Archive for the ‘Emotion’ Category

Deepen Your Writing with Symbols

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

I turned the page of my book, soaking in the story, silence, and reveling in peaceful solitude. Not total solitude, since my Yorkie, Zoie’s rhythmic breathing relaxed me as she slept in my lap.

MOO!

Straightening up with a jerk, I woke my deaf dog.

What was a mooing cow doing INSIDE this room?

Could it have been from an electronic device? Perhaps my husband neglected to take his phone with him. I smiled at the irony of this sound in my suburban California home. Maybe Dad was saying hello from the other side? He spent the first half of his life farming with dairy cows in southeastern Wisconsin, and as a baby and toddler I lived on that family farm, too. Hi Dad, I thought, glad he’d retained his sense of humor.

As I settled back into my story, Zoie, reassured by my calm demeanor, snoozed again.

MOO!

The realistic animal sound came from our family room cupboard. I got up to investigate. Nothing in the stacks of paper, pens, and recipes gave a hint to the mystery. Old video tapes didn’t look as though they’d moo, either. But when I reached Zoie’s dog toys, I knew the puzzle’s answer. A black and white fabric ball must contain the noisemaker. Although it hadn’t worked in years, and I didn’t know it had held a noise device when I threw it in the washing machine, that process could have reactivated it.

Or.

Dad greeted me.

I prefer this answer.

Whenever we try to make this ball produce sound effects, nothing happens. But on its own . . .

MOO!

Writing Prompts:

1. What signs or symbols can you discover within the book you’re reading? Through their repetition, what is its underlying meaning?
2. What sign or symbol can you develop within the project you’re writing? Through carefully placed repetition, your motif may strengthen your theme, characters, and/or plot.
3. Create an artistic representation of your symbol. How does it relate to you? Perhaps this may become another layer of its meaning.

10 Tips for Winning Writing Contests, Scoring an A, or Attracting an Agent/Editor

Monday, January 27th, 2014

1. Hook your readers with a vivid scene right away. How? Read on.

2. Specific senses will get your reader to experience your story.

Example: Gary D. Schmidt’s Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy begins like this: Turner Buckminster had lived in Phippsburg, Maine, for fifteen minutes shy of six hours. He had dipped his hand in its waves and licked the salt from his fingers. He had smelled the sharp resin of the pines. He had heard the low rhythm of the bells on the buoys that balanced on the ridges of the sea. He had seen the fine clapboard parsonage beside the church where he was to live, and the small house set a ways beyond it that puzzled him some. Turner Buckminster had lived in Phippsburg, Maine, for almost six whole hours. He didn’t know how much longer he could stand it.

3. Show the protagonist’s problem right away. Turner’s is shown in his feelings shown in the last sentence.

4. Character dialogue must move the story forward. If it’s just talking back and forth to talk, remove it.

5. Use adverbs sparingly. Change them to verbs.
Example: He said loudly. Change to: He shouted.

6. Create suspense with tension. Author Steve Mooser employs the element of time. He says, “If the bad guys are due into town at sunset, if Friday is the day of the school play – that’s the easiest way to build tension.” In Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, the hourglass shows how much time Dorothy has to live.

David Almond created atmosphere with action verbs and specific images in Heaven Eyes:
Mud. Black, sticky, oily, stinking mud. It was January who dared to lean out of his raft first. He dipped his hand into what should have been water. He touched mud, black mud. It oozed and dribbled from his fingers. The raft settled, and mud slithered across its surface, onto our clothes. It seeped through to our skin. It seeped through the tiny gaps between the doors. I took my flashlight out, switched it on, saw the doors disappearing as they sank . . . saw that we were being slowly sucked down into the sodden earth . . . Our feet, our hells, our knees were caught in mud . . . I grunted, whimpered, groaned. I slithered forward. . . My head filled with the mist and darkness.

7. Everyone loves humor. The unexpected is funny. Two unlike characters or objects placed together can be funny.

8. Read your piece out loud. Is it balanced? Not big chunks of description or pages of pure dialogue, but evenly paced?

9. Eliminate vague words: Possibly, many, pretty, terrible . . .

10. What has the protagonist learned or how has your character changed in some small way?

After several drafts, put away your manuscript for a while. When you return, read it aloud with fresh eyes. Are you having fun? If not, rework the story until it’s just right. You’ll feel that tingle of excitement when it works!

Write Out of the Box!

Monday, January 13th, 2014

“If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.” Juan Ramon Jimenez

In kindergarten, my son’s teacher gave each student a construction paper Christmas stocking along with decorations. Their assignment? Cut them out and glue them too look like her example.

A couple other mother-volunteers and I entered the room while teacher and class were on the playground for recess.

“Look at all their stockings,” said one mom.

Each stocking was hung, identically in a row along the wall. They could have been mimeographed in their sameness.

“Wow,” said the other mom, observing one stocking decorated with magic marker Christmas figures on the tiny white edge of the stockings’ perimeter.
“Who did that one?” said the first mom.
They peered closely at the small signature.
It was Tofer.

I write this anecdote not to brag, but to show how one five-year-old figured a way to be creative even with a cut and paste assignment.

How will you show your individuality with your writing or art?

Writing Prompts:
1. Select one of your scenes you’ve already written. How can you make it yours and only yours?
2. Make one of your characters quirky. What distinguishes this character from every other one in your book? A particular secret, trait, or passion may allow her to be amusing or annoying or lovable!
3. Create a setting that shows its character. Being specific creates identifiable reactions and emotions within your readers. Can you show nostalgia? A comfort setting? A suspenseful place? Remember sounds, smells and even tastes will allow your readers to feel like they are there.

How One Girl Promotes Change Through Writing – You Can Too!

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Thanks to Rich Freedman of the (Vallejo) Times-Herald, word has spread about a youngster who channeled her anger into writing.

Diagnosed with leukemia this past year, ten-year-old Monica Romo wrote an essay detailing how “Wonder Woman” (Monica!) would rid Vallejo, in Northern California, of hate and evil. In her City Hall appearance, 125 people shared her hope. Receiving a Solano Hero’s Certificate, Monika received a Solano Hero’s Certificate.

Congratulations, Monika!

Writing Prompts:

1. Use your passionate feelings about an issue to inspire art or writing. How will you choose to express yourself? Which cause incites your emotions?

2. Pretend you are a superhero. Write a graphic novel or comic strip expressing your passion for change.

What secret elements make a quest/adventure book great?

Monday, November 25th, 2013

If you’d like to read a great new middle grade, choose Clare Vanderpool’s Navigating Early, a quest adventure story about a boy dealing with his mother’s death after WWII. Sent to a Maine boarding school, protagonist, Jack, is unhappy and feeling friendless until he’s intrigued with Early Arden, a unique character with a fascination about pi, who leads him through Appalachia.

Vanderpool’s poetic style lures the reader forward. Here is a scene where they fish with Gunnar, a minor character they meet on their journey. Gunnar carries an emotional, heart-wrenching past.

“You have a fine cast,” called Gunnar.

“I know. My brother taught me before he went to the war.” Early swished his line back and forth. The motion seemed to take him away somewhere.

Gunnar’s expression registered what he knew, what we all knew, of the fate of so many of those brothers who went to war. He looked at me, asking the question he didn’t want to say out loud. Did Early’s brother make it back?

I shook my head in answer. No, Fisher was dead.

Gunnar allowed the quiet to take over as Early moved farther out into the water and into his own thoughts.

Finally, Gunnar spoke, his voice so fluid and moving, it could have come from the river itself. “I once hear a poem about angling. It say when you send out your line, it is like you cast out your troubles to let the current carry them away. I keep casting.”

I liked the sound of that. The river pressed and nudged, each of us responding to it in different ways, allowing it to move us apart and into our own place within it.

Notice the unique dialogue of Gunnar, creating a fully formed person in just a few lines and a second layer of meaning within the words, so you’re not just reading a scene about fishing.

Another aspect which is fascinating about this book is how this Newbery Medal-winning author broke the rules. (In order to break the rules, you must first establish that you know them.) Although in writing adult novels (and nearly always in the movies), authors (and screenwriters) are allowed to fictionalize history for the sake of character and plot. In children’s books, this has been a distinct no-no. Why? We don’t want to confuse nonfiction facts with untruths for kids. But at the end of this book, Vanderpool has a page: PI: FACT OR FICTION? Here she lists the truths about this captivating number, since she has bent the truth within her story.

Writing Prompts:

1. Write a quest/adventure short story with the above elements in mind. Before you begin, think and wonder about your story, developing the plot and characters within you. Daydream, jot notes, and free write about the back story of each character first.

2. Can you write a quest poem? Any style you choose!

3. Create a piece of art with a quest/adventure theme.

4. As you begin reading a book, use post-it notes to mark the scenes that are evocative. Why do they work so well?

Dogs In Mourning: Writing About Animals We Love

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

My friend S and her husband X were owned by two adorable Westies, Dolly and Duncan, buddies and comrades in squeaky toys, chew bones, running races in the park and protecting their home. Romping after squirrels, cuddling on the couch and greeting guests with snuggles and kisses, the two were inseparable.

A month ago, twelve-year-old Duncan fell ill with pancreatitis and never recovered. Losing him was a terrible blow to S and X, but even worse on poor Dolly. Instead of her usual zip and zing, Dolly mopes around the house, ignoring outside critters, her sad eyes staring out the window, far into the distance. Is she remembering happier times with her friend, Dunc? How long is mourning for pups? Should they take her to a doggy shrink?

The other day they did take her next door for some r & r to play with her two vivacious pooch friends. The morning after, S answered the phone. The dog’s owner called to describe one of her dogs’ behaviors once Dolly left.

His eyes and tail drooped; he hunched over, refusing his treats. Instead he crawled straight into his dog bed. Placing his head on his paws, an aura of sadness encircled him. No amount of love or comfort helped.

We shouldn’t assume our superiority over all species.

Writing Prompts:
1. Have you ever seen an animal express emotion? How? Communicate with another animal? How have you connected with another species? Write a personal narrative about your experiences.
2. Write a poem or short story with an animal as a major focus.
3. Create a piece of art or shoot photos with animal communication as a theme.

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Recently a friend’s husband drove her to a meeting and returned home after fifteen minutes.  Switching on music,  he headed to the bedroom and stopped abruptly.  Their back window had been smashed; dresser drawers were strewn open, their contents spilling out.  Most of his wife’s jewelry was missing, except for a few pieces the burglars had dropped on the floor in their hasty retreat.

“I think he got home in the middle of it,” she said.  She was relieved they left her most valued sentimental necklace behind. 

Then there was the time my son was four and the floor beneath our feet began rolling.    “Earthquake!  Run!”  I yelled as I scooped up our terrier.  We flew past the swinging  light fixture and didn’t stop until we reached the middle of the cul-de-sac. 

We waited until birds chirped and squirrels chattered once again. After returning to discover overturned file cabinets, right where my son had been playing, I explained what could occur during an earthquake.  Later we discovered the extent of the Loma Prieta once we got back our electricity.  “Gee,” said Tofer, considering our house could have been demolished.  “I should have grabbed Herbie.”  (His favorite stuffed animal, which wasn’t an animal at all, but a car.)

During the disastrous Oakland fire of 1991, my friend’s sister and her family were evacuated.  She ran past her dresser, noticing a coffee mug, her jewelry box, and a photo album.  They didn’t stop running until they got to the base of their hill. That’s when she discovered she held the coffee mug in her hand. 

Writing Prompts:

1.   What was the first object that held important emotional meaning for you? Why?  How did you value it? Describe the item and show how you placed it in esteem. 

2.  Did your family have any treasured family heirlooms?  Write an essay about one’s significance.

3.  You have only a minute to grab one item to save from your home. What do you take and why? Describe it using your senses and emotions.

4.  In the writing project you are working on now, write about a meaningful object for your main character, a minor character, and even the antagonist.  Give background for each.  Why do they hold significant relevance?  Can any of them be a larger symbol?

This Dog Shows Character!

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013
Who did this?  The answer is obvious by the reaction of the characters involved.  
 
http://www.maniacworld.com/which-is-the-guilty-dog.html
 
Writing Prompt:
1.  Using a character’s facial expression, action, thoughts and/or dialogue, show guilt or innocence in a story or poem.
2.  Choose a character you know in your life.  Show this person or animal’s character through action, details, and/or dialogue in a personal narrative. 
3.  Write a poem showing character.  Author Jane Yolen defines poetry as “compressed emotion.”  Take out any words that aren’t absolutely necessary.

Writing Memories for You and Your Characters

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

While I was away on vacation in the Southern California desert, I purchased postcards and pulled out my handy purse-sized travel address book.  Flipping through the dog-eared pages, my quest for certain addresses vanished when I saw names of my friends and family who had passed on. 

My friend Marisa, who glowed in her favorite color pink (even the stripe of pink in her hair).  We shared our fondness for everything Mother Mary together.  She let me in on her favorite saint – - Saint Rita. 

When my one and only California aunt would call, she’d begin with a rant and I’d say,  “Aunt Dorothy – - ”  Then she’d respond with her hearty, gravelly cigarette one and only laugh and ask, “How’d you know it was me?” 

My mother kept notes by the phone to make sure she’d remember to tell me everything that was on her mind.   We could talk forever and never run out of anything to say.  She’d send me pin-wheel cookies with crisp, buttery goodness, making me crave just one more. 

Once I ate an entire coffee can full of these while talking with Aunt Dorothy.  When my hand reached the bottom of the can, searching for one more, I gasped. 

“Oh no!” I screamed into the phone.

“What happened?” asked Aunt Dorothy.

“You won’t believe what I’ve done.”

I couldn’t hide the crunch on the phone so Aunt Dorothy knew what I was eating.

“You ate that whole can, didn’t you?” she asked.

“How did you know?” I asked.

“Because they go down so easily.  And it’s what I would have done!”

We both exploded into laughter. 

Images flashed through my mind of writer’s group with Marisa, Disneyland with Aunt Dorothy and washing dishes with Mom in my childhood home.    

The address book’s binding  was ripping apart in the middle; only threads were keeping it together.  Why did I insist on keeping it when clearly I needed a new one?  But I knew the answer to this question. 

Each time I opened it, memory movies played in my mind, complete with scents, tastes, dialogue, and feelings.  I’m not ready to give it up yet.  Will I ever? 

Writing Prompts:

1.  Which object do you have which gives you images from your past?  Write about the object and its significance to you.   Write the scene it helps you to recall. 

2.  Choose a character from a project you are currently working on.  What object holds memories for this character?  Why?  How?  Write a back story for the object.  Create a scene which goes along with it. 

3.  You characters need memories.  If you are stuck in a story or plot, it may be because you don’t know your character well enough.  Write your character in scenes you may never need to include in your book, but YOU need to know.  Scenes such as:  What was his favorite childhood cookie moment?  Did she have a quirky aunt or embarrassing relative?  Did he have a best friend who collected something weird? 

4.  Keep a memory diary.  When they occur to you, jot words or images down.  Then when you need an idea to write about, use them as your writing prompt for the day.

Memorable Movie Moments Help Our Writing

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Every great movie has one or more ultimate memorable moments. A few lines of memorable dialogue:

* In “All About Eve” Betty Davis says, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”
* In “The Wizard of Oz” Dorothy proclaims, “We’re a long way from Kansas!”
* In “The Wizard of Oz” the witch cries, “I’m melting!”

Then there are the images which stay with you forever.

*Also from “The Wizard of Oz,” the sand running through the large hourglass timer
*E.T. and friend riding their bicycle across the face of the moon
*Wile E. Coyote hanging suspended in air

Every scene, whether it is from a short story or a movie, must include four things:
Desire, Action, Conflict and Change. (Thank you, Robert McKee!) Your character desires something more than anything in the world, takes action in some some or large way, runs into someone or something creating conflict and the character changes. The change can be slight, but there must be change. At the end of the scene, to be truly memorable, it should have a punch – a line of dialogue or an action that gives it an extra oomph.

Writing prompts:

1. What is a memorable moment from a movie you have recently seen? Why do you think it is indelibly etched within your memory?
2. Learn to identify these memorable moments within movies and the books you read as well as the desire of the characters, their actions and conflicts and their changes.
3. Write a scene with a character you have created or know well. After you write your piece, identify any memorable moments within it. If you can’t find any, structure the pacing of your story and the tension so as to create them. Remember desire, action, conflict and change.
4. Write a personal narrative scene with these same elements.