#FineArtFriday: Old Water Tank by Jaime Prosser

SONY DSC

Title: Old Water Tank

Medium: Oil Painting

Artist: Jaime Prosser

What I love about this painting:

I love the stark realism, the derelict water tower rising from the sea of grass, silhouetted against the blue Australian sky. Prosser’s brush captures the wildness of the scene. There is a serenity to this scene, the sureness of mankind’s creation crumbling, slowly giving way to the inevitable. Nature always wins.

About the Artist:

Jaime Prosser is an Australian artist. Her work can be found at her website, https://jaimeprosserart.com.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:’OLD WATERTANK’ OIL PAINTING BY JAIME PROSSER.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:%27OLD_WATERTANK%27_OIL_PAINTING_BY_JAIME_PROSSER.jpg&oldid=535927333 (accessed September 9, 2022).

3 Comments

Filed under writing

When your novel is only a novella #amwriting

Sometimes we find that our work-in-progress is not a novel after all. We get to the finish point, and that place might be only at the 40,000-word mark (or less).

WritingCraft_short-storyIn some circles, 40,000 words is a novel, but in fantasy, it is less than half a book.

You could try to stretch the length, but why? If you have nothing of value to add to the tale, it’s better to be known for having written a strong novella than a weak novel.

I’m a wordy writer but sometimes the finished work is shorter than I’d planned–a lot shorter. Then I have to make a decision. I could choose to leave it at the length it is now and have it edited. Or I could try to expand it.

If my beta readers feel the plot lacks substance at that length, I let it rest for a while then come back to it. Then I can see where to add new scenes, events, and conversations to round out the story arc.

Other times, the story is complete, but only about half the length of a novel. Sometimes this happens in the revision process.

In the second draft of any manuscript, I weed out many words and hunt for unnecessary repetitions of information. At that stage, the manuscript will expand and contract. It hurts the novelist in my soul, but the story may only be 35,000 words long when the second draft is complete.

I do a lot of rambling when trying to visualize the story. While I usually do it in a separate document, it often bleeds over into my manuscript. During the editing process, I sometimes find that besides the four chapters that don’t fit the plot anymore, three more chapters mainly deal with background info, and can be condensed into one.

CAUTION INFO DUMP ZONE AHEADA detailed history of everyone’s background isn’t required. As a reader, all we need is a brief mention of historical information in conversation and delivered only when the protagonist needs to know it.

Unfortunately, I sometimes forget to write it out in a separate document.

Once I condense rambling passages, I end up with a scene that moves the story forward.

Some other things to watch for in the second draft are areas where I have repeated myself but with slightly different phrasing. These are hard for me to pick out, but they can be found. I decide which wording I like the best and go with that.

Also, in the first draft, I use a lot of “telling” words and phrases I will later change or cut. I look for active alternatives for words and phrases that weaken the narrative:

  • There was
  • To be

When I change these words to more active phrasing, I sometimes gain a few words in the process as showing requires more words than telling.

But then I lose words in other areas. Again, I’m speaking as a reader here, but when reading conversations especially, it’s good for an author to use contractions. It makes the conversations feel more natural and less formal. It shortens the word count because two words become one: was not becomes wasn’t, has not becomes hasn’t, etc.

Most times, I can cut some words, even entire paragraphs. Often the prose is stronger without them, and these words need no replacement.

In the first draft, I regularly employ what I think of as crutch words. I can lower my word count when I get rid of them. These are overused words that fall out of my head along with the good stuff as I’m sailing along:

  • So (my personal tic)
  • Very (Be wary if you do a global search – don’t press “replace all” as most short words are components of larger words, and ‘very’ is no exception.)
  • That
  • Just
  • Literally

I have learned to be ruthless. Yes, I might have spent three days or even weeks writing a chapter that now must be cut. But even though I try to plot an outline in advance, the arc might change as I write the first draft. New events emerge, and I find better ways to get to the end than what was first planned.

It hurts when a really good chapter no longer fits the story. But maybe it bogs things down when you see it in the overall context. It must go, but that chapter will be saved. With a name change and perhaps a few place-name changes it could be the genesis of a short story.

I save everything I cut in a separate file, as I guarantee I will find a use for it later. I always have a file folder inside each master file labeled “Outtakes.” Those cut pieces often become the core of a new story, a better use for those characters and events.

I have learned to pay close attention to the story arc. Once your first draft is complete, no matter how short or long, measure the story against the blueprint of the story arc.

blueprint-of-the-story-arc

  • How soon does my inciting incident occur? It should be near the front, as this will get the story going and keep the reader involved.
  • How soon does the first pinch point occur? This roadblock will set the tone for the rest of the story.
  • What is happening at the midpoint? Are the events of the middle section moving the protagonist toward their goal? Did the point of no return occur near or just after the midpoint?
  • Where does the third pinch point occur? This event is often a catastrophe, a hint that the protagonist might fail.
  • Is the ending finite, solid, and does it resolve the major problems? Even if this story is one part of a series, we who are passionate about the story we’re reading need firm endings.

Some people think they aren’t a real author if they don’t write a 900-page doorstop.

I tell them that it’s not important to have written a novel. Whether you write poems, short stories, novellas, or 700-page epic fantasies, you are an author.

The Emperor's Soul - Brandon SandersonNovellas hold a special place in my heart. A powerful, well-written novella can be a reading experience that shakes the literary world:

  1. The Emperor’s Soul, by Brandon Sanderson
  2. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
  3. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote
  4. Candide, by Voltaire
  5. Three Blind Mice, by Agatha Christie
  6. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  7. The Time Machine, by H.G, Wells
  8. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
  9. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway
  10. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
  11. The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James

15 Comments

Filed under writing

The Plot Generator – a cure for boredom #amwriting

We all have moments where we can’t figure out what our characters need to do next. Sometimes, all we have is a character and a vague premise for the story. I’ve been invited to write a short story for a specific anthology, but all I have is the ghost of an idea.

plot is the frame upon which the themes of a story are supportedRather than obsess about my lack of creativity, I decided to have fun with it. Several young writers in my NaNoWriMo region have said they used a plot generator to jumpstart their ideas, so I thought I’d give that a try.

The internet has a plethora of plot generators – who knew there was such a demand for plots? I chose the top one because of the algorithms. Or perhaps it was at the top for something even more sinister – corporate bribery.

Either way, no problem. No matter how it got there, if it’s at the top of page one, it must be good, right? I believe everything I’m told by the internet, so I went with it.

The website opens with a template. You plug in a few words that pertain to what you think your story is, and presto! The internet generates your plot.

I thought I’d try that and see what it came up with. I invented two characters, John Smith and Morris Jones.

When asked what sort of dwelling they inhabited, I decided they lived in an inn.

The next spot in the template wanted a word that described what the dwelling meant to my characters.

“Well,” I thought, “it’s probably cold and rainy out there in Fantasy World, so an inn means ….”

  • Shelter

After that, the plot generator asked me for a list of keywords.

Well, that was both unkind and unfair.

I’m horrible at thinking up keywords. If I could think up keywords, I wouldn’t be consulting a plot generator. I’d be looking up my horoscope instead.

But the template was staring at me, demanding answers. I had a teacher who always looked at me that way, making me nervous, expecting results ….

So, I fired off the first words that popped into my head, most of them aimed at the stupid plot generator:

  • Author-thoughtsCursed
  • Lying
  • Worrying
  • False
  • Deceitful
  • Frantic (my state of mind)
  • Charming (me, if you actually know me)
  • Passionate (me, when it comes to chocolate)
  • wicked
  • Fake
  • Violent
  • Cold (how the search for keywords left me)

Then I was asked for three professions. By now, I was getting into the swing of things and having a good time. I decided to give John and Morris honest occupations:

  • Blacksmith (definitely honest).
  • Loan shark (definitely dishonest, but it popped into my head, so …).
  • Pharmacist (fairly random, but we had to pick up a prescription later, so it was on my mind).

Who were their companions? I had no clue, so I opted for generic:

  • Men
  • Mages
  • People

The generator asked what they might be searching for. I didn’t know my two characters were searching for anything. “Well,” I thought, “this is a fantasy, so ….”

  • Spells
  • Swords

Then the generator asked me to name a big battle. That stumped me. I figured that Waterloo was already taken, and the Battle of Hastings was too. So I went with a made-up name:

  • Shallowford

This is what the plot generator gave me:

In an inn there lived a deceitful, frantic loan shark named John Smith. Not a cursed charming, passionate inn, filled with charms and a worrying smell, nor yet a wicked, violent, cold inn with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a loan shark-inn, and that means shelter.

One day, after a troubling visit from the pharmacist Morris Jones, John leaves his inn and sets out in search of three false spells. A quest undertaken in the company of people, mages and fake men.

In the search for the mage-guarded spells, John Smith surprises even himself with his loyalty and skill as a blacksmith.

During his travels, John rescues a sword, an heirloom belonging to Morris. But when Morris refuses to try lying, their friendship is over.

However, Morris is wounded at the Battle of Shallowford and the two reconcile just before John engages in some serious lying.

John accepts one of the three false spells and returns home to his inn a very wealthy loan shark.

By golly, I think that’s the perfect plot for a story in five paragraphs, including a happy ending. The prose is … (insert superlatives here).

the hobbitThis plot generator has clearly been studying J.R.R. Tolkien, as it has managed to plagiarize the first paragraph of The Hobbit right down to the punctuation.

“In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole with ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry bare sandy hole with nothing to sit on or eat: it was a hobbit-hole and that means comfort.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, published 1937 by George Allen & Unwin.

Maybe I should write a Gothic romance next. I could probably use the same keywords.

18 Comments

Filed under writing

#FineArtFriday: The Munitions Girls by Stanhope Forbes,1918 #LaborDay

L0059548 'The Munitions Girls' oil painting, England, 1918

Artist: Stanhope Forbes (1857–1947)

Title: The Munitions Girls

Date: 1918

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions: height: 103 cm (40.5 in); width: 127 cm (50 in)

Collection: Science Museum

About this Image, via Wikimedia Commons:       

Commissioned by John Baker & Co, this famous oil painting, The Munitions Girls, shows women working at Kilnhurst Steelworks during the First World War. The artist was Alexander Stanhope Forbes (1857-1947). Like many other steelworks during the war, John Baker & Co’s Kilnhurst site was converted to make shells and ammunition. As men volunteered or were conscripted to fight in the British Army, women became the main work force in industry and farming. Munitions workers could often be picked out in a crowd because of the distinctive yellow coloring of their hair and skin caused by the sulfur used in production. They were nicknamed canaries. [1]

My Usual Fine Art Rant Goes in a Different Direction:

The women in this picture are shown doing dangerous, dirty work. They stepped up and did what they had to do to make sure their husbands and lovers had the weapons they needed to defend their country.

And they are doing it for very little money, less than men would have earned. While that is slowly changing, some things remain the same. It’s difficult to find people who want to do the “ordinary work,” jobs considered blue-collar, or manual labor.

Here in the US, it is Labor Day weekend, the last hurrah of summer, but more importantly, a day dedicated to appreciation of those who make up our labor force, the people who do the unglamorous work that keeps our world turning smoothly.

I’ve always been a writer, but I like to eat. I always held two and three part-time jobs just to keep the roof over my children’s heads and food on their table. I could make the food budget stretch like a politician’s idea of truth.

  • 1970s-80s – a field hand for a multi-national Christmas tree company, bookkeeper, photo lab tech, waitress in a bakery and also worked in a deli.
  • 1980s-90s – a hotel maid, a dark-room technician, a bookkeeper, and an office manager
  • 2000-13 – a bookkeeper, tax-preparer, data entry.

None of my work was glamorous but I always found something to enjoy in each job. By going to work every day I was able to pay my bills, which I did enjoy. Sometimes, especially during the Reagan years and into the 90s, wages were low, and jobs were scarce.

I worked every weekend and every holiday and yes it was not easy, but it was what it was. My kids knew I was doing my best for them, and they appreciated it.

During the late 70s and early 80s I was a field hand for the J. Hofert Company (Christmas trees) and absolutely loved the work. It was outdoors, paid $3.25 an hour and it was seasonal, but I was able to work a lot of overtime, as field hands were as hard to get then as they are now.

My favorite job was as a hotel maid at a large hotel in Olympia–the work was hard, but I enjoyed it for 12 years. For most of the 1990s it was my weekend job that I kept along with my bookkeeping job, because the hotel was a union shop.

As a bookkeeper/office manager for a charter bus company, I made $7.50 an hour (two dollars over minimum at the time). I worked four seven-hour shifts a week, Monday through Thursday, arriving at 06:00 AM to open the shop, ate lunch at my desk, and went home at 1:00 PM (13:00 military time). That job had no benefits whatsoever. However, I was home when my kids got off the school bus and could make sure they got to their after-school activities.

At my second job, 3 eight-hour shifts Friday through Sunday, I worked as a hotel housekeeper in a union shop. I made $8.50 an hour (three dollars over minimum).

I kept those two jobs all through the 1990s because I was home every night and earned enough to live decently and provide for my children.

No matter what other job I had, I kept my weekend job at the hotel, because it paid well and left my mind free to think about what I was writing. When other jobs went away, I always had that one to fall back on.

Because of the union, we who did the dirty work earned a little more than other women in that line of work, and had a few benefits, such as health insurance and a 401k. Without the union, we hotel maids would have had nothing more than minimum wage.

Not every union is good, and not every union is reasonable. But while I don’t agree with everything every union does and stands for, I do feel gratitude that I and my family was protected by a good, reasonable organization during those years of struggle.

I’m retired now and have the time to write all I want. The world is a different place in many ways, and workers are in short supply. Every place is short-staffed because there are more job openings than workers to fill them.

Someone must do the dirty jobs, the work that no one else wants. I have nothing but respect for those who work long hard hours in all areas of the service industry, struggling to support their families. Look around you, and see the people who make your life easier, by being there every day doing their job.

Every one of them is a person just like you, a living, caring human being with hopes, ambitions, triumphs, and tragedies. Every one of them has a story and a reason to be where they are, doing the task they have been given.

Say a little thank you to all those who take your unintentional abuse when you are stressed out and “don’t have time to wait,” or are upset by things you have no control over and need to vent at someone who can’t or won’t fight back.

The women in Stanhope Forbes’ painting are all gone now, memories of a moment in history. But what they did was important. Give a little thanks to those who do the dirty work and enable you to live a little easier.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Forbes was born in Dublin, the son of Juliette de Guise Forbes, a French woman, and William Forbes, an English railway manager, who was later transferred to London. He had an older brother, Sir William Forbes, who was a railway manager for the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway.

He was married in the summer of 1889 to fellow painter Elizabeth Armstrong at Newlyn’s St Peter’s Church. Their first home was at the “Cliffs Castle” cottage, which overlooked the sea. They had a son named Alexander (Alec). The couple had a home built for the family in Higher Faughan, Penzance. Elizabeth died in 1912.

Forbes generally painted genre scenes and landscapes en plein air.

Beyond his plein air painting, he also made interior scenes and was adept at capturing the “warm and charming” effects of lighting on a room and the people in it, such as The Lantern, made in 1897. More poignantly, Mrs. Lionel Birch writes of his style and particularly the painting The Health of the Bride: “[The painting depicts the] dominant note of his life’s message, his sense of sympathetic humanity. These people in their humble little parlour, are real and living. Intolerant of all shams and false sentiment, the painter has made himself one with the people he depicts; he has understood the humour which lies so close to tears.”

Of Forbes’s works, Norman Garstin said: “he is a good unsentimental painter, his work has a sense of sincerity that appeals to everyone”. [2]


Credits and Attributions:

[1] Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:’The Munitions Girls’ oil painting, England, 1918 Wellcome L0059548.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:%27The_Munitions_Girls%27_oil_painting,_England,_1918_Wellcome_L0059548.jpg&oldid=667352991 (accessed September 1, 2022).

[2] Wikipedia contributors, “Stanhope Forbes,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Stanhope_Forbes&oldid=1089060843 (accessed September 1, 2022).

2 Comments

Filed under #FineArtFriday

Verbs and the Nouns that Love Them part 2 #amwriting

Verbs are the engine words of our prose. They show the action, but like all words, they have shades of mood, nuances that color the tone of my paragraphs. Verbs can either push the action outward from their partner nouns or pull it in.

Verbs there is no tryWhen I write poetry, I look for words that contrast vividly against each other. I choose action words that begin with hard consonants, emotion words that begin with softer sounds.

If I can do this for poetry, I should be able to do this for narrative prose – but alas. For some reason, my poetic brain goes on vacation when I am trying to write a first draft. My work is filled with a bald telling of events.

But that’s okay. All I need at that point is to get the story written down.

But during revisions, when writing really becomes work, and I’m trying to turn that boring mess into something worth reading – that is when I need to use my words. Finding strong verbs and employing contrasts in my word choices becomes essential when embarking on the second draft.

I know that power verbs push action outward from a character. Other word choices pull the action inward, and contrasting the two creates a feeling of opposition and friction. This contrast of opposites injects dynamism into a passage, a sense of vitality, vigor, and energy.

Readers are attracted to dynamic prose.

Note to self: write dynamic prose.

Verbs that push the action outward from a character make them appear authoritative, competent, energetic, and decisive.

Verbs that pull the action in toward the character make them appear receptive, attentive, private, and flexible.

I want to make my characters well-rounded but not quite perfect. I hope they are relatable and human. The way I show their world and their place in it must convey who they are.

opposites work togetherConcise writing is difficult for me because I love descriptors. So, I have to make my action words set the mood. To do that, I must use contrasts.

  • Brood
  • Deny
  • Embrace
  • Escape
  • Consent
  • Refuse
  • Agony
  • Ecstasy

A part of my life was burned away. I was destroyed, but now I was reborn in ways I’d never foreseen.

My action words are burn, destroy, and birth. This character’s entire arc is encapsulated in those three words. The contrasting words I choose throughout their story will make or break that novel.

Can I do it? I don’t know, but I’ll have fun trying. In the beginning, this character’s verbs will be darker, their actions more inward and brooding.

At the end of the story, events and interactions will alter them despite their desire to remain safely static. They will experience a renaissance, a flowering of the spirit.

But verbs and nouns by themselves don’t make engaging prose. They need modifiers and connectors.

I will have to select modifiers and connecting verbs to enhance contrasts. Since I can’t go wild with them, the few I choose must be power words.

Many power words begin with hard consonants. The images they convey project a feeling of power:

  • Backlash
  • Beating
  • Beware
  • Blinded
  • Blood
  • Bloodbath
  • Bloodcurdling
  • Bloody
  • Blunder

When things get tricky and the characters are working their way through a problem, verbs like stumble and blunder offer a sense of chaos and don’t require a lot of modifiers to show the atmosphere. When you incorporate any of the above “B” words into your prose, you are posting a road sign for the reader, a notice that ahead lies danger.

Here are some words to create an atmosphere of anxiety – words that push the action outward:

  • Agony (noun)
  • Apocalypse (noun)
  • Armageddon (noun)
  • Assault (verb)
  • Backlash (noun)
  • Pale (modifier)
  • Panic (verb or noun)
  • Target (verb)
  • Teeter (verb)
  • Terrorize (verb)

Here are some words that draw us in:

  • Delirious (intransitive verb)
  • Depraved (modifier)
  • Desire (verb)
  • Dirty (modifier)
  • Divine (modifier)
  • Ecstatic (intransitive verb)
  • Embrace (verb)
  • Enchant (verb)
  • Engage (verb)
  • Entice (verb)
  • Enthrall (verb)

Writing is an adventure, and I learn something new every day. Some days I like what I write; other days, not so much.

john barrymore memeThe drive to understand why some books enthrall me and others leave me cold keeps me reading and looking for new stories.

Life can be a bumpy road.

The key is to focus on the good things and laugh at the inconveniences. Make a little time to do something creative, and always make time for the people you love.

Comments Off on Verbs and the Nouns that Love Them part 2 #amwriting

Filed under writing

Verbs and the Nouns that love them #amwriting

This week we are continuing the discussion of verbs and how they shape the narrative. Last week I mentioned that I use verbs when creating a character, seeking out the action words each character embodies. Those words illuminate the gut reactions of each character and how they will act and react in each situation.

Verbs there is no tryNow that I have identified who most of my characters are, I am designing the structure of the plot. I need to use actions and events to show the story, but I also must bring out the backstory for my two MCs. I have to shed light on the friction and the attraction and force them together in situations they don’t want to be in. I also have to show them as individuals, independent of each other. As I work on the plot, the verbs that each character embodies will come to me.

Sentences are a marriage of words. A noun is one partner, and the verb is the other. The union of noun and verb will produce offspring—sentences. Modifiers are the in-laws, necessary but meddlesome. They often try to take over and guide the children against the parents’ wishes.

So, to minimize the damage done by intrusive modifiers, we rely on strong verbs and allow the modifiers to have their say only when necessary.

So why are verbs so crucial in shaping the tone and atmosphere of a narrative?

Think about this sentence: Nelson walked away.

We have three words indicating someone has departed, but they don’t show his mood.

Nelson is a person (noun). He performs an action (verb).

That action affects both Nelson and his objective: leaving. Away is an adverb (modifier) denoting distance from a particular person, place, or thing. It modifies the verb, giving Nelson a direction in which to go.

WalkWe can write it several different ways still using only three words, and all of them would indicate that Nelson has left the scene. Each time we substitute a synonym for the word walked, we change the atmosphere of that scene.

Nelson sauntered away. (He departed in a carefree, leisurely manner.)

Nelson strode away. (He walked decisively in a particular direction.)

Nelson stomped away. (Nelson left the scene in a bad mood.)

Nelson ambled away. (He walked slowly.)

Nelson slogged away. (He departed but had to work at it.)

Nelson slipped away. (Nelson departed, but sneakily.)

This is why it’s so important to have a good thesaurus on hand—I want my words to say what I envision. If I choose the correct verbs, my sentences will express my ideas with fewer modifiers.

Many verbs cannot impact a character or object directly. These are called intransitive verbs. They are just as important as transitive verbs because they show a mood or condition, a state of being, or a reflex (instinctive response).

Consider the word “mope.” Mope is an intransitive verb that means dejected and apathetic. It’s an action word that is going nowhere.

Nelson moped. (He was dejected and apathetic.)

We can have our character in a bad mood, but with many nuances that might say what we mean in a more particular way.

Nelson pouted. (He was whiney.)

Nelson languished. (He did nothing and stagnated.)

Nelson sulked. (He was angry and self-pitying.)

Nelson fretted. (He was in a neurotic mood.)

Some intransitive verbs in the family of “mope” are more robust and carry greater force:

Nelson brooded. (He was in a dark mood, obsessing.)

Nelson agonized. (He couldn’t stop thinking about it, suffering.)

When we add a strong intransitive verb to a powerful transitive verb, we have action and mood:

Nelson strode away, brooding. (He left the scene, and someone will suffer.)

transitive verb damon suede quoteThe above examples are basic, a bald telling of actions and moods. They are the core of the paragraph, the central idea. When we strip away the surrounding words, we can see how the variations of a primary verb can change the reader’s perception of an action scene.

Every year, I write the first draft of a novel in November, starting the actual writing on November 1st.

I always begin with an idea for a plot. Usually, I can’t actually visualize how it works until I see who the protagonists are. So, I jot down the premise and start from there. I choose to create a plot with my cast of characters having their primary characteristics in place.

I hope the conflicts and roadblocks will appear to arise organically as if that is what would happen to those people. Up to the end, my MCs must feel uncertain about the outcome. They must fear that failure looms but can’t give up. They must have a well of determination to draw upon.

I must do a certain amount of prep work if I hope to have a coherent plot and believable situations on November 1st. I do this gradually, working on it whenever I’m at a standstill on the current work in progress.

Everyone has hiccups in life, things that take over temporarily and make creative thinking a bit tough. But my work moves ahead because I can always do the technical stuff like plotting and worldbuilding, even when I can’t figure out how to say what I mean.


Previous posts on this subject:

Verbs and Character Creation

Books I own and recommend for further research:

conflict thesaurusThe Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles (Volume 1) (Writers Helping Writers Series Book 8) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.

activateActivate: a thesaurus of actions & tactics for dynamic genre fiction by Damon Suede.

6 Comments

Filed under writing

#FineArtFriday: Landscape, Fruit and Flowers by Frances Flora Bond Palmer 1862

Landscape,_Fruit_and_FlowersArtist: Frances Flora Bond Palmer (1812–1876)

Title: Landscape, Fruit and Flowers

Description: Lithographed and published by Currier & Ives

Date: 1862

Medium: Hand-colored lithograph

Dimensions: height: 19.8 in (50.3 cm); width: 27.5 in (69.8 cm)

Collection: Metropolitan Museum of Art, bequest of Adele S. Colgate, 1962

What I love about this picture:

This is a romantic Victorian image of what a prosperous life might be. Lush, rich, pastoral, and bountiful. The artist created a renaissance-style composition, but with Victorian touches – the hummingbird poised to sip nectar, flowers arranged over ripe fruit, and golden globes (pears?) tucked in amongst strawberries and raspberries. In the background, a farmhouse is situated on a green pasture that stretches to the sea. The fruit and flowers are posed in the front and center, yet they feel organic and natural, as if a picnic were about to occur.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

Frances Flora Bond Palmer (July 24, 1812 – August 20, 1876), often referred to as Fanny Palmer, was an English artist who became successful in the United States as a lithographer for Currier and Ives.

In her youth, Palmer, with her sister Maria, attended Miss Linwood’s School for young ladies, a select private school in London run by needlework artist Mary Linwood. There she was instructed in music, literature, and the fine arts.

On July 13, 1832, Frances Flora Bond married Edmund Seymour Palmer. They had a daughter, Frances E. Palmer, in 1833, and a son Edmund Jr., in 1835.

By the year 1841, the Palmers operated a lithography business together with Frances as the artist and Edmund as the printer. The first notice of their work appeared in the Leicester Journal on May 13, 1842. As an artist-printer team, the Palmers began a series of topographical prints under the title of Sketches of Leicestershire. These prints were very well received and often advertised in the Leicester Journal and the Leicester Chronicle amongst enthusiastic reviews.

When the Palmers were unable to secure enough work for themselves, their business failed. Nathaniel Currier then took over their stock and, recognizing Palmer’s talents, hired her to work for his firm.

During Palmer’s association with the printing companies of N. Currier and Currier and Ives, between 1849–1868, she is credited with producing around two hundred lithographs. She participated in every stage of the lithographic printing process in some way and was widely renowned for her technical skills. She is also credited with assisting Nathaniel Currier in the improvement of existing lithographic technology, including Currier’s own lithographic crayon.

Palmer specialized in landscape and genre prints. Among her subjects were rural farm scenes, famous American ships and architecture, hunters, and Western landscapes. A notable example of these prints during her time with Currier and Ives is her highly regarded series of six bird hunting scenes. Palmer sketched these scenes from life using her husband Edmund Palmer, his friends, and their hunting dogs as models. Each medium-folio print is labeled “Drawing from nature and on stone by FF Palmer,” and was priced at two dollars at the time of its publication in 1852.

Though her work was mainly directed by the type of prints that Currier and Ives wanted to sell or determined by preexisting prints, her few original pieces received praise for their compositional fluidity and technical skill. Her most notable original work is titled Landscape, Fruit, and Flowers, published in 1862. In Still Life Painting in America, Wolfgang Born describes the composition of this work as “flawless.” He also describes the piece as an example of early chromolithography anticipating the impressionist movement. [1]


Credits and Attributions:

Image: Landscape, Fruit and Flowers by Frances Flora Bond Palmer 1862 Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Landscape, Fruit and Flowers.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Landscape,_Fruit_and_Flowers.jpg&oldid=303703279 (accessed August 25, 2022).

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Frances Flora Bond Palmer,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Frances_Flora_Bond_Palmer&oldid=1091932065 (accessed August 25, 2022).

4 Comments

Filed under writing

Verbs and Character Creation #amwriting

This morning I am writing beneath an overcast sky to the sounds of seabirds and waves. It’s the perfect soundtrack for the moment. Later today, the sun will emerge from the mists, and the air will be full of laughter and excited chatter. Knots of parents, children, and dogs will dot the sandy shore, along with all the paraphernalia that goes along with a visit to the beach.

Words-And-How-We-Use-ThemUnfortunately, although we asked for a ground-floor condo, we were assigned a second-floor unit. My husband is managing the stairs – slowly. On the good side, we have the god’s-eye view of a wide stretch of beach, the perfect deck overlooking it all.

canon definitionWriting is going as well as ever, a little up and down. I’m building the framework for a new story, which I will begin writing on November 1st. The world is already built; it’s an established world with many things that are canon and can’t be changed. So, I’m working my way through the bag of tricks that help me jar things loose.

One thing that helps when creating a character is identifying the verbs embodied by each individual’s personality. I am searching for their motivation, the metaphorical “hole” in their life. What pushes them to do the crazy stuff they do? In several seminars I’ve attended, this aspect of character creation was referred to as their void.

Anyway, I’m thinking. I’m identifying the void that blights the lives of each character. I’m letting my mind off its leash and taking notes.

So let’s pretend we’re plotting a novel, and we’re going to use verbs to do it. It could be any kind of novel, but for the sake of this post, we’ll plot a romance novel.

Jack Kerouak on writing LIRF07252022Protagonist HER: Anna Lundquist, an unemployed game developer. She inherited an old farm and has moved there. She embarks on creating her own business designing anime-based computer games. Anna is shy, not good with men unless discussing books or computer games. VOID: Loss of family. VERBS: Create, Build, Seek, Defend, Fight, Nurture. Modifiers: Adaptable, ambitious, focused, independent, industrious, mature, nurturing, private, resourceful, responsible, simple, thrifty.

Protagonist HIM: Cameron (Cam) Berglund, a handsome and charismatic lawyer. His parents divorced, and he was raised in his mother’s home city. He inherited his father’s failing family law firm when his father committed suicide. VOID: Fears to trust. VERBS: Charm, Fix, Mediate, Heal, Advocate. Modifiers: Analytical, cautious, discreet, ethical, honorable, independent, just, pensive, observant, perceptive, private, proactive.

But if we’re writing romance, there must be a little drama before Anna settles on the right man:

Alternate Almost Protagonist HIM: Nic Jones is a ski bum and the charming owner of a coffee shop where Anna uses the internet for the first week until her cable is hooked up. He is writing a novel. VOID: Parents were killed in a plane crash. VERBS: charm, feed, desire, embrace. Modifiers: Ambitious, charming, courteous, disciplined, empathetic, flirtatious, imaginative, independent, pensive, persistent, private, quirky.

Two of Anna’s verbs are “fight” and “defend.” This forces us to ask ourselves why those verbs apply to her. Enter the antagonist:

antagonistAntagonist HIM: Matt Gentry, owner of MGPopularGames and Anna’s former boss, is angry at Anna for leaving his firm. On a skiing trip with an old fraternity brother who owns an art supply store in Starfall Ridge, he sees her entering Nic’s coffeeshop. Matt discovers that Anna is now living in that town. He learns she has started her own company and is building an anime-based RPG. He goes back to Seattle and files an injunction to stop her, claiming that he owns the rights to her intellectual property. VOID: Narcissist. VERBS: Possess, Control, Desire, Covet, Steal, Lie, Torment.

As we go through the process of sorting out the voids, verbs, and modifiers for these characters, we have some of the bones to form the skeleton of a novel. It’s still incomplete, but it’s a beginning. If we were actually writing this story, we would need to research how narcissists behave to ensure our antagonist fits the classic narcissist description but doesn’t become cartoonish.

In my current work-in-progress, a fantasy novel set in my world of Neveyah, the plot is going in the direction of a murder mystery. I haven’t identified the antagonist yet, but I’m inching closer.

I almost have a grip on my two main characters. I know their voids and main verbs, but their secondary verbs and modifiers are still eluding me. Lenn is a fire-mage, and his main verb is “act” (as in to take action). Dalya is an air-mage/healer whose main verb is “nurture.”

Both mages are members of a sect that hunts rogue mages when necessary and have certain powers that come along with that task. I will have my characters built and my plot fully outlined when NaNoWriMo begins. Ironing out this issue is the perfect excuse to sit and watch the seabirds quarreling with each other.

Next week I will continue thinking about verbs and how they do so much more than set a scene in motion. Some verbs push the action, some pull us in, and some don’t work as intended. All verbs set the mood, portraying the action in the light you, as their creator, envision.

pelicans-seagulls-Cannon-Beach August 20, 2021

Pelicans and seagulls on Cannon Beach in August. © Connie Jasperson 2022

Right now, my personal verb is “observe.”

I know it looks like I’m sitting here doing nothing, just gazing at the wildlife with a silly grin.

But actually, I’m working. See this notepad and pencil? See the wind-sculpted Einstein-esque hairstyle I’m rocking? This is how great minds look when they’re working.

Honest.


Credits and Attributions:

The image of pelicans and seagulls in the fog on Cannon Beach is from Connie Jasperson’s private collection and is copyrighted.

11 Comments

Filed under writing

Sand and Surf #amwriting

This week I am writing from my favorite place, Cannon Beach, Oregon. Greg and I are on our annual family pilgrimage to where sand and sea meet grandchildren and dogs. We stay near the beach every year.

The-Largest-Needle-Haystack-Rock-Companion-Cannon-Beach-Oregon-05-August-2019

Sentinel, © 2019 Connie J. Jasperson

This year, we’re in an efficiency unit with a minimal kitchen (two burners, no oven), but I am managing. Once I know what to expect kitchen-wise, I know what to bring. We eat well, regardless.

Our condo is in the thick of things, so pizza night is easy to arrange, and a great pub is just around the corner. My sister-in-law and her husband are in a small house a bit further toward the other end of town.

We booked in January, and while we didn’t get our favorite condo, this one is right on the beach—and I mean ON the beach. The view more than makes up for the minimal kitchen. Besides, the restaurants here usually accommodate those of us on a plant-based diet.

2016-08-12 21.26.16

Sunset at Tillamook Head, Copyright 2016 Connie J. Jasperson

Cannon Beach is a beautifully laid out village, with flowers in every public place. These gardens are maintained by the city. It’s definitely a tourist town, easily walkable, and has a free transit system.

We visit the brewery and each of the several coffee roasters, window-shop in the numerous art galleries, and spend lots of dollars in the bookstores.

On Hemlock, the main street in town, we find a fabulous wine shop, my all-time favorite bakery, and an old-fashioned candy factory.

On years when we have grandchildren visiting, the most essential store sits just around the corner from our condo – Geppetto’s is every child’s favorite toy store. No grandparent can walk past it without stopping in. This store has a wide variety of board games and puzzles to keep everyone busy when the weather is more like fall than summer.

The weather is often cold and wet here, and those who vacation on the coasts of Oregon and Washington know to expect it. After all, we are on the eastern rim of the Northern Pacific, and the weather hits the coastline with all its force. Back home, we’ve had too many days above 90-degrees (over 32 degrees Celsius) so we’re enjoying the cool grayness of a normal summer. These last few years of heat and unpleasantness have not been my kind of fun.

I’m enjoying the cold grayness, but I admit that when the sun shines, it’s magic.

horses on the beach, Cannon Beach, Oregon by C.J. Jasperson 8-13-2014The view from our condo is one that never fails to soothe me. Tillamook Head is just off to the north. A mile out to sea, resting atop a sea stack of basalt, is the notorious Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, nicknamed “Terrible Tilly.” She’s had a long history of strife and tragedy. Although long closed to the public, she still stands today, battered and bruised. She stubbornly clings to life, providing a home for seabirds.

I spend a lot of time on the deck here at the condo, thinking, writing, and looking out to sea at my lighthouse friend. The Northern Pacific waters are wild and untamed. I watch the weather as it blows in, imagining stories about the pelicans and other seabirds who hang out on the sandbar opposite our condo. Seeing them, I think of what a beautiful world we live in.

My mind relaxes and plot knots that have driven me crazy for weeks untangle themselves.

When the wind rises, I go to the water’s edge and fly my kite. While I do that, my husband watches the seabirds nesting on the God-rock of Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock.

Haystack_Rock_11AM_05_August_2019

Haystack Rock at high tide.

Winters on this coast are notoriously awful, as the battering of Terrible Tilly tells us. But August is peaceful, with mists rising at dawn, sun all afternoon, and stars falling over the vast ocean.

When we arrive back in our inland valley every year, I miss this place, my spiritual home. This week will shine in my memories, a sliver of paradise outside of the pandemic, global warming, crazy politics, and the lousy economy.

For my husband, who has a neurological disease called Parkinson’s, it’s a place of rest and rejuvenation where he can easily get around and do things he loves. For me, it’s a retreat where I can write and relax.

We can just be the happy old people that we are.


Credits and Attributions:

All images used in this post are the author’s own work and are copyrighted.

2 Comments

Filed under writing

#FineArtFriday: Two Photographs via Wikimedia Commons

Best_Nature_Picture_of_the_dayDescription: Best Nature Picture of the Day, by Guruspsingh

English: This picture for nature and anyone see now and save nature

Date: 1 August 2020

Source: Own work

Author: Guruspsingh

About these images:

I enjoy looking at the various photographs of nature that one can find through Wikimedia Commons. Every day, it’s something new and different. Sometimes I come across an image that should be an award winner, but so far as I know, has gone unnoticed. These are two of those.

The author titled the above photograph “Best Nature Picture of the Day” and I have to agree with her/him, whoever they are. The intensity of color, the serenity of the composition – this image is powerful.

I wish I could find out more about this photographer and their work. The photographer doesn’t have a completed bio on Wikimedia. I could find no information or website for them, so I have no way of directing viewers to their artwork. There are numerous photographers with the last name of Singh. This particular artist has a singular identifiable style of composition and an affinity for intense, saturated colors.

Fortunately, the above photograph can be found on Wikimedia Commons, along with another amazing image by this artist, one of butterflies taken at dusk: Best Butterfly Picture of the Day.

Best_Butterfly_picture_of_the_day 

Description: Best Butterfly Picture of the Day, by Guruspsingh

Date: 1 August 2020

Source: Own work

Author: Guruspsingh

Guruspsingh was kind enough to make their work available for us through Wikimedia Commons, a virtual art gallery where anyone can view the finest art in the world. I hope you enjoy these pictures as much as I do. They express the beauty of nature as seen through the eyes of an extremely talented photographer.


Credits and Attributions:

Best Nature Picture of the Day, by Guruspsingh, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Best Nature Picture of the day.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Best_Nature_Picture_of_the_day.jpg&oldid=505869626 (accessed August 18, 2022).

Best Butterfly Picture of the Day, by Guruspsingh, CC BY-SA 4.0

<https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Best Butterfly picture of the day.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Best_Butterfly_picture_of_the_day.jpg&oldid=627864380 (accessed August

Comments Off on #FineArtFriday: Two Photographs via Wikimedia Commons

Filed under #FineArtFriday