Monkeys on Typewriters: Creativity vs Grammar

Ape using a typewriter
Yes, we know this is an ape, not a monkey.

Creativity walks a tightrope. If you are not creative enough, your readers will be bored. If you are too creative, your readers will be mystified.

“Oh!” says the Creative Soul. “That’s what I want. I want my reader to be mystified.”

Not this way, you don’t. I mean mystified as in “mixed up, baffled, confounded, deceived and perplexed.” None of these are particularly happy emotions, especially “deceived.”

Yes, there is a challenge in reading a piece of work that sets a puzzle you must solve in order to understand it. For many experienced readers, the joy of solving the puzzle is a great part of the pleasure of reading. Witness the popularity of Joyce’s “Ulysses.”

But… Continue reading “Monkeys on Typewriters: Creativity vs Grammar”

Tips to Help Pantsers Get Moving Again When the Story Stops

writers block solutions light-bulb-3104355_1920 (002)Those who are pantsers (who write by the seat of the pants, rather than outlining a story) can run into a problem that outliners don’t encounter as much: the story stalling.

It’s happened to every pantser at least once, where they’re in a groove, the story is moving along nicely, and then bam, nothing seems to work. Everything they want to write seems flat or the story just doesn’t move in a compelling way anymore. So, if you’re a pantser and your story has stalled, here a couple of things to try to get your writing mojo flowing again. Continue reading “Tips to Help Pantsers Get Moving Again When the Story Stops”

Funny Misplaced Modifiers and Other Common Writing Mistakes

misplaced modifierIndies Unlimited has all kinds of editing resources for writers. We even have real-life editors who take a spot at the gruel pot.

Because I am not an editor, while I’m reading a novel that interests me, the occasional typo or misplaced modifier is likely to fly right past me. In spite of that, I’m a writing tutor for Pearson/Smarthinking. It’s okay. I can pay attention when I have to.

I tutor over 100 students per month on higher-level orders such as thesis statements, content development, and organization. I also coach them on lower-level issues such as noun-verb agreement, sentence structure, and misplaced modifiers.

Over time, I’ve come to see the same lower-level mistakes again and again. Some are so sneaky that we can read a passage, know something isn’t quite right, but have no idea what it is.

Here are some of the sneakiest errors I see: Continue reading “Funny Misplaced Modifiers and Other Common Writing Mistakes”

Tips for Realism in Writing

boring writing book-15584_960_720The mantra for writers these days is “Make it realistic.” After all, it won’t be long before we’re competing with three-dimensional, five-sense virtual reality. But we will never try to do that. It is impossible to give the reader everything, and you don’t want to. The trick to giving the reader a wonderful experience is to make the right choices in what we show.

Naturalism: the Ultimate Reality

There was a movement in the theatre world in the nineteenth century. The performers were trying new ways to make their performances as realistic as possible. One offshoot of this movement was the “naturalism” school. These people had the brilliant idea that the best way to show realistic theatre was to show reality. Actors woke up in the morning pretending to be their character. They went through their whole day as their character. By the time they reached the theatre, they were totally immersed in their role. This is now called “method acting,” and many performers use adapted versions today.

However, other theatrical geniuses tried to take the “reality” much farther. Someone actually had the idea of taking the side off an apartment building and placing seating there instead, so the audience could watch the tenants go about their daily lives. Can you imagine? Continue reading “Tips for Realism in Writing”