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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Writing Tips: Weather

When it comes to creating a believable setting for your narrative, weather actually plays a significant role in determining the location and its atmosphere. It’s fairly straightforward that a rainy day on a tropical island would be described categorically opposite to a sunny day in the tundra. Just as the lighting inside a room or its contents gives the reader a deep sense of their location in the story, external conditions function similarly but with an additional touch of symbolism.
Most writers would agree that weather is an integral piece of setting the scene. So much so, that in films or television, you may even become blind to the setup due to the expectation of weather. Quick-- what are the conditions in the climactic scene of Titanic? The opening sequence in LOST? Takes a minute or two to remember, doesn’t it? But once you recall the weather, I’ll bet you envisioned the rest of the scene down to minor details. Now I’ll direct your thoughts to how these decisions operate on a subconscious level.
Sun: Along with providing brightness to the landscape, this otherwise bland forecast can offer your reader with optimistic feelings and visceral connections to their own fair-weather memories.
Partial Sun / Cloudy: Not every day is perfect, even in an ideal location like the tropical island. Some locations may be overcast 9 out of 10 days (i.e. London, Seattle). Clouds can signify a looming conflict or confusion in addition to implying a transitional period.
Rain: It’s slightly cliché to set a depressing or end-game scene in the rain, but it does give emotional credibility to the situation. I am more partial to setting cheerful scenes in the rain for a juxtaposition of moods.
Stormy: This is quite an adaptable category. Storms could range from natural disasters to an every-day blustery gust or snow. Generally, Mother Nature’s storms are seen as a form of anger or fury, but it could also mirror an internal conflict.
Final Note: Time of day and the yearly shift in seasons offers another complex layer onto the weather your characters and readers’ experience. Be careful to note these climate deviations when painting your location to gain an extra dose of compelling realism.   

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Road to Discovery

To start this off right, I might as well explain the story of how I became a writer. Or well, discovered I was a writer. It’s a long story that spans several years and barring the passing of a few cornerstone moments, my future could have swung in an entirely different direction. I once wanted to be a vet (says the girl who faints at the sight of blood), but to keep the tale simple, it happened something like this:

On a bright afternoon trip home from preschool my father peered into the rearview mirror, his mustache twitching as he spoke, “What’d you do today, Rachel?”
“First we played games, then we had snack. I was going to nap but the school was attacked by a huge green dragon! It broke everything. We ran into the playground and got to play the rest of the day. The dragon played too,” I explained, giddily kicking my feet together.
Dad’s brow arched as his eyes questioned me from the front seat, “What’d you really do today?”
“I swear, daddy, the dragon came and then we got to use his tail like a slide,” I declared emphatically.  
Noting my earnest smile, he replied the following comment as tenderly as possible, “You’re going to have to call these ‘stories’, honey, or else you’ll get in trouble for lying a lot.”
This was one of many moments before middle school that lit my path as a writer. Sure, entering a poetry contest could be dubbed “the moment”; or maybe it was when I wrote my first short story, but hindsight allows us to assess our furthest memories to determine where and when our road began. Mine was on the road home from preschool the day a dragon attacked. I swear it happened…well, something like that.
How did you discover you were a writer? Leave a comment and let me know.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Blog Re-Assignment

I felt it was necessary to explain the slight changes in my blog from here on out. For the past several months I have thoroughly enjoyed scribbling on the factors that compose me: food, writing and nature. But it is time to pull the You Are What You Write blog together. In subsequent posts, I will primarily be providing writing tips, sketches and anecdotes to support fellow writers and those who wish to become part of our grand fellowship. There will also be segments reflecting the nature loving foodie I am in addition to movie, television and book reviews from a writer’s angle.

As authors of a diverse spectrum of works, we all find the greatest pleasure in passing along the words of our passions, but as a young writer I often felt I was alone in my journey. Accordingly, the purpose of this blog is to offer insight and encouragement to unite our community. Feel free to peruse the bloggings before this post if you would like to better understand where I am coming from and continue to check the following updates. If you share my sentiments on writing and hunger for support, join the community and follow me to the next page.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Natural Inspiration

“How do I solve this problem?” Road blocks arise in every aspect of life, but they are aggravatingly present in your most value projects. What you need is inspiration. However, inspiration can be difficult to find. More often than not nature allows me to access my muse in a manner that encourages productivity above all else. Whether it’s taking a walk to clear my head before work, or using the weather as a sketch tool for writing (future post alert!), the benefits of immersing yourself in the natural world can be directly seen in the rejuvenation of your personal or professional ventures.
As Henry David Thoreau says, “Nature is full of genius.” Whatever your challenges might be, nature is a free and diverse outlet for collecting motivation and thanks to seasons its wisdom is ever-changing. One of the greatest advantages of nature is that it offers separation from technology. Removing extraneous stimuli offers a clear mind to assess your tasks head-on. Allowing yourself to get lost in your surroundings can be inspiring in itself, so take a walk! You’ll be surprised by the increase in ideas you will experience by connecting with nature.
If you need more direction than just the suggestion of using nature as a source of inspiration, first exit your dwelling (be it your urban cubicle or suburban office) and locate a secluded area. This could be a park in the city or a scenic hike in the nearby wilderness—you could even do something as simple as walking around the block. Along your stroll be sure to have your cell phone on silent and focus solely on the dilemma you’re facing. Breathing deeply to maintain a calm state of mind will help with this exercise. Personally, I find pacing to be a good source of time-keeping, but whatever rhythm you’re comfortable with will work wonders to keep you on track. Lastly, let your thoughts flow to entertain your muse’s suggestions and even if something seems unorthodox to start, it may become a solid step towards finding your solution. Cleanse your thoughts and repeat. This practice is simple, but in difficult situations, simplicity is the key to success.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Writing Sketch 2: Justin Timberlake, Mississippi and the Tennis Ball

This is another 15 minute writing sketch using random topics:
The tour bus rolled into the parking lot at half-past dawn for the final concert event in Mississippi. Justin Timberlake was awoken by a glint of sun ripping through the blinds in his mobile bedroom. He had been waiting for this venue for weeks. The stage would take several hours to be raised and in the meantime, Justin was thrilled to be able to explore the great southern city of Jackson. Mapping out his daily plans, he expected a certain detailed route through the area to well calculated stops before returning to the stadium for rehearsal and ultimately the main event. However, this would not be the case.
Stepping into the cramped bathroom where the lingering smell of plastic clung to every surface, Justin scrunched his nose before preparing for the day ahead. Executing his morning routine, he brushed his teeth, shaved and took a shower. Upon exiting the shower, the closet room had developed a moist film on the floor as well as a dense fog that clouded the area. Even through squinting, Justin was unable to decipher where he was in the bathroom.
Fumbling his hands around, he manages to snag the comforting cloth of his towel before bumping into the bathroom door. Distractedly, he rubbed his face, having not noticed the door swung open. He stumbled out into the thin hallway when suddenly his right foot stepped on a tennis ball. Teetering on the ball, his body shifted balance before tumbling head-first into the cabinet beside him. Justin hollered in pain as she crashed onto the floor. Echoes of the bouncing ball permeated his ears, taunting him to stand. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be going out today.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Musings on the Cupcake Craze

In a previous food post, I spoke about a breakfast crawl I made in my area and since then I have worked on completing the cupcake crawl I so deeply desired. The endless variety of flavors and seasonal menus is accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds. That’s what was so approachable about the cupcake and the precise stipulation that rocketed it to the top. However, the cupcake craze has peaked and is on its way out. Sure it will remain a cute idea that flourishes in special markets, but as a sweeping fad, I doubt every bakery will bother to boast a spread of cupcakes in the near future.
Before you only see cupcakes at children’s birthday parties again, be sure to try some of the premiere cupcakeries in your area. The Greater Boston region has some delectable offerings and although I have managed to taste several, I continue to work through the list. The hallmark of the perfect cupcake is a moist cake, flavorful frosting and an equal ratio of both. Adding a filling can never detract from the superiority of a cupcake. Three noteworthy cupcakeries with such pinnacle products are Kickass, Sweet and Cupcake Charlies. Each of these locations drew me in through their tempting menus and an unparalleled satisfaction urged me to return.
Eating the same sugary base several times over can become irritating on a cupcake crawl—leading you to crave something salty and savory. Let me be clear, this necessary sugar withdrawal is common amongst mediocre bakeries, but at the aforementioned locations, the sheer amount of options entices you to continue eating or at least purchasing a box to-go. “If these places are as good as you say”, you ask, “how could they ever go out of style?” Remember pet rocks? Fondue? Webkinz? All fads fade. Sure, they linger, but their star power vanishes—as will many cupcakeries. The best will likely hold out (I hope these three sure do!) but some newer, cooler trend will reign over the foodie frenzy.  
 It’s hard to say what it will be. My best guess would be on doughnuts. Why? Well, I bet the same question was asked about cupcakes. And the answer remains the same: Who doesn’t like a donut? Endangered food trends are often the most fun to explore, so search around for a nearby cupcake establishment. If you are in the vicinity of Beantown, support the waning fashion and use one of these cupcake stores to furnish your next special event!