Sunday, September 22, 2013

Grounds to 'Read With a Pencil Close By'


Here are a handful of grounds to Read with a pencil close by.” I found out it is still one of the best advices ever given to writers or students of the printed text.

Mark Phrases/Sentences & Paragraphs
When a phrase or paragraph catches my eye and sparks up a desire for complemental musing, I mark it using a colored pen/pencil or highlighter. I feel much better having a textual landmark around it, knowing it will arouse zeal whenever I spot it.

A Sign of Commitment
I pick up a fiction/nonfiction text then grab for a colored pencil or highlighter and I feel a sense of commitment. The pen/pencil informs every nerve in my body that I mean business. I aint just doing this for fun, I intend to come off the reading project with a lesson and some learned.

Recall Entire Textual Matter
It’s a lot more easy to call up words from memory if you underline/mark them when you read. I do that often and when my mind coughs up those peculiar sentences they usually appear on the wall of my subconscious as images. I visualize the interesting set of words hemmed in by my scrawls before the title of the book essentially floats to the surface.

Spot Peculiar Phrases/Sentences/Paragraphs
I find I can navigate the text with ease when I circle or box words that chase my fancy. For me, it’s become less stressful identifying a line or box in the middle of a page, to find the sentence or phrase it guards. I can pick out these phrases during my research period. The lines and symbols seem to beg for my attention.

Lookout for Peculiar Twists
Having a highlighter close by where I can reach it and tag a phrase keeps my faculty amped up and on the lookout for expressions full of shades of meaning. The search for inspired language morphs into a conscious, energetic process and for somebody out to learn a new thing that’s a lot.

That’s all folks. I guess you know what you need for your next reading exercise besides the text, that is.

Keep your pen bleeding.


Akpan


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Friday, September 20, 2013

2 Paybacks of a Fine-Tuned Setting

Getting to Know You (short story collection)
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The geographical location and moment in historical time where and when the events of a story unravels is its setting. In a short work of fiction, this element of story may be disregarded but not in the longer form of short fiction or the novel.
Exquisite, fine-tuned settings that take the reader by the hand into the landscape in glittering details and this woven into a vista of background history of the people might very well be the platform that launches a story from obscurity to fame.

1. Originality:
This may not be as apparent in a really short story as it might be in the long form of the short story or in the plot of a novel. But it might very well be the breather the writer needs to create a unique universe; a place where his characters can readily adapt and become living, breathing people. Real people. A well-developed setting can achieve such a feat.

2. Plausibility:
A setting that shows depth and distance becomes its own peculiar world possessing its own set of rules, which govern the events, and the citizens of that unique state. If you create a sleeping beauty-ish universe then you have to make it palpable how an entire kingdom can stay in a coma defying every known medical code and then rouse itself several years later as easily as a child coming off a midday nap awakens.

Developing the setting for your story is like pulling weeds in your lawn, trimming the plants in your garden, repainting the porch to create a sharper contrast of your entire house. Every curve is placed in proper perspective and every outline is well defined.

Keep your pen bleeding.


Akpan


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Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Character is NOT a Rose

Bram Stoker's (1847-1912) Notes on the persona...
Bram Stoker's (1847-1912) Notes on the personal for his novel Dracula. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Roses will always smell sweet. I can't say the same about characters who seem to be strung up on hubris by default.

In fiction, the names given to characters are almost as important as the theme of the story. That fact is beyond dispute. You have to make character names as memorable as character traits.

A vampire that stalks the night who goes by the name Dracula would strike terror into the hearts of folks long before his true form is revealed. Consider Lord Voldermort in the Harry Porter series. And the fact that the villain's name was altered after he turned and became a twisted sorcerer.

In real life, in fiction even in scripture, names have featured elaborately in programming the mindset of its bearer as well as those of the people around them. Readers would root for heroes with memorable and likable names. But there are rare moments when an heroic feat hauls an otherwise ordinary name into a threshold of heroism.
                It's art and in this realm, rules are flimsy things.

As precaution, make an habit of giving your protagonists admirable names and then tag your villains and anti-heroes with horror-inducing names unless you  know, to do otherwise, would sell your story faster.

A rose by any other name will smell sweet but a character on the same basis will definitely suck. That's food for thought.

Keep your pen bleeding.


Akpan


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Friday, September 13, 2013

The Most Important Thing


Story is the most important thing.
It is so much more important than plot, than characterization, than setting. Story is king.
It's to the writer's credit to focus on story, the expression of story, and the exploration and discipline of story. To coin a phrase.
English: penulis = writer
English: penulis = writer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every other writing technique comes after not before and ought to be tested under the lens of this solitary literary  code.

The writer steps way out of line when he turns the strobe light on other people's weak points to downtalk these individuals with his art. And his craft won't thank him for it.

There's nothing remotely off tangent when a story tackles moral issues or attempts to set certain societal values knocked off the pedestal back on its feet. I know you agree with me thus far. You'll also agree that story is not a whip for lashing out at people.

When you craft story, your duty is to get the reader swooped off his/her feet and shoved into your fictional world; help them get lost and forget everything about this terrestrial plane at least, for the length of the story. It's a confrontation as you try to make them reckon with your characters and their peculiar dilemma. This is pure art. It's beautiful when you invoke the muses for a worthy cause.

Things get pretty ugly if a writer collects words in a sling and flings, the full weight of bitterness propelling the projectile.

It's always best to focus on story. Delete every scene forged by malicious intent; get rid of characters that are apparently, twisted repros of real life persons and just tell the damn story.

Keep your pen bleeding.


Akpan



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Monday, September 9, 2013

Allure of Paper


When I was younger, I always packed a pen and a notebook or at least, a sheet of foolscap paper (somewhere down the line I switched to A4 papers for the most part, because you could get one of these at the store round the block). Tucked away carefully within the reach of my arms in the back of my pants pocket, I trudged everyplace in the company of my writing tools. Even at that tender age, I’d featured the muse was an interestingly fickle agent of the creative genius. And I set myself up to max his erratic tendencies.

Paper Weaving
Paper Weaving (Photo credit: FeatheredTar)

Tablet phones and the IPad have warmed themselves to the hearts of millions of writers all around the world. These gadgets have somehow managed to ease off the burden of having to truck with journals thanks to ever-increasing insurgence of writing apps. Amusingly enough, I still find myself enthralled by the sight of a blank page.

I can’t shake the feeling that swallows me up and runs me over when I spot a conventional notebook or a sheet of paper. My fingers become itchy and I grow restless; paper confronts me with a throbbing nostalgia for the good times I’ve had when I was scribbling poetry in entirely remote orbits when I was just a kid trying to perfect my act. I don’t think I’ll ever really get over the allure that paper has on me.

Keep your pen bleeding.


Akpan



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