Mean or Snarky/Hero or Prodigy: What Your Writing Says About You
November 18th, 2009 by Liza Wiemer

Mean or Snarky/Hero or Prodigy:

What Your Writing Says About You

By Guest Blogger/Writer, Teresa Frohock


What does your writing style say about you?photo-8

With all of our online communities and blogs, a lot of YA and teens are writing. I’ve been absolutely thrilled to see the number of YA and teens writing novels and short stories lately. I’m also greatly impressed by the ethical issues they are approaching in their writing.

I think about ethical issues and my writing quite a bit. For example, the protagonists in my novels don’t start out as a hero/heroine. By the end of the novel, my protagonist usually works through a great many difficulties, both spiritual and physical, and these challenges give the hero/heroine multiple opportunities to display heroic qualities.

This, however, is certainly my personal point of view.  In my stories heroes are not born. Prodigies are born, but being born with an exceptional skill does not necessarily transmute into heroism.

Heroism is an inner quality an individual obtains from applying their own moral codes and spiritual beliefs to life circumstances. Most often these circumstances call for a person to draw from inner strengths and principles inherent to their nature. Heroes make their decisions based on ethical and spiritual philosophies they have learned and employed in their lives by practicing those principles on a daily basis. So when the moment of crisis comes, a hero acts instinctively from the core of their being, not from external motives.

While by no means a prodigy, I was born with the skill to write and imagine worlds not my own, and I love to tell stories. Taking that special skill and utilizing it properly is an example of how I actively incorporate the skill of writing into my life.

I have the choice to moderate my words when writing or I can use my skill to be snarky and mean to other people. This is where I use the principles I have chosen to live by so I can decide whether to be a heroine or not. I’m certainly not successful all the time, but I do try to moderate my words so my intent will not be misinterpreted. Over the years, I’ve developed my unique writing style the same way young writers today are working on crafting their styles.

So what does your personal writing style say about you? Are you snarky and is this okay? Or do you try to think about other peoples’ feelings before you write something either online or in a story?

A note from Liza Wiemer:  Many thanks to Teresa Frohock for this great article.  

I have been fortunate to work with many YA/teens in a school newspaper setting.  Here are a few of my personal tips for excellent writing.

1. Be FEARLESS – If you are interested in interviewing someone famous, have confidence.  Many of my students over the years have interviewed famous or high-profile individuals including: United States senators, The Milwaukee Bucks owner, a Milwaukee Bucks player, Milwaukee’s mayor, Wisconsin’s governor, Ace of Cakes top chef Duff, Broadway singer, Dudu Fisher to name just a few.  Be polite, write a clear request, be flexible, don’t take too much of the individual’s time, and be persistent but not a pest.

2.  Write about WHAT INTERESTS YOU or what you know.  This is always a great place to start!  If you’re interested in basketball then, of course, this is something you may want to pursue in your writing.

3.  WRITE FIRST, EDIT SECOND.  I am not aware of any school that doesn’t teach writing skills.  The key to success, in my opinion, is getting down everything you want to say first and then worrying about spelling, grammar, editing…  Editing often takes longer than writing.  Don’t neglect this important step.  When you write and edit at the same time the process slows down and so can creativity.   

4.  As Teresa said, your WRITING SAYS A LOT ABOUT who YOU are – be careful on your language, attitude, message.  With the Internet it stays around FOREVER!  Make sure that you reflect on what you write before you post it.  Shine the best light possible.  Even IMs can be cut, pasted, and posted by others.  We all have heard – think before we speak – think before you post!

5.  Have OTHERS READ what you wrote to check for grammar, spelling, structure, message.  READ YOUR WORK OUT LOUD.  How does it sound to you?  Does it flow?  Language matters.

6.  SEEK MENTORS, ask someone you trust for guidance.  WRITING IS PERSONAL, so choose someone whom you can trust to be honest because they want to see you succeed, not fail.  There are people out there who will be critical because they feel in competition with you and therefore may not be well suited in providing constructive criticism.  Find other writers who truly know what they’re talking about and want to see you succeed.  

7.  BEST TIPS:  In non-fiction writing avoid was, were, has been, -ly words, very – see if you can condense your sentences.  In fiction writing – show, don’t tell!  When asked to write about an experience relating to you, especially for college essays – show, don’t tell.   

In addition, please take a look at the comments connected to this post.  There are some excellent suggestions and I deeply appreciate these contributions from other authors because they are helpful for YA/teens.  Authors, please keep them coming!

I was working with some students at school on an article about The Magic Tree House Series.  Obviously these books are for much younger readers, but the interview with the author, Mary Pope Osbourne, was incredible and definitely helpful for any age writer!  I found it inspiring.  Here is the link: http://tiny.cc/mE9Bv

5 Responses  
what your writing says about you « helluo librorum writes:
November 19th, 2009 at 7:35 am

[…] November 19, 2009 · Leave a Comment Liza Wiemer has a lovely blog that she devotes to young adults and the issues they face. I was surprised and pleased when she asked me to write a guest post for the WhoRuBlog. Of course, I’m terrible with titles, so Liza graciously supplied a title for my post, Mean or Snarky/Hero or Prodigy: What Your Writing Says About You. […]

Kelly Bryson writes:
November 19th, 2009 at 10:05 am

I often think when I read a good book that I could be friends with the author- I feel that we have shared something special. The reverse is occassionally true, and I usually don’t finish those books.

A few junior/senior girls I know were saying that the peer pressure and ‘jocks vs. geeks vs. goths vs. cowboys’ aren’t the way its portrayed on tv or in books, and it wasn’t like that when I was in school either. Those groups existed, but the lines in the sand were more permeable.

I would suggest looking past the simplest expressions of who your characters are. Even Malfoy from Harry Potter wasn’t completely evil. He had moments of unsurety and some tough decisions. Everyone thinks their actions are the only reasonable course…it’s the writer’s job to show the reader how they might be right…in a way.

Kelly Bryson writes:
November 19th, 2009 at 2:25 pm

I showed my kids the interview with Mary Pope Osbourne- great find!

Stephen SB Frank writes:
November 20th, 2009 at 6:26 am

Wow – Very thought provoking The hero of my novel (in final editing stages, I hope) is rather snarky, and I like to keep things light and humorous. But I really don’t like gratuitous rudeness or unsympathetic heroes or heroines. It’s okay to be dark and curmudgeonly but only if you have redeeming traits that make you likeable. Writing about real people (and yes that includes authors), it’s even more important to be polite, I think.

Teresa Frohock writes:
November 20th, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Hi, Kelly! I like how you describe feeling like you’re friends with the author when you finish a really good book. I’ve never thought of it that way, but you’re right. Also, Malfoy is a great example of giving an antagonist enough humanity to make them believable.

Hi, Stephen, thanks for commenting. I’m so glad you pointed out the need for being polite when writing about real people. There have been times when I’ve written something and people have been offended. It wasn’t my intention to upset someone, but I had not carefully read the comment before posting it. A good friend of mine likes to point out that when someone is reading your words, they can’t hear your voice. I’ve gotten into the habit of reading everything I post more than once, especially when it is about someone else.

I’ve also gotten into the habit of reading posts and comments more than once before dashing off an instant reply. Sometimes, I’ve been offended by a post on the first reading, but when I go back and re-read the comment hours or even one day later, I find that I had misunderstood what the author originally intended to say. I’ve learned to try and give everyone else the same benefit of the doubt that I’d like to have.

Thank you both for commenting!

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