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Motifs vs. Symbols. What are they and how do you use them?

by Denise A. Coleman

By the time you finish reading this article, motifs and symbols will be new tools in your toolbox.

The purpose of motifs. A motif can appear as an object, word, or sound. Repeat it in various ways to build on an underlying image. The key to a motif is that it reappears throughout the piece and strengthens the story line or theme.

Example #1: Let’s use the word “broken” as a motif in the story of a broken love affair. As Brad meets with Heather to break off their relationship, motifs could impose the image of broken things in the reader’s mind, thus fortifying the underlying theme. For example, as Brad avoids a broken step, maybe a child throws a ball through the neighbor’s window. A little later, Heather breaks a fingernail or Brad breaks a shoelace. Practice will help you learn how to weave motifs seamlessly.

Or, you could symbolize the break-up this way: “When Brad said, ‘I don’t love you any more,’ Heather dropped the tray of fine crystal.” Do you see the difference in these two examples? Motifs are repetitive, whereas a symbol might occur once with great emphasis.

Example #2: You could write a story about USA’s Independence Day repeating the words “American flag” as a motif and make that the underlying theme, or you could use a climactic scene where a wounded soldier crawls through mortar fire and plants the American Flag as he draws his last breath.

While the difference between motifs and symbolism may seem minor, understanding them and using them properly is of the utmost importance. Choose your device at the onset of your story and maintain it throughout.

Archetype motifs. There is another kind of motif called archetype. Archetype motifs have appeared in literature that dates back centuries. Archetype motifs can represent heroes, villains, and sidekicks, to name a few. For instance, the Lone Ranger’s mask does more than hide his identity. It strengthens the theme that goodness does not look for recognition. Notice how subtle that archetype motif is.

There are four definitive differences between motifs and symbolism:

1. A motif supports or develops a theme while a symbol represents something.

2. Motifs are repeated continually while symbols are mentioned once or twice.

3. Motifs help define an underlying theme while symbols identify an idea.

4. Motifs depend on usage within the story while symbols rely on history and purpose.

Now you understand motifs and symbols. Practice these two techniques to perfect them.

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Top Tips for Positive Thinking in 2014

by Dr Helen Tucker

Do those New Year’s resolutions feel like a thing of the past? Or have you stuck to your list but don’t feel like you’re making progress? Don’t be disheartened. Let this list revitalize your motivation.

  • When you wake up each morning, tell yourself it’s going to be a wonderful day.
  • One thing we have control over is our thoughts, so think positively and seek the company of positive people.
  • Spend an extra five minutes each morning preparing physically and mentally for the day ahead.
  • Set at least one daily goal, no matter how small. The key to long-term success is daily improvements.
  • Keep a journal. Your life is worth recording and you can learn from your achievements and mistakes.
  • Ignore distractions, focus, and meet your daily goal.
  • Tackle the tasks that frighten you the most first. Not facing a fear causes limitations in life.
  • Be there for someone else each day. Make yourself smile.
  • When you’re doing well, be proud and reward yourself; then think of one small thing you could improve on.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”

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Struggles of New Writers

by Dr. Helen Tucker, CWI Counselor

I remember those early days as a new writer; desperate to express all those thoughts and feelings on paper but terrified that no one would want to hear what I had to say. There was also the fear of not knowing where to begin, not being creative enough, and the huge fear of failure.

I decided to take a writing course as a confidence booster. We covered a section on basic grammar and punctuation. The most useful learning point was to write something every day no matter what. I began to carry a notebook and pen. When travelling on public transport, I wrote snippets of conversation I overheard and observed people as unobtrusively as possible. Based on what I saw, I made up stories and before long; I had written a short book.

The next big step was submitting. The thought of it made my blood run cold. It took me days to send it and all I could think about afterwards was all the mistakes I had made. I was thrilled when I received a complimentary letter from the editor telling me my article would be published but even now, the waiting and wondering is stressful.

Have you heard of NaNoWriMo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month and takes place every November. Those who want to write a book are challenged to write 50,000 words during November, which is an average of 1,666 words a day. Perhaps you would like to participate next November. It’s something exciting to look forward to every year, and a great way to help you write daily.

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (for free) at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

*Feel free to write to Dr. Helen at dr.helen@cwinst.com.

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6 Ways to Make Money by Writing

by Deborah Owen

When there are so many creative writers out there, why is it that so few are published? Could it be that they don’t have the self-confidence to move forward to publication? More likely than not, they don’t know the secrets of how to get published.

Every creative writer’s heart soars when they see their first byline. Everyone should have that experience. Seeing your work in print is something that will never grow old. Call it a pride thing. Call it an ego trip. Call it self-centered. Call it what you want. Published writers call it slavery, reward, zest and zeal, salary and bonus.

So how do you get your work published? It really isn’t that hard. The difficult part is getting the self-discipline to follow through. Try these things:

  1. Go to your local newspaper and ask for a reporting job. Local papers usually have an opening for a reporter that will cover such things as Chamber of Commerce events, School Board reports, and sports functions. However, it makes little difference whether or not you get that job. There are other ways to wiggle your way into a newspaper…
  2. Look for accidents to report. While you wait for the mess to be cleared away, interview people who saw the accident and take pictures. (The paper will give you $5 extra for each picture they use.) Ask one of the policemen which officer is in charge. Go up to that officer with all the brass in your bones and tell him you are a stringer for [name of local paper]. (Anyone can be a stringer.) Ask if you can see him after the accident is cleared away. At that time, he will give you the names, ages, and perhaps addresses of those involved in the accident. This is time sensitive reporting, so get it to the newspaper quick.
  3. Look for people who have unusual hobbies and interview them. Hand the interview into your local newspaper, and don’t forget the pictures.
  4. Look for people doing weird things – like skiing down a dry street in the spring. That really happened. That was a news story waiting to be written!
  5. Keep the money rolling in by resubmitting the same stories to small newspapers all over the United States. The library will supply you with an extensive list of thousands of newspapers. One article regularly resubmitted can net you hundreds of dollars!
  6. When you have shown your local newspaper editor that you can get the job done, and done well, go back and ask for that reporting job over and over. Fill out an application. One of these days a spot will open up and guess who he will think of first? You.

The great thing about submitting news articles is that it doesn’t take much talent; beginners have a good shot at being published, and it’s a great way to get your first published clippings. Newspapers pay on acceptance too, so it’s quick money. Start reporting today!

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (for free) at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

ImageSplit Infinitives

by Karen Johnson Waugh

You want the reader to have a clear meaning of your writing. The article you write should flow with four-star rhythms on every page.

The use of the split infinitive rearranges a phrase by placing the word “to” followed by the root of the infinitive. Actively treat your infinitive as one entity by avoiding a separation between the preposition and the verb. Your reader should recognize the “to” as merely a pre-positional marker.

The typical English infinitive is nearly the same as the Latin present infinitive. It is always one word. By splitting the infinitive with the one word modifier, you create a sentence that is less awkward in print.  The split infinitive is the basic form of a verb and it is a distinguished writing tool.

There are no split infinitives found in the King James Bible. Early use of the tool dates back to the 1300s when it was first constructed in poetry. William Shakespeare (1564-1616) only used the tool one time in all of his written works. In lines 12 and 13 of Sonnet CXLTI, he writes, “Root pity in thy heart, that when it grows thy pity may deserve to pitied be.”

These lines clearly demonstrate the split infinitive is effective in meter and rhyme.

In archaic times, English infinitives were more Germanic in form. Writers used a single word with a specific ending to denote a verb. As time progressed, the verbs took on the “to” form.

As of today, the Spanish, Portuguese, and other non-English Languages, verbs are still recognized by their ending.  In English, the word “to” is recognized as part of the infinitive, whereas in German and French, “a/de” and “Zu” are not.

It is noteworthy to consider history’s great writers that used the split infinitive. Authors Willa  Cather(1873-1947), John Donne (1572-1631), George Elliot (1923-1936), Daniel DeFoe (1661-1731), Benjamin Franklin (1831-1917), and Samuel Jackson (1651-1712) do not complete the list. Many authors of the present and past compliment the split infinitive.

In the Star Trek movies, you hear the phrase, “To boldly go where no one has gone before.” It is a creative use of the split infinitive. Researchers indicates the phrase originated from the 1958 published White House book titled ‘The Introduction to Outer Space.”

Using the split infinitive in your article will enhance the creativity of your writing. It is a writing tool that makes your sentences more elegant and clear.

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