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Short Story in Progress: The Petal Collector

One of the photos that inspired my current short story work-in-progress.

 

I’ve given my short story an easy working title: The Petal Collector. Here are a few of my notes for the scene I’m working on:

Rising Anger

  • Rose cannot keep herself from watching the petal collector. (From her office window.)
  • It makes her angry to see a person getting so much joy from picking up dead things. And he’s taking petals from HER death-countdown bush.
  • What is that book he brings out to read every single time he visits the garden? Thinking that it might be a Bible makes her both angry and envious. (Weave within story.)
  • She wants to end her life, but she gets a stirring inside whenever she follows his activity.
  • What’s up with this guy and his petals?
  • More importantly, why does she care? She imagines a number of scenarios.
  • At the end of the scene, she smiles at something he does, which also makes her angry.

Read my earlier post to learn the original inspiration for this story. As soon as I have a decent draft of a scene or two, I will post it here on the blog. Stay tuned!

Article

Is Your Writing Like a Windowpane?

Image from Flickr/hjl https://www.flickr.com/photos/hjl/

Image from FLICKR/HJL

 

“Good prose is like a windowpane.”

You’ll find that quote in Why I Write, an essay by author George Orwell. The sentence caused me to stop and give it a careful think. What does it mean? Does Orwell mean for us to write in a way that reflects our own lives? Should our writing be a window to new adventures for the reader? Is our writing to show imperfections and fragility?

For help, I pulled out my trusty dictionary and looked up a few words. What does it mean for good prose to be like a windowpane?

First things first: What is prose?

As you learn more about writing, you will find terms that group writers, describe words, and categorize stories. Prose is a lovely word to say, yet it describes writing that uses everyday language and speaking patterns, as opposed to the rhythmic language of poetry. News articles, novels, essays, short stories, and this blog post are all examples of prose.

So, Orwell encouraged writers like you and me to take what we write and make those words act like a windowpane.

The purpose of a windowpane

A windowpane is a framed sheet of glass. Glass is transparent. Therefore “Good prose is” transparent. Here’s what the dictionary says about transparent:

  1. Fine or sheer enough to be seen through.
  2. Free from pretense or deceit; frank
  3. Easily detected or seen through; obvious
  4. Readily understood
  5. Characterized by visibility or accessibility of information

Do you see what Orwell was trying to express? Good writing will allow the reader to see the story and its message clearly. There will be no attention called to the mechanical words when prose is written like a windowpane.

Do you need that word?

A fellow writer/blogger commented on one of my short stories. She suggested that I remove a word because it didn’t add anything to the story. Once the word was gone, she said, the sentence would be “effective and tight.” I took her advice and she was right. Effective and tight. I like that, so I’ve placed that duo in my writer’s toolbox.

A quote from Canadian author Ralph Milton sums it up:

Writers … use the same words everyone uses, but when we get it right, the emotions, the feelings, the concepts, the images, the ideas are distilled with clarity and force. Then nobody notices our words. … Like cleaning a window. When you do it right, and the light shines through and you don’t notice the glass. (Angels in Red Suspenders, 1998)

Write so readers can see

So, the challenge is to write only what we want our readers to see. Sounds like another course in the craft of writing. Here’s are ideas to help you start putting those window panes into place:

  • Share your work to gain advice
  • Review your stories and look for spots on the windowpane
  • Re-read books that made you forget the words and see the story
  • Study those authors’ techniques and put them into practice
  • Practice, practice, and practice some more

Let the window cleaning begin!

(First published on DarlaWrites.com)


 

Article

Things I Love: Ray Bradbury’s Joy in Writing

bandit-bradbury-bw

Ray Bradbury wrote about the love of his life in Zen in the Art of Writing, one of my current reads. It’s a wonderful book: nine essays in which he raptures over the pleasures of writing.

The essays read like they were written by a lovesick boy to his forever gal. Bradbury enjoyed nothing more than getting up in the morning, letting his thoughts pour out of his head, and creating something new with his past experiences, his amazing imagination, and his trusty typewriter.

I read some of Bradbury when I was young. He was a favorite author of my older siblings and they along with my high school teachers tried to convince me of his worth. I thought he was too creepy.

I didn’t appreciate his writing until I restarted my writing life decades later and challenged myself to read “outside of my box”. I chose The Martian Chronicles to give science fiction another chance and discovered much more than science in Ray Bradbury’s fiction.

Here’s a beauty from one of the book’s essays, “The Secret of Minds”:

Bradbury read poetry every day. No wonder his writing style is so lyrical:

From "Zen in the Art of Writing" by Ray Bradbury

The man has a way with words, yes?

And then there’s this precious moment he shares from his essay “Run Fast, Stand Still, or, The Thing at the Top of the Stairs, or, New Ghosts From Old Minds”:

I finally found it one afternoon when I was twenty-two years old. I wrote the title “The Lake” on the first page of a story that finished itself two hours later. Two hours after that I was sitting at my typewriter out on a porch in the sun, with tears running off the tip of my nose, and the hair on my neck standing up.

 

Why the arousal of hair and the dripping nose?

 

I realized that I had at last written a really fine story. The first, in ten years of writing.

Ah, Ray Bradbury, with your extraordinary writing, your passion, and your witty encouragements. What type of writer doesn’t come away from your words feeling like her writing dreams can come true?


 

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Why We Write

whywewrite-grant-snider

Find more of Grant Snider’s work at Incidental Comics. He’s “the creator of Incidental Comics by night. Mover of teeth by day.”


 

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Writer Wednesday: A Search Engine for Writers

Check out the Writer’s Knowledge Base

Happy Wednesday!

From the website: “The Writer’s Knowledge Base (WKB) is a searchable collection of articles that are highly relevant to writers. The articles are diverse and cover such topics as the craft of writing, getting published, promotion, etc.”

Just enter a search term (e.g., “finish novel”) to find a collection of articles on that topic. Click on the link above to visit the site, and be sure to read the “About” page to see how Elizabeth Craig and her team curate the articles.

Enjoy!

Want to read more of my articles for writers? Click here to visit my writers’ resource page.