Friday, April 3, 2015

Literary Ninjas | Writing Prompt #003: Louder than Words

Due to my reputation as a person who obsessive-compulsively corrects spelling and grammatical errors (as well as having a history of mental breakdowns when confronted with the horrendous abuse of the English language perpetrated via Facebook), I am frequently sought out in close circles to read everything from stories and songs to essays and formal letters for both feedback and correction. Though this initially seems like a good idea, an enjoyable activity even, it consistently tumbles downwards into a hair-pulling activity, never fail.

It’s not that it isn’t incredibly satisfying to both read and methodically make all right in the world, because it really doesn’t get much better than that; it’s when it becomes obvious that the frequent red and green underlines aren’t the biggest problem with these manuscripts that I start to go cross eyed and begin questioning my sanity.

In the previous LitNinjas prompt, writing skills were tested by means of describing a theme, while restricting the actual use of the chosen word (e.g. describing the falling of rain without using the actual word “rain”). Though many may have completed it through ground teeth and with grumbles that Mikey was just being Mean, there was, in fact, an actual gain to the pain: the ability to create a seamless scene within a piece of writing by relying on the senses rather than synonyms. This month's prompt will take this very technique a step further, testing your limits even more.

What's new this time. While the previous prompt focused more on the physical aspects of a scene, this time, we work with something less tangible, but far more complex. Again, the form will be that of a 500-word scene, but this time, it should center around and exemplify an emotion or feeling.

The catch. While this prompt may sound easy, you'll find that it is more difficult than it initially appears, so there will be two parts, and as usual, I turn to my very own self for example...

Since Mikey is often Mad, she decides to choose anger as her theme. However, she comes to the realization that there are many different facets of this single word, as one can be mad for various reasons, one can be mad to varying degrees, and one can be both sad and mad at the same time.
"Emotion is difficult to define. In everyday speech, it is one's state of mind and instinctive responses, but scientific discourse has drifted to other meanings, but there is no consensus on a definition. Emotion is often intertwined with mood, temperament, personality, disposition, and motivation." (Wikipedia)

Part A. Thus, the first part of this prompt will be to choose a "basic" emotion (check out this Wikipedia chart if you need help deciding), and then explore the different, correlating aspects and degrees of it through use of a Venn Diagram or other visual chart like in the example below. Make sure to map out:
  • the types of emotion,
  • the different aspects and/or intents of those types, and
  • the degrees of that emotion on the spectrum, as well as
  • any point where you believe one emotion overlaps or crosses over into another.

Click to Enlarge
This will serve two purposes: one, to give you a better, more rounded-out idea of the weight one word can hold, and two, to help you focus in Part B.

Once you have these subcategories and intricacies mapped out, make the decision of which path you want to use as your theme, and stick to it. Remember that one, and only one, of these lines within an emotion will be your focus for 500 words. Form your scene about someone (or something) experiencing this emotion, and keep the following in mind...

  • Do not give name to the emotion. While "anger" could be your theme, do not say the word "anger", or even mention that someone is "angry", "furious", etc.
  • Rather, show the reader through sense of touch, sound, and so on that this emotion is being felt, being acted upon, etc.
  • Focus, on portraying that single line of emotion to subcategory, to aspect, etc.
  • Last, but not least, remember that it doesn't have to be a showdown. While this scene should embody the emotion, it doesn't have to be (nor should it be), someone just standing there in the middle of nowhere, experiencing anger, sadness, etc. Remember that it is a scene, and make use of how you can use setting, the character, (or even the lack of describing setting or who the narrator is, be creative! Duh.), or the other many tools of writers to tell a story!

Want to share your prompt ideas or completed prompts? Comment below with ideas or links to your finished pieces.

Look familiar? You may recognize these prompts from the late blog, Literary Ninjas, and DeviantART literature group, Writing-For-Fun. With my choice to close both, I still wanted to make the prompts available to those interested, and thus they will be posted here on Sleepy Hollow Street.

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