Posts Tagged ‘writing’

How to Write a First Draft

November 28, 2018

via How to Write a First Draft

Don’t Blog. Write!

November 25, 2018

Some great thoughts about becoming a ‘writer’, when so many people believe they can’t.

via Don’t Blog. Write!

You do NOT have to vote for Trump or Clinton

September 16, 2016

Our two-party political system has been getting worse for several elections. The question today is: Who is the worst possible person to be the president, so that I can vote for the other one? Many Americans feel they are trapped, hating those options, but not wanting to ‘waste’ their vote. But so often I hear the silly choice: “I just won’t vote.” Isn’t that an absolute waste of your vote?

steinPersonally, I would rather make a positive vote, that is, for a person I would actually like to see elected rather than truly ‘waste’ my vote because it was negative. While Trump has the potential to be the American Hitler, Clinton is a known quantity of back-room politics as usual.

At this point, Gary Johnson is on the ballot on all 50 states, and Jill Stein is getting close to those numbers, while currently eligible as a write-in. While I am attaching an article about Johnson, I am also attaching the official site where Stein states her views. I am voting for one of them, and, if you hate the majority options, hope you will investigate these viable alternatives and vote for one of them.

garyIf nothing else, a strong showing for a third-party candidate will send a loud message that we will no longer let the major parties force some horrendous candidate down our throats. I think that will make it a positive vote.

http://www.refinery29.com/2016/08/119077/who-is-gary-johnson-2016

http://www.ontheissues.org/Jill_Stein.htm

Plot Arcs

September 8, 2016

I’m not a great fan of ‘formulaic writing’, but this is a very good analysis of the basic structure of all fiction.

STORY STRUCTURE: The 5 Key Turning Points of All Successful Screenplays

A Great Article on Promoting Science to Children!

July 29, 2016

This article, from the Indiana Writers’ Conference, was near and dear to my heart! I tried to use the same techniques, especially humor and research to make certain the science was accurate, in my YA novel “Miranda’s Magic”. I think it’s great that other writers are using fiction to promote an understanding and love of science in children.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

To Instill Love of Earth Sciences in Younger Minds

by Hardarshan S. Valia

From my nascent days of schooling in the small town of Chindwara, India, I’ve marveled at the colorful canvas of rocks displaying flow of highly colored minerals. I was lucky enough to follow my passion of the Earth’s history through schooling into my work place at Inland Steel (now Arcelor Mittal) R&D Laboratories, East Chicago, Indiana. My professional life was dedicated to studying carbon usage in the steel industry. There, I studied with amazement the magical formation of colorful carbon forms during the coal-to-coke carbonization process. To an untrained eye, coal and coke are dirty-looking materials. But looking under an optical microscope, seeing how the organic entities in coal melt into nematic liquid crystals that come closer and seem to talk to each other as they coalesce into a beautiful entity called coke, one falls in love with nature’s wonder. It is this intoxicating interaction with science that I wanted to share with others.

No, no, I did not run like Archimedes shouting, “Eureka!” because the coal-to-coke carbonization phenomenon had been observed for years, but I started to go to nearby schools to help children see the beauty of earth materials that I saw and continue to see. My work travels had taken me to many parts of the world where I would take every opportunity to amass my collection of rocks, minerals, and fossils. Like a folk storyteller, armed with my earth wares and wealth of stories, I would sing the Song of Earth and tell stories of Earth’s Evolution to children who, in my biased opinion, loved it very much. After the end of class, they were allowed to handle the specimens and make their own observations. Those years of telling tales finally ended up in my taking on a project of writing a book where my protagonist describes the evolution of life through various geologic times.

There are four points I consider in writing for children to make Geology/Earth Science attractive to them.

1) Make it scientifically correct.

Stories/films are frequently endowed with creative licenses; the brain evolves and knowledge-hungry children are able to sort out facts from fiction. This means, yes, there is a role for Science Fiction for children in an effort to ignite the “What If” moment. However, misconception should not be created when writing science genre for children. Presentation of scientific facts must be based on what we currently understand as valid science. In my story, some characters are fantastical but the science of Earth’s history is accurate.

2) Show large scale geologic phenomenon in simple form.

Example:

To show that Mountains are formed when rocks are folded or uplifted, I show them an actual slab of Marble from China where a layer of Iron-rich brown/black mineral is folded into mini-mountains amidst the backdrop of white marble.

3) Connect the unknown to the known

Example:

To show that two organisms probably evolved from a common ancestor, I show them a large rock slab that contains two straight shelled Orthoceras and three coiled shelled Ammonite fossil types of Cephalopod fossils from the Atlas Mountain Range of Southern Morocco (See Figure 2).

The fossils are from the Devonian age (359-416 million years ago). I connect them to the current relatives of Cephalopod as follows:

4) Anthropomorphism and humor are effective techniques

Example:

To make it interesting in my story, I portray how my protagonist is drowning due to turbulence in the ocean and is rescued by a cephalopod who grabs the protagonist and provides shelter in its chamber. To give interest to my fossil character, I make them talk and exhibit all ranges of anthropomorphism.

Here is a scene in my story when the protagonist first meets a Mastodon before the start of the ice age.

“Sunny, why do you carry that trunk?” I wanted to know.

“I was the Sheppard for the Pigsty family. I used my trunk as a rope to encircle smaller pigsty.” He spoke as a stand-up comedian with a serious look on his face.

“Come on, that’s not the real reason.” I knew that he was kidding around.

“I was a circus acrobat. I used my trunk to swing from the high rope,” he said seriously.

“Oh, really!” I wanted to tease him. “Show us your great swings on this tree!” I pointed to a large tree trunk before me.

“That tree won’t take my weight. I need a big tree.” He knew fully well there was no tree in sight that would support his weight.

“Come on! I need to know now. Why do you carry that trunk?” I was getting impatient.

“O.K., O.K., Small Doodle!” That is the name he used for me whenever he showed affection. Then he continued, “A big body needs big hands, a big mouth, and a big stomach so our noses and upper lips became elongated, resembling a hand-like feature, allowing us to pick up food from the ground or pluck leaves from the trees.” He said the entire thing in one breath.

“Very interesting!” I exclaimed. His explanation made perfect sense. I marveled at nature’s evolutionary processes.

This approach is how I disseminate the beauty and the science of Earth through story telling and writing to those well on their passageway from childhood to adulthood.

__________

Hardarshan S. Valia has published stories, essays, and poems in magazines such as: Huffington Post, NWI Times, Urthona, Hub, Bitterroot, Iron & Steel Technology, Sikhnet, Sikhchic, and Sikh Review. A story entitled “India…ana” will be published in a book entitled “Undeniably Indiana” by Indiana University Press in August 2016. During his tenure as Staff Scientist at Inland Steel (now Arcelor Mittal) R&D Laboratories, East Chicago, he contributed mostly to science journals and science books. He is married and has two children. He is a member of Indiana Writers’ Consortium, Magic Hour Writers Group, Write on Hoosiers and SCBWI.

Posted by Indiana Writers’ Consortium at 12:00 AM No comments:

Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

Labels: Hardarshan S. Valia, writing for children

A New Interview of Me and My Work

July 24, 2016

My latest interview, as posted by Maria Grace on her blogsite. Please give it a read, and see some of her other interviews of interesting writers. Cheers!

Writing Superheroes: Don Maker

Part 3: “Romeo and Juliet” as a Warning to Elizabeth.

January 26, 2016

The last part to my essay explaining why Shakespeare may have had a much deeper message for Queen Elizabeth concerning her rule over her Catholic and Protestant subjects than writing a simple play about love and death.

A Couple of Other References from the Play


Although this is somewhat of a non-sequitur for this essay, it is not surprising to me that in his poem “Queen Mab”, Percy Bysshe Shelley channels the wild, chaotic sense of independence of Mercutio in his famous speech to Romeo. I think Shelley picked up on many of the religious questions in Mercutio’s speech and used them as a springboard for his atheistic arguments. Needless to say, I do not think Shakespeare was being any worse than a trifle irreligious, as he was criticizing the (to him) senseless battle between the two Christian sects, and not Christianity itself.

Then, the play essentially ends with these lines from the prince:

“And I for winking at your discords too
Have lost a brace of kinsmen: all are punish’d.”

As a writer, I wonder why the prince also lost a couple of kinsmen. As a moral tale for the reason stated in his prologue, it would seem that Mercutio might better have been related to Romeo, say his brother or first cousin, than the prince, because it would have been more of a family tragedy if all of the deaths had been to members of the family. For that matter, if Paris had to die to heighten the dramatic irony, he could have been a cousin to Juliet, as those marriages were quite common in that society. Such relationships would have heightened the grievous loss to the families as a result of their ridiculous feud. For me, it adds no dramatic tension that the prince lost relatives as a result of a limited feud between two families, no matter how rich and powerful they were in his city.

However, as a political statement, it makes perfect sense to me. Rather than being limited to the proverbial “others”, the ruler of this little fiefdom suffers personal loss from the violent bickering going on under his jurisdiction and control. As I understand this play, this message is a direct appeal to Elizabeth to stop the persecution and bloodshed amongst her subjects and her own “relatives”, whether or not those were actual blood relatives. As the prince says, all are being punished.

Juliet’s Famous Line

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.” (Act II, scene 2)

A wonderful pun, I believe. There are many metaphors he could have used, but I think Shakespeare is referring back to the War of the Roses, the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster. When the followers of Mary of Scots rebelled against Elizabeth, they wore a red cross, while the Protestant followers of Elizabeth wore a white cross. Later, the Tudor rose was combined with a red outer rose and a white inner one.


Juliet is, of course, asking why Romeo had to have been born a Montague, as they were at odds with the Capulets. She may as well have been asking why he had been born, say, a Catholic instead of a Protestant, as both were good Christian faiths, and as sweet as any other religion.

A Note on Sonnet 29

There have been many interpretations of this poem. I will also speculate on its meaning, more as a writer than as a scholar.

When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee-and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

Sonnet 29 is a member of the “Fair Youth” sequence, in which the poet supposedly expresses his love towards a young man. This is one of the poems that led some scholars to believe Shakespeare was homosexual, or that someone else wrote the poems. However, I don’t even necessarily believe the poem alludes to anyone other than the author himself. Yes, the ending definitely sounds like a love poem, but why those specific analogies? The use of the pronoun “one” in the line “wishing me like to one more rich in hope” could simply be a use of the generic, especially given the line “desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope”, which would imply that the author is simply regretting his own circumstances and wishing he could have the best traits of certain other people.

There exists an interpretation that Shakespeare was despondent after having recently been severely criticized for his work by fellow playwright Robert Greene, and that would seem to make a lot more sense to me than homosexuality. However, I get a different reading given all of the other evidence I have presented in this essay.

A poet always writes from his/her own background and experiences, and often uses thoughts and observances from their past as metaphors for other things. I do not know enough about William Shakespeare’s early life to clearly evaluate why he is “in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,” nor has fallen into an “outcast state”. Perhaps it is because he had been forced to leave school and seek his fortune without the aid of a father who was fairly wealthy and influential. Or is he actually alluding to John, whom he may have perceived as despairing about having fallen totally out of favor in Elizabethan society because he would not renounce his papist beliefs?

In my mind, the fact that someone’s love is a tonic to the writer is quite secondary in this poem to the despair that is much more completely described. The phrase “then I scorn to change my state with kings” was certainly common enough, especially in a society under a monarchy, to simply be a descriptive metaphor for personal values. However, it may actually have been a direct allusion to the Queen, claiming that the Crown could not heap such disgrace and poverty on Shakespeare as to make him lose all pride and sense of inner worth. In either case, there is a definite sense of “rising above” the adversity caused by having somehow become a societal outcast that would be consistent with resentment at how Elizabeth treated devout Catholics.

Conclusion

In the first place, Romeo and Juliet is not a simple love story, even if read as a piece of literature rather than a political statement. The main topic is actually uncontrolled passions, as the hatred expressed in the play is equally as violent as the love portrayed. The choices that are made by all of the characters — certainly not least by the nurse and the friar — lead to the inevitable deaths of the two young lovers. As in life, not everyone can control the fate of a nation, but each person has control over their own choices to act or not to act, to do good or to do evil. Religious persecution cannot exist without the masses condoning and even participating in the emotional and physical actions of persecution, or, as on the part of many of the Catholics, the attempts to overthrow or assassinate Elizabeth. When seen in the context of the historical and political realities of Elizabethan England, Romeo and Juliet is a true masterpiece of subtle messages.

May 12, 2012

As a writer in general, and specifically related to HF, I found this article very interesting in that numbers and comments give great insights into what interests readers or turns them off. I made a comment on this blog about POV, another area that, in my experience, is very important to many readers. Any reactions to this blog, or thoughts on POV?

All about historical fiction

588 readers responded with enthusiasm to the question “what detracts from your enjoyment of historical fiction”.

44% Inaccuracies – includes seeing modern sensibilities in a historic setting, anachronisms, dialogue that does not fit the period, poor research, moving major dates to suit a story line and so on.

2% Dialogue – several people complained that using too much dialogue from a long ago period takes away from the ease of reading.

9%  Sex & Violence – this refers to stories with too much sex and violence rather than too little 🙂 In addition, some readers specifically mentioned gory battle scenes.

15%  Too much detail – refers to stories weighted down with reams of historical detail, almost as though the author wanted to include every bit of research found on a particular aspect of history.

15% Pace, Plot & Character – in the main, these comments referred to problems that can…

View original post 344 more words

About My Writing

March 26, 2012

What is the focus of Don Maker’s Blog? None. For me, writing is about catharsis as much as it is about trying to make some money. That’s one of the reasons my writing is so eclectic — although some might say “scattered”!

In the old days, one had to trot down to Berkeley Square (no, not Northern California; it’s a town square in the West End of London, England, and it’s pronounced “Bar’-clay”) and stand on a soap box (preferably a sturdy wooden sort) and harrangue passers-by at the top of your lungs if you wanted others to share in your pithy thoughts on the world. If you were interesting, people might actually stop and listen. Now, we have the internet.

I’m happy to share my views on everything: sports, politics, education, philosophy, religion, the social order (and disorder) of things, nature, finance — you name it, I’ve got an opinion on it! My wife and I have had the good fortune to travel extensively, but if you wish to read my articles on international travel, please click on the link to Yahoo!, because they paid me for them, and they have exclusive rights to them.

Other than travel, if my writing entertains you at all, please feel free to comment, pro or con. While I discourage profanity and personally defamatory remarks, any opinion you care to share is just as valid as mine, and I hope I’m open-minded enough to think seriously about your point of view and respond intelligently (well, as intelligently as is possible for me…). If you REALLY like my writing, then please try one of my novels! They are mostly historical fiction, but again, I’m pretty eclectic/scattered.

Thanks for sharing my world, i.e., blogosphere. Cheers, Don Maker

Don’t Knock Historical Fiction — ALL History is Fiction!

February 11, 2010

As a writer of historical fiction, I’m sometimes asked how much “real history” I put in my books. My stock answer is: ALL history is fiction. This sometimes baffles people, but most often irritates them. Please allow me to explain.

What is “real history” anyway? Science tells us that there are two types of biases: the bias that comes from an observer’s viewpoint, and the deliberate bias that comes from motivation.

As to the first, was the historian actually at the event he/she is describing? Did they see the action, or hear the words spoken? In almost all cases, they are recreating an event from documents and verbal testimony of “eyewitnesses”, who (if they were really at the scene, unlike many who claim to have been) may have been extremely limited in what they actually witnessed. In the best of cases, they are not trained observers or recorders anyhow. Such second-hand accounts are sketchy at best; think of the Warren Commission Report. Examining that report today, we find many inconsistencies, uncertainties, and downright deliberate falsehoods. If we cannot even know exactly what went on with a modern event that was witnessed on television by millions of people, how can we know what went on in events hundreds and thousands of years ago?

As to “primary documents”, have you ever written a memo about a corporate event you were involved in, or a letter to a friend relating some incident in your life? Just between you and me, were you totally honest about what happened? Did you paint yourself in the glaring light of “truth”, or perhaps embellish your role just a tiny bit? Did you ever once make the other guy the hero? Yeah, well, all of those olden time folks who wrote their memoirs, or letters to friends, or whatever, did exactly the same. Even if they tried to be accurate, have you ever had someone read your memo and tell you they were unclear on what exactly you meant to say?

For the second, the old saying” “The victors get to write history”, has a lot more meaning than the surface value. In some cases, many of the ancient monarchs hired historians to write of their exploits–that becomes little more than propaganda. In many cases, such as Shakespeare’s “Richard III”, it was politically and financially expedient for him to explain events in a way that would be pleasing to the sitting monarch, Elizabeth Tudor.

Speaking of whom, when doing research for “The Shakespeares and the Crown”, I read some historians who claimed Robert Dudley (later the Earl of Leicester), son of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, was born on the same date as Elizabeth, while some said up to a year before her. Since the christening dates of all peers were recorded, how can they be that far off on a prominent figure in Elizabethan history! Those are the primary documents we’re relying on.

Even if a person does not have a religious, political, financial, or other motivation in “slanting” what happened, writers of history still have personal biases for or against an individual or a particular side in a conflict that colors the way in which they portray the events. For example, early historians portrayed Christopher Columbus as a courageous hero who “discovered” America. Later historians say he never set foot on American soil, and committed genocide and slavery in the Hispaniolas. How about the great emancipationist, Abraham Lincoln? It turns out he was no more a fan of African-Americans than Governor George Wallace. We have recently learned that it was his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, who constantly urged him to grant equality. His original plan to get solve the “black problem” was to ship them all to a new colony in South America.

When writing my novels, I do as much research as possible, but find so many conflicting accounts and opinions that it’s difficult to gain a clear picture of what “really” happened. So, my view of historical fiction is to go with what the historians tell us as much as possible, but realize that they were no more “there” than I was, and my version of what happened, within the bounds of known data and logic, is just as valid as theirs. Maybe more so: at least I label mine as fiction on the cover.