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JPC Allen Writes

Inspiration for Beginning Writers

DSC_6334_smallWelcome to my writing pages. This is a new adventure for me as I delve into the realm of the World Wide Web!    The main focus of this page is to explore ways beginning writers can find inspiration.  You’ll also find information on the novels I am working on.  My schedule for posting is:

Tuesdays and Thursdays – Writing Tips

Occasional Wednesdays – Facts about West Virginia, the setting of my books

Occasional Saturdays – My faith walk as a Christian

You may also find me on Facebook at JPC Allen Writes.

Featured post

Writing Tip

picture-book-1983812_1280More for National Poetry Month

I’m sharing some of my favorite poems in honor of National Poetry Month.  As a former children’s librarian, I read a lot of poetry aimed at children.  Below are some that appealed to me as an adult.

A Child’s Calendar by John Updike

Mr. Updike wrote a poem for each month and perfectly captures the essence of each month in a temperate climate.  Below are some of my favorite lines.

“January”: “The days are short/ The sun a spark/ Hung thin between/ The dark and dark.”

“September”: “Like plates washed clean/ With suds, the days/ Are polished with/ a morning haze.”

“November”: “The stripped and shapely/ Maple grieves/ The loss of her/ Departed leaves.”

images copyRed Sings From the Treetops by Joyce Sidman

Ms. Sidman writes about each season and how the colors are different in each one.

“Spring”: “Yellow shouts with light!”

“Summer”: “Yellow melts/ everything it touches …/ smells like butter/ tastes like salt.”

“Fall”: “In fall/ the wind feels Black:/ star-spangled/ full of secrets.”

“Winter”: “Black seems blacker:/ Black tree bones in a pearled sky.”

imagesDouglas Florian

Mr. Florian has written many books of very short, memorable poems.  He seems to have fun playing with rhymes and meter.  My favorite sums up the controversy over the status of the planet Pluto in Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars.

“Pluto was a planet/ Pluto was admired/ Pluto was a planet/ Till one day it got fired.”

Other children’s poets I like are X.J. Kennedy and Dr. Seuss, especially for reading out loud.

Reading poems like these makes me want to capture in prose the vividness of poetic language, whether I am describing a person, an emotion, or a setting.  So reading poetry is very inspiring both personally and professionally.

Writing Tip

address-book-2246457_1280National Poetry Month

I forgot that April is national poetry month.  When I worked as a children’s librarian in public libraries, we tied our book displays and programming to the event.

Because I am not a poet, I write poetry when I want to have fun with words.  Maybe poets do the same thing with prose when they need a break from their serious writing.

I also like to write poetry because the only person I am trying to please is myself.  As I work on my novel, I have to keep in mind all the rules of good writing, the expectations of the audience I am writing for, and the requirement of agents and editors.  I am free with poetry.  If I share a poem, I hope others will like, but if they don’t, that’s fine.

The event began in 1996, created by the Academy of American Poets.  While there’s still time, check out 30 Ways to Celebrate on the Academy’s site.

Even though I write poetry just for fun, I learn techniques I can apply to my prose writing when I read it.  My background as a children’s librarian has led me to read children’s poetry more than any other kind.  But I think a skilled poet can appeal to kids and adults in different ways with the same poem.  I’ll talk about what I have learned from reading poetry next time.

Writing Tip

globe-2150324_1280What I Learned from J.R.R. Tolkien, Part 2

My second lesson from Mr. Tolkien is this: All writers, even nonfiction writers, are in engaged in some kind of world-building.

With any kind of speculative fiction, the world-building is obvious.  But any writer who is introducing readers to an unfamiliar world has to do a type of world-building  for it to seem real to the reader.

Historical fiction uses a world-building different from speculative fiction.  The writer wants the reader to understand a given time period so well that she feels like she knows what it was like to live in that era.  Such well-researched settings enhance the fictious story.

But even nonfiction history books have to explain a vanished past in terms a reader can comprehend and make connnections with.

mail-pouch-tobacco-1310858_1280

My novel is set in the eastern mountains of West Virginia in the present, and I still have to do world-building, or at least, region-building.  So many Americans are unfamliar with a rural lifestyle that I need to explain things like a lack of chain stores or bad phone reception.  I have visited the area and researched the animals and plants so when I need to drop in some description, I can be accurate.  Readers will feel like they are visiting an unique place and people who live in the area won’t find errors.

Nonfiction writers have to do this kind of research and then present it in a way that engages the reader.  A dry listing of facts won’t do it.

So whether you write fiction or nonfiction, realistic or speculative fiction, I think all writers can appreciate the effort Mr. Tolkien put in to make the unreal so amazingly real.

 

Writing Tip

wizard-2021410_1280What I Learned from J.R.R.Tolkien, Part 1

Since I write contemporary, realistic YA fiction, it sounds strange that I learned any thing from a fantasy writer.  But I did and the first lesson is “Know Your Backstory.”

Mr. Tolkien’s meticulous detail to his backstory may be why I could understand Middle-earth so easily.  Most of the backstory wasn’t included in the narrative of his books.  It was created either to help Mr. Tolkien keep his world-building straight or in the hope that future artists might expand on some of his stories.  Readers would know nothing about his extraordinary creativity if his son Christopher Tolkien hadn’t published the backstory after his father’s death.

Not every novel needs a backstory.  I happened to be a writer who writes better whenI know my characters like my closest relatives.  I need to understand their basic personalities, like and dislikes, opinions, mannerismas, and any other personal details.  Then, as I write, I can pull on that knowledge to make the characters come alive.

For example, if I need a character to make a sarcastic comment, I will not use Merritt Lody, who is fifteen and has a sunny, easy-going personality.  He likes to joke but he isn’t sarcastic.

I am working on a mystery novel concerning crimes in the present that are tied to crimes occurring fifty-two and seventy years ago.  Because all the crimes happen in the same county and involve several generations of several families, I needed to create family trees.  I won’t use all the members I have named to fill out the trees, but going into that detail provides me with wonderful opportunities for inspiration to catch fire.

disposal-1846033_1280All the details do not need to appear in my novel and shouldn’t.  As I have read in many places books are not dumps where authors unload the characters’ backstories in great heaps.  I look on my novel as a recipe with the backstory sprinkled in like spices – just enough to add zest to the plot and characters but not so much that the backstory overpowers the main narrative.

As I wrote this post, I realized I learned another lesson from Mr. Tolkien.  I’ll write about that next time.

 

Scripture Saturday

flower-429645_1280What Easter Means to Me

I am trapped.

The boulder is heading straight for me and I know I can’t escape.  What good would it do anyway?

I’ve ended up in this exact situation before, too many times before, so why try to get away?

It’s my own stupid fault.  I finally get that.

There’s nothing I can do.

I huddle down against the impact, wondering how much this will hurt, wishing being truly sorry mattered.

I’m knocked to the ground.  But not by the boulder.

A man, a stranger, shoves me out of the way, and I just have time to look up and watch the boulder smash into him, shatter into a pile of rubble, and bury him.

I am too stunned to do anything but gape.  When I finally recover enough to move, the pile moves, too.  I stop, my eyes glued on the pile.

Flinging off the rocks, the man stands up.

I splutter, “B-b-but how?  But who?  But why?”

Brushing off the dust and dirt, the man gives me a huge grin and answers all my questions with one sentence.

“Dad sent me.”

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