Well, I got almost no responses to my last lesson. Help me out, folks—where did I lose you? I’m going to give it another shot (and this time I’ll give a homework assignment), but then I might take a bit of a break.
Quick Take: The words ‘every day’ and the word ‘everyday’ don’t mean the same thing.
‘Every day’ is a phrase meaning ‘each 24-hour period’. Here it is in a sentence:
I try to eat something gooey and chocolate every day.
‘Everyday’ is an adjective meaning ‘ordinary, usual, not particularly special’. Here it is in a sentence:
Dexter went to the job interview in his everyday clothes, but he didn’t make much of an impression.
Here’s a sentence that uses them both correctly:
Julia’s everyday dishes were chipped and cracked, so while her in-laws visited, she brought out her best china every day.
HOMEWORK #1: Write a sentence for ‘every day’ and a sentence for ‘everyday’ (or one sentence that uses them both).
The second judging criterion
for the Writing Challenge reads like this: How creative, unique, and fresh was this entry?
I covered this territory in Writing Out of the Box
, but I may be able to come up with a few more pointers. Some of us, after all, are more comfortable IN the box—but our writing must still come across as creative and fresh
, or no one will want to read it. For example, for the recent “Manuscript” week, there were lots of people who thought of finding an old manuscript in an attic. Some of those entries were great—and some were a bit dusty. After a while, the judges may have had some trouble remembering which attic entry was which.
So…if you find yourself thinking fairly conventionally most weeks—how can you score well with the judges on criterion #2?
1. Give your people interesting things to do
. While Susie’s tromping around in the attic, have her crunch an old glass Christmas ornament under foot, or peek out of the attic window to see the teenager next door sneaking a smoke.
2. Appeal to your readers’ senses
. Give Jim a paper cut as he opens the letter from the publisher. Have Charlotte awaken with the taste of lavender in her mouth. You know those little frogs that chirp really loudly? Maybe they’re interfering with Sal’s concentration. Lynette is bothered every time she sees the unnecessary apostrophe in the billboard she passes every day. Sam opens the fridge for a soda, and smells something ‘off’. I realize that we only have 750 words, and sensory details seem like a waste of precious territory—but they may make the difference between your story and the one that was kind of like it.
3. Include little details
. By ‘details’, I don’t mean lots and lots of detailed descriptions
. Rather, try to sprinkle little items and actions throughout your entry like, well, like sprinkles on a donut. You don’t want your donut to have a gazillion sprinkles—but a few colorful doodads really enhance the donut experience. Here’s an example of what I mean:
…Grandma Phyllis is older than Nana Dot, and she has a small brown mole near her lip that disturbs Natalie. She can’t find a way to talk to her grandma without seeing that mole, which looks like a cookie crumb that should be brushed away...
Now, that mole had nothing to do with the plot of this story; the story would have been essentially unchanged without it. But it’s a small detail that readers might remember (and it also helps in visualization of Grandma Phyllis, poor thing).
4. Here’s a hint for you non-fiction and devotional writers: Give your entry a personal touch
. Devotionals or Bible studies that read like academic papers or expository discourses have not traditionally done well in the Writing Challenge. Consider your audience; many readers here have heard years or even decades of sermons, Bible studies, and scriptural lessons. It’s especially important, then, to make yours stand out. One way to make your devotional unique is to tell how you
learned this lesson—after all, there’s nothing more unique than personal experience. Real-life, personal application is gold as far as judging devotionals go. Even if you’re writing non-fiction, tell us a story or give us an object lesson.
5. Add humor
. That goes for fiction and non-fiction alike. Even a serious story or a serious essay can have a moment of humor; haven’t we all had a laugh at a funeral, or found something humorous in the direst of circumstances?
6. Add a touch of the unexpected
to your story (see Gerald Shuler's post below...thanks, Gerald).
7. Place your entry in an interesting setting
(see Pottersclay's post--thanks, Joan!).
That’s enough for now—I’ve got two more homework assignments for you (did you catch the first one, after the ‘Quick Take’?).
HOMEWORK #2: Give us another item for this list of ways that writers can be creative, unique, and fresh.
HOMEWORK #3: I’m going to give you a very specific scenario. Everyone gets the same one, so ‘unique’ is out. But I want you to write it in a creative and fresh way, either by using my suggestions, or just by breaking out on your own. PLEASE—150 words or less! 150 words or less! Seriously! 150 words or less!
Here’s the scenario: A person is driving when he/she sees a glint of something shiny just off the road. This person is torn between the need to get where he/she is going and curiosity about the shiny thing.
Got it? Write! And make it creative and fresh.
By the way—you don’t have to do all three homework assignments. Do one, two, or three of them, but I’d sure like to hear something from you!