TRAVEL WRITING

There is a growing market for these features.  All airlines today have their own magazines for passengers, detailing where to go and what to see in their particular destinations, and most are written by freelancers.  If you have a particular place in mind that you’d like to write about, send the editor of the appropriate magazine , an outline of what you have in mind. Give any qualifications you have for writing it,  any specialised knowledge or experience.   Do your research carefully, if they show interest.  This is one travel feature I had published a few years ago, about Ein Gedi – a beautiful place in Israel which is  where I live.  El Al Magazine featured it for several issues:

FIND  MAGIC  IN   EIN GEDI

If you are familiar with the most beautiful love poem ever written, the Biblical “Song of Songs”, then you’ll know that Ein Gedi is the oasis King Solomon described:

 

“My beloved is unto me as a cluster of henna flowers in the

vineyards of Ein Gedi.”

 

The name means “Spring of the Kid”, the animal we know as the ibex which can be seen roaming in the valley.   It is a world in itself, and easily accessible today, being only an hour’s drive south of Jerusalem.  It is in the Judean Desert on a plateau, overlooking the Dead Sea which is the lowest place on earth (420 metres below sea level).  It has been described as “a slice of heaven” where the air is pollution free and dry; there are 330 sunny days a year, the temperature soaring in summer but never colder than 10 degrees in winter.

This summer fires destroyed much of the beauty of the Nature Reserve, but the plentiful water supply is slowly bringing it back to life.  The water bounces from rocks to riverbeds, fills the crevices to become clear, blue pools. This wealth of water comes from the rainfall on the Hebron mountains to the west of Ein Gedi.  Water from the springs flows the entire length of the reserve.  Towering above are brown-red cliffs, bare like the landscape of the moon.This tropical oasis is home to trees such as Jericho balsam, moringa and acadia, as well as shrubs and unusual bushes and grass.  The Dead Sea Apple, or Apple of Sodom grows here too, named for the city God destroyed together with Gomorrah which were located nearby.

 

Nowhere else in Israel is there such a wide range of wildlife. It is  paradise  for bird-watchers … the bulbul, the blackstart (shahor-zanav in Hebrew); sand partridges, Tristam’s grackle and the raven can all be found here.

You can also see ibex and coneys and the occasional leopard and wolf.  The coneys are small  animals with short ears and legs and no tail.  The male ibex has long horns that are bent back and rounded at the ends. The female’s horns are shorter.  The ibex is the official symbol of the Nature Reserves Authority.

 

Kibbutz Ein Gedi is distinct from, and situated on the edge of the Reserve.  Before the founding of the kibbutz by a group of young army recruits in 1956, Ein Gedi had not been inhabited for 500 years.  The first dwellers lived there in the Stone Age 5,000 years ago.  The kibbutzniks  made vegetable gardens and date plantations and raised turkeys.  They soon learned that they also had natural treasures in the black mud, hot sulphur springs, the Dead Sea and water that promoted feelings of tranquillity, health and peace.

 

So they founded Ein Gedi’s Country Hotel.  Today you can enjoy the Spa, restaurants, Botanical Gardens and hire 4 x 4 desert terrain vehicles, as well as buy arts and crafts in the many souvenir shops.  For archaeology buffs, there is Massada to the south, the Qumran Caves to the north which housed the Dead Sea Scrolls, and there is a Byzantine Synagogue with a wonderful mosaic floor.

 

In the Ein Gedi Botanical Gardens there are 800 unique species of trees and flowers and such exotic Biblical plants as Myrrh and Frankincense, tropical plants from the rain forests, date palms and unusual cacti.  You can have a guided tour (free for guests of the Country Hotel). Included in the modest entry price is a film about the settlement and information on the flora of the Gardens.

 

The Country Hotel focuses on the natural, healthy life.  There are both indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and all the rooms are located on ground level in the fabulous gardens.  You can even rent their “Romantic Room” which has a private Jaccuzi.  All guests have free entry to the Ein Gedi Spa. Available also are many holistic treatments to balance mind and body through the use of therapeutic plants, minerals, nutrition, meditation etc. There are facials and massage and, at the Spa, Peeling, Mud Wraps and Reflexology.

 

Ein Gedi also offers a choice of restaurants …. Pandak Ein Gedi on the public beach; the Botanical Gardens’ Restaurant which is buffet-style and kosher; nd “At Haya’s” also in the Botanical Gardens.  This is a private home that accepts only 8 guests and must be booked in advance.

 

The Jewish village of Ein Gedi was inhabited in Biblical times, destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries.  It is where King David hid  in the caves from King Saul  who pursued him with an army of 3,000 men.

 

Today it is a feast for the eyes and the senses, a place to be rejuvenated and feel peaceful and tranquil in the pure air of the Judean Desert.

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Some things to keep in mind. Assume the reader is new to your destination and wants to see the best attractions in a limited time. Detail the best area in which to stay, the best time of year to arrive, and any special local events.  If you can supply photos, you increase your chances of acceptance.

My new novella “Searching for Sarah” is now available on Amazon; or from the publisher Chaim Mazo (Chaim.Mazo@gmail.com) or direct from me at dwaysman@g.mail.com  Be in touch for details.  I always enjoy your comments, and am available to help with your writing problems.  Happy writing!

 

 

 

 

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DIALOGUE IN YOUR STORY

The first rule in writing your story:  Don’t ask yourself “Do I have something to say?”  Ask instead: “Do my characters have something to say?”

In Hemingway’s ‘Hills like white elephants” (about a man persuading his girlfriend to have an abortion she doesn’t want) – he could have made grandiose statements about morality, maturity, selfishness, sexual responsibility etc. Instead, he sticks to the tiny sounds, signals and pauses which people in intimate situations send to each other. e.g. “I’ll go with you and stay with you all the time. They just let the air in and then it’s perfectly natural.”

“Then what will we do afterwards?”

“We’ll be fine afterwards. Just like we were before.”

“What makes you think so?”

“That’s the only thing that bothers us. It’s the only thing that’s made us unhappy.”

The story takes place between the lines, in the silences between the characters. Action can be speech. Action can also be silence – the silence that punctuates speech.

If you have created characters you want to use, and have decided on the setting and the period, but are stuck for the plot, one idea is to take familiar trends, ideas and situations and simply reverse them. “Visit to a Small Planet” by Gore Vidal reverses feeling that people from other planets are inferior, showing “visitor” far  more intellectually advanced.  “Paths of Glory” reverses admiration for military efficiency.  “Bad Seed” reverses romantic concept of children as innocent darlings.

“Teahouse of the August Moon” (Vern Sneider) – civilised, sophisticated Americans occupying primitive Okinawa, learn more from natives than they teach them.  In Sloan Wilson’s “A Summer PLace” , the adults are the delinquents, while the teenagers are stable, moral and mature.

There are no real rules in writing your story, none that is, that cannot be disregarded when the circumstances demand it.  But here are some do’s and don’ts that may prove helpful:

Study stories published in recent issues of your favorite magazine.

Sketch main characters that come to life.

“Hook” the reader with attention-snatching opening.

Introduce action immediately – physical or psychological.  Maintain suspense so that the reader cannot guess the exact ending.

Stay in one viewpoint throughout. The protagonist must solve his own problem through characterization that is clear to the reader from the outset.

Now for some Don’ts.  Don’t be condescending or write down to the reader.  Don’t be too intellectual or philosophical in theme, style or content.  Don’t narrate when you can dramatize in-action scenes with dialogue or emotion.  Don’t write frustrating or inconclusive endings.

Here’s an exercise to practise writing dialogue: “They sat in the hotel room, perspiring in its airlessness, staring at his packed suitcase which lay on the bed.”  Force your two characters to talk to each other. Try not to use adverbs such as “he said sadly; she replied angrily”. Their actual words should convey the emotions they are feeling.

Read your words out loud to see if they sound the way people actually talk.

Happy writing!  Remember you can buy my new novella “Searching for Sarah” through Amazon, from the publisher  chaim.mazo@gmail.com or direct from me at dwaysman@gmail.com   I’m always happy to hear your comments or help if you have a query.

 

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CORRECTION

I do apologise. Made a silly error in my Blog yesterday.  The title of my new novella is, of course, “|Searching for Sarah” – not as written.  when you get to my age, you start to lose some of your marbles!  It is available on Amazon, direct from the publisher –

Chaim.Mazo @gmail.com or from me: dwaysman@gmail.com

Thank you to Dorothy O’Brien in Australia, who noticed the mistake and was kind enough to e-mail me.

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IMAGE AND SYMBOL Imagery

Imagery is the most important element of descriptive writing, since it makes possible the communication of what one sees, hears, feels, smells and tastes.  An IMAGE is an expression in words of a sense experience.  Settings of stories are made up of sense perceptions. Images are more than a descriptive function; they also convey feelings to the reader and create an atmosphere appropriate to the major elements of the story – plot, character and theme.  Images can convey strong feelings such as inhibition, tension, passion etc.

Dark colors convey a feeling of doom or danger.  A red rose can be more than part of a garden description, it can be used as a symbol of beauty or love. Darkness can be literal or suggest evil.  The act of planting and caring for flowers can be symbolic of maternal instincts.

 

A SYMBOL is an emblem or sign representing something else through association. For example, an insurance company uses the Rock of Gibralter to suggest reliability.  A film studio is represented by Liberty holding the Torch of Truth etc.    John Hersey’s novel, “A Bell for Adano” shows the human need for a symbol of peace and sanity, when the people of the Italian town prefer a replacement for the bell which the Fascists took from  the Mayor’s bell tower, to food and clothing.

A symbol can have different meanings to different people and you must think through your symbolism before planning your story and know how and when to introduce it.  A bridge may represent the transition between ages, between wealth and poverty, enslavement and freedom.  A bridge was used as a symbol in “Land Without Moses” by Charles Curtis Munz – about the oppressed sharecroppers and their toll bridge (symbolising that the down-trodden must pay a high price to achieve liberty).

“The bridge Over the River Kwai” suggests British superiority and knowhowm transforming defeat into victory.  Thornton Wilder’s “Bridge of San Luis Rey” says in its last line: “There is a land of the living and a land of the dead; the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

Effective symbolism must also be emotional; universal enough to apply to the reader’s problems; subtle but unmistakable; graphic and vividly described; planted early in your story, then referred to later; important to the plot and solving a crucial problem.

Many authors make effective use of symbolism.Paul Gallico used “The snow Goose” to represent a staunch spirit in a crippled body.  Poe used a raven to symbolise death; Coleridge an albatross for conscience; Shelley freedom with a skylark and Maeterlinck chose a Bluebird for happiness.In the beautiful O. Henry story “The Last Leaf”, a girl with no will to live likens her life to the last ivy leaves clinging to the wall outside her window. When the last leaf falls, an artist neighbor paints a leaf on the wall outside her window, and belkieving it has clung on bravely through the storm, she recovers her will to live.

 

Happy writing!  You can buy my new novella “Searching for Susan” on Amazon or by contacting me at  dwaysman@gmail.com

 

 

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CREATING CHARACTERS

We spend most of our working hours with people – fascinating, maddening or unpredictable people.  It is through our understanding of others that we mature. A person reveals his character by what he says or does – in even his/her most trivial speech and action.  The way he walks or speaks, the way he puts on his coat, the way he hangs it up – or carelessly throws it down, all show something about his character.

When you write a story, the reader not only wants to know what happens, but also to whom it happens. We reveal character through what a person does, says, thinks,  how he or she looks;  what other characters say or think about a person, what the author says about him.  Each speech or action is revealing. If a girl stops to look at her reflection each time she passes a mirror or shop window, we infer she is vain.  If a man kicks a cat, we infer that he hates animals, or that he’s taking out his anger on a helpless animal, or that he’s vicious and cruel – maybe all three.  You, the author, choose the speech and actions that suggest the total character of the person.  You must give your character a motivation for his behaviour and supply a reason for his actions.

A story often centres on just one character, but the minor characters are also important.  There is continual inter-action … what do they say and think about the hero?  How do they solve their problems, and what does their solution tell you about the wisdom or folly of the hero’s solution?

One of the most graphic descriptions I ever read of a character was contained in just one sentence:  “His face was lined with broken Commandments.”  It says it all!

Successful authors are those who have created fictional people who are more real than they are themselves and often outlive them (Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, David Copperfield, Tarzan etc.) Once you have created real-life people, you are stuck with them. You can’t forget them, you can seldom control them, and you cannot kill them if they want to keep on living.  Sometimes they will upset the plot you have in mind for them and write their own stories.

Once a beginner writer sent his story to an editor stating: “The characters in this story are purely fictional and bear no resemblance to any person, living or dead.”  The editor sent it straight back with the notation: “That is exactly what’s wrong with it!”

You should know your character as intimately as you know your spouse. Before you write your story, work out a complete profile of background – birthplace, age, education, religion, experiences, financial status and politics. Understand his emotions – how he feels about people, things situations, his thoughts and philosophy.  Setting – clothes, hairdo, car, home, surroundings and environment.  How and what he says reveal his character – compassionate, impatient, selfish, critical, bigoted, brave etc.

It is also important to remember NOT to do certain things.  Don’t give them just any names. Choose them as carefully as you would for your real-life children.  Don’s use confusingly similar names like Phyllis, Philip and Filbert.  Don’t begin with minor characters, making the reader think they are going to be important. Don’t add characters unnecessary to the plot. Don’t create all-good or all-bad characters – they won’t ring true.

My latest novella “Searching for Sarah” garnered a wonderful, full-page review in the Jerusalem Post last Friday, beyond expectations.  In my next Blog, I’ll send you a link to it.

You can order it on Amazon, buy it at Pomeranz Bookstore in Jerusalem, or direct from me. Contact me at  dwaysman@gmail.com  for details.

I welcome your comments and am ready to help with any writing problems.

Keep writing!

 

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THE SETTING FOR YOUR STORY

Continuing our lessons on writing a short story, , the locale where it takes place is known as the setting.  Setting also implies location in time – the time of d;ay as well as the historic time, and even such matters as the weather, or the temperature in the room where the action takes place.  You may think the setting is unimportant, but in successful stories where everything works together , it contributes a great deal.  With a great writer like Hemingway,who had a wide choice of milieu for his stories – Spain, Africa, Michi8gan etc., it is easy to see why each story is set where it is.

 

As with all aspects, the setting may be basic to the original conception, or may be the result of deliberate choice.  Almost every American writer has set at least one story in New York, yet each treated it differently. It mis a city about which one can generalise, and this makes the city useful and effective as a setting for a limitless variety of situations and themes. There is so much mobility in a big city that it makes an appropriate setting  for any character’s rise or fall.  Because there are more people of all social classes crowded together, it enables unusual encounters – an actress and a hobo; a playboy and a shopgirl.  This also creates opportunities for depicting such themes as the injustices of social distinction, and extremes of poverty and wealth.  There are so many comings and goings in a big city (even Tel Aviv) that the author can make virtually any plot plausible.

A big city setting is ideal for themes like being lonely in a crowd; veneration for the new; bustling immorality; people selling themselves for money or power; the city’s sense of busy futility.  It can be used as a symbol of opportunity, freedom and success, and also the empty underside of these qualities.

You should choose a place you know intimately for your setting. Conrad used the sea; Pearl Buck – China; Faulkner – the South;  Steinbeck the Monterey Peninsula; Doris Lessing – Rhodesia.  They managed to create , from story to story, a world with connotations not just of the place itself, but their own individual perception of it.

Decide how the setting enhances your story, or can be made to do so.  Don’t write paragraphs of mere description – many readers will skip them.  But you can slant a description in such a way as to achieve an effect.

For instance, you could write two descriptions of the same room. In the first, emphasising the room in sunlight and picking out bright touches – a bowl of spring flowers, a bright rug etc. You prepare it as a setting for a romantic comedy or light-hearted story.  You could write a description of the same room when night approaches, emphasising dark magogany furniture , a sinister dagger lying on the coffee table and the reader would be prepared for a tragedy.

By using a basic plot and changing the setting, you can create unlimited variations.  Romeo and Juliet was set in Verona, Italy. With the same basic plot, West Side Story was set in New York.   Two different stories – both successful.

Atmosphere is also an integral part of your setting. This is time, place and mood. It is almost a character, a motivating force.  A wonderful “atmosphere” story is somerset Maugham’s “Rain”, where the inhibited Rev. Davidson reverses his  asceticism when he succumbs to the combination of Sadie Thompson and the incessant rain. “Wuthering Heights” is another example which would not be memorable without the setting of the bleak English moors.

 

Establish your dominant atmospheric mood immediately – ” Spring was kicking up its heels…” Use sensory appeals of sight, sound,  smell, taste and touch.  If you write of Winter, use more vivid words than ‘cold’.   The lash of sleet against the window; the crack of freezing ice on the river ; the crunch of snow underfoot.

Your imagery should be graphic and original.   Hong Kong – a pearl on black velvet;  A canvas painted by a demented artist scattering color indiscriminately;  an orchid on the brink of a volcano;  blood on a white handkerchief.

Weave in specific details, interesting information, unknown facts. Be accurate and authentic – with proper names of flowers, trees, birds, animals. The setting must blend and integrate with plot, characterization, emotion and action.

In my next Blog. I’ll deal with creating characters.

My new novella “Searching for Sarah” is now available on Amazon, or contact me direct at dwaysman@gmail.com    I enjoy your comments, and you can always ask me for help with a writing problem.   Happy writing!

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SHORT STORY – PLOT IS CONFLICT

At the core of a conventional plot is conflict. It can be physical, between antagonists; it can be moral or psychological; or a spiritual struggle within the character himself/herself, such as vice or virtue carried to excess. Sometimes external conflicts are just projections of internal ones.

The order in which the events take place is important.  They can be in chronological order or in flashback. When you use flashback, and reveal the outcome of the story at the beginning, this inverted order forces the reader to shift interest from what happens to why and how it happened.

The following are guidelines and not rules because, like poetry, there are no real rules. Each story depends on the author’s sensitive handling of the situation . Many writers break all traditional rules, yet come up with brilliantly-executed works. However, in general, plots should include:

  1. Abstract values representing good vs. evil in the major conflict situation.
  2. An urgent MUST with its obvious CANNOT.
  3. Contrasting characters in action, each strongly motivated in efforts to achieve a definite goal.
  4. Apparent insolubility of the problem, with an ingenious solution that is credible though surprising.
  5. A moral theme or premise to which the story action serves sd s parable, proving a worthwhile philosophy.
  6. An individual style that expresses you and yet fits the subject matter, the time, the place and the characters.

When you plot a story, try first to write a synopsis – just a brief outline. What is the problem? (This is what interests the reader). What are the obstacles, the fictional frustrations,and alternate them with temporary triumphs (providing suspense). This leads up to the crisis, and the climax which resolves the problem.

To help you, I’ll give you 3 typical situations you can use:

They were a devoted couple for years, yet when her invalid mother died and she was free to marry him, their relationship suddenly ended.

A prostitute  passes a garden where a small blind boy is playing/ She knows he is her son. Could you develop this story without sentimentality?

Nobody liked her for good reason. Yet, when she suddenly died, a number of people felt a deep sense of loss.

Play around with these ideas … you may come up with a really good story.

Happy writing!

Contact me at dwaysman@gmail.com if you need any help with your writing; or if you want to buy any of my books … a new one is coming out today – a novella “Searching for Sarah”.

 

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