Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How to be a Winner at Sentences

Photo by Mike Mulligan, handcrafted pieces by T. Mazzola.
Sentences are pawns on a chess board.  In the opening, they may advance one square or two.  They are capable of destroying an enemy of greater ability- even take down an entire kingdom.  In the end-game, pawns themselves can magically transform into unstoppable royalty.  An experienced player understands the function of a pawn and how to put him in the right place at the right time, even when the choices are infinite.

I may be new to the sentence chess game, however I've been tinkering with chess since my early grade school days.  Many of my opponents were much older than I, however, my knack for seeing patterns enables me to trap the enemy king and force him to submit.

The most challenging of opponents was my dad.  He was a master with words, studying them fervently in college and earning a degree in journalism.  He made his pawns dance on the pages he penned.  His readers heard dad's music and wished to join him on the dance floor.  But his chess pieces were incapable of singing or dancing when my pawns advanced on them.  Chess was a foreign language for my dad.  It was a language he wanted to learn  so he could dethrone my precious king.  He did what any eager student of the game would do- he secretly purchased How to be a Winner at Chess.  He learned cadences.  He grasped time and space.  And he challenged me with his new knowledge.  My dad's moves became more complicated, forcing me to adapt.  The result didn't change.  Each time, I found a way to corner his king.

The last time we played chess together, he threw his hands up in anger and stormed off to his bedroom.  When he returned, he thrust his worthless book at me in a diagonal direction similar to his powerless bishops.  He said, "maybe you can have better luck with this."

Dad's chess book inspired my bishops and knights to team up in creative, new ways. My castles joined to make walls too strong for any army.  And my pawns, my insignificant pawns, they became the foundation for my future.

Last night at my writers group meeting, Kim offered me a new chess book, written by Professor Brooks Landon, Phd, from the University of Iowa.  I will use it to be a winner at sentences.  I will learn to make my pawns sing and dance just as my dad did.  I will become a master of sentences.  It's my passion.  It was my dad's passion.  And if I position my pawns in the right space at the right time, maybe my readers will hear them singing in a way that inspires them to join the dance floor.

What's your passion?  Do your pawns live up to their potential?  Email me if you would like to know more about the gifts Kim donated to our writer's group last night.  Or fill out a comment below and I will respond.


Kim said...

Mike, thanks so much for your enthusiastic appreciation; your kind words are gold to me! Also, I can see by your great use of figurative language that you are not just a toe-dipper in the sea of sentences, but long past the need for water-wings! You are swimming beautifully, and I want to swim with you. (When I was a child, my mother behaved the same way when we played Scrabble!)

Michael Mulligan said...

Thanks, Kim. BTW, there are some writer friends hanging out at the Cyber-bistro, my newest blog. You will find them at http://cavemanreflections.blogspot.com/

I hope you join them in the deep end. There is a "join this site" button on the right margin. That makes you a Cyber-bistro V.I.P. I will stay in the shallow end until I absorb all the material you so generously provided last night at the writers critique group meeting. Hopefully I will learn a few new strokes before our next meeting in three weeks.
I'm loving "Building Great Sentences." If the first three pages of this book, combined with your pointers from last night can keep me from drowning, I will definitely be selling my water-wings soon.

Thanks for your help. Hope to see you at the Cyber-bistro.