Tag Archives: stories

Story Shots: Renew

While The Poetics Project was on hiatus for a while, the blog has now been renewed. To celebrate this renewal, we’ve revived our popular blog series called Story Shots. Story Shots a place where our writers all write a short creative non-fiction piece around the same concept and we share the stories with our readers. We have three short creative non-fiction pieces here for our readers today around the theme of renewal.


When your best friend dies at 26, you find what little strength you actually have. You thought you understood death by this point, that you knew how to best cope. You knew your grieving process and you knew how long each stage took. Too logical. Death is not logical.

I remember vaguely my phone ringing at 5:00 in the morning and hitting the dismiss button. I was in a dream with my best friend Jessie. We were at Disneyland and Paris and all her favorite and want-to-visit destinations at once. I ran to keep up with her, but she always seemed out of reach. The sky was a mixture of pink and reds. Strangely beautiful, and unsettling.

My alarm went off for work and I jumped on Facebook; my typical morning read. I thought to myself “what if Jessie is gone” when I spotted a belated birthday wish on her wall. My heart threatened to stop beating and I shrugged it off as another weird and morbid thought. I then realized her mother had called me, that she was the dismissed call. My heart threatened me again. I called her, convincing myself that everything was fine.

“Nicci?! Where you with Jessie yesterday?”

“No? I know she went to Disneyland with Richard, but I don’t…” At this point, I sensed the panic in her voice and was pushing the sheets off me to locate my dirty sweats in the hamper. I got caught in the sheets.

“Well did you know that she was in a car accident and died!?”

I had freed my legs in time to sit up straight, “What?”

“She’s dead!”

“What….” my throat started producing croaks.

“Nicci? Nicci, call your mom. I don’t want you to be alone.”

“O…okay.” I live in the back house of my parents’, so I got up and stumbled like a zombie to their door. They leave it unlocked. My mother was up before I collapsed against her dresser.

“What happened? What happened?!” I mixture of fear, anger, and distress.

“Jessie…Jessie’s…she’s gone. She’s dead.” My father was rounding the bed when he turned to stabilize himself and let out one sob. He covered his eyes. My mother shouted and held me as the floor threatened to consume me. My lungs kept pushing air out and wouldn’t let me breathe. And then, I stopped. “Mom, I don’t know where Richard is.”

Three Tips to Beat Writer’s Block

It happens to us all – we’re in the middle of a piece of work and it is just inspired. Everything flows. The words fit perfectly. The idea is seamless and flows like the Nile forming an oasis in a desert of blank pages.

And then the phone rights. Or you get an email alert that snaps you out of the zone. Maybe someone knocks on the door. Whatever happens and then the zone is gone.

Writing all of a sudden becomes like pulling teeth – painful and extraordinarily uninspired. Things on the page that were once beautiful now turn to pure dung and nothing you do seems to redeem the words on the page or match the perfection of what came before.

Pictured: What it feels like to write after you’ve lost the flow.

I do advocate having a set time to write and minimizing interruptions during these writing periods, but that doesn’t mean that an inspired state of mind doesn’t help with the workflow, and when that streak is gone, it can seem impossible to begin to write again.

These three tips help me get back into the flow of writing once I’ve lost it, and hopefully they’ll help you too.

Stories: A Love Affair

I fell in love with stories at a very young age. I wasn’t raised by people – I was raised by books and television. When I was in grade school I’d come home to an empty house. I would get a snack and turn on the T.V., stashing my backpack full of homework in my room for later in the evening.

What I ended up watching never really mattered – I loved the structure and the telling of the story. I loved how everything would be neatly wrapped up in a half hour, or, if it was an after school special, it would take a full hour. I loved it when little clues and hints were dropped in the beginning of an episode that would bloom later and become completely relevant to the story, and sometimes be the thing that gets the main character out of whatever trouble the episode had in store for them.

I always had a library book, from my grade school’s library, in my backpack. By the fourth grade, I had finished every book in its walls, with the exception of the Babysitter’s Club books because, well, I couldn’t relate to the upper-class white affluent girly protagonists. Instead, I read and reread the Choose Your Own Adventure series and, admittedly, made sure I got to read every plot line and ending before turning the books back in.

And then I started writing too.

Where Has All The New Sci-Fi Gone?

With the upcoming release of the new Star Wars film, Episode VII – The Force Awakens, The Atlantic posted an article called When Science Fiction Stopped Caring About the Future.

This article tackles the idea that Science Fiction as a genre has given up on new ideas because the movie industry just keeps recycling old sci-fi franchises into new movies. To quote the article:

It’s not just Star Wars either. Science fiction is everywhere in popular culture, and it seems like it’s managed to be everywhere in the present by largely jettisoning the future. The massive, major franchises are all decades-old; the triumphal rhythmic successes of Star Wars and Star Trek and Dr. Who vie with sporadic reboots of Robocop or Planet of the Apes. Even newer stories, like The Hunger Games or Divergence feel less like fresh visions than like re-toolings of stagnant dystopias. Poor George Orwell wants his panopticon back.

While I agree that Hollywood has been rehashing old movies or YA dystopian fiction that is reminiscent of older sci-fi, this article got me wondering about sci-fi as a book genre. Is this too happening in the world of books or just in the realm of movies?

Hamlet Vs. The Lion King

Hamlet also lacked a scene with a wildfire blaring in the background.
Hamlet also lacked a scene with a wildfire blaring in the background.

I think most people are familiar with the idea that The Lion King, beloved Disney cartoon, is a modern, animal-kingdom-based version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. There are quite a few parallels between the two. For example, Hamlet is the story of Prince Hamlet and The Lion King is the story of Prince Simba. Both tales explore the loss of a father by some dastardly doing of the prince’s uncle. And while Hamlet ends in pretty much every character’s death, The Lion King is a little more forgiving (and aimed at children, after all) and only kills off the evil uncle.

Besides the different endings, there is one major thing missing from The Lion King‘s plot that makes it more akin to Hamlet and that is the story of Fortinbras. Revenge is a theme present in both Hamlet and The Lion King. Hamlet wants revenge for the death of his father. Simba want revenge along the same avenue. But Hamlet isn’t the only character in Hamlet seeking revenge, and Hamlet inadvertently kills Ophelia’s father, Polonius, whom he mistakes for his uncle behind a pillar in his mother’s closet. Simba’s revenge doesn’t hurt anyone, except for his uncle.

While The Lion King is about Simba’s justifiable revenge on his father’s killer, Hamlet’s journey within his play becomes less and less justifiable as the play progresses. Sure, Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle, committed a crime and deserves punishment, but Hamlet makes a huge mess of his revenge that gets the whole court involved in his quest.

Conflict: It’s What Makes a Story Interesting

Jack and Jill went up the hill and got some water. The trip was pretty uneventful. I know you think they should fall down and break their crowns, but that really didn’t happen. They just went home and had water.

I know that wasn’t a very interesting story – why? Because there was no conflict. To make matters even more frustrating, I took a common rhyme most readers would be familiar with and I changed the expected conflict to nothing.

Stories need conflict – without some sort of obstacle to overcome or some kind of action to take place, why tell a story in the first place?

There are five basic conflicts most stories use. Think back to your favorite books, movies, television shows, etc., and I bet you’ll find that at its core was one of these types of conflict.

Man Vs. Man

This conflict is pretty straightforward – one person opposes another person. A good example of this type of conflict would be any book from the Harry Potter series.

Jack went up the hill, but Jill didn’t want water. Oh no, Jill wanted blood. Jack’s blood. And she would have it by the time he came down the hill.

Could You, Would You, On a Train?

Amtrak is offering writers the chance of a lifetime—a chance to ride on their long distance trains, for free, and write. This program gives established and budding authors a chance to ride a train for two to five days and write. Applications are being accepted from now until March 31st, 2015. If you’re active on Twitter or Instagram, love to travel, and enjoy trains, this is an opportunity you can’t pass up. And even if you’ve never ridden a train before, I will tell you, from personal experience, why riding a train is great for writers.

At least I'm not asking you to do anything with a goat.
At least I’m not asking you to do anything with a goat.

I have traveled a bit in my time. My first plane ride ever was to Atlanta, Georgia, on a Delta flight four years after 9/11 happened. While getting through security didn’t take as long then as it did now, flying still kind of sucked. I’m not rich. I can’t afford business or first class, so I always fly coach. This interstate flight was cramped, loud (children, dear lord the amount of children), and I couldn’t imagine trying to write in such an environment.

This can also be said about international flights. I’ve flown to China and Taiwan, and neither of those flights were less cramped, less loud, or a better atmosphere for writing. I go stir-crazy on flights, I really do, especially ones that are between thirteen to sixteen hours in the air.

But trains aren’t like that. Even in coach, there’s plenty of leg room, arm room, and storage room on a train. After coming back from Taiwan this summer, I hopped on an Amtrak Starlight train up the coast of California to drop my sister off in Oregon and rode the train back down as well, and it was a great trip in comparison to my experiences on planes.