Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

poem-welcome November 17, 2014

Filed under: Poetry,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 1:22 pm
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You came on evening light

uttered soft greetings,

“Tell my tale,” you whispered,

and so begins






This weekend, as I was drifting off to sleep (see yesterday’s poem), I was introduced to Dustin who wanted to tell me the story of his life with Lydia.  I had not intended to start a new novel (if that’s what this is) before finishing the projects already on my plate, but Dustin was pretty insistent.  So, instead of doing what I planned today on my Sunday off, I lent my fingers to Dustin.  I have no idea where this will lead, but it looks like it will be an interesting journey.



quote- loud stories October 20, 2014

Filed under: Quotations,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:16 pm
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The more she wrote, the louder the stories seemed to grow, swirling in her mind, pressing against her head, anxious for release.  She didn’t know whether they were any good and in truth she didn’t care.  They were hers, and writing them made them real somehow.  Characters who’d danced around inside her mind grew bolder on the page.  They took on new mannerisms she hadn’t imagined for them, said things she didn’t know they thought, began to behave unpredictably.

Kate Morton The Forgotten Garden p. 326


writing quote- write to know them September 3, 2013

Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird writes about the importance of learning about your characters as you’re writing them:

Say this boy meets a girl….Things need to happen.  Then need to get to know each other, even if just a little.  They will talk to each other, and they will talk about each other to friend.  Get all this down.  After you’ve spent a while with them, they will start to sound more like themselves–because you are getting to really know them…

The better you now the characters, the more you’ll things from their point of view.  You need to trust that you’ve got it in you to listen to people, watch them, and notice what they wear and how they move, to capture a sense of how they speak. 

As you learn who your characters are, compassion for them will grow.  There shouldn’t be just a single important character in your work for whom you have compassion.  You need to feel it even for the villain–in fact, especially for the villain.  Life is not like formula fiction.  The villain has a heart, and the hero has great flaws.  You’ve got to pay attention to what each character says, so you can know each of their hearts.

The books that stay with you are the books that have characters with many dimensions to their personalities.  Yin and yang.  Evil in the good.  Good in the evil.

One of my favourite examples of this is Laoghaire MacKenzie in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.  In the first book, we hate her for being so jealous of Claire that she sets her up to be burnt as a witch.  By the end of the series we sympathize with the bitterness that grew when she realised her adoration was unrequited.  She loves Jamie, and since we as readers do too, we can relate to her pain at not ever being loved as she wanted to be by the man she has loved since childhood.  She believed erroneously that they were star-crossed lovers.

What examples from your reading support this view?  What author is a master at this strong character development?


the fundamental fiction July 13, 2013

In love with a fictional character?


Don’t you know that


objects of our desire

are fundamentally fictional?


is a time of great performance,

convincing the other,

showing the best face,

doing things you’ve never done

(and won’t do again)

pretending you love each moment

to impress the object of your desire.

Love is always


We love what we wish

it to be.

If we’re lucky,

when rose lenses are lost,

what we created in dream

bears enough

resemblance to reality

that truth

becomes better

than fiction.



In response to a Tweet about all the wild Outlander fans in a tizzy about Jamie Fraser coming to life.  I was thinking how we fictionalize real people all the time.


inspirational kids October 10, 2012

Filed under: Commentary,Grace Awakening Myth — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:11 am
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I’ve already told you that I occasionally use the names of my students (with their permission, of course) in my stories.   The characters are not representations of their namesakes; they have their own adventures, conflicts, and personalities which are completely distinct.  Still, sometimes the fictional and real have the odd thing in common.

For example, in Grace Awakening Myth there’s a character called J-Roy.   You learned the other day that J-Roy dances, is athletic, and looks great in a unitard.

The real J-Roy is also pretty tough.  Look who’s a head-liner in a local mixed martial arts fight? Uh huh.  Ben desperately needs all the help he can get.  I wonder if J. Roy will give him fighting lessons? 😉




music for my iPod March 13, 2011

Filed under: anecdotes,Grace Awakening,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:12 am
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One of my former students, who was a beta reader for Grace Awakening, wrote me the other day to tell me how she was thinking about downloading some music for her iPod.  She thought, “I should download that song Ben wrote for Grace” and then realised with some chagrin, oh wait.  That doesn’t really exist.

The note has made me smile all week.  I love that my characters are so alive!  I love that Ben is so real that people want to find the music described in the book for their iPod. 

Of course, there was music that inspired all the music Ben writes for Grace.  I don’t think I could have written it without remembering the feeling of listening to a composition created just for me by a musician I adored.  (See the blog entitled “Starry Night of Music” for a general sense of it!)  When I find the missing cassette tape,  I promise to post my Graduation tune (providing the composer gives permission, that is).  Until then, perhaps you can find something inspiring among the demo reels at Bhatia Music?


Well met March 12, 2011

Filed under: Grace Awakening,Literature,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:42 am
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Prompt 67 If you could bring one fictional character to life for a day, who would it be?

Wow. What a great question. Since I just finished Inkheart, where fictional characters pop to life all around, my first thought was Meggie, but I quickly shelved that idea recognizing it was only because of her current status as ‘most recent’ that brought her to mind.

The next character to pop into my mind was Jacob from the Twilight series. That idea just made me giggle. I love his sense of humour and strong sense of right, plus his devotion and loyalty. His take is less obsessive than Edward’s: more honest and less obnoxious. My favourite students are these kind of laid back, witty clowns.  Since I see these guys all the time in my class room, I guess I will leave Jacob and his abs in the book.

The next thought was Harry Potter. Such nobility of character!  He had greatness thrust upon him and met the expectations to serve the greater good. I love him as a character, but what would he say to us in the muggle world? He’d better stay in his books.

Grace. Oh yes. I would love to meet my Grace Severin! Like a child, I may have birthed her, but she has taken on her own life. She has her own friends, speaks to other people, and she definitely did what she wanted, despite what I wanted on many occasions. She’s a responsible person though. Hopefully a bit of a mix of all the best things from other characters I’d like to meet. Yes. I’d love to sit down for a heart to heart with Grace. I know a nice Greek restaurant we can go to, and this weekend, they’ve even got a harpist.  I’ll wear Bright’s boots.


Seriously, Cornelia? March 8, 2011

Filed under: Literature — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:31 am
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Sometimes when you’re reading away, the characters do something so absolutely stupid you just have to shut  the book.  The hard snap can give a little of the satisfaction of a smack upside the head.

I had this feeling most recently while reading Cornelia Funke’s Inkspell this weekend.  Meggie read the character of Orpheus into the Inkworld, a stupid, illogical move destined to do nothing but create trouble.  Obviously she needed a new villain for the third book, but that was soooo obvious that it was painful.  It insults the reader’s intelligence.

Inkspell was hard to get through in a number of ways.  I kept falling asleep while reading it in the bath, and that almost never happens with a book I’m reading the first time.   The series is oddly compelling though, and it’s been sneaking into my dreams.  Once  I awoke as the dream me was observing to someone, “The characters are knocking on the door, but they just can’t get out of the dream.” 

A bit freaky, that.


Arthur Dimsdale: can’t see his power February 19, 2011

A third character to explore in The Scarlet Letter is the minister, Arthur Dimsdale. Many sources narrow in symbolically on the idea that Dimsdale is ‘dim.’ Dim as in stupid, when he fails to recognise the evil in Chillingsworth. Dim as in weak, as his physical health declines. Dim as in muted light, when he is hiding himself in the dark of his denial of Hester and Pearl.

However, there is far more to explore here. Dale means ‘valley.’ I live in a valley, and I love the sense of comfort and security the hills provide. One feels hidden away, not everyone can see you when you’re in a valley. Being in a valley cuts off light though. The sun isn’t visible until it has climbed over the hills, and it leaves earlier dropping behind them. This gives valley dwellers a shorter day. Being down in the valley also limits our perspective. We see what we see of our own little area, we don’t get a sense of the larger world unless we climb up to the top of the mountains. Isolation tends to produce navel gazers, and this certainly applies to Dimsdale. He has no sense of a wider world of possibility open to him.

Finally, Arthur is an old Welsh name means ‘bear.’ There are lots of bears where I live as well, so I know something of their characteristics and I see Arthur reflected in this name choice as well. A bear is a powerful creature which has the ability to get whatever it wants, but it can be defeated until it becomes a dancing bear- moving to the tune of trainer who has weakened it, until it has no idea of its power anymore.   A bear looks distinguished and capable to some, but the bear itself often seems slow and stupid, going about motions without a lot of consideration to more creative solutions (return to the same places to feed on easy garbage, for example, instead of fleeing to the safety of the wilderness where freedom means more effort). Bears also hibernate. They fill themselves and climb into their dens and ignore the world, stuck in their own dreams until awakened by the hunger for more. However, this is the time when bears are their most vulnerable, for a hunter can pick them off as they groggily head out the door.

Yes, Nathaniel Hawthorne made a very appropriate name choice for Arthur Dimsdale!

(c) Shawn Bird.  Students, to avoid plagarism, cite this article as follows:

Bird, Shawn.  “Arthur Dimsdale: can’t see his power.”…-see-his-power/  Collected (insert the date you copied the information)


Roger Chillingsworth: his value cools ardour! February 18, 2011

The next character worth considering in The Scarlet Letter name analysis is the antagonist, who decides that he should be known as Roger Chillingsworth. Many works reference “chill” and suggest he is cold, but don’t neglect the ‘worth’ part of his name.  His value in the story is not just to add a chill to Hester’s heart when she catches sight of him, or to chill the feeble heart of Arthur Dimsdale with his constant vigilance.  His value in the story is his cold heart, which menaces Hester. Like cold air, he hovers around making people miserable by his presence.

If Hester is a burning star, Chillingsworth is a cold calculation, freezing out good intention and positive options. When the other townsfolk have given up worrying who the adulterous father is, Hester knows that Roger Chillingsworth is still on the case, so she continually feels the chill of fear on behalf of her beloved.

Consider also that Roger means “spear.” Hester is constantly stabbed with pain in his presence, for having married him initially, for her personal betrayal of him, and for fear of his inevitable retribution.

Chillingsworth also destroys Dimsdale by the cold evil of his presence and stabs of guilt that Dimsdale feels.

At the end of the narrative when Hester and Dimsdale finally feel free and hopeful about their future, Chillingsworth destroys their dream with a stab through their hearts, and freezes them to the core with the realisation that he will never let them escape from him.

(c) Shawn Bird.  Students, to avoid plagarism, cite this article as follows:

Bird, Shawn.  “Roger Chillingsworth: his value cools ardour!”…e-cools-ardour/  Collected (insert the date you copied the information)


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