You want to write better. You want to write more.

Ann Linquist I’m Ann Linquist, freelance writer and online writing instructor.  Whether you’re interested in writing fiction, creative nonfiction, or effective business documents, I invite you to explore this site and find out how to reach your writing goals.

Not the Ending You Expected

Sometimes you can tell how a story will end. The boy is going to get the girl. The bad guy is going to lose. Grandpa is well loved, but he’s going to die. The Sheriff retires, but no one will leave him alone. Surely we can do better! So here’s the start of a plot, and you have to come with an ending that absolutely no one would have expected.

Plot: Chuck and Suzanne, two Ph.D. astronomers are on vacation in Arizona, doing a lot of desert hiking. Today at dawn they’ve left their Jeep at a trail head near Canyon De Chelly and expect to take a ten mile circle route that should bring them back to where they started. Half-way along the well-marked trail, Chuck twists his ankle.

Now what?

Ode to Joy

Weird title, isn’t it? And yet, this is the title of the last movement of the last symphony Beethoven wrote. He was old and so deaf he could not conduct the orchestra playing his creation. He was on stage, however, though unable to hear the music. One of his soloists had to turn him around to face the audience when the piece was over so he could see the standing ovation he was receiving. If you have ever heard this piece of music (and play it loud!), you’ll find yourself swept away by the hope and glory of the music.

Life is not easy or fair. What a crippling irony that Beethoven—the possessor of one of the finest musical geniuses of all time—had to suffer from deafness. But he did not stop creating, even though he could only hear the symphonic music in his mind.

My challenge to you here is to write about a contrast you’ve experienced where you had to struggle with tragedy and find your own way to survive and then thrive. Can you write an Ode to Joy?

Creating a Character

I want to invite you to our imaginary college class: Creative Writing 101. The setting is a typical institutional room with individual desks, arranged in rows. Florescent lights cast a dull white light. A white (not black) board covers the wall in front, and the teacher has a table to arrange his/her materials on. I am not the professor for this class, but I may decide to add a student character or put some words into the instructor’s mouth.

I’d like each of you to create a student character.  (Or two.)  How does your character act? What’s his/her role in this group of twenty students? Is this character going to sit up front or hide in the back? What is this character’s body language saying? What is he/she wearing? What questions does he/she ask?

This is not the first day of class. In fact, the students are responding to an exercise where the instructor asked them to point out three details about the room that they believe no one else will notice.  It’s a lesson in paying close attention.

Don’t rule out interacting with the characters that your blogmates add to the room. This may even be the opportunity of a lifetime: You can act up anyway you want in school without getting into trouble. Live out your dreams!

Of course, if you want to create the professor character, that’s fine too. Just add a character to help populate our room. Let’s see how creative we can be in coming up with an entertaining class period.

How You Write

Long ago there was a magazine called the Saturday Review. It was devoted to literary news, articles, and short pieces. One of the regular columns showed where famous authors wrote–one author and setting per week. We saw a photo of their writing space and whatever they gathered around themselves when they wrote.

How about sharing something about your writing habits? Where do you write? Describe your favorite writing tools (computer? tablet? special pen?). What time of day do you tend to write? Do you use any writing aids (tequila? favorite smoke? required stimulants?). How about music? Is it a requirement or something that must be avoided? What kind of music? Show us your chair, your desk or table, your room. What else is in that room? What is on the walls? Any special lighting? What else makes up your particular writing habits?

We’ve been writing together for quite a while. You’ve all described a burning candle; now show us your writing routine.

The Villain

Max, “Boots” LaRue has a scar running down his upper cheek till it’s buried in his bushy sideburn at the jaw line. He rides a Harley LowBoy. His mohawk haircut ends in a long pony tail, bound with a leather thong. His etched black cowboy boots have shiny silver toes and heels. His eyes are perennially at half mast. He prefers tattoos that are black—no fancy colors or flowers for Max—and both arms are covered from wrist to where they meet between his shoulder blades. No beer belly for Max; he’ll gladly show his his six pack.  He deals in cash only. No credit cards or checks. His belt is a chain, and hanging from that is a knife sleeve with hilt showing, and a ring with ten keys.  His upper lip is lifted at one side, matching that one raised eyebrow, as he looks at you.

Your task is to show us why Max is the good guy, not the villain of the piece.

The Line Between Going Nuts and Only Maybe Going Nuts

The older I get, the more I think I notice things out of the corner of my eye. Then I turn to look at what flickered or flashed, and nothing is moving. The longer I live, the more I enjoy people who are a bit skewed. I look for the people whose heads are at a tilt because the world doesn’t look quite right to them. I feel joy at finding someone running for County Supervisor whose name is Sharmalista Marblesto. It makes my day to find a town in Illinois name Gratiot and then find out they pronounce it “Grash it.”

Okay, so maybe some of this is fiction, but then again, maybe not. Perhaps my real name is Yanska Slabos, and I’m married to a guy named Zoltan Stepeshi. Perhaps Yanska is a middle-aged famous but ex-tightrope walker on disability because of her sciatica. Perhaps Zoltan now has to support the family. The circus can no longer afford to carry them, since Zoltan’s dancing emu act has never been all that popular.

My question for you is, how is Zoltan going to make enough money for their annual holiday trip to their cabin in Upper Sanduski, especially now that the circus has left them stranded near the Okefenokee Swamp?

Connections and Creativity

I find that part of the joy of revising is that you find connections emerging that you didn’t expect to find.

The house that John and Martha buy turns out to have been previously owned by a couple named Myrna and Zeke who died in an automobile accident on a mad dash to the hospital. Scorpions turn out to have an attraction to candle wax, and red leaves were the main ingredient for the ink used in a famous journal kept by an anonymous online writing student.

Or perhaps this is merely idle galumphing and playing bricoleur. That’s fine. So can you connect these?

Olive with pimento


coal slag

cracks in the sidewalk

mismatched socks