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Monthly Archives: May 2013

I begin this post by admitting that English is not my language. There are many advantages and disadvantages to this and the more I write, the more I feel it. 

Disadvantages:

1. Tense: there is no tense in Chinese. I find tense in to be rather silly, confusing, if not illogical. It took me quite a while to get my head around it and I think I still get it wrong at times.

2. Vocabulary: this is tough one. Merely subscribing to word of the day is not enough. Believe it or not, I learned English by copying out words from the dictionary and hammering its spelling into my head. I still do this every now and then. This is probably the biggest obstacle I face. 

Advantages:

1. Reading range: being able to read in three different languages has its advantages. It allows me to access many stories presented in different styles. This is surprisingly useful when I run low on material. 

2. Style: a study into Thai English literature found that rather than using the language in the same way as other authors to whom English as the first language, they have their own style. The paper described this as “nativised”. I think that this is equally applicable to Chinese. I’ve talked to other Chinese authors about this and they agree in that this “native” English distinguishes their work. 

That pretty much sums it up for me. I invite anyone to correct my mistakes or add to the post. 

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Okay, so I haven’t gotten much writing done in the last week. Rather, I’ve spent some time watching interviews of a Chinese author. To my surprise, I found the whole thing both educational and entertaining. Above all, it taught me how creative children can be (and how boring adults really are).

She said in one picture her daughter drew, it had four suns coloured yellow, red, green and blue. Of course, the mother had to ask why she chose green and blue. To this, the little girl said:

“Green is when the sun shines upon the grass and trees. Blue is when it lights up the sky for the birds and the ocean for the fish.”

Truly, such creativity is hard to match. The more you grow up, the further you become to such things. Education, social expectation and self awareness takes away that wonderful gift. Who knows, maybe twenty years ago, I had something similar too.

Useful insight for all writers.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Last week, I was blessed to attend and teach at the DFW Writers’ Workshop Conference. Edgar-Nominated Author David Corbett taught a really excellent class about building dimensional characters. There was a particular message in his talk that stood out for me.

Force your characters to exteriorize. Thoughts and feelings can be taken back. Action makes characters commit to consequences.

Genuine Drama=Commitment

There is a newbie author mistake we all make. Thinking, feeling, more thinking but nothing happening. I’ve blogged many times that writing can be therapeutic, but it isn’t therapy. I feel that Corbett’s point really crystallized what I was trying to say, but couldn’t seem to articulate nearly as well as he did.

As Long as We are in the Character’s Head, NOTHING is at Stake

There is no push-back, no opposition, thus no conflict. This really gets to the heart of the SHOW DON’T TELL line we have all…

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Ran into an interesting snag of late within a internet forum (yes I know, it’s the internet). Thus I turn to fellow writers, each more qualified than the last, to give me a helping hand. Let’s begin with the basic concept of a sentence fragment. 

1. Looked around. 

2. He looked around. 

The above two are clear as day. The first one lacked a subject, thus, considered a fragment. Let’s try the…following:

1. Now that was attention grabbing. 

2. Reminds me of a certain movie series. 

Fragments?! I think not. But then again, English isn’t even my first language. I’d be most grateful if anyone could solve this conundrum for me. 

 

There are many terms out there which are misleading. For example “Roger” in some cases may have nothing to do with a man named Roger. The term “storytelling”, too, is somewhat of a misnomer. The first thing any writing guide will tell you is to “show and not tell”. This advice, while full of goodwill, is about as helpful as my frustrated calculus teacher going “think!”. 

A while ago, some helpful stranger pointed out to me this particular problem. Rather than spouting that rule, he/she gave me something to really think about. Compare the following statements. 

1. She was very angry. 

2. She took to beating every pillow till she was covered in fluff. 

Sure, the second one could potentially be about a woman in the mental asylum, but it is much more lively. This had me thinking. Again, compare the two statements below. 

1. He suppressed his anger.

2. He strangles his anger. 

Without a doubt, I find the second sentence much more meaningful. The rule of thumb for me has thus become: can I picture this in my head? 

My understanding of writing is still rather primitive. I invite anyone to join in and enlighten me. Thank you. 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rN5U-CaUjR0

Fans of classical music, especially Chopin, will surely have heard this piece. The man playing in the recording is none other than the great Artur Rubinstein. I feel his interpretation does Chopin justice (whereas I would cause the great composer to stir in his grave). 

Just as a balanced diet is vital to healthy living, a well-written book can only result from a nurtured mind. Yes, we all know reading is an important learning process but I think it is equally important to get in touch with different forms of art.

This performance is special to me. For some reason, I heard Rubinstein’s solitude. It’s the song of a delicate mind, exquisite and frail. The first time I listened to it, I cried. Up till then, I’ve always thought of “moved to tears” was a mere exaggeration. 

I sincerely hope this piece does for you what it does for me. Enjoy.