Monthly Archives: April 2014

Beauty Tips for Fiction: 5 Ways to Make Your Writing Shine!

Most of us have favorite authors, and different authors write with different styles.

One piece might be filled with elegant metaphors and prose (like Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue), while another is stripped down and finds expression in sparse words. Neither is “right” or “wrong,” it’s simply a matter of preference.

As writers and readers, we all have to experiment and discover what really works for us. I’ve read a number of styles that I enjoyed, depending on who wrote it and how it was done. I dig Atwood, but I also love me some George R.R. Martin, and they are very different from each other.

Barebones or lush, the execution can change everything. Here are a few examples of things that often help me get into a story.

Setting –

Ground the reader by laying down a line or two of crisp environment.

I really like when an author goes beyond “trees” or “sea” to give me an idea of what makes these particular trees stand out, or this particular ocean. If you go to the Black Sea, you’ll find it looks very different from Venice Beach, which is vastly different from the numerous and varied shores of Hawaii. Give me, in brief words, the color of the bark; the pine, sycamore, aspens or what have you, so I can better see the woods around me.

Senses –

Hit at least a few different senses in your piece.

Most stories utilize sight, but smell carries so many emotional connections for people. Give me more than a generic term. Read other writers and notice not only what sensory notes are heavily used, but which senses are underused. Give me something kinda unique, but familiar enough that I can immediately get it! Not just the waft of pine, but the rot of mulch underneath, and the yeasty tang of the broken beer bottle at the edge of the campsite.

The Little Details –

Sometimes honing in on a detail can make a reader fall right into your world.

As writers we tend to enjoy building these large contraptions of worlds — galaxies — universes!!! Forgetting the feel of vinyl under our fingertips, or the bright yellow drip of sap catching the morning sunlight. Even better if you utilize a detail that captures and reflects the mood of the Point of View; or that of the setting/ piece.

The Tension of Tenses –

Think about the specific emotion in each section of your piece.

I really appreciate thoughtful prose, that which exploits the various effects of language. Ask yourself what you want the reader to get/ feel in a given moment, and what version of a sentence or phrase best represents your intent.

Consider for example: “She wandered through the woods. In long steps, she became lost. She grew sleepy as the air turned dark.” Or: “Wandering through the aspens, taking long steps, she became lost. The air turned dark. She grew sleepy.”

Don’t be afraid to play with sentence order, punctuation, tense and word order. Discover the way changing things alters the feel of the moment. That is: with each change, discover the impact on the ambiance of a scene! (hehe) Even moving a comma or dropping the -ing can shift meaning, pacing and atmosphere.

Le(s) Mot(s) Juste(s) –

The RIGHT WORD for the *right* time.

Similar to considering phrasing and word order, each word carries associations.

Use the word that fits, especially if you are trying to put the reader in the perspective of a character. Maybe “transliterate” is a great word. Yes, I love it, too. BUT! Is it a word your POV character actually knows? Does it lend to the mood of the scene?

What about Shadow versus Shade versus Darkness versus Tenebrous… how about Light versus Incandescence versus Luminosity…? Does Giant feel different than Massive, versus Gargantuan?

If a word is too “technical” sounding, it might not have the right sensibility; unless that “technical” sense is perfect for that moment! By the same token, a poetic word with the right phrasing can elevate your story. The Thesaurus is your friend!

There are many things you can do to make your writing more beautiful, depending on what “beautiful” means to you.

Read lots of stuff. When you find something you like, go back and figure out what just happened.

Talk to other people about what gets them into a story. If it’s different from what draws you (or me) in, that doesn’t make it “right” or “wrong,” it just makes it interesting.

Even if you aren’t a writer, as a reader, knowing what really gets you excited about a story will help you find other stories to enjoy.

No matter what, find what fits you, have fun and get the most out of what you do. Good luck!

— Arley

5 Ways to Make the WORLD a Better Place

Five Ways to Make the World a Better Place:

Someone in my Twitter feed, who shall remain nameless, once complained that they didn’t want to watch the news because the issues seemed so big and he was helpless to change any of it.

I can relate to that! It’s frustrating to see so many *effed up* things happening, and to feel like there’s nothing we can do to stop it. In fact, I’d go one more step and say it’s frustrating because we don’t even know what’s happening. The news tells us what it wants to tell us, what it thinks will sell ads, and how much “Truth” is in there is sometimes hard to say.

Nonetheless, ignorance is not the answer! Nor is inactivity. There are lots of ways we can potentially impact the world around us! For the purposes of this piece, we’ll keep it very small scale.

1) Connect with someone you wouldn’t normally connect with.

*So many problems are caused by the separation of different sorts of peoples, and the assumptions that continue unchallenged because of that separation. Let’s face it: often, when we talk about our favorite –isms, we’re pretty much yapping to people who already agree. We also have to face the fact that we each have bits of our own “–isms”. If you think you don’t, you probably aren’t the best judge. Hanging out with new and different people is a great way to learn about each other, as well as ourselves.

2) Smile and say something nice

*I don’t think I need to explain the “why” of this one (grins). But it’s something many of us don’t actually practice. Make a point to smile and say something nice to someone every day. If it’s work, then what does that say about you? To me, it says that you really need to make a habit out of this one.

3) Create a new good habit

*Speaking of habits! These are the things that kinda shape our lives, even when we aren’t conscious of them. We have habits from as young as our formative years. But it’s not impossible to make new ones. Pick something that’s realistic, healthy and good for you, whoever you are and whatever your circumstances. Figure out the best way to incorporate it into your regular routine — whether it’s ten crunches a day, or reading a few pages of fiction. Having good habits improves the way you interact with the world around you.

4) Engage in an important topic

*I know you have friends. But if you’re like me, sometimes you just talk about the latest TV show, or comic book, or whatever. Take the time to talk about something “relevant.” Maybe you know a bunch of stuff, or find yourself concerned with a bunch of stuff, but maybe the people around you don’t. Moreover, maybe they know something you don’t know, or have an interesting take on a subject. As you engage with people around relevant topics, you may find you’re not as alone as you think; or that people who didn’t know about something are glad to know.

5) Get yourself healthy (er)

*You can contribute to the betterment of the world only inasmuch as your health allows. And hey, we want you to stick around! Especially if you’re someone interested in making the world a better place. So do something small, on a regular basis, to get your health just one or two notches better. Better breakfast habits? A daily walk around the block? Parking spot away from the door, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Small changes that stick are a great way to make a start towards something good.

So… how will these things affect our relationship with the Middle East, or prevent high-seas piracy, or feed starving children???

Great question. The fact is, we exist as a social, global organism. None of us live in a vacuum, and everything we do is connected in one way or another. Even though these are very small, highly localized actions (and relatively easy too, mind you!), the more positivity and mutual understanding any of us can generate, the closer we come to affecting the world on a significant level.

And hey! Making new friends, improving our own understanding of the world, and spreading a little happiness and good energy is waaaaay better than just feeling frustrated and giving up! If nothing else, hopefully you will improve your neighborhood and the people around you, as well as yourself.

Good luck. Now… get out there and save the world!

— A