Thursday, May 30, 2013

"Just because you've got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn't mean we all have," said Hermione nastily, picking up her quill again.
--J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (chap 21)

That line almost always makes me laugh out loud. But once it also kicked me in the teeth.

I'd been trying to figure out what isn't quite working in a story opening, and this idea of "emotional range" was a wallop to the incisors.

I realized that by the second scene, my protagonist was already deeply entrenched in her dislike of another character. And yet, by story's end these two will reconcile. But how would my reader even want that to happen? I've given no space for the possibility that my protagonist desires reconciliation. By starting at the wrong place emotionally, I'd left no room to grow beyond simply intensifying that one emotion. In other words, I'd given her the emotional range of a teaspoon.

For conflict to work well in a story, it needs space to escalate over chapters. This might mean rethinking the emotional starting place for your protagonist. In my case, my protagonist needed to start out motivated to have a good relationship, only to have her desire thwarted. With that change, I had the emotional pulse needed to carry the story forward, and more potential for escalation. I'd added range for her emotions to follow a larger arc:

desire for closeness > confusion and worry > hurt > frustration > anger > rage > explosion > despair > surrender > renewal.

See how starting at anger would cut my emotional arc in half?

Anyone else ever tackle this problem in a manuscript? What worked for you to widen the emotional range and stretch out the arc?
Thursday, May 30, 2013 Laurel Garver
"Just because you've got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn't mean we all have," said Hermione nastily, picking up her quill again.
--J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (chap 21)

That line almost always makes me laugh out loud. But once it also kicked me in the teeth.

I'd been trying to figure out what isn't quite working in a story opening, and this idea of "emotional range" was a wallop to the incisors.

I realized that by the second scene, my protagonist was already deeply entrenched in her dislike of another character. And yet, by story's end these two will reconcile. But how would my reader even want that to happen? I've given no space for the possibility that my protagonist desires reconciliation. By starting at the wrong place emotionally, I'd left no room to grow beyond simply intensifying that one emotion. In other words, I'd given her the emotional range of a teaspoon.

For conflict to work well in a story, it needs space to escalate over chapters. This might mean rethinking the emotional starting place for your protagonist. In my case, my protagonist needed to start out motivated to have a good relationship, only to have her desire thwarted. With that change, I had the emotional pulse needed to carry the story forward, and more potential for escalation. I'd added range for her emotions to follow a larger arc:

desire for closeness > confusion and worry > hurt > frustration > anger > rage > explosion > despair > surrender > renewal.

See how starting at anger would cut my emotional arc in half?

Anyone else ever tackle this problem in a manuscript? What worked for you to widen the emotional range and stretch out the arc?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Photo by kakisky, morguefile.com
Many approach revision as if it were the literary equivalent of housecleaning. You sweep away redundancies, throw out excess adverbs and dialogue tags, donate some unneeded subplots to charity, polish lackluster sentences, and voila, a shiny manuscript.

Agents and editors are looking for more than tidiness, and so are readers. They all want a story that grabs them by the throat and won't let go. A story that sings.

It's easy to let the fear of making mistakes put your creative gift into a straight jacket, especially when revising. One of the ways to unleash the raw energy your manuscript needs is to take a lesson from the jazz world: improvisation. Once you've done the work of smoothing out the plot--equivalent to a musician laying out the key, tempo, and where important shifts will happen--it's time to go back and make lackluster sections sing. In Manuscript Makeover, Elizabeth Lyon calls this "riff-writing."

Riff-writing is a very focused kind of freewriting. Lyon says it "helps you expand your imagination around a particular problem or need--to lengthen a section, to add images, or to develop more characterization, for instance" (10).

Here's how to approach riffing:

1. Find a section (sentence, paragraph, scene) that feels thin, underdeveloped or emotionally flat.

2. Find a point of entry to explore further--the setting, an object, a character's feelings or memory or attitude.

3. Start scribbling--start at your entry point and follow the thoughts and feelings wherever they lead. As with rough drafting, don't edit or censor yourself. Let any and every idea flow. Push past your comfort level and really explore every dark cave, every windy mountaintop. Remember that in improvisation, "there are no wrong notes, you work them and they become part of the riff," Lyon says, quoting a musician friend (11).

4. Let the riff "cool off" while you work on other sections.

5. Come back and edit down the riff material that works best in your story. Set aside bits that might be useful elsewhere for expanding other sections of the story.

Lyon notes that in her twenty years as an independent editor, she has rarely seen consistently overwritten fiction. It's far more likely that drafts are too thin, a shell of what they need to be. Revision is where you can pump in more life and fully develop your characters, plot and voice.

Quoted material from: Lyon, Elizabeth. Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore. New York: Penguin, 2008.

What sections of your story could benefit from riff-writing? How might you move from tidy draft to fully developed story?
Monday, May 27, 2013 Laurel Garver
Photo by kakisky, morguefile.com
Many approach revision as if it were the literary equivalent of housecleaning. You sweep away redundancies, throw out excess adverbs and dialogue tags, donate some unneeded subplots to charity, polish lackluster sentences, and voila, a shiny manuscript.

Agents and editors are looking for more than tidiness, and so are readers. They all want a story that grabs them by the throat and won't let go. A story that sings.

It's easy to let the fear of making mistakes put your creative gift into a straight jacket, especially when revising. One of the ways to unleash the raw energy your manuscript needs is to take a lesson from the jazz world: improvisation. Once you've done the work of smoothing out the plot--equivalent to a musician laying out the key, tempo, and where important shifts will happen--it's time to go back and make lackluster sections sing. In Manuscript Makeover, Elizabeth Lyon calls this "riff-writing."

Riff-writing is a very focused kind of freewriting. Lyon says it "helps you expand your imagination around a particular problem or need--to lengthen a section, to add images, or to develop more characterization, for instance" (10).

Here's how to approach riffing:

1. Find a section (sentence, paragraph, scene) that feels thin, underdeveloped or emotionally flat.

2. Find a point of entry to explore further--the setting, an object, a character's feelings or memory or attitude.

3. Start scribbling--start at your entry point and follow the thoughts and feelings wherever they lead. As with rough drafting, don't edit or censor yourself. Let any and every idea flow. Push past your comfort level and really explore every dark cave, every windy mountaintop. Remember that in improvisation, "there are no wrong notes, you work them and they become part of the riff," Lyon says, quoting a musician friend (11).

4. Let the riff "cool off" while you work on other sections.

5. Come back and edit down the riff material that works best in your story. Set aside bits that might be useful elsewhere for expanding other sections of the story.

Lyon notes that in her twenty years as an independent editor, she has rarely seen consistently overwritten fiction. It's far more likely that drafts are too thin, a shell of what they need to be. Revision is where you can pump in more life and fully develop your characters, plot and voice.

Quoted material from: Lyon, Elizabeth. Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore. New York: Penguin, 2008.

What sections of your story could benefit from riff-writing? How might you move from tidy draft to fully developed story?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Celebrate the release of Charmaine Clancy's new book and win prizes!

Dognapped? A dog show detective mystery featuring Kitty and her mischievous miniature schnauzer, Spade. In this adventure, they unravel the mystery of the missing dog -- simply lost, or something more sinister?

A lost dog

A stolen dog

A mysterious will


It all equals murder!

Meet twelve-year-old Kitty, friendless bookworm and amateur sleuth. All Kitty wants is to gain her mother’s attention, spend time with her miniature schnauzer Spade, and avoid Miss Perfect, Jessica Jones. 

Kitty’s world turns upside down when she finds a lost dog, and she needs Jessica’s help to find the owner, hunt down a dognapper, and solve a murder.

Introducing Kitty Walker and her mischievous dog Spade in the first Dog Show Detective Mystery.

Dognapped? is a mystery novel perfect for curious girls aged 10-12yrs. There are funny and cute canine characters, but also an element of danger! 

To celebrate the release of Dognapped?, the author, Charmaine Clancy (author of the popular kids' horror novel, My Zombie Dog), is giving away a Kindle Fire! (Kindle Paperwhite if winner resides outside the US - Amazon won't ship the Fire to non-US countries). That's not all, one lucky runner-up will receive a $25 Amazon gift voucher!

There are two ways to enter:

1. Purchase your copy of Dognapped?then fill in the entry form below. You'll be asked for your receipt number from Amazon (it will be on the receipt Amazon email you - keep a copy of your receipt as proof of purchase if you win). Dognapped? will be FREE May 22nd and 23rd, and yes you can still enter if you downloaded your copy FREE
or
2. Blog about this competition or about Dognapped? (you can review, talk about or interview) then fill in the entry form below. You will be asked for your blog post link in the entry form. If you'd like to review the book, Charmaine will send you a free review copy, simply email: charmaineclancy@gmail.com

If you blog and purchase the book, then yes, you get two entries.

Too easy! This competition runs from now until 7 July 2013.


a Rafflecopter giveaway
Wednesday, May 22, 2013 Laurel Garver
Celebrate the release of Charmaine Clancy's new book and win prizes!

Dognapped? A dog show detective mystery featuring Kitty and her mischievous miniature schnauzer, Spade. In this adventure, they unravel the mystery of the missing dog -- simply lost, or something more sinister?

A lost dog

A stolen dog

A mysterious will


It all equals murder!

Meet twelve-year-old Kitty, friendless bookworm and amateur sleuth. All Kitty wants is to gain her mother’s attention, spend time with her miniature schnauzer Spade, and avoid Miss Perfect, Jessica Jones. 

Kitty’s world turns upside down when she finds a lost dog, and she needs Jessica’s help to find the owner, hunt down a dognapper, and solve a murder.

Introducing Kitty Walker and her mischievous dog Spade in the first Dog Show Detective Mystery.

Dognapped? is a mystery novel perfect for curious girls aged 10-12yrs. There are funny and cute canine characters, but also an element of danger! 

To celebrate the release of Dognapped?, the author, Charmaine Clancy (author of the popular kids' horror novel, My Zombie Dog), is giving away a Kindle Fire! (Kindle Paperwhite if winner resides outside the US - Amazon won't ship the Fire to non-US countries). That's not all, one lucky runner-up will receive a $25 Amazon gift voucher!

There are two ways to enter:

1. Purchase your copy of Dognapped?then fill in the entry form below. You'll be asked for your receipt number from Amazon (it will be on the receipt Amazon email you - keep a copy of your receipt as proof of purchase if you win). Dognapped? will be FREE May 22nd and 23rd, and yes you can still enter if you downloaded your copy FREE
or
2. Blog about this competition or about Dognapped? (you can review, talk about or interview) then fill in the entry form below. You will be asked for your blog post link in the entry form. If you'd like to review the book, Charmaine will send you a free review copy, simply email: charmaineclancy@gmail.com

If you blog and purchase the book, then yes, you get two entries.

Too easy! This competition runs from now until 7 July 2013.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, May 20, 2013

We've all heard the advice "show, don't tell," but putting it into practice can be a challenge. Today I'd like to share one of my favorite techniques for showing how a character's mind has been shaped--associations.

Associations are “tip of the mind” thoughts that, like icebergs, show only a portion of the whole story. Most of the mass is hidden under the surface, whether it's a mass of history or emotion. Associations are a huge part of character voice because they tell a tremendous amount about a person in just a few words.

Think of the word-association games psychotherapists use. When your character hears the word “home,” does he think “fried chicken,” “fear,” or “fantasy”? Any one of these answers gives a window into an intriguing story.

Associations can be a shorthand way of showing what kind of past experiences the character has gone through, what he values, and what forms of culture shape him. Associations show up in the way characters describe things, and especially how they make comparisons, such as similes and metaphors.

Here are a few associations at work from my novel Never Gone:

Images burst in my mind like sudden sun through stained glass.

This person is someone who frequents:
a. sport arenas
b. churches
c. suburban malls


“Crikey,” Uncle says. “We’re in Dante’s eighth circle of hell.”

This person is...
a. a man of the soil who works with his hands
b. an Irish dancer who dreams of becoming the next Michael Flatley
c. an educated bloke who has studied Classical literature

Side note: Associations to other literature or film--allusions--can be used strategically to bring themes of the other work to bear on yours. Dante's eighth circle of hell is for "sowers of discord" (people who cause conflict and dissension between others) and their fate is to be cut to pieces. This is thematically important to the story, and the uncle's role especially. 

The simile and metaphor in each of these examples pours a great deal of back story into the characters without my having to tell you "Dani grew up attending church every Sunday without fail," or "Uncle Philip took a First in Classics before attending law school."  As a reader, I'm bored being told these rather dull facts. It's far more interesting to see how life experiences shape the characters' minds. Don't you agree?

Tips for developing associations 

1. Determine a few key environmental pieces for each character. Having more than one will make for an interesting, multi-layered personality, rather than a repetitive, one-note character.

They should be important for how the character interacts with others and moves the plot along. Be careful about this second bit--it's very easy for associations to become tangents that muddy the story rather than enhance it.

For example, my protagonist Danielle is a Christian artist who likes to read fantasy novels. Each of these pieces play into how she perceives the world. She's attuned to the spiritual aspects of life, she is visually driven and deeply imaginative. She tends to mentally rearrange what she sees so she can draw it the way she wants, which creates spiritual blindness in her. All three factors shape her motivations and the kinds of reactions she has to events.

2. Research the environmental factor and make a sheet of key terms, images, events, allusions, etc.

Some terms and images from Dani's character sheet:

steeples, stained glass, hymns, Psalms, kneeling, prayer, angels, demons, Jonah and the whale, the Good Shepherd, parable of the lost sheep

galleries, museums, Metropolitan, MoMA, Frick, sketch pad, charcoal, graphite, shade, stroke, cross-hatch, curve, line, plane, hue, perspective, vanishing point, orb, cone, cylinder, still life, landscape, portrait

castles, magic, Harry Potter, invisibility cloak, spells, Hogwarts, Hagrid, Lord of the Rings, Denethor and Faramir

3. Look for opportunities to layer associations into each character's thought life and dialogue. Associations most naturally occur when describing something or making comparisons.

How might using associations enhance your characterization? Which authors use this technique well?
Monday, May 20, 2013 Laurel Garver
We've all heard the advice "show, don't tell," but putting it into practice can be a challenge. Today I'd like to share one of my favorite techniques for showing how a character's mind has been shaped--associations.

Associations are “tip of the mind” thoughts that, like icebergs, show only a portion of the whole story. Most of the mass is hidden under the surface, whether it's a mass of history or emotion. Associations are a huge part of character voice because they tell a tremendous amount about a person in just a few words.

Think of the word-association games psychotherapists use. When your character hears the word “home,” does he think “fried chicken,” “fear,” or “fantasy”? Any one of these answers gives a window into an intriguing story.

Associations can be a shorthand way of showing what kind of past experiences the character has gone through, what he values, and what forms of culture shape him. Associations show up in the way characters describe things, and especially how they make comparisons, such as similes and metaphors.

Here are a few associations at work from my novel Never Gone:

Images burst in my mind like sudden sun through stained glass.

This person is someone who frequents:
a. sport arenas
b. churches
c. suburban malls


“Crikey,” Uncle says. “We’re in Dante’s eighth circle of hell.”

This person is...
a. a man of the soil who works with his hands
b. an Irish dancer who dreams of becoming the next Michael Flatley
c. an educated bloke who has studied Classical literature

Side note: Associations to other literature or film--allusions--can be used strategically to bring themes of the other work to bear on yours. Dante's eighth circle of hell is for "sowers of discord" (people who cause conflict and dissension between others) and their fate is to be cut to pieces. This is thematically important to the story, and the uncle's role especially. 

The simile and metaphor in each of these examples pours a great deal of back story into the characters without my having to tell you "Dani grew up attending church every Sunday without fail," or "Uncle Philip took a First in Classics before attending law school."  As a reader, I'm bored being told these rather dull facts. It's far more interesting to see how life experiences shape the characters' minds. Don't you agree?

Tips for developing associations 

1. Determine a few key environmental pieces for each character. Having more than one will make for an interesting, multi-layered personality, rather than a repetitive, one-note character.

They should be important for how the character interacts with others and moves the plot along. Be careful about this second bit--it's very easy for associations to become tangents that muddy the story rather than enhance it.

For example, my protagonist Danielle is a Christian artist who likes to read fantasy novels. Each of these pieces play into how she perceives the world. She's attuned to the spiritual aspects of life, she is visually driven and deeply imaginative. She tends to mentally rearrange what she sees so she can draw it the way she wants, which creates spiritual blindness in her. All three factors shape her motivations and the kinds of reactions she has to events.

2. Research the environmental factor and make a sheet of key terms, images, events, allusions, etc.

Some terms and images from Dani's character sheet:

steeples, stained glass, hymns, Psalms, kneeling, prayer, angels, demons, Jonah and the whale, the Good Shepherd, parable of the lost sheep

galleries, museums, Metropolitan, MoMA, Frick, sketch pad, charcoal, graphite, shade, stroke, cross-hatch, curve, line, plane, hue, perspective, vanishing point, orb, cone, cylinder, still life, landscape, portrait

castles, magic, Harry Potter, invisibility cloak, spells, Hogwarts, Hagrid, Lord of the Rings, Denethor and Faramir

3. Look for opportunities to layer associations into each character's thought life and dialogue. Associations most naturally occur when describing something or making comparisons.

How might using associations enhance your characterization? Which authors use this technique well?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

One month from today, I will be arriving here:

photo by schurch, morguefile.com
As you might guess, planning is making life a bit hectic. It's my fourth trip to the UK, but instead of being in a college program, on a bus tour, or having a romantic getaway with my hubby, I'll be taking a family trip. It's my 10-year-old daughter's first  time off the continent of North America, and we'll be renting a car and driving. On the left side of the road. Yeah. A many of new adventures lie ahead.

My day job tends to get very hectic in late May, when all the college professors get busy with summer writing projects and submissions to scholarly journals like the one I work on.

Promoting my novel and poetry collection continues to take my time in dribs and drabs.

And then there's the new novel, crying for my attention.

It's so easy on days like this to scurry from thing to thing and feel like I never fully engaged with anything.

That, friends, is "attention splatter," a helpful concept in the social media-soaked world. This article by Christine Kane explains it well.

She recommends having fewer priorities a day. Awesome. I'd love that. However, I can't control my agenda to that degree. I can, however, build pockets of focus into my day.

How? Set aside "sprint hours" and "concentration hours." In other words, give yourself pockets of quiet to do focused work, then at set intervals, deal with the small tasks that tend to interrupt: check and respond to e-mail, make a call or two, pop onto Facebook or Twitter.

Then stop.

Breathe.

Get up and walk a little. Drink a glass of water. Say a prayer or hail the muse.

Sit. Sink into your stillcenter.

Dig in to your next concentrated task with your full attention.

Do you have certain times of year that bring more "attention splatter"? How do you cope?
Wednesday, May 15, 2013 Laurel Garver
One month from today, I will be arriving here:

photo by schurch, morguefile.com
As you might guess, planning is making life a bit hectic. It's my fourth trip to the UK, but instead of being in a college program, on a bus tour, or having a romantic getaway with my hubby, I'll be taking a family trip. It's my 10-year-old daughter's first  time off the continent of North America, and we'll be renting a car and driving. On the left side of the road. Yeah. A many of new adventures lie ahead.

My day job tends to get very hectic in late May, when all the college professors get busy with summer writing projects and submissions to scholarly journals like the one I work on.

Promoting my novel and poetry collection continues to take my time in dribs and drabs.

And then there's the new novel, crying for my attention.

It's so easy on days like this to scurry from thing to thing and feel like I never fully engaged with anything.

That, friends, is "attention splatter," a helpful concept in the social media-soaked world. This article by Christine Kane explains it well.

She recommends having fewer priorities a day. Awesome. I'd love that. However, I can't control my agenda to that degree. I can, however, build pockets of focus into my day.

How? Set aside "sprint hours" and "concentration hours." In other words, give yourself pockets of quiet to do focused work, then at set intervals, deal with the small tasks that tend to interrupt: check and respond to e-mail, make a call or two, pop onto Facebook or Twitter.

Then stop.

Breathe.

Get up and walk a little. Drink a glass of water. Say a prayer or hail the muse.

Sit. Sink into your stillcenter.

Dig in to your next concentrated task with your full attention.

Do you have certain times of year that bring more "attention splatter"? How do you cope?

Friday, May 10, 2013

In my continuing series Homophone Helps, we'll be looking at three sound-alikes I've frequently seen confused both online and in some self-published books. Getting a handle on which word belongs in which context is so important because, for the most part, your computer's spell check won't catch this sort of error.

Sight

Photo credit: blackbird for morguefile.com
(n.) the power or ability to see; perception; something that is seen; a device that helps the eye aim at or find the direction of an object; aspiration.

(v., trans.) to catch a glimpse of; to aim using a sight; to test the straightness of

(v., intrans) to aim; to look carefully in one direction

Examples
That was a sight for sore eyes!

Jose lost his sight in the accident; now he's learning Braille.

Cullen caught his prey in the rifle sight.

She set her sights on winning the scholarship.

He sighted Melody coming across the field toward him.

That sharpshooter can sight targets a hundred yards away.

Mnemonic
Glasses and goggles protect your sight.

Site

(n.) the location of an actual or planned structure; the scene, point or place of an event or occurrence

photo credit: morguefile.com
(v., trans) to place in position or at a location

Examples
The new building site has marvelous views of the river.

Dr. Hendrix pinpointed the site of the tumor.

Mack sited the fountain a few feet from the path.

Mnemonic
He has a bump on the site where the mite did bite.

Cite

Photo: johninportland; morguefile.com
(v., trans.) to quote as an authority, example or proof; to refer to; to bring to another's attention; to call upon officially or authoritatively to appear

The noun form is citation.

Examples
Gladys frequently cited her yogi's words of wisdom.

If you're going to quote Faulkner in your essay, be sure to correctly cite the source and pages.

Lia was cited for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

Mnemonic
Carefully cross-reference what you cite in this composition.


Here's a tough one for you: Do you go to see the sights? or the sites?

Context is everything! If you mean "stuff to be seen," like vistas or exciting venues, it's sights.
If you mean locations for a specific purpose, like where buildings will go up or film will be shot, it's sites.

Which of these trip you up? Any other homophones you'd like me to tackle?
Friday, May 10, 2013 Laurel Garver
In my continuing series Homophone Helps, we'll be looking at three sound-alikes I've frequently seen confused both online and in some self-published books. Getting a handle on which word belongs in which context is so important because, for the most part, your computer's spell check won't catch this sort of error.

Sight

Photo credit: blackbird for morguefile.com
(n.) the power or ability to see; perception; something that is seen; a device that helps the eye aim at or find the direction of an object; aspiration.

(v., trans.) to catch a glimpse of; to aim using a sight; to test the straightness of

(v., intrans) to aim; to look carefully in one direction

Examples
That was a sight for sore eyes!

Jose lost his sight in the accident; now he's learning Braille.

Cullen caught his prey in the rifle sight.

She set her sights on winning the scholarship.

He sighted Melody coming across the field toward him.

That sharpshooter can sight targets a hundred yards away.

Mnemonic
Glasses and goggles protect your sight.

Site

(n.) the location of an actual or planned structure; the scene, point or place of an event or occurrence

photo credit: morguefile.com
(v., trans) to place in position or at a location

Examples
The new building site has marvelous views of the river.

Dr. Hendrix pinpointed the site of the tumor.

Mack sited the fountain a few feet from the path.

Mnemonic
He has a bump on the site where the mite did bite.

Cite

Photo: johninportland; morguefile.com
(v., trans.) to quote as an authority, example or proof; to refer to; to bring to another's attention; to call upon officially or authoritatively to appear

The noun form is citation.

Examples
Gladys frequently cited her yogi's words of wisdom.

If you're going to quote Faulkner in your essay, be sure to correctly cite the source and pages.

Lia was cited for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

Mnemonic
Carefully cross-reference what you cite in this composition.


Here's a tough one for you: Do you go to see the sights? or the sites?

Context is everything! If you mean "stuff to be seen," like vistas or exciting venues, it's sights.
If you mean locations for a specific purpose, like where buildings will go up or film will be shot, it's sites.

Which of these trip you up? Any other homophones you'd like me to tackle?

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

"Make it new" declared Ezra Pound (1885-1972), a statement that became a rallying cry to the generation of early 20th century writers  we now call the Modernists. Nearly 100 years later, we still love a few of their favorite poetics tools to make writing fresh and zingy: neologism and portmanteau.

Don't be alarmed by the highfalutin' names. These two techniques are about breaking the rules. When you can't find the perfect word, you make one up. What could be more fun than that?

Neologism, from the Greek roots neo/new and logos/word, means an invented word. Lewis Carroll popularized the practice with his poem "Jabberwocky" in which he coined a number of terms, from galumphing to slithy. James Joyce's Finnegans Wake contains hundreds, including nebuless,  goddinpotty,bisaacles.

Neologisms can be especially helpful for conveying the thoughts of someone a bit different from the average thinker. In Daniel Keyes's Flowers for Algernon, Charlie's intelligence level is shown to be lacking through his use of not-quite-right terms including rilax, compushishens, telld. It's considerably more effective than simply telling us through a third-person narrator that Charlie has mental retardation.

I'm a fan of using neologisms for sound effect purposes--onomatopoeic neologism, for those of you who like fancy terminology. In my novel Never Gone, footsteps across icy snow "sloosh nearer." Later in the scene, simple, unadorned sound heightens the spookiness of the moment: "Chush. Chush. Chush."  

photo by mzacha, morguefile.com
Portmanteau, or pieced-together words, gets its name from a piece of luggage with two sides that's hinged in the middle. Lewis Carroll was the coiner of this use of the word.

Shakespeare was the king of portmanteau, inventing new words such as madcap and lackluster. Loads of writers since then have been coining these "siamixed" kinds of words (to steal from Joyce): Sylvia Plath gave us "a Meinkampf look" (making an adjective of Hitler's book Mein Kampf); George Orwell gave us "newspeak."

Portmanteau is probably the very best tool for naming some future technology so that it will still be understandable to contemporary readers. In Dune, Frank Herbert called his flying machines "ornithopters," combining the Greek words for bird and wing, giving readers a picture of  how the machines might look in flight.

Our culture has really run with this poetic tool, coining new terms at an unprecedented rate. We are all quick to take up terms like "Frankenfood," "netiquitte," "frappuccino" because they are readily understood and define well the qualities of some new phenomenon.

Portmanteau can also be wonderfully playful, a great way to pump up character voice. You get a very strong sense of someone who finds the new guy "adorkable" or who becomes "aggrannoyed" about the long line at the supermarket.

Your turn:
How might you incorporate some coined terms to jazz up your writing?

Tuesday, May 07, 2013 Laurel Garver
"Make it new" declared Ezra Pound (1885-1972), a statement that became a rallying cry to the generation of early 20th century writers  we now call the Modernists. Nearly 100 years later, we still love a few of their favorite poetics tools to make writing fresh and zingy: neologism and portmanteau.

Don't be alarmed by the highfalutin' names. These two techniques are about breaking the rules. When you can't find the perfect word, you make one up. What could be more fun than that?

Neologism, from the Greek roots neo/new and logos/word, means an invented word. Lewis Carroll popularized the practice with his poem "Jabberwocky" in which he coined a number of terms, from galumphing to slithy. James Joyce's Finnegans Wake contains hundreds, including nebuless,  goddinpotty,bisaacles.

Neologisms can be especially helpful for conveying the thoughts of someone a bit different from the average thinker. In Daniel Keyes's Flowers for Algernon, Charlie's intelligence level is shown to be lacking through his use of not-quite-right terms including rilax, compushishens, telld. It's considerably more effective than simply telling us through a third-person narrator that Charlie has mental retardation.

I'm a fan of using neologisms for sound effect purposes--onomatopoeic neologism, for those of you who like fancy terminology. In my novel Never Gone, footsteps across icy snow "sloosh nearer." Later in the scene, simple, unadorned sound heightens the spookiness of the moment: "Chush. Chush. Chush."  

photo by mzacha, morguefile.com
Portmanteau, or pieced-together words, gets its name from a piece of luggage with two sides that's hinged in the middle. Lewis Carroll was the coiner of this use of the word.

Shakespeare was the king of portmanteau, inventing new words such as madcap and lackluster. Loads of writers since then have been coining these "siamixed" kinds of words (to steal from Joyce): Sylvia Plath gave us "a Meinkampf look" (making an adjective of Hitler's book Mein Kampf); George Orwell gave us "newspeak."

Portmanteau is probably the very best tool for naming some future technology so that it will still be understandable to contemporary readers. In Dune, Frank Herbert called his flying machines "ornithopters," combining the Greek words for bird and wing, giving readers a picture of  how the machines might look in flight.

Our culture has really run with this poetic tool, coining new terms at an unprecedented rate. We are all quick to take up terms like "Frankenfood," "netiquitte," "frappuccino" because they are readily understood and define well the qualities of some new phenomenon.

Portmanteau can also be wonderfully playful, a great way to pump up character voice. You get a very strong sense of someone who finds the new guy "adorkable" or who becomes "aggrannoyed" about the long line at the supermarket.

Your turn:
How might you incorporate some coined terms to jazz up your writing?

Friday, May 03, 2013

I'm over at Tyrean Martinson's blog today, explaining why fiction writers should include poetry reading in their craft-building self-education, in a post titled "Why read poetry?".

Poets have plenty to teach you about how to use words powerfully, how to employ sound and rhythm to undergird the action and emotion in your work, and how to conquer wordiness. You might be surprised to know that even genre-based magazines--romance, fantasty, SciFi, horror--often publish poems. So if form scares you off, perhaps content will make the prospect a bit more enticing.

I hope to speak more specifically about some of these things in an ongoing series "Stolen from Poets." My first post, on using vowel power to ramp up emotion, is HERE.

Are you verse averse? How might you overcome it?


Friday, May 03, 2013 Laurel Garver
I'm over at Tyrean Martinson's blog today, explaining why fiction writers should include poetry reading in their craft-building self-education, in a post titled "Why read poetry?".

Poets have plenty to teach you about how to use words powerfully, how to employ sound and rhythm to undergird the action and emotion in your work, and how to conquer wordiness. You might be surprised to know that even genre-based magazines--romance, fantasty, SciFi, horror--often publish poems. So if form scares you off, perhaps content will make the prospect a bit more enticing.

I hope to speak more specifically about some of these things in an ongoing series "Stolen from Poets." My first post, on using vowel power to ramp up emotion, is HERE.

Are you verse averse? How might you overcome it?


Thursday, May 02, 2013

My friend Gilbert
had the kind of face
you see on milk cartons
on rainy Thursday mornings
that puddle in your brain
without a grain of sense
or purpose but dripdrip drip.

Gil played games
that brought down bullies
to no-longer-larger-than-life lugs
we could look in the eye
and not cringe.

Gil’s games
made emperors of roaches
and elf queens of
bucktoothed, freckled girls
who are good at math
and can’t sing.

Gil’s thoughts
entered me like garlic
and permeated blood
and lungs and skin,
reeking and lusty of life,
lingering in the pores
for days.

© 2013 Laurel W. Garver. From Muddy-Fingered Midnights: poems from the bright days and dark nights of the soul, page 8.

Thursday, May 02, 2013 Laurel Garver
My friend Gilbert
had the kind of face
you see on milk cartons
on rainy Thursday mornings
that puddle in your brain
without a grain of sense
or purpose but dripdrip drip.

Gil played games
that brought down bullies
to no-longer-larger-than-life lugs
we could look in the eye
and not cringe.

Gil’s games
made emperors of roaches
and elf queens of
bucktoothed, freckled girls
who are good at math
and can’t sing.

Gil’s thoughts
entered me like garlic
and permeated blood
and lungs and skin,
reeking and lusty of life,
lingering in the pores
for days.

© 2013 Laurel W. Garver. From Muddy-Fingered Midnights: poems from the bright days and dark nights of the soul, page 8.

Sunday school never prepared her for this kind of life after death.

"gorgeous, haunting...an impressive debut." --Leigh T. Moore, author of The Truth About Faking

"a twisty journey through a young girl's battle with death, grief, and the discovery of family secrets that threaten to undo her world." --Heidi Willis, author of Some Kind of Normal

Read the first chapter of Never Gone

MORE INFO on Never Gone






Explore the spaces where we create, wound, heal and find love, beauty, and grace. 

"Filled with heart. It breathes with the pain and joy of human experience...tender and hard hitting at once." --Angela Felsted, author of Scarred and Cleave

"Beautiful and inspirational." --Tyrean Martinson, author of Champion in the Darkness

Read the poem "Gilbert" from Muddy-Fingered Midnights

MORE INFO on Muddy-Fingered Midnights
Thursday, May 02, 2013 Laurel Garver
Sunday school never prepared her for this kind of life after death.

"gorgeous, haunting...an impressive debut." --Leigh T. Moore, author of The Truth About Faking

"a twisty journey through a young girl's battle with death, grief, and the discovery of family secrets that threaten to undo her world." --Heidi Willis, author of Some Kind of Normal

Read the first chapter of Never Gone

MORE INFO on Never Gone






Explore the spaces where we create, wound, heal and find love, beauty, and grace. 

"Filled with heart. It breathes with the pain and joy of human experience...tender and hard hitting at once." --Angela Felsted, author of Scarred and Cleave

"Beautiful and inspirational." --Tyrean Martinson, author of Champion in the Darkness

Read the poem "Gilbert" from Muddy-Fingered Midnights

MORE INFO on Muddy-Fingered Midnights

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Short Fiction

"New Hues"
flash fiction excerpt from Never Gone
Vine Leaves Literary Journal, issue 1 (Jan. 2012)

anthologized in Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal 2012
Available NOW from eMergent Press

"Tribute"
flash fiction
Motley Press (UK), issue 3 (2010)

"Swan Moment"
flash fiction
Maternal Spark, September 2009

Non-fiction

"Five Essentials to Succeed in Self-Publishing"
essay
Indiestructible: Inspiring Stories from the Publishing Jungle
Vine Leaves Press, 2013

Wedding Singer
nonfiction humor
Flashquake 9.2 (Winter 2009-10)


Poetry

"North and South"
Every Day Poets, 11 February 2013

"The Camera Came"
"Grace"
Ancient Paths, issue 17, available HERE

"Embouchure"
"Anemia"
"Pidge"
"Messaging"
"Storm Shelter"
Poetry Pact, volume 1

"Storm Shelter"
Daily Love, 23 December 2011

"The Lost Coin"
Drown in my Own Fears, issue 16 (2011)

"A Writer's Parable"
Rubber Lemon: short Christian writing (UK), issue 4 (Aug. 2011)

"Moving on"
"Graham at St. Stephen's"
My Poetry and Prose Place poetry contest, 2010
Wednesday, May 01, 2013 Laurel Garver
Short Fiction

"New Hues"
flash fiction excerpt from Never Gone
Vine Leaves Literary Journal, issue 1 (Jan. 2012)

anthologized in Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal 2012
Available NOW from eMergent Press

"Tribute"
flash fiction
Motley Press (UK), issue 3 (2010)

"Swan Moment"
flash fiction
Maternal Spark, September 2009

Non-fiction

"Five Essentials to Succeed in Self-Publishing"
essay
Indiestructible: Inspiring Stories from the Publishing Jungle
Vine Leaves Press, 2013

Wedding Singer
nonfiction humor
Flashquake 9.2 (Winter 2009-10)


Poetry

"North and South"
Every Day Poets, 11 February 2013

"The Camera Came"
"Grace"
Ancient Paths, issue 17, available HERE

"Embouchure"
"Anemia"
"Pidge"
"Messaging"
"Storm Shelter"
Poetry Pact, volume 1

"Storm Shelter"
Daily Love, 23 December 2011

"The Lost Coin"
Drown in my Own Fears, issue 16 (2011)

"A Writer's Parable"
Rubber Lemon: short Christian writing (UK), issue 4 (Aug. 2011)

"Moving on"
"Graham at St. Stephen's"
My Poetry and Prose Place poetry contest, 2010