Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Focus on the details of living

Well, Christmas is here, so enjoy your time with family and friends.  Soak it all in.  Bits of it will foster your writing, and all of it will grow your relationship with family.  So I hope you haven't been hanging out on the internet reading this blog and my prompt yesterday (for if you had then you would have noticed I was late in posting my writing prompt, too busy soaking in the family).

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #53 2012

Write about a Christmas moment.  Keep it tightly focused:  green and red sparks twinkle on a round blue ornament, drizzled in gold glitter.  On the lower half of the roundness, where less of the glitter crusted, reflect the curved images of two children in red pajamas pulling aside bright wrapping paper.  The background soft chimes of Christmas music take back stage to the delighted "thank you's" as some are shouted out in inattentive abandon while others are whispered in glorious wonder.

Or write about a birthday, if you are commercial Christmassed out.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My favorite student Christmas gifts

Over the years my students have on occasion brought me Christmas gifts. Now when I taught middle school, I received lots of gifts, mostly tree ornaments, but it was cute. When I moved up to the high school, the gifts dropped off considerably.  That was okay. I don't teach because I get Christmas presents.  But when I do get a gift from a high school student, there is evidence of real thought. These are the best gifts I have received over the years.
  • a compact flashlight that fits easily in my purse: sturdy, bright and very reliable
  • a Barnes & Nobel gift certificate: I bought books
  • a silver spoon key chain (the spoon is bent into a hook that catches on the top edge of my purse which makes it easy to find): teachers have lots of keys, and it's pretty. (Teachers also get lots of key chains, but this one is unique and does not have a teaching slogan on it or some teaching logo)
  • a nail file and clipper.  Teachers have lots of things to catch on their nails
  • small zippered bag.  I use it to hold my ear phones and charger.
  • a slick staple remover that slides under the staple and removes it in one quick move.
We teachers don't mind at all if we don't get any gifts.  But when we do, the ones that were given a little thought connect the student and that gift forever in our minds.  I like to think that twenty years down the road, I am going to reach for my keys, think of Mia and smile at her thoughtfulness.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #52 2012

Success going up the ladder
Choose an idea: happiness, success, despair, governance, laziness or....  Give it human qualities (yes, personification) and let it wander through a room or down a road, take a seat at a desk or settle in comfortably against a tree along a byway.  Describe it thoroughly from the button on the top of its cap to the nails in the soles of its shoes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Appearances are important to characterization

Recently some of my students have been following the "scene" mode of styling their hair. I don't fully understand the term, but it appears to be a kinder, gentler version of emo, not dark or requiring heavy makeup or dyed hair.  But it does create a look that tends to ride the edge of the norm.  So I was thinking how one day a student can look like the average girl next door, reliable, kind, quiet.  The next day she walks in and a statement is made that marks her as not one of the group, not the girl next door but the one across the street that people make up rumors about.  The girl that is not "bad" but is not greeted by everyone.

That is what characterization is.  Small shifts from the norm that make the character stand out with a certain image immediately created by a part in the hair made so far to the left that the bangs must lay low across the forehead. The long hair is all brought forward to the front, so a split occurs in the back at the neck line, as though the person only has a front she shows to everyone, the back similar to the facade of a building put up for a movie set.  The front looks real enough, but the back lacks all the depth of a real building.  This can be used to create character.  Certainly the real live girl, has depth, but in the novel or short story, such a "front" can act as a thin veneer hiding the reality within.  It builds mystery, which one might believe is the purpose of the "scene" image for these teenage girls I teach.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #51 2012

For today's prompt, go a little Gothic.  Poem or short story, throw in some mystery, a dash of ghostly visitations, a good dollop of stormy weather, a secret and for the climax, conflagration.  If it helps, add some heavy eyeliner to put yourself in the mood.  Think dark, stormy and someone hiding in the attic.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My internal critic knows no bounderies

I have only been writing to publish for about a year and a half.  But in that time, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon:  My internal critic is after everybody.  In the past, when I was just thinking about writing but not really giving it much of my time, I could just sit back and enjoy reading a book. Sure some books disappointed me, but they were few and far between, and the writer really had to falter in some way.  But now that I am writing my books and putting them out there for others to read, it seems I have become a lot more alert to slipping plots, weak dialogue or dropped details that seemed important but never grew into anything.  I wonder if those same books would have been a fun reading experience if I wasn't so often editing my own work and developing my internal critic to pick up my own slipping plots, weak dialogue, dropped details or undeveloped characters and scenes. 

Have I grown an eye that cannot discern between my own work and others?  It is an interesting dilemma because I don't want to be less alert in my own work, yet I do want to enjoy what I read.  I imagine being an English teacher isn't giving this attentive critic any rest either or training it to take a temporary vacation.  I am reviewing some form of writing pretty much daily.  My colleagues are known to come up to me and ask if I would look over their aunt's autobiography that she has been working on for years. Truly, I say, "No, thank you.  I have more than enough on my plate to go through."  And I am talking about student work and have not said a single word about my own efforts to publish.   I really haven't put out any signs saying, "Feed my obsession for editing."  Is this a common ailment of writers?  Am I doomed to examine the bones of every book I read?

It's one thing when I am reading A Tale of Two Cities; that one demands a deep read, but I read books just as often for entertainment at the skin deep level. In fact, I know my books are not for x-ray examination, just a sit back and take a break from reality read is what I am going for.

Writers out there, have you run into this same issue?  Is there a cure that won't wipe out that needed critic when my own work is before me?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tuesday prompt: #50 2012

Think of an odor, a sensation, and an article of clothing.  Write out for each a detailed description.  Once you have each one well developed, combine them in a short scene or poem.