Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Double Meaning

Have you ever used a term and later realized that it may not have been taken the way you intended? For writers, this is always a concern. I like to tell people that’s why I’m a writer first and a speaker second—I like the opportunity to make sure I’m clear. When I write a sentence that I later judge could be taken more than one way, I can edit it. When a sentence falls out of my mouth that I later realize might not have carried the meaning I intended, I can only cringe.

Today I was talking to my writing group about the depth of detail necessary to make a dramatic scene work—and that if a writer builds up to a moment of suspense, a payoff is required. Readers want to hear the details about the heist, the murder, or the romance. It's the moment for which they've been waiting. “It’s the money shot,” I said to the group. I was at home later, working on my blogs, when I realized that term can be taken in more than one way. When I said it, I was thinking of the term as it relates to paparazzi getting a clear shot of celebrity, but the original term refers to a much coarser event (go check Google if you don’t know).

Oh dear.

All I could do was laugh and blush at the same time.

Do you check your work for double meanings? Have you ever realized, after the words were spoken or printed, that your figure of speech might have been taken the wrong way? Just as misplaced modifiers can hang off the wrong word, a misused reference can leave the wrong impression. Sometimes the result is merely comical, and sometimes it’s embarrassing.
Photo courtesy of Jay Simmons at

Holiday Parties & Other Writing Prompts

Since the Just Write writing group will be on break until January 6, I cooked up a extra-large helping of prompts for today's meeting. Two of us tackled prompt number one with memories of alcohol-saturated parties (not necessarily the writers' saturation, might I add), but we also heard Emma’s letter to Santa, a story about bailing a friend out of jail, and a poem about that shattered mirror. Now it’s your turn. Pick a prompt that intrigues you and write for ten minutes without stopping, stalling, or second-guessing the direction you’ve chosen. Just write!

--‘Tis the season for holiday parties. Write about a memorable holiday party you attended.

--Are you an early bird or a night owl?

--“Dear Santa,” Emma wrote, “I don’t know if you can help me this year. But what I really what for Christmas is….”

--John saw the footprints. He leaned down to inspect them, and he was surprised at what he saw. “My God, that looks like….”

--Combine a plastic bag, a gift certificate, and a boulder in a story or poem.

--Have you ever had to bail someone out of jail?

--Marge was a hypochondriac, but this time it appeared she had a legitimate ailment. Harry was sick of her complaints, and he told her, “Look, I know you don’t feel good, but I’ve never heard of anyone dying from….”

--Jack painted the room blue because….

--If your life were made into a movie, would it be a comedy or a tragedy?

--The mirror shattered….

--Beth snapped at her sister, “Have you lost your mind? What would posses you to buy something like that for Mom and Dad? What are they going to do with….”

--When the car died….
Photo courtesy of Donald Cook at

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Another Time or Place & Other Writing Prompts

If you could travel to any time or place, where would you go? That’s the subject of my first writing prompt today. Of course, if that prompt leaves you blank, pick another prompt for ten minutes of freewriting—write without stopping, stalling, or second-guessing yourself. Just write!

--If I could transport myself to any time or place, I would go to….

--“I don’t care about your holiday plans!” shouted Carl. “I refuse to….”

--Jennifer threw the glass paper weight across the room, hitting….

--What is your favorite holiday food?

--Do you like to offer unsolicited advice? Why or why not?
Picture courtesy of Michel Marin at