5 Ways to Use Inspirational Speeches in Your Story

ways to use inspirational speeches in your storyPersuasive speeches are such a strong, traditional way to motivate people that they show up not only in life but also in books, movies, musicals, and more. Here are a handful of examples of ways to use inspirational speeches in your story.

How Persuasive Speeches Affect Plots

It may seem like an inspirational or persuasive speech has an obvious purpose, and from the speaker’s viewpoint, that may be true (Persuade so-in-so of x). Within the arc of a larger story, however, things can be a bit more complicated.

Sustaining Suspension of Disbelief

The perfect example for this use is William Shakespeare’s Henry V. Henry’s army is hungry, tired, and likely suffering from malnutrition issues like dysentery. They’re faced with overwhelming odds of better armed, better trained, and better fed/rested soldiers. They’d have to be complete and utter idiots to willingly go into that battle when faced with another option.

Yet from history, we know that they not only went into battle, they won.

As a reader or viewer, there’s a very strong question of “Why?” in that situation. And there needs to be an equally strong answer, or the fact that they stayed to fight (and die) becomes unbelievable. So you see, for Henry, the purpose of the speech may be to convince his men to fight, but for the bigger picture, the purpose of the speech is to make us believe that they would stay. That he successfully convinced them.

Either way, it has to be a phenomenal speech. Luckily, Shakespeare was up to the task.

Sustain & Entertain

A weaker version of the first option happens when the answer to “Why?” doesn’t need to be as strong. Then, the speech is only partly showing the audience that, yes, the leader convinced the rest to do x, y, or z. The other part? Well, the other part is for form – it’s there to entertain.

Parody, Comedy, & Commentary

In stories that are especially trying to be funny or that are trying to bring attention to a specific problem, the main purpose of the speech may be its similarity to another speech.

In a comedy, the similarities combine with the plot to add different levels of humor. In a commentary, the reactions to the speech and the resulting plot paint a picture of either the world the author wants or the world the author fears.

And, of course, speeches can be used in both ways at the same time.

Characterization

Not to say that the others don’t include this reason, but there are times when the main purpose of the speech is characterization. Or to give Dean Martin a chance to sing. Take your pick.

Exposition

Most of the time, inspiring speeches happen towards the end – right before or even during the climax. On rare occasions, however, it comes close to the start of the story. For example, it could be

  • said by a small faction who play a very small role in the plot (like a group of crazies that everyone pretty much ignores). In this case, it’s usually a speech about something that no one else really cares about that happens to provide details on the setting and social situation.
  • given by the losing side of a conflict that happens before this particular story starts (like the first episode of Firefly, for example)
  • spoken by a side character, but the focus is on the main character’s reaction to it

And so on.

Here’s an example that not only provides exposition but also works as a part of the inciting incident – both through it’s delivery system and message.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go watch Star Wars Episodes IV-VI again. Have fun using inspirational speeches in stories!

People Don’t Listen: 7 Dialogue Tropes to Give Them Away

people don't listen dialogue tropes ear plugs

“la la la la I’m not listening!”

People don’t listen. You know it. I know it. We’ve probably even heard it but didn’t realize because we weren’t listening. And since we’re so familiar with people who don’t listen, using that idea in our stories adds a lot of realism. That makes these 7 dialogue tropes really handy for giving them away. So handy, in fact, that I’m sure you’ll recognize them from books, movies, etc.

7 Signs for When People Don’t Listen

These signs or tropes are really reflections of why the people aren’t listening. It’s a sign of their motivation and relationship with the person who’s talking. And how much they care about the subject. Ergo, which one you use is all about characterization, setting, and plot.*

 1. The Clueless Question

A.K.A. “Sorry. What?” Best said with that vague, re-focusing air.

Stereotypical of husbands tuning out their wives, this technique is used when the person in question was unaware that someone was talking to them because they’re

  1. in a crowd when the question could’ve been directed to someone else,
  2. focused on something really intently (to the exclusion of other sounds and their surroundings), or
  3. really tired (it’s easy to tune out when you’re exhausted).

Granted, wives do the same thing. Husbands and teenagers just have a worse rap.

2. The Circular Credit

Used in every comedy ever, this trope occurs when a duo is plotting, especially if a dominant character has already been established. The situation goes something like this –

Strong Character: What should we do? Hmmm… What about – no.
Weak Character: We could always try Plan A.
Strong Character: No, that would never work. … I know! We’ll try Plan A! Genius!
Weak Character: [mutters] I’m so glad you thought of it.

Examples include everything from Once Upon a Mattress to Inside Out, etc.

3. The Talk-over Takeover

This one comes up when a person isn’t listening because he or she won’t stop talking. It could be from arrogance, nerves, or a garrulous nature.

Here are some situations where this might be familiar:

  • The talkative, nosy type who can’t resist “fixing” someone and telling someone what to do or what he/she is going to do to help that person (you know – those favors you don’t want?). Aaand doesn’t stop talking long enough for that person to really object. In fact, it’s the type who interrupts any objection and assumes what the poor “helped” soul was going to say…
  • The arrogant, narcissistic type who interrupts because whatever you’re saying can’t possibly be as important as what he/she is saying, so stop wasting time blathering and let him/her talk. (Grrr.)
  • The nervous date or job interview who talks so much that everyone else eventually gives up on getting a word in.
  • The focused person so intent on telling a story or talking about a favorite topic that he/she doesn’t realize the surrounding conversation has moved on (and left him/her behind – still talking).

So… great for annoying, enraging, or funny characters!

4. The Deceptive Dismissal

Here’s where a show of politeness mixes with a lack of caring. People do this all the time when they want to appear that they care about what the person is saying but actually don’t. It’s a two-step process:

  1. Start with a sympathetic phrase. A.K.A. a platitude: “I know what you mean.” “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” “How awful.” All said with a kind of tsk or a sigh.
  2. Segue into what you want to talk about. Generally, it’s something about you (“You” meaning whoever’s doing it. I know that you would never do such a thing.).
  3. Pretend that what you’re talking about is related to what the other person says. People who do this might even believe it’s related – after all, they weren’t listening!

Don’t have characters you want the reader to like do this unless there’s some excuse. Like being distracted by something really important. And they’d better apologize when called out on it.

5. The Fuzzy Faker

This person actually does care about what the other person thinks. Maybe, not enough to actually pay attention (for this moment) but enough to try to hide that he/she wasn’t paying attention. Inevitably, however, vital details get crossed or overlooked and out the person’s lack of listening skills.

This dialogue trope is useful for

  • employees trying to impress/pacify a boss who’s especially boring and tends to monologue
  • spouses who want to avoid getting in trouble for not listening
  • students caught not paying attention in class

Sounds familiar, right?

6. The Redundant Reveal

To me, this one is an everyday kind of accidental slip that busy people make. You’re doing something, you’re moving fast, and you end up saying something before your brain catches up with what you heard. You know, when the brain assumes someone is going to say one thing and responds before you realize, nope, that’s not it (like a variation of the talk-over takeover but on a smaller scale).

Here’s an example from one of my favorite websites, Not Always Right.

(My mom is offering my little brother a snack, but she’s in the other room and he doesn’t quite hear her.)

Mom: Do you want any popcorn?
Brother: No, just popcorn.

How many times have you said, “You’re welcome,” when the other person said, “Have a nice day.” It’s that kind of brain glitch. Also known as autopilot.

7. The Taciturn Tune-out

So… back to conceit (Conceit and not listening go well together, yeah?).

In this situation, one person is giving instructions, and the other person is ignoring every word. Usually, it’s a case of arrogantly assuming that he/she knows better and doesn’t need to listen. This person may not even bother to respond or says, “Yes,” “right,” and “uh-huh,” at appropriate intervals.

Unfortunately, this is extremely common with customers and business. Businesses will pay lots of money for consultants, It departments, trainers, etc. And do people listen? Sometimes. Sometimes, they just do their own thing, break stuff, and then blame someone else. (Read not always right if you don’t believe me.)

Even thinking about it is frustrating.

Of course, that’s the point. Frustrating, funny, enraging – when people don’t listen, it causes an emotional response. I’m sure you have stories you could share for all of these dialogue tropes.

So why don’t you? Change the characters and put them in your stories. Believe me, your readers will empathize.

*Something about the word, “ergo,” feels pretentious. But it fit the sentence. I’m so conflicted…

A Great Tone Example That’s Funny, Too

great tone example what is tone

Those thousands of shades of green? That’s like all the different tones you could write the same story in.

From middle schoolers to adults, people have trouble with tone. Especially telling tone from mood. Well, here is a great tone example that’ll not only help you better understand tone but also make you laugh (what a deal!).

But, first off, a bit about tone.

What Is Tone?

Tone – the attitude of a piece (usually the author or narrator’s attitude towards what is happening)

Ever get in trouble for your tone as a kid? (Or as an adult?) You know, when it wasn’t what you said but how you said it? (tone of voice and body language?) Tone is like that, but since writing isn’t spoken and doesn’t have nonverbals, that attitude is taken from the word choice instead. How  you word something dictates the tone.

It’s like paraphrasing using close synonyms: the denotation shouldn’t change, but the connotation might.

You look really thin!
You look awfully skinny!

They’re the same thing but not. The switched words are close synonyms (same detonation), but the connotation is definitely different. People who want to appear polite but insult someone at the same time are really good at distinctions like this. And so are satire writers. *cough* I mean hospital workers.

A Great Tone Example

This is an article from a medical satire blog called Gomer Blog. IMHO, one of the keys to successful satire is a believably sincere tone. In this case, they took it a step further with an overly sincere, understanding, and even sympathetic tone. The article is called “Hospital Publishes 6 Patient Guidelines: ‘Please Try Not to Confuse Us with a Hotel.”

Here’s a sample:

Here at Outside Hospital (OSH), we are 100% committed to your satisfaction as a patient.  To this end, we have created this pamphlet, which contains some tips and advice to guide you in your hospital stay, and we will be providing this to each and every patient immediately upon your arrival to the hospital.  Even if you have slurred speech secondary to a stroke, been shot multiple times, or don’t even know your own name, don’t worry, we won’t bother you with pesky ECGs or mental status exams until we have gone over this information, in detail.

  1. Please try not to confuse us with a hotel.

I know, I know, the free cable, hot breakfasts, and lumpy mattresses all create an atmosphere that is incredibly confusing since it resembles your favorite Holiday Inn.  However, we actually are a hospital, not just a bunch of beds filled with some sick people.  So, that means that your breakfast may not be the equivalent to IHOP’s, we might not have Comedy Central as a choice of channels and sometimes, when your doctors come into your room, they might have to turn off the television so they can discuss your health.  Although I know these lack of conveniences might lead you to believe that you are in a third-world country, they probably don’t deserve a one-page written complaint…

Hooked? Read the rest of “Hospital Publishes 6 Patient Guidelines: ‘Please Try Not to Confuse Us with a Hotel” now. I’ll wait.

Isn’t it great? Especially if you’ve ever stayed or worked in a hospital. Or know anyone who does. When you hear the stories about the ridiculous complaints people get (or overheard those people in the waiting room, etc.), then it’s even funnier (Or more painful. Whatever).

If you haven’t heard any of those stories, read some of the customer is not always right. You’ll lose faith in humanity, but you’ll develop new empathy for people in customer service – and not only in hospitals (and you can get some of that faith back by reading the not always hopeless tab at the end).

But back to tone.

Do you see how the tone makes the humor work? It’s that overly-solicitous attitude. Like a parent saying, “Oh, I can’t believe they assigned you twenty problems of math! How can they expect you to do that when your thumbs are completely paralyzed from texting your friends?” Heh. Lol. So, yeah, it’s like sarcasm. Sometimes, the best way to make fun of something is to act like you seriously agree with it.

Sure, that’s not the only tone you could write. Any kind of emotion or attitude can be a tone – snippy, humorous, condescending, confused, etc. Any emotion you can put into your voice, you can put into your words.

Any questions?

Spelling as a Frame Story: The Alphabet of Death

Spelling as a Frame Story the Alphabet of Death ABC booksSpelling as a frame story? The alphabet of death? What on Earth is this twytte talking about?*

Frame stories. Sort of. A little. Maybe.

Tbh, this article is focused more on a particular type of frame story, which may not even totally qualify as a frame story (I don’t know. You tell me.). But before we get to that, I guess I better define the frame story.

I haven’t really talked about frame stories yet (at least, I don’t think I have), so here’s a simple metaphor: a family portrait gallery. The hallway (or, more precisely, the hallway wall) is the frame story, and the family portraits are the series of stories bound together by it. Along with the idea that they’re all related by blood or marriage. That’s more or less what a frame story does: it links seemingly unrelated stories (not talk about family. Sorry.).

If you want to learn more about traditional frame stories, click on the wikipedia article (“Frame Stories“) – at least, until I feel like writing about them. For now, I want to discuss spelling as a frame story even though I’ve never heard of it being formally taught as a frame story.

Why isn’t it taught?  I don’t know. It could be because it’s not a strong frame story – it’s more frame than story. Or popsicle stick frame rather than a professional one. On the other hand, I suppose it could be because the alphabet frame is primarily used for ABC books for early readers, and that doesn’t lend a lot of gravitas to the classroom. Or a novel.

But I’m here to prove that it’s not just for kids (Ok. I’m here to amuse, entertain, and, possibly, educate. I admit it.).

The Alphabet Or Spelling As a Frame Story

There are two basic frames in this category. The simplest and most common is the entire alphabet in alphabetical order. The second frame story method is more or less an acrostic put into book form.

The Alphabet Frame Story

This is where the ABC book comes in. If you’re a parent, or if you were a child (*cough*), then you’ve probably seen these. They go from A to Z, and each page features a word, phrase, poem, or sentence that starts with the letter featured on the page.

But it doesn’t have to be for kids, and it doesn’t have to be a book.

The Alphabet of Death

Yeah, honestly, this article was just an excuse to post that video…

The Spelling Frame Story

Or frame whatever. Like I said, this is an acrostic poem turned into a story, song, etc. The most famous one I can think of comes from  an old Vaudeville number followed by a parody gag by Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, and Bob Hope on the Jack Benny Show.

Yeah, I’ve really only seen it used for humor. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be used for something serious. I’m open to suggestions…

Enough Frame Story for a Novel?

It sure doesn’t seem like it, does it? Even if you did, there are so many words in a novel, who would notice if the beginning of each chapter started with a different letter? Nobody. Not even if the first letter was as ornate as the ones in the Book of Kells.

Of course, then I started thinking about emphasizing the letter and how the letter could relate to each story… It would be a very silly novel, but it would be possible.

But what about serious novels? Impossible, right?

I don’t know. What if the frame is for a book series rather than a single story? Like Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Series. Each book features a different letter: A is for AlibiB is for Burglar, C is for Corpse, etc. They’re murder mysteries, and the alphabet idea and main character link them together. Does that count?

What do you think? Is it a frame story or what?

*See what I did there?

3 Types of Appeals as Writing Prompts

What on earth is an appeal? Isn’t that something you do when a trial goes the wrong way? (Kind of, but no). The 3 types of appeals I’m talking about are rhetorical techniques. If you’re unfamiliar with the term rhetoric, think of it as the art of persuasion whether in speech or writing. To use these appeals as writing prompts (or even recognize them when they’re used against you), you need to know what they are and how they’re used.

The 3 Types of Appeals

 1. Logical Appeal

This is the one that gets the most marketing. It’s the one they focus on in schools: using facts and logical processes to guide the audience to the desired conclusion. To make them think that you’re right.

stock data logical appeal as writing prompts

See “data.”

Remember when your English or history teacher made you “support your answer”? You know, using statistics or quotes or evidence from the passage? That’s what this is all about. You use facts to back up every move of your reasoning, and because facts have to back up every move, you can’t skip anything (no matter how obvious).

Think of the argument you’re making as an arch made out of wooden blocks. If you skip a block (and leave a block-sized hole where it would be), then there’s nothing there to hold up the next block, sending the arch tumbling down.

That’s the benefit and the danger of using a logical appeal – if you do it right, it’s a very strong argument, but missing a single step or angle can ruin the whole thing.

2. Emotional Appeal

Really, these are pretty self-explanatory. In this case, instead of using logic, you try to rouse someone’s emotions. You want to make them feel that you’re right.

You do this by using strong adjectives and painting an picture to rouse the audience’s empathy. Art is almost always an emotional appeal. (That’s kind of the point of art…) We buy paintings that make us feel something in response, we listen to music that tugs on our heartstrings, and we read books with characters that we feel for.

emotional appeal as writing prompts puss in boots shrek 2

Pls!!

It’s also one of the best ways to get your way – every child or pet knows this (think the term puppy dog eyes). Other than those commercials for donating to starving or sick children (that go right for the heart), Puss in Boots from Shrek 2 is probably the best example of using an emotional appeal to affect someone’s behavior. He’s goood.

3. Character Appeal

I think of this one as a combination of the other two, but technically, it’s an appeal that relies on ethics or credibility. It’s making someone believe that you know what you’re talking about.

This is an important distinction. If you’re only using a character appeal, then they’re not agreeing because your argument makes sense to them. They’re agreeing because they’ve decided to believe in you.

doctor character appeal as writing prompts

Ah, the lab coat and stethoscope. Works every time.

Think of going to a doctor, accountant, or lawyer. They’re going to give you some advice, and if you don’t know anything about the subject, then you’re not going to decide based on the advice as much as you’re going to decide based on whether you trust them to know what they’re doing.

Using the 3 Types of Appeals as Writing Prompts

So… let’s go back to Puss in Boots. He uses an emotional appeal (+20 cuteness) to get Shrek to take him along and later does the same to take the guards off-guard (oh, the irony). Both of those actions affected the plot, effectively making the emotional appeal a plot device – that’s how we apply them to writing.

Whether the character is a hero, a con artist, a concerned party, or anything in between, he or she might need to convince someone of something. It could even be a key turning point in the plot.

How many times have you read a book where a character has to persuade someone to help? Or give him/her something? Or let them go where they can’t go?

So here’s the writing prompt.

  1. Pick a scene where a character or group of characters has to persuade someone to do or allow something.
  2. Match the characters to the type of appeal they would be most likely to use. Would Spock use an emotional appeal? Would Spock know how to use an emotional appeal? Only as a last-ditch effort when told to (people can use multiple types of appeals either separately or together) or if his using it out-of-character was a major part of the plot.
  3. Decide which appeal is most likely to work on the target. If old Mr. Treg doesn’t trust doctors, is telling him that you’re a doctor going to help? Would a purely emotional appeal work on Spock? Would a purely logical appeal work on Candide?
  4. Write the scene. You’ll have to decide which character goes first. Remember: succeeding on the first try is suspect. The harder the persuasion is, the higher the stakes and suspense.

This is a great exercise to use with an existing story or existing characters. You can use repeated persuasion attempts to show a character’s progress (or lack of progress) in learning to persuade people. You can use ridiculous persuasion attempts for humor or to show dramatic differences in the character’s values (Think Sheldon.).

So basically, it’s a tool for exploring characterization and finding new approaches for resolving plot conflicts. And since persuasion is a big part of everyday life, it helps add realism, too.

Pretty appealing, right?

Stupidity Takes the Fright out of Horror

A: Did he really? B: [Groans] C: It hurts to watch!

Is it just me, or is it true? Stupidity takes the fright out of horror.

Take your generic horror story: an Average Joe, presumed to be relatively intelligent, finds himself (or herself) in the middle of some awful and very probably supernatural danger. Average Joe must then find a solution and/or fight through the situation to either defeat it or simply survive.

Throughout the story, most authors rely on 2 basic tactics for frightening the reader:

  1. Surprise: An example would be a shock shot like a monster jumping out at the characters or someone turning around and finding the axe murderer right there. It’s harder to do in books because you can’t control the speed of the read, but I think sudden/unexpected twists count.
  2. Psych: This is where the author plays with your mind, usually by leaving something unexplained or un-named. Wondering exactly what is out in the darkness to get you, what happened to the characters who disappeared, or how to possibly fight the thing. With a little suspension of disbelief, you can even find yourself imagining the antagonist existing in the real world (like a girl coming out of your television or a ghost in your kitchen…).

So where does the stupidity come in? Well, think about the horror stereotypes that people love to make fun of:

  • Going down into a dark basement
  • Entering the woods alone to look for it (whatever it is)
  • Splitting up
  • Talking so loudly you can’t hear them sneak up on you
  • Turning your back on the stranger who appears suddenly to help you in this isolated place where no one lives (or letting him/her in your house)

Oh, there are more. Personally, I enjoy Eddie Izzard’s description of characters and plots in B horror films:

The problem with those stereotypically foolish actions is that it makes it harder to empathize with the characters, and it makes it harder to suspend your disbelief.

For example, let’s say that Average Joe seems to be going out of his way to get himself killed by whatever it is that’s out there. He goes into the woods alone to find it (taking a thimble with him) but is narrowly saved by a stranger passing by who distracts the killer and dies in A.J.’s place. A.J. then becomes lost in the woods and only finds his way back due to the help of a clever agent who has been hunting the killer for years. They stop for shelter at a nearby farmhouse, and against the agent’s advice, A.J. follows the owner down into the dark basement to check the breaker. He’s saved only because the killer slips on the cat. After a long struggle to reunite with his friends and be sure they’re safe, A.J. immediately convinces everyone to split up to find the guy and, again, lives only because of some freak accident or because someone else saves him.

Really, A.J.? Is that the best you can do?

When the main character(s) continually makes decisions that are contrary to all common sense, you almost start rooting against them. People start yelling things at the movie screen like, “Oh, just kill him already!” (And, believe me, they are not talking about the axe murderer.) Either that or it gets funny: “Ten says he follows the guy into the basement… Ha! Pay up!”

If the character has to act stupid repeatedly in order to be put in danger, then you need to go back to the plotting board. Unless you’re deliberately going for comedy rather than fright, come up with a better solution. A series of stupid choices is going to take all the scare out of your story – at least all of the mental kind. You might get away with some shock shots, but it’s definitely not going to be as scary as it could be.

Because the scariest stories are the ones where you can’t find a loophole. The ones where the main characters are smart, brave, and talented and do everything in their power to defeat whatever it is.

And they still get outsmarted.

That’s what freaks you out. When you feel smarter than the characters, when there’s an obvious flaw in what they’re trying to do, it makes you feel more secure. You wouldn’t fall for that. Therefore, you don’t need to be afraid. When you can’t think of anything better, oh, that’ll send that chills down your spine. That’s when the idea slips into your psyche like a delay-release acid (and, no, I don’t mean the drug).

The only time your characters can be stupid without thinning suspension of disbelief is if they’re caught up and making instant decisions. If they have time to talk it through for the benefit of the audience, they can make very minor errors (like things people could easily overlook normally) but not big ones. For really big oversights, they have to be either pretty dumb already or in a panic and making decisions before they can calm down enough to string together an intelligible sentence.

In other words, it has to be justified and believable characterization. You can’t just throw any stupid action in there to put them in danger. It has to be believable if you want scare anybody – otherwise, stupidity takes the fright out of horror and makes it funny.

IMHO, anyway.

The Line Between Prose and Poetry

line between prose and poetryI got on facebook to reply to one invite and, predictably, spent the next hour distracted by various people’s posts. The one that finally inspired me enough to break the fb tunnel vision was a shared article about anxiety called “Anxiety Is an Invalid Excuse” from Just Cut the Bullshit. Besides the gripping illustration of a hard situation, the post caught my interest because it almost inexplicably blurs the line between prose and poetry.

Here’s the start:

   Anxiety is an invalid excuse. I just got back to my room after a failed attempt to go to class. I’m sitting here, writing this, trying to think of something to email my professor to sugarcoat what I’m feeling, to really drive home the point that class today was unbearable for me…

The first line (bolded here as it is in the original) repeats at the start of each new paragraph. Or perhaps each new stanza – it’s hard to tell. It acts as a refrain, driving home the author’s point, the message that is communicated over and over again to people with anxiety (explicitly or implicitly, verbally or nonverbally): “Anxiety is an invalid excuse.”

The lines following the refrain are written in a paragraph of sentences (with line breaks dictated by the browser rather than the artist’s will). At the same time, they have a rhythm, an emphasis on imagery, and an emotional appeal that lends a feel to the piece that is more like poetry than prose. It’s not hard to picture the piece being recited at a poetry slam, and yet, looking at the formatting and structure, my knee-jerk is to say that it’s prose.

Suddenly, the line between poetry and prose seems less easily defined (a pretty high compliment to the writer IMHO). From a writing standpoint, it’s also an intriguing puzzle for technique: how was it done and how can the effect be duplicated?

Is it the formatting? The lack of continuous line of thought between paragraphs? The intimate nature of the topic? Are those aspects combined with the imagery, rhythm, and use of refrain enough to sort of merge the genres of poetry and prose?

Or is there some detail, some technique that I’ve overlooked?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not up-to-date on more recent poets and poetry techniques. It wouldn’t shock me at all if this has already been discussed, and I am simply late to the table; however, all I’ve been able to find when searching the topic is a discussion of how to define and categorize the two – nothing about how to create a piece that deliberately blurs those lines.

I can definitely see how the details and techniques that I’ve listed would help create the effect. What I’m most uncertain of is whether all those facets are needed, or would a combination of a few work? If it were a less emotional topic, but the other techniques remained, would it still feel like poetry? Or if the paragraphs were less separate or had a line of continuity, would that mar the effect?

I’m honestly not sure. I’m going to have to think about it some more. And probably experiment a bit.

What do you think? Am I simply off my rocker, or is the article poetic prose? (Prosaic poetry? [No]). If you agree with the effect, I’d be very curious to hear what you think the cause might be. Comment away.

Plain Speaking Doesn’t Mean Honest

Honest Tale Plainly Told William Shakespeare Richard III

See “Get on with it.”

In our culture, there’s an automatic assumption that plain speaking means someone is being honest. Surely, no one would be that blunt (A.K.A. rude) unless they meant what they were saying! Nope. Just like roundabout speaking doesn’t necessarily mean someone is lying, plain speaking doesn’t mean honest.

Other Reasons for Plain Speaking

  1. Lying: People think that people who are blunt are honest, right? Let say someone wants to lie to you, but he doesn’t want to get caught. One easy way to trick you into believing him is to be so blunt that you assume he’s telling the truth. As long as no one’s too offended by that bluntness, he’s not losing anything.
    • Manipulation: A big reason to lie to people is to manipulate them. Plain speaking is good for that, especially when you’re trying to piss someone off or calm them down.
      • You see this in stories when the characters need to piss someone off as part of a distraction or strategic fight. They figure out the person’s weakness, and then bluntly point it out to them. Do they have to mean what they say? Nope. But plain speaking can be very efficient for making people mad.
      • Same for calming someone down in an emergency situation. Tell them something they want to believe in a calm, straightforward manner, and there’s a good chance they’ll think you’re telling the truth.
  2. Nerves: When some people are nervous, they blurt out the first thing they don’t even remember thinking. Things they definitely don’t mean. It’s a knee-jerk reaction from adrenaline. It’s like it short-circuits the brain.
  3. Anger: Ever get in a fight and straight-out tell someone something you know they’ll hate, true or not? It’s because when people are mad and fighting, they don’t care about the truth – they care about winning and getting in an equal number of hits.
  4. Humor: It’s the art of the unexpected. Being blunt is a great way to surprise people, and if the plain speaking involves something outrageous, all the better.

Reasons for Honest Circumlocution

  1. Nerves: Some people say short, dishonest things. Other people babble. Let’s get real. Add a little babbling, and you can speak paragraphs of a truth that would normally fit in 3 words.
  2. Politeness: Don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or offend somebody? Well, you can either lie or try to put the truth in the nicest possible way. See “political correctness” (A.K.A. an ever-changing set of rules that give people excuses to yell at you).
  3. Impact: Sometimes, people want to make an impression. They want to sound smarter, more professional, whatever, so what do they do? They use as many big words and phrases as possible. Maybe, it’s from reading too many math books or old texts in school. I don’t know.
  4. Ambiguity: Legalese, misdirection, or manipulation – sometimes, a character may not want to tell someone the truth in an easily-defined way. In legalese, deliberate vagueness is a way of covering situations that the writer didn’t think of (They hope.). In art, it’s a way of leaving the creation open to interpretation. In fiction, a character may be physically unable to lie yet doesn’t want to give up friends to the bad guy (Like Pinocchio in Shrek 3).

In short (ha), there are plenty of different ways to tell the truth, and there are ways to use plain speaking to be dishonest. And since writers don’t have to tell honest tales, you can use as many of these options with your characters as fits your story (Admit it – that’s a lot happier than thinking of the real-life applications!).

Winnie the Pooh Didn’t Say That! (That’s Why It’s Funny!)

Here’s a little humor for your Monday. Remember how the art of the unexpected is about setting you up for one outcome and then giving you another? Well, with parody, you automatically have an expected outcome…

And no, of course, Winnie the Pooh didn’t say that (He wasn’t in Queen!). But can you imagine it in his voice? Hilarious!

An Artist Who Turns Puns into Paintings – with Sheep!

Conni Togel Sheep Incognito Booth at the Dublin Irish FestivalI’ve heard my share of puns (ok, possibly more than my share), but how often do you get to see puns? Today, I ran across an artist who turns puns into paintings – with sheep, no less. Some examples include Ewetube (a sheep sticking out of either end of a long mailbox), Harry Potter (a sheep working on a pottery wheel), Dream Team (sleeping sheep), and Deep Friar (a sheep friar, deep underwater).

The artist is Conni Togel, and the series is called “Sheep Incognito.” They’re a bit groan-worthy in a light-hearted, fun way (like I said, they’re puns), but the characters created are cutely whimsical and very endearing. And the artist definitely gets points for the idea and the execution.

I mean, who turns puns into paintings? What a fun idea!