I am excited to post — with permission, of course — an article that Mary Deal has put together with her perspective on foreshadowing. I told her when she sent me the article that I love this particular literary device, and I’m pretty good at spotting it when I read. Because I can spot it so well, when I write my own stories, I try to use it with great subtlety. In fact, I like to sprinkle foreshadowing dust in my books, and then pull the foreshadowed hints together like a bunch of threads at the climax to the story. Read More
Tag Archives: sister
MA: I’m delighted to introduce today’s guest-blogger, Mary Slaby (AKA Molly Roe), who hails from the same neck of the woods where I grew up: northeastern Pennsylvania. Mary’s stories use this region as their setting, and weave aspects of the local history and culture into their plots. I am intrigued by her focus on the Molly Maguires, a group if Irish immigrants in the early coal mining days of Pennsylvania’s history. The Molly Maguires fought for better treatment of the Irish community, sometimes using violence as a means of making that happen. My father was a coal miner in this region when he was a young man in the 1940s, and occasionally after a pint or two of ale, he’d spin a tale about the Mollies and the last remnants of the group he ran with back in those days. I was always fascinated by this history – a living history for my dad — so having Mary Slaby visit me and guest-blog about her writing is such a treat. Mary, thanks for coming by. Tell us about your background.
MR: I’ve lived most of my life in Pennsylvania, only about 60 miles from where my ancestors settled when coming to this country from Ireland during the 1840s and ‘50s. I had a wonderful childhood, growing up with an extended family in the old homestead. My husband John grew up in the same home town, but we did not meet each other until college. I attended Immaculata College and Penn State University as an undergrad, then Wilkes and Temple for graduate school. I’m currently a reading and language arts teacher at Lake-Lehman School Junior-Senior High School near Harveys Lake, PA. Read More
MA: Today I have the pleasure of interviewing award-winning, best-selling author, Miss Mae. Miss Mae holds a special place in my heart because she honored me with my first guest blog as a new author when I was trying to navigate the waters of marketing and promotion!
She has a long list of books that have earned awards and special accolades. “Said the Spider to the Fly”, published by The Wild Rose Press, has consistently rated outstanding reviews and has won the esteemed title of Best Book of the Week for The Long and the Short of It Reviews and from The Romance Studio. It can be purchased both in digital format and in print directly from the publisher’s site. “When the Bough Breaks”, a young adult coming-of-age is the first from Whimsical Publications. Not only has this book generated top reviews, it’s also won a Best Cover of the Month award, and won the 2009 P & E Readers’ Poll in the YA category.
The highly acclaimed “It’s Elementary, My Dear Winifred” won a 2009 Top Ten Read at MyShelf.com. It’s slanted for a late summer re-release from Whimsical Publications, with the second in the “Dear Winifred” series planned to be finished late 2010.
She also enjoys writing humor and non-fiction articles. Besides her monthly contributions to the ezine American Chronicle, some of her publications can be found in The Front Porch Magazine, Good Old Days, and Writers Weekly.
Whew! I could go on and on…Miss Mae, welcome to my blog. It’s such an honor to have you guest with me. It’s obvious you have a love for writing, so why novels in particular? Read More
Proper use of “said” and the use of “beats” will keep a story flowing smoothly.
Books and articles turn up touting the value of replacing the use of the word said. She said. He said. Many claim said is overused and tiresome. They supply an endless plethora of verbs, nouns and adjectives to use instead. But my opinion is that, in most cases, there are no substitutes, given what said does when used properly.
Said is acceptable enough to hide in the background and not call the reader’s attention to dynamics of speech that would best be shown with proper punctuation. Said is simply a speaker attribution and tells us who said what in the course of conversation.
However, said can become grossly overworked. This is why many people have tired of it. This is an example of overuse:
“Hola, Papi,” Pablo said. “When do we eat?”
“About ten minutes,” his father said.
“I’m going back to the street then,” Pablo said. “I’m winning all the races.”
“Hey-hey,” Rico said. “Be on time for dinner.”
“Si, Papa,” Pablo said.
Taken from my novel, The Tropics, this conversation flows much better when written this way:
“Hola, Papi,” he said, eyes eager and smiling. “When do we eat?”
“About ten minutes.”
“I’m going back to the street then,” Pablo said, starting to run away. “I’m winning all the races.”
“Hey-hey,” Rico said. “Be on time for dinner.”
Each sentence, both dialogue and narration contains slight variations. The description of actions included with dialogue is referred to as beats. The characters are not only talking. They are involved in doing something at the same time they speak.
When the actions of characters are included, the writer must be careful not to overuse beats. They serve the purpose of avoiding dialogue with a running string of “saids” or speaker attributions.
I wholeheartedly agree with Renne Browne and Dave King. In their book, “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers,” they say:
“If you substitute the occasional speaker attribution with a beat, you can break the monotony of the ‘saids’ before it begins to call attention to itself.”
A beat is not necessary in writing, but it makes for smoother reading and understanding of the characters.
For example, if you are speaking in live conversation with someone, you hear their words and watch their body language, or watch what they direct your attention to. The beats are their gestures.
In reading, beats allow for a silent pause; a moment to digest what is being said and the action emphasizes the dialogue.
On the page, a speaker attribution identifies who is speaking. The word said is accepted because it remains in the background. It does not make us pause to visualize or try to understand the way that the character speaks. Here’s another example when said has been replaced:
“What more?” Ciara questioned. “I know what I have to do. Rico also had a sister he never talked about. Help me find her—”
“Senorita,” Lazaro interrupted. “There’s a reason why he never spoke of her.”
“You know about her?” Ciara quizzed.
“Si, si. She had breast cancer,” Lazaro sympathized.
Now the same conversation from The Tropics, written another way:
“What more?” Ciara asked. “I know what I have to do. Rico also had a sister he never talked about. Help me find her—”
“Senorita,” Lazaro said. “There’s a reason why he never spoke of her.”
“You know about her?”
“Si, si. She had breast cancer.”
Another aspect of smooth writing is that when only two characters speak, you need not identify each by name each time they say something. You also need not include any speaker attribution at all, unless the dialogue string is too long. Simply establish who spoke first, who responded, and the reader will follow along. Also, a good place to insert a few beats is in any string of dialogue where speaker attributions are not used.
This gets more complicated when you have three or more people sharing conversation. A few more speaker attributions are acceptable, and a beat both aids in showing us the characters actions and prevents a string of attributions each time a new voice is written in dialogue. Here’s another example of over-use:
“I haven’t seen Larry for months,” Ruby said.
“I thought you two were tight as thieves,” Brad said.
“Not that tight,” Ruby said.
“Guess we all had it wrong,” Denny said.
“You guys and your assumptions,” Ruby said.
Here’s a better example:
“I haven’t seen Larry for months,” Ruby said.
“I thought you two were tight as thieves,” Brad said, as he pressed a hand against the gun inside his jacket.
“Not that tight!” Ruby looked around the room, all the while feigning nonchalance and looking like any other customer in the bar.
“Guess we had it all wrong,” Denny said as he took another sip of his drink.
“You guys and your assumptions….”
In the revised example, when a speaker attribution is not included, we still know who is speaking. Using a beat makes it easy to know to whom the dialogue belongs, so leave off the attribution.
Notice, too, that “chimed in” or “quipped” or “volunteered” or “whispered” and such other attributions did not substitute for the word said. What really happened among the “saids” in the second example is that the word said receded into the background and allowed us to fully comprehend the urgency of the conversation. Because of the punctuation, we didn’t have to be told about voice inflection or any other way that the speaker spoke, which would have made us stop and visualize the action or the tenseness of the conversation.
The choice of words and punctuation in the dialogue did that for us, with the help of said, which quietly did its part, as it should. Our eyes read the important words, while said registers only subconsciously. All we need to further the action is to read on.
Attributing dialogue to certain characters need not be overdone. Proper punctuation does that for us. For example:
“You klutz!” he exclaimed.
The exclamation point tells us the remark was an exclamation and not a quiet statement or a question. It is not necessary to repeat to the reader that it he exclaimed. Readers do not like redundancy. It’s very off-putting; as if the writer is sure the reader won’t get it. In that incorrect assumption lays the erroneous motivation for writers to use attributions other than said. An experienced reader comprehends the first time through with proper punctuation.
Many writers make the mistake of thinking they can add impetus to dialogue by including many and varied attributions. This is as bad a practice as using your hands and arms in front of your face when you speak. When talking, words and intonation speak for themselves and most hand gestures, at best, are rude. So, like hand gestures, a writer may irritate a reader through redundancy.
Yet another incorrect usage of attributions has become quite common:
“I hope you like it,” she smiled.
“It’s way over there,” he pointed.
“I’d like to take you home with me,” she lilted.These are unemotional sentences that do not need further modification. “Smiled,” “pointed” and “lilted” did not speak those words. Such verbs have no place as speaker attributions. Only in a few instances can said be replaced correctly. One way those sentences can be written properly, and sparingly, is given below. Notice the punctuation:
“I hope you like it,” she said as she smiled.
“It’s way over there,” he said, pointing.
“I’d like to take you home with me.” Her voice was low and lilting.
Here are two last examples of incorrect punctuation and attributes that just don’t convey what they were meant to:
“Fire…,” she exclaimed.
“Fire,” she screeched.
And correctly written if we already know who is speaking:
“Fire!” he said.
With many other places writers can get creative, speaker attributes are best left to the time-tested said, accompanied by proper punctuation in the dialogue.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
Author Jean Henry Mead is my special guest today. She began her career as a news reporter, later serving as a news, magazine and small press editor. The author of four novels, her latest release is a senior sleuth mystery/suspense novel, Diary of Murder. She’s also the author of eight nonfiction books. Her magazine articles have won state, regional and national awards and have appeared domestically as well as abroad. Read More
I am pleased to introduce today’s guest-blogger, Stacy Juba. Stacy is the author of the mystery novel Twenty-Five Years Ago Today. She is a freelance writer and former daily newspaper reporter with more than a dozen writing awards to her credit, including three New England Press Association awards and the American Cancer Society New England Chapter’s Sword of Hope Media Award. Her young adult novel Face-Off was published under her maiden name, Stacy Drumtra, when she was 18 years old. Read More
What two words describe your dad? Brave and loving. I need to elaborate. My father suffered a paralyzing stroke when my mother was pregnant with me in 1959. She already had four other young children at home, and his illness was a major impact on the entire family. I grew up watching him work hard all his life, despite his paralysis, loving and providing for his family.
How are you most unlike him? I’m not nearly as brave as he was, despite spending 25-plus years as a U.S. counterterrorism agent. I faced danger and uncertainty during operations, but all that ended when I retired. My dad couldn’t retire from his troubles. They were permanent, but he stared them in the eye and faced them down with resolute determination every day of his life. Read More
My special guest today is very prolific mystery writer. Marilyn Meredith is the author of over twenty-five published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Dispel the Mist from Mundania Press. Under the name of F. M. Meredith she writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series. No Sanctuary is the newest from Oak Tree Press and a finalist the mystery/suspense category of the Epic best in e-books contest .
She is a member of EPIC (Electronically Published Internet Connection), Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and is on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She was an instructor for Writer’s Digest School for ten years, and served as an instructor at the Maui Writer’s Retreat and many other writer’s conferences. She makes her home in Springville, CA, much like Bear Creek where Deputy Tempe Crabtree lives. Read More