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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Words With Impact: Deepen Vocabulary Connections

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“The writer is attempting to find that place in a reader’s consciousness where myth already exists, to free the ghosts and archetypes that stalk about and haunt.”
                                                                                                                                  Jack Hodgins

Word Ideas.
 Color Exercise
1. Choose any color except green or blue. Do a five to ten minute free-write on anything that comes to mind for that color whether cliché or not. Remember to include phrases that are already used in common language like yellowbelly or red-eye. Don’t limit yourself to any particular category—just write down any thoughts that come to mind regardless of how unusual.

Brainstorm basics give us a foundation to build from. We develop an instinct for when we need to connect details with our emotions, and also what particular methods will be most effective. Often the brainstorm exercises can help to find the bridges to connect with our characters in their worlds in order to deepen their reality. And there are so many varieties to choose from. It’s good to have a basic familiar style to jumpstart ideas and then one you often resist to stretch the idea muscles.

Note: I have not read the essay from which the following excerpt comes, and have no knowledge or idea of what the original purpose is. My sole interest is the intriguing way he references one color and the possibilities it raises to develop word language literally and figuratively.

On Being Blue 
A Philosophical Inquiry 
William Gass

“Blue pencils, blue noses, blue movies, laws, blue legs and stockings, the language of birds, bees, and flowers as sung by longshoremen, that lead-like look the skin has when affected by cold, contusion, sickness, fear; the rotten rum or gin they call blue ruin and the blue devils of its delirium; Russian cats and oysters, a withheld or imprisoned breath, the blue they say that diamonds have, deep holes in the ocean and the blazers which English athletes earn that gentlemen may wear; afflictions of the spirit — dumps, mopes, Mondays — all that's dismal — lowdown gloomy music, Nova Scotians, cyanosis, hair rinse, bluing, bleach; the rare blue dahlia like that blue moon shrewd things happen only once in, or the call for trumps in whist (but who remembers whist or what the death of unplayed games is like?), and correspondingly the flag, Blue Peter, which is our signal for getting under way; a swift pitch, Confederate money, ……and, when in Hell, its neatly landscaped rows of concrete huts and gas-blue flames; social registers, examination booklets, blue bloods, balls, and bonnets, beards, coats, collars, chips, and cheese . . . the pedantic, indecent and censorious . . . watered twilight, sour sea: …..just as it's stood for fidelity.”

What words most caught your attention or interest? Why? Which did you connect with and which do find confusing?

Which choice of words or categories he uses would fit most naturally into your own story’s genre?

Action Steps:

2. Take the list you wrote with your color choice and now divide it into the categories with which William Gass has referenced the color blue. For example, nature includes flowers, bees, and ocean. History includes Civil War and the Holocaust. Metaphors include gloom and fidelity. Don’t worry that some are confusing—just do the ones you recognize.

3. Now look back at your own list. Which references are literal and which are figurative? What categories can you place your connections in? What areas are missing? Can you add to them?

Share: Which category and word captured your curiosity?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Words With Impact: Deepen Vocabulary

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“We store in memory only images of value.” Patricia Hampl

Tying the echoes of emotional resonance into our stories adds texture and depth that helps support a story’s truth. It deepens our vocabulary both literally and figuratively. We can take the codes we discover and deepen our word threads to connect personally—even in situations we have never personally experienced.

There was a poster once on facebook that basically said, “If you are depressed—you’re living in the past; if you are anxious—you’re living in the future; if you are at peace, you’re living in the present.” It’s interesting that all three are tied to memories and how we may process them.

For example, in the historically era movie Hugo, the father lives in his present. Life is not easy or simple. He is raising his son alone, working two demanding jobs, has virtually no extra time to spare and yet every moment is filled with quality. He is dedicated to his son and his craft and his pleasure in both exude love and peace.

His brother also dedicates himself to the quality of his craft, showing considerable diligence, while at the same time drowning his life in alcohol. There is a clue that at one point these two brothers worked together, but no explanation is given of the separation. All we see are two, almost opposite, approaches to life after a season of grief.

Hugo’s new acquaintance George Melie’s has buried his dreams and spent over a decade trying not to remember. Yet when the past begins to crack open into the present, he reacts with anxiety, fear and anger. He fights the possibility of a future that might flood him with despair again.

Hugo teeters between all three as he processes his own loss. He clings to hope by spending each day faithful to the legacy of craft given by his father, and uncle. He dreams of a future to push back the emotional pain, but hovers on anxiety as every step closer also brings the threat of more loss. Every day he must make the choice to follow peace in the present.

Memory holds our emotional reservoir, both personal and public. Some memories are buried so deep that we don’t recognize them when they echo in the present. We have a fleeting pang or touch of comfort, and wonder why. We need these echoes to help us bridge understanding and communication with others. Regardless of language or status we immediately connect, or recognize, the joy of a newborn child or the grief of a death.

Digging deeper into memories for ourselves, and our characters, enable us to deepen vocabulary regardless of genre. And connect with our readers in their settings, their vocations, their character traits, and their traumas.

Action Steps:

1. What past grief or potential future grief is your character facing?

2. Write out a sketch of his personality change for each version: anxious, depressed or at peace.

3. What circumstances could fuel that outcome?

Share: Did any reaction surprise you? Why or why not?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Words With Impact: Honest Code: Process

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“What is art but a way of seeing” Thomas Berger

Do you remember playing a game as a child where you put your hands into a bag and guessed what was inside? Do you still remember your reactions to cold noodles or squishy pudding? Then each item you touched needed to be clearly identified with concrete words in order to see who guessed the most correctly. Generalized words weren’t good enough.

No sensory observation is considered complete until the fictional character’s emotional response is included. When eating new foods, or hearing new sounds, the concrete details help the reader recognize the character as more real as he reacts to the senses. Just as word choices need to be specific, so do the sensory details need to be definitive, externally as images and internally as personal reactions, like the shriek or shiver to those slimy noodles.

Words that sing into our manuscripts are not like a recipe where we add varying amounts of sugar, but instead where breath beats as fresh as each new dawn. It’s an ongoing process to keep them natural and vibrant and beautiful.

This, I think, is what Mollie Hunter reminds us—to be conscious of this in our writing and remember the sense of awe that accompanies our first experiences, and not to diminish their impact.  Learn to tap out the code and hope someone hears and understands.

Action Steps:

1.     Set up a study/research journal for yourself for writing images, movies, images, and reading images and choose a time frame to focus on one only. Either, weekly or monthly.

2.     Within each category consider both the verbal and silent themes you want to be your backbone and watch for words and images that will apply.

3.     Also take into consideration the sub-categories that may be involved specifically to your story’s genre. The weather threat of a catastrophic hurricane will be different in an historical, a contemporary, or a sci-fi setting.

Share: What code concept impacted you the most in this discussion? Why?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Words With Impact: Honest Code: Sensory Vocabulary

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“The senses are as core a scene element as you can get, and are very important in writing fiction because they transform flat words on a page into three-dimensional, realistic scenes.” Jordan E. Rosenfeld

The added beauty from a mythic world perspective is that the reality of common day-to-day activities can be developed into shadows, as passages from long ago or as foretelling to the future. They also have the potential to tap into echoes and allusions and metaphors. One way to access allusion and echoes is through the speech of metaphor, which enables us to enrich language and go beyond clichés.

For example in our early draft we just write everything down as it comes to us through our senses. Usually we lean on ordinary words for basic descriptions. Then we go back through to paint in feelings and scenery and ambiance. But sometimes we’re still stuck with the ordinary because it’s so familiar that other thoughts or phrases just won’t come to mind without sounding artificial or planted.

A good exercise to try is to describe an object without saying what it is. Try it out at the dinner table and see if your family can guess. This helps pull in new sensory details.

When eating new foods or hearing new sounds the concrete details help the reader recognize the character as more real as he reacts to the senses. Actually no sensory observation is complete until the fictional character’s emotional response is included.

We need the essential-specific word choices: salty-sour-sweet-bitter. If it smells bad is it like a sewer, or low tide? However we also need to recognize that what smells bad to one character may actually be sweet to another. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog post, I discovered that one day when driving with an elderly friend. I smelt something noxious and worried it was my car. I asked if she could smell it and her reply was “isn’t it lovely?” Apparently we smelled sulfur, which to her reminded her of where she grew up near sulfur springs.

We also can’t incorporate every item, but need to choose which specific details are appropriate to enhance each scene. What will create the mood? Even in a fast moving fight scene we can have character feel the sweat and taste the blood on his lip. Concrete down to earth details that may or may not rise to metaphor, or symbol.           

Action Steps:

1. Repeat the “Read” the word action steps from last week focusing solely on what you can remember were sensory details that caught your attention or you most identified with. Write them down.

2. Choose the one that you found most curious or unexpected as a connection. Then again check with a dictionary or thesaurus to make a list of all the words you think would also have that impact. Which sensory focus do you want to catch a reader attention in your own novel?

Share: What was the funniest guess a family member shared?

Read deep, marcy

"The Seeker" Rachel Marks | Content Copyright Marcy Weydemuller | Site by Eagle Designs
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