10 poems that look like what they mean

Great examples of visual poetry and typography!


By May Huang

Poets employ various means to get their message across in their poems, ranging from rhyme scheme to alliteration. However, poetic meaning can also be translated visually through a form termed “concrete poetry;” indeed, numerous poets experiment with line breaks and typography to present their work in a way that ‘looks’ the way it is supposed to ‘mean.’ Here are 10 poems whose meanings lie in their appearances:

1) George Herbert – Easter Wings


Published in 1633, George Herbert’s Easter Wings is the oldest concrete poem in this list. A poem about flight in its metaphorical sense, Easter Wings aptly takes the form of a pair of wings (the likeness is even more remarkable if you rotate the poem 90 degrees to the right).

2) 40-Love by Roger McGough

The English poet Roger McGough sends readers’ eyes travelling to and fro the way a tennis ball would across…

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Essential writing skills: lessons in dialogue

Once you know the rules, you can creatively break them for effect. Great post on using misspelling stylistically.

Matthew Wright

I realised recently that my standard conversation in any take-away always goes something like this:

“Hi, I’ll have a Super Glob Burger, hold the ketchup thanks.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t understand the question.”
“Could you repeat that please?”
“You mean, do I want chips with that? Yes please.”

My Adler Gabrielle 25 - on which I typed maybe a million words in the 1980s. My Adler Gabrielle 25 – on which I typed maybe a million words in the 1980s.

What does that tell us about writing? First point is that it’s obvious who was speaking – all without a single “I said”, “he said”, or anything else.

More crucial is the mis-spelling. I did that deliberately. What impression does it give of setting and character? A bored burger slider? Background clatter? Me having trouble figuring it out? All of the above? I didn’t say – and that’s important, because it makes the reader think. However, mis-spelling is a trick authors…

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Essential writing skills: he said, she said – without adjectives

Great thoughts on showing not telling!

Matthew Wright

Have you ever tried writing dialogue without all the ‘he said’, ‘she said’ nonsense? It’s an effective technique, though it’s easy to say ‘do this’. Harder to master.

Ernest Hemingway ( J F Kennedy Presidential library, released to public domain) Ernest Hemingway ( J F Kennedy Presidential library, released to public domain)

Hemingway set the gold standard – half-page strings of dialogue, often without any directions at all as to the speaker– and it was usually clear as to who said what.

The reason he took that angle is that the onus is on writers to show, not tell – and how better to show than by revealing the esssential meaning through the dialogue, rather than making the reader wade through instructions about it? Hemingway was the absolute master of the technique.

How did he do it? Any dialogue that’s well written should, ideally, speak for itself. The character of the character, shall we say, should come through in the choice of words…

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If it’s worth a thousand words, prove it!


Flickr is a fascinating site which showcases extensive creativity and talent. If you need inspiration and love photography, check out Flickr’s explore option or Google image search works just as well.

Find a picture you connect with and feel you can write about. Choose a format (script, poetry, short story, etc.), and off you go!

Writer’s block already? Things to ponder when analyzing your picture of choice and brainstorming…

  1. What is the conflict?
  2. Are there contrasting elements? What does this contrast reveal?
  3. What can you compare? Use figurative language like a simile or metaphor.
  4. What other perspectives could you play with? Choose a different angle than most writer’s would. How can you utilize personification?

Famous lines! Prompt of the day

Find an intriguing line from a book you have never read (Google is great for this), and finish the story with your own ideas.

When using the web to search for famous literature excerpts, try using key words like “famous book openings,” “best lines from literature,” “famous first lines,” or check out an earlier post of mine with a great list of my favorites. 

For example, here is a line from Auster’s City of Glass: “It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not.”

I have never read City of Glass, but I find this small piece fascinating and am left with many questions I want to answer, such as:

  1. Why was someone calling so late?
  2. What did the voice sound like? What was its tone?
  3. Who was the person the caller was looking for? Was the name familiar?

As you are exploring your own writing, remember: if the prompt contains someone else’s wording, do not include the author’s phrasing. Your writing must be entirely yours.

Be your own ruthless editor!


All writers have to be a bit schizophrenic I think. It is a craft which requires you become not one, but two people, a writer and an editor.

The writer is the ‘you’ who provides the words, he or she is free-thinking and open-minded, working on blank pages where anything is possible and ideas can roam wild. The editor comes along afterwards and has to be someone who doesn’t care for the feelings of the writer one jot, only for the quality of the work.

427px-Ernest_Hemingway_1950_cropThe editor has words to judge and judge them he must because, as Ernest Hemingway pithily put it: “The first draft of anything is s***.”

He didn’t mince his words did he? But then, this is a guy who fought bulls for a hobby – his inner editor and inner writer were no doubt tough enough to slug it out with each other without too…

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Why Your Character Is Boring

Life Is Fiction


Welcome to the first post of a five part series on simple (but maybe not so obvious) tips to make our stories better.  They’ll be applicable to most of us no matter what we’re writing, though some people will find that certain posts are more relevant than others.  I also promise that the subjects won’t be ‘building tension,’ ‘realistic dialogue,’ or ‘how to write the best book ever!’

Today I’m going to start with the shortest of the topics: Writing a proactive protagonist.

If your protagonist is too far out of his or her depth for too long, they’ll be boring. Readers love a hero who can say the things they won’t and do the things they can’t.  They love a character who makes things happen, outsmarts the bad guy, achieves the impossible.  Characters accomplish this by being active, by taking charge and doing things based on their internal motivations and not just…

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Characters Who Push Back

Today's Author

I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb to conclude that most writers, generally think of characters as dynamic beings. While I won’t itemize past posts you won’t have trouble finding opinions on this very blog about how certain characters are easily led, while others are uncooperative. And advice abounds about interviewing characters to challenge them in order to get at their inner core. Few authors seem to have complaints with their scenes or plots not cooperating, but it’s a common feeling that particular characters are just plain uncooperative.

I find this concept fascinating. On some level I know that it’s a sign that you have created a good character. Only well-formed characters are rounded enough to develop their own personality…their own energy…their own will.

Put them in the right situation and the scene will zip along, because you don’t have to worry about making them act…

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Write Now Prompt for July 15, 2014

Today's Author


At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

They didn’t know what they’d find when they started pulling up the floorboards in the old house they were renovating.


How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find…

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Drive Your Story With Fear

Great thoughts on characterization!

Life Is Fiction

What does your character fear?

We all know that when moving our stories forward we’re supposed to make things worse for the protagonist.  Is he lost?  Let the sun set, let the rain come. Is he alone?  Find someone to stalk him.  Is she being hunted?  Take away her defenses. Does she need to find a cure? Have it fall into the hands of the antagonist.  This is all something fundamental, though many of us forget about it or fail to take it far enough. You know those books where the hero is having enough trouble as it is, and the next obstacle in his path makes us cringe?  Then ten pages later it gets even worse? Sometimes we forget that things can always get worse.

So let’s try again.  Is he lost?  Let the sun set, make it a moonless night.  Then let us know that as a child he was locked…

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