A Blog About Witing and the written word

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Character Development

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It is not often that I have deep conversations with kids but when I do, I tend to brag about it, so brace yourself.

Diego recently began to write his own stories (see? I told you I would brag). Over dinner, we were discussing his character, Dragon Boy, and how Diego felt he was “stuck.” I asked something about Dragon Boy’s childhood and Diego replied – rolling his eyes, of course – “It doesn’t matter, Mom! That part is not in the book. The story begins when Dragon Boy is a teenager.”

Oh, but it does matter! We may not need to include every second of our characters’ life in our story, but it does help us to get to know them better so we can anticipate how they will react to the events we put in their path. Your story, especially if it’s a short story, will be only a glimpse of your characters’ life. Yet, you do need to know in your head many details about them so you have separate individual characters rather than the same character with different names.

Now, I realize that I’m in no position to give writing advice to anybody (other than to my kid) but here are some useful tips that I learned from Linda Seger in her book Creating Unforgettable Characters (Owl Books, 1990):

  • Figure out their background; it will give you context. Create a family tree! Think about your own experiences and the ones from people you know and make the rest up! In the words of Linda Seger, “Character is created through a combination of knowledge and imagination.”

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  • Paradoxes and emotional layers make for complex characters. Include in their backstory information from the following aspects of your character’s life: Physiology (age, sex, appearance), Sociology (occupation, education, religion, political affiliations) and Psychology (moral standards, attitude towards life, temperament, personality).

  • Interview your characters. But make sure you ask questions to bring emotions rather than just facts (i.e., “How did you feel when your dog died?” vs. “What was your dog’s name?”).

  • If you need inspiration, go nostalgic. Dive into your own childhood memories or your grandma’s memento box.

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Keep this information handy so you can refer to your notes and be consistent with each character’s nature.

As for Diego, he overcame writer’s block and is now writing his second story ;)

Entrada #4, originally written Miércoles 22 Noviembre 2017

DIY Photography

6 Simple DIY Photography Tips to Boost your Business

We are naturally drawn to images. An image can help us to communicate emotions, core values, or the story behind a product. This is especially important for small business owners: the right image on your website has the power to invite readers to browse through and want to learn more about your business, while poor images may drive a potential customer away.

A visually attractive website and carefully curated social media can go a long way. If you can afford it, professional photography is always a great investment on your business, but even if your budget is limited there are always ways to add photography to boost your business.

You can buy royalty-free images from any stock photography site. Just make sure you get a license that allows you to use the image for commercial purposes. Most of stock photography sites offer this license at a very affordable price. However, stock images are not always the best choice as you might want to include your product or your own staff in the picture, which is always best as it makes your business look authentic. Do-it-yourself photography might seem intimidating but it’s easier than you think and the results are worth it. Here are six simple tips for great DIY photography.

1. Find Good Lighting
A dark or poorly lit photograph is a turn-off, so find the best possible lighting – I personally prefer natural light – and avoid artificial light, which can cause your photographs to take on an unattractive tone. Move closer to a window to get the best light if you are shooting indoors. Ideally, the light should come mostly from one side. Also, try looking at the way light catches your object, and then adjust it so there are no distracting shadows.

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2. Play with Composition
Look for rhythm and balance, and try to avoid large empty areas or chunks of clutter. If you are showing an object only partially (which is very fashionable these days), make sure it can be easily identified and that it adds beauty to the image. Otherwise, this technique may look like it’s an oversight, instead of adding style and visual appeal.

Play with the space. Try placing your subject slightly to the left or right rather than centered, which makes it seem static and boring.

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Mondegreen for Antonia Natural

3. Create an Uncluttered Background
You want your subject to stand out and grab attention, so make the most of your image. Busy backgrounds are distracting, making your product hard to appreciate. Find spaces that enhance your product, rather than the ones that might bring it down.

 
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Mondegreen for Oliva 60

4. Dress Up Your Setting 
Use what you have around you, or invest in a few simple props to “dress” your setting and establish a mood, such as decorating with fresh flowers. For example, if you are photographing food, add items to complement your product: a loaf of bread, an embroidered napkin or some vintage plates.

 


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 Mondegreen for San Angel Foods

5. Editing

If your picture isn’t perfect, don’t worry. There are a few very affordable (or even free) editing programs that can help you adjust lighting or crop unwanted things. Just remember that if the picture had poor composition to begin with, no amount of editing can help you rescue the image.

_blog_english - 5-Ost-5-copy-2-42680e12_8.jpgMondegreen for Ost Gourmet

6. Have Fun! 
The most rewarding thing about this experience should be that you did it yourself. Enjoy playing with the light and the elements that compose your image. Try different things until you are satisfied with the result, and don’t forget to share a couple of behind-the scenes shots on your social media feed.

 

Entrada #3, originally written Martes 14 Noviembre 2017

Pick up a Craft

Pick up a Craft

One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever received is to pick up a craft. Any craft.

When I was studying for my certificate in screenwriting, I got stuck on a scene and my academic advisor suggested, “Pick up a craft”. She must be crazy, I thought. I’ve never been good at any kind of crafts. Hesitating, I choose embroidering because when I was a little girl my mom used to embroider my dresses and I thought this would be the least threatening craft. It worked! When your hands are busy with a mechanical task your mind wanders to magical places and you can freely think about your characters, what they’re like, what their background is, how they would feel!

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Over the years this has helped me to write, especially because I’ve been working on a historical novel set in Mexico in the 1920s where women did a lot of needlework and somehow, by doing this, I feel connected to my characters. This doesn’t mean you have to pick a craft that your character might have used! You don’t need to start digging a ditch to get into your “Shoveling Joe” character’s mind or that you’ll need to try to learn macramé if you are afraid it may affect your coolness.

Just pick anything you enjoy and that relaxes you! It could be painting, gardening, cooking (I’m personally not allowed to be distracted while in the kitchen, but go for it), even sanding wood! Make sure you have a notebook next to you to jot down all your thoughts.

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Now, don’t make the same mistake I did once, getting myself a mind-numbing data-entering job because I thought “It will allow me to write in my head while I do something mechanical.” It didn’t. Instead of writing in my head and thinking about my characters, I dove into the self-pity pool and was miserable.

So, pick a craft and let your mind wander while your hands do the work. The rest will follow.

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Entrada #2, originally written Miércoles 8 Noviembre 2017

Why Mondgreen?

Why Mondgreen?

 

One of the most exciting – yet most challenging – things about starting your own business is to come up with a good name.

It’s a rare opportunity to get to name something! Unlike when you are naming your kids, you don’t have to compromise (that is, if you are in a sole proprietorship. Otherwise, good luck!). When it’s your company, the name can be anything you want…well, almost anything.

 cup of tea

     Finding a good name is more than choosing a word that sounds pretty. There are many other things to consider: your business’ character and angle, your audience, whether the name is easy to pronounce and to remember. You also need to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of naming the business after yourself (read here a blog post from talented Emily McDowell from Emily McDowell Studio). Then, you have to make sure the name you choose is not already registered by someone else and that the domain is available. So, the whole process was a bit more complicated than I thought!

     I began obsessed with the idea of including the word “magenta”, because it’s one of my favourite colours and because it’s spelled the same both in English and Spanish (it’s pronounced differently, though). I wanted to combine magenta with a character or an editing symbol so the name would go well with the focus of the business, but then I realized that “magenta” suggests graphic design rather than editing, and we don’t offer design services (yet).

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I went thorough a myriad of potential names, covering every single combination of words, symbols and colours. During this process, Aeolidia’s tips helped me to stay sane (most of the time). If you are not following Aeolidia's blog yet, do it. It is an amazing source of inspiration and useful (free!) tips for small business owners.

     From my obsession with magenta I moved to an obsession with the & symbol, the ampersand. I thought “Marvan & …” would be nice but it sounded too lawyerly (plus I would have to come up with an imaginary partner). I had to have the ampersand somewhere as I found it so beautiful and a perfect visual representation of language. So, I started digging into the origins of the symbol and I came across a blog post that mentioned the word ampersand was “a mondegreen”. Hmm, that sounds pretty!

     A mondegreen is a mishearing or misinterpretation of a word or phrase (most commonly a lyric in a song), in a way that gives it a new meaning. Think of the Alphabet Song and how, as a four-year old, you thought “ellemenopee” was a cool, yet very long consonant. It may make sense in your head but it’s often incorrect.

     According to Wikipedia, American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in her essay "The Death of Lady Mondegreen", published in Harper's Magazine in November 1954. The term was inspired by a misinterpretation of the line "...and laid him on the green" from the Scottish ballad "The Bonnie Earl O' Moray".

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,

Oh, where hae ye been?

They hae slain the Earl o' Moray,

And laid him on the green

When Wright was a little girl, she thought the last line said “And Lady Mondegreen”.

And thus, the word was added to the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate dictionary in 2008.

     I immediately fell in love with the word. It was perfect for a business about interpreting from one language to another and revising misinterpretations. It was love at first sight!

     The design team at Tomate Design did an amazing job on the logo, letting me include an ampersand, the beautiful symbol that led me to the word Mondegreen.

Entrada #1, originally written Jueves 17 Septiembre 2015