Monday, February 24, 2014

Off For a Special Day

Fifteen years ago today, my first child was born! I've taken the day off to prepare birthday festivities for Number One Son. Will return next week!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Engaging the Senses

Here's a writing tip that I posted back in April of 2011. If you missed it the first time, hope you find it useful today!

Reading isn't a sensory experience, so it's up to the writer to make it one! Remember show don't tell? This means going beyond the visual and taking full advantage of all the senses, including hearing, smell, touch and taste.

Todd Stone, in his Novelist's Boot Camp, says that how you go beyond sight can make a difference as well.

"As you use description to build that emotional connection between your reader and your story, consider carefully which sense you want to use. Some senses are more--more personal, closer, more private--than others. Using the more intimate senses can make your description more emotionally powerful." Stone goes on to explain the degree of intimacy in each sense:

Sight. The most passive of the senses. Our eyes are always open and we don't need to do anything to see an object, so there's very little involvement. And what we see remains outside the body.

Sound. More intimate than sight. Sound causes a physical change in the body--the vibration of the eardrum. It takes more effort to block out sound than sight, and sounds are also more easily remembered, especially when repeated in rhythmic fashion. Ever wonder why we remember nursery rhymes and cartoon jingles into adulthood? Sound is still rather passive. The stimulation can come from a distance.

Touch. As far as intimacy, touch falls in the center of the spectrum. Touch is easily remembered, and touch memory is stored in a different part of the brain than sight or sound. Touch can be active or passive. Characters can touch or be touched. Whatever stimulates touch must be close. And touch can be used as an intimate character marker--leathery skin, rough hands, scarred face. Touch, however, remains outside the body. So, although it's more intimate than sight or sound, it's less intimate than smell and taste.

Smell. The human brain's neural connections tie certain smells to certain primeval instincts and emotions, making it an intimate sense. Smells can produce strong, emotional reactions even when very faint. I have a friend who grew up in an alcoholic home.  To this day he hates the smell of beer because of what it reminds him of. Does the smell of oatmeal cookies remind you of your grandma's house? For a more powerful, intimate effect on the reader, use the sense of smell in your descriptions.

Taste. The most intimate of the senses. The taste buds, mouth and gums provide fast track access to the body and parts of the brain. Sensations that originate in the mouth can cause very powerful, very emotional reactions almost instantly. To activate taste, a stimulant must enter through open lips, voluntarily or involuntarily. Taste can also reflect emotion, such as the sweetness of a lover's kiss, or the coppery taste of a character's own blood. So taste is the most intimate of all.

In closing, transform your scenes from mediocre to magnificent by engaging the senses! Are you already doing this? Thanks for visiting!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Before Implants

Loretta Young at 18, 1931
The Wonders of Foam
Back in 1974 I saw the movie That's Entertainment, and from then on was fascinated by Hollywood's Golden Age. As a kid, I loved watching old movies and reading any books about that glamorous time in Hollywood history.

The Image Makers: Sixty Years of Hollywood Glamour, by Paul Trent, was one of my favorite books, and it featured a spectacular variety of movie star photos from years gone by.

Loretta Young, without a doubt, is one of the most beautiful actresses to ever grace the screen. As young girls, this particular photo (left, found in The Image Makers) was what my sister and I aspired to look like--figure wise, anyway. We hoped that, when we grew up, we'd each have a perfect bust line just like Loretta Young's.

As an adult, perhaps a couple of decades later, I read a Loretta Young biography.  In it was discussed how she'd always been thin, so thin, that during publicity shoots in her teens, she'd have to be padded with foam at the chest and hips to provide her with the appearance of curves. No wonder my sister and I never achieved that look of perfection! Apparently, Miss Young hadn't either, at least not naturally.

Jane Russell,
The Real Deal
Falsies have been around for years. Wikipedia says that in the Victorian Era, girls were considered grown-up upon reaching the age of fifteen. However, many girls had not developed large enough breasts to fit into adult clothes, therefore bosom pads were used. 

Times have changed. Nowadays, surgical enhancement is common place, and anyone can look like Jane Russell!  Not familiar with her? Here's an amusing story from Wikipedia:

In 1940 Russell was signed to a seven-year contract by film mogul, Howard Hughes, and made her motion-picture debut in The Outlaw (1943), a story about Billy the Kid that went to great lengths to showcase her voluptuous figure. 

Although the movie was completed in 1941, it was not released until 1943 in a limited release. It finally was released to a wide distribution in 1946. There were problems with the censorship of the production code over the way her ample cleavage was displayed. 

Contrary to countless incorrect reports in the media since the release of The Outlaw, Russell did not wear the specially designed under-wire bra that Howard Hughes had designed and made for her to wear during filming. According to Jane's 1985 autobiography, she said the bra was so uncomfortable that she secretly discarded it and wore her own bra with the cups padded with tissue and the straps pulled up to elevate her breasts. 

Even Jane had to use a little artificial padding to achieve the right effect.

Lots of different surgical enhancements are available to consumers, yet there's one I don't understand: The Butt Implant.  Once a woman hits a certain age (somewhere in her late twenties or early thirties), her butt will start to get big all by itself! Just sayin...

Any thoughts?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Frederick Douglass and Interracial Marriage

The Cheerio's commercial featuring an interracial family was back during last night's Super Bowl.  When the family made its debut last year, it drew both praise and prejudice from the public, although  more of the former than the latter.  That was 2013. So what do you suppose the reaction to an interracial couple would've been over a century ago? Today I thought it would be interesting to take a look at one. 

February marks Black History Month, and one of the most influential individuals in Black history, as well as American history in general, is Frederick Douglass. Douglass, who had no accurate knowledge of his age or birth date, chose to celebrate it on February 14. Also, he estimated the year of his birth to be 1818.

For those unfamiliar with Frederick Douglass, here's a brief summary from Wikipedia:

Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, c. February 1818 – February 20, 1895) was an African-American social reformer, orator, writer and statesman. After escaping from slavery, he became a leader of the abolitionist movement, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing. He stood as a living counter-example to slaveholders' arguments that slaves did not have the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens.  

Frederick Douglass is indeed a fascinating and heroic figure in American history. To read more click here

Douglass was married to Anna Murray, a black woman, for forty-four years (1838-1882).  After she died from complications due to second a stroke, Douglass married again--this time however, his wife was white! 

According to Wikipedia:

In 1884, Douglass married again, to Helen Pitts, a white feminist from Honeoye, New York. Pitts was the daughter of Gideon Pitts, Jr., an abolitionist colleague and friend of Douglass. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College (then called Mount Holyoke Female Seminary), she worked on a radical feminist publication named Alpha while living in Washington, D.C. The couple faced a storm of controversy with their marriage, since Pitts was both white and nearly 20 years younger than Douglass. 

... Douglass (a "child of the master") responded to the criticisms by saying that his first marriage had been to someone the color of his mother, and his second to someone the color of his father.
Frederick & Helen Douglass, seated, and
Helen's sister Eva, standing

A commentary from written by Leigh Fought of Le Moyne College says this regarding the marriage:

...On Jan. 24, 1884, 60-year old Frederick Douglass and 46-year-old Helen Pitts defied the expectations of their families and Washington society by joining in interracial matrimony.

Neither black nor white communities offered many congratulations.

The Washington Grit called the marriage “a national calamity” and “the mistake of his life.” Others considered his choice to be that of a dotty, old man who had rejected his race. The groom’s children never hid their disdain for his new wife, believing the marriage betrayed their late mother, Anna, who was black. His daughter-in-law even sued him. The bride’s sisters and mothers embraced her new husband, but her father and uncle never accepted that a black man they once admired had joined the family. One of her old classmates at Mt. Holyoke simply exclaimed, “How could she?”

True friends, on the other hand, noted that the marriage was not only one of affection but also one that emerged from their principles. Another old classmate insisted that Helen “was true to her convictions to the last,” while a reporter for the IndianapolisLeader pointed out, “Mr. Douglass has simply put into practice the theories of his life.” Douglass himself demanded, “What business has the world with the color of my wife?”

Seems that Frederick Douglass and his new wife received both praise and prejudice, as well!  Although I must add, more of the latter than the former that time around. 

Were you aware of Frederick Douglass' interracial marriage? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!