Unlock the Muse – May 9, 2018

This second week of May has brought sunshine punctuated by thunder storms. All just a part of spring in the Pacific Northwest. My writing this week has sort of mirrored this. Periods of sunshiny idleness punctuated by frantic thunder storms of activity. I can only hope the moody “weather” of spring will result in rapid growth, much like the front lawn.

Last week the assignment was to set a certain time to write, and then write during that time. While I managed to stick to the thirty minutes of writing each night, I often did not write at my assigned time. Usually, I was later than I wanted to be. Still, I managed to organize the new material I wrote last month during Camp NaNoWriMo, and twice complete a blog post.

This week, your task is to:

Imagine you’re the creator of a fantastic weight-loss formula… with one odd side effect. What’s the drawback?


Writing is hard work, but this book can make that hard work a little more fun, a little less painful.
Brian Kiteley, The 3 A.M. Epiphany

The unanimous vote (of one!) has me reading The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises That Transform Your Fiction, by Brian Kiteley. Thus I’ll share a few bits of wisdom as I encounter them. It isn’t the usual book on writing craft. Rather, it is a series of prompts designed to stretch the fiction writer beyond their usual routine.

The first section of the book includes a handful of exercises centered around the theme: point of view. Here is the first exercise which Kiteley has titled “The Reluctant.”

Write a first person story in which you use the first-person pronoun (I or me or my) only two times – but keep the I somehow important to the narrative you’re constructing. The point of this exercise is to imagine a narrator who is less interested in himself than in what he is observing. You can make your narrator someone who sees an interesting event in which he is not necessarily a participant. Or you can make him self-effacing, yet a major participant in the events related. It is very important in this exercise to make sure your reader is not surprised, forty or fifty words into the piece, to realize that this is a first-person narration. Show us quickly who is observing the scene. 600 words.

For added fun, try using the prompt from the Inspire section above in this exercise.

In this week’s grammar lesson from The Elements of Style, we’ll take a look at a word that has been diluted by overuse.

Hopefully. This once useful adverb meaning “with hope” has been distorted and is now widely used to mean “I hope” or “it is to be hoped.” Such use is not merely wrong, it is silly. To say “Hopefully I’ll leave on the noon plane” is to talk nonsense. Do you mean you’ll leave on the noon plane in a hopeful frame of mind? Or do you mean you hope you’ll leave on the noon plane? Whichever you mean, you haven’t said it clearly. Although the word in its new, free-floating capacity may be pleasurable and even useful to many, it offends the ear of others, who do not like to see words dulled or eroded, particularly when the erosion leads to ambiguity, softness, or nonsense.

I confess, I am guilty of using hopefully in this incorrect manner in my daily conversations. I don’t know that I use it in my writing, however. I hope I do not!

Happy writing!

Please consider sharing your response to the writing exercise. Got a question? Just ask! Put it in the comments below, or send your question by email here:

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