Poetry Monday: Barriers as Curses and Blessings

The anxiety is a barrier
It holds back so much

            The demon within
            Can never come out

Ambition and confidence
Stifled and pushed away

            The monster, the pariah
            The anger of the beast

I don’t feel like I’m
Who I’m meant to be

            The devil is a part of me
            But is not who I am

But the anxiety also
Keeps the demon at bay

            Locked away, caged
            The darkness waits patiently

I fear releasing the dark
If the anxiety goes away

From the poetry collection Cats, Coffee, Catharsis.

Coffee & Contemplation: Antelope Canyon

For many birthdays, I never put much effort into myself or what I wanted. I felt no one else would care or no one would put forth any effort on my account. That was the darkness of depression looming over me. On my most recent birthday, I only wanted one thing. I wanted a birthday cake because I couldn’t remember the last time I had one. A friend of mine made me a cake and it was the most delicious thing ever. That one simple thing meant so much to me. I got everything I asked for on my birthday. I don’t think that’s ever happened.

For my next birthday, I’ve decided to make it something more memorable. I live in Tucson, AZ. A few hours North, near the Stateline, is Page, AZ. Near Page, AZ is a beautiful place called Antelope Canyon. See the photo to the left. When I researched this, I realized I may not be able to afford the kind of trip I want. I still plan to go there, but maybe not this immediate next birthday. Regardless, I’m making an effort to celebrate myself. That’s something I’ve never done before.

Why Antelope Canyon? Well, it looks cool. It’s not too far away. And it’s something I could do with friends or by myself. I’m considering a solo adventure because, again, I’ve never celebrated myself before. I’m looking forward to planning a birthday adventure and enjoying myself for once in my life. Maybe I’ll visit some place closer for my birthday this year and save the Antelope Canyon trip for 2021. In either case, I’m doing something that’s all about me and no one else. There’s something empowering about that statement. 

Write Prose Like the Pros: Dialogue

Dialogue is the best tool at a writer’s disposal. More can be shown through dialogue as opposed to telling through narrative summary. There’s less work for the writer if the characters tell the story or share the exposition. Showing versus telling through dialogue is also important when conveying character emotion. The characters should tell the reader how they feel instead of the writer telling the reader about the characters. There is also some freedom when writing dialogue. Characters can use informal idioms pronounce things incorrectly so long as it fits with their character. 

The narrative around the dialogue is as important as the dialogue itself. When detailing which character said what, it’s important not to describe any feelings. Search for -ly adverbs describing emotions and remove them. Don’t tell the reader “He said angrily.” Show the reader the character is angry with what they say in their dialogue. Remember to read aloud the dialogue. Sometimes reading dialogue sounds different than saying dialogue. If dialogue doesn’t sound natural or realistic, the reader will notice. Most people don’t use big words when they speak. Unless it fits with that character, keep the words simple. Use ‘think’ instead of ‘conclude’ or ‘get’ instead of ‘retrieve.’

Speaker attributions can be tricky business for some writers. They’re important so the reader knows who’s speaking. Some writers will use words like grunted, spat, exclaimed, blurted, retorted. They may think they’re giving their writing more flare, but people don’t often grunt words. And if they do, they’re intelligible. Stick with said. If the dialogue ends with a question mark, everyone knows it’s a question so why follow it with ‘she asked?’ One thing that helps me is having only two people speaking at a time. It’s easier to go back and forth instead of bouncing all over the place. And always put the name or pronoun first in the speaker attribution. ‘He said’ sounds more professional than ‘said he.’

The best place to learn how to improve one’s writing is with Renni Browne and Dave King’s “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print.” If I were teaching a class on fiction writing, this is the book I would use as the course textbook.