Category: armored prose

The Language of Fiction is Word-pictures

The language of fiction is word-pictures © 2013 by Robert J. Ray Word-pictures, whether they stand still like photographs, or whether they roar like the wind, come from concrete nouns: “In the late summer of that year, we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.” This famous word-picture opens A Farewell to Arms (1929), a war-novel by Ernest Hemingway. There are two abstract nouns in this opening sentence – summer and year – and five concrete nouns: house, village, river, plain, mountains. There is one object – the house – anchoring  four generic landmarks: village, river, plain, and mountains. The ratio of concrete nouns to abstract is 5:2, enough concrete nouns to paint a picture that locks down the opening of the novel. The view is panoramic, like a photograph or a landscape painting. The narrator is First Person. The pronoun “we” links the narrator – a volunteer ambulance driver from the American midwest in search of love and adventure in the Great War of 1914-1918 – to  his ambulance driver buddies. The word-picture in this opening line puts an implied distance between the narrator in the village and the fighting in the mountains, where the Italians battle their Austrian neighbors. The distance comes from the active verb of perception (looked) and the adverb of distance (across) and...

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Tips on Line-editing Your Fiction–Part Two

This is part two of a three part series on editing, rewriting, scene performance Tips on Line-Editing Your Fiction by © 2013 by Robert J. Ray The language of fiction is word-pictures. Word-pictures, whether they stand still like photographs, or whether they roar like the wind, come from concrete nouns: “In the late summer of that year, we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.” This famous word-picture opens A Farewell to Arms (1929), a war-novel by Ernest Hemingway. There are two abstract nouns in this opening sentence – summer and year – and five concrete nouns: house, village, river, plain, mountains. There is one object – the house – anchoring  four generic landmarks: village, river, plain, and mountains. The ratio of concrete nouns to abstract is 5:2, enough concrete nouns to paint a picture that locks down the opening of the novel. The view is panoramic, like a photograph or a landscape painting. The narrator is First Person. The pronoun “we” links the narrator – a volunteer ambulance driver from the American midwest in search of love and adventure in the Great War of 1914-1918 – to  his ambulance driver buddies. The word-picture in this opening line puts an implied distance between the narrator in the village and the fighting in the mountains, where the Italians battle...

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Who Do You Listen To?

Who Do You Listen To? After I came across a very brave and unique novel titled: Taliban Escape by Aabra  which was reviewed in The Dark Phantom Review, I remembered an exchange I had with a fellow writer and former student. I want to post it here for anyone visiting this blog as a reminder of why we write: Writer: I’m trying hard to maintain the last bit of writing advice you provided, “write what you want, the way you want.” That’s hard, especially with two friends criticizing it. Right now, if I take them seriously, I need to go back and almost start over with my work-in-progress.” JR: Yes, that’s a tough one. One short answer is to listen but choose what to change if anything. The way I see it, we have this ideal story in our heads. It’s endless, but when you write, the readers plug in what you write and if it doesn’t connect somewhere to the universal story, they get this disjunction and their pencils move. What that gives us then is the issue of who’s doing the writing. But even deeper is the question of vision–-readers want you to tell them the story they want to hear. It’s your job to tell them a story they’ve never heard. If you can’t get past the universal, then you add nothing to the inventory of...

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Susan Canavarro~Guest Writer

Susan Canavarro is an artist living in Florence, Oregon. Her memoir, “Fragments: Growing Up Bohemian Poor in Dementia’s House”, is available in e-book and paperback. This is her first Guest Writer appearance on our blog. I write memoir fragments. Following a few of Robert and Jack’s writing techniques, I am working on getting rid of the passive voice, replacing weak verbs with strong, using concrete nouns, shucking armored prose, and looking for metaphor. Eliminating the passive voice requires taking ownership of my thoughts and feelings and imagery. My ah-ha moment: taking ownership is scary. Taking ownership means I must stop being the victim. Taking ownership leads me to truths about myself like: I’m afraid to express myself with certainty because I am afraid of being wrong or stupid. So I hedge all writing, all painting, all thoughts using my passive voice. The passive voice is a great tool if you want to create a character like me in your novel. But I want to be strong, so out it goes! Shucking armored prose is also about taking ownership. Don’t fill up the page with abstract nouns and weak verbs like, my favorite, I’ve been thinking, or I would have thought…and for god’s sake, stop with all those adverbs! I can’t always avoid armored prose, but I’m learning not to love it. In writing The Auto/Body Connection I explored the...

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Page Eight–Zen Poetics-The Poetics of Fiction 2

Page Eight–Zen Poetics–The poetics of fiction 2 ©2012 by Jack Remick and Robert J. Ray This is the Second Posting on Zen Poetics for Fiction Writers: A Golden Rule: Force the writer to create with power.  Zen Poetics: How to read a poem To read a poem, you must first HEAR it. Let the words roll out and over you. To read a poem, do this—tape yourself reading it then close your eyes and listen. Poems want to enter you as voice. Poems want to enter you as emotion. The voice enters you and you hear action and you see images. Story to the fiction writer is the big thing. Story moves in time. Image and action and compression are the big things to the poet. Compression means the poet squeezes out all the Unnecessary leaving only the Essential. Time is essential to story. Not essential to poem. The Unnecessary is any word or cluster of words in a line that impedes the image’s completion. Image is analogy. Analogy is metaphor. Her hair hung like copper wire Coiled on ashen shoulders Zen  Poetics Unearths Illusion Fiction writers get lost in language because language is deceptive. Clearing out the Unnecessary lets the writer show the story as it happens instead of telling the story in garbled mucked up prose loaded with embedded clauses and wondereds and imagineds and realizeds. The...

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©2010-2017 Jack Remick, Robert J. Ray. All rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including text and images, without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Short excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jack Remick and Robert J. Ray and "Bob and Jacks Writing Blog" with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.