Sunday, October 31, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
In 1922 my someday to be grandmother, Alice Rupp, was a school teacher in Utah. Her career lasted all of one year because she married Charles Sample the next year. Believe it or not, if a women married, she was no longer allowed to teach according to the Female Teacher's Contract which came into effect in 1923. My dear mother, Verlayne Sample Richardson, found the contract a few weeks ago and gave me a copy.
Here are the 12 rules:
1. Teacher is not to get married. This contract becomes null and void if the teacher marries.
2. Teacher is not to keep the company of men.
3. Teacher must be home between the hours of 8:00 PM and 6:00 AM unless in attendance at a school function.
4. Teacher must not loiter downtown in ice cream parlors.
5. Teacher may not leave town at any time without permission of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees.6. 6..Teacher is not to smoke cigarettes or drink wine, beer or whisky. This contract becomes null and void if teacher is caught smoking, or drinking wine, beer or whiskey.
7. Teacher may not ride in a carriage with any man except her brother or father.
8. Teacher is not to dress in bright colors.
9. Teacher may not dye her hair.
10. Teacher will not wear dresses more than two inches above the ankle.
11. Teacher is to wear at least two petticoats.
12. Teacher is to bring a bucket to school to clean and scrub the building every week.
My, my, my, I wonder what bloggers or "light year word writers" "space word floaters" or cyber writers" whatever they will be doing or called in 2110, a hundred years from now, will think about the rules for female teacher of our time.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
While “do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” works for prevention of terrorist bombings and children pulling hair; it falls short in purchasing gifts and creating characters. There are times when to truly follow the golden rule you have to think “not what I would want but what would that person want.” I think the creator of the golden rule wanted us to figure out that we must take personalities into account.
I know I have made the mistake of buying gifts that I would like to receive only to miss the mark for the person. I have also been the disappointed receiver trying to put on a happy smile. An example: I have a sister that is not big on reading, especially not fantasy (a favorite of mine). It would be a mistake to give her any of my favorite books.
You are wondering how this musing has anything to do with writing. Well in my own mind I wonder, how do each of you keep track of your more minor character’s traits so they all don’t merge into a homogeneous blob? With interruptions and their small parts, side characters might get lost in the shuffle. Do you make out cards or Word files or just keep them in your head? Just wondering.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Or mean what you say.
I happen to love how one word can have layers of meaning.
Maybe it is my need for efficiency or love of multi-tasking that draws me to words that can do double duty for me in a sentence. It could be my years of writing poetry where brevity reigns supreme and multi-meaning words sort of have a royalty to them. If you have read O Pioneers! by Willa Cather, the opening sentence says this, "One January day, thirty years ago, the little town of Hanover, anchored on a windy Nebraska tableland, was trying not to be blown away." Maybe not the most gripping hook, but 308 pages later (*spoiler alert*) after Alexandra's neighbor Frank, kills her brother with a gun (i.e. blows him away), she visits Frank in prison, and on the way home she thinks, "of how she and Frank had been wrecked by the same storm. . . " I suppose there is more here to the story - but those few words with their dual meanings bring the story full circle.
Of course, extra meanings can spell trouble.
I was driving my oldest daughter to junior high yesterday. She was lamenting how only half of her long hair was curling. I mentioned if she cut it shorter, it would be lighter and more of her hair might curl.
Two hours later, at home, my four-year-old (who had been riding in the backseat) comes to me and says, "Mom, I'd like you to cut my hair."
"Because I am going to be Cinderella for Halloween and she has blond hair. So you need to cut mine."
I was still baffled until she explained,
"You said, 'if you cut your hair it gets lighter'"
Ahh. Words. Tricky, aren't they? I'm surprised they let us use them without a license.
So go put your words to work for you and have a great writing day!
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
My (late) post idea today comes (again) from teaching communications. Lately we have been studying conflict, which of course is a central element to good writing. See if you have considered use of all the various types of conflict in your manuscript.
Substantive Conflict: conflict over issues, goals, or ideas; this type of conflict is healthy and good as it enables a group to move closer toward its end goal. Groups without substantive conflict are unhealthy and fall into groupthink.
Affective Conflict: conflict between personality types, backgrounds, personal beliefs, etc. Affective conflict is present in every relationship. It should be balanced with an appreciation for diversity in others.
Procedural Conflict: conflict over how things are accomplished/done. Procedural conflict is almost always present in generational gaps between people, as well as in gender and cultural differences.
Quite often there are overlaps between these three types of conflict. For example, a newlywed couple may argue about taking out the trash. There may be elements of substantive conflict (his idea of a clean house is different than hers), affective conflict (her approach to the trash conflict is bossy and his is laid back), and procedural conflict (in his family the mother always took out the trash, while in hers it was the father) in one single argument.
Happy conflict writing!
Sunday, October 24, 2010
In just a few minutes, I will be speaking to the Young Women and Young Men from a Yuma, AZ, ward. My assignment: the last line of the 13th Article of Faith and how that has been applied in my own life as a writer.
Since my daughter first asked me to participate in this fireside, I've struggled to wrap my head around the two particular words, "anything virtuous." We live in a world where there is much evil. And, even if we aren't doing things that are blatantly wrong, there are many time-wasters that can occupy our time and our thoughts and easily rob us of the pursuit of virtue and beauty. Yet, often the challenge is not in the number of evil or mediocre things to choose from. No, even when we turn away from the more mindless, worldly enticements, we still are not home free, as that's when we face an even greater challenge sometimes.
How is it that we go about deciding just which of those worthwhile efforts and activities we focus on and turn our best efforts to? Tonight I will be sharing the dais with someone who has made music her life work and another speaker who is immersed in drama. I've realized again, as I've considered my remarks, that I truly CAN seek good things in many areas. However, I have chosen to seek many as an observer and an educated fan. I have chosen to support and to encourage others whose talents and abilities are different than mine. At the same time, I have had several experiences that have confirmed to me that I am to write. I recognize that to be a true seeker of what is most lovely and of good report, my quest should be to continually be improving in and sharing those talents and abilities the Lord has blessed me with. I write. Now my quest is to make that writing the most virtuous, beautiful and of good report as possible!
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Change is all around me. Unfortunately, it is not the kind of change I can take to the bank. Or is it? I looked out my window Monday morning and noticed that over night the leaves had turned. A light frost covered the grass and I had to turn on the heater. When our daughter came down the stairs I noticed how cute her hair looked and I wondered how long it had been since she asked me to braid it for her. After losing our business and our home, I recently experienced my first job interview and and started working for someone other than my family. Actually, a couple of different job opportunities have been presented to me and they all involve writing from home. Now how cool is that? I feel the Lord's hand in all of this. He has prepared me for all of these changes. So why did I feel so overwhelmed and inadequate all of a sudden?
When these feelings of anxiety and near-panic consumed my mind, I dropped to my knees and sent a fervent and heart-felt prayer to my Heavenly Father. I asked for clarity of mind and direction from the Spirit that I might choose the best things that would help me fulfill my measure of creation. I went through my list of tasks for the day: laundry, scripture study, journal writing, canning pears, tomatoes, apples, cooking dinner (company coming), preparing a family home evening lesson (had to be a good one for said company) mop the floor, perform my paying job, do my homework, plan Wednesday's Relief Society luncheon, feed the dogs, the birds, the ducks, clean the bird cages, vacuum, dust, and tidy the bathrooms. There was more, but they were things I knew I would never get to.
As I prayed, clarity did come. My most important calling is that of wife and mother. I knew in my heart that if I took care of scripture study, family home evening, and a meal first, everything else important would be taken care of. Throughout the day, tender mercies appeared at every corner. Time seemed to expand for the things that needed doing, and the other tasks were either taken on by someone else, or I was shown ways to save them for later. I learned humility as I asked for help from the Lord and from people around me. I learned to have patience with myself. I learned the importance of paying attention.
The phrase "pay attention" has popped up in my life several times in the last couple of weeks. I have learned that when I hear the same admonition three or more times in a week that I had better take heed. Paying attention requires us to block out distractions and focus. I have opportunities for change all around me. (Can you hear the hymn going through my head?) What distractions are holding me back? Fear? Feelings of inadequacy? It is time to go and do something today! Change is good. I think I will start writing about it. Who knows, perhaps one day I will even get to take some of that change to the bank.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Ever since I heard President Uchtdorf speak about slowing down, it's been preying on my mind.
Last year, I had 80 students on my caseload (I make sure they get the right services, do their paperwork, meet with parents, do testing, etc.). This year I have 111. That means lots of (unpaid) overtime. So, I get home late . . . .
I decided to get my PhD last summer in a reaction to an empty nest. It will also allow me to take a university position . . . with no overtime! But right now, it gives me homework to do.
Thanksgiving means a full house plus grandpa & future daughter in law. Plus 3 November birthdays.
When I started the classes, I didn't know my younger son would be getting married in December. He's also graduating. That means attending his sealing and reception in Logan, followed by Christmas in Logan, then a race back to Texas followed by a reception here!
So, I'm making Christmas plans (and buying presents) for 9 adults and two grandchildren. Plus two stray adults we've picked up along the way. That's going to be one full rental house!
I was trying to rush through the classes and finish sooner, but President Uchtdorf told me to slow down.
I've also decided to change my approach. Instead of letting what I have to do prey on my mind, I've decided to mind my prayers.
I'll let you know how it all turns out!
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
See the awesome ANWA Conference widget on the sidebar? Yeah, right there. It's so wonderfully counting down the seconds till the out-of-this-world awesome ANWA Conference!
Krista Darrach created the widget. She is an awesome widget-creator, isn't she?! I've already seen it popping up around the blogosphere, so thank you to those that have already snagged it. In fact we want to say thank you to all of you who post it on your blog sidebars with a contest to win a t-shirt.
Here's how to enter:
1. Snag the widget for your own blog sidebar. (Just click on "Get Widget").
2. Leave a comment telling us you did so. (Mention of this Widget Contest might show up elsewhere, in fact you are welcome to share it on all your networking sites, but to be entered you must leave a comment on this particular blog post).
Simple as that. Next time it's my turn to blog (which comes around every other Tuesday) I will randomly choose a winner among the commenters.
I'm not sure, but this might be the very-first-ever contest with a prize offered on the ANWA Founder blog!
NOTE: Since we don't have an official conference logo at this point or maybe never will, I can't say what the t-shirt will have on it. If nothing else, it will be a phrase of your own choosing as in this example...
We are so excited for all that is planned for the upcoming conference. Help us spread the word through blogs, tweets, facebook, and word of mouth. We want this to be the BEST CONFERENCE EVER!
And hey, did you know that if you click on the widget it takes you straight to the conference registration page? Cool, huh? Remind visitors to your blog that they can click on it to get all their conference questions answered.
Monday, October 18, 2010
When I was younger, my husband was in the military. He joined when our oldest was about a year old. I was so excited about our new adventure together, I was ready to see the world. We were stationed at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the entire tour. Boring. But, it was a turning point in our marriage and the place where we figured out who we were and who we wanted to be. In that sense, it was fabulous and exciting and the best adventure I could have asked for. I loved our life in the military. I loved seeing my husband get dressed in his uniform each day (who doesn't love a man in uniform?), the military productions, the rules, the etiquette, the everyday patriotism. It was a good life.
But, it was a poor life too. We were enlisted and made very little money. The military for us, was a means to an end. They paid for his schooling, and while he was getting his education, he was working in the right field, gaining the experience he needed to make his education profitable for us. We got out as soon as he graduated.
I watched an HBO film last night called Taking Chance. It is the story of a Lt. Colonel in the USMC who volunteers escort duty for a fallen soldier. It shows the process of bringing a soldier home who has been killed in the line of duty. I was moved to tears more than once at the patriotism I felt and the respect that I witnessed others show for a PFC in the Marines Corp. It was incredibly touching.
The show was not politically directed, it was just that the Lt. Colonel himself was so moved that he wanted to write about it and then wrote a screenplay for it. It didn't hurt that Kevin Bacon played the Lt. Colonel and for a 52 year old guy, he is hot...but I digress.
I guess my point is, what happened to my patriotism? What happened to flying my flag on patriotic holidays? I am guilty of downplaying certain holidays like Flag Day. I miss saying the pledge of allegiance (my kids still get to say it everyday). I miss singing songs like "You're a Grand Old Flag" or "Fifty Nifty United States" at school productions. I am grateful for this country and proud to be a citizen, regardless of who is running our country or whether I agree with policies or not. I am an American citizen and I am proud and I am going to do a better job of showing my patriotism. What kind of things can you think of to show our patriotism? They can be big or small. (Don't forget Veteran's Day is coming up in November, we will be taking our annual trip with my husband to the Souper Salad in his honor, why? I don't know, but that is our tradition. I think we will go to a parade too. I'll let you know what we do.)
Suggested Read: No Ordinary Joes by Larry Colton (I can't wait to get my hands on this book) Check it out here.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
"What" and "if" are two short and tidy little words with great possibilities. Team them up and you get something that can either haunt you or send out good vibes that rippled much like a stone thrown in a glassy pond.
"How so?" you might ask.
Well, I'm glad to tell you. An example that can torture and derail you from ever reaching your goals is: "What if nobody likes my story?" This one can turn into a self full-filling prophesy and almost paralyze you with fear. You may not even finish your manuscript. If you somehow escape the self-doubt caused by these simple six words, then you enter a whole new area of sending your baby out into the big, bad world. Now the rejections come, --and come they will. Once again, you will have to reach deep inside and learn from this and do some honest editing and send it back out again.
How about if you ask yourself, "What if I complete my manuscript by Christmas?" This one is a good example of opening up positive outcomes. This positive energy can help you make it a reality, and when you do finish by Christmas, you can be proud of your accomplishment and build on your success.
Here are some "What if?" questions to ponder. You may want to grab a pen and paper and write a two or three sentence answer to each. Let's give it a go.
What if I had a whole week in a cabin to write?
What if I turned off my phone and didn't open my emails so I could just write?
What if I let the wash and house go for a few days? Would the world end?
What if I finish my book? Then what?
What if I sign up to pitch my manuscript to one of the agents or editors presenting at the ANWA Writers Conference February 25 and 26, 2011?
What if I find an agent and a publisher? Then what?
What if I break some body's publishing rules and publish in several different genres?
What if I have to do book signings?
What if I have to do speaking engagements?
What if I ignore the comment that my dialog is weak from a best selling author after she looked at one paragraph of my rough draft? The same rough draft that won 1st place in a major contest. (Yes this happened and it was a good lesson in trusting my own instincts and learning to take some critiques with a grain of salt.)
What if my book hits the big time? Then what? (I dream about this one every time I start beating myself up. It's a fun one and often gets me back writing again.)
What if my book touches someone and gives them hope? This is my most powerful "What if?" and I use it often.
Did you learn anything about yourself?
What are your "What ifs"? You may find you have two answers to your "What ifs". One that will freeze you so that you won't be able to reach your potential, and one that is daring and invigorating though others may think you're a little bit crazy.
I love the rush of going with the positive dreams and don't mind the "little bit crazy" title. Hmmmm . . . maybe this will be a new blog topic.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
“ [Y]e receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” Ether 12:6.
This is a scripture that has always irritated me. I always thought God should teach the lesson then let us practice it. The unfortunate truth is: we learn from our trials.
But really it is the key to suspense in a novel followed by a happy ending. Stories have to have deep dark moments of despair before the moment of self discovery, or reprieve, or win. The moment when you wonder if your protagonist is doomed and has been abandoned by an unkind author and no happy ending will come. Even in books by authors you know and trust to provide a happy resolution there needs to be a dark desperate point in the story.
I think this is because we readers like suspense and we have all known failure and loss in real life; thus, we want to know that there is hope and light after the worry and suffering.
A well managed dark point makes the light to follow all the brighter. But it is easier to analyze than write. Are there any signs you have got it right?
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Just a quick note to apologize for not posting. I'm usually extremely dependable. However, things have been crazy at home and at work and I forgot to write my reminder of when I supposed to post.
Sorry! Please forgive. I've got it down now and won't forget.
Does this happen to other people?
Monday, October 11, 2010
I am late posting today, but I suppose better late than never. I was teaching a communications class this evening at Red Mountain Community College and several of the class topics caught my eye in terms of writing. Specifically, I was teaching about nonverbal communication and that it often communicates meaning more fully than verbal communication. There are numerous aspects to nonverbal communication, which I will list below. How might you add additional detail to your characters or conflicts by including nonverbal cues such as...?
Emblems: body gestures that translate into words
Illustrators: used to enhance verbal messages (i.e., flight attendant hand gestures during safety instuctions)
Affect Displays: movements of hands, face and body that communicate emotion
Regulators: behaviors that try to regulate or control communication of others (i.e., nod of head or hand in circular motion tells someone keep talking)
Adaptors: gestures that satisfy a personal need (i.e., blowing your nose or scratching an itch)
Territoriality: possessive reaction to a space
Markers: signals of ownership, give you a feeling of belonging
Proxemic Distances: how far or near we place ourselves to one another
Color: the colors we choose to surround ourselves with communicate messages to others
Clothing: Clothes express people’s attitudes toward themselves and their society
Space Decoration: the objects we surround ourselves with communicate meaning
Olfactics: what we smell can communicate (i.e., perfume communicates attraction)
Touch can communicate play, control, ritual, task, and emotion
Absense of touch also communicates (i.e., avoiding someone's handshake)
Paralanguage and Silence:
Paralanguage is the vocal but nonverbal dimension of speech (i.e., accents, pronunciation, stuttering).
Silence can be used as a weapon, to show personal anxiety, to prevent communication, to communicate emotional responses, or simply that someone has nothing to say.
When someone does something communicates a person's thoughts and attitudes about that action. Is it done with punctuality? Is it done as quickly as possible with bare minimum work?
There are likely better ways to "show" your reader details that currently are stated explicitly in your manuscript. Try adding a new detail or two to your work in progress using one of these nonverbal cues.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Just a few weeks ago, I had one of those "wake up" moments when I realized yet again that Heavenly Father's ways are not always my ways. You know those times--when you feel you are merrily walking down a solid path, following what you think is inspiration and righteous desires, only to have it all turn to dust under your feet! It's always a little painful to have even your little wishes dashed, to be brought up short, and to be reminded that there may be a different plan for you at this juncture than the one you had in mind. In the midst of my disappointment over the desired outcome in this particular instance, I quipped (more than once, I'm afraid!) "Why don't I learn how to discern in the first place, rather than having to repent and start over so often?" That question has stuck around to ring in my ears over the past few days, but, just as loudly, my heart and soul respond with, "Know this, that all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good." Ah, of course. It's these challenges that bring experience and experience that brings wisdom. But, wouldn't it be nice to be a wiser woman in the first place and be able to avoid quite so many experiences! Indeed, a wise woman has a strong sense of what it means to "Trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not unto thine own understanding." Rather than subjecting herself to what I call "Martin Harris experiences," a wise woman has learned to wait on the Lord and to listen to his voice. A wise woman seeks first the kingdom of God. I intended, today, in the spirit of the date itself (10/10/10) to compose the "Ten Reasons I Write." Instead, in the spirit of my recent awakening and "teaching time," I decided to share, "Ten Things a Wise Woman Will Do." These were shared with me by a great woman...now, if I can only be wise enough to apply them sooner rather than later next time!
1. Seek Jesus Christ through service.
2. Pray regularly.
3. Will not judge.
4. Feel the love of the Lord. (Ponder Isaiah 49:16)
5. Ponder the scriptures.
6. Be grateful.
7. Be teachable.
8. Understand the importance of the temple in her eternal salvation.
9. Follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost. (Act quickly!)
10. Recognize her spiritual gifts.
And, one more...11. Cut herself some slack and give herself plenty of room to learn and grow until she truly can demonstrate wisdom in all things!
Saturday, October 9, 2010
By Christine Thackeray
I was supposed to blog yesterday* but got home from the Northwest Writer's Retreat exhausted. The four hour drive home took over six due to wet roads and a serious accident that clogged the freeway. Still, it was worth every minute. I LOVE ANWA!!! Not only did we laugh until we almost peed ourselves and talked into the wee hours of the night, (like how I worked pee annd wee in the same sentence?) BUT I learned so much about writing that will help me NOW with my current work in progress.
The conference was incredible. Mary Lou Bailey had us each write down our alias name, our secret fantasy and our biggest pet peeve. Who knew that Xanthea, Sawyer and Lady Constance were in our midst. The classes I attended included Monique L. taught about blogging, twitter and had an ipad to show us. It was SOOO helpful! Then Liz Adair taught about the six stages of writing: finding our inner matroyshka. For those of you that have now clue what that last word means, it's one of those Russian nesting dolls and when you get to the center, the doll is solid. I'm hoping to get there before too long. Lara N. taught a free verse poetry class and I taught the basics of story ark or is that arc.
The second day ended with Mary Lou having puzzles of different places. Everyone had to find the three other people with the other pieces to their puzzle and then we each began an story with our alter ego as the MC. After five minutes, we switched, round robin style, and had to continue the other person's story. That's when the laughing started. The best entailed a dead cat, stilettos and Ozzy Osborne.
Best of all, Janette Rallison came all the way up from Arizona and spoke numerous times, each with such great information. At the very end we sold books and I brought an autographed "Revenge of the Cheerleaders" for my thirteen year old daughter. I came home exhausted but she was thrilled by the gift and I just found out she stayed up until three in the morning finishing it last night. It was so good she couldn't put it down.
What a compliment to Janette and what a great weekend. I'm still smiling.
*Marsha made it show up on Sunday's date
Friday, October 8, 2010
by Joan Sowards
I admit it. I am totally addicted to family history research and I enjoy it as much as writing.
I actually attribute my love for writing to family history. Years ago, I found a name of a woman that possibly could be my ancestor’s mother. The impression repeatedly came to sit down at the computer and write how an interview with her would go. I did and it turned into a short story. Then it grew into a novel—my first novel (unpublished)—Bridges of the Heart. Through that experience, I discovered I love writing and crafting a story as much as I love doing family history research.
As everyone else, I had planned to start genealogy in my retirement years, but about twenty years ago a friend insisted I find a babysitter and go with her for an hour to the family history center. After that I was hooked.
I used to be like the girl I met one evening sitting in the back of the family history center as the other Young Women in her class attentively listened to the missionary sister giving a tour. I asked the girl why she didn’t join her friends. “My family has been in the church for generations and our genealogy is all done,” she said, leaning back in her chair with an air of smugness.
I had to hide a smirk. “I used to think that way too,” I told her. “But as I got into researching, I found that each of my ancestors had siblings, spouses, and in-laws that still needed finding. Outside of my direct line, very few had their temple work done.”
She shrugged and I knew that was my cue to leave her alone to bask in her all-is-well-in-Zion attitude, though I knew the joy she'd miss.
Sometimes I feel guilty spending time doing family history, but in the long run, I know it is not time wasted. Every name found goes on familysearch.com. I feel warm all over finding a name that isn’t already recorded there. Making records public takes lost individuals out ofobscurity who may otherwise never be remembered.
Another good thing about researching, is that I can do it at home in my spare time, between loads of laundry and grandchildren visits. I can do it when I’m burned out from writing on my novel. I can write my novel when I’m burned out doing family history research.
The bottom line—doing family history work brings happiness. :-)
Thursday, October 7, 2010
My children have a pet peeve about their Dad. Sometimes it endears him to them. At other times, eyes roll and groans of frustration echo down the hallway as they beat a hasty retreat to their bedrooms. More often than not, this particular personality trait will elicit a melodic,
Even my brother-in-law gripes about it. Until recently, that is. We were listening to a General Authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speak about raising families and teaching children how to learn.
"Teach your children how to learn by answering their questions with another question."
A huge grin appeared on my husband's face. I giggled. A couple of our children snickered. My brother-in-law just glared.
Questions intrigue me. I remember as a young child being told to not ask stupid questions. So I stopped asking questions and just followed directions. I soon came to learn that questions are essential to growth and understanding. Whenever we desire to gain secular or spiritual knowledge, questions help us focus and pay attention to the most relevant information. The Lord wants us to ask questions. ("Ask and ye shall receive.") The scriptures are full of them. (Alma 5. Have you ever counted the questions in that chapter of the Book of Mormon?) Best of all...we will be given the answers.
Questions are also important to us as writers. We want the reader to ask questions. We can answer the question with another question and keep them reading, but when do you stop? When is enough, enough? That is just one of my questions.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
by Valerie Ipson
I don't know if you non-writers out there realize that adverbs = bad.
I know. Your high school English teacher never told you. You probably received high marks for beautifully decorating your verbs with all those -ly wonders.
Well, it's something you pick up on the street when you hang with the creative writing crowd. Beef up your verb choice and then who needs an adverb. Ran quickly becomes raced. Cried loudly sounds better as wailed. And glitters brightly is just plain redundant. And repetitive.
It's beautiful in its simplicity: Kill the adverb.
But wait. Don't sentence it to death row just yet. (At least not till you read this blog post.) Adverbs don't only modify verbs, people. They have other reasons for living.
In Spunk & Bite-a writer's guide to punchier, more engaging language & style, by Arthur Plotnik, he devotes an entire chapter to fresh adverbs. He talks about "adverbs of manner [that] reveal the way in which a thing or quality is distinguished." For example: "hugely boring or minutely entertaining."
Adverbs can become fresh when they modify adjectives. And though they are called "fresh," they have been used in this way (as Plotnik points out) long before Nixon's "perfectly clear" speech, in fact their usage dates back to as early as 1570 with phrases found in literature like "curiously dainty."
Here's a match game taken from Spunk & Bite, pgs. 40-41. See if you can match the actual adverb-adjective pairings taken from print. The subject of the sentence is shown in parenthesis. (See answers below.)
[Note: I added the second list in green to differentiate it, so choose an adverb from the list on the left and pair it with an adjective from the green list--Blogger wouldn't let me separate the two into columns. If anyone knows how to do that, let me know.]
1. dormantly a. ordinary (plot structure)
2. gloriously b. fervent (devotion)
3. scarily c. naive (conviction)
4. militantly d. Mormon (guy from Philly)
5. incongruously e. hostile (speech)
6. juicily f. unclever (writer)
7. resolutely g. ridiculous (role as pirate)
8. wittily h. intricate (dance step)
9. inflammatorily i. prosaic (men's fashions)
10. metaphysically j. uproarious (doings)
1. d (Patricia Marx, The New Yorker)
2. j (Kirkus Reviews)
3. b (Sarah Miller, The New York Times)
4. i (Judith Thurman, The New Yorker)
5. a (Janet Maslin, The New York Times)
6. g (David Denby, The New Yorker)
7. f (Bruno Maddox, The New Yorker)
8. h (Richard Eder, The New York Times)
9. e (John Updike, The New Yorker)
10. c (Lydia Davis, Granta)
Now wasn't that fun? I loved trying out all the adverbs with Mormon, just to see the different images they conjured up. Suddenly (since 1570, anyway) adverbs are crazily fun again. And surprisingly useful. And blazingly fresh... okay, I guess I don't need to overdo it. One must still choose wisely. Not all adverb-adjective pairings will be gloriously, resolutely, or wittily fresh.
Monday, October 4, 2010
My family will have a hard time believing that I have nothing to say. That rarely happens around here. But I do have tons of stuff milling around in my head, like...
I can't wait to get my hands on the text of Mervyn Anderson's talk in General Conference on Sunday. I think I will base my parenting book on that talk alone. Everything he said, I could totally support, and I felt like I got a pat on the back and a slap on the wrist in a very loving and inspired way.
I have a nasty letter to the superintendent of our school district (which when I finally sit down to compose, won't come off nasty because of my 10 day complaint letter writing rule) about a certain administrator at the high school who was seriously in the wrong recently.
I have a paper to write for my Marriage/Family relations class about the effects of the new credit card laws on the family. I have been doing a lot of research on that topic. I recently took my credit cards out of my wallet to avoid the temptation. I didn't use it all that often before, but with Christmas coming up, I didn't want to be tempted.
I have tons of thank you letters to write, because people need to hear it once in a while, even if it is for something as small as holding my baby and getting him to fall asleep during sacrament meeting so I can sit with my family for once instead of roaming the halls or sitting in the nursing mother's lounge while he fusses.
I need to post more on my family blog because I am way behind. Everything that happens is a blog post in my head, like my son becoming captain of his MCC cross country team, my Varsity cheerleader who just turned 16 and now has her driver's license and can date, my Mitey Mite cheerleader who never knows whether we won the game or not, but has scoped out the after game treat by halftime. My two boys are quarterbacks on their respective football teams and can throw like no 14 and 11 year old you have ever seen. My girl scout who is my best helper with my babies, and let's not leave out my babies. I forgot how time consuming a two year old and a 9 month old are when you have to take care of them both at the same time. I don't want to forget my husband, who, 30 pounds lighter, feels like he has enough energy to coach a freshman football team AND a Pop Warner football team, which has him at football practice and/or games 6 days a week. Lucky for me, he works from home, so I see him when he pokes his head out of the office to ask me what I made him for lunch. I don't even want to post about losing my camera. I can't bear to think about it because there is no money in the budget to replace it right now. What's worse, is I can't bear to blog without any pictures, so the future of my family blog is bleak at best.
I have Heather Horrock's book How to Stuff a Wild Zucchini sitting here on my desk, staring at me. When will I get a few hours to read it? I'm hoping for Thanksgiving weekend at the earliest. It is KILLING ME!! But I gotta have priorities.
Well, looks like I had plenty of nothing to talk about.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
A noun is a person, place, or thing. If you ate two almonds, you don't need an apostrophe. A sign saying Condos for rent doesn't need an apostrophe. If two cars collide, no apostrophe is needed to describe the event.
Apostrophes are used to make contractions and to show possession for SOME words. That is called possessive. Exceptions are words like his, her (and hers) and . . . wait for it . . . ITS!
You wouldn't think of writing "Hi's brother went to ...the store," or "That's not her's," would you? Tell me you wouldn't.
I can use the apostrophe in "wouldn't" because it is (or it's) a contraction: two words we've come to squish together. The second word is usually "is," which is where that so-often-misused-but-not-in-this-case "apostrophe s" comes from when we drop the "i" and bump the "s" up against the previous word. The apostrophe reminds us that we've left something out, like a letter or two. We have, indeed, left out the "ha" in the last sentence's "we've." Note the possessive form of "sentence". Yes, it has the apostrophe followed by the s.
That's enough for today's lesson, folks. Go forth and think about correct apostrophe usage today. :-)
No, don't come after me for the over usage of quotation marks. They have their place (but not they're or there place).
Saturday, October 2, 2010
(The italicised comments are mine.)
Half the difference between what works and what doesn't in fiction has to do with how the words are phrased. If you want to be a polished writer, remember these rules for smoother and more powerful writing.
1.Use appropriate and frequent paragraph breaks.
Readers want breaks. That's why text is divided into paragraphs to begin with. A skillful writer can always find a spot to put in a hard return. If you can't, look again; you can so. (It's all about the white space.)
2.Use only one name for a character.
If the character, Ron Carpenter, is a doorman, call him either Ron or Carpenter, but not both. And be careful about referring to him as ''the doorman.'' Although that seems like a good substitute for the name that has been repeated so often, unless his occupation is more than clear, the alternation between name and job title can be confusing. (Don't you hate to have to go back and figure out who in the world they are talking about. I 'll do it once or twice, after that, the book sails across the room.)
3.Choose entirely distinct character names.
Don't name your two lead characters Stan and Steve. Sure the names are different, but readers can't always track that fact—especially when they pick up the book three days later to read again. (Please don't use names that are just flat out weird like Klytara and call her Klyty, or names that can't be pronounced in your brain let alone out loud.)
4.Don't use slang unless you clarify it.
I''m pretty well-read but when I came across the phrase "seven deadlies" with the assertion that they built to felonies, I thought this was a special law-enforcement phrase and not a way of referring to the Seven Deadly Sins. (Tough balance sometimes when you are writing dialog in teen voices.)
5.Limit your use of possibly offensive language.
Reasons exist for characters to swear. But remember that, nowadays, most books are bought by women and many women don't like swearing for swearing's sake (even in gritty or naturalistic novels). (I love this! My mission is to write wholesome books for children, young adults and adults --yeah, everybody. It's great that others in the writing world see the true picture also.)
About G. Miki Hayden: She teaches both fiction and non-fiction writing on Writer's Digest online and is the author of WRITING THE MYSTERY: A START - TO FINISH GUIDE FOR BOTH NOVICE AND PROFESSIONAL.