I grew up among middle-class everyday folk. Language was one thing that separated groups of people as I had come to know them. When I was young, every once in a while I’d hear someone say, “Oh my! She talks so uppity!” Read More
Tag Archives: phrases
More Words to Lose
Have you ever really listened to people talking? We writers should do that all the time. It’s one of the reasons we love to people watch, not to eavesdrop but to learn about fascinating accents, jargon and colloquialisms that could add zing to the characters in our fiction.
In becoming aware of how people talk, on a daily basis I hear words and phrases that make me cringe. Call me a purest. Call me obsessive compulsive. I shake my head when I hear anyone say, “I told him, I said…” What is the purpose of being redundant? “I told him” and “I said” mean exactly the same thing.
“I told him, I said, be careful.”
“She told me, she said she didn’t like my cooking.”
I sigh when I hear a person saying “basically” before starting each new sentence they speak.
“Basically, what you need to know is where to start.”
“Basically, the mystery started with a nondescript clue.”
As you can see in the above two examples, the sentences do not need the word basically at all.
Dislikes such as these are at the top of my list to get hit with the delete button in my compositions.
Language takes on a different aura in dialogue if you have established that one of your characters actually speaks this way: “Basically, ma’am, I’m here to learn the truth and that’s all.” Still, it would be very off-putting to the reader if your character started all or lots of his dialogue with that dreaded word. Correctly portrayed, you would have set up the character’s speaking personality as, perhaps, slow and as being a methodical thinker and that one word used once or twice would then enhance his speech mannerisms.
However, my writing is not yet perfect either. I must continually be vigilant for sentence starters like: “She thought….” or “He said….”
She thought she wanted to go along.
He said he didn’t want to go.
When writing from the main character’s point of view, the reader will be in that character’s mind, seeing the story action from his or her point of view. The reader will be thinking the character’s thoughts. At least that’s what happens if our writing is good enough to draw the reader in. Starting sentences with phrases like “She thought” is, again, redundant. All a writer need do is state the character’s thought: She wanted to go along. Immediately, we feel or sense the character’s desire without being told it’s a thought.
Deleting unnecessary words and phrases helps greatly when word count matters and it really does, not to mention cleaning up a manuscript.
If in a case like “He said…,” instead of saying “He said he didn’t want to go along,” put what the character said in actual dialogue: “I want to go too,” he said. That’s unless you’re relating a past experience. Even then, you would simply say: He wanted to go along.
Any time you catch yourself telling what this or that character said, most of the time what the character said should be put in dialogue, instead of the writer “second-hand” telling the reader what was spoken.
I continue to be amazed at how people in my own circle of friends and family use these incorrect phrases. But then, they are not writers who need be astute at the verbiage they commit into stories. They are just being themselves, and that’s just fine with me. They give me a lot to think about and I am grateful that they can just be themselves with me and not worry that I am going to correct their every spoken word.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
11 Must-haves for making Video Trailers
Video trailers help sell books. Just as a preview of a film or TV special can spark interest and make you impatient for the day you can see the show so, too, can trailers incite a potential reader’s interest.
If you are computer savvy, you will probably enjoy making your own trailer. If you are not knowledgeable in the way of putting written word, moving or still pictures and music together to make an exciting presentation, you should have the following items ready when you approach a professional to make the trailer for you.
1) Book title
2) Sub-title, if applicable
3) Name or pen name of the author(s)
Under this, you can include such phrases as “Award-winning novelist,” or
Author of ____(previous book title)_____
4) One or two brief blurbs from popular writers or well-known persons in the industry, if you have them.
5) A tagline: One sentence as brief as possible.
6) The story synopsis
7) 5 – 10 sentences that distill your story and/or synopsis without giving away the ending
This can be difficult. In order to distill, you need to keep your focus on your main
character and the main plot thread.
In my thriller, River Bones, I have a strong sub-plot about Vietnam MIAs which totally feeds into the main plot and that the story couldn’t be without. However, I never mentioned this sub-plot in any of the information used for the making of the trailer. See the trailer here (All four of my video trailers are on this page):
8) Places where the book can be purchased
9) A .jpeg image of your front cover. You will be told the size requirements.
10) You should plan to do a fairly thorough search for photos that fit your distilled description. If they do not match the description, they will make the trailer seems confusing to the viewer. For each line of description, try to find one or two good photos that represent that bit of information. You may not use all of the pictures but it will give your video maker a good selection from which to choose.
11) You can also do a search for music to accompany your video. Music, in my opinion, can make or break your project. Blazing Trailers, who made all my videos, found an exquisite bit of music by Kevin MacLeod for my novel, The Ka, that so fit the story that I can’t remember the music I originally suggested.
All of these items will be required in order to begin building your video. The maker will probably suggest other pictures that better suit the action. She or he may also suggest different music than you were able to find. Professionals have access to royalty free photos and music that writers may not. Your suggestions in all of this will guide them to find the best products that emphasize your vision of how your wish your story portrayed.
If the video maker makes suggestions, listen. Check out every detail they offer. Your suggestions of photos and music are just that. If they don’t fit, they give the video maker a good idea of what you hope to create. Having once read your synopsis and distillation into ten sentences, you will be told which sentences to use and which to omit. The maker may even reword your sentences to make them more exciting. That may also be required in order to overlay the words onto a picture.
As the process moves along….
The maker will send you a mock-up, like a first draft. You can change or correct anything. Make sure your verbiage is as exciting as possible. The pictures should be as close a representation to the story as possible, especially any characters. If your story is about a brunette, don’t use a picture of a blonde. The music should accentuate the action. Once you approve at this point, the video is made into its final format.
The finished presentation may start with your book cover, but not necessarily. With my novel The Tropics, the video starts with a sailboat way out in the middle of the blue ocean. This was to exemplify the feeling of aloneness.
From the order of information at the end of the trailer for my thriller, Down to the Needle:
~ The book cover, author name and Web site
~ A very brief one line blurb from a popular writer or other, if available.
~ A list of places where the book can be purchased
~ The logo of the person or company that created the video
~ A credit for the music composer
Having all of this information readily available before you seek someone to make your trailer will quickly speed things along and minimize time and expenses. You’ll have some changes along the way to tighten up the presentation but once finished, you should have an exciting clip.
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Writing prompts and story ideas can be found in numerous lists on the Internet, but the best ones are found right around you.
How many times have you searched to find topics that might serve to shake a story out of your Muse? A list of words or phrases just might jog your Muse into action. Then, when you find such a list, you are not enthused by its offerings and you continue to search for more.
Story starters that encourage descriptive writing abound around you. Everything you see day-to-day is a writing prompt. If you don’t see life that way, I encourage you to take another look.
Take new interest in the things you take for granted. Let your mind wander from the probable to the improbable. Fantasize about things and events. Give them new life.
Here are a few samples of story ideas taken from everyday life that might help you see what’s around you in your world.
Imagine you’re walking down a road. Normally you see rocks and you side step and walk on.
If you’re a fantasy writer…
What would happen if all those rocks lying dormant for eons suddenly came to life? They pop. They explode. Wow! Would they be friendly? Or would they be alien, just waiting for the right moment to change the universe?
Want to write a mystery?
Suppose one of those ordinary rocks had fresh blood on it?
You find an envelope caught under a rock along the road. It’s open and money is sticking out. You want to get the money to its rightful owner so you return it promptly and find yourself looking into the fiery eyes of…
See where I’m going with this? Writing prompts are everywhere.
In my day to day life in Hawaii, just this morning, I saw or heard the following writing prompts out of my window from where I sit composing this bit of descriptive writing at my desk.
~ The man across the street is trimming branches off a tree with a buzz saw. He stops suddenly and tries to see into the window of the house. (Someone from inside that house may have called to him. But as a mystery writer, I can make a real thriller out of that teeny bit of action.)
~ A kid runs down the street, like he’s real scared. Now I hear a siren coming close.
~ A dog limps across my yard. It has a broken leg, or its favoring an injured leg, and hobbling. A moment later, another dog crosses the yard. Looks as though it’s had one leg amputated.
~ A car passes by on the street. The girl looks like she’s gushing all over her guy, the driver. She’s almost in his lap. They look blissfully happy.
~ I hear a strange sound and it doesn’t sound like any of the neighbors using power equipment as they repair their houses and structures. The sound is most curious and I can’t get it out of my mind.
~ I hear a loud bang, like a gunshot. It comes from the next group of homes adjacent to this small neighborhood. I hear another.
~ The woman in the house to the left is standing out in her yard. She never just stands there. She’s always on the go. Her husband comes out. They talk. They hug. She cries. He comforts.
The best writing prompts are right around you. However, if you wish only words or phrases to trigger your Muse, then here are a few samples.
Buried money and valuables in a box
White powder in the kitchen and you don’t bake
Loving a married person, learning he is divorcing
A child who leaves alien footprints
An ugly knot growing on your body
Learning your spouse is a murderer in hiding
A horrific recurring dream that gets closer and closer
Lightning always striking only your house
The neighbors on your left practice swinging with the neighbors on your right
A rock containing clear facial images that seems to pull you in
A grotesque Halloween mask
A drop of acid rain
Unidentified creature footprints
This list is just a sampling. I could go on and on.
When searching for writing prompts, keep in mind that it is said only twenty types of stories exist. All stories have been written. This is true, but every story contains a different setting, unique characters, and unusual occurrences and endings. That is how we’re able to create new stories all the time.
As you seek mental stimulation through prompts, begin by having an idea in which genre you wish to write. Genre is what you need to decide first. Take for example, this prompt listed above:
~ A car passes by on the street. The girl looks like she’s gushing all over her guy, the driver. She’s almost in his lap. They look blissfully happy.
A romance writer will turn that scene into, perhaps, one of a happy couple of kids. Then life pulls them to opposite ends of the world. They meet again years later, only by chance, depending on the circumstances of the plot, and realize that they still love each other.
A mystery writer could turn writing prompts such as this into a thriller where the girl is gah-gah over the guy, but he’s got other plans. He turns out to be a serial rapist!
A science fiction or fantasy writer would have the guy taking the girl out to a deserted field, she thinks for a bit of petting. Instead, he beams her up to a hovering ship and whatever fate waits.
Know your genre and then, as you read prompts, determine what appeals to the type of story line you wish to create.
Begin to make a list of story starters that you notice. They are innocent gestures and occurrences that you might find in any good novel or short story. Make a list of anything that strikes your Muse.
Allow yourself to dwell on story ideas that may come to mind. Loosen your imagination. Do it now. You will need to free your Muse to write any story. Begin with your writing prompts.
Any story starters that you discover can also be used as occurrences and highlights in the story itself. Story starters need not only start a story. Starters can also fill in the story middles and endings.
I have used many instances from my life and ancient family history as writing prompts. You might wish to read “Grandpappy’s Cows” in the Flash Fiction section on my website to see how my Muse hilariously stretched the truth.
Or you may wish to read what my Muse made of seeing a boy out in the dead of night with a scissors in “Boy at the Crossroad.”
Writing prompts, story starters, or story ideas, wherever you find them, can trigger descriptive writing if you will loosen the reins of your Muse and let your mind wander on things sometimes best left alone. But then, after all, it’s only fiction. Right?
Mary’s stories mentioned above are further analyzed in the Flash Fiction section of her website writeanygnere.com.
Do you know how much of your day-to-day language contains clichés and jargon? The way you speak among your family and peers defines your roots and the person you are. However, in writing, clichés make your story stale and jargon needs to suit the time period of the story.
If you are writing a story that takes place, perhaps in the 1930s or any older time period, you’ll need to capture the language of the day. Whether you have your characters speak these lines or your narrator uses them, similar phrases of the early Twentieth Century may be something like:
A penny for your thoughts
The pot calling the kettle black
Putting the horse before the cart
To include such phrases in a modern-day story tells of an elderly author who has not kept up with language changes, or tells of a younger author bound in family colloquialisms. With the exception of writing a story in a past time frame, the language you use must be the most up-to-date as possible. Read More