Monday, March 19, 2012

Writing Prompt #3; Add To Those Verbs, Yo

Yes, it is Monday again. I know. Wild. Let's get to it.

Writing Prompt #3

Grammar lesson! Whoo! Who knows what an adverb is? Anyone? I bet you do, even if the definition is somewhere in a section of brain you use to store memories about things like winning Scrabble words or what color your hair was when you were five.

An adverb modifies a verb or another adverb. They basically make things a little zestier or a little clearer when it comes to action, time, etc. Or they basically make things clunkier and more verbose when it comes to action, time, etc.

So, to use adverbs or not use adverbs? Style, my friends.

You're going to write two versions of the same story (and the story can be a paragraph. I'm not that much of a slave driver to make you do excessive work...). In the first one, slather on the adverbs. Have all the actions done "quickly" or "later" or whatever. Load those adverbs on. In the second one, take them out. Instead of using lots of adverbs, keep your writing close to the basics. If you want some flavor, really dig for a clever verb instead of adverbs to jazz it up (ie: choose "sprint" over "run").

Take stock of your stories. Which do you like more? Do you think the best one is the one you haven't written yet? A third version that runs the middle on adverb use? Or are you into verbage or are you all about the bare bones?

Hope this helps in clarifying your own writing style.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Writing Prompt #2: Parts

It's Monday again. Wow, that seems to happen about every week or so...which means another writing prompt! Yeah!

Writing Prompt #2

Let's consider the concept of parts and the concept of things in wholeness. For instance, think of a flower, say, jasmine. I adore jasmine. I like everything about it: the way it blooms at night, the tone of pink underlying its white color, the way it smells warm almost to the point of being overly heady in its perfume. I like the whole jasmine. But let's go ahead and pull the flower apart. What's the part of the entire experience of "jasmine" that I enjoy the most? Is it the softness of the petals? The strong, spindly stems?

Pick a concept/thing/being you love or a least like (ie: Magic markers, a beautiful woman, your first apartment, cocaine) and break it down into parts. And while you may truly dig all the parts, just pick one part to focus on, the one part that when you pull it up and out of the whole it makes you go "ah", makes you feel a little zap in your brain or gut or heart or junk.

Have that part? Good. Now write about it in a form of worship and love and adoration. Put that part on a pedestal. Decorate it with laurels and ribbon. Write about why it's the part that makes the whole something more, something amazing. Praise the cherry on top and write about why, without that cherry, it wouldn't be a whole dessert.

Good writing.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What's Left

We live, and while we live, we have discernible impact. One of the things I adore about writing is the way it survives past the years we have in these shells, these inadequate husks. If we can put words to paper, and those words persist even after we are dust and those we loved are dust as well, a bit of our sparkle and soul remain here, on this planet, with new souls, ones we never got to meet. But maybe they get to meet us, through writing.

I want to be remembered for my stories. But what if all that survives is one of my grocery lists scrawled in shaky block letters? What if it's one of my poems written during a time of angst? Will my written aftershocks only give clue to what sort of vegetables I liked or make me seem like a bitter wretch?

Do I care? Does it count all the same if just a little bit of me stays in the physical world?

When I was a teacher, I had a student named Yasin. He was a middle-aged Afghan that would come to class in his dress shirt and tell me stories of his daughter's impending wedding. He was unassuming but proud of his heritage and his rough and sad past. He often smelled of cooked rice and he worked in a factory that made protein bars.

Yasin died in a car accident a few years ago.

The last time I was substituting at my old job, filling in for one of the other teachers, I was closing down a computer when I noticed a file on the desktop that caught my eye. It's a piece that I prompted Yasin to write about five or six years ago. I'd like to share it with you, without any editing, just as he wrote it:

I am from Kabul Afghanistan.

I was born in Kabul on 01/01/1953. Kabul is a big city and the capitol of Afghanistan. The climate is similar to Boise. I have five brothers and three sisters that live there. My whole family lives in Kabul city. I was seven years old when I started school. When I was a child, Kabul had electricity, gas, drinking water, buses and T.V. Now it does not.

Kabul had parks, gardens, university, medical school, law school, engineering, and economics.

I lived in the center of Kabul. It is a very old part of the city. All the houses are very close together. Some times I would go up on the roof and fly my kite.

The area I lived in was called Barana.

M. Yasin Khaliki

I printed off his writing, folded it into quarters, took it home in my pocket. I read it over and over. I thought of Kabul, the Kabul Yasin must have known and how it's now gone, made to rubble. I thought of Yasin, that sweet man who would only accept the best venue in Boise for his daughter's reception, the man that struggled with pronouns, and how he's now gone.

But his writing remains. It's not much. But now it's off that singular, old computer at my old job, a computer that would be replaced or wiped sooner or later. Now it's on the Internet. I've shared his words and because I have, after death, a bit of the spark that was Yasin is living again. And it will for a long while yet.

Thanks for reading his words, however simple. Thanks for experiencing his reality in an Afghanistan decades in the past. Thanks for meeting him.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Prompt It

Happy Monday! It's the beginning of the work week and in the spirit of this, I thought I would go ahead and give you all more work to do. Don't thank me all at once. I do like small gifts like tacos or shiny things, like bits of crumpled aluminum, so if you do feel like being gracious, keep that in mind. Better yet, tacos wrapped in aluminum. Double gift.

So here's the work. I figure that if I have to write (no, I'm not being forced, but if I don't do it, crazy-making happens) then you all have to write as well. Mondays are now WRITING PROMPT DAY!! Yes! I know! It is exciting! Calm yourselves for a moment and let me explain.

We all remember writing prompts from school. Whether we liked putting words to paper or not, we got assignments that asked us to detail what we did over Christmas vacation or project aspirations of our future careers (no one ever said they wanted to be a fry cook, yet, look at all the fry cooks...). Loving or hating the prompts never really mattered. They got the juicy juice around the cerebrum sloshing about. They work for me. And honestly, doling out a writing prompt each Monday will get me into a routine for just a bit more writing each week. How will it force me to maintain routine, you ask? Because I can't possibly shirk my writing duties if it means not giving people who didn't ask for more work to do more work to do.

So here's the writing prompt. It's nostalgic and sensory and sad. You're going to dig it. Oh, and if you come up with something you'd like to share, please add it as a comment to this post. I'd love to see what you've written. It's only fitting that I should care about your productivity and output if I'm making you work. I'm grinning right now.

Writing Prompt #1

Describe, in detail, one of your favorite toys from childhood (you might have toys now, but really, I don't care). How old were you when you got the toy? Was it a gift or did you save up allowance to buy it for yourself? Why was it your favorite? How did it feel on your skin? Did it give off a smell? Would you have ever let a friend borrow this toy? Describe!

Now, once you're done describing the toy, relate what happened to it. Really dig deep and figure out where that toy might be at this moment. Do you still have it or not? And if you don't have it, why not (you may have commitment issues or don't like fun anymore...)? And if you have no idea where the toy is, make up a reality for it. Is it on some other child's bookshelf somewhere? Is it under seventeen tons of landfill? Or is it in an alternate reality, leading other toys of its ilk on a jihad against sprites or fuzzy slippers?

Oh, this is Nugget. He's stellar and I still love him. If you tell me your stories, I'll tell you his.