Friday, March 22, 2013

The Ordinary

NOTE:  No class on Friday, March 29, 2013.  The next class will meet Friday, April 6, 2013.

Alfred Hitchcock is quoted as saying, "Drama is life with the boring bits cut out."

One of my sixth-grade teachers, Mr. Hellsley, often said, "There are no boring things, only boring people."

As a writer, I have come to the conclusion that (nearly) anything can be made to be either interesting (even watching paint dry!), especially when it's tied to something we know or can sense.

This week, our assignment is partially an incentive for us to use our new skills from Jamie's presentation on pictures in class and partially to get us used to including everyday details in our writing to reveal character.

Here are two quick examples/ideas:

1. Use a picture from a major event but use the discrepancy between the momentousness of the event and your own mundane actions to highlight your personality.


For example, this picture from our (3rd) wedding day (yes, same husband--long story) illustrates a milestone in life but also our day-to-day steps.  Even in his borrowed tuxedo, my husband needs to carry our (always) wailing second child while trying to find his parents, who had somehow (as often happens) gotten separated from us.  As usual I am smiling even though we're in the midst of mess like this--not sure where the family was, not certain where to go next, with one sick child and another bored out of his mind and properly bribed with a Power Rangers sword and candy, and talking.  I always smile and talk, no matter how I feel.  The occasion is what links us to many people--many people have been married or been to a wedding.  Our interactions--my talking, my husband's calling, my oldest son's sword play, and my youngest son's wailing--make us the people that we are and reveal our characters.

2.  Use a picture from something everyday but unfold your description in a story form.

For example, here's a picture of the living room after the kids have been into it.  There's so much I can say to let this story unfold.  I can tell the story from the point of view of the Play-Doh.  I could tell it as I'm cleaning up or as I watch it unfold.  I can tell it reminiscently as perhaps some of those messes are long gone.  Each item in this picture can be tied to the person that put it there and the way their action of putting rubs against someone else's (usually my) idea of order.

This week's assignment is to use photographs to tell one of these types of stories.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Okay, it's been so long since a post for this class that I'm ashamed to even apologize for it.  So I'm going to just skip the what's happening and get to the what can we be doing part.

And recently, we are looking at routine.

Looking at routine started because I'm thinking that we follow routines for two reasons:
  1. They are the default and we simply don't know another way (or don't care to know another way) of doing them; OR
  2. These are the things that have brought us joy in the past.  Doing things this way has made us happy before, and we are bargaining that it might do so again.  
When routine springs from hypothesis 2, then in some ways, it is the embodiment of hope.  And we could all use a little hope.

But even if routine springs from hypothesis 1, detailing a routine can show (not tell) you a whole lot about someone's personality, and that's what I'm hoping that you will find.

So this week's assignment (and maybe next week's too because I'm so behind), is to think about one of your routines and why or how you do it.  It may reveal something that comforted you and/or show us a glimpse of those who came before (for example, our tea drinking tradition in my family extends at least 3 generations back, and I suspect more.  I'm not drinking tea by myself; I'm drinking with great grandmothers).

To make the task more effective (harder), try doing some or all of the following:
  1. Avoid was/is and try more active verbs.
  2. See if you can avoid dialogue in just this piece and see if you can show us your thoughts/your characters thoughts through their actions.
  3. Consider using the senses and intelligences to get us into the scene.  See for a reminder on that if you need one.
Best wishes, and I can't wait to hear what you've written!