Tag Archives: rock your writing

Writing & Chocolate Chip Cookies

cookiesWriting is a lot like making chocolate chip cookies. OK, I’ll admit this blog comes after fighting off a craving—and losing—to the allure of the confection, but the similarities are sweet!

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour is like the plot of a novel, the basic element in any delicious tale.
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda is a leavening agent of skill and craft waiting to expand your draft batter when it’s time to turn on the revision heat.
  • 1 teaspoon salt is akin to the salt of your brow as you labor over your creation.
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened. Like real butter, well-chosen words make a better novel and discriminating readers will taste the difference when substitutes are used.
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar. Without sweet conflict a writer has no story. And like the iconic chocolate chip cookies several kinds add depth and complexity to its sweetness, be it the…
  • 3/4 cup packed white refined sugar of man vs man or the psychologically tormented  man vs self.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Great novels have an extra uumph to them—infused with the undetectable something special. Imitation zing doesn’t work—dig deep for the real thing.
  • 2 large eggs. Walkin’ on thematic eggshells does a writer no good. They must crack their creativity wide open to scramble a reader’s prosaic ideals while incorporating them into the story.
  • 2 cups chocolate chips. With just the right amount of narrative hooks, the story will melt in a reader’s mouth, leaving them eager for another bite and turn another page.
  • 1 cup chopped nuts and other optional mix-ins are odd characters that add flavor and zing your novel.

PREHEAT oven to 375° F. Revisions are in your future—don’t become attached to any single sentence.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Writer’s Baking Instructions:

COMBINE plot, craft, and sweat over computer keyboard. Beat words, conflict,  more conflict, and that something special in your brain until ideas are combined. Add themes, one at a time, rewriting & fine tuning well after each addition. Gradually beat in plot mixture. Stir in narrative hooks and optional symbols, motifs, allusions. Drop by rounded sentences and paragraphs onto pages and chapters.

Write & rewrite & edit until story is done—whether you like it moist and chewy, burnt, hard, or slightly raw. In writing time this can take anywhere from 2 months to 10 years. Cool completed novel for several weeks before moving manuscript to the query-agent racks.

Have fun cookin’ up your novel!

Related Links:  Rock Your  WritingSymbolism & more symbols;
Click  Amazon link for novels.

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Writing & Ethnic food

novel foodAs Hubby and I were deciding
which local restaurant to visit, I remarked that novels and ethnic food have much in common.

Warning: To all those who will tell me that healthy versions or alternatives of these foods can be made in my kitchen—you missed the point.

Italian: A carb and cheese-laden indulgence, this comfort food is like a favorite dog-eared novel in our library. Its familiar themes and characters our treasured friends—good for devouring during rainy days or when we need to relive our delight of the initial reading.

Greek: Flavorful food that harkens back to simpler days when stoic philosophers nibbled upon olives and charmed us with tales of Homeric heroes. Within the pages of these novels lay a honeyed treat of lusty gods and duex ex machina endings where themes of honor and destiny are ripe for the chewing.

Latin: A little hot, a whole lot of exotic flavors, this food brings out the magical realism found in many novels. Spicy sexual conquests, sour inequities, and sweet victories provide a decadent mouthful of themes, symbols, and metaphors from our favorite—and often—Latino authors.

Indian: A spicy hot mixture of tales that are often filled with gender and class discrimination, the novels curry favor by  providing readers a taste of the exotic and the forbidden in our lives.

Japanese: Like the trendy cool Sushi bars offering everything from humble udon soup to the showy Fuji Volcano to the sushi-for-beginner’s California Roll these stories offer a blend of culturally nuanced symbols and metaphors for readers to explore and discover. Be it the raw themes of the human condition or ‘tempuring’ root concepts with an appetizing coating, these  novels can be enjoyed by novice and expert literati alike.

Chinese: Delectable, savory, and less-filling books to be shared with friends. Whether  sweet or sour these tales pack a kung pow punch with a deceptively vague but fortunate message at the end.

Middle Eastern: If they can make a delicious salad from parsley–considered a garnish to prosaic eaters–imagine the wonders found in novels where a humble symbol is elevated to reveal a universal truth, where kebabs of meaty plots are skewered with ancient dogmas to sear flavorful wisdom into your soul.

American fast food: Salty goodness between two buns—um…you know you shouldn’t read it—it’s bad for you—won’t stretch your mind and will only stretch your thighs—and yet once in awhile we must indulge in a novel with little literary merit. Oh! And as you lick salt from your fingers you say ‘That novel  was delicious!’

Hungry yet?

Related Links:  Rock Your  WritingSymbolism & more symbols;
Click  Amazon link for novels.

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Windows & doors & stairs, oh my!


Every man’s home is his castle! It’s also full of symbolism.

The roof over your head, the window you gaze through, the threshold you walk across— all these structural features can be used symbolically in literature.

  • let in the light of knowledge/understanding
  • allow the character to view the outside world–which may or may not be a good thing. In The House on Mango Street, poor immigrant wives sit by the window staring out into a world they are never able to participate in.
  • with dirty glass might indicate the observer’s foul view of the world.
  • with always-closed drapes might reveal a characters’ closed-mindedness or fear of the outside world.
  • are the eyes of the soul—traditionally speaking.
  • of stained glass—especially those with religious  iconography—shout RELIGION. The observer sees the world through the dogma of their religion.
doors: A symbolic powerhouse!
  • represent the divide between good and evil.
  • transition from one stage in life to another.
  • a divide between one world and another.
  • with a religious symbol or object portray reveal the occupant’s beliefs. For example a mezuzah—a scroll with Hebrew words to remind one of God’s presence and commandments–is specifically placed on the doorpost of Jewish homes.
  • with locks suggest secrets and forbidden places/worlds/experiences.
  • Note: to hear the knocking—especially if comes from a door knocker—is a sign that fate is headed one’s way. Should you hear, “…some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. “’Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—Only this and nothing more.”–you know something ‘Poe-etically–‘ creepy is about to happen. In Macbeth, the drunken porter—making the first knock-knock jokes—signals the fateful demise of the overly ambitious Macbeths. “Knock, Knock! Never at quiet. What are you? But this place is too cold for hell. I’ll devil-porter it no further.”
  • a divine or religious entrance into another state of being
  • rebirth
  • a metaphysical time-space threshold
  • strength
  • division or barrier
  • privacy
  • the earthy realm
  • being grounded in reality
  • the material of the floor may also be symbolic. Is its marble ( wealth ) or rustic wood ( humility ), or linoleum ( low income ). Does the floor’s pattern reveal something about the culture or social class of the characters?
  • sheltering
  • keeps evil out
  • the shape of the roof is suggestive, as well. Domed roofs are emblematic of heaven, low roofs suggest restriction or being hemmed in by dogmas, vaulting roofs might be metaphor for high-mindedness or lofty ideals.
  • a transitional location
  • the place of choice before deciding which symbolic door you will enter
stairs: I know, I know, you’re breaking out in Led Zeppelins Stairway to Heaven song
  • which one ascend lead to heaven or enlightenment
  • which one descends end in depravity, wickedness, evil or  madness
  • that are winding indicates mystery–one can’t see straight ahead
  • In Effi Briest the stairs in the young wife’s home are described as “crooked, rickety, and dark” which aptly describes her feelings, the house’s history, and her marriage.
  • the domain ( traditionally ) of women
  • maternal care taking, be it with food, spiritual, or motherly nourishment
  • most obvious place to use a knife—ahem
living room/drawing rooms:
  • place where proper social behavior was expected
  • location of one’s public persona
  • outward appearances
  • love
  • lust
  • one’s true self might be revealed here
  • the location synonymous with learning, knowledge, and education
  • a place where ancient wisdom or secrets are revealed
  • where memories remain tucked away
  • a place of half-remembered or forgotten truths
  • where relics of the family’s or ancestor’s past are hidden
  • your deepest darkest secrets
  • the underworld or lower realms
  • creepy or base desires

Have fun deciding which rooms to use in your novel!

Related Links:  Rock Your  WritingSymbolism & more symbols;
Click  Amazon link for novels.

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Symbolic Geometry

shapes1Circles and squares and triangles and stars, oh my! No, this is not a post about your sugariffic breakfast cereal but about the symbolic—often esoteric—power of shapes. Before man carved pictographs and told the Gods’ tales in cuneiform, the meanings of shapes denoted meanings and were imbued with mystical power.

The following is a blog-quick look at a few common shapes.

  • universal symbol of completeness and perfection
  • God
  • the sphere of Heaven
  • circle of life
  • movements of the stars and heavens
  • Hindus and Buddhists associate it with birth, death, and rebirth
  • Wheel of law in Buddhism
  • A round table ( early management style first practiced by the legendary King Arthur ) denotes equality—all stakeholders having an equal share in solving a problem
  • Dante saw Hell as a series of concentric circles
  • A ring denotes a pledge or promise
  • a sphere represents the spiritual aspect of Heaven/Universe, which is why domes top many religious buildings
  • spirals are symbolic of energy
  • spirals drawn in a woman’s womb indicate fertility
  • the helix is also a fertility symbol and the double helix has become the visual representation of DNA—guess those ancients were on to something
Triangles—associated with the number 3
  • beginning, middle, and end
  • trinities of gods
  • body, soul, and spirit
  • man, woman, and child
  • an upward-pointing equilateral triage represents the male organ
  • fire
  • a down-ward pointing triangle is the symbol for a woman or her womanly parts
  • water
  • the base of a pyramid represents the earth; the apex, heaven
  • a pausing or suspension—not necessarily associated with negative aspects
  • stability
  • lasting perfection
  • the four directions
  • In Islam it represents the heart’s susceptibility to the divine, angelic, human, and diabolic forces
  • square halos in Christian art indicates the person was alive when painted
  • a cube is symbolic of the material universe
  • wisdom, veracity, and moral fortitude
  • the cloistered courtyard of religious structures indicate endurance and security
  • wisdom
  • spiritual counsel or advice
  • light of wisdom shining in the dark ( sinful ) world
  • mythological figures or deities
  • the dead
  • the Star of Bethlehem symbolizes Christ’s birth
  • the 5-pointed pentagram  pointed upward represents a human ( the top point is the head, 2 arms on the side points, 2 legs of the downward facing point )
  • flip the pentagram around and it’s the sign of the Devil—the two upward pointing points becoming the  Devil’s horns
  • the 6-pointed hexagram—2 interlocking triangles— is symbolic of: 1) the conjoining of male and female; 2) the four elements; 3) Star of David; and 4) Judaism
  • the merkabah is an ancient geometry dating back 3 thousand years. Some believe the shape has Egyptian origins. The symbol is shrouded in mystery and attributed with supernatural ( even divine ) power that allows one to enter enlightenment, zen, achieve spiritual and/or physical ascension, or even experience cosmic transport!
  • the 7-pointed heptagram is: 1) a magic symbol for pagans; 2) symbolic of the 7 days of creation; and 3) the 7 steps of enlightenment for Buddhists
Crosses—I could do another blog about the many different types of crosses—and probably will
  • Christianity
  • the shape predates Christianity
  • sacred shape to Ancient Egyptians  and Aztecs
  • more to come on crosses
Mandala—not a shape per se but a pattern
  • search for inner peace or spiritual enlightenment
  • pathway to the Divine or God
  • a symbolic trap for malevolent spirits
  • used as a tool or focal point in meditation
  • universe

mandala1A giant thank you to Sue O’Kieffe for allowing me to post her mandalas. For more of her gorgeous Sacred Circles click HERE.


Have fun shaping up that novel!


Related Links:  Rock Your  WritingSymbolism & more symbols;
Click  Amazon link for novels.




From Head to Toe

head to toeThe body is a temple. We’ve all heard the expression. And everybody knows a temple is place for worship, a place to access the Divine. Even Apostle Paul said, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

It should come as no surprise that our body parts hold ancient symbolic meanings. So before fixating on a character’s body part you might want to explore the symbolism associated with it— in case you want to give your story some symbolic ZING!

Heads up! It’s time for blog-quick look at body symbolism.

  • most important part because reason, wisdom, intellect, and spirituality reside within
  • equated with authority and power ( heads of state, heads of corporations)
  • bowed is a sign of respect
  • tilts, nods, or shakes are powerful communicators
  • many-headed gods depicted different aspects or personalities —Shiva, Hecate, Brahma, and Janus have multiple heads
  • divine power and virility
  • inner and physical toughness—when Delilah snipped Samson’s tresses she reduced his physical strength
  • cutting the hair was a sign of sacrifice or surrender. In modern times—if done by women–the act symbolizes rebellion or liberation from feminine gender roles/expectations
  • Mary Magdalene’s long flowing hair was a sign of immoral sexual behavior
  • equated with a seashell or a spiral
  • associated with birth—Karma was born from his mother’s ear.
  • long ears  are linked to wisdom in Buddhism
  • the Satyr’s large pointed ears reflect his sexual and sensual nature
  • all seeing. Eye of Providence. Right Eye of Horus. Left of Eye of Horus
  • perception and spiritual enlightenment
  • giving someone the Evil Eye brings misfortune to the recipient
  • windows to the soul
  • for an entire blog on eyes click here
  • knowing
  • intrusiveness or meddlesome behavior/personality
  • valued by early man as a way of finding food
  • a phallic symbol
  • a nose that grows in length indicate lies—courtesy of Pinocchio
  • a turned up nose displays contempt
  • deemed the creative force, but it’s our mouths which can get us in trouble
  • the Mouth of Hell devours the wicked
  • articulates our heart’s desires
  • just slap a big  X-rated sign on the lips
  • symbolic of speech
  • visible manifestation of the spoken word
  • teeth are symbolic of animistic strength and aggression
  • long teeth are a sign of ambition
  • Agrippina, Nero’s ambitious mother, had double canines
  • the tongue is either a destroyer or a creator
  • sticking one’s tongue out harkens back to times when that gesture warded off evil spirits
  • strength— think Atlas holding up the world
  • power
  • carrying responsibilities
  • harbinger of death
  • Bones symbolize  strength, stability, determination
  • Chakras, the body’s energy forces, are aligned with the spine
  • intestines are symbolic of long life and eternity
  • intestines were used for divination in early times
  • the spleen is where melancholy and laughter come from ( part of the ol’ 4 Humors of the Body theory)
  • the liver symbolized passion during ancient Rome times
  • balance and movement
  • good luck
  • arms are symbolic of strength, power, protection, and justice
  • command
  • protect
  • bless/bestow
  • pledge
  • symbolize power and strength
  • teach
  • heal
  • there’s the omnipotent Hand of God
  • Hamsa hand is a protective talisman used by Muslims and Jews to protect against the Evil Eye
  • As expressive communicators, we are familiar with the meanings of: palms out, finger pointing to heaven, handshakes, hand wringing, and hand washing (Pontius Pilate and Lady Macbeth)
  • hidden hands denote respect in Asian cultures, but mistrust in western
Gender-specific body parts ( this is a PG-rated blog ). Early man was obsessed with those particular parts—wait, we still are!
  • male: strength, power, and virility
  • female: regeneration, fertility, procreation, and the miracle of birth
  • mobility
  • rooted or in touch with self and nature
  • bare feet touching the ground is man’s link to the Divine Earth
  • the monk’s bare feet signify their vow of poverty
  • in Asian cultures, feet are considered unclean so its wrong to display soles to another
  • solid foundation
  • washing another’s feet is a symbol of hospitality and humility
  • the Buddha’s footprint found at Buddhist temples indicates the Buddha’s presence
As you can see, lots of body parts were left out! This is just the tip of the Body Iceberg! A quick Google search will reveal many more symbolic aspects.


Note: I teach literary analysis and remind my students to look closely at the symbolism in a novel. Why did the author include that fruit? Or name the character Neil? Why is the protagonist sitting under a pear tree? Why is her dress blue? Why did the character lose a limb? Before jumping to any symbolic conclusions however, we look at the symbol in context of setting, history, and culture.

Related Links:  Rock Your WritingSymbolism & more symbols;
Click  Amazon link for novels.

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Color My World

color your worldFrom “Love is Blue”  crooned by Frank Sinatra
to “My World is Blue” by White Trash Clan
to “Yellow” sung by Coldplay
to “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree” performed by Tony Orlando
to “It’s Not Easy Being Green” croaked by Kermit the Frog

color is attached to a spectrum of emotions. Savvy writers know they can use color to symbolize, reveal, and add irony to their text. Color symbolism is fraught with ambiguity and duality, making it a vibrant way to add complexity.

Warm colors like yellow, red, and orange are considered stimulating.
The cool colors of blue, indigo, violet are soothing and peaceful.

Although cultural variations exist, color symbolism is universal.

Red: A dual-tinted mix.
  •  passion and lust
  • anger and aggression
  • war and revolution
  • fire and flame
  • All these emotions spur one to action.
  • The red planet Mars is named after the Roman god of war
  • Associated with the Root  Chakra located at the base of the spine ( our connection with earth )
Yellow: On the good side…
  • sun and gold ( metal )
  •  enlightenment and wisdom
  • flowers and warmth
  • On the bad side….
  • cowardliness
  • envy and treachery
  • Associated with the Solar Plexus Chakra
Orange: A mix of the first two.
  • luxury and splendor
  • a renunciation of earthly pleasures—think Buddhist monks garb.
  • Associated with the Sacral Chakra (the reproductive organs ).
  • In ancient Rome, a bride wore a saffron-colored wrap and an orange veil.
Blue has as many hues as meanings.
  • sky and infinity
  • the divine—the Egyptian god Amun and Hindu gods, Rama, Shive, and Krishna are blue
  • tranquility and reflection
  • intellect
  • depression
  • sexual proclivities—blue movies
  • socio-economic status—from blue-collar to blue blood
  •  In Egypt, blue was the color of truth.
  • The Virgin Mary’s blue robe signifies her purity.
  • Indigo is the color of the Brow, or Third Eye Chakra  of spiritual knowing and intuition.
  • spring  and new life
  • fertility and nature
  • youth and inexperience
  • hope and joy
  • envy and jealousy and decay
  • Recently connected with safeguarding our planet’s resources promoted by the Green Movement
  • Color associated with the Heart Chakra.
  • royalty and wealth
  • luxury
  • power—Roman senators were identified by the purple stripe on their togas
  • religion—Catholic clergy don purple vestments during Advent and Lent
  • associated with the bliss, oneness, serenity, and spiritual wisdom of the Crown Chakra
  • temperance—because it’s a mixture of red  ( action & hot ) and blue (calm & cool )
  •  femininity
  • baby girls
  •  gay pride
  • evil or darkness
  • despair and death and mourning
  • mortality
  • secrecy
  • ill-fortune
  • disease
Gray, in its many shades…
  • gloom
  • anonymity or inconspicuousness or namelessness
  • old age
  • uncertainty and unreliability and risk
  • purity and innocence—brides and those being baptized are clothed in white
  • goodness
  • holiness
  • In China, Japan and India, white is associated with death and mourning.
  •  surrender and peace

Have fun adding some color to your novel!

Related Links:  Rock Your WritingSymbolism & more symbols;
Click  Amazon link for novels.

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Fave Websites for Writers

sharkWriting is fun! Line editing—not so much. Many new writers are adrift on an ocean of punctuation and capitalization errors. Swimming though a shark-infested murky sea of comma and grammar rules is fraught with em-dash typhoons and ellipses tidal waves.

Don’t get stuck in the quagmire!

Here’s a short list of GO-TO life rafts  for navigating the editing waters. Also included are some of my personal favorites—just for fun!

A comprehensive  A-Z  onomatopoeia: kathytemean.wordpress.com

Extended rules for using commas: Purdue Online Writing Lab
  • The site provides excellent information and examples on a host of other grammar maladies.

20,000 names: Organized by  gender, culture, or specialized categories. Provides the meaning and origin.20,000 names.com

A list of swear words in MANY MANY other languages: YouSwear.com

Rules for writing numbers: grammarbook.com
  • So when does the hyphen go in between a number? This site tell you when and why.
 Architectural terminology: trailend.org
  • From acanthus leaf to zoophorous, a long list with understandable definitions

May the Muse be with you!

Related Links:  Rock Your WritingSymbolism & more symbols;
Click  Amazon link for novels.

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Household Symbolism

homegoodsA man’s home is his/her castle. It’s also chock full of symbolic furnishings and doodads. Give your story some symbolic zing by being familiar with a few of the household symbolic heavyweights.

Books: Wisdom and learning.
  • Is the book old or new?
  • Are pages torn out (think Dead Poet’s Society) or bent?
  • ls print large or small? Do the book need a translation?
  • Does book contain esoteric or forbidden or dangerous information? ( Remember  the movie The Mummy when the Egyptologist yells,”You must not read from the book!” )
Bowls: The feminine—it’s a womb thing. Prosperity.
  • Is bowl full or empty?
  • What are the contents?
  • What material is it made from?
Box: The unconscious mind—think Pandora. Containment of emotions. Limitations. Close-mindedness.
  • Is the box open or closed? Locked?
  • What is box made of?
  • Where is box kept?
  • Who opens box?
  • Who locks box?
Broom: Spiritual cleaning. Ridding home of evil. Protection against curses. Witch transportation.
  • Who is doing the sweeping?
  • What problem is swept away?
  • Is broom constructed from a specific ( and therefore symbolic) wood?
Fan: Femininity. Social class. Dispels evil spirits. Releases soul into immortal realm (Taosim).
  • Who is holding fan?
  • How is it used— to cool, hide, flirt, conceal?
Hearth: Home. Family. Emotional warmth. Females. Maternal nurturing.
  • Is fire smoldering, blazing, or cold?
  • Who is tending the fire?
  • Who is beneficiary of the warmth?
  • What is burning? ( a romantic  or incriminating letter, a body, evidence?)
  • How big is the fireplace?
  • Is hearth ornate or simple? Luxurious, pretentious, or utilitarian?
Key: Access to wisdom. Freedom. Success. Secrets. 2 crossed keys are a Christian emblem of the Gates of Heaven.
  • What is key made of?
  • Who is using key?
  • Why is door locked?
  • Does key work in the door?
  • Who and why does someone steal the key?
Knife: Death. Sacrifice. Cutting away emotions/ideals/prejudices/etc.
  • Who is wielding blade?
  • What is being cut?
  • Is blade dull or sharp?
Loom: Mother Goddess. Luna goddess. Feminine power.
  • Who is looming?
  • What pattern is created? What colors woven?
  • What material is used?
Mirror: A zillion meanings—well, almost. Vanity. Truth. Clarity.  Distortion. Reflection of soul. Inner calm (Taoists). Transitory nature of reality (Hinduism).
  • Who or what is reflected?
  • What is NOT reflected?
  • How is mirror framed?
  • Does the mirror break? And if so, what really broke?
Pen & Ink: Learning. Creativity. Destiny.
  • What is written?
  • Who is the  writer?
  • Does writer make mistakes or blot paper?
  • Is script illegible, elegant, precise?
  • What surface is written on?
Purse: Wealth. Vanity. Prosperity. St. Matthew—once a tax collector. Judas Iscariot—betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.
  • Is purse full or empty?
  • What material is purse? Remember you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.
Screen: Mystery. Concealment.
  • Who is behind the screen? Is it titillating or frightening?
  • Who is looking at the person /thing behind the screen?
  • What material is screen made of?
Table: The Last Supper. Equality—of round. A coming together. Circle of Life. The Divine.
  • What shape is table?
  • What material is it made from?
  • Who sits at the head of the table?
  • Who arrives and who leaves?
  • Is something spilled upon the table?
Thread: One’s lifetime as determined by the gods.
  • Who cuts  thread?
  • What material is thread?
  • What is thread stitching together?
  • Did thread become loose?
Timepiece: Mortality.
  • Does clock run fast, slow, or exact?
  • Does someone stop time?
  • Is time more important for one character than another?

Have fun with symbolism!


Making Eyes

making eyesEyes are powerful symbols.

The mere glance glimmer gawk gaze ogle glare bore focus beam sparkle peek peer look goggle gape leer ( did I miss any?) reveals a character’s emotions.

No wonder the eyes are the windows of the soul. But there’s more to eyes than…well, meets the eye!

Eyes are powerful symbols whose meanings have ancient beginnings.

  • The Right  of Horus– or God of Ra, is the sign Wadjet, the sky god who is depicted as a falcon ( and that’s why the eye is falcon-ish in appearance) and associated with the sun, protection, royal power, and health.
  • The Left of of Horus  represents the moon. Shown together, they represent the entire universe.
  • The Third Eye or ajna (connected to the brow chakra) is associated with spiritual sight, enlightenment, or a heightened state of awareness/consciousness. It’s the eye used by clairvoyants, mediums, psychics, and seers.
  • The Eye of Providence or all-seeing eye of God, is often depicted enclosed by a triangle (the trinity) with emanating rays of light signifying God’s omnipresence and omnipotence.
  • The Evil Eye describes someone looking at you with an evil intent such as hatred, wicked envy, or malevolence. This look it is so fraught with negative energy it’s dubbed the Evil Eye. The greatest injury is to those who do not know the Evil Eye was aimed at them–thereby allowing negative energy to permeate their bodies and souls. To counter this, people wore amulets to deflect these cursed stares. See Lucky Charms.
Eyes are symbolic of:
  • enlightenment
  • knowledge
  • wisdom
  • discernment
  • spirituality
Greek Myths:
  • Cyclopes had one eye, which suggests they did not have the wisdom or self-awareness of the humans they enjoyed terrorizing.
  • The Eye on a Peacock‘s feathers indicate mankind’s penchant for being overly concerned with appearances and the external world.Goddess Hera tossed the giant Argos’ 100 eyes (he only closed a few at a time when sleeping) onto the bird’s feathers.
Does the color of a character’s eyes matter?
  • Brown eyes are opaque and seen as less emotional and more ordinary.
  • Black eyes are deemed evil or cold-hearted OR, conversely, their emotions are of a fathomless depth.
  • Blue eyes are associated with emotional and/or ethereal qualities, perhaps they appear more transparent, and thus believe we can see into their soul. Blue eyes are associated with the water and sky, two divine and mysterious elements. It’s also easier for others to see pupil dilation in a blue-eyed person–which we know indicates emotion.
  • Green eyes are deemed mysterious, exotic, magical, and are often equated with witches and sorcery.
Eyes—no matter what color—can be described as:
  • cold = unemotional
  • hard = uncaring
  • warm = kind
  • soft = loving and affectionate
  • watery/cloudy = stricken with overwhelming emotion
  • deep = harboring secrets or unexpressed emotion
  • sparkling = excited, anticipatory, happy, and/or smitten
  • dilated = indicating sexual arousal or drug use
  • glowing = creepy, netherworld, evil, OR divine and celestial
  • bright = keen, intelligent, curious
  • sharp =accusatory, wary
  • wide = wonder, amazement, incredulity
  • blank = devoid of emotion, socio-pathic, zombie-like

A word about blindness: In literature, blindness is equated with wisdom. Prophets (Tiresias) in Greek plays are blind. They see with their hearts the truth in an event, character, or circumstance. Visual seeing is NOT believing. When Oedipus blinds himself after discovering he fulfilled the prophesy he tried avoiding, the reader understands the symbolic nature of his act. A more current example is Neo in The Matrix. In the final movie, he no longer needs to see, his inner sight/intuition/conscious the only sense he needs to “see” the truth. Another fun movie that “focuses” on eyes and is rife with eye symbolism is Equilibrium.

Have fun seeing your characters with new eyes!

Related Links:  Rock Your Writing; Symbolism & more symbols;
Click  Amazon link for novels.

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Word Lists & Helps

wordlistsFolks–writers and students--seem to like my word lists, so here they are in easily accessible jpeg and pdf form.

DEAD Words: blah words that just don’t really do anything for your prose or academic paper. dead word list pdf

dead words

 Commonly Confused Words: Commonly confused words pdf

commonly confused words1JPG

Commonly confused words 2

Commonly confused words 3

Commonly confused words 4

Commonly confused words5

Commonly confused words 6

Commonly confused words 7

Commonly confused words8

Problem Words: Problem words pdf

problem wordsJPG



Preposition list: The truly obscure or arcane have been left out. Preposition List pdf

preposition list

Replace ‘it’: Abstract Nouns pdf

Replace it 1JPG

replace it 2

Have fun editing!

Related Links:  Rock Your Writing
Click  Amazon link for novels.

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A Few Literary Terms

lit termsKnow your craft! Know the terminology! It’s the cry heard at writers conferences. It’s no small task either because writing and reading requires subject knowledge of authorial techniques and other geeky stuff!

Many literary terms reference books are available (as a language arts teacher I have several). This is just a small sampling of a few personal favorites related to NOVEL writing.

WARNING: Not for the literary faint of heart!

Welcome all word nerds and novel geeks!

From A to Z

Aesthetics: Philosophy of art, studying the nature of beauty in literature.

Allegory: Literature/poetry in which every character, setting, and event is a metaphor or represents something else.  Contains a moral, religious, political, social, or satirical message.
  • Ex: The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Faerie Queene, Gulliver’s Travels
Alliteration: Repetition of constant sounds at the beginning of words. This can be effective especially if used for a specific purpose.
  • Example: Let’s say, you introduce a character who is a snake (conniving, devious, evil),  you might use words beginning with S when describing him or in his dialog. We equate the S sound with snakes.
Allusion: Referring to a historical, religious, Shakespearean, or literary event or character.
  • Ex: Beginning a novel with a description of an idyllic garden where the characters are innocent alludes to the Biblical Garden Of Eden. If you write a scene with three witches who tempt an ambitious man, it’s an allusion to Macbeth.
Anachronism: Object, custom, person, thing, or event that is totally out of its natural place in time.
  • Ex: Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court; A striking clock in Julius Caesar
Antihero: Not your typical hero protagonist. The antihero lacks those virtues and morals we deem, well…heroic. The world may have ‘done them wrong’ or the antihero may be in a situation beyond their control. What the reader does have for them is sympathy and empathy. And we really want them to triumph.
Ex: Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With the Wind;  Captain jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean; Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye; Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby; Tony Soprano from The Sopranos.

 Aphorism: Truism or maxim about some aspect of life or the human experience.

Apostrophe: Summoning or crying out for a person who is dead, absent, or imaginary.
  • Ex: “Oh, Muses three, come to me!”

Archetype: Pattern, action, or model or image so familiar in life and history as to be deemed universal. See Female Hero Archetypes, Male Hero Archetypes, and More Archetypes.

Atmosphere: Overall mood or tone of a work. Can be achieved with symbolism, setting, and/or dialog.
  • Ex: Foreboding, tragic, passionate,melancholy, uplifting
Bildungsroman: German for Coming of Age novel. Traces the protagonist from youth to experience.
  • Ex: David Copperfield, Portrait of the Artist as a Young man

Bowdlerize: Removing immoral, indecent or pornographic words or passages from a piece of writing. Censorship. I believe there is some scuttlebutt over an app which performs this task.

 Cacophony: Harsh, grating loud sounds with the constants b, d, g, k, t. Used in poetry but also an  effective authorial technique in dialog or to describe a discordancy.

Cliche: Expression used so frequently it’s “snoozeville!” Can also refer to a plot, situation, or theme that has been “done to death.”

Computational stylistics:  Analysis of aspects of author’s style that are measurable. Prepositional phrases, multi-syllabic words, and syntax ( sentence length) can  be found in many editing computer programs.

Confidant/Confidante: In literature/plays, this is the person of trust the protagonists talks to, thereby revealing the protagonist’s motives and emotions.

Conflict: Internal conflicts refer to struggles the character faces within themselves like overcoming fears or biases etc. External conflicts refer to struggles the character faces with other characters, situations, cultures. Most novels have both!
  • Note:  No conflict= no novel. Have one! Better yet, have several–both internal and external.

Denouement: Final resolution of the conflict.

Deux ex machina: Latin for “god from the machine.” American for “You gotta be kidding me!” You might remember this phrase from your high school days. It describes any contrived or artificial rescue or solution to get characters out of trouble or danger. Melodrama employs this…and many movies. A long lost spinster aunt saves the farm. A tree falls in front of a the bad guy as he chases the good guy. In the movie The Adjustment Bureau—plot spoiler—God (the Chairman) allows the couple to stay together.

Dystopia: describes undesirable imaginary societies. The opposite of a utopia.
  • Ex: Hunger Games, Anthem, Brave New World
Epistolary novel: Novel created from letters or correspondence (emails, anyone?). May uses more than one POV.
  • Ex: Bridgett Jones Diary (uses diary entries) DraculaFrankenstein, The Color Purple

Explication de texte: Detailed analysis and very close reading of a passage or text. A thorough examination of style, syntax, tone, symbolism, and diction is done to achieve a greater understanding and appreciation for the author’s work. And, by the way, it’s what I teach. Fun stuff!

Foil: Character whose personality is in direct contrast, thereby revealing another ( usually the protagonist) character’s traits.
  • Ex: Mercutio was a foil to Romeo in Romeo & Juliet.
Foreshadowing:  Hints or clues as to what’s to come or expect later in the story. This can be accomplished with dialog, symbols, actions, and events. The saying, “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there” (Anton Chekhov) is foreshadowing–and good writing.
  • Ex: In The Great Gatsby, 2 car accidents foreshadow  Gatsby’s car running over Myrtle.

Freytag’s pyramid: The structure of a 5-act tragedy.Freytags pyramid





Gestalt: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. For literature, that means the prose is best experienced and understood in its entirety.

Gothic novel: Genre known for its mystery, honor, supernatural, psychological horror, creepy settings, tragic love, and brooding atmosphere.

  • Ex: Think Frankenstein. Dracula, Carrie, Pet Cemetary, The Shining (“red rum…”)

Hamartia: Sorta-kinda like a tragic flaw but more encompassing. It can be poor judgement, bad luck, error, accident,or misinformation that cause a character’s downfall.

Hermeneutics: Interpreting sacred texts in a grammatical, ethical, allegorical, or mystical manner. The parts must be studied in concert with the whole, and the interpretation, as well as the interpreter, are also important considerations.

Imagery: Creating pictures with words. See Imagery post for examples.


Inciting moment: Event or impetus that sets the rising action into motion.


Invective: Imaginative name calling. Shakespeare was the master Invectinator!
  • Ex: Monty Python: “blinkered philistine pig-ignorance…” >>> Princess Bride: “Queen of Refuse. Queen of Slime. Queen of Putrescence” >>>Shakespeare: “though lump of of foul humanity”>>>>” thou detestable maw” >>>, “thou womb of death”>>> “you blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things”
  • Note: I’ve included a Shakespearean Invective Maker–good times in Nerdville.  Invective maker pdf
Irony:  Difference between reality and appearance. There are 3 types. Socratic, Verbal, and situation.
  • Ex: NOT! Ironically the song “Isn’t It Ironic” does not give examples of irony, merely misfortune. Perhaps the irony is that the song is not about irony!

Jeremiad: Named for the biblical Jeremiah, it is the dire prophesy of destruction if <<insert evil group here>> continue their wicked ways.

Kenning; Combining 2 nouns together to make a word phrase synonym.
  • Ex: serpent’s swan of blood= raven; whale road= sea;  gas guzzler= car; couch potato= lazy person; cancer stick= cigarette; eye candy= something we are attracted to ; lair= gold
Kunstlerroman: Like a bildungsroman, but instead of chronicling a youth’s growing to maturity, the novel focuses on showing an artist’s development.
  • Ex: Margaret Atwood’s  Cat’s Eye
Litotes: Saying the opposite or using an ironic understatement to give impact to one’s statement.
  • Ex: Saying ‘He’s no dummy’ instead of “he is intelligent.’
Malapropism: A character who substitutes a word ( perhaps unintentionally) for a very similar sounding world. This is done for comedic impact,and a device often employed by Shakespeare.
  • Real life example: A student said he was going to defile me. He meant to say defy. We all had a good laugh and it was a teachable moment.
  • Example from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” & spoken by Bottom. ‘I will aggravatemy voice so’—he probably means moderate; ‘…there we may rehearse mostobscenely‘—he means obscurely;  and ‘Thisby, the flowers of odious savours sweet’—he means odorous.

Motif: Recurring word, image, phrase, idea, object, or situation that appears in various works or one work.

Nom de plume: Using a pen name, but the French version sounds ever so much more sophisticated Oui? Some authors use different names when they write other genres or to conceal their gender or identity. Or perhaps to appear more mainstream.

Oxymoron: Figure of speech in which 2 contradictory words make a single expression.
  • Ex: Dead alive; bitter sweet; deafeningly silent; deceptively honest; friendly fire; freezer burn; good grief;  loud whisper

Pathetic fallacy: Giving human emotions to something in nature. John Ruskin didn’t like the term personification.

Peripeteia/ peripety:  The sudden change in fortune of the protagonist. Aka, the reversal. See Freytag’s pyramid.

Portmanteau: Combining 2 words to create a new word.

  • Ex: brunch, smog, motel, splurge. sheeple. ( my own: when & if = whinf: Whinf I become a widely-read author.)
Roman a clef: French for ‘novel with a key.’ Real people are disguised in novels with fictitious names.
  • Ex: All The Kings Men by Robert Penn Warren; Point Counter Point by Aldous Huxley

Static character: Character who does not change much during the story.
Stereotype: Universally recognized type of character (not to be confused with archetypes).

  • Ex: bungling detective, hard-boiled private eye, ditzy blonde chick, spoiled brat

Syntax: Arrangement of words, phrases, and clauses in a sentence. Syntax is paramount in creating tone or indicates an author’s style. Hemingway had a lean style. Joseph Conrad wrote long complex sentences.

Theme: Overarching idea or message of a story. Seldom stated directly. Expressed though characters, their actions, plot setting, and symbols. Those stories written for sheer entertainment often do not have a theme. Click Themes for Novels for ideas about how to write one and why you need one.

Tone: Author’s attitude about his subject, characters, or readers.

Tragic flaw: Personality trait, mistake, or error which causes the downfall of a hero of a tragedy.

Verisimilitude: Appearance of truth. The most famous might be H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds.
  • Ex: Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year

My advise: Do  NOT use these terms in normal conversation as they tend to give one an air of snobbery.

Related Links:  Rock Your Writing;


Fire & Water

fire & iceThese powerful elements are fraught with symbolic significance, their meanings stemming from a myriad of religious beliefs, legends, and myths.

Fire and water represent a world of power,destruction, ambiguity, duality, and divinity.

Whether earthy or otherworldly, these forces of nature are feared and loved with equal fervor. No wonder authors love playing with their multiple  meanings in poetry and literature.So how does an author convey their intent with two symbolic heav -hitters?

Authors will use additional words in the paragraph/ sentence to reveal: 1)  particular symbolic meanings; 2)  character; 3)  ambiguity of a theme’s dichotomy; 4) irony;  5) all of the aforementioned; and/or 6) a plot device.  Fun, yes?

(See Word Magic for ways Ray Bradbury uses fire imagery.)

Fire is:
  • war and chaos
  • linked to the sun or lightning
  • associated with to passion, creativity, anger, or wrath
  • a method of purification
  • a way to regeneration—the Phoenix rises from the ashes
  • knowledge—Prometheus brought fire to people and suffered grievously for it
  • violence and destruction
  • God’s glory—Moses and the burning bush or the flaming hearts of Christianity
  • elevated us from the animals
  • the eternal flame above an alter
  • the flames of hell
A few fire gods & creatures:
  • Vulcan; Roman god also associated with volcanoes and craftsmanship, as one forges weapons and tools from fire.
  • Chu Jung is the Chinese god who punished those who broke  heavenly laws
  • Chantico is the Aztec goddess of the hearth and volcanoes, and the patroness for goldsmiths
  • Sekhmet: A woman (usually) with a lioness’s head, this Egyptian god killed enemies with arrows of fire and kept a fire-spewing snake at her side.
  • Agni: This Vedic god ( means fire in Sanskrit) is often depicted with two heads indicating both his merciful and destructive nature
  • Maui, a Polynesian god who stole fire from the Earth mother.
  • Ifrit, although not a god,  is an Arabic and Islamic supernatural creature of fire who is usually portrayed as evil.
  • salamander—also not a god—who is one of the 4 elementals.
Water is:
  • divine wrath—almost every religion has a version of the flood story
  • transforming
  • changeable—from stagnant to raging, from shallow to deep
  • destroys
  • purifies—baptism
  • primordial, as all life sprung forth from its ooze in many creation myths
  • life-giving—Fountain of Youth
  • fertility and irrigation
  • a natural and symbolic barrier to another place (or realm)
  • reflecting—although it led to Narcissus’ drowning
  • a method of transition to the next life
  • a method of torture
  • divination
  • healing
  • the Four Rivers of Paradise
  • the river Styx separating Earth from Hades
  • sacred—from Holy Water to the Ganges
A few water gods & creatures:
  • Poseidon/Neptune is the god with the trident who rides upon dolphins and controls the seas
  • Sedna is the Inuit sea goddess ruling over all sea creatures
  • Charybdis is the monster daughter of Poseidon and takes the form of a whirlpool that sucks in unsuspecting sailors
  • mermaids/selkies
  • encantatos
  • Undines—one of the 4 Elementals
  • Nerieds/Naiads/Ningyo/Yawlyawk
  • Sirens
  • and let’s not forget Mami Wata, Jengus, Makaras, Hippocamps, Bunyips, Adaros, Kappas, Grindylows, Bishop Fish, Cetus, Kraken…and I’m sure I missed a few!

Think of all the FUN an author can have with fire and water! The names of the gods and creatures alone are fodder for countless symbolic names—first or last!

Related Links:  Rock Your Writing; Click  Amazon for novels.


Got Symbol?

symbolsWhat EXACTLY is a symbol and how is it different from a metaphor? And what purpose do symbols serve?
A symbol is the conscious and artful use of:
  • other symbols ( see photo for some common examples)
  • objects
  • characters
  • actions/events

that represent something greater and more complex than that which is obvious.

symbolsThe SparkNotes definition: Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

Metaphor, on the other hand, is an implied analogy whereby one thing is compared to another. A metaphor “stands for” something else.

The BIG difference. A metaphor means ONE thing…SYMBOLS have many layers of meaning. (I tell my students if they can’t find and explain 3 levels of meaning, they need to call it a metaphor.)

A few concepts to remember:
  • are multi-layed, like an onion (that’s a simile. “Symbols are onions” is a metaphor.)
  • may change over time. For example, the swastika is a symbol of the Nazi party, evil, and a belief in white supremacy. It’s actually an ancient symbol for the sun and the cycle of birth and rebirth. It means “aspicious ” in India. Another example is the rainbow. In Judeo-Christian religions the rainbow signifies God’s promise to never again destroy the earth with water. Then leprechauns got involved with the whole pot of gold thing. Now it’s a symbol of gay pride, I would say the rainbow symbol has changed a helluva lot!
  • are ingrained in our collective conscious. The sun is universally considered to be  giver of life. Most cultures have one or two sun gods.Tomes have been written detailing the how, where, when and why symbols emerged from ancient civilizations.
  • are shared among cultures: Early symbols like the sun, rainbow, stars, and circles stem from early civilizations concern for food and shelter. Conquering civilizations brought their religions and symbols with them, thereby spreading, adding to, or forcing the Defeated to assimilate them.
  • may be culture/religion specific. The color red in western cultures is linked to love and sexual passion. Red in eastern cultures is symbolic of pure love and good luck.

Symbols add depth, sophistication, and chew-worthy deliciousness to a novel. It makes a reader stop reading ( briefly) to ponder the profound meaning of the object/action/person. That makes for a memorable yummy read.

Symbols in literature are complex! Any object, character, place, action may be  symbolic, having several layers or meaning within the text .Peel away the symbolic layers and the author may be making a statement about:

  • culture
  • mental health of character(s)
  • technology
  • emotional health of character(s)
  • business
  • aesthetics/beauty
  • government/politics
  • natural world
  • education
  • morals/values/protocols
  • wealth/socio-economic status /class
  • situation/problems/dilemmas/conundrums/risks/struggles
  • religion/ beliefs/dogmas/spirituality
  • physical health
  • country/state/city
  • family
  • society
  • group affiliation ( from Boy Scouts to nerds to the Free Masons to military units)
  • Age/ age group (toddler, youth adolescent, teen, middle age, elderly)
  • race
  • gender
  • sexuality ( because gender and sexuality are not synonymous)
  • ideals ( or lack thereof)

Another important thing to understand about symbols: Each person understands  symbols a little bit differently because each person brings their own unique life/gender/age/culture/religious/personal experiences to anything they read ( or watch or hear).

Remember, when READING or WRITING  to place the symbol in context of setting, history, and culture OR the symbol will not be understandable.

Examples of symbolism you might remember from high school:
  • Piggy’s glasses in the Lord of the Flies
  • the shark in Old Man and the Sea. ( actually, everything in that novella is a symbol, making the tale an allegory–I’ll save that for another blog)
  • the pearl in The Pearl
  • the veil in Persepolis
  • the green light in The Great Gatsby
  • soma in Brave New World

In the novel, The Merkabah Recruit, I have a few symbols. The merkabah, of course, is an ancient symbol. There is also an action that takes place several times during the course of the story: The protagonist’s attempt to put her key into the locked door in the dark. As you may have guessed, keys, doors, locks, and darkness are equally chock full of symbolic chewy goodness. Folks who have read both novels always ask, “Who is Jack, really ?” Readers know there is more to that character than meets the eye.( I lOVE when that happens!)

Related Links:  Rock Your Writing; Symbols and more symbols ( from birds to food to animals to trees–the symbolism behind the natural world);Click  Amazon link to novels.

By the way,  the images used in my Rock Your Writing series are always symbolic of the topic I’m blogging about.

 Have fun with symbols!  

Related Links:  Rock Your WritingSymbolism & more symbols
Click  Amazon link for novels.

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Light & Dark

lightThese two little words are fraught with BIG symbolic meaning!

We are familiar with the obvious uses: The Light of knowledge or the Darkness of the Soul, but writers can use darkness and light in a myriad of ways!

Light or enlightenment can refer to:
  • goodness
  • understanding or knowledge: from the prosaic to the sublime
  • divinity/cosmic power
  • morality
  • truth
  • vitality/youth
  • innocence
  • spirituality
  • an attitude, emotion, or personality unencumbered with worries
  • imagination/creativity/inspiration
  • joy
Darkness can refer to:
  • evil
  • corruption/degradation/baseness
  • netherworld/underworld
  • lies/falseness
  • guilt /sin
  • ignorance, in all its many forms
  • mystery
  • fear
  • an attitude, emotion, or personalty fraught with melancholy or ill will
  • grief
  • tainted or impure thoughts
Light and dark symbolism can:
  • describe a character’s mood or personality
  • foreshadow a character’s intent
  • foreshadow an event
  • indicate a setting’s moral/ethical beliefs
  • reveal irony
  • provide (moral/ethical/religious) contrast between opposing characters/themes/events
  • be a plot device
  • be a symbol
  • be a theme
  • be a recurring motif
 Here’s one of my favorite poems about “light.”

The Man Who Spilled Light, by David Wagoner

The man who spilled light wasn’t to much to blame for it.
He was in a hurry to bring it home to the city
Where, everyone said, there was too much darkness:
“Look at those shadows, they said. “They’re dangerous.
Who’s there? What’s that?” and crouching,
“Who are you?”
So he went and scraped up all the light he could find.
But it was too much to handle and started spilling:
Flakes and star-marks, shafts of it splitting
To ring-light and light gone slack or jagged,
Clouds folded inside out, whole pools
And hummocks and domes of light,
Egg-light light tied in knots or peeled in swatches,
Daylight as jumbled as jackstraws falling.
Then everything seemed perfectly obvious
Wherever they looked. There was nothing
    they couldn’t see.
The corners and alleys all looked empty,
And no one could think of anything terrible
Except behind their backs, so the all lined up
With their backs to walls and felt perfectly fine.
And the man who’d spilled it felt fine for a while,
But then he noticed people squinting.
They should have been looking at everything,
   and everything
Should have been perfectly clear, and everyone
Should have seemed perfectly brilliant, there was
    so much
Dazzle: people were dazzled, they were dazzling.
But they were squinting, trying to make darkness
All over again in the cracks between their eyelids.
So he swept up all the broken light
For pity’s sake and put it back where it came from.


Have fun writing light and dark into your novel!

Related Links:  Rock Your Writing; Click  Amazon link to novels.

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Word Magic

word magicAgents and folks in the writing/publishing biz tell wanna-be authors to learn their craft, to learn the magic of words, plot, and voice!
They also suggest reading lots of books in your genre. Well, I can tell you there’s a VAST Grand Canyon-size difference between just reading a novel AND breaking it down to understand the nuances employed by the author to create tone, imagery, allusion, irony, motif and symbol.

Below is an example from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

Fahrenheti anaylsis


Let’s break it down!

  • Red font indicates words with a violent connotation or violent diction. Most of them begin with “s.”
  • Bolded words have been repeated. (3xs makes it a motif). single=4x; leg=3xs;  afraid=2x; numbness=3x.                                                                               The word “single” emphasizes  Montag’s  one chance to escape.. his life–his freedom–boiling down to this one critical moment in time. It’s now or never! He only gets one shot at changing his life!
  • Green highlights indicate numerical specificity. Used here, we see exactly how far and how fast.
  • Pink font are words related to flowers! How fabulous that Bradbury uses the language of flowers to describe fire in a violent scene! Why does he do that? Is it to show readers the character’s “blossoming” intellectual awakening? Is it to reveal the beauty in destroying a mechanism of the dystopia? Is it to put in stark contrast the natural growth vs natural destruction OR nature vs machine?
  • Purple font are words that are rife with imagery: spidered, curled, metal bones, flushing, hurtling, fiddle, hallowed—we “see” these words.                               >>>>Did you notice all the colors used in the paragraph?
  • Yellow highlight is a wonderful simile with symbolic, foreshadowing, and visual ZING!   >>>>The skyrocket might symbolize 1) Montag’s own intelligence being grounded by the dystopia; 2) the new light of understanding  sizzling within him; 3) the ironic & fiery beauty of destroying an intellectually crippling society.                                    >>>>The skyrocket also foreshadows the bombs that will destroy the city in the next chapter.
  • Circled words show the symbolic progression of the mechanical police dog, known as the Hound! Notice the progression from metal dog (a living beast) to Hound (its official name) to thing!  Brilliant! The mechanism no longer has power over Montag–and it also foreshadows and mimics the collapse of the dystopia.
  • Pale green font indicates a oxymoron, Dead alive. (A symbolic punch, folks, and accurate descriptor for most of the characters in the novel.)
  • Blue highlight brings to light the fabulous use of ellipses! In this case, a sense of the uncertainty… of time passing…what will Montag do next…an example of his own mental numbness…

Did I forget anything??

Word magic! Gotta love it!
And that, I think, is just part of knowing your craft!


~~~**~~~**~~~**Have fun writing word magic**~~~**~~~**~~~

Related Links:  Rock Your Writing