Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The World’s Most Best GREATEST---

 

Yup. That^

Have you in your sphere someone who prefaces mentions of people and things with extreme hyperbole? I do.

๐Ÿ˜ฑ

A doctor who had some experience with a sub specialty is referred to as “the world’s foremost authority on XYZ.” A friend who once collected some doodads is now “the world’s best expert on doodads.” The doodads themselves are now “the world’s most collectables.” You get the idea.


The internet has made hyperbole almost compulsory. Noticed how posts are labeled “So-and-so DESTROYS So-and-so?”


And for good measure, in the link So-and-so is referred to as “the world’s greatest.”

 

It takes both discipline and intention in writing well not to resort to hyperbole, but use neutral words to such an effect as to make an impression. This requires education and practice.


It also requires discernment, something increasingly lacking in public discourse on the Interwebs.


Simmer down, y’all. Take a deep breath and take it easy.




Tuesday, September 7, 2021

HAPPY JEWISH NEW YEAR

 

According to the Jewish calendar, the Jewish New Year began yesterday at sundown.

According to the same, the year is 5782.

By orthodox tradition, the counting began when G-d made the earth. Thus, the earth was created five thousand seven hundred and eighty two Jewish years ago.

What do I think? It doesn’t matter. I celebrate the passing of time by dipping apples in honey and feeling grateful for creation, no matter when it happened.

 Who’s counting? Better not to pass up the opportunity to rejoice ๐Ÿ˜‹

©Illumination by David Moss


Tuesday, August 31, 2021

AUGUST'S LAST GASP

 

September first isn’t just a plain ol’ first.

It’s the (unofficial) beginning of fall.

It’s the whisper of the beginning of a new Jewish year.

And in Israel where I grew up, it is the absolute first day of a new school year.

That made August thirty-first a singularly wistful day.


Invariably we had to do something special on this last day of summer. Spending the day kicking sand on the beach, going for an ice-cream sundae the size of a mountain, or frantically beginning that art project we meant to do in summer but never did, only to leave it half-done once again.

It was as if we were parting with something we’d never experience again.

When you could count your years on earth on both hands, the prospect of next summer was as distant as the moon. You could see it, but experienced it as something unreachable.

This added melancholy and longing only August the thirty-first possessed. The closest thing to a heartbreak without a defined cause.

 

So Goodbye August. We never had a choice but to part, so we might as well pretend we do, and welcome September.

©By Shelagh Duffett


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

WRITING AS A KIND OF SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

 

Definition:

spiritual practice or spiritual discipline (often including spiritual exercises) is the regular or full-time performance of actions and activities undertaken for the purpose of inducing spiritual experiences and cultivating spiritual development.


This calls for defining “spiritual,” so here’s an attempt from me —

Spiritual: Relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.


There’s no question that, for me, writing is a spiritual practice.



Tuesday, August 17, 2021

ABOVE AND BEYOND

 

Taking a walk on a nearby street, something jumped at me.

 

While the front lawns of houses had various degrees of gardening care, all were lovely in their own way. But then, the public sidewalk swatches of earth, for the most part, bore no hint of care. Nature and its weeds reigned, as they do where we humans do nothing.

 

Here is what most of the sidewalk spaces looked like—



Understandable. After all, that swatch is not private property. Why put an effort to weed, plant, and maintain when it isn’t even yours? You might even find the natural growths charming.

 

What struck me wasn’t the rule, but the exception. Here and there, the hand of a passionate gardener spilled over to the public sidewalk in front of their property. Like so—



At least for me, the sight of orderly loveliness buoyed the heart. Less for the undeniable aesthetic of it, but for something else. It was the recognition that here lives a person who in their daily life goes above and beyond what is required, expected, or aligns with the surrounding convention.

 

I think life is like that. Some people always do more. I am humbled and grateful, for they hold up the rest of the network that is humanity and keep the rest of us from rappelling down.

Respect. ๐Ÿ™‡ 


Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Long, Languid, Lolling, lounging---

                                             Days of Summer

 

Allow me to indulge and share my favorite lounging partners once again.

For season’s sake, it’s summer~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

^Miss Nougat cooling her belly^



^Mr. Sokolov showing his belly is fluffier^


^Ms. Clara Schumann: “I can’t bear to see any more bellies.” ^


๐Ÿ˜ปFair enough. Stay cool, everyone๐Ÿ˜ป


Tuesday, August 3, 2021

WHERE THE DEPARTED ARE ALWAYS WITH US

 

There are two places where the dead still live.

The first is in our hearts and minds.

The second is on Internet databases.

 

Today would have been my mother’s ninety-third birthday. It’s still her birthday, (the date she was born) but it can’t be the ninety-third, as she left this world thirteen years ago.

 

But on Internet databases she is now listed as being of a ripe old age she never got to be in real life. Most of these “find anyone” sites never seem to find death certificates. If they do, they don’t account for such in the information anyone can google.

 

For me, the date remains a monumental one, regardless.

Here she is, long before I was even a thought:

๐ŸŽ‰Happy Birthday๐Ÿป

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Special Demands of Picture Book Writing

 

The other day, I watched an old panel discussion of famous novelists whose books have been turned into successful films. YouTube is full of old treasures like these. Between writing, revising, and laundry— hanging out with these writers (all of them now gone) is my favorite sort of break.

 

Not one of the writers on this panel wrote their novels’ film adaptations. One, Kurt Vonnegut, said he simply couldn’t because writing a novel is what he does best and writing a screenplay is too different.

 

It occurred to me that while many think they could write picture books, few who try actually write true picture books. Vignettes, shorter short stories, a scene--- all pass for  picture book texts in the eyes of beginning writers. True picture books are something different.

 

True picture book texts are poetry, rhyming or not. In addition, they are screenplays, where the main action is told in images. They also require the skill of flash-fiction writing, as the word count tops up at 600-800 words. Unlike this blog post, it shouldn’t use passive construction. The story must be layered and complete.

 

I’m almost certain Kurt Vonnegut would have said he couldn’t write a picture book.



Tuesday, July 20, 2021

National Pickle Month

 

    I recall early July of 1974, when I arrived in the United States.

I grew up in Israel, a dual citizen of both countries. I had no memory of my ten-month visit to the USA when I was two years old, and so for me this was a get-acquainted-with-America summer.

 

One of the first things that struck me was a billboard that stated—ready for this?

July is National Pickle Month

I asked the American with whom my friend and I stayed what made it “national.” Was this a joke?

“Congress decreed it so,” she said.

Really? Like, they have nothing better to do?


I remember realizing something about my other county: it was playful, whimsical, and a wee bit silly. Having grown up in a country where the government’s work is serious existential business, the United States seemed downright Disneyland-goofy.

 

Yes, there were ongoing hearings that culminated for the first time in U.S. history in a president resigning only a month later. There were protests and divisions over the pain of a war the nation had just lost, (despite calling the end of our involvement in Vietnam a “peace agreement”) and so on.

 

But congress still had the energy to declare a National Pickle Month.

 

Something about this still sums America for me.

 

So, in addition to celebrating this pickle before it ends, I thought I’d list a few more such garnishes below. Let’s celebrate while we still have the energy to jitterbug in those parties:

January 4: National Spaghetti Day๐Ÿ

February 5: Shower with a Friend Day๐Ÿ˜ณ

March 1: National Pig Day ๐Ÿ–(hey, it’s also my birthday)

 

A comprehensive list can be glimpsed here.

But to me, National Pickle Month reigns supreme.



Tuesday, July 13, 2021

SUMMER INDULGENCES

I’m allowing myself to indulge in some just fun (for whom? for me) photos I  post here. I hope you, too, will enjoy looking at today’s peek into another's life.

Hey, it’s summer. ๐ŸŒž

Summer used to mean a break. ๐Ÿ‘™

I haven’t earned a break, but I’m sort of taking it. ๐Ÿจ


So here are some of my favorite things:

{Technically, only the first and last are “things”}

One crust apple pie with streusel topping^
Miss Nougat^
Ms. Clara^
Mr. Sokolov^
One enchanted evening from my window^

How about yours?

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

WRITING WITHOUT WOBBLIES {=WWW}

 

Say what?

Alternative title:

Writing without Fear

There’s a lot of fear in the air for those who blog, vlog, post, text, email, or write in any way that is considered “published.”

 

Fear that our words would be flagged as not woke (a.k.a PC) enough.

Fear that years from now our texts will be quoted when we apply for a job.

Fear that if we write about people from our lives, (IRL=in real life) they will be hurt.

Fear that if we write about fictional characters, someone in real life would think it’s them.

Fear that later we’ll cringe at the quality of our old writing.

 

The common thread is FEAR. ๐Ÿ˜จ

 

What to do?

My personal resolution is to write anyway, and tip my virtual hat to the fears. Yup, I know you’re there, but I’m doing it anyway, so there.

 

My greatest fear is that I won’t have anything worth saying. So as long as I think I do, I’m glad of that.

 

I don’t think there’s such a thing as living without fear. Fearlessness is the appearance some convey to others. I bet that inside, the fearless are quaking and then do it anyway.




Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Do You Have to LIKE the Main Character(s)?

 

A relative had recommended a series, and after watching the first episode I let him know I didn’t think I’d watch the rest.

 

He was aghast. “It’s the best series I ever saw,” said my dear family member. “It got me thinking about so many questions and had so many twists and turns.”

 

Yes, that’s the plot. A whole town full of characters. Mysterious occurrences, once begun, continue to baffle as they go on and on. Good premise.

 

The problem was that I found every single person in the town unlikable. Not in an interesting sort of way what’s-with-him/her unlikable, but in a dull nothing-to-like-here mode.

 

My relative lamented that his wife also dismisses stories (be they books or movies) when she doesn’t like the main character. “I just don’t get it,” he added.

 

Here’s the best explanation I can give on this matter. Spending the most precious thing I have, time, in a place I don’t like or with people I don’t like, is something I won’t do unless compelled to by law.

 

We all occasionally have to. It might be family, or a job. But we’d be wise not to do so for longer than necessary.

 

Reading a book or watching a movie is very much like hanging out in their time, place, and with their characters. What happens there can be interesting. But without liking someone in that world, I’m out of there, thank you.

 

And so I left that series, which incidentally is named The Leftovers. I may give it another try someday. Who knows, never say never. But the feeling that I choose who to hang out with when I begin a story is forever. Same for the ones I write.



Tuesday, June 22, 2021

What Is Your Mascot/Avatar/Spirit Animal?

 

Paraphrasing question #23 on the same list of better questions to ask a writer,  I decided to have fun today. I mean, the question itself echoes the infamous Barbara Walters school of interview standards, “if you were a tree, what tree would you be” silliness. (It should also make anyone question if the list labeled “better questions” merits this title)

 

But you know what? Be we as children if we deem to write for young spirits.

 Let’s play. I go first.

So what animal would I be?

 ๐Ÿบ๐Ÿฏ๐Ÿฎ๐Ÿจ๐Ÿซ๐Ÿด๐Ÿผ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿ‹๐Ÿญ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿฑ๐Ÿฆ

 

Could you guess?

 ๐Ÿ‘€

A decent guess, knowing me even a wee bit, would suggest a feline of some sort.

 That would be wrong.

 I admire felines. I am in awe of their beauty and grace. They are far-away, god-like beings. So aspirational as to not even be my aspirational avatar.

I am no such thing.

๐Ÿ˜ž

 For me, this one does it:


The giraffe is a peaceful animal who manages to stay above the fray. Giraffes have a great perspective, having been graced with the anatomical advantage of a perennial outsider, seeing more of the whole picture, not tangled in the weeds below. And unlike birds, Giraffes do this with their feet firmly planted on the ground.

That is what I aspire to. 


DD even drew one for me when she was four-years-old:




Do share yours, if you dare to play. Like the giraffe, I may bat my long lashes. But I won't judge you.


Tuesday, June 15, 2021

A Place to Write

 

There is a romantic notion that a writer must have a special place to write. I recall a question a friend asked when we talked about process. This friend is not a writer.

She: “Do you have a retreat?”

Me: “Retreat to what?”

She: “A place where you leave everything behind in order to write.”

Me: “You mean— other than a desk at home?”

She: “I mean away from it all. A writer’s retreat.”

          Me: “And who’s going to take care of my kids, fold the laundry, and clean the cats’ litterbox?”


Yes, my friend who knows my family and me actually imagined real writing requires a cabin in the woods, or at the very least, a shed in the backyard with a padlock & key only the writer possess.


All you need to write is an ability to delve inward, focus, and a pencil or computer. A regular corner where focusing usually takes place is helpful, but not a must.

Mine is a wee corner of my bedroom~


Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The One Thing a Pitch Must Do

 

There’s a notion universally acknowledged that the one thing a story must do is arouse the listener/reader’s curiosity.

 

This goes triply for a pitch. A pitch must wake up a part of the mind and have it scream, “TELL ME MORE!”

 

Which is precisely what my first ever effort at pitching did not do.

(Does this ๐Ÿ‘† wake up your curious bone?)

 

My first effort writing a story for publication was a noble failure. I had no idea what I was doing on the publishing front. That’s the way it is when delving into a new field.

It did get some lovely personal responses from busy editors, so I know it was not a complete dud as stories go. But I mis-labeled it, (a six-thousand word manuscript is not a picture book) it was episodic, (by then, out of fashion in publishing) and the pitch was as bad as can be.

 

The story itself was about the time in a five-year-old’s life when his sister is born and his beloved grandparent dies. Things happened. Things that mattered.

 

But from my point of interest, the real story was an interior coming-of age journey. The boy was a contemplative, imaginative dreamer who wondered about the meaning of it all. To me the real happenings were interior.

 

And so I came up with a pitch that went something like this:

“In a year in which nothing much happened, Isaac grows inwardly.”



I mean, really. Would you ask to read the rest of it? I’m amazed at the few positive encouraging replies I did get.

 

Okay. This ๐Ÿ‘† is what not to do. For goodness sake, there was a ghost in Isaac’s house, and the most beloved person in his life was dying, and the new baby was taking all his parents’ attention and...

So just remember that a pitch has one job to do. That job is to make the recipient shout even before the end, “I must know more!” 


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

STARTED but never FINISHED

 

I have friends who testify to many started but never finished manuscripts. Their virtual drawer bursts with the begun & abandoned.

“Someday...”

 

When I was a wee child, I had many such stories. Half-written real paper pages (that was a pre-digital age) not mellowing but yellowing from neglect, lay next to other unfinished arts and crafts projects. They accepted their destiny to never arrive at a destination.

 

That all changed in my late twenties.

I worked for a friend who is also possibly the most talented artist I have ever known. I saw the chest of half-done and abandoned textile work that was her life then, and it scared me.* I made a vow, not to another person or the creator, but between me and myself. From then on, I won’t give myself permission to begin a new work until I finished the one I had started.

For me, that vow was one of three best private decisions I ever made.

 

This is not for everyone. Nothing is. But if you are plagued with many “someday I’ll get back to__” started projects, my wish for you is that you find your way to a clear that cluttered path. My “how to” may sound harsh, but harshness may be what’s needed.

 

I find half-done manuscripts a sad sight. For me, only real life gets to be a never finished story. That is, until it, too, comes to an end.


* I'm happy to write that my old friend seems to have conquered the issue as well, as her amazing creations are now sold by the finest galleries.

To quote another writer, Nancy Sanders

"If one can, 

two can. 

If two can, 

you can too!

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

HARDEST PART of the ARTISTIC PROCESS

 

Creatives have answered the title question differently but, not surprisingly, some patterns that seem near universal emerge.


I have friends who say the hardest part is—

 *Just getting started (as in staring at an empty canvas)

*Muddling through the sagging middle (this one is close to universal)

*Finding how and where to end (A talented friend struggles with this)

*Revising beyond a superficial dusting (This requires input from others, IMO)

*Putting your work “out there” (Many creatives never do because it is. too. blasting. hard.)

 

But worthwhile things are often hard. So this is not a complaint, but a list of blessings.

©Grant Snider



Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Digital Life and Death

 

’Tis a truth, which should be universally acknowledged, that life and death on this earth does not parallel life and death in the digital realm. (Apologies to Jane Austen)

 

I have Facebook friends who passed away. Their Facebook pages and timelines still live. I have blogging friends I had followed whose blogs had died, but I happen to know the blog owners are very much alive.

 

Many of my posts on this blog are scheduled ahead. In the event that I leave this earth, posts will continue to appear for a time. The only hint that I’m no longer here would be the complete lack of comments, as I moderate all comments and will no longer be there to do so. (Hint: if you want to check my earthly pulse, just comment ๐Ÿ˜‰)

 

On people search sites I found my parents and other dearly departed people continuing to age. Apparently, these sites, which make their fortunes collecting public data on all of us, can’t bother to scour records of death.

 

Strange worlds we live and die in; two parallel timelines that only partially intersect.



Tuesday, May 11, 2021

To Google or not to Google Oneself?

 

Aye, that is the question*

*(Maybe not THE question, but A question)

 

Alas, we use “google” as a verb now for “internet search.” There are other options, though I still use Google because it reigns supreme.

 

I have found that occasional googling (or Duck Duck Go-ing, Swiss Cow-ing, Gibiru-ing Bing-ing and more) can bring up some surprises about self. Hopefully they are nice surprises, but the question is whether it should be part of anyone’s digital hygiene practices.

 

I think at this day and age where so much of life’s connectivity is digital, it is healthy to look oneself up now and then. I know writers look up their published books. I recall some on a chat board saying they are stalking their own titles. Stalking suggests obsessional behavior. But doing a bi-annual search just in case something very wrong (ouch) or something very right (yay) is floating out there— is rather sensible.

 

But it is an awkward feeling, I confess. If you are creeped out by looking yourself up, just don’t. So far, I have found at least four nice surprises, (a review I was unaware of that is now quoted and linked to my website, a blogger’s review of one of my published articles, and more) and one not so happy thing, (a site purported to give personal info on anyone and everyone decided to confuse my age with my much-older DH.) But on the whole, I found what I expected to find. I’m not famous, so that is about what I anticipated.

 

Two friends, who insisted there couldn’t be anything about them on the Interwebs, were proven wrong. There is something somewhere. But if you don’t mind, don’t care— that’s fair. Don’t look. You don’t have to.

 

Like most things in life, I straddle the middle ground: no staking/haunting, not avoiding. Once or twice a year does it for me.

 

If you ever found real surprises while googling self, I’d love to hear about it. At the very least, it would make a good story.

*This^ actually happened to a writing friend


Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Mayday— or a Day in May

 

        My first post for this May, and the phrase “Mayday! Mayday!” rushed in.

 

So I followed it to its supposed origins, which I found interesting. Origins in common lingo often shine a light on historical events, and Mayday didn’t disappoint:

 

The Mayday call originated in the 1920s. A senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London, Frederick Stanley Mockford, was the first to use this signal to indicate emergency situations. Mockford’s superior officers asked him to think of a word that would indicate distress and all pilots and ground staff would clearly understand during an emergency. As much of the traffic at London’s airport at that time was to and from Paris, Mockford proposed the expression “Mayday," derived from the French word “m’aider" that means “help me" and is a shortened form of “venez m’aider," which means “come and help me."




Which lead to the question of what distress signal preceding it, SOS, stood for.

Also interesting, and spiritual to boot:

SOS, short for “save our souls" sent by Morse code, predates the use of Mayday. In 1927, the International Radiotelegraph Convention adopted Mayday as the radiotelephone distress call in place of SOS.

 

Here’s wishing SOS-free and no Mayday this May. Have a great one ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ’—


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

WRITING UNDER A PSEUDONYM

 

For reasons I can only describe as ignorance of consequences, lack of vision, lack of understanding how publishing works, and a touch of ego, I never considered a pseudonym when I first sought publication.

It seemed a needless complication, because one’s legal name is straightforward and pseudonyms suggest expectation of an illustrious publishing career. In addition, a pseudonym says you are hiding, which means you have something to hide.

 

I now wish I knew more back then. Pseudonyms are more than a form of protection, (because most who write never get the harsh bright lights of mass recognition anyway) they are distinct public personas and thus “brands” of sorts, and many find this very helpful creatively.

 

A pseudonym is employed when writers write in divergent and incompatible genres. Think kidlit and erotica, or kidlit and politics, or kidlit and most genres not kidlit.

 

A few years ago, I met a much-published writer who wrote in three distinctive genres. She used one pseudonym for her mysteries, another for her erotica, and her legal name for literary novels. She is by no means a household name in any of her three author identities. But she did admit her strongest income stream was from her erotica writing. No surprise there.

 

She said the different names helped her stay creative and focused. I understand, and no longer find this practice a wee creepy, like I used to.

 

Add to this consideration the matter of privacy, barely possible at the age where the Interwebs give your home address to anyone who will pay a few dollars, (and even free) as another name has a layer of security, albeit a thin one.

 

I never considered it, and even my social media presence (such as it is) is all-public. Easy, as I’m not famous. But if you are just starting out and foresee seeking mass recognition, think about it and see if a pseudonym will make you creatively better focused and feeling more secure. If you choose to go that way, have fun with the choice of pseudonym because having fun on this journey is what will keep you going.



Tuesday, April 20, 2021

My Kryptonite*

 

* The definition of kryptonite is Superman's ultimate weakness, or anything that causes someone's ultimate weakness. An example of kryptonite is the one food a person is seriously allergic to.

{This word was added to the dictionary in September 2018. Kryptonite referred to a mineral from the planet Krypton that had an extremely harmful effect on Superman.}

 

Well, no Superperson, me. But to each humble mortal a Kryptonite must needs be.

 

Mine is rather odd, as it is not a thing but a lack of a thing. The thing I must not lack if I am to be producing original writing (or thought, craft item, or a genuine smile) is caffeine. Put it another way: I need my coffee or black tea, and you may report me to the authorities as a bonafide addict. But while you snitch on me, I should add that it is my only addiction, if that makes a difference.

 

It gladdens my heart to read studies that confirm caffeine consumers live (on average) longer. It staves off Alzheimer’s and increases IQ by a statistically significant measure. Not such a terrible dependency as such goes.

 

I also stick to two-three cups a day, always before four in the afternoon. Well, almost always. If I have to drive later or stay awake, I break the before-four rule. Thus, I do my best not to have to drive later and also excuse myself from activities that ask me to be perky after dinner. If you’ve ever asked me to come to a lecture at such late hour, now you know why I said ‘no.’ On the other hand, if you asked me to meet you for coffee in the morning hours, now you know why I almost always said ‘yes.’

 

Confessions time over. I have to get back to my coffee now.



Tuesday, April 13, 2021

JEWEL or JUNK?

 

Reflections on First Drafts

 

There is a notion floating in writerdom that first drafts are garbage, bad, something to be overhauled, repaired and refurbished  beyond recognition.

In other words, “a sh---y first draft,” as Anne Lamott put it in her book about writing, Bird by Bird.  (She has a whole chapter called Shi—ty First Drafts.๐Ÿ˜ณ) It’s a brilliant chapter, as is the whole book. It’s part of her battle cry against paralyzing perfectionism, and in that sense, I concur.

 

But here is where we part. I have a much-published writing friend who said it differently, and I’m in his camp. “The first draft is where all the important stuff happens: Characters created, their actions emerge from an unformed blob of earth, and a rough shape of a story materializes. The rest is akin to a fine sculpturist working on refining the shape to make a beautiful polished marble figure.” 



All my stories changed some in revisions. But THE STORY was there in the first draft. So were the happiest creative moments, most of which I experienced while first drafting. No matter how many missed plot turns, absent descriptive ambience or typos, (to be worked on in revisions) these first drafts were not garbage. They’re the real deal.

 

Junk? Na-ah. First drafts are jewels in need of TLC and a fine polishing cloth to shine.




Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Literary Characters from One’s Real Life

 

Question: How many of your story characters are from your real life?

Answer: All of them

Answer: None of them

Answer: All of the above

 

My late father, a man who lived an astonishingly rich life and also possessed great writing talents, was often urged to write his autobiography. He refused, saying autobiographies are always exercises in self-justification, and in many instances also in self-beautification. He preferred fiction because he thought it more honest.

 

After penning quite a few fictional stories, I find that I agree with his assessment of fiction. The writer’s truth is in them, though it is not “just as it was in life.”

 

I trust these truths, and would even go so far as to call them self-evident,* at least in a roundabout way. *(With apologies to the brilliant wording of the United States Declaration of Independence)

Yes, even cute animal picture book stories are really people you know. Think of Aesop’s fables.

Now you got it.



Tuesday, March 30, 2021

SELECTING THE NAMES OF CHARACTERS

 

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

From Romeo & Juliet by Shakespeare

 

        What’s in a name?

        Actually, a lot. (Sorry, Juliet)

 

Depending on the type of story, character names can be allegorical, (rife with meaning alluding to their function, such as in biblical narratives) a play on class and setting, (think of just about any romance story) or a tickle to the funny bone.

 

There is overlap in these naming categories. I think Dickens played on the humorous as well as class distinctions. J. K. Rowling does the same with some of her characters. But no matter the intention, the effect is for a name to be evocative.

 

There are times where a story doesn’t call for strong and piercing name choices. But I would never waste the storyteller’s opportunity to make a tale come alive with banal choices like Dick and Jane, which, come to think of it, may have been chosen specifically for a banal effect. They are “every girl and every boy,” I suppose. Not characters in the sense writers aspire to create.

 

Some choices are personal, as in a grandma writing a story using her grandkids' names. As such, they are fine for self-publishing home consumption. I’ve written short stories using the names of my nearest and dearest, which have meaning to me only. But from some years’ distance, I can see that for general audiences I have wasted the opportunity to layer every word by not choosing in a writerly way.

 

So back to Juliet: Love who you love, my sweet, and let your names not keep you apart. But for certain know that William Shakespeare chose your names with care.



Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Must Writers Feel Emotions Strongly?

 

One may ask the same question in the title^ about actors or fine artists. Where in the artistic process and being does emotionality fit?

 

Seems to me that the subject is not how much the creative person feels, but how much empathy they have for others' feelings. Unless the writing is entirely about self, the power to put oneself in another’s overalls is key.

 

In addition to enhanced empathy, there’s something called mirror-touch synesthesia, where others’ physical sensations are literally felt in one’s own body. Some quantified version of this is operative in good writing.

 

There is a price to pay for being an empath. Just take a look at artists. The talented ones cultivate ways to express what they sense, thus producing books, painting, and theater performances. But this comes after the first principal: feel another's joy but also devastation.

 

Ah, the joys of being human.