Fresh Writing and Cliché Busting.

May 6 2019, 8:57 pm in , ,

Ever been dinged in a contest or in a critique for using a cliché? I sure have. What is a cliché?  Here are a few general definitions I found.

  • A cliché is an analogy characterized by its overuse. It may be true (‘Fat as a pig’), no longer true (‘work like a dog’) or inscrutable (‘right as rain’), but it has been overused to the point that its sole function is to mark its user as a lazy thinker.
  • Being predictable and unimaginative; falling into a groove of human boredom; an old tired trend.
  • Something that has been overdone to the point where it is now predictable. A fad that has either died or is dying out.
  • Something that is lame and unimaginative, and, more importantly, has been done many times before.

Look carefully at these definitions. They are very applicable to our writing.  I know you all have heard of the writing oracles Some One, They Say, and They Said. Their teachings and sayings have often been quoted to me in an effort to prevent me from using dreaded clichés. I shall be referring to their words of wisdom here.

I think, to a degree, clichés are unavoidable.  I suggest we take clichés, bend and twist them and use them to our advantage.  Fresh writing or cliché busting.

The actor, John Krasinski and Amazon took a lot of heat for casting him as CIA Analyst Jack Ryan in a Prime Original. Krasinski’s bulk of work had been in comedies. Critics said he was horribly miscast. He’d ruin the series. Well, huge cliché buster and surprise. He was brilliant.

In the movie, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, the Cannibal, Lector, a brilliant physiologist, kills and eats part of his victims. Ewww! Think of all the Hollywood tough guys the director could have picked to play Lector.  Each and everyone, evil, and diabolical.  He chose Anthony Hopkins, a five-foot- six, middle aged, English Shakespearian actor whose only screen roles to date had been portrayals of gentle men. The performance Hopkins gives is chilling. Big cliché buster.

 On more than one occasion, the oracle They Say has made it very clear we should not open a book, or a chapter, with our characters in bed. It’s cliché. They Say is also against opening with descriptions of the weather.  It was a dark and stormy night.  It was a bright sunny day.

Try these.
It was a dark and stormy night on a planet that didn’t have nights or storms.
It was a bright and sunny day. The first in the hundred and twenty years since the war.
Simple, and for me, cliché busters.
Some One is against using cliché sayings. Think of the GIECO auto insurance commercials. They take cliché sayings bend and twist them and make them fun.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Really?
The little pig went wee, wee, wee all the way home.
Can a woodchuck chuck wood? In this commercial we learn they can.
The Drill Sergeant Therapist.
These are cliché busters.

Take a look at the following clichés. Can you twist them to something new?
All’s well that ends well.
An oldie but goodie.
Pick of the litter.
Pay backs are hell.
Kick ass.
I know it like the back of my hand.
Slept like a baby.

I’ll take the last one. A detective asks his partner.
“How did you sleep?”
His partner replies, “Like a baby. I woke up every two hours.”

They Said makes it clear we must stay away from stereotype cliché situations.  Say my WIP is about a middle aged Italian widow who loves to cook.  She has two grown sons and she is constantly talking to them about marriage. What is the first image you conger up?  A short plump woman standing in her kitchen stirring spaghetti sauce with a wooden spoon and lecturing her sons they need to get married and give her grand children.

Try this. A hot Italian cougar with her own TV cooking show who is desperate to get her sons to break up with the boring women they are considering marrying, sell their book store, and travel the world for fun and adventure.   Cliché buster.   

I do agree with They Say about descriptions having become predictable.  Just once (yes I used just) I’d like the description of the handsome Lord in a historical to be a bit off.

Lord Brilliantly Handsome stormed into the room. His cravat appeared to be on backwards, his waistcoat was on inside out, his breeches buttoned askance and dear me, his boots were on the wrong feet. Where had his Lordship been and what had he been doing that led him to such disarray?

Or, the beautiful heroine has a penchant for wearing so many ribbons in her hair you can barely see said hair.  

Oh come on, you know you’d like to see it happen.  🙂

 

Bottom line is, listen to our writing oracles. Avoid being a lazy thinker. Don’t use the same overused, predictable, unimaginative, boring clichéd openings, character descriptions, settings and situations.  Spin them, twist them, make them your own to thrill and amaze the rest of us. Go through your WIP. Can you identify a cliché you could rewrite? 

                                                              Rita

 

 

 

Haiku

Apr 15 2019, 10:47 pm in , ,

I’m lucky to have another lovely Poet, Deena Hosmer, blog today. Deena is a very artistic person. I asked her to tell us about her creative endeavors and to share her poetry with us.  Here is what she had to say.  

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with words, how they sound, how they look, how they go together to impart meaning, and where they originated. I often write in my head purely for my own amusement. I truly can’t remember when I started writing; it seems it has always been a part of my life. My entire college career was centered on literature and writing. I began freelance ghostwriting blog posts, articles, and website content more than a year ago, and recently started ghostwriting nonfiction books this year.

I’m also a published designer of cross stitch patterns inspired by quilt patterns, nature, fabric patterns, and anything else that takes my fancy. The one unifying theme is color; I like to combine bright, vibrant colors in unique and unexpected ways. My writing is the same. I enjoy weaving a conversational, sometimes quirky, tone into everything I write.

My favorite form of poetry is haiku. I feel it is the greatest challenge a poet can face to impart so much meaning in a form of poetry that is, by its very nature, composed of so few words. My haiku is usually inspired by emotions and events in my life and interwoven with nature.

If I can’t be found on the computer writing or crafting my next colorful cross stitch creation, I can be found in my garden painting with flowers and telling a story with plants. Every moment of my life is driven by the desire to leave the world a better place than it was before.

 

This was inspired by a huge change in my life. When my position at the university was eliminated due to budget cuts I felt like a fledgling bird suddenly pushed out of the nest. I had no choice but to fly or I would fall to the ground.

 

I wrote this following the death of my older sister in 2011. For me this was a way to express my grief and honor her memory by not letting it break me. I think of her every day and honor her by being the best person I can be.

 

When my husband was in the Navy, before we married we had a long distance relationship. I wrote this double Haiku about him leaving after a visit.

 

Wow. Thank you Deena.  I’m fascinated with Haiku poetry and love these.

 What do you think about her poems? Leave a comment and let her  know.        

 

You can catch up with Deena on Social Media click on the links below.

Facebook

Shoestring Digital Designs     DJs Dreams Cross Stitch Design

 

Poetry with Lynda Ladret

Apr 9 2019, 10:29 pm in , ,

In keeping with the National Poetry Month theme I invited Author and Poet Lynda Ladret to the blog. I met Lynda in a small writing group and asked her to tell us about her writing  and share her poetry with us. 

Rita: Lynda, why do you write?

Lynda: I write to please myself. For my own entertainment and amusement A lot of the stories I write are creative non-fiction, about my past experiences.  On the other hand, my poetry just seems to write itself.  I like writing stories for the opportunity to explore emotion, to try to define meanings.  It’s therapeutic at times.  Writing is the scariest, most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done.  I love it!

Rita: How long have you been writing?

Lynda: Three years.

Rita: Have you shared your work before?

Lynda: I started posting poems and short-stories on facebook, where quite a few friends and acquaintances made positive comments, and encouraged me to keep writing. 

Rita: Oooo. I love short stories. We’ll have to talk about that another time.   

Rita: Have you taken any writing craft classes?

Lynda: Yes. I enrolled in a poetry class in 2017 and have never looked back.

Here are Lynda’s poems. Joy and Regret. 

 


 

 

Wow!  Thank you for sharing your poems with us. With a few words you manage to tell us a story filled with deep emotion. Well done.  

Leave a comment and let Lynda know your enjoyed her poems.  

You can check Lynda out on Facebook 

April is National Poetry Month

Apr 5 2019, 10:16 am in

I admit I know nothing about poetry. Except what speaks to me. When I open a book of poems I can honestly get lost in them. I marvel at the author’s ability to tell a story in a few lines. To draw me in and make me feel. I’m sharing a few.

 

Impromptu – To Kate Carol – Poem by Edgar Allan Poe

When from your gems of thought I turn 
To those pure orbs, your heart to learn, 
I scarce know which to prize most high — 
The bright i-dea, or the bright dear-eye.

 

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

 

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Suess

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
Any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

 

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

The Toucan by Shel Silverstein

Tell me who can
Catch a toucan?
Lou can.

Just how few can
Ride the toucan?
Two can.

What kind of goo can
Stick you to the toucan?
Glue can.

Who can write some
More about the toucan?
You can!

 

Do you have favorite poems? Please share.

Rita 

 

 

 

 

National Women’s History Month

Mar 25 2019, 11:39 am in ,

Let’s talk Women in Time of War. 

There are so many, little known, brave women in our world history. 

In 1716, Winifred Maxwell, Countess of Nithsdale, successfully smuggled her husband, Lord Nithsdale, out of the Tower of London, the day before he was due to be executed for his role in the 1715 Jacobite uprising . She supplied the guards with drink and then with friends created diversions while her hub’s beard was shaved and he was dressed in women’s clothes. Slick as anything William left with his wife’s friends. To buy time, Winifred stayed in the cell and carried on a conversation for the guards to hear. On her way out, she asked the guards not to disturb her husband because he was praying.  Dang. The woman had courage.

In WWl a 17-year-old French woman, Emilienne Moreau, assisted the Allies and set up a first-aid post in her home.

Russian peasant Maria Bochkareva, twice wounded in battle, led the all-women combat unit the “Women’s Battalion of Death” on the eastern front. Look it up.

American journalist Madeleine Doty, determined to make a difference, traveled to Germany during the war to report the truth.

During WWll actress Hedy Lamarr developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes which used spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology to defeat jamming by Axis powers. The principles are now incorporated in wi-fi and Bluetooth technology.

Julia Childs was a world-renowned chef. She was also a SPY. At the onset of World War II, she went to work for a newly formed government intelligence agency the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). She went on assignments around the world and played a key role in the communication of top-secret documents between U.S. government officials and their intelligence officers.

Nancy Augusta Wake. She ran away from her home in Australia at age 16. Worked as a nurse, traveled to New York and London. Married a wealthy Frenchman and became the single biggest thorn in the German’s side during WWll. The Gestapo called her the White Mouse because she eluded capture. She was their most wanted person and they put out a five million-franc reward for her capture. In a WWll movie if you see a woman depicted doing extraordinary things it is more than likely something Nancy actually did. She died in 2011 and I truly wish I had met her. There is simply too much to say about this amazing woman. I suggest you research her.  

The women of London who, during the war, sent their children to the countryside in hopes they’d be safe then went about enduring the almost daily bombings of the city. Can you imagine?  

Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs. About 200 women flew planes during World War II but weren’t considered “real” military pilots. No flags were draped over their coffins when they died on duty. And when their service ended, they had to pay their own bus fare home.

An incredible group of Soviet women, most under 20 years of age, flew bombing missions during World War II. Many flying more than a thousand missions. The Germans feared them and gave them the name The Night Witches.

Rosie the Riveter, a name for American women who worked in factories during WWll, many in plants that produced munitions and war supplies. Rosie’s Canadian sister was just as determined and dedicated. 

In 1945, Olivia Hooker became the first African-American female admitted into the United States Coast Guard. Dr. Hooker later earned a doctorate in psychology and had a long and distinguished career as a professor in New York, retiring at the age of eighty- seven. She is amazing.

Rose Valland a French art historian, and member of the French Resistance, a captain in the French military, and one of the most decorated women in French history. Rose is one of the greatest and yet unknown heroines of World War II. For four years, Rose risked her life daily to locate and return works of art stolen by the Nazis during their occupation of France. Her remarkable story remained unknown to the broad public until it was revealed in the book and movie The Monuments Men.  I’ve stood in galleries admiring the art she saved and never knew about her until the book was released. It makes me sad the world didn’t know to thank her.

The contributions these ladies made are huge. Without them our world would be very different.

Rita 

 

March is Women’s History Month.

Mar 23 2019, 10:15 am in , ,

History.

I have a love hate relationship with history. I love learning history. I hate that it can be a less than accurate representation of what really happened. Why? Because history is being told through the lens of the writer. What they perceive. Their interpretation of the events, as an eyewitness, or of the facts from their research. Now, through the ages, history has been written by men. Stories told though the lens of a male eye. I’m not saying historians lied, only they rarely saw things from the woman’s point of view.

In the US we rarely hear about women in our early history.        

I think of the women who came from all over Europe to settled North America. All the little mama’s, with children in tow, who had the courage to leave everything they knew, follow their husbands and get on a tiny, leaky boat and go to an unknown new world. They didn’t have a smart phone to check the weather, complain on social media the boat didn’t dock on time, or call an Uber driver to take them to an Inn. These women stood shoulder to shoulder with their man helping to build cities and colonize the wilderness. Traveling across prairies, mountains and wastelands in wagons.

I am fascinated in women’s roles in the American Revolution. How much do we actually hear about ladies during that time? There was Penelope Barker a loyal patriot of the American Revolution. Barker rallied 50 women— the first recorded women’s political demonstration in America—to sign a resolution boycotting British tea known as the Edenton Tea Party. North Carolina’s version of the Boston Tea Party. Don’t ya love it?

And there was Agent 555, an extraordinary woman, who was a member of the Culper Spy ring that George Washington says helped win the revolutionary war. To this day her identity is unknown.  Anyone out there know?

For more stories about ladies in the Revolutionary War go here

Have you heard of Dr. Mary Walker? She is the only woman to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for her efforts to save lives during the civil war. Congress eventually revoked her medal saying she was a civilian and asked for its return.  Mary, quite the outspoken character, refused and wore the medal proudly every day until she died.

Rose O’Neal Greenhow was a Confederate spy. A Washington, D.C., socialite, with friends in high places made her an excellent spy. Jefferson Davis said she was responsible for the South’s victory at the First Battle of Bull Run.

Frances Clalin disguised herself as a man, and she and her husband enlisted in a Missouri regiment.  A wife and mother of three children, she fought alongside Union forces for a year.  

To discover more about women during the Civil War go here

Rita

March is National Women’s Month.

Mar 20 2019, 10:32 am in , ,

As a writer I’m asking you to take some time and talk to the women in your family to get the other half of the story. Other half of the story? Yes. World events, disasters, family triumphs and celebrations told from their unique point of view. The vast majority of historical events is written from a male perspective. Hearing a woman’s point of view can be enlightening.

Where they were, what they thought when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.

Who in your family remembers rationing during WWII?  Ask how difficult it was during that time to go months without letters from a loved one.

Find out what it was like to have a family member in Vietnam and, for the first time in history, see the war on the news every evening.

What they remember about Jackie Kennedy.

Their first car. Boyfriend. The time they met Elvis. The real reason Aunt Gertrude left town. How Uncle Johnny got all his money.

Have you ever spoken to your mom about the day you were born?

Do you know the black sheep of your families? 

How did the women in your family meet the love of their life? What they thought when they did. I asked this question at a ladies gathering. One gal shared how she met the love of her life and then told us how she met her husband. Do you want your children to know how you met their father?

A family member was going to reveal a huge—her word—family secret to me. We’d set up a time for me to go over and hear this secret. She died before she could tell me. I’m left with a bazillion questions and a great deal of regret.

Don’t have this happen to you. Transfer your family stories to words on the page so they will never be lost.

Rita

Happy St Patrick’s Day

Mar 17 2019, 11:02 am in ,

 

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit!

What’s your Irish History?

On my daddy’s side of the family, the O’Brien’s, my Irish history can be traced to the early 1800’s.  This family picture was taken about 1897 probably in Braidwood IL.   My grandpa was Moses O’Brien, the dashing young man on the left holding the toy gun.

 

An Irish story

The characters Gemma and Ben, my heroine and hero from Under Fire: The Admiral, shared an experience they had a few months ago while visiting Ireland.  

They were in the Irish countryside on a very dark, stormy night–really it was–in the middle of nowhere. They’d stopped at a local pub for dinner and were enjoying the food, pints, and conversation when the pub door slammed open. A soaking wet, obviously upset young man stood in the doorway. He rushed in babbling about a horrible experience.

He was settled into a chair and given a pint. The beer was half-gone before he could string words into sentences and answer the many questions. The young man explained he was backpacking through Ireland and on a deserted road when it began raining so hard he could hardly see a few feet ahead of him. Finally, a car came slowly towards him and stopped. Desperate for shelter and thinking he was being offered a ride, he got in and closed the door only to realize there was nobody behind the wheel. Even though the engine wasn’t on, the car once again started moving. Ireland’s many ghost stories rumbled through his brain and fear paralyzed him. That is until he looked at the road ahead and saw a curve looming. Gathering courage, he prepared to jump. Then, through the driver’s window, a ghostly hand appeared out of gloom. In terror, he watched as the hand turned the wheel, guiding the car around the curve.

The lights of the pub appeared and gathering strength, he jumped out of the car and ran for it.

A silence enveloped the pub when everybody realized he was crying.  

Once again the door slammed open, startling everyone, and two men walked in from the dark and stormy night. They too were soaked and out of breath. Looking around, and seeing the young man sobbing at the bar, one said to the other…

“Look ….there’s that fookin idiot that got in the car while we were pushing it!”

Rita

Women’s History Month

Mar 1 2019, 12:42 pm in ,

 

March is National Women’s History month.

I write about strong, extraordinary women. This month I’ll be posting about women I admire. Women who have moral courage and an ability to get beyond danger and do what is right because it needs to be done. Women from around the world who I think have made a difference.

In the meantime please check out the marvelous web page of The National Women’s History Museum http://www.nwhm.org/ and the Women throughout American History on the Library of Congress page  https://womenshistorymonth.gov/

And be prepared to spend some time on those pages. 🙂 

                                   Rita 

 

Lighthouse Christmas

Dec 16 2018, 12:00 am in ,

To welcome the Christmas Season I’m sharing photos of a few Lighthouses in their Christmas finery.

The St. Augustine Florida light. Photo by John Joseph.

Tree at the bottom of the light.

The St Augustine Florida Light Keepers house on with thousands of luminaries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Santibel Light.

Tybee Island 

 

 

 

 

                      Marbel Head Ohio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montauk Light

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nubble Light

 

                                               Deer Isle Light

 

 

 

 

Aren’t these fantastic? 

    Merry Christmas to all.

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