I’m confident that all of us who write regularly, amateur or pro, have thought about the art and craft of writing. We’ve pondered why sometimes it’s so hard to get anything written, while at other times the stories and chapters seem to almost write themselves.
Cinta Garcia de la Rosa has obviously thought it through, and taken the time to set her ideas down in conversational, accessible form. Her new book, Groovy Cool Writing Techniques is a lot like sitting down with a favorite writing friend and talking about writing. Cinta’s cheerful narrative acknowledges the bugaboos that plague us all, from self-doubt to lack of ideas to just not knowing how to begin or end. Then she happily shares fun exercises, examples and encouragement to get the ideas and ink flowing.
Those first words, for instance, often don’t come easy. Cinta provides the “word shaker.” You create a table like the one below, then combine random words from each column to create the first sentence of a story.
I got “Bright winter captivates death quietly with passion.” Maybe not a polished first sentence, but it could easily be a start.
Another way to begin, Cinta says, is with the end. Edgar Allan Poe would likely agree. He once wrote you shouldn’t begin a story until you know the ending. Cinta suggests envisioning a random scene, such as A man gets out of the bus, takes his shoes off in the middle of the street, throws them into a litter bin, and walks away barefoot. Then, write the series of events that leads to this scene.
Cinta calls this “the exact ending.”
There’s also “the general ending.” At the end, my protagonist learns how to say no to others’ demands. What motivates that change? How does it happen? These are the seeds for stories.
Along the way Cinta offers tried-and-true techniques for gathering material and honing the writing edge, such a carrying a notebook and keeping a journal. She talks about observing and listening, but also suggests entertaining exercises for putting observation to work in the service writing.
Groovy Cool Technique #7 Communicating Vessels, was one of my favorites, offering a key to not only observing things around us, but imbuing those things with the emotional content necessary for all art:
Make a list of ten random objects, the first ones you can see from your desk: pencil, window, hard-drive, fireplace, telephone, calendar, heater, dictionary, door, ink. Look for the communicating vessel between you and a pencil, between you and a window… Like the pencil, you also get consumed. Like the window, you open and close too.
Along with observation, Cinta discusses tapping memory, doubts, empathy and impulsiveness to spark our creative fires. She demonstrates how simple, everyday objects can help define characters. Perhaps your protagonist is a teacher? What does she collect? Possibilities are endless, Cinta says. Unopened sugar packets? Porcelain owls? High-heel shoes? Novels with lots of typos? Or maybe she collects razors?
Not only do the characters possess objects, but objects also possess the characters, taking hold of their conflicts and problems, hiding their mysteries , and keeping or revealing their secrets. What if those unopened sugar packets reflect our teacher’s tendency to deprive herself of the simple pleasures of life?
In Groovy Cool Writing Techniques, Cinta deals with issues common to us all, from self-doubt to gathering material, from crafting the first sentence to writing the ending. Along the way, Cinta peppers her narrative with wonderful gems like That’s why the job of writer is so difficult: it requires pushing a tornado through a keyhole without reducing it to a mere breeze. “Pushing a tornado through a keyhole…” Love it. So true, and so hard, but Cinta’s book offers some great clues as to how it’s done.
About the Author
Cinta is an award-winning author who spends her time in the United States and Spain with her amazing husband. Along with writing, her career encompasses beta-reading, editing, proofreading, and translating Spanish to English and English to Spanish. Cinta has published:
A Foreigner in London (anthology Blessings from the Darkness)
Never Again (under the pen-name Rosa Storm)
The Funny Adventures of Little Nani
Deadly Company (Rosa Storm)
The Funny Adventures of Little Nani won a 2014 gold medal winner in the Children’s category of the International Readers’ Favorite Book Awards.
My Prison Without Bars by Taylor Fulks
Guardians of Terath: Seeking Sorrow by Zen DiPietro
Cassidy Jones and the Luminous by Elise Stokes
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