Fill Your Setting With Farts

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
Fill Your Setting With Farts
/

Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


A quick ramble about setting.

Writers, you need it. You might not want it. You might not be good at it, but setting is like a good fart. Sometimes you have to expel a little gas out of your rectum in order to be your best.

Similarly, you want to have some setting in your story to make that story be its best.

If you are a pretentious writer, you might want to say, “I want readers to be able to imagine the story is in their town or city or part of the world,” but that’s not going to work at all.

Just by defining a tree you are telling the reader something about the setting.

Like if you write:

She stared up at the palm tree.

You’re giving the reader clues. A palm tree will not be in Iceland. They are somewhere comparatively warm.

If you write:

She got out of bed.

You’re giving the reader a clue that she is wealthy enough to have a bed and in a culture or world where people sleep in beds.

And the thing is that clues are needed. Specific clues. Real clues. Without a setting, without a place where the story happens and a time where the story happens, the reader floats there in the sky, ungrounded, unanchored.

And you know what happens when a reader floats in the sky? The reader drifts away. So you want to fart in some specific setting to help the reader sniff out and remember where they are.

Being specific anchors the reader. It ties them to your story and its characters. You will remember a fart that smells like eggs mixed with tuna mixed with a McDonald’s french-fry. So be specific.

More than that though? Setting anchors your characters and your plot. Place makes us (and our characters) who they are. It gives a story atmosphere. It gives the character a world to interact with.

Think of a creepy Stephen King novel. It’s creepy because he takes certain aspects of Maine and creepifies them. Think of Crazy Rich Asians or The Bridgerton novels. They are luxurious because of the places where they take place AND the places where they take place help inform the novels.

A rabid dog cornering you in a car isn’t as scary when you are in Boston. That’s because there are a ton of cops there and animal control officers, unlike a small town in Maine. 

Meeting a super-wealthy potential mother-in-law in her mansion isn’t as scary when she’s just the mom next door in her split-level.

You want to anchor your readers in that setting every time it changes. So, yes, you’ll want to fart out that setting multiple times in your story. You can have a big city for your story—Bar Harbor, Maine—and a smaller setting—Carrie’s office. And once you show us readers where we are, you want to make sure to slowly reveal aspects of setting rather than shoving it all down our throats at once in the first paragraph. Too much gas at once often pushes the modern reader far, far away, holding their noses and writing reviews that say, “THIS STINKS!”

There is a balance here.

To recap:

Setting is like a fart. Even if you don’t like to write it, it has to happen.

Without setting, your readers float away or are just in the dark, confused, lost, untethered.

Setting is important for the characters in your story. It gives them something to play off of, interact with, it informs who they are, it shows who they are, it creates who they are (I am currently a woman of the comma splice), and it gives your story atmosphere.

Ground your characters whenever the setting changes.

Reveal that setting slowly.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better.

Myths About Presidents

Carrie Does Poems
Carrie Does Poems
Myths About Presidents
/

Myths About Presidents

26.

He didn’t

Ride

A moose.

The photo is fake

Like a lot

Of presidential

things.


16.

He dreamt

His death,

Found himself

Waking in a coffin

And asked who

Was dead

In the White

House.

Dream mourners said,

“The president.”

He denied the dream.

Nobody listened.

The story was too good.


9.

He stood

At the podium,

Sworn in

And speechifying

For 8,445 words

In the cold

Of March.

He died

A month later

Of pneumonia

Linked to

His pontification

It was actually bad water

At the White House.

He’d been drinking shit.


1.

His teeth were made of wood.

But really they were just so old

And stained they looked that way.


27.

He did not get stuck in the tub and need

Six men to yank and yank and yank him free.


35

He didn’t call himself

A jelly donut in German.


45.

His toilet

Is not

Gold.

He is not

Christ. Or

Even the

Opposite.


46.

He is

Poor.


1.

He apparently

Could not

Tell

A lie

Unlike

All the others

Who could

Not

Tell

The truth.


Hey, thanks for listening to Carrie Does Poems. These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in Carrie, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Eric Van der Westen and the track is called “A Feather” and off the album The Crown Lobster Trilogy.

While Carrie only posts poems weekly here, she has them (in written form) almost every other weekday over on Medium. You should check it out!

https://freemusicarchive.org/music/eric-van-der-westen/the-crown-lobster-trilogy-selection

Weird Parenting Things

This week we talk about weird things parents used to do and still do, and ended up talking a lot about getting smacked. But funny stuff, too. I promise!

Sources

https://www.purewow.com/family/parenting-trends

https://www.parent.com/blogs/conversations/8-vintage-parenting-trends-that-boggle-the-mind

https://www.babygaga.com/15-millennial-parenting-trends-that-seem-new-but-are-actually-from-the-past/

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/g4223/weird-parenting-trends-100-years/

https://www.buzzfeed.com/kristatorres/weird-parenting-hacks

Show More Details, Writers

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
Show More Details, Writers
/

Showing details in your writing isn’t just some annoying comment that agents, editors, and writing coaches and teachers paste into every student’s work.

You can see it now, right?

Big red letters. Loopy script. Maybe an exclamation point:

SHOW MORE DETAILS!

Every writing person ever

We do this not to be annoying (well, most of us), but because it’s important.

The thoughtco article by Richard Nordquist says it well.

Specific details create word pictures that can make your writing easier to understand and more interesting to read.”

And we want readers to understand the world that we’re building on the page and be interested in it.

As Stephen Wilbers says,

“You are more likely to make a definite impression on your reader if you use specific, rather than abstract, words. Rather than ‘We were affected by the news,’ write ‘We were relieved by the news’ or ‘We were devastated by the news.’ Use words that convey precisely and vividly what you are thinking or feeling. Compare ‘Cutting down all those beautiful old trees really changed the appearance of the landscape’ with ‘In two weeks, the loggers transformed a ten thousand-acre forest of old growth red and white pine into a field of ruts and stubble.’

Here, take this example:

The man’s face was happy.

Can you think of ways to make that more specific?

A smile slowly formed on Shaun’s ruddy face, lifting the corners of his eyes with the movement.

There’s a difference there, right?

There’s a great quick MasterClass blog post that tells writers four ways to add those concrete details to our narratives.

They include:

  1. Making the initial sentence abstract and the remainder of the sentences in a paragraph concrete. I’m not into this really.
  2. Use the senses—hearing, sight, touch, smell, taste. Let the reader smell diesel if the scene is on the side of the highway, taste the bitter coffee in the coffee shop, etc.
  3. Be super specific and concrete like I just mentioned.
  4. Remember to describe people and setting and action in a way that your reader can imagine. Don’t just say, “He sat under a tree.” Say, “He folded his legs beneath him, leaning on the gnarled trunk of the willow, its bark rough against the skin of his back, the tendrils flitting down—a perfect place to rest or maybe to hide.”

SOME LINKS

Nordquist, Richard. “Specificity in Writing.” ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/specificity-words-1691983.

Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 28). Exercise in Writing With Specific Details. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/exercise-in-writing-with-specific-details-1692404

https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-use-concrete-details-to-enhance-your-writing#quiz-0


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better.

THREE BIG PIECES TO BUILDING BETTER STORY VIA SCENE AND SEQUEL

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
THREE BIG PIECES TO BUILDING BETTER STORY VIA SCENE AND SEQUEL
/

Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


Story is basically a sequence of events, right? And to create a story you have to put that sequence of events together in a way that’s going to jive to the reader or for the reader.

To do that you need scenes, which make up that sequence of events.

A scene is the basic unit of a story, and there are two main types of scenes:

  • The scene
  • The sequel

Dwight Swain wrote a book called the Techniques of a Selling Story, and he basically defined them this way,

“A scene is a unit of conflict lived through by the character and reader.”

There are three big pieces there:

  • A conflict
  • Lived through
  • Character and reader

In a scene there needs to be conflict, immersion so your reader can relate to what’s happening to the character and LIVE THROUGH that character.

To have a conflict, you need to have a goal for your character so that something can obstruct it and your reader can worry.

It all makes sense, right?

Swain goes on to say that a scene must:

  • Be interesting
  • Move that story forward

He then writes that in order for a scene to make the story progress,

“it changes your character’s situation; and while change doesn’t always constitute progress, progress always involves change.”

And in each scene you need to have:

  1. Goal- what the character wants (to own something, to be free of something, revenge)
  2. Conflict (something keeping your character from that goal)
  3. Disaster (Swain calls this the “logical yet unanticipated development that throws your focal character for a loss.”

Cool, right?

The sequel is what happens after that scene. It connects one scene to the next, Swain says. It’s a transition.

And its goals are to (in his words):

Translate the disaster into goal

Telescope reality

Control the tempo

It’s here that decisions are made. It’s here that the protagonist reorients themselves. It’s here where the protagonist has to find answers and possibilities and deal with what just happens and turn it into a new goal. And it often involves a bit of summary or exposition.

And these sequel/transitional places control the tempo of a story because they give the reader a tiny bit of a pause, slowing down the pacing. I’ll have more about scenes in my substack. The link is below and also here.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better.

A Quick Overview About Point of View

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
A Quick Overview About Point of View
/

First, we should define point of view just in case you need a refresher. Truth is, we all often need a refresher even when we don’t want to admit it.

Point of view is all about who is talking and/or telling the story.

YOUR NEXT QUESTION IS:

Is There One Narrator Or Many? And who the heck is it?

That’s really one of the first questions you want to think about. You have to decide if you’re going to have just one point of view in your story or a lot.

A lot of our stories follow one character scene after scene after scene. Things that happen to the story happen to this character. We are invested in that character pretty heavily.

But sometimes, the story is about a person one but not told by that same person. This makes us a little more  worried that Person One might not make it through the story because our subconscious brain thinks, “Um, why isn’t Person One telling the story? DO THEY DIE?!?!”

Or sometimes the events of the story happen to a ton of people. Think of that zombie story that became a movie. We have a lot of different narrators because there we want to show all their stories.

Then, you have to decide which of the main point of views you want to use. They all have good points and bad points, but let’s just set you up with the big three. Each can be determined by the personal pronouns that the narrator uses.

First-Person Point of View.

This is the land of I. It’s all about me. It’s all about my story.

Here’s an example.

I went to the hospital and brought pizza.

Second-Person Point of View.

This is all about you, you, you. Yes, you.

You went to the hospital and brought pizza.

Or to some cooler

You went to the hospital, bringing pizza with you.

Third-Person Point of View

This is all about them and her and him. It can be omniscient or limited omniscient.

Here’s third person limited

Sadie went to the hospital. “I’m bringing pizza,” she thought. I hope they like it.

Or third person omniscient where you aren’t directly in the characters’ heads with internal monologue but know everything about everyone.

Sadie went to the hospital, a pizza box carried in her steady arms, the smell of pepperoni whisking around each person she passed, the orderly, the struggling father, the mother with the heroin-track arms, the gunman. He would kill for that pizza, but how could she know that? To be fair, right now he’d kill for anything and nothing.

There you go! There is also a Fourth Person Point of View, but that one would require its own podcast. So we’ll try to get there next week.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better.

Loneliness

Carrie Does Poems
Carrie Does Poems
Loneliness
/

Hi! This year (2022), I’ve decided to share a poem on my blog and podcast and read it aloud. It’s all a part of my quest to be brave and apparently the things that I’m scared about still include:

  1. My spoken voice
  2. My raw poems.

Thanks for being here with me and cheering me on, and I hope that you can become braver this year, too!


Loneliness

He is known as he enters the emergency room, jeans sagging off his waist as an orderly ambles

To meet him. He is hunching at the precipice between lobby and hall, intake and bathroom, and

Ready to be seen. It is hard to be seen these days in a little Maine town full of tourists

If you are Old. It is only easy right here, right now, in the liminal space before becoming

A patient. We watch him totter, trying to decide. Go in? Stay out? Become

Or remain. Before we arrived here ourselves for broken bones; children who gulped down

Their own therapies in too many numbers; corneas scratched by tree limbs; we had to make

Those decisions, too. Did we want to save ourselves or should we just embrace

That all we are is pain and numbness and pain? We came, but others didn’t.

We sought help. And waited and waited for it, looking at our origins in heart beats

And blood levels, skeletons pinned and set straight again, stomachs pumped,

Eyes numbed with drops we are told not to get addicted to. In his room now, just curtains

For walls, the hunched man yells, Hello. No answer to his polite entreaty. Hello. Hello.

There is no easy cure for him. Hello. He gives up, changes tactics, and bellows. I have to pee.


WordPress won’t really allow me to format this the way I’d like so I’ll show you a screenshot of how it is meant to be.


Hey, thanks for listening to Carrie Does Poems. These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in Carrie, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Eric Van der Westen and the track is called “A Feather” and off the album The Crown Lobster Trilogy.

While Carrie only posts poems weekly here, she has them (in written form) almost every other weekday over on Medium. You should check it out!

https://freemusicarchive.org/music/eric-van-der-westen/the-crown-lobster-trilogy-selection

You can totally hack into other people’s heads

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
You can totally hack into other people’s heads
/

You can totally hack into other people’s heads. It sounds dastardly, right? But you can tweak other people’s memories.

On Mind Hacks, Heather Fishel cites the work of Dr. Jon Lieff and writes:

“Once an event occurs and time moves on, it becomes a part of your memory. Each time you recall that event and its details—smells, sounds, details, and so on—you’re not, in fact, remembering the original moment. Instead, you’re recalling the last time you remembered that memory.”

But it’s more than that. We tweak those memories to make better stories:

Fishel says:

“Wired writer Jonah Lehrer points out, human nature makes us love stories, and the more exciting and engaging a story is, the more we’ll want to share it. As a result, when we recount our memories both internally and to others, we ignore any facts that don’t suit the plot. Our minds allow us to toss aside any information that we dislike, replacing truth with pure fiction. Why? We simply want to fit in, and unless we change what we remember, our stories will suck.”

We will tweak our own memories so we don’t look dumb, so we fit in, so we tell a better story, and we usually don’t even realize that we’re doing it.  And sometimes we have totally false memories.

What is a false memory?

According to VeryWellMind, false memories

“are misremembered, distorted, or fabricated recollections of past events. Such memories can be trivial, such as mistakenly remembering where you put your car keys, but they can also be much more serious.”

The big time consequences of false memories are the stuff of novels and tv shows: false convictions, financial loss, lawsuits, children dying in heated, locked cars.

But it is also a smaller scale thing. You are sure you left your cell phone on the desk. It is not on the desk. It is on the table. You have to wonder how many poltergeist cases are rooted in false memories, right? You think you shut the closet door, but the closet door is open. You are positive you locked the door. The door is unlocked.

You think you saw Bigfoot when you were six, but did you really, Carrie?

Ahem.

I’m the first to admit that I’m no longer sure.

Verywellmind has three strategies culled from researchers to help deal with false memories, which we are quoting here.

Use imagery: Researchers have found that when people use imagery to create a visual representation of information, their memory for that information is better and less susceptible to false memories.10

Search your memory: Experts also suggest that selectively searching memory for mistakes and falsehoods can sometimes be helpful.11

Evaluate and corroborate memories: If you find a memory that you aren’t sure about, evaluating it based on your expectations and then collaborating it using other people’s recollections or other historical data can help verify or disprove it.11

But what’s really wild is that psychiatrists like Elizabeth Loftus have found that there’s a misinformation effect with memories. So, if you witness or experience an event and then talk about it, are questioned about it in a leading way, view tweets or news stories, or are exposed to the wrong information repeatedly? It can change your memory of that same event.

Novelists can use this to help develop plots for novels. Mystery writers do it all the time making a detective call out the inconsistency in a witnesses’ testimony, and sometimes in real life and novels people confess to a crime because of a false memory, believing they have committed a crime even though they haven’t.

But people can do this to each other too, as Fishel writes:

“Try lying to them in a different way: tell them they didn’t complete a task that they, in fact, did. For example, if your roommate can’t seem to understand that doors need to be locked when leaving home, point out the unlocked door every single time you leave. Do this repeatedly over time, and your roommate will start double-checking and questioning himself every time he leaves home. “Did I lock the door? Did I completely forget?”

What are the ethics here? Some people believe that this can be a force for good. But is controlling another person ever a force for good? It’s like gaslighting but tweaked, right? So, use this knowledge wisely, friends.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Only manipulate your humans for good.

LINKS WE REFERENCE

https://nypost.com/2018/09/27/scientists-discover-evil-people-share-a-dark-triad-of-traits/

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/weird-yellow-brick-road-discovered-at-bottom-of-the-ocean/ar-AAX4kJd

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW!

We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Carrie is reading one of her poems every week on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!

Here’s the link.

best writing podcast WRITE BETTER NOW
Write Better Now – Writing Tips podcast for authors and writers
best podcast ever
loving the strange the podcast about embracing the weird
best poetry podcast by poet
Carrie Does Poems

Bored and aching, I just wanted someone to love me.

Carrie Does Poems
Carrie Does Poems
Bored and aching, I just wanted someone to love me.
/

Hi! This year (2022), I’ve decided to share a poem on my blog and podcast and read it aloud. It’s all a part of my quest to be brave and apparently the things that I’m scared about still include:

  1. My spoken voice
  2. My raw poems.

Thanks for being here with me and cheering me on, and I hope that you can become braver this year, too!


"Bored and aching, I just wanted someone to love me."


We were visiting Mom’s best friend,
	An aunt who wasn’t an aunt,

She taught school, the job my mother dreamed of
	Before unplanned babies and rushed marriage

Turned her life into breaths clutching
	At meaning. The ladies stayed inside with coffee

Laced with Kahlua and words steaming
	At the edges of truths while I walked to the lake,

My body lurching forward. Last child by so many years
	Made me a lonely only and I started singing

To the waves and the trees. The water-stained boards 
       Of their dock made me think of mermaids and tears. 

Bored and aching, I just wanted someone to love me.
	This is why I am a poet. 

The dog emerged from the woods to the right, 
	A Doberman. One of Mom’s men friends

Had a dog like this. I reached my arms open, hugging the air
	And the dog bounded into them. From the deck of the house,

My mother screamed, Carrie! No! 

Bored and aching, I just wanted someone to love me.
	This is why I exist. 

What are you? I whispered to the dog as her tail wagged
	And tongue lapped my face. 

When the grown-ups came running out, the dog shifted,
	Guarding me from their strange worries about credit and affairs,

Husbands who might find things out, children they left
	Behind them, coughing and clinging to life.

They implored me to come with them. My hand ran
	Along the dog’s fur and for the first time,

I felt powerful. I found a dog, I yelled, but she really found me. 
	The water clung to her fur the way I wanted to cling on

To that moment. Could she have really heard me wanting,
	Singing need and loneliness into the waves and trunks

Of crooked spruce trees, my sadness hooking lines into the granite
	That gave our state its name? Someone’s husband

Convinced them the dog meant me no harm. She didn’t. 
	Dogs never did. They still never do. 

Bored and aching, I just wanted someone to love me.
	This is why.


Hey, thanks for listening to Carrie Does Poems. These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in Carrie, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Eric Van der Westen and the track is called “A Feather” and off the album The Crown Lobster Trilogy.

While Carrie only posts poems weekly here, she has them (in written form) almost every other weekday over on Medium. You should check it out!

https://freemusicarchive.org/music/eric-van-der-westen/the-crown-lobster-trilogy-selection

Maine is Strange

Loving the Strange
Loving the Strange
Maine is Strange
/

It isn’t just because Stephen King lives here, Maine can be a bit on the strange side. And that’s not because we live here either.

Come hang out with us as we delve into pilots hanging out of airplanes, weird Maine sayings and some goofy laws.

https://kidadl.com/articles/fun-facts-about-maine-how-much-do-you-know-about-the-pine-tree-state

https://matadornetwork.com/pulse/mini-guide-maine-english/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Thomas_Knight

%d bloggers like this: