Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday Mulligan Stew

First off my debut blog with Sweethearts of the West is today. Come on by and say "Hi"!

Saturday I took a class by Elizabeth Lyons on revisions and came away with two things that I'm incorporating in my latest WIP to make it sparkle.

One was "riffing". It is in essence doing the same thing when you write that a musician does when he "riffs" or "jams" with other musicians. A group of musicians get together and do a jam session. They are all playing the same "genre" of music, bluegrass, jazz, country and all playing the same melody, but they each get a chance during a song to "wing it". So using that same premise, a writer goes into their work-in-progress and finds a generic sentence.

She walked through the dark tunnel.

Give yourself the permission to "riff" on that sentence using senses, adding emotion, specifics, and similes and metaphors.

The thick musty air clogged her lungs as the damp darkness folded around. Suffocating. She had to follow this tunnel. Fear for Tino squeezed her chest like a giant fist. Her head pound in frustration. Her eyes ached from searching the weighty darkness. This was the only direction Tino could have gone. Sticky cobwebs clung to her face. Would there be cobwebs if Tino and the others had come this way? She scraped the clinging fibers from her face, thinking of it as hair and the soft globs of spider bodies as blobs of hair gel. If she let her mind stray to the soft-bellied arachnids, her feet would stall. Her palm slid along the slick, cool, dirt wall. She fought the urge to spin around and return to the chamber. Tino needed her. A toe of her boot struck a rock. Her breath easing in and out of her lungs echoed in the darkness as loud as the howler monkey’s cry. As a child she didn't fear the dark. Now, worrying about Tino and the men he followed, the blackness was her enemy.

Then once you've riffed, go through and capture the sentences and nuances that you want to add to the story.

Elizabeth also suggested when you are varying your sentence structure and length toss in a one word sentence where you are looking for impact.

The other thing I think about, and try to do, but hadn't really sat down and made a list for, is building a character lexicon. This is a list of words used in your character's occupation. So when you are enhancing sentences you can use words that also define the character.

And that's my Monday Mulligan stew of what I learned over the weekend.

Did you learn anything over the weekend? Be it about your family, life, or a hobby?


Helen Hardt said...

I love the idea of "riffing." I've never heard the term used with writing before.

Paty Jager said...

Hi Helen, I hadn't either but it is a great way to add more to a scene. I really like it.

Lauri said...

Wow, I hadn't heard of riffing in these terms. AND the example you gave is awesome! Thanks much for the info!

M Pax said...

I learned a lot in the same workshop. I'm applying it to the short story I'm editing right now. The lexicon, etc ...

If I cut 1,000 words, it may get published. :D 600 more to go - I'm about 1/2 way.

I learned to edit a few things and felt freed to put more of me back into places.

I'm hoping these new tweaks make my stories irresistable.

Autumn Jordon said...

Great example of riffing, Paty. You taught me something. Lexicon. That is the name? I never thougth about making a list of jargon words in my characters file. Kool. Thank you for sharing.

Paty Jager said...

Lauri, You're welcome. I thought it was a great way to think about adding to a story and giving yourself permission to just let go.

Mary, congrats on the revision work.

You're welcome Autumn. I love when I learn something new that can enhance my writing and I think both the riffing and the lexicon will.

Elizabeth Lyon said...

Hi ya Central Oregon writers and friends--glad to hear the techniques were valuable. I LOVE riffing. Otherwise I'm a control freak editor hovering over my own writing.

Paty Jager said...

Hi Elizabeth, Thanks for stopping by. I enjoyed your workshop as you can see.

Jena Lang said...

Great info, Paty! I've never heard of riffing. What a wonderful way to add depth to a scene! Your example is terrific. I'm going to try this on my WIP. Thanks for sharing!

Allison Knight said...

Like Helen, I never heard the term "riffing" in connection with writing, but what a great example. And another thing to improve the 'tone' of the tale. Using occupational words sounds kinda hard with the medieval romances I write... I'll have to give it a try though. Think for the mini lesson.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Never heard riffing used for writing, but loved your post.