Monday, August 4, 2008

Welcome Guest Blogger - Patricia Elford

A big Fiction Matters welcome to Patricia, here to talk about your good senses.

Yep, the big five - touch, taste, sight, smell, and hearing. What do they have to do with the experience of reading great fiction? Everything!

From sticky sweet Christmas oranges, to the leather clad stud perched upon a purring motorcycle idling beside your teenage daughter, we need to engage our good sense when writing. Let's meet Patricia first!

Patricia is a clergy person, educator, facilitator, editor and freelance writer who has edited and been published and/or won awards in various genres: short stories, articles, poetry, youth materials, worship services, sermons, prayers, plays, hymn texts, book reviews, monologues, devotionals. She is a professional member of The Word Guild, and has two cats, Lickorish and Bagheera, five children (one still at home), one husband, all loved, but occasionally, short-changed, when she focuses on her careers.

Most Recent Publications at time of writing: Creative Non-Fiction/Devotional in The Fellowship Link, Summer, 2008, two creative non-fiction pieces in the about-to-be-released anthology, The Wisdom of Old Souls, Bonita Summers, ed.(Hidden Brook Press). Two pieces due out in near future in The Presbyterian Record.

Making Sense of Sense

Greetings, Scribes!

Before I wax not wane, not my legs, but creative, you should know this.

True confession: Many years ago, I failed a creativity test in Toronto, at a Teaching the Gifted course. “How many uses can you think of for a paperclip?” BRRRRRNG. “Time’s up!” It’s an ego-scar I keep touching. Perhaps if I’d had a paper clip in hand, to feel, to see, to smell, to taste, to “ping” and listen to? Surely, I’d have run out of paper before I ran out of time?

Too often, we writers taste, smell, see, feel, hear, our characters and their settings so clearly, we forget to share those sensations with our readers. Too often, our characters are simply puppets, moved through the drama to make our point. They remain unreal, to readers and ourselves. The audience, uninvolved, wander in a sensory wasteland.

In one Institute of Children’s Literature lesson, students are asked to write a piece. Using colour-coding, they are to highlight each sense represented. Unless the intention was hopeless nothingness, you could expect a rainbow of senses. If you try this with a few pieces, whatever your genre, you’ll soon discover which senses are glaringly absent. Don’t be surprised if it’s one that stimulates you, personally, the most. (Remember? You’re already there.)

Walk, in the country or park, your own yard, or your home, deliberately using your senses, particularly your weaker ones. If you have young children, make them a part of the fun; it will open up their senses and will reinforce your own discoveries. Then, try to find a quiet spot (an impossible dream for many mothers..”I always thought I’d write while they were sleeping..who would have thought I’d be napping too?), and jot down your walk’s sensate memories. If, alert, you walk the same space many times, expect surprising new memories. Story ideas will spring out of that more fertile ground. As a creature in this world, if not of it, your other memories will be stimulated.

Warning: Don’t try too hard:

“Stumbling Susan, blood-salt parching her mouth, slipped her bleeding, bruised hands into the soothing, soapy, bubbly water, warmed by the searing sun, and wept shimmering, murky tears as the vultures, reeking of death, shrieked hoarsely for backup, drooling into the bowl and clinging to the blackened, angular, broken branch above her”,

Your audience, overcome by wordus overdosus or laughter, may never read the entire story.

Suggestion: BE sensational, Describe! Describe! Then – pray for guidance and - cut!
Sometimes, you must chop a special phrase or sentence you absolutely adore (a warning flag). You want your piece published and acclaimed. At the very least, you want your message out there.

Try ‘tough love’. Cut that attention-grabber which detracts from your main theme. To ease the pain, save it in a “Beautiful Language To Be Periodically Hugged” (BL2BPH) file. Yes, I have one. Different name - same idea.

Use your gifts well. Know the life-affirming joy of pleasing God. In this, how blessed we are!
Do you have a BL2BPH file? I admit, I'm one of those ruthless, heartless editors. Rip, toss. No warms hugs from me, out ya go! It's a good idea to hang on to those diamonds in the rough, those tossed treasures, those irregular sayings. You never know where they might fit!
Come to think of it, I sort of have a "file" of gems. I often get bits of description or an idea for a setting or whatnot while I'm not near my computer. I jot the idea down on whatever is handy (sometimes it IS my hand). Later, I type it near the bottom of the book I'm working on and see if it will fit somewhere. When I was writing Talking to the Dead, I had this bit of description looking for a place to live. It wasn't until the second draft that I found it's rightful home - in the second chapter. My protagonist (who is looking at the business end of nutso in this scene) stood at an open doorway and her " greasy hair flapped like strips of bacon in the wind."
Ahhhhh......connecting with the senses. It only makes sense.
I bid you good writing.

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