Monday, August 12, 2013

Small Moments of Genius: Words as Spacers

Sometimes when I’m writing, I discover a special new way to fit words together. This may not actually be new to anyone but me, for the small moment after my discovery, I feel like a genius.

Today’s small moment of genius: using description to physically and temporally space moments in text.

We all have tics as writers, words or phrases that we reach for repeatedly and then have to cross out during rewrites. One of mine: “They were quiet for a few minutes.” I find myself using this, or some form of it, pretty much constantly when writing dialogue between two characters. I don’t think it’s a bad instinct; giving the conversation room to breathe allows for a more relaxed rhythm and a break from the onslaught of dialogue (unless you want an onslaught of dialogue between two hyper, fast-talking characters, in which case, go for it!).

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Opening Lines: Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine ScheidtIn

"In the happy times, in the tell-me-again-times, when I'm seven and there are no stepbrothers and it's before the stepfathers, my mom lets me sleep in her bed."

-Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt (St. Martin's Griffin, New York. p. 1)

The secret weapon of this opening sentence is the unique “tell-me-again times,” which evokes a child who has discovered something she loves and wants her mom to do it over and over, and a mother who loves her daughter enough to indulge her. The “happy” times in the past and the foreboding future presence of the stepbrothers and stepfathers let us know that the present is not as sunny as the past. Without overtly doing so, Scheidt’s first sentence cuts straight to the core of the main character in prose that promises a pleasurable reading experience.

What stories did you make your mother tell you over and over again?