Remembering what Democracy is all about is key to maintaining personal freedom within our constitutional democracy within our republic. Too many Americans have never been to a dictatorship country, so be careful what you wish for…it can happen here.
Coulter has always been a racist, but her stance on this matter goes way beyond racism, she is inhumane and unbalanced.
This 18 June 2018 video from the USA says about itself:
Leaked Audio Of Children Separated From Parents Will Break Your Heart
“The desperate sobbing of 10 Central American children, separated from their parents one day last week by immigration authorities at the border, makes for excruciating listening. Many of them sound like they’re crying so hard, they can barely breathe. They scream “Mami” and “Papá” over and over again, as if those are the only words they know.
The baritone voice of a Border Patrol agent booms above the crying. “Well, we have an orchestra here”, he jokes. “What’s missing is a conductor.” Then a distraught but determined 6-year-old Salvadoran girl pleads repeatedly for someone to call her aunt. Just one call, she begs anyone who will listen. She says she’s memorized the phone number, and at one point, rattles it off to a consular representative. “My mommy says…
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Here are 11 secrets to keep in mind as you breathe life into your characters through description that Rebecca finds to be very important in writing descriptively.
- Description that relies solely on physical attributes too often turns into what Janet Burroway calls the “all-points bulletin.”
When we describe a character, factual information alone is not sufficient, no matter how accurate it might be. The details must appeal to our senses. Phrases that merely label (like tall, middle-aged, and average) bring no clear image to our minds. Since most people form their first impression of someone through visual clues, it makes sense to describe our characters using visual images. Green eyes is a beginning, but it doesn’t go far enough. Are they pale green or dark green? Even a simple adjective can strengthen a detail. If the adjective also suggests a metaphor—forest green, pea green, or emerald green—the reader not only begins to make associations (positive or negative) but also visualizes in her mind’s eye the vehicle of the metaphor—forest trees, peas, or glittering gems.
- The problem with intensifying an image only by adjectives is that adjectives encourage .
It’s hard to think of adjective descriptors that haven’t been overused: bulging or ropy muscles, clean-cut good looks, frizzy hair. If you use an adjective to describe a physical attribute, make sure that the phrase is not only accurate and sensory but also fresh. In her short story “Flowering Judas,” Katherine Anne Porter describes Braggioni’s singing voice as a “furry, mournful voice” that takes the high notes “in a prolonged painful squeal.” Often the easiest way to avoid an adjective-based cliché is to free the phrase entirely from its adjective modifier. For example, rather than describing her eyes merely as “hazel,” Emily Dickinson remarked that they were “the color of the sherry the guests leave in the glasses.”
- Strengthen physical descriptions by making details more specific.
In my earlier “all-points bulletin” example, the description of the father’s hair might be improved with a detail such as “a military buzz-cut, prickly to the touch” or “the aging hippie’s last chance—a long ponytail striated with gray.” Either of these descriptions would paint a stronger picture than the bland phrase brown hair. In the same way, his oxford shirt could become “a white oxford button-down that he’d steam-pleated just minutes before” or “the same style of baby blue oxford he’d worn since prep school, rolled carelessly at the elbows.” These descriptions not only bring forth images, they also suggest the background and the personality of the father.
- Select physical details carefully, choosing only those that create the strongest, most revealing impression.
One well-chosen physical trait, item of clothing, or idiosyncratic mannerism can reveal character more effectively than a dozen random images. This applies to characters in nonfiction as well as fiction. When I write about my grandmother, I usually focus on her strong, jutting chin—not only because it was her most dominant feature but also because it suggests her stubbornness and determination. When I write about Uncle Leland, I describe the wandering eye that gave him a perpetually distracted look, as if only his body was present. His spirit, it seemed, had already left on some journey he’d glimpsed peripherally, a place the rest of us were unable to see. As you describe real-life characters, zero in on distinguishing characteristics that reveal personality: gnarled, arthritic hands always busy at some task; a habit of covering her mouth each time a giggle rises up; a lopsided swagger as he makes his way to the horse barn; the scent of coconut suntan oil, cigarettes, and leather each time she sashays past your chair.
- A character’s immediate surroundings can provide the backdrop for the sensory and significant details that shape the description of the character himself.
If your character doesn’t yet have a job, a hobby, a place to live, or a place to wander, you might need to supply these things. Once your character is situated comfortably, he may relax enough to reveal his secrets. On the other hand, you might purposely make your character uncomfortable—that is, put him in an environment where he definitely doesn’t fit, just to see how he’ll respond. Let’s say you’ve written several descriptions of an elderly woman working in the kitchen, yet she hasn’t begun to ripen into the three-dimensional character you know she could become. Try putting her at a gay bar on a Saturday night, or in a tattoo parlor, or (if you’re up for a little time travel) at Appomattox, serving her famous buttermilk biscuits to Grant and Lee.
- In describing a character’s surroundings, you don’t have to limit yourself to a character’s present life.
Early environments shape fictional characters as well as flesh-and-blood people. In Flaubert’s description of Emma Bovary’s adolescent years in the convent, he foreshadows the woman she will become, a woman who moves through life in a romantic malaise, dreaming of faraway lands and loves. We learn about Madame Bovary through concrete, sensory descriptions of the place that formed her. In addition, Flaubert describes the book that held her attention during mass and the images that she particularly loved—a sick lamb, a pierced heart.
Living among those white-faced women with their rosaries and copper crosses, never getting away from the stuffy schoolroom atmosphere, she gradually succumbed to the mystic languor exhaled by the perfumes of the altar, the coolness of the holy-water fonts and the radiance of the tapers. Instead of following the Mass, she used to gaze at the azure-bordered religious drawings in her book. She loved the sick lamb, the Sacred Heart pierced with sharp arrows, and poor Jesus falling beneath His cross.
- Characters reveal their inner lives—their preoccupations, values, lifestyles, likes and dislikes, fears and aspirations—by the objects that fill their hands, houses, offices, cars, suitcases, grocery carts, and dreams.
What items would your character pack for a weekend away? What would she use for luggage? A leather valise with a gold monogram on the handle? An old accordion case with decals from every theme park she’s visited? A duffel bag? Make a list of everything your character would pack: a “Save the Whales” T-shirt; a white cotton nursing bra, size 36D; a breast pump; a Mickey Mouse alarm clock; a photograph of her husband rocking a child to sleep; a can of Mace; three Hershey bars.
- Description doesn’t have to be direct to be effective.
Techniques abound for describing a character indirectly, for instance, through the objects that fill her world. Create a grocery list for your character—or two or three, depending on who’s coming for dinner. Show us the character’s credit card bill or the itemized deductions on her income tax forms. Let your character host a garage sale and watch her squirm while neighbors and strangers rifle through her stuff. Which items is she practically giving away? What has she overpriced, secretly hoping no one will buy it? Write your character’s Last Will and Testament. Which niece gets the Steinway? Who gets the lake cottage—the stepson or the daughter? If your main characters are divorcing, how will they divide their assets? Which one will fight hardest to keep the dog?
- To make characters believable to readers, set them in motion.
The earlier “all-points bulletin” description of the father failed not only because the details were mundane and the prose stilted; it also suffered from lack of movement. To enlarge the description, imagine that same father in a particular setting—not just in the house but also sitting in the brown recliner. Then, because setting implies time as well as place, choose a particular time in which to place him. The time may be bound by the clock (six o’clock, sunrise, early afternoon) or bound only by the father’s personal history (after the divorce, the day he lost his job, two weeks before his sixtieth birthday).
Then set your character in motion. Again, be as specific as possible. “Reading the newspaper” is a start, but it does little more than label a generic activity. In order for readers to enter the fictional dream, the activity must be shown. Often this means breaking a large, generic activity into smaller, more particular parts: “scowling at the Dow Jones averages,” perhaps, or “skimming the used-car ads” or “wiping his ink-stained fingers on the monogrammed handkerchief.” Besides providing visual images for the reader, specific and representative actions also suggest the personality of the character, his habits and desires, and even the emotional life hidden beneath the physical details.
- Verbs are the foot soldiers of action-based description.
However, we don’t need to confine our use of verbs to the actions a character performs. Well-placed verbs can sharpen almost any physical description of a character. In the following passage from Marilynne Robinson’s novel Housekeeping, verbs enliven the description even when the grandmother isn’t in motion.
Notice the strong verbs Robinson uses throughout the description. The mouth “bowed” forward; the brow “sloped” back; the hair “hovered,” then “sprouted”; the hem “swept” the floor; hats “fell” down over her eyes. Even when the grandmother’s body is at rest, the description pulses with activity. And when the grandmother finally does move—putting a hand over her mouth, closing her eyes, laughing until her shoulders shake—we visualize her in our mind’s eye because the actions are concrete and specific. They are what the playwright David Mamet calls “actable actions.” Opening a window is an actable action, as is slamming a door. “Coming to terms with himself” or “understanding that he’s been wrong all along” are not actable actions. This distinction between nonactable and actable actions echoes our earlier distinction between showing and telling. For the most part, a character’s movements must be rendered concretely—that is, shown—before the reader can participate in the fictional dream.
Actable actions are important elements in many fiction and nonfiction scenes that include dialogue. In some cases, actions, along with environmental clues, are even more important to character development than the words the characters speak. Writers of effective dialogue include pauses, voice inflections, repetitions, gestures, and other details to suggest the psychological and emotional subtext of a scene. Journalists and other nonfiction writers do the same. Let’s say you’ve just interviewed your cousin about his military service during the Vietnam War. You have a transcript of the interview, based on audio or video recordings, but you also took notes about what else was going on in that room. As you write, include nonverbal clues as well as your cousin’s actual words. When you asked him about his tour of duty, did he look out the window, light another cigarette, and change the subject? Was it a stormy afternoon? What song was playing on the radio? If his ancient dog was asleep on your cousin’s lap, did he stroke the dog as he spoke? When the phone rang, did your cousin ignore it or jump up to answer it, looking relieved for the interruption? Including details such as these will deepen your character description.
- We don’t always have to use concrete, sensory details to describe our characters, and we aren’t limited to describing actable actions.
The novels of Milan Kundera use little outward description of characters or their actions. Kundera is more concerned with a character’s interior landscape, with what he calls a character’s “existential problem,” than with sensory description of person or action. In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Tomas’s body is not described at all, since the idea of body does not constitute Tomas’s internal dilemma. Teresa’s body is described in physical, concrete terms (though not with the degree of detail most novelists would employ) only because her body represents one of her existential preoccupations. For Kundera, a novel is more a meditation on ideas and the private world of the mind than a realistic depiction of characters. Reading Kundera, I always feel that I’m living inside the characters rather than watching them move, bodily, through the world.
With writers like Kundera, we learn about characters through the themes and obsessions of their inner lives, their “existential problems” as depicted primarily through dreams, visions, memories, and thoughts. Other writers probe characters’ inner lives through what characters see through their eyes.
… and I saw how the smooth, white curve of the snow as it lay on the ground was like the curve of a woman’s body, and I saw how the farm was like the body of a woman which lay down under the sun and under the freezing snow and perpetually and relentlessly produced uncountable swarms of living things, all born with mouths open and cries rising from them into the air, long-boned muzzles opening … as if they would swallow the world whole …
Later in the book, when Agnes’s sexual relationship has led to pregnancy, then to a life-threatening abortion, she describes the farm in quite different terms.
It was August, high summer, but there was something definite and curiously insubstantial in the air. … In the fields near me, the cattle were untroubled, their jaws grinding the last of the grass, their large, fat tongues drinking the clear brook water. But there was something in the air, a sad note the weather played upon the instrument of the bone-stretched skin. … In October, the leaves would be off the trees; the fallen leaves would be beaten flat by heavy rains and the first fall of snow. The bony ledges of the earth would begin to show, the earth’s skeleton shedding its unnecessary flesh.
By describing the farm through Agnes’s eyes, Schaeffer not only shows us Agnes’s inner landscape—her ongoing obsession with sex and pregnancy—but also demonstrates a turning point in Agnes’s view of sexuality. In the first passage, which depicts a farm in winter, Agnes sees images of beginnings and births. The earth is curved and full like a woman’s fleshy body. In the second scene, described as occurring in “high summer,” images of death prevail. Agnes’s mind jumps ahead to autumn, to dying leaves and heavy rains, a time when the earth, no longer curved in a womanly shape, is little more than a skeleton, having shed the flesh it no longer needs. ****originally posted Writer’s Digest by Rebecca McClanahan
What has America become? Americans elected a man without honor, without integrity, without humanity, who tells falsehoods with impunity. He has no concept of democracy, he honors horrific dictators and wants to be one, a horrific dictator. He has a really good start at doing just that. He denigrates our friends and neighbors across the world that are democratic. Democracy is not perfect, but it is surely far better than the alternative: Russia and North Korea, to name but two horrors that exist in the world.
Once again, I find that I have to address a political situation in this blog, something I have not wanted to do. But this is so extraordinary that I cannot sit by and ignore it. Once again, Americans and the world need to speak out.
In a White House Lawn interview today, President Trump said something incredible, something I never thought any President of the United States of America would ever say, in any context: “He [Kim Jong Un] speaks and people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”
He later claimed that he was being sarcastic, but there is no place for that kind of dictatorial speech by an American leader. Has he forgotten that he was elected and not born into his position that the North Korean Dictator was? And to compliment one of the worst dictators in our world is unconscionable. The…
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What has America become?
I have tried very hard in this blog not to be political. I have extremely strong views, but I have attempted to keep them out of this site. I no longer can.
The United States of America, which has been the beacon of hope to the desperate of the world, now have become the nation that rips children from their parents. What is happening at the southern border is inexcusable. No American, regardless of political leaning, no matter if Democrat, Republic, or Independent, whether liberal, moderate, or conservative, should accept what our government is doing.
Attorney General Sessions used The Bible to justify these actions. I suggest he actually consider the lesson that Jesus gave in Matthew 19:14 “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” The action of the government, separating children…
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This is one of my most favorite horror stories. I think it is great. It has great fear, but also humanity by the non-human space alien, perhaps more human than some humans. Anyway, a great tale that also highlights as a warning that human made catastrophes can happen by human meddling in dangerous ways. Thank you so much for sharing, Charles.
The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) was a brilliant science-fiction film that set the standards, in many ways, for other following films. One of the great strengths of the genre of science-fiction as well as horror and fantasy is its ability to comment on direct issues in contemporary society. In this 20th Century Fox film, the director, Robert Wise uses the arrival of an alien spaceship on earth as a cautionary message about the potential of the human race to cause its own self-destruction through atomic warfare.
The core plot element is that beings from advanced civilizations on other planets have found people on earth have developed both nuclear weapons and a space program. They have sent an emissary, Klaatu, played by Michael Rennie, to deliver a gift and a warning to the people of Earth. The gift, a small box, was destroyed by a frightened soldier…
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There was once a little girl who believed with all her heart she was a mermaid. The mermaid girl was living in Florida on the beautiful Gulf Coast, when her mother and grandmother took her and her siblings to the “Jetties” at Indian Pass to swim. It was a popular place for locals, but not well-known for tourists. The Jetties are breakers made of huge boulders that, like a pier, one can tie a boat up to. It wasn’t the sunniest of days to go swimming. Gray clouds covered the August sky, and the sea was rolling with drab green humps like whales coming to shore, a telling sign that in the far distance there had been a big storm churning up the waters.
The little girl was in fact, a natural mermaid. Anyone would think she had a tail, as she swam out farther than anyone else. Like a dolphin, the little mermaid girl moved with grace and agility. She could stay underwater for many minutes at a time, never really wanting to come up for air. Her dreams were always the same, she was a mermaid. The vivid images filled her soul and heart as she dreamed she could leap with ease off a large sea rock into the turquoise waters. She would swim into deep waters, she dreamed, and collect small seed pearls that she would string into a necklace, like all mermaid girls do. She also dreamed she would find her mermaid clan one day.
This day, the little mermaid girl dived into drab-green rolling waves, and swam to her heart’s content, but then, her mermaid ears picked up a sense of lurking danger and she noticed when she surfaced that no one else was in the water. How strange, she mused, when she saw that everyone had lined up, single file, on the beach like statues, and her mother was on her knees.
No one made a sound – there was dead silence, even the sounds of waves had gone silent. Sara sensed something was terribly wrong. Her mermaid instincts told her to look behind her as a huge rolling wave cascaded toward the shore. It was then that she saw an immense gray white form break through the mountainous wave. The little girl mermaid knew she was in grave danger and with her own mermaid instincts, she stayed vertical in the water like any smart mermaid would do. She had such natural buoyancy, her little body just floated like a cork in the waters’ rolling waves and thus, she needed no movement to stay afloat.
The little mermaid girl watched with interest, not fear, at this amazing creature as it began a large slow circle around her and she silently watched as the shark encircled her. She understood innately, like any mermaid would, the danger that movement would bring. To the shark, she was a fish or a seal.
She flowed inland with the incoming waves to bring her to closer to shore with the incoming tide. The little mermaid girl watched the next circle of the great white shark as it drew closer and closer to her. A mermaid always knows when land rocks are safer when there is no time to dive to the bottom and hide among the coral, something that sharks always avoid. She knew it would be only one more circle before the Great White Shark had her in its huge jaws. She was close enough to the shark to see that it’s eyes were large dark orbs that appeared not to see her. Yet, she knew that soon the Great White Shark would be doing more than sensing her presence, being that she was altering the flow of water. It had not yet picked up her scent in the water.
She had to make a life or death decision. Then she heard a sound that was for her ears only – it was the warning call of a mermaid that told her it was now or never to learn to fly. The little mermaid girl forced herself up, out of the water, like a flying fish and landed at the shore’s edge. The Great White Shark was nipping at her heels as she ran up the slope of sand to safety. Never one to give up easily, the shark beached itself to get what it thought was a tasty meal. The little mermaid girl watched as it wiggle back into deeper water, yet it still chased her scent, along the shoreline turning back and forth.
As the little mermaid girl grew older, she wonders, to this day, the gift of silence from the beach goers, and that no one tried to help her. If they had, they would have brought the Great White Shark closer to shore and blocked her escape. The ocean that day was also protecting her as she rolled in with the tide. If the tide was ebbing out to sea, the little mermaid would have had no chance to survive at all. Her guardian mermaid was with her that day, and saved her life, to swim another day.