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Be a Better Writer--ATMOSPHERE

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Vonnie
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Re: Be a Better Writer--ATMOSPHERE

Postby Vonnie » Fri Feb 07, 2014 7:39 pm

Hi Jan,
I missed last week but went back and read the lesson anyway. As for this lesson, I can really tell the difference in atmosphere. In the first paragraph she seemed more concerned about herself than the baby, not really wanting to be burdened.

In the second paragraph she seemed a little fearful that she wouldn't hear the baby. Maybe a little unsure of her abilities to be a good mother.

Ok, I am new to this atmosphere thing, but here is my attempt at creating one.

My heart was beating faster as I anxiously contemplated, should I or shouldn’t I give my testimony. I knew the Lord would have me share the wonderful things He has done for me, however, could I risk being hurt again. I wondered what criticism Pastor would give this time. He always seems to find fault in what I say. I vowed never to say another word in church again. Lord, why are you pushing me this way?

I'm here to learn, so give me any suggestion. Thanks

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RachelM
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Re: Be a Better Writer--ATMOSPHERE

Postby RachelM » Fri Feb 07, 2014 9:17 pm

Here's my atmosphere paragraph. I decided to make it exactly 100 words just for fun. :D

Karen grasped the brass knocker and let it fall. The hollow thud reverberated through the stately door. As she was being led along the shadowy halls, Karen had the eerie sensation of being watched. Her stomach tightened as she was left alone in the gloom of the library. With a gasp she realized that someone was sitting in the huge recliner that faced a cold fireplace. Her eyes locked onto a gnarly hand that loosely held a cigarette. Smoke curled lazily and then sunk. The chair creaked as it turned, and an elderly woman met Karen's gaze with cold disdain.
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lish1936
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Re: Be a Better Writer--ATMOSPHERE

Postby lish1936 » Fri Feb 07, 2014 9:49 pm

All of the wonderful analyses leave very little to add. In fact, they included things I would never have picked up. :-)

As per word choices, I was impressed with the use of verbs, as others have noted, to set the atmosphere. Of the ten words that Rachel selected, seven were verbs. Jaydavid's assessment left me speechless, and frankly, quite envious of his obvious talent.

Since I had little to add :-), I decided to take an excerpt from this last week's Challenge - Light at the End of the Tunnel-to see how I could have improved on the atmosphere. Coming in as 11 in the Rankings always makes me wonder what I could have done better. :-)

I also wanted to know if writing in first person makes it harder to set the atmosphere using the three parts in the lesson.

Here's the link to the article. http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=47653


"After all the years of education and training, the moment I had been waiting for finally arrived.

My heart pumped a notch faster, and a gulp of water momentarily satisfied my dry mouth.
My heart pumped a notch faster, a gulp of water momentarily satisfied my dry (?) mouth.

I carefully checked emergency supplies to make sure nothing was missing, ran a test on my
equipment, and then positioned myself at the beginning of the tunnel.

Fortunately for me, preliminary work required for my first adventure had been carefully carried
out and all visible debris had been removed.

Once last peek at the base of the tunnel assured me that the preliminary work required for my first adventure had been carefully carried out, and all visible debris had been removed.

This allowed me every confidence that the surface of this elongated cave would not impede my progress.
Knowing that the surface of this elongated cave would not impede my progress, brought a brief moment of relief.

That was not my main concern.
But that was not my main concern.

Uppermost on my anxiety scale was the risky journey I was about to take. One wrong move could
damage the walls of the tunnel and cause irreparable harm! Perhaps a cave-in...

Throughout my training, there had been numerous warnings about how to avoid life-threatening moves. Keep your equipment directly in front of you, and stay away from the walls. I, and my college buddies, had heard the warning so much that whenever we met in the hallway, we jokingly reminded each other to, “stay away from the walls.”


Now, about to enter the cave, I knew it was no joke, but a matter of life or death.
Now, poised to enter the cave, I knew it was not a joke, but a matter of life or death.

Not only might I damage the walls, but also the areas surrounding the tunnel."

Jan, I'm not sure if my few changes made any difference, but I was going for an atmosphere of suspense and adventure to set up the surprise twist at the end.

Thanks,

Lillian
E-Book - Retirement Lane - How to Celebrate Life After 60

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I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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glorybee
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Re: Be a Better Writer--ATMOSPHERE

Postby glorybee » Sat Feb 08, 2014 11:10 am

Vonnie wrote:Ok, I am new to this atmosphere thing, but here is my attempt at creating one.

My heart was beating faster as I anxiously contemplated, should I or shouldn’t I give my testimony. I knew the Lord would have me share the wonderful things He has done for me, however, could I risk being hurt again. I wondered what criticism Pastor would give this time. He always seems to find fault in what I say. I vowed never to say another word in church again. Lord, why are you pushing me this way?

I'm here to learn, so give me any suggestion. Thanks


Vonnie, this paragraph seems to take place entirely in the thoughts of the narrator. In order to establish atmosphere, you might want to take the setting into account, also. Something, perhaps, like this:

There was a crackle of expectation in the sanctuary; it seemed to run right to my sweating palms as I clutched my Bible. Should I give my testimony? I had wonderful things to share, but I remembered the pastor's biting words the last time I spoke up. Words crowded in my throat, and I cleared it with a slight noise. It was no louder than a whisper, but dozens of eyes held me and an electric silence filled the room.

I'm sure you can see the difference. To really establish an atmosphere, you have to take into account for more than just the character and her thoughts.

Any follow-up questions for me?
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ATMOSPHERE

Postby glorybee » Sat Feb 08, 2014 11:12 am

RachelM wrote:Here's my atmosphere paragraph. I decided to make it exactly 100 words just for fun. :D

Karen grasped the brass knocker and let it fall. The hollow thud reverberated through the stately door. As she was being led along the shadowy halls, Karen had the eerie sensation of being watched. Her stomach tightened as she was left alone in the gloom of the library. With a gasp she realized that someone was sitting in the huge recliner that faced a cold fireplace. Her eyes locked onto a gnarly hand that loosely held a cigarette. Smoke curled lazily and then sunk. The chair creaked as it turned, and an elderly woman met Karen's gaze with cold disdain.


Rachel, this is very good! My favorite phrase is "cold fireplace," which perfectly captures the dangerous and evil atmosphere. Your personification of the smoke is excellent, too.

The only thing I'd change is the repetition of the word "cold" in the last sentence--"icy disdain" would work just as well.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ATMOSPHERE

Postby glorybee » Sat Feb 08, 2014 11:19 am

lish1936 wrote:I also wanted to know if writing in first person makes it harder to set the atmosphere using the three parts in the lesson.


I don't think so. Take a look at the sample paragraph I wrote for Vonnie, a few posts up from this one. That's in first person, and still captures (I hope) an expectant, anxious atmosphere.

lish1936 wrote:
"After all the years of education and training, the moment I had been waiting for finally arrived.

My heart pumped a notch faster, and a gulp of water momentarily satisfied my dry mouth.
My heart pumped a notch faster, a gulp of water momentarily satisfied my dry (?) mouth.

I carefully checked emergency supplies to make sure nothing was missing, ran a test on my
equipment, and then positioned myself at the beginning of the tunnel.

Fortunately for me, preliminary work required for my first adventure had been carefully carried
out and all visible debris had been removed.

Once last peek at the base of the tunnel assured me that the preliminary work required for my first adventure had been carefully carried out, and all visible debris had been removed.

This allowed me every confidence that the surface of this elongated cave would not impede my progress.
Knowing that the surface of this elongated cave would not impede my progress, brought a brief moment of relief.

That was not my main concern.
But that was not my main concern.

Uppermost on my anxiety scale was the risky journey I was about to take. One wrong move could
damage the walls of the tunnel and cause irreparable harm! Perhaps a cave-in...

Throughout my training, there had been numerous warnings about how to avoid life-threatening moves. Keep your equipment directly in front of you, and stay away from the walls. I, and my college buddies, had heard the warning so much that whenever we met in the hallway, we jokingly reminded each other to, “stay away from the walls.”


Now, about to enter the cave, I knew it was no joke, but a matter of life or death.
Now, poised to enter the cave, I knew it was not a joke, but a matter of life or death.

Not only might I damage the walls, but also the areas surrounding the tunnel."

Jan, I'm not sure if my few changes made any difference, but I was going for an atmosphere of suspense and adventure to set up the surprise twist at the end.

Thanks,

Lillian


I think, for the most part, the little tweaks you made included improved word choices. I love the word "poised," for example, to capture the suspense of entering the cave.

I'm curious about your decision to remove the word 'and' in your first tweak. Can you tell me about that?
Jan Ackerson

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lish1936
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Re: Be a Better Writer--ATMOSPHERE

Postby lish1936 » Sat Feb 08, 2014 12:05 pm

Jan wrote: I'm curious about your decision to remove the word 'and' in your first tweak. Can you tell me about that?]


Jan, I thought the "and" interrupted the sense of apprehension between the two acts of heart thumping and swallowing water to relieve a dry mouth. Did I end up interrupting a compound sentence or something? :D

Your response to Vonnie answered my question. I'm always amazed at your creativity and word usage.

Lillian
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Fortunate 500


I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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glorybee
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Re: Be a Better Writer--ATMOSPHERE

Postby glorybee » Sat Feb 08, 2014 12:17 pm

lish1936 wrote:
Jan wrote: I'm curious about your decision to remove the word 'and' in your first tweak. Can you tell me about that?]


Jan, I thought the "and" interrupted the sense of apprehension between the two acts of heart thumping and swallowing water to relieve a dry mouth. Did I end up interrupting a compound sentence or something? :D



Ah, I see. The best way to connect two related complete thoughts--if you don't want to use a conjunction--would be to use a semicolon.

My heart pumped a notch faster; a gulp of water momentarily satisfied my dry mouth.

If you just use a comma there, you have a comma splice, which is a type of run-on sentence.
Jan Ackerson

Vonnie
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Re: Be a Better Writer--ATMOSPHERE

Postby Vonnie » Sat Feb 08, 2014 1:04 pm

Thanks for your rewrite and suggestions. To this point I have mostly written devotionals. I think I need to work at some fiction writing and establishing settings and characters. So much to learn! Thanks for your help. Vonnie

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lish1936
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Re: Be a Better Writer--ATMOSPHERE

Postby lish1936 » Sat Feb 08, 2014 1:39 pm

Jan wrote:The best way to connect two related complete thoughts--if you don't want to use a conjunction--would be to use a semicolon


Of course! When I should, I don't, and when I shouldn't, I do. The semicolon fits perfectly. Every mistake brings me closer to understanding the role and proper use of the semicolon. Thanks for putting up with repeat offenders. :-)

Practice sentence:
When I should, I don't; when I shouldn't, I do.
Is this correct?


Lillian
E-Book - Retirement Lane - How to Celebrate Life After 60

Fortunate 500


I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ATMOSPHERE

Postby RachelM » Sun Feb 09, 2014 2:57 am

I was going to write about the smoke rising, but I realized that didn't fit in with the menacing atmosphere that I was trying to portray and that the smoke dropping was more sinister. I'm excited about being this aware of the words that I choose.

Thank you for pointing out that word repetition! That's actually the third time that someone has shown me that I have repeated words too close together. That's definitely something that I need to watch. Reading my piece out loud helps me to catch those; I just have to do it. :D

glorybee wrote:
RachelM wrote:Here's my atmosphere paragraph. I decided to make it exactly 100 words just for fun. :D

Karen grasped the brass knocker and let it fall. The hollow thud reverberated through the stately door. As she was being led along the shadowy halls, Karen had the eerie sensation of being watched. Her stomach tightened as she was left alone in the gloom of the library. With a gasp she realized that someone was sitting in the huge recliner that faced a cold fireplace. Her eyes locked onto a gnarly hand that loosely held a cigarette. Smoke curled lazily and then sunk. The chair creaked as it turned, and an elderly woman met Karen's gaze with cold disdain.


Rachel, this is very good! My favorite phrase is "cold fireplace," which perfectly captures the dangerous and evil atmosphere. Your personification of the smoke is excellent, too.

The only thing I'd change is the repetition of the word "cold" in the last sentence--"icy disdain" would work just as well.
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