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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:

Monday Sparks: Writing ideas to fan your creative flame

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 — Names

blogging-1168076_1280I am posting today instead of Thursday because I am guest blogging on Tessa Emily Hall’s site, Christ is Write. My post combines several ways to generate names for characters. If you like developing names as much as I do, click here to visit the site.

Writing Tip –Poetry

picture-bookw-1983812_1280Have you ever thought of poetry as “verbal music”? That’s how writer Darlo Gemeinhardt describes it in this post on Almost an Author. She goes on to describe the “notes” of this music. Two of these “notes”, alliteration and consonance, are discussed at length in two other posts on this site. The author dissects line from Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” to demonstrate how effective these “notes” can be.

I believe prose writers can use these techniques as long as we don’t overuse them. Alliteration, consonance, and assonance bring a rhythm to prose that, hopefully, make it memorable.

Alliteration — “the repetition of initial consonant sounds”. From Alliteration: The Sound of Poetry I

I love alliteration, but I’m always afraid of using it too much, making my writing look amateurish. So I’ll ask your opinion. Which do you think is better?

“I glued my gaze to the gun.”

“I fastened my gaze to the gun.”

I went with the second, buy maybe the first was better.

Another thing I’ve noticed with alliteration is that superheroes seemed to have alliterative names: Bruce Banner, Clark Kent, and Peter Parker. If you are thinking of creating a superhero, an alliterative name is something to consider.

Consonance — the repetition of the same consonant sound within words that are contained in the same line or sentence. From Consonance: The Sound of Poetry II.

Consonance reminded me of a writing exercise in my college creative writing class. The professor asked us to think of words that sounded a certain way, such as words that sound cold. I came up with “incisive.” The long “I” and “s” signaled cold to me. When the professor asked for words that sounded fat, I suggested “triumphant.”

So when trying to set the mood of a scene, I keep in mind how the words sound. For a scene where a character is sneaking through the night, I might use words that have a lot of “s” sounds. “N” also sounds soft. I would use “night” more often than “dark”, which has a harder sound.

But a fight scene could use harsher sounds, like “k”, “d’, and “t”.

Assonance — the repetition of vowel sounds anywhere within a group of words. From The Music of Poetry by Darlo Gemeinhardt

Assonance can give rhythm to names. I recently needed to come up with a name for a characters who is a millionaire. Since he is nice millionaire. I decided the name couldn’t be too strong. Names ending in “ton” sound wealthy and powerful, like “Kensington”. or  “Covington”. I decided on “Everett”. Not too imposing, but it sounded like the family could be from old money. I chose “Adam” as the first name because it’s fairly traditional, suitable for a member of an old-money family, but not as boring Richard or Robert.

When I put “Adam Everett” together, I really liked the rhythm and now I know why. The assonance of the short “a” in “Adam” and the short “e” in Everett give the name a dash of poetry.

How do you use elements of poetry in your prose?

 

Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts

narcisw1-683560_1280Applying the idea of writing small to my prompt, I thought of a haiku for the season. I love haiku. I was introduced to this poetic form when I was in sixth grade. I use it as a snapshot — trying to capture a vivid image in seventeen syllables. If you aren’t familiar with haiku, it is a three line poem, usually concerning nature. The first line is five syllables, the second is seven, and the third is five.

Please share in the comments below if this spark sets your creativity on fire!

Here’s mine:

In April. the sky

Cries. Out of anger? Sadness?

The earth send flowers.

Writing Tip — Writing Anxiety

upsetw-2681502_1280The post may seem to have no connection with National Poetry Month, but keep reading.

Has writing ever overwhelmed you? With all the advice out there on characters, pacing, plot, setting, dialogue, and more, it seems there are a thousand and one ways to go wrong. Why even start?

In the wonderful article, author Jane Anne Straw write about how she overcame writer’s block with poetry. Poetry allowed her to think small and work in manageable portions.

I am a huge advocate of thinking small because big projects easily stress me. But if I work on a small series of goals that lead to a large one, the large goal seems much more doable.

This was how I reconciled writing for the YA audience. I wrote about my problem in “Know Your Audience!” which has appeared on other sites, but this is the first time I have posted it on my own website.

lego-1044891_1280“Know Your Audience!”

After I finished my YA Christian fiction novel and edited it a few hundred times, I looked into publishing it.  All agents and editors gave the same advice, “Know your audience!”

It seemed so overwhelming to me, getting to know the reading preferences of thousands of teen readers. But I dove into researching my audience and nearly drowned in discouragement.

Most YA Christian fiction is either romance or speculative fiction, which often breaks down into fantasies and dystopian fiction. My novel, set in contemporary West Virginia with crime elements and a male protagonist, seemed to have no place in the current publishing landscape.

But I continued my research. Eventually I realized that when it came to tailoring my novel to the YA audience, I had to understand what I can do and what I can’t do.

What I Can’t Do

I can’t write a romance or speculative fiction novel. This is not a case of lack of confidence or fear of stretching my skills. Some things I just can’t do, like flying or running faster than my teenage nephew.

I don’t read romance. I know none of the rules of the genre and would give myself and any future readers unspeakable nightmares if I wrote one. I do like some speculative fiction but don’t have the imagination to create something fresh. Anything I wrote would easily be identified as a collision of Middle-earth, Star Trek, and Narnia.

What I Can Do

Even if I don’t write romance or speculative fiction, I could learn from them and see if those lessons could apply to my novel.

One reason I believe speculative fiction is so popular is because writers can pack in a lot of action sequences. My novel needed more of them, so I added two scenes and made sure they were reasonable within my setting.

Another reason is that both genres appeal to emotions. Will the girl get the boy when his family is prejudiced against her? Will the teen rebels save the world from the evil tyrant?

My novel has high stakes for my characters, which leads to many emotions. Will Junior Lody keep his family of eight siblings together after their aunt who has raised them dies and the sheriff is determined to tear them apart? Since I write from Junior’s viewpoint, it’s easy to let readers experience and identify with Junior’s fear, rage, triumphs, and more.

Best Audience Analysis

lego-2158115_1280The best way to get to know my audience was to let real live teens read my novel. They filled out a one-page questionnaire for me. Because one boy said I had too much exposition at the beginning, I examined my first chapters and saw I could lop off the first two and start with the action in the third.

And I discovered something else. I can’t write to please thousands of readers. But when I see my future readers as individuals, like the teens who critiqued my book, Amanda and Andy and James and Brooke, I feel compelled to go beyond my best. I am still getting to know my audience — one reader at a time.

How do you handle writing anxiety?

Writing Tip — Favorite Poem

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“The wood is full of shining eyes/The wood is full of creeping feet/

The wood is full of tiny cries/You must not go to the wood at night!”

With these opening lines and a style of illustration unique in picture books, I was drawn into The Magic Woodan adult poem by British writer Henry Treece. Barry Mozer uses only blue and black for the illustrations, sprinkling in sparks of gold to highlight certain elements in the picture, like eyes or a gold ring. This palette conveys the dread and danger the narrator ignores when he enters the wood at night. The sense of dire consequences is apparent in every picture.

But the poem has an upbeat ending. I read it as a Christian parable. The wood is temptation, and the narrator takes his first steps into giving in to it when he ventures inside. The strange creature he meets tries to entice him further. But when he senses danger, he says “my prayers, all out in a rush/And found myself safe on my father’s land.”

The poem is an example of stanzas written in rhymes or near rhymes. Although I usually don’t like that style, the poem does have a rhythm, which makes it fun to read out loud to kids.

Mr. Treece wrote five books of poetry. I’ve tried to read them. He has great skill in establishing a mood of loss and darkness, but a little of that goes a long way with me. If I read too much of it, I get depressed.

So test your taste for Mr. Treece’s poems with The Magic Wood. Maybe you will be captured by it like I was.

What are some of your favorite poems?

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