Secret Writing Techniques #3 Polysyndeton

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Last week we talked about asyndeton – a method of listing items without using a conjunction for the purpose of showing more by saying less – and the week before was onomotoepia.

Today we will study polysyndeton, which is diametrically opposed to asyndeton. Polysyndeton is the repeated use of conjunctions for the purpose of intensifying the scene, building the excitement and indicating (like asyndeton) an endless and innumerable list.

Our thanks to Word Magic for Writers by Cindy Rogers for this example. This quote comes from Charlotte’s Web where a rat is telling Wilbur the pig, in no uncertain terms, what he expects.

“Struggle if you must,” said Templeton, “but kindly remember that I’m hiding down here in this crate and I don’t want to be stepped on, or kicked in the face, or pummeled, or crushed in any way, or squashed, or buffeted about, or bruised, or lacerated or scarred, or biffed.”

Do you think Templeton made himself clear? And how did he do that? He drove the point home by using the repetitious ‘or.’ You will find a lot of this in children’s books. If you will listen to children talk, they use a lot of polysndeton when they talk:

“Mommy, I want ice cream, and chocolate, and nuts, and whipped cream.”

Do you see how these examples build the scene by intensifying repetition? This is a simple technique, but don’t discount its importance.

P.S. Did you notice this example uses antiquated language? Writing styles are always morphing and wise is the writer who morphs with them. Today’s writer would have written “Templeton said” instead of “said Templeton.”

Assignment:

Write three sentences using ASYNDETON and three more sentences using POLYSYNDETON. Send them to DeborahOwen@CWinst.com. Memorize these words and know what they mean.

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Join the NaNoWriMo Train – It Isn’t too Late!

Breaking Free to Write by Deborah Owen

I’ve been wanting to join NaNo for years but never had the time, so why did I wait for the hardest year of all to do it? Which of the reasons listed below is the answer? Guess.

  1. Not too smart
  2. In a weak moment, I decided to give it a try.
  3. I had no idea what I was getting into.
  4. No coffee to awaken my brain on the day of that dreaded decision.
  5. I wanted to help encourage others through Creative Writing Institute next year.

Which one did you guess? Actually, all of these reasons led me into National Novel Writing Month. In a way, I severely underestimated the daily challenge, but in another sense of the word, writing 1666 words a day doesn’t take all that long. You aren’t supposed to edit as you go – which I always do – so not doing that makes the writing fast.

When I first started writing (back when dinosaurs were first laying their eggs), I determined that I would not start a second story until I finished the first and ditto with novels. It took me ten years to write my first novel and I can’t go against my own rules, so I decided to use NaNo to REwrite the novel.

NaNo doesn’t care what you do as long as you write. You can write 50,000 words in a series of short stories, write a novel, or just make a feeble, puny attempt. They only ask that you WRITE.

I am as guilty as the next writer in putting the muse off until it doesn’t come courting any more. Think of your dating days. What did you do to prepare for courting? You got your act together! You put your life in order and you laid time aside to go courting and be courted. Do that again. Court the muse.

I don’t have a clue about the NaNo site and all the things they offer, but I’m making an effort and enjoying it in spite of myself. If you haven’t started with NaNo this year, it isn’t too late. You have until the last day of November to sign up at http://www.http://nanowrimo.org. It doesn’t matter if you don’t meet your goal, but it DOES matter if you don’t even try.

Let’s make a deal. Try it for one week. Will you at least do that much? I have nothing whatever to gain by your joining NaNo. I’m just trying to help you get the same new vision that I have. It’s exciting! (Did I really say that? Um… I believe I did. I think I’m actually starting to enjoy this. Yeah!!!) Join me!

Huh? You insist on paying me back for this great favor? Okay. Drop in for a ten-second peek at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com and we’ll call it even. Happy NaNoWriMo!

Love’s Thy Genre

by Farheen Gani

An imaginary tale that amused classmates. A prize-winning essay. A funny poem. Isn’t this how we fall in love with writing? The love deepens over time. You start dreaming of publishing your own novel. Until you realize, it’s now or never. That’s how Lisa Carter published her first book.

Mrs. Carter is a Southern romance writer, which by her definition includes hospitality, extended family circles and barbeques. When not chasing her muse, she indulges in quilting, teaching and music. In this interview, she talks about the joys and challenges of writing romance…

  1. Why did you choose romance as the main theme of your writing?

I love the process of two people finding each other against the odds and daring to love each other. I fall in love a little bit with each of my characters as their romance unfolds in my story.

  1. While romance is perceived as an easy genre to write, which is the most difficult part about writing it?

The endings are often hard to craft so that the story will not be clichéd, but fresh and satisfying. There is no surprise in romance—readers understand that in the end these characters will be together. That is essential. But the joy and the surprising twists in the journey it takes the characters to reach, this place is the fun part.

  1. Is there anything you do to get in the mood of writing an intense scene?

Music can transport you to the theme or emotional tone of a scene. I always read the scene I wrote the previous day to get myself back in the moment. Taking a walk or doing something that doesn’t require a great deal of focus like housecleaning also helps the stream of my subconscious to flow.

  1. How do you differentiate your central character’s voice from your own?

There are pieces of me in every character I write—the good, the bad, the ugly. But the lead character has a voice of her own, her own back-story, and experiences that are different from me and how I would react to her current situation.

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4 Easy Steps to Short Story Writing

The Inside Scoop

by Deborah Owen

Every short story has one climactic conflict. This is where you are going to start your story. You might be saying, huh? What about the setting and theme? What about the plot and resolution? All in good time.

Think of action scenes. Action is what makes a story. Without it, you don’t have one. Think of Stephen King’s stories. Someone has a knife and gains entrance through a window. A woman is in the shower, and his intent is not only to murder her, but to slaughter her in the goriest way possible. He sneaks through each room making little noises here and there. He stops. Does she hear him approaching? The whole scene is prolonged, drawing out the suspense as long as possible until he actually does the slaying.

The entire story leads up to that point, and then fades back to let the reader catch his or her breath. Soon, it builds again to a resolution with fever pitch excitement, and finishes with the climax.

Writers have a hard time working up to a climax when they’ve no idea what it is going to be, so you are going to determine that right now. Examples are things like train wrecks, a parent being murdered, a bomb in a school, someone inheriting ten million dollars, etc. Think of six good or bad action scenes before you read on. The more action, the more drama, the better.

Let’s say you think of a man who just inherited a large amount of money. The conflict could be receiving the money, how he spent all of it foolishly, and went back into credit card debt.

Or think of a boy who was brought to the United States for an education by a charity group. The group houses and feeds him throughout his formative years. Graduation day comes. He’s on his way to the ceremony when his car stalls on a train track and he is killed.

Now it’s your turn.

1. Think of an eye-popping conflict, or a gut-wrenching scene. How would it change a character’s life? This scene can be up to 700 words.

After you have written the conflict scene, you will automatically know how many characters are going to be in the story. You should have no more than three main characters, (preferably two), and three secondary characters. Not all of these characters have to be involved in the conflict scene you are writing, but you will know they are coming at some point.

2. Next, it’s time to write the ending scene. How do you want to resolve your conflict? (At this point, these two scenes will not be connected. Keep in mind that you are writing rough drafts – the bare skeleton.)

3. Thirdly, write the beginning of your story to introduce your characters and set the scene.

4. Last, connect the scenes, and edit your story. Yes, it’s really that easy!

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8 Editing Steps to Perfection

Mastering Editing

by Deborah Owen

Creative writers – don’t wait to edit your work until you know every word by heart – learn to edit the easy way. Do you know what to look for in editing? Have you wondered what should stay and what should go? By the time you read this article, you will know the answers to these questions.

  • One of the first things to look for is prepositional phrases. You can identify       prepositions easily. The most common ones are: in, on, at, to, for, under, before.  Prepositional phrases usually tell when or where, such as: “I will meet you in the after life,” or “He told his daughter to go into the house.” You should never have more than three prepositional phrases to a sentence, and preferably only two.
  •  Watch for wordiness, also known as verbiage. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines verbiage as “profusion of words, usually of little or obscure content.” In other words, excess words that say nothing. Cut your sentences until they bleed. Chop your descriptions down to that which relates directly to the scene, and leave nothing but the most necessary meat.
  • It should be unnecessary to mention using the spellchecker, but you would be surprised how many writers fail to use this most valuable tool. However, don’t totally rely on it. If you use the word “right” instead of “write”, or “blew” instead of “blue”, it will not catch the error. To be safe, scan for errors after you use the spellchecker.
  • Look for inappropriate punctuation. Be sure your quotations are closed. Use hyphens and colons properly. Don’t use a semi-colon when a comma will do. Be sure to use commas properly, i.e., to separate two clauses in a compound sentence, between city and state, etc.
  • Check that your order of events is stated properly. Unless you are doing a flashback, you will only confuse the reader if you switch back and forth within a given time frame.
  • Watch for tense changes. If you begin in the past tense, the entire story must be written in the past tense, with one possible exception. The only time you can properly change tenses is in dialogue, and that is because people normally speak in present, past and future tenses.
  • One of the most important parts of editing is dousing all forms of the verb “to be”: is, am, are, was, were, be, being and been. These are “dead” verbs that say nothing. According to Wikipedia, allowed forms are: become, has, have, had, I’ve, you’ve, do, does, doing, did, can, could, will, would, shall, should, ought, may, might and must. The fact that they are allowed, however, does not make them desirable. Get rid of as many of these as possible. They weaken your work.
  • Check every verb in every sentence and see if you can replace it with a jazzy verb. This is the finishing touch that will make your work glow.

So when you edit, watch for these eight things. The end result will be crisp, easy-to-understand writing that is stuffed with meat. What reader can resist that?

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Twist that Ending and Twist it Again

The Art to Twisting an Ending

by Deborah Owen

We all know a surprise ending when we see one, but how do you write it? Read on to find out.

Wikipedia defines a twisted ending as an unexpected conclusion or climax to a work of fiction, which may contain a surprising irony, or cause the audience to review the story from a different perspective by revealing new information about the characters or plot.

In other words, a twisted ending is the conclusive form of plot twists. This literary device is also referred to as a surprise ending.

Alfred Hitchcock was the first master of twisted endings in film. In only 30 minutes, he could develop a plot and mislead the viewer. His technique was something akin to the game of “Clue,” allowing the viewers to draw their own faulty conclusions. This type of twisted ending is called a “red herring.”

In the movie Moby Dick, Captain Ahab spends his life searching for the white whale that bit his leg off. The twist comes when Ahab becomes ensnared in ropes attached to the great white and the whale drags him to his drowning death.

Examples: Let’s suppose a man has murdered a woman and her husband is out to catch the killer. Just as hubby catches the murderer, the police arrive and take the man into custody. How can you twist that ending? There are many ways and none are right or wrong. You have literary license to do as you please, but do follow one rule: satisfy your reader. Here are a few ideas:

1. The husband’s vendetta is to see the killer die, but when the murderer goes to trial, he begs for the death penalty. Now the husband wants him to live a miserable life in prison.

2. Suppose the killer became a Christian and begged the husband to forgive him? Think how that would change the parameters of this case.

3. Suppose the murderer was sentenced to life without parole? The husband of the dead woman is delighted with the verdict, but an inmate kills the murderer on the first day in prison. Oops.

4. Or… the killer could escape from the courtroom, dash into the street and be hit by a semi.

5. The judge sentences the man to death. The dead woman’s husband is happy, but his grief drives him to his knees and he becomes a Christian. He changes his mind about wanting the killer to die and instead, leads a campaign for a stay of execution.

The best ending is when you twist the ending, and then twist it again. For example, let’s make this murderer a really evil man. In prison, he killed two people but wasn’t caught in the act. Eventually, he gets paroled and is promptly hit by a car. The reader thinks justice has been served… but the man doesn’t die. He’s paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of his life.

The secret to twisting an ending is finding the point where you can veer off to an alternative resolution. Exactly what you do with it from that point is up to you.

Your turn. Think of a scene and how you can twist the ending and share it with us.

And don’t forget to head over to www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com and check out our privately tutored writing courses. Sign up for monthly writing tips at http://www.cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

What is Speculative Fiction?

An Awesome New Look at Traditional Fiction

by Victoria Pakizer

Speculative fiction contains every awesome genre of entertainment available. It is fantasy, horror, science fiction, different realities, alternative history, superhero fiction, utopias (a wonderful society), dystopias (a terrible society), steampunk (updates of Victorian era), cuberpunk (where virtual reality and true reality are difficult to separate), magical realism, fairy tales, etc. or a mixture of any of the above. The easiest way to summarize speculative fiction is: any story that takes place in a reality that is different from our own.

These movies, shows, and books are examples of speculative fiction: The Matrix, Dawn of the Dead, Dollhouse, Clockwork Angel, Smallville, The Sixth Sense, Brave New World, Shiver, and The Lord of the Rings.

One major component of speculative fiction is science fiction. If you read a story about aliens, alternative universes, advanced technologies, futuristic settings, time travel, or something similar, you’re reading a science fiction novel. Science fiction deals with the more plausible side of make-believe. As the saying goes, science fiction may not be fiction forever. Examples of this are Star Trek, Back to the Future, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Firefly.

Another genre included in speculative fiction is paranormal/horror. This genre is stuffed with creatures you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley, such as ghosts, vampires, serial killers, demons, and zombies. When people think of horror, they usually think about a group of teenagers with an IQ below 30 getting lost in the woods, chased by a cannibalistic family, and death scenes that involve blood, guts, and gore. While that certainly counts as horror/paranormal, so do stories that involve werewolves, such as Teen Wolf, or ghosts like Hamlet. Other examples of horror/supernatural are Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dracula, and Silent Hill.

Speculative fiction also includes fantasy. Some elements of fantasy are dragons, wizards, elves, King Arthur, and Zeus. Fantasy usually has a “medieval” feel to it and may envelop myths and legends, but “urban fantasy” can take place in a realistic setting like New York City. A Song of Fire and Ice, Merlin, and Enchanted are all examples of fantasy.

So, if we have science fiction, horror, and fantasy as separate genres, why do we need speculative fiction? We need it for TV shows like Supernatural, a story about two brothers who hunt monsters. We assume the show is mostly horror/paranormal, but it features demons who create alternative dimensions, angels who travel through time, and ghosts who cause fairy tales to come to life.

Supernatural has horror creatures comprising both science fiction and fantasy elements, and that’s where speculative fiction enters. Whenever a work involves more than one genre, you can call it speculative fiction.

There’s an unspoken rule in creative writing that states don’t mix genres. For example, if you’re writing a science fiction novel, it’s best to stay away from fantasy elements. It could be jarring if, in the middle of Star Wars, Lancelot showed up riding a dragon to save the day, but we’re finding more and more authors who are smudging the dividing line between genres.

The TV show Angel features a vampire who travels to alternative dimensions on occasion. Thor is a stereotypical superhero movie that relies heavily on Norse mythology. Mixing genres can result in magic.

Authors who don’t understand speculative fiction may find themselves stuck in a box, afraid to let Athena fight zombies, but speculative fiction says – why not?

If you’re a good enough writer, you can write about aliens meeting King Arthur. Writers are trained not to break the rules, but with the genre of speculative fiction, feel free to do so. This genre opens countless creative options! Good luck and have fun breaking the rules.

Have any crazy ideas for Speculative Fiction? Let us know in the comments below! Also, don’t forget to go to the www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com to find out more about our creative writing courses!