West Virginia Wednesdays

IMG_7620Over Memorial Day weekend, I went with my parents and kids to place flowers on the graves of my grandparents and other relatives.

My mother’s family had lived in Marion and Harrison counties in West Virginia for generations.  We placed flowers on the grave of my grandmother’s brother in a small family cemetery that’s now at the edge of a housing development.  The land of the development once was a farm that my grandmother’s family worked.  Her brother wanted to be buried in that cemetery because he and my grandmother enjoyed playing there when they were children.

IMG_7612It seemed odd to find a cemetery among all these new houses, but I could tell it was taken care of, so at least the graves aren’t neglected.

Next, we stopped at the large cemetery in Shinnston. My grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents on both sides of my mom’s family are buried there.

As my kids place flowers around the graves, I wondered if my distant grandparents ever thought their great-great-great grandchildren would come to pay respects almost a hundred years after their deaths. It’s a stunning thought.

IMG_7623The next day, we drove into the hills above Moundsville to place flowers on the graves of my dad’s parents.  Both sides of his family had lived in the northern panhandle of West Virginia for several generations. My grandfather served in the Navy during World War II.IMG_7641

I am so glad I got to take my kids to see our family history.  I hope they can feel a connection to the relatives who came before them and the land where our family once lived.

Writing Tip

Here is a very helpful article about The Elements of Style by Sandra Merville Hart, whom I’ve met through my writers’ group.

 

Writing Tip — Reading Out Loud

teachers-23820_1280Since I’ve been posting about sound, I thought I would add one more article on the topic: reading your work out loud.

C. S. Lewis advised writing for the ear, not the eye, “make every sentence sound good.” To read more about the writing advice Lewis offered, click here.  It’s a post I’ve linked to before.

Establishing a rhythm to your writing takes a lot of experience and practice.  But reading out loud can benefit even beginning writers in a few different ways.

Catching typos.  I speak slower than I read, so when I read aloud, I find more mistakes. It keeps me from skimming a familiar work.

Weeding out bad structure. This comes under making “every sentence sound good.” When I am writing a first draft, I get the words down any old way.  Reading aloud can help me find sentences that are clunky or just plain ugly.  The meaning is clear, but I need to find a more elegant or concise way to phrase it.

Smashing writer’s block. If you are stuck in a particular part of your writing, read it out loud and see if hearing your work provokes any ideas.

Working on dialogue. I don’t know if many writers do this, but I sometimes speak my dialogue while I am writing it or even if I am just thinking about it. (But I make sure I’m alone first.) It helps me make the conversation sound more natural and sometimes, as my characters talk among themselves, I find a new avenue to take in my writing.

As you write more, you will want to explore rhythm in your writing. The passage in my novel where my main character is sneaking through the night is one I am going to read out loud because I think if I can establish a rhythm in this section, it will make it more suspenseful.

 

Writing Tip –Evoking Sound, Part II

singer-2119874_1280If you have any writing set in nature, describing the sounds of that setting is critical. Nature is never silent, so don’t pass up a chance to add sound imagery (that seems like an oxymoron) to your writing.

The setting for my novel is in the eastern mountains of West Virginia.  My main character lives miles from the nearest neighbors. Someone living that close to nature would notice its sounds.

If my plans don’t fall apart, I will revisit that location, so I can get first-hand observations.  Until then, I can do research with field guides and look up the songs and call of local birds and other animals.

Whether your setting is forest, fields, desert, mountains, or beach, here are some questions to ask yourself so you can describe the correct sounds.

What time of year is it?  If you are writing about a temperate climate, the season will affect the sounds. My novel takes place in July, so the animals actively making noises then may not be the same ones as in the spring.

What time of day is it? I have a scene where my main character is sneaking around his family’s property at night, checking for intruders.  I’m looking forward to hiking in the mountains at that time so I can make this scene accurate.

What are the weather conditions? My novel starts in a rain shower — lot of opportunity for sound descriptions. It’s also been very wet, so the wind blowing through a soaked forest would sound different from one that is suffering from drought.

And don’t forget the flip side of all that sound. If a natural scence suddenly gets quiet or even silent, it means something significant is happening or about to happen.

fog-2330095_1280Two weather conditions that can aid you in describing quiet are snow and fog.  Snow seems to soften everything, both visually and audibly, if fierce winds don’t accompany it.  Fog has a contradictory effect.  It muffles, but since fog can’t exist with wind, it also allows you to pinpoint the directions of sounds more easily.

Whatever your natural setting, be sure to explore it with your ears as well as your eyes.

 

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