Monthly Archives: March 2014

Where Do you Slant?

Recently, I saw a documentary called “GasLand,” about the effects of natural gas extraction. In fact, I wrote about it this week in Rants and Raves. I believe what I heard and it shook me. It had the desired effect on me. In large part due to the slant it took.

With the lack of response from the people responsible, the slant of GasLand naturally fell to the people who are suffering to tell the story. There are other ways it could’ve been told, both in context and content. It could have come from the angle of a message: Did we not learn from the experience of the Dust Bowl? Mess with the Earth and she will strike back. We may emotionally tell how fracking has impacted our own life. It could’ve been an in depth, scientific study of how hydraulic fracturing works. Or, told from the perspective of the oil and natural gas companies, we would have seen a very different film. Same story, told in different ways.

As writers, we can decide where we stand as we tell our stories. A slant allows you to narrow your vision into a specific topic or angle. (It’s all about light, isn’t it?) When you choose a slant for whatever you’re writing, you make a choice about where you stand and from what perspective you will write. This helps focus your work. So you know before you start where you are going. It gives you a homing signal to aim for as you write. This can help your odds of delivering the right message and your piece having the desired effect.

In life, we can use this slant to choose how we will view the changing situations in front of us. To get clearer on what it is we believe about something. Decide where we stand. How we see things can have a huge impact on our enjoyment of life. We can choose to see things as bleak or as hopeful.

Now might be a good time to define the positive slant. It is a way of seeing the best in any given circumstance. Not always easy to do. I seem to naturally topple into a much darker point of view. It takes effort to change my position. Taking the positive slant does not deny the facts on the ground, nor is it strictly putting a positive spin on what is not. It’s merely slanting it, using a loving filter, shining a softer light. Seeing all the refractions and finding how it can be used to move forward, to help do things in a more positive, life-affirming way.

In writing, the slant can be every which way. But it is up to the writer to figure where the piece will be written from. If you start seeing it from the left side and then jump to the right you will confuse your readers. Make sure it is your perspective and not the one you think you should have. If it’s authentic and consistent, in the end you will write a tighter piece.

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Writing Tip: Listen to Your Words

Good writing owes much of its worth to the sound and order of the words.  One may think that odd since so much of writing is experienced in silence.

If the words roll off your tongue, they will run the same way through the reader’s mind.  You can hear the voice of good writers, even if you’ve never heard them speak.  You instinctively know you are in the hands of someone who is passionate about what they’ve written. The writer has taken the time to listen to the sound of her words.

Words have effect.  They evoke images. They create feelings. You might use the word bright, when brilliant or flashing might have more sparkle.

Writing has a rhythm.  Too many sentences.  And you jar your reader.  Too many long, meandering sentences, containing several points might well put  him to sleep. It’s not a good idea to ask your reader to do too much work.  You want him to stay engaged in what you’re saying.  Isn’t that the point, after all?

Let’s face it.  Readers are fickle.  They can afford to be.  There is so much to pick from out there!  If you want to keep her reading, make it pleasant to be in your writing.

You can use the sounds and rhythms to make a point.  And mean it!  Or you can string them along with your flowing and visceral descriptions.  You can convey all kinds of emotions by the words you choose and the way you lay them down.

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Revising Your Stories

As every day writers we have a lot of power.  We regularly make things come out the way we want them to. Especially in fiction, but also in non.  Whatever you write, you decide what it will say.  It is your call what the piece of writing will accomplish and how you wish to get there.

We can, no matter what our skill or experience as a storyteller, re tell our own stories.  Make them come out the way we want them to.

Say you have submitted your work to a publisher or agent (client or employer).  We all know how this can turn out: you either hear nothing or that they are “not interested at this time.”

At this point, there is a choice we can make about the story we wish to tell about this.  Sure, you can march on about how your work stinks and no one will ever want to read it.  Or sit staring with a dazed expression, asking why.  Maybe they even told you why which might have hurt even more, left you feeling more confused.

As an every day writer, however, you can see that there are different ways this story can be told.  The facts of the matter are what they are. It would be fun to write the story where the publisher says, “Your book is wonderful!  We can’t wait to have it.”  But there’s no need to deny reality.  You can start from where you are, with the truth of the situation.

What if you decided to change the next chapter to read about how you feel inspired because you wouldn’t really be a writer if you didn’t go through rejection?  You might go on to explain that’s just one person’s opinion.  There are many other people in the world.  You can still believe in what you’ve written.  You can finish the story of how the next publisher took you on and your publishing career was launched!

So get busy and rewrite your stories.  As an every day writer, you can do this 15 minute  exercise easily. Sit with your first reaction to the situation (whatever it may be).   And then see if you can change the scene.  Write, “How else could I see this?  Is there another way to describe this?”  True, it is about finding the positive slant.  But why not?  Doesn’t it feel better?

This works for all kinds of situations.  A lover leaving, an opportunity missed, or the food you ordered not being as good as you expected, the show being cancelled.  Give yourself a few minutes to write through your anger or disappointment and come out with a fresher perspective.

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