Muse Musings

feed museJPGWhether you believe there were 9 original muses—the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne—or 3 Muses, the fact remains that there exists a few lesser known Muses. You’ve probably encountered one or two of these stealth Muses because they love tormenting….uh, inspiring writers.

So forget trying to invoke Calliope, Clio, Euterpe, Erato, Melpomene, Polyhymna, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania with the usual Muse summons, “Oh Muses, Sing to me” or “O Muses, O high genius, aid me now!” or coffee and pastries. Not happening—just try imagining their name on a Starbucks cup. Anyway, those Muses are busy taking selfies, writing memoirs—My Big Fat Greek Adventure and Fifty Shades of Zeus—and hobnobbing with Hollywood producers.

The real Muses—the everyday Muses for the rest of us—keep a low profile.

museHere’s a list of the Muses you probably are familiar with.

Sarcastic Muse: “I’m certain your banal character will garner lots of sympathy.” “Another calorie-laden mocha will definitely help you meet your deadline.” “Oh sure, resort to that ol’ trope.” “Of course you will figure out that plot flaw by the end of the chapter.” Cough cough. This Muse toughens us up, smacks us around—and we like it! Sarcastic Muse challenges writers by helping us hone our craft.

Nodding Off Muse: She comes—this specter of creativity—to fill our minds with characters and story lines and dialog and descriptions compelling writers to leap from their bed and jot down the best ideas ever…but wait, come back, the moment you flick on the light she vanishes into the shadows.

Dream Muse: Evil twin of Nodding Off Muse, she fills a writer’s head with wonderful plots, captivating intrigues, and evocative scenes only of which a few can be remembered in the morning.

Psycho Muse: She’ll whisper “This is fabulous paragraph—luscious with description  revealing the character’s pain” one minute only to murmur “Overwritten, tragically overwritten—why are you hitting your reader over the head with a wordy 2 by 4?” Psycho Muse helps writers reconsider and evaluate their literary techniques with an eye toward the reader. She might also be the cause of a writer’s descent into madness. Take Psycho Muse with a grain of salt and sprinkling of sugar. ( I treat my Psycho Muse to a salted caramel ice cream cone when she visits.)

Driving Muse: She comes up with the best, most amazing solutions to your plot flaws and provides riveting dialog while you are driving. The trick is to thank her profusely and repeat her brilliance until you can write it down or find the record feature on your phone.

Guilty Muse: “You really should be [ insert chore here] .” I know, you respond, but the words are flowing, the hubby and kiddos can forage for their own food. “Your friends haven’t seen you in a while.” But, I’m almost done, true friends understand. Guilty Muse helps balance our time ( “Fat Chance,” laughs Sarcastic Muse ) and urges us to complete tasks other than writing obsessively during the day–even if it’s as simple as texting hubby Get Toilet Paper on the way home.  Ever the practical one, Guilty Muse suggests rewriting a sentence in your head while tossing in the next load of laundry.

Which Muses visit YOU while writing?

Related Links: Readin’ & Writin’

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Family Bonding & Life Skills

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paintingAs a mom to four grown children, I found that there were a few tasks—important tasks– I neglected to teach them before sending them into the cold cruel world. Why is that, you ask?

Moms and dads are busy. It’s often easier and faster for parents to do a task ourselves than taking the time to teach our children. So for some real family bonding time, grab your kiddo and show them how to do all those little tasks that are required in the adult world.

Warning: Princes and princesses can skip this blog. These following tasks can be handled by one of your minions.

Useful everyday skills pre-adults should learn:

  • Cook something. Pasta, scrambled eggs, steak, their favorite meal, something! Fast food is expensive and most young adults struggle financially. My oldest three can cook almost anything, the youngest never learned.
  • Bake a cake. Either from box or scratch. One of my fondest mommy moments was when my daughter made me a birthday cake.
  • Clear a jammed or stuck garbage disposal. ( Goes with learning to cook ). One twist of that wee L-shaped doodad ( allen wrench) solves the problem.
  • Understand basic cooking terminology. Sear, caramelize, reduce, baste, marinate, saute, simmer, mince, knead, etc. Oh, can someone puleeze teach my hubby?
  • Wash clothes and remove basic stains ( like grease, grass, blood, or red wine). My children have been doing their own laundry since middle school. A real sanity saver. Of course, don’t forget to add the Full Load rule. “No, you cannot wash one pair of jeans unless you’re paying the water bill.”
  • Iron a shirt—spray starch optional.
  • Sew on a button.
  • Hem pants/skirt. Granted, some fabrics or styles require an expert but knowing the basics is a money-saving skill.
  • Write a thank you and condolence letter.
  • Locate the shut off valves both inside and outside the house. Knowing about the valve on the wall at the bottom of the toilet might help future overflow problems.
  • Replace the toilet flange and other parts. When the kids’ toilet broke, I bought a basic toilet repair kit, tossed it to my 16-yr old and said, “fix it.” An hour later, he had replaced all the tank’s insides and strode around the house saying, “I. Am. Plumber!”
  • Change the heating and air conditioning filter.
  • Pump gas, replace windshield wiper fluid /wiper blades, check tire pressure/oil.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Grow/plant something. Herbs, vegetables,flowers—no, not marijuana.
  • Prune a bush and tree.
  • Paint a room and all that goes with it. Brushes, rollers, taping, paint types, and clean-up.
  • Patch a wall. Because everyone like to get their renter’s deposit back!
  • Change a fuse.
  • Reset the circuit breaker.
  • Make an appointment on the phone.
  • Tip. Smart phones make it easy to calculate.
  • Assemble something—because ‘some assembly required’ demands patience and practice. Second son never had to assemble anything until 1st son moved out. After purchasing 2 pieces of ‘some assembly required’ furniture, I left the boxes with 2nd son and walked away. If you can read, you can follow directions, right? A few trips to the garage for tools and a “What if I have leftover parts?” question later, I had a bookcase and an end table. ( Yes, they are still standing.)
  • Clean an oven, sink, toilet.
  • Polish shoes. Two words: Job interview
  • Start/build a fire in the fireplace or fire pit.

I’m sure I left out a few tasks, so feel free to comment so I can include them!

Related Posts: Mom Musings & Hubby Funnies

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Characterization

CharacterizationCharacterization 101: Writers have quite an arsenal of ways for conveying a character’s personality. Whether overt or subtle, the savvy reader knows that characters are brought to life only if the writer has effectively done their job.

So how does a writer portray personality?

Fictional names act subliminally on readers. Is the name:
  • symbolic?
  • metaphoric?
  • ironic?
  • androgynous? Why does an author assign a name like Lee, Pat, Kelly, or Chris ?
  • cliché or stereotype?
  • See character names for examples and an in-depth explanation.
Physical descriptions may convey personality as well.
  • Exposition style biographical summaries—aka “telling”— are found in older fiction.
  • Body type, hair, and eye color can be conveyed gradually by “telling” or with action and/or dialog. “I’m not fooled by her baby blues.”
  • Modern authors use synecdoche— one part standing in for the whole. For example nails that are chewed may indicate a nervous personality
  • Clothes are often indicators of character, class, & lifestyle. Your character’s driving a dented, rusty economy car while dressed in knock-off Christian Louboutins and holding a fake Louis Vuitton handbag may indicate a female with high aspirations and/or a  concern with appearances. Flashy jewels and clothes usually indicate an attention-seeking personality.
  • See character descriptions for more.
A character’s dialog conveys personality. It often reveals:
  • level of education
  • ethnicity
  • geographic location
  • predominant attitudes
  • maturity level
  • biases and/pr prejudices
  • relationship status
  • respect or disrespect for other characters
  • their need for understanding. For example, are they overly wordy or pithy?
  • cognitive level. Do they ask a lot of open-ended questions?
  • What, why, and how the other character’s respond ( or not) is also relevant.
  • Let’s not forget internal dialog–-those thoughts not spoken but which are frequent in a 1st person or limited 3rd person point of view
Actions often speak louder than words. The saying “it’s not what you say but what you do” is just as important in literature. Actions reveal:
  • feelings
  • intentions
  • gut reactions
  • or they may also disguise feelings and intentions

Writers may enlist all these character builders or employ only one or two. For example, Boo Radley in To Kill A Mockingbird never speaks and his physical description is given at the end of the novel, and yet Boo is made real from other’s dialog and his heroic actions.

Have fun creating your characters!

Related links: Readin’ & Writin‘, Rock Your Writing

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Mel Brooks Writing Academy

mel brooksMel Brooks taught me everything I know about writing. Nah, not really, BUT his films do provide writers with great tips.

And here they are:

1. There are more synonyms for words than are listed in the thesaurus. I counted 29 for worst dregs. Think outside the thesaurus box.

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2. Work with the research or information you have. Improvise!

3. Allusions add depth and complexity—or fun. In this scene from SpaceBalls ( which is a parody of StarWars), we see shades of Alien mixed with the Looney Tunes singing frog cartoon.

4. Study the greats! Learn from them.

5. “Walk this way!” Mel Brooks shows us–so must writers. How a character walks indicates their mood and/or personality.The website Daily Writing Tips provides 60 synonyms.

6. Sometimes ‘very’ works very well.

High Anxiety3, the Institute

 

 

 

 

 

7. Motifs ( a word, statement, object, action repeated 3 times or more ) can reveal character, theme, or plot.

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8. Past. Past Perfect. Present. Then. Now. It’s easy for writers to lose their way in the Tense Jungle. Note: This is one of my favorite Mel Brooks scenes.

9. Opening lines and pages are important. They reveal tone and mood. Craft them for maximum impact.

10. You needn’t be so literal all the time.


11. Dialog can be tricky.

My apologies if this post makes you want to take a break from writing to watch your favorite Mel Brooks movie.

Related links: Readin’ & Writin’

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The Sight of Typos

sight of typosChanneling Weird Al Yankovic!  

A few blogs ago, I posted Tunefully Yours, a collection of writer-modified opening lines to a few famous songs.

So in the spirit of that blog, here are the complete lyrics to the ol’ writing favorite  “Sight of Typos.” Sing this to Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.”

Hello typos, my old friend,
I’ve come to correct you once again,
Because the words softly creeping,
Left a plot across the page sleeping,
But the story vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
despite the sight of typos.

In restless revisions I edit alone
Tighten grammar set in stone,
in front of the halo of LCD,
I tapped my fingers on the plastic keys
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a misused word
That split the prose
And revealed the sight of typos.

And in the twitter light I saw
Ten thousand writers, maybe more.
Writers talking without speaking,
Writers hearing without listening,
Writers typing novels that bookworms never read
and never shall
because of the plethora of typos.

“Fools,” said I, “You do not know –
Typos in a manuscript grow.
Hear my words that I might teach you.
Read my blog that I might show you.”
But my warnings like homonyms sound
And echoed in the manuscript rife with typos.

And the writers rewrote and prayed
To the publishing gods they made.
And the red squiggles flashed out its warning
In the sentences that they were forming.
And the sign said, the novels of authors are written in Microsoft Word
And Scrivener
And  obsessively corrected during the sight of typos.

Hope it doesn’t get stuck in your head!

Related Links: Readin’ & Writin’ 

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