Monthly Archives: January 2019

Dear Writer Friends, I have a favor to ask…

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If you have gotten worthwhile writing advice from ARHtistic License, would you please nominate us as a best writing blog before January 31? I post helpful writing articles each month, and I would like to attract some new readers who are also writers. Thanks!

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RIP: Mary Oliver

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September 10, 1935 – January 17, 2019

My heart is heavy. One of America’s greatest poets.

For more about Mary Oliver, click here. And here.

Guest Post: Focusing Your Novel with a Journalist’s Trick by Andrea Lundgren

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Guest Post: Focusing Your Novel with a Journalist’s Trick by Andrea Lundgren

Thank you to Andrea Lundgren and A Writer’s Path for this excellent article on writing the novel.

Okay, perhaps it’s more of a tool than a trick, but journalists have been using the “Who-What-Where-When-Why-and-How” format on hard news pieces for well over a century (to judge by the sort of articles they write, where each of these items are addressed), and I’ve found the six questions are equally useful when writing a novel.

Because, like journalists, we’re writing a story about something that happened…it’s just that it happened in our imagination. The standard six questions can be used when brainstorming your next story, focusing your editing, or trying to come up with a blurb (which is rather like a very short news article about your novel, without the ending disclosed).

  • Who. This may seem obvious, but a lot of times, authors need to clarify whose story they are telling. Is it the young lad who’s just learning to swing a sword? The hardened veteran? The king? The spy for the other side? The woman who’s hiding her identity so she can fight alongside her countrymen? If you use first person narration, it should be very obvious who the story belongs to, but when you’re using third person omniscient or third person close, with many different character points-of-view, this will become critical and a bit more of a puzzle for you, the author, to solve. The novel can’t belong to everyone or the reader will get confused, so you have to latch onto a “Who.”

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Now, you might have a story that features multiple characters as the “Who,” like The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia, but picking out a Who, even if it’s only on a scene-by-scene basis, will help ensure you don’t head-hop. And you might try writing a “group story” from one character’s POV just to see how it feels. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from Edmund’s POV would be a deep, heart-felt story of redemption while the same plot from Lucy’s POV would highlight the agony of losing Aslan. (And you wouldn’t have to shut the other characters out of your tale; you’d just focus on one or the other as the main character of the story.)

  • What. This is the sentence or two that is the heart of the story (and should probably appear, in some form or another, in your book’s description/blurb). In the case of The Lord of the Rings,  it’s the journey to destroy the ring of power despite the evil forces that lurk in every corner of the realm. In The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, it’s about discovering a world where it’s always winter, never Christmas…or perhaps the struggle against the temptation of being a king when it means betraying your family and friends.

The “What” can be the hardest question for an author to answer because, for us, the story is made up of so many scenes. It’s about the bath at Frodo’s house, the betrayal of Gandalf, the chase by the ring wraiths…and we can get bogged down in the details until we can’t see the big picture of what 0ur novel is about. But, if we don’t answer the “What” question, our story can spiral into a long, wandering tale without any focus, and writing a blurb can be well nigh impossible (save for something vague about “A tale of friends as they walk through the joys and sorrows of Middle Earth).

To continue reading this article, click here.

Video of the Week #184: Transcendence​

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More about Lindsey Stirling.

More about the Landfill Harmonic.

Wordless Wednesday/Flower of the Day: Lantana

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Be sure to check out Cee’s Flower of the Day challenge.

Mozart, the Boy Wonder

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Mozart, the Boy Wonder

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756. He was the youngest of seven children, five of whom died in infancy. His elder sister was Maria Anna Mozart, nicknamed “Nannerl”.

When Nannerl was 7, she began keyboard lessons with her father, Leopold, who was a composer and musician, while her three-year-old brother looked on. Though she was very talented, it was soon apparent that Wolfgang was even more so. Wolfgang quickly learned how to play and by the age of five was making up his own pieces, which his father wrote down for him. When he was eight years old, Mozart wrote his first symphony, most of which was probably transcribed by his father.

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Young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The Mozarts spent several years traveling around Europe. The child prodigies, Wolfgang and Nannerl, performed at multiple royal courts. During this trip, Wolfgang met a number of musicians and acquainted himself with the works of other composers. A particularly important influence was Johann Christian Bach, whom he visited in London in 1764 and 1765.

The Mozarts on Tour

The Mozarts on Tour

After returning with his father from Italy in March of 1773, Mozart acquired a position as a court musician by the ruler of Salzburg, Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo. The composer had a great number of friends and admirers in Salzburg, and had opportunities to work in many genres, including symphonies, sonatas, string quartets, masses, serenades, and a few minor operas. Between April and December, 1775, Mozart developed an enthusiasm for violin concertos, producing a series of five (the only ones he ever wrote).

In August 1777, Mozart resigned his position at Salzburg and in September ventured out once more in search of employment, with visits to Augsburg, Mannheim, Paris, and Munich. While Mozart was in Paris, he wrote his A minor piano sonata and the “Paris” Symphony (No. 31). Meanwhile, his father hunted for new opportunities of employment for him in Salzburg. Mozart reluctantly returned to Salzburg in January 1779 and took up his new appointment.

In March, 1781, Mozart was summoned to Vienna, where his new employer, Archbishop Colloredo, was attending the celebrations for the accession of Joseph II to the Austrian throne. Colloredo simply wanted his musical servant to be at hand; but Mozart had a different agenda. He wanted to audition for the Emperor.

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Archbishop Colloredo refused to permit Mozart to take on outside jobs. Mozart attempted to resign as the Archbishop’s musical director and was refused. The following month, permission was granted, but in a grossly insulting way: the composer was dismissed literally “with a kick in the arse”, administered by the archbishop’s steward. Mozart moved to Vienna as a freelance performer and composer.

His new career in Vienna began well. He performed often as a pianist, notably in a competition before the Emperor with Muzio Clementi on December 24, 1781, and he soon established himself as the foremost keyboard player in Vienna. He also prospered as a composer, and in 1782 completed The Abduction from the Seraglio, which was a huge success. Performed throughout German-speaking Europe, the opera established Mozart’s reputation as a composer.

Mozart fell in love with Constanza Weber, and they were married August 4, 1782. The couple had six children, of whom only two survived infancy.

In 1784, Mozart met Joseph Haydn in Vienna, and the two composers became friends. When Haydn visited Vienna, they sometimes played together in an impromptu string quartet. Mozart dedicated six quartets to Haydn.

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From 1782 to 1785 Mozart mounted concerts with himself as soloist, presenting three or four new piano concertos in each season. The concerts were very popular, and the concertos he premiered at them are still performed regularly.

With substantial returns from his concerts and elsewhere, Mozart and his wife adopted a rather extravagant lifestyle. They moved to an expensive apartment, and Mozart bought himself a fine fortepiano and a billiard table. The Mozarts sent their son Karl Thomas to an expensive boarding school and kept servants. They saved nothing.

Around the end of 1785, Mozart moved away from keyboard writing and began an operatic collaboration with the librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. 1786 saw the successful premiere of The Marriage of Figaro in Vienna. The opera Don Giovanni premiered in October 1787 to acclaim in Prague. The two are among Mozart’s most important works and are mainstays of the operatic repertoire today.

In December 1787, Mozart finally obtained a steady post under aristocratic patronage. Emperor Joseph II appointed him as his “chamber composer.” It was a part-time appointment, and required Mozart only to compose dances for the annual balls. This modest income became important to Mozart when hard times arrived.

Toward the end of the decade, the Austro-Turkish War caused the general level of prosperity to decline and the aristocracy could no longer support music. Mozart and the other musicians in Vienna found fewer performance opportunities and commissions. The arts struggled.

Mozart’s last year (until his final illness) was a time of great productivity. He composed a great deal, including some of his most admired works: the opera The Magic Flute; his final piano concerto (K. 595 in B♭); the Clarinet Concerto; the last in his great series of string quintets (K. 614 in E♭); the motet Ave verum corpus; and the unfinished Requiem.

Mozart's Deathbed

Mozart fell ill while in Prague for the September 6, 1791, premiere of his opera La clemenza di Tito, written in that same year on commission for the Emperor’s coronation festivities. He continued his professional functions for some time and conducted the premiere of The Magic Flute on September 30. His health deteriorated in November, at which point he became bedridden, suffering from swelling, pain, and vomiting.

Mozart was nursed in his final illness by his wife and her youngest sister, and was attended by the family doctor. He was mentally occupied with the task of finishing his Requiem. (Tradition claims it was completed by his student Franz Xaver Süssmayr. Despite the story suggested in the movie Amadeus, no foul play was suspected, and Mozart did not dictate passages to Antonio Salieri.)

Mozart died in his home on December 5, 1791, at age 35. In his brief lifetime he composed more than 600 works, many of which are acknowledged masterpieces of symphonic, chamber, choral and operatic music.

 

 

Monday Morning Wisdom #189

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Monday Morning Wisdom #189

But to be perfectly frank, this childish idea that the author of a novel has some special insight into the characters in the novel…it’s ridiculous. That novel was composed of scratches on a page, dear. The characters inhabiting it have no life outside of those scratches. What happened to them? They all ceased to exist the moment the novel ended. ~Peter Van Houten in The Fault in our Stars by John Green.

#DC380: Zendala

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My offering for the Diva Challenge, using patterns Kuke, Onamato, and Cubine (variation):fullsizeoutput_bea

From the Creator’s Heart #185

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Review of Scene and Structure by Jack M. Bickham

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Review of Scene and Structure by Jack M. Bickham

I actually read this book twenty years ago—and remembered nothing from it. But it was full of my underlining and border notes in my handwriting, so I definitely read it.

The late Jack Bickham wrote 75 novels (two of which were made into films) and six books on the craft of fiction. He understands how to write a story.

Yet, as I was rereading this book over the course of more than a year, I found myself resisting much of what Bickham expounds. For example, Bickham says every scene must end with a disaster. I rejected that idea, because many of my scenes don’t and I couldn’t picture what would have to happen to follow that convention.

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Then I read Children of Blood and Bone. Every scene in Children of Blood and Bone ends with a crisis. (Except maybe one.) And I couldn’t put CoB&B down. The pacing was so fast. The problems were so compelling.

So I began to take Scene and Structure more seriously.

Some of the terms in S&S I’d seen before, but I thought they meant something different. For example, I thought a scene goal was the author’s goal for the scene. It’s actually the viewpoint character’s goal for the scene. I suppose I would have known that if I’d majored in creative writing in college instead of music education.

Here are some points I learned from Scene and Structure:

  • Moment by moment, transactions occur in your scene that involve this progression: stimulus, internalization, response. A cause and effect relationship exists between the stimulus and the response. The response should make sense as a reaction to the stimulus. If the response would confuse the reader, an explanation is necessary; this occurs while the character processes the stimulus during the internalization phase.
  • At the beginning of the story, the main character must state a goal. The reader unconsciously forms a story question: i.e. will the character achieve his goal?
  • At the beginning of each scene, the viewpoint character states a short-term goal related to the story goal, and the reader again formulates a scene question about its attainment. The next element of the scene is conflict. In order to keep the reader engaged, the scene must end with a disaster.
  • Each scene disaster is followed by sequel (sometimes with a connecting transition) in which the character processes what’s just happened. Sequel consists of emotion, thought, decision (creation of the next scene’s goal), and action, which launches the next scene.

Scene and Structure covers much more related to writing the novel, including suggestions on how to create a master plot for your book, and an appendix of excerpts of published novels illustrating some of the concepts introduced in S&S.

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This was not an easy book to read. I often had to read sections over and over to understand them. I don’t know if my confusion was the fault of the author or of my own limited intelligence. However, I will be reading this book again, and filtering my manuscript-in-progress through all the bullet points listed. I would recommend Scene and Structure for authors who are not satisfied with their own work but don’t know what’s wrong with it: you may have structural deficiencies.