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Posts from the ‘Writing Exercises’ Category

Use rhetorical devices to evoke readers’ emotion

My mom loved puzzles. She spent most of my childhood in our little mom amd pop grocery store, and in between ringing up customers, stocking shelves, and keeping me occupied, she loved to work on puzzles. Crosswords. Cryptograms. Hangman. Word search. Maybe this is where my love of words came from.

I never enjoyed puzzles like Mom did, but it dawned on me a few years ago that writing poetry is my form of puzzle work. I enjoy hunting for just the right word. Sometimes I wonder if the joy I feel when a poem finally comes together is what Mom felt when she successfully completed a crossword.

Another part of puzzling together a poem is the fun I have in playing with rhetorical devices. What are rhetorical devices?  Read more

Draw on personal pain to write believable characters

I started reading a new paranormal novel last month that I had high hopes for based on how quickly and easily the first few chapters hooked me. The plot was refreshing, unique, and action-filled from the beginning. Interesting, quirky characters reeled me in. But it quickly went downhill from there.

I’m the type of reader who usually doesn’t give up on a book. I always have faith that the author will pull out of the temporary bog and finish, if not strong, at least well. I have only given up on two books in my life. My new paranormal novel was the third.

What went wrong? Read more

The importance of place for writers and our characters


In honor of my poetry book, The Dragon & The Dragonfly, coming out next week, I wanted to share a poem from the book.

I wrote this poem last year as I was trying to find my footing after my husband died in 2015. It’s a poem about finding my place in the world again.

Writing and reflecting about place made me think about its meaning for us as writers and storytellers.

Place is an integral part of our daily lives and of the lives of our characters, but how often do we really think about our places and what they say about us?

All This Blue

At the casino hotel, I set up my computer
near the stone fireplace while you arrange
candles on the mantel, tease the barkeep
over club soda and bitters.

At Barnes and Noble, I finger pages
of new fiction while you devour books
on everything from Android apps
to Taoist secrets of love.

At the coffee shop, I scribble poems
about endings, not realizing these words
are the start of a long grief, while you read
quantum physics and chat with local police
in pressed blue uniforms.

Winters, we eat endless bowls of soup
at the Poulsbohemian Coffeehouse.
Summers, we lounge against Fay Bainbridge
driftwood, watch Salsbury Point fishermen.

After you die, I try go back
to our places. But I cannot find you
in the park, the clouds, or the sea.
I cannot find you in fireplace flames
or at the end of a fishing line.

But I do find you in the coffee shop—
in the calm of police uniforms,
in my words that grow strong again,
that find meaning in this place
where even time lies down
in the midst of all this blue. Read more

How and why you should develop intuition in your characters

This morning, I was working out at the gym on an elliptical machine, not thinking of anything, when suddenly an intense sadness welled up inside me. Having lost my husband over two years ago, I thought it was another layer of grief so I allowed it to rise up and release but instead of releasing, the feeling became more intense and raw. Tears welled up as I continued to work out. I couldn’t figure out what had triggered the feelings and why they were so incredibly strong. And then a thought flashed through my mind—whose feelings are these?

From years of working with and helping people, I know that sometimes I’ll intuit other’s thoughts and feelings, but I’m usually pretty good at recognizing when this happens and setting up my boundaries. For me, this means doing a specific visualization.

This morning, the thought persisted that the sadness I was feeling wasn’t mine. I looked at the man working out on the machine next to me. He didn’t look sad. He didn’t look as if he was in pain. He seemed fine. Read more

Poetry prompt: How to use a favorite poem to create your own

Have you ever read a poem that inspired you in your own writing?

Mary Oliver’s poem, “When Death Comes,” is one such poem for me. I have read it several times over the years. It’s one of those pieces that has stayed with me and became even more resonant over time.

My husband died two years ago so when I re-read Oliver’s poem recently it was from this new perspective of understanding how fleeting our time is here, how every moment is a blessing.

Her work inspired me to write a poem called, “When Love Comes.” I started by following the general form of her poem but then allowed my poem to flourish and take off in its own direction. Though I started off using her form as a guide, I made sure I used my own words and my own ideas.

The result? I like it enough that it’s going to be the final poem for my poetry book to be published later this year.

Below are a few tips for using another poet’s work as a jumping off place for your own poetry: Read more

Write active, sensory description to make your story believable

In a post I read a few years ago by Marg McAlister, “Verisimilitude: Description that Puts the Reader in the Scene,” I copied and saved one of the excerpts she used because I thought it was a good example of how sensory description can work well in a scene.

I was reminded of this last night as I lay in bed reading an urban fantasy novel (to remain nameless except to say it is a popular series by a well-known author in the genre) and my pet-peeve radar was activated.

But let me ask first–why do we read? I read for many reasons: to learn about the world, to learn about the craft of writing, to activate my imagination, to take a break from work. But the main reason I read fiction is to enter other worlds, to lose myself in another place and time, to feel what the characters feel, to experience something different.

So, my biggest pet peeve when reading is when an author pulls me from that world.

And pulling me from that world with an info dump of inactive setting or character description is the worst offender. Pure, unadulterated, torturous Hell. Or, what I imagine Hell might be like for a writer or avid reader. Read more

How one piece of writing can morph into something else

A few of my writing friends and I meet up occasionally to read our work and give each other feedback. One day, I read a poem I’d written about an encounter with a woman who had Alzheimer’s.

When I finished reading it, one of my friends said, “I really like that character. I want to know more about her. I think you should write a story about her.”

I’m not sure why, but when I get a writing idea, I usually know exactly what format it should take: poem, short story, novel, flash fiction. But I realized that one format CAN evolve into something else.

It really made me think. Maybe some of the writing we do is a warm up that can take us in a new direction. My poem still stood on its own as a complete poem, but my friend inspired me to learn more about my character and where I could take her story.

So I was especially interested in a blog post by Roz Morris, on her blog Nail Your Morris suggests that if you want to see if you can turn a short story into a novel, start by doing some planning. Whether you sketch out general ideas or a detailed outline, this plan will help you see the possibilities. Next, “climb in and explore” your story. See if and what you can enlarge in your story. For more excellent tips, read the whole blog post, How to turn a short story into a novel.

Roz also has a series of Nail Your Novel books that you can check out on her blog.

Exercise: Look at your body of writing. Do you have a piece that could be the beginning of something different? Write on.