Secret Writing Techniques #1

ASYNDETON

Writers have developed innumerable techniques to nail their reader’s eyes to the page, and one of those secret weapons is called asyndeton. However, there is nothing new under the sun. We have simply learned how to describe what we do and have tagged it with a name. These techniques have been around since Adam and Eve told stories to Cain and Abel.

Asyndeton means disjointed and unconnected. In literature, it is the art of stringing a list of clauses together without the use of conjunctions. Doesn’t sound that exciting, does it? But wait until you see the examples!

From Double Indemnity: Why, they’ve got ten volumes on suicide alone. Suicide by race, by color, by occupation, by sex, by seasons of the year, by time of day. Suicide, how committed: by poisons, by firearms, by drowning, by leaps. Suicide by poison, subdivided by types of poison, such as corrosive, irritant, systemic, gaseous, narcotic, alkaloid, protein, and so forth.

Writers aren’t the only ones who use this effectively. Orators and statesmen use it, too.

Julius Caesar said, “I came, I saw, I conquered.”

Sir Winston Churchill used it in 1940 in the address known as “We shall fight on the beaches:”

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

And John F. Kennedy used it: “…that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

Now it’s your turn. For hard core impact with a dramatic effect, try asyndeton!

For more great writing tips, subscribe to The Writer’s Choice (top right corner) at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com, the writing school that supplies every student with a private tutor!

 

Advertisements

Image

The Highs and Lows of Spring

by Helen Tucker

Despite the cold, spring has arrived with a vengeance. Birds are rushing around gathering twigs for their nests and new shoots appear on the trees and hedgerows daily. There is a feverishness about this time of year and almost an expectation that everybody should be happy. However, not everyone looks forward to or is able to enjoy this time of year.

Do you dread the spring knowing how low and anxious you are going to feel? Is your sleep pattern disturbed? Are you tearful for no reason? Do you feel excessively tired even after a quiet day? Are you struggling to see beyond the next few days and weeks?

Thousands of people struggle at this time of year and many don’t seek help. If you find yourself struggling year after year it may be a good idea to speak to your family doctor to find out what is causing your symptoms.

During this difficult period:

  • Be kind to yourself.
  • If you feel particularly bad in the mornings and a little better as the day wears on, then try to rearrange your day to fit in with this pattern.
  • Keep a daily diary of your thoughts and feelings. Writing them down can be cathartic.
  • If you are able,  write down one positive thing about your day. This could be something as small as noticing a new flower in the garden or a smile you received from a stranger.
  • Try to make contact with at least one person each day. People often feel very alone when their mood is low and the company of another person can be uplifting.

Remember, you are not alone. With the right help, you will be able to cope during this difficult time.

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.

Image

How Writing Can Improve Your Well-being

by Melissa Hathaway

“Round and round he walked, and so learned a very valuable thing: that no emotion is the final one.”

Jeanette Winterson

For almost 20 years Dr James W Pennebaker has been extolling the virtues of creative writing as a route to healing. A professor in the Department of Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin, Pennebaker has written several books on the subject, and encourages everyone to use creative writing to improve both their physical and mental health. His research has shown that ‘short-term focused writing’ can have profoundly beneficial effects on anyone suffering from episodes as simple as a house move, to those facing cancer, divorce, or financial problems. Here’s what Dr Pennebaker’s research can teach us.

Powerful Secrets

Keeping secrets may tend to cause physical health problems. Dr. Pennebaker conducted an experiment to see if writing them out would help. The results were astounding. Patients who wrote their secrets down felt better, even if the secrets were never read and destroyed immediately. The patients’ immune systems improved and they visited the doctor less often.

Organizing Our Thoughts

Pennebaker’s theory is that any kind of upheaval makes minds work overtime, trying to organize and process what is happening. Pennebaker explains, “When we translate an experience into language we essentially make the experience graspable. Individuals may see improvements in what is called “working memory,” essentially our ability to think about more than one thing at a time. They may also find they’re better able to sleep. Their social connections may improve, partly because they have a greater ability to focus on someone besides themselves.” So does this mean that as well as our creative writing, we should be keeping a daily diary of events? No, Pennebaker suggests that we should use the opportunity to stand back and evaluate our life’s course rather than document every day events. Rather, he asks patients to write for 20 minutes over four days about an emotionally troubling event in their lives, really exploring their issues and how they can be tied to past events in childhood, for example. He urges them to write for no one except themselves, in a quiet space, not worrying about punctuation or style.

Making A Narrative

Through linguistic analysis Pennebaker’s studies have shown that those people who are able to construct a narrative whilst writing about difficult topics seem to have the best outcomes. If they begin with an unstructured account of events initially, but manage to organize their ideas into a coherent narrative after a few days, they seem to benefit the most. Approaching analysis linguistically is a very powerful tool for researchers. They look for words that signify complex emotional processing, and for the increasing occurrence of such words as writing exercises progress. They observed that words such as the prepositional ‘except’, ‘exclude’ and ‘without’ increase in frequency, along with causal words such as  ‘rationale’ and ‘effect’. Pennebaker believes that these word frequency increases demonstrate that the traumatic events being written about are becoming more manageable for the patient to process.

Changing Viewpoints

Just as we find it useful to change the viewpoint in a piece of creative writing by changing the narrator, so changing the perspective in a piece of healing writing can change the writer’s feelings about an issue. Pennebaker analyzed shifts in pronoun use and found a correlation between this and improved outcomes. He explains, “…one day they may be talking about how they feel and how they see it, but the next day they may talk about what’s going on with others, whether it’s their family or a perpetrator or someone else. Being able to switch back and forth is a very powerful indicator of how they progress.” As creative writers, we know only too well the power of changing perspectives when exploring a storyline or demonstrating how others perceive a character. It is fascinating to hear that the same techniques can be used in therapeutic writing.

Looking Ahead

For some year, art therapy has been a central plank of the therapeutic tool kit. ‘Journaling’ is the new buzzword at present, pioneered by Elizabeth Warson, professor at George Washington University’s art therapy program. Many younger patients enjoy this form of therapy and have benefited from the meld of written and artistic self-expression. Those who are attending residential therapy to recover from substance addiction in Washington State have been particularly encouraged to use this technique, and results have been impressive. But perhaps it is time that focused writing came more to the fore as a therapeutic tool. Writers such as Sylvia Plath and Jeanette Winterson have used the ‘confessional’ style to create beautiful works, perhaps understanding instinctively the power of this technique to heal themselves. Winterson is emphatic in stating that her Whitbread prize-winning first book, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit was a ‘fictionalized’ account of her extraordinary early childhood. In her recently published Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, a parallel non-fictional account of the same period, she discusses this first important work, explicitly stating that fictionalizing her life in Oranges was the only way she managed to survive psychologically.

Pennebaker’s research over a number of years certainly shows the transformative power of writing, and not just for patients. Perhaps we can all make use of his exercises in our everyday life. As the description of Winterson’s book elegantly expresses, it shows “…how fiction and poetry can form a string of guiding lights, a life-raft which supports us when we are sinking.”

Leonid Pasternak writing

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/41/Leonid_Pasternak_001.jpg

Sylvia Plath

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/e4/Sylvia_plath.jpg

‘Journaling’ (Tumblr) unattributed

http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_ll28bp9DEg1qf19p1o1_500.jpg

Pen and script

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0e/Stipula_fountain_pen.jpg/800px-Stipula_fountain_pen.jpg

Why Be Happy…

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-cAw5ad-LUrA/UCKvpdtl_3I/AAAAAAAAEJ8/QV4MMdVkuKg/s1600/why-be-happy-when-you-could-be-normal-jeanette-winterson-book-cover.jpg

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.

Image

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.”

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.

Image

Preying on Your Emotions

The Word is the True Sword!

by Brent Middleton

DOZENS BRUTALLY SLAUGHTERED IN FAILED TRAIN HEIST!

Did that catch your attention and pique your interest? That, my friend, is the power of emotive language. Emotive writing elicits an emotional response. It’s used everywhere, from newspapers to magazines to journals to novels. Advertisements’ main purpose is to excite emotion from their readers, viewers or listeners, and thus pull them in more.

In the example above, the headline could have simply read, “Dozens killed in failed train robbery!” With the inclusion of the word “brutally” and changing “killed” to “slaughtered,” however, the headline instantly emotes a more brutal, tragic feeling.

Newspapers are notorious for using this kind of language to “enhance” stories and attract more readers. In an attempt to catch more viewers and sway opinions, TV news networks have also caught backlash from using emotive language, as opposed to straightforward informative statements. Advertisements use similar methods to entice consumers to buy their products, wielding powerful statements like “Fights plaque buildup,” “Keeps tough grease under control,” and “Relieves back pain.”

Rhetorical language, on the other hand, is language or wording that conveys a certain meaning. Think of rhetorical language like emotive language, but slightly less “underhanded.” Rhetoric is traditionally used to persuade another, regardless of adherence to the truth. Authors and speakers often use rhetoric to persuade readers/listeners to look at a topic from a different point of view.

Some examples of rhetorical devices are:

  • Simile: My car drives as smooth as butter.
  • Metaphor: Daemon is such a parasite.
  • Alliteration: My poor hapless, heaving heart.
  • Assonance: Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.
  • Onomatopoeia: Thwap! Kaboom!

Rhetorical language is much more widely accepted in all mediums than emotive language, but there’s a time and a place for both. Which one do you use the most? Why? Please share your thoughts below!

Denotation, Connotations, and Emotive Responses

What They are and How to Use Them

by Melissa Hathaway

A dictionary is an important resource for writers but it takes more than a definition to understand a word. This study is called semiotics. Semiotics suggests definitions have become associated with the word because of cultural and personal experience.

The terms denotation and connotation separate the accepted definition from other meanings. Denoted meanings can change over time, or vary between cultures. Understanding how different definitions interact to affect the reader enables writers to choose words more effectively.

Denotation

The denoted meaning is a literal definition, but you might think of it as an image associated with the word. The word “house”, for example, might make you think of a child’s drawing, or it could denote something different, depending on whether you live on a farm, in a Manhattan apartment, or in a ger on the Mongolian plain.

Connotation

The connoted meanings of words are additional meanings that we associate with them. Some connotations arise from shared cultural experience and can become widespread, while others are a result of personal experience. Synonymous words can vary dramatically. For instance, the word “house” is relatively neutral, but close synonyms such as home, mansion, and shack can produce strong connotations. The word mansion might arouse feelings of luxury or envy while shack might produce disgust or pity. You have power over your reader’s mind.

Choosing the Right Word

A combination of denotation and connotation can present new meaning. Sometimes, the reason for choosing one word over another will be a slight difference in the denoted meaning, but in other cases, you may want to elicit a particular response from the reader. Don’t try to use unusual synonyms. It’s more effective to use a word with connotative power instead of one that sounds impressive.

Creative Use of Connotations

The importance of connotation is apparent from the difficulty of creating a computer program that can recognize good writing. A computer that could understand the rules of grammar and spelling would not be able to recognize effective writing, even if it were capable of understanding each word’s denoted meaning. Descriptions depend on the response that occurs in the reader’s mind. If you want to explore the connotations associated with a particular word, type it into a search engine and read the associations the word might trigger in a reader. Copywriters use this knowledge to create effective web pages and write adverts that will emotionally impact their target audience. Listen to ads to determine manipulative keywords that hold connotative value. If you want to sell the house you were imagining earlier, describe it as a mansion instead of a shack, and that leads us to emotive language.

Emotive Language

Emotive language produces an emotional response, and often depends on connotations that imply a positive or negative judgment. For example, words that are associated with happiness or virtue produce a different emotional response than those associated with distress or evil.

Even the simplest phrases can convey emotional content when used in the right context. For example, Hemingway’s six-word story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

In conclusion: the dictionary can tell you exactly what a word denotes, but it cannot tell you what feelings and associations the word might invoke when you use it. Learn to produce strong emotional responses and you will become an effective writer.

If you liked this article, be sure to follow our blog here on WordPress! You can also find links for our Facebook and Twitter pages at www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.