My Ode to My Wife

I wrote a poem for my wife. Not just any poem, but lyrics for a song. It has been over 15 years since I have written any kind of poetry, but I felt moved to do so. At the urging of my fellow 5Artz Creative Affiliations members, I have decided to post the first draft of what I wrote to this blog. If any musicians decide to pick it up and use it, all I ask is that you give me the credit for the lyrics.


WifeAndMe

My Quest

By

R.M. Almeida

You are my quest,

You are my dream,

My eternal crusade,

Even when we fought, you always stayed.

You are my quest,

I am your art,

Your strokes sometimes hurt,

But I’ll follow your heart.

~ Refrain ~

You are my quest,

You show the path when there’s none,

You make challenges simple,

The impossible…done.

You are my quest,

We’ve laughed and cried,

Lived through tough times,

To find each other each night.

~ Refrain ~

You are my quest,

You see past my flaws,

You forgive my mistakes,

And you break down my walls.

You are my quest,

My blue sky above,

You are my partner,

My eternal love.

~ Refrain ~

We’ve come a long way,

From those chats and retreats,

Such a long way,

From our texts and retweets.

When I look back,

From those cold days alone,

I think of your smile,

And your voice on the phone.

Creative Series III: Dialogue, Breathing Life Into Our Characters and Stories

group-1825509_1920Dialogue is how we can allow our characters to breathe life into our story.

It is important to allow our characters to “own” their part of the printed page. What do I mean by making this statement? What happens when we do not allow the voices and images that we have in our minds and creative memory to “own the page”?

Let’s take a look at a sample story, by studying some old work I have not touched for a very long time. I have copied and pasted an excerpt from a chapter I worked on almost 25 years ago.

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     The town was quiet as Talia and Anise walked to the inn.  Nate greeted them as a father would have welcomed part of his brood.  “Talia!”  A deep bass voice boomed out across the room. A tall, large hulk of a man with thick eyebrows, thick moustache and even thicker mop of hair laid a towel down on the bar he’d been cleaning and approached the women in two steps. The tall man gave her companion a warm hug. He turned to the princess. Despite her elaborate disguise, he deduced what she was in less than a minute.  “And who is this?  She looks of royalty, but I’m wondering where her escort is.  Are you both in trouble, lass?”  Talia smiled and nodded.  “Nate, this be the princess, Anise.”  He grasped her hand and shook it violently, then pulled her close to him, a hug strong enough that Anise felt as though she’d been waylaid by a bear.  “Welcome to Forth, princess.  My name is Nate, I am the town’s innkeeper and leader.  May your stay be a pleasant one.”   Talia smiled, saying “We need to find Kalen, Nate.”

     Nate’s eyebrows raised.  “What happened? Why are you looking for Kalen?  Is there something we need to know about Laifetre’?”  Talia nodded.  “Yes,” she replied quickly.  “It’s finally happened, Nate.  Matrime has declared war on Laifetre’ and will attack us soon.  The problem we got is that much of the army is gone.  We’ve only a handful of the royal guard to protect the king.  They demanded the princess be wedded to that dog of a prince, Gerenoux in exchange for peace.”  Nate’s eyebrows seemed to furrow into a single line as he pondered the implications of a war with Matrime.  “I thought that Matrime had no army,” he said slowly.  Talia nodded again.  “You’re right, they didn’t until a year or so ago,” she said, choosing her words carefully.  “It’s said that King Hautered closed a deal with the King of the Trolls, and that he’s got a huge troll army behind him and his men.”  Nate’s face suddenly turned red with rage at the thought of trolls overrunning the countryside.  “Then we’ve all got to fight for King Rosenet!” he roared, slamming his fist down violently on a nearby table.  The entire inn seemed to shake with his wrath as he disappeared into a small back room behind his bar.  “Where’s my wife?  Antimony?  Antimony, where’s my armor?”  They could hear sounds of things being tossed about, bumping into walls.  “Antimony?” he roared again.

     “All right!  All right!” returned a woman’s yell.  “What’s this all about?  ‘Ere you!  What’re you up to?”  Nate’s voice could be heard above the bumping sounds in the next room.  “Where are my armor, and my sword?  We must call the people to arms!”  The woman’s voice was clearly aggravated as they heard scuffling sounds in the back room.  “What?  You going off to war?  And leaving me to care for the inn while you’re gone gallavantin’ all over the countryside?  No!  No!  No!  As the mayor, your place is ‘ere with the town!”  More scuffling sounds ensued until they heard a plaintive “‘Ow!”.  The curtains parted to reveal a small, frail-looking woman leading her large husband by the ear.  “You’re not mucking about in your armor again, to get stuck in that old thing again.  And as for your sword, you sold it to Magle for a good rake, remember?  Now you get back to work cleaning the inn, and let me know when you’re finished so’s I can start with the linens.”  Nate’s face was now red with embarassment, his ear red from the pulling it had received.  “Well,” he said sheepishly.  “Perhaps I can tell you how to find old Kelan…”  Talia smiled in return.

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It contains a lot of dialogue that can help move my story along. I however, see 3 paragraphs containing condensed material that seems to blend into each other. The plot seems pretty good, but I can’t tell, because the story is so condensed. What can I do to improve what I wrote? Well, let’s start by untangling the narration from the dialogue. (By the way, I handed this to my mentor, a former editor of a large newspaper. I had not seen so much “blue pencil”, in a very long while.)

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The town was quiet as Talia and Anise walked to the inn.

Nate greeted them as a father would have welcomed part of his brood.  “Talia!”  His deep bass voice boomed out across the room. A tall, large hulk of a man with thick eyebrows, thick moustache and even thicker mop of hair laid a towel down on the bar he’d been cleaning and approached the women in two steps. The tall man gave her companion a warm hug. He turned to the princess. Despite her elaborate disguise, he deduced what she was in less than a minute.  “And who is this?  She looks of royalty, but I’m wondering where her escort is.  Are you both in trouble, lass?” 

Talia smiled and nodded.  “Nate, this be the princess, Anise.” 

He grasped her hand and shook it violently, then pulled her close to him, a hug strong enough that Anise felt as though she’d been waylaid by a bear.  “Welcome to Forth, princess.  My name is Nate, I am the town’s innkeeper and leader.  May your stay be a pleasant one.”  

Talia smiled, saying “We need to find Kalen, Nate.”

Nate’s eyebrows raised.  “What happened? Why are you looking for Kalen?  Is there something we need to know about Laifetre’?” 

 Talia nodded.  “Yes,” she replied quickly.  “It’s finally happened, Nate.  Matrime has declared war on Laifetre’ and will attack us soon.  The problem we got is that much of the army is gone.  We’ve only a handful of the royal guard to protect the king.  They demanded the princess be wedded to that dog of a prince, Gerenoux in exchange for peace.”  

 Nate’s eyebrows seemed to furrow into a single line as he pondered the implications of a war with Matrime.  “I thought that Matrime had no army,” he said slowly. 

 Talia nodded again.  “You’re right, they didn’t until a year or so ago,” she said, choosing her words carefully.  “It’s said that King Hautered closed a deal with the King of the Trolls, and that he’s got a huge troll army behind him and his men.” 

 Nate’s face suddenly turned red with rage at the thought of trolls overrunning the countryside.  “Then we’ve all got to fight for King Rosenet!” he roared, slamming his fist down violently on a nearby table.  The entire inn seemed to shake with his wrath as he disappeared into a small back room behind his bar.  “Where’s my wife?  Antimony?  Antimony, where’s my armor?”  They could hear sounds of things being tossed about, bumping into walls.  “Antimony?” he roared again.

     “All right!  All right!” returned a woman’s yell.  “What’s this all about?  ‘Ere you!  What’re you up to?” 

 Nate’s voice could be heard above the bumping sounds in the next room.  “Where are my armor, and my sword?  We must call the people to arms!” 

 The woman’s voice was clearly aggravated as they heard scuffling sounds in the back room.  “What?  You going off to war?  And leaving me to care for the inn while you’re gone gallavantin’ all over the countryside?  No!  No!  No!  As the mayor, your place is ‘ere with the town!” 

 More scuffling sounds ensued until they heard a plaintive “‘Ow!” 

 The curtains parted to reveal a small, frail-looking woman leading her large husband by the ear.  “You’re not mucking about in your armor again, to get stuck in that old thing again.  And as for your sword, you sold it to Magle for a good rake, remember?  Now you get back to work cleaning the inn, and let me know when you’re finished so’s I can start with the linens.” 

 Nate’s face was now red with embarrassment, his ear red from the pulling it had received.  “Well,” he said sheepishly.  “Perhaps I can tell you how to find old Kelan…”  Talia smiled in return.

 

 metaphor-1209691_1920

Well, it looks a little better, but still seems to stumble all over itself. Looking at what I have separated, it feels flat, like it was run over by a truck.

One of the most effective techniques about working with dialogue is to separate it from our narrative. That means getting rid of “he said”, “she said”, “she cried”. What we can do instead, is to further allow our characters to breathe by giving them and their emotions total rein over our story, by separating the narrative and action from the dialogue.

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The town was quiet as Talia and Anise walked to the inn. 

Nate greeted both of them as a father would have welcomed back part of his brood. 

“Talia!” 

A deep bass voice boomed out across the room as he laid a towel down on the bar he’d been cleaning and approached her in two steps, covering a distance of what seemed like yards to Anise.  Giving her companion a warm hug, he turned to the princess, a tall, large hulk of a man with thick eyebrows, thick moustache and even thicker mop of hair. He sized her up in less than a minute. 

 “And who is this?  She looks of royalty, but I’m wondering where her escort is.  Are you both in trouble, lass?” 

 Talia smiled and nodded. 

 “Nate, this be the princess, Anise.” 

 He grasped her hand and shook it violently, then pulled her close to him, a hug strong enough that Anise felt as though she’d been waylaid by a bear. 

 “Welcome to Forth, princess.  My name is Nate, I am the town’s innkeeper and leader.  May your stay be a pleasant one.”  

 Talia smiled.

 “We need to find Kalen, Nate.”

  Nate’s eyebrows raised. 

 “What happened? Why are you looking for Kalen?  Is there something we need to know about Laifetre’?” 

 Talia nodded. 

 “Yes. It’s finally happened, Nate.  Matrime has declared war on Laifetre’ and will attack us soon.  The problem we got is that much of the army is gone.  We’ve only a handful of the royal guard to protect the king.  They demanded the princess be wedded to that dog of a prince, Gerenoux in exchange for peace.” 

 Nate’s eyebrows seemed to furrow into a single line as he pondered the implications of a war with Matrime. His voice became slow and deliberate.

 “I thought that Matrime had no army.”

 Talia nodded again, choosing her words carefully.

 “You’re right, they didn’t until a year or so ago. It’s said that King Hautered closed a deal with the King of the Trolls, and that he’s got a huge troll army behind him and his men.” 

 Nate’s face suddenly turned red with rage at the thought of trolls overrunning the countryside. 

 “Then we’ve all got to fight for King Rosenet!”

 He slammed his fist down violently on a nearby table, as his voice crescendoed into a roar.  The entire inn seemed to shake with his wrath as he disappeared into a small back room behind his bar. 

 “Where’s my wife?  Antimony?  Antimony, where’s my armor?” 

 They could hear sounds of things being tossed about, bumping into walls.

 “Antimony?”

 His voice could be heard very clearly through the wall.

 “All right!  All right!”

 A woman’s yell resounded from the upper floor of the tavern.

 “What’s this all about?  ‘Ere you!  What’re you up to?” 

 Nate’s voice could be heard above the bumping sounds in the next room. 

 “Where are my armor, and my sword?  We must call the people to arms!” 

 The woman’s voice was clearly aggravated as they heard scuffling sounds in the back room. 

 “What?  You going off to war?  And leaving me to care for the inn while you’re gone gallavantin’ all over the countryside?  No!  No!  No!  As the mayor, your place is ‘ere with the town!” 

 More scuffling sounds ensued until they heard a plaintive, “‘Ow!”

 The curtains parted to reveal a small, frail-looking woman leading her large husband by the ear. 

 “You’re not mucking about in your armor again, to get stuck in that old thing again.  And as for your sword, you sold it to Magle for a good rake, remember?  Now you get back to work cleaning the inn, and let me know when you’re finished so’s I can start with the linens.” 

 Nate’s face was red with embarrassment, his ear as red as his cheeks from the pulling it had received.  His voice became more sheepish, less enthusiastic. 

 “Well…perhaps I can tell you how to find old Kelan…” 

 Talia smiled in return.

I can compare what we did to painting our ideas – in print.

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Our canvas was something like this – cluttered and almost one-dimensional.

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In our next step, we were able to separate colors, but it still seemed to lack any kind of substance or shape.

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By allowing our characters to “own the page”, we could display each character as distinctly as our painting above; each character mixed with their own dialogue, separated by either description or action, a culmination of separate colors, shapes, sizes and dimensions. We allowed our dialogue to create action within our story by separating the different voices on each page. I still see areas where the plot can be reworked or even restructured. One very good reason I am able to see changes that can be made to my story,  is because I separated the dialogue between my characters.

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Our result is a clear-cut story taking place in an inn. With a little more work, our characters can now come alive because we separated dialogue from description or action.

Note: This article was painstakingly edited and proofread by booksellers and a former journalist/editor.

Next in our Creative Series


Creative Series IV: Planning, Outlining and Editing…A Second Set of Eyes.

 

The Newest Peeve Post: “Peeved About Relatives”

Click here to head over to my newest post!

frogs-1413787_1920If you’re one of those people who has been feeling ransacked, waylaid and dismayed about your relatives, or their visits, this Peeve post is for you!

venice-2221095_1920In this post, I discuss many of the problems that happen, can happen or do happen to you when relatives decide to come and visit YOU.

Creative Series III: The Creative Writer

So, why develop a blog about how to write creatively?

puzzlementSome of us DO have problems writing creatively (or thinking of what or how we want to express ourselves) at times. How do I know? Probably because I have been a professional trainer for the better part of 40-odd years. (Yes, I started as a student, teaching other students how to write, when I was in high school. So yes, I know what I’m talking about.) For some of us the writing process, especially writing when you don’t “feel” like writing is really hard. Some of us feel that it is so difficult that we will downright procrastinate when we set ourselves down to write, or we may even “throw in the towel”, convinced that we can’t write creatively. We may even be feeling ill, perhaps we are feeling emotional about something happening in our lives or just feeling “plain, old, lazy”. So as a writer, what do you do?

The way to set your mind straight.

straight_mind

If you are a person who has ever held a position in a company for a period of years, how were you so successful in doing so? How about if you are a mechanic, who gets up at 5 A.M. and doesn’t stop until 9 A.M.? Or if you work in an office? You arise at 5 or 6 A.M. to get ready to go to the office to start work at 8 A.M. or 9 A.M. and you stay at the office until 5 P.M., get in your car or wait for the bus to return home so that you can start the process all over again in just a few hours. If you think about writing as a business (YOUR business), you are setting your mind along a specific path to success as a creative writer. The difference is that you are self-employed, so as a result, you answer to…you. Write like you are going to the office:

alarm_clock

  1. Set your alarm
  2. Take a shower
  3. Fix yourself up, put on some clothes (no underwear or pajamas)
  4. Eat your breakfast
  5. Go into your office or travel to a location where you can write undisturbed
  6. Look around you for a moment and pick up where you left off

I don’t know where to start, or I don’t know what is next.

mind_map

As a writer, I always map out everything before I write. It’s known as an outline. Would you like an example? Okay. Here is an example of me in with “my writing pants on”.

Creative Writing Exercise

I am looking at a magazine on the rack in my local Barnes & Noble Booksellers (isn’t having a local bookstore to visit, rather than depend on a website, marvelous?) I happen to look at a sports magazine today, seeing a picture of an island getaway on the cover. Let’s take an island in the Caribbean that we have always wanted to go to for a visit. Let’s go to Turks & Caicos, located in the Atlantic Ocean. Do me a favor, go to the link that I gave you and look at the island.

TurksAndCaicos

Look at the history of Turks & Caicos islands.

Just where exactly is Turks & Caicos in the Atlantic Ocean? Is it next to some hot spot country with all kinds of problems that you read about in the news? Here is what I do, I grab the CIA Factbook online for answers. At the very bottom of the CIA Factbook, are any problems that might be occurring in that country or island. Is it a spot that is not written about, except in travel journals? I have a character who is visiting the islands for a vacation. Can you see what is going on in your mind? Picture the person getting off the plane, not in an airport, but stepping off of a runway ladder into a brilliant sunny day. Our character can see the ocean from the top of the runway ladder.

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What is our character going to do in Turks & Caicos?

As a creative writer, I was always taught to get my character in trouble, and to do it at a moment when I personally, least expect it. So, I put myself in my character’s shoes. What can happen to our character, as soon as our character gets off the plane? Are you seeing where I am going with this example? Click on the links that I gave you prior to this sentence, they are links to real life dramas that unfolded on vacation islands. I am giving you an example which required no thought, no real outline at first, but now that I am seeing a video in my head about my character, now I can start mapping out my story.

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So, now that I have you thinking about Turks & Caicos, what can happen?

Let’s start an outline…a very brief outline of our character and our story. I’ll make it easy for you. Follow the link that I gave you from Writer’s Digest, download and print out what they give you for your story and start getting an idea for this story. If our story going to be a drama, mystery or comedy? Is the island we are on filled with corruption?

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Take lessons from history.

There are all kinds of things that could happen to our character. Think of everything we could do with this character, not to mention the plot or story. We could start in our time, even go backward in time to…perhaps…the days of the pirates, when Turk and Caicos was beautiful and very, very dangerous. So, our story could shift from being a murder mystery to a fantasy time travel sort of story. What kind of fun could you have with that kind of story?

When I was in the service, my ship had docked at St. Thomas for about a week.

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I remember one of our guys was attacked, leaving a taxi. He was so drunk that his attackers had no problem surprising him, beating him down with baseball bats and taking his wallet. He had 17 stitches into his skull the next day. How do I know? Because I was the person assigned to escort him to a neighboring ship, so that the ship’s doctor could suture his injuries. Our next port was about 4 weeks later. The shipmate who was attacked had been received his new paycheck, with a new ID card, so that he could get off the ship. He went out much wiser that night, not drinking so much, but became involved in an incident, because he “wanted some payback”.

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Is our character male or female?

In our day and age, is gender THAT important? Yes! Gender is still an important issue today. When it comes to sales, it can sometimes make a huge difference. We (the world) are still in the center of controversy, when it comes to the differences between men and women. Your story could reflect those differences. A strong female character could mean a crucial difference between selling 500 copies and 50,000 copies or more. If you are a male and writing about a female, you better do your homework. If you are a female and writing about a male, use a fantasy you have about how a male should be.

Why am I saying this?

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Even Randy Pausch had to tell his students, “No shooting violence and no pornography. Not that I’m opposed to those in particular…but that’s been done in VR. All right? (Laughter from the room.)” Randy then added, “And you would be amazed at how many 19 year-old boys are completely out of ideas, when you take those off the table.”  Men rarely grow up. So, if you are a male…and you ONLY want to write to a MALE audience…or if you want to stay in a particular type of genre, I suggest that you try something different.

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Is our character someone who will fight back if provoked?

We want to get our character in trouble and keep getting our character in trouble. Or as one might say, “Out of the frying pan and into the fire”. Many travelers can get caught up in trouble. Trouble may come in the form of animal attacks as well. What about diving off the coast of the island, maybe a tour…and our character is involved in a shark attack. We could have our character survive a natural calamity, based on a theory that methane bubbles could have been a cause of the Bermuda Triangle.

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All you need is a little research.

Now, let your imagination run wild!

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Next in our series: Breaking it down: How to Breathe Life Into Your Character.

Creative Series II: The Pitfalls and Perils of Punctuation

If you’re like me, you might sometimes have problems with punctuation.

Let’s talk about punctuation first, and what it is for. Punctuation has a historical reason for being a part of our written language. The history of punctuation is actually quite fascinating, as presented by the BBC in an online article. A Wikipedia search shows us a number of reasons why punctuation has become such an important part of many written languages in our world today. “In written English, punctuation is vital to disambiguate the meaning of sentences. For example: “woman, without her man, is nothing” (emphasizing the importance of men), and “woman: without her, man is nothing” (emphasizing the importance of women) have very different meanings; as do “eats shoots and leaves” (which means the subject consumes plant growths) and “eats, shoots, and leaves” (which means the subject eats first, then fires a weapon, and then leaves the scene).[3] The sharp differences in meaning are produced by the simple variations in punctuation within the example pairs, especially the latter.”

Reading a bit further in the Wikipedia example shows us: “The oldest known document using punctuation is the Mesha Stele (9th century BC). This employs points between the words and horizontal strokes between the sense section as punctuation.[6]” There is a lot of really cool content on the web today about the history of punctuation. I hope that you find a few moments to do some research about just why we use punctuation.

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So, what if we don’t use punctuation?

Did you know that the old Greeks recorded dialogues on parchment? There was a problem however, EVERYTHINGTHEYWROTEHADNOSPACINGANDWASWRITTENINUPPERCASELETTERS. Imagine even attempting to “decode” something that a scribe had written down for posterity. What a chore that would be! As a result, rules were created by Aristophanes of Bysantium to handle this increasing problem in Greek literature by adding spaces and accents to help people understand what they were reading.

Did you have ever read Chaucer or Shakespeare in high school?

If you are now, or remember how confusing or frustrating it could be to read and understand what many of us call archaic script, you would agree with me in saying that reading very old texts can be quite frustrating.

How about an example? I am going to use some material from Harvard’s The Geoffrey Chaucer Page, that was erected for just this purpose. Here is a direct copy from that site:

The opening lines of the Canterbury Tales constitute a learned version of the “reverdi,” a simple lyric celebrating the return of Spring after the harshness of winter, a common form of medieval French lyric. It became widespread in English as well. widespread in English as well. The most famous example in is the “Cuckoo song,” which dates from the twelfth century:

Sumer is i-comen in.
Groweth seed and bloweth meed
And springth the wude nu.
Sing cuccu!

I suppose that little songs like this go back to earliest antiquity — the reassuring return of vegetation and fertility, and of the sun — especially in Northern Europe – – after the cold and dark winter.

The standard love lyric builds upon this return of spring song by adding human love. Spring brings a great outburst of energy in nature, the birds begin to sing again, and nature stirs its creatures to love:

Western wind, when wilt thou blow,
The small rain down can rain?
Christ, if my love were in my arms,
And I in my bed again!

When Spring arrives, love comes with it. Here is a typical opening of a lover’s complaint:

When the nightingale singes
The wodes waxen grene,
Leaf and gras and blossom springes
In Averil, I wene,
And love is to min herte gon
With a spere so keen.

And on then into the story of his love.

How did you feel when you were reading the passages? Were you able to understand what Chaucer was saying?

If you have ever read any passages from Ovid, a roman poet who lived from 43 BC to 17 AD, you will find text that is very graphic in nature. More like reading something that might have been written by Stephen King:

P. Ovidius Naso, Metamorphoses
Brookes More, Ed.

And Phorbas the descendant of Methion.
Who hailed from far Syene, with his friend
Amphimedon of Libya, in their haste
to join the battle, slipped up in the blood
and fell together: just as they arose
that glittering sword was driven through the throat
of Phorbas into the ribs of his companion.

What I am pasting is very tame, in comparison to the rest of Ovid’s story.

What I would like to point out however, is the punctuation that is being used. Would Ovid’s punctuation be corrected by an editor? Would you have been the editor?

Did you know, there are many sources available for guidance in using punctuation?

My favorite is right next to me. I always keep it next to my keyboard.

There are many scholars who claim that our modern punctuation started in the 16th century. Other scholars claim that the punctuation we use today began much earlier. Whomever is correct, the fact that modern punctuation has become so critical to our daily writing lives means that facing the challenge of punctuation’s sometimes massive role in our writing, is privy to how our readers judge us and our ability to write.

Punctuation

I recommend using Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.

I keep Elements of Style next to my keyboard. If it is not, I have my source online where I can reach it at any time. If you take a look at the link I provided, you’ll find that you too, can have it at your fingertips. There are countless other sources that you can use to ensure that your punctuation is correct. Here are just a few that you can use:

Are just a few of the invaluable books, available as sources that you can add to your collection of tips and tricks to being a better writer.

Writing is fun for me. It has been a constant source of learning the art and craft of writing. I hope that you have as much enjoyment and reward from writing as I have through the years.

Next in my Creative Series III: How to Start Writing