Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
Everyone is welcome here.
(Some links or topics may not be completely kid-appropriate.)

Fri, May 06 2016

When the word outlives the buzz

There's a new writing platform that helps describe job listings and fine-tunes other business communication. It's Textio. Certain phrases and terms gain favor in the business world, but these same phrases can become overused and end up sounding trite or dated over time. Textio suggests phrases or words that keep job listings from sounding out-of-sync with current job market needs. It won't necessarily help with specific skill needs, but it can suggest terms that best fit the general description of what a company is seeking.

It's a great idea, and while it may fling open the door toward better job hunting, I hope we don't move toward too much of this when it comes to other writing. There's something fun and exciting about realizing that another human mind came up with a lush description of a beach setting or the tight wording of an action scene. Businesses need to be able to hire the best candidates. Job hunters need to be able to hone in on the right jobs. But individual creative writers need to be a bit more free range in their word choices. Otherwise, writing becomes a sad exercise in auto-correction.

That being said, my trusty thesaurus sits open beside me, ready to assist. I'm in favor of any tools that get any writing job done. But when it comes to poetry and creative prose, I hope to see us focus on the individual human writer's voice more than on the tools that the writer uses.

posted at: 11:48 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Apr 25 2016

When it's more than blah-blah-blah

Fiction writing often involves more than description. It needs well-chosen dialogue between characters. The conversations we have in real life often involve a lot of talk that we would never bother to include in a story. We might not be able to skip the dull parts in real life, but in fiction we have to get past all that so we don't lose our reader. We hone in on a few choice bits of dialogue that matter.

A seemingly dull conversation while doing the dishes can propel a story forward, if it takes place between two people who don't really know each other well. If there is tension between a nervous wife and a mother-in-law and the younger woman drops an heirloom soup tureen, a conversation while washing dishes could become a pivotal moment in an already tenuous relationship. Does the mother-in-law use the conversation to push the younger woman further away? "I've always cherished this piece. It was the one thing my mother left me." Does she invite the young woman closer into her heart? "The truth is that I've always hated that ugly thing, but I couldn't bring myself to smash it. You've just done me a big favor." (I've made the scene a little stereotypical, but many other things could play into affecting the dialogue, such as the mother-in-law being younger than her daughter-in-law.)

posted at: 12:45 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Mon, Apr 11 2016

Word Count: One

Three men who recently sought rescue from an island in the Pacific Ocean used brevity in writing to make their point. They lay palm fronds out on the coastal beach that sent conveyed a simple plea for "Help" to anyone passing overhead. Their work was spotted and they got their wish. The tried-and-true method of getting to the point with the tools you have may be all the brilliance you need, especially when working under pressure.

posted at: 08:02 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, Mar 29 2016

Writing between the lines

Casual conversation remind me that humans have a habit of filling in backstory in seemingly haphazard ways. Speakers will often begin by talking about what seems to be the main event, only to switch gears in the middle of the telling to give you details about how and why they had come to that mishap in the first place. Bad storytellers go off on so many tangents that you forget what the original intent of the story was. Good storytellers drop one or two carefully chosen details that actually enhance the main story they're delivering.

A soliloquy or flashback that fills in past details or shows a character's current mindset based on past details should be crafted to further the telling of the main tale, or at least one of the main subplots. If we get ourselves off into four different weed patches and we are the ones who know the whole story, imagine how confused our reader will be when he or she doesn't know the whole story and tries to keep up with our schizoid meanderings. Unless we are using that confusion to specifically show our characters' confused state of mind, we need to keep control of the flow of our words. A confused reader is likely to be an unfulfilled reader at the end.

posted at: 11:08 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Tue, Feb 23 2016

Hurry up now, create later.

Some days I cook two or three dishes at once or make dinner while laundry is going. I like to call it multi-tasking, though some experts tell us that there is no real multi-tasking and that we fool ourselves into thinking we can concentrate on several things at once. Whatever you call this habit, it helps me to cope with being a writer who doesn't pay other professionals to clean the house or mow the lawn while I write. Many of us who work from home have to contend with doing it all, or doing most of it all.

The thing that works best for me is to work on several other tasks during the same period of time, whether that's called multi-tasking or switching tasks. This leaves me with larger blocks of time that allow me to focus completely on creativity. Walking away from stirring the soup in order to fold clothes creates less of a disturbance in my universe than does walking away from the creative core of writing to fold clothes. I need that uninterrupted flow of time to let creativity become productivity. (Your mileage may vary.)

posted at: 13:27 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Feb 19 2016

Keeping it simple isn't easy and maybe it shouldn't be.

Some people claim that keeping things simple is the way to happiness. They have the same thing for dinner every Tuesday, keep the same three pairs of shoes in their closet and they vacation at the beach every year. I suppose this could take a lot of the bother out of making decisions, but an uncluttered life could also be rather dull. Writers are usually juggling household needs and family needs along with whole other character lives as they go about their day. While real friends and family clamor for a night of pizza and theatre, characters demand their share of attention.

Sticky notes, corkboards, flow charts and other tools can help. But it's not uncommon for a writer to be thinking about how to depict a fiery car crash while mixing a salad. Margin notes scribbled during a business or family meeting might include references to abduction, sabotage and murder. No meeting can remain boring while one is jotting down how to overthrow an island dynasty alongside last quarter's financial reports. (People who peek over a writer's shoulder deserve whatever shock and awe they receive, in my opinion.)

posted at: 15:47 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Fri, Feb 12 2016

Bad blog entry, good dog

The dog ate my blog entry yesterday, but we don't actually have a dog, so I'm using an excuse we've all heard at one time or another. The truth is that I struggled to write a blog entry and couldn't seem to pull my thoughts together well enough to build coherent sentences. I took a break and did some other tasks and then tried again. UPS brought an order. I made a beverage using the Keurig machine. After forgetting to place a requisite mug beneath the machine spout and nearly wasting my efforts, I grabbed the rescued drink and returned to my task of blog writing, but was interrupted by the inevitable call of nature. And so it went.

By the time I got around to finishing yesterday's entry, it was late. It's good to write in a frothy stream, but it's good to let such work simmer before actually doing a final edit. I rose this morning to find the blog entry in such ill health that it was best to put it out of its misery and begin anew. I reached for my trusty keyboard. In a blaze of writer-like metaphor, I became the dog.

posted at: 08:56 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
and cattle rustlin'! Lightning may strike
such varmints when they least expect it!