Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Extra! Extra! Read all About It! PerfettoWritingRoom (c) 1st Annual Sale is Tomorrow!

This is a quick blog post

As spring arrives, writers of all stripes yearn to be creative.

Rush to our store March 27-28-29.

1. Make you purchase at  The PerfettoWritingRoom Store

                       2.  Simply email us at Our Business Email  and tell us what you bough and your buyer name
                             And also what you'd like for FREE.

3. WE verify your name and purchase, and if what you want is up to or equal in value we send it to you for immediate download! WE thank you for taking part in this fantastic spring sale!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Poetry Month SALE,FREE NOTES on Sonnet HISTORY& Types! by PerfettoWritingRoom(c)

You'll love this Spring-into-writing sale. It's our Once-a-Year ONLY, Best-Ever Deal.

April is Poetry Month. It is also the start of spring, the wending down of the year, and the time you most need to keep students engaged. If you need any writing materials, for yourself or your students... Whatever you buy March 27, 28, and 29, you can get up to the same amount in FREE merchandise. 


1. purchase at The PerfettoWritingRoom Store  March 27, 28, 29
2.Then contact us at, and tell us:
 your buyer name, what you bought, AND, what you would like for free!
3. If the items you want are up to or equal in value to your purchased items 
we will send the items to you for immediate download, free
- this is up to a 50% savings overall!!!!

Now that the great news is out of the bag. . .

Here is a question . . . just how many sonnets are there?

Well, this is a troubling topic.
Most folks say two.
I say three.
But then so many people play with form and rhyme scheme, that now it has become rather difficult to actually clarify and teach to students without oversimplifying the matter. Is is fair to oversimplify?

Here are some FACTS: 
1. The "invention" of the sonnet form is credited to Giacomo da Lentini. He lived in the 1300th century. Da Lentini wrote almost 250 sonnets. 

2. Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) was a famous sonnet writer, and a man not only famous for writing the Inferno


    But then there is Petrarch....

3. Francesco Petrarca, better known as Petrarch to the British, elevated the form, using the conventions of courtly love.
4. Petrarch's influence was so strong that the sonnet form is known as the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet, and his reliance on traditional courtly love is now known as the Petrarchan conventions.

The Sonnet Comes to England!!!

                                                      Henry Howard, The Earl of Surrey


                                                                   Sir Thomas Wyatt

5. Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard Earl of Surrey are credited with introducing the sonnet to England during the 16th century (1500s). It grew quite popular.

6.  During this time, Edmund Spenser, Philip Sidney and his niece Mary Wroth were among the many writers who championed the sonnet form.

7. Wyatt and Howard adjusted the rhyme scheme to account for the differences in the language.

8. The greatest writer of all was William Shakespeare. He wrote over 150 poems, none of them repeating. While he observed the Petrarchan conventions, he pushed against them in his "Fair Youth" and "Dark Lady" sonnet, changing the rules and expanding what a sonnet could be about, for ALL writers present and future. 

The Bard Himself
So How Many Types of Sonnets ARE THERE?
 Not an Easy Question. . . 
9. There is the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet
10. The English or Shakespearean sonnet  
11 The Spenserian sonnet, which is a variation on the Shakespearean sonnet
12. I have learned recently that there are MULTIPLE versions of sonnets, reaching far back, and extending into the present. From the Occitan and Urdu sonnets which I never learned about in school, Dante's version, which a friend of mine just told me about (wonders never cease!), to simple varieties in the standard meter or sonnet sequences as were done by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, it can be challenging to tackle the topic or form or structure in the classroom.
       My advice? Start with history, and Shakespeare is so wonderful, so timeless, that you can never go wrong with studying his work, or by looking at some modern versions and comparing them.
      All of the versions may be discussed in a class environment in a cursory way for enrichment purposes without detracting from your main purpose.It is up to you what that purpose is - whether it be to teach one specific type of sonnet, read for enjoyment, label the parts, or have students write their own version, as long as you and your students grow to appreciate the's all good stuff. 

If anyone wants to start a conversation, add a sonnet type, write a sonnet below...(oh come on you know you want to), or ask a question....DO IT!

Next Post - The Petrarchan conventions, and MORE!

Until then, keep writing, learning, and living well,
Gina @ The PerfettoWritingRoom                            

Friday, March 21, 2014

Why is Sonnet History AS IMPORTANT as The Sonnet Itself? - A Primer for Writers and Teachers Alike with Free Lesson Ideas and a FREEBIE!

Pin of my newest product - History of the Sonnet - a Common Core Presentation (Gr 8-12)

I am just going to TOWN with freebies now that a wonderful lovely superwoman teacher, blog tutor extraordinaire, and new friend has taught me to provide freebies (Kristy Bearfield, I salute you!).  You the reader of course benefit, and you can follow me on Bloglovin' so there's always that to get excited about.

WHY We Are Really Here - The Sonnet!

Today we are coming to the PerfettoWritingRoom(c)  to discuss the benefits of introductions in general, the history of form and the history of the sonnet in particular!

First of all, the benefits of introductions, history lessons, backgrounds, or fun Power Points: 

  1. Interest - In the typical English classroom or language arts, the current lingo for creating interest about a topic, and, the first part of a lesson plan, is the anticipatory set. To start a unit on sonnets, or really ANY poetic form, it creates interest to talk about its origin.
  2. Groundwork and Foundation - in order to teach rhyme, meter, form, and themes, eventually you may face a problem. You will end up having to go back. Back WHERE ask? Well, to the beginning. Perhaps not to Giacomo Da Lentini, but at least to Petrarch and his conventions. . . right? Why not save yourself and your students the trouble by doing a formal introduction, hmmm? 
  3. Counter-intuitively, it may save you some time. Sure it will take a day or two to start from the 13th century. Once you are analyzing Shakespeare, and the students are finding the theme or the conventions and the rhyme scheme, it just might go faster, and you'll make up the time!
  4. Retention and a deeper learning experience. There is nothing like understanding the background and history of a form to provide a sense of respect for the subject matter at hand. Students are more likely to retain information about the sonnet when that information is WHOLE. Its beginning and its story, its structure, and then, some examples. Teachers are always busy and have to make tough decisions about what is valuable. It doesn't take a lot of time to review the history of the sonnet, but it will make the iambic pentameter that follows a whole lot more enjoyable. 

The following is one page of the notes overview - a compilation from the Power Point - but I think it is fun and helpful. I have seen some of the wondrous K-8 freebies - my material is for high school all the way up to college (sometimes!), so it is never as cute. Sorry about that.
       This FREEBIE is the first page of the Sonnet history. 
The definition doesn't include the rhyme scheme, the volta or turn - I leave that for the SECOND part - the teaching of form, which I am currently working on. 
but it is complete in the Petrarchan Conventions, which is very cool, and a great bargain. YOU CAN'T beat FREE!

I hope you enjoy it!!!

Keep learning, living, working and playing, 
- Gina

Monday, March 17, 2014

Final and 5th Part - Usual & Extraordinary Figurative Language. PerfettoWritingRoom(c)! With Definitions and Clarifications!

- Yea, the spring shall come, and seed shall harken upon the world new life.

And NOW for your edification. . . More figurative Language. But first a note on the bizarre "Discrepancies in the Number of Figurative Language Terms" Out There. Can I Get An Amen?

       As a student of language and terms and one who hoards books, I have come across numerous discrepancies in the number of terms that are considered figurative language. Some sites say there are three, others say seven. Others include ten. Is it me or is that a tad confusing? Perhaps a real definition is in order here.

The Definition of Figurative Language -
Figurative language is language that departs from literal meaning in order to impart an artistic, secondary, deeper or special meaning, or, in order to create an effect.

Some Fascinating Tropes and Forms that ARE NOT Figurative Language 

The main problem seems to be that the internet is filled with inaccuracies. Even I may be guilty of making a mistake. This being said, the main issue is figurative language versus figures of speech, and writing forms that heavily feature figurative language.  See the items below. All have wonderful and useful applications. They are not figurative language.

Allegory - is a form of narrative, NOT figurative language. If treated meanly and in its strictest sense, I suppose one could call it a "hyper-extended metaphor," but no, it is NOT really a hyper-extended metaphor, it is deeply respected fiction form. As such it should rightly stay in the realm of narrative. In Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queen, several of the knights literally stand for virtues. What occurs to them is meant to be a lesson for the readers. Other examples are John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress - the title really does says it all. While it reads like a story and adventure through many trials and lands, the goal of the soul is to get to heaven, and each character quite plainly stands for characteristics one must have (or not have) and rules as to how to ascend to heaven. Lastly, The Crucible and Animal Farm are considered allegories.
           The allegory must be respected as a NARRATIVE FORM that heavily relies on figurative language.

Parable - used by Jesus, pastors and rabbis the world over, and in literature as well, parable is very much in the same category with allegory when it comes to its reliance on figurative language. Like allegory above, a parable is a narrative, and deserves the respect afforded it. It is its own FORM, one that uses figurative language. It tells for example, the story of the mustard seed, in order to instruct people on ways to live their lives better. It might be called, a "super-extended metaphor" but a parable is a tool for teaching people and instructing them. It is a story with a moral, and as such, a  parable is a form in and of itself. It is useful to know what a parable can do and understand that it is a NARRATIVE FORM that relies heavily on figurative language.

Alliteration -  Some sites, and yes, teachers, have included alliteration, which I know to be a sound device used for musical effect in poetry and as such is NOT figurative language. It really is best served in a poetry unit, alongside assonance, consonance, meter and scansion. THAT would be a fantastic unit. Give your students some poems to analyze, label appropriately, and then discuss! But no, alliteration isn't really using language in a figurative way. It is using words literally, but choosing words that have a certain musicality to effect one's response or pleasure when it is read aloud. Not quite the same thing. Alliteration is the use of similar consonant sounds at the beginning of words that are near each other, in case you were wondering.

Analogy - often confused with simile, an analogy is two sets of pairs. "Rooster is to hen as bull is to cow," is an example of an analogy. It uses the construction "is to" and " to" and does not use "like" or "as" nor is it as simple as similes, which are figurative language sentences which are artistic in nature. Rather, an analogy is a logical statement and form of argument.

Oxymoron - Not figurative language. Ah jumbo shrimp, how I mourn your loss of status! But still, you are delicious. Other examples are: deafening silence, the song title "Sounds of Silence," bittersweet chocolate, depression that puts the sufferer into a "living death." The reason I argue this is because terms like these have simply developed over time. Jumbo shrimp is now the name for that food, as is bittersweet chocolate, or in another situation, an explanation for how one feels at a loss; it feels bittersweet when one's child graduates and goes on to school. While artistic and fascinating, I don't feel it quite qualifies. You may disagree, and if this is case, please write in, and we can have a vote. I am putting this down as a figure of speech.

A Trope I'm on the Fence About
Paradox - different than oxymoron because it is a self-contradictory statement, not merely a word (or song title or phrase) that seems both true and false. This MAY BE figurative language as there are TWO meanings housed in the statement and depending on how it is taken, the point can be argued. Paradoxes are great fun for parlor games, riddles, and logic. Examples are: I'm nobody; I'm a liar. How do you know if I'm telling the truth?; You can save money by spending it; and there are of course other paradoxes you can play with.

Figurative Language I Advise Against Using

Technically This begins our list from our previous post. 

 Cliches? - (briefly covered in post one). Cliches do not have to be, but absolutely CAN BE FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE, especially those cliches that are metaphors, similes, or use personification.
          But here is the bummer about cliches, and I'm sure you all know what I'm going to say about it. Cliches are ANY form of writing that is now so ubiquitous that it should be avoided. Technically it is a "Figure of Speech" and I am sure of the thousands or even millions of cliches out there, many are metaphors or similes that are now commonplace and overused. I'm sure you've heard the term "as proud as a peacock"? This is an example of a cliche that is ALSO a SIMILE, and one that maybe you should consider retiring in your writing, if not in speech.

13. Idioms - Idioms are in fact figures of speech and fine examples of figurative language. They are considered figurative language because they are non-literal language for other words. HOWEVER, while we often use these idioms in real life, they truly DRAG DOWN our writing because, like cliches, they interfere with originality. Too many of us use cliches and idioms. The goal is to find an original voice and words of our own. While these qualify as figurative language, I'm putting these on a warning list.
           Some examples include: over the hill (for being old); under the weather (being ill); let sleeping dogs lie (don't get involved); don't beat a dead horse (stop being repetitive); tie the knot (get married); it's apples and oranges (it's difficult to compare these items); A watched pot never boils (stop hovering! or, leave it alone); a lot on my plate (I'm very busy and have a lot to do); at death's door (about to pass away); fender bender (car accident).

14. - Onomatopoeia - when a word's pronunciation imitates the sound of the item it is meant to convey. For example a frog croaks, a horse may whinny, a dog barks, and all of these words have specifically been made to sound like the noises the animals make. Water does not only rush, for example. You can say that the water gurgles, and this is more figurative. Even the shoes, flip-flops, were named for the sound they make when they hit the pavement.
         Let's not forget your comic book favorites: splat, bubble, babble, plunk, oops, whoosh, pow. At some point, you can make up some, as long as you go out and renew your poetic license. Don't go crazy of course, or the ranger will come out and revoke it. (Now I'm getting metaphorical. I just can't help myself). Notice that some of these onomatopoeia are interjections.

15. Puns - A play on words in which one element of the pun has a double meaning. Examples run rampant in little kid jokes: "Mama tomato and baby tomato were running up the street. Mama tomato turned around and stepped on baby tomato and said 'Ketchup.'" Another example is in that horribly annoying joke, the "Knock Knock Joke:
"Who's there?"
"Who's There?"
"Who's There?"
"Orange you glad I didn't say Banana?" Oh, ha ha.

A final example is: "I didn't know why I wasn't getting better at dodge-ball. Then it hit me. Again and again!"

And before we go. . .

A Warning to Writers on the Uses of Figurative Language - a Meta-Example, and Advice
As a writer, there are myriad writing exercises for figurative language. The key is not to overwrite. As a youngster, it can be exhilarating to don new techniques, layering one on top of the other. Take a twirl in front of of the mirror to see how they fit. For those of us who really love to overdress or to be the belle of the ball, we can end up weighed down and simply too ostentatious for the occasion.

The paragraph above is of course an extended metaphor - which we have talked about already - but it also makes an invaluable point. Sometimes, we just love our techniques. In our zeal to use and master them, we just don't want to give up the tools we have. The real artist may of course fall victim to overusing some of the lovely figurative language devices or tropes, but soon learns that to be effective, it is better to use the correct one, on the proper occasion, than it is to overdo it. The key is learning when and how to do this. And this is a lesson earned through practice.

I will leave you with this . . .

A thought is hatching in my brain.

How to use figurative language in an entire unit. 

As I am closing up my long list, I am thinking long and hard about how writers and teachers of writing and English can incorporate this information into a unit. I am thinking that within the month, I will have available a published:

  • Definition of all terms
  • Alternately, a Power Point version with definitions and examples
  • Worksheets on those terms that are most common/useful/interesting: onomatopoeia; personification with mention of anthropomorphism and pathetic fallacy; simile; metaphor; metaphor with tenor and vehicle; metonymy and synecdoche; hyperbole.
  • Quiz on all terms with KEYS
  • Perhaps a GAME? Who doesn't love a good GAME? 
Please stay tuned for ideas on how to implement these effectively in your writing and teaching practice.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Usual and Extraordinary Figurative Language PART FOUR! By PerfettoWritingRoom(c)!

This Photo, taken only a few months ago, 2014, in memory of Dorothy Parker, pioneer, female writer, and all around wit.


 I'd be a fool and liar both if I said metonymy and synecdoche were easy to tell apart. However, I love wordplay and if you read the differences and then follow the examples below, I think you'll begin to love these as much as I do!

11.   Metonymy – A trope in which a thing is represented by another thing that is near, around or closely associated with it. For example, when people refer to: 
  • The crown. . . they really mean the king, meaning the entire person, not just the crown he wears.
  • The bottle. . .  they really mean liquor in general,  not just the container that holds it.
  • Suits. . .they are referring to an entire class of business professionals who wear suits, not just an ensemble that these people might wear on a meeting day.
  • The White House. . .they may be referring to government, the governing body, and not to the building itself. 
  • Similarly, people may refer to Washington (the District of Columbia) where major political activities take place, even though it is actually district where many other, nonpolitical events take place.
  • "Coke" or "Coca-Cola," they may be referring to any dark-colored cola beverage that is near or closely associated with Coke. This would be using a Metonymy, and people do this all the time with brand names like Q-tips, Pampers, Cheerios and other brands out of habit. 
  • the statement . . . "Give me your John Hancock" they are referring to a signature in general, and playfully to the famous signature on the Declaration of Independence. In this way your signature is related to another's signature. They obviously want you to write YOUR signature, not Mr. Hancock's! 
  • or the saying “The pen is mightier than the sword”. . . they are referring to the written word or even legislation in general for "the pen," and for the "sword" they are referring to combat, war, or violence in general.
  • A sweet ride. . . referring to what a car does, and calling it that, a "ride," as opposed to a car.
  • "Let's get a keg." (A keg is the large container associated with beer)
  • "He drank the cup." (A cup is a container so closely associated with liquids that you understand you are not literally drinking the CUP, but its contents.)
12. Synecdoche - A figure of speech in which a part stands for the whole, or vice versa. If you look at the examples above closely, you will notice that they are not parts of the whole; all the the items are near, associated with, or related to the items mentioned. For synecdoche however, let's see if we can come up with some examples for you. All of these are examples of a PART standing for the whole. In order to make the differences crystal clear, just a few examples of Synecdoche are:
  • “Wheels” for a car. (Wheels are part of a car).
  •  “Two suns” for two days (the sun turning is a part of what makes a day.)
  •  “May I have your hand?" for marrying a person (hand is part of the body).
  • "Long-hair" for a hippie, (as this was usually part of a their distinguishing look).
  •  "Hired hands" for workers (hands are only part of the worker though we understand the meaning here) 
  • "We need a head count!" (heads count as entire people, using part for the whole).
  • "He got pumped full of lead" (Traditionally lead is part of a bullet's makeup)
  • Ivories for a piano and its keys 
  • Threads for clothes
  • Glasses - for eyeglasses or spectacles       
  • Pigskin for a football, based on the material it is made out of
  • strings, brass, for instrument types
  • "I will use my good silver" for cutlery or tableware, provided it is made of silver or at least silver plated.
  • plastic for a credit card (Plastic is what credit cards are made of).

Note: that synecdoche differs from metonymy in that metonymy is a trope in which a thing is represented by a thing that is near, around or closely associated with it. For a term to be synecdoche is must be PART of a larger thing, not merely near or associated with . 

PLEASE ALSO NOTE: WE Here are not Done! Not by a Long Shot!!! I hope you are reading and enjoying this figurative language tutorial. Our goal is to be informative and fun. Even more good stuff tomorrow!!! Keep reading, writing, living, growing, learning, laughing, and loving life!


Friday, March 14, 2014

Figurative Language - The Usual and Extraordinary - Part Three! by PerfettoWritingRoom (C)

A little secret is that what you are looking at above is really my husband's enormous hand-built, by scratch, ridiculous, over-the-top shed that, by the way, is make to look exactly like our house right down to the blue door, cream fa├žade and green shutters. A SECOND SECRET is that it is MY plan to make it my WRITING-ROOM-CENTRAL when he is not looking. Oh, I don't know how successful I'll be, maybe I'll remove all of the heavy machinery and put the pieces in the garage. Place my desk in there so that I can look out towards the largest tree in the yard . . . It can happen!
But I digress.
I showed up here today to continue our discussion of figurative language. If I recall correctly, we are on lucky # 7
7. Simile - one of the comparison tropes of figurative language, a simile compares two essentially dissimilar things using the word "like" or "as."  There is the short way to do this. Examples of short similes include "Sanford is as hungry as a bear," or "Though Philip loved her with all his might, Sandra remained aloof, separate and apart like the island on which they lived; though it was beautiful and charming, he would never know its secrets."
As you can tell from the examples given, the first simile is simple. The second is much more elaborate. This brings us to the second type of simile.

8. Epic Simile - a type of simile typically used in epic poetry, known for being so long and involved that it may obscure or interrupt the original thought being introduced.  To clarify, one may also call these epic similes Homeric Similes. A less extreme example of an epic or Homeric simile, taken from the Iliad is the following: "As when the shudder of the west wind suddenly rising scatters across the water, and the water darkens beneath it, so darkening were settled the ranks of Achaians and Trojans in the plain." Another example of an epic simile, longer and more involved, comes from The Odyssey when Odysseus regales the Phaecians with his tale of how he bested Polyphemus : "I drove my weight on it from above and bored it home like a shipwright bores his beam with a shipwright's drill that men below, whipping the strap back and forth, whirl and the drill keeps twisting, never stopping --So we seized our stake with it fiery tip and bored it round and round in the giant's eye." In this particular, second epic simile, it is fairly obvious that one nearly loses the logic and thread of the thought - that is how involves the simile is - until the "so we seized our stake" bit returns to save the sense of the sentence. An epic simile is very much a part of epic literature, the classic boast, and the speaker getting 'carried away' with his or her own comparison. This is not to say it bad! It does however need to be used properly. And no one can do it better than Homer.

9. The Metaphor - figurative language in which two dissimilar items are compared and in which two characteristics about them are said to be the same. In this case, there is no use of the word "like," or "as." In Romeo and Juliet, "It is the east, and Juliet is the sun" is a classic example of metaphor - we know Juliet is not the sun, though apparently for Romeo, Juliet must be for him the main star to which he gravitates. In this example as in many simple metaphors, the sentence uses the "IS" construction. One thing is another thing.
Then of course, there is the metaphor that does not use "IS." For example. "The cat's tail slithered around its owner's leg." This type of sentence is a bit more sophisticated, but in truth, writers may do this all the time unconsciously. It is part of who we are to compare elements to each other. A fantastic metaphor that I am borrowing, comes from J.K. Rowling (I use it in my literary term glossary and it's one of my favorite quotes): "There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you."
This brings us to some TERMS WITHIN TERMS. . .
The TENOR which is the subject of the metaphor. This would be Juliet in the very top example, the cat's tail for the second example, and blame in the third.
The VEHICLE is the image that carries the weight of the comparison. For each of the above, in order, the vehicles or images of comparison are: for Juliet, the sun; the cat, a snake; for coming of age, imagery of driving a car and steering.

10. Extended Metaphor - a metaphor that is much like an ordinary metaphor but longer. So much longer in fact that it can take up a considerable amount of space on the page. Though this is many years ago now, I heard about Will Ferrell giving a speech at Harvard. Lest anyone think that extended metaphors are only for Henry James, Twain, and Dickinson . . . well, good old Will Ferrell can give an extended metaphor in a speech. Let read it:
"I graduated from the University of Life. All right? I received a degree from the School of Hard Knocks. And our colors were black and blue, baby. I had office hours with the Dean of Bloody Noses. All right? I borrowed my class notes from Professor Knuckle Sandwich and his Teaching Assistant, Ms. Fat Lip Thon Nyun. That’s the kind of school I went to for real, okay?" Will Ferrell, Commencement Address at Harvard University, 2003)
Of course, you can create extended metaphors in poetry, as Emily Dickinon did in "Hope is the Thing with Feathers":

"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

"And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

"I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me."
(Emily Dickinson)

I will leave you with this thought . . . it is worthy, it is exhilarating, it is fun to attempt these in your writing, and to review these with your students and have them attempt these in their own writing. It's part of what makes writing so very enjoyable. Stop by here to learn and refresh what you know. Leave a comment, say something nice! And pop by my store to see my glossary of 90 literary terms.

TOMORROW more Figurative Language GOODIES!!!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Part Two - Figurative Language - Usual and Extraordinary - With Free Lesson Plans Ideas from PerfettoWritingRoom(c)

Yesterday, if you recall - and I hope you do! - we began an overview of figurative language.

      It began slowly with cliche and idiom. We will perhaps go BACK to that later.
      We ended with what I HOPE was an enlightening definition of hyperbole and an extension into its uses in fiction writing.

      Today, WE will discuss some of the other types of figurative language. Ones that you clearly know, and ones that you might not have heard of.

Let's start where we left off yesterday. With good old #4. PERSONIFICATION!

4. Not your Daddy's Personification. Personification is supplying inanimate objects and abstract ideas or actions with human characteristics. This is done in poetry, fiction, and more often than we think, in our ordinary day-to-day speech.

  • Traffic is just crawling!
  • I would have called you sooner but my cell phone wasn't cooperating.
  • Time just flew.
  • Why don't you wear this hat until the wind calms down?

All of these have the element of personification, even though you would never really think of them as such.
Really these are just examples of ordinary speech - idiomatic expressions even. Because each of these inanimate objects is doing something a human would do, it is considered an example of personification. Generally speaking personification is used in poetry and fiction for effect. Personification can be a a few words or a few sentences.
         Technically (and don't go crazy over this one) personification is a type of metaphor, because it compares one thing to another. We aren't even doing metaphor for a day or two though, so don't worry.

HOWEVER - there are other types of PERSONIFICATION!

5. The Pathetic Fallacy - ahhh. Doesn't that just ooze intellectual gravitas? The pathetic fallacy is a very specific type of personification, coined by John Ruskin and refers to the sentimentality found in poetry when all of nature and weather is imbued with emotion. When flowers dance and clouds sulk and rocks ponder in a stoic silence, you can be sure you have stumbled onto the pathetic fallacy.
        Now, critics and writers argue that the pathetic fallacy can be found in fiction as well, and that nature mirrors the feelings of the writer or narrator. Remember in poetry that the speaker may often be the writer, though in fiction the speaker is referred to as the narrator.
          Classically, the pathetic fallacy is considered an "error in reasoning" simply because weather and nature does not have emotion at all, let alone the emotions of the character. Despite the bad rap, writers may use the pathetic fallacy with subtlety to great effect. It is quite easy to see how it can become maudlin and overwrought, however.
            "The Friday funeral for Charlie dawned gray and colorless. Mabel looked out the window, then up at the sky which cried out its sadness for her and the world. The clouds unleashed a torrent of teardrops onto the soil, mourning alongside Mabel, but offering her no comfort."

If you think "Ugh. Maybe that is a bit much," we agree with you. Remember though you can use the pathetic fallacy carefully and in the right spots to strengthen your writing. So don't let my lousy sentence get you down. And don't let the word "pathetic" get you down either! It derives from the word pathos, or emotion. How about:

            "Charlie had always loved this sky. The vast heaven that only Oklahoma could show off, with its blazing blue dome.
        'Thanks for nothing,' Mabel said, and her eyes flew open as her lips moved. Had she really said the words out loud? What did her in was the smell. That ozone smell. She lifted the lace curtain and peered out to sky beyond. Not five miles away they'd be burying him, and out here, you could nearly see that far. The rain was coming, whether to laugh or cry at Charlie's death, she wasn't sure, but big, black thunderheads were forming, and she saw them now at the far edge of the world coloring the world an inky gray."

        EVEN IF you don't love this. . . you have got to admit this is a much BETTER example of the pathetic fallacy if I do say so myself. I'm here all week. Don't forget to tip your servers. . .!

6. Anthropomorphism - another form of figurative language, and subset of personification that applies human traits, behavior, and characteristics to non-humans, usually to animals. This is useful for many reasons. It creates wider audience appeal (Mighty Mouse can be enjoyed all over the world not just by a single race of people), enables the writer to handle upsetting topics (such as death in Charlotte's Web), or for satirical purposes (Animal Farm, anyone?). Lastly, anthropomorphism can be used as an educational device. There is no end to the list of children's books that use this technique to help young kids understand the world around them a little better.

                                                                   SO WHAT's NEXT???

PART THREE of Figurative Language, The Usual and the Extraordinary!
P.S. If you're waiting for Simile and Metaphor, don't worry, it's coming.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Synecdoche, Metonomy, and Simile, Oh MY! - Usual and Extraordinary Figurative Language Lessons

We all know how fun writing can be.
And we all know how CRAZY it can drive you when you are either
A. looking for that correct trope or device, or
or B. looking at those papers and realizing that God bless those students, they certainly have zeal but perhaps they lack finesse.

If you look at the product above, it is my newest writing product with SEVEN writing activities in it, reusable up to THIRTY TIMES! It is filled with the introductory information you might come to expect just by having read this blog:
  • A full glossary including thorough explanations on: character, characterization, flat, round, static, and dynamic         characters, direct and indirect characterization, sidekick, doppelganger, protagonist, antagonist, villain, foil, and show don't tell.
  • Hand outs specifically on Show Don't Tell (a master overview with guidelines and examples)
  • The differences, uses,  and pros and cons of Direct and Indirect Characterization, titled "Direct Versus Indirect: Is One REALLY Better Than the Other?"
  • Easy Reference "TIP SHEET" for Direct and Indirect Characterization for use when writing
  • "I Can READ 'em Like a Book: Writing Emotion Into A Scene Using Indirect Characterization" (7 Uses)
  • Character Data Sheets! Unlimited Uses - 3 powerful, inspiring pages to get you started on that character-driven story.
  • Character Expansion Task Cards - 12 Uses! Read the Card and get down to business!
  • Stock Characters - Defy the Mold!
  • Indirect Characterization Writing Exercise - 4 Uses
  • Guided Visualization (Great Fun, great results)
If you are interested in this handy writing item, by all means, check it out at

But NOW a QUESTION? How to PROPERLY USE FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE? How much is too much? When and Where to Use it? 
A writer writes. This is even more true for the budding writer. And sloppy, messy, purple prose writing is probably BETTER than weak and anemic writing. The goal is to just keep writing, just keep writing, and yes, just keep writing. I think I mentioned how a Pulitzer-prize winning author told me how he had three novels shoved unceremoniously in his closet and a hundred or more short stories in his desk - ALL REJECTED?? If this is not proof positive, and hope eternal that students and teacher-writers both should simply soldier on. . . well I don't know what is! In short, with practice, we all improve!
      Your little freebie for today is DOUBLE. Number ONE. . . a validation of writing. This is found on my Teachers Pay Teachers site. Yes, you can SEE it here. But if you click on the link below, you can go and get it, too. It is beautiful, and it is also life affirming and "write-affirming."

There is ONE more from that pack… if you go to the store. . . it is inside the download!!
MY second Freebie is information and THE TITLE OF MY POST. I know, I save the best for last. But it’s all a lovely process, just like learning, writing, teaching, and life, I suppose.
Cliche and Idiomatic Expression -
1. Cliche – What’s great and terrible about cliches is that students are familiar with them, and yet, not at all aware of how prevalent they are, as many of them have now become “figures of speech” that can work their way into our writing style and affect the writer’s voice.  The worst part of cliche is that while it can be fun to teach and review in class, this is NOT something we should aspire to have in our writing, even in dialogue. The same is true for our students. Earlier in my career, I advised students that perhaps their characters used cliches, but the longer I live my life as a reader of great fiction, the more I realize that I fall in love with writing and characters that are odd, quirky, original, and those things that are singular and that have the feel of elevated artifacts. That is a tall order for ANY of us. While it may feel impossible to accomplish. It may well BE impossible to accomplish. But it is a noble goal.  Therefore,  while using hackneyed, everyday and cliched language is often unavoidable because it nearly a reflex, we do ourselves and students little service to encourage the practice. On the first day of High school or university teaching, I encourage students to write the WORST they can, using cliches and every bad writing element they know. Then, we try our best to move on.
2. Idioms – Idioms can be confusing to us, to students, to EVERYONE. A fantastic product I really should make up would differentiate between cliche, idiom, proverb, and maxim. I believe there are even more! WRITE IN and share your thoughts. . . An exercise in which each in defined, examples are given and students are  encouraged to use each properly or invent their own would be a great lesson.
3. Hyperbole – this is a fancy term for “exaggeration for emphasis” – it has some great uses in fiction. While you are using “exaggeration for emphasis” you can make your hyperbole work double or triple time, though! It can be used by narrators speaking over confidently or hyper critically about their characters or setting;  I’m sure you know already that the author’s attitude is called the tone, and the narrator’s depictions of the setting and surrounding environment may affect the mood and atmosphere. What this means is that if the narrator is using hyperbole (positive or negative) about the characters it must affect the tone or give us an indication of the author’s attitude towards the subject being written about. And, when the narrator describes the setting, (for example, if it is exaggerated in its gloominess), this certainly will add to the mood and atmosphere! I bet you didn’t think  hyperbole could do all that!
              It gets BETTER! Hyperbole may also be used in dialogue for those characters who are literally exaggerating, which reveals much about their personalities. This is, as I am sure you know, just one of the seven methods of indirect characterization. (aren’t you glad you kept reading!) It can go a step further and become a plot device once the characters use hyperbole in dialogue in order to GET something. For example, if, at a ball or party, male characters are in the home of a lovely woman who just so happens to the only wealthy and unmarried woman left in this portion of the country, that may not mean much. When each decides to speak a little dishonestly, adding little bits that are beyond his abilities, talents, holdings, etc. it would be safe to say that each has stepped forward into the rising action of the plot; each will attempt to marry her, and it was through his hyperbolic speech that we can know his intentions.
The last example is quite singular, though an interesting one, and the idea of using hyperbole for a plot device is not new. In any case, there may be other ways in which hyperbole is used, whether for comic effect, insult or other – but these few suggestions alone provide a glimpse into how this figurative language can affect a story. I hope you see the possibilities!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Fun with Characterization - Fiction Writing Only - at PerfettoWritingRoom(c) - and Free Ideas. . .

Hi everyone, as Nathan Lane said in The Bird Cage, one does need a hint of color! In honor of good writing (and heck, why not, great movies too!) Here is the pin from my latest characterization is the "Characterization Glossary" a portion of "THE Characterization Master Course" - for those who need greater flexibility and don't really want all parts in the 82 page unit.

Now that the beautiful 82-behemoth is behind me resting on its virtual shelf at

I figured I could give all of you GRAND LIST OF IDEAS for characterization - So here they are to get you inspired.

These are ideas that I have employed in the large 82-page monster unit, followed by some I just couldn't fit in there. Please feel free to stop by and see what I've done, or, use one of these in your home as a writer or in your classroom as a teacher or professor. Characterization or setting really is the FIRST place to start when discussing story, and I'm happy I'm here with you at the start of our journey together.

Some ideas for you to ponder:

1. While I make sure, as you would that you or students understand the difference between direct and indirect characterization and showing versus telling. I also offer in my Characterization Master Unit definitions with guidelines on the eight ways to indirectly characterize....AFTER this is quite clear, I have four prompts deliberately given in frank "direct characterization" language.  The beauty is they can be revisited up to four times.

The goal is not merely to rewrite these as indirect sentences or even as paragraphs, but to create a character scene in which the direct telling statement is absolutely shown, and no words from the original statement are used. One example is "Lucinda was a daredevil who craved danger and excitement." As this is completely direct and telling, none of this except her name can be in the scene. All of it must be shown.

2. Stock characters are always debased and kicked around for their flat and stereotypical nature. Let students prove how many they can come up with and then, choose one, and break that mold by surprising the class with a nuanced and round UN-stock character.

3. Create a character scene by doing your own "visualization." YES. I know, it sounds very "a la artsy fartsy" but if you have a person do it for you, if you do it yourself like a guided meditation, OR, if you do it for students, the results are overwhelmingly positive. CHOOSE four or five places where people congregate and where you or students might like. "The talk" as we call it goes from vague to more specific, and really, there should be a lot of waiting, as the person imagines in their mind. Too much talking is distracting. First choose the place out of the four or five, then focus on the scene, the setting, the activity, then focus on the people, then find THE PERSON. Take it from there observing and taking it details using all five senses. Make your own script. This is the basis for a full character scene.

4. After you have done at least three of these (I have more of course) and you or students have a character that they like, use "Character Data Sheets" - these are unbelievably helpful because they can drive you nuts with inane and useless information - so hey, don't fill those parts out - and then, POW, it actually is the basis for an inspiration.  We included three pages in our Master Unit - so yes, it seems like a lot, but remember there are lines for writing in.

Lastly, I am now working to ONLY include the creative writing prompts for characterization with definitions, and am excising the quizzes and Analysis section. This means a unique fiction-writing only product and even more reasonably priced. And as always, feel free to use the ideas posted here, 'cause that's how we roll at the PerfettoWritingRoom (c)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Characterization Master Course is DONE! And, "Name as Characterization" FREEBIE?

And yes, it is now available for purchase at

    Have you ever felt wrung out? Well, eighty pages later, that's how I feel. I think I MAY take a break for a few days!!

          but before I do, I want to leave you with a fun, easy to do and gosh, do I DARE do it again. . . FREE item for you that is inside my "Characterization Master Course."  It's fair to say it would be better if you could "grab it" as you go on other sites. Believe me I'm working on it! And if anyone has any ideas??? You are welcome to contact me at

This is my business email. You tell me how to post Freebies, and I'll start doing it! In the meantime, you can look below, or wait until it is posted on the store. I'll let you know when it's up for grabs.

The Sweet Spot in Names and Characterization

In the meantime. . . I was thinking about the agony and ecstasy of names, product marketing, and its relationship to characterization. Sadly, naming your character "Slim" because he's skinny is usually as unhelpful as calling him Dave.
    The key in my opinion is to do as Emily Dickinson suggestion. Tell the truth but tell it slant. Instead of naming someone ironically or literally. . .

Chose words that inspire the imagination but, as Dickinson suggested, are indeed slant.

     In the carefully organized "Characterization Master Course," every detail is considered, the methods or ways in which to indirectly characterize, for example. One of the lesser explored methods is through the naming of characters.
      I once wen tot a doctor named - don't we WISH we could make this - Dr. Lambert Woolley. I was not actually working on a character for a story, nor even working on a name worksheet at the time. And drats for that. But how rich, how silly, or fun, or interesting, to the extent that it gives the finder of such a name (in particular me) IDEAS for character!!! Now THAT's a great a day at the doctor's office.
      A FREE suggestion is complimentary for my readers. Please no reselling or sharing. This is for you along as a writer, or as a teacher for use in your classroom only! Very soon, I will figure out how to attach (Does blogger have this ability?) If any reader knows, let me know. Otherwise I'll come back and give you all the address for the free download!