Thursday, June 12, 2014

How To Make A Simple Sentence Interesting

As an artist, it is not only necessary to have heroes whom to emulate, but it is also necessary to have the critical thinking to analyze what it is that makes them outstanding. In other words, one should always be asking oneself how our heroes did what they did, and why it worked.
One of the many techniques used by my own hero - George RR Martin - is the use of specific words for his sentences, each one of which adds flavour to the sentence individually and to the narrative as a whole.
How does this technique work? Well, let's look at an example:

The boy was eating a bowl of cereal when the phone rang.

This is a plain sentence in every sense. It has a subject (the boy), an action (eating) and an object (cereal). It also has a subordinate clause with its own subject (phone) and action (rang). Notice this 'simple' sentence has no adjectives or adverbs.
Now let's replace.
Instead of the generic noun 'boy' I will call him 'James.'
Instead of the action 'eating' I will write 'spooning' - because cereals are eaten with spoons.
Instead of the generic term 'cereal,' I will use the specific name brand 'Corn Flakes.'
Now we have:

James was spooning a bowl of Corn Flakes.

See? I've not changed the elements of the sentence - I have only specified them. Furthermore, allow me to replace 'phone' with 'Smartphone' and 'ring' with 'buzz.'

The Smartphone buzzed.

We have all heard a Smartphone buzz - which is particularly loud when a Smartphone is laying on a table, as in, sitting next to the bowl from which its owner is eating, yeah?
Now I've not only specified an image, but evoked in you (the reader) the memory of a similar event which you yourself have witnessed.
Compare the two:

The boy was eating a bowl of cereal when the phone rang.

James was spooning a bowl of Corn Flakes when the Smartphone buzzed.

As I mentioned before, there were no adjectives or adverbs in the original 'simple' sentence. Notice that I did not need to add these to my 'interesting' sentence to make it more descriptive. That is the key of this technique: the elements of the sentence remain the same, and so the sentence remains short and tight.
Now you can use the same technique and replace the elements of the sentence with different specific words, creating a slightly different scenery from the same basic sentence:

Magdalena was slurping [ from ] a bowl of Raisin Brands when the Nokia chirped.

Kevin was gulping [ down ] a bowl of Lucky Charms when the Blackberry whistled.

Now, if I wanted to transplant this sentence to the realms of Westeros, I would do it like so:

Jon was spooning a bowl of porridge when the raven arrived.

Now you try it!


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Thirty-Seventh Milestone

Today I hold in my hand something which has been a lifetime in the obtaining - a lifetime of yearning. As I hold it in my hand, I look at it and think - it is real, and it is mine - at last.

Today is my 37th birthday, and it was on this very day that I received it. This is nothing less than portentous.

I do not believe in coincidences. I believe in will and I believe in the gods of the heavens and the gods of the earth. That is, I believe that where there is a will there is a way and, furthermore, where there is resolution the gods will lend a helping hand. I believe that factors unimaginable and circumstances unthought-of will all align to aid in the achievements of the individual who has set his heart towards a purpose. I believe this, because I have lived this.

I hold it in my hand now.

Indeed, this gift, delivered on my birthday, is a most providential gift on behalf of the gods. And I am grateful.

This is my birthright, yet I was not given it at my birth. I was denied it again when I turned eighteen and sought to obtain it - nineteen years ago. And I was presented with a score of obstacles when I decided, some seven years ago, to obtain it no matter what.

I hold it in my hand now.

Along the way, there were many who said that obtaining it would be impossible. Impossible they said! On those people I had to nevertheless rely, to obtain help which I needed. I received their help reluctantly, while even then being told that obtaining it would be impossible. To them I apologize, for I have no place in my life for people who are convinced that what I am trying to do is impossible.

I hold it in my hand now.

My life would have been a different story had I been given it at my birth, or when I turned eighteen - the gods know. Yet I cannot help but to think that this was all the will of the gods - a lifelong journey to arrive at the one place where - in my heart - I always knew that I belonged.

Indeed, my life has been a long journey which has seemed erratic to many and inspiring to some. Yet I always knew where I was headed, even when I did not know how to get there. It has not been too different from the ancient epics of an exiled man trying to find his way home, and Odyssey, if I may be so ostentatious. Or better yet, like one of those journeys narrated in the epic of George RR Martin - for there were times when the danger was real, and frighteningly close.

Yet, to all the instances when people asked me why I would not settle down, get a real job, maybe marry? I say this - in my life I have been a seed blown in the wind, reluctant to germinate and grow tendrils until the conditions were right, and averse to grow roots until I found my place. And I do not pretend to say that I have found my place in the world now but, as of today, my thirty-seventh birthday, I can't help but to feel that I am one step away from finding it.

I hold the key in my hand now.

It has been a lifelong journey to obtain it. Everything has been a lifelong journey for me - and it has not been easy - gods know. But it has taken me this long to write a novel ( which will be published later this year), it has taken me this long to become a working pianist ( you can hear me play at the CrossRoads every Friday), and it has taken me this long to weed out all the issues which swathed me during my troubled teens and tweens.

In other words, it has taken me this long to hew myself from the mess which I once was.

This is not a boast of achievement, gods know I still have a long way to go. But it is a milestone - a thirty-seventh milestone. And the gratification which comes from achievements after such a long and dire struggle is the more rewarding because of the possibilities which it enables. And the possibilities are limitless, for I have - against all odds - obtained the key.

I hold it in my hand now!

I feel a sense of peace, or rather, of confidence. When a journey has taken you this far, there are few people left to root for you, and you have only yourself to encourage yourself - only yourself to rely on. And I relied on myself, and it paid off.

There is only one last thing I have to say to the world while standing upon this thirty-seventh milestone - for I must soon move on if I intend to reach the thirty-eighth. And this is:

If you feel that at thirty-seven that maybe I am a little too old to be doing what I am doing, I apologize.

This is only how long it took me to get here.