Posts Tagged ‘style’

I don’t write comedy. I might have amusing scenes, or light-hearted poetry, but I am not someone who is skilled at the laugh out loud moments.  I’m thinking about this, because this week I went to see the funniest play I can remember, The Play That Goes Wrong

Comedy is most definitely an art.  Depending on the nature – physical, reflective, political – completely different skill sets are needed.  For writing, it’s also about picking the perfect words.

I don’t think I have ever really appreciated the art involved in creating a funny, engaging, novel. Most of the comedic poetry I have discovered is quite light, nothing to get you thinking too deeply, but that isn’t the same with a book.

For novels, there’s got to be engagement and sustained levels of comedy over 70,000 or more words.  It sounds impossible!

I am trying to think of a few that are genuinely comedies (rather than simply witty or light-hearted) and am going to have to review a few.  I would really like to understand how it can be done!

I am never likely to write a truly comedy novel, but I might see how to tie in a few more smiles for readers.

Plus, what a great project to see me through the autumn: books to make me laugh!

If you have any suggestions, please let me know in the comments…

Happy laughing!



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On Thursday I said I was writing a poem inspired by an anniversary. Specifically it was a 20th anniversary celebration for a couple in my family.

I worked on the poem for a couple of weeks, which isn’t long for me and I felt a little worried that I wouldn’t reach an end point that made me happy.

However, I knew what I wanted to say, so it was just a case of finding the right words and style.

I say ‘just’; it’s not that easy, but I had a start point which is important for these very personal pieces.

I began by writing down the concepts in verse form, each stanza 6 lines long.  As I refined and reorganised the poem it took on a new form with a distinct repetition pattern.

The final form was five couplets, and one single line to start off. I had reached that style by Thursday when I took it to my writing group, so from then onwards it was simply about refining word choice.

I gave the poem to the couple on Saturday night, and although I will always see ways I could refine my work further I was happy with the result.  I think they were too: it is now a cover photo on Facebook!

I find writing for loved ones more demanding than other work – I think because it’s so important to find the right words for them as well as me. I don’t and can’t do it for every big event or celebration; this was the fifth specifically personal poem including two for funerals and the one I wrote for my own wedding!

There have been times when I planned to write but can’t get the right words or the right feeling. It will always be an exception to write something as a gift because it will always be an exception for the writing stars to align.

But when it works, and is enjoyed, it really is a great result for me.

Happy writing,



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This week I am sharing a poem that is very special to me – W.H. Auden’s ‘Carry Her Over The Water‘; partly because it’s Valentine’s Day and partly because it’s a poetic example of what I have been learning recently about style, setting and language.

I hope you enjoy it, and for those people who know why it is special, I hope it brings back some happy memories!

Carry Her Over the Water, by W.H. Auden

Carry her over the water,
And set her down under the tree,
Where the culvers white all days and all night,
And the winds from every quarter,
Sing agreeably, agreeably, agreeably of love.

Put a gold ring on her finger,
And press her close to your heart,
While the fish in the lake snapshots take,
And the frog, that sanguine singer,
Sing agreeably, agreeably, agreeably of love.

The streets shall flock to your marriage,
The houses turn round to look,
The tables and chairs say suitable prayers,
And the horses drawing your carriage
Sing agreeably, agreeably, agreeably of love.

(I originally found this in a book of love poetry but it can also be found at allpoetry.com)

Happy Valentine’s Day reading,



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I finally finished my reading on setting at the poetry stage, and this week’s book is Penguin’s Poems for Life, selected by Laura Barber.

What I wanted to pick up was how feeling and setting interact but what I got was a little wider than that.

What I took was that description is an art.  In much the same way I am studying the importance of the right word, the power of poetry is linked to picking the right language.

For example, Seamus Heaney’s The Railway Children describes ‘shiny pouches of raindrops’ a phrase that describes their appearance, reminds the reader of the industrial nature of trains, gives a sense of something hidden within them (in this case, words) and makes them tiny gifts.  All these ideas are part of the setting of the poem: on the railway cutting.

Another example which caught my eye was Walt Whitman’s poem A Noiseless Patient Spider.  The sense that the web of a small spider could be a metaphor for life, a soul, creation was rather beautiful and unexpected.

This is a good reminder really – you can be both literal and figurative in poetry but sometimes you also need to be bold: follow a thought through its twists and turns and see if the journey is worth recording!

I had a fair number of poems I could share, different examples of poetry I love, but poetry is a particularly personal medium and my passion won’t necessarily match yours.

The best and most important point though is that truly effective writing, in whatever form, is a connection between the writer and the reader. The more you are able to bring them into your world, the more trust they will place in you and the more likely they are to lose themselves in your work.

I forget to think about poetry when concentrating on prose writing but that is very short-sighted because it means I miss opportunities to improve my work.

As a result of this reading exercise I have decided to make sure I read  at least one poem a week, analytically, to understand it and see what lessons I can learn for my own work.

Happy reading,



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As I said on Sunday my reading focus at the moment is about feeling – for which I have decided to read both a novel and a book of poetry.

Obviously the novel is going to be useful as a way of exploring another writer’s techniques and seeing what I can learn.  However,  I thought that adding poetry to the mix might help me think outside the box a little more – perhaps by suggesting more lyrical phrasing or mixing up a few metaphors.

I won’t talk about my findings yet, as I don’t want to pre-empt them and I haven’t finished my reading.  I probably won’t read the entire poetry anthology before next week either, but I will have looked at a few different examples and hopefully will identify something valuable that I can take forward into my own writing.

I am looking forward to finding out!

Happy reading,



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This week I have been doing too much, and not enough.

There have been a lot of things going on – appointments, extra meetings at work, extra hours at work, reading a script for the drama group and so on – and writing has taken a little bit of a back seat.

It’s frustrating, but just because the words haven’t quite hit the page it doesn’t mean I haven’t been planning – it’s important for me to remember that!

I have mapped out logistically how to take what I picked up from the crime writing convention and apply it to the whodunnit. I have a new storyline because one of the key things I realised as I sat in that audience was that a police procedural is not my style.

Now, that’s a bit of a worry, because I wrote a story wrapped around a police officer. But with some tweaks, I can make it effective as a more angsty/psychological story which is more about perception and not entirely about reality…

It became really clear as I listened to police officers and ex police officers, and civilians who are authorised to go out in uniform in police cars, that it’s not the route I want to take. They are experts and can bring years of experience to their work, they can use the language, the systems, without fear of getting a major detail wrong.

I can’t do that, and I am not in a position to give up work to go around chasing gangs in a police car any time soon, so my best bet, and the one I think will work better, is to work with what I know: people.

At last, a degree in Sociology might have a tangible benefit!

There are resources, of course – but one thing I know from research (yay Sociology again!) is that there’s nothing better than doing your own: only you will know exactly what it is you are looking for.  This isn’t science, it is about people in potentially dangerous situations responding based on their own experience and belief system.  If I only needed a few details to pin it together, I could ask one of my lovely contacts for help.  However, there’s a lot more than that to do, and I have to make it work for me.

All this sounds like another head-hitting-wall moment but it really isn’t, because a) I realised what I can bring to my writing from my own background and b) the whodunnit was never meant to be anything more than an exercise in twisting a tale – the fact I have now seen its possibilities is completely unexpected and quite marvellous!

I am going to leave it there today, on what I truly think is a positive point. Next week I have to get back into sending out my work but for now I’m focussing on the fact that I am working, even when my pen hasn’t really touched my paper.

Happy writing,

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This week I did some planning, although not as much as I’d intended, because I ended up building on something from last week and completing a really integral part of an interview. So I’m about 50% where I had hoped to be…

But in getting the interview structured and some of the crumbs tied in, and thinking through the plan (even if not in the detail I had intended) I feel like I can see the finishing line. This week coming will be all about tying up the loose ends of the story and twining them into a rope for the murderer to hang herself, metaphorically speaking.

I have also decided on a final scene complete with the last words of the story, and it feels good to have that. It’s something to work towards, and something to keep me focussed so I don’t go off on a tangent, as I so often do.

Next week I hope I’ll get the bulk of what’s left written and the week or so after will just be filling in a couple of blanks. That’s the plan, anyway – let’s hope there no banana skins on my path!

In other news – A couple of weeks ago, I shared some of my poems with another writer. He had kindly given me his poetry book, and I explained to him I was working on rhyming poetry as it wasn’t my usual style, but the ones I shared were blank verse. He told me, in effect, that poetry which doesn’t rhyme isn’t really poetry.

I don’t agree and simply shrugged this opinion off as irrelevant to my personal style. However, I shared the comments with a friend who has read some of my work and she was incredibly offended on my behalf.

This got me thinking about my own response.

I will never be able to make everyone happy, and the more I try, the more I lose my own voice. I have and will try all sorts of different styles because experimenting is fun, but every piece of writing has to be a reflection of me.

I ignore people who tell me what writing ‘should’ be – writing is many different things, and there really are no hard and fast rules.

We write because we have something we want to say, a force within us driving us to mark out our thoughts and ideas on paper. That force is like our own personal engine and if we let someone else tamper with its workings, who knows what damage they could do.

Yes, it can be helpful to learn the mechanics – but the time comes when we have to trust our engineering skills!

Happy writing,

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