Apr 30, 2014

Wildcard Wednesday

On Essays and . . . Stuff

Do you remember having to write essays for your high school English class? I gotta tell you, I was never partial to the essay. They made for boring reading, and I really struggled when it came to writing them. We weren't given proper lessons in writing them, we were just told we had to form an hypothesis and then either prove or disprove it. Kind of like a science experiment. That lack of instruction coloured my view of essays to this day. You can keep your Francis Bacon and Percy Bysshe Shelley, thank you very much.

The very worst part about essays, as far as I was concerned, was having to come up with a topic. "Write an essay on Great Expectations and make sure it's at least five pages long." Really? You want an essay on the whole book? Oh, just one aspect of the book. Care to give me a hint of what you're looking for? No? Then don't blame me if you get an essay on the effect of mould spores from that rotted dinner on Miss Havisham's sanity.

Although come to think of it, that might have made a pretty interesting topic. Although something like that would have never occurred to me in high school. And there was no internet back then so good luck with the research!

I don't know why I feel the need to do a non-fiction post each week . . . Sometimes it can be lots of fun, but sometimes it can become pretty be pretty tedious. But doing a series of posts on a topic - fairytale origins, fortune telling, the seven wonders of the world - is easier than coming up with a stand alone topic each week. And if my interest wanes before I'm finished with a series, it can become downright irritating. Sometimes trying to come up with an idea for Wednesday is like coming up with a topic for an essay - I don't know what to write about.

When I first started this blog I posted whenever the spirit moved me and whatever I felt like talking about. Mostly I talked about writing, which I'm supposed to be doing over on the Current Projects page now. Sometimes I was funny - downright witty even. But then I started to get all organized and decided to post specific things on certain days, and quite frankly it can feel like a bit of a chore some times.

But the thing is, I'm not the same person I was back then. Back then I was someone who wanted to be a writer so she started a blog to help motivate her. And I guess it worked, because now I am a writer. I have four books out there to prove it, and another on the way. So I guess that's progress, isn't it?

Hmm. Progress. That could be a topic for another day, couldn't it? ;-)

Apr 28, 2014

Metanoia Monday

metanoia ~ repentance; fundamental change in character

It's finally, irrevocably spring! And do you know how I know? The sign has gone up for the annual St. Peter's book sale. LOL

And another thing. Remember all that indoor gardening I did last week? And remember the gourd seeds I planted? Much to my surprise, one of them actually sprouted:

Isn't he cute? Now I'm going to have to find a bigger pot for him.

My "following a list" experiment has been having mixed results so far. I've faithfully made out a list every day (except Thursday) and even managed to check off most of the tasks on those lists. Some tasks appear on a list two or three days in a row before I get to them, like the taxes, but eventually everything gets done. I start with the same four tasks on my list each day: reading, writing, exercise, and crafting. I consider it a good day if I've been able to check them all off.

Surprisingly, the task that's been giving me the most trouble is reading. You'd think finding a half hour to read each day would be easy, but trust me, it's not. And not surprisingly, the one that's been easiest to find time for is crafts. Again, it's supposed to be a half hour minimum, which is pretty darned easy when I craft while watching TV at night.

I tried working on my sweater last week, but messed up the pattern big time. I had to frog it back several rows, which was a right pain in the butt. The main part of the sweater is a lacy stitch (that's not actually part of the pattern) and there's an intricate cable running up both sides, which made frogging it . . . interesting.

So I set the knitting aside and picked up my crochet hook. When I was crocheting the catghan I promised Dante an afghan of his own, so I worked on it instead:

It's actually a hexagon shape, done all in one piece. What? You've never made anything for a pet before? Shame on you! LOL I had so much fun with the shape that I've started another throw. This one will be made up of green hexagons. Right now I'm just going to keep crocheting until I run out of yarn, and then lay them out to see if I have enough for a throw. If not, I just might have to buy some more yarn. ;-)

My big project for the weekend were the taxes. Have I mentioned how much I hate taxes? Whoever invented them should be shot. However, the taxes are done and filed. Whew! It's great to have that monkey off my back!

Are you on Goodreads? If so, don't forget to enter for a chance to win one of three paperback copies of An Elemental Water.

You gotta enter to win! So good luck to you. :-)

Apr 25, 2014

What I'm Reading

So . . . I've been taking a new approach to getting things done lately, namely, making a daily to-do list. And while my lists can range from a lot to a little, there's always at least four things on them, one of which is read for a minimum of half an hour each day.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to stick to this aspect of my list last week 'cause I was busy doing other stuff. Hopefully this week I'll do better.

Electronic Books

Once again there was no progress on The Cobweb Bride by Vera Nazarian, Mr. Love by Sally Mason, Dark Love by Claudy Conn, or the Darlings of Paranormal Romance anthology. I did take George with me to the movies on Tuesday in anticipation of having to wait to get in, but I met up with a couple of friends and ending up talking instead. For shame! LOL

Tree Books

Of the reading I did get done, Dreamwalker, by Kathleen Dante down, was one of the books I managed to squeeze in. The chemistry between the two main characters is scorching and it'll be interesting to see if the author can maintain it.

But once again I didn't get back to Hunting the Corrigan's Blood by Holly Lisle. Well, that's not true. I did pick it up but got interrupted after a couple of pages and never got around to picking it up again.


I'm just past the halfway point in Sword and Sorceress IV and still enjoying it thoroughly. But surprisingly, for all my having to start reading Memory and Dream by Charles de Lint, I never got back to it. Go figure.

This week's goal is going to be to read at least one chapter from each of the books I have on the go. I'd like to make that a chapter a day, but there's only seven days in a week and I've got eight books on the go. You do the math. ;-)

Apr 23, 2014

Wildcard Wednesday

. . . On Taking Breaks and Finding Focus

I lost my focus last night. And I know where I lost it too. I lost it somewhere in the mall when I was wandering around before I went to see Transcendence. See, we're a one car family. Both the bowling alley and the cinemas are located at the mall (and very little else these days). Tuesday night is cheap night for the movies, but it's also the hubby's bowling night, so I end up having some time on my hands before hand 'cause the movies never start at the same time as bowling.

Anyway, yesterday was rather grey and dismal, so I fell behind with my precious list - namely the reading and writing parts of it. I got the post done for my Current Projects blog, but then I spent way too much time switching the links on my Writerly Advice page so that they open in a new page. And even though I hadn't done my post for here or my daily word count, I went to the movies anyway, figuring I'd catch up when I got home.

Only I didn't. Somewhere in the mall I lost my focus 'cause I sure couldn't focus on the tasks at hand when I got home. Or maybe I lost it during the movie, which I think I need to see again 'cause a lot of it went straight over my head. And towards the end things were happening so fast I was finding it hard to follow.

Let's just say it was no Captain America. ;-)

Anyway, today's Wildcard post was supposed to be about breaks. And a long winded explanation of how I've been writing pretty much forever and somewhere along the way I got it into my head that that's all I should be doing 'cause I'm home all day, and all the stuff that I used to do as well as write, but I stopped doing them and now I'm trying to start doing them again, blah blah blah. How's that for a run on sentence?

When I got home from the movie I found my enthusiasm for the subject had waned. In fact, I didn't really know where I was going with it in the first place.

I do recall what brought this on though. It was that post by Chuck Wendig on how to get a novel written in a year. One of the things that caught my attention was the no writing on the weekend advice. I tried it over this past weekend and I gotta say, it was really freeing.

Normally I try to get as much writing in as possible on the weekends, 'cause it's the weekend and that's what writers are supposed to do, right? Only most weekends I end up sitting in front of the computer staring at the screen or worse, playing games, until the day is gone and I've nothing accomplished except for a big case of the guilts for not having done anything.

But this past weekend I did not have writing on my to-do list and I got all kinds of stuff done without the accompanying guilt. And it felt great. Furthermore, I had a great idea for the blurb for An Elemental Earth and I got it without being chained to the desk.

I learned an important lesson. Breaks can be a good thing. It's okay to take a break every once in awhile. In fact, I'd say they're necessary to the creative process.

So go take a break. Right now. And I'll go do the same. :-D

Apr 21, 2014

Myophobia Monday

myophobia ~ fear of mice

Happy Easter Monday!

Personally, I'm happy that the holiday weekend is over with. LOL I was busy busy the whole weekend, which actually was actually kind of a nice change from my usual . . . not busy.

Saturday morning I started my day by making a list. Actually, I made a bunch of lists. First there was a master list of everything I need/want to accomplish, and then I broke it down into categories, like . . . things I need to do daily, weekly, occasionally or just once. Then I made a to-do list specifically for Saturday and again on Sunday.

I did better on Sunday than Saturday as far as following these lists go, but that's because I failed to take into account the sheer size of one of the projects I was trying to undertake on Saturday. Namely, indoor gardening. I like plants, and I have a lot of them. But sometimes I forget to water them for like . . . a month. So they tend to die on me. And if I trim a plant I'll stick the cuttings in water 'cause, you know, you wouldn't want to throw a healthy plant out, right? So then I end up with four hydroponic Wandering Jews, which only really works when you remember to replenish the water. :-)

But I had help with my indoor gardening. First there was Taz, who felt it necessary to inspect the plants I was repotting in case they were tasty:

Then Julius joined him on the table while Dante waited underneath for them to throw him some vines:

I'll spare you the list of all the plants I potted and/or repotted. But here's a few of the ones on the bookcase in the dining room:

And on the kitchen window sill:

And I hope you noticed my pineapples. I'm particularly proud of them. There's one in a pot in the dining room, and one I've just started in the kitchen. And that little container beside the cat pot has some bird house gourds in it. They were an impulse purchase at the dollar store - the kit came with the little cup, a peat pellet that you pour water onto to rehydrate, and three seeds. You're supposed to be able to create birdhouses with the gourds these plants produce. But I guess we'll have to wait and see.

This week didn't start out so great for me, but it picked up as it went along. Among other things I fixed one of the tabs at the top so it reads Current Projects and if you click on it, it'll take you to my writing blog where all I talk about is my writing. And I fixed that blog as well. It's fairly new and went through some growing pains, but after trying out many different backgrounds and styles, I finally settled it down to look pretty much like this one.

I also started a new crochet project. When I was working on the catghan, Dante (he's the cat on the floor in the picture of my helpers) really wanted to snuggle into it, so I promised him I'd crochet him his own afghan when I was done. So I've started one for him. It's all in one piece, six-sided, and so far it's just burgundy (for some reason cats really like the colour red - or at least my cats do) but I think I might add a couple of rows of navy to it, just for variety.

This week's lists will include lots of writing. Even when I was doing all that messing about with plants I had a couple of good thoughts about some of my current projects, which I promptly wrote down when I took a break. I think taking the weekend off from writing was good for me. I'm itching to get back at it.

It's about time! :-)

Apr 18, 2014

What I'm Reading

Have you ever noticed that sometimes you're in a mood to read a certain kind of book? Or is that just me? LOL

We had a lot of grey, miserable weather during the last week, and then it turned cold on us - we're talking sub zero temperatures again with snow - and I was in dire need of some comfort reading, so I started a new book. Or rather, an old favourite. And other than that, I didn't get a whole lot of reading in.

Electronic Books

The good news is, I found the books I was reading on George (my Kindle). Apparently I'd created a folder for books I have on the go and lo and behold, that's where they were. But the bad news is, I didn't get any reading done on any of them. So there was no progress on The Cobweb Bride by Vera Nazarian, or Mr. Love by Sally Mason, or Dark Love by Claudy Conn. And after reading the poorly written Atlantis/merpeople story in the Darlings of Paranormal Romance anthology, I was a little leery of starting the werewolf story. Maybe I'll give it a go over the long weekend.


You know, although I had trouble putting Dreamwalker, by Kathleen Dante down, once I did I never got around to picking it up again. I'm not sure why . . . I think it just went along with the mood I was in and my general lack of reading last week. I didn't get back to Hunting the Corrigan's Blood by Holly Lisle either.


I did get a couple more stories under my belt from Sword and Sorceress IV. I'm taking my time with it because I enjoy savouring the stories. And my comfort reading was Memory and Dream by Charles de Lint. I've read all his books (at least the ones I own, I believe I'm missing a couple) more than once, and they're my comfort food of the reading world. This is one of his Newford books, the city he invented that has a whole cycle of books and stories. It's an urban fantasy revolving around an artist named Isabelle Copely. Reading it is like re-connecting with an old friend. The only problem is, for a hardback the print is a little on the small side, so I'm only able to read a little at a time. Maybe I just need better light . . .

Apr 16, 2014

Wildcard Wednesday
Show and Tell

Previous articles in this series: Finding Ideas; Finding Time; Pantser Vs. Plotter; Characters;
Point Of View; Dialogue; Setting

We've pretty much reached the end of this series. I'd like to leave you with just one more pearl of wisdom. Next to “write what you know”, the most popular piece of writing advice is “show, don’t tell.” But what do they mean by showing?

Showing is when you reveal things about your characters, your story, their world, etc., as you advance your story. With telling, you stop the story in its tracks, kill whatever momentum you had going, and back up like a dump truck to dump a ton of information onto your reader.

Good writing should evoke sensation in the reader – don’t just say “it’s raining”, help the reader experience the storm. Involve the emotions. Take fear, for instance. Fear is a strong emotion with a great many ways to describe it - the stomach gets tied in knots, breaking out in a sweat, shivering, uncertainty in the eyes, huddling in a ball, a strong urge to run away. . .

Telling: She was afraid of the approaching storm. Showing: She stared, frozen in place as lightning lit up the sky. Her heart sped up and she choked back a whimper, shivering as a breeze swept over her sweat dampened skin leaving goose flesh in its wake.

You want your reader invested in the character. You want the reader inside the action. That's the sign of good writing . . . to pull the reader out of his ordinary life and put him in the middle of someplace else.

Many writers resort to telling because they believe the reader won't get the point if they don't. Often writers tell, then show, to make sure they get their point across, in effect treating their readers like morons. But the truth is that when you take out the telling, the showing remains. And that's all the reader needs in most cases.

Fiction is all about forging an emotional link between the author and the reader. One of the best ways to do this is by creating vivid images that immerse readers in the world of the fiction — not merely telling readers what’s happening, but showing it to them.

You want to make your writing vivid enough to grab a reader’s attention and draw them into the story. Showing them is an important way to do this. To help you show instead of tell, keep in mind the following:

Avoid overusing adverbs. Instead, use strong, specific verbs.
Use the five senses.
Don’t simply name feelings, let you characters experience them.
Use expressive dialogue to show the characters’ emotions and outlook.
Generate emotion through vivid writing and characters’ reactions.
Use well-placed details to bring scenes to life.

Does this mean all telling is bad? Not at all, telling does have its place. Use it for:

Slowing things down – a story that’s non-stop action can be exhausting for the reader. Telling, through narrative summary, can give the reader a breather after an extended, action-filled scene. It also varies the story’s rhythm.

Condensing recurring action – once a scene has been shown and the reader knows what it consists of, it doesn’t need to be stretched out into further scenes. It can be summarized instead. You can also summarize minor scenes that are similar to a key scene that will take place later on.

Minor characters – if a character doesn’t warrant a full scene, needed information can be delivered without straying unnecessarily from the plot line.

Transition between scenes - a brief event can smooth the way between bits of action or character interaction, without leaving an illogical gap or a sudden, unintentional jump in time.

The mark of a good writer is the ability to use both showing and telling to their best advantage. A successful story is one that has a balance between the two, and only you, as the writer, can decide how much should be shown, and how much should be told.

Just in case anyone out there finds this series useful, I've created a new page to hold the links to these articles. You'll find it at the top under the heading of Writerly Advice. :-)

Apr 14, 2014

Mucedinous Monday

mucedinous ~ mouldy; mildewy

Well . . . I gotta tell you. I didn't do so well with my daily goal of 500 words last week. Unless you want to count emails and blog posts, and I had someone tell me that blog post words should count because they're new words. So maybe I didn't do too badly after all. :-)

I really have to stop writing these posts in my head. Or at the very least start jotting notes down during the week. I think of all kinds of interesting things to include throughout the week, but I don't think to write them down so by the time I get around to writing this post they're gone forever.

Let's see now . . . For my new TV craft I decided to finish the navy cardigan I started knitting myself a couple of years ago. It's pretty slow going because the light's not good in the living room, the yarn is dark, and the pattern is intricate. Instead of the stockinette stitch the pattern calls for, I'm using a lacy stitch instead, plus it's got a double cable going up each side. I'm about halfway done the back and unless I start picking up speed I predict I'll have it done in time to wear in the fall.

I'm drawing a blank here. Serves me right for writing this at 3 a.m. What can I say, I started watching a Ghost Mine marathon and couldn't seem to stop. I baked both bread and cookies last week. With the help of the hubby I managed to get the cats' nails cut. Got some reading and some writing in . . . all in all it wasn't a bad week.

Oh! Except for my tooth. Somehow I managed to lose the filling from one of my root canals when I bit into a piece of bread. And it wasn't even crusty bread! I know it was from a root canal because the little post they screw into what's left of your tooth came out with it. And our dental insurance doesn't cover root canals. But it's an old root canal, so it doesn't hurt, so I'm in no hurry to go to the dentist to have it looked at. :-)

The spring pick up starts this week, which meant all those limbs that came down in our back yard during the ice storm needed to be cut up and dragged to the front of the house. Here's a reminder of what it looked like back there:

And here's what that corner of the yard looked like after the hubby and the son-in-law spent the afternoon getting rid of all that brush

And in case you missed it, here's a closer look at the visitor we had back there.

And just after I snapped that picture he jumped into the pond and one of his buddies came waddling under the fence and joined him.

It must be spring, the ducks are back. :-)

***Just a reminder***
Don't forget to pick up your copy of An Elemental Water while it's still available for only $1.99. The price will be going up at the end of the month!

Apr 11, 2014

What I'm Reading

So . . . the afghan I was working on last week? I finished it on Monday, and because it was a rainy day, I christened it by curling up under it and reading. It turned out larger than I intended because I used a granny stitch to join the squares and that added several inches. For those who are curious, here's what the finished afghan looks like:

Electronic Books

You're not going to believe this, but I lost the books I was reading on George (my Kindle), so there was no progress on The Cobweb Bride by Vera Nazarian, or Mr. Love by Sally Mason, or Dark Love by Claudy Conn.

Instead I read an erotic short story that I can't remember the name of, and then started Darlings of Paranormal Romance, which is an anthology I downloaded for free from Amazon. It's still for free if you want to check it out. I've read the first three stories, which seem to be getting progressively longer. The first one was part ghost story/part time travel, and I quite enjoyed it. The second took place in Atlantis, and mostly in the waters below Atlantis (it involved mer-people) and I have to admit I did not enjoy it as much. Okay, I have to be honest here, it was pretty bad. The third one was a full novel and I may have rushed through it a bit just to see what happens at the end. What happens is continued in the next books by this author, which you will have to buy. Next up is a werewolf story, and I'll be crossing my fingers that it's well done.

Tree Books

Part way through reading on George, his battery died. Which is another reason a person needs both e-books and tree books - I've never heard of a battery dying on a tree book. I was kind of pinned in place by a cat, but still in a reading mood, so I picked up one of the books that was sitting on the table beside my recliner. This one was Dreamwalker, by Kathleen Dante. It's a paranormal romance - he can enter people's dreams and influence them, and she's a shapeshifter - and all I can say is it's a good thing it has lots of natural breaks in it because it's very hard to put down!

I didn't get back to Hunting the Corrigan's Blood by Holly Lisle. It keeps moving around. Or maybe I keep moving it so I don't lose it. At any rate, it's probably going to be on the back burner now until I finish Dreamwalker.


I'm about a third of the way through Sword and Sorceress IV. This is what I like about an anthology as opposed to a novel. You can get just as caught up in a story, but when you come up for air a whole day hasn't passed. :-)

Apr 9, 2014

Wildcard Wednesday

Previous articles in this series: Finding Ideas; Finding Time; Pantser Vs. Plotter; Characters;
Point Of View; Dialogue

Look how far you've come! There's only one little thing you're lacking - a place for the story to happen. Next to strong characters, setting is the most important aspect of your story. After all, you can't just have your characters hanging out in space. Well, actually you can. The movie Gravity had the characters floating in space, but space itself was the setting; it's dark and cold and filled with stars, you can see the ship and Earth, it's silent . . . .

In its most basic sense, setting is where and when a story takes place. It can be real or made up, and it can change as the characters move through their storyscape. It's up to you as the writer to decide. Keep in mind the kind of story you're writing before choosing your setting. The setting for an historical romance will be much different from that of a modern murder mystery, which in turn will be much different from a futuristic story of space exploration.

If you're setting your story in a real time and place, do your research. Even if you've been to a place before, fires, floods, or earthquakes can alter the landscape. If you're setting a murder mystery in New Orleans today, you need to see what the city looks like today, not how it looked on that vacation you took back before Katrina hit.

But wait, you say, I'm writing a fantasy story so I can just make it up as I go along. Sometimes this can be even harder than setting a story in a real place. With a real place you're working with established landmarks and customs, you know how the economy and government work, but with fantasy you have to create all of this. Do the people in your world live in houses or trees or caves? What kind of class system is there? How do they get from one place to another? What do they eat? You get the idea.

However, setting is more than just establishing the time and place of your story, it helps make your story feel real to your readers. And how do you do this? The attention is in the details.

If I were to go to your story's setting, what would I be eating? Would I be sitting down to an elegant dinner of lobster at a sea side restaurant, or hush puppies and crawdads at the local diner? Popular foods vary from region to region and country to country, making use of this is a good way to reinforce your setting. Again, do your research. You're not going to find Peking Duck at a Medieval feast.

The weather and seasons are other good ways to help establish setting. Winter in California is much different from winter in Montana. Spring in most areas means rain, while summers can bring dryness as well as heat. The possibility of things like monsoons, typhoons, and hurricanes can affect the way people behave at certain times of the year. This will differ from areas where the climate is more temperate.

In your fantasy setting, is the weather hot? cold? rainy? windy? This will affect how your characters dress as well as how easily they're able to travel. Planting time will have a different feel from harvest time, and the different seasons are often marked by festivals.

Landmarks are an excellent way of not only establishing, but enhancing a setting. A crime drama set in New York City in the 80's will show the twin towers in the cityscape, while a mystery set at the turn of the century will have the Empire State building. What would London, England, be without Big Ben or the Tower Bridge? Even better to have these landmarks destroyed during a futuristic, alien invasion. The unique architecture of a place can add depth to your story.

The streets of the town or city where your story takes place can also be important. When using a real place you need to pay attention to whether they're streets or avenues, whether they're lettered or numbered. Our town has made it a habit of naming streets after former mayors and other important citizens. Do the streets of your made-up setting run straight, or do they wind haphazardly through your town or city? Are they dirt paths or cobblestone?

Use all five of your senses when establishing your setting. Don't just describe what can be seen, describe what can be heard, felt, smelled , and tasted as well. Your historical novel is set in London in the 1850's . . . you know about the Great Stink right? The countryside can be just as noisy as the city, but it's a different kind of noise. A village on the coast is going to feel damp, while a desert will feel hot and dry.

What kind of birds are in the trees, and do they sing, chirp, twitter? For that matter, what kind of trees and flowers are in your world, or are there any? What type of furniture does your character use? How does he get from point A to point B - walk? ride? fly? Even if you don't use all of this information, it's still good to know it to keep your story real.

For more on settings, try one of the following links:
Tips For Establishing Setting In Your Novel
How to Write a Setting
Four Ways to Bring Settings to Life
Creating a Setting

Apr 7, 2014

Maenadic Monday

maenadic ~ furious; bacchanalian

I may be wrong, but I think maybe - just maybe, mind you - that spring might actually be here. And why might I be thinking that? Why, the arrival of our annual visitors, Daphne and Donald.

They arrived at dinner time and didn't seem bothered at all when I went out onto the deck to take their picture. Nor did they mind when one of the cats escaped onto the deck as well.

I am forced to admit that once again I only got the minimum of writing done last week. Blame the weather, blame my mood, blame the stars not being in the correct alignment. Whatever it was, I've had enough of it.

Starting today, I'm setting myself a daily word goal of 500 words. Words for blog posts and emails do not count, however new words I add when editing do. And once I'm able to reach 500 words a day easily - I'll be upping the goal.

So . . . if I wasn't writing all week, what was I doing? The most logical assumption you'd make here is that I was reading, instead of writing. But no, other than articles and blog posts on the internet, I didn't read a blessed thing last week.

What I was doing was working on my scrap-ghan - my afghan made from all the various odds and ends of yarn left over from other projects. I did 10 twelve inch squares and 40 six inch squares. If you scroll down to Friday's post you can see the pictures of the finished squares.

I have since added a border of cream coloured yarn to each square and used the granny square stitch to join them together. Now, all that's left is to go around the whole thing just one more time. Once it's done I'll likely be raiding my yarn stash to create another granny square afghan. Just because I can. :-)

Apr 4, 2014

What I'm Reading

In this case, the title should be more like, what I'm not reading. To be perfectly honest, I haven't done much reading at all in the last week. So what have I been doing? When I haven't been writing or procrastinating or napping, I've been . . . crocheting.

Sometimes it's feast or famine with me. I can do nothing but read for days on end and then no reading at all for days. It's the same with the crocheting. Last week I was on a crocheting binge. Most of it was done while I was watching TV, either a DVD in the afternoon or regular TV in the evening. The urge was so strong that when I went to the movies Tuesday night it just didn't feel right because I didn't have my crocheting with me.

What I was crocheting was squares to put together to make an afghan. A couple of months ago I finished an afghan that was done all in one piece and I wanted to do something that wasn't quite so labour intensive. The intension was to use up yarn left over from other projects. Here's a picture of the finished squares:

As you can see, I have both big squares and little squares. The finished throw will alternate 12 inch squares with groups of four 6 inch squares. When I'm done it'll look something like this:

I didn't want to add to the size of the groups of 6 inch squares, so I just sewed them together. But I'm going to use something a little fancier to join the rest of the squares of the throw. I just have to decide what stitch I'm using. And what colour.

Apr 2, 2014

Wildcard Wednesday
Say What?

Previous articles in this series: Finding Ideas; Finding Time; Pantser Vs. Plotter; Characters;
Point Of View;

All righty then. You've probably settled on your idea by now. You've carved out the time to write, and you've figured out whether you're a pantser or a plotter. You've also created at least one main character to tell your story and you've chosen the point of view the story will be told from. But what happens if your main character needs to interact with other characters? Even if you're writing a science fiction or fantasy story where your characters are communicating telepathically, you're going to have to use dialogue to get your character's message across.

As writers, we don't want to write the way people really talk. Real speech is full of ums and ers, backtracking and repetition, and telling people things they already know. But on the other hand, unless your character is a British school boy, they are not going to speak with perfect English either.

What we want to do is give the impression of how people really talk. This is the one time you can get away with sentence fragments and comma splices, idiomatic and clich├ęd phrases, as well as intentional misspellings that indicate region, ethnicity, or class.

Keep in mind the age of your character when they're talking. A six-year-old will sound much different from a sixteen-year-old, who will sound quite different from a sixty-year-old. Men and women sound different from each other, as do different classes of people. A mechanic is not going to talk the same way as Wall Street investment broker.

Avoid drowning your dialogue in character tags - phrases such as exclaimed, murmured, shouted, whimpered, asserted, inquired, demanded, queried, thundered, whispered, and muttered. In most cases, the word "said" works just fine, and using colourful tags detracts from the dialogue. I once read a novel that had no character tags whatsoever in it, and I never missed them.

Watch the adverbs in your dialogue tags as well. If a character’s words are already angry, you don’t need to insert the word “angrily” after “she said.” It's far better to show the character's mood with his or her actions.

Instead of:
"This is unacceptable," she said angrily.
She slammed the book down. "This is unacceptable!"

I once wrote a short story that was almost entirely dialogue. The two characters were talking on the phone the entire time with a non-speaking paragraph at the beginning and another one at the end. To be perfectly honest, while it was an interesting concept, the story fell flat because all the characters did was talk.

Don’t have your characters just standing, or sitting, across from one another rambling on and on. Have them emphasize what they’re saying with their hands. Have them move around – sit down, stand up, pace. Be aware of their facial expression, especially the eyes. Have your character pick up a book, crumple a paper, put their fist through a wall. The items in a room can be fiddled with, gestured with, tapped – they put a static character in motion. Characters should never sit still unless the stillness important to the plot.

Dialogue should always have a purpose. Most often that purpose is to relay important information, but it can also increase suspense, clarify what a character wants, strengthen (or weaken) their resolve, or even change their situation for better or worse.

Above all, dialogue should move the story forward.

For more tips on writing dialogue, try one of the following links:
Writing Really Good Dialogue
Top 8 Tips For Writing Dialogue
How to Write Dialogue
Speaking of Dialogue