The Emotion of Words

words, word pictures, writing, narrative, story
by Smock Art

Words carry a lot of meaning.  I don’t mean that in the sense of synonyms and homonyms, but in the sense that the way we construct our sentences and phrases can carry – or not – far more meaning than the words alone should.  It’s sometimes called “word pictures”

If you want to paint a mental picture of a girl who is sickly and frail, you would do well to stay away from the words “light” or “fair” in describing her skin and use “pale” or “ashen”.  A dog that is scrawny will likely be viewed as unhealthy, while “slender” or “thin” may be viewed as fit and toned.  If moving a bag or package, “hoisted”, “heaved” or “hefted” brings to mind a good deal of weight while “tossed” or “flipped” indicates a light load and easy task.  A good thesaurus will help you find alternate words and a dictionary will help make sure you’re using them correctly.  But it goes beyond this.

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Interview or e-Terview: When and Why

interview, Q&A imageIn our modern world of highly connected, internet based communications writers sometimes resort to e-mailing questions to an interview subject instead of doing a personal or telephone interview.  Whether this is a good thing or bad thing depends on a lot of factors.   Continue reading “Interview or e-Terview: When and Why”

Interview like a Pro: Think like a Shrink

therapy, interview, interviewing
Courtesy sftherapy.com

My writerly background is primarily non-fiction and journalism.  As such, I’ve done a lot of interviews.  Along this journey I’ve learned a few tricks: one is to approach an interview as a therapist would approach a patient.

In college I took some psychology classes: not to become a therapist but to learn what makes people tick.  These classes helped a great deal in this regard and in dealing with people in general.

I found this particularly helpful while I was working with a Smoky Mountain Visitors Guide, for which I was interviewing a different Smoky Mountains region artist each month.  The articles were full-page spreads and needed to be in depth and interesting.  Artists *can* be kind of high-strung.  Here are a few of the tricks I developed.    Continue reading “Interview like a Pro: Think like a Shrink”

Writing Lessons from the Garden

I lay claim to the title Professional Writer because I make an income from selling my articles and books.  I am also an amateur gardener: because I do NOT make any income from it.  I had once considered selling excess produce at the local Farmers Market, but that would mean getting up quite early on Saturdays and trundling a truckload of veggies over to a parking lot where I would HOPE that people would be willing to exchange cash for foodstuffs.  That lost its appeal once that ‘getting up early on Saturday’ thing became a tangible reality.  Still I have learned some lessons from gardening that apply well to other areas of life, even life as a writer.

garden, raised bed gardening, writing lessons

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A Little Creative Writing: The Daily Tromp

The old man struggles at the slow end of the leash as his 80 pound bulldog, Cochise, strains like a John Deere at the other; dragging them both up the steep, winding mountain path.

Daily Tromp 8822The path was once a crude dirt road; just a common access for owners of property on the undeveloped, upper portion of the mountain. For several years an occasional 4-wheel drive pick-up would trek up the mountain to release hunting dogs, cut firewood to haul home, or just enjoy a few hours sitting in the woods soaking up the solitude.  Then, for a while only ATVs went up there to rip and snort along the path and tear new trails through virgin woods.  The old man was glad when the kids lost interest in their new toys and stopped coming.  It had been a year or more since anyone went up the old road.  No maintenance had been done, not even the farmer who occasionally used his tractor to drag a scraper blade along to even out the humps and ruts and shear off the saplings. Now those saplings were crowding in from the shoulders and taking over again. Trees had fallen, shattering branches all over and heavy rains were forming huge ruts and runnels that made the road difficult for any vehicle to navigate faster than a creep.

Only he and Cochise – occasionally his wife and a foster dog would accompany them a short ways; just to where it got steep – were the only ones to go up there.  They manage to keep a path trampled down for a half mile or so up the main route and a few hundred feet along a branch road. Continue reading “A Little Creative Writing: The Daily Tromp”

Difficult Voices: First Person Plural

First person is a very common voice for writers to use in fiction, especially in mysteries and crime thrillers; this voice allows the reader to discover the plot as it unfolds through the protagonists eyes.

Harold said, “I never knew her.” But I knew he was lying. I knew for a fact that Harold and Liz went to school together, shared a few classes and even dated for a while after they graduated. Why was he lying? I decided not to press the point just yet; I’d dangle a rope and see if he’d hang himself first.

First person can be limiting because the reader can only experience what the POV character knows, or experiences.  This means that the scope of the novel needs to be fairly tight.  Using multiple POV characters (first person serial) can expand the view considerably. Generally this is done by letting characters take turns in relating events as the story unfolds. Sometimes someone does something unusual such as in Levi Montgomery’s The Death of Patsy McCoy where the same story is retold through the eyes of several characters and each retelling reveals new facets of the complete story. Continue reading “Difficult Voices: First Person Plural”

Difficult Voices: Second Person in Fiction – Bully

Second Person as a writing voice is quite common in non-fiction, particularly instructive non-fiction: “First you do this, then you do that, make sure you haven’t forgotten to lock down the sniggletharp.”  Sometimes the ‘you’ is implied, “Insert tab A into slot B and twist to lock”.  But second person, though uncommon, can also be used in fiction and can be used quite effectively.

In first person, the reader may choose to become the character or may simply ‘listen’; “I noticed my shoe was untied and crouched to remedy the situation just as something whizzed close over my head.  Had I been standing just then it would have caught me across my chest.” The reader may interpret that statement as being the character or may accept it as though sitting across the table from a friend, each with a cup of coffee as he tells about an adventure.

Third person is a detached view, but far more versatile, “Dudley noticed his shoe was untied and stooped to remedy the situation just as the length of pipe flew across the room.  Had he still been standing, it would have caught him in the chest. Snydley snarled as the pipe missed its target, ‘Curses, foiled again.'” Continue reading “Difficult Voices: Second Person in Fiction – Bully”

Five Sentence Fiction: Orange

Lillie McFerrin

What it’s all about: Five Sentence Fiction is about packing a powerful punch in a tiny fist. Each week Lillie McFerrin posts a one word inspiration, then anyone wishing to participate will write a five sentence story based on the prompt word. The word does not have to appear in your five sentences, just use it for direction.  The word today is “orange”.

Here is my Five Sentence Fiction entry:

A lump formed in his throat as he watched the frame building burn; orange, red and vermillion illuminating the night. Wood crackled and hissed, glass shattered as pieces fell inward, collapsing. The fire consumed the house, and the memories; all those memories. Was it wrong? No: she deserved it, burn witch, burn.

* * * * * Continue reading “Five Sentence Fiction: Orange”

Paraprosdokian Phrases

A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax.

Paraprosdokian Phrases

Ø   Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

Ø   The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on the list. Continue reading “Paraprosdokian Phrases”

Wander, Putter, and Create!

Today I am delighted to have as my guest, best-selling novelist Toby Neal.  In this guest-post she shares some thoughts and insights on the creative process and we introduce her latest book.  Please make her welcome…

clouds, dreaming, createWhat is the creative process?

Different for everyone, sure. For me, it’s connected to daydreaming, and then making and doing stuff.

Yeah, real scientific.

Mulling, wandering, chewing a bit of grass as I kick a pebble on my walk with my (small/fuzzy/ridiculous) dogs, I think of a new scene.

Tilting my head to spot a flamenco dancer in the shape of a cloud. I take an Istagram pic of it (find me at tobyneal0)!

Chasing the aforementioned dogs away from a mysterious dirt patch in the middle of the ball field just the size of a body, I see a future crime scene for my novel. Continue reading “Wander, Putter, and Create!”