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Monday, December 28, 2015

Week 52: Develop Your Persona to Be the Person You Aspire to Be

Many writers, especially newer ones, wonder about ‘voice’—what it is and how to develop it. This chapter gives some insight on that and how our writing not only impacts us, but how we impact our writing.
Wilbers says, “Writing is power. When you write, you assert your concerns, your values, your point of view. … With this power comes both responsibility and freedom.”1
He talks about the assumed identities the ancients called personas. We know it as an avatar, an image of what we want people to think—it might be a close approximation or a gross distortion, but either way, it’s not the real thing.
“Just as your choice of images is key to your persona, your choice of words determines your persona or the impression you create in your reader’s mind. … Natural word choice goes beyond language and techniques of style. Natural word choice shapes the reader’s impression of who you are as a person. … Your word choice should be intentional not accidental … should serve a purpose.”2
We impact our writing, but our writing also impacts us. Our writing journey is an opportunity for self-exploration. Through experimenting with language, styles and techniques that work for us, we can discover who we really are. But what about who you would like to be?
John Steinbeck said this: “I instinctively recognized an opportunity to transcend some of my personal failings—things about myself I didn’t particularly like and wanted to change but didn’t know how.”
I love this insight from Wilbers in writing behind the persona: “Whatever your choice [of persona], I urge you to be a complete person. Reveal not only your thoughts, but also your feelings. Share your insights and humor. Be playful. Write with heart. Above all, be genuine.”
And from Stephen King: “Honesty in story-telling makes up for a great many stylistic faults…”3
Revise the following using your own voice, making them less stilted.
1.            I am making an attempt to make an improvement in my writing.
2.            Please apprise me of what transpired at the meeting.
3.            We need to fabricate a dike around this building utilizing these sandbags.
4.            Such conditions impede progress in finding a resolution to said problems.

5.            Our team leader deems it imperative that we conduct ourselves ethically.

1. Wilbers, Stephen, Mastering the Craft of Writing, pg 290
2. Wilbers, Stephen, Mastering the Craft of Writing, pg 291
3. Wilbers, Stephen, Mastering the Craft of Writing, pg 293
4. Wilbers, Stephen, Mastering the Craft of Writing, pg293

Monday, December 21, 2015

Week 51: Eloquence and Grace

Go Beyond Clarity to Eloquence and Grace
by Tamara Passey

Meet my friends, Eloquence and Grace. They've worked hard all year to learn the steps to the dance they need to perform. They've learned periodic sentences, the long-short combo, using an appropriate level of formality. They've covered modifiers, strong verbs, active voice and they've expanded their sentence repertoire. They've mastered metaphors and similes and have avoided cliches (like the plague.) And so much more.  They can dance with clarity. But now is the time to showcase their talent with eloquence and grace.

When you watch a couple like this on the dance floor, do you see power, refinement, and dignity? Can you sense the authority with which they convey the message of their art?

If we want to create beauty through language and share our message with power and refinement, we have to know the rules, understand how to put words on the page, and allow our writing style to shine through.

Here's a few more thoughts on eloquence and grace:

"Elegance cannot be forced. It cannot be purchased and slipped into like fine clothes. Writing with elegance comes naturally and gradually. It comes from making the right assumptions about language and from following certain principles of writing." 1

"Elegance need not be complicated. It can be as simple as E.B. White's sentence in The Elements of Style: "These [questions of style] are high mysteries, and this chapter is a mystery story, thinly disguised." A simple shift in word order destroys the effect of that sentence: "These are high mysteries, and this chapter is a thinly disguised mystery story." Without the grace notes at the end of the sentence, it becomes ordinary." 2

"Elegance depends more on sound than content. Elegance requires a precise, robust vocabulary. It also requires an ear for language and attention to the cadence, rhythm, and flow of sentence structure."

"More than two centuries ago Samuel Johnson, described the most desirable English style as "familiar but not coarse, elegant but not ostentatious." My, how times don't change." 3

1. Mastering The Craft, Wilbers, p. 286
2. Mastering The Craft, Wilbers, p. 286
3. Mastering The Craft, Wilbers, p 287

Monday, December 14, 2015

WEEK 50: Know Your Options For Comic Effect

Humor is serious Valerie Ipson

So much can be said about humor and its value not just to comedic writing, but to ALL writing. 

Wilbers says it this way, " tell a joke is to declare your humanity... To appeal to another person's sense of humor is to affirm a common bond."1 And, "Humor reduces the distance between writer and reader (and between speaker and listener)."2 

Even the writer of drama should employ a bit of humor here and there, not only to give the reader or audience a break, but to offer insights about the realities of life that can best be understand through comedy. Maybe kind of like, 'I can either laugh or cry, and laughing's more fun,' when faced with difficulties in our lives. 

In chapter 50 of Mastering the Craft, ten types (tropes) of humor are discussed. You're probably already using many of them without realizing it... paradox, situational irony, sarcasm, overstatement, wit...pick something new and try it in your current manuscript!

Mastering the Craft, p 278
Mastering the Craft, p 279

Monday, December 7, 2015

Week 49: Add a Light-Hearted Touch to Your Writing

This week's chapter is pretty self-explanatory. 

Wilbers says, "Humor is a matter of perspective..." - oh don't I know this. My husband and I do not share similar senses of humor. I'm pretty funny, but I'm also the only one usually laughing at my jokes. And I think word plays or errors are generally hilarious. Like these things that cracked me up in NYC (just please forgive my obvious lack of photography skills):

Look for writing that elicits a 
chuckle from you and then try to 
imitate it. A juxtaposition or 
something unexpected. (like this 
behemoth of a sandwich): 

Wilbers continues his thoughts on humor saying it is, "a bemused awareness of the incongruous, illogical, and sometimes absurd dimensions of our existence. It's also a matter of timing, technique, and detail." I'm a huge fan of both Sarah M. Eden and Janette Rallison's writing because each seems to effortlessly create such scenarios. 

Wilbers offers a paragraph from Kay Redfield Jamison's An Unquiet Mind.

"I decided early in graduate school that I needed to do something about my moods. It quickly came down to a choice between seeing a psychiatrist or buying a horse. Since almost everyone I knew was seeing a psychiatrist, and since I had absolute belief that I should be able to handle my own problems, I naturally bought a horse. Not just any horse, but an unrelentingly stubborn and blindingly neurotic one, a sort of equine Woody Allen, but without the entertainment value."1

The incongruity between "seeing a psychiatrist or buying a horse" lends to the comic effect. 

So this week in your writing, throw in something unexpected for comic relief.

1 Wilbers, Stephen,  Mastering the Craft of Writing, pg 274.