April 30, 2013

Zani = Z: Blogging from A to Z

Congratulations to all the participants of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge who are finishing out the month today with Z.

I can't wait to visit other blogs today--Z isn't the easiest letter.

My theme this month has been literary devices. I have learned so much! Z was hard, but I found...

A stock character in the commedia dell'arte, the zani was a buffoonish servant, a jester, a butt of jokes, i.e., what twentieth-century entertainment would call a "stooge." The modern English word zany comes from this Italian term. (source)

Most stories benefit from a character who serves as comic relief. Often, we'll explain a great read as, "I laughed, I cried." It's the salty and sweet effect--balancing emotional moments with a good laugh.

The first example that popped in my head... Dory. She helped Marlin find his son, Nemo, but she was also the jester--constantly cracking jokes and being silly. 

In literature, Shakespeare often featured a "buffoonish servant" or jester. For example, in A Midsummer Night's Dream, there is a jester named Puck. He not only provides comic relief but also becomes a pivotal character who affects many others.

In addition to providing comic relief, the "fool" often becomes the main character's conscience. Think Dory again. What a valuable tool.

Can you think of an example of zani?

Thanks to everyone who visited my blog this month. I hope you'll continue to visit. 

Don't forget to visit other Z blogs today--find A to Z participants here.

April 29, 2013

Yarn = Y: Blogging from A to Z

Only two more days left in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Of course those two days are Y and Z. No small challenge, especially for my theme--exploring literary devices.

Today's Y...

An informal name for a long, rambling story--especially one dealing with adventure or tall-tales. The genre typically involves a strong narrative presence and colloquial or idiomatic English. The tone is realistic, but the content is typically fantastic or hyperbolic. (source)

Often, you hear this as "spin a yarn." When I think of a yarn, I think of a good campfire story. One told with lots of inflection late at night with the eerie glow of a campfire. The better the storyteller, the better the story.

By definition above, it's all about adventure and tall-tales. Makes sense, because those are the ones that I almost hear in my head. Since my kids and I recently watched the movie, Inkheart came to mind. It's about a man who brings stories to life when he reads them out loud. 

Wow, what an amazing gift. But isn't that what any good storyteller does? Storytellers can make or break an audio book, no matter how poor/great the material.

What was the last book you read that you wished a great storyteller was reading out loud to you? Or, what was the last audio book you listened to where the reader made it come to life?

Check out the other Ys here.

April 28, 2013

Quick Update & a Question = ROW80 Update

It's 11pm on Sunday, and I'm finally sitting down to write a ROW80 update.

It seems I only know how to publish a book in the middle of a huge move. Depression Cookies came out September 27, 2010, right in the middle of our move from Colorado to Maryland. We moved into our new home November 11, 2010.

So, of course, I'm about to hit publish on my first YA book, Chasing Memories, while in the middle of a Maryland to California move. My husband has been there since March 11, and the girls and I are staying in Maryland until school ends (6/15).

I realize there is no perfect time to publish, but really!!

Okay, enough of my whining, because I'm so happy about Chasing Memories. My plan is to set up a cover reveal tour followed by a release day blitz. My proof is ordered and on its way. *biting nails*

Later this week, I'll have a post begging asking my blogger friends to participate in the cover reveal and release day blitz. So excited!

I'd update my goals, but pretty much the last week has been spent on CreateSpace and last minute publishing needs (like ordering the proofs).

I plan to host several giveaways... this is where I can use your help. Have you participated in giveaways? What giveaway items did you find most successful? (Is a $20 Amazon gift card better than a signed paperback?)

Hope all my ROW80 friends are having a great week!

April 27, 2013

Xanaduism = X: Blogging from A to Z

One of the hardest days of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. 

Parents can identify with the difficulty of this letter. Think about all the ABC books your kids read growing up--X was either X-ray or Xylophone. That's it.

But I had to come up with an X literary device.

What would I do without the Internet?

(For my friends from the 80s, this is not a post about the Olivia Newton-John film featured in the photo.)

Academic research that focuses on the sources behind imaginative works of literature and fantasy. John Livingstone Lowes, in his publication The Road to Xanadu (1927), inspired the name, which in turn goes back to Coleridge's visionary poem "Kubla Khan" (i.e., "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree . . ."). More recently, the term has been used in a pejorative sense to describe scholarship involving dubious scrutiny of amorphous, difficult-to-prove sources, especially simplistic studies lacking any redeeming theoretical perspectives. (source)

First, kudos to all my fellow word nerds for understanding the last sentence of that definition! 

Most of the searches I did on this topic were a dead end. Even when I looked into The Road to Xanadu, I was met with very ambiguous descriptions. From what I could gather, John Livingstone Lowes was the type of reader that would read a work, then read the works referenced in that work, and so on.

So instead of letting my head spin too much, I went in a different direction... how much fun it would be to research the thought process behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy? Research is one thing. Even better... how cool would it be to sit down with J. R. R. Tolkien and ask how he came up with Middle Earth? 

I'd love to know what came to him first and how it progressed from there.

What author's brain, either living or dead, would you like to pick?

Find some more X posts here.

April 26, 2013

Wish Fulfillment = W: Blogging from A to Z

Only 4 more days to go in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge!

W, X, Y and Z are left. Nothing like ending a blogging challenge with an uphill climb. Not the easiest of letters left to go. 
My genie lamp

Continuing with my literary devices theme, today is all about Wish Fulfillment.

Wish Fulfillment
In psychoanalytic criticism, wish fulfillment refers to something in literature that satisfies the conscious or subconscious desires of either the creator or the reader of a work. A writer of action adventure stories, for instance, might imagine a male protagonist who is stronger, tougher, younger, and smarter than himself. This protagonist lives a sophisticated life of international intrigue; he woos exotic women and foils evil plots, doing all the things the writer himself cannot do. Readers sharing similar conscious or unconscious fantasies may be attracted to such stories to fulfill their own desires vicariously. Nearly all popular literature has some element of wish fulfillment in it. (source)

Our earliest stories are often fairy tales. In these, the clear expectation is that the main character(s) will live happily ever after. Romance novels can take us out of our mundane day to day and deliver some steam, often delivering a knight in shining armor.

We are drawn to books for many reasons, but escape is usually at the top of the list. When we are looking for wish fulfillment or an escape, we don't tend to search for heavy material.

Freud, in his The Interpretation of Dreams, insists that dreams are the result of our wish fulfillment. So, in many ways, are our book choices. 

I wonder sometimes why some people are so wrapped up in one genre, while I flit from one genre to the next. But then I thought about it. I tend to pick books and movies based on my mood at the time. 

If I'm feeling overdone with life, I will pick something light or a romance. Simple escapism. Other times, I want to figure out why we women do what we do (I am the mom to three girls after all). So, it's on to women's fiction.

What book are you currently reading? Does it fulfill some need to escape?

And don't forget to check out the other Ws here.

April 25, 2013

Veracious Verisimilitude = V: Blogging from A to Z

I love V!

Valentine's Day, Veracity, Voluptuous, Vexatious, Victorious, Virtuous, Vicious, Villain. A word nerd's dream.

But a V literary device?

Took a little research, but I found...

The sense that what one reads is "real," or at least realistic and believable. For instance, the reader possesses a sense of verisimilitude when reading a story in which a character cuts his finger, and the finger bleeds. If the character's cut finger had produced sparks of fire rather than blood, the story would not possess verisimilitude. Note that even fantasy novels and science fiction stories that discuss impossible events can have verisimilitude if the reader is able to read them with suspended disbelief. (source)

Verisimilitude is one of the things that makes a good book great. A book is an author's attempt to define truth to the reader. Truth, unlike facts, is in the eye of the beholder. With enough convincing, something that is factually inaccurate can become our truth.

Since a work of fiction is by definition invented in an author's imagination, verisimilitude becomes the ability to create a believable storyline. When doubt creeps in, the "made up" aspects of fiction take root and the reader disengages. Never good.

From my research on the word, the responsibility for verisimilitude use to lie with the audience--what they could accept as truth. Now it seems to refer more to the creator--what they can portray as truth.

Where it's tricky... fantasy and paranormal. An author in these genres must convince the reader that something that is obviously not real (e.g., Narnia) is very real.

What will make you doubt a novel's verisimilitude the quickest? For me, it's when a character I care about suddenly does something completely out of left field. It makes me doubt everything in the book--everything I thought I knew.

Check out some great V posts here.

April 24, 2013

Unreliable Narrator = U: Blogging from A to Z

Only six more days to go in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

And now we are up to U.

I knew as soon as I did N = Noteworthy Narrators what U would be.

Unreliable Narrator
An unreliable narrator is a storyteller who "misses the point" of the events or things he describes in a story, who plainly misinterprets the motives or actions of characters, or who fails to see the connections between events in the story. The author herself, of course, must plainly understand the connections, because she presents the material to the readers in such a way that readers can see what the narrator overlooks. This device is sometimes used for purposes of irony or humor. (source)

Using the same example I used for plot twists, Fight Club features an unreliable narrator. An unnamed narrator (Edward Norton's character in the movie) doesn't even realize he's unreliable, so the audience has no cause to believe he is either. In this case, it was used for dramatic effect and led the reader directly to an amazing plot twist. No irony or humor there.

Then consider The Exorcist. Is the narrator Regan, or the demon who possesses her? To assume the demon, you have to embrace the idea that Regan is lost to the demon. And if it is the demon, can he even be reliable?

If any narrator is delusional or mental, can we possibly trust their interpretation of events? 

The key for the reader is if they understand the narrator is unreliable. Most often, an author chooses this device to lure the reader to a certain conclusion and have them wonder about it.

More U fun can be found at blogs listed here.

April 23, 2013

Tabula Rasa = T: Blogging from A to Z

Time for T!

When pondering T literary devices, the first one that popped in my head was theme. But I really wanted this month to be about avoiding the obvious choices.

So when I happened upon tabula rasa, I was intrigued.

Frankenstein Painting   By Blaz
Tabula Rasa
Latin, "erased tablet": The term used in Enlightenment philosophy for the idea that humanity is born completely innocent, without any initial predispositions, attitudes, or beliefs. Accordingly, no natural state of humanity exists, but instead, humanity is infinitely malleable. The newborn child is thus a "blank slate" on which experiences and education will write his or her future personality and beliefs. The idea is influential in the philosophical writings of Locke, Rousseau, and Wollstonecraft, but it also influences literary fiction such as Frankenstein, in which the monster's account of his experiences after his initial creation characterize him as an innocent tabula rasa(source)

After reading this, I had two immediate thoughts.

One, as a writer, we create characters from a blank slate. We give them experiences and backgrounds to help form who we want them to be. Every character we create is our own form of Frankenstein. No matter what type of character, we start with a blank piece of paper--or tabula rasa--and mold personality, life experience, and other factors into a character readers can care about.

Second, although I agree that humanity is born innocent, I do not believe newborns are blank slates. As the mother of three children, I was amazed at how much of their personality I saw in the newborn phase: easily frustrated, happy go lucky, temperamental, and so on. Right from the womb! The same two people are raising three kids, and yet they couldn't be more different if they tried. Same parents, same socioeconomic status, same teachings. Different kids.

But since philosophers were mentioned, I had a deep thought (when I have them, by God I'm sharing them! *winks*)... can even our characters be blank slates? They are, after all, influenced by us. Hmmmm.

Check out some awesome T thoughts by visiting the Blogging from A to Z participant list.

April 22, 2013

Scrumptious Setting = S: Blogging from A to Z

Happy Monday!

It's time for S in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Scintillating, isn't it?

Today, keeping with my literary devices theme, I wanted to talk about setting.

in literature, the location and time frame in which the action of a narrative takes place

Seems simple, right?

Consider a twelve-year-old girl as a main character. Of course we want to know what she looks like, what her home life is like. Let's say she's a brunette with dark brown eyes and fair skin. 

Now, put her in Hollywood in the 80s. How about Germany in 1944? Totally different vibe, but both add details for who our character will be.

Sometimes the setting becomes another character in the book. In Under the Tuscan Sun, Italy is a vital component to the story. The book's description (from Amazon):

Frances Mayes—widely published poet, gourmet cook, and travel writer—opens the door to a wondrous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. In evocative language, she brings the reader along as she discovers the beauty and simplicity of life in Italy. Mayes also creates dozens of delicious seasonal recipes from her traditional kitchen and simple garden, all of which she includes in the book. Doing for Tuscany what M.F.K. Fisher and Peter Mayle did for Provence, Mayes writes about the tastes and pleasures of a foreign country with gusto and passion.

In a true testament to the setting's importance, the cover doesn't feature a character.

Setting can be an actual place or something completely dreamed up by the author. In Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins created District 12. The poverty-stricken, post-disaster area is a key element to the story of Katniss Everdeen. District 12 and The Capitol are a juxtaposition of poverty and opulence. Then, of course, there was the arena where the games were fought. Vivid setting details added to the complexity of the story.

What's your favorite setting in a novel?

Hope you are loving A to Z this year. Check out some amazing participants here.

April 21, 2013

Whirlwind of Life Events: ROW80 Update

This week has been a whirlwind. 

In the last week, I have
* Visited San Francisco, soon to be my new home, for the first time ever.
* Received the last edits on Chasing Memories.
* Reviewed the interior of Chasing Memories.

Today -- Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco
Still in California looking for houses and getting acquainted with the area, I am knee-deep in final edits. I've also written my Acknowledgements section, agonized over my back cover summary, and created an About the Author. Okay, I agonized over all of them. I find the book easier to write! Please tell me I'm not the only one who struggles with these.

I. Am. Exhausted. But excited.

I can't wait to share my cover and some excerpts with everyone soon. But for now...

My Updated A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) Goals
  • Publish Chasing Memories -- Working on last read-through. Will be done tomorrow. Excited, but nervous. It's almost time to publish. Eek!
  • Survive the A to Z Blog Challenge -- Only done through T, so I plan to get through at least W tomorrow.
  • Map out the sequel to Chasing Memories -- Too busy this week. Can't wait to get back to this.
  • Make significant progress on the follow-up to Depression Cookies -- DCII is on hold right now for many reasons. I am not ready to walk away from this character, but my life is overflowing.
Hope all my ROW80 buddies are rocking their goals! Check them out here.

A special note: Lauralynn Elliotta long time ROW80 sponsor and participant, has been having a rough time. After some scary medical issues, Lauralynn's husband is back on the mend. But there are still financial concerns to contend with. Find out ways you can help a fellow writer here.

April 20, 2013

Red Herring = R: Blogging from A to Z

Ready for R!

Continuing with my Blogging from A to Z Challenge theme of literary devices, today is red herring.

Red Herring
An English-language idiom that commonly refers to a logical fallacy that misleads or detracts from the actual issue. It is also a literary device employed by writers that leads readers or characters towards a false conclusion, often used in mystery or detective fiction.

The origin of the expression has a number of theories. Conventional wisdom has long attributed it to a technique of training hounds to follow a scent, or of distracting hounds during a fox hunt; however modern linguistic research suggests that it was most likely a literary device invented in 1807 by English polemicist William Cobbett, and never an actual practice of hunters. The phrase was later borrowed to provide a formal name for the logical fallacy, and is also a formal name for a literary device or technique.

Why, you might ask, is there a picture from the A Pup Named Scooby-Doo series? 

As soon as I decided on red herring, Scooby-Doo cartoons popped in my head. First, there was always at least one red herring per episode. Second, there was an actual character named Red Herring in the A Pup Named Scooby-Doo series.

Although it's obviously a tool for mysteries, a lot of paranormal novels play with this concept. Is the vampire/werewolf/angel bad? Or, does one seem good that ends up bad or vice versa? Such a fun tool!

Do you have a favorite example of a red herring?

Please take a moment to visit some other R blogs today here.

April 19, 2013

Quibble Questions = Q: Blogging from A to Z

The dreaded Q. Blogging from A to Z in one month is enough of a challenge without the pesky Q and Z to figure out.

As someone who loved Grisham's books before he was popular, I appreciate a great legal thriller. Which leads me to the literary device of the day.

v. 1. To evade the truth or importance of an issue by raising trivial distinctions and objections.
2. To find fault or criticize for petty reasons; cavil.
n. 1. A petty distinction or an irrelevant objection.

In literature, this plot device allows a character to manipulate the outcome by using the literal interpretation of an agreement instead of its intended meaning. 

According to Wikipedia, "one of the best known examples, William Shakespeare used a quibble in The Merchant of Venice. Portia saves Antonio in a court of law by pointing out that the agreement called for a pound of flesh, but no blood, and therefore Shylock can collect only if he sheds no blood."

Although most commonly used with legal agreements, it can be used for magically enforced agreements. 

How many times does the genie gain the upper hand by literally interpreting a wish?

All the parents out there can appreciate. Time after time, my teenager "evades the truth... by raising trivial distinctions and objections." Of course, I can't think of one example right now. *figures*

Stop by and enjoy some other Q posts here.

April 18, 2013

Plot Twists = P: Blogging from A to Z

P presented many possible literary devices: protagonist, pathos, parody, paradox, persona, point of view, personification. Pressure!

Writing is a complicated, and exhilarating, process. Few devices showcase that like a good plot twist. Especially a jaw-hits-the-floor plot twist.

** spoiler alert **

If you've seen these words, you know the respect most reviewers and journalists have for an amazing plot twist. Usually, they will be as vague as possible to avoid ruining the surprise. When it's necessary to expose the twist, most will include the spoiler warning to honor those readers who don't want to know.

Of all the plot twists I've experienced, none left me as flabbergasted as The Fight Club. Never. Saw. It. Coming. It's one of those great movies where you want to immediately watch it again and figure out how you missed it. 

Sure, I was distracted by Brad Pitt's body, but it was more than that. With such an intense and mesmerizing story, I never suspected the ending. That's great storytelling.

The same could be said for The Usual Suspects, one of my favorite movies as listed here. When Kevin Spacey's character walks away at the end, his limp suddenly disappearing, I had chills. 

But there's a pitfall with plot twists. You have to sell an amazing story first. Twists for the sake of twists rarely work. There's a huge difference between a reader's jaw dropping and a reader shaking their head.

What's your favorite plot twist in a book or movie? Spoiler alerts encouraged. Just this once. *smiles*

Please visit other P posts here.

April 17, 2013

Oxymoron = O: Blogging from A to Z Challenge

Wow, we've made it to the big O. Wait, that didn't come out exactly as I had planned. *winks*

Last year, I wrote about Onomatopoeia. Such a rhythmic sound. I always imagine it as a Julie Andrew's song. But, in the interest of covering new territory, this year I decided to go with Oxymoron.
genuine fake watches
Source - Creative Commons

A combination of contradictory or incongruous words (as cruel kindness); broadly : something (as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements.

I love a good oxymoron! Earlier this month, I discussed Juxtaposition for J. Juxtaposition in a lot of ways is an extended oxymoron, since it lasts longer than a brief phrase. But there's something deceptively honest about a good contradictory phrase.

I'm from the South, and there are many examples of oxymoron that we Southern gals use on a daily basis. My favorites:
  • awfully good
  • a fine mess
  • dead right
  • clearly misunderstood
  • pretty ugly
  • seriously funny
  • holy hell
  • nothing much
Ones I never really considered before researching this, but are obvious to me now:
  • Civil War
  • drawing a blank
  • mutual differences
  • necessary evil
What is your favorite oxymoron? 

Please visit other O posts in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge participant list.

April 16, 2013

Noteworthy Narrators = N: Blogging from A to Z

Have you ever noticed that most of the N adjectives are negative? I didn't until I searched N adjectives for some help today. (Nutty, noxious, noisy, naughty, nasty, nasal. Eek!)

Then I happened upon noteworthy. 

When writing a story, few things are more noteworthy than narrators.

Narrator is simply the voice that tells the story. Yet, it's a device that is anything but simple. A story in different hands is a different story. An example that jumps to mind, the gospels in the Bible. Told by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, they each include different details and present a unique feel even with the same basic storyline.

I have written two books, one in first person and one in third. Although each has its own set of challenges, I found first person allowed me to share more of the main character's internal thoughts and feelings. It also helped me get into the character's head more. However, it was limiting when it came to other characters.

A brief overview of the main types of narrators...

First Person 
The "I" narrator who is a participant in the action. Although this is usually the protagonist, it doesn't have to be.

Third Person 
The "he/she/it" narrator. There are two main types. Omniscient (all-knowing) can peek into the lives of many characters while limited only knows what the main character, or characters, knows.

Detached Observer
A detached, third person, narrator tells the story without opinion (emotionally detached). This can be a minor character.

The Commentator
This narrator never enters the story but has plenty to say.

Then there is the Unreliable Narrator. Not to spoil the surprise, but this will be my U literary device. Stay tuned!

What makes a good narrator? 

Ask ten readers, and you could get ten different answers. For me, I want a narrator I can trust to give me the insight I need to understand the story. Usually, I relate more to a female voice, but one of my favorite narrators was Enzo (the dog) in The Art of Racing in the Rain. Not just because a dog's voice was unique, but because Enzo was at the center of the action and could give an in-depth and honest perspective on what was happening. 

Please come back tomorrow for some fun takes on Oxymoron, and don't forget to take a peek at other N posts here.

April 15, 2013

Metonymy = M: Blogging from A to Z

M is making me maniacal. So many great literary devices to choose from: metaphor, motif, myth, melodrama, monologue, mood. Not to mention an important m word that many authors credit with their final works... muse.

Last year, one of my most popular A to Z posts was M: Mauling Malapropism. Malapropism is the absurd or humorous misuse of a word, especially by confusion with one of similar sound. The master is Yogi Berra.

Words, and the ability to manipulate them, fascinate me.

So, I decided this year to focus on metonymy.

When the name of one object replaces another object that is closely associated with it. It comes from the Greek word metōnymía, meaning “change of name.”

As writers, we understand and believe that "the pen is mightier than the sword." Does this mean we would head into war with a bunch of ball point pens? Absolutely not. However, many of us believe that the power of the written word is greater than pulling out a sword and fighting.

Consider the word heart. In its purest definition, it is a vital organ. However, as writers we give characters heart by infusing them with tenderness, love, and empathy.

The English language is beautifully complicated. When words are in the right hands, it's amazing how they can be manipulated to convey so many things. 

Other examples:
Silver fox - an attractive older man
Cougar - an aggressive woman who prefers younger men
White House - when reporters refer to "decisions made by the White House"
Ears - "lend me your ears"

It seems to me it would be an interesting showdown between a silver fox and a cougar under the circumstances above. In real terms, a cougar would win hands down.

What is your favorite example of metonymy?

Don't forget to check out some other amazing M posts here.

April 14, 2013

Should Authors Worry About Trends? = ROW80 Update

Keeping it short and sweet today. 

Although I'm loving the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this year, the posts and social media commitment have taken a lot out of me. Oh, and did I mention I'm knee-deep in getting my second book ready?

My second book, a YA paranormal, is coming along nicely. I'm quite proud of it, especially since I wasn't so sure I had a second book in me. I hoped, but I wasn't sure.

But now I'm starting to worry... is YA paranormal heading the way of leg warmers and heavily-hairsprayed hair? Did I miss a boat that has now sailed?

I did not set out to write a paranormal book. Instead, I wanted to write a book about a young adult struggling with changes in her life after a devastating event. My muse took it paranormal. 

Now, I'm prepping to publish a book into a very crowded and competitive marketplace. Maybe because I read so many genres, never lingering too long on any particular one, but I never have issues with genre-burnout. I wonder if other readers feel the same. Or, do they read whatever is hot and then move onto the next hot thing?

Do trends matter? Should an author consider what is hot when they write?

My A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) Update...

Busy, busy, busy.

I'm neck-deep in preparations for a cross-country move. The sign is in the yard, although I'm surprised it's still standing since my daughter took a bat to it. But, I'm determined to get Chasing Memories out in the midst of craziness.

  • Publish Chasing Memories -- Edit #3 is done and back in the hands of my Editor, the lovely Jo Michaels. Cover is done! My daughter squealed when she saw it. Really squealed.
  • Survive the A to Z Blog Challenge -- Only done through O, so I plan to get through at least Q tomorrow.
  • Map out the sequel to Chasing Memories - Excited to work more on this. The ideas are coming at me fast and furious.
  • Make significant progress on the follow-up to Depression Cookies - DCII is on hold right now for many reasons. I am not ready to walk away from this character, but my life is overflowing.
Hope all my ROW80 buddies are rocking their goals!

April 13, 2013

Leit-Motif = L: Blogging from A to Z

This post is brought to you by the letter L.

If you grew up loving Sesame Street or have a kid who watches it quite often, you know where that introduction comes from. Also, it shows you how a recurring device sticks with you.

(also spelled leitmotiv): From the German term for "lead motif," a leit-motif originally was coined by Hans von Wolzuegen to designate a musical theme associated with a particular object, character, or emotion. For instance, the ominous music in Jaws plays whenever the shark is approaching. That particular score is the leit-motif for the shark. In literature, critics have adapted the term leit-motif to refer to an object, animal, phrase, or other thing loosely associated with a character, a setting, or event.  The leit-motif is not necessarily a symbol (though it can be). Rather, it is a recurring device loosely linked with a character, setting, or event. It gives the audience a "heads-up" by calling attention to itself and suggesting that its appearance is somehow connected with its appearance in other parts of the narrative.                  

Actually, my husband came up with two great examples for this one: I am Legend by Richard Matheson and Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck. Both feature men traveling their life journey with a dog, a companion used to show the reader more about the characters. 

So many wonderful reads use a recurring object or character phrase to build a story and engaging the reader. Think Bond and his shaken-not-stirred martini or Bugs Bunny's "What's Up, Doc?".

For fun, I thought we could play a little game. The following are repetitive phrases associated with a character:
1. Elementary, my dear...
2. Old sport
3. Bah, Humbug 

Do you know who these characters are? Feel free to play along in the comments.

Please visit other L posts here. Wishing everyone a lovely Saturday!

April 12, 2013

Kleos (& Gerard Butler's 300 Abs) = K: Blogging from A to Z

K is always a toughie, so I'm excited to visit other K posts today. If K equally intrigues you, please visit the Blogging from A to Z participant list for some great takes on K.

A literary device that begins with K... hmmm. As hard as I tried, I couldn't come up with anything, so I hit the Internet. I found a few (some were pushing it... like alternate spellings for c words) but decided on...

(Greek, "What others hear about you"): Renown, honor, glory, and fair reputation achieved through great deeds--especially battle but to a lesser extent in Olympic games, poetry contests, and literature. The Greeks thought of kleos as something transferred from a father to a son, and the son would inherit the duty for carrying on and building upon the "glory" of the father. In Greek literature, kleos becomes a predominant concern of epic heroes like Achilles, who must choose between achieving kleos but dying in battle, or having a long and happy life but having his name fade after a few generations.

When I looked this up, the definition redirected me to see fame/shame culture. According to this site, fame/shame culture is the anthropological term for a culture in which masculine behavior revolves around a code of martial honor. These cultures embody the idea of death before dishonor. Such civilizations often glorify military prowess and romanticize death in battle. Typically, such a society rewards men who display bravery by (a) engaging in risk-taking behavior to enhance one's reputation, (b) facing certain death in preference to accusations of cowardice, and (c) displaying loyalty to one's king, chieftain, liege lord, or other authoritative figure in the face of adversity.

Of course, I thought about 300. Then I thought about Gerard Butler's abs and got distracted for quite a while.

But, back to kleos. I found this concept interesting. Is there a modern form of this? Even those in the military, although willing to die for what they believe in, don't often get the respect and "fame" associated with laying their lives on the line. 

So, other than authors writing historical fiction or about some Middle East cultures, this literary device is beginning to die a cultural death. Right? 

A possible exception... those stories that bring Greek culture to the modern world. Think The Lightning Thief. Or, interpreted loosely, any story about a son feeling pressured by his father's legacy (since the term is male-based). Consider Prince William, a man destined to be King... he has to live up more to his female ancestors (the Queen and his mother) than any man (Prince Charles. Um, no). 

Oh, and since I mentioned it, I thought it only polite to share Gerard Butler's abs. I figured it was best to save for the end so my female readers wouldn't be too distracted. Enjoy!