Friday, February 29, 2008
Me (How did I send myself junk mail?) Re: MedHelp6018295504826. An offer for Cialis and Viagra.
Hey folks, first get me a man and then we’ll talk!
Adrienne Steele wants to sell me cheap Swiss made Rolex, Omega, Panerai, Chanel and asks, “Will you like it?”
Fat chance Adrienne. I can buy cheap stuff here and get exercise walking around the stores.
Derek Barron and Maxwell Glass are both offering HugeDiscountWatches (with no spaces).
Sorry boys. See reply to Adrienne above.
Brand Martin and Lilian Rocha are asking, “Do you want enlarge your penis?”
I’m a woman!
Samela at Box Software has another piece of useless software guaranteed to totally screw up my computer.
Dianne Buckner is sending me a pharmacy receipt for medicine I didn’t order.
Maryanne J. Hankins is offering my 88% off Swiss-made watches.
Perhaps I should forward her e-mail to Adrienne and they can compare their offers.
Authentic Cialis and Viagra are sending me a Client Notice:Limited Offer.
As I said above, man first!
Muskan.bhan @ webspace says, “The best of the anti-ed meds are here!”
And that’s where they’re going to stay, hon!
Command @ bankoestada tells me I won’t find high-quality meds at unbelievable low prices at my local chemist!
Maybe not, but at least Walgreens doesn’t sell cheap and potentially dangerous drugs over the internet.
Shoots @ avalonbay invites me to, “Enjoy your vacation. Girls will love you. We’ll take care of it.”
Okay, let me repeat; I’m a woman looking for a man.
Pfizer Web Solutions is sending me a personal notice.
Still not opening it.
Roosp @ hwy 65 says, “Girls love you becuase (his spelling) you order blue-pills and get pleasure!”
I am woman. Hear me roar!
Cialia/Viagra are offering me a private re-order.
Thorsteo @ aanada is offering me lab-tested SOMA to kill my pain.
I need it after reading all this other stuff.
And my favorite of this batch:
Wilburn Chan says, “I wanted the pure pleasure of having a 10 inch monster in my pants”.
Wilburn, you need to get out of the house more!
Happy Leap Day everyone! Have a great weekend.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Everyone thought she was 10 years younger until they got close enough to see the deepening wrinkles and grey flecks hiding in her medium brown hair. The serene grey eyes and expressionless face revealed no inner thoughts, but a relaxed confidence made her appear approachable. Fashionable navy pants covered her long legs, topped by a perfectly matched cardigan with a deep red sweater underneath. Similar red earrings were her only jewelry.
An easy smile often crossed her face and her thoughtful gaze inspired others to reveal their innermost thoughts without realizing it. Everyone knew Anne could keep a secret. They just didn’t know why she was so adept. In the 25 years since she moved to Freeland, few people pierced the hard emotional shell. Her past was buried deep and she had no desire or need to revisit it.
She rarely talked of her family and then only in general and vague terms. She was a good, reliable worker – both at her job and social settings. This allowed her to deflect many unanswered questions from well meaning friends. If you needed a job done right, or needed to know how to do it right, Anne could find a way. Her ability to quickly understand problems and devise solutions was uncanny.
Anne and her dog lived in a comfortable home with an endless list of projects to prevent boredom from calling and she enjoyed the peace and serenity found there.
Anne and Helen went towards the old stairs covered with worn burgundy runners. As they started to go up, Helen sat down on the third step and said, “Maybe we should wait.”
“Wait for what? There’s nothing up there. It’s an old building and the creaking is normal. Are you afraid?”
“Yes and you should be too. How can you be so calm and complacent? What if there’s an ax murderer up there?”
“What if there’s nothing up there and we wait like babies until the men come and rescue us? They’ll never let us live it down. Come on!”
“OK, but you first,” Helen said. She held back and watched Anne climb the stairs. “I’m coming right behind you.”
At the top of the stairs, Anne hesitated in the darkened foyer. She approached the door to the musty lodge room, her heart beating wildly. Taking a deep breath she opened the door and quickly flipped on the lights. “See, there’s no one here,” she said turning around. “Helen, where the hell are you? You’re supposed to be right behind me.”
Helen came running up the stairs laughing. “One of us had to stay behind to call the police.”
“Right. And now one of us is going to have to set up the chapter room all by herself.”
“Not on your life. I’m not going back into that dark old storage locker by myself.”
Anne sighed and laughed. “Come on chicken.”
Anne walked quickly through the room turning on every light to convert the stale darkness to the friendly warmth she associated with the room. The hall to the storage locker was unlocked which seemed rather odd, but this wasn’t the first time. Anne opened the locker door and began gathering the paraphernalia to set up the chapter room. She took the first batch out to Helen who was busy getting the chairs organized and returned for another load.
Several items were not in their proper places and irritated she searched shelves and back of the locker. The sword was partially hidden behind the file cabinet but came out easily and Anne finished her chore and closed the door.
She followed discretely behind Helen aligning the chairs and paraphernalia until everything was in perfect order, all the while assuring Helen she was doing a great job. Other members arrived to help and Anne directed them to various tasks in the chapter room and the dining hall downstairs.
The hour before the meeting was always a beehive of activity and Anne enjoyed watching everyone scurry around as the old building was transformed into a warm and inviting place.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Monday, February 25, 2008
There are 3 primary techniques for characterization; narration, dialogue and action.
Narration involves the author giving information about the character to the reader either directly or through another character’s eyes. This can be a physical description, a personal history that provides perspective about whatever is happening in the story itself or a character analysis where the author or one of the characters tells us what they think of that person.
Dialogue (which will be the subject of our next session) is more active than narration because it allows readers to draw their own conclusions by seeing the character in action or through dialogue.
Showing the character in action can also tell the reader something about their personality. One of the examples in our reading material is, you’re sitting in a movie theater and someone yells, “Fire.” What do you do? Leap over the seat pushing people out of your way as your run for the exit? Help others towards the exit? Sit and finish your popcorn waiting for others to get out first? The point is that people reveal themselves in the way they act. It can be subtle – like how they pour coffee, or dramatic like yelling and screaming. Action also is a way of contrasting what a person says with what they actually do.
The second half of the reading discusses point of view (POV). It refers to the mind of the character through which the story is told. Viewpoints can be either objective – used when the narrator relates facts but avoids emotion – or subjective – incorporating a character’s thoughts and emotions into the story.
First person POV is the narrator telling the story as if it happened to them and uses “I”, “me” and “my”. It’s kind of like reading a person’s diary and can create an instant bond or personal relationship for the reader with the character. The reader experiences things with more immediacy and emotional impact. The danger is in overdoing and revealing too much of the character’s thoughts and opinions to the point of boring the reader.
Second person POV uses the pronoun “you”. They define it as a kind of chiding conscience, the moral super-ego showing the main character what his life has become which usually includes a hind of condemnation. It’s more difficult to engage the reader with this POV and it creates a darker tone.
Third person POV uses “he”, “she” and “they” and can be either omniscient or limited. Omniscient is everywhere at once and told from one character’s POV. Limited gives the perspective of one character at a time. If more than two characters are involved it’s called multiple third person limited. The danger of having too many POV’s is that it can dilute the tension.
So, you identify the character(s) best suited to tell the story and decide on their relationship to the reader. If you’re having trouble, they recommend writing the same passage from several POVs to see which one works best (something Travis discussed recently), but to make sure you only do one character’s POV per chapter.
This is a very brief synopsis of about 50 pages of material that sometimes almost put me to sleep. No offense to the authors, but whew! Anyway, tonight I’ll be working on my assignment which is: Using one of the characters profiled, write 3 different characterization studies focusing on; 1. narrative – only the character’s viewpoint should be used, 2. dialogue and 3. action. Use the same viewpoint character, setting and story for all three.
Feel free to join me. No snoozing allowed!
Friday, February 22, 2008
But this is how it makes me feel!
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Sunday, February 17, 2008
The 250 word maximum forces me to focus on the big ticket items; what they want desperately, what they fear most and what makes them memorable. My profiles fell short in those areas. I know the answers to those 3 questions.
Anne desperately wants to connect emotionally with other people and stop pushing them away, fears being a failure and ending up alone therefore fulfilling her parent’s assessment of her, and has an uncanny ability to identify and solve problems. She has a quick wit and can find the humor in any situation.
Tim wants desperately to find someone to love who doesn’t want to change him, fears spending his retirement alone in front of the TV eating take out and being fixed up with every single woman in town and is a par golfer who always has his clubs with him and was the town hula hoop champion in his teens.
There’s a lot more to say about them and the reasons they are this way but if I have to boil it down to the big 3, there they are. I’m working on expanding the profiles and creating secondary character profiles. I’m also defining my settings and trying to keep Josephine Damian’s advice about the 3 act structure in mind.
What’s exciting is that as I do this the story is beginning to shape itself. Things flow naturally from certain characters and settings. I’m not ready to sit down and bang out the manuscript yet, but when the time comes I think it’ll be easier to do because I won’t be stumbling on minor decisions that might impede my progress.
I think of this as my story’s GPS system. Even if I get off course it will quickly bring me back.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Anne Powell is 52 years old, 5’8” tall and of average build. Her light brown hair is beginning to welcome some gray strands to the mix and she considers her forming wrinkles badges of honor for a life well lived. Her grey eyes often look blue or green depending on what color she wears but they are always expressive despite her otherwise poker face. She walks two miles daily weather permitting. She’s frugally stylish.
Anne never married although she came close 4 different times. Her commitment issues stem from her parents nasty divorce during her childhood. She was a shy child and is still somewhat reserved until you get to know her. Her wicked sense of humor and frustrated desire to be an actress make her fun to be around and she has many friends and acquaintances.
Anne is quietly intelligent and despite her master’s degree, a battle with cancer caused her to rethink her priorities and she is now the executive assistant to the president of a large real estate company owned by a private family. She takes no crap from anyone but, because of her background in psychology, she is the office mother.
She has owned a fixer home for 12 years and lives comfortably with her semi-spoiled dog Belle. She is aggressively saving for her retirement and is financially sound. She is active in a local social organization and never bored. Anne is a natural leader although a somewhat reluctant one and she values her privacy.
Tim Gardner is 55, 6’0 tall and has a few extra pounds. His once dark brown hair is now mostly grey and his blue eyes sparkle with mischief. Thanks to his sisters and daughter he dresses well but usually exercise is walking to the mailbox or changing TV without the remote.
He’s outgoing and charming but his two divorces have made him wary of relationships so he spends his free time with friends and family including his son, two daughters and three grandchildren who think he’s God. Occasionally he forgets his age and decreased fitness by participating in football and soccer games after which heating pads and ibuprofen are required.
Tim has been a detective with the local police for 30 years – his first job out of college. He is serious and meticulous in what he does and has a reputation as a tough person to fool. The town of 50,000 doesn’t provide much opportunity to test his skills, but he enjoys his work.
Tim lives in a condo purchased 10 years ago after his last divorce. A maid service cleans every two weeks and little is done in between except loading the dishwasher. He usually eats out and his three sisters take turns doing his laundry. He could do it himself, but the system is working for him and so he takes advantage of it. Tim is involved in a local social organization and occasionally feels bored and restless.
Here's what my instructor said:
The purpose of this assignment is to give you the opportunity to think about how it is that characters are created so as to engage readers in their adventures. Readers are not interested in bland characters, so you want to try to come up with both external and internal traits that will cause readers to find them fascinating.
You’ve used some vivid details to describe Anne Powell; light brown hair with a little gray, grey eyes, walks two miles per day, stylish. She has never married but is she dating anyone? I’m wondering about her background in psychology, why with that, she ended up president of a real estate company. I’m not finding much in this profile that is really grabbing me. I’m not sure if you saw the three things in Lecture Hall that I’d be looking for in your profiles because I’m not seeing them here. Readers connect with characters who want something—desperately. What is it that Anne wants? Another thing readers connect with is a character’s fears—what does Anne most fear? Go underneath Anne’s surface—what’s there? The quirks, the passions, the longings, the dreams. What will make Anne memorable to the reader? You want to create a character your reader won’t forget.
I feel the same way about Tim—that he needs something to take him over the top and make him interesting. It’s up to you as the writer to find the traits in each of your characters that will bring your reader in and make her care about what concerns your characters in their stories. When you think about Tim’s appearance, can you give him something noticeable? A birth mark, scar, tattoo that will cause the reader to recognize him? What was outrageous about either of his divorces? What’s different about Tim as a detective? And I want you to ponder the same three questions that I asked you about Anne; what does Tim want—desperately? What is Tim’s biggest fear—both external and internal? What will make Tim memorable? Why are we going to care about this character?
She's right about all this, but how do you do it in only 250 words? I'm a little frustrated right now.
Monday, February 11, 2008
First, which comes first – the characters or the plot? Several readings suggested it’s easier to develop the characters first and let them lead you to the plot rather than trying to fit characters into an already developed plot.
So you start by describing your primary character. You begin with a physical description – height, weight, eye color, hair color, build, health, voice, scars, birthmarks, clothes, shoes, hairstyle, glasses/contact lenses, etc. Write it all out on a piece of paper to keep near you as you write so on page 220 you don’t talk about the scar on the left arm that started out on the right arm on page 60. (Believe it or not, there are geeks like me who will notice.)
Once you have a good physical description of your character it’s time to add another dimension. What do they do for a living? How much money do they make/have? What kind of car do they drive? What is their home like – own, rent, square feet, bedrooms, bathrooms, colors? What pets do they have?
Now you’re starting to make your character multi-dimensional and adding interest. Next you need to provide them with some personal characteristics. What are their goals? What motivates them? What’s their primary attitude and does it vary greatly? Do they have any strange or annoying habits or mannerisms? What irritates them? What sports do they like and hobbies do they have? Are they are reader? If so, what do they read – books, magazines, newspapers? Do they like movies? What kind? How about music? Are they emotional and is this consistent with the portrait you’ve drawn so far? Do they belong to any organizations? What are their political beliefs?
To finish off your description, you need to give them a background. Where were they born? Who were their parents and were they good parents? What was their situation like growing up? Do they have siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, children, spouse/lover, exes? What kind of education do they have and what is their job history?
Is this a lot or maybe even too much? You may not give all this information to your readers or you may offer it to them gradually, but if this is the primary character in your story, it’s important for you as a writer to know and understand them better than anyone. If you’re totally knowledgeable about them, writing their story will be easy for you.
Other things to consider; they should be consistent, strong enough to maintain interest and keep things moving, complex, not stereotypical, and sincere. If you do all these things, the plot will naturally flow from the characters. When you reach a plateau you can ask yourself, what would X do in this situation? What would they say? How would they feel?
Now decide what people surround your main character and develop profiles for them. The level of detail can vary based on their importance to the main character and to the story but again, the more you know about them, the easier they are to write.
If you have a great idea for a setting, you can start to develop your characters by first asking yourself who would live, work or play there and how will the setting affect them. How does the character interact with the setting? Once you determine those things you can begin to develop your profiles.
Our assignment this week was: Write "profiles" of two characters, preferably characters whose traits would provide conflict if they were placed in opposition to each other in a story. Be sure to include internal as well as external markers. (maximum 250 words each)
Armed with all the information gleaned from the reading assignments, I quickly discovered that 250 words are totally inadequate to create a truly complete profile. It took me 471 words above just to describe how to create the profile.
The profiles I created stayed within the limits, but if I use these characters in my book their profiles will be greatly expanded. After all the reading, I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of these two people. I'll post them later and when my instructor comments that will be posted also.
Prior to taking this course and reading all this, I probably wouldn't have taken the time to really flesh out my characters.
A little learning can be a good thing.
What do you think?
Saturday, February 9, 2008
Here are some final thoughts on setting that I pulled together from various readings. At the end is a suggested exercise from one of the sources. It's a great way to test yourself. Anyone brave enough to post an exercise here will be rewarded with lots of nice critiques and cyber hugs. No nastiness on this blog. Also, at the end is a link to one of the funniest videos I've seen in a long time. Hope you enjoy it!
Over-describing is tempting because scene description is an opportunity to show off your prose skills through lengthy, elaborate, metaphor-strewn descriptions.
Think of setting as being comparable to a play's set. Most of the time a stage play uses set design to imply the larger setting. The false fronts of buildings, even the elaborate interiors may be realistic, but the audience never mistakes them for real.
Clumping occurs when a writer unloads the entire description at once. The momentum of the scene grinds to a halt while the reader endures paragraph after paragraph of description. To avoid clumping, two things have to happen. First, you have to decide whether all that information is crucial to the scene; does it enhance the scene or are you just showing off? Second, it is usually better to dole out these descriptive details throughout a scene, between more active moments.
So, to avoid clumping, pick the most telling details, find the right place in the scene to give them to the reader, and remember you don't have to give everything at once.
Anytime you see a passage of description that is so poetic and involving that the reader might be tempted to stop to admire the author (you)—cut it. You've just intruded into the story to take a bow, thereby smothering your own creation.
Read through your manuscript once circling all the words that could be stronger. Then go back and take your time replacing them. Do not rely on a thesaurus; many times you'll just be replacing one dull word for a more complex and even duller word.
Setting can be creatively exploited to advance your plot or illustrate a theme of your story.
- As metaphor for the story's theme or the characters' moods and feelings.
- As a plot device.To contribute to the developing story.
- To trigger flashbacks or character introspection.
1. Start a "setting" journal. Begin looking at the world around you with a writer's eye. Make observations about everyday details, such as weather, topography, flora and fauna. But also make note of emotional connections, unusual metaphors, descriptive phrases, sensory responses, etc--anything and everything you observe and experience can be used in your fiction at some point. Start researching foreign or historical settings of interest to you and note your findings in your journal. Keep track of resources such as reference books, articles, websites, etc. for additional follow-up. If your setting research sparks any story or character ideas, be sure to note those as well.
2. From memory, write a descriptive paragraph of a room in your house (or at work, or someone else's house). Once you've finished, take your paragraph to that room and read it, comparing your description with what you see. What changes would you make?
3. Every room has a personality, every room gives off some sort of emotional intensity. A living room may be sterile and make a visitor feel unwelcome. A bedroom might be excessively frilly and make a visitor feel smothered. With that in mind, go to any room in your house. Just as if that room were a character, select the one object in that room that best conveys the room's personality. Describe that object in such a way that the reader feels the emotional effect of that room.
When you're done, enjoy a laugh here: http://www.newsday.com/news/opinion/ny-walt-babyboomers-blurb,0,1036393.blurb
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
We’ll be studying many of the elements of fiction in this course, but in this one, we’re looking at setting, how you integrate the details into the setting, and how you reveal your character interacting with the setting.
We meet up with Anne as she moves up the wide stone steps and into the old brick building. You show us the fading sunset. You’re doing great integrating the details into the setting so far. We see the rich dark wood and the thick brocade curtains. Once she turns on the lights, she sees the tables decorated with the red plastic cloths and the colorful Styrofoam hearts and curly ribbon. There’s the crepe paper ribbons and balloons. Very vivid.
Even when the dialogue starts, you use setting details—the creaking overhead. You want to appeal to as many of the reader’s senses as you can. You’ve shown us many of the physical items in this setting, and we can hear the creaking. What about smells? Does this old building smell at all? What can we reach out and touch?
This is exactly what we’re after in this scene. You’ve dropped your reader right into the middle of the setting with your character so that she can experience what they’re experiencing.
Those of you who mentioned the smell and touch thing were spot on and my revisions will reflect this, but I feel pretty good about it even though I discovered there were about 20 more pages of homework reading I didn't do because I neglected to click on the little button at the top of the page that listed the supplemental reading. OOPS! I printed it out and intend to read it tonight before beginning the next section - Character Building. Hope that doesn't have anything to do with me personally. I think I'm enough of a character as is.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
I really love blogland because I’ve met some really interesting people here. I’m a much better writer than before and have learned so much. Plus it’s fun! Now I’m being awarded for blogging. Thank you a million times Liane. I’m truly honored.
I’m supposed to pass this along to 10 others. How can I possibly choose only 10? There are so many bloggers who deserve it. Please don’t be offended if I don’t pick you.
I want to award it to everyone on my “Places I like to go” list because they all deserve it otherwise they wouldn’t be on my list, but here are 10 in no particular order. I award this to Writerkat, Maddy McEwen, Mary Witzl, Ellen Oh, Demon Hunter, Christine Eldin, Tree, Stephen Parrish, Jason Evans and Aine, and Maya Reynolds.
Enjoy the award and pass it on to 10 more deserving bloggers.
Thanks again, Liane!
Sunday, February 3, 2008
There is also an emphasis on description and how much is too much. They talk about the 2 most common mistakes: over-describing and clumping. Over-describing is basically using too many adjectives, characteristics or metaphors to describe something. It’s like saying when the large, corpulent, double-chinned, behemoth soprano warbles the melodic operatic aria instead of saying when the fat lady sings. Too many of the first type of description can slow down the story.
Clumping is giving the whole description at once – not leaving any information for later. It may not be over-describing but it can stop a story. It’s like taking 3 pages to describe an overstuffed leather sofa by describing where and how it was manufactured, shipped, sold and transported to the site – all in great detail instead of just saying there’s an overstuffed leather sofa in the room.
(Please note that I’m paraphrasing here. This is by no means a complete synopsis of the class. If you want that you need to pay the money and take it yourself.)
We had to read 2 ½ chapters in our book, the online lecture and then complete the assignment which is: write a scene where setting is predominant. There are 14 of us in the class and our work is posted for all of us to see and comment. It’s really interesting to read and now we all await our instructor’s comments on our work. Here is my submission:
“Damn,” she thought, “first one here again. I need to stop being so punctual.”
The wide stone steps, rounded by the thousands of feet scurrying up and down them for the last 150 years, led her into the beautiful old brick building. The fading sunset glowed against the windows casting mischievous shadows inside.
Anne shivered as she unlocked the door. Even after 40 years of attending events here, the darkened interior still gave her the creeps. She was familiar with every inch of the upper two stories and the basement but being alone made her uneasy. As she flipped on the lights, the old place warmed to her presence.
The center was one of the largest buildings in town. Once used exclusively for Masonic groups, due to rising costs it was now rented out to others for meetings and functions. It hadn’t lost its sense of purpose and the rich dark woods and thick brocade curtains created a sense of formality
She turned on the lights in the main floor dining hall and was pleased to see the tables already set with festive decorations for the pre-meeting meal. Red plastic cloths held white dishes and large pink, red and white Styrofoam hearts danced on a sea of curly ribbon in the middle of each table. Crepe paper ribbons and balloons adorned the walls and a sign saying “Happy VD” was taped over the podium. Anne laughed and made a mental note to have the sign changed before some of the older members arrived.
Overhead she heard a floorboard creak. Thinking it odd, she went to the bottom of the stairs and called, “Who’s there? Is someone up there?” There was no response but the big front door opened and Anne was relieved to see Helen and Jean enter.
“Which one of you is responsible for the sign?” she said.
Helen blushed and Jean looked innocently up at the ceiling. “Well whoever did it needs to change it before the rest of the group arrives.”
“You don’t like it?” Helen said.
“I love it, but something tells me a few of our members won’t appreciate your sense of humor.”
The floorboard creaked overhead again and all three women looked at the ceiling.
“Is someone here with you?” said Jean.
“No. I heard that same noise just before you came in, but no one answered when I called. Maybe we should go upstairs and check it out.”
“Not on your life,” said Jean. “The men will be here soon. They can go up there.”
“Don’t be such a sissy,” said Helen. “Let’s go see what’s going on. It’s probably just the old building making noises anyway.”
“Well, you two can go, but I’m staying here,” said Jean.
Anne and Helen started towards the wide old stairs covered with the worn burgundy runners. As they started to ascend, Helen sat down on the third step and said, “Maybe we should wait.”
So, what do you think? Can you visualize this setting? Did I over-describe or clump? Any feedback is welcome.