Monthly Archives: June 2012

Jun 27

Exaggeration With No Redundancy…No Redundancy…

Exaggeration With No Redundancy
Mary Deal

When speaking and you wish to get your point across, or call attention to something in the telling, you add emphasis to your enunciation. This can’t be done in writing.

Many writers add a plethora of verbs and adverbs to try to instill the idea of importance to what they write about.

In the three group examples below, which sentence is better, keeping in mind that in writing, word count is all important?

The whole group knew.

Everyone knew.

The whole group all went together.

Everyone in the group attended.

Lots of people believed what we didn’t.

Others believed it.

When you examine these simple sentences, be aware that in your own writing, exaggeration and redundancy may be hiding in the guise of thoroughly explaining. Once you have developed your scene – who’s in it and what they’re doing – repeating certain information is not necessary.

For example, in the second set of sentences, we know we’re dealing with a bunch of people. Not only do we need to use the words “the whole group,” we can also eliminate the redundancy by omitting the word “all.” “The whole Group” and the word “all” have the same meaning, creating a glaring redundancy.

These little nuances hide in our writing and one of the best ways to root them out is to read our prose out loud. If the sentences don’t roll off the tongue smoothly, if you feel you’re repeating yourself, rewrite the sentences. If something in the reading irritates you, it will certainly irritate your avid, educated reader.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Jun 20

The Psychology of Peer Envy by Mary Deal

The Psychology of Peer Envy
Mary Deal

How many times have you read a book and wished you could write like that author?

How many times have you heard about an author’s success and thought it could never happen to you?

How many times have you wondered why the spectacular success that happened to J.K. Rowling hasn’t happened to you?

Truth is, the more you see other people having success and the more you wonder why it isn’t happening to you is what’s making it NOT happen. Your thoughts of it not happening to you is driving the point home that it will not happen for you.

This whole process is known as peer envy. Actually the general process of peer envy applies to all in life. However, we will concentrate on writers and authors in this article.

When you envy someone, you’re simply tell yourself you don’t have what they have. You are driving the point home in your psych that they have and you have not.

For writers who wish to always improve their craft, they should read the authors that appeal to them. They should not read with the attitude that those authors are so much better, or some much more accomplished. Read and enjoy, but at the same time, pick out the strong points in their prose.

Why do their stories sound more exciting?

How do they find such remote settings for their plots?

How did they learn to use such sophisticated words and still have them understood to the average reader?

And on and on. Pick apart your favorite author’s work to learn from them.

When you read your favorite authors to learn their secrets, that is not peer envy. It is peer education.

One of my favorites is Mary Higgins Clark. I can pinpoint exactly where I made the switch from envy to learning. I was reading her novel, Two Little Girls in Blue. She has so much vivid detail in her stories, without being overbearing. I was thinking how good she was at putting in just the right amount of detail. I was also able to glean what she was leaving out. When I realized I was placing her so high above my own writing ability, it was a jolt to my nervous system. At that point was when I decided not to envy but to learn from her writing style. My thrillers do not fall into the same genre as her stories, but I did learn a lot about her descriptive techniques, scene changes, style, and so forth.

How many of you have envied J.K. Rowling for her incredibly unique stories? Truth is, it takes a certain mind and mental set to create her stories. She has an ability not commonly found. We envy her because we do not have her success. Not too many people are able to emulate her prose and come close to her capabilities. She, especially should never be your focus of envy because her abilities are uncommon. To even try to emulate her is to falsely think ourselves belonging in the same category as Rowling or J.R.R. Tolkien and like others. We are not there till we develop our own abilities to have that kind of success.

We get there by developing our own skills.

We can admire these people for their writing ability; maybe even their marketing ability to attract people important in the industry to take their stories and run straight to the silver screen. But peer envy is simply a no-no.

When you read your favorite authors with the intention to learn from them, peer envy disappears.

When you learn from your peers and then improve your own writing ability, the more you read and study, the better your own abilities; the better chance you have of creating your own signature in the world of books, and it will be influenced by those you read.

Yes, read J.K. Rowling. Read J. R.R. Tolkien. Read Isaac Asimov. Focus on any authors and genres that interest you. Read with the intention to learn their secrets. You will develop your own stories and style. You will build your own reputation according to your own talents. Drop the peer envy because it reminds you that you are not there yet and stunts your progress.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Jun 13

‘Slowing Yourself Down,’ Some Good Advice (and a poem!) from Mary Deal

Slowing Yourself Down
Mary Deal

Do you slow yourself down by having to have everything in your world in perfect order before you begin to write?

Do you have to have the beds made, your first or second cup of coffee. Do you have to hear your favorite song to get you motivated? Do you have to clean house while you think about your next chapter? Did you forget to buy something for dinner at the grocers?

All of these pesky everyday chores are nothing more than writer’s block. If it’s your heart’s desire to write, why would you be slowing yourself down?

Some say there is no such thing as writer’s block. I’ve never had it, but I believe anything that keeps you from writing is writer’s block.

One of the ways you can avoid this type of writer’s block is to set aside a time during your day to write. Yet, it’s not that simple. You may know that at 9:00 a.m. you will begin to write and will do so until noon. However, by 9:00 the phone has rung four times with people needing your assistance. You think you have time to run to the grocery and end up doing a week’s shopping and making yourself late again, so you put off writing till the next day. Either you really don’t want to write, or you need some restraint.

Setting a time when your writing routine will not be affected is best. Do you write best in the wee hours before sunrise? Okay, then go to bed a little earlier so you can wake earlier. Get in the habit of it. If that doesn’t work for you because you have family you have to get out of the house to start their days, then begin to look at various time intervals in your day and pick the best.

Once you’ve decided on a certain time span devoted just to you and your prose, do not take your gift for granted. Do not cheat on time. You are only cheating yourself.

All of this writer’s block business comes down to how much you really wish to write and how committed you are to practicing your craft and making inroads into the writing world. Is that really what you want?

I’ve included a poem here that I wrote some years ago. It’s called, what else?


The plot’s

strong in my mind

too cold, can’t think

fingers won’t move

rise from my chair

rummage through closet, find a sweater

something warm to drink

still cold, climb on treadmill, move circulation.

Already skipped breakfast

another cup of tea, a cookie or two.

Go to the bathroom, wash hands

stare out the window

conjure my story

and the grocery list


clean house

sort the laundry

pick up kids

visit mom.

Tea is cold

flick on TV while microwave heats

finish watching show, learn about plots


write a screenplay some day.

Actor wasn’t good, story not credible

very upsetting, destroyed my mood.

I can write better than that!

Get to work

create mind boggling twists.

Answered the phone, talked too long

Voicemail gets the next one

turn the volume down.

Stare at the monitor

tap a key


a few more keys

keep going

no more delays

no more tea

don’t hold your bladder.

Daydreaming my story’s finished

Close the drapes, sit down


keep writing


words pour out

catch up, work faster, more diligently

never mind typos, edit later

say it succinctly first time through

catch up, don’t fall behind

deadlines to meet.

Words flowing,

sentence after sentence



Oh, that’s good!

the end’s now in sight

my best story yet


Surely I work better under pressure.

Wonder why other people have writer’s block….

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Jun 06

Do Your Characters Speak Your Language?

Your Characters Speak Your Language
Mary Deal

One of the most difficult accomplishments in writing is to get a certain character’s dialect and accent correct.

When you include foreign characters in your story, it’s imperative that your reader know they have an accent relative to the country from which they hail.

If you are not attentive to these nuances, all your characters will sound like you. If you as the author are not a linguist or grammarian, you may have a certain limited capability at using the English language. Without expanding your knowledge or simply using a Thesaurus, you will find yourself repeating the same words and phrases over and over.

Let’s take the example of a foreign accent. Your character’s manner of speech will be greatly affected by the way you describe that person and from where they came. Say you’ve set up your character as being from France. Maybe he dresses in fine French clothes, is real dapper and has European table manners. Beyond that, have him use French phrases like mon cherie in the course of his dialogue.

Any foreign phrases you attach to your character should be fairly well known to the general public. These phrases both immediately give the reader the character’s flavor of speech; it also lets the reader skim smoothly over the foreign phrase, imagine an accent, and stay in the story. Including a phrase that not too many people have heard makes the reader pause to try to understand. That is something you do not want to happen.

When writing in English, the author must still assure that all characters have their own manner of speaking. Maybe a cowboy has a laid-back southern drawl, as in “I ain’t into office work, ma’am. I ride horses.” Can you hear him speak? The African man who made it to the Olympics has an Nigerian accent and sings songs from his country that no one understands. The Latino from south of the border speaks broken English interspersed with his home areas colloquialisms and calls women Senora or Senorita.

These are but a few examples of unique characters who must sound different. Each would be enhanced by the way the author introduces them into the story. The cowboy always wears boots, even with a tuxedo. The African man plays his drums because he misses home, but doesn’t want to miss a chance at the Olympics either. The Latino does his own cooking because you can’t get real authentic south-of-the-border cooking at any restaurant.

When you develop your characters well, many times even their simplest conversations will appear to the reader as being spoken with some sort of accent or brogue.

But don’t overlook that once you set up the special characters that people your story, their dialogue must follow suit. You must set your characters apart, not only in mannerisms and such, but in their dialogues. Otherwise all your characters will all sound like you, the author, and will speak the same language as you.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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