Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Word Wednesday July 20/11

Guess what? I remembered to do Word Wednesday this week! Lately I've slacked off a bit in this regard, but never fear it's back! I'm also wondering what everybody's thoughts are on WW. Should I keep on doing definitions, or should I also include other interesting facts to do with words (word history, usage etc.)? Maybe I'm being nerdy, but I personally find that sort of trivia interesting. Maybe I'm not the only one? Haha, let me know your thoughts in a comment, or vote in the pole.

Anyways! Onto the words...


Frequent
[ free-kwuhnt]
adj.

1.
happening or occurring at short intervals: to make frequent trips to Tokyo.
2.
constant, habitual, or regular: a frequent guest.
3.
located at short distances apart: frequent towns along the shore.

Redundant
[ri-duhn-duhnt]
adj.

1.
characterized by verbosity or unnecessary repetition in expressing ideas; prolix: a redundant style.
2.
being in excess; exceeding what is usual or natural: a redundant part.
3.
having some unusual or extra part or feature.

Supercilious
[soop-er-sil-ee-uhs]
adj.

1.
displaying arrogant pride, scorn, or indifference.




All definitions compliments of Dictionary.com



Monday, July 18, 2011

First Comes Email Exchange, Then Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage...: Part 1

Originally, I had planned to write about using Anglo-Saxon words vs. using Latinate words, however, I had a burst of inspiration. This past weekend my family and I traveled up into cottage country for a weekend ripe with romance, and fancy clothing, aka my cousin's wedding. Being that the drive was four hours, I brought along my newest how-to-write book that I am simply in love with. I was reading about foreshadowing, and the gun-on-the-wall principle, so that was fresh in my mind. So when I was sitting in my cousin's wedding listening to their vows, and their talk about when they first met each other the idea for writing a post on foreshadowing came to me.

Allow me to explain. When my cousin, Elizabeth, was reading her vows she mentioned that her and Tim, her new hubby, had been introduced by her grandfather. After eating dinner with her family, and Tim's, who were visiting, they exchanged emails. If this was a novel, that would be foreshadowing for what was to come, the wedding.

Foreshadowing is where you "suggest in advance" (thank you Dictionary.com!) what is going to happen. I could go into a long drawn out debate about why foreshadowing is good for our writing, but I'll put it plainly. Foreshadowing tells that reader that something is going to happen, which engages your reader, and keeps them turning the pages of your story. You might not think about it when you're reading, I know I don't, but often times the books you return to the library without finishing are lacking in foreshadowing. There is no indication of something to read for, so you simply stop reading.

Anything can be foreshadowed, whether it be a small event like missing the bus, or a large event like the death of a character. There are a ton of ways to foreshadow, but here are the few ways that I came up with with the aid of a few different books and websites.

Tell the reader it will happen.
This is one of the more overt ways to foreshadow, but it keeps the reader reading. If you start off a scene with this:

Martha got up in the morning, and had her morning coffee. Without a doubt she knew it was going to be a day filled with romance.

OR

Martha got up in the morning, and had her morning coffee. She could hardly wait till tonight when she went on her first date with the smart and equally handsome Mr. Summers.

In both examples, the writer tells the reader that something is going to happen. In the first instance the writer tells the reader that Martha will have a romantic encounter, and in the second, the writer tells the reader that Martha is excited to go on a date. By telling the reader that something is going to happen, it immediately plants an interest in the reader. What's going to happen that's so romantic? Who's Mr. Summers? How is Mr. Summers so smart? You get the point. Although this is not the most subtle form of foreshadowing it does the trick.

I do recommend that a writer is wary of using this to too much of an extreme, because you don't want to give away the ending, and prevent the reader from reading on. One major example of using this badly (in my opinion) that comes to mind right away is in Little House on the Prairie, the TV show, when Laura first meets Almanzo. She says something along the lines of, "I didn't know it then, but he was the man I was going to marry." This gives away to much, and takes away the whole advantage of interesting the reader. Now, if she would have said something like, "This man would be a significant part of my future." that would have been much better, as it makes the viewer ask question in order to keep watching the show.

Write a Pre-scene.
This is the type of foreshadowing that I mentioned earlier in regards to Elizabeth's wedding. The pre-scene would have been the dinner, and exchanging of emails. It would have promised something exciting to come within the novel. I would have kept reading the novel to see what becomes of the email exchange. Are they going to email each other? Do they fall in love? etc. etc. A pre-scene alludes to what is to come. I would even go as far as to say you need to have these scenes to make improve your writing. For example, as a reader, I would be extremely confused and unhappy if Elizabeth and Tim decided to get married out of the blue (again if their lives were a novel) with no foreshadowing pre-scene. There must be pre-scenes in order to keep the reader interested, and satisfied.

Write irrational emotions.
By giving character's emotions that aren't normal you tell the reader that something will come of those emotions. Now, in real life people have irrational feelings all the time and nothing comes of it, but in fiction every emotion means something to the reader. After all why mention it if it means nothing? For example, you might make a student afraid of going to school. This makes the reader wonder why they're so afraid, so they will read on to find out. You could also have a mother worry about leaving her child in daycare, and that could foreshadow a kidnapping. Giving your characters emotions that aren't "normal" will add to the foreshadowing effect.

I had planned to write this as one post, but quite frankly, this is getting much too long. Stay tuned for these sub-topics of foreshadowing:
-Four more ways to show foreshadowing
-Tips and cautions

Hope this helped! Happy foreshadowing! For now....




Sunday, July 10, 2011

Attack of the Adverbs!

Show don't tell.
Adverbs tell, actions show.

Applying this concept is a huge way to improve your writing. My first reaction to this was denial. It didn't seem like using adverbs inhibited my writing too much, but then I saw the light (so to speak).

First off, a little reminder what an adverb is.
Adverb: a word or group of words that serves to modify a whole sentence, a verb, another adverb, or an adjective; for example, probably, easily, very, and happily respectively in the sentence.

So basically, an adverb is any word that ends in "-ly".


The whole point of writing is to engage your reader to tell a story, thus entertaining them, and possibly teaching them something along the way. In order to engage your reader your words have to paint a mental picture, and make your reader feel like they're standing in the room with your characters. In order for this to happen you must leave the safety, and ease behind that comes with using adverbs.

Adverbs are commonly used after a dialogue tag, but are certainly not limited to that. Here's an example I took from some old drafts of mine of a adverb following a dialogue tag:

“He wants to take you hostage,” Stephan said hopelessly.

Now, I believed that I had showed this character, and how he felt pretty well. However, what does "hopelessly" really show me? It tells me how he feels, but I don't know how he looks or what he's doing. You should never modify "said" with an adverb. "Hopelessly" doesn't give me any mental picture, and therefore would fail to engage a reader.

Here's how I would do the rewrite to show how Stephan feels:

"He wants to take you hostage," Stephan said with a sigh. His body seemed to lose any willingness to stand up straight as he slumped into a rickety chair. Shoulders drooping like a wilted flower, he rested his chin in his hands and stared with glossed over eyes at the floor.

Now this certainly isn't perfect, and is a little melodramatic, but you see the difference between the two passages. You get a much better image, and his feeling of hopelessness from how he acts instead of me telling you that he simply feels hopeless.

That pretty much covers adverbs in dialogue, but what about adverbs in sentences?
Again, adverbs should be avoided within sentences also. Adverbs tell reader how events are being played out, as opposed to showing which is want we want to do. I'd like to show you another example of the difference between showing and telling, but this time with an adverb that modifies an action.

Again, this is an example I choose from an old draft of mine:

I struggled anxiously with the buttons at the back of my fancy dress.

As you can see, I used the adverb "anxiously" in this sentence, which doesn't show the reader what's going on, it tells. I've already explained why telling is a bad thing, so avoid being redundant, I'm going to get right into the rewrite.

My palms were sweating as I reached for the line of buttons up the back of my dress. My roaming fingers found there mark, but slipped off the tiny button in my haste to unfasten it. Biting my lip, I tried again. I grasped the button and shoved it through the tiny hole then moved onto the next one. Tapping my foot at a steady rhythm I hurried through the row until I was finally freed from the constraining grip of the gown.

Again, the second passage shows the reader the character's anxiety much better than just straight out telling it. As a side note, I do realize that "finally" is considered an adverb. However, using adverbs isn't against the "law" of writing, they just shouldn't be used frequently.

In conclusion, the main points that I'm trying to get across are these:
-Showing is better than telling, because showing creates a mental picture
-Adverbs tell
-You should never modify "said" or any other dialogue tag with an adverb
-Use adverbs very rarely if at all in writing

That pretty much sums it up! Although, I'm curious, how often do use adverbs in your writing? And are you planning to edit them out? Feel free to comment (if you're shy you can comment anonymously) or vote in the pole with your answers!

P.S. To give credit where credit is due, this post is basically a rehashing (with some of my own ideas added) of this post.

P.P.S. I also used the Bookshelf Muse's emotional thesaurus which lists things people do when they feel x emotion. Check it out it's awesome! It's in the sidebar on the right had side.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Word Wednesday July 6/11

After a long break from this Wednesday tradition, I'm back with three new words!

Fetish
[fet-ish, fee-tish]
–noun
1.
an object regarded with awe as being the embodiment or habitation of a potent spirit or as having magical potency.
2.
any object, idea, etc., eliciting unquestioning reverence, respect, or devotion: to make a fetish of high grades.
3.
Psychology . any object or nongenital part of the body that causes a habitual erotic response or fixation.


Vocation
[voh-key-shuhn]
–noun
1.
a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling.
2.
a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career.
3.
a divine call to God's service or to the Christian life.

Bedraggled
[bih-drag-uhld]
— adjective
(of hair, clothing, etc) limp, untidy, or dirty, as with rain or mud



All definitions compliments of Dictionary.com

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Get Out Your GOALie Gear

Something really important to any writer is goals. I find that if I don't have any sort of accountability with my writing then it simply doesn't get finished. It becomes one of those "Oh right, writing. I should do that" as I go off and watch an episode of Smallville. I need to have goals, and rewards in order to get my work done. I know that I love what I'm working on, but I just need that shove to get myself back in the game. There are four important aspects to think about when it comes to goals: long term goals, short term goals, assessments, and rewards.

Long term goals are well goals that are long term. That means goals that a set in place to be accomplished over a period of time. For example, "I'll write 25 000 words before the year is up in my story", "I'll write two hundred blog posts by the end of summer", or "I'll finish my revisions before Christmas". These are the goals that, in my opinion, are the hardest. I find them hard, because they aren't something you can just finish in an hour like a short term goal. They take a long time, and a lot of work. Frankly, they can be intimidating, and scary. Now that I've listed all the cons, let me explain why they're a good idea. Long term goals provide an ending to your project. If we don't set a specific time for a story, for example, to be finished then it has the potential to drag on and on, and never get finished. Long term goals, also force you to work, but still allow some wiggle room. For example, if you say I'm going to finish my first draft before summer ends it's not like you have to work on it everyday, you just have to finish it before summer is over. Overall, LT goals are very important to finishing writing projects, and are something every writer needs to have.

I like to think of short term goals as the building blocks to achieving long term goals. Short term goals are goals you set for yourself over a short period of time, like an hour, that contribute to achieving your long term goal. Some examples of short term goals are "I'm going to finish this scene before I go to bed", "I'm going to write a page a day", or "I'm going to write a blog post before I watch Merlin". When you set short term goals it makes it so much easier to achieve your long term goal. When you just have a long term goal, it becomes something distant that creeps up on you, and before you know it you haven't achieved your long term goal. Short term goals can sometimes be a tad scary, but the good thing about short term goals is that you get to set them in the moment. You know how you're feeling, and what you are capable of accomplishing, so you can set your short term goal accordingly.

Assessments. They are a part of the goals equation that I too often forget. Assessments are something that need to happen when dealing with long term goals. When you assess your goal you are basically taking another look at it, and seeing if it's still manageable and realistic. When we set long term goals we can't foresee the future (well at least I can't!), and sometimes life happens. There's a family crisis, or a surprise vacation, or you get sick etc. etc. All of that stuff prevents you from writing, which will effect the probability of meeting your long term goal. That's when you need to assess your goal and alter it accordingly. Don't be afraid to do this, because you'll just cause more harm to your moral when you don't meet your goal, than changing it half way. Sometimes we just don't write for whatever reason, and we have to get over that guilt that we feel and alter the long term goal also. For example, if you know that you write about two pages a week, then you should be setting your goal with that in mind. Your story might have the potential to be about two hundred pages, and at two pages a week, that's a hundred weeks. Now, you have to use your esteemed judgement in whether or not you are altering a goal because you're being lazy. That would be completely missing the point of setting goals. Ultimately, assessments are key to achieving your goal, because not achieving a goal does a whole lot of damage to a writer's moral which leads to writer's block.

Now for rewards, the fun part! Reward yourself when you meet your goals, short term or long term. When you set rewards for achieving goals then it provides an incentive to write. Let's face it, we all like to think that the idea of finishing the story is incentive enough, but its not. So reward yourself! I know that I have a little reward going on with a friend of mine. If we finish our drafts before the summer is over then we're going out for ice cream. The example I gave is a reward for a long term goal, but short term goals deserve to be rewarded also. Watch some tv when you finish your blog post, or have a few cookies when you finish writing that scene. Rewards provide excellent incentive to achieving our goals.

In conclusion, I can't stress enough how important setting goals is. My final warnings:
-don't set goals that are unrealistic and don't line up with your working patterns
-don't be afraid of assessing your goals
-embrace the reward system
Hopefully, this has spurred you onto setting some of your own goals! Also, I'd like to know if people agree with this system. Should we set times to finish a story? Feel free to comment with your thoughts below, or vote in the pole!
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