Using Lyric Techniques in Your Writing, Part Three

This week we’ll examine more techniques of making meaningful sound on the page to carry emotion and momentum. Onomatopoeia The term onomatopoeia comes from the Greek for “word-making.” It means the employment of one or more words to imitate, echo, or suggest the sound of the thing or action described. Such words include “bang”, “click”, … Continue reading

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Using Lyric Techniques in Your Writing, Part Two

Remember Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven“? Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. `’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, `tapping at … Continue reading

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Using Lyric Techniques in Your Writing, Part One

An essential element for good writing is a good ear: one must listen to the sound of one’s prose. — Barbara Tuchman Sound itself… is surely a signifier of mood, and thus of message… –Mary Oliver Paying attention to the music in our poetry and prose helps us build the emotional content and meaning of … Continue reading

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The Craft of Fiction, Part Nine

What is tone? It can seem a hard element to isolate, but we definitely know it when we read it. Compare these two descriptions of the same event: The protest erupted into violence today as police attempted to keep the entrance to the building secure. When they reached the building, the police unleashed their forces … Continue reading

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The Craft of Fiction, Part Eight

What is a subplot? It is a smaller story inside a larger story and it illuminates the life, times, personalities, themes and issues of the main characters, often by introducing peripheral characters and events. In novels (and in films) subplots are typically the place that readers make their identification with the main character. Writing in … Continue reading

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The Craft of Fiction, Part Seven

Francois Camoin writes in “The Textures of Fiction,” a contribution to Words Overflown by Stars, edited by David Jauss, that fiction is: little bits of action to keep us turning the page, to keep us moving through the landscape that is the point of the enterprise. The events and characters exist for the sake of … Continue reading

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The Craft of Fiction, Part Six

In real life, spoken language together with body language carries mountains of information and, like many if not most writers, you may find it difficult to convey the richness of this in prose. But you have already started writing dialog by doing writers Adrienne Harun and Midge Raymond’s exercises on character development in last week’s … Continue reading

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The Craft of Fiction, Part Five

As humans, we are wired for empathy and vicarious living, so we easily put ourselves into stories if we can identify with what the characters are going through in the emotional and physical situations they encounter. Whether we are reading about war heroes who perform godlike acts and save hundreds of people or the girl … Continue reading

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The Craft of Fiction, Part Four

Who is telling the story you are writing? It’s an important choice because it dictates what kind of information the narrator knows, and it reveals the window through which you must tell your story to your readers. Will your story be told in the first person? For instance: I had a little lamb, who followed … Continue reading

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The Craft of Fiction Writing, Part Three

Last week we worked on getting to know your protagonist and understanding the necessity of creating a fictional dream for readers. The week before we worked on narrative line and time frame. Now, we’ll turn to developing plot and arc of story. If you are writing a story, you may certainly keep pumping out the … Continue reading

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The Craft of Fiction, Part Two

Last week we explored story ideas and ways to develop them by establishing a narrative line and a time frame. This week we are going to think about the story’s protagonist, his or her nature, dilemmas and settings. In following weeks, we’ll focus on plot, story arc, dialog, tone, and further character development. Whether you … Continue reading

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The Craft of Fiction, Part One

Whether you are talking about short stories by Raymond Carver, novels by Barbara Kingsolver, or sudden fiction by Bruce Holland Rogers, you are reading stories that sprang from the imagination of the authors. Although the stories may in some way reflect events, characters and settings in the lives of the writers, the story elements are … Continue reading

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On Sue William Silverman’s Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir

Memoirist Sue William Silverman’s guide for memoir writing is hot off the press this month. Fearless Confessions is immensely useful and absorbing. Its tone is warm, patient, helpful and reassuring, and it is itself an example of its lessons — it reads like a memoir about writing memoir and is quite playful as it goes … Continue reading

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A Personal Essay Waiting to Be Written

Our new President is a writer, which focuses national attention on trusting in the power of words. It helps those of us who write from personal experience re-invest in the importance of what we do as we write, hoping to contribute our part in the song of human experience. Newly sworn in, President Obama ended … Continue reading

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How to Overcome Writing Procrastination

This week I got a note from a student who said she was looking forward to taking my advice about writing more this year if she could only figure out how to stop working 60 hours a week. I had another student who took a month off work to write important application essays for graduate … Continue reading

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A Writing Lesson from the Journaling Ideas of Author David Mas Masumoto

This time of year we cope with a lot of activity. Social engagements and gift shopping, worrying about how to spread a gift buying budget around and the need to travel distances or entertain out-of-town family sweep away our writing time. Sometimes, our very sense of ourselves as writers disappears. Ironically, this very same time … Continue reading

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Collect Tidbits, Meditations and Musings

In this exercise, we are going to build an essay, piece of fiction or a poem with inspiration from fiction writers Ron Carlson and Lisa Shea and poet Bill Matthews. You’ll start, without knowing where this might lead, by imitating the style, grammar and strategies these writers used in the journal excerpts they contributed to … Continue reading

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Sudden Writing

One way to tackle subjects you may not feel up to handling is to learn from the strategies of writers who tell stories and/or evoke issues through the use of dialog alone. Their stories are often very short, striking the heart swiftly. The work does not require a lot of set up or description. Instead, … Continue reading

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What Your Furniture Tells You

The following exercise presented by Writing It Real in Port Townsend Writer’s Conference faculty member Susan Rich is from a poetry-writing workshop she presented at our 2007 writers’ conference. We publish it this week as a finale to our celebration of National Poetry Month. We hope you’ll email us your results from this exercise and … Continue reading

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Meg Files and the Poetry of Home

This week, in honor of National Poetry Month, we are proud to share an article by Writing It Real in Port Townsend Writers’ Conference faculty member Meg Files I have lived in three countries, in eight states, in fifteen cities, and on one island. I have lived in nine apartments, one duplex, one condo, and … Continue reading

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