by Jennifer Paros
Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you've got to say, and say it hot.
~D. H. Lawrence
A friend of my father’s visits once a year. He is part of my childhood memories — one of my Dad’s colleagues who periodically helped animate our home with conversation and laughter when I was a young. Several times while visiting with him again, he mentioned how I was “feisty” as a child. I immediately noticed my young (inner) self rear up like a horse, reminding me of that fiery, rumbling feeling — whatever defiance and stubbornness are made of — and also the stuff, I now believe, of heroines and heroes.
As a young girl I challenged my older sister, and sometimes other kids, to arm wrestling. I didn’t believe my thin frame possessed superior physical strength, but I did think I had access to a fierceness that would or could dominate. It wasn’t the muscle in my arm I wanted to challenge and prove; it was a mental muscle, the power of my own focus and determination. I wanted to be fearless, lively, and bold — though at various times in my childhood I found myself under my bed (literally and figuratively).
Though I craved ownership of my feisty, focused strength, I didn’t want to be prickly. I wanted my sense of power to come from inspiration, not irritation. Dictionary definitions explain feisty in two ways. One is about being touchy and aggressive, the other is a kind of exuberant, spunky determination. It is possible the second definition reflects the essence of the word and the first is how other people sometimes negatively perceive those qualities in each other — especially when challenged by them. more...
by Cherie Tucker
It’s summer, and it’s hot; learning this won’t tax you excessively. There is a difference between comprise and compose in both speaking and writing that many people are unaware of.
Comprise is a verb. The parts comprise the whole. In that sense, the “whole” is made up of, or contains, all of the parts.
Compose can also be verb, for example, if you are a musician and wish to write your own symphony. Your symphony will be made up of the parts you put together. It can be composed of several different rhythms and keys.
The key to remembering the difference in usage is to know that nothing is ever comprised of anything.
Lettuce and tomatoes only comprised the salad.
The salad was composed of lettuce and tomatoes only.
It's Alive! How (and Why) to Find the Heartbeat of Your Story
by Daryl C. Rothman
A little word association: I say Jurassic Park, you say…? Dinosaurs? Spielberg? Sequels? Most likely, not Ivar Ekeland or James Gleick. But author Michael Crichton credits them in his acknowledgements for the book, and Jeff Goldblum consulted both in preparation for his role as resident chaotician in the film. Ekeland's Mathematics and the Unexpected and Gleick's Chaos: A New Kind of Science profoundly influenced Crichton’s formative notions for the iconic tale. But a story about fractals, or even Dragon Curves — the iterations/progressions of chaos theory — would not likely have achieved a sliver of the success that the novels ultimately did. Crichton needed to find his “It,” that special something, the heartbeat of his story. The dinos, yes, but even more than that, compelling and relatable characters around whom they would thunder up from extinction.
The idea, of course, also harkens back to Mary Shelley’s classic, cautionary tale, and much like good Dr. Frankenstein, any perseverant scribe must assemble not merely the parts and pieces of his or her creation, but conjure that magical spark which will compel it to life. The It. The heartbeat. “There is something in us,” mused Flannery O’Connor, “as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act…” And so it is that even if redemption is not your story’s theme, O’Connor is at least correct that things need to matter: the characters, the conflict, the salvation, or even the failure. If they don’t, if in the end it’s just bells and whistles and frills, even mind-blowing T-rex-sized frills, the story will fall flat, with a monstrous thud.
There’s a pseudo-scientific term, SW2C. It represents So What & Who Cares? If it applies to your story, no measure of literary legerdemain will save the day.