***********************************

What's In A Brand?

I've come across this word recently among writers. Branding. What does it mean for us? We're not, after all, a can of tuna needing a brand on grocery store shelves.

If you were to read a book without a cover and a title, or the author's name, would you know who wrote it? If you were to come across a single page of words, would you know where it came from?

Branding is unavoidably linked to Voice. Yikes, you say. Here we go again, talking about the undefinable, elusive, water-in-a-colander VOICE. Because it's true--if you read other writers' blogs, you're bound to find a post or two on Voice. You can find a good article on this subject here by Joyce Alton. Also here. And if that's not enough to whet or kill your appetite, here's one more.

So, you ask, are we really discussing Branding or Voice?

From The Write Angle's post asserted that Voice is no longer limited to the manuscript. The query letter has to have voice. And it's true--I've seen a few queries that are impeccably clean and follow the 3-paragraph rule, but are sadly lacking voice and therefore, become sterile. Flat. Unappealing. Then you have those jaw-dropping rule-breakers who get away with it because their BRAND, their VOICE showed through and caught the agent's attention.

I'd like to add to this and ask: Since our mss and query letters have to have Voice, does this mean our synopses should too? I'll let you mull on that one.

Back to our BRAND....

With all kinds of social media at our fingertips, getting our brand out there is easier than ever. The question is: What is YOUR brand? How do you portray yourself? How do you deliver your tuna goodness to the masses? If they see a page of your writing, will they recognize it as yours?

Think about it the next time you're shopping your ms.

From Creative Tools

Memorial Day, and The Round Robin Blogvel

Hello Monday!

In lieu of Monday Funnies, I have a poem to remember those who have gone on before us this Memorial Day.

They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it.
   Death cannot kill what never dies.
   Nor can spirits ever be divided, that love and live in the same divine principle, the root and record of their friendship.
   If absence be not death, neither is theirs.
   Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still.
   For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent.
   In this divine glass they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure.
   This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.

--William Penn


Photo by Beverly & Pack


On another note, the Round Robin Blogvel is starting today! Check it out at GreenWoman's blog.

Have a great day, everyone!

Writing Is NOT Like A Box of Chocolates: A Meme

Writing is like…a tango dance.


Writing is tapping your feet to the beat of your heart, sultry notes pulsing under your skin, the flick of your wrist and the swish of your skirt. Backs rigid yet pliable, ready to yield, conform. Chin up straight, the angles sharp, focused.
And then the music begins.
Slow, languid…you take your time. Each word marked down is a burst of color, of life. Forming, twisting into patterns, step by step by step. Your shoulders tense, slightly arching, as the story unfolds.
Synchrony. Balance. Passion.


Control.
But! The rhythm moves sinuously, rising crescendo, as your characters fall in and out of love. Emotions raw like open wounds.  You slide down your partner’s body, leg stretching behind you, a form of surrender.
Let go.
Feel.
Ache.
Music pounding, thrumming inside your pores. You spin, you spin, you spin…. Words bleeding tears on white pages.


You dance. You write.



********
A.M. Supinger of Inner Owlet tagged me for this meme Writing Is NOT Like A Box of Chocolates. The goal is to come up with a metaphor--anything but chocolates--to answer the question, Writing is like...? I hope you enjoyed my own vision above.


The rules are simple:


>Come up with the metaphor.
>Tag 3 people.

I'm tagging the following people:
1. Anita Howard of A Still and Quiet Madness because she writes beautifully, and I'm sure she'll make us weep with her lovely metaphor and imagery. No pressure, Anita! Hehe.
2.Angela Cook of The Starving Novelist because she has just recently said goodbye to her first novel and is moving forward with a different vision. It'll be wonderful to see her insight on what writing is like for her at this phase.


3. Carissa of My Inner Stillness because this girl is one of the most hardworking writers I know. Her passion and determination is incredible, and I keep wishing it will rub off on me if I keep hanging out with her. You rock, my friend.

Word Challenge: A Cure for Dropsy?

Yes, it's that time again. No, it's not my birthday. Or yours, but if it is, do say so and we'll sing to you.

Word Challenge time! I should say Words, with the 's' but it doesn't sound as good. So. For you newbies, you might want to read this first so you'll know what I'm talking about. Really, it's just a fun game to exercise our writerly noggins.

For previous attempts, click here.

The words are:

Pilothouse: (noun) An enclosed compartment from which a vessel can be navigated.

Dropsy: (noun) Swelling from excessive accumulation of watery fluid in cells, tissues, or serous cavities. Syn. edema

Cavalierly: (adverb) In a proud and domineering manner.

Memsahib: (noun) A woman sahib.

Alb: (noun) A white linen liturgical vestment with sleeves; worn by priests

Gloxinia: (noun) Any of several plants of the genera Gloxinia or Sinningia (greenhouse gloxinias) having showy bell-shaped flowers.

*********
The Captain left the pilothouse to seek the aid of the ship's quartermaster, who knew a thing or two about medicinal remedies. He'd been suffering from dropsy, the swelling primarily located between his neck and shoulders. Even now as he turned to survey his crew, a sharp twinge resulted from the slightest movement of his head. The Captain was not a man easily worn down by such triviality as pain, but it was nevertheless cumbersome and hindered his navigational abilities. Therefore, it had to be eliminated as soon as possible.

The passengers loitered about with somber faces. They were pilgrims come from distant lands to seek their fortunes elsewhere. The Captain huffed at the sight of their pitiful plights, unused as they were to being at sea for a good fortnight now. He puffed up his chest in a cavalierly manner, and earned another shooting pain from his neck to the top of his skull.

He spied the memsahib standing tall by the bow. She was clutching a bouquet of flowers, her golden head tilted to one side as if she meant to take a whiff of the wilted gloxinias. Was it only two nights ago when she came aboard with her servants? The Captain's expedition to India brought him lucrative rewards, and, now as he gazed at the woman's pale beauty, a chance for a romantic enterprise. After all, he was a man, wasn't he? Too long he'd been at sea with only scruffy bearded men for company.

With a sudden cry, the woman threw the flowers away. The Captain hurried to her side and took her alabaster hand, her fingers thin and frail in his callused palms.

"Madame, what is the matter?"

She shook her head in reply. Tears glistened on the corner of her eyes--silver orbs framed by long, dark lashes. So beautiful. The captain had only time to glance at the quartermaster running toward him, holding a torn and blood-stained alb, when the memsahib pulled his face down for a kiss.

"My good Captain," she whispered, "I can remedy your pain, and you, mine." Her face elongated as fangs appeared in her wide-opened mouth. She clamped her lips over his afflicted neck, draining him bit by bit of the cursed dropsy, and more.

*************

Haha! Sometimes I surprise myself with what my brain comes up with. Okay, now it's your turn. Have fun with it!

Em Dash and En Dash: What's the Difference, Really?

Big difference, actually. And it's not because one has an 'm' while the other sports an 'n'. LOL.

EM DASH: is roughly the size of an 'm', and sometimes called a double hyphen (--). It is used to indicate an added emphasis, interruption, or abrupt change of thought. It is also used (sparingly, I hope) to replace colons, semicolons, commas, and parentheses.

e.g. I like you—really like you—for being a good friend. [added emphasis]

      She dashed off to go to the party—but wait, she forgot her purse. [interruption]

      "I know, but—" The baron picked up his gloves. "—this plan of yours is sure to fail."  [interruption]

      I wish you would—oh, never mind. [abrupt change of thought]

In most Word documents, you can create an em dash by making a double hyphen (--) and pressing ENTER. Word automatically converts it for you. Also, there are no spaces in between the word prior to the em dash, and the word after it.

THIS: party—but
NOT: party — but

Em dashes also precede quotation attributions.

e.g. A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.
      —Richard Bach
    

EN DASH: is traditionally half the size of the em dash, or is roughly the size of an 'n'. It is technically wider than a hyphen (-). They're used to:

1. Connect a range (such as numbers).

e.g. 110
       pp. 3540

Non-numerical range:

e.g. JanuaryDecember

2.To contrast values, or illustrate a relationship between two things.

e.g. Fatherdaughter event
      BostonHartford route

3. When combining open compounds:

e.g. a high schoolcollege conference
     

These are the simple definitions—we could probably get even more technical and discuss other aspects of the em dashes and en dashes, but unless you're writing formally, these will do.

You can find more about this topic here and here and here. Also, I found a wonderful blogpost by M.E. Summer of Sticking to the Story about hyphens. Check it out here.

Questions? Comments? Any info you'd like to share? Please use the comment section. Thanks!

Critiquing Woes: Why It Pays to be Nice

Writers are an odd, lovely bunch. We're all rather quirky, prone to theatrics, and have idiosyncratic tendencies. Which are traits that help us become who we are: Storytellers on ink-and-paper.

We are imaginative, dreamy, and we tend to get passionate about our work. So what happens when we get together and poke holes at each other's beloved novels?

A very long time ago, writers were pictured as hermits...a lonely peculiar artist laboring within the confines of a metaphorical cave, with only words to keep him company. Now? Hardly the case. Writers flourish from every crevice of such a cave. Writing groups and communities abound, with promises of better sales, much like a store window banner enticing shoppers to come and avail of their 50% merchandise discount.

And so it is that we're equipping ourselves with Alpha and Beta readers. We clamor for literary agent sites that offer free critiques for our queries, first pages, pitches, whathaveyou. We see the sign CONTEST! and we jump in with our 250-words, never you mind that they're unpolished, unedited, unfit to be seen by any other person excepting our dear mother (who loves us anyway, and could probably get us to try out for American Idol even when we sound like a loon or a strangled lunatic, whichever image you prefer).

But. Getting a critique is essential for progress. Having a second, or fourth, or tenth pair of eyes check out what we've been slaving over for years can help us spot problems we had missed. We know this, and therefore, we seek for critiques.

Now, there are etiquettes we need to observe. Just as we've been taught to follow the Golden Rule (if you don't know what it is, you're a lost cause, kid), we should mind our manners when offering or receiving crits from others.

1. We get it. This is your ultimate MASTERPIECE and you've poured your soul, sweat, blood (is that what the stain on the corner is?), guts, and other bodily innards into this manuscript. We know because we've done it too, minus the bodily innards, of course. Do NOT curse us, invoke the Furies on our heads, threaten or toss notes with cut-up magazine letters on our doorsteps if we say Chapter 4 does not flow, or you have comma abuse problem and must seek professional help. We won't come near you even with a 100-foot pole if you do.

2. If you are even remotely afraid of copyright issues, do NOT post your work at all and then accuse the hapless writer who stumbles on it and offers to help of attempting to steal your crap. Trust me, unless your Stephen King, you're not worth plagiarizing.

3. Do NOT sit and pout in writer's forums, or whine that no one's come to offer a crit on a piece of work you've put up for review. Honey, it's a give-and-take relationship. If you don't make an effort to help others, they're not gonna come and help with yours. It's nothing personal. Everyone's busy, and if you're too busy to give, everyone else will be too.

4. If you've gotten, say, ten similar feedbacks that are not to your liking, do NOT dismiss them and go off to look for someone who's willing to tell you you're the next J.K Rowling. Especially if that someone is (again) your dear mother.

5. Magic words do work in real life. Saying "PLEASE" and "THANK YOU" will earn you brownie points. More if you actually send real brownies. =)

6. When offering crits, DO remember that there is a real, alive person behind the name or avatar. Someone who's got feelings, too.

7. When you offer crits with the intent to showcase how SUPERIOR you are, please...DON'T. This is not an EGO 101 class. If you must feed your ego, go somewhere else. Visit your mom, for goodness' sake.

NOTE: Moms are just AWESOME!

The bottom line is: It pays to be NICE. The people who sign up to be your critiquers, Alpha or Beta readers, are your homies. They have your back. You need them. So play nice. If you're involved in writing communities, the same adage applies.

Got any more critiquing woes? Feel free to share. You can also read up on other rants...er, discussions on this topic here.



Photo by Niklas Hellerstedt

Monday Funnies, Contest WINNERS, and a Round Robin Blogvel

Hello Monday!

Wow, good to know we're all still here. I hope everyone had an enjoyable weekend despite rumors of doomsday and the so-called rapture. ")

First things first--because I know you've been waiting for this while hunkering down in your fortified bunker-style basements for two days--we have WINNERS!

Dundundundun...(drumroll)

For the First Chapter Critique: Rachel McClellan

For the $15 iTunes giftcard: Sarah Fine

Congratulations! Email me at writercherie [at] gmail [dot] com to claim your prize. Thanks to everyone who participated. I had fun reading what made you happy. Apparently, family/kids/baby toes ranked topmost being listed 9 times by participants. Here is the breakdown:

Writing/Ideas/Agent Requests: 8        Reading/Good books: 4
Good friends: 5                                Being comfy: 5
Hot cocoa: 5                                    Food/Drinks: 5
Pets: 3                                             Weather (sunshine/rainy days): 3
Movies: 4                                        "Me" time: 2
Disneyland: 1
Personal goals (such as getting a job, getting toned, not moving): 3
Watching people fall down: 1

Er, I won't bother interpreting those data stats. I think they speak for themselves. ;)

Before we get on to the funny for today, I have a quick desperate plea favor request announcement: My good friend Michelle aka Green Woman is hosting a Round Robin Blogvel, and we'd like to urge bribe invite you to join us in what could be a potentially fun (if it's not disastrous) writing blogvel.

If you're like me and you went glassy-eyed at blogvel, here are the details from Michelle's own blog:

Here’s how it works:

  • I will write chapter one and post it on my blog.
  • Someone else will write chapter two, based on my beginning, and post it on his or her blog.
  • Someone else will write the next chapter, based on developments in previous chapters, and post it on his or her blog.
  • Repeat until everyone has had a turn.
  • I will write the concluding chapter and post it on my blog, UNLESS someone else feels a burning desire to do so.
  • Each person who posts a chapter will include a link to the FIRST chapter (for newcomers who want to start reading at the beginning), a link to the PREVIOUS chapter, and a link to the blog where the NEXT chapter will go up, to make it easier for readers to follow the whole story.
  • I will post a link to the latest chapter on my blog every week, OR I will make a Round Robin Blogvel PAGE and update it weekly.
  • Chapters will go up on the same day every week. Probably Monday.
  • The more authors who participate, the longer our blogvel will be.
I think it’ll be a great way for writers to meet other writers, and for readers to find more awesome blogs they didn’t know about. Also I think it will be very fun.
So here are the RULES:
  • You can write in your own style, and you can make just about anything happen. The only thing I ask is that what you write flows naturally from what came before. A hypothetical example: If Mary Sue has always been kind to animals throughout previous chapters, and you decide she is going to throw stones at a puppy in your chapter, you MUST provide a believable motivation for the sudden change. Like, you know, demon possession, or being under a spell. Or maybe a killer puppy.
  • Please keep chapters to 2,000 words or less
  • Please be sure you can do it if you sign up. It will be more difficult for everyone (but especially me) if you flake out.
  • Post your blog entry on MONDAY the week your chapter is scheduled. Email me a link to your chapter at michelle [dot] simkins [at] gmail [dot] com.
Now you are asking, “How do I join in on this fantastic adventure?” Lucky for you, no dwarves or wizards need mar the green paint on your door to issue an invitation. All you have to do is email me at michelle [dot] simkins [at] gmail [dot] com. When you send your email:
  • put “Round Robin Blogvel” in the SUBJECT line.
  • include a link to your blog
  • let me know if you want to write a chapter at the beginning, middle, or end of the blogvel. OBVIOUSLY if you start at the beginning, you will be writing your chapter sooner. If you go middle or end, you are at the mercy of the plot twists of all authors who came before you.
  • Get your email to me by midnight on Monday, May 23.
  • Please email me even if you already said you were in on Twitter or AQConnect. I need your contact info, blog link, and your beginning, middle, end preference.
After sign-ups close, I will take all of the author’s requests and assign chapter numbers to everyone. I imagine there will be a certain amount of shuffling and tweaking that has to be done. So, allowing another week for that, I believe that chapter one of this endeavor will be posted on Monday, May 30. That is, however, a TENTATIVE start date and could change depending on the number of participants. And on how fussy they are.

*************

I hope you'll consider joining us. Be warned though: we're a wacky group, but in a really, really good way. If you've seen us on Twitter, you'll know. Right, Michelle?  ")

Have a fantabulous Monday everyone! Here's a funny for you to enjoy....

BY Debbie Ridpath Ohi

                           

Kathleen Duey's Resurrection of Magic Trilogy Books 1 & 2: Skin Hunger and Sacred Scars

A BIG THANK YOU TO ALL WHO PARTICIPATED IN THE CONTEST!
I will announce the winners on MONDAY, May 23rd, so check back to see if you've won. =) Goodluck to all!

***********

Kathleen Duey is a prolific writer, having written over 80 books for K-YA. Her works include the MG series American Diaries and Survival, chapter book series The Unicorn's Secret, and its companion series, The Faeries' Promise.

Skin Hunger was her first YA novel and the first installment in her Resurrection of Magic Trilogy. It was a 2007 National Book Award finalist and a nominee for the 2008 Locus Award for Best Young Adult book and Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best. Sacred Scars is the second installment and listed in the 2009 Kirkus Best of YA Book.

The author's website can be found here, and her blog here.

Here are the blurbs for Skin Hunger and Sacred Scars:


Skin Hunger (A Resurrection of Magic)



From Goodreads:


Sadima lives in a world where magic has been banned, leaving poor villagers prey to fakes and charlatans. A "magician" stole her family's few valuables and left Sadima's mother to die on the day Sadima was born. But vestiges of magic are hidden in old rhymes and hearth tales and in people like Sadima, who conceals her silent communication with animals for fear of rejection and ridicule. When rumors of her gift reach Somiss, a young nobleman obsessed with restoring magic, he sends Franklin, his lifelong servant, to find her. Sadima's joy at sharing her secret becomes love for the man she shares it with. But Franklin's irrevocable bond to the brilliant and dangerous Somiss traps her, too, and she faces a heartbreaking decision.
 
Centuries later magic has been restored, but it is available only to the wealthy and is strictly controlled by wizards within a sequestered academy of magic. Hahp, the expendable second son of a rich merchant, is forced into the academy and finds himself paired with Gerrard, a peasant boy inexplicably admitted with nine sons of privilege and wealth. Only one of the ten students will graduate — and the first academic requirement is survival.
 
Sadima's and Hahp's worlds are separated by generations, but their lives are connected in surprising and powerful ways in this brilliant first book of Kathleen Duey's dark, complex, and completely compelling trilogy.

Sacred Scars (A Resurrection of Magic, Book 2)

From Goodreads:

Sadima, Franklin, and Somiss, driven out of Limòri by a suspicious fire, are living in a cave hidden within the cliffs that overlook the city. Somiss is convinced the dark passages of the caves were the home of ancient magicians, and his obsession with restoring magic deepens. Sadima dreams of escape -- for her, for Franklin, and for the orphaned street boys Somiss has imprisoned in a crowded cage. Somiss claims he will teach these boys magic, that they will become his first students, but Sadima knows he is lying.

Generations later, Hahp is struggling to survive the wizards' increasingly dangerous classes at the Limòri Academy of Magic. He knows the fragile pact he has forged with his secretive roommate, Gerrard, will not be enough to put an end to the evil. It will take all the students acting together to have any chance of destroying the academy. Building trust, with few chances to speak or plan, will be almost impossible, but there is no choice.

Why I Recommend:

First off, these books have a dark, gritty feel to them. There's also swearing--more so when Hahp's situation worsens at the Academy. So if you find swear words and gritty settings offensive, these books might not be for you. Which would be a shame, but everyone's entitled to their own preferences and the book business is, as always, a subjective business.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I'll tell you why I like Duey's books. (By the way, I stalk her blog to see if she has finished the last installment. I am not patient. And if you had read the other two, you'd be impatient for the last one as well.)

The story is split into two POVs: that of a young girl named Sadima, and Hahp, a boy who exists centuries after Sadima's time. In Sadima's world, magic is lost and banned. In Hahp's world, magic is everywhere--though only the wealthy could afford them, like the flying horse carriages his father owned and paid for. Transcending these two worlds are Somiss and Franklin, a nobleman's son and his servant searching for magic in Sadima's world, and teaching magic in Hahp's world.

Duey's characters and the relationships between them are complex and intriguing. There's Sadima and Franklin's love in conflict with Franklin and Somiss' relationship. Then we continue to see this relationship through Hahp's eyes.

 Magic holds a central theme, but it is the dark, ugly side of magic that we see most of the time. There is cruelty and disregard for human life, atrocity and sadism, and all for the name of magic. It is a compelling read--both novels actually, because these are not stand-alone books. It's the kind of story that makes you question things, makes you think. (I like these kinds of stories.)

I read Skin Hunger in one day and when I was done, I was itching to get to the library ASAP to get Sacred Scars. But it was already past midnight, so you can imagine my restless night waiting for the day to come. Sacred Scars did not disappoint, though I was very much disappointed to find out that there was not a third book yet. Hence the stalking of Ms. Duey's blog (I'm not normally a stalking type of girl. I pinky swear.)

The world of Limòri is fascinating and it's easy to get sucked into its vortex. I love complex characters, especially when they are put in moral dilemmas. If you're up for a dark, compelling read, explore Ms. Duey's Restoration of Magic novels.

Praise for Skin Hunger:

KIRKUS

"This double-narrative fantasy…deepens into a potent and affecting story of struggle.… Only one boy will live to graduate as a wizard, and they’re forbidden to help each other survive… Darkly resonant."

Praise for Sacred Scars:

KIRKUS

“…Thrumming with dense, meaningful tension…through despair, oppression and rare moments of hope. The text so successfully portrays Hahp’s experience in this grueling, cold-blooded wizard “academy”—isolation, starvation, abuse and constant, unsolvable puzzles—that readers may absorb his strain, confusion and desolation themselves… unwaveringly suspenseful.”

A Milestone Contest and an Awesomesauce Blog Award!

CONTEST! PRIZES! FOLLOWERS! OH MY!

As I've mentioned in yesterday's post, I've decided to do a fun little contest to thank my wonderful followers. Also, as I'm not a millionaire, we'll stick with easy, inexpensive prizes.

So. What's the deal? Two winners, two prizes. A $15 iTunes Gift card and a First Chapter Critique (your first chapter doesn't have 50 pages, right?). I know it's not super-mega-fantabulous, but hey I won't pull your leg either with the contest rules.

Speaking of rules, here they are:

1. Follow my blog. If you're already following, hooray for you! You're halfway there. *wink*

2. Post in the Comment Section the answer to this question: What makes you happy?
Easy, right? Since my blog is about the "pursuit of writing and happiness", I thought it would be fun to see what makes people smile.

3. Tell me your preferred prize, whether you want the gift card or the critique. I will then separate the entries for each prize and draw for a winner accordingly. Nothing scientific in the drawing process. I'll simply write your names on a piece of paper and let the kiddos pick them out of a hat. Or a bucket. Depends on what I find lying around the house. Contest ends on Thursday, May 19th at midnight (MST).

I hope you'll participate. I'd love to know what makes you float, sigh, thrum with giddiness, or burst into laughter. What makes your heart beat. Life is short, but it doesn't mean we can't make the most of it.   <3

Alright, on to the blog award my snazzy, peppy, and full of awesomesauce herself, blogger friend Sophie Li of The Wordsmith Apprentice bestowed on my undeserving head. She's quite a busybody--learning ballet, playing the violin and the viola, stalking out So You Think You Can Dance dancers, dressing up as a Harry Potter character, and did I mention she also served in the Army and had jumped out of a plane for a parachuting exercise even though she's scared of heights??

And yes, she's a writer working on her memoir. So pay her a visit unless you want something similar to this happen to you. Nah, just kidding. Sophie is an absolute sweetie. =)  Thank you, Sophie for the honor.


I had this on spaghetti. Super yum!
The rules are:

1. Thank and link to the person who gave me this fabulous piece of work. Thanks, Sophie!
2. Pay it forward to no more than one person per month. Elaborate why said person is deserving of said award. Are you deserving? I'm accepting applications now. *wink*
3. Answer the following questions:

       - What is your favorite song currently playing on your iPod, CD player, etc.?
I have Colbie Caillat's album Coco playing on repeat. Don't ask me why. It just is.

       - If we peek into your Internet history, what would we find?
Most likely a Wikipedia entry on carnival games. Been researching for my WIP. Good thing you didn't ask me this a week ago when I was searching for combination drugs for er...well, never you mind.

       -And lastly, what is your all-time favorite movie that you watch over and over again?
 Princess Bride! "Farm boy, fetch me that pitcher." "As you wish." Swoon! LOL

I am pleased to pass this award to one of my first ever blog friends, the lovely Ms. Anita Howard from A Still and Quiet Madness. She made me feel welcomed when I was still wobbling as a new blogger, and she encouraged and uplifted me in many, many ways. I know I'm not the only one who can attest to her awesomesauce-ness. Thank you, Anita, for being my friend.

************
PLEASE DON'T FORGET TO JOIN THE CONTEST! It's really painless, and I'm a pretty adequate critiquer. I think. Hehe. =)

On Dialogue and Speaker Attribution

I've decided to place all posts on writing mechanics under one place. So now you can find them in the page entitled Writing 101. It's under PAGES. Just right there--->

I'm the kind of gal who likes to make things easy. Simplify--one of my favorite words. When you are writing, editing, or exchanging crits with others, sometimes it is hard to process the feedback we get. Someone says, "Do this!", while others may say, "No, do this instead." From the comments I got from my previous post on Dialogue Mechanics and the "Said" Debate, one writer mentioned how she came across a blog/site telling writers to use creative writing tags, and even listed them as a writing resource. Yes, shocking I know. So what's a new writer to do when we're constantly bombarded with writing advices?

Three things: Read well-written published books, keep on writing, and listen to your gut.

Since "listening to your gut" doesn't come as easily for others, this is where I can help you. I give simplified advice based on my own experience as a writer and a reader.

So. Dialogue and Speaker Attribution. Since we're all about simplifying, I'm going to list the things we need to remember when attributing dialogue to a speaker:

1. Don't start a paragraph of dialogue with speaker attribution.

e.g. Mary said, "I don't know. I thought she was coming home with you."

Do this instead:

"I don't know," Mary said. "I thought she was coming home with you."

Why? Our goal here is to keep the speaker attributions transparent for smooth transitions between dialogue lines and the speaker. The reader gets to focus on the dialogue and at the same time know who's saying it, without getting pulled out of the story.

2. Place the character's name or pronoun first in a speaker attribution.

David said NOT said David

He said NOT said he.

3. Be consistent with how you refer to a character and stick with it for at least the length of a scene.

Consider this example:
       "I've lived here my whole life," said Martha. She handed him a beer can.
       "Is that so?"
       "Yes," said Mrs. Macey. "I've seen things happen around this neighborhood. Some pleasant, some not. I could tell you stories but I rather not."

(A page later...)
       "You reckon I should stay and give it a try?" he asked, standing up to leave.
       "If you want to keep your head straight, you better not," said the old woman.

"Martha", "Mrs. Macey", and the "old woman"--they're the same character. If you keep switching names in a scene, you'll end up confusing your reader. However, it doesn't mean that you are only allowed one form of address for your entire novel. If the viewpoint changes for one of your characters, say, the man in the example above gets to know Martha Macey more intimately and later on calls her by her first name or a nickname, then that's okay. Remember, we are talking about the length of a scene here.

4. Use beats to replace "said" or a dialogue tag, especially if you have three or more speakers.

Consider this:
e.g. "Let's go to the mall," Jessie said.
      "I'm tired of the mall. Why can't we do something else for a change?" May said.
      "Like what?" Ryan said.

The "said" is no longer transparent here. But if we use beats, we can break the said monotony:

      "Let's go to the mall," Jessie said.
      May crossed her arms. "I'm tired of the mall. Why can't we do something else for a change?
      "Like what?" Ryan said.

5. You can dispense with speaker attributions if it's clear from the dialogue who is speaking. BUT do not overdo it. You can break it up with beats if you need to, especially if it's long.

Ping-Pong dialogue:

"I just can't believe you said that to him!"
"Well I did. And I'm not sorry for it."
"I know he's a jerk and he probably deserved it, but that was harsh."

Breaking it up with a beat:

"I just can't believe you said that to him!"
Rachel plopped on the sofa. "Well I did. And I'm not sorry for it."
"I know he's a jerk and he probably deserved it, but that was harsh."

Questions? Comments? Rants? Feel free to discuss.

Reference: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King (pp. 91-93)

P.S. I've just realized I have reached a 100 (and 1) followers. Hooray! A milestone worth celebrating for. So. I was thinking last night, wouldn't it be great to have a little contest to show my appreciation for these wonderful folks who stumbled their way here and probably didn't know what they signed up for? Hehehe. 

Tune in tomorrow for the details. It's nothing grand or pompous. But there will be prize/s...hopefully something worth your time. =) 

Monday Funnies and the Laughter is the Best Medicine Blogfest

Hello Monday! Today I'm participating in the Laughter is the Best Medicine Blogfest hosted by two amazing bloggers Lydia Kang at The Word is My Oyster, and Leigh T. Moore at That's Write.

Here's one for laughs. Enjoy!


When someone comes to you with a memoir, make sure you double-check their credentials....


By Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Come join in the fun and laughter. You can check out the other funnies by going here:





On Why YA Is Popular Plus Special Excerpt from WIP "Ashes for Skin"

I lost yesterday's post, but on a positive note: Blogger is back! Hooray! I know it was inconvenient, but for someone who is tech-handicapped like me, I can only say I'm in awe with what they have to deal with--there's a million and more blogs on blogspot (which translates to a million and more unhappy bloggers yesterday) and really people, that's a LOT. Which means, Blogger had a lot of work to do to get their server running. Not easy. So I say let's cut them some slack for letting us get some downtime and sunshine (Did you go outside? It is beautiful. There's more to life than the web, you know.)

Anyway, I have to rewrite my post since I forgot to back it up apparently. I managed to back up the other posts, but I overlooked this one. Which is no biggie. It's not like it was universe-changing or whathaveyou.

So. YA. Why is it so popular? I see literary agents taking up YA when they didn't use to before. I hear people discussing YA books, and they're not the ones with purple- streaked hair, emo shirts, and TEEN ANGST invisibly tattooed on their foreheads. We're talking 20ish, just barely leaving their teenage years behind, or the 30-and-uppish reliving what shenanigans they were up to in those bygone days.

Why do we prowl the YA section at the library, hoping our daughter's schoolmates won't see us snatching the last Twilight book off the shelf?

I'm sure there are varying reasons. Feel free to share if you want. I like YA because it wasn't that long ago for me when I went through the phase of "I'm SO MISUNDERSTOOD". I remember wanting acceptance. There's the thrill of growing and coming into your own. The future seemed so endless and full of possibilities and dreams. *Not saying we stop dreaming at 40, or 50, or even 80. We can always dream.*

The YA phase is of volatile emotions, of passion and recklessness, of feeling alive and learning lessons. It's waiting by the bus stop in the rain, hoping to catch a glimpse of that someone. It's falling down and getting back up again.

YA stories are inside of us.

Young Love
Photo by Boris SV


And now, here's an excerpt from a different WIP I had filed away in my desktop: Ashes for Skin. It's post-apocalyptic and YA, of course. I usually post excerpt from my current WIP Hidden, but I'm working on some scenes right now. This is the first page...enjoy.

*******

It is only when the fire starts to roar that I stop in the middle of the path to turn around. Black smoke swirls upward as high as the heavens go. Orange-red flames peek from my bedroom window and lick the fraying ends of the thatched roof. Ravenous inferno consuming everything once familiar to me: the paisley patterns on my father’s old chair, my bookcase littered with dog-eared books, the yellow flimsy curtains hanging by the kitchen window…. I can’t see them now, can’t see what the inside of the house looks like, but there’s enough memory to supply me the images in my mind.
Someone tugs at my hand, urging me to move. I don’t turn to look, don’t turn to see who has come to save me. There is no saving me. My soul is burning along with the house. Along with the woman flailing her arms through a hole the fire has made in the wall. Her mouth is wide open, her shrieks mingling with the cackling of the flames. Even through the haze I see her lips move, mouthing a word. My name.
Anna.
I watch her pleading for life even as the fire melts her skin. I shake my head at her and hold up my blistered hands. The smell of kerosene envelopes me, seeping through my pores. As if it’s trying to fuse with my blood. To stamp the color of hell inside my veins. To never let me forget how I killed the woman in the house. My own mother.
*******

When You Should Affect Instead of Effect (Common Writing Errors)

Back in Agent Query Connect, I once posted about ten common writing mistakes spell check doesn't catch for you. The original article came from Yahoo Shine and you can see it here.  If you don't want to click on the link, here's the lowdown, plus a few more that I've seen in some writing:

You may laugh at this and think you're not that stupid, but trust me, even the best of us fall victim to our blind trust in spell check.

1. ITS versus IT'S

IT'S, with the apostrophe, is a contraction of "It is". ITS refers to possession.
e.g. It's a nice day today. (It is a nice day today.)
      The fairy spread its wings.

2. SALES versus SAILS

3. AFFECT versus EFFECT

This is misused more often than not. Affect is a verb, as in: The weather affected her mood today. Though there would be others who'd say Affect can be a noun, such as in psychiatry when it is defined as: A feeling or subjective experience accompanying a thought or action or occurring in response to a stimulus.

Unless you're writing a thesis on Psychology/Psychiatry, Affect stands as a verb and means to have an effect upon; to act physically on.

Effect is usually a noun, defined as a phenomenon that follows and is caused by some previous phenomenon; an outward appearance; an impression (especially one that is artificial or contrived); or the central meaning or theme of a speech or literary work.

e.g. The effects of the drug were hallucinogenic.
       The magnetic effect was greater when the rod was lengthwise.
       His shouting and drunken revelry were all for effect.
      
Effect can also be a verb, meaning to produce, or to act so as to bring into existence.

e.g. Her valiant recycling efforts effected a change in their lifestyle.

If you arm yourself with their proper definitions, you won't confuse the two ever again.

4. WOULD HAVE not WOULD OF

Because WOULD HAVE gets shortened to WOULD'VE at times, people mistake this as WOULD OF (probably because they sound the same). WOULD OF is never correct, and unless you want to be seen as illiterate, do not use it ever.

5. THROUGH versus THREW

Again with the homophone. Two very different words sounding the same. Always double-check.

6. THEN versus THAN

You know this, right? You've got to know the difference between the two. THAN refers to a comparison, while THEN refers to a subsequent event.

7. SUPPOSED TO not SUPPOSE TO

8. WONDER versus WANDER

9. THEIR versus THEY'RE versus THERE

I see this a lot. Sometimes it stems from honest typos, sometimes from carelessness. Proofread your work. THEY'RE is a contraction for THEY ARE. THEIR is possessive. THERE refers to distance.

10. FARTHER versus FURTHER

FARTHER is physical distance. e.g. Farther down the road...

FURTHER is metaphorical distance. e.g. He went further in his efforts to win her affection.

11. HERE and HEAR

Blame it on homophones.

12. WERE and WE'RE

WE'RE is a contraction of WE ARE.

WERE is a 'to be' verb. (ARE/WERE)


What other errors do you find yourself stumbling on occasion?

On Dialogue Mechanics and the "Said" Debate

Jean gripped the end of his shirt and cried, “Don’t leave me! I beg you. Have pity on me.”
“Let go, Jean,” he ordered. “You’re acting like a child.”
She pleaded, “If you go, you’ll never come back. Stay. Stay with me.”
He replied, “You know I have to go home. I’ve got family waiting for me.”
“You can’t be serious,” Jean blurted in astonishment.
“I repeat, I have to go home,” he repeated.
Jean wailed in despair, “But…but I can’t go through these queries by myself. There’s 300 still waiting in my inbox!”

*grin*

Alright, joking aside, what do we see here? Cried, ordered, pleaded, replied, blurted, repeated, wailed. Did these dialogue tags jump out at you? Made you stumble, made you pause?
In Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Browne and Dave King, chapter 5 addresses the pitfalls of dialogue tags. I like how they give us this metaphor to explain why dialogue tags are considered lazy writing:
Imagine you’re at a play. It’s the middle of the first act; you’re getting really involved in the drama they’re acting out. Suddenly the playwright runs out on the stage and yells, “Do you see what’s happening here? Do you see how her coldness is behind his infidelity? Have you noticed the way his womanizing has undermined her confidence? Do you get it?” (pp.83-84)
When we tell our readers our characters are pleading, wondering, repeating, we’re basically saying, “Hey, my dialogue doesn’t show how my character is feeling so I need to tell you dear reader that you may know.” In other words, we have weak dialogues or we’re not confident our dialogue portrays the feeling we wish to convey to our audience.
Said, on the other hand, may look boring and so not fancy. You’re thinking, We’re writers! We revel in words! We must use beautiful, interesting words; otherwise, what good are they if we have to replace them with plain old boring said?
Said works because when we’re reading, our eyes gloss over it. It’s invisible. It’s transparent. We see the dialogue, and not the tag. Consider this:
“You get your butt over here, Johnny, or I swear to God I’ll whip it for breaking my favorite vase,” said Mrs. Babblemouth.

And then, this:
“You are in trouble, Johnny, for breaking my vase,” ranted Mrs. Babblemouth in anger.

Hm. Let’s nitpick, shall we? In the first example, the dialogue itself is already showing us how Mrs. Babblemouth is feeling: she’s upset, and we can probably picture her yelling at Johnny even though it doesn’t say so in the sentence. But the image is there, right? You see it.
Let’s take a look at the second example. We know Johnny is in trouble for breaking the vase, but here we’re also being told that Mrs. Babblemouth ranted in anger. Why is the writer telling us? Because the dialogue is not strong enough to convey Mrs. Babblemouth’s anger. We still see it since we’re told that’s what happened, but as a reader we feel patronized. It’s classic Show vs. Tell, and I’ll have a post about this sometime in the future.
You’ve probably come across this term in editing books: R.U.E. Resist the Urge to Explain. Example 2 above doesn’t RUE. It tells us Mrs. Babblemouth is angry. This is unnecessary and therefore, lazy writing. If the dialogue is already clear, there is no need for an explanation. Ever.

I’ll have more coming up on Dialogue and Adverbs, Dialogue and Characterization, and Dialogue and Speaker Attribution. So stay tuned.

Monday Funnies, Blog Awards, and 7 More Things About Me (if you're not sick of me yet...)


Hello Monday!

I am feelin' the LOVE.

What a great way to start the week, eh? Two blog awards from my fabulous blogging friends. I feel so honored, really I do. First off, we present the snazzy Stylish Blogger Award, presented to me by the equally snazzy and rockstar-in-disguise Caitlin Vincent of Musings of an Ordinary Mind. She does not have an ordinary mind, by the way. She just likes to make you believe that she does. (Ha! Right, Caitlin? You and your purple zebra-striped gloves. *wink*) Check out how stylish this thing is:

Ooh, it twinkles!
This shiny thing comes with rules. But before I get there, let me turn your eyes towards this simply delightful and scrumptious looking thing awarded to me by the ever lovely Ashley Nixon of Ashley Nixon. (Yes, her blog is named after her.)

Yum! Hey, no touching! This one's all mine, all mine! Bwahahaha!
(Sorry, I haven't had breakfast yet.)

Miss Ashley is as sweet and pretty as the strawberries above. She's also a brainiac (Gates Millenium Scholar, whoa!), loves history, and has a boyfriend who looks like Aladdin! So check her blog out, if you haven't already done so.

Thank you, Caitlin and Ashley! You guys are super nice to me. =)

So. Rules. Here they are:

1. Thank and link to the person who nominated me.
2. Share seven random facts about myself. (The magic number 7)
3. Pass the award along to 5 new-found blogging buddies. (This is for the Stylish Blogger Award)
4. Pass the award to 15 blogging friends. (This is for the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award)
5. Contact the winners to congratulate them.

My Seven Random Things:

#1 I once got my picture taken with figure skater Rachael Flatt. She is the 2010 U.S. National Figure Skating Champion, the 2008 World Junior Figure Skating Champion, and the 2008 and 2009 U.S. Ladies Silver Medalist. She performed at a local show and fell down twice! But, I still like her. =)

Unfortunately, I'm unable to find that photo of me and Miss Flatt, so I'll just leave you with this:


Source

#2 I am allergic to cigarette smoke. It gives me hives and triggers my asthma. One time, we were checking in at a hotel and our room was supposed to be non-smoking. I walked in, smelled the faint trace of smoke, broke out in hives, and started coughing. We were immediately moved to a different, nicer room.

#3 I can sing and dance to The Wiggles, The Imagination Movers, and the Yo Gabba Gabba Gang. But I refuse to sing and dance to Barney--I have nothing against the guy. Really.

Source


#4 I once took hula classes and got an A. Though if you were to ask me to dance the hula now, I will absolutely refuse, even if you were to pay me a million bucks. Okay, maybe I will. ;D

#5 I don't drink any alcohol. At all. I can't even stand drinking soda all the time. Except for maybe when I was pregnant with my first child, and because I couldn't have Coke, I desperately craved it. (No, I did not give in. I'm happy to say I channeled my soda craving to McDonald's double cheeseburgers. Not good for the thighs, I know, or my cholesterol, but safer for baby.)

#6 I wanted to be STORM of the X-Men comics when I was a kid.

Source

#7 I used to watch anime shows. One of my favorites is Naruto, a quirky, orphaned Ninja boy who's a sort of an outcast in his village because of a demon, the Nine-tailed Fox, sealed inside him. Despite his blunders and comical antics, he has a big heart and will do anything to help his friends, even at the cost of his own life. (I don't watch it anymore, btw. Too busy.)




Alright. Now that you're all acquainted with my own quirks, it is time to pass on the awards to these amazing bloggers I admire. Here are the nominees for the Stylish Blogger Award (hold your breath, people):

T.S. Welti

Ashley Nixon

Dierdra Coppel

Rebecca Dupree

Jen


And the nominees for the Irresistibly Sweet Blogger Award are (drum roll, please):

Caitlin Vincent

Anita Grace Howard

Bethany

Angela V. Cook

Sophie Li

Jeana

Ashley Graham

Jenny Phresh

Huntress

Jemi Fraser

EEV

Joyce Alton

Sarah

Carissa Elg

Shawna

Congrats, blogger friends!

I also had fun making my own blog award (inspired by my creative buddies Anita and Jenny Phresh, who made their own snazzy awards to give to people). I call it the Cool Blogger Award. Check it out:




This is my sort of Jack-in-the-box award. I'll spring it on you when you least expect it. Uh-huh. So watch out, stay cool, and maybe you'll find Ms. Butterfly flitting your way. For my first ever blog award giveaway, I give it to my super cool friend Lori M. Lee of You Are the Unicorn of My Dreams. That's right, Lori! This one's for you for being fantastic. Enjoy it!

What? You're asking for rules? Erm...you tell me one cool thing about yourself, and then you do a surprise attack on another blogger to present them this award. Sounds good enough? Okay, moving on....

As promised, here's the Monday funny. Sorry for this extremely long blogpost. We might as well end it in a good humorous note.


By Debbie Ridpath Ohi

P.S. To claim your award, right-click on the pic and do Save As. To display award on your blog, go to Design, click on Add Gadget, scroll down to Picture, and upload the award pic. Voila! You now have blog bling for extra pizzazz!

Happy Mom's Day!

To my own mother and to all the moms out there...
THANK YOU!
Happy Mother's Day

These flowers are for you.



Photo by emerson12

I Write Like and The Chocolate Bunnies

Since it's the weekend, I'm here to bust your hopes for getting any writing done with an analyzer tool that tells you Who Do You Write Like...or


Go on. Try it. It's more addicting than leftover Easter candy (assuming there's any left in your cupboard. Unless if you're me and you keep a hidden stash. For emergencies, of course.) 

So. Er, go ahead and see who you write like. I'll just be over here.

Photo by anjuli_ayer
BTW, here are my stats:

WIP "Hidden" = Ernest Hemingway

Random Blog Post = James Joyces

The Cliche Narrative I wrote = Arthur Conan Doyle (I think Sir Arthur is rolling in his grave with this one) 


Happy Weekend everyone!

Storytelling: A Genetic Code or An Environmental Influence?

It's the chicken or the egg conundrum. Which came first?

Writers are storytellers. We dig inside our noggins like magicians about to pull a rabbit out of his hat. From words, we create people and fantastical worlds. It is magic.

I get it. We were the kids who played with imaginary friends. The ones with the faraway look in their eyes. We are those who sit in a library corner surrounded by books, unmindful of time and people passing us by.

My question is this: Is storytelling part of our genetic makeup, or were we influenced by our environment--our upbringing, lifestyle, our introduction to the world of books? I'm assuming here that most writers are readers. We deign to write because we have enjoyed reading, and we wish to tell the story we want to hear the most. Am I not too far from the truth?

My daughter is an exceptional character. She is smart, well-behaved, and very, very sweet. She's also an artist (which is a talent that runs in the family--my Dad is an amazing artist. So are my siblings.) When she started preschool at the age of 4, she learned how to read and took off with it before I can say Ay caramba! (That's my contribution to Cinco de Mayo. Ha!) Now she's a first grader and has a reading level equivalent of a third grader (her teacher tells me she has trouble finding my kid a reading group at school).

Lately she's been saying she wants to be an Author and an Illustrator when she grows up--along with being a ballerina dancer, an artist/painter, and an actress. *grins* She is fond of writing down stories (I've kept the ones she made when she was only five--they were mostly about mermaids and princesses.) For a school project, she made a story about Bronson, a little mouse guy. Check out her cover art:

I am excited to read the story, but I can't see it til the end of the school year. Her teacher is typing up the story and turning it into a book.

So I ask you again: Genetics or Environmental? Or both?

What do you think?

Who We Are

My grandparents lived on a hill in an island, and to get there we had to ride a ferry boat, drive several miles to get to the bottom of the hill, and hike up the path to their house on foot. As kids, it was quite an adventure. As adults, it was literally painful--sore legs, achy backs, and numb arms from carrying whiny kids who refused to use their own feet.

But as soon as we'd get to the top, the view of the ocean and the coconut trees waving their fronds at us was breathtaking. It was worth the climb and the sweat and tears.

By mesonprojekt

My grandpa owned several animals: dogs, roosters, chickens a-plenty and their little chicks, geese and goslings, ducks, pigs, a cow, a carabao (water buffalo in the Philippines), goats, and of course, his pet monkey. Who needs a zoo, right? We loved it there.

I could probably tell you a million-and-one stories of our adventures, but I will only tell you one today. My siblings and I witnessed the birthing of three little kids plus one--a runt. Sure we were seeing one of the miracles of life happening right before our very eyes, and yes we didn't care for the gross details of it, but we were more focused on the baby goats and the idea of "owning and naming" them. We couldn't actually take them home with us--my mother would've had a big fit. But we were ecstatic when Grandpa said we could pick our favorites. So naturally, we fought over the prettiest, or the biggest, and no one wanted the runt, which was scrawny, covered in slimy goo, and was quivering on its four thin legs. When my younger siblings started fighting, I, being older than the rest of them nitpicky lot, took the runt for myself and named it after me. Yes, I did. I was feeling sorry for myself, I believe. Poor little Cherie! (the goat, not me.)

By BryanAlexander

Our squabbles over, we ran around like wild ducklings and chased each other until it was time to go home. Down the hill, back to the dock, across the sea, and more driving--at which point, we were probably snoring in the backseat of my dad's car.

A few weeks later, we went to visit our grandparents. This time, high excitement ruled the day at the prospect of seeing our goat counterparts (yes, the siblings were copycats and also named their goats after themselves) having grown a little bit bigger. Would they remember us? Would Grandpa let us play with them?

At the top of the hill, we learned the truth. A snake had eaten the kids. Only one survived. And that was poor little Cherie, who was probably too slow to keep up with the others and thus escaped their fate.

*closes story book*

What? You're waiting for the moral of the story? Good grief people, must I do everything here?

Oh, alright. Here it comes.

We, unpublished writers, cramming in our hectic days and sleepless nights into a Word document filled with dreams and sighs and longing....

We, of the unseen, unacknowledged lot who squint at the screen with blurry eyes, with fingers cramped from typing, and not getting a darn thing for all this work we're doing....

We, who keep on writing because to stop would be to carve out our souls, like Jack o'lanterns come Hallow's Eve left hollow and empty on doorsteps, our grinning faces plastered on for the world to see while we die...slowly die and rot inside.

We are the runts who watch from the sidelines, biding our time because we know. We are survivors of countless heartaches enveloped in standard rejection forms. We are survivors because we stand on quivering legs and keep on standing.

We are artists who dare to dream. For in dreaming, we live and create life. This is who we are and we do not forget.

Our journey is our own--whether through vast waters of staggering depths, or steep hills under the scorching sun, we keep on moving. We meet kindred souls belaboring under their own struggles, and when we look at them we see mirrors. A thousand faces, beating under one heart.

Words skitter from our minds into paper, ink spills oozing black and red...our bloodline.

Soon, soon we will reach the top and the coconut fronds will meet us, greet us like old friends. We will triumph and feel, here...here is where we belong.

We are writers.   

By alancleaver_2000



To all writers, cheers! Never stop dreaming.

P.S. I just want to thank Carissa for handing me another Versatile Blogger Award. You are awesome, sistah!

Also, Scott Niven, sci-fi and fantasy author extraordinaire whose e-books are available now, awarded me both the Versatile Blogger and Blog on Fire Award. Thank you!

What Not to Write Part 2: Passive vs. Active Voice

While doing crits awhile back, I came upon one writer's feedback (to another writer; it wasn't me) to lose the was, were, is, are, has been/had been etc. in their writing. Her point was that using the 'to be' verb is passive writing.

I think I butted in their discussion to say that the use of said verbs doesn't immediately mean it's passive writing; instead, PASSIVE VOICE happens when the subject is being acted upon by the verb.

e.g. Miss Harriet was being wooed by the dashing Duke of Norfolk.
        subject                  verb                        agent of the action

*Note: It is not necessary to have an agent of the action. If we remove it, the sentence remains passive: Miss Hariet was being wooed.

As opposed to ACTIVE VOICE, which is when the subject is acting or doing the verb:

e.g. The dashing Duke of Norfolk wooed Miss Harriet.

Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? So why do we have such a hard time with passive and active voice?

The aforementioned writer who banished the wases and weres down the pit of Tartarus did not concur with me, as evident by the prose she wrote that I had to read later on with an aspirin and a cup of water by my side. (She also despised had/had been.)She was so determined to root out all the was and were and had been that her prose became choppy and convoluted.

Now I would never tarnish any other writer's name or their works, nor would I use somebody else's work to make a point for my own use and without consent. So I had to make my own narrative here, with the purpose of showing how sticking to the rule book like a deer tick doesn't benefit anyone, least of all a writer. (Actually, I don't think there's a rule that says you can never use 'to be' verbs. That would be criminally insane! Okay, exaggeration but you know what I mean.)

e.g. I looked out the window and saw him waiting for me. I planned to tell my mother, but I changed my mind at the last minute. She wouldn't understand. I wrote her a letter when she knocked on my door.

Do you see what's wrong here? Let's try that again.

e.g. I looked out the window and saw him waiting for me. I had been planning to tell my mother, but I changed my mind at the last minute. She wouldn't understand. I was writing her a letter when she knocked on my door.

>>Using had been in the sentence I had been planning to tell... does not make it passive because the subject I is doing the action had been planning to tell.

>>Again on next sentence I was writing her a letter.... This is a form of Past Continuous, by the way. To turn this into passive voice, we would have the object, in this case the letter, being acted upon by the subject I.

e.g. The letter was being written by me when she knocked on the door. [passive]

Sometimes, people confuse tense with passivity. I found a really handy chart where you can see the difference between Active and Passive Voice in different tenses.

Source

 
Still confused? You can find great resources here and here. I'm sure there are more helpful sites out there if you google them. (I love Google--we're bffs.)

Passive voice has its uses, so please do not flush it down the toilet. I can cite two, taken from one of the links I've given above:

1. When the actor in the situation is not important.

e.g. Twenty ml of acid was poured into the beaker.

2. When it is more important to draw attention to the thing or person acted upon.

e.g. The pedestrian was hit during rush hour.

If someone tells you to get rid of all the was and were and had been in your writing, don't take it too literally. And don't get too crazy. Writing is an art form (it's why we have poetry) because it has other elements to make it beautiful, not just perfecting your basic grammar. There's voice, beats, pacing, sophistication...and rules are really more like guidelines.

As always, aim for balance. Stay true to your voice, and have fun writing. =)

Precy Larkins's books on Goodreads
Winter's Regret: What Might Have Been Winter's Regret: What Might Have Been
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The Fault in Our Stars
The Return of the King
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Last Olympian
The Hundred: Fall of the Wents
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The Hunger Games
Wonder
The Founders' Code
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The Two Towers
The Book Thief
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The Lost Hero
Divergent
The Battle of the Labyrinth


Precy Larkins's favorite books »