Two Tags | a q&a session

After my absence, it’s nice to return and have some tags to play with, so here’s a little q&a session. I can’t catch up with ever single tag I have been tagged for and so apologies for those I miss. My hasty records of tags were not sufficient. Some I have lost, some I only included the questions for, forgetting to write down who tagged me or the rules, and then others are just very similar. So to slice it neatly, I’m doing the farthest back tag I have record of, and the most recent.

With that, cheers! Let’s begin.

First, I got tagged by a sunflower – a while ago – but all the same that’s pretty neat. šŸ˜‰

How do you like to write, by typewriter, pen, or computer?

Honestly, it depends on what I am writing. If it’s poetry, it has to be with pen and paper, if it’s NaNoWriMo, a computer, random notes, I write them out and later type them up.

And recently I’ve been trying to write on the typewriter in order to cure myself of sentence fragments and filler words.

Otherwise generally the computer.

Do you prefer to write in the first or third person? I’ve worked in both about equally, but I think I would have to settle with first person, especially since it holds a special place in my heart after my last big project, 51, which was a big experiment in first person narrative.

The main comparisons between the two I’ve found is that there’s a lot one can do with first person along the lines of shortcuts I would never be able to get away with in third person, as well as fun playing with the element of personality and style of the narrating character. But then on the other side, third person has a lot more room to work in, works better with some logistics, and I’ve read some books that pull off witty and interesting narrating side remarks on a level that doesn’t fit as well in first person.

Do you enjoy doing one POV or multiple POVs?

Both? Is that an option?

It depends on the story, I like to use whatever I think serves the story best.

What’s your favorite genre to write in?

I’ve certainly enjoyed fantasy over the years and as the one I’m most familiar with, that’s probably the closest to a favorite. I can tell you though one I really want to try is Magical Realism.

Who is your strongest writing supporter?

This is hard.

Well, sort of.

Right now it’s definitely 100% a friend of mine (who I often vaguely refer to on my blog since I don’t want to name her without permission and I guess I’ve never really thought about asking…? *shrugs*) Anyways, you have her to thank for directly inspiring the following posts:

  1. The Unicorn Prompt
  2. Favorite Books Read in 2019
  3. Blackout Poetry
  4. The March of the Typos

There are even more that were ideas implanted in my brain through our conversations, and she was the person to first introduce me to the word pluviophile (one of our first conversations I believe).

She is literally the only reason I finished my project 51. Her fawning over snippets, prodding me with forks, yelling at Karen* in support of me, listening to me struggling out of plot holes and watching me make more, and her demanding to know where my characters were every second of the day.**

Boom.

51 came into existence.

And honestly about three different short stories, a couple months of poems, some really good additions to my tbr (to-be-read) list, and that’s just for starters.

(Also she’s honestly way better at writing than I am, so there’s that.)

The reason I said this was hard, is because there are so many other people that have supported me from the moment I wrote my first story.

For example my oldest sister, who I swear has magical powers (she can literally get anyone excited about parsing Latin sentences in an average of about five minutes or less) used to read every single one of my stories without fail for five(?) years and edit them all and quietly listen to me rant and pull hair out over them when I needed to rant and pull out hair, and then her presence would magically give me ideas and I would run off bursting with solutions.

And then there’s my Dad who gets really excited over my stories, cheers me on in every contest I’ve ever entered, whether it be for poetry or short stories, and who even supported the idea of me starting a blog and has helped me with some of the technical stuff.

My mom is always helping me in my artistic endeavors. My grandma reads every single one of my blog posts and asks after my projects when we talk. My brothers give me tons of ideas for free (even though I charge them for every push up they do on my carpet). My other older sister listens and reminds me of things when I’ve forgotten them and who gives me encouragement and sends me writer memes when she sees them. And my younger sister gives me hugs and reminds me that I’ve been sitting at the computer for a long chunk of time, while there’s a sun outside and books to read and games to play and tea parties to have.

There are literally hundreds of stories here about people I know in relation to my writing.

Like how my oldest sister use to print out my stories and sew them together into books for me and I would give them away to people.

Or like when my Dad read one of my short stories to a room full of college students while I turned beet red with embarrassment and wished that I could disappear in thin air.

That was a great day.

*no people, pets, animals, imaginary or real were harmed in the making of the aforementioned art.

**or something like that

What is one thing that gives you inspiration to write?

Forks.

Do you like revision?

Haha, well I certainly like creating lists for when I revise what I should change. I’m actually quite good at that part.

I also enjoy printing things out just so I can mark them up and cross out sentences.

However, I find the actual revision hard because I always end up wanting to add more to the story and plot – which is something I have not learned how to go about doing after the first draft.

(If anyone has perfected that, or even knows one tidbit more than I do on the topic – which is nada – let me know. I shall be in your debt.)

Poems or stories?

Is this an either/or situation?

Can you listen to music while you write?

I usually listen to music. The reasons sometimes vary but are the following, either

  1. There is too much background noise such as a conversation, so I use headphones and music so that I can block out those distractions I am not able to tune out easily.
  2. There is too little background noise. As strange as it might sound, no noise means something is wrong in my brain has grown up in a large homeschool family. This results in me becoming more conscious of my surroundings, thus becoming more distracted. In order to write, I need to hear myself think, but I don’t need to be able to hear myself breathe.

The follow up question of course is what kind of music do I listen too while writing? I can write to almost anything I would listen to on a regular basis excepting musicals (though that’s what I’m listening to right now haha). Those are a bit too much to block out for when I’m trying to concentrate – even if I know every word in the song. But ideally some soundtracks or instrumental orchestra pieces.

Present or past tense?

Funny topic…

I always used past tense until I started my last WIP 51 and my oldest brother had the brilliant idea that I should use present tense. The only confusing thing was that at the same time on the side I was working on a short story, Of Sea and Sky, which was still in past tense. My writing had some serious identity crisis those months and I did not even realize it later, but my short story started switching tenses after.

My whole body is trembling, while all I want to do is curl up. 
Niklas scoots closer, watching me.
Who would have thought that after all these years I had never been to sea before?
ā€œIā€™m sorry,ā€ he mouthed.
I was too numb to answer.

As for preference between the two tenses… (not to sound like a broken record) but it depends on the story.


Now for the questions from the amazing Emma.

What is something your mom does that makes you feel loved?

The first thing that came to mind is how she use to randomly make me mocha/hot chocolate drinks. “Used to” because my orthodontist told me that I probably shouldn’t drink it while I have braces.

The second thing that came to mind is how she buys bagels every once and a while even though no one else in our household is very fond of them.

And thirdly I thought of how she went to great lengths during this run on sewing supplies to find white thread for me because I had run out and am in the middle of a quilt.

So all of the above, I suppose. šŸ™‚

What is your favorite natural phenomenon? Why?

How the stars we see at night changes depending on the season, and the phases of the moon, the waves in the ocean.

They’re all just so breathtaking.

^^ case in point.

(none of those pictures are mine for the record, thanks Pexels.com )

What are three of your quirkiest habits?

I can make a list but disclaimer the habits will seem more quirky to some and less to others. šŸ˜†

  1. I name my plants
  2. I organize my bookshelf by color
  3. I dip my fries in my milkshake

What do you and ducks have in common?

Apparently ducks and I both enjoy some of the same foods such as peaches, pears, tomatoes, apples, bananas, some nuts and seeds, etc.

(Thanks Google.)

What to people overestimate/underestimate about you?

Hahahaha.

That’s a good one.

I’m short so a lot of people underestimate my abilities at a lot of things. For starters my age, my ability to drive, my ability to be responsible. Things like that.

But since I make fun of my own height often and I don’t have proof that people underestimate all of the above abilities (just some), I decided to ask a friend.

Her answer: “How good you are about comforting me when Iā€™m crying over my dead husband.”

There we go guys. Isn’t that nice?

Two words: Mock Trial.

Do you believe in penguins? (This is a very controversial topic, so please be thoughtful in your answer.)

I have thought it over and yes. Feel free to quote me on this. Evelyn, April 2020:

I believe in penguins.

Just ask my friend Mr. Popper. He has the loveliest penguins.

Thoughts On Dialogues | both the fictional and non fictional kind

On Monday I shall present for my class by memory a Socratic dialogue I have written.

I have always found writing new things interesting, whether it be puzzling over a new poetry forms, reorganizing preexistent phrases as seen in bookbinder poetry, or experimenting with different point of views and tenses in a scene.

Writing a Socratic dialogue was one such challenge.

As a novelist, I have written many exchanges of various lengths between various characters in various situations. I have, in fact, written literal thousands of conversations.

In my opinion snatches of dialogues are some of the most enjoyable things to write towards a story, because there are often many layers to them, even the type of dialogue which is nothing more than a mere polite formality to the participants. A remark on the weather, a inquiry of health, and a couple other statements of the obvious.

You see there is the type of dialogue in which people actually say what they mean, then there is the type of dialogue in which people do not.

There are the tense dialogues, the kind filled with conflict, the confrontation type. There is the simple exchange of information. Bits like “There is leftover pizza from last night in the fridge that you can warm up for lunch,” or “This is an algebraic problem that should be solved for the variable ‘x’ by factoring,” or “They have twenty night guards you can take them out if you sneak around the back wall and use your bow.”

There is flirtatious banter and cruel banter and nervous banter, the kind involved before a big game or operation by waiting parties.

There are conversations centered around get-to-know you questions, the large, prying, silly ones like “What is your greatest fear?” or “What is your least favorite subject?” or “What is the color of your toothpaste?”

There are conversations that hinge on stories, whether they be those bragging claims between kids, comparing their favorite unbelievable I-heard-from-my-friend-that-their-friend stories, those personal stories and testimonies told on dates, or those hardship tales told to friends who are willing to listen.

And there are the conversations in which involved parties disagree, agree, and disagree again, laying out opinions and statistics they heard somewhere on any given topic under the sun.

And finally, some of the most intriguing, dialogues that end with the question, instead of starting with it.

Overall, there are many types of dialogues. Many kinds I have played with as I manipulate characters through their mazes.

But this was new.

I had never written a full boiled-down, simple, back and forth exchange, absent of speaker tags and the context of body language and the descriptions of the words being barked, growled, grunted, yelled, whispered, whimpered, stuttered, pronounced, smirked, or sneered.

As I point nervously to the universal truth that plays itself out every day in millions of households, on millions of streets, in millions of school and office buildings, tone is everything and they were stripping away the safety cushions that my dialogues fit in so comfortably.

If it were that alone, it would be a simple matter of hammering out the specific words and phrases to precision, charging them with the electricity and energy that would show there was no reason for signposts.

But not just that, I had never before tried to copy the eloquent style of a Greek orator mildly, condescendingly, sarcastically, philosophizing. Specifically: leading along his poor victim, tearing down said victim’s every argument, until there is nothing left to do but arrive at the obvious conclusion from the presented problem.

Which meant I needed a clear argument, lots of big words on hand, and a big conclusion with a clear definition for some vague and mostly abstract idea like “color” or “hero” or “knowledge.”

As I do with many assignments, I spent some time mulling it over, brainstorming, and thinking up a plan to execute. After a couple days of still being unsure of what to write on, I explained to my dad the basic idea (that of a conversation between a ‘teacher’ and a ‘student’ exploring a topic and trying to define something) and then asked for ideas.

He laughed and said: “Define good art.”

Once he said it, I realized that I should have guessed what his answer would be. I don’t remember the first time he told me his definition of good art, and I couldn’t say how many times we’ve conversed over it after watching a movie as a family or reading a book. Neither the amount of times I tested have it and threw things at it to see if it would shatter.

In essence, I realized that my family has had many Socratic dialogues; that they aren’t a foreign concept in the end. They are quite simple. All you need are at least two interlocutors – that is two people ready to take part in a conversation – and a place to begin: a question.

Like: What is the worth of investing in a personal library?

Or: Do you think Bilbo is a hero?

Or: How do you think communities form?

After I had written the entire dialogue for the assignment, printed it out for my parents to proofread, it came up at dinner. I explained the concept and the topic I had decided to write on to my siblings who had not heard about it yet.

“When did you write it?” one of my sisters asked.

“It’s been in the works for the past couple years,” my dad said.

“Really I just asked the question during a conversation and secretly recorded what everyone said and wrote it down later,” I joked.

Except, as with every joke, it’s partially true.

Even though everything up to the final conclusion on page three of my dialogue is original and completely thought up by me over the course of the last couple weeks, it all felt familiar. This, I thought, is well trodden ground.


One well-known element of a dialogue is style: the way it is cushioned comfortably. Sometimes by witty side comments, as if the narrator is watching a romcom and calling out jokes. Other times it’s a more scrutinizing approach where the narrator comes across as a critic at the movies taking notes for an upcoming review and picking apart everyone’s responses. “No, no, he must be lying. Ah she is scared! I know it. And he, he’s just a jerk, pay no attention to him – at least not more than necessary. He does have a point there on that topic…”

Or maybe the prose is penned by a Charles Dickens, springing up an essay for each sentence on the effects of studying afterhours, the different ways one can cut bread, or a history lecture on the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce.

And then there’s the occasions where an author steps back and leaves out everything to make a point. Going from scrutiny, rants, opinions, second-guessings, to one simple fact and letting it hang in the air. Hang in the white space all alone.

Just one thought.

And that was what the Socratic dialogue made me think about. When is less more, and when is silence louder than words? How much of a story could you tell with just the tool of dialogue? What if an entire conversation was void of commentary? How would that go in a novel?

Open a story, copy and paste a chapter in a new document, delete everything outside of quotation marks.

How does it stand?

It’s an interesting experiment to be sure. It lives along the lines of artistic boundaries, as mused on last week, that push your assumptions, that force you to get creative, that aid you in the end.

Like when you look at a friend across the room and smile, or give them a hug, sometimes it’s not what is said, but what is left unsaid that is most powerful.

Context is everything.







Student: What is good art?

And so it started.

Teacher: Meaning what differentiates art that is bad or mediocre to art that is "good"? 
Student: Yes.
Teacher: Excuse me for answering your question with another question,
 but what makes anything good?
Student: I'm not sure what you mean.
Teacher: Let me rephrase...

I lied earlier.

Okay not exactly, but I said that Socratic dialogues are easy.

After I had already said it was challenging. Here’s why: I found out quickly that, though I knew my father’s definition I would use as the conclusion, it was only an end goal. I had no idea how to arrive at the conclusion. I had to lead up to it somehow.

I did eventually, strangely enough, find some premises to the argument, but again, it was a puzzle.

Not only that, I earlier participating in dialogues isn’t that complicated. And yes while it isn’t in essence a complicated idea, it can be hard. Yet over the past year through a look at Socratic dialogues in my class and comparing it to my experiences, I’ve realized there are definite ways not only to kill a conversation, but that there are ways to kindle it too.

So I’ve come up with five observations about what it means to converse intentionally, kindly, and thoroughly.


5 Ways to Cultivate a Healthy Dialogue

#1. Be present

Don’t get distracted, don’t be doing something else, don’t be on your phone, don’t be reading a book. Be present mentally and be willing to take part in the conversation even if it means some work.

Simply put… care about the conversation.

Value it. Value the people. Value the people through valuing the conversation.

#2. Listen | everyone brings their own expertise to the table

Conversations in our household vary in topic. From old Greek epics (“should I read the Iliad or the Odyssey first?“) to scientific discoveries (“what would happen to earth’s orbit if the sun suddenly disappeared?”) and so on. So while I am not very knowledgeable about Greek epics, and don’t know scientific terms by name or the mathematical formula for gravity memorized, I can still ask questions. I can still listen. I can give a perspective if called for. And if we veer into the topic of literature trivia, I can aid with facts there.

Don’t assume you are an expert at the topic at hand. Instead listen to the perspective of others, give them the chance to speak up. Ask specific people if they are silent. They probably have something to say.

And on the other hand don’t assume if it’s a topic you don’t know much about, that the conversation is a waste of time.

#3. When testing definitions, being willing to offer one yourself

Another facet of being willing to take part in the conversation. Be willing to put things out for people to tear it down. It’s might be the reason no one else is speaking up. In my experience people don’t speak up because 1.) they don’t care. 2.) they think the answer is obvious and feel stupid pointing it out, or 3.) they are worried about sticking their head out there to be target practice for the others.

Even if you don’t know a definition, make one up for the sake of testing it and say things like “Let’s try this definition. Where does it fall short? How can we change it to be more accurate?”

#4. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or examples | relate to your experiences and the experiences of others, chart out things if called for, etc.

This is very important. Often conversations go for over an hour only to end with people realizing they agree, they were just wording it differently. It’s important to strive to understand other people’s stances, experiences, and thoughts.

Don’t be afraid to ask, “what do you mean by that?” Don’t be afraid to say, “What about this what happened to me… how would you classify that on your list?”

#5. Let it flow naturally | know the difference between forcing direction and listening

This is part of point 2, but, as my debate coaches drill into my stubborn head, listen and respond off that. Don’t assume people want to talk about this exact take on this topic, this exact issue, this drilled-in specific question. Don’t check off boxes. Let the conversation flow, new ideas will come in, new perspectives.

Don’t sound like you’ve planned the entire conversation out.

If that’s your plan then you don’t understand what a conversation is.


In conclusion! from this rambling post about my Socratic dialogue ordeal:

  1. Dialogues are fascinating. (Mostly because people are fascinating.)
  2. It is once again true that boundaries help creativity.
  3. Conveying emotions of a person merely through exactly what they say – the bare bones plain ole black text of their dialogue – is difficult and near impossible. (When do characters, or people, ever actually say what they mean?)
  4. Once you start being intentional about conversations, it makes a difference.

There.

Your thoughts?

Why not… you know… start a conversation about it? šŸ˜‰

(Okay sorry that was a pretty stupid joke but it was only natural. xD)

What do you like about writing dialogues? Have you ever read a Socratic dialogue? What are some conversation techniques you use a lot?

Until next week!

~ evelyn ~