Month: September 2014

Creative writing prompt #3: make a sound poem!

Okay, so I want you to focus on a sound. Do this exercise when alone, if possible. Try sitting down in a cafe, by the river, at a carnival, or listen to animals. Sound is an interesting emotion, because we notice it less unlike sight or touch. Focus on the sound, one particular sound, and write a few lines on it. Here are some tips:

1. Be phonetic

Spell it out! This makes it easier to imagine and is therefore more realistic. Wilfred Owen and “The Waste Land” are known for their realism because of their unusual usage of sounds.

2. Sibilance

This is the harsh “ssss” sound. Again, Wilfred Owen uses this in his poetry for the sound of gas. It’s not ideal for most forms or genres of poetry, but it can be very effective.

3. Try to write about it in the first, not the third voice

Don’t say “it sounded like a cry of sorrow” but instead say “I heard it sing smoothly” or whatever. This is your experience, written in the spoken word. It doesn’t matter how “accurate” it is – who says a blackbird sounds like a whistle? – but make it convincing instead.

4. Associations

Liken it to something, maybe something different. Is the sound harsh? Sticky? Crackling? Sweet? Melodic? Try and build a picture of where you might hear this sound, whether it’s in a music class or how King Kong might roar.

Got any more useful tips? Share them in the comments!

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Why the number 13 is thought to be unlucky

13 is meant to be the unluckiest number. It’s well-established throughout history and culture as the number of doom and gloom. Very superstitious – or religious – people still believe in its power today. You may have noticed that these stories tend to follow a similar theme, and that’s important. But why? I’m going to tell you some stories about why this might just be the case…
1. There were 13 people at Jesus’s last supper
Judas Iscariot was supposedly the 13th man to take a seat at Jesus’s last supper before he was crucified. As we all know, Judas was the man who betrayed Jesus
2. A similar Norse banquet (involving Loki)
The gods in Asgard hold a banquet with 12 people invited and Loki gate-crashes the party and takes a 13th seat, and kills another god whilst he’s there. As you can see, this story is very similar to Jesus being crucified, and Judas being the 13th man. For some reason, when banquets like this occur, there’s usually someone who dies (see The Knights Templar point).
3. Sleeping Beauty
In “Little Briar-Rose” by the Brothers Grimm, there are 12 fairies invited to the christening of Sleeping Beauty – and it’s the evil 13th one who curses the baby. By then, 13 was already established as an unlucky number, but the bad fortune is doubled even more because of the 13 months in the lunar year, which was associated with witchcraft and therefore bad luck.
4. Apollo 13
This was the only mission to the moon that failed. To add insult to injury, the disaster happened on April 13th. The story goes that, about 200,000 miles away from Earth, an oxygen tank exploded, setting some wires alight and creating a great deal of pressure. It also immortalized the phrase “Houston, we’ve had a problem here” to be quoted in various forms in future years.
5. It’s an uneven number
In numerology, all numbers have a meaning and significance. This school of thought dates back to Pythagoras in Ancient Greek times, and it was all about the meaning of numbers to letters and how they related to the real world i.e. 3 symbolizes beginning, middle end, seven is the days of the week, etc. The number 12 is supposed to be perfect number – which is why we have 12 hours, 12 disciples, 12 days of Christmas, 12 months of the year, 12 signs of the Zodiac – in numerology. So, by adding 13, the balance is upset by an extra digit. Moreover, the number 13 is an odd number, thus disrupting the balance of harmony – not just in the divine but the real world too (having 13 seats, for instance).
6. The start of the teenage years?
Nobody likes turning 13; you get zits, rejected by your crush, emotional and your life starts unravelling. Plus school seems to be a challenge. Or at least that’s how it feels!
7. Friday 13th
Drastic events from The Knights Templar to the bombing of Buckingham Palace have happened on this day. The Knights Templar murder happened on Friday 13th October (in 1307 too!), and Jesus was rumoured to be crucified on April 13th. So, ever since Friday the 13th has been a day for warding off the Evil Eye, wearing amulets and not opening an umbrella indoors (which is just plain silly anyway).
8. 13 steps to the gallows
Ah yes, the fatal final moments where you were going to be hung in front of an eager crowd. 13 is symbolically used to represent rebirth, and 12 is the end of a life cycle. So, perhaps by dying, you will be reborn again to start a new life (or go to the afterlife, whichever you think is most appropriate”.

Our modern day author pseudonyms: the rise of technology and the media

In the 21st century, we go by many names; our screen name on Skype, usernames on forums, nicknames we might have on Facebook, and many others. Traditionally, we had authors like George Orwell who used pen names. Why has it become more acceptable to have a different identity to write, not necessarily fiction, but express our ideas in a way in which we’re anonymous? A new phrase, “cybernyms”, are the perfect portmanteau to this new phenomenon. The lines are blurred between traditional fiction (I.e. short stories) and online life with sites like Fanfiction.net, where amateur writers post fanstories about any characters from a film, book, TV show, game or manga, like unofficial spin-offs of “legit” fiction ( fanfiction is even how EL James got Fifty Shades of Grey published, under the pen name “Snowqueen’s Icedragon”)

For some, it may be a way of expressing an interest or their talents. Certain people have done this , such Dane Boedigheimer (the creator of the popular webseries ‘The Annoying Orange’) is known by his YouTube cybernym, Daneboe. For others, it could be a way to seek help in a private way like Andthat’swhyou’resingle, Girlsaskguys, HeTexted or other help sites (who hasn’t stumbled on Yahoo Answers?), giving a brief summary of “the story so far”. But for most of us, it’s simply an extension of either the chapters in our life, or creating a new virtual one. If someone noticed something you published on a site or something you said on Twitter or Facebook, you could be on the news or get internet fame (perhaps even real).

Forums and interactive social media are the modern equivalent of Metafiction, or Goosebumps with its multiple choice scenarios of which route to take (Futurama parodies this concept with its Who wants to a Millionaire? ‘ask the audience’ multiple choice buttons to vote for the narrative thread in ‘Raging Bender’, and the spoof James Bond film the characters watch only highlights its mocking tone). We ask our readers or viewers what to do, whether consciously aware of this or not.

The rise of celebrity culture has probably influenced this. It’s because we know the life of celebrities that we all want our own legacies,mane believe fame and fortune can be achieved by anyone. In the past, there were prestigious figures like Lord Byron and Queen Victoria who were famous, but their lives were neither double nor documented. Now, we observe Celebrities such as Lady Gaga with their stage names, and porn actresses with their “porn star” names. Or, there are The Kardashians and reality TV stars such as Jade Goody who are famous for becoming famous. Celebrity culture means that any famous figure, whether it’s Beyoncé, Margaret Atwood, Stephen Hawking or Prince William, has a life on-screen and off. But , whether you’re famous or not, everyone has a degree of access as to what you decide to show. We live off checking OK!, the Daily Mail, the news networks and Twitter for famous people, and Facebook for ordinary ones. Our life is a daily publication in one form or another, but not all of us know it.

What are your thoughts on this? Post it it in the comments, lit geeks!

Twitter: a new mode for writing?

On Twitter, I see a lot of poetry, wise sayings and song lyrics being tweeted on a regular basis. Considering the limit is 140 characters, and Twitter is a micro-blog-meets-social-network, and would be a great way to tweet certain thoughts and emotions captured in a concise number of lines. I have tried tweeting in poem form, and one form that would work well would be haiku form. There is actually a trend called TwiHaiku, where tweeters post lines of haiku, such as Benjamin Zephaniah: “Intelligence may not mean intelligent/ The news may not be new/ From where we are/ To be awake/ May not mean/ To be conscious (bearing in mind, you would need to break the lines on a memo and then paste them into a post since Twitter automatically writes in prose form.) The observational nature of haiku, focusing more on the senses and conscious comments, would be useful for nature walks. Plus its seventeen syllable form means you should still within the 140 character limit.

The great thing about Twitter is that it allows you to express personal things, such as beliefs and feelings, in a more anonymous way than the likes of Facebook. Yes, Facebook is great for groups, keeping up to date with your friends, and as a universal IM, but it lacks the capacity to openly express your views under a persona no body judges you on. Facebook is used to reflect your real life, with your real name and location, whereas Twitter almost allows you to have an alter ego by showing other sides of your life, behind a screen name.

Tips on doing it:

(Depending on how popular this topic is, I might extend the topic of i-Literature – both in the discussion and writing – on this blog). But for now, here is some food for thought on how you can try Twitter poetry:

1. If you feel adventurous, you could use a differently coloured and/or styled font.
2. Try writing it out on a piece of paper, taking a photo and uploading it for a personal touch and lack of restraint with lines/character count.
3. Whether it’s your current mood, opinions on a food, commentary on the news or a random thought, tweet it! If you see/think of something that looks ‘Tweet-worthy’, you should type on your memo pad.
4. Don’t be shy of using your tablet/smartphone! Use the Word and notepad apps to channel your creativity, as a possible alternative to a notebook.
5. If you don’t have Twitter, don’t fret! You can experiment with verse Facebook updates, or whatever else floats your boat.
6. Thinking outside the box is your friend. You could write on top of an image, using said image to represent a theme or motif in your poem, or even try writing in a shape.
7. Need an event? No problem! Christmas and Valentine’s Day are coming up soon, so perhaps you could write a poem in light of these events (plus nothing says romance like poetry). If you don’t fancy a direct greeting or confession, you just use the holiday as framework for your thoughts and ideas.