Words are Words

Words are wordsI claim not to be a writer, but while thinking about what I wanted to say in this post realized that I’ve been stringing words together for mass consumption by the public since 2001. The vast majority of those words have been reviews of one kind or another. That first gig was reviewing music for a website that specialized in what is now called Americana. (For those not familiar with this term imagine a Venn diagram that includes many subgenres of country, bluegrass, a sliver of folk music, “roots” rock, and everything in the cracks between.)

Just like some book genres are more character based while others are more plot based, different musical genres focus more on the musical parts of a song while with others, the lyrics matter most. Americana is squarely in the focus on the words camp. The top reviewers at the site I was associated with paid a lot of attention to lyrics, often looking for the same things your Literature teacher pointed at while studying the classics. Is there symbolism, a subtext, or a “moral to the story”? Is a point being made that isn’t obvious or possibly even at odds with the surface message. (Think Springsteen’s Born in the USA for that last one.) Continue reading “Words are Words”

Name Droppers

I was talking the other day with E.L. James and Hugh Howey about what a bunch of name-droppers we writers are.

Okay, maybe that part didn’t happen, and I don’t mean name-dropper in the conventional sense. I mean that as writers, we have actually dropped certain names from literature.

When we choose our characters’ names, we use the opportunity to enhance the reader’s mental image of the character. Certain names just don’t seem to do that as well, so we drop them from the lexicon. They may not be totally gone, but to the extent they are used at all, they are given to minor characters. Continue reading “Name Droppers”

Character Description – Visual

Police sketch artist…he knows.

When I was teaching writing workshops for High School kids, there was one thing that always got that epiphany ‘aHA!’ moment that I liked so much. Description. Character description to be specific. We took it slow. I got my share of stories about guys with cornrows, blue jeans, baggy white T-shirts, and Air Force Ones. Gradually, I would start to share the writers’ secrets. And one of the first ones was this: for the most part, describing your character is a waste of time. People will argue about this, so let me explain what I mean.

Continue reading “Character Description – Visual”