Friday, October 24, 2008

Virginia Woolf's wild, roving words

In the only surviving recording of her voice, Virginia Woolf talks about the wild nature of the English language.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A reminder to...

In Oregon, we mail in our ballots. Having just completed the only task expected of female US citizens, I marked the act by re-reading George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language."
If one gets rid of these habits [of slovenly writing] one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Romeo and Ethel the Pirate's Daughter

A question!
There is a story I would like to tell but I am missing an important name. The name in itself has become somewhat of a block to me. I have researched names, I have tried to think of my own, but nothing fits!
Names are important, but don't let them keep you from writing. To be honest, I start stories and change names halfway through. And the most important name of all--the title of the book--is almost always unknown to me until the end. If you feel so strongly about your story, just get your hands dirty and see what you dig up. I solve as many "story problems" while writing as I do in the initial outline. Keep your eye on the goal of making progress.

That said, to search for your name, feel it out. Look at the keys of your keyboard. What letters "feel like" they belong in the name, and which ones don't? Make a list of all the words that "feel like" your character (no matter how out-there), such as, say, ocean, grass, echo, nutmeg, jazz (whatever), and then brainstorm outward from there, listing other words by free association. The goal is to keep your hand moving and loosen up your mind, and give your creative brain room to make both good and bad suggestions.

Looking for your character's name is a useful writing exercise, and not something to fear. It gives you practice in listening to the quiet voice whose suggestions differentiate good writing from great writing.

(Post title: credit is due to Tom Stoppard's wit, not mine. Alas.)