Lately, I’ve been visiting a number of blogs that focus on writing, whether that be craft or business. The latter being the most challenging as we try to keep up with the changes in publishing and marketing.
On craft, however, there hasn’t been a lot changes through the years. Which is a good thing for this writer. Rarely do I even move furniture in my house. Well, maybe to clean under a chair, but I like things the same, so I take comfort in the fact that the fundamentals of craft are basically the same as when I was first starting out as a writer of fiction.
There are new styles, new genre guidelines, new plotlines that incorporate changes in society and technology, but story-telling at its core is still made up of characters and challenges to those characters, leading to a resolution that is satisfying to the reader.
And over time, we learn new ways to bring readers to that satisfying conclusion.
One of the blogs I particularly find helpful, as well as inspirational, is Writer Unboxed. I’ve been following the blog almost since it’s inception and it just keeps getting better and better. I always come away with really good information and sometimes get to hone my craft with mini-writing lessons from some of the contributors.
In a recent post, author/agent Donald Maass wrote about the ways people connect with the stories we write in order to find that satisfying read.
His primary point being that “readers have to discover themselves in our tales.”
That’s simply a different way of saying that the reader needs to make a heart-to-heart connection with the characters, which is something I tell my editing clients.
Donald has written a three-part series on this topic of connecting with readers, all well worth the read, and the latest has a writing exercise that he encourages writers to participate in. The prompts he set up uses a device called anaphora.
Maybe I shouldn’t admit in public that I wasn’t familiar with that word before reading that post on Writer Unboxed. Nor did I know exactly what it meant until I did a Google search. But then, we’re always learning right? And I’d seen the device in use many times while reading without knowing what it’s called.
Each of the prompts that Donald set up start with the same phrase. For example, when asking us to write about loss, he uses the phrase “there would be no more days when..”
That was followed with “there would be no more reminders like…” There were several more prompts using “there would be no more.” Thus, the anaphora, a repetition of words for effect, with a concluding sentence or two that Donald labeled “A capper.”
The same pattern of repetition was used when writing about home. Each prompt started with “Home is where..”
The capper for the end of the exercise writing about home that Donald suggested:
Home was still there, but was now so far away. Or, Home was gone for good and would never be there again.
When reading, I’ve often come across the use of this writing device without even being aware of what it’s called or how the author purposely used it. At the moment, I just savor the beauty of the writing and make that connection to the character that the author is striving for.
After reading Donald’s post and doing the exercises, I realized that I have used anaphora in my writing before without a conscious plan to.
Currently I’m working on a third book in the One Small Victory series, and, because the first book had been written so long ago, I had to read parts of it for a reminder of what happened in that story, that my publisher is currently offering for a free e-book at all retail outlets.
Taking that refresher into Jenny’s story, occurred right after reading the post at Writer Unboxed, and I had one of those “aha” moments.
This is the opening of One Small Victory, and I’d used anaphora in the repeat of “his” for several sentences in the first paragraph, with the “capper” following. I didn’t know the terminology for what I was doing. It just felt right.
“Life can change in just an instant. That thought wove its way in and around her mind as Jenny fingered the clothes jammed along the wooden rod in the closet. His funny T-shirts promoting the likes of “Prince” and “Dilbert.” His one good shirt, only worn under duress. His leather jacket that still carried a faint aroma reminiscent of saddles and horses.
Sometime soon she’d have to clean out the closet. Isn’t that what usually happens?”
I’d love to know if you discovered yourself in this moment from my book.
And if you’re a writer, have you used anaphora in your writing? Is so, please do share a snippet in the comments so we can see other examples.
In the meantime, happy writing and happy reading!
Before I go, I want to mention a couple of special things happening this month.
First is the Summer Extravaganza contest where you could win a $300 Amazon gift card. Entering is easy, just follow the sponsoring authors on social media – no newsletter signups unless you want to – and you have a chance to win big. I’m happy to be one of the sponsoring authors with my latest release, Brutal Season, which is also on sale for only $1.99 at Amazon.
Also part of the December/July sale at Smashwords, where all of my books that they carry are deeply discounted. You can also find great deals on books by other authors, too, in a wide range of genres from mystery to romance to paranormal to dystopian.