- Category: The Root of the Word
- Written by Jem Wierenga
Words have meaning.
It’s something my mother always said, and by golly she was right! But not all words are coined equal. The Root of the Word is a bimonthly blog series designed to look into the etymology and evolution of some of the more exotic English words. It is also intended to help you, the writer, gain a better understanding of the subtlety of our language as well as appreciate the variegated aromas that words with dual definitions can add to your literary bouquet.
This series will not only look at specific words, their origins and correct usage, but will also touch upon how culture, history and regional preference have changed the meaning of words over time. Occasionally, we will also examine various theories of language (though I promise not to get too professorial!). Let's begin with a brief overview of definition.
- Category: About
- Written by Sam Justice
Sergei Lukyanenko's NIGHTWATCH is set in a modern day Moscow, where an uneasy balance exists. Others, beings possessed of magic, swear allegience to either the Light, or the Dark, and keep watch over eachother to keep an ancient treaty. When a Supreme Other emerges and threatens to upset the balance both sides begin to learn the truth.
NIGHTWATCH has become difficult to come by since it was chosen as the book to read for Febuary. Because of this HOMAGE TO CATALONIA by George Orwell has been chose as an alternate book to be read in stead of, or in addition to.
- Category: Sprouts
- Written by Marc Lehman
Welcome back! I hope you had a good time sharing with your family about what books have touched them, and have learned something new about each other in the process. Today, we're going to take that a step farther into writing, using it as a way to explore how differently each one of you views the world. This exercise will also help you all get used to sharing your writing with each other, especially in making sure that each individual knows that their writing will be read and appreciated at this point. Constructive criticism will come later once that trust and confidence is built.
One key way to bring out this difference in point of view is to write on the same very general topic without deciding together on details. How each person fills in those details can point out what they consider important, or what issues around that topic are significant for them at this point in their life. Don't answer any questions about specifics if they ask them, encourage each child to fill in those details themselves. This is also a good time to encourage them to not just show the actions, but to give a glimpse into the internal life of their character as well. At this point, we're more concerned with getting everyone comfortable with sharing actions, thoughts, and emotions through their characters, later we will work on making their methods of exposition more effective.
This week, have each family member write a short story on the same topic. The length should be age appropriate, an adult might write around 5000 words, a young adult 1000-3000, a younger child might go with 300-500 and some illustrations. Don't discuss or agree on details, just write the stories and see what comes out. When everyone is done, pick a night and have each child read their story out loud to the family. Listen attentively to each other, be open to what they are sharing about themselves. When you're all done reading, lead a discussion of how many different techniques and points of view were found for the same topic. Who knows, you may start looking forward to these stories. You could even consider this as a kind of family game night, one week write together, and the next have fun listening to the creations of the people you love.
I'll put a few sample topics below to get you started, so get out those pens and have some fun together.
Uh-oh, someone didn't show up to meet me when they promised to.
Wow, that was an epic failure.
All I wanted to do was dance.
Sometimes parents are just silly.
- Category: Megan's Grammar Garden
- Written by Megan
Grammar is dirty. For most, it's a messy system of rules and regulations that leave a person befuddled and annoyed.
Not me. I am a self-professed grammar nerd. Those who have been kind enough to not unfriend me on Facebook know that I'm enough of a nerd to go in and point out the wrong "their" was used, or an apostrophe was abused. And it's no secret I have a desire to put a tattoo that reads "grammarian" across my lower back. Becuase I'm classy like that.
Though I may be a bit of a perfectionist, I still get it wrong sometimes. I misspell words, create comma splices, and even abuse the occassional apostrophe (is it it's or its? I have to ask myself every single time). And if I get it wrong, you know others do too. Just go take a look at your Facebook feed, your emails, even advertisements on billboards (advertisers and business ownersjust love to use quotation marks on everything). In the Grammar Garden, I'll help you make sense of those rules and regulations, one mineatue at a time.
I thought about going out there and finding examples of bad grammar. They're everywhere, including in books, blogs, advertisements from large multi-national corporations, and the menus at your favorite diner. This, however, is not constructive - it doesn't offer the writer any opportunity to correct or improve, and only encourages the writer to be defensive.
Before I go spouting on too much about what I will and won't do, go do a little bit of weeding. Go read. Read as much as you can. Read blogs. Read books. Read Facebook and Twitter posts. Read menus. Read traffic signs and billboards. And when you find yourself confused, ask: "why am I confused?" I'm willing to bet that more than half the time, grammar's the fault.
As an added bonus, if you can't figure out why your confused, send the text in (email or the forums), and we'll find those grammar issues, one word at a time.
- Category: Blog
- Written by Megan
Setting is a fundamental aspect of literature, especially narrative prose (though setting is not limited strictly to prose - think of the poetry of the Romantics). How is possible to describe events if they don't have a place to occur?
It is this place that concerns tonight. Even within a given state, people from different areas react differently. Think about how someone from the south orders a soft drink, and then think about the rest of the country. If that same Southerner were to order a "Coke" in say South Dokata (or just about anywhere outside of the Southern United States), the individual would get a specific brand of cola. In the south, this person would then be asked "What kind of Coke?" Conversely, someone traveling to the South who was asked "What kind of Coke?" would be confused: he or she would expect the brand, not an offer of a range of soft drinks.
This brings me to my point: setting is created not just by the surroundings of a character, but also the culture of those surroundings. How does the character (or speaker?) react? And the others around the character? In the Coke/soda example above, the differences for the travellers create tension.
Give this a bit of practice. Define the setting of your work in progress not just through the surroundings, but also through the culture - through the actions, reactions, and expectations of your characters (or speakers). What specifics about your setting might someone take for granted but are different? Can you explain them quickly? Or are they complicated? What do the differences add to the story? How do the characters deal with these nuances of life? What do your characters take for granted.
Now go write!
- Category: The Voice of the World
- Written by Sam Justice
The Voice of the World is a column about world building: how to set your scene and mood, and make sure that your reader will follow. World building is all about setting, voice and setting are intimately tied together. The setting will affect the nature of the voice, and the voice will effect how the reader experiences the world that you've created.
Think about how different people see the same thing. I'll give you an easy example; the current campaign for the upcoming US Presidential election. How do you feel in regards to the Republican candidates? How about the incumbent? What about the supporters of either side, how do you see them? Take a minute to consider this, and try to see how it is that you see this part of our world. I'll be here when you finish.
Done? Good, now take a different point of view. Whichever side of the issue you're on, try now to think about how someone on the opposite side sees all of this, and how they would feel about someone with your point of view. This one might take a little longer to get your mind around, but try. I’m not going anywhere, so take your time.
Harder, isn't it? Now you’d looked at our world from two different points of view, one of which you are very familiar. If you were to write the same story centering around the election twice, once with each point of view, the voice that described the events to the reader would change, drastically in some cases. This will shift the opinion and experience of the reader.
Now, because reading isn't writing, I want you to try this. Choose your own situation, issue, or topic - anything that can have more than one point of view about it - and make up two characters with very different opinions. Give them entirely different life styles. It doesn't matter how they got to be where they are, through choice or circumstance. Think about their background, and give them a detailed history. Now, tell a short scene, five or six hundred words should be enough (and you’ll have your 500 for the day), centered around your topic with one of your created characters as the point of view. Then, write the same story from the other character’s point of view. How are they different? How are they the same? What do the two points of view reveal to you, the author, of the setting you've created?