by John McCall

For advice on writing
light verse & fiction:
A guide to this website
Colors Can Speed Up Your Thinking
In Clerihew Verse:
As a rhyming dictionary:
A  E   I   O   U
As jingles:
For the "I Ching"
On writing fiction:
Shadowing the Reader
Facebook for the Fiction Writer
In fiction (not for the youngest):
In English as a second language:
The People's Voice (English)
La Voz del Pueblo (Spanish)

Other places
Real links for the whole website
McCall Home Page


by John McCall

Advice on writing Light Verse & Fiction
in the Guide to the Website


Could these articles interest those who don’t write fiction or verse?

Many readers who don’t write fiction or verse are interested in the techniques used.  Moreover, most subjects here (like mythology) would be of equal interest to readers and writers.  The articles of general interest include “Colors Can Speed Up Your Thinking.”, which concludes with a prescription for writer’s block.  Yet most any reader could use exactly the same time-saving methods in thinking through a hundred different matters.

Both the writer and the general reader may wish to scan the “menu” to the side first, but the remainder of this introduction targets the needs of the writer.

Which chapter should the writer use?

This websites has chapters with all sorts of advice. This advice is normally more useful either before or after the heat of composition; but whenever -- and whatever you write, revise for the reader or audience.

This guide aims to match the writer with the advice in a specific chapter. The names of chapters describe the content, but not usually the type of writing that they can help most. “Clerihew verse” in not just for versifiers. The “rhyming dictionary” here is not like others; neither is the chapter “English as a Second Language.” The essay “Shadowing the Reader,” perhaps surprisingly, offers advice on many aspects of fiction writing. So does our latest addition, “Facebook for the Fiction Writer”, with its focus on characterization.

The chapters are discussed in order of appearance on the menu. (A search engine supplements this guide.) The questions below target writers, prospective or established, but may also be of interest to students, teachers, and critics of writing.

What kind of writing are you doing?

  1. Any kind of writing (with some technical exceptions) may be bettered by allusions to mythology and biography under CLERIHEW VERSE. (A reference to “a Cleopatra” can save a lengthy description.) The allusions are in jingles (called “clerihews”), which may make them easier to recall.

  2. Writing songs, greeting cards – or even headlines and blog sites? --You might profit from the RHYMING DICTIONARY. It’s called a “fictional rhyming dictionary” because it strings rhyming words together to suggest a story. The mnemonic device of story telling may make rhymes easy to recall and so may encourage spontaneous rhyming. (Note to teachers: I know you must unshackle the creative spirit from the constraints of rhyme, but please make an exception for clerihew verse, which can delight pre-teens and professors.)

  3. Writing verse, fiction, or nonfiction that draws inspiration from other cultures or eras? You may find a fresh source in JINGLES for the “I CHING” in an (oversimplified) introduction to that masterpiece of Chinese wisdom. (It may also suggest to speakers, educators, and others who popularize complex materials, some ways of summarizing. The same would be true of “Ben & Verse,” on the other half of this website.)

  4. Writing fiction or scripts? You and other writers might well benefit from “SHADOWING THE READER, ADVICE FOR WRITERS.” This “shadowing” refers to the need to be continually monitoring the readers’ likely responses throughout your short story or novel – but not in the first draft. (Most of the craft comes in the revision.) Through the lens of foreshadowing, this essay considers the credibility of, and the suspense over, the twists of the plot and the revelation of character. Of course, in any kind of writing, it’s important to monitor the reader’s responses. The essay on “shadowing” aims at fantasy and humor, which may its message more digestible. (A brief essay ... on brevity follows.)

  5. Writing fiction or scripts, but with a special interest in characterization. For new techniques try the “profile” on the Facebook website. The profile is a standard form, which you can use to fill in character traits. Suppose you can’t remember someone’s birthplace, etc. It’s easy to find on a profile. And with a bit of imagination, Facebook profiles can even deepen your characters by suggesting additional traits and enhance their potential by offering new scenarios.

  6. Teaching fiction? You might find a rough draft of the short story, “ICEBRICK,” useful for comment and criticism. It’s possible that the youngest students might find the story unduly disturbing.

  7. Teaching English as a Second Language? You may find some novelty here in a short story “The Voice of the People” since it was dramatized in Spanish for an international broadcast.

John D. McCall
May 2010.

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Rev 2010-1.