Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Bettie Boswell

39760465_2130678013617363_178544449079476224_nMy friend Bettie Boswell is joining me today because as a writer of both words and music, she brings an informed view about how the two arts interrelated. Thanks so much for stopping by, Bettie!

Music and the written word have characteristics that are both similar and yet very different:  Patterns, rhythms, and lyrical phrases fill music and the written word. Both have meanings that are clear and hidden. Both reach for the listener’s heart and emotions. They move at varying tempos. They both involve pitches but what a difference between the two. Highs and lows move throughout the song and the story but again they have contrasts in meaning. A symphony has distinct sections and so does a story. Picture books may have a recurring refrain and so do many songs.

By popular definition, music is organized sound. The written story consists of organized words. Organization makes the difference between a rambling journal entry and a well-written novel.

Music begins with a BEAT that binds the piece and the performers together. The story has a heartbeat that ties the tale together through either a theme or an outline designed to show changes along a hero’s journey. In writing, the beat can also refer to actions that keep story movement going between conversations in quotes.

RHYTHM adds sparkle to the music by breaking up the constant beat. Rhythm forms patterns that repeat and change. Patterns reveal FORM in the music and make the music memorable and easier to perform. Surprising rhythms are exciting to listen to and make each composition unique. Certain rhythms indicate genre, be it Jazz or Baroque or Rock. When an author pens a story, they will follow certain word rhythms or plot types that will take them into genres such as Young Adult, Picture Book, Mystery, Romance, or Suspense.

PITCH in music makes the music sing as the melody moves through high and low notes. Stories also move through high and low events for the main character. Pitch can strain or relax the musician’s abilities. In the writer’s world, a pitch can be one of the most strenuous events that the author will experience. Will they easily sing out the essence of their story to an editor or agent, or will they over do it and ruin their chance at having their voice (story) heard?

Speaking of voice, in music there are many TIMBRES (tone qualities.) In a symphonic orchestra, a b-flat played on an oboe will sound very different from one played on a tuba or a viola, yet they are in tune with each other.  A singer can also perform the same note but he or she will have his or her own unique voice. Authors are encouraged to find their own voice for telling the story in a genuine way. They also need to find special voices for the players making up the orchestra of characters found in their book.

All those voices playing together create HARMONY or dissonance in the music or the story. When things go well there is harmony; when they don’t there is dissonance. Dissonance creates tension in both music and the story. It happens when two voices get too close and create a displeasing sound. Dissonance creates the desire to resolve the sound into something more pleasing. When those two voices give each other a little space, they find harmony and a happy conclusion is the result.

Writing is like being the conductor of an orchestra. The author keeps the beat and rhythm going and knows when to speed up or slow the TEMPO of the story. They know what voices should be part of the story and where to cue the reader that something is about to happen. They lead with quiet or loud words when approaching the DYNAMICS of each scene. They direct emotions by using smooth lyrical sentences, or staccato phrases to make a point. Just as a songwriter chooses the perfect lyrics for a ballad, an author finds words that are meaningful to their chosen audience and to themselves. They stand before that audience, give it their best (after many rehearsal hours of revising,) and hope that they receive a singing review for a work well done.

Best wishes and Merry Christmas to all aspiring writers and musicians,

Bettie Boswell

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Find Bettie’s Christmas short story “Fred’s Gift” as well as my country noir one “Debt to Pay” in the anthology below. Click here for ordering links.

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Bettie Boswell is an author, illustrator, and composer for both Christian and children’s markets. She holds a B.S. in Church Music from Cincinnati Bible College and a Masters in Elementary Education from East Tennessee State University. She lives in Northwest Ohio. Her numerous musicals have been performed at schools, churches, and two community theater events. When she isn’t writing, drawing or composing, she keeps busy with her day job teaching elementary music. You can find her online on Twitter @BboswellB and on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger Bettie Boswell

39760465_2130678013617363_178544449079476224_nOne of the authors in From the Lake to the River has stopped by to talk about her short story “Fred’s Gift” and her writing journey. Please welcome, Bettie Boswell!

You said your father inspired your story. What parts of the character Fred are like your father and what parts aren’t?

Bettie: My father was known for writing letters to his children that could be rather blunt. In his elder years he softened up and became a gentler voice to his family. He also surprised everyone by becoming involved in all the activities at his assisted living, including the Church ones. Several years before he entered assisted living, he did deed his home place to me and a sibling. Since he passed, I use it as a retreat to write music and stories. My brother uses it as a place to hunt deer, while I use it to hunt the right words.

Why did you choose Toledo and central Ohio as the setting?

Bettie: Northwest Ohio—I chose that area because it is where I live. Also there are areas nearby that would fit both the rural and suburban settings of the story. Though my father’s land is in another state, the Ohio farmlands are similar in setting.

You’re both an author and composer. What are the similarities between these two arts? What are the differences?

Bettie: The music I write generally has words, so choosing the right word with the right meaning is an important part in both. Most of the time the words to a song come first. Music uses poetry and which eliminates extra words that aren’t needed to convey a thought. Rhyming and rhythm come easy and–though not obvious in prose–many times they play a part in putting words into a sentence.

Writing isn’t restricted to a set meter so there is more freedom in expression. Terminology means different things in each place. Beat in music keeps the pulse going. Beat in a story refers to an action used instead of a tag like ‘he said.’ Mood in music may be expressed by tempo, dynamics, style, or by using a minor or major key. Mood in writing is composed of specific words, short or long sentences, actions or phrases conveying emotions. I think I could write a major essay on the comparison so I will stop for now.

If you do a major essay, let me know! I would love to feature it. Next question — What’s been your most unusual source of inspiration?

Bettie: I am inspired by family history and historic research. My father researched his genealogy and retold many of the family tales, which may find their way into a story someday. Many of the musicals I’ve written are based on Ohio history. Some of my children’s manuscripts are inspired by events experienced by my children and grandchildren. I’m working on one now about a Pig Alert that really happened to us when my boys were little. We saw some pigs fly…sort of…

What advice would you give to beginning writers?

Bettie: Learn the craft. Take classes to improve yourself. I’m taking a great on-line one right now from author Tina Radcliffe. Attend critique groups and conferences. (Learn to know which critiques are valid and which are not. Not everyone knows how to write your story, but you can learn from others who will see things you can’t.) I belong to several critique and writing groups. From the Lake to the River was developed through such a group.

Conferences are for more than learning. They give you the chance to share with editors and agents–but learn what to say to them before you go there. I left my first one in tears. I would suggest just going to workshops the first time you attend a conference. Listen to those who actually go to a meeting and learn from their mistakes. Sign up for a mentor meeting instead of an agent or editor. After that, pay the extra fees and meet up with several editors or agents. Those meetings may be the only way to get anyone to look at your manuscript.

Don’t pout too long when you get a rejection. Get over yourself, learn from it and challenge yourself to conquer the next hurdle in your writing career. Rejecting editors opinions are just that, an opinion. If they do make a suggestion give it major consideration and make changes.

I also became interested in children’s books and attended workshops at the Highlights Foundation.  (They have scholarships if the price scares you.) Though their aim is children to young adult books, I learned a lot there that improved my ability to write for any age group. Keep plugging away. Put yourself in front of your computer and start typing. (By the way, writing will cost you much learning time and money until you become a very famous writer. Think of it as an investment in a new career training academy or college.)

Enter contests. An early draft of “Fred’s Gift” placed third in a state ACFW contest a few years ago. AFCW has a contest every year for beginners. I’ve entered it twice and the critiques are worth the entry fee.

Today you have to be involved in social media and have a ‘platform.’ That was a tough one for me but I’ve become part of the Twitter (@Bboswellb) and Facebook world. They tell me now that Instagram is the way to go so I guess one of these days I’ll break that barrier–probably about the time they start a new venue. I submitted one children’s story to a small publisher and they said I had to have a social media presence to be considered by their house. That’s when I decided to jump into that world.

There are many great on-line communities that support writer’s. My favorite for many years has been Seekerville. They have an archive of amazing articles on writing for the Christian market. ACFW(Christian fiction) and SCBWI (Children’s) both have a wealth of information (pod casts, online classes, other resources) available on their websites if you are a member. You can start your education and have a couple of society initials to put after your name on your resume when you join them.

I just started a web site! I’m a rookie but you have to start somewhere!

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Bettie Boswell is an author, illustrator, and composer for both Christian and children’s markets. She holds a B.S. in Church Music from Cincinnati Bible College and a Masters in Elementary Education from East Tennessee State University. She lives in Northwest Ohio. Her numerous musicals have been performed at schools, churches, and two community theater events. When she isn’t writing, drawing or composing, she keeps busy with her day job teaching elementary music .

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