Character’s Voice . . . Prompt #445

Your fictional characters should be as different from one another as the real people in your life. One way to show differences is in their voices. Years ago, returning home from Aqua Zumba, I drove past Hermann Sons Hall and remembered the German woman who managed the building as if it were her immaculate residence. On our early morning walks, my husband and I watched as she polished door knobs, washed windows, and replaced gravel in the driveway. Her mission was to keep “her” building spotless. You didn’t want to cross her. How does a writer establish “voice” for characters?  If your character is a stoic German woman who manages a building as if it were her pristine cottage, picture what she looks like. Short hair, stern features, sensible shoes, tailored clothing. Then you can imagine what she sounds like: sharp, clipped sentences, uses precise words sparingly. Contrast that with…


Three-dimensional characters . . . Prompt #444

You have probably heard about the importance of knowing your fictional characters so well that you know what he/she had for breakfast. Readers don’t need to know this, but the writer does. You don’t need to include everything you know about your characters in your story, but as the writer/creator, you need to know a huge amount of information about the people (and animals) who populate your story. The challenge is to create memorable characters rather than one-dimensional characters. Your fictional characters are like actors in a scene. Some fictional characters seem shallow while others seem richer. The difference could be that the writer knows the characters/actors so well, that the dialogue and the details fit the character. Your fictional actor may want to step out of character and exhibit new behavior. This is fine, as long as it’s credible. Your job as writer is to drop convincing clues so…


The neurological impact of sensory detail.

Stories should be aimed not at our heads but at our hearts. “And this is where things get interesting, because description actually allows access to our hearts in a neurophysical way.” I have wondered why reading something with sensory detail leaves more of an impression than writing that doesn’t have sensory detail. According to studies, “when we read about an odor, it engages the exact same part of the brain as actually smelling it, and those parts of the brain reside in the lower region, alongside our emotional centers. . . When you write using smells, or images, or sensations, you’re actually gaining access to the emotional area of the brain, and this is why stories can take such precise aim at the heart. Words like lavender, cinnamon, and soap, for example, elicit a response not only from the language processing areas of our brain, but also those devoted to…

Book Reviews

Durable Goods

I spent the summer of 2019 re-reading books by Elizabeth Berg, reminding me of my pre-teen summers when I read Nancy Drew books. Like the Nancy Drew books, Berg’s writing also transports me from my world to fictional worlds. I suppose Durable Goods, published in 1993, can be considered an oldie but goodie. It has a timelessness quality covering issues many face: a difficult home life, the challenges of growing up (changing bodies, confusing emotions, loyalties and betrayals, friends, commitment, making and losing connections with one another). — Marlene Cullen, The Write Spot Blog, editor, The Write Spot anthologies “Elizabeth Berg writes with humor and a big heart about resilience, loneliness, love, and hope. And the transcendence that redeems.” —Andre Dubus

Places to submit

Mid-American Review

Mid-American Review publishes works of fine literary art from a diverse body of artists. “We are on the lookout for work that has the power to move and astonish us while displaying the highest level of craft. We dedicate ourselves to encouraging, nurturing, teaching, and learning from the writers we meet through careful consideration of their work and meaningful dialogue. The writers in each issue shall include both well-established poets and authors and brand new voices. Because the acts of writing and reading force people to slow down and examine the world and their part in it, MAR is in a position to foster peace and understanding and to make a positive difference, and we fully embrace the challenge of making the world a better place through literature. We are dedicated to finding new audiences for contemporary writing and to building the audience for our journal, while also providing an outlet…


Describe an item. Prompt #443

In “The Art of Fiction,” John Gardener describes “the fictional dream.” This is when the author has described a scene so viscerally, the reader can see, feel, hear, taste, or smell what’s going on in the scene. Sensory detail is important in writing, but how to achieve it? Practice! Try this: Study an object for ten minutes. It can be something you are wearing, an item on your desk or on a kitchen shelf. It can be something you use every day or a special item put away to keep it safe. You can describe the glass flower decoration above. Notice the details of the object — the shape and texture. Explore the pieces that make up the whole. Hold or touch the item. Notice the texture, the heft. How does it feel? Does it have a smell? Look at the object from all angles. After ten minutes, write a…

Guest Bloggers

David Moldawer has a unique perspective . . .

I am delighted to recently “meet” today’s guest blogger, David Moldawer, through a friend’s recommendation of his newsletter, The Maven Game. “going through the goop” by David Moldawer Just hold that happy thought, Peter! —Tinker Bell, Hook I’d always imagined a pupa as something straight out of the original Transformers cartoon, the caterpillar sealing itself up in its chrysalis only to [transform] into a beautiful butterfly. Turns out, no. The caterpillar actually digests itself, squirting enzymes throughout its own body to dissolve all its tissues. This goop is then assembled into a new insect. Thus the caterpillar doesn’t transform; it transcends. Only through this sacrifice can the butterfly take shape. I’ve come to learn that I need order in my life in order to function. Absolutely require it, in fact. Yet to write anything worthwhile, I must pass through one or more stages of disorder—of goop—with my ideas jumbling together and coming apart and turning inside-out in…


Finding balance . . .Prompt #442

Balance is a tricky act. Like a pie crust, balance is sometimes tender and light, and sometimes fails. Sometimes we find balance. Then we totter. Then we regain balance. And totter again. And find balance once more. Write about finding balance. You can use any of these phrases for your writing prompt or use the image. Isn’t this a beautiful pie crust topping? Not something I made. But something I would enjoy eating!


Concrete Details

J.T. Bushnell wrote, “I once burst into tears during a Tobias Wolff reading . . . as Wolff intoned the final passages from ‘Bullet in the Brain,’ I broke the silence of the packed auditorium with a gasp, a sob.” Bushnell goes on to explain his strong emotional reaction. “It was the final scene that set me off.” This is what he remembered. Heat. A baseball field. Yellow grass, the whirr of insects, himself leaning against a tree as the boys of the neighborhood gather for a pickup game. “Half a page later, the story ends with the passage that brought me to a fever pitch.” For now Anders can still make time. Time for the shadows to lengthen on the field, time for the tethered dog to bark at the flying ball, time for the boy in right field to smack his sweat-blackened mitt. “These passages by themselves seem…

Book Reviews

The Tubbs Fire

The Tubbs Fire – A Story of Survival and Recovery by Rob Koslowsky A visceral accounting of a horrendous situation. Told from a first person experience what it’s like to lose all possessions and the challenges of rebuilding. Richly annotated with photos and stories that will de-mystify what happened during and after the Tubbs Fire devastation. Rob Koslowsky is a skilled story teller. This hard to put down book is alternately heart-breaking and hopeful, showing the resilience and strength of humans, who came together in this time of need. Available at Amazon. Robert K. Koslowsky spent three decades in high technology with a focus on leading edge telecommunications and solar energy solutions. After graduating from the University of Manitoba (1981), Rob worked for Nortel Networks, startup Cerent Corp., and then Cisco Systems. He also consulted with startups PVI (later renamed Enphase Energy) and Cyan (later acquired by Ciena).  Rob’s early…