Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Facebook Effect

Ok, I promised myself not to obsess about my blog stats too much, but this one is just too much fun not to mention:

The above chart shows the number of page views on my blog. That tiny, little spike there on November 16th? That’s the date when I advertised my blog on my Facebook profile. The number of page views exploded as a result, reaching a figure more than 6 times as large as my previous best score. I know, I know… those page views are probably generated by 5-10 persons or so, but that does not make me any less happy.

So Social Media Marketing actually works!

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Writing Workshop – Week 8

Exercise – Richard Bausch – Aren’t You Happy for Me?

Daniel Teo

Write a scene of a telephone call between two people who are each going through their own drama. The narrator is slightly closer to the character with the ‘real’ drama. The other person also has something dramatic, but it is told in a funnier, more exaggerated way. The narrator is keeping things moving, keeping things light-hearted.

Click here to read the story

This exercise focuses on an area which we haven’t touched upon a lot yet: dialogue! In a way, dialogue is both easier and harder to write than for example description or action. It’s easier it keeps the scene moving along at a brisker pace without ‘telling’ too much. But I’ve noticed that it’s very easy sometimes to get caught up in the dialogue, precisely because it moves at such a brisk pace, while losing focus on the main story. This exercise is particularly useful, because the narrator has to step out of the dialogue to reflect and show a little bit of what is going on, which adds to the story.

Now on to the critique of the story. Continue reading

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Writing Workshop – Week 8 Exercise

This week’s exercise based on Aren’t You Happy for Me? by Richard Bausch

Write a scene of a telephone call between two people who are each going through their own drama. The narrator is slightly closer to the character with the ‘real’ drama. The other person also has something dramatic, but it is told in a funnier, more exaggerated way. The narrator is keeping things moving, keeping things light-hearted.

“You have to roll it on your tongue properly, dear.” Helen told her daughter over the phone. “It’s not Wicado, it’s RRRicarrrdo!  Now you try it.”

“Forget it mom,” Eva said in an exasperated tone. “I don’t care. Now, are you going to tell me why you called me up in the first place, and what this Ricardo has to do with it?”

“I thought it was obvious. Ricardo is my new lover.”

“Your what?” Eva blurted out, before her mind could wrap around this foreign concept.

“My new lover.”

“Yes, I heard you. I understood you perfectly the first time.”

“Then why did you say what?”

“I – well, never mind about that. So…who is this Ricardo?”

“My new lover.”

“Yes… yes, I got that. I – I mean who is he? Where did you meet this guy?”

“Oh, he’s my salsa teacher. I started taking lessons two weeks ago.”

Eva was stunned for a moment. “You’re in love with your salsa teacher?” she finally said.  She sounded calmer than she thought she would. Continue reading

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Writing Workshop – Week 7

This week’s exercise based on Shore Leave by Lynda Hull

Write a descriptive 3rd person scene between two people. The main character is experiencing something that is distressing, but the tone is celebratory and lyrical.

Click here to read the story.

I just finished reading The Once and Future King, and it formed the inspiration for this week’s exercise. Just in case you were wondering, I did not come up with the excellent name Bruce Sans Pitié, but it is rather a minor but symbolic character in T.H. White’s amazing book.

This assignment was pretty tough, as I’m never really good at descriptive scenes, not to mention the celebratory tone, although I think it didn’t turn out too bad in this exercise. I did have one misgiving about the assignment though. In my attempts to make Sam feel as celebratory as possible towards Bruce Sans Pitié, I made him just as unsympathetic as Bruce is. The story would have worked out better if Sam felt some ambiguity about the situation he is in.

In a sense it is a shame that I didn’t notice that sooner, because the moral ambiguity in the characters’ actions is what makes The Once and Future King such an amazing book in the first place. And anyway, you always want to strive for shades of grey in your stories rather than black and white. So if I ever plan to rewrite and expand any of the stories I’ve written for the workshop, this one would definitely be very high on the list.

By the way, I apologize beforehand if I make too many references to the Once and Future King in the coming period, but that is because it has quickly become one of my favorites. I might write a review of it somewhere in the short future.

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Writing Workshop – Week 7 Exercise

This week’s exercise based on Shore Leave by Lynda Hull

Write a descriptive3rd person scene between two people. The main character is experiencing something that is distressing, but the tone is celebratory and lyrical.

Sam the squire enters the village grounds riding behind his master Sir Bruce Sans Pitié. Sir Bruce is perched atop his mighty black warhorse, towering above the simpering peasants, his full plate armor shimmering in the bright midday sun, as if he is being graced by the personal touch of God. He argues with the village elder who grovels pitifully before him, while the other villagers stand around them in a wide circle. Suddenly, a flash of steel appears from his right hand, and the village elder’s head comes tumbling down onto the dusty ground. Shrill screams echo against the blue, serene sky. Two male villagers hastily enter into a house and they reappear moments later with a struggling maiden in their grasps. She screams hysterically when she sees her father’s headless body twitching in the sand, but they are quickly muffled by the gag forced into her mouth. “Bind the maiden and place her onto my squire’s horse,” he exclaims. “It’s a gift before he enters into his full knighthood.” Continue reading

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Writing Workshop – Week 6

This week’s exercise based on Revenge by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

Think of a negative emotion one character has for another, and think of the most extreme that person would do. Have an omniscient narrator tell the story like a fairy tale in a straightforward and non-judgmental way.

Click here to read the story.

Another week, another writing assignment, and one that is really fun this time, as it allowed us to explore our darker sides. It might feel disconcerting at first, but we are writers after all, and what kind of writers would we be if we did not indulge in our dark side once in a while? As usual, I am amazed by all the creative storylines everyone came up with, and it was great to read them all.

I really liked the story I’ve written this time, independent of the requirements of the exercise itself, which is something you won’t hear me say a lot. I rather liked the narrator’s voice in the story. I love the way a straightforward, non-judgmental omniscient narrator sounds, and it’s definitely a voice I’m going to experiment more with, something I also wrote about yesterday.

However, one of the criticisms was actually that the narrator wasn’t omniscient enough, compared to the piece by Petrushevskaya. It seems obvious in hindsight, but I was too focused on the Mei-Hua character, and I didn’t show enough of the husband’s and mother-in-law’s points of view, which would have made the story more interesting. I always say that the relationships between the different characters are very important elements in a story, and yet I forgot about it here.

All in all still a very good attempt. I think I got the fairy tale feeling down, as well as the straightforward tone for the most part. It wasn’t as dark as some of the other pieces, but it’s still pretty gruesome if you stop and think about it.

 

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Writing Workshop – Week 6 Exercise

This week’s exercise based on Revenge by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

Think of a negative emotion one character has for another, and think of the most extreme that person would do. Have an omniscient narrator tell the story like a fairy tale in a straightforward and non-judgmental way.

Once upon a time, there lived a girl in China called Mei-Hua, who fell in love with a wealthy man from a nearby village. When they got married, she moved in with her husband and his mother. It wasn’t long, however, before she discovered she couldn’t get along with her mother-in-law. No matter what Mei-Hua did, she would always get criticized. Nothing seemed to satisfy that woman. Not her cooking, not her needlework nor the clothes she wore. None of those things were good enough for her son, not even the way she stood or walked. Even worse, her mother-in-law often criticized her openly in front of the servants and her friends, even when they were strolling through the village in public. And through it all, she was expected to bow her head and accept these criticisms meekly. Chinese tradition dictated that she was not allowed to show any disrespect to her elders. Whenever she did dare to open her mouth, she was immediately rebuked by her husband.

After a few months, she decided she could not live with this horrible person under the same roof anymore. Continue reading

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