Introducing a New Series & A Call For Guest Posts

quill foxDear Mod Writer,

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about rhetoric and the evolution of words in our society.

Often you might hear about Webster’s adding new words to its reference, or even building on to the definition of existing words. (The most recent examples I can think of are the addition of the word “selfie” and further identifying the word “literally” as a form of hyperbole.)

While these changes might anger some people,  it’s important to remember that the English language, as you know, is constantly evolving. As a modern writer, you are aware that being angry about the fluidity of language is a waste of time.

Your energy is better spent examining these changes and using your findings to tell you more about the society you live in and where it might be headed. That’s why I’m happy to announce that I will be starting a series on this very topic – The Language and Rhetoric of Modern America.

In true Mod Writer fashion, these posts will weigh the differences and similarities between the older and current trends in language and rhetoric.

As of yet I am uncertain how long this series will last, but for now I plan on it being a staple in my regular posts.  I invite you to please join in the discussions, as your input will only further our studies and knowledge on the topic at hand. I also ask that you submit any topics you want to learn more about on this subject.

Finally, I’d like to officially welcome the submission of guest posts. If you have a fresh idea or concept for a post that would be suitable for The Mod Writer and its readers, please feel free to submit your idea to me through the contact form and I will get back with you ASAP.

Until next time, thanks for reading and inspiring me.

Sincerely,

Yours

 

Image Credit: 50 Watts

Considering Emotions, Part 2: Creating Characters

Glass-Case-of-emotionThis post is the second installment in a two part series regarding the role of emotions in writing. The first post explored the different emotions our readers are experiencing (or that we want them to experience) when they read our work.

In this post I will open up a discussion about considering emotion when developing characters in our stories.

But before I delve into today’s topic, I’d like to quickly recall how contemplating different human emotions before you start writing can help you get in touch with your ideas and make connections therein.

With busy lives and technology constantly separating us from genuine connections – both with others and ourselves – it can often be a struggle for us to even list off different emotions. I recommend Googling “list of emotions” or “list of feelings” and reading through the results.

Exploring different emotions is crucial to the writing process because it’s not necessarily what happens in a story that hooks us, but the cognitive response that the characters experience and our ability to relate to those responses.

Start With a Feeling

Do you have writer’s block? Are you struggling to think of a great storyline, but can’t seem to scare one up? The best advice I can give you is to start with a feeling.

Check out that list of emotions you Googled. Go through each of the words listed – Doomed, Appalled, Blissful, Prideful, Disappointed – imagine someone who might be feeling these things. What would lead them to feel this way? How long have they felt this way? How does this feeling make them act toward others, themselves?

Now we are getting somewhere!

Perhaps after reading that list you now have a character who is feeling prideful about a new dress she just bought in order to impress a socialite she hopes to befriend. While she’s out wearing the dress, she feels “above” all the “peasants” wearing non-designer attire, but when she’s alone, she cries herself to sleep.

Now I’m just playing and spitballing of course, but do you see how we already have a character slightly developed and even a bit of a story falling into place? All from picking one emotion: pride!

Come Back to The Feeling

As your story develops, don’t forget to come back to that emotion. In fact, you might consider giving the character a certain quirk that accompanies the emotion – something like twirling her hair when nervous or sticking her nose up when feeling prideful. Attaching a mannerism to a feeling can really humanize your character.

Events + Feelings = Whole Story

Think of your story as a scale – one side is Events, the other side is Feelings.

You want your scale to be equal, so if you put weight into the events, be sure to try and balance it out with feelings; the two complement each other.

As certain events unfold throughout your story, your characters react and develop. These reactions spur more events, which produce more feelings. It’s a beautiful thing.

What other elements do you consider when developing emotions for a character? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

Image Credit: Ultimate Reviews 

Themes That Scare You: Poe and the Heart

Perhaps it’s the looming approach of October and all the spooky festivities the month brings, but lately I’ve had my mind on Edgar Allan Poe. I’ve always admired his work, especially his belief that a short story should be read in a single sitting.

Though tales of darkness and images of creepy character spring to mind when I consider Poe’s work, I recently realized that there seems to be a recurring theme in his works and quotes: the heart.

It’s as if Poe was haunted by the heart; bot the physical and metaphorical heart. Where do we see this theme take place in his work and life, what is the underlying idea that creates intrigue within his audience?

An Unexplainable Force:

Sometimes I’m terrified of my heart; of it’s constant hunger for whatever it is it wants. the way it stops and starts.” -Edgar Allan Poe

The way Poe personifies the physical human heart here is provocative and eery in Poe’s own crafty manner. We get the sense that the heart is a driving and mysterious force with a will we are helpless against. What does the heart want? What keeps it beating and why does it beat? Asking these questions is human nature, but Poe explicitly admits to being “terrified” of the heart, demonstrating his own reverence for the entity inside us all.

Its Power Over Our Mind:

I was never really insane, except upon occasions when my heart was touched.” -Edgar Allan Poe

Here Poe is speaking about the figurative, “feelings” heart. Again, the human is not in control of his or her heart’s feelings. Poe implies that even the mind can be taken captive by the heart, with the outcome of insanity. It’s a gripping quote, and certainly one that most everyone can relate with. Who hasn’t felt a bit “crazy” from anger, love, jealousy, etc?

A Haunting, Ugly Conscience:

It is the beating of his hideous heart!” -The Tell Tale Heart

Poe’s heart theme is no more obvious than in his short story, ‘The Tell Tale Heart’. The heart takes on a couple of roles in this story. The beating of the neighbor’s heart acts as a will for the neighbor, and as a kind of conscience for the narrator.

Despite lack of a pulse, which the narrator is sure to check, the neighbor’s heart continues to beat – as if calling for vengeance. The increasingly loud beat of the heart leads the narrator to confess to the murder. Despite all his attempts to repress the beat (will) of the heart, the narrator could not silence it.

As we welcome October, let’s ask ourselves what haunts us, and how does that surface in our writing? As evidenced by Poe, there is nothing wrong with fear, and its presence can inspire us to great works of art.

What scares, or intrigues, you enough to have become a driving theme in your writing? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Fair is Foul – Switching Voices for Client Work

IMAG2227-1If you are like many modern writers today, you probably find yourself switching between several client projects a day. This might be a simple task for the less dedicated, underdeveloped writer, but not you. Your painstaking attention to detail and commitment to cohesive voice forbid you from blindly bouncing about projects like some hyperactive kangaroo. Nonetheless, you are a professional and the keys must type on.

Fair is foul and foul is fair” -Macbeth, Act I scene i

This famous quote from Shakespeare’s play reminds me of the practice of writing for different clients. One minute you’re writing for “foul”, the next minute for “fair”. But unlike the play, we don’t have witches casting spells on us to switch our mindsets.  So what can we do to rinse out the “damn spot” of the projects we’ve been working on and come back fresh and in tune with the current assignment?

Take Five

Much like actors rehearsing a play, take a five or ten minute break after completing an assignment and before switching to the next. During this time, don’t stay in the same spot. Stretch your legs, walk around, step outside for some fresh air. Let yourself literally leave your work behind. Consider it “done” – even if you have more work coming for that project.

Get into Character

You’ve probably heard of the crazy lengths that some of today’s actors go to in order to “become” the character they are portraying. Consider this your time to soak up everything about the business or project for which you are writing. Just absorb the company voice by reading over its existing copy. While you’re reading, keep in mind the overall goals of the company and its audience.

Rehearse

Start tying it all together and just write out your thoughts. Consider creating an outline to help direct your thoughts into a simpler form, then expand from there. Remember, it’s just your rehearsal, the rough draft. Revision comes next.

Break a Leg

Make your final revisions and send it off to the client. If you don’t get a standing ovation, don’t worry. Plays are performed more than once, and each night is a new chance to make it the best.

 

What do you do to refocus when you switch between projects? Share your thoughts in the comments!