Category Archives: Language

Words, Words, Words

By Debbie Delvaux

What can truly be said about how we use words.
We use words to describe how to do things.
How to tell someone that they are beautiful.
How to say what we are thinking.
How to tell the world that we are upset or mad.
Some scholars use words to make us think.
Some high officials use words to intimidate us.
Some people use words to express how they feel.
Children use words to tell us how they feel about their own private world.
Sometimes we hear words that we don’t want to hear and have to face the fear we see in front of us.
Sometimes there are no words that can be said in the time of a loved one’s passing.
The best of words that can be said is love, beautiful, fantastic, caring, nurture, and happiness.
We all long to hear someone say I love you.
You have a son or daughter.
You have even hired.
Or even will you marry me.
We in a sense are all wordsmiths.
We use nouns, adverbs, adjectives, and phrases, thoughts to say what we are thinking.
We are all humans and from all different races, creeds, and ethnicities.
All our knowledge is made up of what we were brought up to believe in.
So go out there into the big world and do your best and above all.
Use your words wisely.

How to Write Good Dialogue

By Rebecca Laurent

Writing good dialogue is no small task. I don’t imagine that there is any complete checklist that writers can follow that will allow us to craft perfect dialogue every time. There are, however, a few helpful rules of thumb that can help elevate flat dialogue and keep scenes from boring our readers.

Avoid using dialogue tags other than “said”

Trying to spice up writing using tags such as “she cajoled” or “she jerked out” is an easy mistake to make. Though, consider the reader’s experience. These kinds of tags can become very distracting from the actual conversations we’re trying to pull them into. Some might argue that these sorts of tags provide necessary information about a character’s disposition. Still, if those tags are truly bearing all the weight of such a large job, probably some critical content is missing from a character’s description and the wording of their lines.

Actually, use as few dialogue tags as possible.

Don’t get me wrong. Streams of naked dialogue are doom to any story, but that doesn’t mean every line should have a tag attached to it. Mix it up. Instead of “she said,” include a bit of physical description or body language which tells us more about a character’s mood. Such lines can let us know who is speaking just as clearly.

Edit out any conversations where your characters are telling each other about things they both already know.

Theater scrips have made this kind of banal conversation infamous, coining it as maid and butler dialogue. This is when one character says something like, “As you know, the master is out today.” If they already know it, why are they telling them? To readers, such overt attempts to cram in information come across as disingenuous and tend to pull them out of a story. Instead, ensure that your characters all have an appropriate level of motivation for whatever lines you give them.

Subtext!

So much of what makes fantastic dialogue fantastic is often not everything that the characters have said. Rather, it is what they have not said. Just like in real life, people in our stories can be passive-aggressive or say something which contrasts with what they’re thinking. Consider all the delicious possibilities which come with including a point-of-view (POV) character’s thoughts as they decide what to hold back from their conversation partner.

Bogged Down by Minutiae

By Rhonda Strehlow

Writers have a love/hate relationship with word count. Am I writing a novel? Short story? Flash fiction?

What’s my genre? Mystery. Romance. Action. Suspense. Poetry. Memoir.

Where do I fit?

We get stymied by unimportant details.

More important than word count or genre is making your words count. Lately useless words have been irritating me. Some. Almost. About. Filler words. Check them out when you read your next book. Notice that they don’t add anything to the story. They are a distraction. Eliminate them from your writing. Or, at least use them purposefully.

Write like we’re in this together.

Use words that evoke strong emotions. Cringed with fear. Bubbled with excitement. Cried until he collapsed.

Use imaginative action words. Walked is boring. Raced. Stumbled. Hobbled. Skipped. Danced. All better words.

Some of your words should stretch the comfort zone of your readers.  One reader told me she had to look up two words in one of my books. I challenged her to use them the next time we met.

Make your descriptions memorable. Not, “She picked a flower.” Instead, “She reached for the most stunning hydrangea on the bush of a hundred beautiful flowers.”

End each chapter with images so powerful the reader stops to process what he’s just read.

Challenge your readers. If readers don’t come away even a bit changed, a little more educated, after reading our books, have we done our jobs?

I’m disappointed when I read a book and think, that was a nice book. And, then promptly forget it. (I’m old. I don’t have time for nice.)  I’d rather my reaction be, ‘Tell me there’s a sequel!’

Writing Perspective – Day 26 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 26 – Beginnings

The Hook—good beginnings.

Every writer wants his or her work accepted. How do you make a good beginning that will keep the publisher reading your work, and see your story published? It doesn’t matter whether it’s a short story, poem, or novel. If you don’t grab the publisher in the first few paragraphs it won’t see the light of day.

To help with that, several years ago, I bought a book called Hooked by Les Edgerton. There are a lot of good ideas to not only keep the publisher reading but your reader as well.

The beginning of your book sets up the problem, the scene and you meet the characters. It gives just enough backstory to keep the publisher interested, but not too much that it ends up in the slush pile. You want to avoid the slush pile at all costs.

I’ve heard authors will spend more time on the beginning paragraphs and the first chapter of the book than the rest of the book.

If you don’t know what hooked you with your favorite book, take it off the shelf and read the first paragraph. Not only were you hooked, but more importantly the publisher of that book was too.

I admit I’ve struggled with the opening. I want to get it right. I want to build tension. I want to set the scene. Before I presented Thread of Evidence to my publisher, I read it at Writer’s Guild to get feedback. I value their feedback. I had way too much boring information in the opening paragraphs, boring information best left for other parts of the book and filled in as backstory where it wouldn’t be boring, or taking it out altogether.

You want to give your reader/publisher the setting, what is going on in the opening paragraph. Your publisher/reader needs to know in that opening if they are reading a historical novel, science fiction, contemporary romance, mystery, or another genre.

Does this grab your attention? Why or why not?

————-

Ten-year-old Jo-Ann Carter stood in the drawing room, arms crossed, with a stubborn expression on her face. Her pale green eyes flashed angrily as she watched her mother tie a blue-gray bonnet beneath her chin, matching her long flowing fitted-waist satin and taffeta dress. She stomped her black-shoed foot on the floor, a pout on her face. “I want to go too!”

—————–

That is the opening paragraph of Scarred. Do you want to know what comes next? Wanting to know is the reason behind every book on bookstore shelves and on your bookshelves. You wanted to know what’s next. Keeping your publisher interested will keep your reader interested. Keeping your reader interested will result in books sold and money in your pocket. And that is what every author wants, money in their pocket. It won’t happen without a good beginning. So, get the hook right and you will be on your way.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Dramatic Through Lines

Writing Perspective – Day 25 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 25 – Avoid Shortcuts

Welcome to day 25 of writing tips for any kind of writing – novel, short story, poetry, blog.

I’ve discussed many different areas important to writing. Looking through the material I received from a recent UntitledTown conference, I find another gem.

Shortcuts. Don’t take them. The idea is to be creative, not a duplicate of someone else’s writing. As I’ve seen on the blog site I blog on, many occasions people get inspiration from posts and ideas come forth and become new posts. Some are answers to questions in posts, some go off in a completely different direction from what the person wrote. We have many people who inspire us to write further on a topic or create a spinoff on the same topic.

In the same way, novelists can use or leverage what others have written to create something new and vital, breathing life into what might have been a dead subject.

You can glean ideas from a myriad of places, not only in books you’ve read but in news stories, conversations you have with friends, or people in general. Ideas are everywhere. Ideas lead to creativity, and creativity leads to a finished story.

As you’re expounding on what others have written, don’t take shortcuts. Don’t plagiarize. Make it your own. We all have opinions on what we read or hear. Great conversations come about from a single thought or idea. The same is true in writing. Opinions matter.

Don’t take shortcuts by making what someone else wrote a template for your writing. Make the story new and genuine. You know what a template is. It’s a basic form that follows a pattern. Romance books are good examples of template writing. The template is the same for every book. The only difference is the names of the characters and their locations. There’s no imagination in that kind of writing, and very little research either for that matter. Throw the template away!

Don’t take shortcuts with your writing. You have an idea, so find out everything you can about your idea. Don’t expect that someone else’s legwork, research, is the unvarnished truth in the matter. Search it out yourself.

In a book I’ve written and am currently working on, I relied on a movie I saw as total truth with the information provided in the movie. That is, until I did my own research and found out the animal in the movie for that location wasn’t native to that location and isn’t found there.

No shortcuts. Do your own legwork and be creative. That’s what writing is all about. When you do the work, and you know you’ve done it well, you can sit back satisfied your reader will appreciate the work you did when he or she reads it and then recommends it to others. You might even find good reviews of your work. When you do, you know you’ve passed the test and your reader will look for more of your books because they trust the one you wrote.

Have you read books that look like the author took a shortcut, used a template, and fell short of your expectations on the topic? Or have you read books where you know the author did their best to create a good story and got all their facts right? Have you recommended books, given reviews on books, or passed those books to other readers? If you have, the author did a good job with the subject.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Beginnings

Please…Take A Bow

By Dorothy Seehausen

I read an article this morning about how we writers trash talk our work, as if we can’t think of enough negative adjectives like dismal or crappy to evaluate our ideas.

The article was written by an English teacher with one rule for all his students: each time you hand me your work, tell me this is your very best.

It made me think of an ESL (English as a Second Language) class I taught a few years back to five enthusiastic and eager Japanese students, three young men and two women.

What I was most impressed with in the six weeks we had together was the manner in which they handed me their homework. With a slight bow, they would extend both upturned hands, the assignment proudly resting on top.

I found myself bowing slightly in return as they revently placed these pieces of themselves in my care. I learned the Japanese word for thank you…domo arigatou (doh-moh ah-ree-gah-toh). I became their hero, and they called me Dorothy instead of “teacher.”

They invited me to tea the day before they left. I received a lovely thank you card. “Dearest Dorothy…I will never forget you”… “It’s my pleasure that I learned with you” …”If I have a chance, I will visit St. You”…”Please don’t change and don’t forget me” … “I’ll miss you…”

The complexity of learning a second language is fraught with concepts that don’t translate literally. Trying to write them down is a nightmare.

My Japanese students knew this. They knew what they produced was not as important as honoring the manner in which it materialized.  

I’m happy to use their wisdom to hone an attitude of gratitude toward myself as a writer. It sure beats dismal or crappy.