Monthly Archives: June 2011

I’ve Moved!

Dear Friends,

I am thrilled to announce that I have moved to my official site at michaelatashjian.com. I will no longer be posting on my wordpress blog, but on the blog at my new site, where I have moved most of these articles. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you will continue to do so as the site grows! As always, you can recieve updates via Facebook and Twitter as well.

Happy writing!

Sincerely,

Michaela

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5 Free Android Apps for Writers

I’ve always thought with all of the convenience of modern day technology that leaving behind more traditional ways of life is rather sad. For a while, I was very much against eReaders such as the Kindle and Nook. I certainly never thought that I would own a smartphone or more advanced phone, but since recently receiving Verizon’s Galaxy Tab as a gift, I can’t keep my hands off of it. While I still stay true to many of my primitive habits (like writing by hand and reading books with tangible pages), I have found my Galaxy Tab to have many perks that are gems among my list of writing resources. I’ve come up with five that have proved exceptionally useful to me as a writer. (Note: The following free applications can be downloaded onto any Android phone, not just the Galaxy.)

1. Voice Recorder

Voice Recorder is the perfect app for the on-the-go writer. When I was writing my first novel, I used a clunky tape recorder to brainstorm myself out of plot holes and even to babble lines of poetry for later use. The tape recorder eventually broke, so I was excited to discover this application. Not only is this great for recording ideas when you don’t have a pen and paper nearby, but a gem for students like me whose thoughts can wander during long-winded lectures.

2. Days Left

This is one of my favourites. Days Left is a reminder app which allows you to install widgets onto your home page. Just punch in the date of an event or deadline, pick a colour or icon to go with it if you wish, and drag it into place on the selected page. These are perfect for keeping track of deadlines for assignments and writing contests. I have about twenty on my phone right now.

3. Dictionary.com

This is one of the best tools a writer can have, and now it’s even faster and easier to use. Just type (or swype) a word into the search engine. You know the rest. I use this as well as Thesaurus.com several times a day when writing poetry or constructing sentences. Also, if you have an account on Dictionary.com, you can sync it with the application and continue adding words to your list of favourites. This is what I do to keep from losing all of my best words. Download this app and kiss “It’s-on-the-tip-of-my-tongue!” syndrome goodbye. 😉

4. Kindle

This one was controversial to me for a while as it is difficult for my nostalgic self to abandon my “real” books for .azw and .opf documents; but since I’m a writer as well as a reader, the benefits are far too numerous to turn down. Any of you who knows what it’s like to spend precious minutes flipping through a book to find a favourite part will appreciate the search option on the Kindle. Enter the word or phrase you’re looking for and highlight without marring the prized pages of a hardcover. The best feature on this app in my opinion is the note-taking function. I use this to write all of my “Writing Methods From…” articles. If you’re serious about learning the craft of writing, paying attention to structure by taking notes is one of the most effective approaches. If you love mysteries, you can even play detective and try to solve the mystery before the book is over!

5. Evernote

This last one is a bit obvious. Serving the same function as the infamous “writers’ notebook,” it saves you a bit of extra room in your pocket or purse. The Evernote app will sync with your online account if you have one, but if you’re more of a sticky-note kind of person, you might want to try the Memo or Desk Notes app.

Do you use an Android or other smartphone to benefit your writing? Would you say it’s more of an effective tool or a distraction? Did I miss your favourite application?

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World-Building Methods from “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” – Everyday Life

It is a great dream of many writers to create a world so real they can live in it, and this dream is never entirely out of reach for any of us. No matter how inexperienced you are in your field of writing, with sharp imagination and a passion for your story, you will always have what you need to pen something beautiful. Just look at J.K. Rowling and all of the adoring readers of the Harry Potter books. If you have been reading my past articles on the series, you will see I think Rowling is a fantastic writer, but no writer is perfect. Independent journalist and Harry Potter fan Michelle V. Rafter goes as far to say that Rowling’s early writing is “downright pedestrian.” Yet she fell in love with the series just like the rest of us. Even adverb nazi Stephen King can grin and bear the abuse of all those adverbs in dialogue tags throughout the entire series. In fact, he acclaims the books.

“How come she can abuse adverbs and get away with it?” you may ask savagely.

Because the story is brilliant, and her world is authentic. In this article, I’ll be covering one of three world-building techniques I picked up from The Goblet of Fire–everyday living being the first of these.

It should go without saying that a tangible world has tangible things in it. This means that a story needs more than dialogue, plot, and theme. No matter how real your characters may be, your world will not be authentic if there is no flesh on its skeleton. One way to go about “fleshing out” this skeleton is to add items to your book that are (to your characters) commonplace. These items may be substitutes for tools we use in real life, something never heard of, or even something spoofed. A good example is spellotape (see sellotape), something we recognize as an everyday office item, which Rowling has put a spin on to make the wizarding world more realistic than one may think.

Harry Potter WikiAnother world-building necessity neglected by many fantasy authors are books.

Books are extremely important. As a writer, you should take into account that most of your audience will be book lovers, and give books a special spotlight in every story. J.K. Rowling went the extra mile by creating a bibliophile with whom her readers can connect as one of the main characters. In the series, Hermione Granger is constantly calling readers to the fact that Hogwarts has a history (she references Hogwarts, a History seven times throughout their first, second, third, and fourth years there). In such an academic setting, there are books around every corner, Magical Water Plants of the Mediterranean being a significant one to Harry’s second task.

Other examples of commonplace and not so commonplace devices in the book are the portkey used to transport wizards to the Quidditch World cup as well as items sold there (Anti-Burglar Buzzer, Mrs. Skower’s All-Purpose Magical Mess Remover, etc.); Dark Detectors in Mad-eye Moody’s office including Sneakoscopes, Secrecy Sensors, and a Foe-Glass; and even Daily Prophet reporter Rita Skeeter’s Quick-Quotes Quill.

To sum it up: When building the setting in which your fantasy story will take place, always remember to include objects reminiscent of those we use in our every day lives–but don’t forget to throw in some wacky inventions of your own!

What devices do your characters use in everyday life? Have you ever invented a new mechanism? Put it in a book! And leave your comment about it below. 🙂

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