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Archive for August 5th, 2014

  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

I have been thinking a lot about images and writing lately. An image helps me focus and informs my writing. When working with an image, I can be more specific in sensory details.

Over at Teachers Write camp, the focus has been on character and dialogue and how the setting can be used to guide the dialogue rather than using tags. Megan Frazer Blakemore has a number of tips for writing dialogue.

I am using setting to inform my characters’ actions. In the sequel to Blessen that I am working on, I wanted to put in this tree. It is located on the grounds of a former Catholic girls’ school, and my husband tells me it is called “The Boob Tree.” Can you see why?
boob tree

My former student/ middle school Beta reader advised that I change it. She said if my book was going to be read aloud in 3rd-4th grade classrooms, Boob Tree was way too embarrassing. So I took her advice and changed the tree to The Angel Tree. The tree becomes an important character and gets intricately involved in the plot.

I want the setting of South Louisiana to come through strongly. This morning while I was walking in the park, I came upon a nutria. Nutria are aquatic rodents. They are not too fearful of people (perhaps not too smart), so I got a good close up shot. A nutria makes an appearance in Sunshine (the working title of Blessen’s sequel.)

nutria

Something jumps beside the boat. A fish? A snake? An alligator? I paddle faster. It doesn’t help. The boat spins around. I try paddling on the other side. I spin back. I just stop, put the paddle inside the boat, and wait. Breathe.

Then I see it. A baby nutria with its tiny head sticking out above the water. He skims the surface, joining his family in a grove of cypress knees. I am mesmerized. They chatter together. Nutria language, foreign to me. Mother and baby look my way. I whisper hello. Mother nudges baby back into the water and they skim off together into the dark spaces between the trees.

Nutria are large rodents, a glorified rat. But I think they are cute, especially the curious babies. They are as big as a beaver, but their tails are long and skinny. My uncle, who we call Big Brother, used to hunt them for fun. He made me a string necklace once with two shiny orange teeth. He told me they were a nuisance, imported to Louisiana for their fur, but no one really wants a rat for a coat. They have multiplied and taken over.

A few years ago, Momma thought it’d be funny to feed us nutria spaghetti. She didn’t tell us what it was until we all had eaten. You should have seen my Pawpee’s face. He laughed so hard and said, “Cher, Deanie, you make the best nutria spaghetti around.”
–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

How are you using setting to inform your writing?

Kim Douillard invites us to take a Photo-a-Day in August, trying to capture the unexpected. Both of the above images qualify as unexpected in nature. I am piggybacking on her challenge and asking you to write a scene, description, poem to accompany your image. The list is as follows:

So August’s challenge is to look for the unexpected as you enjoy the last of the long light and warm days (at least in the northern hemisphere). And to help you look, here are some prompts—one per day—to focus your attention and spur your thinking.

1. People

2. Place

3. Nature

4. Plants

5. Animals

6. Horizon

7. Food

8. Transportation

9. Light

10. Home

11. Smell

12. Sound

13. Garden

14. Inside

15. Thing

16. Drink

17. Sky

18. Outside

19. Neighborhood

20. Weather

21. Early

22. Texture

23. Words

24. Interaction

25. Walk

26. Arrangement

27. Trash (#Litterati)

28. Architecture

29. Close up (Macro)

30. Landscape

31. Pleasure

Once you find the unexpected and capture a photo of it, post a photo each day with the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices to Twitter, Instagram, Flicker, Google+ and/or Facebook (the more the better!), so that we can all enjoy the posts.”

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