Archive for October, 2011

Viewing the forest from the plane.

October 24, 2011

When you fly over a forest, in a plane, it’s easy to forget that the forest is made up of individual trees, bushes, flowers, and animals.  Yes, it’s important to see the big picture, but you should never forget the individual parts that go into making the big picture.  Let’s take a look at the panoramic photograph of Portland, Maine above.  What you see is a very wide angle of the port, and city.  What is not seen, or noticed is that it took three photos to make this.  (if you want to see the process of this photograph go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYxOcvSjmDg and watch the video)

The same thought is true for writing.  Whether it’s a short story, or an epic novel, you can’t have a whole, without the parts.  Too many writing instructors try to get their students to focus on the plot, (the panoramic) and not enough focus on the three parts of the plot; setting, situation, and character.(The three photos).  If you want your story to be well rounded, you need to go deeper into each of those three, to bring the details out, (Parts of the three photos like the boat, and specific buildings.)

When you write a story that you want people to read; you want readers to see, taste, smell, and feel everything your character experiences, but that will never happen if you don’t focus on the details.

Let’s try a quick example.  Elizabeth slowly ascended the stairs; the freshly sharpened hatchet from her father’s workshop felt like an extension of her arm which hung down by her side. She quietly entered the bedroom where her mother napped, and began to use the axe on her mother’s head.  Her task completed, she made her way downstairs, and hid under the stairwell to wait for her father to pass out drunk on the sofa, like he did every night.

As gruesome as this little scene could be, this scene is lacking details to bring the reader into the story.  Details that answer questions such as; “Why did Elizabeth feel compelled to murder her parents?” and “What made her use the axe?”  If you’re like me your mind filled in a lot of blanks.  I did not get this from an actual horror story; this started from an actual murder case, and I added some of my own ideas to make it a different story.  As the scene reads right now, this could have been part of a news article.

During your first draft, most of the scenes will read just like this; just a shell of action, without all the gory details.  Even though you aren’t writing them down now, keep a notepad next to you to keep track of them as you need to.  The first draft is basically looking at the forest from the plane.  When you begin revising, you will be landing the plane, getting out, and exploring the forest floor.

Enjoy,

Allen

Personal Mentor Wanted!!!

October 20, 2011

Growing up, I had a lot of people to give me encouragement for my writing.  In second grade, my teacher told me I had talent.  My family told me they loved my writing, and I even had some strangers tell me the same thing.  Now, I am 45, and other than this blog site, I’ve only had five pieces published.

Now you may be asking, “If you have people to encourage you, why don’t you have more written?”  Even if you’re not asking it, I certainly was today.  I went over it and I believe the reason is a lack of a mentor.  By mentor I mean another writer I can meet with and discuss writing.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my family dearly, and as I’ve said before, my mom’s side of the family is highly creative.  My mom is a painter; my younger brother is a musician; my older brother is skilled in engineering; and my sister is a well-known cosmetologist.  With all this creative talent in the family, there are no other writers.  The encouragement I’ve received has helped my confidence greatly; but only another writer can both encourage and push me the right direction into productivity.

A true mentor is someone with the same interest you have, but who also has more experience.  They can show you new ways of doing something, and help you think in new directions.  They will hold you accountable for your craft, and they will help when you get stuck.  There are members of my online writing group who fall into that category, but the fact that they don’t live anywhere near me dis-qualifies them as true mentors.  Even so, their help over the years has proven extremely valuable, and their support is always greatly appreciated.

Of course, what I look for in a mentor is someone I live close to, with whom I can meet with in a coffee shop, or another appropriate venue, where I can have a nice one on one conversation about writing.  A place where we can read each other’s work, and offer constructive, and respectful,  opinions about what we read, and possibly come up with solutions to the problem areas.

The best part of having a local mentor is this; they will push you to continue, and they won’t let you use your insecurities as an excuse to quit.  A good mentor will hound you to keep you writing, and you won’t be able to get rid of them by turning off the computer.

Enjoy,

Allen

If you are looking for a good writing group that will support your writing, and answer your questions, go to Writingandpublishing on yahoo groups.  They are a very good group of writers on every level.

Strike it

October 10, 2011

one split second from one of my YouTube videos.

Lead the way!!!

October 10, 2011

Something I like to do at work is look at the front of the newspaper, and read the headlines and leads, to see if there is something worth reading.  While doing this last night, I had to do a double-take on two leads that seemed to make no sense whatsoever.  Grammatically, these leads had nothing wrong with them, but on the level of the average reader doing a quick scan, they are completely confusing.

Lead 1: Maine welcomes Blackstone Accelerates Growth, which earmarks $3 million for innovators.

Lead 2: The Monthly Art Walk converges with Occupy Maine to create a boisterous, bustling downtown.

According to Grammar, these two sentences are correct.  The name of a program, Blackstone Accelerates Growth; an event, the Monthly Art Walk; and the name of a group, Occupy Maine, were all capitalized correctly, and nothing else is needed.  The problem I have with this is based more on the way a reader will see it; not whether the writer is following the rules.

When you try to draw a reader into an article, the lead has to be both precise, and easy to understand, for the quick scanners.  The average reader doesn’t analyze the lead to see where words have been capitalized, to signify names.  When I first read these, I had never heard of the company Blackstone, nor have I heard of Occupy Maine.

If I were the one writing these leads, I would have put in a more foolproof way of understanding them by a further separation; and I would have stayed in the rules.  Here are my changes.

Lead 1: Maine welcomes “Blackstone Accelerates Growth”, which earmarks $3 million for innovators.

Lead 2: “The Monthly Art Walk” converges with “Occupy Maine” to create a boisterous, bustling downtown.

If you noticed, I didn’t change one word, or the meaning.  I just added quote marks around the names to draw them out, and let readers know what they are looking at.

If the writer of these leads would have done this, I might have been compelled to read the articles to find out why these names are so important. Best of all, he wouldn’t be breaking the ten commandments of writing.

Enjoy,

allen