January 26, 2011

Practice Descriptive Writing Using the Book of Isaiah

Last night while I was reading the Bible, I discovered some excellent examples of descriptive writing in the Book of Isaiah. The purpose of descriptive writing is to reveal settings and characters through the use of vivid and carefully selected details. When writers write descriptively, they weave their words to entice readers to imagine while using all of their senses. Isaiah, inspired by God, does this beautifully.

One technique used to practice descriptive writing is to read and model well-written sentences and paragraphs. Read these examples from Isaiah. Then try the brief exercise at the bottom of the page.

"The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, strutting along with swaying hips, with ornaments jingling on their ankles." (Isaiah 3:16 NIV)

"I will remain quiet and will look on from my dwelling place, like shimmering heat in the sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest." (Isaiah 18:4 NIV)

"I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: 'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”'At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke." (Isaiah 6:1-4 NIV)

"You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands." (Isaiah 55:12)

Try it.

Begin with the sentence starters below. Add specific details to build two good descriptive paragraphs. Then look up the scripture verses following the sentences to see how Isaiah wrote them.

1. The Lord will take away all the women's fine clothing and accessories:
2. The blacksmith takes a tool...

Isaiah 3:18-23
Isaiah 44:12

How else might you use the Bible to enhance your creative writing skills?

January 12, 2011

Six Steps to Successful Ghostwriting

Freelance writing is an adventure. One of the things I love about it is that I never know what my next assignment will be. Recently, a client asked me to ghostwrite a note to parents for the inside covers of a children's history book series. The challenge: to write the note in the scholarly voice of a real Pulitzer-prize-winning historian, and at the same time make it appeal to, what my client called, "the average bear." The name of the historian I can't share with you because I agreed to keep it confidential; however, I shuddered a little when I learned who I would represent and that his name would be at the end of my letter.

So, how does a freelance writer prepare to write in someone else's voice? I use these six steps:

1. Ask your client for input. Some will want you to work directly with the person you are ghosting, and others prefer to act as the middleman between you and their person. Find out if your client has writing samples from the person and also audio recordings of their voice.

2. Read several (at least) books or articles written by the person. Get comfortable with their writing style. Look for the way sentences are formed. Does the person use a lot of fragments? Short sentences? Run-ons? Be aware of vocabulary words that appear often. Decide if the writer's style is formal or conversational.

3. Listen to radio or television interviews the person has done, or tapes of public appearances. If there are none, then ask your client if you may interview the person. Some people speak in the style in which they write, and others do not. As you listen to the person speak, you will become aware of their vocabulary. Do they use idioms? Regional expressions? Listen to the rhythm of their speech; this is another indicator of sentence structure. Is their style scholarly or informal?

4. Compare how the person speaks with the way they write. Often, you will find similarities, and when you do, you're ahead of the game. If the writing and speaking styles are vastly different, then, of course, disregard what you've heard and concentrate just on the writing.

5. Practice writing in the person's voice. Try to capture their personality. The more you practice, the better you will think in the person's style. Then, when you are comfortable enough to slip inside their skin, write, write, write! Don't stop. Let the words flow.

6. Review what you wrote. Most personal computers have a text to speech feature that allows you to listen to what you have written. I use this method to listen for the sentence rhythm. I ask myself, "Does this sound like the person?" If not, I go back to my research, reading and listening, and then I try again.

Successful ghostwriting takes practice. It's all about style. And keep in mind that style is subjective. Be prepared to make revisions, both for your client and the person you represent.

January 3, 2011

Slay the Jabberwock!

Welcome 2011.

The Walrus and the Carpenter blog has a brand new look to usher in the new year.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.”

Huh? Say what?

If you’re like me, your writer’s mind is swimming with words, ideas and goals for this new year. "Jabberwocky" Lewis Carroll called it -- nonsensical language. There’s little continuity right now, but you’re armed with your computer, or paper and pen, ready to slay the Jabberwock and make sense of it all.

So, tell us. What are your writing goals for 2011?
How will you slay the Jabberwock?

Find more poetry animations HERE.