Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Exlamation Point: A Disputed Piece of Punctuation

"Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke."
~Scott F. Fitzgerald

Since I am a person who loves life, loves to laugh, and am passionate in many ways, I am guilty as anything over using too many exclamation points. I sprinkle them through my writing as liberally as a Democrat, finding they express me perfectly. I mean, I think in exclamation points, I speak in them, and at times even sing in them, so isn't it natural that I write with them?
But there I was wrong. In the general opinion of most writers, using exclamation points is a crutch. It is telling you reader that the sentence is exciting, versus showing them that it is exciting. And after I recovered from my initial shock at finding my favorite punctuation mark is a black spot on any writer, I saw the wisdom in sidelining that most congenial fellow.
Not using exclamation marks forces the writer to write clever dialog and manipulate words to show the emotion of the character. Ordinarily, I could show that a character was angry by doing something like this:
"Ha! You actually think I would agree to that?" She scoffed and pushed her bangs out of her eyes. "Just because I am your employee doesn't mean I have to go along with your shady schemes!"
But then try rewriting that without using exclamation points, and it loses half it's power.
"Ha. You actually think I would agree to that?" She scoffed and pushed her bangs out of her yes. "Just because I am your employee doesn't mean I have to go along with your shady schemes."
It kinda falls flat, doesn't it? And that is where clever writers change their tune. The catch the essence of the anger in ways you may not have thought of before. Step back and try to envision yourself when you're angry. Think of how you sound. Most people speak in short, choppy sentences. Cut down on the amount of words your character uses in that scene, and get more power in the chopped down version. Word choice is everything.
When I joined my critique group, the other members were so patient in explaining this rule to me. My story is about children, and in each exchange of dialog, at least one of the sentences ended in an exclamation point. Weeding those out took some rewriting, but the dialog came alive when I was done.
Believe me, it's painful, but it's totally worth it. Some writers go by the rule that you should *never* use an exclamation point in the entire manuscript. Others allow one or two in crucial points in the story. But the general consensus is that exclamation points show weak-kneed writing. Rely on your wits instead of your punctuation. It marks the difference between good writers and everyone else. Have fun! It's entirely worth it! ~Rachel

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Illusions of Allusions :)

Just like detectives love tracing clues in a crowded city to find a criminal, I love finding literary allusions in books! :) Over the years I have become sufficiently acquainted with Victorian literature to be able to detect and trace some of the many allusions the authors made to famous poetry, and other books.
So it thrilled me when my sister, Leah, showed me a sentence in "An Old-Fashioned Girl"by Louisa May Alcott that went something like this: "...and Polly sucked her orange in public with a composure that would have scandalized the good ladies of Cranford."
Now, unless you were familiar with the story of Cranford, the allusion would not be interesting at all. But to me, a literature-lover, it was super exciting! I feel at those times, that I have stepped into the author's word, on her footing! :)
During a unit-study I did with my sister, Sarah, on the Victorian era, we walked through "Anne of Green Gables" and were able to thoroughly trace all the allusions the author made in the book. From that study, I've come to be familiar with, and love so much Victorian-era literature from Sir Walter Scott to John Greenleaf Whittier, Charles Dickens, and many more!
Maybe it's an old-fashioned and outdated idea, but in my writing, I love to tuck allusions in the story! :) It will fly right over most people's heads, but I'd love to think that at some point, some girl like myself would take notice, and find amusement in tracing it all out. Not that I put so much thought into hiding little clues in the writing! :) Some quotations are easy to use, like Shakespeare's, while others might take a bit more thought. But try tucking something like that in your writing- it adds additional charm! :) ~Rachel

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"A Tryst With The Gloaming"

I love learning new words! Some recent favorites are "tryst", and "gloaming". In case you don't know yourselves what they mean, I'll give you the definitions real quickly.
Tryst: an appointment to meet at a time and place....the place of meeting
Gloaming: the dusk of evening
So between the two words, I thought they would sound pretty in a poem. Actually, I made up the first verse while half-asleep in bed, trying to wake myself and come to terms with the realization that I had set the alarm for a very good reason, and it would do not good ignore the fact. So I sat there blinking like a little owl, and in between blinks, surveying the beginning of the sunrise, and by the time I was quite awake, had thought up the first part of the poem! :)
So here it is! Enjoy!

"A Tryst With the Gloaming"
By Rachel H.

I've come from a tryst with the gloaming,
All purpled in shadowy gloom;
From a tete-tete painted rose and jet
By the trees with light a-bloom.

I've come from a trust with the gloaming
And my heart reflects a star
That hung aloft in the evening soft
Where the jewels of nighttime are.

I've come from a tryst with the gloaming
And talked with the Lord who made
This half-light time, part song, part rhyme,
And Heavenly wealth displayed.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Where'd You Get Your Inspiration?

There are many different ways that people say they get inspired...for some people, it's a picture they see, or a person they meet, or something else like that. I've been inspired to write something from those things, or maybe just a random thought floating around my mind. The inspiration for "A Mother for the Seasonings" came from a thought that it would be neat to have a family all named after herbs. Doesn't sound like much, but I was able to build a whole story off of that! So what sorts of things inspire you?
One thing I've decided to do, is to write down ideas whenever I get them...almost like a writing scrapbook, where I can scribble ideas for poems, stories, whatever, and go back later to choose one to try out! Several famous authors have done the same. In fact, Lucy Maud Montgomery came back to one of her writing ideas that said, "red-haired orphan girl comes to live with elderly couple" (or something along those lines) and from that simple description came the beloved Anne of Green Gables! :)
An idea may not seem like much when it comes along, but write each one down, and see what comes of them someday! :) ~Rachel

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year's Poem

Enjoy this lovely poem for the New Year! :) ~Rachel

"Ring Out, Wild Bells"
Alfred Lord Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,

The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.