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Jan's New "Class"--Writing Basics

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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Soren2007
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Postby Soren2007 » Wed Jan 20, 2010 11:52 am

Sorry I'm late:

Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm, pg. 13 - a paragraph

"There is a spider, too, in the bathroom, with whom I keep a sort of company. Her little outfit always reminds me of a certain moth I helped to kill. The spider herself is of uncertain lineage, bulbous at the abdomen and drab. Her six-inch mess of a web works, works somehow, works miraculously, to keep her alive and me amazed. The web itself is in a corner behind the toilet, connecting tile wall to tile wall and floor, in a place where there is, I would have thought, scant traffic. Yet under the web are sixteen or so corpses she has tossed to the floor."

What words:
words like bulbous, drab, scant, tossed
mainly tho, it's the pacing and the patience that gets me. Having read the book, I feel as tho the writer re-wrote this paragraph 25 times to get it just right. she foreshadows a tale of a moth in one sentence mixed in here with the spider. she restrains her pen from telling you more, yet. That patience aside, the punctuation forces a pace and spins a reader between the mind of the writer (I) and the description of the scene at hand.
“Get to work. Your work is to keep cranking the flywheel that turns the gears that spin the belt in the engine of belief that keeps you and your desk in midair.” ~Dillard.

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semmie
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Postby semmie » Wed Jan 20, 2010 12:37 pm

Hi Jan & Class! Sorry I'm late.

From George R. R. Martin's, A Feast for Crows:
The Bay of Seals was a lot deeper than his waist, and not so friendly as that little fishpond below his father's castle. Its waters were grey and green and choppy, and the wooded shore they followed was a snarl of rocks and whirlpools. Even if he could kick and crawl that far somehow, the waves were like to smash him up against some stone and break his head to pieces.

Okay, so I'm torn about the little fishpond. I included it because he is comparing it with the Bay of Seals. He could have just referred to it as the "pond," but "little fishpond" made me giggle at how trivial it seemed in comparison.

I love these phrases. They are mostly unexciting words--except for "snarl" and "whirlpool." Still, each of these words reiterates the character's loathing and fear of the water.

Lesson Requests:
  • Writing a first sentence (seriously)
  • Using all of your senses to describe a scene (as opposed to just the sight)
  • Foreshadowing (how to foreshadow without giving away all of your secrets [ugh @ me when I do this!])
let mercy lead
let love be the strength in your legs
and with every footprint that you leave
there'll be a drop of grace

~Rich Mullins

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Postby Tricia » Wed Jan 20, 2010 2:02 pm

Hi Jan,

Thank you for inviting me to this class. :D I didn't have much time to go through the book and am not sure if these are considered salsas, but here's my example of "salsa" in non-fiction:

A Virginia Girl in the Civil War by Myrta Lockett Avary, p 53.


"I wish I had listened better to her account of her prison life and her adventures; but I was on the outer rim of the charmed circles, my head was full of Millicent and mother...."
Tricia

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5, 6 (NIV)

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Salsa

Postby PamDavis » Wed Jan 20, 2010 5:05 pm

Jan...Thanks for your ministry to all of us! I want to sharpen my skills and you are making a way!
As a Devotional writer my favorite author is Charles Spurgeon. I read his work and think if I only had his way with words!
From "Meditation for This Evening" Tuesday, January 12,2010
Charles H. Spurgeon

If thou canst not speak with trumpet tongue, use the still small voice. If the pulpit must not be thy tribune, if the press may not carry on its wings thy words, yet say with Peter and John, "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee."

Wow! I guess the rice cakes might be something like this:
If you are not a great speaker at least say something. If you do not have a church ministry or any work published, you can still share Peter and John's message....
With God All things are Possible!

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Postby browniesgal » Wed Jan 20, 2010 5:43 pm

Wow Pam, I have never read Spurgeon. What a beautiful quote.Thanks for sharing it. so full of salsa from all those years ago. :D

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Postby glorybee » Wed Jan 20, 2010 7:06 pm

Whoops, I fell behind on my replies! Sorry, folks...busy day with recuperating husband.

Soren, thanks for the Dillard passage; if there's such a thing as the perfect writer, it's Annie Dillard, and I have you to thank for pointing me in her direction. You're so right--it's as if she ponders and polishes every single word. Priceless.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby glorybee » Wed Jan 20, 2010 7:09 pm

Semmie, thanks for your example, and for your ideas for future classes. I've got quite a list going!

I love the phrase 'snarl of rocks and whirlpools'. Wonderful imagery!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby glorybee » Wed Jan 20, 2010 7:11 pm

Welcome, Tricia!

Certainly in your snippet, 'charmed' would qualify as a salsa word, and there's no denying the writer's ability. Just reading your little passage makes me want more!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby glorybee » Wed Jan 20, 2010 7:13 pm

Pam, thanks for the Spurgeon quote. "Trumpet tongue" and "tribune" are wonderful words, and seeing your "rice cake" version really shows us what a master writer he was.

Thanks for stopping by!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby Netty » Wed Jan 20, 2010 9:36 pm

Hie. lm inspired by african writing and l just wrote this passage down for your comments and criticism


Nothing could have prepared her for this mental toture. The load was becoming too heavy to carry, draining the little she had of the will to live. Poverty was gnawing at the root of her existance and she failed to comprehend the doom she was slowly withering into.

AND

Outside gusts of wind blew into Cele's already delapidated roof. A shrill broke though the night escalating into a bang then turned into a confusing staccato. Concurrently a stray puppy crept into the room and forced its way onto Cele's lap.


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Postby Joolz » Thu Jan 21, 2010 6:37 am

Pam & Steve, thanks for the examples of salsa words from non-fiction. I was going to ask whether they would be appropriate in non-fiction, but I can see how they are.

And that example from Spurgeon - sounds quite poetic, and very passionate.

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Postby glorybee » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:04 am

Netty, is that your own passage, or one from a published work? At any rate, there are several great words there: gnawing, doom, staccato.

Let me know if you'd like a more detailed critique by sending me a PM.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby Sarah Elisabeth » Fri Jan 22, 2010 5:13 pm

*sliding on my heels into class*

sorry I'm late, every time I get on this thread I get interrupted! But I read through the entire thing so I wouldn't miss any great tips.

I'm reading a book now by an author I'm not familiar with. Maybe I'm just getting highly critical of everything I read now, but this novel seems to have all the things I have been advised to steer away from. Could you look over this paragraph not only for salsa words, but for critique? And since I'm asking for critique, I won't list the name just yet.

The entire paragraph is 3/4 a page long, so this is just part of it:


"She started to pull into the long gravel driveway, but was stopped by a locked gate with a large No Trespassing sign wired to it. Judith got out of her car to take a closer look. Suddenly a pair of wildly yapping dogs ran up. Normally, she loved dogs of all kinds, but these vicious beasts appeared to be trained as guard dogs. And their snarling, barred teeth were enough to cause her to quickly back up. But she paused a moment, squinting her eyes to see the house that was barely visible from the road."

What do you think?

And thank you so much Jan, for taking time to do this class!!! :hugs2

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Postby glorybee » Fri Jan 22, 2010 10:36 pm

Sarah Elisabeth wrote:
"She started to pull into the long gravel driveway, but was stopped by a locked gate with a large No Trespassing sign wired to it. Judith got out of her car to take a closer look. Suddenly a pair of wildly yapping dogs ran up. Normally, she loved dogs of all kinds, but these vicious beasts appeared to be trained as guard dogs. And their snarling, barred teeth were enough to cause her to quickly back up. But she paused a moment, squinting her eyes to see the house that was barely visible from the road."



First of all, I'd have picked a few additional words as 'salsa' words--yapping, snarling, barred in particular.

Far be it from me to critique a published author! I'm just a special ed. teacher, retired at that. This is such a small passage that it's really hard to judge, but I don't see anything here that bothers me. There are sentences that begin with "And" and "But'--your English teachers will tell you not to do that, but that's because it's important to learn the "rules" before you can break them. There's a "that' in the last sentence that could probably be eliminated, but I'm not on the "Get Rid Of 'That'' bandwagon like so many other writers. I like it there. I like the varied sentence structure. It may be a bit adjective- and adverb-heavy, but I wasn't too bothered by that, as there was also some action going on.

So...who is the author? And what did you think of the passage?
Jan Ackerson

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Postby browniesgal » Fri Jan 22, 2010 11:06 pm

I'm glad to hear you think the piece is ok, because it is hard to always be looking for other ways to say very simple things. It is good to know simple is still fine sometimes. Thanks for all you do Jan. You may be a humble Special Ed teacher, but we value your opinion and knowledge. You are such a help to us.

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