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

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Words With Impact: Describe Symbols as Allusions and Echoes: Resonance

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“I love doing something like this because you’re dealing with some of the best poetry that anyone’s ever written. And this poetry involves deep emotions: love and gentleness and caring.” Actor Scott Glenn

It is important that the emotional resonance works.  Regardless of genre, symbols and metaphors as echoes can come from art or music, from sports or food, and many other ordinary sources. What would the Siren’s song look like in a Dr. Who episode? What nectar filters through a romance? Taking a familiar symbol and redesigning its purpose enhances resonance.

The film Simply Irresistible adds an echo of fairy dust to the heroine’s cooking. Although I personally did not like the film Waitress, I admired all the pie creations. The foundation began with a strong echo of small town America by using a local diner, pies, and struggling waitresses.

In the sci-fi series Firefly, episode two, incorporates a confrontation between the Captain and an old adversary by echoing old westerns. They meet in a deserted area, with snipers up on the hills instead of wooden buildings. The self-designated ‘mayor’ rides up on horseback with her posse. The setting provides familiar emotional territory in an unfamiliar future.

Metaphors help create “a holy curiosity” by capturing our attention. They catch us up and we pause instead of racing past words. Like Moses we turn to see why the burning bush is not consumed. We allow the concepts to soak slowly into our emotions.

In the movie, The Seventh Stream, grief-laden widower Quinn is a man of logic. He believes in only what he can see and feel and “sometimes not even that.” When a mysterious woman appears in their fishing village he cannot accept that she is walking off the pages of a legend.

However, he recognizes her inner turmoil instantly and her emotional pain strikes his heart. With her pure heart insight as a selkie, a seal in human form, she discerns his loneliness and uses it to build a bridge of communication, a bridge of possibility. Gradually both Quinn and the audience begin to accept the truth of what she is and identify with the emotional echo both share. Reality and imagination intersect.

Action Steps:

1. For yourself, or for one of your characters, choose a painful emotion. Then write a short scene where another person bridges that pain with healing by use of metaphoric symbol or image.

2. How does that touch make the pain better, or at least bearable?

Share: What echo did you choose?

Read deep, marcy

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Words With Impact: Describe Symbols as Allusions and Echoes

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“Three women cackle over a steaming pot? We know we’re in the presence of evil, thanks to William Shakespeare, even though these three women may live in Winnipeg and ride motorcycles.”  Jack Hodgins

Symbols as Allusions and Echoes

Often we can find our echoes of metaphor, symbols, and allusions through our personal history, literature, scripture, folk-tales, songs and culture. These characters, phrases, and patterns continue to add depth and enrich resonance to our readers.

Jack Hodgins, A Passion for Narrative, points out that we can add depth by making stories connect to other stories by allusions, or implied comparisons, or with passages that echo passages we recognize from somewhere else. Usually these are characters, phrases or patterns that make us think of other stories that have had an effect on us. Boy—raft. Dust bowl—Depression. Cowboys—West. These are familiar touchstones in American literature. But we’ve also incorporated other allusions into the cultural history: Holy Grail, Voyages, Hobbits, and Aliens.

We need to keep “listening” to our stories. Don’t force a symbol, or theme, but watch and see through the brainstorming and drafts what rises to the surface. However, once you see the comparisons, or know some themes, look for ways to enhance them naturally.

If a particular metaphor keeps echoing through the work examine it for the potential to either become a symbol you incorporate, or keep as a symbol for yourself writing towards it without stating what it is.

According to Hodgins, although being aware of the reason behind it can add more depth and richness and humor when done well. For your reader though, it is better to be so subtle that it’s almost unnoticed. Although it’s really not necessary that your reader get the echo reference, however, if you choose to use it you must know what it means, and use it properly so that you’re not misinterpreting the basis. The other possibility is completely reversing it, as in a parody.

Action Steps:

1.     In the most recent movie you’ve seen what memory echoes did you notice—either as positive or negative—that applied to you personally?

2.     Consider your most favorite movie and identify the echoes you respond to in it.

3.     If you have a favorite genre in movies, what key metaphors or connections do you expect to see?

Share: Did you discover any surprises in the characters, the phrases, or patterns?

Read deep, marcy

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Words With Impact: Draw Poetry Techniques Into Fiction Interpretation

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“Every poetic image, therefore, is to some degree metaphorical. It looks out from a mirror in which life perceives not so much its face as some truth about its face.” C. Day Lewis

A tree is often used as a symbol or metaphor of growth and life. However, in reverse, it can also impact story by exposing lies and shadows. Fairy tales and folk tales are rich with living images in all forms, literally and figuratively.  Scriptures too remind us that choices spread beyond immediate actions.

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay.” Romans 8: 20-21 NRSV

In the opening of the movie Penelope, a curse is laid upon the family for their refusal to take responsibility for their actions. The tree is the courtyard falls into immediate decay as well. Yet it doesn’t die. Instead it remains as a visual image reminding the family and others of the curse. Even if they try to pretend it doesn’t exist, the tree stands in judgment as a silent metaphor.

And it raises story questions such as why are women willing to marry into this family? Do they not believe in the curse or do they not care? Or because it was a tree did they believe that growth would come again to restore life?

What metaphor warning could your character not see or acknowledge? Or what warning does she represent to others? Silent metaphors woven into your setting can speak into volumes of interpretation.

Action Steps:

1.     Brainstorm a list of growing vegetation, or other geographic elements, that could be a metaphor for loss to your protagonist and then be restored at the end of his ordeal.

2.     How do you hope your reader will interpret it?

Share: What did you choose and why?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Words With Impact: Draw Poetry Techniques Into Fiction Interpretation

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Pablo Picasso

Reading for Interpretation

This creates opportunities for both perspective and voice. What part of a scene or image do you want the reader to understand the most or identify with?  Two well-known poets have used the same source with startling differences while at the same time remaining true to the story they explore.

The Fall of Icarus by Breughel

1. Read over the following interpretations of the myth of Icarus. What do they have in common?

2. What do they each choose as the special focus point either in theme or detail?

3. Both poems were written in response to the same painting yet they both reflect the actual myth itself as if they hadn’t seen the painting. How?

4. See number three exercise in movie prompt at the very end.

William Carlos Williams, “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus”

                                    According to Brueghel
                                    when Icarus fell
                                    it was spring

                                    a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling

sweating  in the sun
that melted
the wing’s wax

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning.

Musee des Beaux Arts by W.H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is
eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy
life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the
Water; and the expensive delicate
ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Which version affected you the most? Why?

Action Steps: Movie Prompt

1. Take one particular scene from a recent movie you’ve already watched and put it on pause. Whether you like to write poetry or not pick out words and phrases from the visual sight that you would incorporate in a poem, with the idea that a reader may, or may not, see this ‘painting’ for themselves.

2. Write a poem based on your selections just for the fun of it.

3. Do the same exercise for a visual scene in your own novel.

Share: Did you notice anything in this scene that you missed the first time around?

Read deep, marcy

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Words With Impact: Draw Poetry Techniques Into Fiction Language

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

              “Creativity is itself an act of optimism.” Edward Albee

Literal to Figurative Language           

Not every sentence needs the depth of imagery or else the whole becomes diluted. However using figurative language can enhance a key quality, or theme, or conflict. The best ones are the subtle images that speak softly into our hearts.

For example, information boards and kiosks, from local hiking trails to prestigious museums, have one common note. “You are here.” The X marks the spot. These literal markers add a sense of safety and security emotionally. Disorientation in physical surroundings often can result in immediate stress. Adventurers may react with an adrenaline rush of excitement, but for others it can raise fearful memories of no measure of control.

In the movie Moonacre, orphan Maria Merryweather is introduced to her new country home as her new uncle takes her around the land, marking out boundaries, and giving clear warnings as to where she should not go. He refuses any explanations for dictated external dangers and her confusion. He tells her what she may and may not do, and then dismisses her with curt exits.

Left with only a partial map of her new surroundings, she attempts to find some solid ground emotionally and figuratively as she tumbles into even more bewildering situations.

Action Steps:

1.Take your character to the home of a relative that she never knew existed. Literally or figuratively, close the door behind her. How does she get her bearings in this place?

Share: What emotional roller coaster does it unleash?

Bonus Exercise: This next suggestion comes from the Nature Writing Handbook. “In this exercise we will attempt to change literal language into figurative language. In each sentence, the underlined word is used literally. Write a sentence in which the word is used figuratively.”

Given Example. “The aspen leaves trembled in the wind. (response¾The Northern lights trembled in the Alaskan night sky like the thoughts of a mother sleepless with concern for her baby)”
Some additional sentence examples for practice included different aspects of nature.

“1.The porpoises swam beside the boat.
2.The flowers drooped under the hailstorm.
3.The volcano exploded quite suddenly.”

Read deep, marcy

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Words With Impact: Draw Poetry Techniques Into Fiction Sentences

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“A novel is never anything but a philosophy put into images.” Albert Camus

Metaphor Connections in Sentences

Using the right choice of metaphors and similes to partner with verbs can give sentences an extra kick without being obvious. It can sometimes be a silent way to enhance emotions, danger, mystery, and curiosity. They give the readers of sense of satisfaction when the connections fit the circumstances but also can create confusion when the link is even slightly off the intended mark.

Author Ron Koertge offered this example in a writing workshop. Take a sentence and list five or more possible images. Then choose the most effective.

Sentence example:  “In his rage my father would bang on the wall like a ---------.”

            “Hammer, or wrecking ball, or baboon, or caged gorilla.”

Rage—bang is the main concept, so it will make the metaphor more accurate to use hammer. It visually gives the reader the sense of repetition in the anger.

The key here is to follow through the possible thought and “see” it as an image. Watch the sentence unfold as a silent screen. What do you need to come next?

If for instance the wrecking ball is chosen, then there is no next sentence or scene. Everything has been demolished. And the original beginning indicates this is a repetitive behavior.

A caged gorilla doesn’t make sense either, as they would most likely shake their bars but not pound repeatedly. And general images of a baboon are often of pounding his own chest.

When some of our sentences seem too passive we can play with other verbs or word associations to strengthen the image we want to linger. However, like purple prose, it is not for overuse either. But when we want a hint to the story atmosphere, or characterization, these connections can help build a stronger sentence and image.

Action Steps:

1. When you next read a book in your favorite genre pay attention to the images and emotions that the author quietly indicates through individual sentences.

2. Note which ones make sense to you and which make you stop to reread the sentence.

3. Look through your own draft and look for your own connecting images to see if they still fit the atmosphere.

Share: Where you surprised by any you found—either positively or negatively?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Words With Impact: Draw Poetry Techniques Into Fiction Clichés

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

                         “When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.”         John F. Kennedy

Here we continue to look more intently at the language we use on a day-to-day basis and examine ways to enhance it. It’s amazing how often we speak in clichés and obviously we try to avoid them in our writing—both fiction and non-fiction. We sometimes forget, though, that often clichés came into being because of their unique and fresh way of perspective.

Although we’re focusing on poetry techniques in these next exercises, the ability to capture a poetic eye freshens all our writing—across styles and across genres. Vignettes also require this type of insight due to the sparseness of length.

Non-fiction pieces are also brought alive with poetic images and metaphors. Here’s another excerpt from an essay by Patricia Hampl in “I Could Tell You Stories.” Note how her description combined with simile draw us to share her experience.

“The stranger’s remark, launched in the dark of the Greyhound, floated across the human landscape like the lingering tone of a struck bell from village church, and joined all the silence that ever was, as I turned my face to the window where the world was rushing by along the slow river.”

Action Steps: Practice Clichés

1. Take well-known clichés and shift them around. Make a list of as many common ones that you can think of and then crisscross them just for fun. Some will be hilarious and ridiculous. And some might spark a new phrase.

Example. “Flat as a pancake, good as gold” becomes flat as gold, good as a pancake.

2. This is really entertaining in a small group of writers and rather surprising at some of the images that can come to the surface.

3. Practice shifting old concepts around until they become new and fresh.

Share: Choose one or two of your favorites. Why—funny or serious?

Read deep, marcy

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Words With Impact: Draw Poetry Techniques Into Fiction

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“Poetry is ageless; we each step into it at the right moment for us.” Liz Rosenberg

In a lecture at Vermont College, faculty author Carolyn Coman discussed the autobiographical nature of our work as writers and pointed out the need to change facts into fiction while at the same time keeping hold of the emotional journey. Incorporating poetry principles into our work helps to feed that emotional reservoir—especially as non-poets. The language and process help us ‘see’ in a different way. And maybe as in the quote above, it may become our time for poetry.

It provides an emotional link. If your character is stuck somewhere, pick a word, the place where he is, the feeling he’s experiencing and use it as a beginning point. See what opens up.

Writing poetry for fun and practice keeps your language fresh.

Poetry expands the use of metaphors that can shape your novel like mirrors and echoes.

And even if writing poetry is still not appealing—just reading it will add to your own use of language and cadence.

Action Steps: Develop a Concept (from one word)

1. Free write the word light.

2. Choose a few ideas. Write one as a brief descriptive sentence or as a simile.
      Ex. The light steadily grew like moonlight climbing over a ridge.

3.Write a prose paragraph either for yourself or a character experiencing light. Put in reactions, feelings, memories etc.

4. Write a poem from the prose.
Share: Did a new thought or feeling come up that wasn’t there when you started? I had no idea the poem was going to end up in a prison cell when I started seeing a thin beam of light.

                                                       Read deep, marcy

Here is an example from one of my original rough drafts.
            The light slid through a chink in the door.
            I reached to embrace it, feel its warmth
I remembered how my cat used to stretch and purr
            in sun puddles.
Dust dances in its beam as if following the
            trail to escape.
            It snaps shut, leaving the linger of another time,
            another day.
            When will it break the doors
            and flood my cell.


Saturday, May 11, 2019

Words With Impact: Discover Metaphoric Threads

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“Thresholds are necessary in the creative process in giving an idea somewhere to go.” Tim Wynne-Jones

Change, no matter how small, can create mental and emotional chaos as you turn into a different direction, physically or emotionally. To cross a threshold though requires a choice, even if it has been forced upon you like a refugee fleeing his war torn land. All sensory memory is heightened and sharpened. It is not just the moment that is at stake, but the journey that follows it. Thresholds become part of our soul shadows as much as our physical bodies cast their shadow. And the question can linger. “Did I choose the right fork in the road?”

Metaphors can open several tension points as choices challenging beliefs, values and possibilities, either personally for a main character, or in relationship to family or society.

For example, when we personally cross thresholds we deliberately make a choice to step into new stages, probably never to return: a passage of some moment. It can include walking away from a place, or a relationship, or choosing to no longer be who we were a few minutes earlier. Often that moment of decision become a life metaphor or signpost.

For example, in the novel, The Hero and the Crown, protagonist Aerin made that crossing when she arrived at her first dragon slaying. “Talat halted, and they stood, Aerin gazing into the black hole in the hill. A minute or two went by and she wondered, suddenly, how one got the dragon to pay attention to one in the first place. Did she have to wake it up? Yell? Throw water into the cave at it? Just as her spear point sagged with doubt, the dragon hurtled out of its den and straight at them.”

Despite the moment of hesitation Aerin acted upon all her preparation and stepped into a new role as a dragon-slayer. The threshold changed her life.

Don’t forget though that some of the most powerful metaphors can also be ordinary. For example a tree is often used as a symbol or metaphor of growth and life. In reverse though it can also impact a story by exposing lies and shadows. Fairy tales and folk tales are rich with living images in all forms. Scriptures too remind us that choices spread beyond immediate actions.

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay.” Romans 8: 20-21 NRSV

In the opening of the movie Penelope, as a curse is laid upon the family for their refusal to take responsibility for their actions, the tree in the courtyard falls into immediate decay. Yet it doesn’t die. Instead it remains as a visual image reminding the family descendents and others of the curse. Even if they try to pretend it doesn’t exist, the tree stands in judgment as a silent metaphor.

And it silently raises immediate story questions such as why are women willing to marry into this family? Do they not believe in the curse or do they not care?

So consider too what metaphor warning could your own character not see or acknowledge?  Or what warning does she represent to others? Silent metaphors woven into your setting can speak in volumes.

Action Steps:

1. Put your character into a moment of choice. Overwrite all the sensory details in the initial draft. Then write up the brief scene twice, once for each possible decision: to flee or fight, or to submit the accepted ‘dogma’ either socially or personally.

2. Then choose either a threshold metaphor, or a very ordinary image as a metaphor such as Penelope’s tree.

Share: What word in your brainstorming was the funniest and which was the saddest?

Read deep, marcy

Friday, May 10, 2019

Words With Impact: Discover Metaphoric Threads

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” Edward Debono

Also in the prologue as Kiri feels her mother’s pain, “A great, blinding whiteness filled Kiri’s mind. ‘Mother,’ she whispered. The word sank into silence like a warm stone dropped into snow.  A coldness spread from Kiri’s stomach out to her fingertips.”

The whiteness of the outside winter: the cold, the numbness, the expanse, now internalize in Kiri as fear. Whenever she becomes fearful she feels the whiteness. When she approaches a threshold to cross over, the whiteness comes and she retreats. “Around her an emptiness was opening, drawing her down into its still white heart, down to where she must not go. Something waited for her in that white stillness.” 

After she heals Garen, the whiteness leaves. The internal cold becomes external.  “Shivering with cold, she huddled over the fire. A warmth inside her spread slowly out toward her numb fingers and feet. She knew that Garen’s body would recover.” 

With the third metaphor, the song, Kiri is linked to her past, her present, and her future. The reader is pulled into the atmosphere of Kiri’s life by the songs, which sustain and undergird her. In the prologue when Ana finds Kiri in the tent and begins to coax her to leave she asks if Kiri knows the song. And Kiri remembers her father singing it. And at the edges of her memory other people too. 

Again eight years later she begins with a song as she and Mali sing the sun into the sky. As she and Mali go to heal they each sing, “Wind, hear my song.” When Kiri realizes the Mali has died she joins the wind, “her own voice in the song for the dead.  The storm caught up her words and scattered them across the driving snow.” Next she becomes silent in song until she heals Garen. Then the wolken comes back for her to give her vision, to name her. “Singer to the sun, caller of the wind, your power is your song. I name you Amarra, she who speaks with the wind.”

Because the reader has been able to identify with Kiri all along through the metaphors of within, and whiteness and song we recognize without explanation that she has reached resolution when, “Kiri lifted her arms and began to sing.” We have been brought into her language.

Action Steps:

1.Using the list poem from earlier, repeat the process beginning with either “Fear is a…, or Song is a…,. Or do both.

Share: What feelings for your character surprised you when put into one word?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Words With Impact: Discover Metaphoric Threads

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“It’s impossible to teach anyone to write a poem. But we can set up circumstances in which poems are likely to happen. We can create a field in and around us that’s fertile territory for poems. Playing with words, we can get to the place where poems come from. We can write and make discoveries about who we are and who we might become whether or not we truly commit ourselves to becoming poets.” Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge.

A good example of how these metaphoric concepts working across age and culture to enrich emotional resonance and discovery can be found in The Listening Silence, by Phyllis Root. The prologue sets the character, the theme, and the atmosphere for this story through three metaphoric connections: within, the whiteness, and the song. By anchoring these images in the prologue, rather than by introducing them in flashbacks during the narrative, the author sets up reader identification with Kiri immediately, and catches the reader up into the story’s movement without slowing the pace later to offer background explanation.

In the prologue Kiri is a five-year-old left in her tent alone while her mother searches for the missing father during winter. Kiri’s mind drifts until she goes beyond her tent into the korlu where she hears crying. Then from within the korlu, she sees the white snow, the frozen lake, and the trees. Hearing an animal outside the tent, she goes within, hoping to see her parent’s tracks. She goes within her mother when she calls and feels her death.

When the narrative resumes eight years later the reader recognizes that this ability to go within is a part of Kiri’s character. She makes decisions and choices for herself based on her willingness to go within or not. She is willing to go inside animals and nature but resists people. There is too much pain there and her fears stop her. To go within people can bring healing and Kiri struggles with herself to become a ‘Healer’. It is an integral part of her character, but her resistance to who she is sets the conflict. Because of the connection the reader made with Kiri as a five year old, the reader can see and feel and understand along with Kiri as she tries to balance a five-year-old’s understanding with the approach of adulthood.

Her character is one of Healer and she recognizes that in the end. When it matters most she goes past her own personal fears, first to heal a wolken, then Garen, of whom she has always been afraid, and through healing them by going within to meet their needs, she finds her own peace and acceptance of who she is.

 “She could not go within to heal him.  Something waited for her there, something that knew her name. And suddenly there was stillness……..but here, at the center, was a quiet as vast and white as winter.  Here within Garen, beyond that edge of his pain, was the place of healing that Mali had told her about.” The Listening Silence

Action Steps:

1. How might you use the metaphor of “within” to translate to your own character’s emotional core?

2. How can you translate it into a thread metaphor for your story?

Share: What do you see as an integral metaphor as a part of your character?

Read deep, marcy

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