Greeting all! As well as being inundated with university assignments and being forced to further neglect my blog, the blogs I follow and my own creative writing and reading goals, it appears the beautiful Australian summer weather has all but vanished as winter reaches out to us down in the Southern Hemisphere. I am wrapped up in a giant blanket with cold feet and a half-eaten packet of chocolate ripple biscuits while I try and motivate myself to get an essay on the power of social media underway...
Moving on! Something I've been meaning to do for a while is give a shout-out to Victoria Simox, who recently had a give-away of her middle-grade book The Magic Warble, which I won an ebook copy of a about month ago (yes, I am very behind schedule here, I know!). You can find Victoria on her blog at www.victoriasimox.blogspot.com.
Structure: Sentence, Paragraph and Story
Readings for week 4 were Triptych by Merlinda Bobis (pages 119-121), The Book of Sand by Jorge Luis Borges (pages 117-122), and Flying to Belfast by Dermot Healy (pages 319-331).
Our lecturer explained the difference between 'story' and 'plot', which is that 'story' is anything between the first and last event of a narrative; events unfolding in chronological order, without links, the the dot-point or 'and then... and then... and then...' feeling, whereas 'plot' is how these events are put together and linked and how their arrangement emphasizes the relationships between them (cause and effect), which creates a reader's reaction of surprise or suspense, etc.
Our lecturer talked a lot about 'time' and how it is hard to talk about; how we can't access human incidents in time without narrative. We humanize time when we write so that we can structure it for ourselves; although time is a constant thing, we talk about time freezing, stretching, disappearing etc. So how does our practice as writers raise questions of what it is like to exist in various kinds of time? We describe someone sitting in a boring lecture feeling as if time is dragging on and on and on. How might a practice of writing and reading influence our own and our readers' experience of time? We, as writers, have the power to control or at least influence the way our readers feel 'time' when they read our stories.
Readings for week 5 were The Lover by Marguerite Duras (pages 3-16), and The Little Friend by Donna Tartt (Pages 3-13).
This lecture focused a lot on verbs, their function and their importance. Verbs are doing words and any full sentence or independent clause needs one. When using verbs, writers also need to consider their place in time. The base form of a verb - or the 'infinitive' - can be found by putting the word 'to' first, eg: to bring, to run, to jump etc... however, the infinitive does not tell us details such as who, when and whether the action is possible, wished, completed etc; it is the pure notion of an event before detail is added. Who or what is the subject of the sentence? Who is completing the action of your verb? What tense are you writing in? These all come into consideration when giving the verb details. Writers should also consider the subjects gender and whether they are a singular or plural form.
Correct and consistent use of tense is important to stop your reader from becoming distracted and ensuring that you writing flows as smoothly as possible. The two most basic and commonly used tenses are 'past simple' and 'present tense'. The 'past simple' is usually used to signify the story's present and is considered the simplest and often most suitable way to write. Present tense is less common in prose and often has interesting effects on the feeling of literary prose.
A third type of tense our lecturer wanted us to look at was 'past perfect'. When 'past simple' relates to the now of the story, 'past perfect' is used to describe the story's past, as in memories and events that are being referred to which have already happened. We use this tense when we are describing something a layer further back in time. We can identify this tense when the word 'had' is used before the verb. Eg: 'I jumped' becomes 'I had jumped' or 'I'd jumped'. Slabs of text written in 'past perfect' tense can often sound clunky, but when referring to the story's past and the story's present, it is important that both the writer and the reader can differentiate between periods of time.
I appear to have lost the notes I took in my tutorial. This is both worrying and disappointing, because there was a really cool quote I wanted to share with you all and some more cool examples...
Does anybody have any interesting or useful tips to share on sentence, paragraph and story structure or tense?