idiosyncrasies; they help shape our artistic spirits and spark our creativity. And if not, at least we can take comfort in knowing they keep us from being utterly boring!

What are some of your quirks? Are they ever helpful to your creativity?

This has been a special topic post for Writers Reveal, a monthly blog swap among several talented writers. Be sure to check out the other blogs participating in the event. Thanks for reading!


Other bloggers in Writers Reveal
Melissa Khalinsky: Melissa Writes
Becky Fyfe: Imagine! Create! Write!
Rhianna: A Parenting Life
Ashley Howland: Ghostnapped
Emily Hawker: You Learn Something New Every Day

People of the Past, Characters of the Future (Writers Reveal)

I now interrupt the regularly scheduled broadcast of the story behind my first “novel” to bring you another topic for Writers Reveal. This month’s topic was given by… drumroll, please… me! That’s right; the totally awesome idea behind all of March’s Writers Reveal posts came from this brilliant mind! Aaand that’s enough conceit. For now. On to the topic!

For this month’s round, I dished out the prompt “People of the Past, Characters of the Future”. After thinking a lot about what topic I should suggest, I decided to have everyone write about the people they’ve met and how they can become inspiration for fictional characters. Have fun reading everyone’s takes on this topic!

People of My Past

I came up with this subject while going through some of my creative writing materials. In one of my writing exercise books, “What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers“, I found an exercise titled “People from the Past: Characters of the Future”. The exercise is to write a detailed description of a person you knew between the ages of six and twelve, preferably someone whose memory still invokes strong negative feelings in you, followed by an account of what you imagine they’re doing today. The point of the exercise is to understand how the past can provide material for the imagination (and how writing a good story can sometimes be the best revenge).

This exercise caught my eye because I love taking time to seek inspiration for stories. However, instead of focusing on the specific guidelines in the book, I’d prefer to take it a step further and draw inspiration from all sorts of people I’ve known in my life. After all, being a writer who loves well-rounded characters and happy endings, the good people are usually the ones that make it into my stories.

Roald Dahl's "Big Friendly Giant" was inspired by carpenter Wally Saunders, who built the big brick hut in which many of the author's most beloved stories were written (Source: The Telegraph)

Roald Dahl’s “Big Friendly Giant” was inspired by carpenter Wally Saunders, who built the big brick hut in which many of the author’s most beloved stories were written
(Source: The Telegraph)

So who exactly are these people who inspire my characters? Being a shy person by nature, I come in contact with relatively few people who leave a lasting impression on my life, and even fewer who leave enough of one to make it into my stories. Because of this, my characters are usually inspired by my family and closest friends. These are the people with whom I have a special connection, whose flaws I’ve seen just as much as their strengths, and who are constantly teaching me new things. The way I see it, they’re already characters in the story of my life, so why not give them a place in my fiction as well?

Characters of My Future (and Present)

Most of the inspiration I get from the people I know is for the relationships among my characters. Family ties, friendships and romantic relationships are all usually based on experiences I’ve had or witnessed in my life. For example, if you were to read all of my romance works, you’d probably notice that most of the love relationships I write have a foundation of friendship. This is because I’ve never had a boyfriend who wasn’t my friend first, and because that’s the reason my parents are happy together to this day. In a similar way, many of my characters have a very good relationship with their families, which is a reflection of my happy childhood and the good relationship I’ve always had with my parents and sisters.

Remember this lovely young lady?

Remember this lovely young lady? She’s one of my sources of inspiration.

If there’s a pattern I’ve noticed in my stories, it’s that my main characters are usually based heavily on my own qualities and ideals while my supporting characters tend to display more traits from other people in my life. This is probably most evident in the novel-length fanfiction I’ve been writing about for the past few weeks. In that story, the main female character is a shy yet strong-willed girl who greatly believes love should always overpower hate, and the main male character is a passionate and loving boy who simply wants the best out of life. Also, as I mentioned before, their love is based on friendship, which in this case was inspired by my relationship with my best friend/boyfriend.

She has a blog now, so be sure to check out her work!

She’ll also be a blogger soon, so be sure to check out her site!

Meanwhile, two supporting female characters – the male lead’s sister and cousin – may have been partly inspired by my sisters; they’re both smart and extremely loyal to family, the former is very neat and hard-working, and the latter is very charismatic and extroverted. The female lead’s best friend was definitely inspired by some school friends I haven’t seen in years, who were nice girls but who were much more superficial and boy-crazy than I was; and her cousin was likely inspired by some of my male friends from the past, who were certainly noble where it counted but who could sometimes be a little arrogant. All these real-life traits combined with some of my own ideas helped me flesh out these characters and give them depth, and I don’t think I could have accomplished that nearly as well without the inspiration I found in my family and friends.

It goes without saying that observing people is an excellent way to get new ideas for building fictional characters, and for that task, there’s probably no better material than the people who have left an impression on your life. So if you don’t already, pay close attention to the people you meet. You never know when they may become useful inspiration for your characters!

Do you use the people you meet as inspiration for your characters? How much of their personalities are based on those of people you know in real life?

This has been a special topic post for Writers Reveal, a monthly blog swap among several talented writers. Be sure to check out the other blogs participating in the event. Thanks for reading!


Other bloggers in Writers Reveal
Melissa Khalinsky: Melissa Writes
Becky Fyfe: Imagine! Create! Write!
Rhianna: A Parenting Life
Ashley Howland: Ghostnapped
Emily Hawker: You Learn Something New Every Day
Emily Toxward: Have A Laugh On Me

A Novice’s Take on Advertising for Writers (Writers Reveal)

Welcome to the second Writers Reveal of the year! Starting this month, we’re making a significant change to our format. Since Emily Morgan recently had to step down as our host, we’ve decided to continue with Writers Reveal by taking turns setting a single topic for everyone each month. So for our first universal prompt, Emily Hawker has chosen to have us write about advertising. Thanks for the topic, Emily!

Advertising for Novices

Written by The Best Author Ever

Written by The Best Author Ever

OK, so when Emily sent this topic to us, I really didn’t know what I was going to write about. Selling novels? Ads for blogs? How could I write an entire blog post about a subject I know so little about? And then I realized exactly what it could be about: marketing from an amateur writer’s point of view. If I can’t write from the perspective of an expert in advertising, I can write from the perspective of a beginner.

So what little do I understand about advertising? For starters, I know it plays a key role in helping anyone gain exposure. I also know that artists have to be especially involved in marketing their work, at least in the beginning. Because our chosen line of work is so subjective, we have to take the first steps to prove that our stories are worth reading, our music is worth listening to, and our visual pieces of art are worth seeing. Only from our hard initial efforts can the ball begin to roll toward our success, and even so, nothing is for certain.

Experienced Writer, Inexperienced Marketer

Maybe “experienced writer” is a bit of an exaggeration here, since there’s still much of the world of creative writing I haven’t ventured through yet, but that’s beside the point. What matters is that I have much more experience writing my work than I do marketing it, though I’m starting to understand more about the business side of art. Even before I started my blog, I was already learning how to get my writing noticed. While working on the first posts for my site, I also created some new social media accounts to share my content, and since then, they’ve proven quite effective in drawing new readers, as well as helping me meet new writers.

What I have no experience in yet, however, is marketing a novel. Even though I’ve been reading up on the subject, I still haven’t finished writing my first book, so I can’t say I know the experience of selling it firsthand. I know I’ll have to advertise it extensively on social media networks like Twitter and Facebook. I know I should try to reach out to other bloggers and have them help me share my stories (just as I’d love to help them share theirs). And I know that I should never give up on getting my work out to as many readers as possible.

So if I want to be a successful novelist, I’ll have to improve my marketing skills. I’ll have to advertise my stories as much as I can, and I’ll have to be patient as I do so, remembering that if I want my artistic voice to stand out among the countless others in the world, I have to keep making it heard. After all, in this day and age, the experience of being a writer extends far beyond the actual writing.

How experienced are you with advertising? Are you good about marketing your stories, or do you struggle with getting your work out there?

This has been a special topic post for Writers Reveal, a monthly blog swap among several talented writers. Be sure to check out the other blogs participating in the event. Thanks for reading!


Other bloggers in Writers Reveal
Melissa Khalinsky: Melissa Writes
Becky Fyfe: Imagine! Create! Write!
Rhianna: A Parenting Life
Ashley Howland: Ghostnapped
Emily Hawker: You Learn Something New Every Day
Emily Toxward: Have A Laugh On Me

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