Wednesday, August 29, 2012

5 Reality Slaps For Your Writing

We all make mistakes, and I am owning up to these five. You should too, because I've seen this enough times when critiquing/reading to realize how pervasive these bad habits are.

1. You defy the laws of physics and other natural laws, and sometimes break them. For example, how can you have a window in the ceiling with light shining through when it's an underground room? If it's not completely underground, you need to explain this. I have 'warped' people from a muscle car to a minivan in the space of a page, and without the benefit of a transporter. You must make sure that people and things are in the proper place. Don't forget the correct time, too. I am notorious (ask Nat) about skipping over days. In Sirenz, we had to map out the days just so I know where the action is (apparently I like to breeze over to the weekend...) Do a timeline, it helps.

2. I, I, I... As Mr. Smith said in the Matrix films, "It's all about me..." (although technically the line is "Me, me, me; it's all about me.") But I see this a lot when it's first person point of view. One sentence after another starts out with "I." You've got to mix it up; start with a verb: "Slumping at the table, I..."
or an adverb: "Angry at her unfair accusation, I..." or an adjective: "Mottled skin covered my...." or whatever else. Just glance down the page and circle all the I's. Because sometimes, your I's frighten me.

3. You can't speak for me--or anyone else because your quotes are lost in text. If one character is in the spotlight, saying or doing something, you must start a new paragraph when the speaker changes. If not, this creates confusion over who was speaking (and a dense text). For example: "I don't like you!" she screamed. I cringed at the harshness of her voice. "What did I do to you?" It should be like this:
"I don't like you!" she screamed. NEXT LINE: I cringed at the harshness of her voice. "What did I do to you?" Not only does it separate the two characters by action and words, it clarifies the dialogue because the "What did I do to you?" is clearly identified with the first person POV, not the initial character.

4. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Okay, so you're describing something, let's say a road. You DO NOT need to keep saying "the road." Substitute the pronoun "it." See: "The road stretched lazily before me, winding down, luring me into the coolness of the woods beyond. It was hard packed dirt, and no tire tracks were visible, giving evidence of previous travelers. I wondered how many people had traveled this way, only to meet their doom." Now I could have said "the road" in all three sentences, but by using the pronoun "it" and the phrase "traveled this way" I didn't have to repeat myself and bore you. If you can't think of another word (thesaurus, where art thou?) then vary the sentence structure: start with a verb, an adjective, an emotion, something other than "the road." Do I need to repeat myself?

5. "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," said Ralph Waldo Emerson. If you follow the same pattern of subject, verb, predicate sentence after sentence, Ralph is talking to you. Follow this: "Greta slowed down the car. Barry hopped in. Carrie asked them who had the tickets.Greta answered she did and drove to the concert." The sentences, even the last one which is more complex, all start the same way. This is a variation of the I, I, I, only now it's infecting the other characters' actions. Don't always start with the subject, do a change up, pull a surprise. And just because you throw some dialogue in between doesn't mean you've spiced things up. If every paragraph following dialogue follows with the subject/verb pattern, you're boring your readers and not progressing your writing skills.

Do famous authors do this? Why, yes, and they get away with it. But they're famous for some reason and you're not. And you don't want to be in the company of low skilled writers. Give your manuscript a good perusal and see not if, but how many times you have fallen into these bad habits. Now I have to go check my manuscript because I know I've violated all these rules somewhere. Happy searching/revising!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Deadly Visions

This is what I saw perched on the roof of our pool bar. Patiently they gathered, five, sometimes more of them. Then they'd circle overhead for long, lazy flights.



Calling their friends.

Two questions arise: are they here for the dead deer in the woods behind our house...

Or me?

I've been fighting a hell of a cold so there were times I felt close to Death's door. I was nervous about going outside to sit in the sun, like a vampire wanting to see daylight before bursting into ash (there's no sparkling here). In one fell swoop, they could sweep my cough-racked body away to their lair to chomp, rip and chew me at their leisure.

But they only wanted the stinky dead deer.

Lucky for me.

But now I'm starting to rise from the hole that was my sick bed and toddle about, zombie like. So that's why this post is late. I apologize for almost leaving this plane for the next, neglecting my post. Here's how I'll make it up to you:

(No, couldn't get the hyperlink to work- you should know me by now that I have tech issues.)

It's a HUGE-MEGA-AMAZING-NOT-TO-BE-MISSED gathering of over 30 YA authors, and it's in West Chester, PA. (Stop whining, it's not that far.) There will be AUTHORS. And free swag. And AUTHORS. And books. AND AUTHORS. Am I getting through? There's nothing authors love more than meeting with people and talking about books: theirs, other people's, what's hot, what they can recommend, what they love, etc.

So spend a Saturday feeding your brain, getting back into the dreaded school/work routine (Summer's almost over, kiddies, back to work time!) and pick up some great books.

If I can battle death by cold to be there (last year we were staring the Grim Reaper down in the form of a hurricane and we STILL had lots of people show up), so can you! (by the way, I'm not infectious anymore.) We ALL look forward to seeing you there.

Don't make me send those buzzards to your house...


Monday, August 13, 2012

Bling Ambition

My adorable niece Lauren is part of my muse for Shar in the Sirenz series. She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology, works for a major department store in buying, and lives in NYC. When we get together, the conversation is usually about fashion, trends, and living in the city. One particular conversation centered around a pair of Christian Louboutin heels covered in Swarovski crystals.



She wants these shoes (sorry, I can't get a picture of them even from the official Christian Louboutin website because they're from several seasons ago and have been eclipsed by glitzier versions).  But here's what they look like; take a gold lame high heel, of course add the signature red lacquer bottoms, and cover entirely with sparkling Swarovski crystals.

Unbelievable. She wants them for her eventual wedding. Being the magnanimous aunt, I offered to buy them for her.

$3,395 was the price.

I choked and almost swallowed my tongue.

"You want these shoes, which you'll wear only TWICE (once for the wedding and once maybe for a fancy New Year's party and that's it because if you ever have a baby, your feet will get fatter and you'll never fit into them again)."

I rescinded my offer.

Sorry, but I can't see spending that much money on a pair of shoes. (I've seen lots of videos on youtube about enterprising women making their own versions; they painstakingly glue THOUSANDS of crystals onto a pair of regular shoes.) I'd offer to do that (I could watch Vampire Diaries while doing it), but I know it wouldn't fly with her.

While I wouldn't spend that much on any shoe, I do understand (in part) her desire to have them (going past the obvious materialistic sense that today's generation is obsessed with. Sorry, Sweetie but your group is all about the name.). Everyone needs a goal to strive for that doesn't have to do with getting a promotion, or acing a test, or losing ten pounds; it's about a goal for personal, FUN, outrageous reasons. Something just for yourself. My goal is to make a bestseller list--not for the money or prestige, but because it's always been a dream. (Those other things can follow, thank you.) Just to say I'm a best selling author is my Christian Louboutin dream. Lauren will have to work very hard to save the money for those shoes, just as I'll have to work very hard on my writing. Will our goals change the world, make it a better place, do something for someone else?


But we all need something just for "ME;" whether it's an outrageous pair of shoes, a listing in the Top Ten, a climb to Mt. Everest, or a tattoo on the tush.

So work and save Sweetie. When I make the Top Ten, you can wear your pretty shoes to my party.

  Auntie Char

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Words I Want To Kill

(Warning: explicit language!)

I'm all for freedom of speech- let's make that clear. In no way do I want to infringe on anyone's rights to say what they will regardless of what I or anyone else may think, say, or believe.

But I want certain words to die a rapid death and disappear forever into oblivion. In no order of importance (or disgust) they are:

Nigger. Why is this word still around? If no one used it, especially around the younger generations, it would die out. I don't care if you're black, white, pink or striped, there is NO justification for this word. And I would think it's even WORSE when a member of your own race uses it. Save me from the 'it's art' argument when it's used in music or literature. It's NOT art--it's an example of humankind at it's lowest.

Cunt. Without trying to be sexist, I'm thinking mostly males use this word (and maybe it was made up by one). It's crude, offensive, adds nothing to speech or literature or music. When I hear that word, I really want to smack the user, sooo hard. Don't use it in my presence.

God damn/Jesus Christ. It doesn't matter whether you're Christian or not, it's blasphemy for those of us who are. It deeply offends us. I wonder if you used a curse which offended other faiths if you'd get  away with it. Please use your brains and your heart and substitute another word--there are plenty of curses.

Sexist uses of pussy, misogynistic use of bitch, and curses for the sake of being 'cool' also tick me off.

So let's all be more creative, more considerate and kill these puppies off. Any that steam you?