About Writers, blogging, inspiration, Stories, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op, writing technique

Vonnegut on Writing Great Short Stories

“Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style. I am not urging you to write a novel, by the way — although I would not be sorry if you wrote one, provided you genuinely cared about something. A petition to the mayor about a pothole in front of your house or a love letter to the girl next door will do.”

“As for your use of language: Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. ‘To be or not to be?’ asks Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long. Joyce, when he was frisky, could put together a sentence as intricate and as glittering as a necklace for Cleopatra, but my favorite sentence in his short story ‘Eveline’ is this one: ‘She was tired.’ At that point in the story, no other words could break the heart of a reader as those three words do.”

“English was Conrad’s third language, and much that seems piquant in his use of English was no doubt colored by his first language, which was Polish. And lucky indeed is the writer who has grown up in Ireland, for the English spoken there is so amusing and musical. I myself grew up in Indianapolis, where common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanized tin, and employs a vocabulary as unornamental as a monkey wrench. [ … ] No matter what your first language, you should treasure it all your life. If it happens to not be standard English, and if it shows itself when your write standard English, the result is usually delightful, like a very pretty girl with one eye that is green and one that is blue. I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am. What alternatives do I have?”

“My teachers wished me to write accurately, always selecting the most effective words, and relating the words to one another unambiguously, rigidly, like parts of a machine. They hoped that I would become understandable — and therefore understood. And there went my dream of doing with words what Pablo Picasso did with paint or what any number of jazz idols did with music. If I broke all the rules of punctuation, had words mean whatever I wanted them to mean, and strung them together higgledy-piggledy, I would simply not be understood. Readers want our pages to look very much like pages they have seen before. Why? This is because they themselves have a tough job to do, and they need all the help they can get from us.”

Source: Kurt Vonnegut Explains “How to Write With Style”
http://www.openculture.com/2014/11/kurt-vonnegut-explains-how-to-write-with-style.html

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About Writers, blogging, inspiration, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Inspiration’s Elbow

Inspiration is the gentle pressure that sends writers into a fictional world of interesting people and situations. These nudges are as varied as creativity can make them. We know it can be anything, come from anywhere or nowhere. It’s unpredictable. Some writers might get a good idea if they were busy falling down an elevator shaft.

J.R.R. TOLKIEN was grading college exam papers, and midway through the stack he came across a gloriously blank sheet. Tolkien wrote down the first thing that randomly popped into his mind: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” He had no idea what a hobbit was or why it lived underground, and so he set out to solve the mystery.*

As he lay on a sofa after dinner, LEO TOLSTOY had a vision of an elbow. The image expanded into a melancholy woman in a ball gown. The mysterious lady haunted Tolstoy and he eventually decided to write her story, Anna Karenina.*

(*See more examples by Celia Johnson https://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/the-ideas-that-inspired-the-hobbit-animal-farm-8-other-famous-books)

What has nudged your creativity? Where have some of your own ideas come from? Tell us in the comments?

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About Writers, blogging, inspiration, Uncategorized, Welcome, Writers Co-op

Why Write?

Why do you write? Or, edit or publish? I’ve never met any who say, “Oh, it’s a job. Just trying to make a buck.” Thanks to self-publishing, the traditional gatekeepers are gone and more people are making money in the writing business now than ever before. Anyone who wants to be a writer, editor or publisher already has the qualification to do so: Want.

Do it. If you are good and lucky, you will succeed. Never before has so much opportunity been right in front of so many. The gates are open. If you’re a writer, act like one. Toss your book into Amazon’s hopper of eleventy-million other books. Editor or publisher? There’s room for more. Stop acting like you just showed up to the ball to see someone else wearing your dress.

So, why do you write? I like to write because I get better at it.  it is about self defining. My writing has been a journey of self-discovery.

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inspiration, Research, Uncategorized

What about…

farsideStory ideas are always popping into our heads. But, we don’t always know if it’s a good idea.

Want to know how your idea for a story will be received? Potential readers will enlighten you if you ask the question right.
For example, I recently wanted to know if the old story about an ancient civilization having existed on earth millennia ago was still a good topic. I asked that wonderful Facebook group, “Science Fiction.” They have 57,000+ members. The group is a smorgasbord of the latest science fiction news, story-fodder and insights into what sci-fi readers love about their genre.
I asked, “If a civilization did exist millions of years ago, what would still be around to prove it?” Whoosh! Hundreds of responses over two days answered that question and buried me in ideas and insights. (My favorite answer was, “Twinkies.”)

This approach, of course, can be applied to any large group of whatever genre you write.
🙂 Advertisers are not the only ones who can mine social media.

Use the comments section here to share one or more of your own ideas?

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About Writers, inspiration, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Overheard

Facebook Writers Cafe, Mainstreet Earth:

Lydia Caatt: Whatever it’s is you are describing look up a similar description or something. I look up photos online and decipher how I’d describe it to a blind man.

Ernest Van Horn: Write in such a way that you feel that you’re in the skin of the character. You are not “angry”, your heart is pounding, face is burning, and thoughts are fast but focused on who wronged you.

Watson Davis: Put yourself in your POV character’s head and then write what they experience, what they see, what they smell, what they hear, what they feel inside and outside. Stay in their head as they move through their world. Don’t write “I began to feel the wind against my skin”, don’t write “I felt the wind against my skin”, instead write “The wind brushed against my skin.”

Christy Moceri: Everyone, no matter how well they write, has moments of doubt. It’s not a reflection of your skill or potential, it’s a reflection of the fact that you’re an artist. I’ve learned to think of my opinion of my own work as just background noise.

Niki Bond: Make sure you’re in-tune with the characters’ emotions.

Ian Bristow: There is a limit with setting descriptions though, IMO. I think those should be reserved for the more long term settings, as I personally don’t like to be reading and get a detailed description of something I will only see the once. It is not only misleading about how important that setting will be, but descriptions are not generally story movers, so I’d rather engage in conversation or get the thoughts of the MC as they move through that setting.

Edward Buatois: Just always remember, ALL writing is about emotion. In action, your character(s) want something. They worry that they won’t get it or will be injured or killed or will be left in a worse position than before or if they fail something terrible will happen. Salt your action scenes with that and they will never be boring.

JM Chandler: Take my voice out of it.
Tap into the emotion of the scene/character. Kurt Vonnegut was genius at this.
Lazy writing will tell you what the emotion is. Insightful writing will describe it.

Lance Cargopants: Realize your reader is intelligent and picks up clues. And what would be an unmistakable clue to you? Example: Like that scene in Sum Of All Fears, where the president does this humorous speech before the press corp, and a phone goes off. Then another. Then all of them

& finally, Hunting Down the Pleonasm
Take a look. 🙂 You will not regret knowing this.
https://www.adventurebooksofseattle.com/Hunting%20Down%20the%20Pleonasm2.pdf

Photo: Left Bank Writers Retreat in Paris. Hemingway, memorialized with a plaque at the bar, once lived just down the block and made the cafe his unofficial office, writing in a red leather booth and drinking with fellow writers F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ford Madox Ford. In Hemingway’s day, cafes were the social hub for the Left Bank Writers – providing an inspirational mix of food and wine, companionship and all-day office space.

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About Writers, blogging, inspiration, Uncategorized, world-building, Writers Co-op

If It Helps a Writer to Focus, It’s a Muse!

I bought a watch. It’s an automatic watch, the kind with no electronics. It’s all wheels, springs, levers, gears, screws, jewels, a dial and three hands working together in a case with a bezel, crown, crystal, two lugs and a wristband. The sum-total-effect of hundreds of parts is to cause the hands to advance 86,400 seconds a day.
That’s a lot for a little machine, isn’t it?

The purely mechanical nature of the watch calms me because it is predictable. Move along, my watch tells time, there is nothing new to be seen here. The watch is from the old world of Isaac Newton – everything is put together by hand. It grounds me for world-building.

When I have an idea for a story, I have to build the world in which it occurs. The idea has a life of its own, but I have to create the background for it. A good background is one that seems natural, meaning, what is not described can be assumed by the reader. The watch itself reminds me of a time before Clerk Maxwell inspired Einstein’s special theory of relativity. The world was logical, not quantum. Just like the intricate mechanical train of the watch’s parts, everything in Newton’s world connected. And this, really, remains the world we actually live in today. Readers are comfortable with logical plots. So, I build a world out of natural assumptions people assume to be true, and I introduce the story idea in a train of connected plot bits.

I call the watch a muse because it reminds me that for a story to work, the plot has to be put together by hand, adjusted to fit perfectly and made to work with everything else in the story-world.
It’s a great muse.

P.S. This thoughtful blog was inspired by my Lady who asked,
“You bought what!?”

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About Writers, inspiration, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

The Gift of Writing

Guest Blogger
Brandon Richards

Recently, I was reminded that the ability to write well is a gift to be used and nurtured as if it were a seed. This reminder sent my thoughts into a time machine of sorts and I reminisced on my greatest pleasures and accomplishments as a child. They include memories such as: reading every book I could get my hands on like the dictionary, books on Latin (the unspoken language) novels, articles, etc. I scored perfect marks on English standardized tests, wrote papers at the last minute with ease (even if it wasn’t my best work, it was still the best that my teachers and professors had seen.) I was reading on a college level in middle school and excelled in every AP English course. The list could go on and on. Since you are reading this, I am certain that you have had a very similar experience.

For the majority of my life I did not consider writing to be a gift. I just assumed that everyone could write well. After all, most people were taught (insert your native language) in school. There were already millions of blogs, books, and articles in circulation. As far as I was concerned, anyone could write, so how could this be a gift? That’s when the providence of thought kicked in. I realized that my initial conclusion was absolutely correct. Everyone “can” write, but most cannot write well. Therein lies the gift! Anyone can play basketball, solve a math problem, drive a car, or sing a tune. Can they do it well though? Are they gifted?

Food for thought: If the pen is mightier than the sword, then how mighty must the keyboard be?

Writing is both an art and a science. As a writer, we are taking intangible thoughts and translating them into something that can be understood by others (potentially millions/billions). This is powerful beyond measure!

There is almost no area in our society that writing doesn’t play a pivotal role. It is the words of a writer that a President reads when giving some of histories most powerful speeches. Books like The Art of War, Republic, I’Ching, The Wealth of Nations, Communist Manifesto, The Bible, Etc. would not be possible without gifted writers. Television, Movies, and Music are all the finished products of writers. Gifted writers can move millions of people to love or hate, start war or pursue peace, build or destroy. This gift is more than a gift. It is a responsibility. Writers create, influence, and dictate history. We are the gatekeepers of the soul, the translators of the unseen.

Use this gift. Nurture your talent. AND WRITE LIKE HELL.
Go change the world.

“If not us then who? If not now, then when?”
– JFK

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