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JPC Allen Writes

Inspiration for Beginning Writers

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Writing Tip — Writing in Time: New Year’s Day as Writing Inspiration

clockw-3837039_1280Last year, I had a post at the beginning of each month describing how you could use the month as a setting. This year, I will focus on one aspect of each month. So to kick things off in January, I will explore New Year’s Day as writing inspiration.

First-footing

One superstitions I always remember about New Year’s Day is first-footing, a belief, which according to Wikipedia, comes from Scotland and Northern England. The first person to enter a home on New Year’s Day will bring either good or bad luck in the coming year, depending upon such things as gender and appearance. A tall man with dark hair is considered good luck. Agatha Christie uses this superstition to help solve a ten-year-old death in the short story, “The Coming of Mr. Quin” in the book The Mysterious Mr. Quin.

Old Year/New Year

In the fantasy short story “Deadline”, found in the book Haunts, Haunts, Haunts, Richard Matheson provides a reason behind the idea of the old year personified as an old man and the new year as a baby with tragic results. The personification could also work for a happier or humorous story. A short story where the old man briefs his replacement on what to expect during the course of his job would be very funny.

Football

In Ohio, the retirement of legendary college football coach Urban Meyer has been all over the news. His last game was a bowl game on New Year’s Day. The date is fitting for a retirement and would work for any story about a football coach who is leaving his profession. Or for anybody who is leaving a job on that day.

Resolutions

New Year’s Day resolutions can kickstart many plots. They can be the reasons a character changes for better of worse. A comic competition can start between two friends or two relatives who challenge each other with the same resolution. Using resolutions works best if you begin the story on New Year’s Day, track your characters over a year, and wind up on the next New Year’s Day.

How can you use New Year’s Day as writing inspiration?

Happy New Year!

start-line-3449607_1280What resolutions are your thinking about this New Year’s Day? My top writing resolution is to keep up on my journal of family events. I forget to do it daily and then when I remember, I have more than a week to try to recall. Another writing resolutions is to get a flash fiction story published by Havok Publishing.

What are your resolutions for 2019?

Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts: Remembering 2018

new-yearw-3052105_1280Before we start making resolutions for 2019, take some time to reflect on 2018. My family and I experienced a lot of personal changes, but for this post, I’ll just list writing milestones of 2018.

  • Published my first short story in an anthology.
  • Took part in my first Facebook parties to promote the anthology.
  • Discovered where my passion for writing lies–country noir.
  • Took part in my first book festival, offering a writing workshop.

How will you remember 2018?

Writing Tip — 3 Ways to Put Rhythm in Your Writing

drumw-1729623_1280Writing rhythm comes in two forms. One is the overall rhythm of your unique writing style. This rhythm is not something you can read a book about or sit down to your computer and decide, “Today I will work on rhythm.” I think it’s a by-product of mastering other writing techniques and filtering it through a person’s talent. Second is the rhythm of a small passage within a larger work. This is the kind of rhythm you can deliberately work on. Below are three ways to put rhythm in your writing.

Rhythm in Descriptions

One way to enliven descriptions is to give them a rhythm or balance. Listed below are passages I think have enjoyable rhythms.

The sentence describes the things a man decided were the essentials for a vacation on sail boat in England before WWI:

“They reduced themselves, apparently, to four essentials: tins of salmon, if he should want to eat; loaded revolvers, if he should want to fight; a bottle of brandy, presumably in case he should faint; and a priest, presumably in case he should die.”                “The Sins of Prince Saradine” by G.K. Chesterton

I like how Chesterton describes the four items in similar ways, giving a bounce to the sentence and providing a balance to the list. It also give insight into the personality of the man planning the trip. Mr. Chesterton could have just listed the items: “He packed food, guns, brandy, and his friend, a priest.” But the longer version is so much more interesting and entices the reader to read on.

This is a description of Halloween during the Dark Ages from “The Cloak” by Robert Bloch.

“A dark Europe, groaning in superstitious fear, dedicated this Eve to the grinning Unknown. A million doors had once been barred against evil visitants, a million prayers mumbled, a million candles lit.”

The repetition of “millions” gives the description a rhythm, making it memorable.

In “The Monster of Poot Holler”, author Ida Chittum uses rhythm to establish the setting in the Ozarks.

“Folk in other parts of the mountains look down on Poot Hollerians. They say the laziest men and the biggest liars live there too, and men folk who would rather tell a lie on credit than tell the truth for cash.”

Since I write in first person, I try to give my descriptions rhythms suitable to the main character’s personality.

Rhythm in Dialogue

My editor Sharyn Kopf would tell me a section of dialogue needed a beat. Usually that meant a pause to give the section a certain rhythm. Damon Runyon used beats in his dialogue to reproduce the cadence of New York City accents in his tales of gamblers and crooks in the 1920’s and 1930’s. This sentence is from the story, “Dream Street Rose.”

“Well, Rose,” I say, “it is a nice long story, and full of romance and all this and that, and,” I say, “of course I will never be ungentlemanly enough to call a lady a liar, but,” I say, “if it is not a lite, it will do until a lie comes along.”

I use beats in  dialogue to change the flow. If the person speaking needs to change  the subject, but I don’t want to break in with another person, I use a beat. Or a beat can emphasize what comes after it. This is a sentence from my story, “Debt to Pay”. David is a character talking to a man who thinks David wants to blackmail him.

“”Oh, I know you don’t have much money.” David grinned up at him. “But whoever hired you does.”

Placing the action between the two sentences makes for better flow than putting it at the end.

Rhythm in Humor

Rhythm when writing a humorous passage is critical. In my novel, The Truth and Other Strangers, I have one character with a very bad memory trying to remember the password for a new phone. His cousin is standing beside him.

(I said) “What’s the password to your phone?”

Gabe’s lips twisted in a grimace. “I know we got one.”

“Yeah?”

“And I know Mike told me.”

“Yeah?”

“And I know he made it easy for me to remember.”

I sighed. “But you don’t remember it.”

“Not really.”

Establishing a rhythm to this exchange emphasizes the humor.

Now it’s your turn. Do you think writing can have rhythm? What kind of rhythm have you discovered in your own writing?

Merry Christmas!

jesus-childw-3007032_1280This is one of my favorites lines from a book full of favorite lines. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson may be my favorite Christmas story. If you have never read it, give yourself a treat and get a copy. It may be a children’s chapter book, but anyone can appreciate it.

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