Homonyms Action

Ok, you all know homonyms (words with multiple meanings) – like suit – that suits you or the black tie suit. Now, take the same idea, but apply it to actions. Waving, for example can mean hello or goodbye.

Stevie Smith, a British poet, uses this idea in her poem, Not Waving but Drowning.

“Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way, They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.”

While the action of waving can look like a greeting, an attention getter, something welcoming, it actually also could be a goodbye or a drowning, an attempt to get help.

Thinking along these lines, are there any other actions that could have multiple meanings? Maybe, try to come with a time you did something that someone else misinterpreted.

Comments open for any thoughts, examples or whether you liked Stevie Smith’s poem.

It’s not one of my favorite poems, but I like it, and for some reason I find it funny.

Writing Sound

Today we have an exercise in sound. Now, there are several ways to incorporate sound in your writing; by way of similes, metaphors, onomatopoeias, etc. In my opinion, I lean towards using similes or metaphors more often than onomatopoeia because I find that onomatopoeia tends seem more childish, the clock goes tick, the horse says neigh, the horn went honk. I think that if you want to use words that mimic their sound, the sentence has to be a bit more complicated. When your sentence is more complicated and uses more educated words, certain onomatopoeic words blend well and add that sound effect the writer is looking for. I still think when I see something like:

Crash! The car skidded into the power box and sparks illuminated the hood in brilliant flashes.

sounds a little young, simply because of “Crash!” I think the writer’s goal is to surprise the reader and by making a one word sound/action it hooks the reader, but from a readers stand point I think a little bit more subtle hits me harder and grabs me. Instead try:

That’s when they crashed. The car skidded into a power box and sparks illuminated the hood in brilliant flashes.

It’s a statement and although the reader will take more time allowing the to figure it out before they finish the sentence, it works to build tension.

In other cases onomatopoeia works very well. You could argue that “skidded” from that sentence is onomatopoeic, the skid mimicking the tire vibration when the car slides and in this case it serves the sentence very well. Other not quite so blatant words like “plop”, “giggle”, and “sizzle”, when used well transform the mundane sentence into a well rounded sensory expirience.

But in no sentence does the word “buzz” belong.

Do you know of any instances where an onomatopoeic word worked well, or did not work at all?

Imaginary Places Vs. Real Places You’ve Never Visited

This weeks writing workshop focuses on one question: How do you prepare to write about a real place that you have never visited?

I feel like there’s a difference when your setting is imaginary versus a real place you have never visited. In an imaginary world, your knowledge rules. You can make anything you want and the readers get to experience it. Not saying it’s easier to write imaginary settings, there’s a lot of foundation that needs to be set and a lot of remembering what it is what. However, when your world is a real city that you’ve never set foot in your knowledge bows to greater knowledge. Your goal is to sound like an expert in whatever city your characters are set, so that if a person from that city chooses to read your book they are convinced by your words and better enjoy the story. For me, that’s one of the major keys of becoming a great writer – being able to convince a reader, a smart reader who knows more about your setting or your subject, that you know what you’re talking about, and that they are going to gain something from reading your work. To break that connection, that trust between author and reader, by misplacing an adjective, incorrectly describing your setting, means that you loose all trust between author and reader, and now they can not believe your setting, your subject, your character, and your story. It’s a slippery slope that can cost you potential readers and potential sales.

The book I’m writing now is set in Seattle, Washington, tentatively. I’ve researched Seattle online and tried to dig up some depth of local culture or the mood of the city. I’ve spent time watching the weather, movies set in Seattle and tried out some sleepless nights, but since I constantly worry about “author/reader trust,” I fear that the only way to really convince my reader the characters are in Seattle is more research, possibly visiting the city or some other immersion.

So my question for you all is, how do you write about a real place you’ve never traveled to and what methods of research do you use?

Also, I spent a lot of time on google maps, checking out street names, lake names, green areas, places of interest, I think I might print them up and hang them around my working area to help. I may also look up some topography maps to get a more accurate feel of the elevation levels, terrain and land formations. Still, experiencing the city may just be the best way to go, at least for a desert dwelling, Las Vegas native.

Improper Words

Today’s writing exercise is a mind workout. It’s a simple process, that for me really opens my mind to new word choice possibilities.

Here we go:

  • First grab a dictionary.
  • Flip to any page you want.
  • Randomly choose a word from the page.
  • Now, use the word in a sentence, but change the part of speech it normally is to another one. So, if the word is a noun, use it as an adjective, or a preposition.
  • Do any part of speech, but try to maintain a similar meaning or at least a meaning you would expect that word to have in the new form.

Colors are a good example. You hear about a leaf greening, or a face yellowing, what would be oranging?

How about the sun oranging the street?

What about the word corolla – a noun meaning the petals of a flower?

What if a building had no windows on the first floor, but the higher up you looked the more windows there were and the tighter together they were built? What if they seemed to curve together and make up the whole top of the building. Could the windows be corolla windows?

Not only is it a word that evokes specific imagery but the vowels smooth over from one word to another. Corolla windows.

Words are limitless.

I always joke with Justin that my English degree certifies me to change the language at my will.

The truth is (I love this topic, if you can’t tell) language changes by anyone’s will.

Obviously, I think there is importance in the proper way of writing and using the language -proper spelling, grammar and all that, but I think about how fun it is to manipulate the language as well and really-how important it is too. Creatively changing the language to meet the needs of a writer wanting to express a very specific idea makes using words in uncommon ways important, as an exercise of the creative mind and a practice for writers pushing envelopes like e.e. Cummings and Shakespeare.

What are some of your favorite uncommon, improper uses of words?

 

Also, check out a review for my poetry collection by Michelle Proulx! A big thank you goes out to her for reading and letting people know about it.

Spelling and Why We Must

Today’s workshop is a little different. It revolves around spelling, how important it is for some to be able to spell or whether, with all of our available tools, is it a relatively useless skill.

I admit it, I am not very skilled when it comes to spelling. I’m not terrible, but I doubt I’d ever win a spelling bee. And so I think, is spelling as valuable as it once was?

There a several things that come into the argument. First off, I think shorthand has really made spelling an after thought of any writing. Working as a secretary (or just writing) I know when I’m trying to get ideas on paper the last thing on my mind is spelling. I need to know what the words say and that’s it. Then generally I move to a computer where there are multiple autocorrect tools available.

Which brings me to the second contribution of the great spelling debate, autocorrect tools. Our society is spoiled beyond spoiled with autocorrection. When even our phones and other small devices correct our spelling for us, you know the last thing on our mind is how well we spell.

The last contributor I will list (though I’m sure there are others) is the evolution of language. There are certain periods of time when languages alter rapidly. I’m talking whenever a country has invaded another country, any large migrations, or any big changes in tools or knowledge. We have been sitting in a time where technology is flying and constantly changing not only the words we use, but how we communicate. For example, with our increasing use of texting we use other words, many shorthand terms are standard and everyone understands what we are saying. Now, whenever there are rapid changes in a language, I would believe that spelling becomes a bit more challenging. Whether its new words, or changes to a word, it makes adopting the changes slightly confusing and may lead to misspelling.

Example: the English language derives from many, many languages and with that comes the habits of those languages. So when we have an “ooo” sound inspired by or borrowed from an African word, we use two o’s like voodoo. But when that same sound is inspired by or borrowed from Latin based or Romantic languages we get the “ue,” silent e, combination like rune.

Now this is just a snippet of the complexity, (and my example is not perfect, there is still the dividing consonant in rune that changes the game a bit) but you get the point. The evolution of language, deriving from several backgrounds makes it a difficult task to determine if it is a “oo,” a “ue,” an “f,” or a “ph.”

Spelling is difficult, and why train yourself to become skilled in an art that is difficult when there seems to be no real value to it anymore because autocorrect will save you?

I will tell you why, because of all those people who spell later with an 8, or your and you’re just your. That is all the argument I need to remind me that spelling is important. Because every time I see “your coming to dinner” I die a little. And autocorrect may not save you because you’ve spelled a word correctly, not the right word, but a word.

Some grammar programs help catch those mistakes, but I mostly see them correct fragments, and double words (you know what I’m talking about-of of).

So although we have great tools to help us, and although it can be confusing or we could all just use shorthand, there is still an importance in learning how to spell.

There are tricks though. Some of my favorites are:

Desert vs. Dessert, spell dessert with two “s’s” because you always want more dessert.

Loose vs. Lose, loose has 2 “o’s” and takes up space, Lose 1 “o” and it gets lost.

Do you have any spelling tricks, and what are they?

Some Axel, Some Writing and Some Frosty!

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Today I have a couple things for you.

First off this picture of Axel, he is such a monster.

Second a fun little exercise to get that pen moving!

In stories, many characters have something very particular about them, a signifier. It’s something that reminds the reader who they are or what they do. As I was reading some Stephen King I realized how often he uses these signifiers as character names. “The Yellow Card Man” from
11/22/63 never had a name, he was just always the yellow card man because of the yellow card on his hat. By naming him only with his signifier King accomplishes several things; the reader never has to try to remember who the yellow card man is, the reader gains a very distinct image of the character by one phrase and the author cuts out a lot of descriptive language otherwise used to tell the reader more about the character.

I’m not sure whether it’s the choice of names or the contents of the books, but I always get the “vibe” of the character, and usually it is not nice, but really adds a richness to the text. So, for tonight choose a character and replace their name with a solid signifier.

In my book right now I use the name “red hard hat” for a fireman. The character who sees him is a little boy and he does not initially realize that it is a fireman. Giving the term I add some liveliness to the word choice and still tell the reader what is going on in the story.

I’m excited to use this method as a way to continue bringing life to the characters without paragraphs of detail that would otherwise be lost within words.

Lastly, a tiny rant for the day!

I have yet to use a very awesome free Wendy’s frosty card! Glad it’s free frosties for a year and its only February!

Writing Fever!

Hey there! Goodness this week has flown by and I have skipped a weeks worth of blogs. I would apologize for this lack of presence here, but I am too excited because I finally have that writing fever back in my veins. I have spent the past lunch breaks and even my 15 minutes in the morning and afternoon working on fine tuning the first 12 chapters of Alphaeus. I also keep trying to get those dang graphs to work in Createspace… I changed my Word doc to a PDF like Dan Harris suggested. I think that was probably what I needed, however, it was not uploading. By this I mean that Createspace started uploading it, it said “working” the loading bar with blue and white stripes moving across letting me know its doing the job. Then half an hour to 45 minutes later it was still “working.” I figured, ” okay tech difficulties, I’ll try again.” So I tried again. And again. And tonight I will try again. I will get this to work. Graphs will not be my undoing! I am good at graphs. I love graphs! They will be in the zombie book…. They wiiiiiiilllll.

Slight hysteria aside, I am extremely happy to be moving along with my work now 🙂

Now to figure out the delicate balance of work, blog, books, boyfriend, family, friends and if so lucky a little me time. (How do people do it??)

Also, happy valentines!