Friday, October 29, 2010

Topic: Tips on How to Interview

10-second review: Commonsense reminders on how to behave at interviews.

Title: “Learn Interview Tips from a Therapist.” D. Stefan. The Writer (October 2009), 10-11.

. Be aware of body language.” “Lean toward the other person to convey interest and engagement.”

. “Never assume you know how someone feels, what she thinks, or what she is trying to say.” Ask for clarification. Paraphrase before going on to the next question.

. Maintain eye contact.

. End with a request for permissions to seek additional information: “If I need additional information, is it best to contact you by phone or e-mail?”

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Topic: Thoughts on Theme

10-second review: There may be only three themes in writing but there are variations on them.

Title: “An Exercise on Theme.” Adrianne Finlay. The Writer (July 2009), 8.

Quote: “There are writers who have suggested that there are only three basic themes in the world: love, death and birth. Though this may at first seem limited or reductive, consider the work of some of the great writers that we have continued to read and study for generations: Melville, Wharton, Austen, Shakespeare, Faulkner, Woolf. Also consider the ways in which these themes can be interpreted in a myriad of ways. Death could mean literal death, as well as spiritual death. It may mean loss, change or crisis. Birth could mean redemption, renewal or beginning. There are many possibilities within the framework of these three ideas.” P. 8.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Topic: Grammar and Style Books

10-second review: Some of the best manuals on grammar and style.

Title: “10 Must-Have Grammar and Style Books.” C Leddy. The Writer (August 2009), 52-54.

Comment: I have selected from the author’s list of manuals. For example, I left out Lynn Truss’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves. It deals with the British style of punctuation which is irrelevant in America, although the message of the book is important here in America too: correct punctuation is vital to good writing. RayS.

. The Elements of Style: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition. Strunk and White. Longman. Brief, to-the-point advice on style. Doesn’t always follow its own rules.

. Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English. O’Connor. Riverhead. “…uses more than a spoonful of fun to help the grammar medicine go down.”

.On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction.” Wm. Zinsser. Collins. Well written. Very useful.

. The Sound on the Page: Great Writers Talk About Style and Voice in Writing. B Yagoda. Collins. Interviews 40-plus writers on how writers develop their own style.

. A Pocket Style Manual. D Hacker. Bedford/St. Martin’s. “…guide to the essentials of writing and research….” “Practical.”

. Spunk and Bite: A Writer’s Guide to Punchier, More Engaging Language and Style. A. Plotnik. Random House. If you can forgive the opening pun, you may recognize the author of this book as a writer for The Writer Magazine. Commonsense approach to language, grammar and style. Entertaining, too.

. Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. M Fogarty. Holt. “Pithy…advice about grammar in an engaging, accessible style.”

The author’s selections conclude with two well-known comprehensive “chestnuts”: Fowler’s A Dictionary of Modern English Usage and The Chicago Manual of Style.

Comment: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this blog as a source of advice on sentence structure, usage and punctuation. I try to keep my explanations short and clear. I also make judgments about whether the issue is worth worrying about. Most popular usage problem? My advice on “shined” and “shone,” by far the most frequently visited page. RayS.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Topic: A Writing Exercise

10-second review: Re-tell an incident from several  points of view—child, mother, father, older sister, grandmother, etc.

Title: “A Writing Exercise That Opened a World.” J Bartkevicius. The Writer (August 2009), 48.

Summary: This exercise—an incident from several points of view—led to an award-winning essay.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Topic: Crazy Thoughts

10-second review: Take 5 minutes to write some crazy ideas.

Title: “Bumper-sticker Wisdom for Writers.” LA Jashaway-Bryant. The Writer (August 2009), 46-47.

Summary: Practice five-minute “Crazy writing.” Quote: “Set a timer and write down the craziest ideas you can think of for five minutes, and only five minutes. The short time frame is important because it helps you focus and doesn’t give you enough leeway to let your thoughts stray to other ‘more important’ things you should be doing. It doesn’t matter what you put down on the page…. Record them all. Keep every thing that spills out, and later when you have enough crazy thoughts, organize them into categories. This is a great way to boost your creativity….”

Comment: An approach to encouraging creativity and another exercise in brainstorming. Interesting idea. RayS.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Topic: Writing Screenplays

Ten-second review: “Follow this 9-step guide to crafting a compelling 3-act tale.”

Title: “Create the Right Screenplay Structure.” Paula Brancato. The Writer (August 2009), 44-45.

. “Set up your protagonist.” Reveal the main character.

. “Blow your protagonist out of the water.”

. “Create a false hope in the protagonist.”

. “Define the Holy Grail for the protagonist.”

. “Now build the antagonist.”

. “Create a turnabout and failure.”

. “Force your protagonist to hit bottom.”

. “Create a satisfying resolution.”

.”Get the heck outta there.” “The best stories feel, at the end, like an open window. They leave the audience wanting more.”

Comment: I checked this structure against one of my favorite movies, North by Northwest, with Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. It pretty much fits the steps in the plot. RayS.