Tag Archives: fiction-writing

Stretching Out: Trying Different Forms and Genres

What makes April PAD/NaPoWriMo challenging is writing a new poem every day. Making time for writing on a regular basis is already difficult for most people! And sometimes we end up cycling around the same themes, the same phrases, the same types of poems. Poetry that’s new and different, every day – that’s the tough part.

I personally love that part of the challenge – precisely because it forces me to face my clichés, and break away from them. I step outside of my usual forms and themes, challenge myself with new ones, try writing with new voices, fresh styles.

If I have enough time on my hands (perhaps a couple of hours) I test myself by writing in form. I wrote about this during last year’s challenge, as well, and one of my milestones then was how I’d managed to write my first-ever sonnet (or two). And I’ve written quite a few Haiku by now, but this April I stuck as closely as I could to the original form — in fact, I wrote two of them in Japanese!

Writing in form, traditional or modern, helps hone our craft. Plus, subject matter and theme can be further supported by writing in specific forms or meter that suit them. It’s not just in the message, after all, it’s in how it’s delivered. A poem is obviously more than the meaning it makes: it’s in how it makes meaning.

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I found the image here; do give the article a read!

 

If you choose your form and meter wisely enough, they could add new layers to your poem! Also, you could use forms just as effectively to break stereotypes, or even satirize common trends like this lovely sonnet by Shakespeare does (Sonnet 130):

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
   And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
   As any she belied with false compare.

 

If your form works with your poem’s theme, the overall effect is that much greater. That’s why we hear so many poets warning us not to default to free verse. Personally, I don’t find anything wrong with free verse – as long as it suits the context. What if the poem is all about non-conformity, breaking out of confinement – that sort of thing? Perhaps free verse makes sense. Even better, you could show the gradual development in the poet pesona by working within form/meter and having a break in form/meter later on in the poem.

In fiction-writing, too, we choose between genres and forms. You shouldn’t default to a form (novel, short story, novella) or genre because it’s a trend, but because it makes sense for your story. Make sure you know all the whys and wherefores.

The last time I stepped out of my genre for fiction-writing, I found I was pleasantly surprised by the result! I had a novella unlike any I’d ever written before, fresh and even a little shocking — and it never would’ve come to be if I hadn’t let myself try something new.

Writing Prompt: (Try) Something New

If you haven’t been at it already, try composing in different poetic forms. Perhaps you’ll find one you really love! Mr. Brewer’s list over at Poetic Asides is a very convenient and comprehensive resource: I hope you’ll find a form in there you haven’t written in already!

You could also try new styles, if not forms. Perhaps a different voice, like you would in a dramatic monologue. Explore characters and landscapes you haven’t before.

Before I sign off, I offer this as a writing prompt for anyone who’s looking for one: (try) something new.

  • The poem/piece itself could be your exercise at trying something new.
  • It could be about how you’re trying something new.
  • It could be about something new in your life, or maybe something new in someone else’s life
  • It could perhaps be something new and alien to the ecosystem (like plastic!)

Take the prompt where you will in your thoughts!

Happy Writing!

Have a great day folks, and keep writing! Just ten more days of fierce poeming to go, stay strong 🙂

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Friday Reflections: A Year Ago & Letters

Good day, folks, hope you’ve had a great week so far! This holiday season always gives me a chance to wrap up my year with quality time with family & friends, catching up with overdue reading (especially since I have time off) and, of course, loads of writing 🙂

I’m just going to give this a try — two reflections topics in one post. As a celebration! The first topic is A Year Ago, which was incidentally inspired by the fact that it’s the one-year anniversary of The Horse’s Fountain  😀 and I also thought of it because of one of my November PAD poems I’d been re-reading today.

A Year Ago

This thought always hits me whenever I sit myself down to write my Time Capsule letters, or just reflect on my New Year’s Resolutions every January 1st. It’s amazing how much your life can change in a year. How your habits have changed, friendships perhaps, or maybe even something as big as your job or where you live!

You could reflect on all the big and little changes in your life over the past year — why or how did they come about? Do you like these changes? How many of these changes were your own decisions? Were any forced on you? Would you prefer how things used to be, or are you very comfortable with how things are at present? How drastically do you think things may change over the next 365 days? And how many of these coming changes are going to be under your control?

Perhaps you don’t like controlling things much at all! I know people who love going with the flow and taking life a day at a time! 🙂

Perspectives

I mentioned that this reflection was prompted by one of the poems I wrote in November. That poem was, in fact, prompted by a news item. One that occurred a year ago. My poem was a reflection on how that incident has impacted the country and the mindset of the people — and of course, me personally. You could always take something like that as a prompt.

A news article or any incident from around a year ago.

You could write from the perspective of someone who lived ten years ago, writing about something that happened eleven years ago. Perhaps something that, at the time, seemed small, but became a revolution.

Political situations change a great deal over the course of a year; and in wars, so very many lives are lost in that same span. Personal perspectives on public matters make for powerful poems!

As for fiction–there are plenty of novels whose stories take place over the span of a year, and it’s more than obvious that things have changed a great deal by the end! It’s the how of it that could make it interesting. How will your character journey through it? How will it be different? How will that make a difference?

So go ahead, start with: a year ago… and let your experiences and creativity lead the way. Perhaps you’d prefer “one year later/a year later” (which is what I chose for my poem). 

Reflections: Letters

The second topic for today’s reflections is letters. A glance at the dictionary tells us that there are several meanings for, and usages of, the word.

Letters of the alphabet (The letters in someone’s name, or initials; you could have fun with palindromes, even). The relation between letters and their phonetic equivalents!

Letters — those ol’ things we (once used to) communicate with, sending them off in envelopes stamped with loved ones’ addresses.

The letter of the law.

Men and women of letters.

Letter size paper!

A name lettered on a plaque.

And more. Take your pick at any meaning and try to write around that!

Letters, for me, first mean–those long personal messages (or communications) written in longhand on quality stationery 🙂 They could be letters exchanged by pen-pals who’ve never met, or ones sent by distant family members or friends, or love letters. I’ve often given letters to friends for their birthdays, or if we’re parting ways. And I’ve written poems about writing letters to people!

They make for great symbols in stories (think Poe’s The Purloined Letter, in which we never know the contents of the letter!). The success or failure of communication could be implied through letters. A packed, unopened mailbox could say so much about a character. As would a mailbox that always remains empty (perhaps the character checks it every day), or a mailbox that has a regular letter every day/week/month!

You could write a novel in epistolary format – i.e., in the form of letters, as Alice Walker has in The Color Purple and Stephen Chboksy has in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Or write a poetry collection in epistolary format, but in verse, of course.

Whenever you write in letter format though (unless it’s actually a letter meant for someone) whom do you address? Do you think of any particular family member or friend? Or that Dear Diary kind of personality? The person you choose to address would make all the difference. If the poem is about your father and you address your grandmother (father’s mother) throughout, that’s going to sound very different compared to how you’d talk to your other grandmother, or your mother, even, about your father. How is the piece most effective? (The form of the poem/text is a part of its meaning, after all.)

Thank you for stopping by & Happy Writing!

Before I sign off, I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to stop by my blog -read a post, to like a post, to follow- everybody! Thank you so much!

I hope the prompts have been helpful! Wish everyone a great weekend, a merry Christmas, and a wonderful end of the year! And, of course, happy writing! 😀

Friday Reflections: Clockwork

How’s the first week of the November Challenges been? Hope everyone’s been progressing swimmingly! We’re already one week in, which means we’re a quarter way through our challenges! Here’s the weekly prompt/reflection, if you need something to write about:

This Friday’s topic is clockwork!

I was actually talking to my father about the physics/mechanics behind clocks at dinner tonight and that’s when I figured I could blog/poem about the same topic – there’s a lot of potential with stories and poetry where clocks, time, mechanics, cogs and the like are concerned.

What’s the first thing that struck you when you read the word clockwork? Did this image here put anything into your head? This image may take the term in a very literal sense; is there a way you can take the idea behind clockworks and convert it into a metaphor for something bigger, some similar function in life or the way something else works in the world?

Fiction writers: maybe in your next story, clocks play a major role as symbols? And perhaps the functioning of the clocks reflects the way things happen to/around the characters?

The Physics Behind It

Looking into the inner workings of clocks got me reflecting on how intricate the setup is on the inside, compared to how simple and, perhaps mundane in the 21st century, the external appearance now seems to us. (This contrast could also be something to write about!) It’s interesting to break machines down to their basic principles and take a closer look into their functioning – the oscillations that make it run, the sixty minute (as in tiny) motions that make a larger hand move…

Much study and effort have gone into the development of this tool – it happened years and years ago, but it has a most common place in many people’s lives now. The clock is perhaps something we take for granted at this point in time. [Random thought/prompt: When did you learn to tell the time? In how many languages can you tell the time?]

The physics behind machines offers a great deal to reflect upon. It also applies to all living things, even ourselves. There’s so much (both physically, in terms of brain and muscle power, and psychologically) that goes behind every movement we make, every action of ours!

Other thoughts

Some of the other things that come to my mind when I think “clockwork” are:

  • that splendid tick-tock sound clocks make – which annoys some and inspires others
    • what about the source of that sound?
    • consider your sense for time – are you always aware of it, or do you lose track of it completely? (perhaps you don’t care much for it at all?)
    • how about your characters – do they keep a close vigil on time?
  • time-bombs (I’m pretty sure I thought of this just because I watched crime-related tv shows an hour ago)
  • this line from Paul Auster’s novel The Man in the Dark“I’m just a personnel officer, a little cog in a big machine.” (loved this book, would definitely recommend the read)
  • the number 32,768 (which is now stuck in my head, and has to do with the mechanics of the clock – among other devices)
  • the very system of day/night/time makes for a great tool in fiction and poetry
    • I’ve seen the progress from day to night being used in several ways in novels – as symbols, as metaphors; to establish setting, to create a sense of urgency. Day and night are common archetypal symbols – perhaps they carry different meanings for you?

Hope this gives you something to write/blog/poem about along your November ride! Happy writing folks! 😀

For fiction writers: on writing what you know

The Novelist’s Guide to Writing (Only) What You Know

Ms. Divakaruni’s piece “The Novelist’s Guide to Writing (Only) What You Know” is up on Writer’s Digest, now. In this article, she talks about how you can make even the most ordinary experiences of your life fascinating and compelling through good storytelling.

(Her short stories happen to be among my all-time favorites!)

Hope this gives a fresh perspective on how you can make the most of your personal experiences for your fiction! Happy writing, folks! 🙂

Reflections: Perspective

The weekly Reflections post is back at last! I hope to be able to post on Fridays again next week onwards. But for now, here we have it:

Today’s topic: Perspective.

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This is a familiar image, I’m sure! What do you see in it? If you see both, which did you see first – the vase or the two faces?

An exercise

What’s your perspective on perspective? Take a few minutes to brainstorm all of the ideas that come to your mind about this topic, and list your ideas.

When you have time, call on one of your friends or a family member, perhaps even your neighbor. It could even be a stranger at a park, or a classmate. Ask him/her (you can, of course, ask more than one person, for more ideas) what he/she thinks of the word “perspective”. What is his/her idea of perspective? What would he/she do to, say, “gain perspective”? Jot down what everyone says.

Go back to your own list at the end of the day or week (the longer the gap between the writing of and the revising, the better) to compare and contrast the various ideas. Is there anything you’d like to add? Something that’s neither in your list nor in your friends’ lists?

Looking side-a-ways

Perspective by common definition means the way one sees something. Everyone is bound to have different perspectives, even for the very idea of “perspective” – which is what the exercise was all about.

Do look up the term (which I suggest you do only after the exercise!) sometime. It could mean quite a few things.

There are drawings, paintings and sketches done in perspective. An archaic meaning of the word referred to a glass used as a telescope. It could refer to point of view. It could mean a vista. And a whole lot more.

Here’s a comment President Lincoln made, which is all about perspective:

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
― Abraham Lincoln

  • What is the first definition that came to your mind when you read “perspective”?

Why, why, why?

Looking beyond just one’s perspective, I think the reason behind their perspective is also very important. Especially to fiction writers!

There’s much that contributes to the way we look at the world around us, the way we perceive what’s happening, the way we understand and assimilate things.

Social conditioning is a key factor. We’re brought up by our families, and the society in which we live, to see things in a very particular way. To accept certain things as they are. To not question or dare to subvert these views. Our understanding of social norms is one of the results of this process of socializing. We are reared to accept and comply by these standards.

You can say that this restricts our thoughts and makes us narrow-minded – or that it is necessary to maintain order in society. Or whatever else you can think of to reprove/justify the idea. The point is that it affects the way we think.

Language, preferences, morality – we acquire all of these as we grow up in society. It’s often not even a conscious process.

So we writers have to carefully set up the societies, histories, families, settings in our fiction – all in such a way that our characters and their stories are valid products of these factors.

  • What else can you think of that may contribute to one’s perspective?

Through their eyes

It’s natural that fiction writers pay a lot of attention to their character’s perspective – point of view is one of the basic tools of story-writing.

What is an angry teenager likely to observe when he storms into a room? What would he notice if he were calm and collected? Our perspective leeks into the things we see. It’s the glass-half-full or glass-half-empty question. If a mug of coffee spills over, is your character more upset that her drink is wasted, or that her newspaper is ruined?

Also, a character’s perspective must be in keeping with his/her back-story. There should be reason behind what he or she sees and does, after all. If a character’s going to be extraordinarily different from everyone around him/her, even that must have a cause. And this cause must be as great as the character’s conviction is strong.

Keep your eyes wide open

When you revise what you’ve written, take a moment to ask yourself about the perspectives and stereotypes, the ideas taken for granted in the piece.

Have you restricted yourself in any way? Do you always write poems in a particular form, thinking that’s how it’s got to be written? Do you always write stories in first-person? Do you avoid reading or writing certain genres without even trying them? Are your characters stereotypical?

It’s best not to rule out anything outright. With an open mind, we leave a lot more room for creativity!

Even stereotypes aren’t all bad – they have their uses. They are extremely useful, in fact, to create the effect of irony or to expose social follies.

Write on, folks!

There’s definitely a lot more to be said and written about perspective, and from different perspectives. I’ll leave my fellow writers to explore them. 🙂 Happy writing, and happy weekend, everyone!