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

A Lesson in Time From William Faulkner

I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire…I give it to you not that you may remember time, but

that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it.” -The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

 

You might remember this quote from Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury when the father character gives his son a watch. It’s a powerful line, and a bit depressing, but it’s worth investigating in terms of time for the modern writer.

How often, as writers, are we able to forget about time? From time sheets to deadlines, the numbers on the clock are constantly in the back of our mind.

It’s ironic that Mr. Compson would present his son with a watch as a way to forget time. He presents time as our ultimate ruler – an entity we can not defeat. It’s a tricky opponent too. The novel is constantly jumping around in time – appearing to go fast at some points, at others slow. It’s a very realistic presentation of our own concept of time. Some occasions we would like time to speed up, others we wish time would slow down.

The text suggests that the only way we can have peace about the notion of time is to allow ourselves to forget about it every now and then.

I think acceptance is the best lesson we can learn here.  We can accept that we will never beat time; it keeps moving whether we acknowledge it or not, and we often do have to acknowledge it. We can’t stop deadlines or time sheets, but we can try to “forget” them in an effort to let go of the stress associated with these things.

All of us has a limited amount of time. When working to accomplish a goal, I think we should try not to focus on the time, which can lead to stress,  but on the ideas and the work to be done. In the end it won’t matter how much time it took – you’ll always wish it had taken less time, but as long as you are proud of your efforts and feel they are successful, the time will have been well spent.

What do you think of Faulkner’s quote on time? How do you deal with the stress associated with writing and time? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

Image Credit: Chris Dlugosz

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 

But Isn’t Writing Easy?

easy-buttonI was recently out with friends when we began talking to a new group of people. I introduced myself to a gentleman in the group and the inevitable question came up, “what do you do?”.

He had mentioned that he did something pertaining to finance or business – I can’t quite remember, but at the time I showed interest. When I explained that I’m a writer, he made a face and said, “But isn’t that easy?”.

No I didn’t meet this young lad at a Mensa meeting, or a meeting of tactful people at that, but I did begin to wonder how many people really perceive writing as “easy”.

I was an English major in college. Growing up I always loved reading and was doted on by teachers for my writing skills. Despite a natural draw to literature and the writing process, I still often loathe writing. To be honest, the writing process makes me sick sometimes – I mean actual, physical sickness. Why is this?

For me, writing is hard work! Sometimes I literally sweat while I write. Writhing to put down the right words. Face reddened. Does this happen to you as well, Mod Writer? Or should I simply consider a new anti-persperant?

I was really struggling with this whole idea when I came across this quote from Thomas Mann:

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” -Thomas Mann

Perhaps it’s normal as a writer, with our perfectionist mentality, to find writing to be a chore. To be truly pleased with our final product, we often have to reach deep down to extract our best work. It’s exhausting, and at times overwhelming, but I think that the payoff comes when we know that what’s been created has come from our own true, hard work.

Do you find writing to be easy? Have you ever had someone say something like this to you about your career? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

Image Credit: Travel Blog Advice 

Don’t Expect to Write Amazing Copy Unless…

O-Captain-My-Captain

Does it seem like everyone is writing these days? Whether someone is putting out an e-book or hyping their blog through social media, it just appears that people have something to write about.

Of course, I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Writing is therapeutic – it helps us connect more closely with our thoughts, sometimes unearthing feelings we were previously unaware we held.

But how is it that there are only a small percentage of blogs or books that really gain a following?

When I consider writing or reading a great book, blog, or piece of prose, I’m reminded of a quote from Stephen King:

You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.” – Stephen King

Perhaps I’m a romantic when it comes to writing and literature, but I think this quote rings true. How can one expect to give someone an experience that they themselves have yet to encounter?

Writing is laborious, and tough at that! Hemingway likened the process to bleeding. But it’s a labor of passion, perfection, inspiration, and ultimately love.

I believe that even if you have at one point in your life felt swept away by another person’s writing, that you should do your best to frequently renew that feeling. Seek out inspiration as much as possible.

Lately my inspiration has been Margaret Atwood, specifically her work Helen of Troy does Countertop Dancing. I love the juxtaposition of a Greek Goddess working in a modern club –  feminism, mythology, psychology, and politics all manage to find their place inside this idea. I highly recommend giving it a read.

What writing has swept you off your feet lately? Share in the comments! 

Image Credit: Technapex.com