Grad School Class Presentations

So, it’s currently the end of Week Three here at PSU, which means everything is gearing up to be busy for the rest of the term. It means we have big assignments due for class pretty soon. What’s up next for my classes? Presentations.

Yup. Presentations.


I’m still not used to getting up and talking in front of a class. I don’t know why. I participated in toastmasters, did drama, and co-created a reading event back in my hometown which I MCed every now and then. And I’ve also had previous classes have me to present. I also was a moderator for the Willamette Writers conference over the summer! So I don’t know why this freaks me out so much, it just does.

To combat that freak out, I prepare.

There are many different ways of preparing for a presentation. Some people go over the material once or twice. Some people look at bullet points. Some people just simply know everything and are perfectly find rambling for a few minutes. Some people don’t prepare at all.

I am none of those people.

In order to prepare for my presentations, I memorize. And by memorize, I do mean the whole entire thing.

Now, it might be a catch from my drama days when standing in front an audience forced you to memorize all your lines and spout them out perfectly each time. It might be something from my toastmasters group that had a “no notes at all” policy. Or it could just be a weird little quirk of mine.

I dunno.

Either way, that’s what I’m doing this weekend. Memorizing a presentation. And what am I doing next weekend? Memorizing another one.

Yup, that’s my life nowadays. (And, by the way, this persistent cough is really not making this process any easier.)

How do you prepare for a presentation? Any tips and tricks you can give me?

Warm regards,

Postscript – I have a new goal for this school year. I’m not going to memorize a presentation. Not these upcoming ones…or the Write to Publish 2016 stuff…but by the end of the school year in June I’ll try it out. See what happens. Maybe I’ll burst into flames of endless embarrassment. But maybe I won’t. You never really do know, do you?


Writing Diagrams

Today I have decided to write about writing diagrams. Now, usually, I write these posts at least a few days in advance but, as this week has been a bit hectic, please forgive my spur-of-the-moment idiosyncrasies. There will be, however, pictures interesting to look at (if you like looking at picture examples is, in fact, interesting, of course) so I hope they make up for my (probably) crazy ramblings.

At a very young age I discovered the plot diagrams. I was searching the web for some interesting games to play and found this website – It was a marvelous discovery which allowed me to write and “publish” anything I wanted, create stories and spread my wings as a young writer. The users of the said website spoke very highly of a shape called the Plot Diagram (which I aptly named “The Hat Diagram” after I saw its basic shape) so I looked it up. Lo and behold this popped up:

It was pretty exciting for me because I’d never seen anything like it. So I used it, obsessively. Every story had to have an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution in exactly that order, regardless of what type of story it was. And, quite frankly, my writing became a tad bit boring because
of it. I had neglected to factor in the unique qualities of individual stories. Not every story has an exposition, sometimes the reader must be thrown into the action and the exposition comes later on, sometimes the reader sees the resolution first and then gets to piece together how it happened, and sometimes there is no climax at all, leaving the reader excited but forced to come up with their own twist. All in all, every story is different, heck, each genre is different. So the Hat Diagram, while useful, doesn’t help in every situation.

Back in my college years (only last year, mind you), I encountered another diagram. This one, or so the professor assured me, would be an important facet in writing short stories. I drew the diagram out and attempted to put it to good use. It was named the Inverted Check-Mark:

This diagram, said the professor, would help those rambling writers rein in their resolution which would, in turn, tighten up their short story. Yet, note how skewed this diagram is – the rising action takes up almost entirely the whole plot, hit the turning point, and poof as a writer and reader you’re pretty much done. It seemed odd to me at the time, but I gave my professor the benefit of the doubt and tried it. And again it helped for a while. But only a while. I, again, got stuck, a helpless turtle on its back unable to do anything except the same rocking motions back and forth, back and forth. I soon realized that short stories, like longer works, can start wherever the writer deems necessary, at the turning point, resolution, or even mid-rising action.

There are a dozen different devices aimed at helping writers develop their plots and, for the most part, I applaud them. They do help. If you ever get stuck, try one out and see what happens.

However, a caution to this tale of mine: In order to be unique one must break away from the usual and try something, well, unusual. Remember that. Don’t depend on diagrams. Don’t depend on anything except your ability to write and your creative muse.

(Except, of course, when your muse disappears, then write questionable stuff for a while until it returns… but that’ll be a different post.)

To sum it up: Diagrams are good. Don’t use them every time or you’ll end up like a turtle. Create something new.

I hope this helps someone out out there…

Warm regards,