Archive for the ‘Writing Technique’ Category

Six Essential New Year Resolutions for Writers

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015

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How to be the Most Productive and Inspired!

  1. Create a haven for which to write.  It might be in the middle of a busy coffee shop.  It could be in a library or on the subway.  Where do you write best?  Try out various settings.  I know one author who wrote in a closet for fifteen minutes before work.  She wrote several books this way!
  2. Set aside fifteen minutes a day to calm your mind and write.  Tune out list-making procedures and tune in to your intuition.  The best moments to get creative are when you daydream, awake from sleep, or are so relaxed you reach your most inspired moments. Wonder about a character, story, or idea.  Play what if . . .
  3. Notice one new sensory detail each day.  You can be at your desk, in a classroom, on a bus, or lounging in your favorite chair.
  4. Play a simile/metaphor game often. What do you see which reminds you of something else?  Find similarities between two random things.
  5. Read good writing.  Read more than you ever have before.  Keep a reading journal.  Jot down a wonderful word, image, phrase, or character you love from what you’ve read.
  6. Finally, don’t forget to PLAY!  Play in the snow, the sand, and the leaves.  Build with blocks.  Create a puzzle.  Act out charades.  Let go and have fun!

Best of California Travel Photo Contest

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

California Mendocino Photo

Taking pictures is a true art. Photos solidify memories and show specific details, which helps your writing become more specific.

If you live in California, are 18 or older, and not employed as full-time professional photographers, enter this contest! Photos are due by 5 p.m., May 3.   You can submit as many as you like, but if you enter more than one of the same shot, judges will select their favorite.  They will choose and publish only one photo per reader.  Judges won’t consider photos with time stamps, water marks, obtrusive copyrights and alterations (beyond minimal photo editing).

Winners:  Seven winners will have their pictures featured in the May 31 Eat Drink Play section and online at www.mercurynews.com/travel-contest.  Grand prize winner receives a three-night stay for two at the Four Seasons in Santa Barbara.  Six other winners will receive $100 gift certificates from Mike’s Camera.  In addition to the seven winners, there will be Best of the Rest honorable mention photos to be featured in an online slide show.  Entries, as they come in, will be displayed at www.mercurynews.com/travel-contest.

For more information, visit the above site.  Good luck!

Writing Prompts:

  1. Choose a photo you have taken as a prompt for a short story, poem, or other art work.
  2. Take your camera everywhere.  Practice taking shots.  Discover what makes the best ones. Write about your experiences.
  3. Take a photo class and read about photo techniques.  Become aware of the details that count.  How can this help your writing and other art?

Ten Steps to Enthusiasm

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

 

Panda sleeps in tree Are you finding it hard to feel enthusiastic?

Once reality settles in, you might feel despair. Sad bride on bus 

Don’t give up hope! Try Attitude Adjustment!

Steps to Enthusiasm:  

1. What inspired you in the first place? Write WHY you chose this idea.

2. Next, highlight the parts of your project you love.

3. Read good examples in the genre which is most like yours. Soak in the voice, style, and word choice.

4. Retype a paragraph, description, or sensory image which you admire about this work.

5. Model a specific scene/line in your writing using this example.

6. Illustrate a few scenes or lines. Breaking it down often helps diagnose problems.

7. Read your scene/line/story out loud. Tape it. Play it back. What sounds good?

8. Circle active verbs; highlight a vivid image in the text.

9. Feeling better? If not, time is your friend. Put it away for a while. Rest. Rejuvenate.

10. Share your work with a trusted writing partner or group. Specific suggestions can motivate.

 There now. You feel great!   It’s time to revise!

501 Dogs Hyper

Yorkie Amber Joy Shows How to Write with Excitement

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

AJ and Scooter on the beach 2014

 

We met our friends, Denise and Mike in the dog-friendly city of Carmel, California. They brought their dogs, Amber Joy and Scooter T. Rocketboy. At the beach, yorkshire terrier Amber actually grinned as she romped, kicking up sand and flying, wind whipping her ears and fur.  

With childlike wonder, she seemed to ask, “What IS this stuff under my paws?” She’d look back at us once in awhile, as if to say, “This place is SO much fun!”

A mild-mannered havanese, Scooter took the experience in stride, following Amber, but staying closer to Mom Denise, for protection from this unusual setting.

It reminds me we need to write with Amber’s mood if we want our readers to experience that elation. Need your readers to experience a character’s frustration? Sadness? Fear? Your word choices and details will transport them into the scene.

How?

Slow down the moments with sensory details and reactions.  Choose words which show the mood.

 Writing Prompts: 

  1. Create a scene at various settings: the beach, a forest, your backyard. Write a detail for every sense you experience. Show, through dialogue, thoughts, and actions, how your character feels in the setting.
  2. Change the feeling in the scenes above. If the scene in the backyard shows you’re ecstatic, write a new one with details which show fear. Your choice of details and descriptions will change with this mood you convey.
  3. You’ve just met a Martian who is new to our planet. Have the Martian experience objects and people in a setting. How can he/she misinterpret ideas? Show the character’s ignorance and perhaps create humor? Show how his world is different from ours?

 

 

 

 

Writing: Reputation Vs. Character

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

“A man’s reputation is what other people think
of him; his character is what he really is.”

~ Jack Miner

Reputation vs. character. How can they differ? Perhaps the story behind the reputation differs from who your character is.

In the television show Burn Notice, Michael, the protagonist, is a spy who discovers he’s been removed, “burned,” from the CIA. Cut off from financial resources, a web of support and contacts, he has unseen enemies within the organization and outside of it. As he works on private cases, attempting to untangle the mystery and get back into his old job, his goal is helping innocent people while earning a living.

Through it all, his encounters with government agents allude to his past: he’s a ruthless killer. Is Michael’s character, as we know him, different than his past? What’s the story behind the story? Was he set up to be the fall guy?

As the story behind the story is revealed, suspense with the audience, or with a book, the reader, grows.

Writing Prompts:

Create a character who acts one way while shields his true self.

  1. Take your protagonists and put her/him into a situation where reputation, beyond control, is cast in a negative light. What is the story behind the story which casts the character differently?
  2. Now write the opposite. An antagonist takes credit for everything good, while acts deviously behind the scenes.
  3. In the photo below, write what happens when this dog’s family arrives home. Next, write the story behind the story. How can the pooch’s reputation differ from his true character?liz photo

 

 

What impresses readers? Analyze your Squirrel!

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Hawk Vs. SquirrelConflict in nature, as shown by this hawk and squirrel behind our house, keeps life dangerous, emotionally driven and exciting. The squirrel hid inside his hole, but used the element of surprise to his advantage.

The hawk waited . . . . waited . . . and . . .

Pop!

The squirrel’s head burst out of his hole!  The hawk jumped backwards.

Yes, if we had captured a video of this, people would laugh.

Isn’t this what we desire of a good book? Capture readers emotionally, add an element of danger and surprise to create an exciting and humorous story.

 Writing Prompts:

  1. Where in your current writing project or art can you add the element of surprise for humor or shock value . . . or both? Remember, it’s all in the timing. Wait, wait, and boom!
  2. How can you engage your readers emotionally? Build your character’s needs and desires so they are real. Empathy for your squirrel increases the impact.
  3. Develop your antagonist so we see more than a cardboard evil character. What are her needs and desires? Why does this character act the way she does? Add this depth for a well-rounded story.

 

Enhance Your Writing with Humor: Dogs and Cats, Oh My!

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXAy_QU5WE8 

According to the Humane Society of the United States, pet ownership has grown dramatically since the 1970s.  Three times as many homes have pets today than forty years ago.  With the proliferation of pets in our lives, owners spend big bucks taking care of them.  Americans spent more than $50 billion on them in 2012, claim the American Pet Products Association. 

Which is why books, stories and articles about dogs and cats sell well. 

Author Bennett Cerf once said, “If writers want the sure road to success, for heaven’s sake, write something that will make people laugh.”

Combine sought-after humor with pets  and imagine the popularity! Humor’s basic premisses are contrast and surprise.  Placing two unlike things together create a funny juxtaposition. Employing the idea of opposites — two unlike characters interacting, laughs abound. 

Writing Prompts:

1.  Watch the video and let it inspire you to write about these animals together.  Write a scene from the dog’s point of view and then the cat’s.  Next, get into the owner’s head.   

2.  Write an announcer’s narration for this video.

3.  Choose another method of creativity to communicate the result of your #1 writing prompt. 

4.  If you’re a pet owner, pick up your camera and discover humorous moments with your animals.  Allow them to excite  you to for creating other works of art.

Make a Scene with Jordan Rosenfeld

Monday, April 14th, 2014

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How can you write a scene with emotional impact, reader involvement, and suspense? 

Author Jordan Rosenfeld spoke to the California Writers Club, Mt. Diablo Branch and shared valuable tips for writers of all genres.  

 With every scene you create, ask yourself, what is the point of the scene?  Does it move your story forward, or is it just a block of setting description?  In showing setting, make your character interact with her surroundings

Great advice!  I critiqued manuscripts at one conference where a writer created a lovely Victorian Christmas which dominated the first chapter.  I suggested she weave in the setting elements as the character acted and reacted, foreshadowing the mystery ahead. 

She said, “Great idea!  But this house doesn’t play a role in the rest of my story at all.”  So why include it?  Once she began writing with her plot and character in mind, her character acted, reacted, and experienced the setting through sensory images.  It wasn’t overblown this time, and she created a reason for her scene to be there: she introduced characters and hinted at the mystery coming.

Rosenfeld advised writers create tension through emotional complexity.  Characters can experience more than one feeling at a time.  The uncertainty can be showed through their thoughts and dialogue, the writer’s word choice, how a word sounds, and imagery

For more information, read her book, Make Scenes, published through Writer’s Digest, and visit her website:  www.jordanrosenfeld.net  

Writing Prompts:

  1. It’s your turn!  Create a scene by involving your character in the setting shown through the elements above.  Make sure your scene moves the story’s plot forward.  Ask yourself:  Why must it be here?
  2. Tony Serra, attorney for Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Cow, at a federal court appearance said, “Law enforcement is supposed to investigate crime and criminal activity.  In this case, they created crime and criminal activity.”  (Source:  Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle.)  Use this quote to create a scene employing Rosenfeld’s advice. 
  3. Write an article, nonfiction piece, or essay with a scene focusing on the tips above.

 

Three Ways Which Show Editors You Are Professional!

Monday, March 31st, 2014

What’s a writer to do?  With so many submissions sent to editors, how can you make your writing stand out from the crowd?  Make sure you show you’re a professional? 

Don’t let your manuscript scream AMATEUR from page one!

 But how?

  1. Reduce adverbs.  Many of those pesky words which describe verbs – - many ending in “ly” aren’t necessary.  They tell and don’t show.  Rather than describe how someone does or says, show through an action.  

 Example:  “Don’t come back!” she said angrily.

Instead:  “Don’t come back!” she said, throwing a shoe at him.

Cut useless adverbs, such as very, extremely and really. 

 2.  Remove purple prose, unless you are writing romance, melodrama, or creating a satire. If writing is melodramatic and flowery, it will draw awareness to the words themselves, rather than the meaning.  The Bulwer-Lytton Contest awards writers for purposely using purple prose in order to be funny.  Note all of the adverbs in the example below. 

Example:  The 2013 winner, Chris Wieloch, from my home state of Wisconsin, has created this:  “She strutted into my office wearing a dress that clung to her like Saran Wrap to a sloppily butchered pork knuckle, bone and sinew jutting and lurching asymmetrically beneath its folds, the tightness exaggerating the granularity of the suet and causing what little palatable meat there was to sweat, its transparency the thief of imagination.”

  3.  Follow the rules.  Break them only if it’s for a specific reason

Example:  Although your grammar check will correct you for using fragments instead of a full sentence, sometimes they’re useful.  Why?  People use fragments while talking, so it’s okay to place them in dialogue. If fragments are in humor or suspense, it speeds up the pace, which increases the humor and suspense. It also provides emphasis to strengthen the meaning of words.  But use them sparingly, or the device, overdone, won’t serve its purpose any longer.

Writing Prompts:

1.  Revise your latest writing projects.  Rewrite sentences where you’ve used adverbs.  Show with action instead.

2.  Cut out your purple prose.  How can you use show don’t tell and description in a non-cloying way?  Create with poetic images which go along with your themes.   

3.  Grammar check your writing.  Go against the rules only when you have a specific purpose.

4.  Read other good, humorous entries for the Bulwer-Lytton Contest.  Write your own submission.  Have fun!

www.bulwer-lytton.com/

How YOU Can Create Memorable Characters!

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Hollywood Producer/Agent Marilyn Atlas led an excellent writing workshop where focused on character.  She gave a multitude of terrific writing tips and I’ll share one of them.  She discussed three reasons characters resonate with readers or viewers.

The characters are:
1. fascinating or
2. mysterious or
3. relatable 

Writing Prompts:

1. Study a memorable character in literature or film.  Is this person fascinating?  If so, how?  Mysterious?  Explain.  Can you relate with her/him?  What makes him/her relatable?
2. What about the piece you are composing now?  If your protagonist isn’t fascinating, mysterious or relatable, invent back story and layers so he/she will be compelling. 
3. Before you write your project, spend time crafting your characters.  Draft scenes of conflict.  Every page should have tension, which can be done in subtext.
4. What is subtext?  Express characters through dialogue about one thing, while under their words remain an underlying meaning.