Tag Archives: Writing Open the Mind

U is for Useful


by Lillian Csernica on April 25, 2022

In Writing Open the Mind, author Andy Couturier describes how asymmetry can help the reader participate in our writing, creating a fresh and dynamic experience. “Since each combination of these dissimilar parts suggests its own meaning, its own interest and power, asymmetry in visual art or in writing encourages participation by the viewer or reader in the fertile process of creation. In a sense, writing asymmetrically is generous, because it gives the reader many different ways to understand, instead of insisting on one, that is only our own.”

I keep all the fortunes I get from fortune cookies. My friends and family know I do this, so they tend to give me theirs as well. Over the years I’ve collected at least two glass jars full of fortunes. I decided to experiment with “writing asymmetrically” by pulling out a dozen fortunes and setting them aside without reading them. I wrote out twelve questions, just going with whatever popped into mind, then printed out that page. I cut up the questions into twelve strips of paper and mixed them up, setting them aside face down in one pile beside the fortunes already waiting in the other pile. I chose a question and typed it in, then chose an answer and typed that below the question. The results can be used for writing prompts, scene dialogue, a personal journal entry, etc.

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Q: What makes life worth living?

A: A goal is a dream with a deadline.

(Sound advice. Failing to plan is planning to fail.)

Q: Who knows the secret of eternal youth?

A: You will soon be crossing desert sands for a fun vacation.

(Why does this make me think of Las Vegas or Palm Springs?)

Q: What advice would you give to your granddaughter?

A: Look closely at your surroundings.

(Furniture? Objet d’art? Choosing the most worthy granddaughter?)

Q: How do you solve the problem of time travel?

A: Good fortune is always on your side.

(So you’ll have a good time wherever you go!)

Q: Where can you find true Paradise on earth?

A: You are always welcome in any gathering.

(Makes sense.)

Q: What did the monkey say to the banana?

A: Look for the dream that keeps coming back. It is your destiny.

(I’m guessing the monkey dreams about really big bananas.)

Q: How do you bring a smile to the sourest face?

A: You must learn to broaden your horizons, day by day.

(Some people bring happiness by arriving, others by departing.)

Q: I’ve lost my car keys and I have no money. Now what?

A: You are a lover of words.

(Talk your way out of that one!)

Q: How does one restore lost innocence?

A: An unexpected payment is coming your way.

(If money can’t buy happiness, it certainly can’t restore lost innocence!)

Q: Why are word problems always so confusing?

A: Laughter shall fuel your spirit’s engine.

(My teacher tended to laugh at a lot of my answers, that’s for sure.)

Q: Why are we told there are always more fish in the sea?

A: Little brooks make great rivers.

(This pairing was an accident, I swear.)

Q: What do you get if you cross a rhino with a stapler?

A: Follow your instincts when making decisions.

(First, don’t cross a rhino. Second, don’t do it with a stapler!)

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Three Top Tips to Put New Power in Your Writing


by Lillian Csernica on July 9, 2017

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When we’re in the process of writing, we sometimes reach a point where despite having a complete list of story elements on board, we feel like something is still missing. What we’ve written so far is good, but we want more. More depth. More intensity. More power.

Here are three simple, effective techniques to bring more power to your ideas and the ways you write about them.

 

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CHARACTER ORCHESTRATION

There are two parts to  proper character orchestration.

First, you make the protagonist and antagonist very different from each other. Create strong contrast with opposing traits, whether physical, emotional, spiritual, financial or all of the above!

Author James N. Frey provides an excellent explanation of this technique in How To Write A Damn Good Thriller.

Second, the events of your story leave these two characters tied together in what’s known as the “unity of opposites.” In his blog The Story Element, Paul Nelson explains:

The two opposite characters who are in conflict must be forced together, and neither of them can be allowed to leave the battle. For example, if Gandalf gives up and the ring isn’t destroyed, then Sauron wins and turns Middle Earth into hell. If Sauron gives up and lets the ring be destroyed, then he is also destroyed. Both Gandalf and Sauron are in danger of being destroyed, so they must destroy the other. They cannot both exist at the same time.

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JUXTAPOSITION

From Writing Explained:

What does juxtaposition mean? Juxtaposition is a rhetorical device that places two elements in close relationship for comparative purposes. Juxtaposition is a type of comparison. Typically, the two elements being juxtaposed have differences and the juxtaposition is meant to highlight contrasting effects.

In the long-awaited Wonder Woman movie, the juxtaposition of Diana and Steve Trevor serves to highlight the many layers of meaning in the story. Diana is a strong, independent warrior at a time when Steve Trevor sees a woman as being weak, needing his protection and guidance. Diana sees victims of the war who need help right now, while Steve knows they have to complete the mission to save the greatest number of people. Steve expects Diana to learn how to follow the rules of his world. Diana is committed to her sacred duty and says so in one of the movie’s best lines: “What I do is not up to you.”

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ASYMMETRY

Let’s start with symmetry. From Dictionary.com:

noun, plural symmetries.
1. the correspondence in size, form, and arrangement of parts on opposite sides of a plane, line, or point; regularity of form or arrangement in terms of like, reciprocal, or corresponding parts.
2. the proper or due proportion of the parts of a body or whole to one another with regard to size and form; excellence of proportion.
3. beauty based on or characterized by such excellence of proportion.

Sounds good, right? Symmetry has its value, but in writing a good story, asymmetry can be even more useful. Find out why here:

How to Blow Your Own Mind in Just Five Minutes

These three techniques can help you make the most out of any story idea. Write with power!

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