Moment of the Muse

How often do you struggle for something to ‘write about’? or face the so-called writer’s block because you cannot find a topic for your next piece?

I know many writers frequently struggle with finding subject matter. It is something I hear often via author groups and writing associations.

I am a prolific writer, yet have never suffered from either of the above.

Most often, I can be found tapping away on my keyboard as I continue my ‘works in progress’.

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I usually have a few of these on the go at once; non-fiction, a novel, some short stories, a compilation, it is pretty much par for the course.

I have files called ‘stuff & stories to read’; ‘story Ideas & notes’; ‘more writing notes’; ‘other stuff’, and so forth. Each file has sub-files, documents, snipped pages, images, sticky notes and a plethora of summaries, transcripts, annotations, memoranda, footnotes and odd bits I am unsure what to call.

The overriding connection is, they are all my Aide-mémoires to moments.

Some of these notes were transferred from my notebooks. I tend to carry at least one notebook with me at any time, generally, a small flip-type book. If I am leaving the house for any length of time. On long journeys and holidays, I take several, so I always have one to hand.

The jottings in these books can be about a place, a view, something said to me, part of an overheard conversation, or an observation. I even have notes about signposts I find amusing or incoherent.

Other items have been stored from browsing the net, finding ‘stuff’ while researching something entirely different. Some are from messages, spam, sales emails and so forth.

Occasionally reading another’s story sets my mind racing along parallel paths, so I need to scribble down my thoughts of the moment. The result of the stories which develop from these are a far cry to the original stimulus, but sometimes one needs the initial jolt to send the imaginings down a certain pathway. image_block_full_iStock_68956147_XLARGE

These files also include part stories of various lengths. They are from a single sentence or paragraph through to several thousands of words… unfinished works if you wish.

Some are my deletions and edits of other work. The bits I cut out. The parts which did not make the final manuscript or published book. Waste not, want not. They can all be used again in one form or another.

But, the point of this post, each and every one of the notes in those files have come from a ‘moment’, a single moment I have experienced during my life.

After all, life is simply a matter of moments, one after another, after another, like the single frames of a cinematic film they whirr past us in a seemingly continues unbroken stream.

I believe great writing is having the ability to capture any one, or more, of those given moments and revealing its secrets, sharing them with all who will read your words.

Even the longest of novels is created by producing a string of ‘scenes’. Each scene depicting a moment.

Personally, I have a fondness for creating shorter stories, anywhere from about 250 words to, say, twenty or thirty thousand. My favourite though is around 2,500 to 6,000.

This proposes the challenge of making a captivating tale, one with a ‘proper’ beginning, middle and end, with so few words.

I feel the main test of writing such a short story is to examine the writer’s skill, in not only having a complete story but one which burns its presence, its being, into the mind of those reading it. A great story should ask questions, probe the beliefs, principles and convictions of the reader.

Which leads me back to the start of this post where I asked,

“How often do you struggle for something to ‘write about’? or face the so-called writer’s block because you cannot settle on a topic for your next story?”

My belief is you may be overthinking the issue.

Do not try and think of an entire story, of a whole scenario, before you put pen to paper. Just take one moment, one seemingly insignificant moment of your life and write about that.

Think about today. What has happened to you, with you, so far today?

It does not have to be anything exciting.

Not all stories need to have a romantic outcome or bloodshed, murder and mayhem splattered across their pages. The characters do not have to be heroes or superhuman, to have suffered or survived.

Ordinary people, people like you and I have stories to tell too. Try telling one or two of those. Stories and tales regular, normal people can relate to and understand.Article_wakeup_tired

What did you think of the moment you awoke today… write about that?

Expand on that.

Why were you thinking it, what does it relate to, who was involved, what will be the outcome, can you change it? Do you want to change it? Can you stop it changing? and so forth.

Become your character. Believe you are they. Wholly, totally convince your muse you are.

Open your heart, let your soul pour forth. Be honest with yourself. Don’t force it.

Your story will come and it just may be the best thing you have ever written.

Grab the moment, grab the moment of the muse.

 

I’ll leave you with an instant.

A while ago, I read a social status in which a young lady was distressed regarding her writing.

It seems her family, particularly her father, not taking her wish to write seriously, held little interest in what she was writing about, suggesting it would be better if she wrote about him.

Of course, this is not what this young lady wanted to write about. She did not want to write about her father. She wanted to write about something she knew, something she understood.

But everything she had written so far was slighted by her own father. Not very supportive, encouraging or helpful.

This made it extremely problematic for her to choose a topic or subject which would not amplify the situation further.

I shall not repeat the derogatory remarks made or the well-meaning, but pathetic and ultimately unhelpful, words of comfort offered on social. But all the responses took this young ladies post on its surface merits.

The deeper conflict was her relationship with her family, particularly her father and the anxiety it created within her.

This stress was heightened by her desire to write something meaningful while not adding to the household turmoil. Yes, she could have written in secret, but it was obvious she wanted, even desperately needed the encouragement and backing of her family.

All this young girl was looking for was some reassurance. She needed positive reinforcement from her family.

I suggested she write exactly what she posted about. The conflict with her father, why she wished to write and why she wanted to write the things she did. How hurtful her fathers’ remarks were and how the lack of support was so dispiriting.

I proposed she then gave her family the manuscript to read and await a response.

She now has a new laptop her father bought for her writing and a small desk in the corner of the room where she can work uninterrupted.

This is a true story.

As I said above, my advice is;

Open your heart, let your soul pour forth. Be honest with yourself. Don’t force it.

Your story will come and it just may be the best thing you have ever written.

Grab the moment, grab the moment of the muse.


If you want to see my books, find out what I am working on or contact me, then visit my website, HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

Associating the Oblique and Ambiguous.

 

Firstly, a note:jot_a_note

It is a while since I have written a post focusing on the process of creative writing.

The reason being, I have said much about other ‘stuff’ associated with authoring and publishing. Stuff I felt important enough to warrant writing about.

However, doing so led me away from the core value of this blog, which is to give, in my usual rambling and rather haphazard way, tips, advice and suggestions on improving one’s writing skills and understanding of authorship.

Those of you who follow me will know I do not write in a scholarly constructive fashion, because I do not consider myself a teacher or an authority of literary genius.

I prefer to allow indefinite abstract descriptions to suggest and evoke one’s own perceptions and introspection to convey the messages in each of these Ramblings.

In my heart of hearts, I believe the soul of the writer, the artist that lays within, is the greatest asset of all. No one can learn to write unwillingly; the writer must have love and passion above teaching and education.

A writer must want to write, above all else.

So, with those matters cleared away, I guess it is time to reveal what this article is about.


‘Association’

As a mass noun, the definition of this word, according to the Oxford English dictionary is, ‘The action of making a mental connection’.

Regarding fiction writing, I would take this two steps further and say it is, ‘The action of making a mental, sensory and emotional connection within one’s imagination’.

However, to create such a powerful, multi-sensory consanguinity within a reader’s mind, requires the writer’s understanding and needs them to be adept at wordsmithing.

To me, the word ‘wordsmith’ is a wondrous, self-describing noun.

Imagine standing before a blazing forge, gauntlet covered hands, leather apron, large metal tongs holding a glowing red-hot bar of iron. The other hand wielding a heavy hammer.

Smell the fire, the heat, hearing the Smithy as he pounds the almost molten metal into the shape of his choosing. Not an easy task, one which takes many re-heatings and coolings of the metal. One which takes countless strikes with the hammer against the solid block of the anvil before anything recognisable is formed from the raw metal.download

This is what I envisage when thinking of the word ‘wordsmith’.

My ‘association’ is with the hours of sweat and toil it takes to form a loose jumble of letters and scattered words into a coherent and meaningful sentence. To mould and form each word so it fits seamlessly with the next, so they all flow in a smooth, well-paced fashion to complete the paragraph.

The result of a Blacksmiths work is more than just flattened and twisted metal, it is a product purposely shaped into a functional object, decorated to enhance its appearance, creating an article of both beauty and reason.

Such should be our undertaking as writers. Our words should not only serve the functionality of revelation but create a pathway of beauty and intrigue for our readers to follow. Our tales should hold within their very form the pure essence of captivation, of fantastical fiction.

To do this we must weave that very essence, the distillate tincture of association within our words.

“That’s fine for you to say,” I hear you mutter.“But how do we do that?”

My answer is to consider the word this post is about, consider ‘association’. The association of words.

Now, many of you will be thinking ‘thesaurus’ because that is what a thesaurus is all about, isn’t it?

Well, yes and no.

You see, when I talk of word association I am not merely speaking of functional words you may find within dictionaries and thesaurus. Neither am I considering which words may be grammatically correct. I am talking about creativity, of creative writing. Of breaking the rules when it lends to better or even great storytelling.

Those among you who write poetry may, or at least should, have a greater understanding of the flexibility of words, how they can be moulded to convey more than their basic meanings. Particularly when two or more are used in conjunction, oblique, ambiguous or both.

Wordsmithing in fiction writing utilises what is learnt through the poetic principle, includes and encompasses it within the whole wordsmithing process.

As a way of explanation, I’ll take an excerpt from one of my short stories, ‘The Bridge‘, taken from volume three of my short stories collection, ‘Tales of Crime & Violence’

Out of context, I think this is a rather unremarkable excerpt. Even so, once studied while holding the concept of association in mind, its secrets are revealed.

The Humber Bridge is monumental. It is suspended by a mass of giant pythons, twisted metal cables one hundred feet above the sludge brown of the river. From tower to tower it is one mile and the road continues to reach out from there, grabbing the riverbanks with blackened tarmac and concrete fingers.

Yet, for all the earth destroying steel and concrete construction, the bridge has an illusion of beauty that is enhanced by nature itself. Somehow the two blend, even complement each other, an amalgamation of converse contraries.

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The Humber Bridge

Firstly, the suggested size of the bridge is stated, in an emotional way, by using the word monumental.

It is then revealed to the reader this is a suspension bridge.

Using the term ‘mass of giant pythons’ is suggestive of and leads into the next sentence ‘twisted metal cables…’

Here are the first wordsmithing associations.

Most people know what a suspension bridge looks like. The story could be told by simply stating this bridge is a vast suspension bridge.

The following words about metal cables could have been just that ‘metal cables’. But the addition of ‘twisted’ is used specifically because of its association with the commonly held image of snakes.

We have now created an image in the reader’s mind of ‘giant twisted pythons holding up a bridge’. Which is a far better read than say, “a large bridge held up by steel suspension cables”.

To continue, the height of the roadway on the bridge is given, one hundred feet, so is the fact the bridge is above a river.

So, once more, the story could read “… a large bridge held up by steel suspension cables one hundred feet above a river…’ Which factually would be correct, although it does not make a very captivating or entertaining read.

Moving on, the incorporation of the words ‘sludge brown’ is purposeful. Not only to transfer the perceived visual perception of a dark river but to almost subliminally link back to the snake imagery by suggesting colour association while taking into consideration most people visualise a river as ‘winding’ or ‘twisting’. Another correlation.

While this imagery of bridges and pythons is building in the forefront of the reader’s comprehension, there is also the fact the author is creating an atmosphere of dark foreboding; or at least the idea of something ominous germinating.

Sludge brown, twisting, python, mass, all have links with the nefarious.

The next ‘s sentences structure reinforces this unease.

The factual description of the bridge is given, but this is enhanced by a form of predicate which strengthens the sinister. “… the road continues to reach out from there, grabbing the riverbanks with blackened tarmac and concrete fingers.”

Reaching out, grabbing, blackened, fingers; all strong adjectives which focus on creating a sensory awareness of the underlying drama.

While a person may not be fully aware why, or what effect these words are having as they read, you can bet your bottom dollar their subconscious will. Personal and social belief, acquired by myth, legend and the silver screens of Hollywood has conditioned us to be susceptible to even the slightest of suggestive input.

It is also a long-proven fact when one reads, they absorb far more, far quicker than by any other method of communication.

The above example is a rather direct and implicit one. But there are stronger yet more oblique instances.

Like these, from my poem ‘Doorway’

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This side or that.

In or out.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

Simple. A wooden frame. Harsh nails, forged from iron, blood and sweat in the furnace of forgotten hopes. Spikes driven deep, driven through, splintering the flesh of being, binding into cold stone of indifference. Hanging forever, bearing the pain for an eternity.

But not so simple. A sign, a warning, a barrier. Invisible in its presence of possibilities lost, scorned, unfound, unbelieved. Open but empty, a nothingness that stops you dead in your tracks.

Division.

This side or that.

In or out.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

Lost or gained or never had. Can you lose what was not? Can dreams die or do they fade away; decompose as out our living bodies rot with age upon our bones.

What is there, beyond the gaping opening of the way?

Future, or past repeated. Mirrored fears steeped in time, awaiting our return from where we have never been. A destination desired by myth, by greed of those who will not step this way, cowering in the shadows of mediocrity, of sallow existence, of being too far from any door to be truly known, except by repeated words, all meanings lost in the whisper of time, misinterpretations and vague comprehension.

What ifs lay as a carpet of likelihoods, a vastness of possibilities, probabilities, stretching away to the rims of risk and horizons of chance; choices to be made, taken, grasped or passed up.

Prospects scorned or lies waiting to trip the unwary traveller, to crush your skull, your hopes, your faiths until they crumble into a dust of inferiority until your knees bleed on the cold stone floor of humbleness and subservience.

Know your place.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck. Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

How long the openness. How soon the slam of too late shall shut out the light from the other side, of this side or that, or the other, and so vice-versa. Versa-vice.

Sounds vanished, diminished. New hope runs down our legs, incontinent imaginings puddling beneath our feet, wasted.

There is no return. Time flows by, constant. There is only now, just then, what was. Already you are too late, it has gone. Stealing away those possibility’s which once were yours and now belong to another. Maybe not yet born. A foetus of stardust, a twinkle of forlorn wishes.

Maybe they will be the ones who shall hesitate at the gates of option and chance. Maybe they will settle for comfort and the familiar and choose not to stumble blindly into the realm of the unknown?

Or maybe they shall pass this way, step through the door and into the future of destiny without looking backwards?

This side or that.

In or out.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

You choose.

..

Without getting too bogged down in technicalities, (not my thing), I will just highlight a few instances from the above, and then leave you to read and re-read the above poem and find the associated words which link together to create the stories own vibrancy.

First, ‘cowering in the shadows of mediocrity’.

One may expect to read ‘Cowering in the shadows,’ I am far from the first to write those words in that order. But then consider the use of ‘mediocrity’, it is not generally expected in this framework.

What are the shadows in your story associated with? Think of an indirect but implicit word and use that or another to suggest the ‘feeling’ you wish to create. Pair words which are oblique or ambiguous to create new meaning, to create the atmosphere you intend.

Forget about those ‘rules’. Ignore the grammar check in word or Grammarly or whatever. There is no substitution for the mind.

Secondly, take ‘your knees bleed on the cold stone floor of humbleness and subservience’.

This conveys a strong message from the initial simplicity of what may be expected until the string ‘humbleness and subservience’ appear in conjunction with the rest of the sentence. Those reading are expecting something far simpler, say ‘the castle, or maybe ‘the house’. But inserting ‘humbleness and subservience’, leads the mind to immediately think of servants kneeling on the cold stone floor.

Linked with the previous segment of the paragraph that mentions prospect, lies and faith the ambiguity is one of suggested religion and loss of belief or at least a trial of personal conviction.

Often when using oblique association, or creating one in such a way, it strengthens the powerfulness of the imagery formed.

imagesIf this includes creating your own metaphors or making new words do so. Shakespeare did not suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune by only using the accepted words of his time.

Using this ‘sideways’ form of association, not only in poetic context but in storytelling, can produce a weighty and influential transcript that will hook the reader both openly and subliminally.

Good storytelling is not just about style and content; it is not all about narration, it is not simply getting all your words in order, it is all of this melded cohesively and working in harmony throughout the entire structure of your manuscript.

It is about modelling the words you use, moulding and melding them to conceive something new, something uniquely yours, it is about practised and proficient wordsmithing.

When editing, read, re-write and work each individual sentence. Hone it, sharpen it, until it has its own perfect edge and then move onto the next.

Never skip a word, examine each one; examine its place in the sentence and change it, one word by one word, sentence by sentence, polishing and shaping and forming each little detail until every sentence is a magical story in itself.

Do the same time again and again, until every detail shines clearly.

Only then will your tale truly deserve to be called your ‘finished’ work.

Anything less is less.


The first excerpt in this post was taken from ‘Tales of Crime & Violence, a three-book collection.

You can get yours by following the links below.

UK http://amzn.to/2zZFWFN

USA  https://goo.gl/Q0DXRq

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Rabbits, Ducks and Rampant thoughts.

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Bentley hamlet. The duck pond is just visible, to the right of the last building, on the near side of the road. I flew overhead just for you!

This evening I took a stroll to an adjacent village to feed the ducks on the pond.

A pleasant, relaxing outing; one that allows my writer’s mind to relax, to take a break from its normal state, which is one of constant overdrive of complex inventiveness.

I walked to this small village which contains, seven houses, one which is a converted chapel, and two farms. To be absolutely accurate, I should call it a hamlet rather than a village.

This hamlet is only one and a half miles from my own home and most of the walk is along a quiet country road, or via farmland and woods. Dependent on which route you choose. I took with me a bag of half-stale bread and some old cake to treat the ducks that live on Bentley’s pond.

Near the rear of the pond, the area furthest from the road is a wooden bench of the type often found in public parks. It was donated by a group of women, I’m uncertain who, but their names are etched into a plaque on the backrest of the seat. I thank them.

It is a tranquil spot, idyllic even.

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On my walk to the hamlet, I watched wild rabbits scurry into the dense undergrowth of bracken and bramble, dive headlong under hedgerows as my approach disturbed their grazing. Birds sang evensong, apart from the swifts and swallows which hunted on the wing, darting to and fro, seeking out their prey in a wondrous acrobatic aerial display.

I often walk, choosing various routes, partly as exercise, partly as relaxation and partly to wonder at the sheer variety of nature that is, so to speak, right on my doorstep. It is something I enjoy immensely.

This evening was no different until I saw a small rabbit, white tail bobbing as it ran down a steep bank, dodging the saplings, looking for somewhere to hide from my presence. Uncontrollably my mind took this as a prompt.

How would a body look rolling down that bank? “Imagine pushing it with your foot,” my mind said, “watch it turn over and over as it rolls downwards.”

“Hey…what about this? running from zombies, or a mad axe murderer. Think about scrambling up the bank, slipping back into their gasp.”

I fought NOT to think of such things, pushed them to the back of my mind. Luckily, looking up, I caught sight of a Buzzard circling above the woodland. This stayed those musings… but only for a time.

2-ducks-on-a-pond-vaswaith-elengwinSoon, I was at the pond, sitting on the bench, watching a raft of ducks as they squabbled over the dried bread and old cake I casually tossed into the pond.

But today my muse would not be quieted. “How deep is that water?” it asked. “Look, look a body is floating to the surface”. It was not; it is too heavily weighted to rise!

I shook my head to clear these notions. It worked, momentarily.

You see, the cottage opposite the pond has a small window, through which a pale yellow light was shining.

My mind spoke out again, “That is a lover’s hideaway. Two lost souls finding solace and love, a future together after all the turmoil and pain they have suffered”.

Sometimes I cannot control my own mind. It seeks inspiration and finds creative fertility of its own accord. Many times this is visual, like on this evenings stroll. Other times a voice, a sound, a few overheard words, sends it spiralling out of control.

I count this, most times, as a blessing and I am grateful to have this gift; but other times I regard it as a curse, as I did this night.

That’s all I have for you just now.

Goodnight, Paul.

 

© Paul White 2016

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Feel free to visit my website, take a look around, you may be surprised at what I get up to!

http://paulznewpostbox.wix.com/paul-white

Yoghurt Tasting.

yoghurt

We often talk of how important punctuation and grammar are when writing. I think this is also true of the spoken word, oration and pronunciation should be a foremost concern.

NOT, I hasten to add, for everyday conversation where colloquialisms, dialects and vernaculars colour our conversations and lives, but when the spoken word is transmitted by mainstream media.

I believe, broadcasters have a duty to society to articulate, to use elocution and enunciation to the highest standard and, by doing so, enable our young to learn the wonders of well-versed dialogue, gain the ability for constructive discourse and communication.

How can we expect our young to learn to speak clearly and precisely, to acquire the ability to explain, to communicate effectively, if the denizens of our communications industry cannot do so themselves?

Personally, I do not think ‘dumbing down’ standards to ‘accommodate’ those considered, in correct ‘PC’ terms to be ‘less fortunate’ is the answer. This only has the effect of decreasing the overall standards by suggesting the lowering of general standards are acceptable. Which, of course, they are not.

I fear for the future.

Today I found myself disappointed by such a badly enunciated sentence.

“…blah, blah, blah…27-year-old Emma, a Yoghurt taster from Essex…. blah, blah, blah…”

Now… I have, as many of you do, a writers mind. This is a strange and oft uncontrollable beast. One which will pick-up on tidbits and oddities which would, for the greater part, pass most people by without causing a ripple in their lives.

But for those of us who are cursed, or blessed, with such minds will know once this beast has focused on its intended target, once it has its victim firmly caught in its talons of curiosity like an eagle grasping its prey, there is little we can do until it has satisfied its hunger, or passions, or whatever desires need stating.

This was my situation earlier today. As soon as that sentence had been spoken my muse went into overdrive.

A quick and personal excuse, (Disclaimer!): I was not watching or listening to the programme being broadcast, it was just ‘on’. My wife had switched the TV on earlier and it was playing away in the background.

So, where was I? Oh, yes my muse awakening, giving me a jolt.

Questions started to flood my head, ‘Yoghurt taster’ what kind of a job was that? Was it a flavour tasting position or simply to ensure the product was of a certain quality? Maybe this was a taste panel for R&D, for new products, new lines?

How did one get a job like that? Could I get a job like that? What qualifications, besides liking yoghurt, did one need?

My muse was excited; could this be part of a plot? A Poisoning?  Mass poisoning… holding corporations to ransom? Maybe the start of strange happenings in a small town… Zombie-like conditions… Mmmm? My mind continued to race.

However, I love that word so I’ll say it again.

However, somewhere besides my overly stimulated muse, I had a nagging doubt such a position, a job as a yoghurt taster actually existed. Food taster, yes. But I could not believe anyone could be employed solely as a Yoghurt taster.

No, I convinced myself, something was wrong. (Much to the annoyance of my muse.).

Thanks to modern technology, satellite, cable, Digi-boxes, smart tv’s, Interweb etc. we are able to do so many things with ‘live’ and ‘on-air’ television which have previously been impossible. One of these is instant ‘re-wind’.

This is what I used to take the programme back to the point where the ‘voice-over’ presenter stated that Emma was a ‘Yogurt taster’ from Essex.

This time I would actually be watching and listening to the broadcast, rather than having it grumbling away in the background where only my subconscious was taking note.

Sitting too close and staring at the screen like a six-year-old child, I pressed ‘play’. The images began to move and the narrator started to speak.

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“…blah, blah, blah…27-year-old Emma, a Yoga teacher from Essex…. blah, blah, blah…”

I played this over and again, four times in total until I was absolutely certain this version was the correct one.

Emma was a yoga teacher and not a yoghurt taster, as I had first thought.

This was not simply a case of me miss-hearing, unlike those miss-heard song lyrics.

This was yet another case of the shameful media presentation.

I must say, I was more than a little disappointed.

I am sure, in the world of yoghurt, tasters are required? although I am uncertain of what the progression of seniority may be in such a profession. Perhaps one starts with the ‘own label’ products, progressing to ‘natural’ before moving to thick ‘Greek-style’ yoghurts. Maybe, an alternative route would be to delve into the technical realm of flavours or the scientific corridor of ‘low-fat’ and ‘healthy’ options.

I guess I shall never know.

A divergent track which leads me, by some circuitous route, back to where I began this post; which is where I stated my belief that major broadcasters and, in many respects, our respective Governments, should take responsibility for the clarity and precision of language when transmitting programmes.

The above is a prime example of bad annunciation and elocution, the equivalent in my book, (note the pun.), of bad grammar and punctuation in writing.

Besides, my restless muse was unnecessarily disturbed.

Now, I have to find an excuse NOT to write a novel about a wicked dairy farmer, who decides to get his revenge on the local townsfolk by plying them with infected yoghurt, thus turning them into pliable and malleable zombie-like humanoids who forever more will do the farmers bidding.

Of course, as with all good pulp-fiction, there is always one young girl who hates all milk type products, regardless of flavour. Perhaps it is she who can fight back against the forces of evil bovine product manipulation to save the earth… or at least the local town?

That is all I am going to say on the matter!

Milkmaid

So, until next time, enjoy your writing, even if your inspiration has been stimulated by a miss-print or badly spoken presenter. But please, please, take care with your grammar. You never know when someone may read your work live on air, they may even be an ex yoghurt taster venturing into a new career!

Thank you for reading, Paul.

You may like to visit my website and see what else I am writing? http://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white

© Paul White 2016    RTWM310716/975

That is not VERY clever.

 

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It is, however, the way to announce to world that you are an amateur writer, that you have not honed your skills, that you are not a master of your craft.

It is something, I suggest, you would want to do and yet, I have an inkling, that it maybe something you are doing right now.

WHAT IS? I hear you ask!

Simple. It is to use the most useless word in the English dictionary in your writing.

That word is ‘very’.

Honestly, if you are using this word in your novels, your stories or essays you are making a rather large error.

Mark twain once said “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

Florence King is quoted as saying that “’Very’ is the most useless word in the English language (see, I told you so!) and can always come out. More than useless, it is treacherous because it invariably weakens what it is intended to strengthen.”

“Avoid using the word ‘very’ because it is lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavour, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.” Or so say’s N.H. Kleinbaum.

Which brings me to confess, I have, among many other bad habits, deleted so many ‘very’s’ in my work I lost count long ago. Read through’s, edits, re-writes; somehow those pesky little ‘very’s’ sneak themselves into sentences.

When I read some of my older works I could cringe, even those I have re-edited, even re-written in the past; but I guess that is how we all earn.

I am not as bad as I used to be. In fact, I am learning to write without using a single one, or at least that’s the aim. But it is not very easy!

The object of this post is to highlight the mistakes I have made, in an attempt to save you from making those very same errors!

Look back over your current Work in Progress, read through and find all those ‘very’s’ lurking amongst the other words.

Now, you have three options, the first is to simply delete them because you do not need them, they serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever, except to confirm your status as an amateur writer.

The second choice, is to follow Mark Twain’s advice as above!

The third and my preferred choice, is to change them totally. Delete the words associated and replace them with ones that are far more descriptive, evocative or eloquent.

In some, but very few circumstances ‘very’ can be permitted. BUT these occasions are rare. One such time ‘very’ may be used is in a characters ‘speech’. The word can be used to indicate a character of lower education, or a young person, a child who has not accrued a wider vocabulary.

Below is a crib sheet I have cobbled together as an aid. I hope that you find it useful in your quest to extradite those ‘very’ words from your authors lexicon.

The first column is word you have pe-fixed with ‘very’, the second, a suggested alternative…you get the idea!

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Since I originally posted this, I have been inundated with more words NOT to use and further suggestions for alternatives. I am not adding this image as I think it is the most comprehensive. Its from Proofreading Services.com 

Not Very

Thank you for reading ‘Ramblings from a Writers Mind‘, maybe you will also like my short story blog ‘A Little more Fiction‘ Go take a peek now 🙂 

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My Rambling of the day.

I know the majority who read ‘Ramblings from a Writers Mind’ are indeed writers and it is with you in mind I try, in my haphazard way, to offer advice and share knowledge about all facets of a writer’s life, from the more technical stuff to empathetic ‘hugs’ during those long lonely hours when nothing written seems to work.

One subject I have not broached so far is a writer’s own library. I do not mean the reading material we have for our own pastime, but that which we turn to for help and aid during the long toil of writing a book, or a poem, or an article….or even (possibly) a Blog such as this.

I have, over the years, amassed a huge array of various reference and resource works which sit heavily on and bow the shelves of my bookcases.

Even though we have ease of access to the infinitude of the interwebs content and can collate and bookmark pages, sites and various content to our heart’s desire, it is not always so practical to move away from our works and scuttle back and forth electronically.

At best this method causes interruption to the creative flow, at worst it is a distraction where one can easily click, just for a moment, a quick glance, at our email or network sites… then, three hours later, we wonder why we have achieved so little progress.

This is where a book, those pale pages which one has to turn manually, become so much more than just good friends, they become our tutors, our mentors, our coaches, they allow us to find the information we seek while keeping us focused on the task in hand.

Often, while writing I have three, four, seven, even ten various books open on my desk. Each one a weighty and mighty tome of facts and particulars, essential specifics and verifications which I can access at a glance without dismissing the words I am working on, the complex wordsmithing I am hammering out on the furnace of imagination.

You may ask, what are these bound pages of mystical knowledge I keep about me?

Then I shall reveal their names, some you may already be acquainted with, others may yet be strangers, but all are, to me, good friends.

ALL the books below can be viewed on Amazon by clicking on the title


These are some you may have, or at least you may have one of their cousins……

The Oxford English Dictionary.oed

The Chambers Dictionary.

Webster’s Encyclopaedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.


These friends may not be quite so familiar, but are worth knowing…………6

Concise Dictionary of English Etymology, by Walter W. Skeat.

Dictionary of Difficult Words, by Robert H. Hill.

Dictionary of Word Origins, by John Ayto.


You should, in my humble opinion make friends with the following……download (3)

Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman.

Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King.


These folk may be a little unusual, but are worth inviting into your home…..download (2)

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

The Ultimate Loo Book, Mitchell Symons.

Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story, by Michael Rosen.


Lastly, but far from least, these should be among your very best friends…

download (2)

How to Write a Damn Good Novel: (A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling), by James N. Frey.

Plot & Structure: (Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish), by James Scott Bell.


Clearly, these are just a few of those books which line my office walls like paladins. I think you can find copies on Amazon, or indeed go and browse your local bookstore where you may find a lonely discarded volume in need of a good home.

I hope this post has been enjoyable to read as well as helpful. Please follow this blog if you are not already doing so, as I have many more ideas and thoughts I would like to share with you.

Thank you for reading, Paul.


Find out more about me, my books, works in progress and more by visiting my website HERE 

Dumbing down

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     The term dumbing down describes a ‘deliberate diminution of the intellectual level of education, literature, cinema, news, and culture’.


The term dumbing down originated in 1933 as slang used by motion picture screenplay writers to mean:  ‘revise so as to appeal to those of little education or intelligence’.

I have also heard the phrase that information should be designed for ‘the lowest common denominator’ of intelligence.

The nature of dumbing down varies according to the subject matter and the reason for the dumbing down, but it usually involves the over-simplification of critical thought to the degree of undermining the intellectual standards of language and of learning; thus tending to trivialise cultural, artistic, and academic standards, as in the case of popular culture.

Here is simple example, television advertising no longer use the word ‘Twice’ as in ‘Twice as many’ or ‘Twice as fast’, preferring to use the term ‘two times faster’!

Researchers at the Institute for Studies have warned that it will soon be impossible to dumb down news and entertainment media any further.

Professor Henry Brubaker said: “Most television is about cooking, the paranormal or poor people having arguments. The news is just opinions and conjecture punctuated with pictures of ‘extreme weather’.

‘The only books being published are ghost-written celebrity biographies or thrillers about serial killers called things like ‘The Face Collector’. Apart from that people just read lists of ’10 facts about muscle growth’ off websites.

‘The problem is that if the mass media continue to further dumb down information human intelligence will continue on its downward trajectory. (thedailymash.co.uk)

 queen-victoria

In the latest instance, a research team from universities in Sweden, Holland and Ireland found “a pronounced decline in IQ since the Victorian era, three times bigger than previous theoretical estimates would have us believe.”

Yes, those repressed prudes – notoriously obsessed with keeping table legs covered up in case they gave men sexy thoughts about finely-turned ankles – were actually substantially smarter than the free-wheeling techno-nerds of today. The scientists compared reaction times – regarded as a key indicator of general intelligence, productivity and creativity – from the late-19th century to the present and discovered that our brains are definitely slowing down. The Victorians were positively whizzy: the average man in 1889 had a reaction time of 183 milliseconds, while the present-day Mr Dopey can only manage a sluggish 253 milliseconds.

I’m not surprised. We don’t need studies and statistics to tell us this stuff, the evidence is staring us in the face every day.

Last year, I made a radio programme about the Belfast writer and poet Helen Waddell, who became one of the biggest literary stars of the 1920s and 1930s.

Her historical novel, Peter Abelard, was a runaway success, praised by everyone from Queen Mary to factory workers and prisoners. It was the must-read novel of 1933, reprinted an incredible nine times in the first year of its publication.

queen-victoria

    But Waddell’s breakthrough novel would never, ever make the bestseller lists today. Why? Because the writing, while beautiful and resonant, is simply far too challenging. Reading it takes a certain effort of concentration, not to mention a passing knowledge of medieval theology. With Fifty Shades of Grey, today’s popular publishing miracle, all you need is some basic literacy and a sick, prurient interest in getting lashed with a whip for pleasure.

In culture, in politics, in everyday life, superficial froth and twaddle regularly triumphs over substantial, thought-through ideas. Attention spans attenuated by the 140 character demands of Twitter, we often behave more like bored toddlers than sentient adults, expecting to be continually indulged and entertained.  (Fionola Meridith)

Sadly, our country has been hijacked by a compulsion to homogenise society, to control individualism and turn us all into one classless soup.

In Bog-Standard Britain, defenders of crisply enunciated English are told they are ‘toffs’. This class neurosis lowers standards. It spreads mediocrity. It permits pre-Victorian levels of coarseness to pollute our streets.

Intervene? No, that would be an act of class prejudice. Opprobrium has been driven from our public life. Shame and propriety and judgments of right and wrong are replaced by whispered orthodoxies about what is ‘appropriate’, codes which can be understood only by sociology graduates.

Manners have disappeared, to be replaced by strict ‘ guidelines’ about sexism and racism. Classy people once knew instinctively how to behave. Now manners have to be taught in rehabilitation classes. They have lost their humanity and become ‘codes of conduct’.

Commissions, working parties, think tanks, steering committees, conferences, charities, consultancies: egalitarianism has become an industry for the self-righteous.

From university admissions to unisex hospital wards, tokenistic equality runs like bindweed, strangling common sense. Officialdom towers over us, wagging its disapproving finger, instructing us to observe equality codes or face the withdrawal of public funds.

Despite all this, equality has not achieved its aims. Social mobility is dropping. The wealth divide broadens.  ‘Equality practitioners’, as they call themselves, have simply become brahmins amid the beggars, sixth-form monitors of thought who draw their salaries from the pockets of the very poor they profess to help.

Clearly, as with most topics that affect mass populations, there are those who believe in conspiracy. The following paragraph is an extract taken from the vigilantcitizen.com

Is a dumber population something that is desired by the elite? Hitler once said “How fortunate for the leaders that men do not think.” An educated population knows its rights, understands the issues and takes action when it does not approve of what is going on. Judging by the incredible amount of data available on the subject, it seems that the elite want the exact opposite: an unhealthy, frightened, confused and sedated population. We will look at the effects of medication, pesticides, fluoride and aspartame on the human body and how those products are being pushed by people from inside the power structure.

To end this post I have included the following, which is supposed to be a rant against Dumbing Down, but actually is an extremely good example of dumb media in action.

This, as you will see, also supports the Goebbels view on propagandaDr__Joseph_Goebbels_by_tree27

‘From the minute you get up its trashy soap and Celebrity and Hollywood gossip and programming aimed at bored housewives. Dumbed down breakfast TVs followed by This Morning which is obsessed with soap and reality TV chit-chat and z list guests, sex change couples and fashion tips like what’s the latest handbag or which nail file should I buy and general couch potato crap aimed at people who read National Enquirer and Heat magazine. Nothing of any actual intellect at all.

Then its Jeremy Kyle interspersed with ads for online bingo and debt management and quick cash adverts. Afternoons are dominated by more gobshatting by Loose Women or other such drivel. Dumbed down quiz shows for thickies, dumbed down news for the less intelligent, and soaps’.

Thank you for reading, your comments and feedback welcome as always.

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