Today I’m visiting author M. Liz Boyle’s blog with my guest post, “The Importance of Fiction.” This wasn’t an easy post to write, which may sound weird since I write fiction. But sometimes when you do something long enough, you forget why you’re doing it. So, thank you, Liz, for giving me a topic that forced me to examine why writers write and readers read fiction.
Guest blogging for me today is author Bettie Boswell, advising why and how to add music and poetry to prose. She’s published in many genres, including children’s nonfiction, romance, and her latest effort, releasing in July, is a time-slip novel. Thank you, Bettie, for coming back to visit us!
March was Music in Our Schools Month and now April is National Poetry Month. What’s a writer to do? Write something musical or poetic, of course. When I taught music, students were encouraged to create their own music or rhythmic speech by using the natural rhythms provided by rhythmic word flashcards. The cards helped them to come up with phrases, which flowed into a musical or poetic piece: Peaches, pear, popcorn, plum. Did you catch both the rhythm (short short, long, short, short, long) and the alliteration (same beginning sound) devices in that little phrase? A catchy title for your next suspense novel might use that pattern: Some Saints Sing, Some Souls Scream (or maybe not, but you get the idea.)
I think that title is fantastic. Or you can split it into two fantastic titles for two books in a series. I’m terrible at titles. I should consult you.
Did I hear you say you have no musical or poetic talents?
Whether you realize it or not, as a writer you can make use of music and poetic devices to improve your prose writing. You might even want to be really brave and add the words of a song or poem into your latest work-in-progress. My novel coming out in July will have several poems included as part of the story. You might even feel the call to try writing a Novel-in-Verse, which has become a very popular genre in the last few years. So, what can you do with your two left feet or should I say two broken pencils and warped word processors as you start adding a musical or poetic touch to your words?
Let’s start with something simple–take a rest. In music a rest is when you don’t sing or play your instrument, you take a break to ready yourself for what will come next. In poetry the rest is white space between stanzas or line breaks between phases to give the reader time to savor the words. In prose, think about making use of white space. Use it between conversations. Break into long monologues with questions or action or reactions so the reader has time to contemplate what will come next and look forward with anticipation, instead of being lulled to sleep.
I never thought about the white space on the page like this. Great advice!
When the action gets tough for your characters, use a little staccato or accents. I. Told. You. To. Stop. Tap. Tap. Tap. The preceding onomatopoeic (sounds like what it is) tapping words also use another poetic device called repetition, which works well in the music and poetry worlds for refrains. I’m sure you can sing the chorus of many songs, even if you don’t know all the verses. If you’re writing for young children, they love that repeated phrase they can say along with the adult who is reading to them. As you write your prose, there may be something that needs heard more than once, or if you’re marketing your book you will need to repeat yourself many times before someone says, “I didn’t realize you wrote a book!”
Poetry, music and prose have many forms.
From a Beethoven symphony to a pop song, music enjoyment comes in multiple forms. New forms of poetry are invented all the time (see the link below.) You don’t have to have perfect rhythm or rhyme abilities to write a haiku, acrostic, or a list poem. Prose writing has forms like picturebooks, nonfiction, romance, suspense, mystery, allegory, and sci-fi, to name a few. What if one of your characters speaks in poetry or riddles or writes about their pets in haiku? Explore the possibility of spicing up your story with a poem or song lyrics (you don’t even have to write the music notes for your song.) Maybe your hero or heroine has a catch phrase or manner of speaking that involves some poetic elements. You could even preface the character’s words as being bad poetry and get away with murder, that is, if you’re writing a mystery.
The use of poetic and musical tones can help establish a character’s voice. In my novel, Free to Love (July 2022-is the repetition working for you yet) one character records the past and establishes an important part of her personality through writing poetry about pre-Civil-War events that lead her to free someone in slavery and help them escape to the north. Tone or voice is also important in prose and music when it comes to establishing whether your piece will be happy, sad, yearning, or hopeless.
So, don’t feel hopeless when it comes to your writing. Make it sing. Make it reach into your soul like a poem. Pour your emotions and heart into all that you do. Happy writing!
So many good tips, Bettie! You’ve made me realize more than ever that prose isn’t so different from music and poetry. To read Bettie’s previous guest blogs, click here.
When a college sweetheart used Ginny Cline’s dreams for his own glory, he stole her joy of composing music and her trust in men. Years later, encouraged by prayer and a chance to help the local museum, she dares to share her talents again. Unfortunately a financial backer forces her to place her music and trust into the hands of another man.
Theater professor Scott Hallmark’s summer camp benefactor coerces him into becoming the director of Ginny’s musical. The last thing he needs is another woman who uses him to get what they want, especially an amateur who has no idea what they are doing.
As Ginny’s interest in Scott grows, her confusion arises over Honey, a member of Scott’s praise band. Mix in a couple of dogs and quirky cast members for fun and frustration as the couple work together to discover that forgiveness and trust produce perfect harmony.
Note-I hope you can read On Cue soon since the prequel Free to Love will be available July 1, 2022.
Bettie Boswell has always loved to read and create stories. That interest helped her create musicals for both church and school and eventually she decided to write and illustrate stories to share with the world. Her first experience with Christian romance started when she spent a summer with her grandmother during her early teen years and read a Grace Livingston Hill novel. Now she reads a Christian novel every week and sometimes more than one. Her writing interests extend from children’s to adult fiction and non-fiction. Her first romance novel, On Cue, debuted November 2020. The prequel to that novel, called Free to Love will be available from Mt. Zion Ridge Press in July 2022. Here other books and stories are “Fred’s Gift” in From the Lake to the River, Sidetracked, and Skateboarding. Before that she contributed to educational works, magazine articles, and devotional and short story anthologies. She has two grown sons, three grandchildren, and a busy minister husband. Follow her on her website, Bettie Boswell, Author/Illustrator.
So happy to have author M. Liz Boyle back here at JPC Allen Writes. Today she’s giving advice on how to make your stories come alive.
Hi, and thanks to JPC Allen for the opportunity to discuss Writing with the Senses!
What words come to mind when you read this paragraph from Firehorse by Diane Lee Wilson?:
“I crouched so close over Peaches’ neck that her mane whipped my cheek. When I drummed my bare heels against her sides, she doubled her speed. The pebbled dirt road melted into a blur. My heart pounded through my skin.”
Excitement, restlessness, and urgency come to my mind. Interestingly, none of those words or their synonyms are present.
How do we know that it’s a warm summer day? How do we feel the rush of wind and hear the horse’s fast breath? What did the author do to transport us into the rider’s life?
It all comes down to Show, Don’t Tell and catering to the readers’ senses.
Writers at any stage in their career have heard about Show, Don’t Tell. If you’re like me, you may at some point have wondered, “Um, okay, but how?” One thing that has improved my ability to show is to ignite the senses.
How do we ignite the senses? Let’s study a few examples.
Each plump dewdrop glowed with the moon’s reflection. We don’t have to be told that the moon is bright – we can picture it!
My pulse hammered behind my eyes and I craved my pillow and quilt. Obviously the narrator has a headache, and more importantly, we can understand how bad the headache is.
My ears strained to pick up any sound – a snapping twig, a rustle of grass, anything besides my conscience screaming at me. This is stronger than describing the setting as “quiet as a mouse,” and we know that the narrator is in (or will be in) trouble.
It was like the clouds’ paint set exploded with reds, pinks, and orange, filling the world with a rosy glow. So is the sky beautiful? It seems like it to me, even without using the word beautiful.
Grandma hugged me, and like always, she smelled like home. There’s no need to say that Grandma gives comfort, because readers will deduce that.
The soup’s perfect blend of flavors made my tongue regret that I was swallowing the last spoonful. Without using the words delicious or famished, we know that the soup is delicious and that the narrator is still hungry.
Consider what’s missing in the sample sentences. With the exception of the color words in the sunset/sunrise example, there are very few adjectives.
You’re familiar with adjectives, those noun-describing words that your 7th grade English teacher encouraged you to generously season every sentence with. I’m not by any means casting out all adjective use, but I am saying that in some cases, we can give more vivid descriptions without using adjectives.
We provide vivid descriptions by appealing to readers’ senses. When writing a scene, if you ever feel detached from your character, like they’re in the middle of a boring, flat experience while you’re yawning on the sidelines, tell yourself to zero in on one or two senses. Put yourself in the character’s place and describe what they hear, smell, taste, feel, and see. Find the sense words that make the scene come alive and write the scene.
Adjectives have their rightful place, and we don’t want to exhaust readers by constantly bombarding their senses with descriptions, but many times, sense-igniting descriptions are just what we need to make the scene real for our readers.
Loved the examples you gave, especially “My pulse hammered behind my eyes and I craved my pillow and quilt” and “Grandma hugged me, and like always, she smelled like home”.Thank you for the wonderful tips to make our stories comes alive!
Praise for Ablaze:
“M. Liz Boyle tackles the topic of showering difficult people with grace and forgiveness, making this a must-read for Christian teens. Adventure seekers who loved Avalanche and Chased will fall head-over-heels for the adventure that heats up in Ablaze!” – author Allyson Kennedy
This summer the Stanley sisters and the Miles boys are excited to hike together again, and now they have the unique opportunity to help two of their ranger friends with an outdoor program in the beautiful Montana mountains.
Marlee has always considered herself a willing follower. Give her a direction and she’s happy to help. Her older sister Ellie is a natural leader, and Marlee is content in her role as assistant.
Marlee and her sisters have been assigned to help with Ranger Rose’s team, and they are savoring the adventure. But in a heartbeat while the group is divided by a few hundred feet, fire breaks out between Ranger Rose and Marlee’s group. In this enthralling finale to the Off the Itinerary series, Marlee must face her fears with courage that only God can provide.
Liz is the author of the Off the Itinerary series, the wife of a professional tree climber, and the homeschooling mom of three energetic and laundry-producing children. Liz once spent a summer in Colorado teaching rock climbing, which she believes was a fantastic way to make money and memories. She resides with her family in Wisconsin, where they enjoy hiking and rock climbing. Liz and her husband have also backpacked in Colorado and the Grand Canyon, which have provided inspiration for her writing. She makes adventurous stories to encourage others to find adventures and expand their comfort zones (though admittedly, she still needs lots of practice expanding her own comfort zone).
It’s always fun to introduce to a new author here at JPC Allen Writes. My guest blogger Madisyn Carlin releases her first novel, Deceived, on April 25 and offers tips for the writer beginning to wade into the unknown waters of writing his or her first novel.
I arrived late to the writing scene. Instead of being bitten by the storytelling bug in my early years, I finally decided to apply imagination to paper at age sixteen. With some hefty encouragement from my mom, a homeschool assignment to write a novel in a year, and a vague idea that came from nowhere, I set out to see if I could be a writer.
I learned something within the first few chapters. Writing your first novel—and seeing it to completion—is not as easy as it sounds.
Dear writer, you will experience setbacks, writer’s block, disappointments, discouragement, and, perhaps, even the temptation to give up and call it quits. When that happens, here are five methods to help you see your novel to completion.
I know it’s exciting to watch those words appear on the screen or on paper, but don’t run headlong into writing. First, spend time in prayer. Pray God will guide you as you write and that the words you write are for His glory. Dedicate your story to Him.
Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men”. Write your book with the anticipation of creating a product that will glorify God. This will help keep you from worrying about potential criticisms and the fact not everyone will like your story.
There are two basic types of writers. The plotter and the panster. The plotter details their story through outlines, meticulously writing their story from beginning to end—in that order. The panster writes scenes and chapters out of order and returns to piece them together. Determine which type you are.
During what time of day do you have the most inspiration? Nighttime? Daytime? Afternoon? Midday? Are you an early bird or the night owl? Furthermore, what provides inspiration? Going on a walk and letting your mind wander? Listening to music? Looking at pictures? Does another hobby, like baking, yardwork, or exercise, give you bursts of ideas? Find what provides inspiration and utilize it. This will not only keep your mind limber and ready to write, but it will help lessen writer’s block.
Find Bible verses, pictures, music, settings, colors, quotes, and more that inspire you. Create a mood board or aesthetic. This can be done by pasting pictures and links into a writing document or using photo editors/collage creators. Refer to this daily; definitely just before you begin writing. If you like to draw, sketch your characters. If you like graphic design, create a mock cover.
This goes without saying. After you’ve sufficiently prepared yourself using the three aforementioned steps, sit down and write. Focus on your story and let the creativity flow. Don’t edit as you write. There will be time for that later.
Five: Never Give Up
It’s said the only guarantees in life are death and taxes. For the writer, one more thing is added to the list: writing struggles. These include, but are not limited to, writer’s block, discouragement, disappointments, and outside distractions. Sometimes, these tempt us to give up on our novel. When those struggles come, and they will, endure. Push on. Fight for your story. Don’t give up on the dream God has planted in your heart.
Writing is an adventure. You never know where your characters and plot will take you. As you embark on this journey, remember first and foremost that you are writing for God, and second, that you can do this.
Thank you so much, Madisyn, for your words of encouragement. It’s something every writer needs!
In a land built upon lies and deception, uncovering the truth can be deadly.
Therese Westa is sick of death, but taking lives is what provides for her younger sisters. When a client approaches her with an unusual request, Therese takes the job offer, which includes the condition of “no questions asked”. As Therese uncovers the reason for the request, she is faced with a choice: kill an innocent man or save her sisters.
Therese’s hesitation to carry out the assassination thrusts her into the aftermath of a dangerous chain of events. Caught between security and truth, Therese must choose where her loyalties lie, for the answer will determine who survives.
Madisyn Carlin is a Christian, homeschool graduate, blogger, voracious bookdragon, and author. When not spending time with her family or trekking through the mountains, she weaves tales of redemption, faith, and action.
Connect with Madisyn below::
Instagram handle: madisyn_carlin
In case you missed this post earlier this year, I am guest blogging for Anne Clare, a frequent contributor to my site, about when a character turns into a problem child. To read Anne Clare’s interviews and posts on my site, click here.