«Το μεγαλύτερο κέρδος από την άσκηση, καλά ή κακά, κάποιας τέχνης είναι ότι βοηθά την ψυχή μας να μεγαλώνει»

Κούρτ Βόννεγκατ (Kurt Vonnegut)

 Όταν αποφασίσουμε να βελτιώσουμε τη γραφή μας, πρέπει να σκεφτούμε τί ακριβώς θα δουλέψουμε. Δηλαδή πώς θα αντιμετωπίσουμε τις διαδικασίες, τα βήματα της δουλειάς μας: από τις ιδέες για ένα  θέμα και τα διαδοχικά πρόχειρα μέχρι την τελική αναθεώρηση και τον έλεγχο.

Μπορούμε να δούμε πώς περιέγραψαν τρεις διαφορετικοί άνθρωποι τις διαδικασίες αυτές:

  • Πριν κάνω ό,τιδήποτε, εξασφαλίζω έναν ήσυχο χώρο. Φροντίζω να έχω καθαρό κεφάλι. Όταν νοιώσω ότι είμαι έτοιμη να δουλέψω, κάθομαι μπροστά στον φορητό μου υπολογιστή και αρχίζω να πληκτρολογώ ό,τι μού κατέβει. Μετά κάνω μιά μικρή βόλτα και επιστρέφω, διαβάζω αυτά που έγραψα και διαλέγω όσα μού φαίνεται ότι αξίζει να κρατήσω – ιδέες-κλειδιά και ενδιαφέρουσες λεπτομέρειες. Μετά (ίσως σε μια δυό μέρες, αν ξεκινήσω καλά) διαβάζω το πρόχειρο, προσθέτω λεπτομέρειες και ιδέες και διορθώνω τα γραμματικά λάθη. Τελικά το ξαναγράφω κάνοντας και άλλες αλλαγές στην πορεία. Μερικές φορές ολοκληρώνω τη δουλειά μου σε μιά δυό ώρες, άλλες φορές χρειάζομαι πάνω από μιά βδομάδα.

 

  • Μού αρέσει να κάνω το πρώτο πρόχειρο. Αλλά πρώτα χαζεύω και ονειροπολώ, αδειάζω το ψυγείο τρώγοντας και φτιάχνω φρέσκο καφέ. Είμαι ειδικός στην αναβλητικότητα. Όταν μού τελειώσουν οι τρόποι να αποφύγω τη δουλειά, κάθομαι και γράφω ό,τι μού έρχεται. Γράφω γρήγορα, κάνω μουτζούρες, χάλια δηλαδή.  Όταν καταφέρω να ξεκαθαρίσω τί έγραψα, προσπαθώ να το οργανώσω όσο μπορώ. Μετά κάνω ξανά μιά βόλτα μέχρι το ψυγείο και ξαναρχίζω. Όταν τελειώσω, συγκρίνω τα δύο κείμενα και τα συνδυάζω αφαιρώντας πράγματα η προσθέτοντας άλλα. Μετά το διαβάζω δυνατά. Αν μού φαίνεται εντάξει, πάω στον υπολογιστή μου και το γράφω εκεί.

 

  • Όταν προσπαθώ να γράψω ένα διήγημα, περνάω τέσσερεις φάσεις. Πρώτη είναι η φάση με τις ιδέες, τότε που προσπαθώ να βρω την εκπληκτική φαεινή ιδέα. Μετά είναι η δημιουργική φάση, όπου καπνίζω συνεχώς και φαντασιώνω ως πήρα το βραβείο Πούλιτζερ. Μετά έρχεται η φάση του μπλοκαρίσματος, και τα όνειρα για τα βραβεία γίνονται εφιάλτες: με βλέπω σφηνωμένο σε ένα θρανίο της πρώτης δημοτικού να γράφω για τιμωρία το αλφάβητο τουλάχιστον τριακόσιες φορές. Και ξαφνικά, μερικές ώρες ή μέρες αργότερα, βουτάω στη  φάση της τελικής ημερομηνίας: ανακαλύπτω ότι αυτή η μαλακία πρέπει να γραφτεί και βυθίζομαι στη δουλειά. Συχνά αυτή η φάση αρχίζει μιά μέρα, ακόμα και δέκα λεπτά, πριν την παράδοση της δουλειάς μου – πράγμα που δέν μου δίνει πολύ χρόνο να ελέγξω απολύτως το τελικό αποτέλεσμα.

Βλέπουμε πως δέν ακολουθούν ολες, -οι οι συγγραφείς την ίδια μέθοδο σε όλες τις συνθήκες.  Υπάρχουν διαφορετικές μέθοδοι για την καθεμιά και τον καθένα μας. Όμως υπάρχουν τέσσερα βήματα που αποδίδουν καλά πάντα και που οι πιό επιτυχημένες, - οι συγγραφείς  ακολουθούν από λίγο ως πολύ:

  • Η ανακάλυψη,  ή εφεύρεση: ο εντοπισμός η ανακάλυψη ενός θέματος και λίγων πραγμάτων που μπορούν να ειπωθούν γι’ αυτό. Μπορούμε να εντοπίσουμε θέματα γράφοντας στην τύχη, ψάχνοντας παντού (διηγήσεις, διαδίκτυο, άνθρωποι, όλα είναι πηγές), καταγράφοντας λέξεις στην τύχη (μερικές λέξεις ή/και ο συνδυασμός τους μπορούν να αποδειχθούν θησαυρός).
  • Το πρόχειρο:  καταγράφουμε πρόχειρα  ιδέες.  Το πρόχειρο είναι συνήθως ανακατεμένο, γεμάτο επαναλήψεις και λάθη, αλλά αυτό δέν πειράζει καθόλου. Ο στόχος του πρόχειρου είναι να συλλάβουμε τις ιδέες και τις λεπτομέρειες, όχι να πετύχουμε την τέλεια παράγραφο ή το τέλειο κείμενο με την πρώτη προσπάθεια.
  • Η Αναθεώρηση: αλλάζουμε και ξαναγράφουμε το πρόχειρό μας για να το βελτιώσουμε. Εδώ παίρνουμε υπ’  όψιν και τις ανάγκες του αναγνωστικού κοινού, αναδιοργανώνουμε τις παραγράφους, και τις ιδέες, ξαναχτίζουμε τις προτάσεις, κάνουμε σαφέστερους τους συσχετισμούς.
  • Η Επιμέλεια και η Τελική Ανάγνωση:  ξαναδιαβάζουμε το κείμενό μας, διορθώνουμε τα λάθη.

Τα τέσσερα στάδια επικαλύπτονται και συχνά πρέπει να επαναλάβουμε ένα από αυτά, όμως δέν είναι απαραίτητο να δίνουμε βάρος και στα τέσσερα ταυτόχρονα. Αντιθέτως συχνά, αν προσπαθούμε να κάνουμε πολλά πράγματα ταυτόχρονα, νοιώθουμε απογοήτευση και καθυστερούμε ή δυσκολεύουμε το γράψιμό μας.

Σε μιά ή δυό παραγράφους περιγράφουμε πώς γράφουμε, ποιά βήματα ακολουθούμε συνήθως. Πώς αρχίζω; Γράφω πολλά πρόχειρα ή ένα; Αν αναθεωρώ το κείμενό μου, ποιά πράγματα προσέχω περισσότερο; Τί είδους και ποιές αλλαγές κάνω συνήθως; Πώς διορθώνεις το κείμενό σου; Τί είδη λαθών βρίσκεις συνήθως;

(Φύλαξε αυτήν την περιγραφή και σέ έναν – δυό μήνες ξακοίταξέ το για να βρεις τί αλλαγές έχουν γίνει στον τρόπο με τον οποίο γράφεις. )

Γιατί βρίσκομαι εδώ και μελετώ το πώς γράφω

και το πώς γράφουμε;

Ο Γκραχαμ Γκριν κάποτε είπε η γραφή είναι μία μορφή θεραπείας. Σήμερα, αυτή η ιδέα αρχίζει να εφαρμόζεται από όλο και περισσότερους επαγγελματίες στον κλάδο της Υγείας.  Η δημιουργική γραφή έχει χρησιμοποιηθεί με επιτυχία σε ασθενείς που πάσχουν από άγχος, κατάθλιψη, πόνο πένθους, μετατραυματικό στρες, μαθησιακές δυσκολίες και διατροφικές διαταραχές. Στο πεδίο της προσωπικής ανάπτυξης, έχει αναγνωριστεί ως ένα πολύ δυνατό εργαλείο για την αύξηση της αυτοπεποίθησης και της αυτοεπίγνωσης.

Πρόσφατα ο Δρ.Ρόμπιν Φίλιπ, του Bristol Royal Infirmary, διεξήγαγε μία έρευνα σχετικά με τα ευεργετήματα της συγγραφής ποιημάτων στην υγεία. Από 200 άτομα που συμμετείχαν στην έρευνα, το 56% είπε ότι με το να γράφει ποιήματα μειώθηκε το άγχος του και του έδωσε μία συναισθηματική διέξοδο. Κάποιοι ανέφεραν ότι η συγγραφή ποιημάτων, τους βοήθησε να ανταποκριθούν στον πόνο απώλειας αγαπημένου προσώπου, ενώ άλλοι κατάφεραν να σταματήσουν να παίρνουν αντικαταθλιπτικά [φάρμακα] ή ηρεμιστικά.

Η συγγραφή ποιημάτων προσφέρει ένα είδος πνευματικής κάθαρσης, επειδή μάς βοηθά να τολμάμε: εκφράζοντας τις σκέψεις και τα συναισθήματά μας απελευθερωνόμαστε, σύμφωνα με τον Δόκτορα Φίλιπ.,  που, συχνά χρησιμοποιεί την ποίηση με τους ασθενείς του. Κάτι παρόμοιο κάνουμε  στην καθημερινή ζωή: όταν έχουμε πολλά να κάνουμε και μάς βαραίνουν τη σκέψη, κάνουμε με όλα αυτά και το άγχος μας μειώνεται. Το ίδιο συμβαίνει και άλλες μορφές δημιουργικής γραφής, όπως είναι το θεατρικό κείμενο  και η  βιογραφία.

Υποστηρίκτρια αυτής της ιδέας είναι και η Nicki Jacowska, συγγραφέας του «Γράφοντας για τη Ζωή» (Writing for Life). Πιστεύει ότι ορισμένες φορές οι σκέψεις μας μπορούν να πιαστούν σε ένα είδος πνευματικού βρόγχου (φαύλου κύκλου). Γράφοντάς τις, τις απελευθερώνουμε. Η Jacowska, πιστεύει ότι με να διατυπώνει κανείς ξεκάθαρα τα συναισθήματα του στο χαρτί έρχεται σε μεγαλύτερη επαφή μαζί τους: μπορείς να σκεφτείς ή να πεις «νοιώθω λύπη», αλλά σταματάς εκεί. Με το να το γράψεις όμως, μπορείς να πας παραπέρα: αρχίζεις και χρησιμοποιείς μεταφορές και παραδείγματα για να καταλήξεις σε έναν πιο συγκεκριμένο ορισμό της λύπης σου. Τελικά αυτή η αυτοεπίγνωση σου δίνει το έναυσμα να ξεπεράσεις τα προβλήματα και να συνεχίσεις τη ζωή σου.

Εναλλακτικήτηςσυμβουλευτικής; Διαφέρει η δημιουργική γραφή από την ψυχοθεραπεία ή τη συμβουλευτική; Η Βικτώρια Φιλντ, διευθύντρια του Ποίηση των Επιζώντων (Survivor’s Poetry), ενός φιλανθρωπικού  ιδρύματος το οποίο διοργανώνει εργαστήρια μελέτης δημιουργικής γραφής, και εκδίδει τη δουλειά ανθρώπων που ξεπέρασαν τις ψυχικές διαταραχές, πιστεύει πως ναι. Μας λέει: «Ενώ, στη θεραπεία απλώς λες τις δυσκολίες σου, με τη δημιουργική γραφή μπορείς να υπερβείς τον πόνο ενός συγκεκριμένου συμβάντος με το να το μεταμορφώσεις σε κάτι υπέροχο: ένα λαμπρό έργο τέχνης. Αυτό το έργο έχει παγκόσμιο νόημα, από το οποίο μπορούν να επωφεληθούν όχι μόνο οι άλλοι, αλλά σου επιτρέπει και να αποκτήσεις μία προοπτική πάνω στο πρόβλημά σου». Ο Ντόμινικ ΜακΛάθλιν, επιμελητής του «Γράφοντας για την Ανακάλυψη του Εαυτού» (Writing for Self-Discovery) στο Morley College, του Λονδίνου, πιστεύει ότι η αυτονομία που εμπεριέχεται στη δημιουργική γραφή την κάνει μία ελκυστική εναλλακτική [λύση] της συμβουλευτικής. “Το κλειδί της επιτυχίας στη δημιουργική γραφή έγκειται στο γεγονός ότι ο συγγραφέας είναι στο επίκεντρο της θεραπευτικής του/ της διαδικασίας», μας λέει. «Εν αντιθέσει με την ομιλία, με το να γράφεις μπορείς να περάσεις όσο χρόνο θέλεις για να μορφοποιήσεις τις σκέψεις σου και τις ιδέες σου και έχεις το ελεύθερο να επιστρέψεις σε αυτές και να τις επεξεργαστείς. Από εσένα εξαρτάται εάν θα μοιραστείς αυτά που έχεις γράψει, παρόλο που το να διαβάσεις κάτι δυνατά ή να επιτρέψεις σε άλλους να το διαβάσουν, μπορεί να ενισχύσει τη θεραπευτική διαδικασία.»

Ασκήσεις και Παραδείγματα δημιουργικής γραφής [για θεραπευτικούς σκοπούς] μπορεί κανείς να βρει στο βιβλίο του Ντάνιελ Μπράουν, Art Therapies (Thorsons). O Μπράουν προτείνει ασκήσεις που ενθαρρύνουν τον συμμετέχοντα να συγκεντρώνεται στα θετικά [πράγματα]. Προτείνει, τη συγγραφή μικρού ποιήματος, το οποίο δε θα ξεπερνά τις 12 γραμμές, σχετικά με ένα αρνητικό συναίσθημα, όπως η λύπη ή ο φόβος, χρησιμοποιώντας τις τελευταίες δύο γραμμές του ποιήματος για να μεταστρέψει αυτό το συναίσθημα σε ένα πιο θετικό.

Παραδείγματος χάριν, αυτές είναι οι τελευταίες γραμμές ενός ποιήματος που έγραψε ο Μπράουν για να ξεπεράσει το φόβο του για τις πτήσεις:

Καθώςέρχεσαιαντιμέτωποςμετοφόβοσου

ηδύναμήτουεξασθενεί

καιταφαντάσματααδυνατίζουν

 

Άλλες ασκήσεις του Μπράουν περιλαμβάνουν περιγραφή της τέλειας ημέρας σας από τη στιγμή που ξυπνάτε μέχρι τη στιγμή που πηγαίνετε για ύπνο, την εύρεση μιας λέξης που περιγράφει τί εξαιρετικό έχεις, και τον ελεύθερο συσχετισμό της με άλλες λέξεις, ώσπου στο τέλος κατασκευάζεται ένα ποίημα με αυτές.

Ο Μακ Λάθλιν χρησιμοποιεί σύμβολα, όπως για παράδειγμα: το νερό, τα δέντρα, τα σταυροδρόμια, για ερεθίσει τη φαντασία των μαθητών του: “Τασύμβολαέχουνένασύνολονοημάτωνταοποίαμπορούνναδώσουντησπίθαστιςδικέςμαςιδέεςκαθώςκαιναμιλήσουνστοασυνείδητοκομμάτιτουεαυτούμας. “Δίνει, για παράδειγμα, τηγέφυραηοποίαείναικαιένασύμβολοαλλαγής, συμβολίζειδηλαδήτημετάβασηαπότοέναμέροςστοάλλο, αλλάκαιένα πράγματοοποίοενώνειδύοδιαφορετικέςκαταστάσεις. «Ζητάωαπότουςμαθητέςμουναφανταστούνότι περπατάνεσεμίαγνωστήγέφυρα, είτεστο παρόνείτεότανήτανμικροί, καινα περιγράψουντιςσκέψειςτους, τασυναισθήματάτουςκαιτο περιβάλλον. Όταντοσυζητάμε, οιμαθητέςσυχνάξαφνιάζονταιαπόαυτά που προκύπτουν. Πιστεύωότιείναιμίαάσκησηηοποίαμπορείνασυμβάλειστονατουςκάνεινασκεφτούνότιείναιικανοίγιααλλαγή».

Όπως και με άλλες μορφές τέχνης, η δημιουργική γραφή είναι διασκεδαστική, περιέχει πολλές από τις δεξιότητες που χρησιμοποιούνται στο παιχνίδι, όπως τη φαντασία, τον πειραματισμό και την αίσθηση της περιπέτειας. Ο συγγραφέας δε χρειάζεται να ψάχνει ενεργά για να δει τα ευεργετήματα που έχει στην υγεία καθώς αυτό συμβαίνει αυτόματα. Απλά με το να συνηθίζει κανείς να εξασκεί αυτό που μπορούμε να ονομάσουμε «δημιουργικό μύ» είναι από μόνο του ευεργετικό: ο συγγραφέας μπορεί να εφαρμόσει τη νεοαποκτηθείσα δημιουργική πλευρά του σε προβλήματα της καθημερινής του/ της ζωής.

Ο Jacowska πιστεύει ότι η δημιουργική γραφή είναι ένα αντίδοτο στην πίστη της σύγχρονης εποχής: « Μεγάλα πεδία της ανθρώπινης φύσης θυσιάζονται στην προσπάθεια να κάνουμε πολλά πράγματα στο λιγότερο δυνατό χρόνο. Η δημιουργική γραφή, από την άλλη πλευρά, σχετίζεται με το να απλωνόμαστε, να ανακαλύπτουμε και να αφηνόμαστε.»

Ξεκινώντας: Ένας προσωπικόςοδηγός 

Ο καθένας μπορεί να ασχοληθεί με τη δημιουργική γραφή. Εάν μπορείς να πεις ένα ανέκδοτο στους φίλους σου, τότε μπορείς και να γράψεις μία σύντομη ιστορία ή μία περιγραφή. Οι αφηγηματικές ικανότητες τις οποίες όλοι κατείχαμε στην παιδική μας ηλικία, μπορούν, με ελάχιστη προσπάθεια, να -ενεργοποιηθούν ξανά στην ωριμότητα στην ώριμη ηλικία μας.

ΠρακτικάΕργαλείαΓραφής Η δημιουργική γραφή είναι μία από τις πιο προσιτές μορφές τέχνης: το μόνο που χρειάζεσαι είναι στυλό και χαρτί.. Παρόλα αυτά, είναι καλή ιδέα, να «επενδύσεις» σε ένα ιδιαίτερο σημειωματάριο, το οποίο θα χρησιμοποιείται αποκλειστικά για της δημιουργικές σου σκέψεις, περιγραφές και ιστορίες. Αν έχεις έναν ιδιαίτερο χώρο για να πας να σκεφτείς, αυτός θα σου δώσει ένα ακόμα κίνητρο για να γράψεις. Μή διστάζεις να κρατάς σημειώσεις οπουδήποτε και οποιαδήποτε στιγμή: αυτές  μπορούν να χρησιμοποιηθούν αργότερα ως υλικό για μεγαλύτερα κείμενα.

Στο «Έναδικόσουδωμάτιο» η Βιρτζίνια Γουλφ, τονίζει πόση σημασία έχει για τους συγγραφείς να διαθέτουν έναν δικό τους χώρο για να γράφουν. Εάν έχεις ένα άδειο δωμάτιο, κάνε το γραφείο σου. Αν δέν έχεις, δημιούργησε έναν «χώρο συγγραφής»: θα μπορούσε να είναι ένα γραφείο σε μία γωνία της κρεβατοκάμαρας ή του σαλονιού, ένα μέρος όπου μπορείς να καθίσεις και να γράψετε, να έχεις  τα «εργαλεία» για τη συγγραφή σου καθώς και οποιαδήποτε άλλα αντικείμενα, όπως φωτογραφίες, που σε εμπνέουν το γράψιμό σου.

Βρίσκονταςτοχρόνοναγράψεις:  Δεν χρειάζεσαι απεριόριστο χρόνο στη διάθεση σου για να γράψεις. Λίγο και συχνά είναι το κλειδί: τακτικές ασκήσεις γραψίματος είναι συχνά πιο αποτελεσματικές από το να ξοδεύει κανείς ώρες επί ματαίω. Κάνε μία επισκόπηση της ζωής σας και μιά ρεαλιστική εκτίμηση του πόσο χρόνο μπορείς να διαθέσεις για γράψιμο κάθε μέρα και πότε μπορείς να τον διαθέσεις. Μερικές πιθανές στιγμές είναι: είκοσι λεπτά κατά το διάλειμμά του κολατσιού, μισή ώρα το απόγευμα, μία ώρα το πρωί και μία ώρα το απόγευμα. Όποια και να είναι η απόφασή σου, τήρησέ την απαρέγκλιτα. Το να ορίσεις  μία καταληκτική ημερομηνία για μία συγκεκριμένη δραστηριότητα, θα σε βοηθήσει να επικεντρωθείτε σε αυτή. Π.χ μπορείς να πεις στον εαυτό σου: «Θα περάσω 10 λεπτά περιγράφονταςτιςσκέψειςκαιτις παρατηρήσειςμουαπόένα πρόσφατοταξίδι». Αν βάλεις το ξυπνητήρι  να χτυπήσει σε 10 λεπτά θα γνωρίζεις πότε έχει τελειώσει ο χρόνος σου.

Ξεπερνώνταςτοαδιέξοδοτουσυγγραφέα 

Η πιο συχνή αιτία μπλοκαρίσματος ενός συγγραφέα είναι η σκέψη, «ποτέ δεν θα γίνω αρκετά καλός» και ο στόχος της τελειότητας. Εάν πιάσεις τον εαυτό σου να κοιτάζει μία άσπρη σελίδα με απογοήτευση , προσπάθησε να χρησιμοποιήσεις την αυτόματη γραφή για να ξεφύγεις από το αδιέξοδο. Ουσιαστικά, το να γράφεις χωρίς να σκέφτεσαι, δηλαδή με τον τρόπο που λέγεται «αυτόματη» γραφή είναι ένας τρόπος να παρακάμψουμε τον αισθητήρα του εγκεφάλου. Αυτή περιέχει την καταγραφή από ο,τιδήποτε μας έρχεται στο μυαλό, όσο παράλογο και αν είναι, χωρίς να σταματάμε για να το αναλύσουμε ή να το διαμορφώσουμε. Το παραγόμενο ρεύμα της συνειδητότας συχνά παρέχει τη σπίθα για ένα πιο συγκροτημένο κείμενο. Είναι κοινή πρακτική, πολλών συγγραφέων, το πρώτο πράγμα που κάνουν το πρωί να χρησιμοποιούν την αυτόματη γραφή, τότε δηλαδή που ο εσωτερικός αισθητήρας είχε λιγότερο χρόνο να ενεργοποιηθεί, οπότε και το γράψιμο, είναι περισσότερο απρόσκοπτο.

Τροφοδοτώνταςτηφαντασία

Οι ασκήσεις δημιουργικής γραφής είναι μια καλή ιδέα εάν θέλεις να δώσεις στη φαντασία σου  κάτι που θα την κινητοποιήσει. Τέτοιου είδους ασκήσεις μπορείς να βρεις σε βιβλία  δημιουργικής γραφής (δείτε επίσης και τη λίστα με τα συνιστώμενα βιβλία στο τέλος του άρθρου) ή σε ομάδες  δημιουργικής γραφής.

Οι παρακάτωασκήσειςέχουνεγκριθείαπόεπιμελητέςδημιουργικήςγραφήςωςμίακαλήαφετηρίαγιαενδυνάμεισυγγραφείς:

  • Διαλέγω μιά φωτογραφία που με εμπνέει. Αυτή μπορεί να είναι μία φωτογραφία από ένα περιοδικό, μία εφημερίδα, ένα βιβλίο ή μία καρτ-ποστάλ. Περιγράφω τι συμβαίνει στη φωτογραφία καθώς και τί έγινε πριν και μετά τη λήψη της φωτογραφίας. Το κάνω στο τρίτο πρόσωπο, ή φαντάζομαι τον εαυτό μου μέσα στη φωτογραφία και στη σκηνή που βλέπω. Εξερευνώ το σκηνικό εξονυχιστικά. Τι μπορώ – ή τί μπορούν οι μορφές της φωτογραφίας να δουν, να ακούσουν, να μυρίσουν, να αισθανθούν, να γευτούν; Τι λένε οι μορφές της φωτογραφίας μεταξύ τους, τι σκέπτονται;
  • Ξεκινώ με μικρά κείμενα. Γράφω περίπου 100 λέξεις για ένα καθημερινό αντικείμενο όπως το κρεμμύδι, το νόμισμα, το κλειδί. Το περιγράφω όσο πιο λεπτομερειακά γίνεται, χρησιμοποιώντας τις αισθήσεις μου. Σημειώνω τους συνειρμούς που μού έρχονται σχετικά με αυτό το αντικείμενο.
  • Προσπαθώ να μπω στο πετσί κάποιου αγνώστου, για παράδειγμα κάποιου περαστικού ή κάποιου που κάθισε δίπλα μου στο τρένο, και περιγράφω πώς φαντάζομαι τη ζωή του/της.
  • Κοιτάζω μέσα από ένα πλαίσιο, είτε πραγματικό είτε φανταστικό, και περιγράφω τί βλέπω. Το πλαίσιο μπορεί να είναι ένα παράθυρο, μία πόρτα, το κενό μεταξύ δύο κάγκελων ενός κλουβιού ή ένα φυσικό πλαίσιο όπως πάνω από μία πόρτα κήπου ή κάτω από ένα δέντρο.
  • Περιγράφω μιά  χαρούμενη ανάμνηση.
  • Συμπληρώνω τις ακόλουθες προτάσεις: «Είμαι ένα ποτάμι και …», «Είμαι ένα πουλί και…», «Είμαι μία πέτρα και …». Συνεχίζω για όσο το δυνατό περισσότερο να περιγράφω πως αισθάνεται αν είναι ένα από αυτά τα πράγματα.
  • Πηγαίνω μία βόλτα παίρνοντας μαζί το σημειωματάριό μου, σε ένα καφέ ή στο πάρκο και καταγράφω τις παρατηρήσεις μου.

Ανατροφοδότηση
Η συμμετοχή σε μία ομάδα δημιουργικής γραφής μάς δίνει τη δυνατότητα να διανθίσουμε τη δουλειά σας και να την ανατροφοδοτήσουμε. Γίνε μέλος σε μία τάξη δημιουργικής γραφής ή δημιούργησε μιά ομάδα δημιουργικής γραφής με φίλους, προτείνοντας εναλλάξ και στη σειρά ασκήσεις. Ζήτησε ανατροφοδότηση η οποία θα σας βοηθήσει να αναπτύξετε τη δημιουργικότητά σου και να βρείτε τον προσωπικό σου τρόπο γραφής.

Τοάρθροδημοσιεύεταιμεάδειατου περιοδικού Positive Health, καιδημοσιεύτηκε  στοτεύχος 33, Οκτώβριος 1998.

Ιστοσελίδαhttp://www.positivehealth.com/

Για να μπούμε στα πραχτικά θέματα της δημιουργικής γραφής:

Ας μήν ξεχνάμε ότι σχεδόν πάντα συνεχώς αφηγούμαστε ιστορίες από την προσωπική μας εμπειρία. Πολύ συχνά χρησιμοποιούμε μερικές δοκιμασμένες εισαγωγές στην αφήγησή μας. «Δέν θα πιστέψεις τί μού συνέβη  / τί έπαθα / τί είδα…», « Τις προάλλες, εκεί που πήγαινα…», «Είδα ένα παράξενο όνειρο….», «Έμαθες τί έγινε με την/τον…;»

Επειδή το να αφηγούμαστε τις εμπειρίες μας είναι καθημερινή και οικεία εμπειρία,

Πώς Χρησιμοποιώ μερικά Μυστικά

για Ιδέες Διηγημάτων

Αυτή η άσκηση είναι ιδανική για ομάδες συγγραφής, αλλά μπορεί να γίνει και με δύο μόνον άτομα. Ανταλλάσσοντας μυστικά, οι συγγραφείς πρόζας κινητοποιούνται στην εξερεύνηση ενός θέματος που ίσως να μήν σκέφτονταν ποτέ.

ΜέσηΔυσκολία

ΑπαιτούμενοςΧρόνος 1 με 2 ώρες

ΠώςΓίνεται:

  1.  Παίρνουμε όλες, - οι ένα κομμάτι χαρτί.
  2. Γράφουμε ένα μυστικό και διπλώνουμε το χαρτί.
  3. Βάζουμε όλα τα μυστικά σε ένα καπέλλο ή κουτί.
  4. Κάθε άτομο βγάζει από το «δοχείο» ένα μυστικό. (Βγάζω ξανά αν μού τύχει το δικό μου)
  5. Χρησιμοποιώ το μυστικό ως αφετηρία γιά το διήγημά μου.

6. Στο τέλος της ημέρας ή – αν δέν υπάρχει χρόνος – στην επόμενη συνάντηση, μοιράζομαι με την ομάδα την ιστορία και το μυστικό που την ενέπνευσε.

Συμβουλές :

  1.  Χρειάζεται δημιουργικότητα, όχι έτοιμες συνταγές.
  2. 2.  Διασκεδάζω και όταν «διαλέγω» το μυστικό και όταν γράφω γι’ αυτό. Το καλύτερο σε αυτή την άσκηση είναι το στοιχείο της έκπληξης.

Τίθαχρειαστώ

  • Χαρτί
  • Μολύβι
  • Κάποιο είδος δοχείου

Άσκηση Συγγραφής για τον Εντοπισμό του «Δράματος» στην Καθημερινή Ζωή.

Γράφω την ακόλουθη σκηνή: μιά γυναίκα και ένας άντρας πηγαίνουν σε ένα μαγαζί για να αγοράσουν ένα κρεβάτι. Μιλούν μόνο για το κρεβάτι, αλλά πρέπει, μέσα από τη στιχομυθία τους, να αποκαλύψουν την αληθινή κατάσταση μεταξύ τους. (For an example of how this kind of scene can work, read Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants.")

Αρχικά σκέφτομαι κάποιες αγχογόνες καταστάσεις που μπορεί να υπάρχουν σε ένα ζευγάρι: διαζύγιο, εγκυμοσύνη, κατάχρηση ουσιών, μεταθέσεις κ.λ.π Αν έχω δέν μπορώ να σκεφτώ μιά κατάσταση σύγκρουσης, αρχίζω με μιά δική μου εμπειρία. Δέν έχει σημασία η κατάσταση τόσο όσο ο διάλογος. Αυτή η άσκηση θα μέ οδηγήσει να σκεφτώ πώς επικοινωνούν τα ζευγάρια, πόσα μένουν ανείπωτα μεταξύ τους. Όταν τελειώσω, η / ο αναγνώστρια, - ης θα πρέπει να έχει μιά πολύ καλή ιδέα για το τί συμβαίνει στη ζωή αυτών των ανθρώπων. Εδώ ίσως πρέπει να  τα βασικά γιά το πώς γράφουμε έναν διάλογο.

Για αυτή την άσκηση θα μιλήσουμε και για τις αρχές του διαλόγου

 

 

 

 

Παραλλαγή

Ασκήσεις Δημιουργικής Γραφής

Τι είναι εξάσκηση στη συγγραφή;

Η εξάσκηση στη συγγραφή είναι αυτό που κάνεις όταν κάθεσαι μπροστά σε ένα λευκό χαρτί και αρχίζεις να γράφεις χωρίς να έχεις την πρόθεση να εκμεταλλευτείς το αποτέλεσμα. Είναι μια ευχάριστη απασχόληση ιδίως όταν γίνεται με φίλους και συγκρίνουμε το αποτέλεσμα.

Εδώ μπορούμε να δώσουμε μερικούς κανόνες για την άσκηση γραφής:

- Μην σταματάς να γράφεις, μην κάνεις σχέδια την ώρα που γράφεις.

Μήν διορθώνεις. Μην σταματάς για να σβήσεις. Μην ανησυχείς για την ορθογραφία και τη γραμματική, μην αλλάζεις τις ιδέες.

 Συνέχισε να γράφεις. Γράφε σε ένα τετράδιο σταθερά μέχρι να το γεμίσεις.

    Υπάρχουν λόγοι γι’  αυτούς τους κανόνες.  Αν συνεχίζεις να γράφεις, αποφεύγεις τις διορθώσεις.  Παράγεις κάτι, πράγμα ενθαρρυντικό. Δεν έχει σημασία αν αρχίσεις περίπου έτσι: Δεν ξέρω τι να γράψω, μάλλον θα γράψω για τη μητέρα μου, όχι, καλύτερα να γράψω για το παγωτό που έφαγα χθες…φτάνει να συνεχίσεις να γράφεις.

    Η διόρθωση πνίγει τη δημιουργικότητα. Άφησε τη διόρθωση για αργότερα. Η επιμέλεια/ διόρθωση μας κάνει να απορρίπτουμε τις αληθινά δημιουργικές ιδέες επειδή μας φαίνονται «διαφορετικές, λάθος».  Πάντα μπορούμε να επιστρέφουμε στη διόρθωση της γραμματικής και της ορθογραφίας. Δεν το  κάνουμε στη διάρκεια της άσκησης.

   Έχουμε το δικό μας τετράδιο ή . έτσι έχουμε συγκεντρωμένο το έργο μας. Δεν έχει σημασία το πώς νοιώθουμε για την ποιότητα τωνπαλιών μας γραφτών. Τα κρατάμε. Ένα φριχτό παραρήλημα αυτολύπησης μπορεί να έχει διαμάντια:  σπόρους καλών ιδεών, μιά καλοζυγισμένη πρόταση, ή μιάν ατμόσφαιρα που μάς αρέσει. Για παράδειγμα, μπορεί σε μιάν άσκηση να δημιουργήσουμε έναν ενδιαφέροντα χαρακτήρα. Εβδομάδες αργότερα μπορεί να επιστρέψουμε και να εμπνευστούμε μιά ενδιαφέρουσα πλοκή γι’ αυτόν. Αλλωστε το βιβλίο μάς δίνει την αίθσηση της ολοκλήρωσης, της περηφάνειας.

Γράφοντας σε Ομάδες Συστήνω συχνά να γράφουμε με μιάν ομάδα. Κάθε ένας και κάθε μία μας έχει κίνητρο για να γράφει, αλλά αν δεν υπήρχε αυτή η μιάμιση ώρα συγγραφής την εβδομάδα με φίλους συχνά θα σταματούσα. Στηρίζονται στην παρουσία μου γι’ αυτό δέν κάνω απουσίες.  Ένα ακόμα όφελος είναι ότι αλληλοεμπνεόμαστε. Έχω χρησιμοποιήσει τις ιδέες των φίλων μου και κείνες, - οι τις δικές μου.

Μιά ακομα καλή συνήθεια είναι να γράφεις γιά 20 λεπτά, να σταματάς για λίγο και να διαβάζεις δυνατά το γραφτό σου  στην ομάδα. όταν διαβάζουμε φωναχτά μιάν άσκηση, οι άλλες,- οι μπορεί να σχολιάσουν – και συνήθως σχολιάζουν θετικά. Μπορεί κάποιος να πει: «Μού άρεσε εκείνη η λεπτομέρεια με τον τσίγκινο κουβά»    Ο γράφων – η γράφουσα μπορεί να μήν έχει προσέξει κάτι θετικό που έκανε, είναι καλό λοιπόν να το τονίζουμε. Λιγώτερο συχνά το σχόλιο μπορεί να είναι κάποιου είδους εποικοδομητική συμβουλή,  όπως
« αυτό θα ακουγόταν ωραίο αν το έγραφες στο τρίτο πρόσωπο.» Το σημαντικό είναι να μήν ασκούμε κριτική στη γραμματική, το συντακτικό και τη δομή επειδή υποτίθεται πως στο πρώτο στάδιο δέν ανησυχούμε γι’ αυτά.

 

Και τώρα οι ασκήσεις: πώς  γεμίζουμε τις σελίδες;

 Τα τυχαία ερεθίσματα βοηθούν πολύ τη δημιουργικότητα, μάλλον λόγω του τρόπου με τον οποίο λειτουργεί ο εγκέφαλός μας. Ο ανθρώπινος εγκέφαλος είναι πολύ καλός στους συσχετισμούς και στην αναγνώριση κοινών σχημάτων. ;Οταν πάρω δυό τρεις τυχαίες λέξεις και τις βάλω μαζί, οι νευρώνες μου πυροδοτούν έναν εντελώς καινούριο συσχετισμό επειδή απλώς και μόνο έβαλα μαζί τρεις λέξεις και τις σκέφτηκα.

  Το σημαντικ;ό  με τα τυχα;ία ερεθ;ίσματα ε;ίναι να μην απορρ;ίπτουμε το «τυχαίο». Αν περιμένεις μια λέξη ή μια ιδέα που ηδη ταιριάζει, ποτέ δέν βρεις το καινούριο.

Όμως πού βρίσκω τους τυχαίους ερεθισμούς;

ion is not to reject the random offerings. If you wait for a word or an idea which already fits, you will not come up with something new. The most creative ideas sometimes come from the words which fit worst.

But where can you get that random stimulation?

Random word combinations

Start with two or three random words. For example, the words could be "fireman" and "blockbuster". Now, use these words to inspire you to start writing. Plan to include these two words in the writing somewhere. Try going for 10 minutes.

Sometimes when we do these random word stimulations, the result doesn't actually include one of the words. Sometimes the writer still plans to include the word and is working up to that in the mini-plot that is developing on the paper, but we stop when about 10 minutes is up anyway. Sometimes the writer intended to use the word but the plot twisted in a new direction and the word became inappropriate. Sometimes the word is not used but still can be seen to inspire the piece. It doesn't matter, because the stimulation still works to get you writing creatively.

Where can you get random words from?

  • If you're writing in a group, get each person to write a few words on separate pieces of paper. Put the pieces of paper in a hat and pass it around. Each person takes out a few pieces and might get one or more of their own words, but might not.
  • Do lists of related words. Do a column of professions, a column of verbs associated with farming, a column of colourful things, a column of adjectives used to describe animals, or whatever other subjects you like. Then without looking at the columns, decide to take "the fifth word from column A, the third from column B and the twelfth from column C" or some other combination. Take these words and use them.
  • Ahead of time, go through a dictionary and write down words. Every 50th page, write down the first word defined on the page. Fill a page with words in this way, then you have a resource of random words that you can use again and again.

Starting phrases

Try starting with any of these phrases:

I remember

I don't remember

I have always

I see

I don't see

I have never

I know

I don't know

I want to

I wonder

I don't wonder

I don't want to

I hate

I love

I try to

I try not to...

Some of these are from an excellent book on writing by Natalie Goldberg: Wild Mind. I'm sure you can think of many more. These are good because they often stimulate very personal writing which can be powerful. Try writing for 10 minutes on one then switching to another.

Character Development

Clustering

Do you want to develop a character? It's a fun exercise to do even as a throw-away exercise.

In the middle of a blank piece of paper, write down your starting concept and circle it. Now, do a bunch of radiating lines from that center, and put concepts relating to your starting concepts. Circle each of those. From those circles, radiate even farther out and put more relating concepts. The "cluster" of connected ideas starting from a central concept is your finished product.

For example, I started once with "computer programmer" as my starting concept: I wanted to think about a character who was a computer programmer, because I know that world and could write about it.

The first layer had concepts like "wizard" and "relationship with computer" and "nerd" and "works long hours": each of these in a circle, connected to my central idea.

From "wizard" I got ideas like "algorithms as spells" and "mystic incantations" and "result appears like magic".

From "relationship with computer" I got "loves their computer" and "superuser" and "fast typer".

From "nerd" I got "sits too close to screen" and "wears sloppy jeans".

From "loves their computer" I radiated out even further and got "speaks to computer"

Now, the cluster doesn't really define an interesting character, its more of a stereotype. It's also a list of things to explore.

What can result in a really interesting character is negating one of the stereotypical ideas. For example, I negated the idea "loves their computer". That was a particularly rich choice, leading to questions about why the programmer would hate their computer, for how long they had hated it, and why they had become a computer programmer if they hated their computer. Perhaps the character hated their job but was afraid to leave it (the salary, the safety, the routine). Another cluster, done by a friend of mine, was about a dance teacher. The idea "supportive" was negated to lead to a vision of a dance teacher yelling at a row of dance students trying to do their best. That vision led to questions as well: why is the teacher so critical? Is the teacher bitter about something that happened?

Answering questions

If you have a character concept, such as the programmer who hates his computer or the critical dance instructor, and want to develop it further, it really helps to do this exercise.

Answer all of the questions, even if you answer incompletely or in the negative. For example, if you were trying to answer "what kind of car does he/she drive" for a knight errant, you might answer "he rides a horse and it's a chestnut stallion, 4 years old". For a little boy you might answer "he doesn't drive a car but he loves playing with his Matchboxes". Or you might answer "some kind of beat-up old compact car" instead of listing the model and year.

Be as specific as possible.

  • What is his/her name?
  • Age?
  • Height?
  • Body shape?
  • Hair colour, skin colour?
  • Job?
  • Favourite saying?
  • Typical outfit to wear?
  • Method of transportation?
  • Immediate plan?
  • Long-range goal?
  • Kind of education?
  • What kind of house/home/apartment?
  • What city/country/location?
  • Does he/she have a pet? What kind?
  • Best friend?
  • Favourite food?
  • Financial situation?
  • Hobby?
  • Skill?
  • Moral attitude?
  • Philosophical attitude?
  • Favourite book? Last-read book?
  • What is the bedroom like?
  • Spouse/mate/steady date/significant other? Why/why not?
  • Parents? Siblings? Kids?

There are many other possible questions and it's easy to make up specific questions. For the computer programmer I was developing, I asked myself what slogan he would have on a bumper sticker and what doodads would be on his office desk.

This exercise was inspired by ideas in A Passion for Narrative, by Jack Hodgins.

ctures, and especially photographs, carry with them implicit narratives, making them ideal writing prompts for generating new short story ideas. Choose one of these photograph writing prompts, or use this exercise with a class or writing group, having each student/member bring in a picture and trade with someone. Whether you do it alone or with a group, the exercise will help loosen you up and get you to explore new themes. For groups and classes, exercises like these break up the routine and build cohesion.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: 1-2 hours

Here's How:

  1. Either choose an image from this selection of photograph writing prompts, or have your students each bring in a picture and trade. With groups, have some kind of system for the trade so that students don't plan ahead. (Have everyone pass their picture to the right, for instance.)
  2. Spend ten to fifteen minutes free writing on the photograph.
  3. Choose some aspect of your free writing exercise as a starting point for a short story. The story does not necessarily have to explain the picture, so long as the picture has in some way inspired the resulting work.
  4. Share the stories (either that day or the next time the class meets, depending on how much time you have) alongside the pictures, explaining, when necessary, how the picture resulted in the work.
  5. A reader named Adam C. described how this played out for him in a creative writing class in which each student was given a different photo to write about. Adam writes, "The picture I was given portrayed an elderly couple, holding hands, looking off to the left of the camera lens. There was a large boat in the background. This prompted me to write about the couple as though they had just come from their home in Europe to join their son in America. There is a feeling of fear and isolation in the photo, and this was the best way I could think to translate it into words."
  6. If you wish to continue working on the story, you may want to refer to articles on plot, dialogue, and character as you revise.
  7. Don't worry overmuch about conforming closely to the photograph. The point of the exercise is to get you started writing -- ideally something you wouldn't have written otherwise.
  8. You can also do this exercise solo by opening a magazine at random or asking a friend to present you with an image. You can also give yourself the assignment of using an image from that day's mail. (Generally junk mail includes some images.)
  9. Don't use something you've written in the past just because it fits the picture. Use the exercise to write something entirely new.

Tips:

What You Need

  • The photographs in the link above, or another image
  • Paper
  • Pen

One of the hardest things for some writers to do is come up with story ideas. Here are some suggestions to share with your budding authors.

  1. 1.     Write a story based on a picture book.


Many books are created for young pre-readers that have no text, just pictures. The pictures provide wonderful clues for a story line. In addition, the pictures are wonderful ways for kids to practice writing descriptions.They can look at the pictures and write out detailed descriptions of what they see.

  1. 2.     Write Fan Fiction


We all know what it's like to come to the end of a favorite story. We hate to say goodbye to our favorite characters. We want to know more about their lives. But why wait for the author to keep the characters alive? Kids can think about a new situation for their favorite characters and then imagine what they might do. For example, Harry Potter fans can imagine what it might be like if Harry and his friends visited the United States on Halloween! Would they go trick-or-treating? What would happen?

  1. 3.     Play "What if?"


This idea is similar to fan fiction, but it can have wider uses. One approach is to take favorite characters and stories and imagine what would happen if some part of the story changed. For instance, what might have happened if Harry Potter had accepted Malfoy's offer of friendship in the first book? This method can be used for almost anything! What if time machines really existed? What if we could travel through black holes? What if the British had beat the colonists in America? This method can be used for every interest - science, history, anything!

  1. 4.     Check the News


Teenagers might want to look at the news and imagine the details of the stories behind the headlines.

  1. 5.     Find Sources Online


Generating ideas for stories is a popular topic among writers, so it's not too difficult to find ideas online. Here are a couple of pages with many ideas:

his story starter submitted by creative writing teacher Daisee is composed of only one line, but it's chock-full of potential: Write a story that begins and ends with the same line.

One way to approach this prompt is to freewrite for a page or so and then choose the strongest or most compelling line of prose in the freewrite for the exercise. In choosing, keep in mind that the repetition should serve some function in the story. It could be a particularly portentous line, for example, or it could be one whose meaning will be changed by the course of the story, so that the second reading will be ironic.

And if you write a story and then realize that it's better without the repeated line, that's fine, too. The main goal is to write -- to get something down on the page. Feel free to disregard the rules when it comes to revision.

To see an example of how the result might look, read Caleb A. Mertz's story "Tonight." And then post your own response to the prompt on the General Submissions page.

ho I am

I am the author of "With thoughts of Jason", "The Silhouetted Leaves" and the future "The Unexpected." Ακολουθεί η ιστορία

The story

Tonight it was the touch of him that put me to sleep. The light touch of his fingertips as they ran across my side. The smells of the room never changed, just the feelings that ran across my body.

He lay there, I am sure, looking at the back of my head. Inspecting some of the gray hairs that were coming in at my young age. I could hear him ask why I'm going gray. You. I would respond. His touch was unbroken and continued flowing up and down my spine. At first it was straight lines with skin on the stroke down, and light finger nails on the stroke up. Circles soon came into play as the trail continued down to my lower back. Goosebumps are funny. They creep up when you would never expect them. Some people say that you get them when someone steps on your future grave. I didn't want to think about graves, but I knew it was his touch that caused this reaction in my skin.

The dark room that I lay in was just that, dark. Little light was penetrating from the street lamp just outside of the window. The white sheets that I lay on barely shown. The glisten of my tears as I cried reflected the street lamp. They were so reflective that I could see his face behind me smiling. He knew I loved it when he did this. He could hardly ever bring himself patience to caress me in this special way. But that was him. I loved him.

It was only three days prior that he had never returned home from work. A cat! Can you believe it? I had always thought he would aim for it. No, this night he swerved without regards of the car next to him. I never got a chance to be there for him. I had always promised him I would be there if he ever needed me.

I failed. The last three nights I have been unable to sleep. It had been the pills on previous nights, taken one at a time. Though I took the entire bottle, tonight it was the touch of him that put me to sleep.

Tips and Tricks

Pay attention to grammar, story flow, and effect.

How to Write a Descriptive Paragraph

By Richard Nordquist, About.com Guide

Filed In:

  1. Composing Paragraphs

 

"You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear." (Sherlock Holmes in "A Scandal in Bohemia" by Arthur Conan Doyle)

Statue of Sherlock Holmes outside the Baker Street underground station in London

Look! Put simply, that's the watchword of this project and the motto of all good writers: pay attention to the details and show the reader what you mean. Specific details create word pictures that can make writing more interesting and easier to understand. In this project, you will practice organizing those specific details into an effective descriptive paragraph.

Guided by the steps below, you will begin by selecting one of your belongings and then drafting a list of details that describe it. Next, you will put these details into sentences and organize the sentences into a paragraph. Finally, you will revise the paragraph to make sure that it is unified and clearly organized.

For good examples of the finished product, see Model Descriptive Paragraphs.

1) Find and Explore a Topic

Before you can write an effective descriptive paragraph, you need to do two things:

  • find a good topic;
  • study the topic carefully (a strategy that we call probing).

For guidelines and examples, visit Discovery Strategy: Probing Your Topic.

2) Draft a Descriptive Paragraph

Once you have settled on a topic for your descriptive paragraph and collected some details, you're ready to assemble those details in a rough draft that begins with a topic sentence. You will find a common model for organizing a description at Draft a Descriptive Paragraph.

3) Revise a Descriptive Paragraph

Now you will revise your descriptive paragraph, concentrating on its organization. That is, you will check to see that your sentences follow a clear and logical order, each detail related to the one that came before and leading to the one that follows. These two exercises will give you practice in revising effectively:

4) Revise, Edit, and Proofread

Model Descriptive Paragraphs

By Richard Nordquist, About.com Guide

Filed In:

  1. Composing Paragraphs

The purpose of descriptive writing is to make our readers see, feel, and hear what we have seen, felt, and heard. Whether we're describing a person, a place, or a thing, our aim is to reveal a subject through vivid and carefully selected details.

Each of the four paragraphs below responds, in its own way, to the guidelines in How to Write a Descriptive Paragraph. The writers have selected a belonging that holds special meaning to them, identified that belonging in a clear topic sentence, and then described the subject in detail while explaining its personal significance.

 

In the following paragraph, observe how the writer moves clearly from a description of the head of the clown (in sentences two, three, and four), to the body (sentences five, six, seven, and eight), to the unicycle underneath (sentence nine). Notice also how the concluding sentence helps to tie the paragraph together by emphasizing the personal value of this gift.

1) A Friendly Clown

On one corner of my dresser sits a smiling toy clown on a tiny unicycle--a gift I received last Christmas from a close friend. The clown's short yellow hair, made of yarn, covers its ears but is parted above the eyes. The blue eyes are outlined in black with thin, dark lashes flowing from the brows. It has cherry-red cheeks, nose, and lips, and its broad grin disappears into the wide, white ruffle around its neck. The clown wears a fluffy, two-tone nylon costume. The left side of the outfit is light blue, and the right side is red. The two colors merge in a dark line that runs down the center of the small outfit. Surrounding its ankles and disguising its long black shoes are big pink bows. The white spokes on the wheels of the unicycle gather in the center and expand to the black tire so that the wheel somewhat resembles the inner half of a grapefruit. The clown and unicycle together stand about a foot high. As a cherished gift from my good friend Tran, this colorful figure greets me with a smile every time I enter my room.

 

Here is the final version of the descriptive paragraph that appears in the exercise Practice in Supporting a Topic Sentence with Specific Details. Compare this version with the earlier one to see which descriptions have been retained, what information has been omitted, and how sentences have been reworded and rearranged.

2) The Blond Guitar

by Jeremy Burden

My most valuable possession is an old, slightly warped blond guitar--the first instrument I taught myself how to play. It's nothing fancy, just a Madeira folk guitar, all scuffed and scratched and finger-printed. At the top is a bramble of copper-wound strings, each one hooked through the eye of a silver tuning key. The strings are stretched down a long, slim neck, its frets tarnished, the wood worn by years of fingers pressing chords and picking notes. The body of the Madeira is shaped like an enormous yellow pear, one that was slightly damaged in shipping. The blond wood has been chipped and gouged to gray, particularly where the pick guard fell off years ago. No, it's not a beautiful instrument, but it still lets me make music, and for that I will always treasure it.

 

In the next descriptive paragraph, the student writer focuses less on the physical appearance of her pet than on the cat's habits and actions.

3) Gregory

by Barbara Carter

Gregory is my beautiful gray Persian cat. He walks with pride and grace, performing a dance of disdain as he slowly lifts and lowers each paw with the delicacy of a ballet dancer. His pride, however, does not extend to his appearance, for he spends most of his time indoors watching television and growing fat. He enjoys TV commercials, especially those for Meow Mix and 9 Lives. His familiarity with cat food commercials has led him to reject generic brands of cat food in favor of only the most expensive brands. Gregory is as finicky about visitors as he is about what he eats, befriending some and repelling others. He may snuggle up against your ankle, begging to be petted, or he may imitate a skunk and stain your favorite trousers. Gregory does not do this to establish his territory, as many cat experts think, but to humiliate me because he is jealous of my friends. After my guests have fled, I look at the old fleabag snoozing and smiling to himself in front of the television set, and I have to forgive him for his obnoxious, but endearing, habits.

 

The following paragraph opens the third chapter of Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (Knopf, 1976), a lyrical account of a Chinese-American girl growing up in California. Notice how Kingston integrates informative and descriptive details in this account of "the metal tube" that holds her mother's diploma from medical school.

4) The Magic Metal Tube

by Maxine Hong Kingston

Once in a long while, four times so far for me, my mother brings out the metal tube that holds her medical diploma. On the tube are gold circles crossed with seven red lines each--"joy" ideographs in abstract. There are also little flowers that look like gears for a gold machine. According to the scraps of labels with Chinese and American addresses, stamps, and postmarks, the family airmailed the can from Hong Kong in 1950. It got crushed in the middle, and whoever tried to peel the labels off stopped because the red and gold paint come off too, leaving silver scratches that rust. Somebody tried to pry the end off before discovering that the tube falls apart. When I open it, the smell of China flies out, a thousand-year-old bat flying heavy-headed out of the Chinese caverns where bats are as white as dust, a smell that comes from long ago, far back in the brain.

Draft a Descriptive Paragraph

By Richard Nordquist, About.com Guide

Filed In:

  1. Composing Paragraphs

Once you have settled on a topic for your descriptive paragraph and collected some details, you're ready to assemble those details in a rough draft. Let's look at one way of organizing a descriptive paragraph.

Organizing a Descriptive Paragraph

Here's a common model for organizing a descriptive paragraph.

  • Begin the paragraph with a topic sentence that identifies your prized belonging, and briefly explain its significance to you.

 

 

  • Finally, conclude the paragraph with a sentence that emphasizes the personal value of the item.

There are various ways to organize the details in a descriptive paragraph. You may move from the top of the item to the bottom, or from the bottom to the top. You may start at the left side of the item and move right, or go from right to left. You may start with the outside of the item and move in, or go from inside to out. Choose the one pattern that seems best suited to your topic, and then stick to that pattern throughout the paragraph.

Model Descriptive Paragraph

The following paragraph, titled "My Tiny Diamond Ring," follows the basic pattern of topic sentence, supporting sentences, and conclusion:

On the third finger of my left hand is the pre-engagement ring given to me last year by my sister Doris. The 14-carat gold band, a bit tarnished by time and neglect, circles my finger and twists together at the top to encase a small white diamond. The four prongs that anchor the diamond are separated by pockets of dust. The diamond itself is tiny and dull, like a sliver of glass found on the kitchen floor after a dishwashing accident. Just below the diamond are small air holes, intended to let the diamond breathe, but now clogged with grime. The ring is neither very attractive nor valuable, but I treasure it as a gift from my older sister, a gift that I will pass along to my younger sister when I receive my own engagement ring this Christmas.

Analyzing the Model Description

Notice that the topic sentence in this paragraph not only identifies the belonging (a "pre-engagement ring") but also implies why the writer treasures it (". . . given to me last year by my sister Doris"). This kind of topic sentence is more interesting and revealing than a bare announcement, such as, "The belonging I am about to describe is my pre-engagement ring." Instead of announcing your topic in this way, focus your paragraph and gain the interest of your readers with a complete topic sentence: one that expresses an attitude or a reason as well as identifies the object you are about to describe.

Once you have introduced a topic clearly, you should stick to it, developing this idea with details in the rest of the paragraph. The writer of "My Tiny Diamond Ring" has done just that, providing specific details that describe the ring: its parts, size, color, and condition. As a result, the paragraph is unified--that is, all of the supporting sentences relate directly to one another and to the topic introduced in the first sentence.

You shouldn't be concerned if your first draft does not seem as clear or as well constructed as "My Tiny Diamond Ring" (the result of several revisions). Your aim now is to introduce your belonging in a topic sentence and then draft four or five supporting sentences that describe the item in detail. In later steps of the writing process, you can focus on sharpening and rearranging these sentences as you revise.

Practice in Revising a Place Description

By Richard Nordquist, About.com Guide

Filed In:

  1. Exercises and Quizzes

The following rough draft was composed in response to the guidelines in "How to Write a Place Description." Read the paragraph carefully, and consider some of the specific ways in which it might be improved. Then answer the questions that follow the paragraph, and compare your answers with the sample responses at the bottom of the page.

 

Augusta, Kentucky

I grew up in a poor family in a poor town. We did not have much money or many of the good things in life, but we did have one another. One year the flood wiped out our home. It fact, it wiped out all of River Street. I'll never forget the morning I saw River Street for the last time. The river was on one side of the street, and the houses were on the other. We lived in one of these houses before the flood hit. There was mud on the walls of the houses, and many windows were broken. The roofs were in terrible shape. There were many gigantic trees. Children were still playing here, and I remember hearing music. There was a bar at the end of the street and after that a lot of weeds. The whole scene was pretty desolate.

Revision Questions

  1. The paragraph does not begin with a clearly focused topic sentence. Do you think any of the opening sentences in this draft could be eliminated without confusing the reader or altering the basic sense of the paragraph?

 

  1. What particular place is the writer attempting to describe?

 

  1. What is the dominant mood or feeling that the writer is trying to evoke?

 

  1. Using your answers to questions 2 and 3, create an effective topic sentence for this paragraph.

 

  1. What are some of the items mentioned in the paragraph that you think need to be described in more detail?

 

  1. Can you suggest a more appropriate title--one that indicates more clearly what the paragraph is about?
  2. Because the writer's family isn't the main subject of the paragraph, the first two sentences can probably be eliminated. The next two sentences might be combined.
  3. The place is River Street after the flood, not the entire town of Augusta.
  4. As the last sentence states, the dominant mood is one of desolation.
  5. (Various answers are possible.)
  6. The trees, the roofs, the music, and the street itself--all could be described in more detail.
  7. The revised title should probably refer to the flood and, in particular, to River Street.

Sample Responses

 

Άσκηση

Τα επιρρήματα και τα επίθετα προσθέτουν γοητεία – για να πούμε το λιγότερο – σε μιάν ιστορία, αλλά μπορούν και να την βαρύνουν και να σε οδηγήσουν στην επιλογή αδύναμων ουσιαστικών και ρημάτων. Η άσκηση που ακολουθεί σε αναγκάζει να καταργήσεις τα επιρρήματα και τα επίθετα, αναγκάζοντάς σε να επιλέξεις τα ρήματα και τα ουσιαστικά σου με προσοχή.

ΜέσηΔυσκολία

Χρόνος: 2 ως 4 ώρεςσεδύοδόσεις

Τίκάνω:

-        Όταν γράφω το επόμενο διήγημά μου, επιλέγω να γράψω μία ή δύο φράσεις χωρίς επιρρήματα και επίθετα.  

-        Όσο γράφω, αφιερώνω χρόνο στο πώς το σωστό ρήμα ή το σωστό ουσιαστικό μπορεί να αποδώσει την ατμόσφαιρα ή το συναίσθημα που θέλω να εκφράσω στη σκηνή με την οποία ασχολούμαι.

-        Μετά από μερικές μέρες ή μιά βδομάδα ξαναδιαβάζω τις σκηνές. Σημειώνω πώς έχει αλλάξει η γραφή μου μετά από την άσκηση.

-        Προσθέτω επίθετα και επιρρήματα όπου νοιώθω πως είναι εντελώς απαραίτητα γιά το κείμενο.

-        Μπορώ να κάνω την ίδια άσκηση με κάτι που έχω ήδη γράψει, αφαιρώντας τα επίθετα και τα επιρρήματα για να δω αν έτσι ενδυναμώνεται το έργο μου.

 

Συμβουλές:

  1. Χρησιμοποιώ με άκρα οικονομία επίθετα και επιρρήματα του τύπου «λίγο», «πολύ», «φοβερά», «απίθανα», «εντυπωσιακό» κ.λ.π. Έχει ειπωθεί πως οι τετριμμένες λέξεις είναι οι βδέλλες που πίνουν το αίμα των εκφράσεις.
  2. Δέν φοβάμαι να χρησιμοποιώ επίθετα και επιρρήματα σε ένα ποσοστό. Είναι ελάχιστοι οι συγγραφείς που δέν τα χρησιμοποιούν. Αυτή η άσκηση είναι σαν την προπόνηση πριν από τον αγώνα. Τα βάρη είναι σπουδαία πριν από την κούρσα αλλά δέν τα φοράμε τη μέρα του αγώνα.
  3. 3.  «Όταν συλλαμβάνετε τα επίθετα να το σκοτώνετε.  Όχι εντελώς, αλλά σκοτώστε τα περισσότερα – έτσι τα υπόλοιπα θα είναι πολυτιμότερα. Αποδυναμώνουν όταν είναι κοντά μαζί. Δυναμώνουν όταν βρίσκονται σε απόσταση. Η συνήθεια των επιθέτων, ή μιά χύμα, φλύαρη, λουλουδάτη συνήθεια, όταν κολλήσει σε έναν άνθρωπο, φεύγει πολύ δύσκολα όπως και κάθε άλλη συνήθεια.»

Μαρκ Τουαίιν (Mark Twain)

 

Τίχρειάζομαι:

  • Χώρος και χρόνος μόνη, - ος
  • Χαρτί και μολύβι (ή Η/Υ)

 

 

Άσκησηγιάτηνοικονομία

Έχουν οι ιστορίες μας υπερβολικές λεπτομέρειες; Ορισμένες σκηνές σού φαίνεται πως σέρνονται; Σε τούτη την άσκηση εκμεταλλευόμαστε την εμπειρία των σεναριογράφων γιά να γράψουμε μιάν ιστορία που «κινείται». Πρέπει να δούμε τη σκηνή της άσκησης «οπτικά» όχι με λέξεις, να περιοριστούμε στο τώρα, να σβήσουμε κάθε άχρηστη λεπτομέρεια από το παρελθόν.  

Υψηλόςβαθμόςδυσκολίας

Χρόνος: Δύοώρες

Τρόπος:

  1. Διαλέγω μιά σκηνή από το μυθιστόρημα ή το διήγημά μου που μοιάζει να «σέρνεται».  Καταλληλότερες είναι οι σκηνές που σχεδιάσαμε να έχουν δράση.
  2.  Ξαναγράφω τη σκηνή ως θεατρικό έργο ή σενάριο. δηλαδή χρησιμοποιώ μόνον διάλογο και σύντομες περιγραφές της δράσης και των χαρακτήρων. (Δέν έχει σημασία η εξοικείωση με τις φόρμες του θεάτρου ή του σεναρίου.  Το σημαντικό εδώ είναι η «οπτική» σκέψη, η σκέψη σε εικόνες.)
  3.  Ασκώ την οικονομία. Σκέφτομαι στρατηγικά για το πώς οι ήρωές μου μπορούν να αποκαλυφθούν μέσω της δράσης και του διαλόγου. Αντί να πω στην/στον αναγνώστρια, -η πώς είναι ένας ήρωάς μου, βρίσκω τρόπους να την / τον «εικονογραφήσω» καθώς εκτυλίσσεται η ιστορία.  
  4.  Ξαναγράφω τη σκηνή σε πρόζα, αποφεύγοντας τις μακριές περιγραφές και ενσωματώνοντας μερικές από τις λεπτομέρειες που έχω προσθέσει στη φάση συγγραφής του διαλόγου.
  5. 5.  Σε λίγες μέρες επιστρέφω στο έργο μου, για να δω πώς έχει αλλάξει ο ρυθμός της δουλειάς μου.

 

Συμβουλές:

  1. Σε μερικές περιπτώσεις η «πίσω ιστορία» είναι απαραίτητη για την πλοκή. Πρέπει να κρίνουμε τί είναι εντελώς απαραίτητο και τί μπορεί να καταλάβει ση/ο αναγνώστρια, -ης  από τον διάλογο και τη δράση. Συνήθως αντιλαμβάνονται περισσότερα απ’ όσα νομίζουμε.
  2. Δέν συγχέουμε την ιστορία που προχωρά γρήγορα με την ιστορία που γράφεται για τη σκηνή ή την οθόνη. Είναι δυνατόν να γράφουμε πλούσια λογοτεχνικά έργα που έχουν και κίνηση.
  3. 3.  Είναι εύκολο να προσθέσουμε ξανά όλες τις απαραίτητες πληροφορίες αργότερα. Όταν αρχίσει η ανάδραση, θα μάς πληροφορούν οι «δοκιμαστές» μας αν κάτι δέν είναι σαφές.

ΤίΧρειάζομαι:

  1. 1.    Ένα αφήγημα που έγραψα τα τελευταία χρόνια ή πρόσφατα.
  2. 2.    Χαρτί και μολύβι ή έναν ηλεκτρονικό υπολογιστή

Are you stuck for something to write about? Maybe you're scratching your head trying to come up with a fresh idea for a personal essay--a narrative or an extended description. Or perhaps you're in the habit of keeping a journal, but today, for some reason, you can't think of a single thing to say.

Here's something that may help: a list of 50 brief writing prompts. Not full-blown essay topics, just hints, snippets, cues, and clues to prod your memory, kick the writer's block, and get you started.

Take a minute or two to look over the list. Then pick one prompt that brings to mind a particular image, experience, or idea. Start writing (or freewriting) and see where it takes you. If after a few minutes you hit a dead end, don't panic: simply return to the list and try again.

Tip: To view this list without ads, click on the print icon near the top of the page.

 

  1. Everyone else was laughing.
  2. On the other side of that door
  3. Late again
  4. What I've always wanted
  5. A sound I'd never heard before
  6. What if . . .
  7. The last time I saw him
  8. At that moment I should have left.
  9. Just a brief encounter
  10. I knew how it felt to be an outsider.

 

  1. Hidden away in the back of a drawer
  2. What I should have said
  3. Waking up in a strange room
  4. There were signs of trouble.
  5. Keeping a secret
  6. All I have left is this photo.
  7. It wasn't really stealing.
  8. A place I pass by every day
  9. Nobody can explain what happened next.
  10. Staring at my reflection

 

  1. I should have lied.
  2. Then the lights went out.
  3. Some might say it's a weakness.
  4. Not again!
  5. Where I'd go to hide out from everyone
  6. But that's not my real name.
  7. Her side of the story
  8. Nobody believed us.
  9. It was time to change schools again.
  10. We climbed to the top.

 

  1. The one thing I'll never forget
  2. Follow these rules and we'll get along fine.
  3. It may not be worth anything.
  4. Never again
  5. On the other side of the street
  6. My father used to tell me
  7. When nobody was looking
  8. If I could do it over again
  9. Of course it was illegal.
  10. It wasn't my idea.

 

  1. Everyone was staring at me.
  2. It was a stupid thing to say.
  3. Hiding under my bed
  4. If I tell you the truth
  5. My secret collection
  6. Footsteps in the dark
  7. The first cut is the deepest.
  8. Trouble, big trouble
  9. Laughing uncontrollably
  10. It was just a game to them.
  11. a waiting room
  12. a basketball, baseball glove, or tennis racket
  13. a cell phone
  14. a treasured belonging
  15. a laptop computer
  16. a favorite restaurant
  17. your dream house
  18. your ideal roommate
  19. a closet
  20. your memory of a place that you visited as a child
  21. a locker
  22. an accident scene
  23. a city bus or subway train
  24. an unusual room
  25. a child's secret hiding place
  26. a bowl of fruit
  27. an item left too long in your refrigerator
  28. backstage during a play or a concert
  29. a vase of flowers
  30. a rest room in a service station
  31. a street that leads to your home or school
  32. your favorite food
  33. the inside of a spaceship
  34. the scene at a concert or athletic event
  35. an art exhibit
  36. an ideal apartment
  37. your old neighborhood
  38. a small town cemetery
  39. a pizza
  40. a pet
  41. a photograph
  42. a hospital emergency room
  43. a particular friend or family member
  44. a painting
  45. a storefront window
  46. an inspiring view
  47. a work table
  48. a character from a book, movie, or television program
  49. a refrigerator or washing machine
  50. a Halloween costume

The Craft of Writing

 

Though you have intuited many aspects of craft through reading or even high school literature classes, as you work on stories or novels, you will learn to approach the elements of fiction as a writer, not a reader. Review the fundamental building blocks of fiction now, to have them fresh in your mind as you write -- or just know that these articles are here should you get stuck during the writing process.

Basic Plot

What You Need to Know About Plot

From Ginny Wiehardt, former About.com Guide

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If, like many people, you labor under the idea that for "real" writers, plot comes effortlessly, dismiss that illusion now. While some writers were born with a sense of how to tell a story effectively, more of them do study the elements of plot and pay serious attention to how other writers successfully construct a narrative.

Playwrights have this stuff drilled into them, but fiction writers often get away without basic instruction in what makes something dramatic. It's not magic. The elements of a good story can be studied and learned.

In fact, you've probably already studied them in your high school literature classes. It doesn't hurt to review them now, from the perspective of a writer and not a student. They may seem simple, but without them, your other skills as a writer -- your ability to imagine believable characters, your talent with dialogue, your exquisite use of language -- will come to naught.

Start, of course, with a protagonist, your main character. The protagonist must encounter a conflict -- with another character, society, nature, himself, or some combination of these things -- and undergo some kind of change as a result.

"Conflict" is also known as the "major dramatic question." Gotham Writers' Workshop puts it this way in their guide Writing Fiction: The major dramatic question "is generally a straightforward yes/no question, one that can be answered by the end of the story." What will happen to King Lear when he divides up his empire and estranges himself from his one faithful daughter? Will Elizabeth Bennet of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice get to marry for love, and will she or one of her sisters marry well enough to save the family from financial humiliation?

What sorts of changes do these conflicts bring about? Elizabeth Bennet learns the dangers of letting prejudice interfere with judgment. King Lear acquires humility and learns to recognize superficiality and sincerity. Both are wiser at the end of the story than they were at the beginning, even if this wisdom, in Lear's case, comes at a dear cost.

Elements of Plot

A story will hit various landmarks on its way from the story's beginning to the fulfillment of the dramatic question. The introduction presents the characters, the setting, and the central conflict. Involve your protagonist in that conflict as early as possible. Today's readers will generally not wade through pages of exposition to get to the point. Don't make them wonder why they're reading your story or novel. Hook them in the first page or pages.

Top 10 Questions for Creating Believable Characters

From Ginny Wiehardt, former About.com Guide

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Creating the more complex round characters takes time -- time spent thinking about how your characters look, where they're from, and what motivates them, for instance. The questions below provide structure to this all-important thought process.

While the reader will not need to know all the details, it's important that you do. The better you know your characters, the more realistic your story or novel will end up being.

1. Where does your character live?

Michael Adams ("Anniversaries in the Blood"), the novelist and writing professor, believes that setting is the most important element of any story. It's definitely true that character, if not story, in many ways grows out of a sense of place. What country does your character live in? What region? Does he live alone or with a family? In a trailer park or an estate? How did he end up living there? How does he feel about it?

2. Where is your character from?

In a similar vein, where did your character's life begin? Did she grow up running around the woods in a small Southern town, or learning to conjugate Latin verbs in a London boarding school? Obviously this influences things like the kinds of people your character knows, the words she uses to communicate with them, and the way she feels about a host of things in her external world.

3. How old is your character?

Though this might seem like an obvious question, it's important to make a clear decision about this before you begin writing -- otherwise, it's impossible to get the details right. For instance, would your character have a cell phone, a land line, or both? Does your character drink martinis or cheap beer? Still get money from his parents, or worry about what will happen to his parents as they get old?

4. What is your character called?

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? According to novelist Elinor Lipman, absolutely not: "Names have subtext and identity. If your main characters are Kaplans, you've got yourself a Jewish novel, and if your hero is Smedley Winthrop III, you've given him a trust fund. Nomenclature done right contributes to characterization." Your character's name provides a lot of information -- not only about ethnicity -- but about your character's age, background, and social class.

5. What does your character look like?

Is your character tall enough to see over the heads of a crowd at a bar or to notice the dust on the top of his girlfriend's refrigerator? Does she deal with weight issues and avoid looking at herself in the mirror? Though you need not have a crystal clear picture of your character in mind, physical details help your readers believe in the character, and help you imagine how your character moves through the world.

6. What kind of childhood did he or she have?

As with real people, many things about your character's personality will be determined by his background. Did his parents have a good marriage? Was she raised by a single mom? How your character interacts with other people -- whether he's defensive or confident, stable or rootless -- may be influenced by his past.

7. What does your character do for a living?

As with all of these questions, how much information you need depends in some part on the plot, but you'll need some idea of how your character makes money. A dancer will look at the world very differently from an accountant, for instance, and a construction worker will use very different language from either one. How they feel about a host of issues, from money to family, will be in some part dependent on their choice of careers.

8. How does your character deal with conflict and change?

Most stories involve some element of conflict and change -- they're part of what makes a story a story. Is your character passive or active? If someone confronts her, does she change the subject, head for the minibar, stalk off, or do a deep-breathing exercise? When someone insults him, is he more likely to take it, come up with a retort, or excuse himself to find someone else to talk to?

9. Who else is in your character's life?

Relationships -- how people interact with others -- reveal character. They're also excuses for dialogue, which break up exposition, offering another way of providing necessary information. Think about who will best help you convey this information, and what kinds of people would realistically be in your character's world in the first place.

10. What is your character's goal or motivation in this story or scene?

In longer stories or novels, you will have to ask this question repeatedly. Many of your character's actions will result from the intersection of what she's trying to achieve and her personality, which is composed of everything you've invented in answering the above questions. When in doubt about how your character should behave, ask yourself what your character wants from the situation, and think about the answers you've given to all of the above.

Types of Characters

What to Know About Characters as Writer and Reader

From Ginny Wiehardt, former About.com Guide

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Round character, flat character, stock character, protagonist . . . the types of characters in fiction goes on and on. What do you need to know about each one as you study literature or learn to write it? Find out with the list below.

Ready to get started working on characterization, creating your own round characters? These questions can help.

Flat Characters

Flat characters are minor characters in a work of fiction who do not undergo substantial change or growth in the course of a story. Learn more about flat characters and how they differ from round characters.

Static Characters

When people say that a character is "static," they're referring to the fact that a character doesn't change. (Sound familiar? There's a good reason for that.)

Round Characters

As a writer, your focus will be on developing your round characters. For readers, these are the characters you'll put the most effort into following and understanding.

Dynamic Characters

The opposite of static characters, dynamic characters will undergo some kind of change in the course of the story.

Stock Characters

Many people think the term "stock characters" is just another way to describe static characters, but not so. Find out why not.

Protagonists

What do protagonists have in common with round characters? And what makes the best protagonists in a work of literature? Know what to think about when you begin writing.

Antagonists

The antagonist is essential to many works of literature, but is it really just a matter of bad guy vs. good guy? These examples illustrate more complicated scenarios.

Top 8 Tips for Writing Dialogue

From Ginny Wiehardt, former About.com Guide

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Writing dialogue — realistic dialogue, anyway — does not come easily to everyone. Done well, dialogue advances the story and fleshes out the characters while providing a break from straight exposition.

However, just as realistic dialogue is one of the most powerful tools at a writer's disposal, nothing pulls the reader out of a story faster than bad dialogue. It takes time to develop a good ear, but noting these simple rules and obvious pitfalls can make a huge difference.

1. Listen to How People Talk.

Having a sense of natural speech patterns is essential to good dialogue. Start to pay attention to the expressions that people use and the music of everyday conversation. This exercise asks you to do this more formally, but generally speaking it's helpful to develop your ear by paying attention to the way people talk.

2. Not Exactly like Real Speech.

But dialogue should read like real speech. How do you accomplish that? Alfred Hitchcock said that a good story was "life, with the dull parts taken out." This very much applies to dialogue. A transcription of a conversation would be completely boring to read. Edit out the filler words and unessential dialogue — that is, the dialogue that doesn't contribute to the plot in some way.

3. Don't Provide Too Much Info at Once.

It should not be obvious to the reader that they're being fed important facts. Let the story unfold naturally. You don't have to tell the reader everything up front, and you can trust him or her to remember details from earlier in the story.

4. Break Up Dialogue with Action.

Remind your reader that your characters are physical human beings by grounding their dialogue in the physical world. Physical details also help break up the words on the page: long periods of dialogue are easier for the reader's eye when broken up by description. (And vice versa, for that matter.) See the link above for examples of how this can work.

5. Don't Overdo Dialogue Tags.

Veering too much beyond "he said/she said" only draws attention to the tags — and you want the reader's attention centered on your brilliant dialogue, not your ability to think of synonyms for "said."

6. Stereotypes, Profanity, and Slang.

Be aware of falling back on stereotypes, and use profanity and slang sparingly. All of these risk distracting or alienating your reader. Anything that takes the reader out of the fictional world you're working so hard to create is not your friend. Read some examples of how to achieve the tone you want without stereotypes, profanity, and slang.

7. Read Widely.

Pay attention to why things work or don't work. Where are you taken out of the story's action? Where did you stop believing in a character? Or, alternatively, when did the character really jump off the page, and how did dialogue help accomplish that? You can start reading like a writer with the link above, or pick up an anthology and start your own list of writers to learn from.

8. Punctuate Dialogue Correctly.

The rules for punctuating dialogue can be confusing: many writers need help getting them right in the beginning. Take some time to learn the basics. A reader should get lost in your prose — not feel lost trying to follow your dialogue.

Add Description to Your Writing

Keys for More Vivid Prose

From Ginny Wiehardt, former About.com Guide

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Evoking a three-dimensional world on the two-dimensional page is no easy task. Even professionals have to work at description. These tips will help you cultivate your powers of observation and then turn those observations into prose.

Learn to Observe the World.

As one reader, Marilyn, noted, the role of a writer has certain things in common with that of a detective: "I keep reminding myself of Sherlock Holmes's complaint to Dr. Watson," she wrote. "'You see, but you don't observe.'" This is a good starting point for thinking about description. Before you can describe something, you must be able to see it.

Be Specific.

"Vagueness is often our first impulse when we're getting things down," writes Chris Lombardi in the Gotham Writers' Workshop's Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide from New York's Acclaimed Creative Writing School. But it's specificity that gives our descriptions power. Learn how to be more specific by studying Annie Proulx's descriptions of Quoyle in the first chapter of The Shipping News.

Avoid Clichés.

Avoiding clichés is part of being specific, as we observed above, but it's worth devoting more room to them and to their opposite, truly original writing. Stephen King offers these examples of what not do to: "He ran like a madman, she was as pretty as a summer day, Bob fought like a tiger . . . don't waste my time (or anyone's) with such chestnuts. It makes you look either lazy or ignorant." However, when you discover a cliché in your work, don't beat yourself up. Just think of it as an opportunity, a flashing neon sign: "Insert brilliance here."

Ask Yourself Questions.

Ask yourself the most naïve questions possible to access the sensory cues that conjure the situation for a reader (and that in life we absorb subconsciously): What sounds evoke the scene for you? What smells? What images? What physical responses would you have to this situation? And if questions don't work for you, find some other way to visualize the scene. If you can't picture it, how will you enable your reader to do so?

Practice.

A journal is useful for this. When you have time, jot down notes about people and places you've encountered recently. Don't worry about plot, conflict, or character; just focus on description. And who knows? Your practice descriptions might come in handy later on, if you find yourself writing about the past. (For a more structured practice session, follow the link above to a description writing exercise.)

Target the Description.

In fiction, description should not only paint a picture for the reader, but also contribute to the plot and reveal something about character. Choose your details carefully. As Lombardi cautions, "There's a fine line between lush description and the kind that chokes the reader." If you fear you're in danger of crossing that line, consider which elements of your description serve the primary elements of your plot and which are gratuitous.

Point of View

How to Choose a Point of View

From Ginny Wiehardt, former About.com Guide

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Point of view is the perspective from which a story is told. We may choose to tell our story in

As a writer, you must think strategically to choose the point of view that will allow you to most effectively develop your characters and tell your story.

First Person Point of View

First person limits the reader to one character's perspective. With a book such as On the Road, for instance, the first person point of view puts us right there in the car with Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty; we follow Sal's every exhilarating thought as they careen across the country. First person feels more personal.

What about unreliable narrators and first person? See an example of unreliable narrator from Chang-rae Lee's A Gesture Life.

 

Third Person Point of View

 

Though first person can be powerful, as the examples above illustrate, third person is actually the more versatile point of view. Third person allows you to create a much richer, more complicated universe. A book such as Anna Karenina, for example, could only have been written in third person. One reader, Wendy, put it this way: "When I write in first person, I tend to make the story more personal to me, which can limit how far I will go with a character. Third person isn't as much about me, and I can be much freer with the plot."

Try a New Point of View

Nevertheless, beginning writers tend to fall back on first person, either because it's easier or because they are indeed writing about themselves. Even if your story is autobiographical, consider trying third person. Doing this will actually help you to view your story more dispassionately and therefore allow you to tell it more effectively. It might also show you directions for the story you haven't considered before.

At first, it may be easiest to use third person limited, which still adheres closely to one person's point of view. As your plots become more complicated, you may find you need more than one point of view to tell your story and begin to use omniscient.

If you keep hitting a wall in a story or novel, consider switching point of view. For most people, this will involve going from first person to third. Beginning writers may groan at the idea of rewriting an entire story, but for professional writers, such experimentation is par for the course. If it's your first time to consider such a switch, this point-of-view exercise will lead you through it. You might also read a discussion on point of view from a blog post. In it, a number of writers share what's worked for them regarding point of view.

How To Start Writing in the Third Person

From Ginny Wiehardt, former About.com Guide

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Though it's easy to fall into the habit of always writing in the first person, it's crucial to be able to use third person as well. Both first person and third person have their strengths and weaknesses; what works for one story may not work for another. This exercise will help you observe the effect of writing in the third person point of view to add this tool to your toolbox. It might also show you directions for the story you hadn't considered before.

For more on point of view, "How to Choose a Point of View" will help you think strategically about your choices.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: 1 hour

Here's How:

  1. Choose a particularly compelling -- or problematic -- scene from a piece of prose you have recently written in the first person.
  2. Rewrite the piece from the third person point of view. Take your time. It may require some strategizing to pull off the transformation. You'll also have to consider whether or not you want to use third person omniscient or limited. In moving from first to third, it might be easiest to try third person limited first.
  3. Notice how the change in point of view changes the voice and the mood of the story. What freedom do you have with this narrator that you did not have before? Likewise, are there any limitations in using this point of view?
  4. Make a list of three or four advantages of the new point of view: ways the new voice helps develop plot and/or character.
  5. Make a list of the limitations of the third person point of view with regard to this particular piece. Is it the most effective way of telling this story? Were there ways in which it was harder to develop your central character with third person? Did it force you to use other techniques in revealing your character? Was the voice stronger or weaker? If weaker, was the trade-off worthwhile?
  6. If the new point of view works well with this scene, consider changing the point of view for the entire piece. Otherwise, return to your original.
  7. Even if changing to the third person point of view has not improved this particular piece, remain open to it in future work. Use the lessons learned in this exercise to evalaute point of view in all the fiction you write.
  8. Lorrie Moore has a good explanation for how she chooses POV: "There are times when the first person is necessary for observing others (not the protagonist) in a voice that simultaneously creates a character (usually the protagonist); then there are times when the third person is necessary for observing the protagonist in a voice that is not the character’s but the story’s."
  9. Want to practice other aspects of craft and technique? Find more craft exercises here.

Tips:

What You Need

  • Scene from a recent story or novel.
  • Computer or paper and pen.
  • Quiet place to work.

How To Employ All Five Senses in Creating Your Setting

From Ginny Wiehardt, former About.com Guide

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Many writers swear that setting is the most important element of any fictional work. Whether or not you agree, you will want to spend some time considering your story's setting -- if you haven't already -- before you begin to write.

It's especially important to use specific details, especially those that don't immediately spring to mind when people think of a place. You don't need a lot, just the right ones. Through this exercise, devote some time reflecting on your story's setting and conjuring the details to make your setting vivid for your readers.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 30 minutes - 1 hour

Here's How:

  1. You might begin by reading part or all of a work with a strong setting. This can be a poem, such as Naomi Shihab Nye's "San Antonio" or an Elizabeth Bishop poem such as "At the Fishhouses" or a short story. Faulkner, Willa Cather, Jack London, and Katherine Mansfield are all writers known for their settings, for how the sense of place infuses their work. What in particular made you believe in this place and in the writer's knowledge of it? How did they make the place concrete?
  2. Now take some time to think about your story's particular setting. If this is a place you have been, you might look at old photographs, maps, or diary entries. If you have not been there, check out some books or look online.
  3. Start with sight, which is for many of us the most immediate sense. Write down every image that comes to mind, whether it pertains to your story or not. Free associate. It doesn't have to make sense or be grammatical. Just get down as much as you can.
  4. Repeat the above for taste, smell, sound, and touch. Again, don't be afraid of unconventional answers. You never know what might end up in your final story.
  5. Finally, in one line sum up the mood you hope to evoke in your readers through your setting. Is it a feeling of loneliness, menace, nostalgia, contentment?

Look at the lists you've compiled. Which elements will contribute to this dominate mood? Which elements will complicate that mood? Which will distract from it?

Tips:

  1. This exercise can also work for imaginary settings. In fact, for science fiction and fantasy, it's even more important.

What You Need

  • Paper
  • Pen
  • Books, photos, maps, letters, diary entries, or other memory-jogging artifacts

Figurative Language Overview

Review Types of Figurative Language

From Ginny Wiehardt, former About.com Guide

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Figurative language is a word or phrase that departs from everyday literal language for the sake of comparison, emphasis, clarity, or freshness. Review your knowledge of these forms of figurative language so that you can employ them more effectively in your prose.

1. Metaphor

Metaphors, comparisons of two things that do not use "like" or "as," can be highly effective tools, so it's worthwhile boning up on them. Study examples of metaphor in everyday speech and in literature, learn about the dangers of mixed metaphors, and create your own metaphors.

2. Simile

Similes function much as metaphors do, but using "like" or "as." Find more examples from literature of this form of figurative language here.

3. Synecdoche

If you've ever called a businessman a "suit," called someone's car a "set of wheels," or referred to a "hired hand," you've used synecdoche.

4. Hyperpole

Anytime you exaggerate or overstate a situation, you're employing hyperbole. Read an example from a writer who used this type of figure of speech to vivid and comic effect.

5. Puns

From Shakespeare to knock-knock jokes, our literature depends heavily on this figure of speech, which Samuel Johnson called the lowest form of humor. Do you agree? Some punny examples will help you decide.

6. Personification

What does an "Ode to a Grecian Urn" have in common with Because of Winn-Dixie? Read on.

Figurative Language Overview

Review Types of Figurative Language

From Ginny Wiehardt, former About.com Guide

See More About:

Figurative language is a word or phrase that departs from everyday literal language for the sake of comparison, emphasis, clarity, or freshness. Review your knowledge of these forms of figurative language so that you can employ them more effectively in your prose.

1. Metaphor

Metaphors, comparisons of two things that do not use "like" or "as," can be highly effective tools, so it's worthwhile boning up on them. Study examples of metaphor in everyday speech and in literature, learn about the dangers of mixed metaphors, and create your own metaphors.

2. Simile

Similes function much as metaphors do, but using "like" or "as." Find more examples from literature of this form of figurative language here.

3. Synecdoche

If you've ever called a businessman a "suit," called someone's car a "set of wheels," or referred to a "hired hand," you've used synecdoche.

4. Hyperpole

Anytime you exaggerate or overstate a situation, you're employing hyperbole. Read an example from a writer who used this type of figure of speech to vivid and comic effect.

5. Puns

From Shakespeare to knock-knock jokes, our literature depends heavily on this figure of speech, which Samuel Johnson called the lowest form of humor. Do you agree? Some punny examples will help you decide.

6. Personification

What does an "Ode to a Grecian Urn" have in common with Because of Winn-Dixie? Read on.

Create Your Own Metaphors

(And a Few Similes for Good Measure)

From Ginny Wiehardt, former About.com Guide

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I've been consistently surprised at the effect of this exercise, adapted from one by Linnea Johnson in the excellent book The Practice of Poetry (edited by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell), on both my students' writing and my own. Though actually for poets, it's helpful for anyone who wants to focus on figurative language. Even if none of these exact metaphors and similes show up in your writing, your brain will be more likely to come up with them naturally having warmed up with the exercise.

Feel free to consult these examples of metaphor before doing the exercise.

Finish each phrase with whatever metaphor or simile comes immediately to mind.

To really get the most of the exercise, don't worry about coming up with something good, just write. The whole idea is to get your subconscious to make connections in a new, more creative way.

1.     Blue paint spilled on the road like___________________________.

2.     Canceled checks in the abandoned subway car

seemed___________________________.

3.     A spider under the rug is like___________________________.

4.     Graffiti on the abandoned building like___________________________.

5.     Nothing was the same, now that it was___________________________.

6.     The dice rolled out of the cup toward Veronica

like___________________________.

7.     A child in _________________ is like a _______________ in

_____________________.

8.     _________________is like muscles stretched taut over bone.

9.     The fog plumed through gunshot holes in the car windows like ___________________________.

10.                       She held her life in her own hands as if it were___________________________.

11.                       Lacey poured coffee down her throat as if ___________________________.

12.                       If I should wake before I die,___________________________.

13.                       The security guard walks the lobby as if___________________________.

14.                       The library books left in the rain like___________________________.

15.                       Music in the hallway like___________________________.

How to Write a Short Story

Short Story Rules to (Mostly) Live By

From Ginny Wiehardt, former About.com Guide

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In setting out to write a short story, it doesn't hurt to know that the short story is a fairly young form, dating back only to Nathaniel Hawthorne and his 1837 book Twice-told Tales. For Edgar Allan Poe, who called them "prose tales," the fact that short stories could be read in a single sitting was key to the form. It allowed the reader to have an uninterrupted experience of the fictional world.

As a recent genre, the short story has few formal elements that are not shared with the novel. The challenge for the short-story writer lies in developing the major elements of fiction — character, plot, theme, point of view, etc. — in about ten to twenty-five pages. (The cut-off for most journals is 10,000 words.) To meet this challenge, short-story writers generally follow, consciously or unconsciously, a pretty standard list of rules:

1.     Use few characters and stick to one point of view.

You simply will not have room for more than one or two round characters. Find economical ways to characterize your protagonist, and describe minor characters briefly.

Having only one or two protagonists naturally limits your opportunities to switch perspectives. Even if you're tempted to try it, you will have trouble fully realizing, in a balanced way, more than one point of view. (Click here for information on choosing a point of view.)

2.     Limit the time frame when you write a short story.

Though some short-story writers do jump around in time, your story has the biggest chance of success if you limit the time frame as much as possible. It's unrealistic to cover years of a character's life in twenty-five pages. (Even a month might be a challenge.) By limiting the time period, you allow more focus on the events that are included in the narrative.

3.     Be selective.

As with poetry, the short story requires discipline and editing. Every line should either build character or advance the action. If it doesn't do one of these two things, it has to go. William Faulkner was right to advise writers to kill their darlings. This advice is especially important for short-story writers.

4.     Follow conventional story structure.

The standard rules of narrative we all learned in our high school literature classes apply to writers as well. Though you may not have room to hit every element of traditional plot structure, know that a story is roughly composed of exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, and denouement. However much you experiment with form, something has to happen in the story (or at least the reader has to feel as though something has happened). Things like conflict and resolution achieve this effect. Storytelling may seem magical, but the building blocks are actually very concrete.

As with any type of writing, the beginning and the end are the most important parts. Make sure your first and last lines are the strongest in the story.

5.     Know when to break the rules.

As with all rules, these are made to be broken. Alexander Steele points out in his introduction to the Gotham Writers' Workshop's Fiction Gallery that the short story lends itself to experimentation precisely because it is short: structural experiments that couldn't be sustained for three hundred pages can work beautifully for fifteen. And today, the lines between genres such as the short story and the poem are blurred in exciting ways.

Keep in mind, however, that telling your story is still the most important thing. If breaking a rule allows you to tell your story more effectively, by all means, break it. Otherwise, think twice, or at least be honest with yourself if the innovation fails.

Following these rules should help you complete your stories successfully. If you find that your story overflows these boundaries no matter what you do, consider expanding it into a novel. The short story isn't for every story — or for every writer. For more on this, see Six Signs Your Short Story Wants to Be a Novel.

Parts of a Short Story

By Grace Fleming, About.com Guide

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The first question many students may ask when setting out to write a short story is how long is a short story supposed to be? Short stories have a fairly broad range of lengths, between 1,000 and 7,500 words.

If you are writing for a class or publication, your teacher or editor may give you specific page requirements. If you double space, 1000 words in 12-point font covers between three and four pages.

However, it is important not to limit yourself to any page limits or goals in the initial drafts. You should write until you get the basic outline of your story intact and then you can always go back and adjust the story to fit any set length requirements you have.

The toughest part of writing short fiction is condensing all the same elements necessary for a full length novel into a smaller space. You still need to define plot, character development, tension, climax and the falling action.

Short Story Point of View

One of the first things you want to think about is what point of view would work best for your story. If your story centers on one character's personal journey, first person will allow you to show the main character's thoughts and feelings without having to spend too much time demonstrating them through action.

Third person, the most common, can allow you to tell the story as an outsider. A third person omniscient point of view gives the writer access to the knowledge of all the characters' thoughts and motives, time, events, and experiences.

Third person limited has full knowledge of only one character and any events tied to him.

Short Story Setting

The opening paragraphs of a short story should quickly depict the setting of the story. The reader should know when and where the story is taking place. Is it present day? The future? What time of year is it?

The social setting is also important to determine. Are the characters all wealthy? Are they all women?

When describing the setting, think of the opening of a movie. The opening scenes often span across a city or countryside then focus in on a point involving the first scenes of action.

You could also this same descriptive tactic. For example, if your story begins with a person standing in a large crowd, describe the area, then the crowd, maybe the weather, the atmosphere (excited, scary, tense) and then bring the focus into the individual.

Short Story Conflict

Once you develop the setting you must introduce the conflict or the rising action. The conflict is the problem or challenge that the main character faces. The issue itself is important, but the tension created is what creates reader involvement.

The tension in a story is one of the most important aspects; it's what keeps the reader interested and wanting to know what will happen next.

To simply write, "Joe had to decide whether to go on his business trip or stay home for his wife's birthday," lets the reader know there is a choice with consequences but does not elicit much reader reaction.

To create tension you could describe the internal struggle Joe is having, maybe he'll lose his job if he doesn't go, but his wife is really looking forward to spending time with him on this particular birthday. Write the tension that Joe is experiencing in his head.

Short Story Climax

Next should come the climax of the story. This will be the turning point where a decision is made or change occurs. The reader should know the outcome of the conflict and understand all the events leading up to the climax.

Be sure to time your climax so that it doesn't happen too late or too soon. If done too soon, the reader will either not recognize it as the climax or expect another twist. If done too late the reader might get bored before it happens.

The last part of your story should resolve any questions left after the climactic events take place. This could be an opportunity to see where the characters end up sometime after the turning point or how they deal with the changes that have occurred in and/or around themselves.

Once you get your story drafted into a semi-final form, try letting a peer read it and give you some feedback. You will most likely find that you became so involved in your story that you omitted some details.

Don't be afraid to take a little creative criticism. It will only make your work stronger.

Writing Story Dialogue

By Grace Fleming, About.com Guide

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Writing verbal conversations or dialogue is often one of the trickiest parts of creative writing. New writers often go into a story thinking it should be easy; after all, we all hold conversations several times a day!

What new story writers quickly realize is that crafting a relevant dialogue within the context of a story requires much more work than carrying out natural conversation.

Dialogue isn't just about creating direct quotations from different characters. Sometimes dialogue is best when it's put into a summarized form, rather than the drawn-out form of an actual conversation.

If you think about it, our conversations are boring to read, for the most part. A normal exchange would go something like this:

"Hi Tony," said Katy.
"Hey," Tony answered.
"What's wrong?" Katy asked.
"Nothing," Tony said.
"Really? You don't act like nothing's wrong."

Pretty tiresome dialogue, right? But by condensing a conversation within the narrative, the writer can convey relevant information that isn't important enough to merit its own dialogue segment. You might think of dialogue as feelings that are verbalized in an abbreviated way.

Instead of writing a dialogue like the one above, a writer could condense the scene:

"Hi Tony."
Tony looked down at his shoe, dug in his toe, and pushed around a pile of dust. "Hey," he replied.
Katy could tell something was wrong.

There are several important things to remember when writing conversations like the examples above, which are called direct dialogue:

  • Do not use dialogue simply to convey information. Dialogue should set the scene, advance action, give insight into characterization, remind the reader, and foreshadow. Dialogue should always be doing many things at once.

 

  • Keep the character's voice in mind but keep it readable. Dialogue doesn't have to be grammatically correct; it should read like actual speech. However, there must be a balance between realistic speech and readability.

 

  • Don't use too much slang or misspelling in order to create a character's voice. Also remember to use speech as a characterization tool. Word choice tells a reader a lot about a person: appearance, ethnicity, sexuality, background, and morality.

 

  • Tension! Sometimes saying nothing, or the opposite of what we know a character feels, is the best way to create tension. If a character wants to say 'I love you!" but their actions or words say 'I don't care,' the reader cringes at the missed opportunity.

Using Thoughts in Dialogue

Using thoughts or memories of occurrences and conversations can also show important details of a story without unnecessary character interaction. This indirect dialogue is another way of creating the feel of exchange without quotations. This often takes place internally in one of the characters.

"Hi Tony."
Tony looked down at his shoe, dug in his toe, and pushed around a pile of dust. "Hey," he replied.
Katy braced herself. Something was wrong.

It is important to keep in mind when writing thoughts not to use quotations. If you must write a direct thought, always italicize what is being "said" within the character's mind.

Formatting Short Story Dialogue

Format and style are key to successful dialogue. Correct tags, punctuation, and paragraphs can be almost as important as the actual quotations themselves.

The first thing to remember is that punctuation goes inside quotations.

  • "I can't believe you just did that!"

Dialogue tags are the he said/she said's of quotations. Very often they are mistakenly used as forms of description. For example:

  • "But I don't want to go to sleep yet," he whined.

While these types of tags are acceptable and even necessary at times, they should only be used sparingly. The dialogue and narration should be used to show the emotion or action stated in the tag. One of the most important rules of writing fiction is: show, don't tell.

Instead of telling the reader that the boy whined in the example above, a good writer will describe the scene in a way that conjures the image of a whining little boy:

  • He stood in the doorway with his hands balled into little fists at his sides. His red, tear-rimmed eyes glared up at his mother. "But I don't want to go to sleep yet."

Paragraphs are very important to the flow and comprehension of the dialogue. Remember to start a new paragraph each time the speaker changes within the dialogue. This helps the reader know when someone new is speaking (and who it is).

If there is action involved with a speaking character, keep the description of the action within the same paragraph as the dialogue of the character engaged in it.

Creative writing is one of the few activities where hearing voices is not only a good thing, it is a necessity. If you find yourself having difficulty coming up with new voices for your characters, there are a few things you can do to help develop the voices in your head.

  • Start a dialogue diary. Practice speech patterns and vocabulary that may be foreign to your normal habits. This will give you the opportunity to really get to know your characters.

 

  • Eavesdrop. You should always carry a small notebook with you and write down phrases, words, or whole conversations verbatim to help develop your inner ear.

 

  • Read! Reading will hone your creative abilities. It will help familiarize you with the form and flow of narration and dialogue until it becomes more natural in your writing.

As with anything, practice makes perfect. Not even the best writers get it right the first time. Start off writing in your dialogue diary and once you get to drafting, it will be a matter of molding your words into the feel and message that you intend.

Related Articles

How to Write Fiction

Get Started Here

From Ginny Wiehardt, former About.com Guide

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Anyone who says writing can't be taught is speaking nonsense: inspiration can't be taught, but writing certainly can. It's a skill, no different from, say, cooking. Some people have a greater appreciation for food, a natural sense for how different tastes work together. But they're not the only ones capable of whipping up a tasty meal. It's exactly the same with wanting to write. Almost anyone can learn how to put words on the page in a clear, intelligent manner -- they can even do so in a way that tells a story. If your goal is to write a story, or to learn to write better, these articles will help.

Freewriting.

Freewriting is one of the easiest ways to dive into writing, and it's a technique even experienced writers use when they're blocked. (Many people feel comfortable writing without much structure, but if you're not one of those people, then start with a writing exercise or prompt.) The best part about freewriting is that there is no wrong answer: anything you get down is A-OK.

Write Short Stories.

If you're feeling hesitant about how to structure your story, or you have pages of prose you'd like to shape into fiction, start by reviewing these basic rules. Don't be put off if writing a story doesn't seem simple. With a short story, a lot has to happen in relatively few pages. Some people are better at longer forms, but it's helpful in thinking about plot to start small.

Plot 101.

Now that you have an overview of the short story, drill down into each of the elements, starting with plot. Plot is what separates a freewriting exercise from a short story. No matter how great your characters or your setting, a story won't be successful if the plot isn't sound.

Characters.

That said, at least one character should be well-developed. Someone in the story must take action, and that action will only be believable if the character seems real to the reader. This exercise will help you develop the characters in your story.

Setting.

Some people believe that setting is the most important element of a story, that it drives everything else. If you're just starting to write, this may be a bit abstract, but take it as a fact: the setting counts. Work on your setting here.

Point of View.

Once you have your plot, characters, and setting, you must decide how to tell the story: first person or third person? Third person limited or omniscient? This article helps you think strategically about point of view, either before you start to write or between revisions.

Dialogue.

When you strive to "show and not tell," dialogue will almost certainly come into play. But as you've probably noticed in your reading, it's really easy to get it wrong. Find out how to get it right.

Writing Style.

Getting your story down may not be the challenge for you: you may have concerns about the way you're telling your stories. For the most part, style develops naturally, with years of reading and writing. However, there are elements of style to keep in mind, a baseline, if you will. Keep these rules in mind as you learn to write.

Books on Writing.

Continue your writing education with these books, classics in the genre. While you don't want your study of writing to keep you from the actual practice of writing, there is much to be learned from others' experiences. Books are a great alternative if you aren't quite ready

Strong Beginnings for Student Stories

How to Get Stories Started with a Bang!

By Beth Lewis, About.com Guide

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To avoid boring beginnings, I teach my third graders that there are three effective ways to start a story - introductory techniques that beg the reader to read more. Here are the three basic recipes for an inventive and impactful story starter:

  • Dialogue - The writer begins with a character speaking about something exciting and relevant to the plot. For example, "Mom, can we please go to the beach today?" I begged with my puppy-dog eyes.
  • Sound Effects - Drag readers right into the feelings and sounds of the action. As in: Splash! went the cool ocean water as I dashed into the coming waves."
  • Action - Describe an unbelieveable or high-energy event that makes the reader want to see what happens next. Like this: I jumped out of the car and grabbed my boogie board, unable to wait any longer to get to the sand!

Through modeling and practice, my third graders have learned to power-up their writing so that it packs more punch from the opening lines. It's amazing how much more energized I am to read my students' stories after teaching this simple way to improve writing. Give it a try and see how it works for you!

Biography Poems Lesson Plan

Telling Each Student's Biography In A Poetic Manner

By Beth Lewis, About.com Guide

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Sample Biography Poem

Biography Poems are a fun and easy way to ease your elementary students into poetry. This activity is especially great for the first few days of school.

Here is the format of a Biography Poem:

Biography Poem

Line 1 - First name only
Line 2 - Four adjectives that describe yourself
Line 3 - Brother/Sister or Son/Daughter of…
Line 4 - Lover of… (3 people, places, or things)
Line 5 - Who feels (3 things)
Line 6 - Who needs (3 things)
Line 7 - Who gives (3 things)
Line 8 - Who fears (3 things)
Line 9 - Who would like to (3 things)
Line 10 - Resident of (your city and state)
Line 11 - Last name only

Sample Biography Poem

Your Students Can Tell Their Stories in a Concise and Playful Way

By Beth Lewis, About.com Guide

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During the Biography Poems lesson plan it's helpful to show your students an example of your own Biography poem. For guidance, here is my own example:

Beth
Kind, funny, hard-working, loving
Sister of Amy
Lover of Computers, Friends, and Harry Potter books
Who feels excited on the first day of school, sad when she watches the news, and happy to open a new book
Who needs people, books, and computers
Who gives help to students, smiles to her husband, and letters to family and friends
Who fears war, hunger, and bad days
Who would like to visit the pyramids in Egypt, teach the world’s greatest third graders, and read on the beach in Hawaii
Resident of California
Lewis

Someday Poems

A Quick and Easy Poetry Lesson Plan For Young Creative Writers

By Beth Lewis, About.com Guide

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Using a set structure for poems is an effective way to offer poetry "training wheels" to your young students. Budding poets will enjoy expressing their creativity through the structure you offer them.

"Someday Poems" work well because everybody has dreams and can find a unique voice for expressing hopes for the future.

Teach your students to be very specific and use concrete details to create a vivid picture for their readers. Model with your own "Someday Poems" and share brainstorming techniques to help them come up with ideas.

Here is an example of an effective "Someday Poem" that one of my students wrote:

Someday

Someday I will communicate with dolphins and sharks. I will dive into the blue pool and make echo noises.

Someday I will own a giant walk-in closet full of blue jeans and cool shirts, but no dresses! I will choose my own outfits every day of the week.

Someday I will spend all day shopping at the mall with all of my friends. I'll have my own magic credit card and buy presents for everyone I know.

Someday I will own Sea World and visit every day to feed the animals. I will let everyone who comes early get in for free.

Someday Poems

A Quick and Easy Poetry Lesson Plan For Young Creative Writers

By Beth Lewis, About.com Guide

See More About:

Using a set structure for poems is an effective way to offer poetry "training wheels" to your young students. Budding poets will enjoy expressing their creativity through the structure you offer them.

"Someday Poems" work well because everybody has dreams and can find a unique voice for expressing hopes for the future.

Teach your students to be very specific and use concrete details to create a vivid picture for their readers. Model with your own "Someday Poems" and share brainstorming techniques to help them come up with ideas.

Here is an example of an effective "Someday Poem" that one of my students wrote:

Someday

Someday I will communicate with dolphins and sharks. I will dive into the blue pool and make echo noises.

Someday I will own a giant walk-in closet full of blue jeans and cool shirts, but no dresses! I will choose my own outfits every day of the week.

Someday I will spend all day shopping at the mall with all of my friends. I'll have my own magic credit card and buy presents for everyone I know.

Someday I will own Sea World and visit every day to feed the animals. I will let everyone who comes early get in for free.

Your Mother Creative Writing Prompt

From Ginny Wiehardt, former About.com Guide

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One of my fiction writing teachers used this prompt with good results. Start by freewriting, beginning with the words "Your mother." You can go any direction you want, so long as those are the first two words. Try your best to write a story, or the beginnings of one. And don't be afraid to start over. (Hint: the best responses in our class came from the people who didn't actually write about mothers.)

Creating an Idea Box

Using an Idea Box to Generate Short Story Ideas

From Ginny Wiehardt, former About.com Guide

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James Scott Bell, in his book, Plot and Structure, advises writers to "come up with hundreds of ideas, toss out the ones that don't grab you, and then nurture and develop what's left."

Creating an idea box for all these ideas, or even just a notebook, will help you save the things that spark your imagination for times when you suffer from writer's block.

Writers are by nature magpies. Don't feel bad about taking things from life. Scribble down whatever inspires you and store it away. Accumulate as many ideas as possible, both as you go about your daily life and through creative writing exercises. Then, when you're stuck, you'll always have a place to turn.

Want to get started today? There are a number of exercises that will get the short story ideas rolling:

How To Use the Dictionary to Discover New Writing Prompts

From Ginny Wiehardt, former About.com Guide

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Sometimes new words can suggest entirely new directions for your writing. Let chance lead you to words -- and then to themes and stories -- you might not have come to on your own.

Time Required: at least 30 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Open the dictionary up to a random page. With your eyes closed or averted, point to a random place on the page.
  2. Open your eyes and write that word down at the top of a piece of paper.
  3. Repeat the above steps two more times, so that you have three words at the top of your piece of paper.
  4. Using a timer, freewrite for 15 minutes, being sure to incorporate each of your three words into the piece. Try not to judge or edit your writing: just keep the pen moving.
  5. When the timer rings, stop writing. Evaluate what you have written. Note if the words have generated a theme or idea that you might not have written about otherwise.
  6. Revise this piece or a portion of it into a story, a prose poem, or a poem. If nothing strikes you, feel free to discard it and try again. Your first attempt may just be a warm-up exercise.
  7. Want to see this writing prompt in action? Reader James B. sent in his response to the work. His sample will show you one way to approach the writing exercise.
  8. Try another creative writing prompt.
  9. Write for the entire time, even if you feel stuck or frustrated. It takes some time just to warm up. On the other hand, if 15 minutes isn't enough time, give yourself more.
  10. If the words you've found don't lead to anything that inspires you, don't beat yourself up. The idea is to get you writing. You've already succeeded simply by writing for the full 15 minutes.
  11. You can also try this exercise with different books. Any book will do, but books that typically contain words, phrases, or themes very different from your own writing may have the best effect.
  12. Feel free to adapt or disregard any of the steps or rules. The most important thing is to spend time focusing on language and to write something new. Follow the rules only if they help you do the exercise. (Check out the writing sample to see a more flexible approach.)

Tips:

What You Need

  • Dictionary or other book
  • Paper
  • Pen or pencil.
  • Timer

 

Ασκήσεις Γραφής: Διάλογοι

  1. Μερικοί από τους κινδύνους που πρέπει να αποφύγουμε είναι οι ακόλουθοι:
  2. Στεγνή Γλώσσα:  ο διάλογος που δέν μοιάζει με τον φυσικό λόγο.
  3. Το  Παραγέμισμα:  ο διάλογος που δέν προωθεί τη δράση και δέν βαθαίνει την κατανόηση των χαρακτήρων
  4. Υπερέκθεση:  ο διάλογος που βάζει τον ήρωα/ την ηρωίδα να εξηγεί την πλοκή ή να επαναλαμβάνει πληροφορίες
  5. Κατονομάζοντας:  οι αληθινοί άνθρωποι δέν επαναλαμβάνουν σχεδόν ποτέ τα ονόματα των συνομιλητών τους, εκτός και αν είναι πλασιέ ή αν προσπαθούν να διαφημίσουν κάτι.
  6. 6.     Υπερβολική Χρήση Χαρακτηρισμών:  Δέν χρειάζεται να λέμε συνεχώς λέξεις όπως «φώναξε», «υπονόησε», «ψιθύρισε», «τραύλισε» και μερικά εκατομμύρια τέτοιες. Είναι χρήσιμες μερικές φορές αλλά συχνότερα είναι ενοχλητικά δεκανίκια.

 

 

 

 

 

 Μιά από τις πιό σημαντικές δεξιότητες της συγγραφής είναι η σύνθεση πιστευτών διαλόγων. Είναι όμως μιά δεξιότητα που μπορούμε να μάθουμε.

Για παράδειγμα  αποφασίζουμε να γράψουμε την ιστορία ή το σενάριο που αφορά μιά νεαρή πόρνη από τριτοκοσμική χώρα και μιά δικηγόρο που εργάζεται σε μεγάλο δικηγορικό γραφείο: είναι δύο άνθρωποι που προέρχονται από πολύ διαφορετικά περιβάλλοντα. Το πρώτο πράγμα που ρωτάμε είναι:  πώς μιλά μιά νεαρή, πιθανώς αφρικανή, πόρνη; Σπασμένα ελληνικά; Τη διάλεκτο του δρόμου; Ίσως πρέπει να ανατρέξουμε σε βιβλία και σε ζωντανούς ανθρώπους. Ευτυχώς δέν θα δυσκολευτούμε σ’ αυτό.

    Ένα πράγμα που μπορούμε και πρέπει να κάνουμε είναι να προσέχουμε τις προφορές και τις λεκτικές διαφορές στον δρόμο. Η τηλεόραση, ιδίως τα ντοκυμαντέρ,  μπορούν να μάς βοηθήσουν. Επίσης να μήν ξεχνάμε πως η ελληνική κοινωνία είναι πια πολυπολιτισμική, αλλά κα πως δέν έχουν εξαφανιστεί οι τοπικές διαφορές και τα ιδιώματα. Και εδώ θα μάς βοηθήσουν τα βιβλιοπωλεία, ιδίως τα μικρά, και οι άνθρωποι στον δρόμο: μπορούμε να μελετάμε συνεχώς τον τονισμό και τις κλίμακες του λόγου που ακούμε. Εκεί θα βρούμε τον λόγο της νεαρής πόρνης του παραδείγματος και της πετυχημένης δικηγόρου. Ακόμα, θα αναρωτηθούμε από πού προέρχεται η καθεμιά τους:  η κοπελίτσα τό έσκασε από το σπίτι της; Την οδήγησαν εδώ εκβιαστικά κάποιοι δουλέμποροι; Έχει πάει σχολείο; Όταν απαντήσουμε σε όλες τις ερωτήσεις, μπορεί πιά ο χαρακτήρας της να βγει από μέσα μας. Και ο διάλογος θα γίνει ζωντανός. Δέν είναι ανάγκη να βάλουμε όλες τις καινούριες εκφράσεις που μάθαμε, γιατί θα φανεί επιτηδευμένος ή εξωτικός. Σιγά σιγά αναπτύσσεται ένα «ένστικτο» για το πόσο και ποιό είναι το σωστό που θα κάνει την ηρωίδα ή τον ήρωά μας πιστευτό και αυτόνομο.

   Βαθμιαία, και με την άσκηση, μαθαίνουμε να αποδίδουμε στους ήρωές μας τον δικό τους ήχο και τις δικές του πράξεις: μιλά με σύντομες φράσεις; Φλυαρεί; Τί μόρφωση έχει;  Ο λόγος του είναι γραμματικά σωστός; Ίσως τα πρόσωπά μας να μήν είναι πειστικά αν χρησιμοποιούν απολύτως σωστή γραμματική και μεγάλες, δύσκολες λέξεις και φράσεις. Ορισμένοι άνθρωποι μιλούν κομματιαστά, δέν ολοκληρώνουν τις φράσεις τους. Άλλοι μιλούν «τη γλώσσα του δρόμου» - και μεις πρέπει να τη γνωρίζουμε. Εδώ μπαίνει ο ρόλος της έρευνας.

   Ένα άλλο λάθος που κάνουν και οι έμπειροι συγγραφείς είναι να τονίζουν με δικά τους λόγια την κατάσταση των ηρώων τους. Γράφουν, γιά παράδειγμα: «Η Ελένη είπε συμπαραστάθηκε με τα λόγια της», «Ο Γιάννης απάντησε θυμωμένα» κ. λ. π. Δέν αξίζει τον κόπο να προστίθενται τέτοιες περιγραφές, εκτός αν υπάρχουν λόγια που μπορούν να ερμηνευθούν με πάνω από έναν τρόπο: «Η Μαρία απάντησε σαρκαστικά, Πόσο μ’  αρέσει!». Αν μπουν πολλές τέτοιες προσθήκες, εκτός από εκεί όπου είναι απολύτως απαραίτητο, το κείμενο γίνεται στεγνό και βαρετό.

 

 

Ασκήσεις για να βελτιώσουμε τους διαλόγους μας

 

.

Καιμερικέςασκήσεις:  

  • Κρυφακούω μιά ομάδα συζητητών και καταγράφω την κουβέντα τους. Κατόπιν κρυφακούω ένα άτομο που μιλά στο κινητό του τηλέφωνο. Έτσι ακόυω ένα μόνο μέρος της συζήτησης. Χρησιμοποιώντας αποσπάσματα από την πρώτη συζήτηση συμπληρώνω τη δεύτερη.
  • Καταγράφω τα λόγια μου στη διάρκεια μιάς ημέρας. Μελετώ τον τρόπο ομιλίας μου. Δέν είναι απαραίτητο να καταγράψω κάθε λέξη. Μπορεί να διαπιστώσω πως λέω λιγότερα απ’  όσα νομίζω ή / και πως μιλώ πολύ σύντομα. Ίσως ανακαλύψω ακόμα ότι σπάνια μιλώ με πλήρεις εκφράσεις. 
  • Βρίσκω ένα εστιατόριο, μπαρ ή εμπορικό κέντρο. Καταγράφω αποσπάσματα συνομιλιών που ακούω. Αποφεύγω την καταγραφή ολόκληρων συζητήσεων, αλλάζω συχνά «στόχους». Αν δέν θέλω να τραβήξω την προσοχή, ίσως προμηθευτώ ένα μαγνητοφωνάκι ή κάποια άλλη φορητή συσκευή καταγραφής. Έτσι δέν δίνω την εντύπωση ότι κρυφακούω.
  • Σκέφτομαι μιάν ερώτηση που θέλει κάποια σκέψη για να απαντηθεί και την θέτω σε διαφορετικά άτομα. Συγκρίνω τις απαντήσεις τους προσέχοντας τις λέξεις τους. Τις καταγράφω μόλις βρω την ευκαιρία.
  • Εγγράφω σε βίντεο διαφορετικές τηλεοπτικές εκπομπές (δελτία ειδήσεων, κωμωδίες, δράματα, συζητήσεις, αθλητικές κ. λ. π.) Καταγράφω τον λόγο τους χρησιμοποιώντας μόνον διάλογο και τα ονόματα ή τα χαρακτηριστικά των ανθρώπων. Μπορώ να μεταγράψω δύο εκπομπές του ίδιου είδους, μιά που μού αρέσει και μία που δέν μού αρέσει. Συγκρίνω τον διάλογο στα διαφορετικά είδη. Εντοπίζω τους χαιρετισμούς, τις πλήρεις ή τις ελειπείς προτάσεις κ. λ. π. Χρησιμοποιούν οι ομιλήτριες, - τές εκφράσεις όπως εεεε, μμμμμ, λοιπόν κ.λ.π.; Πώς αλλάζουν αυτά τα εκφραστικά δεκανίκια ανάλογα με το είδος και την ποιότητα της εκπομπής;  
  • Ξαναγράφω μία ή δύο από τις εκπομπές της προηγούμενης άσκησης με όσο μεγαλύτερη ακρίβεια μπορώ. Είναι εύκολο ή δύσκολο να καταγράψω ολόκληρο τον διάλογο; Ρέει φυσικά ή ενοχλεί; (Δέν είναι ανάγκη να ξαναγράψω ολόκληρη την εκπομπή, φτάνει μόνο να νοιώσω ότι έπιασα την ατμόσφαιρα.)
  • Γράφω τον διάλογο γιά μιά δική μου σκηνή χωρίς χαρακτηρισμούς. Απλώς γράφω μιά στιχομυθία όπως θα προχωρούσε φυσικά. Όταν ολοκληρώσω, προσθέτω αφηγηματικά στοιχεία, αλλά όχι στον διάλογο καθ’ εαυτό, δηλαδή δέν προσθέτω «τού είπε», «φώναξε» κ.α., δηλαδή προσπαθώ να γίνει ο διάλογος μέρος της δράσης ως λογικό αποτέλεσμά της. Στο τέλος προσθέτω όσους χαρακτηρισμούς θεωρώ απολύτως απαραίτητους, αλλά όσο απλούστερα γίνεται (είπε, ρώτησε κ. λ. π.)  Συγκρίνω το κείμενό μου με τον αρχικό διάλογο και εντοπίζω τα καλά και τα κακά στις αλλαγές.
  • Γράφω ένα κείμενο στο οποίο ένα πρόσωπο αφηγείται μιά ιστορία σε ένα άλλο. Γράφω διαλογικά όμως, δηλαδή το ένα πρόσωπο λέει την ιστορία και το άλλο ακούει, ρωτά και σχολιάζει. Στόχος εδώ είναι να γράψω μιάν αφήγηση ως θέμα, αλλά ταυτόχρονα να έχω τις αντιδράσεις των δύο προσώπων.
  • Γράφω μιά σκηνή στην οποία ένα πρόσωπο ακούει δύο άλλα πρόσωπα να συζητούν ή να καυγαδίζουν (για παράδειγμα ένα παιδί που ακούει τους γονείς του να τσακώνονται). Το τρίτο πρόσωπο εξηγεί τον καυγά, αφηγείται τί συμβαίνει, αλλά οι άλλοι δύο δίνουν όλο τον διάλογο. Δέν είναι απαραίτητο ο αφηγητής, -τρια να καταλαβαίνει τα πάντα: οι παρανοήσεις είναι μεγάλο μέρος των διαλόγων.
  • Γράφω μιά συζήτηση ανάμεσα σε δύο ψεύτες. Δίνω σε όσα λένε διπλή ή τριπλή σημασία. Δέν περιγράφω ούτε δηλώνω ότι αυτοί οι άνθρωποι ψεύδονται, αφήνω να φανεί από τους διαλόγους, ούτε βάζω τον ένα να κατηγορεί τον άλλο ότι λέει ψέμματα.
  • Γράφω μιά συζήτηση στην οποία κανείς δέν λέει πάνω από τρεις λέξεις κάθε φορά. Δέν εξηγώ μέσω της αφήγησης. Χρησιμοποιώ την αφήγηση για να τονίσω τη σκηνή, όχι να εξηγήσω τον διάλογο.
  • Γράφω μιά σκηνή στην οποία αρκετοί άνθρωποι συζητούν. Αυτό είναι δυσκολότερο διότι κάθε άτομο που παίρνει μέρος, ο αναγνώστης πρέπει να μήν χάνεται, να θυμάται τα κίνητρα και τα ενδιαφέροντα κάθε συμμετέχοντος. Αυτό μπορεί να είναι πολύ δύσκολο στον πεζό λόγο, όπου ο λόγος μπορεί να διακόπτεται από άλλον ομιλούντα ή από μιά πράξη / δράση. Πώς μπορώ να δώσω νόημα και ενδιαφέρον σ’ αυτό το κείμενο;

 

Οι ήρωες  που τους κινεί μιά μόνο δύναμη δέν χρειάζονται «πίσω ιστορία» στον λόγο τους.

    Για παράδειγμα, ο Γιάννης λέει στη Μαρία: « Θέλω να κάνουμε έρωτα. Το στήθος σου είναι καταπληκτικό με αυτό το φόρεμα. Θέλω να πάμε σε ένα ξενοδοχείο και να τού δώσουμε να καταλάβει

    Ο Γιάννης έχει ξεκάθαρο στόχο. Θέλει να κοιμηθεί με τη Μαρία. Δέν χρειάζεται να διαχειριστεί τίποτε άλλο. Όμως τί θα γινόταν αν υπήρχαν και άλλες δυνάμεις εδώ;

   Ας προσπαθήσουμε να ξαναγράψουμε τα λόγια του όπου να φαίνονται τα ακόλουθα:

•  Ο Γιάννης θέλει να κάνει έρωτα με τη Μαρία, αλλά δέν θέλει και να την προσβάλλει..
• Ο Γιάννης θέλει να κάνει έρωτα με τη Μαρία, αλλά δέν θέλει να την προσβάλλει ΚΑΙ φοβάται την απόρριψη.

Οι κακοί συγγραφείς, όταν προσπαθούν να προσθέσουν την « πίσω ιστορία» απλώς κόβουν λέξεις και γεμίζουν τα κείμενά τους με κενές παύσεις, ελπίζοντας ότι αυτές οι παύσεις σημαίνουν κάποιες έννοιες. Όμως η «πίσω ιστορία» χρειάζεται προσθήκες, όχι αφαιρέσεις. Εδώ χρειάζεται να πλέκουμε πολλές σημασίες στις λέξεις που έχουμε, όχι να τις αφαιρούμε.  

   Μιά καλή αράδα διαλόγου δηλώνει όλες τις δυνάμεις που δρουν μέσα σε έναν χαρακτήρα μιά δοσμένη στιγμή. Όταν συγκλίνουν περισσότερες δυνάμεις σε μιά φράση, η φράση αυτή πρέπει να τις αντανακλά, γι’ αυτό πρέπει όλα να δηλώνονται.  on a single line of dialogue, that line of dialogue must bend to reflect it. Therefore, subtext is not the result of something being left unspoken. Subtext is the result of so many facets of something being spoken in one line, that the weaker aspects get almost, but not quite, lost in the larger trajectory of the line.


ΠΡΩΤΗ ΑΣΚΗΣΗ:

Γράφω σενάριο ή μυθιστόρημα; 

  • Ο χώρος είναι αίθουσα δικαστηρίου. Ένας πετυχημένος δικηγόρος κάνει ερωτήσεις στους πελάτες του που έχουν καταδικαστεί άδικα για φόνο:  μιά μαύρη πόρνη, έναν λευκό ανώτερο υπάλληλο που έχει ήδη καταδικαστεί για άλλον ένα φόνο και έναν παπά που υπήρξε πνευματικός και των δύο και επιμένει να παρευρίσκεται. Συζητούν τις αποδείξεις που υπάρχουν εναντίον τους. Πώς μιλούν; Τί λένε; Δέν είναι δυνατόν να μιλούν όλοι με τον ίδιο τρόπο, είναι;

 ΔΕΥΤΕΡΗ ΑΣΚΗΣΗ

Γράφω σενάριο ή μυθιστόρημα; 

  • Διαλέγω τέσσερεις ανθρώπους με διαφορετική προέλευση, διαφορετικού φύλου, εισοδήματος, ηλικίας και ίσως και από διαφορετικές χώρες. Η σκηνή είναι ένα ασανσέρ δημόσιου κτιρίου. Ξαφνικά το ασανσέρ σταματά. Τα φώτα αναβοσβήνουν. Τί συμβαίνει μετά; Όταν τελειώσω τον διάλογο τον διαβάζουν τέσσερα μέλη της ομάδας. Θα πρέπει να ακούγονται σαν διαφορετικοί άνθρωποι.

ΤΡΙΤΗ ΑΣΚΗΣΗ: ΜΙΑ ΕΜΜΕΣΗ ΣΚΗΝΗ

Γράφω σενάριο ή μυθιστόρημα; 

Διαλέγω μιά σκηνή από ένα γνωστό κινηματογραφικό έργο. (Πρέπει να είναι πολύ γνωστό). Χωρίς να αλλάξω το τέλος της, φτάνω στο ίδιο αποτέλεσμα με διαφορετικό και απροσδόκητο τρόπο.

 

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