Tag Archives: students

Thinkin’ on Thursday: Did You Hear THAT?

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Dialogue usually comes fairly easily to me. I was a drama director in Utah’s high schools for 20 years and a debate coach for 20 as well — sometimes both at the same time, sometimes just one or the other. I’ve done a fair amount of acting and have done readers’ theater-type productions which I’ve designed, cast, directed and acted in. Often, with my students. Plus, I like to talk. And I talk a lot.

But I know dialogue’s not as easy for some writers. Here are some things to try to spark your interest in getting dialogue right:

  1. Take an old favorite book. Re-read it now, but only the parts which are dialogue. Even try to ignore the tags like “he said,” etc.
  2. Watch an old familiar movie. With the sound turned off. Make up what they could saying, even if you know it has nothing to do with the plot. If you have a spouse or good friend, do it together, with each of you supplying the dialogue for a different character or characters. (OK — there will probably be a lot of laughing too — but try to concentrate on making the words flow.)
  3. Sit in a food court at the mall, or a restaurant at a busy time of day, like the lunch-hour rush. Try to look like you’re writing a letter or doing homework, but really listen to the broken and half-sentences, interjections (remember? Oh! Wow!  WTF??? — sorry, but you’ll hear that one a lot . . . and worse — etc.) If you can, keep your back turned to a couple or small group; listen and try to imagine what they all look like, what their relationships are, etc. Keep a sharp look – out for people who look, age-wise, etc., like they could “be” your characters.

When you’ve tried these out, write some of them into your current manuscript. Or start a new project with something you “heard” while keeping your ears open. What are the little nuggets you’ve discovered that can help enliven the dialogue between your characters.

Happy Dialoguing! (You’re welcome.)

See you next for Spellbinder Saturday!


Leave a comment

Filed under Thinking on Thursday

Thinkin’ on Thursday: Your MC’s Intellectual, Psychological and Emotional Impact

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Today, I’m thinking about the impact of minor characters on my Main Character (MC). And MC’s impact on others. How do characters inter‑relate? What do they glean from each other, both good and bad? What do they offer to each other?

I had lunch the other day with six of my former debate students from years and years ago. We’d gotten together a few times in the past, but had missed doing so for the last five years. In or near their 30’s now, two of them are working in law offices. Both are basically fulfilling the roles of paralegals, one having had some outside training, the other being taught by her company. One will finish her B.S. this year at the U of U, then begin applying for law school. The other, currently being “trained” by her work place, will get as much training as possible which is offered at her work, and will then go back to school. Both of them are the main support of their two children.

One of the others, having worked years ago with the Utah State Legislature, has a good, solid and responsible job, but also plans on returning to school, has one child and is currently separated from her husband.

Another quit a lucrative and responsible workplace for a “better job” recently: she has become a stay‑at‑home mom. Another, after an LDS mission, and a stint with the military has separated from his wife, works in a law‑involved field, but lives close to and sees his two children often.

What was I seeing from all of them? Shades and shadows of how their debating experience had influenced their interest in world‑wide affairs, their willingness to put themselves “out there” and live a challenging, sometimes difficult, but often rewarding, life. All, without exception, were actively engaged in their own lives. They were still looking forward, still planning “what comes next,” still curious, and still actively involved.

As writers, we need to be the same: curious, involved, active, with wide interests and involvement in the “job” at hand, whether at home, at work, in our writing, in our characters. Take a look at how all your characters — especially the main characters — are influenced by their friends, their enemies, their interests, the actions and reactions of the people around them.

When people are this involved in their own lives, they are influenced intellectually, psychologically and emotionally. All these aspects of your characters will make them feel real, sound real, act in authentic ways. Look at how your antagonist impacts your MC. In one story, that influence may be highly emotional. In another, it may be mostly psychological. Or it may be an intellectual impact. All three may even be evident in the same story, though not necessarily at the same time.

All of these will make your characters more “real.” Your readers will connect with these “real” human beings more quickly, more deeply . . . because readers are influenced in that way by THEIR friends . . . and seeming “enemies” . . . too.

See you next for Spellbinder Saturday!

Leave a comment

Filed under Thinking on Thursday

Tips for Tuesday: So What’s That Got to Do with Writing?

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

My husband claims, erroneously, that he can’t take me anywhere without running into somebody I know. Usually someone I’ve taught. As I’ve taught in Utah’s high schools, colleges and universities for over 50 years, I can understand where he might get that idea.

I love making connections — with people, between people, among people. They are often my students or former students. I sometimes claim they’re the only people I know.

Today, I ran across an eight-year-old funeral notice — the mother of one of my former students — and I had gone to the funeral. She’d written her address, in Washington state, on the back of the notice. My husband had known her back then as well, and found her on Facebook. I’ve had a lovely “reunion” with her online today. She and her husband (whom we also knew) are now serving an LDS mission in Chicago, but will relocate to American Fork when they are released. I let her know that the girl who played Annie Sullivan to her Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker at Granger H.S. has moved back to Utah and my student director from that show lives near-by me in West Valley City. We’re planning a Miracle reunion.

When I was a debate coach, at Park City HS, one of my former debaters from Granger HS came to act as a judge many times. Often enough that many of my debaters got to know and enjoy him. I’d “found” him again when he showed up at a meet to judge for another coach—a student he’d had classes with at the U of U. Well, he didn’t judge for her any more after that—but did a lot for us at Park City! (Maybe that had been one connection too many for me—I always needed judges, so I stole him!)

When I was the drama director at Park City HS, one of my American Fork HS students did the choreography for my musical and got to know those kids. Then she ended up judging debate with that former student/judge from Granger.

And why is this a Tip about writing???

Do your characters ever run into old friends in different places? Or meet someone new with whom they have a surprising, mutual friend? Could that meeting rescue you from an ordinary scene into something of more value? How do their connections with each other affect your story?

If you haven’t thought about good ways to use perhaps minor characters, try this/ None of us lives in a vacuum. We all know people from different0 schools, neighborhoods, walks of life. Let your characters bump into old friends (or enemies), discover mutual acquaintances at odd moments or in different places. Put your characters to work—even the “minor” ones!

See you next on Thinkin’ on Thursday!

Leave a comment

Filed under Tips for Tuesday

Tuesday’s Tutor: Learning Something New Daily!

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

International sales may seem like a dream somewhere far, far away in the future. But that’s not necessarily the case.

I’m active with an online group of over 900 authors called The Authors’ Think Tank. It’s filled with educators (like myself), editors, illustrators, writers of fiction—both published and unpublished—probably even some non‑fiction writers and many self‑published or ePub authors, etc. It gives all of us a great forum for finding out—and learning—all kinds of things.

We can check there to find out what’s going on and when, from workshops, to classes, to book launches and signings, and all things authorly! A good place to send questions, to share the pain and the pride found within the writers’ life.

One of the interesting postings today was about international sales of published works. It seems that Amazon has a branch in the U. S. of A. [amazon.com.us], of course, and I was also aware of Amazon.com.uk. Now they’re starting up an Australian unit , which I didn’t know about.

Here’s the thing: their “holdings,” if you will, can be shared from the U.S. to the U.K., and presumably—soon, if not now—to Australia. But not ALL of their holdings travel.

For instance, let’s suppose you are a U.S. author— let’s even assume you’re in Utah. You are published and selling on Amazon in the US. You may be selling on Amazon UK as well because your books are probably available in both (and currently, or soon to be, in Australia as well, perhaps).  But, guess what? Your Amazon author profile is NOT replicated in those places.

So, the lesson, dear “students”: check and see what materials you have for sale and where they are available. Also write up an author’s profile which will curry favor with those in the UK. Write up another one to appeal to those charming Aussies. And keep checking—there may be other innovations, too, which can broaden your interests and your “customer base”. And broaden the interest in you, that “American” author whose works are available to Amazon customers . . . where ever!

[P.S. ‑ An additional note later on the same Authors’ Think Tank said that not all of the Aussie Amazon is on‑line yet. And it recommended another good idea: suggest to reviewers that they set up reviews on all the possible sites. But be getting ready!]

See you day‑ after‑ tomorrow for Thursday’s 13!

Leave a comment

Filed under Teacher

Friday Friends: Six Degrees of . . . Connection

EASY AS A, B, C . . . from BB

I recently read an interview conducted by Kelly A. Smith wherein she had interviewed Allan Gurganus for the Spring 2010 Iowa Writers’ Workshop Alumni Newsletter. It was a brilliant, thinking-man’s, long piece. I kept a copy on file, and will probably be mining it for gold for a long time.

One quote which really got to the teacher’s soul was as follows:

“One of the great joys of being back at the Workshop is watching friendships grow between students. That’s one of the unsung roles of an attentive teacher—to promote comradeship in class. I tell my students on the first day that they’ll learn far more from each other than from me. And yet the teacher can be a secret mastermind, helping people notice each other, finding connections through each other’s consonant work.”

This is so true—students will learn from each other, and from the group at large, even more than from the person standing up front. I’ve noted connections throughout my very LONG career. I’ve seen them within a single group, I’ve seen them form from one year’s class to another, and —to my joy—I’ve even seen them develop across different schools, school districts, universities, and so on.

John, a debate student from Granger HS—years later—became a long-term judge for my students at Park City HS, like Wade, Tree, Wess, Korey, and many others. Wade became a connection of generations: his Uncle Keith, a former student from Granger, was apparently delighted that I had become his nephew’s debate coach as well. And, 46 years after Keith’s sojourn in my classes, I recently remarried: Keith’s Granger HS best friend, Herb. Jill, a drama student of mine from American Fork HS, helped me with everything from judging debates at Park City HS to helping out in a pinch with choreography for our musical. She, Wade and I have performed for various groups a number of times.

Then another twist: Shawn, from Park City HS, found out I was teaching a writing class in Canyons School District and encouraged his budding-writer high school daughter to come meet me to talk about writing.

What a joy to still be making new connections, and bridging them from one place in time and space to another, from one generation to another.

I feel unbelievably fortunate, “lucky,” if you will, to be—and to have been—a teacher.

See you day-after-tomorrow for “Sunday’s Snippets

Leave a comment

Filed under Friends

Saturday’s Softcover: My Mother was an “Elizabeth” Too!

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

My mother was named Margaret Elizabeth, but I never knew her to go by Margaret, or any of its wonderful permutations: Maggie, Meg, etc. In fact, she didn’t go by any of the changes to Elizabeth either—it was always full throttle: Elizabeth. And she loved movies. She felt very connected to two famous Elizabeths: Queen Elizabeth, who named her son Charles—my brother, almost exactly the same age, is named Charles. And she loved Elizabeth Taylor. So, when I saw Lu Ann Brobst Staheli’s book entitled Just Like Elizabeth Taylor, I knew I “just” had to read it.

The book is tender, frightening, angst-filled in part, funny, and ultimately— mostly—very happy,81N-fns-EuL__SL1500_ though I was in tears at the end.

Liz, named Elizabeth for the movie star, becomes Beth when she runs away from home. How will this young girl, not yet a teen, make her way on her own?  Actually, a lot better than she can do at home where her mother is too weak to give up the boyfriend who beats her, and Liz cannot fend off the boyfriend’s loathsome son.

Plucky girl that she is, she steals some money from the “boyfriend,” and runs away—but only as far as a fairly nearby town. She finds an abandoned shack at a winter-deserted K.O.A. place, where she manages to have bathroom/water/ electric amenities, ekes out her meager “savings” with school lunch and occasional lunch leavings from other students.

As the school year draws closer to an end, “Beth” must find a way to make a friend, save a lunch lady, let her mother know she is still alive, find a more permanent home, and bring justice to her “real” family, while maintaining a decent GPA so she won’t be “found out.”

At every moment, I was aware that the author had taught junior high school for years: she knew the angst, the failures, the desperation of some, the heartlessness of others, and the pluck of the brave. Just before the ending I was in tears: not because it was sad, but because I was so angry at what happened to “Beth” next: pulling all the threads together, the horrific scene had me crying for the unfairness, the drive, the caring this young girl exhibited. It was a fitting triumph, finally.

I know Liz, the lost girl. I know Beth, the loner. I know Elizabeth, the winner. I’ve taught those high school, junior high school and middle school kids too. Read it, and you’ll know them as well!

 See you day after tomorrow for Monday Moans!

A1YSS+kQ4cL__SL1500_BTW, the prolific Staheli also has a book, A Note Worth Taking, about “best” friends, surviving lost friendships, making new friends—you know, all those things we suffered in junior high or middle school. I’m reading it next—you should too: it’s on sale at Amazon for $0.99 through the end of July.

Leave a comment

Filed under Softcover

Thursday’s 13: “Oh, Go Stuff Your Flatchet!”

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Do you love goofy, old words?  I do.  I used to tell my obstreperous high school students to “go stuff your flatchet!”  They were usually so startled, they’d stop doing whatever they had been doing, even though it only meant “put your sword away.”  I got those words from a lovely book called Poplollies and Bellibones: A Celebration of Lost Words by Susan Kelz Sperling.  Enjoy (and use) the ones below:

  1. Too much hum can make a man’s head quop.
  2. Hum: a strong liquor combination of ale or beer with spirits; quop: to throb.
  3. All that hum may induce the man to long to hold his loved one’s feat.
  4. Feat: a dangling curl of hair.
  5. A woup with the feat of an elephant inside is considered lucky to wear, but larger woups could even anchor one’s feet at the base of a gofe.
  6. Woup: a simple metal hoop or ring, not set with stones; gofe: a pillory.
  7. Such a gofe would normally be erected on the wong where everyone could see it.
  8. wong: a meadowland, used as a commons where cows were taken to graze.
  9. Nowadays, a public wong is covered with nesh plantings and lush trees.
  10. Nesh: fresh, delicate or soft, such as vegetables, foliage or fruit should be.
  11. Braiding one’s hair with nesh flowers makes a beautiful kell.
  12. Kell: a woman’s headdress, such as a close-set net or cap, or a even a fancy wig to don      for a party.
  13. A lady’s kell is more elaborate if she is going to a ball where hum is served.

(If you ever go to such a party, and drink too much hum, be sure to stuff your flatchet in a safe place, so as not to injure anyone . . . including yourself!)

See you day-after-tomorrow for Saturday’s Softcover!


Filed under Thirteen