Our young people have more common sense & courage then 40% of adults in America.
Politicians that are bought and paid for, are Puppets of the Greedy!
We can’t pray away gun massacres, but we can change our laws to stop them.
3 SECRETS TO GREAT STORYTELLING as presented on Writer’s Digest. I found this article by Steven James helpful in forming the structure of scenes. (this is a re-blogging from 2014 but I thought it deserved a revival now, because it is simple, straightforward, and to the point.)
As a novelist and writing instructor, I’ve noticed that three of the most vital aspects of story craft are left out of many writing books and workshops. Even bestselling novelists stumble over them – Steven James But they’re not difficult to grasp. In fact, they’re easy.And if you master these simple principles for shaping great stories, your writing will be transformed forever. Honest. Here’s how to write a story.
CAUSE AND EFFECT ARE KING.
Everything in a story must be caused by the action or event that precedes it. As a fiction writer, you want your reader to always be emotionally present in the story. But when readers are forced to guess why something happened (or didn’t happen), even for just a split second, it causes them to intellectually disengage and distances them from the story. Rather than remaining present alongside the characters, they’ll begin to analyze or question the progression of the plot. And you definitely don’t want that. When a reader tells you that he couldn’t put a book down, often it’s because everything in the story followed logically. Stories that move forward naturally, cause to effect, keep the reader engrossed and flipping pages. If you fail to do this, it can confuse readers, kill the pace and telegraph your weaknesses as a writer.
IF IT’S NOT BELIEVABLE, IT DOESN’T BELONG.
The narrative world is also shattered when an action, even if it’s impossible, becomes unbelievable. In writing circles it’s common to speak about the suspension of disbelief, but that phrase bothers me because it seems to imply that the reader approaches the story wanting to disbelieve and that she needs to somehow set that attitude aside in order to engage with the story. But precisely the opposite is true. Readers approach stories wanting to believe them. Readers have both the intention and desire to enter a story in which everything that happens, within the narrative world that governs that story, is believable. As writers, then, our goal isn’t to convince the reader to suspend her disbelief, but rather to give her what she wants by continually sustaining her belief in the story. The distinction isn’t just a matter of semantics; it’s a matter of understanding the mindset and expectations of your readers. Readers want to immerse themselves in deep belief. We need to respect them enough to keep that belief alive throughout the story.
IT’S ALL ABOUT ESCALATION.
At the heart of story is tension, and at the heart of tension is unmet desire. At its core, a story is about a character who wants something but cannot get it. As soon as he gets it, the story is over. So, when you resolve a problem, it must always be within the context of an even greater plot escalation. As part of the novel-writing intensives that I teach, I review and critique participants’ manuscripts. Often I find that aspiring authors have listened to the advice of so many writing books and included an engaging “hook” at the beginning of their story. This is usually a good idea; however, all too often the writer is then forced to spend the following pages dumping in background to explain the context of the hook.
By consistently driving your story forward through action that follows naturally, characters who act believably, and tension that mounts exponentially, you’ll keep readers flipping pages and panting for more of your work.
Jami Gold has the most complete Writing Tips, Writing Resources, Editing Resources and they are all unbelievably wonderful! I am posting one of dozens of great writing tips, plus so much more. http://www.jamigold.com I discovered Jami Gold on Anne Allen’s blog and she also presents wonderful writing tips!http://www.annerallen.com
I found the following writing tip to be exactly what I needed to know and so interesting – who knew? Jami did!
1) Weather reports: the famous opening line, “It was a dark and stormy night” may keep contemporary audiences aware of Lord Bulwer-Lytton’s otherwise forgettable 1830 novel, Paul Clifford, but not in a good way. Opening with meteorological events isn’t only a problem with people who’ve read too much Victorian literature. Our television-saturated brains tend to think in terms of the “establishing shot” of a screenplay. But, a novel needs more than pictures to connect with the reader. It needs human emotion.
2) Morning wake-ups: showing your character waking up or getting ready for work/school hits the snooze button for readers. In a movie or TV show, you can show one character getting ready for work and it’s interesting. In the cable TV series, Dexter, the serial killer/protagonist’s morning ablutions open every episode. But in a book, where you couldn’t have the creepy-comic music and double-entendre blood orange shots, the same scene would bore us silly.
3) Dreams: some people call this the “Dallas” opening, because of the TV soap that got written into such a corner the writers had to pretend a whole season was “just a dream.” Writers sometimes try to hook readers by opening with a scene of surreal horror—but if it all turns out to be a dream or a video game on page three, the reader feels tricked.
4) The death of the protagonist: This is apparently very, very big with the paranormal/horror crowd. If your MC is a zombie, vampire, or other member of the undead community, think of something else. This has been done, um, to death.
5) Trains, planes and automobiles: if your character is en route and musing about where he’s been and where he’s going, you’re not into your story yet. Jump ahead to where the story really starts.
6) Funerals: Slush readers say a huge number of manuscripts—especially memoirs—start with the protagonist in a state of bereavement. But most readers aren’t eager to embark on a literary journey with a miserable MC.
7) “If I’d known then what I know now…” starting with the conditional perfect may seem clever to you, but unfortunately it does to a lot of other writers, too. This is cliché territory—don’t go there.
8) Personal introductions: starting with “my name is…” has been way overdone, especially in YA. Again, not a bad idea, but too many people thought of it first.
9) Minor characters speaking or thinking. The story-telling old man, the child—any detached observer telling the tale will only distance the reader. Whoever/whatever we meet first becomes foremost in our minds, and readers will want to go back to that character. Make the first person you meet an important member of the cast, not a spear-carrier.
10) Reader-Feeder dialogue, also known as “As you Know, Bob.”
“I must retrieve the elusive magical jewelry item,” says Bob. “Without it, I cannot access my rightful powers—and my evil Uncle Murray will usurp my domain.”“But as you know, Bob,” says Sidekick. “The magical jewelry item is in the hands of the four skanky queens of the Bingo Borogroves and guarded by the Dire Dragoons of Doom. We will be risking our very lives.” Sidekick is not saying this for Bob’s benefit. He’s saying it for ours. Conversational info-dumps are never a good idea.
11) Group activities: don’t overwhelm your reader with too many characters right off the bat. It’s like meeting a bunch of people at a cocktail party: you don’t remember anybody’s name if you hear too many at once.
12) Internal monologue: Musing is boring. Especially reader-feeder musing. “Back when I was younger, I would have slain the dragoons with my magic sword, but when my parents were killed in that chariot crash on the way to get Borogrovian take-out, and my Uncle Murray had me locked up in the Dark Tower of Doom, the skanky queens stole my magic sword and melted it down to make a necklace and a pair of matching earrings…” We don’t need to know this all on the first page. Bring in backstory later.
13) Too much action: Writing gurus keep telling us to start with action, action, action, but this isn’t actually such good advice. We need to be emotionally engaged with a character before we care how many dragoons of doom he slays.
It happened in a small farming community in the northwestern part of Connecticut that also included a large forest preserve, a once glacial river, now a bubbling brook, a lake, and a spring-fed pond. The community’s roots began in 1680, as The Salmon Brook Settlement that was also home to Native Americans like the Tunix, the Massaco, and the Mohegan.
It was a perfect summer day. The morning was cool and the sky was a brilliant Periwinkle blue. The deep, dense forest was a monolith of wonder for elementary school age kids. The ancient woods that the Salmon Brook flowed through provided the Native Americans with all kinds of fish, fowl, and river animals, like beavers.
Evidence of their inhabitation lingers still in the form of arrowheads, pathways, in meadows that were once crop producing fields, where they once grew tobacco, beans, squash, and corn, as well as middens of shells like clams, mussels and turtles were eagerly searched for in the forest. There were plenty of bones to find too, mostly animal, but sometimes, human bones that would be exposed as they washed up on the rocky river banks.
On this beautiful summer morning, a small band of kids, having traversed deeply into the forest, smelled smoke and considered it to be a fisherman on the river or the nearby lake. At first, nothing much was thought about it. The smoke seemed to be coming from some distance away.
Taken aback by what she was seeing, one of the older members of the group of five children, yelled out, “FIRE!” All heads turned to the leader of the group, who stood mesmerized by the yellow-orange fingers of flame surrounding a giant oak tree, that appeared to touch the sky it was so tall. The forest fire was closing in around them, silently sneaking up on them, until it roared like a lion. The fire then leapt among the tree tops, high into the sky, turning the blue sky into a purple twilight, billowing with fire.
Like deer, caught in the headlights of an on-coming car, they froze in fear. Suddenly, they ran, following their leader to an old wagon wheel road where giant, thick oaks lined the road, that was little more, now, than a pathway. They ran and out of the corner of their eyes the watched the fire explode into the giant oaks behind them. As they ran, animals of all kinds joined in their fierce desire to escape the flames that were now, 40, 50, 60, 100 feet high in the air, and animals ran alongside the five children. The leader was shocked to find a black bear keeping pace at her side and deer leaping everywhere. Wild Turkeys, Foxes, Porcupines, Skunks, Woodchucks, all, ran with the humans, side by side on the narrow path, until the path widened as they reached an open field. Ahead of them was Canton road and fire trucks with long hoses and a helicopter overhead. The parents of the children were kept back by officers and firemen.
The children emerged, blackened with smoke, wild-eyed with fear, and the animals took off in different directions, some crossing the road to the other side where safety could be found, unmindful of the crowd gathered on Canton Road. The children, now at the point of exhaustion, collapsed into their parent’s arms as the firefighters dosed them with cool, clear water.
This was a day the five children would never forget. I will always remember the black bear running by my side. I remember how we looked at each other, the black bear and I—with a look that was “will we get out of this alive?” It was as if we saved each other and we were a team. It was amazing. I will always remember the look he gave me as he turned to run into the safety of the tall bushes and another part of the forest, he turned and stopped for a moment, like he was saying, thank you and nodded his head.
By K. D. Dowdall
***I wrote this sometime ago and I had not proofread it before publishing. I have now made grammatical changes. A mistake, hopefully, I will not make again.
What is poetry and its place in the human psyche? Poetry and prose, I believe, magically transports the reader to visualize vividly a very personal place in time, bringing to life every possible emotion seared into the psyche that the reader may have experienced in real life, wished for, dreamed of, or feared.
This is what makes poetry so emotionally beautiful and painfully true. We get it and it can be transforming. But, where does poetry fit in, in the whole scheme of our human experience. Poetry reflects our romantic inclinations, our troubled history, our social truths, politics, and the most beautiful of all philosophies – who and what are we anyway, in the scope of all there is under Heaven and Earth.
Poetry is romantic. The great writer and poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley said, “Poetry is a sword of lightning, ever unsheathed, which consumes the scabbard that would contain it.” It is, also, I believe, as Robert Frost wrote, “when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”
Poetry is more than a history of human desires. “Hence poetry”, wrote Aristotle, “is something more philosophic and of graver import than history, since its statements are rather of the nature of universals, whereas those of history are singulars.”
Poetry is often compared to the ultimate in what is truth. “Poetry”, wrote Joseph Roux, “is truth in its Sunday clothes.” Leonardo da Vinci, believed that, “Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” John Ciardi wrote, “Poetry lies its way to the truth.”
Poetry is political. “All poets, all writers are political”, writes Sonia Sanchez, “they either maintain the status quo, or they say, ’Something’s wrong, let’s change it for the better.”
Poetry is also philosophical. John Lennon believed that, “my role in society, or any artist or poet’s role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.”
However, even though all the above quotes bare witness to the impact of poetry and prose on the human psyche, yet, no one has described and defined poetry and prose as beautifully as William Shakespeare, who wrote that poetry is, “The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, doth glance from heaven to Earth, from Earth to heaven; and as imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen turns them to shape, and gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name; such tricks hath strong imagination.”
Poetry and prose, I believe, represent the wonder of human imagination and all that lies between heaven and earth as we struggle to understand what it means to be human in a world that is constantly changing the definition of what is humanity and what it is not.
by K. D. Dowdall
January 28th, 2018
I always love to read quotes from William Shakespeare and A Midsummer Night’s Dream has some of the most notable, among so many extraordinary quotes in Shakespeare’s body of work, and his work is beyond description. Thank you Prof. Charles
French for sharing.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare is one of my favorite plays, and I have had a life long connection with this work. I have read it, seen numerous productions, acted in it, directed it, studied it in college and graduate school, written about it, delivered a conference paper on it, and taught the play in college at the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. So, you can see that I have had quite a relationship with this wonderful play.
As a simple tribute to Shakespeare and this play, I offer a few quotations from A Midsummer Night’s Dream:
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