A gathering place for readers, writers, and other advocates for a more just world

Posts tagged ‘writing voice’

My Writing Process: a stop on a blog hop tour

“The author Marta Merajver-Kurlat http://www.martamerajver.com.ar/marta/index.php/blogroll), author of Just Toss the Ashes and Living with Stress among others, invited me to participate in this blog hop tour and answer these four questions about my writing process.”


What am I working on?

 I am writing a sequel to my first novel, Pieces of You, which will be set exclusively in the future; whereas, Pieces’ protagonist, Mark, time-traveled from past experiences to the near future to the beyond. The title of my new novel, Battle of Jericho 2035, gives ample detail about the  plot. Using the example of how Joshua and his army won the battle of Jericho in a Biblical story, they did not knock the wars of the city down by force. They just marched around it (as commanded by God) and the walls fell flat on the seventh day, after  the 13th march.

In my Battle novel, the masses of people on Earth are controlled by a world council of super rich led by the leadership of one bank, nicknamed CandyLand. The people’s rations have been cut to the level of near starvation due to a malfunctioning space elevator. CandyLand’s director has ties to an unscrupulous group, while insurgents among the people are linked to Mark and his team of supernatural beings. There is sacrificial love as in the first novel, but the actors are not the same and the decisions could affect millions, not just Mark’s loved ones.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

It’s easier forstanding on a book me to offer similarities. I’d like to think my current work has some things in common with C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy, especially the first book, Out of the Silent Planet.  As one of that book’s reviewers stated, “The most compelling points are the simple conclusions Lewis comes to about human nature and the corrupt world we live in.”

Science fiction is defined by readwritethink.org (a website that offers teaching resources) as “often about technology of the future detailing partially true theories of science. (If  it bends to the  unbelievable, it is labeled fantasy). The plot creates situations different from those of both the present day and the known past. Science fiction texts also include a human element, explaining what effect new discoveries, happenings and scientific developments will have on us in the future.” My story fits this criteria but injects social justice issues, typical of some but not all SciFi writers.


        3)            Why do I write what I do?

I’ve always loved science fiction best, maybe because it demands a creative flair, and maybe because it manifests possibilities within our impossible dreams.

I do believe it’s possible to write into being a different world, at least from the perspective that we can envision what it will look and act like. My hope is that my narratives will inspire readers to join with other dreamers and together become the architects of at least the foundations of this new world.

 Although I can’t explain why, I don’t believe I could ever write strictly to entertain. And although nonfiction—especially business and academic writing—has been my domain for most of my life,  those genres aren’t appropriate for my current writing goals. People read non-fiction to learn more of what interests them, not to have their beliefs and prejudices disturbed. While reading fiction, we absorb new information but in a more subtle and very effective way, by imagining ourselves there.

How does your writing process work?

 Not very effectively! Many of my colleagues have formulas that others applaud and often try to replicate. You won’t get that from me… I’m still working on “finding my voice,” on finding that place within myself where confidence, creativity, and competence merge.

 I don’t write regularly, in fact I seem to subconsciously (or deliberately) restrain the  urge to write. Some of that is my fear of failure—while acknowledging that not trying is a certain path to failure. The rest I chalk up to perfectionism. A former communications professor said something that has stayed with me all these years. It succinctly describes the problem with perfectionism: “you cannot be a participant and observer, too.” Too often I choose the observer role and then wonder why I can’t loosen control over my thinking to let in the light (of insight).

 I’m still searching for that precious place about which a Zen master told Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones: “If you go deep enough in writing, it will take you everyplace.” So instead of telling you how my writing process works, I will state unequivocally how I know my writing process should (maybe will?) work—actually it’s taken from Natalie—“..and though death is howling at our backs and life is roaring at our faces, we can just begin to write, simply begin to write what we have to say.”


Joyce’s first novel, completed in August of 2012, was a response to a loss that made her ask some deep questions. Pieces of You, about a mystical journey that will make the protagonist capable of the sacrifice love asks of him, is available through amazon.com. Her author page: http://www.amazon.com/Joyce-Elferdink/e/B008ZTCRUY/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0  includes a book trailer. A sequel will be published later this year.*     

I am inviting Lori Foroozandeh to join our Blog Hop Tour next week. Information about her horrendous experiences in an Iranian POW camp as told in her book can be found here:

http://www.loris-song.com/ (WEBSITE)
http://lorissong.com/ (BLOG)
https://twitter.com/Loris_Song (TWITTER)
https://www.facebook.com/lforoozandeh#!/lforoozandeh (FB)
http://www.amazon.com/Lori-Foroozandeh/e/B002NSC2DU/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1 (AMAZON)

The Gettysburg Address–Better with Vivid or Clear Language?

I have prepared a brief language lesson using the Gettysburg Address to prove that rhythm in written language determines whether writing will stand the test of time.

First, the lesson….

Dos for Communicating Clearly

  •  Use words accurately
  • Choose words that capture ideas most precisely, and define accurately what you mean
  • Use short, sharp, familiar words (takes longer to prepare, but worth it to your listeners!)
  • Choose concrete words (details) to be clearer, more interesting, and easier to remember than abstract (easier to misinterpret)
  • Throw out unnecessary words (avoid flabby phrases!)

 Dos for Communicating Vividly

  • Concrete Words (call up mental impressions of sights, sounds, touch, smell, and taste) pull audience irresistibly into speech
  • Imagery – create word pictures with concrete words,
    • similes  – compare things that are essentially different but have something in common (use like or as)
    • metaphors – similar to similes but without using like or as
  • Rhythm – combination of sounds (almost musical)

       Basic Stylistic Devices to Create Rhythm

  1. Parallelism – pair or series of related words, phrases
  2. Repetition – using same word/sets at beginning or end of clauses
  3. Alliteration – repeat initial consonants
  4. Antithesis – placing contrasting ideas side by side

Now, the application…

I believe the beauty of the Gettysburg Address is in its vivid, rhythmic language; to help my students understand the difference between vividness and clarity, I rewrote a portion. To fully appreciate the difference between Lincoln’s version and my attempt to show the difference when stripped of much of its melodic sound, please read both versions aloud.

The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln (Nov. 19, 1863)

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Revised on Nov. 19, 2006 by Joyce Elferdink (sorry, Mr. Lincoln!)

.…We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for the soldiers who were killed here. It is certainly appropriate that we do this.

But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, consecrate, or hallow this ground. The brave men who struggled here did it better than we could. The world will quickly forget our statements, but it can never forget the fighting that occurred here.

It is for those of us still alive to commit to finish the work begun by the deceased. We can honor their sacrifice—and prove that they did not die needlessly—by our devotion to greater freedom and democracy for all Americans.

Which version do you prefer? Do you think my version will be read 148 years from now?

Phrases: the source of memorable and persuasive sentences!

Noun phrase, Prepositional phrase, Appositive phrase, Absolute phrase, Infinitive phrase, Gerund phrase, Participial phrase!  Which modifies nouns; which renames a word that precedes it; which modifies the entire sentence, which….

This rather typical lesson in the use of one of the most wonderful writing tools, the one that allows readers to clearly visualize what we are describing–the phrase–is enough to make adults take the long way around grammar instruction and just write!

Yet a well-turned phrase, bringing a foldout spectacle to what otherwise could be just plain-jane words on a page, is necessary to all good writing, non-fiction as well as fiction. Producing a message is much more fun and fulfilling than labeling words according to the part they play in each  sentence. So how can we do that without learning which phrase does what? Think about what you see, hear, feel; use all of your senses to describe for readers what’s in your mind or your line of vision. If you’re not sure of the best layout for your thought, pick up a book by your favorite author and see how she/he does it, where does she place words in her most compelling sentences.

If you need more advice, pick up Harry R. Noden’s book, Image Grammar, and be awed by grammar. I’ll share two examples from published authors, and then I’d love it if you would offer a sample or two from your own reading or writing.

And then, suddenly, in the very dead of the night, there came a sound to my ears, clear, resonant, and unmistakable. — The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conon Doyle

Shifting the weight of the line to his left shoulder and kneeling carefully, he washed his hand in the ocean and held it there, submerged, for more than a minute, watching the blood trail away and the steady movement of the water against his hand as the boat moved. — Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

By using phrases more effectively, our voices as advocates for change will intensify. Critiques of our work may include the phrase: a message more memorable than the parting statement of Rhett Butler to Scarlett \”Frankly, my dear, I don\’t give a d_ _ _!\”    and more persuasive than the challenging words of  JFK to the American people. Inaugural address, 1961

Friday Photo

When I taught English Composition, I had students write a paragraph or two on what they saw in an abstract painting.  Few saw the same thing, but what each wrote was absolutely correct for their perception of the image–as long as they wrote vividly enough to  create a similar image in the mind of the reader.

It could be fun to use that same concept to describe my amateur photographs. Here’s one I took Sunday near Saugatuck (MI). I’ll write a couple of lines of what I see in it, and then I hope you will comment, describing what it conjures up in your mind.

Beware the Metal Man, parts riveted in place, ruins of some more important purpose; he rises up to take his place on the shore. With tool box in hand, he will accomplish his purpose. He cannot be moved. Beware the man of metal, he has no heart for our suffering. He’s only made of metal, not of steel.

Storytelling: Introduction to Power – part 2

Storytelling: Introduction to Power – part 2.

The article was kindly provided by Kirill Gopius and is an extract from his blog http://realmir-gopius.livejournal.com. Harmless found it among her LinkedIn friends in the Writing Mafia Group.

Finding Your Voice (Visual Interpretation)

After reading some advice on finding your (writing) voice from Anne Lamott and Lin Robinson, I decided to interpret their messages for a post to my blog. Here it is (and please comment on how my interpretation differs from yours):


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