Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Zombies and Demons and Ghouls Misused? Oh My!

Hannah Carr

Incorporating supernatural characters and elements into a story brings a darker theme. There are endless possibilities of what can be done using legends involving demons, werewolves, vampires, zombies, and ghouls.

Changing details such as abilities and characteristics in lore adds a creative twist to stories, but don’t stray too far away from the original. The farther away details get from what is known throughout the world, the riskier it becomes. However, that doesn’t mean a writer can’t get creative and add their own special touch.

Before writing a story, the first approach is to do research. Each supernatural being has its own lore. There are the basics that the majority of people know, but a good story heavily depends on the details. Without using vital information, a story can fail.

One of the most frequently used monsters is vampires. These creatures don’t require a lot of research if you’re not going too deep into the myth. The basics that normally get used for vampires are: fangs, drinking blood, deathly pale skin, and glowing red eyes.

Readers love seeing unique takes on the ancient myth, but only when they make sense. The “Twilight” book series changes specific aspects to intrigue readers. Instead of vampires turning to dust in the sun, these vampires sparkle. The change produced mixed feelings from fans. Some believed that the change fit the story while others found it cheesy.

Tweaking a few known ideas about a mythological creature isn’t always bad. Zombies are pictured as slow-moving creatures, but in the story “World War Z,” they become the opposite. The walking dead changes into the running dead. While it is a major detail, giving the zombies speed intensifies the story. These undead monsters still accurately present the ancient lore even with such a major twist, and it doesn’t distract readers from the story.

Changing the lore sometimes gives a refreshing splash, but keep in mind that a story is only as good as the details. Supernatural creatures create a special addition to stories, but only after fact checking to accurately portray the myth. A book that doesn’t incorporate specific elements might turn your readers away.

Hannah Carr attends Calumet College of St. Joseph in Whiting, Indiana as a junior. She is the head editor for the school newspaper and a member of the Media Club. She previously worked for Sturgis Journal in Sturgis, Michigan. During the school year, Hannah competes on the cross country and track teams as a captain. Hannah intends on becoming a journalist for sports and pop culture.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Reading a Short Story through a Writer's Eyes

Bich Vu

A writer discerns perceptions in a way that makes one become a great storyteller. Reading the works of writers, one can develop and craft one's own perceptions for stories. There are many ways to read and comprehend a short story through a writer’s eyes.

First, one should read slowly and reread to understand the writer’s perspective. At a slow speed, you would likely grasp the writer's way of seeing and thinking about the world. You also predict how the writer brings his or her point of view into the story. With reading in this manner, you tend to possess good vision and amazing thoughts to create your own world through a writer's eyes.

Second, reading a short story through the writer’s eyes is an enjoyable and exciting way to read. Focusing on the techniques that the writer uses to communicate the message, you read deeper insights into the story. You also probably ask how those techniques affect your life as you experience the short story. With a writer’s eyes, you can confirm why and how the writer used the sentence structure and the plot in the story. You then can create from imagination and develop strong storytelling abilities. Reading short stories will help your brain develop a writing style whether the stories are from newspapers, magazines, or novels.

Third, when you read through a writer’s eyes, you attempt to answer the questions: How does the writer reveal the main idea? What types of details does the writer use? How does the writer achieve his or her purpose? How does the writer’s choice of words affect the reader? How does the writer not only use the technical conventions but also use tone, voice, place, chronology, and organization to make the story more attractive? If one can answer all these questions, one might improve knowledge and writing skills.

Fourth, you need to ask other questions when you reread the short story. You possibly might find some new experience or recall experiences from your past. In my experience in reading a short story, I enjoy reading a thrilling adventure, a remarkable discovery and a magical journey with the character in the story. Harry Potter is my favorite. A little genius boy had a fantastic journey and destroyed the dark force. When I was deep into the story, I felt those details become realistic by asking questions: What is the major conflict in Harry Potter? It seems as if I was walking into another dimension where I found beautiful images and a fascinating world.

In short, while it may be easy to comprehend a short story, knowing how to ask a good question and create an exciting story is essential. Hence, reading with a writer's eyes, you might understand more deeply by using the questions WHAT? WHY? and HOW? Understanding the writer's perspectives and styles, you will figure out the messages hidden in the story that the writer wants to convey. With great questions, you can dig deeper into the writer's style. The questions also help you to explore and connect to other characters from the stories that you read. Truly, there are many ways to read and comprehend a short story through a writer’s eyes. 


Bich Vu is a senior at Calumet College who came from Dong Nai, Viet Nam. She will graduate from Calumet College of St. Joseph with a degree in English Creative Writing in December 2018. She wants to make a meaningful contribution with her critical, analytical and creative writing skills.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Overcoming Overwriting: The Art of Consolidating Thoughts

Kellyn Vale

We’ve all been there, writing a piece, drilling down thoughts as quickly as our brains will allow. Each idea seems more profound than the next until suddenly we come out of our creative haze and realize our 500-word short story has evolved into a 10-page jumble of words!

As creative writers, it can be difficult to tame all the ideas fighting to get out of our heads. There are countless ways to approach even one topic, and if you’re like me, you get personally attached to your sentences on an emotional level. You’ve created them from nothing, you see such potential for them, you desperately want them all to work, yet you have to cut something out! These can be some of the toughest times for us writers, but no need to fear! Here’s a process you could try to deal with those heart-wrenching moments when you have to *gasp* condense your precious thoughts.

Step 1: Make an Outline

Creating a basic outline of your piece before you write can help you stay on track by immediately pointing out the major details you want to focus on. It gets the wheels turning in your brain, and once you clearly identify the points you need to get across, your subconscious will already naturally be focusing on those when you begin your writing phase.

Step 2: Write Everything Out (and I mean EVERYTHING!)

When writing your piece, put every single thought you have on paper; don’t overthink it, just let it flow and blast words onto the page until you’ve drained your brain of all ideas related to your piece – key words being “related to the piece.” You want your thoughts to flow, but you also want to keep them on topic. I call this an “Objective Subject Word Splurge.” This step is similar to freewriting, but with slightly more direction. With a free write, your train of thought may make stops on several different topics. For example, you may begin free writing about experiences in nature, then shift your thoughts to forests, then to rivers, then to bodies of water, then the ocean, then the beach, then summer . . . and before you know it your mind went from nature to eating a popsicle in the sand and the content of the piece falls apart. With a free write you’re just a passenger riding the train of thought, whereas with a subject splurge you’re the conductor.

Step 3: Revise and Reread: Chop ‘til You Drop!

This probably sounds like old news to you seasoned writers, but never overlook the importance of a few quality revision sessions; read it on the computer, print it out and read it, is the whole passage in line with the theme of the work as a whole? Most editing tends to take the form of hunting for grammar errors and making sure the general organization of the piece flows. When your focus is cutting down on words, however, revising has to be a little more specific. For this step, refer back to the outline you made in step one. Revisit those key ideas that you absolutely need to include, and then go over all the content you’ve written; read it out loud – do some parts stand out as outliers that don’t really belong? They don’t fit no matter how bad you might want them to, like puzzle pieces from the wrong box. Identify those, and give them the axe; if a sentence does not directly contribute to developing those key thoughts into a masterpiece, then (you guessed it) out it goes!


Chopping words and sentences out of your piece doesn’t mean you have to throw them in the metaphorical fire and lose them forever! After identifying what needs to go, don’t just delete it and never see it again, cut and paste it into a new document or folder and come back to it later; if it’s really that good of a thought, you’ll come back to it and create a whole new masterpiece of words, I guarantee it. Maybe even something you never imagined would come from its original purpose!

For many writers, consolidation is a brutal process. However, if you approach it with an open mind and positive outlook, it can feel cleansing and leave us feeling lighter at the end of the day; don’t be afraid to cut things out, it could benefit you more in the end.

Kellyn Vale is a 22 year old student at Calumet College of St. Joseph. She has a passion for running, coffee, and writing. Kellyn is currently working as a New Media Journalist for Ideas in Motion Media and plans to continue to incorporate writing into her future career.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Inspire Creative Writing by Creating Art

Shelbey Collins

INTRODUCTORY NOTE: IWC thanks Professor Janine Harrison and the students in her Editing class at Calumet College of St. Joseph in Whiting, Indiana, for providing the posts to round out the final year of the IWC blog. Here is the first one.

Writing ideas can be sparked by almost anything, but working in an illustrated journal is my favorite way to get my creative juices flowing. An illustrated journal is the art of daily life, a workshop for ideas, and a practice of attention and creativity. Creating a journal can help you balance self-reflection, creation, an exercise for the mind. Just like a normal notebook or journal, an illustrated journal is a great way to write down ideas, feelings, and stories. However, an illustrated journal takes your creativity a little further. Every journal is unique; some journalists draw with markers or pencils, some paint with watercolors and acrylics, some even make collages out of scraps of newspaper articles or old photos. Some of my favorite ways to get an idea for the next page in my journal is by listening to music or taking a walk outside. Anything can be turned into art, and the act of creating it will help spark even more ideas; some that might even aid in your writing. It doesn’t matter how you artistically depict your thoughts, just the act of expanding your mind and looking at ideas in a different way can help spark a new creative side to yourself that you can implement in your writing.

The thing is, as writers we sit and ponder, racking our brains for something new and inspiring to write. But this can put us all in what many people call “a writer's block.”  Starting a journal filled with colors, ideas and photos is a way to let your creative side prosper. According to “Artist network,” “Art journals open doors to our unique brands of creativity as places to plan, dream, respond to something that catches our eye and process the events in our lives.” This is a way to “Trace your creative path.”

You don’t have to be an amazing artist. Heck, you can be terrible! This illustrated journal is for you, and you alone. Hear a poem you like, draw the picture you see in your mind when reading it. Find a news article, cut it out and paste it in! There are no limits to an illustrated journal, and that is exactly why it the perfect way for creative writers to expand and see their thoughts on paper but in the form of art!

I have included some of my own journal pages. Most of these were illustrated after I had read a poem or seen a piece of artwork that I loved.
Inspired by Fiddler Jones excerpt from Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology.

"Whatever it was I lost, whatever I wept for
Was a wild, gentle thing, the small dark eyes
Loving me in secret" -- "Milkweed" by James Wright
Drawn after an English professor referred me to the poem 
"Not Waving but Drowning" by Stevie Smith because he noticed 
that I always seemed panicked whenever I raised my hand for a question.
A rendition of Monet's Water Lily series 1897-1899.
Shelbey Collins is a junior English major specializing in both creative writing and communications. Shelbey enjoys dancing, journaling and spending time with family and friends. Shelbey hopes her love of writing, travel and art can lead her down a path to a future career in travel journalism.