March 10, 2021  Taught by Carol Brennan King   

Creative Writing: today we focused on using white space, lines, and punctuation as tools to help us communicate our stories. We also talked about how using breath units, or the words we want to be read in one breath, help us reach our reader to interpret the message on a given line.

Posted on 12/28/2020 at 11:18 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek: “Even if you’re not writing with the audiobook in mind, and even if your reader never speaks your words aloud, your book will be “heard” by its consumers — in their heads.”

C.S Larkin says, “This is yet another reason to consider the rhythm of your sentence and paragraph structures.” 

Lakin also says that writing is all about breath units, usually short sharing brief bites of information. Think about what much poetry looks like: short lines designed to be read in a breath.  Her idea is that short sentences are read slower, closer. Longer ones are read faster as the reader wants to get through it for what they decide is important.

So, as writers, you can take liberty, even in prose, to use short lines of content or dialogue to show the reader these words are important. Pay attention to them.

We also talked about breath units as beats in a sentence. Lakin says, “You can drive home the character’s reaction by controlling the breath units of your phrasing.”

She illustrates the idea of using breath units by comparing a sentence Vanessa Redgrave could have read as it was written.

We all come to the theater with baggage. The baggage of our daily lives, the baggage of our problems, the baggage of our tragedies, the baggage of being tired. It doesn’t matter what age you are, but if our hearts get opened and released—well, that’s what theater can do.

Then she rewrote it this way, so think about how it reads now with a different emphasis produced by writing it on the page in breath units.

We all come to the theater with baggage.

The baggage of our daily lives,

The baggage of our problems,

The baggage of our tragedies,

The baggage of being tired.

 It doesn’t matter what age you are, but if our hearts get opened and released


Lakin says, “Punctuation might be made of very small marks, but those marks create and break up breath units. Breaking up a long sentence into two or putting in an em dash or comma will add that second of pause.” For more on this in her words, google Utilize the Power of Breath Units to Write Masterfully by C.S. Lakin

Writing prompts for next week:  Choose one and see where it goes. Or do something else.

  1. Write a piece around a missing item, a thing, or even a person.
  2. A character you have come to know, or thought you did, begins to act out of character. Have the bad guy do or say something nice, or the good guy move to the other side in his behavior. Then what happens?
  3. One of your characters admits their true feelings about someone else or something else. Maybe it is feelings of love, or a lack thereof. Perhaps he or she no longer wants to be part of this important thing. What is said, and what happens next?

For more on this material:

Memoir/ Nonfiction

In today’s class we talked about how to bring the people in your memoir to life.

We talked about three approaches to character development.

  1. You might focus on the essence of each significant character in the story and the turning point or significant event that made the person who he or she is.
  2. If you don’t know that, you might determine the character’s major impact in the story as that reflects the person’s strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Think through the character’s essence, that center that impacts everything else around him or her.

The memoirist must return to life the characters in the memoir. The reader should  be able to see and hear and understand those people and why they do what they do.

To ensure you create for your readers a person in full, develop each of the five dimensions of character:

  • Identity: the person’s name and relationship to the other people in the book
  • Description: Think how someone would describe this person as he or she comes into the room
  • Demographic factors: think race, gender, age, marital status, education, job, income. You might do some research about the period this person lived to see clusters of attitudes and behaviors.  Think of the ripple effects of living in that period of history
  • Psychographic attributes: examine clustsers of attitudes, values, interests, activities and lifestyle.
  •  Personality:  the personality of a person provides the basis for his motivations and actions.
  • For more on this look up:     By Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

Writing Prompts:

  1. You may write for any of the Chicken Soup books – google Chicken Soup submissions.
  2. You may write for any of the Personal essay markets in the March/April Writer’s Digest.
  3. You may continue on a current project keeping in mind that we want to see an application of today’s material.
  4. Or write on anything else we talked about in class.
  5. Or sample the prompts from the Creative Writing Class above.


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