Monthly Archives: August 2017

The Cat’s Meow

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The Cat’s Meow

We’re visiting Etsy today, that great online marketplace where you can find something for anyone, even the crazy cat lady in your life. Today’s focus is cat jewelry. I selected only items that I would be happy to wear. (By the way, feel free to buy me any or all.)

No feline-loving female should have to live without a cat necklace. (Click the description for more information. Click the images to see enlargements and captions.)

Stylized cat. Seated cat. Origami cat face.

Gold cat. Hanging-by-tail cat. Pick-a-stone cat.

Folded cat. Teeny cat. Art cat.

Stretching cat. Hanging-by-paws cat. Sleeping cat. 2D cat.

No self-respecting cat lady is happy unless her earlobes are decorated with cats.

Ceramic studs. Mismatched cats. Ceramic dangles.

Bracelets for cat lady wrists:

Basket cats. Denim cat.

And I don’t know why, but this one reminds me of the Deathly Hallows symbol:

And finally, a ring that can be made to your catty specifications:

As I said earlier, I like ALL of these pieces, but my very favorites are the origami cat face and the art cat necklaces.

What about you? Do you like cats, or live with some? (We currently have two, but have owned as many as four at one time. Five of our former kitties have passed on.) Does any of this jewelry particularly appeal to you? Share in the comments below.

Creative Juice #56

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Creative Juice #56

This very special edition of Creative Juice features posts from My OBT, one of my very favorite blogs. Every day, Donna shares something beautiful—or not so beautiful. I include at least one of her posts in CJ each week, but I have so many in reserve I thought I’d bless you with a whole bunch today. If you enjoy them, you might want to subscribe to My OBT so you never miss a single one.

In the Meme Time: First Sentence

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In the Meme Time: First Sentence

First Draft 1st Sentence

For more advice about the first sentence, click here.

Guest Post: Be Your Character’s Therapist by Victoria Griffin

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Thank you to guest author Victoria Griffin for this unique strategy for characterization:

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Photo by Sergey Sivuschkin (text and watermark added)

At the most recent Knoxville Writers’ Guild meeting, I had the pleasure of hearing screenwriter Lisa Solandspeak about “What the Playwright Can Teach the Writer.” Lisa is fantastic, and I learned a lot from her. She had good tips—about writing and about life. One idea that stuck with me, though, came during her discussion of conveying meaning without explicitly saying the thing.

In other words, show don’t tell.

The example she used was from a play, in which the characters were discussing the garden, while actually discussing a miscarriage. (Sorry, I didn’t note the title.) Of course, as a fiction writer, my mind went to Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants.” If you haven’t read it, I seriously suggest it.

Lisa argued for providing information this way, rather than spelling it out. “We don’t say things,” she said. “That’s why we have therapists.”

I started thinking, Our characters don’t say what they mean to each other, but they should say it to us.

I’m playing with two different aspects of writing, here:

  1. Show, don’t tell. Give your reader information organically, without spelling everything out, allowing the natural flow of your characters’ dialogue to illuminate the situation.
  2. Know your characters. Know everything about your characters—not just hair/eye color. Know how they think, how they work, how they would respond in different situations, what drives them.


As a writer, doing a good job with #2 makes #1 simpler. If we truly know our characters, we have a much easier time expressing the situation without outright saying what’s happening. With a deep understand of our characters, it becomes simpler to write from our characters’ perspectives—rather than from the author’s perspective, or the reader’s. I’m not talking about formal perspective, here—1st person, 3rd person. I’m talking about getting inside your characters’ heads to the point that you don’t have to run everything through your own filters. Sort of like the difference between translating French word-by-word into English and simply hearing something in French and understanding. It’s a fine distinction, but an important one. When this extra “filter” is gone, we feel like we’re in the zone. The words just flow, almost as though we’re transcribing rather than creating. And we don’t feel the need to explain everything.

So. Therapist.

Be someone your character can talk to, can vent to. Sit down with a computer, a notebook, a tape recorder—whatever does the job—and ask your character the stereotypical questions. What was your childhood like? What would it take to make you feel happier and more satisfied? How does that make you feel?

Write the questions down beforehand, or just let them come. Ask your character about backstory and about plot points. Ask them why they reacted certain ways. Ask them what they’re afraid of.

And don’t forget to ask them the big question, the giant question, the blimp over a ballfield question:

What do you want?

Because as we all know from movies, motivation is incredibly important to an actor’s portrayal of characters. Of course, a writer would need to know characters’ motivations! And don’t just say, “to defeat so-and-so” or “to fulfill my destiny.” Those answers are cliched, and your readers will see right through them. If your characters doesn’t know why they are doing what they do, your readers won’t care whether or not they’re successful.

So here’s the challenge:

Hold therapy sessions for your characters.

Record them, write them down, chisel them in stone. Whatever. Just use them to inform your narrative. And please, share snippets in the comments below! I would love to see how you’re able to develop your characters using this method.

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Video of the Week #112: Mozart–Divine Genius or Offensive Pig

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Video of the Week #112: Mozart–Divine Genius or Offensive Pig

At 22 minutes, this video is much longer than the usual Video of the Week on ARHtistic License, but it reviews the 1984 Oscar-winning movie, Amadeus, adeptly separating fact from fiction. For cinema buffs and classical music lovers alike.

Pink

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Pink

My offerings for the Tuesday Photo Challenge:

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Photographs © by ARHuelsenbeck

Wordless Wednesday: Weeds or Wildflowers?

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Wordless Wednesday: Weeds or Wildflowers?

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How to Rewrite, Revise, and Edit Your Novel, Part III

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How to Rewrite, Revise, and Edit Your Novel, Part III

This is the third of a three-part series of articles. Part I is here; and Part II is here.

ROUND FOUR

Review your story’s time line. Could all the events have taken place during the time span? Although you don’t have to account for every minute (or even every day) of your characters’ time, help your readers get a sense of time’s passage with transition phrases like two weeks later or later that evening.

Craft a strong opening and a strong ending for every chapter. If each chapter starts with a beautifully-written sentence that sets up an intriguing situation, the reader will want to continue reading. The last sentence should compel him to turn the page (cliffhangers are good).

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Did you follow through on ideas you presented in various chapters? Are there elements, like a meaningful symbol or talisman, that you want to carry throughout the whole book? Write them down, and check to see if you did carry them through. Are there characters you introduced who need to reappear, or who really don’t matter to the story? Add some scenes to develop them, or delete them altogether. Do all your threads tied up at the end?

Have you included enough detail? Be sure you have not assumed too much knowledge on your reader’s part. You’re immersed in the story; help them to also be. But give your reader credit for intelligence.

Take out the unnecessary routines that passed your characters’ time unless there’s a reason to detail them. Nobody wants to read about your protagonist flossing his teeth (unless you’re writing a dental thriller). However, sometimes routine material can add color to the time setting. My work-in-progress is set in 1967, when no one had an automatic ice maker in their fridge. I take the reader through a step-by-step account of filling an old-fashioned metal ice cube tray.

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FINAL (MAYBE NOT LITERALLY) ROUND

Get rid of weenie words. Search your manuscript for is, was, were, and that, because they are often paired with weak, passive words. Replace them with strong, active words.

Eliminate clichés. Clichés are fine for first drafts, because they help you get your thoughts down. But unless you have a character whose quirk is always speaking in them, find a fresh way to make your point (maybe instead of her hair blowing in the wind, it whipped her shoulders), or twist the cliché. My protagonist recorded in her journal that it was raining “cats, dogs, zebras, and giraffes.”

Beautify your writing with poetic devices. Vivid writing heightens your readers’ enjoyment of your book. Alliteration, anaphora, onomatopoeia, metaphor—search poetic devices online for the full palette. Read these examples of picturesque sentences.

It goes without saying that spelling, grammar, and punctuation must be correct. I’m dismayed when I find errors in a book I’ve paid good money for. Even if you’re not, don’t alienate your readers (and potential agents and publishers) by turning in a sloppy manuscript.

Rewrite

When your manuscript is the best you can make it, send it out to a few (five?) beta readers. These should be trusted writer friends who are farther along in their careers than you. (You do have a group of trusted writer friends at various levels of proficiency, don’t you? If not, you need to cultivate some.) Ask your beta readers to look for: consistency; boring parts; coincidences or too-convenient solutions; and clarity. Have them write down any questions that occur to them as they read, and whatever suggestions they have for what you can do better. Give them time to work. Some might give you a forty-eight hour turn around, but most will require a couple of weeks, or longer if they’re busy.

Read through all the feedback once without making any decisions about changes, except for the most obvious corrections that you absolutely know must be made. Many of the suggestions you’ll receive may seem absolutely wrong, counter to what you’re trying to achieve with your book. You don’t have to change a thing. However, if four out of your five trial readers have a problem with the scene on page 175, you can be sure something’s wrong with it. Let the feedback sit for a couple of weeks, and then reread all the suggestions again. Consider them carefully, and implement the ones that will make your story stronger. Remember when I said above you were on your final round of revision? I lied. You may need to go back and redo some of those rounds. Put in the work to make your manuscript the best it can be.

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Now, maybe you don’t need to do as many rounds of revisions as I’ve described in this article. Maybe your drafts aren’t as ugly as mine. I know lots of people who are so eager to get published that they send out their manuscripts after a couple of quick swipes. I’ve also seen self-published work that could have used additional edits. If you’re experienced, you can judge for yourself how deeply you need to redo. If you’re unpublished, err on the side of caution. But don’t let a desire for perfection keep you from ever submitting; that’s just counter-productive. Aim for excellence, not perfection.

Then send your baby out into the world.

Did you find this article helpful? Then, please click the “Like” button, and share on social media.

Monday Morning Wisdom #116

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Monday Morning Wisdom #116

Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. – Elmore LeonardMMW

Photo of Elmore Leonard by Peabody Awards.

 

From the Creator’s Heart #112

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From the Creator’s Heart #112

But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their fathers, who did not trust in the Lord their God. They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their fathers and the warnings he had given them. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, “Do not do as they do,” and had forbidden them to do (2 Kings 17:14-15 NIV).