My editor thinks I'm pretty good at what I do. She gave me the thumbs up on my idea of becoming an editor myself. Pretty high praise if I do say so myself.
SO since I'm far from officially qualified, and yet it does take valuable time away from my own work, I'm going to state it officially that I will go over your manuscript for $1 per page - consider it something of a beta read with a lot of suggestions if they are needed.
Now, if you go and say to yourself, "I'm going to get the most for my dollar" and send me a document in size 8 font with 0 margins, I'll probably send it back to you untouched. I mean really, if I can't see it, neither can you.
This is how I will work: You send me your word document and I will use track changes to suggest changes and make comments. If there's a lot of little red and blue bubbles they will jumble together and I find that confusing, so as soon as that point is reached, I will take the rest of the page's contents down to the next page. I usually leave a comment on that saying as much, just so you know what I'm doing.
I will begin work on your document as soon as I get the PayPal notification of payment. Just so you know what this money will go for - I fully intend to use this money to buy cover art or pay editors, so the more money I make here, the sooner the next book will come out.
I seriously don't mind helping other writers, so you can send me a few pages - say 5 or less - and I'll work them up for you for nothing. It is important to me that the books we put out there for readers are the best they can be. Happy readers are good customers.
Be warned, as the popularity of this offer grows (I hope) the price just might go up. A girl's gotta make a living somehow.
My email address is AnnaLWalls@gmail.com - please make a mention of seeing this offer here. I'd kinda like to know. Thanks in advance. I promise to do my best, but before you publish, make sure you hire a certified professional.
I found this post on Grammar Girl
, but it was written by Bonnie Trenga
who also has an awesome blog. Take a moment and check them both out. I subscribe to both of them now.
All writers have likely heard the advice “Write what you know.” We all know ourselves pretty well, but it might not be such a great idea to base a character on yourself if you’re writing fiction. In this episode, we’ll discuss a writing problem known as the Mary Sue. Why Is It Called a Mary Sue?
If a critic calls your character a Mary Sue, that’s not so good. This term originated, funnily enough, in 1974 with the original Star Trek TV series. Captain Kirk would often have a relationship with a woman who was beautiful and exotic—and who lacked any realistic character flaws (1).
These ubiquitous, flat female characters in Star Trek episodes started to bother a fan fiction writer named Paula Smith, so she wrote a parody of this unrealistic woman, naming her character Mary Sue. A Mary Sue, then, is a character who, according to the TV Tropes website
, “serves as an idealized version of the author mainly for the purpose of wish fulfillment” (2). Mary Sue: Me, Only Better—Not!
We all wish we were flawless, good-looking, smart, and capable, so it’s natural to make our characters this way. Besides, it’s hard to come up with a completely new character who looks, acts, and sounds realistic. It’s no wonder that writers —knowingly or not—model characters after themselves. Sure, we’ve all had odd experiences that we’d love to share with the world, and who wouldn’t be thrilled to read about that quirky mannerism we have? Characters need flaws, or they just end up as flat, unbelievable Mary Sues.
Well, it turns out we’re not so interesting after all. Jack Bickham, author of more than seventy-five published novels, explains that you should never use real people in your story because characters based on your neighbor or a family member are dull. Bickham advises, “Good characters have to be constructed, not copied from actuality” (3).
Aspiring novelists need to realize that basing a character on the best version of themselves is taking the easy way out. Noah Lukeman, author of several books about writing fiction, admits that authors are allowed some self-indulgence so that they can get the words down and let the work evolve (4). He warns, however, that writers must recognize when they’ve indulged themselves and then go back and focus (5). Writing Good Characters Is Hard Work
Novelists need to spend a lot of time building a character rather than remembering what experiences or feelings they’ve had and then simply giving their characters those experiences and feelings.
Bonnie recalls editing a poorly written mystery in which the main character went to a different restaurant every three or four pages. The author had made the character as hungry as the writer had been.
The same writer also had the main character suffer a bee sting on his lip. This author undoubtedly inserted the scene because he felt readers would appreciate reading about this interesting event that had happened to him. However, the scene just didn’t work. It felt stuck in there for no apparent reason.
It hurts to realize that nobody cares about real events that happened to you. When you revise—that is, when you focus on what the character needs, not on what you the author need—you have to cut out what is irrelevant. You don’t have to throw away everything that’s true, though. Bickham suggests that writers use real aspects of real people instead of transferring the entire real person onto paper (6). The key is to know how to balance the real and the unreal. That’s why bookstores have so many books about characterization: Writing great characters isn’t easy! Success Stories
This isn’t to say you can’t succeed if some aspects of your own life or personality appear on the page. In fact, some best-selling authors have used themselves as springboards for their beloved characters. Take David Copperfield. According to Random House, “Charles Dickens’s most famous novel was also his own favorite, and the one that drew most on his own life story” (7).
A more recent author, Janet Evanovich, who writes the popular Stephanie Plum series, has admitted there are similarities between herself and her main character. Evanovich says, “I wouldn’t go so far as to say Stephanie is an autobiographical character, but I will admit to knowing where she lives” (8). Conclusion
You might be wondering that if Dickens and Evanovich can do it, why can’t you? Well, you can intertwine real aspects of yourself into your fiction, but if your character is too true to be good, then add a little more fake! And remember, characters need flaws, or they just end up as flat, unbelievable Mary Sues.References
- TV Tropes. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MarySue.
- TV Tropes. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MarySue.
- Bickham, Jack. 1992. The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them), p. 17. Cincinnati: F+W Publications.
- Lukeman, Noah. 2000. The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile, p. 170. New York: Fireside.
- Lukeman, Noah. 2000. The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile, p. 170. New York: Fireside.
- Bickham, Jack. 1992. The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them), p. 19. Cincinnati: F+W Publications.
- Random House. http://www.randomhouse.com/book/40441/david-copperfield-by-charles-dickens/.
- Writers Write Internet Journal. http://www.writerswrite.com/journal/jan99/evanovch.htm
I just love Grammer Girl at Quick and Dirty Tips - http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/ - Guest writer Neal Whitman was there for Episode 307 on January 19 of 2012. He has a PhD in linguistics, and his blog is at http://literalminded.wordpress.com.
Overusing 'that' has always been a weakness of mine and this post was a lot of help. I wanted to imortalize it for myself as well as for my visiters.
Here it is:
Several listeners have asked when they should omit the subordinating conjunction "that" in their writing. For example, should they write “Squiggly said that it was Aardvark’s birthday,” or just “Squiggly said it was Aardvark’s birthday”? For this sentence, both ways are perfectly grammatical, but if you’re following a principle of omitting needless words, you’ll want to leave out the "that."
Watch out, though. Although "that" is optional in this example, you can’t assume it’s optional wherever you see it. Sometimes it’s mandatory. And even when it’s optional, it’s sometimes still a good idea to keep it.Bridge Verbs and “That”
Leaving "that" out sounds best with the most common verbs of speech or thought, such as "say," "think," "know," "claim," "hear," or "believe." It saves a word, and it’s how people talk, too. Linguists call these verbs “bridge verbs.”
Non-bridge verbs tend to be verbs that carry extra meaning beyond simply the idea of saying or thinking something, and they don’t sound as good when you omit the word "that." For example, "whisper" is a non-bridge verb and doesn’t mean just to say something; it means to say it in a particular way. It sounds odd to say, “He whispered he wanted another root beer” instead of “He whispered that he wanted another root beer.” Not crashingly bad, but just a little off.
Newspapers are often guilty of ignoring the difference between bridge verbs and non-bridge verbs and deleting a "that" after verbs where it would sound better to leave it in. Here are a couple of examples that I adapted from the newspaper section of the Corpus of Contemporary American (COCA for short):
- The department confirmed there were some victims.
- Mexican officials acknowledge they are hampered by a lack of information.
To my ear, both of these sentences are a bit off, and would have sounded better with "that" after the verbs "confirm" and "acknowledge."
Sometimes, omitting a "that" after a non-bridge verb goes beyond being slightly awkward and can actually be confusing. Here’s an example from Bryan Garner’sModern American Usage
- Son acknowledges being a member of a minority ... may have helped him turn his eyes abroad early.
The trouble here is that "acknowledge" can be a transitive verb. So when a noun phrase comes after it, such as being a member of a minority, the reader might just take it as a direct object: “Son acknowledges being a member of a minority.” But whoops! The sentence keeps going, and the reader has to go back and reparse it. Garner calls this a miscue; sentences that produce miscues like this are called garden-path sentences. (We talked about garden-path sentences in the episode on Christmas carols.)Omitting “That” After Nouns
If you're a native English speaker, go by your ear.
What about "that" after a noun? As with verbs, there are a few nouns that let you get away with omitting a "that." Other nouns sound odd if you do it, and some nouns are downright confusing if you try deleting a "that" after them.
Some nouns that tolerate "that" omission pretty well include "possibility" and "feeling," as in "There’s a possibility he might say yes," and "I get the feeling you don’t like me."
Nouns that sound awkward if you delete a "that" include "fact." A phrase like "the fact Squiggly likes chocolate" is clear enough, but it’s really awkward-sounding. When newspaper copy editors follow an overly zealous "that"-striking policy, we end up with clunky sentences like these examples from COCA:
- Calvert Group removed contractors Titan Corp. and CACI International from its social index over allegations they were involved in abusing Iraqi prisoners.
- The Packers haven’t drafted a quarterback despite rumors they were interested in doing so.
These sentences would sound a lot better with "that" inserted after the nouns "allegations" and "rumors."
As with verbs, "that"-deletion after a noun isn’t always just awkward; sometimes it’s confusing. The reason is that "that" can perform two functions after a noun. First, it can introduce a relative clause (also known as an adjective clause), as in "the rumor that Fenster heard." Second, it can introduce a clause that just explains what the noun is; for example, "the rumor that Fenster started dyeing his hair."
When "that" introduces a relative clause, it can usually be deleted, provided it’s not the subject of the relative clause. In "the rumor that Fenster heard," we can omit "that" and write "the rumor Fenster heard." On the other hand, if that is introducing one of those explanatory clauses, it usually can’t be deleted. If you do, the reader is likely to mistake what follows for a relative clause. If you remove the "that" from our second example, it starts out as "the rumor Fenster started," which sounds just fine—until the clause keeps on going—"the rumor Fenster started dyeing his hair"—and the reader realizes you’re talking not about a rumor started by Fenster, but about a rumor to the effect that Fenster started dyeing his hair. When I read a sentence like that, it wastes my time because I end up re-reading it and mentally inserting the missing that. It’s another miscue creating a garden-path sentence.Omitting “That” After Adjectives
As with verbs and nouns, there are adjectives that tolerate "that"-deletion pretty well, and adjectives that don’t. Common adjectives such as "glad" or "sad" sound fine without a "that": For example, "I’m glad you came," and "we’re sad you’re leaving." But when they’re less common, with more specific meanings, you’re better off keeping the "that." "She’s furious you never called" would sound better with a "that," and so would "We’re ecstatic you got the job."Go By Your Ear
If you’re a native English speaker, the main rule to follow here is to go by your ear. You probably know what sounds natural and what doesn’t, and all you need to do is give that native-speaker intuition more weight and authority than a rule stating that you should omit "that" whenever possible.
If you’re not a native speaker, I recommend keeping the "that" unless you’re dealing with a verb, noun, or adjective that you know will sound good without it. It’s safer to leave it in than to leave it out. As you write and read more, you’ll identify more of the words that allow you to omit "that."
If you follow no other blog - this one is a must --> http://wordplay-kmweiland.blogspot.com
As Posted on KM Weiland's site: 21 Aug 2011 11:33 AM PDT - Such awesome advice.
Make me like your character, and I will follow him to the center of the earth, I will fight with him in the trenches, I will slog through bogs, brave tsunamis, and face down volcanoes for him. If I like your character, I won’t just read your book, I’ll ache when it’s over, buy it in hard cover just so I never have to say goodbye, re-read it until it’s dog-eared, and welcome that character to a permanent place in my heart. In short, I’ll love him forever—and you’ll have at least one rabid fan for life.
Sound good? That kind of loyalty is what every author dreams of creating when he introduces his characters on the page. But creating a likable character isn’t as easy as snap-your-fingers-and-stars-and-stripes-forever. Likable characters require careful crafting if they’re to come to life in a way that is not only believable but compelling. This summer’s blockbuster superhero movie Captain America: The First Avenger
featured a protagonist who practically oozes likability. Let’s take a look at ten traits found in almost every likable character—and how the movie’s scriptwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely utilized them to make Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, a likable hero: 1. Action:
In his post “What makes a sympathetic hero?
” Jason Black explains, “Heroes are characterized by action
. The hero actually does
things. He or she doesn’t sit around watching things happen, or waiting for situations to resolve themselves.” In the opening scene of Captain America
, the hero first takes action by attempting to join the army. A few scenes later, he takes even more literal action by calling out a heckler at a movie theater and fighting him in an alley. 2. Morality:
In his book Revision &amp;amp;amp; Self-Editing
, James Scott Bell notes that “[t]he mark of the hero is that she represents the values of the community. She is representing the moral vision shared by most people and is someone we root for as a result.” Steve Rogers presents an idealistic all-American out to defy evil and generally save world. He’s a golly-gee-whiz kid who sticks up for the downtrodden, refuses to shirk responsibility even when given an out, and believes in truth, honor, and justice. 3. Selflessness:
The willingness (even if sometimes reluctantly) of a protagonist to put others before himself will cement reader loyalty. We love characters who put it all the line to protect others. When Steve Rogers parachutes behind enemy lines on a suicidal mission to save his best friend and other captured soldiers, he proves his regard for others, even at the possible cost of his own life. 4. Competence:
Bumbling, klutzy heroes are fun. But, at the end of the day, we want a character who can get the job done. We like heroes who are skilled and competent (although not necessarily perfect: Captain Jack Sparrow may stagger about, but, whether by skill or by luck, he always seems to come out on top, and we wouldn’t have it any other way). In the comic books on which the movie is based, Steve Rogers was an accomplished tactician and hand-to-hand combatant. His ability to triumph isn’t based solely on his superpowers; he’s also worked hard to master necessary skill sets. 5. Loved by Others:
In her blog post “Creating Sympathetic Characters
,” Darcy Pattinson asks, “Ever wonder why so many stories have sidekicks? If someone is loved by someone else, it establishes the character as someone worthy of love.” A character who dies in the middle of nowhere, with no one to mourn his death, isn’t going to pull at reader heartstrings nearly as much as if another character is heartbroken. When Captain America earns the loyalty and respect of his men, he also validates the viewers’ appreciation of him. 6. Bravery:
Wimpy characters need not apply. Even when frightened and nervous, characters need to be willing to move forward in the face of odds that would melt most of us into blubbering, quivering blobs of Jell-O. Steve Rogers—a “90-pound asthmatic”—proves his bravery again and again, notably in an early scene in which he jumps onto what he believes is a live grenade, in order to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. 7. Determination:
Tenacity, bullheadedness, grit—whatever your tomato-to-mah-to, this is a must-have if your hero is going to get through 300 pages of trials and tribulations. Moments of doubt aside, your hero must have the inner fortitude to keep getting back up no matter how many times he’s knocked down. After being laid out by a bully twice his size, Steve Rogers swipes the blood from his nose and insists, “I could do this all day.” 8. Relatability:
Heroes come from many walks of life, but the one thing they all possess is a relatable element—a goal, dream, or desire the reader can understand. We may not be able to relate to a skinny kid transformed into a super-soldier by a special serum, but we can
relate to his disdain for bullies “no matter where they’re from.” 9. Wit:
A little humor can go a long way toward making even disreputable characters likable. We don’t love Han Solo and Jack Sparrow for their altruism; we keep watching them because they’re so stinking entertaining. Steve Rogers’s witty comebacks, especially in the face of danger, make us grin. A character who makes us grin is a character we’ll like
. 10. Kindness:
Even characters who are as rough as a farmer’s elbow in winter need to possess an underlying kindness. Maybe they don’t know how to give compliments, stop babies from crying, or make flowers bloom in their footprints, but they should have an underlying desire to uplift and help others, however clumsily. Despite ham-handed social skills, Steve Rogers’s desire to help others makes us forgive his occasional bungling remark or action.
Likable characters come in all shapes and sizes. Some are blatantly endearing. Some make us like them in spite of themselves. Likable does not
equal perfect. Sappy, sugary goody two-shoes are more likely to inspire a gag reflex than undying loyalty. Your character doesn’t have to be nice. He can be a grumpy old man who throws cans at pigeons. In fact, a grumpy old man who possesses the above traits and still throws cans may give even the likes of Captain America a run for his stars and stripes!
K.M. is my hero and once again she has some great information:
If you're writing historical fiction or even fiction set in today's every-day society, your background and environment already exists, all that's necessary is to paint the location and keep us grounded on your stage. But when you are somewhere totally off world or in fantasy land you need to handle all the details otherwise already in place. Here are a few great questions to ask yourself to help you create your world.
What does the landscape look like?
What kind of plants grow here?
What’s the climate?
What kinds of animals are present in this world?
What kind of society(ies) is found in your world?
What kinds of clothing are in style?
What moral and religious values define people’s world views?
What language(s) do they speak?
What form of government is currently in place?
How advanced is technology?
What forms of long-distance communication are used?
What modes of transportation are available?
How has technology affected entertainment and the arts?
How has technology affected weaponry and modes of warfare?
How advanced are the fields of medicine and science?
What are the natural laws of this world?
Which natural laws are different from our world (e.g., gravity)?
Is there a magical force in your world? How does it work? What are its limitations?
What kind of people populate this world?
Are there different races?
How do customs differ between people of different races and citizens of different districts?
Do the ethnic factions get along?
What’s the history of this world?
How many years of recorded history are available?
What historical epochs have shaped society?
Even if you already have a good idea of the specifics of your world, taking the time solidify your ideas by answering these, and other, questions can inject more life and realism into your setting and allow you to spot flaws and inconsistencies. And, even better, it’s a ton of fun!
To read the full article, please follow the link above. The site is well worth the visit.
Writing thoughts has always been a confusing issue to me. Finally, an answer. Thanks you K.M. Weiland - http://wordplay-kmweiland.blogspot.com/
One of the key benefits of written fiction is also one of the most difficult techniques to master: the inner narrative of the characters. This difficulty makes complete sense, of course, when we think about it (no pun intended), since the inner narrative of the characters—their thoughts put on paper—is the essence of fiction. Mastery of that essence equals mastery, in large part, of the art form. No wonder it’s hard! And no wonder it’s important. How can we create powerful thoughts for our characters? And how can we frame them on the page to make them as effective as possible? 1. Let your characters think.
Too many inexperienced authors approach inner narrative tentatively (or not at all) because they fear readers will be bored and will want to return to the action as quickly as possible. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Interesting internal narrative, when appropriately balanced with action and dialogue, is the life’s blood of any story. Readers don’t just want to see what’s happening to your character; they want to know what he thinks
about what is happening to him. 2. Show personality through word choice.
Your character’s narrative voice is his literary fingerprint. How much different does Stephanie Plum
’s voice sound from Mattie Ross
’s? Authors should be so in tune with the nuances of their character’s personality that the character’s voice on the page offers an inherently unique ring. Novelist Jewell Parker Rhodes
(in an interview with Jessica McCann, The Writer
, March 2011) made the point that she “can’t write the story until I get the voice of the main character in my head.” 3. Show personality through how the character views the world.
Telling readers about your setting is one thing; bringing it to life by using it as a unique tool to further characterize your narrator by allowing him to show
the reader the setting as he sees it
makes all the difference. In my short story “Light in the Shadows,” the 19th-century London setting takes on a sinister edge thanks to the narrator’s frenzied mindset:
Up ahead, the flame of a streetlight hung in the midst of the London fog like some kind of giant spirit. She hated the lights at night; they were too much like eyes watching her. Always watching. She broke out of the crooked skipping pace in which she had been running and shot a glance around the street for something to throw at the light. 4. Illustrate character arc.
Instead of just showing your character’s eventual transformation over the course of the story, give your readers a backstage pass, so that they can experience character arc from the inside out. Internal narrative is a key tool in helping readers understand motive and growth. Can you imagine Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s classic Crime and Punishment
without the protagonist’s hysterical justifications for his crime of murder? 5. Choose the best way to punctuate thoughts.
Authors italicize direct thoughts, put them in quotes, preface them with an em dash, or sometimes just change the tense. However, doing so pulls your reader out of the narrative. Technically, in a deep POV, the entire story is
the character’s thoughts. As a result, the most seamless way to share a character’s direct thoughts is to simply incorporate them into the narrative itself. Instead of writing, “Jack shot the bad guy, then stopped and thought, I can’t believe I just did that
,” write, “Jack shot the bad guy, then stopped. Had he really just done that?”
Mastering your character’s thoughts—both by making certain he has thoughts worthy of sharing and by discovering the most powerful way to convey those thoughts—makes all the difference in the tone, scope, and immersive quality of your story. If readers are willing to give more than a penny for your characters’ thoughts, you know you’ve created a story that rings true from beginning to end.
One of my favorite writing sites is Wordplay by K.M. Weiland and today's post was great.
Minor characters are often the neglected heroes of fiction. If the protagonist didn’t have other people with whom to interact, most stories would fall apart pretty quickly. So, whenever the need arises, we stick in a taxi driver or a receptionist or a bum on the corner. Often, these unnamed characters fulfill the needs of the moment, disappear from the story, and are never thought about again by either the protagonist or the readers. This isn’t necessarily a problem, particularly since you don’t want a bunch of dead-end characters cluttering up your story and getting in your hero’s way as he attempts to get from Plot Point A to Plot Point B.
We need to realize, however, that this nameless, faceless multitude of minor characters presents a wonderful opportunity for bringing depth and memorability to our stories. David Guterson’s East of the Mountains
offers an incredibly complete cast of characters. Every person in this story, even those with the shortest of walk-on roles, strikes the reader as a complete human being. We never doubt that Guterson’s protagonist is surrounded by a world of living, breathing, three-dimensional people. The minor characters in this story don’t just
serve to push the plot forward in necessary ways. Every single one of them leaves his fingerprint on both the main character and the reader.
The key to achieving complete minor characters is to envision
them as complete people—and not just cardboard cutouts to fill the gaps in the plot. Every person has a story; every person has a life that extends far beyond his interaction with the protagonist. Each minor character is unique and detailed. We certainly don’t need to share each and every minor character’s life story with the reader, but if you keep their back-stories in mind as you write, you’ll end up with a rich and varied supporting cast. Tell me your opinion: Do you have any minor characters you could flesh out a little more?Don't just answer me, answer her too, and while you're at it, check out her video on the subject -
by William G. Tapply
"The secret of good writing," says William Zinsser, "is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components." Easier said than done, of course. But worth the effort.
Crisp, unambiguous writing (Zinsser's sentence is Exhibit A) performs magic. It transfers ideas, images, and emotions directly from the writer's brain into the reader's. Wordy, repetitive, vague writing, on the other hand, confuses and bores readers.
Think of your reader. If you don't want to lose her, make it easy for her.
Or if you prefer, think of the editor who stands between you and the reader. Verbosity makes it easy for him . . . to reject you.
Here are eight ways to strip and cleanse your sentences:
1. Use specific nouns. Dependency on adjectives signals vagueness and imprecision. Clear, sharp images come from specific, concrete nouns: "Wheaties" instead of "crispy breakfast cereal"; "raven" for "big black bird"; "Victorian" for "rambling old house." One word for three in each case.
2. Seek and destroy adverbs. Sharp writing begins with precise, active verbs. Adverbs are neon arrows pointing to weak, vague verbs. Find the strong verb and expunge the flabby adverbs. Instead of, "He moved quickly and evasively," write, "He darted"; substitute, "He yelled," for, "He spoke loudly and angrily."
3. Be positive. Say what things are, not what they aren't. Negative expressions are evasive and imprecise. Write, "He was careless," not, "He wasn't being careful." Instead of, "She didn't move very well," write, "She limped."
4. Be active. The passive voice is inherently vague and wordy. Convert passive sentences into active ones. Instead of, "Pete was stabbed by Joe," write, "Joe stabbed Pete."
Passive sentences that omit the doer of the action are obscure, confusing, and even evasive. In the sentence, "The expensive vase shattered when it was dropped," sounds as if it was the vase's fault. "I dropped the vase, and it shattered on the stone floor," is clearer because it identifies the source of the action.
5. Rewrite sentences beginning with "there." Any sentence that begins with the empty phrase "there were" (or "there" plus any other form of the verb "to be") can be sharpened and shortened by refocusing on the central action in the sentence and substituting a vigorous verb. Instead of, "There was a lot of snow on the ground," write, "A foot of snow blanketed the ground."
6. Show don't tell. Create the action vividly and trust your reader to understand and interpret what you show. "Joe crashed his fist on the table" shows; "Joe was angry and frustrated," tells.
7. Omit redundancy. Say it once, clearly, and don't proceed to explain it. Your reader will get it. If Susan blushes, do not add "in embarrassment."
Use precise verbs, and trust your reader to get what they clearly signify. Write "nodded," and resist the temptation to add "his head." What else could he nod? And please don't write, "He nodded his head in agreement." That is showing and telling.
8. Use concrete language. Vague generalities, bloated language, pedantic phrases, and euphemisms, especially common in academic, political and bureaucratic writing, obscure rather than clarify meaning.
Instead of, "The atmospheric conditions are extremely unpleasant," write, "It's raining." Don't write, "Her face revealed emotions of great happiness," when you can write, "She smiled." "He died" is clearer than "His spirit passed from this world." Notice, in all cases, how many words the preferred sentence saves.
* * *
Tight writing begins with a positive attitude. Embrace editing. Tinker with your sentences. Strive to maximize clarity and minimize word count. Rewriting is hard but satisfying work, and your readers (and editors) will thank you for it.
How can you tell if you have a passive sentence?
A sentence generally has three parts. There is the person or creature doing the action, the action itself and the verb. In a passive sentence, the subject is not the important part of the sentence, the action is.
If your sentence has:
will have been
followed by a 'past participle', you have a passive sentence.
Now, sometimes a passive sentence is what you want. Like I said above, if the action is what you want to emphasize, then a passive sentence is what you want. But if you are talking about your character, you want an active sentence. The easiest way to fix a passive sentence is to switch your wording around. I've found that excess words get dropped this way too.
Here are some simple examples:
ACTIVE: They speak English.
PASSIVE: English is spoken.
ACTIVE: They spoke English.
PASSIVE: English was spoken.
ACTIVE: They will speak English.
PASSIVE: English will be spoken.
ACTIVE: They are going to speak English.
PASSIVE: English is going to be spoken.
ACTIVE: They are speaking English.
PASSIVE: English is being spoken.
ACTIVE: They were speaking English.
PASSIVE: English was being spoken.
ACTIVE: They have spoken English.
PASSIVE: English has been spoken.
ACTIVE: They had spoken English.
PASSIVE: English had been spoken.
ACTIVE: They will have spoken English.
PASSIVE: English will have been spoken.
Here are some good reasons for using passive voice:
1. Passive voice is often used when the agent (the doer of an action; the subject of an active verb) is obvious, unknown, or unnecessary:
Oranges are grown in California.
Toyotas are made in Japan.
Her purse was stolen.
2. Passive voice is often used when the agent is known, but the speaker/writer doesn’t want to mention it:
She was given bad advice.
A mistake has been made.
3. Passive voice is often used when the agent is very general such as people or somebody.
English is spoken here.
The door should be locked.
4. Passive voice is often used when the speaker/writer wants to emphasize a result:
Several thousand people were killed by the earthquake.
5. Passive voice is often used when the speaker/writer wants to keep the same subject for two or more verbs but this would not be possible if both verbs were the same voice (active or passive).
For example, in a conversation about George, a speaker would probably use sentence 'a' below rather than sentence 'b' (both sentences are correct).
a. George had several interviews before he was hired by a software company.
b. George had several interviews before a software company hired him.
Most of this was taken from - http://faculty.deanza.edu/flemingjohn/stories/storyReader$22
In my search for the people and the knowledge to help me further my writing skill, I have found now two editors who, though untried, are great people. Today I checked out Jason Black's website - Plot to Punctuation - http://www.plottopunctuation.com/. I'd been following him for a while but in truth, I hadn't gotten around to really taking a look until this morning. He offers a variety of editing services I can only drool for, and it's for a fair price, what's great about this is, he will accept a sample and then offer you an honest estimate.
Gotta love honesty in this business. I've had little feedback at all, let alone honest feedback, so today, courtesy of Jason's generosity, I got my very first writing lesson ever, and not only that, it was on 'show vs tell', my nemesis. In fact, he told me he's going to be speaking at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association meeting next week, and get this, he's going to be talking about 'show don't tell'. I wish I could attend, but, sorry folks, he gave me a taste first.
His words: "It's a bugaboo for everyone" and I can believe that.
We all know what emotions feel like, but we can't see them. They are invisible. My telling you how someone feels is 'telling'. So how do you 'show' an emotion? You do so my showing us the reaction to emotion. If a person is sad, what are they doing? If they are angry, what do you see? The people around us show us their emotions all the time, we've just become so accustomed to seeing them that we don't really see them anymore. They are the white noise in our life that fills everything around us and dictates to us how we react to those around us. Your friend is crying, you put your arm around their shoulders. Your brother is throwing a temper tantrum, you maybe leave the room. So here's the stumbling block for writers. Not to tell your readers that your friend is sad, but to let them know that she is crying. Not to tell your readers that your brother is really pissed, but to let them hear his incoherent screams and stamping of feet (or maybe the slamming of a door too, as you leave the room)
Jason gave me a simple assignment.
Character: John, a typical middle-class office worker.
Character: Mary, a girl who dumped him wretchedly in High School, whom John has not seen in 15 years.
Invisible thing: Although John has moved on with his life, deep down he still really hates Mary for what she did.
Challenge: write a scene which allows the reader to infer the invisible thing, the emotion, without ever naming it. That is, don't use the word "hate" anywhere in the scene. Make us understand "hate" without telling us that he feels hatred.
I took like ten minutes and jotted down a quick scene:
My spur of the moment effort:
John walked down the street, whistling the theme song from Star Wars; his intended goal, the coffee shop up the street. Cappuccino mocha with cinnamon on top. Mmmmm he could taste it already, he wanted it so bad. He looked in the window on the way to the door. There she sat. What was she doing there? He shoved his hands in his pockets and walked on by. Suddenly, cappuccino mocha with cinnamon tasted
Yeah, I bombed, but in bombing I learned, and Jason continued to teach. I got John down sorta. Where he was going wasn't important to the big picture. I tried to show that seeing her made going to his favorite coffee shop for his favorite cappuccino was now totally ruined because she had found the place. Nearly totally leaving her out of the story.
So I tried again. I was sorely tempted to move the scene to a more fictional setting because in truth I know nothing of city life and less about what an office worker might do about a years-old bitter breakup. Totally out of my element on all counts. But no, being out of my element wasn't going to change the 'show don't tell' weakness, so I stuck with it.
John glances up at the clock, then he closes the file and turns to prepare to file it away. A knock sounds at his door. “Come in,” he calls and turns to finish his task. He hears the click of high heels as the visitor comes to stand in front of his desk. He turns, his mouth open with a ready greeting, but as soon as he sees her, he clamps his jaw shut.
“Hello, I was wondering if you could help me find George Michael’s office. I’m afraid I’m a little lost.”
George, the office gossip. “Never heard of him. I’m busy.” He turns away and opens the bottom drawer of his desk. He rummaged through the files there until he hears her heels click out of the room and the door close behind her. With a hiss he rammed the drawer home. He looked at the clock again and then up at the ceiling, never really seeing either of them. Abruptly, he shoves away from his desk, yanks his jacket from the coat hook and strides from the office, slamming the door in his wake.
The change of scene didn't help. This effort failed even worse than before. Here, there was no connection what-so-ever between John and the woman who entered the office. Who was she, who knows. Why was John pissed, coulda been anything. Maybe he was just a total jerk.
Then Jason pointed out something - yet another one of my weaknesses. Two of my stories involve main characters who either can't talk or simply don't have anyone to talk to - you know the kind, the professional wall-flower. 'Showing' in a story without talking is really very hard. But just because they aren't talking doesn't mean they're not thinking. So guess what guys, thoughts are on the way, at least for those two characters - and for others too.
Back to my lesson - Jason took me back to the coffeehouse and showed me how it should have been done:
John froze as he caught a glimpse of a woman outside the Starbucks.
'Mary?' John wondered, as she slipped out of sight. 'Oh my God, that really WAS her.' He took a sip of his latte but tasted only bile. He dropped his newspaper on the table and chucked his half-full cup in the trash. 'Dammit. Now I have to find a new Starbucks.'
John grabbed his briefcase and made for the door, waving one more time to the cute barista with the ponytail. "Nice knowing you."
That covered it all. We know who she is. We know how he feels about her. And we can feel his disgust and anger, and we know it was directed at Mary, blaming her for his having to find a new coffee shop. All the whys and wherefores aren't important to this scene - the emotion - the invisible - was what we were after.
Sigh - can I do it? I'm going to give it my best shot. I love a challenge.
I've subscribed to Jason's blog. It is full of tips and tricks about character development, among other things. Jason has been blogging for 2 years now. It'll take me weeks to read everything he posted, but it will be a ready research resource for years to come.
Thanks so much for being in my world, Jason