Results for category "Uncategorized"

Unique Fantasy Combinations at Alchemical Words

unique fantasy combinations - oh the possibiitiesI’ve got a new blog post up at Alchemical Words. Once again, I’m talking about fantasy as a genre. Where is the fantasy genre headed? What will it decide to be when it grows up?  What needs to happen for the fantasy genre to make it through it’s difficult teenage years? I begin to ask those questions and search for answers in Unique Fantasy Combinations – Oh, The Possibilities

I even get pretty bold and daring when I attempt to use a permutation and combination calculator! I know, right? I’m pretty sure I abused those venerable mathematical and statistical formulas in order to make my point – meaning that I’m not sure I used the calculator in the spirit it was intended. Besides, everybody knows that statistics can be molded to support anything you want. That said, the numbers do support the idea that, depending on the number of variables such as characters, plot devices, settings, magical elements and so on, it is possible for there to be literally billions of unique story combinations.

Check it out and let me know what you think about my take on unique fantasy combinations

Experimenting with Feedshark

If you’ve got a blog, you know how important it is for it to be pinged by search engines and blog and rss aggregators. WordPress has a built in pinger but I don’t always get the pingback messages. A lot of bloggers find pingback messages annoying but for me, that’s the only way I know the blog is getting pinged. I decided to set up a backup with Feedshark. You can either install a bit of code or do a post with the link. Since I don’t like to play around too much in the code, I’m doing the link in a post method. At some point in the future, I’ll update everyone on how my experiment has worked out. You can ignore the link unless you want to visit feedshark.

Misplaced Modifiers and Dangling Participles

four_previewI took my first creative writing class this summer. Four, fun-packed weeks of staring at the same fourteen people for four hours at a whack… You know, I never noticed it until writing this post but the number 4 does seem to be uncharacteristically high profile. I wonder of that’s significant in some obscure cosmological, numerological, psychological, pathological way? Meh, probably not.

Anyway, a funny thing that kept coming up in this creative writing class was misplaced modifiers and dangling participles. Argh! I always thought that the tendency to give creative birth to those madcap pranksters of the written language had been driven out of the average student during high school English.

Dolores_Umbridge_(Promo_still_from_HP5_movie)_10-15-2009I remember my high school English teacher and it was her fervent desire and life goal that no misplaced modifier or dangling participle ever reared its belled harlequin head from between the pale blue lines of college ruled. That lady had a desk drawer dedicated to a collection of red pens and sharpies. Let me tell you what, she wasn’t shy about using them.

I’m betting she has ascended to superhero status by now. Picture Delores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series with a teacher version of Batman’s tool belt around her waist and reinforced gauntlets to protect her from paper cuts and carpal tunnel. The half-moon reading glasses perched on the end of her nose has a built in plagiarizing checker. Be afraid, be very afraid… She is ‘The English Teacher.’

What are Misplaced Modifiers and Dangling Participles?

misplaced modifiersOkay, back to business. What are misplaced modifiers and dangling participles, you ask?

It is, according to the dictionary, “… a participle or participial phrase, often found at the beginning of a sentence, that appears from its position to modify an element of the sentence other than the one it was intended to modify.”

What the heck? Right? I can telepathically sense some people’s eyes glazing over as I type. So, to put it simply, a misplaced modifier or dangling participle is a word or phrase that’s in the wrong place for what it is describing.

This can often lead to confusing and funny mistakes. There were several people in class that seem to have had a special knack for producing these things. What was even funnier in a sort of sad, pathetic kind of way was that they couldn’t or wouldn’t see what they were doing. Since it’s often easier to learn by seeing examples, here are some of the misplaced modifiers and dangling participles I saw in class.

This one is an actual sentence from class:

The bicycles were reported stolen by Mr. Avery, the high school math teacher.

 That’s one rough school! The sentence should be something more like this:

Mr. Avery, the high school math teacher, reported the bicycles stolen.

Here’s another example from class:

Slowly sliding down the slick pole, the drunks watched the exotic dancer.

misplaced modifiersEww… Yeah, this class had a lot of varied interests and no, we didn’t all sit around wondering to ourselves if the person writing the stories about exotic dancers was maybe writing from experience. Some people are just gifted with the use of description, right? How about changing the sentence to something like this:

 The drunks watched the exotic dancer slowly sliding down the slick pole.

Here’s another one from the same story:

Wearing a barely there sparkly G-string and pasties, the man couldn’t take his eyes off me all night.

Wow…talking about switching roles! Usually, it’s the dancers that are wearing the teeny tiny outfits.

There were a lot more instances over the duration of the course and a lot of laughs and red faces. This is what I figured out: The best thing a writer can do to keep from embarrassing themselves is to read their work out loud before ever letting someone else even peek at it. It’s great to be humorous but only if that’s what you’re going for. After all, you’d hate to write a story with one of these sentences:

The principal handed out diplomas to graduates wrapped in protective plastic.

haitiIf you want a more in depth article about this topic, visit Raya’s Dungeon for her article on Mutilating Modifiers and Damaging Dirty Dangling Participles. She explains it quite eloquently.

Do you have any funny stories about misplaced modifiers and dangling participles?


Using Description In Writing

21,597… Yup, 21,597 words – ten different pieces – written and revised in four weeks and that doesn’t include my blog posts here and over at Alchemical Words. Add in the blog posts and the grand total for the month of July comes to… 34,934 words. I am exhausted. But happy.

This is what it felt like to write that much in four weeks

This is what it felt like to write that much in four weeks

I’ve been writing for a long time. I’ve written a lot of things that I’ll probably never share with anyone except my laptop and even my trusty Mactop probably groans at times with what it is required to keep in its memory.

Here’s what happened. I’ve been working on the end of my first really full-length novel but I began to get frustrated with my writing. I know it’s decent and probably even good but I didn’t think it was good enough so I took some online writing workshops.

These were decent but I found them to be superficial. If I had questions about more in depth topics, I was directed to another workshop then another workshop then another workshop with each giving me more superficial information. I wondered why, especially since I was paying for the blasted workshops, why somebody couldn’t just answer my damn questions. While I made some good friends, I always came away from the workshops frustrated. So I took the plunge and enrolled in classes at the university here in town.

I just finished my first creative writing class – ten pieces for a grand total 21, 597 words, a head full of knowledge and some serious feedback from an professor that knows what she’s doing – Lisa Lewis. She won 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Poetry and has published about a gazillion pieces of poetry. She even has her own Wikipedia page. Not to shabby, eh? So, what did I learn?

Using Description in Writing

One thing I learned is that, in my writing, I tend to do a lot of what I call blocking or giving stage directions. This character giggled. That character frowned. I was missing a lot of good opportunities to use detail and description. Was I being a lazy writer? No. But I was being an inattentive writer. A good writer pays attention and looks for these opportunities to give the reader details about a character. A good writer knows how using description in writing. It improves your writing tremendously.

Take the sentence:

Billy frowned. “I say we jump it,” he said.


“I say we jump it,” Billy said, frowning.

boyonabicycleThere’s technically nothing wrong with this sentence but it doesn’t tell the reader anything about Billy other than he’s not happy and wants to jump something. But what if it was something more like this:

“I say we jump it,” said Billy. He pulled off his baseball cap and scrubbed his fingers through the black stubble of the crew cut worn by all the men in Billy’s family. “Yup. It’s the only way.” He tugged the cap back on his head and spun it around backwards.

Maybe not perfect but we know a lot more about the character. We know he has black hair that he wears in a crew cut. We know he has number of men in his family – a father, brothers, and maybe uncles. We also know that this haircut is something worn by all the men in his family, suggesting maybe military or sports activities. We know he wears a baseball cap and that he uses it as a form of nonverbal communication, which might suggest that he either plays baseball or is a fan of the sport.

Definitely a whole lot more information is given here than in the first sentence. This is something we can all do to improve our writing. Watch for those places that give you a natural point at which you can expand your writing and bring the reader further into your world in dribbles and bits. I think it feels a whole lot more natural than resorting to long blocks of exposition and far more eloquent than simple stage directions.

What are your thoughts about ways to use description?