Today’s assignment: publish a post based on your own, personalized take on a blogging prompt. Theprompt I chose is Pens and Pencils. When was the last time you wrote something substantive — a letter, a story, a journal entry, etc. — by hand? Could you ever imagine returning to a pre-keyboard era?
“What can I say, I’m a sucker for abandoned stuff, misplaced stuff, forgotten stuff, any old stuff which despite the light of progress and all that, still vanishes every day like shadows at noon, goings unheralded, passings unourned, well, you get the drift.” ~Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves~
The title, The Beauty of the Abandoned and Forgotten, initially caught my attention but the photos stirred my imagination. I love abandoned things and forgotten places. It’s like they are waiting to be found, wanting to share their stories. When I saw the first picture, an ivy covered door, the beginnings of a story tickled my brain:
Theodore Harding was tired – tired of eating beans, of sweeping the mill floors, and wearing a thread-bare coat…
When we think of courage, we often think of people doing extraordinary things in dangerous situations. While that is certainly true, courage is also daring to follow your dreams, to face your fears and persevere.
Many of us (writers) are introverts by nature. We are most comfortable in smaller groups and quite content being alone. In fact, alone time isn’t just nice, it’s a necessity. We seek out an empty room, sit behind our computer and type our hearts out.
This is where courage comes in. Whether we are blogging or working on a novel, we have to release our words, our thoughts, and ideas to the world. We are literally exposing our inner-selves. That is scary. There’s no invisible shield to protect us from the scrutiny of our readers. Unfortunately, some of those readers aren’t going to like what we have to say – and that’s okay. What’s important is our reaction. We must refuse to be intimidated. We must be tenacious. Writing is our art. It is the way we express ourselves. It is as important as the air we breathe.
In the summer of 1985, Back to the Future was released. I loved that movie – still do. So, it’s probably no surprise that I’ve considered the possibilities of time travel. And I have to answer the question:
What would I do if a time traveling DeLorean landed in my front yard?
I’d climb in, shut the door and press the gas!
My first stop would be in 1977. I’d talk to a much younger me. I’d explain that those bumps in the night were products of a very active imagination – something that will serve me well in the future. I’d also explain that yes, Darth Vader did look scary, but he would become a favorite character as I grew older.
My next stop would be 1983.
Every Breath You Take by The Police would probably be playing on MTV. I don’t even want to think about my feathered hair and tight stonewashed jeans. I’d explain that big changes were about to happen – but I’d be okay. I’d advise myself to embrace opportunities, to have faith in my abilities – that my teenage dream of writing wasn’t unrealistic. It’s achievable but only if I have the courage to pursue it.
If you stumbled across a time machine, whenwould be your destination?
Years ago, my family owned a small business. As any small business person will tell you, customer service is important. Not only did I try to meet our customers needs, I made sure to smile and say thank you. I engaged in small talk and stayed involved with community events.
Our customers were as varied as the products we sold. Most were likable but there were those couple of people who just didn’t make me feel all warm and toasty. I thought I’d managed to hide those feelings only to come to the realization I hadn’t been successful.
After paying for his purchase, the customer lingered, wanting to talk. At some point in the conversation he asked whether he smelled bad. I assured him that he didn’t. He then went on to ask why I kept backing away from him. The truth was that while he didn’t smell bad and there was a counter between us, I felt like my space was being invaded. While my words and facial expression (smile) said one thing, my body language (unconsciously moving away) told the truth of how I felt.
I have been reading She Sat He Stood: What Do Your Characters Do While They Talk? by Ginger Hanson. She points out the importance of studying body language and how our subconscious actions can reveal our true feelings. We can apply this to knowledge when writing dialogue. She also covers the use of settings and props. Having purchased several writers handbooks and being unable to finish reading them, I was pleasantly surprised to find I enjoyed this one. Hanson offers a variety of helpful suggestions without putting the reader to sleep.
If you think you could use a little help with dialogue/body language, click the cover image. At only 99 cents, you can’t beat it!
If reading another writing advice book doesn’t appeal to you:
You might try watching old movies. I find that black and white movies work quite well because there are less visual distractions. Make sure to grab a pen and paper to take notes, otherwise, it becomes too easy to get lost in the film. Study the interaction between the actors. She (feeling vulnerable) might turn away and hug herself. He (feeling agitated) might lean on a balcony railing while taking a deep drag on his cigarette. The important thing is to recognize the actions the actors use to convey their characters’ feelings. This is ultimately what we as writers are trying to do – show not tell.
Have you stumbled across a tip or technique that has improved your writing? If so, please share.