Tag Archives: writing

The Importance
of Word Order

There is a meme going around that illustrates the power of word placement very well: place the word “only” anywhere in the sentence and see how the meaning changes, yet it remains a proper sentence.  I won’t go through all of them, but let’s look at a few.

Only she told him that she loved him.
No one but her has told him of their love.

She only told him that she loved him.
Her profession of love for him was not sincere.

She told only him that she loved him.
She admitted her feelings to him but no one else.

Go ahead and work the rest out in your head and you’ll see that this sentence has many diverse meanings depending on where you place “only”.

And then there is this “rule” for descriptive words put out by the BBC: Continue reading The Importance
of Word Order

For My Fellow Lexophiles (Lovers Of Words):

The following plays on words (puns) have been around the internet for some time.  I cannot claim any of them as original (mine), only collected here for your enjoyment.
 
  1. A bicycle can’t stand alone; it is two tired.
  2.  A will is a dead giveaway.
  3.  Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.
  4.  A backward poet writes inverse.
  5.  In a democracy it’s your vote that counts; in feudalism, it’s your Count that votes.
  6.  A chicken crossing the road: poultry in motion. Continue reading For My Fellow Lexophiles (Lovers Of Words):

Brain Spill: Bernie’s Encounter


In my interview with Sonia Rumzi I mentioned that I produce snippets of dialogue or stories as a mind stretching exercise, I call this a brain spill, and that I keep these snippets as seed-stock for future story ideas.  Some have asked for a peek into my Pandora’s Box of story snippets.  The following is one such.  It is quite raw, I’ve fixed up the typos but have not done any editing or polishing.  It is just a fragment, the sort of stuff that spills out of my brain box when I open the lid.

* * *

He stood, transfixed, heart pounding, staring up at where the man-creature disappeared as four of the men in dark suits split up and ran to surround the building.  Two others approached him.

Continue reading Brain Spill: Bernie’s Encounter

Sci-Fi Sample: Tale of the Draggon

The following is chapter one from a book I wrote in 1984.  It is part of a trilogy.  The publishing houses refused it back then.  After wall-papering my office with rejection slips (it was a small office) I packed it up, tucked it away and forgot about it.  A recent decluttering brought it to light again and I’m thinking of producing it as an eBook.   I have always considered fiction to be my weak suit.  Please read this sample chapter and give me your opinion as to whether or not this book has potential to sell.  This is a Sci-Fi book, if you hate Sci-Fi, you are excused, thank you for coming, I hope to see you next time.  To the rest of you, if you saw this as a sample of the book, would you find it compelling enough to buy the book?

Thank you for your input, feel free to be honest, that is what I am asking for.

Revised per suggestions: 4/15 Continue reading Sci-Fi Sample: Tale of the Draggon

Using an Unreliable Narrator

two-faced illusion
Image via www.moillusions_com

It is said that there are three sides to every divorce: his side, her side, and the truth. This colloquialism alludes to the fact that people will slant their narration of events to suit their own perspective. Really, it goes beyond that because there are times when a participant in an event is not just biased, but incapable of seeing the whole picture because he or she does not have all the facts or is so set in their own view they will not see it any other way.

A writer uses narration to give the reader information that is not being directly observed: backstory, private thoughts, or events that have happened “off screen”. Continue reading Using an Unreliable Narrator

Dialing Up Your Dialogue

how to write effective dialogue
Source: Englishdybayday.net

A good way to draw your reader deeply into your story is to use a variety of non-verbal cues in your dialogue.  Try the following techniques to dial up your dialogue.

Facial Expressions

When a character raises an eyebrow or furrows his brow, this action gives the reader an additional clue beyond dialogue that indicates a change in the character’s emotional state. As the scene progresses and the emotional intensity rises; the character’s dissatisfaction grows into anger, for instance, the character might clamp his jaw, his nostrils may flare, or eyes narrow to a squint, his face may redden and so on. These are all commonly understood signs of anger.

To learn effective use of these cues, read classic works containing emotional encounters or watch good dramatic films with the sound turned off.  Study the facial expressions of the actors and take notes of how they signal emotion.   Continue reading Dialing Up Your Dialogue

The Writing Process

writing processThere is a process that occurs in all forms of writing.  Like many things in life, taking each step in it’s turn speeds the work and improves the outcome.  Understanding that process can help you do better work, faster, and enjoy the process more.

Conceptualizing

This is “getting an idea”. It may come from something else you read, a video clip or movie, or just out of the blue. Most of this step is done in your head. For some it may just go “poof” here I am, ready to go. If this is you, just know that I despise you. For most of us good ideas are elusive.

Because they are elusive you need to be prepared. The muse tends to rise at the most inopportune times. When a great idea comes along do not say to yourself, “That’s a great idea – I’m sure I’ll remember it.” Trust me, you won’t.

Keep pad and paper by your bed for those nocturnal envisions that wrench you from sleep. Keep a pocket-size pad and compact pen or pencil with you always. Or – use a small digital voice recorder to take verbal notes – especially handy if you are driving!

Don’t worry about details yet, just get down the bones. Continue reading The Writing Process

Passive Voice and Active Voice in Your Writing

writer, writing, hard work, passive voiceA variety of writing styles are available to you as a writer/author. At one end of the scale is the literary style that tends to ramble along, painting pictures with words chosen more for their emotional impact than their grammatical efficiency. At the other end is the hard-hitting journalistic style designed to convey information quickly and precisely. In between are a sliding-scale mix of these two. Plain Language writing is a style gaining popularity with the modern world.

In Plain Language writing you seek to keep to the active voice, keep your sentences short, and keep your words simple and direct. Basically you are to write like a Dick and Jane reading primmer. Continue reading Passive Voice and Active Voice in Your Writing

Crafting Conflict In Your Stories

Crisis Ahead, conflictAny writer knows that conflict is necessary in a story to keep a reader engaged. But what is conflict and how is it created, met, and overcome? The answers to these questions have a lot to do with how well received your stories will be.

What Conflict Is Not

Violence. Crafting blood-spattered scenes of opposing forces (could be armies or individuals) battling one another is not conflict. Violence is the progeny of the conflict. Why are they battling? That is the conflict. And there has to be some specificity to it, not just “This army seeks to take over that army’s kingdom”. Why do they want to take over and how is this pertinent to your POV characters?

The same goes for arguments, personal rivalries, and social “shoving around”. A scene may be set around an argument between two characters or a school kid being bullied by classmates, but the fact that your characters are upset is not conflict. Why are they upset? What is the root of the trouble, not its outcome. That is your conflict. Continue reading Crafting Conflict In Your Stories

The Dos and Don’ts of Dialogue

dialogueDialogue is the heartbeat of any fiction novel. An author can use the verbal interaction between characters (or a character with itself) to flesh out those characters, build suspense, explain elements of the story, bring in back-story, and entertain the reader … if it’s done right.

Dialogue Dos

Do base your characters on people you know (or know of: like movie stars). If you want to be the inspiration for the hero or heroine, that’s fine; as long as you have (or can create) the needed heroic qualities.

Do use dialog to bring clarity to your story: reveal facets of your character, explain plot history or setting, and build emotion in a scene. Using dialogue for these is much better than blocks of expository text; which tend to get boring quickly.

You can also accomplish multiple purposes through the use of dialogue. For instance; an argument between your protagonist and another major character can reveal character facets like temperament, education, and the motivations of both characters. Brief insertions of actions (she flipped her long, blond hair out of her eyes, then continued…) can also accomplish describing your character more efficiently than some long gaze in a mirror.

Do allow your characters to express themselves naturally. Their speech is part of their personality.

Do keep a log of each characters pet phrases and speech idiosyncrasies.

Do practice dialogue with each character. As a writing exercise, set up a scene with the character of the moment and let them speak. Your characters will develop as you become familiar with them. Letting them build in your mind through practice dialogue will save you having to re-write previous scenes because your character changed

Dialogue Don’ts

Don’t insist on formal grammar and sentence structure. Few people actually speak like a formally written document. Maybe when giving a speech, but not in conversation. Use natural language.

Don’t include boring details of a long conversation. People do sit around and chat about the weather and politics, but unless these are directly relevant to the story or used in some meaningful way, cut away from the scene with a statement like, “They discussed the weather for a while”. Leave out the fluff and avoid miring the pace of your story.

Don’t change POV during a discussion. If you want to reveal the thoughts of the non POV character, these need to be revealed by subtle action and being recognized by the POV character. “Susan saw anger in Michael’s eyes though his voice remained calm and measured.”

Don’t let your dialogue get trite of stiff. You destroy the believability of your character when their interaction degrades in this way. If you feel it getting trite, go back and study your characters real-life model a bit more and see how the would handle the dialogue in question.

Don’t copy anyone so precisely that you get sued for basing your villain on some well known politician. Base your character, don’t make them a copy of.

Don’t over-use dialogue tags: said, replied, asked, etc. Use these for the first couple of rounds in a conversation to distinguish who is speaking, but unless you’ve got a crowd of people interacting all at once, let the conversation flow naturally.

Don’t use adverbs in language tags at all. Instead of ““What do you mean by that?” Angela asked angrily” use ““What do you mean by that?” Angela’s eyes flashed with anger.”

Show, Don’t Tell

An old writing axiom tells us to show the reader what is going on, don’t describe it to them. Dialogue is a great way to do this. It can be entertaining, informative, and revealing all at once.

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