Friday, August 23, 2019

Magical Pictures on the Page: Using Imagery in Writing


Greetings, Wizard Writers!

For a few moments, let’s pretend we’re artists. Not writers, but those who paint pictures using acrylics, oil paints, and watercolors. As painters, we would attempt to catch true colors in nature, fleeting facial expressions, or the perfect reflections of light against a red apple. Using our mind’s eye, let’s try to envision the world as a painter might see it. How do those waves sweep the shore? How do those clouds pop against the sky? How do you catch the movement of trees in the breeze? Take a few minutes to think on everything you see, and try to imagine how you’d paint those images . . . 

Now, let’s go back to being writers. As artists who use words to paint pictures on a page, we use different tools than a painter, but as you saw above, our mental processes are the same. While sometimes these images are easy for us to paint on a page, sometimes we struggle and need the help of different writing techniques or methods of analysis. Below, please find a few ways to help your mind transfer images and concepts to words, making magical pictures on the page for your readers. 

Use Language to your Advantage

1. Consider adding adjectives and adverbs to a sentence to enhance the prose
2. Make a list of  “beautiful and “ugly” words to use in writing (Example: crystalline, enchanted, symphony/decrepit, grotesque, rancid)
3. Consider alternate punctuation (Example: exaggerate with an em dash. “A banana—rotten on the table.”)
4. Use similes and metaphors to call attention to a phrase or set it apart for emphasis (Example: Clouds as big as elephants) 
5. Use analogies and comparisons to provide a different level of understanding for the reader
6. Use symbolism (Example: clock = time passing)
7. Use strong nouns and verbs. Instead of “the horse ran,” opt for “the stallion galloped.”

Use The 5 Senses

Using the five senses—smell, taste, touch, sight, and sound—helps bring images to the minds of your readers. For example, you might use unexpected images through the sense of sight, or you might choose to create a bold scene through a combination of taste and smell. This is especially useful when writing about restaurants or natural settings or even memories. The sense of scent is strongly linked with memories, so use that to your advantage for nostalgic pieces. Also, be aware of associations; for example, not everyone likes the smell and taste of chocolate. Make lists of different sounds (pop, giggle, buzz) as this will also help draw a reader into a scene.

Observation and Analysis

1. Pay attention to everything around you (For example: What tiny details do you see in the ceiling? Which way is the grass blowing today? What colors do you see most in the sky? Think about your observations when you write out a scene)
2. Keep a journal (Consider writing about little things you observe or your daily thoughts on specific topics. Here is a link to my article on different types of journals: http://thewizardofwriting.blogspot.com/2018/03/the-wizards-spellbook-how-to-construct.html)
3. Analyze situations (Ask yourself: What’s truly going on here?)
4. Mind Map (Draw a circle in the center of a page and insert a word. Then, draw lines extending from that circle and come up with connected words. What patterns do you see? How can you use these words or concepts?)
5. Go for a “writer’s drive” or a “writer’s walk” and jot down what you see along the way

The Weather 

Consider drawing up a daily weather log and writing down different weather patterns and visuals. How do snow flurries look at night? How do raindrops sound against your windows? How does the sun strike your backyard?


I hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of The Wizard of Writing! 


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Magic Writing Shears: What to Cut from your Manuscript


Greetings, Wizard Writers!

This week we’ll look at cutting the fat from your manuscript during the editing and revision processes. It may be a good idea to do this scene by scene, or chapter by chapter, then go through the entire manuscript if you can (or at least in the largest chunks of time you have available). We’re looking for material that can be cut from the manuscript so that you have a beautiful, polished feel and an overall awesome flow. You may consider cutting useless dialogue, for example, or those pesky adverbs that pop in here and there, or even (if you’re like me), the overuse of the word “that” or other unnecessary words. The full list is provided below, and I hope these help make your manuscript shine. 


Telling Not Showing
If you write out your stories in notebooks, consider drawing a TNS over passages where you feel you’ve been “Telling Not Showing.” Once you locate these areas, go back over them in revision and try to make them stronger with more “showing” language and imagery. If you’re on the computer, you might consider the highlighting option to point out where you’ve been telling the reader versus showing them, and just as above, go over them in revision to make the areas stronger. 

Passive Verbs
We all fall into the passive verb trap at times. Basically you want to make sure your verbs are active for the best results, avoiding the “was” and “is” and “to be” constructions. For example, if you spot a sentence like “The letter was mailed by Matthew” you should try to change it to something like “Matthew mailed the letter.” For more advice on passive and active verbs, check out this link: https://www.wikihow.com/Avoid-Using-the-Passive-Voice

Unnecessary Dialogue
Dialogue serves a few purposes. One is to move a scene along, another is for characterization. Try to avoid using dialogue to state the obvious or provide backstory. If dialogue does not have a purpose in your story, edit it out. If your dialogue does not sound unique to each character, cut or revise the passage. If it doesn’t sound authentic to the ear, redo it or take it out completely. 

Flat Writing
Make sure your writing has depth, texture, and emotion. If it does not, then cut or rewrite. Some elements you might want to consider are creativity, visual/sensory input, and action. Don’t just tell a story, be a lively narrator with a penchant for language. 

Repeated Words
Many writers use “crutch” words that oftentimes repeat in their stories. If these tend to be a problem for you, cut words that pop up too many times in a scene or chapter. Also, make sure to cut useless words like “that” and “which" when appropriate. 

Adverbs
These are easy enough to spot. While adverbs definitely have a place in writing, be sure not to overuse them, particularly in dialogue tags. 

Awkward Wording
It might help to have a friend in the biz go over your manuscript and point out any awkward wording, phrasing, or confusing areas. You could also put the manuscript away for a little while and go back with fresh eyes to catch these areas. Revise anything that feels as though it may be unclear to your readers. 

Commas or Unnecessary Punctuation
Make sure to look over punctuation for a polished manuscript. Cut any unnecessary commas and be sure you don’t have any run-on sentences or other grammatical issues in the manuscript.

Long Lists
This would include too-long lists of related objects; for example, a list of flowers: carnations, roses, lilies, bleeding hearts, tulips. Cut any areas where the list runs too long for reader comprehension and comfort. 

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments. Is there anything else that may be cut from a manuscript during the revision process?



Up Next: Magical Pictures on the Page: Using Imagery in Writing

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Wizard’s Lucky Dozen: 12 Checkpoints for Constructing a Scene in Writing


Greetings, Wizard Writers!

This week we’ll discuss constructing scenes in writing and look at a dozen checkpoints to help you put all the elements together in your writing projects. There are a few craft elements to consider when constructing scenes, including dialogue, voice, and setting. The full list will give you a better idea of where to go, from start to finish, inside of your chapters. Using your author intuition and these checkpoints, you should be in terrific shape when it comes to completing a scene and moving on to the next. At this pace, scene to scene, you’ll have a novel completed and ready for revisions in no time at all! As always, please let me know, in the comments section, if you have any questions or can provide any other tips. 

A Dozen Checkpoints for Constructing a Scene

1. Planning and Structure
When plotting out a scene, you should consider the beginning, middle, and end before you attempt to tackle the entire scene. Even if you’re the type of writer who just writes without plotting in advance, it’s a good idea to have a mental idea where you’re going and what you’d like to accomplish. Perhaps you can figure out the end goal and work backward, or perhaps you can sit down with a pen and paper and write: Beginning/Middle/End and sort it out through an outline method. If you know where you’re going, it’s a lot easier to reach the destination (and a lot less frustrating!). 

2. Stakes
When writing your scene, make sure the stakes are high and the motivations clear. You’ll want to include character goals here and make sure they are in the correct sequence for either attainment or failure. Consider the consequences of your character’s actions. What are the repercussions? Keep the stakes high throughout the scene for maximum reader benefit.

3. Action
One element you’ll definitely want to consider is action. Use strong, active verbs, and keep the scene moving along. Only include flashbacks/backstory if there is a dire need to do so! Basically, you want to make sure your scene has momentum and keeps the reader engaged. 

4. Dialogue
Dialogue is important for characterization and for moving a scene along, but it can also be useful for adding conflict to your story. This type of tension will keep the reader turning pages from scene to scene. Some other questions to ask yourself regarding dialogue are: Is your dialogue purposeful? Is it highlighting your scene? Is it describing your character and giving them more depth? Consider the many uses for dialogue and make sure to include it for balance in your scene.

5. Setting
When constructing a scene, the reader should be set firmly in your setting. Use the four walls technique: What does your character see to their right? left? in front of them? behind them? Maybe they’re in a living room with a couch, a computer, a bookcase, and a door. Maybe they’re adrift in an ocean, and all around them is just blue sky and waves. Whatever the case, setting is one of the most important elements when it comes to constructing a scene. Color in the setting, then fill in the scene with the rest of the elements.

6. Emotions
Another important element to consider is emotions—both the character emotions and the emotions of the reader. What mood do you want to relay in your scene? What do you want the reader to feel while reading this passage? Consider tears, laughing, arguments, and despair. An emphasis on emotions will allow the reader to empathize with your characters as the scene moves on.

7. Voice
When constructing your scene, make sure your narrative voice comes across on the pages. Remember, you are the author/writer, but also the storyteller, with a purpose for writing your book and a voice that is your own. Don’t lose sight of that while getting caught up in a scene, especially an action scene. Put on your mask as the storyteller and make sure your voice is strong and memorable.

8. Imagery
This ties in with setting, so be sure to keep coloring in the scene with details. I had a writing teacher once say writing is all about “Details, Details, Details!” Make sure your reader is fully immersed in the scene through your scene-painting. Give them enough details to produce a vivid scene while making sure their imaginations are working as well. 

9. Language
Our mantra as storytellers is “show, don’t tell,” so make sure you follow this when constructing your scenes. Use language to your advantage, making sure the scene is clear and that all points are shown to the reader, versus just telling them what’s going on. Writing style should also be a consideration here—how is your style of language unique? What will make the scene memorable?

10. Transition
As discussed about planning out the beginning, middle, and end of a scene, make sure the transitions are smooth within the scene and from scene to scene overall. Most scenes are encapsulated within a chapter, so when possible, leave the reader on a cliffhanger between chapters. At the very least, make sure the next chapter follows smoothly. Same procedure for using *** to move to the next scene within a chapter—attempt a smooth transition. Within the scenes themselves, set up a choreography that makes sense to the reader. Don’t head-hop with too many characters and don’t place your character in one setting and then suddenly have them appear someplace else (unless you’re an apparating wizard, that is). 

11. The 5 Senses
This ties in with setting and imagery. Be sure that within your scene, you’re using the 5 senses to your advantage. This would include: Sight, Sound, Scent, Touch, Taste. What do your characters see in the distance? How does the forest around them smell? Are the items in the scene rough to the touch, or soft? Also, consider weather here. Is it a gloomy day, or is the sun shining? How does that look from your character’s perspective? 

12.Cohesiveness
Finally, put everything together to create a full scene. Make sure the scene makes sense, the checkpoints are all touched upon, and that your reader will be pulled along for a non-stop ride while reading. Go back over the flow of the scene for continuity, read aloud, and revise as necessary. 

Good luck! I hope these checkpoints help you with constructing your scenes!


Up next: Magic Writing Shears: What to Cut from your Manuscript

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Pick a Color! A Spectral Breakdown of Character Traits



Greetings, Wizard Writers!

I’m really excited about the post this week! As you probably know, many of my writing posts not only revolve around a magic theme, but also include colors. For example, my Novel Writing: The Rainbow Method, is the featured article this season and uses colors to help writers remember all of the literary elements while they’re penning novels. When I started the Wizard of Writing blog, I also did quite a few color thesaurus articles in The Color Magic series, which helped writers find other ways to write black, or pink, or blue, and so on. 

To that end, I’m pleased to present a labor of love: A breakdown of character traits by color. What does this mean? Basically, that every color has a psychological reaction attached to it, or is commonly known for causing a certain response or a specific mood in people. Green, for example, is linked with nature and money. Red, with anger and war. Yellow, with happiness and wisdom. I’ve put together this list of character traits and connected them with color meanings so that it might be easy for you to develop your characters. Maybe you’d like a “blue” character who is sort of depressed. Or maybe a “pink” character—youthful and romantic—might be a good fit for your novel. You can pull in all or most of the traits from a single color for your character, or you can mix and match traits. This is also good for developing side or minor characters, who may be more difficult to express on the pages.

I hope this list helps you develop traits for your characters. Please let me know your thoughts and decisions in the comments section!

Character Traits

Red
Angry 
Rebellious
Violent
Aggressive
War-like
Combative
Active
Athletic
Energetic
Lively
Romantic
Sexual
Loving
Passionate
Lustful
Frustrated
Stable (likes structure)
Courageous
Easily Stimulated
Leader
Confident
Intense
Fiery
Appetite for Life
Strong-willed
Hateful
Big Temper
Large Ego
Joyful

Orange
Creative
Active
Enthusiastic
Joyful
Psychotic
Anxious
Energetic
Optimist
Food-lover
Dancer
Music-lover
Art-lover
Warm
Sexual
Lustful
Fiery
Vibrant
Abundant
Focussed
Charges People
Health Restorer
Self-indulgent
Emotional
Social
Emotionally Unbalanced
Prideful
Vain
Sly
Worrier

Yellow
Happy
Intelligent
Pleasure-seeking
Sunshiny
Radiant
Warm
Self-confident
Optimistic
Wise
Enthusiastic
Idealist
Analytical
Over-thinker
Overly Critical
Compassionate
Energizing
Powerful


Green
Nature-lover
Money-driven
Greedy
Jealous
Relaxed
Evolving (constant growth)
Healer
Balanced
Soothing
Harmonious
Tranquil
Peaceful
Envious
Compassionate
Sensitive
Reliable/Dependable
Abundant
Friendly
Strong
Miserly
Possessive
Self-doubtful
Forgives Easily
Transformative
Life-giving

Blue 
Calm
Relaxed
Water-lover
Sky-lover
Flighty
Communicative
Emotional
Powerful
Deep
Healer
Pain Reliever
Peaceful
Tranquil
Sad
Depressed
Intuitive
Quiet
Devoted
Serious
Imaginative
Lonely
Honest
Melancholy
Worrier
Fearful
Intelligent

Purple
Royal
Calm
Psychic
Intuitive
Healing
Cool
Balanced
Divine
Superior
Enlightened
Spiritual
Meditative
Protecting
Dreamer
Reflective
Searcher
Sympathetic
Truth-seeker
Noble
Wise
Powerful
Strong
Selfless

White
Calm 
Angelic
Sky-lover
Flighty
Inspiring
Spiritual
Faithful
Truthful
Honest
Pure
Saintly
Holy
Snow-lover
Winter-lover
Mystical
Peaceful
Intuitive
Psychic
Enlightened
Virginal
Generous
Kind
Virtuous

Black
Protective
Imbalanced
Night-lover
Mysterious
Sacrificial
Secretive
Silent/Quiet
Dark/Gothic
Negative
Depressed
Absorbing
Dangerous
Evil
Sinful
Hateful
Ill
Abuser
Shielder
Contemplative
Reflective
Loyal
Emotional
Serious
Disciplined
Classy/Sophisticated
Dramatic
Powerful
Strong
Bold
Edgy

Pink
Loving
Pure
Compassionate
Good Companion
Art-lover
Beautiful
Modest
Romantic 
Immature
Unselfish
Sensitive
Happy
Optimist
Innocent

Silver
Protective
Shielding
Psychic
Erratic
Mentally Ill
Illusionist
Divine
Messenger
Intuitive
Persuasive
Smooth Talker
Universal
Fairy Energy
Good-looking
Aged Well

Brown
Earthy
Natural
Nurturing
Good Organization
Impatient
Business-minded
Solid
Wise
Down-to-earth
Basic
Calm
Quiet
Stable
Secure

Gold
Spiritual
Powerful
Devoted
Harmonious
Inspiring
Enthusiastic
Heavenly
Saintly
God-like
Enlightened
Protective
Wealthy

Peach
Transformative
Harmonious
Tranquil
Fresh
Newborn
Innocent
Soft
Charming
Easy-going

Gray
Awakened
Confused
Secretive
Lonely
Undecided
Unbalanced
Anticipatory
Old
Neutral
Cloudy Perspectives

Magenta
Stand-out
Strong Personality
Dedicated
Loving
Calming
Soothing
Balanced
Optimistic

Maroon
Strong
Stable
Brave
Powerful
Angry
Raging
Explosive

Ivory
Hides the truth
Spiritual
Pure
Detached

Turquoise
Stable
Peaceful
Serene
Tranquil
Soft
Healer
Spiritual
Protective
Restorative
Positive
Faithful
Tropical-lover
Ocean-lover

Brass
Rude
Brash
Intelligent
Melding
Goal-oriented

Thanks for reading!


Up Next Week: The Wizard’s Lucky Dozen: 12 Checkpoints for Constructing a Scene in Writing

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Pick a Color! A Spectral Breakdown of Character Traits