Writing Exercises: Voice

I sure have missed blogging and interacting with you all over here. Though I can’t commit to posting regularly (my course load for my MFA is now much higher than before), I do still want to make this a place where writers can get new or at least renewed resources. Why else subscribe? Besides getting access to my free downloads, I mean.

Speaking of downloads, I added a link in the navigation so you can find them all in one place! Get there under Writer Resources in the main menu or by visiting larawillard.com/downloads

So I decided to start posting writing exercises every Friday on Twitter @LaraEdits and Facebook. I don’t want to post that often here on my blog, but I’d like to do a monthly roundup for you.

Here are the writing exercises from the past couple of weeks and the rest of October:

September 21

Switching between Latinate and Anglo-Saxon roots for different connotations:

Write down a list of 5–10 adjectives describing yourself or your protagonist. Look them up in the dictionary and see if they are based on Latin/French roots or Germanic (or Old English) roots. Then come up with a syllable that comes from the other family.

Source: Latinate vs Anglo Saxon Diction

September 28

Rewriting makes better writers, just like repainting makes better painters (see Hokusai below) Today’s is a long assignment, so feel free to just do number 8!

Assignment: Diction & Rewriting

Reference:

October 5

Pick a song with memorable lyrics. Look up those lyrics. Rewrite the song by swapping out the words and imagery for those of another character’s point of view. Some ideas:

  • One of your characters
  • Romeo, the lovestruck Shakespearean teenager
  • A pothead (e.g. one of Cheech’s, Chong’s, or Seth Rogen’s portrayals)
  • A proper British lady trying desperately to impress her in-laws
  • A man who has been cryogenically frozen through several decades and just woke up
  • A seven-year-old who wishes to be a princess
  • A toddler

Source: What Pop Songs Teach Us about Voice

October 12

But my book is is full of sex and violence! How could you say it sounds middle grade?

  1. Take a scene or paragraph from your character’s point of view and see if it “sounds” the right age by checking it against these guidelines: https://larawillard.com/2016/02/25/when-voice-and-genre-dont-match/
  2. Then rewrite it as if the character were in a different age category.

October 19

Go to your local library and find a picture book—fiction, not nonfiction—about pirates. Read it aloud in a pirate voice. I recommend Pirates of the Sea by Brandon Dorman or  Pirate Pete’s Talk Like a Pirate by Kim Kennedy. Can’t find a pirate book? Read Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and see how each of the baby owls has a different personality based on their dialogue.

You can stop there or write Talk Like a ___________ for a different profession. What would Talk Like a Podiatrist sound like?

October 26

Are you dressing up for Halloween? Would one of your characters? Take that costume, turn it into a character, and write a Trick or Treat scene from that point of view. Dressing up as a strawberry? Write it from the POV of a strawberry. What kind of observations does that character see? Is the weather foreboding or gleefully dreary? Does the character’s age affect how they see the event? Are they a creature or inanimate object? Use all five senses.

Writing When You Don’t Feel 100% or Even 60%

A friend shared this with her friend, who is my friend, who shared it on her blog, and now I’m sharing it with you.

Maggie Stiefvater answers a question about being creative while suffering. She starts:

“It’s hard to describe to non-creators how difficult it is to be abstract when you’re in pain, or when you’re exhausted, or when illness or drugs or mental illness has washed you up on a strange chemical shore. All art requires an element of abstraction, of big picture thinking, because art at its heart is simply the act of imposing artificial structure upon the world. With writing, you don’t even have the concrete sensory anchor of paint or clay or bricks. You have only words, in themselves already art, some past human’s clumsy attempt to translate a concept to a vocalization.”

Read the entire question and answer here. Content warning: some cursing.

“I don’t know when I’ll actually be completely better. But I do know that on those 20% days, I don’t have to make things. It’s ok. I can spend those days enjoying whatever I can. Consuming art instead of making it. That’s enough. That’s right.”

Tips and Tricks for Writing Successful Twitter Pitches

#PitMad is this week. I wrote this post in 2014, and it’s been so cool seeing these practices put to work in Twitter pitches over the last four years.
Some things have changed (like rules and the character limit), but other things are still the same. One thing I did have to include for 2018 was an addendum to the part about vampires… ha!

Lara Willard

Or, general tips and tricks for pitching on Twitter, and how pitching SFF is different from pitching other genres.

twitch

This is going to be a long one, folks. Skip around as needed!

Update from PitchMAS—when pitching in a general pitch party, your hashtags matter so much more. Make it easy for an agent to find you, or they never will. I tried searching for different genres during the party so I could retweet—I couldn’t find them because people weren’t using effective search terms. Use age category tags and genre tags, plus relevant keywords (like “diverse” or “WNDB”—see my notes on references below). Looking at my winning pitches from PitchMAS, hashtags and keywords mattered most, then other references, then stakes.

Contents

  1. Well-Known Twitter Pitch Events
  2. Tips for Pitching on Twitter
  3. The Importance of Hashtags
  4. After the Pitch Party
  5. My Personal SFFpit Results
  6. Analysis of my Personal SFFpit Results
    1. Analysis of Timing
    2. Analysis of…

View original post 3,010 more words

Commercial and Literary Fiction as Paintings

I’ve written at length about differences between literary and commercial fiction (including different genres and what “mainstream” fiction is), but reading Bone Gap this month while also studying Frida Kahlo has got me thinking in allusions, so I wanted to share another quick observation on the topic.

Commercial fiction is like representational art: whether it’s about something true or not, it’s clear what the subject of the painting or story is.

Images in this post may be copyrighted and are used for educational purposes only.

Above: Moroccan Man by José Tapiro y Baro, 1913; Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1847; Self-portrait at the Dressing Table by Zinaida Serebriakova, 1909; Rebecca et Eliézer by Alexandre Cabanel, 1883

Literary fiction can be more like impressionist, expressionist, surrealist, or abstract art—less accessible because the subject isn’t always clear, and the presentation isn’t always appreciated.

Symbolism holds more weight in literary fiction.

Literary fiction holds cultural literacy dear, alluding to classic literature and ancient mythology.

carlo-carra-penelope

Penelope by Carlo Carrà, 1917

Literary fiction is more likely to experiment with mixed media, incorporating poetry, illustrations, comics, letters, or other ephemera.

robert-rauschenberg-bed-1955-trivium-art-history

Bed by Robert Rauschenberg, 1955

Words in literary fiction are like visible brushstrokes, sometimes drawing attention away from the story and towards the writer as artist. Word choice is important: how can you combine words in a fresh way to create new impressions on the reader? What connotations do the words carry? Literary fiction is imbued with tone created not by line or color but by diction and metaphor.

odilon-redon-the-cyclops-1914-trivium-art-history

The Cyclops by Odilon Redon, 1914

Do you have a favorite modern artist? What is your favorite work of literary fiction?