Write About Where you live(d)

Share your culture, your community and your geography


What is the author’s attitude toward his subject? When the reader answers this question, he or she will be reflecting on your tone, or the mode in which you choose to write your piece.

The Tragic Mode

In this curriculum the tragic mode goes beyond the dramatic concept of tragedy in which a hero of high estate is brought to destruction because of a flaw in his own character. Here, the tragic mode includes, as well, plays in which ordinary men are destroyed by their environment, poems which reveal a pessimistic view of life, works which discuss tragedy rather than present it, and generally, works which are dominated by doubt, sadness, despair, disillusionment, or some other sombre mood.

The Comic Mode

In the comic mode the author has selected and controlled his material so that the reader is amused and entertained. The characters and their problems engage the reader’s delighted attention without unduly arousing his concern, for he knows that the mishaps are never catastrophic and that all will turn out well in the end.

The Romantic Mode

The romanticist sees everything as a little bit better than real. His rose-colored glasses soften the harsh outlines of what is ordinarily ugly or painful to make it endurable or even appealing. He often idealizes the circumstances of life, especially what is remote in terms of either time or distance, and extols the simple virtues to make them appear greater or more abundant that they really are.

Valuing as he does what is simple, spontaneous and natural he tends to put great faith in his emotions and to look disparagingly on authority, discipline and social convention.

Listed under the romantic mode are poems that deal with love, beauty, patriotism, devotions, nature and youth; stories and plays that celebrate adventure, sacrifice, heroism, intrigue, romantic love and triumph over adversity; and non-fiction that tends to be personal and impressionistic rather than objective and analytical.

The Ironic Mode

Irony involves a contrast between what is and what could be – between what we expect and what we get. Whether we look at an individual’s deeds and goals or at mankind’s we see that they are often inappropriate to what we regard as valid circumstance. The twentieth century, which has won so many of the goals set by earlier generations, is marked perhaps more than any other by dissatisfaction, despair and violence. The loving go unloved, the hungry remain unfed, and the unworthy exercise power.

This kind of incongruity is one of the striking realities of human life and has always been a preoccupation of the author and poet. That it is so much in evidence today no doubt accounts for the tone of so much twentieth century writing, especially that of the sixties and seventies: the protest songs, plays and novels by “angry young men” and even the cynical humor of some television skits and monologues.

However, a contrast between expectation and actual outcome is not always a cause for outrage. Sometimes writers use the ironic situations in human affairs to intrigue or amuse the reader.

The philosophic Mode

The philosophic writer is the one whose works tend to be thoughtful, speculative and quite possibly inconclusive rather that factual and definitive. His writings might deal with the quest for knowledge, or be reflections upon the nature of good and evil, man’s destiny, man’s relations with his fellow man and with God, or death.

The philosophic mode is certainly not one that excludes qualities we see in other modes, no do other modes exclude the philosophic. A moment’s consideration of Hamlet, for example, shows the futility of regarding any mode as an exclusive category or, conversely, of considering any major work to be representative of only one mode. *mode denotes tonal quality

Exercise #1

Choose one of the tones for your writing voice, and tell the story of your photo – the place you lived – with that tone. E.g. humorous, philosophical etc. Stay consistent throughout.


Introducing mood deals with the emotions the author makes the reader feel in less direct ways – by sounds of the words she uses, the length and rhythm of sentences, the choice of images and their associations.

“Sometimes tone and mood are most effective when they are mismatched.”

Damon Knight; Creating Short Fiction; Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, OH; 1981

Knight’s comments explain the difference between tone and mood better than any other I have read. You can see that both are necessary in your writing.  Tone has a great deal to do with the writer’s voice – preferred style.  Mood is specific to the particular piece and will vary from scene to scene, character to character.

You can use different techniques to set your mood. Consider the difference between long flowing sentences and short choppy ones, a series of words used in a paragraph that have soft sibilant sounds (s, sh, f, soft c’s) and a set that repeat sharp, attacking consonants (hard g, h, k, hard c).

Exercise #2

Using the photo from one of the places you lived (assigned as homework), write a short paragraph describing the place in each of the following moods.

  • The character just received word he’s sold his book. (e.g. the room/building/landscape would appear brighter with light and colors, smell like roses, the sound of feet dancing over the tiles)
  • The character has just visited a dying friend. (e.g. room might appear sterile, empty, )
  • The character has received a threatening phone call. “I’m coming to kill you.” (e.g. shadows are ominous, closets are big enough to hide a killer, suspicious sounds abound)

“The novelist works with the things that pass unobserved by others,

captures them in motion, brings them out into the open.”  Joao Guimaraes Rosa


Setting is about images. Consider the images you choose to include in a scene, out of plethora of possibilities. The reader is set into the story. Does he know where he is: house, mountain? What time of day it is? What season? Where he is located in the setting? e.g. standing in the doorway of a room or in the center of the room. This information provided in word pictures and using the techniques llisted above creates the overall mood you want your reader to experience.

Exercise #3

Write the story of your photo place, making sure you choose your writing mode/tone, the mood you felt when you chose this photo, and the relevant facts of the setting.


Write down a dream you’ve had in preparation for session #5.

NOTE: Session #5 will not be posted until March 3.


WRITE YOUR LIFE – Session #3

Write Your History. Investigate the past and present and hand on a family history.

Exerise #1

List the people in your photograph. Make a list of the differences in the way they remembered what was happening when the photo was taken. (Your homework was to ask them their interpretation of the story.)

Choosing your POV

Point of view refers to the writer’s relationship to the subject of the composition. Here is a breakdown of the different POVs.

Omniscient Point of View

If you were writing an expository piece (an essay for University) you would use the omniscient point of view (you are standing outside the subject looking in)  You would use pronouns like (one would think, they might believe).

Informal POV

If you are writing narrative/an opinion editorial/a short story you might choose 1st person singular.  The pronoun I represents your POV.  This is the type of writing you do most, when you are explaining your beliefs, experiences etc.  to the reader. I saw my dad hugging my mom and [I is implied here] noticed that the monitor went berserk.  You could also create a character and then tell the story from her POV.  “I was born on the Isle of Skye in the year 1910.” Third person singular, he or she is also used informally.

Intimate POV

I am using second person singular point of view in The Chronic Ripple.  I address the reader as  “you”.  This could be applied in the singular so that a man or woman with Crohns would read “You might be in pain 80% of the time” and interpret it to apply specifically to her or him.  This is like the ‘tu’ in French and forms an intimate connection between the writer and the reader.

Impersonal POV

If I wrote in second person plural I would say “You form a great body of unidentified  people with invisible disease.”  Now I am lumping all the readers with Crohns  together.

Objective POV

If writing a newspaper article based on fact and interview you would use third person plural because you are speaking for others while remaining totally objective.  “The people who march on the legislature say they are angry. They believe the government is ignoring their needs.

Objective POV

You might, if writing a narrative choose 1st person plural – because you want to speak for a group of people.  Therefore you would use the pronoun “we”. We feel that the environment is in danger and the threat comes from all of us. You can’t use this POV when writing a story because the reader can only be in one character’s POV not know the all the feelings of a whole group of people at the same time.

Subjective POV

When quoting one particular person you switch to third person singular “He said his cattle are dying from lack of food and there is not market in which to sell them.”  “Aunt Beth says she lives a full life.  At 97 she still milks her own cows and plays organ at the church.”

Exercise #2          

Write a short version of the story in your photograph based on each of the following POVs:

  1. write from – 1st person singular (I) (e.g. you)
  2. alternate between two POV – I and he, (e.g. your mother and father)
  3. omniscient looking in knows what everyone thought (God like narrative)

Character Profile

Individual character

Name, age, birthdate, height, weight, hair, eyes, body type, health, related habits, personality, personal goals, professional goals, marital status, friends, relationships (past and present).

finances, responsibilities, hobbies,

fears, yearnings, sense of humor, flaws/weaknesses, strengths, surroundings

habits/quirks, favourite food, favourite colour, favourite music

Family History

Parent’s names

Ethnic origin

General physical characteristics

Attitude to protagonist


Economic Status


Marital Status



You should know 100% about your character before you begin writing. However, you will probably include only 20% of the information in your story. The 80% you don’t use, provides a sense of credibility and trust for the reader.

Prioritize what part of this information the reader should know.

Fill in pages that include all the above information and other bits.

To the portfolio for this character add:

  1. details from people you know
  2. How you will inform the reader
  3. Ideas for scenes in which you can show this information
  4. Photos that remind you of person, setting, events
  5. Props that remind you of a scene or action

Exercise #3

Write your photo story in the POV you’ve chosen, fleshing out the details from your character profiles.

Exercise #4

Write your photo story in the POV you’ve chosen, fleshing out the details from your character profiles.


Complete your Sign Posts with all the places you lived mapped on it. Bring a picture of one of the places you’ve lived.


WRITE YOUR LIFE – Session #2

Write Your History. Investigate the past and present and hand on a family history.


Signposts for your life

Create a linear map beginning with your birth and moving forward.

On that map set the following signposts. These signposts will point you in the direction of your stories, reminding you of things that happened in your life and what you learned from them.

Suggested process: On a piece of paper, quarter your life (divide into so many years a quarter) Write a list of all the things that happened to you in each quarter, using the signpost list as a reference.  When you have all your quarters complete (depending on your age), put your signposts in chronological order for each quarter and insert them on your linear map.

Life Signposts:

Birth, Present age, End of life, Serious illnesses, Major losses: parents, grandparents, children

Personal Signposts:

Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, Children born

Education/Career signposts:

Graduate: public school, high school, university, masters, doctorate, other; Career choices: moves, advancements; Recognition or Wins: awards, titles, etc.

Celebratory Signposts:

Memorable: birthdays, anniversaries, weddings; Births: children, grandchildren,great grandchildren; Memorable holidays or trips

Historical Signposts:

Things that particularly influenced your life, such as wars, new laws, regional changes, economic changes, crimes

Dates of particular relevance to you (Sept 11, Kennedy’s assassination, Elvis death, Trump inauguration)

Geographical Signposts:

Where you lived, when; where you went to school, holidayed, visited, travelled

Exercise #2

Write a short paragraph explaining the photograph you chose as your  homework for session #1, answering the questions: who, where, when, what and why succinctly. Don’t go into detail. Stick to the facts.

Plotting your story

Acts: generally (3) Beginning, Middle, End

Beginning ¼  Middle ½  End ¼

i.e. 12 chapter book B=3, M=6,  E=3

i.e. 2000 word story B=500, M=1000, E=500

Beginning (Introduction – who?)

The beginning tells the reader:

  • The main characters
  • What the story is about
  • The setting
  • Sets the tone of the story
  • Shows the style of the writer
  • Provides the pacing

The beginning contains a number of scenes. Each scene also has a beginning, middle and end, in similar proportions as above. Each scene must do two of three things:

  • move the action forward
  • Develop character
  • Provide information to reader

The beginning contains an Inciting Incident that:

  • kick-starts the story (begins the action)
  • forms the spine of the SKELETON
  • is action oriented
  • sets up the obligatory scene at the end of the story
  • may act as a prelude to the Turning Point

The turning point:

  • is usually at the end of the beginning
  • adds interest
  • keeps reader focused
  • turns action in new direction
  • sets out new events that necessitate new decisions
  • raises central question
  • moment of decision or commitment on part of main character
  • pushes story into the middle section or Act 2
  • takes reader into new arena – different focus for action

Between the set-up and end of Act I the reader needs to see:

  • The characters develop
  • The motivation (or back story of each character)
  • The MEAT or as much as possible of the pacing, mood and visual landscape

Middle (complications – what?)The middle is the toughest part to write. It takes up ½ the story length. It continues to put the MEAT on the SKELETON. The middle:

  • Is a sequence of events triggered by the central characters response to inciting incident
  • Must have twists and turns to keep the readers interest
  • Provides expectation of the characters which results in action or reaction on their part (cause and effect)
  • develops cycles of action that raise the stakes higher, demands more from the characters and involve them in greater risk.
  • Shows complications and conflict building to a crises and/or climax and eventual resolution.
  • Pushes the characters to the point of no return
  • Shows characters taking action that causes something to happen that makes the situation worse
  • The gulf between expectation and results creates an emotional gap
  • Characters are forced to make new choices that move the story along
  • Middle has up close details and dialogue
  • Continues characters emotional growth and places reader inside character to feel what character is feeling

We create momentum in our middle or Act 2 by:

  • Providing a barrier. A main character attempts something that doesn’t work.
  • Providing complications. A happening that doesn’t pay off immediately and gets in the way of intentions. Sometimes this is the beginning of a new through line or subplot.
  • Providing a reversal. This turns the story 180 degrees. Negative becomes positive or positive becomes negative. It often becomes Act 2 turning point – when all is lost
  • Providing a mid act crisis. Something happens halfway through the story that upsets equilibrium and forces emotional response.The end of the middle speeds up the action to make Act 3 more intense. It provides a sense of urgency (like the ticking clock with only so much time before the worse thing that can happen happens). It has two parts, the darkest moment or denouement, followed by new stimulus.

End (Pay-off – how?)The ending begins with the new stimulus following the mid act crisis or turning point. It is another try by a character. The ending:

  • Is short
  • Falls into place naturally
  • Resolves both plot and subplots
  • Leads up to the climax
  • Solves conflict
  • Provides final irreversible decision on part of character
  • Answers central question
  • Gives reader what she/he wants, in an unexpected way

Exercise #3

Now write your story using the photo you brought from session #1 and what you have learned about beginnings, middles and ends. Include it in your collection under the correct heading. You have one story complete. Congratulations!        


Choose a photo of a family happening. Contact each person in it, and ask him/her to tell you the story from their POV. Write them down in point form and have them ready for Session #3.

Your Journaling:

How is it going? Any break throughs, disappointments? Continue to journal each day.