Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Seasonal prompts can be helpful in your routine, to get you paying attention to your immediate environment and the sensory experiences you can collect. It can also get you thinking about story potential in everyday events. Consider how to spin theses prompts for different genres or milieus. For example, try "a spring fashion trend no one could have predicted" as dystopian fiction, as fantasy, as horror, as SciFi, or as farce.

I know winter is over when...

My idea of a perfect spring day is...

Smells I associate with spring.

Spring foods I have been craving for months.

How my protagonist's neighborhood changes in spring.

In the hour lost to daylight savings, a cataclysmic event takes place

The Little League moms go to war because...

What my protagonist likes most and least about spring.

Beneath a minor league baseball team's diamond is a hidden ______.

A recent arrival on the frontier has to put in this year's planting.

A shipment of live chicks is delivered to the wrong address.

A surprise Easter blizzard strands a congregation in the church for three days.

A deranged criminal, the Easter _____,  delivers baskets of dangerous ______.

The Junior League Spring Fashion Show goes horribly wrong.

Strange things begin to happen when the local garden center starts selling a new variety of flower.

The high school track and field team is taken hostage and must use their skills to escape.

An ingenious designer creates rain-resistant ______.

During a magical Passover Seder, a family is swept back to Egypt in the days of Moses.

A flock of geese bring something terrible north during their spring migration.

At the height of spring lambing, an unusual ewe gives birth to _____.

A hotel double books its space for a Cotillion and a tattoo artists' awards banquet.

A group of college friend have an unforgettable spring break when...

The spring fashion trend no one could have predicted.

The day the garden gnomes revolted.

How three ingenious friends saved prom.

The marriage proposal that never got off the ground.

A couple with OCD plans a wedding.

A small town's rabbit population grows so fast that...

While preparing her little vegetable patch for planting, a widow discovers...

A flight full of college kids headed to Cancun crash lands in the Louisiana bayou / Death Valley / a Nebraska cornfield.

Wishing you a blessed Holy Week and very Happy Easter!

Which prompts appeal to you? What is your favorite thing about spring?
Wednesday, March 23, 2016 Laurel Garver
Seasonal prompts can be helpful in your routine, to get you paying attention to your immediate environment and the sensory experiences you can collect. It can also get you thinking about story potential in everyday events. Consider how to spin theses prompts for different genres or milieus. For example, try "a spring fashion trend no one could have predicted" as dystopian fiction, as fantasy, as horror, as SciFi, or as farce.

I know winter is over when...

My idea of a perfect spring day is...

Smells I associate with spring.

Spring foods I have been craving for months.

How my protagonist's neighborhood changes in spring.

In the hour lost to daylight savings, a cataclysmic event takes place

The Little League moms go to war because...

What my protagonist likes most and least about spring.

Beneath a minor league baseball team's diamond is a hidden ______.

A recent arrival on the frontier has to put in this year's planting.

A shipment of live chicks is delivered to the wrong address.

A surprise Easter blizzard strands a congregation in the church for three days.

A deranged criminal, the Easter _____,  delivers baskets of dangerous ______.

The Junior League Spring Fashion Show goes horribly wrong.

Strange things begin to happen when the local garden center starts selling a new variety of flower.

The high school track and field team is taken hostage and must use their skills to escape.

An ingenious designer creates rain-resistant ______.

During a magical Passover Seder, a family is swept back to Egypt in the days of Moses.

A flock of geese bring something terrible north during their spring migration.

At the height of spring lambing, an unusual ewe gives birth to _____.

A hotel double books its space for a Cotillion and a tattoo artists' awards banquet.

A group of college friend have an unforgettable spring break when...

The spring fashion trend no one could have predicted.

The day the garden gnomes revolted.

How three ingenious friends saved prom.

The marriage proposal that never got off the ground.

A couple with OCD plans a wedding.

A small town's rabbit population grows so fast that...

While preparing her little vegetable patch for planting, a widow discovers...

A flight full of college kids headed to Cancun crash lands in the Louisiana bayou / Death Valley / a Nebraska cornfield.

Wishing you a blessed Holy Week and very Happy Easter!

Which prompts appeal to you? What is your favorite thing about spring?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Photo credit: melschmitz,  morguefile.com
Detective Fredricks completes his investigation of the dining room, then he...

goes through the French doors to examine the patio
or
takes the left exit into the butler's pantry
or
leads the officers back to the main corridor

Wait. Is there a butler's pantry? Which side of the room has French doors? What other rooms lead off this corridor?

Space, the essential frontier


Even if  you don't write mysteries, like in my example above, you likely need to move your characters through space, both architecture and landscape.

Like a director, you may have put a great deal of thought into how to "block" each individual scene in terms of how characters interact with one another.

But do you know how they are interacting with their environment? Further, do you know how your various locations connect? If your image of the protagonist's key environments is fuzzy, chances are you will introduce some pretty significant continuity errors, like having him go upstairs to bed in one scene, and getting breakfast down the hall in another.

The best way to avoid problems like this, and even to increase your productivity, is to map all your locations.

You don't need to be an expert cartographer or an architect to do this. You don't even need to invent places from scratch. You simply need to know how the story's spaces are connected, their approximate shape and size, and any environmental details that will play a role in the story.

In this week's post, I will cover tips on mapping man-made spaces, specifically building architecture. In a future post, I'll discuss mapping larger landscapes.

Architecture


Unless you have a deep understanding of how buildings go together, I'd recommend basing all your floor plans on existing buildings you know, or professionally made plans you can get your hands on. Because there are extremely detailed rules about what shapes hold weight, how plumbing and electricity are added to structures, etc., your amateur plans are likely to be unsafe (or at least improbable) spaces.

There are loads of places to get useful floor plans that show exactly where the dining room is in relation to the butler's pantry and patio. Where windows are located in a building. Which stairways go all the way to the second basement. How many bedrooms there are and which has a closet large enough to hide a corpse in. *wink*

Realtor sites

I found, on a realtor website, a three-bedroom, two-bath floor plan for the apartment building where my character lives. I printed it out, and voila, I never again had to wrack my brain about where the bathrooms were, or which windows faced 93rd Street. This was loads easier than taking a train up to New York, trying to wheedle my way past a doorman, and asking tenants to show me around.

Even if you don't have a specific location in mind, but rather are creating an amalgam of various places, hitting a realtor site can give you a picture of typical housing for an area, especially which architecture styles and eras are common there.

Many city high rises use realtors to vet tenants and offer varied floor plans for their different-sized units, which realtors will have available to view. Newly constructed housing complexes almost always include floor plans, as do commercial buildings.

Books

There's a series of books published by Dover Architecture that covers all sorts of architectural styles and eras. Here's a sampling:

Small Houses of the Forties
101 Classic Homes of the Twenties
More Craftsman Homes
The American Bungalo, 1880-1930
Turn-of-the-Century Houses
Georgian Archtectural Designs and Details

If you need some contemporary homes for your characters, here are some additional books of floor plans.

Lowe's Bestselling House Plans
The Complete Home Collection

Or simply hit your library's architecture section and photocopy the plan you wish to use.

Map what you know

If your locations are buildings you have access to, do a quick and dirty layout on graph paper, which will help keep the proportions in line. Or ask an artistic friend to do this for you.

Once you have a floor plan, mark it up with details to include in the story, like furniture placement, color schemes and the like--whatever details are necessary. Don't use this as an excuse to endlessly plan and never write!

Do you enjoy exploring and dreaming up architecture? What kinds of building spaces do you need to know to write your story well?
Wednesday, March 16, 2016 Laurel Garver
Photo credit: melschmitz,  morguefile.com
Detective Fredricks completes his investigation of the dining room, then he...

goes through the French doors to examine the patio
or
takes the left exit into the butler's pantry
or
leads the officers back to the main corridor

Wait. Is there a butler's pantry? Which side of the room has French doors? What other rooms lead off this corridor?

Space, the essential frontier


Even if  you don't write mysteries, like in my example above, you likely need to move your characters through space, both architecture and landscape.

Like a director, you may have put a great deal of thought into how to "block" each individual scene in terms of how characters interact with one another.

But do you know how they are interacting with their environment? Further, do you know how your various locations connect? If your image of the protagonist's key environments is fuzzy, chances are you will introduce some pretty significant continuity errors, like having him go upstairs to bed in one scene, and getting breakfast down the hall in another.

The best way to avoid problems like this, and even to increase your productivity, is to map all your locations.

You don't need to be an expert cartographer or an architect to do this. You don't even need to invent places from scratch. You simply need to know how the story's spaces are connected, their approximate shape and size, and any environmental details that will play a role in the story.

In this week's post, I will cover tips on mapping man-made spaces, specifically building architecture. In a future post, I'll discuss mapping larger landscapes.

Architecture


Unless you have a deep understanding of how buildings go together, I'd recommend basing all your floor plans on existing buildings you know, or professionally made plans you can get your hands on. Because there are extremely detailed rules about what shapes hold weight, how plumbing and electricity are added to structures, etc., your amateur plans are likely to be unsafe (or at least improbable) spaces.

There are loads of places to get useful floor plans that show exactly where the dining room is in relation to the butler's pantry and patio. Where windows are located in a building. Which stairways go all the way to the second basement. How many bedrooms there are and which has a closet large enough to hide a corpse in. *wink*

Realtor sites

I found, on a realtor website, a three-bedroom, two-bath floor plan for the apartment building where my character lives. I printed it out, and voila, I never again had to wrack my brain about where the bathrooms were, or which windows faced 93rd Street. This was loads easier than taking a train up to New York, trying to wheedle my way past a doorman, and asking tenants to show me around.

Even if you don't have a specific location in mind, but rather are creating an amalgam of various places, hitting a realtor site can give you a picture of typical housing for an area, especially which architecture styles and eras are common there.

Many city high rises use realtors to vet tenants and offer varied floor plans for their different-sized units, which realtors will have available to view. Newly constructed housing complexes almost always include floor plans, as do commercial buildings.

Books

There's a series of books published by Dover Architecture that covers all sorts of architectural styles and eras. Here's a sampling:

Small Houses of the Forties
101 Classic Homes of the Twenties
More Craftsman Homes
The American Bungalo, 1880-1930
Turn-of-the-Century Houses
Georgian Archtectural Designs and Details

If you need some contemporary homes for your characters, here are some additional books of floor plans.

Lowe's Bestselling House Plans
The Complete Home Collection

Or simply hit your library's architecture section and photocopy the plan you wish to use.

Map what you know

If your locations are buildings you have access to, do a quick and dirty layout on graph paper, which will help keep the proportions in line. Or ask an artistic friend to do this for you.

Once you have a floor plan, mark it up with details to include in the story, like furniture placement, color schemes and the like--whatever details are necessary. Don't use this as an excuse to endlessly plan and never write!

Do you enjoy exploring and dreaming up architecture? What kinds of building spaces do you need to know to write your story well?

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Today we're tackling a set of fraternal twins of language, the homophones coarse and course. Once again, I'll provide a definition, examples and mnemonic tricks to help you keep them straight. Because spellcheck will not help you if you use the wrong term for the context.

Luckily, these two words are always different parts of speech; the A version is only an adjective, the U version is a noun or verb.

Coarse fabric (Alvimann at morguefile.com)

coarse

(adj.) having a rough texture, or a loose weave; vulgar, rude, crude.

examples
The beggar's coarse woolen cloak gave little protection from wind.
Use coarse sandpaper to remove the old, thick layers of paint.
Mickey's coarse jokes made everyone blush.

mnemonics
Coarse oars make hands ache
The coarse mannered are always alone.


course

A riding course (jade from www.morguefile.com).
(n.) a route traveled, as by a ship, plane, or car;
a directed or mapped route
progress in time;
portion of a meal;
a unit of instruction, a plan of study on a topic

(v. intrans.) to flow or stream without obstruction;
to follow a course or be directed in a course

(v. trans.) to hunt using sight instead of scent;
to chase or pursue

Of course (idiom) - a turn of events is obvious or expected; certainly; naturally.

examples
Buffy often lost her way on the club's golf course.
Over the course of a week, the team built a new prototype.
We'll be serving salmon and roast beef for the main course.
Kyle really loved his art history course.
Tears course down Lucinda's cheeks.
My kayak coursed forward in the strong current.
The greyhounds coursed hares across the field.
Of course the class clown would wear a vampire costume to the prom.

mnemonics
For an utterly ultimate run, use our course
Una's unique course unified us students.

Which sound-alikes tend to trip you up?
Wednesday, March 09, 2016 Laurel Garver
Today we're tackling a set of fraternal twins of language, the homophones coarse and course. Once again, I'll provide a definition, examples and mnemonic tricks to help you keep them straight. Because spellcheck will not help you if you use the wrong term for the context.

Luckily, these two words are always different parts of speech; the A version is only an adjective, the U version is a noun or verb.

Coarse fabric (Alvimann at morguefile.com)

coarse

(adj.) having a rough texture, or a loose weave; vulgar, rude, crude.

examples
The beggar's coarse woolen cloak gave little protection from wind.
Use coarse sandpaper to remove the old, thick layers of paint.
Mickey's coarse jokes made everyone blush.

mnemonics
Coarse oars make hands ache
The coarse mannered are always alone.


course

A riding course (jade from www.morguefile.com).
(n.) a route traveled, as by a ship, plane, or car;
a directed or mapped route
progress in time;
portion of a meal;
a unit of instruction, a plan of study on a topic

(v. intrans.) to flow or stream without obstruction;
to follow a course or be directed in a course

(v. trans.) to hunt using sight instead of scent;
to chase or pursue

Of course (idiom) - a turn of events is obvious or expected; certainly; naturally.

examples
Buffy often lost her way on the club's golf course.
Over the course of a week, the team built a new prototype.
We'll be serving salmon and roast beef for the main course.
Kyle really loved his art history course.
Tears course down Lucinda's cheeks.
My kayak coursed forward in the strong current.
The greyhounds coursed hares across the field.
Of course the class clown would wear a vampire costume to the prom.

mnemonics
For an utterly ultimate run, use our course
Una's unique course unified us students.

Which sound-alikes tend to trip you up?

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Welcome to my new periodic series I'm calling "Word Smart," an expansion of my "Homophone Helps" series. In it, we will look at two words and/or concepts that writers confuse, offering clarifications to help you express your ideas most clearly and accurately.

I often hear the term "jealous"  used incorrectly as a synonym for envious or covetous or even greedy. And dictionaries, because they are descriptive (reflecting what is seen in speech) rather than prescriptive (defining rules), have let the erroneous conflation become acceptable.

I hope you want better for your fiction. Because there are very good reasons to NOT conflate these two very different emotions.

Jealousy

A rival stirs jealousy (Photo from morguefile.com)

Jealousy is a very complex emotion that arises when you fear losing something rightfully yours. It most often arises in threatened relationships. Generally jealousy involves at least three parties--you, your beloved/valued thing, and a rival. This rival threatens to take away the beloved and break the bond you have.

A classic example of jealousy can be found in Shakespeare's Othello. In it, a villain named Iago convinces Othello that his wife is cheating on him. Othello's jealousy grows into a murderous rage. He orders a hit on his supposed rival, then murders his supposedly unfaithful spouse. When he later discovers the infidelity was a lie concocted by Iago, Othello is overcome with remorse and kills himself.

Jealousy is built upon distrust. It finds fertile ground to grow in relationships when trust between partners is weak and/or one partner is deeply insecure and fearful about the relationship.

While in the throes of jealousy, one wants to cling to the beloved while simultaneously feeling fearful, suspicious, hurt, betrayed, and angry.

Jealousy can also be experienced regarding more abstract things rightfully yours, like your good name, reputation or accomplishments. I suspect this is where the confusion with envy happens, If someone else gets praise for your accomplishments, is it rightly envy? No. They took what is yours. Your accomplishment, your deserved praise. You would rightly be jealous.

Teens often like to play jealousy games as a way to test whether someone is a beloved. They flirt with a possible rival to see if feelings of hurt and betrayal are stirred up in their love interest.

Non-exclusive relationships, like siblings with parents, can also lead to complex jealousies--a sister might see her brother as rival for Mom's time or Dad's affection, relational perks that are rightly hers (but also rightly his). Ditto with friend groups. Valerie is spending more time with Morgan than with me. But I'm her BFF! That sense of rivalry and betrayal, of a wedge in a relationship, is jealousy.

Envy

Photo by greyerbaby at morguefile.com

Envy is the desire for some good you do not have but another does. Another word for this is coveting, though to covet can simply mean yearn for or deeply desire, Envy involves only two parties, you and the envied one. You want to take away what they have--it is desire mixed with malice.

Some say that consumer culture and advertising are intended to stoke feelings of envy.  But note that envy is deeper than greed, You don't merely want a Maserati, for example. You want to take away your neighbor's black Maserati and keep if for yourself. An envious person couldn't enjoy having a matching car. The envious could only enjoy the car if it is gained through another's loss.

Desiring someone else's partner is therefore envy. You want to take away their beloved and keep him or her for yourself. Should you succeed, you would be the rival another is jealous of, but you don't actually experience jealousy in this case. The relationship did not belong to you; you yearned for it and maliciously stole it from another.

When your coworker is lauded for his accomplishments, the emotion it stirs is envy. You desire to take away both his accomplishments and his praise. There is no beloved thing of yours betraying you or being taken from you in this case.

When a someone seems to hate you because you have a talent they do not, they are not "just jealous" but rather envious. Make sense?

Final thoughts


When deciding how to describe one of these emotions, remember this: jealousy involves fear of losing something rightfully ours. Envy involves taking something another has.

Interestingly, in the Ten Commandments, envy or coveting is condemned ("Thou shalt not covet your neighbor's wife. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's animals or his servants or anything that belongs to your neighbor"). Jealousy is not mentioned.

In the Torah/Old Testament, God calls himself "a jealous God" who desires that his people be faithful in worshiping only Him. As creator and protector of his people, he expects them to not give allegiance to Zeus or Ashera or Horus or Odin or the Tree Spirit. Thus jealousy is a "relationship protective" sort of emotion. It becomes pathological when there is no reason for distrust of the beloved, or when exclusivity is demanded in a naturally non-exclusive relationship (such as friendship).

Do these words have distinct images in your mind, or do you confuse or conflate them?
Wednesday, March 02, 2016 Laurel Garver
Welcome to my new periodic series I'm calling "Word Smart," an expansion of my "Homophone Helps" series. In it, we will look at two words and/or concepts that writers confuse, offering clarifications to help you express your ideas most clearly and accurately.

I often hear the term "jealous"  used incorrectly as a synonym for envious or covetous or even greedy. And dictionaries, because they are descriptive (reflecting what is seen in speech) rather than prescriptive (defining rules), have let the erroneous conflation become acceptable.

I hope you want better for your fiction. Because there are very good reasons to NOT conflate these two very different emotions.

Jealousy

A rival stirs jealousy (Photo from morguefile.com)

Jealousy is a very complex emotion that arises when you fear losing something rightfully yours. It most often arises in threatened relationships. Generally jealousy involves at least three parties--you, your beloved/valued thing, and a rival. This rival threatens to take away the beloved and break the bond you have.

A classic example of jealousy can be found in Shakespeare's Othello. In it, a villain named Iago convinces Othello that his wife is cheating on him. Othello's jealousy grows into a murderous rage. He orders a hit on his supposed rival, then murders his supposedly unfaithful spouse. When he later discovers the infidelity was a lie concocted by Iago, Othello is overcome with remorse and kills himself.

Jealousy is built upon distrust. It finds fertile ground to grow in relationships when trust between partners is weak and/or one partner is deeply insecure and fearful about the relationship.

While in the throes of jealousy, one wants to cling to the beloved while simultaneously feeling fearful, suspicious, hurt, betrayed, and angry.

Jealousy can also be experienced regarding more abstract things rightfully yours, like your good name, reputation or accomplishments. I suspect this is where the confusion with envy happens, If someone else gets praise for your accomplishments, is it rightly envy? No. They took what is yours. Your accomplishment, your deserved praise. You would rightly be jealous.

Teens often like to play jealousy games as a way to test whether someone is a beloved. They flirt with a possible rival to see if feelings of hurt and betrayal are stirred up in their love interest.

Non-exclusive relationships, like siblings with parents, can also lead to complex jealousies--a sister might see her brother as rival for Mom's time or Dad's affection, relational perks that are rightly hers (but also rightly his). Ditto with friend groups. Valerie is spending more time with Morgan than with me. But I'm her BFF! That sense of rivalry and betrayal, of a wedge in a relationship, is jealousy.

Envy

Photo by greyerbaby at morguefile.com

Envy is the desire for some good you do not have but another does. Another word for this is coveting, though to covet can simply mean yearn for or deeply desire, Envy involves only two parties, you and the envied one. You want to take away what they have--it is desire mixed with malice.

Some say that consumer culture and advertising are intended to stoke feelings of envy.  But note that envy is deeper than greed, You don't merely want a Maserati, for example. You want to take away your neighbor's black Maserati and keep if for yourself. An envious person couldn't enjoy having a matching car. The envious could only enjoy the car if it is gained through another's loss.

Desiring someone else's partner is therefore envy. You want to take away their beloved and keep him or her for yourself. Should you succeed, you would be the rival another is jealous of, but you don't actually experience jealousy in this case. The relationship did not belong to you; you yearned for it and maliciously stole it from another.

When your coworker is lauded for his accomplishments, the emotion it stirs is envy. You desire to take away both his accomplishments and his praise. There is no beloved thing of yours betraying you or being taken from you in this case.

When a someone seems to hate you because you have a talent they do not, they are not "just jealous" but rather envious. Make sense?

Final thoughts


When deciding how to describe one of these emotions, remember this: jealousy involves fear of losing something rightfully ours. Envy involves taking something another has.

Interestingly, in the Ten Commandments, envy or coveting is condemned ("Thou shalt not covet your neighbor's wife. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's animals or his servants or anything that belongs to your neighbor"). Jealousy is not mentioned.

In the Torah/Old Testament, God calls himself "a jealous God" who desires that his people be faithful in worshiping only Him. As creator and protector of his people, he expects them to not give allegiance to Zeus or Ashera or Horus or Odin or the Tree Spirit. Thus jealousy is a "relationship protective" sort of emotion. It becomes pathological when there is no reason for distrust of the beloved, or when exclusivity is demanded in a naturally non-exclusive relationship (such as friendship).

Do these words have distinct images in your mind, or do you confuse or conflate them?