Can You Vague That Up For Me?

Bronwyn Green's Random Thoughts

Behind the Scenes of My Current Project

Before I get to the actual post, I just wanted to say we’ve got a new blogger in our lineup! Torrance Sené has joined us! Yay, Torrance, and welcome!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this year has been rough writing-wise, but things are starting to pick up a little, and in a month or so, I’ll be releasing one of the next Bound books.

My next contribution to the series that Jess Jarman I write, is called The Sportsball Book. 

That is a lie. It’s actually called In Bounds. But I still call it The Sportsball Book. Because I’m not really into any kind of sports. And with the exception of baseball, which I get, but don’t really have any interest in, all the sports are sportsball to me. So I had some research help from a couple friends including Kayleigh Jones. Because she’s awesome. And knows about sportsball things.

The hero, Will Darby, is an injured football player (British football – not American) and his visiting his sister while he’s recovering from surgery. Also visiting his sister is one of her best friends, Ivy Wright. The same woman he had drunken sex in a closet with at his sister’s wedding, twelve years earlier.

Ivy’s in England staying with her friends and tutoring their kids after losing both her elementary teaching position and her husband to his affair earlier in the year. She’s horrified to see Will and is seriously hoping he doesn’t remember her. Unfortunately for her, he remembers everything. Which makes things super awkward since her BFF has noooooooo clue Ivy hooked up with her little brother. The BFF’s. Not Ivy’s. Ivy doesn’t have a little brother.

In case you were wondering, the above is in no way a blurb. I haven’t written that, yet.

In my head, Will looks a bit like Richard Madden. A sportsball playing Richard Madden.

And Ivy looks a lot like Rose McIver.

So…there’s some sportsball that happens in this book. And sex. Kind of a lot of it, really.

And angst. Because, really, what fun is a romance without some angst? And maybe some heartbreak?

The Sportsball Book will be out in about 6ish weeks. And I’ll be revealing the cover later, but trust me – Norris outdid herself. Again.

But here’s a short (unedited) excerpt from The Sportsball Book. 

“I don’t want to do my lessons.” The petulant child crossed her arms over chest and glared balefully at Ivy Wright. “I want to play footie with Uncle Wills.”

Ivy stared down at eight-year-old, Phoebe, her best friends’ daughter and one of her two pupils for the summer holiday. Well—her summer holiday, anyway. The children were currently attending classes, and she was tutoring them in their off hours. “I understand that, but we all have to do things in life that we don’t particularly care for.” And wasn’t that the understatement of the year? “Right now, you need to do your reading assignment. You can play soc—footie,” she corrected herself when Phoebe rolled her eyes, “with your uncle afterward.”

The uncle, in question, was slowly jogging down the hill toward them from the huge manor house. Jogging slowly, she assumed because his knee was in a brace. Ivy forced her features into a semblance of pure, professional detachment as the man drew closer. She hadn’t seen him since Caleb and Charlotte’s wedding reception, and she prayed to the deity of drunken hook-ups that Phoebe’s uncle didn’t remember her. It had been twelve years and zero contact. Chances were good that she might look vaguely familiar to him, but he’d never make the connection. At least, that was her fervent hope.

“It’s not fair,” Phoebe whined, stomping her foot.

“Few things are,” Ivy murmured. “Let’s get this over with, and you can run and sweat to your heart’s content.”

And Ivy could go back to the guesthouse she was occupying for the foreseeable future, crack open a book and a bottle of wine and think of a good excuse not to go to the main house for supper. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to have a meal with her friends and their children. However, she’d prefer to avoid as much contact with Charlotte’s brother, Will, as possible. The last thing Ivy needed to top off this shit sundae of a year was for him to remember her and that they’d had ridiculously tanked sex in a closet at his sister’s wedding. Well, she’d been drunk off her ass, anyway. She wasn’t sure about Will. Hell, she wasn’t even sure if he’d even been old enough to drink at the time.

A little hand tugged on Ivy’s, and she smiled down at Kit, Phoebe’s younger brother.

“Can I take this back to the house to finish reading it?” he asked.

She glanced at the dinosaur book he held. “Sure, honey. Go ahead.”

“Hey, Kit,” Will called to the little boy as he drew closer. “You want to kick the ball around while your sister does her lesson?”

Ivy tried to ignore the way the low timbre of Will’s voice combined with his English accent settled heavily in the pit of her stomach. She couldn’t remember if his voice had been that deep before, but the accent was the same. And there was something stupidly arousing about it.

She needed to shove that thought right away. There was nothing arousing about Will Darby. Nothing at all. Not his soccer—she corrected herself—football-chiseled body. Not the myriad tattoos curling down his arms and legs. Not the honey-streaked, too-long, brown hair pulled up in some kind of ridiculous man bun. Not the brilliant green eyes that currently watched her from beneath dark eyelashes or the short, trimmed beard that covered his beautifully sculpted face. And certainly not the large, broad hand he currently extended toward her.

“You’re Caleb’s friend, from the States,” he said with a devastating smile. “I’m Charlotte’s brother, Will.”

She reached out and shook his hand—his big, warm hand. The hand he’d clamped over her mouth as she’d orgasmed, muffling her scream in a broom closet at the wedding reception.

“Nice to meet you,” she said, forcing a smile and hoping he didn’t notice that she hadn’t offered her name. He didn’t look as if he recognized her, but the oddball name, Ivy, might be enough to ring a bell. Or maybe not. The man played professional football. He’d probably had enough concussions to knock any memory of her right out of his head. Was it wrong to hope that he’d had enough head injuries that was the case?

Okay – that’s it from me this week. Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ posts by clicking their names.

Jess

Kayleigh

Torrance

Gwen

Jessica

Kris

Paige

The Liebster Award

First off, I want to thank J of the Tumbling Words blog for this lovely blogging award. And I apologize for taking so long to put up my post.

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I’ll be posting the rules and nominating some people after I answer the questions from Tumbling Words.

Who is your favourite book character and why?

This is a maddeningly difficult question to answer, and I’m honestly not sure I can. There are so many characters I adore. But, if I absolutely had to choose one, it would be Elizabeth from The Paper Bag Princess. She’s smart, resourceful, strong, and, importantly, knows her own worth.

Are you a ‘cup half full’ or ‘cup half empty’ person?

Usually, I’m a “cup half full” person. At least, I try to be. Whatever it is, it can almost always get worse. Why dwell on that?

Who scares you more, Trump or Clinton?

Definitely Trump. And even more than him? His utterly terrifying running mate, Pence.

What is your favourite comfort food?

Um…all of it?  Okay, if I’m eating my feelings, it’s all about the Coke and salt and vinegar chips.

Which piece of music lifts your spirits?

My go-to pick me up song is, “Send Me On My Way” by Rusted Root.

What is your middle name?

Lynn. After an uncle who died before I was born.

What is your favourite quote?

“Trust your story.” – Neil Gaiman

Do you believe there is something after death?

Yes-ish. But I’m not sure if that’s if it’s a legitimate heartfelt belief or the need for comfort.

Which period in history would you most like to live in?

Honestly, I’m pretty well down with this one. I like the comforts of the modern age. Though, I’ll admit that when I was little, I wanted to live during the Revolutionary War. But I also wanted to be one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s sisters and a knight during the medieval period. Before I actually realized what the living during those times involved.

Who/what do you love most in your life?

I’m really insanely lucky in that I have so many people to love. My husband, my kids, my parents, sibs, nieces, nephews, and my amazing friends who are so much more than friends – they’re family, too. And my cats.

What makes you cry, and why?

Oh, you know…everything. No. Really. People being kind to one another. People being awful to each other. Missing loved ones who’ve died. Books. Movies. Happiness. Stress. Sometimes filling out financial aid forms for college’ll do it. Oh, and anger. I often cry when I’m angry which only infuriates me more.

What you have to do (but only if you want to):

Nominate up to 11 other bloggers yourself (preferably those with fewer than 500 followers, this is more of a newbie award). Provide those bloggers with 11 questions of your own for them to answer. Don’t forget to put the Liebster Award sticker on your blog!
And here are the 11 questions for you!

Here are my nominees.

Elena Johanson

Gwendolyn Cease

Jessica De La Rosa

Jessica Jarman

Kayleigh Jones

Victoria Leybourne

Kris Norris

Paige Prince

Augusta Qynn

Kellie St. James

And here are your questions – should you choose to do this.

1.) What do you feel is the most criminally underrated movie or TV show?

2.) How do you feel about clowns?

3.) What’s your favorite book?

4.) Where is your happy place?

5.) Growing up, what was your favorite toy?

6.) What was the worst job you ever had?

7.) What fact about you surprises people the most?

8.) What’s the one thing you wish you’d known as a freshman in college?

9.) What are two of your bucket list items?

10.) Do you play any instruments? If so, which one(s)? If not, are there any you wish you could play? If so, which ones?

11.) What’s the most thoughtful gift you’ve ever been given?

Nostalgic Notes: Movies

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It’s time for another Nostalgic Notes post, and this time it’s movies. There are a ton of movies that I have massive nostalgia for. And nearly everyone of these is quoted regularly around our house.

Labyrinth (1986) Original

Unless you’re new here, you had to know this one would be at the top of the list. Yes, I know there are aspects of it that are a bit creepy. But I still love it – problematic themes and all. Incidentally, I hadn’t known Jenny Trout for very long when we both quoted the same dialogue in this movie in response to something someone else had said. I knew then that we were going to be awesome friends. I was right.

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Speaking of problematic themes, there are definitely some in here (discovered during later rewatches) but I have happy memories all around this one. See also:

Adventures in Babysitting

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this movie. But, I can tell you that I haven’t seen it near as many times as my sister has. It was one of her very favorites. And the Elizabeth Shue singing the Babysitting Blues is one of my favorite things, ever.

The Princess Bride

I was about to type, ‘who doesn’t love this movie?’. Then I remembered my dear friend Roxanne. She doesn’t love this movie. She also loathes musicals. And thinks Labyrinth would be better without the songs. (!!!!) But I love her anyway.  I first saw this, when Alex Kourvo came home from college, showed up on my doorstep and kidnapped me to take me to the movies. It was one of the best dates I’ve ever had.

Alex and I saw a lot of movies together. And often repeatedly. Like these gems.

Star-Wars-Trilogy-Poster-2

I will never not love these movies. Never.

The first Terminator movie will always be my favorite Terminator movie – even if it did inspire a real and terrifying phobia of AI and Skynet. And who the fuck doesn’t adore Kiefer Sutherland as a vampire?!

My deep and abiding love for Winona Ryder began here. And Beetlejuice is one of those movies that gets quoted constantly around here. Particularly, “If you don’t let me gut out this house and make it my own, I will go insane, and I will take you with me!” And “My life is one big, dark room.”

Die_hard

This, along with The Grinch, is our annual, must-watch Christmas movie. Usually while we’re making Christmas cookies. It’s also quoted year-long. Hans Gruber is hands down my favorite villain of all time. I. Love. Him.

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Okay, now, I know there are some people who say that Tim Curry phoned in his performance in this movie, but I don’t care. Tim Curry is precious. As are all of the Muppets. The songs are pure gold. And hilarious. And were the soundtrack of my life when my kids were wee.

Speaking of kids, I loved these two when I was little and so did both of my kids. Both still get quoted on the regular around here. Particularly, “Oh, bother.” and “I will bite you, Chuchundra.”

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I fucking love The Animaniacs, and Spooky Stuff is my very favorite compilation video. Not that I can watch it anymore, or you know, any video. I wish they’d make a DVD of this one. It’s brilliant and we quote it all the time.

Last, but certainly not least, are these. My brothers and I often quote Highlander – in fact, one of them just texted me a Highlander quote the other day in response to something I’d said.

And whenever I pick up someone’s baby, I almost always say, “I stole the baby!” And when someone responds with “Stupid Daikini!” or something along those lines, I’m always delighted.

Okay, that’s it from me, this week. And holy crap, apparently, there are a lot of movies I feel nostalgic about!  How about you? What movies do you get the nostalgic feels for?

Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ nostalgic picks.

Paige

Jessica

Jess

Gwen

Kris

 

Flash Fiction #40 – Angel

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So the song that was chosen for this month’s song fic is Angel by Theory of a Deadman. The lyrics are here, and the video is here if you want to have a go at it.

Shoulders and arms aching, Angelica lugged the buckets filled with the thick, sloppy mud she’d spent the morning digging out of the riverbank. There had been reports that the wall by western treeline had been weakened, and she’d been stupid enough to piss off the crew boss.

Her hair escaped its makeshift holder and flopped in her eyes, making them burn. What she wouldn’t give for an elastic hair tie. But her last one had broken months ago. And forget about barrettes. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen those on anyone this side of the wall. Stopping, she twisted her hair into a makeshift bun and shoved a couple twigs through it and secured it as best she could.

“Keep up, scrub,” Tovah called back, hoisting the bales of hay she’d been dragging.

Angelica flipped off  the older woman, picked up her buckets again and stumbled forward.

The sun was high by the time they reached the cracked portion of the wall, and sweat poured down her back. It was impossible not to think about things like air conditioning and swimming pools. Well, clean usable ones, anyway. There were still swimming pools, but all of the ones she’d seen resembled algae and debris-filled ponds or were cracked and empty. But air conditioning was a thing of the past. And forget fans, too.

Generator use was limited to emergencies only, and the swampy heat and humidity of August was not considered an emergency. She got that, but it didn’t make her feel any less pissy about it.

Tovah dropped the hay bales and knelt down to carefully sliced through the baling twine with her pocket knife before methodically winding the twine and shoving it in her pocket. Things that had been once considered garbage, because they could always get more, were now saved and reused until they just couldn’t be anymore.

Angelica set the buckets down next to the hay that Tovah was separating into piles and stared at the cracks in the concrete. It had been years since they’d had anything other than mud and hay to fix it. The bags of quick mix concrete that had been salvaged from the home improvement store had long been used. Pretty much everything that had been a convenience had long been used.

Sinking to her knees, she began mixing the mud with the hay and shoving it into the cracks in the wall. She wasn’t exactly sure why they bothered anymore. The wall was tall, but it wasn’t impossible to scale. Just like the rest of the walls that crisscrossed the rest of what used to be her country. Every city, every town, every village had a wall.

He kept saying we needed to build a wall. Build a wall to keep out the undesirables. To keep out those people who would try to hurt us or steal our jobs. But it wasn’t those nebulous “others” we needed to be afraid of. It was him. And now, the only job was survival.

Welp, that’s it for me, today. Yeah, I don’t know how I got this out of a love song, either, but there it is. Be sure to check out Jessica and Kris‘ stories, too.

Promptly Penned: Where the Story Ends

Promptly Penned

Prompt:

This would normally be where the story ends, if this were a story; the world has been saved, the prince has found his bride, and there’s nothing left to do. Only this isn’t a story and the loose ends that are left belong to people that aren’t the prince, or the dragon, or the little goose girl.

This story is continued from one I started last year. You can find the first part here.

Open or closed, the university library tended to be a popular place for hookups. Hollis crept as close as she dared to the couple making out in the stacks. It wasn’t that she wanted to get up close and personal with them, but she needed to be near enough to them that when she caused her diversion, whichever disinterested student worker, assigned roust out stragglers from the library, would blame the noise on them. And more importantly, not notice that she’d and darted down the stairs toward the off-limits basement.

The arriving elevator’s chime didn’t slow the couple’s frantic groping. They either didn’t notice, or they didn’t care. Hollis slid her hand into the bookshelf that was at hip level with the couple as she peered through the space in the shelf above, hoping to see the kid from her theatre 202 class. He was always so busy memorizing audition pieces, an alien craft could land next to him, and he wouldn’t notice.

The doors slid open and Hollis’ breath caught in her throat. It was the hot T.A. from her history class. The exchange student with the Scottish accent to die for. He was far more observant than theatre boy. Son of a bitch! But, she couldn’t put this off another day. She had to get down there and find whatever is was her grandmother wanted her to find. The stones in her grandmother’s rings glinted in the dimming lights of the library as if to urge her on.

Hollis fixed her eyes on Eoin, the T.A. and waited until he was almost on top of the aisle where the couple was still going at it. As his footsteps drew nearer, Hollis gave several unabridged volumes of Chaucer a good shove, almost startling herself as the thick tomes hit the hardwood floor. The couple jumped and cursed as Eoin’s footsteps stopped. Hollis took that opportunity to dash for the short hallway that held the door that led to the basement stairs. Behind her, she heard Eoin say, “Christ, right your clothes, pick up the books, and find someplace else to get laid.”

Hollis quietly closed the door behind her and jogged, as quickly as she dared, down the dimly lit stairs into the basement. The scents of old books and cleaning supplies mixed as she finally reached the bottom step and crept into the heavily shadowed room. According, to her grandmother’s note, there was a hallway around here labeled with a sign that said “No Exit”. Pulling the small flashlight from her jacket pocket, she shone it around the cavernous area. The basement appeared to be one giant room filled with endless boxes, filing cabinets and huge pillars.

Finally spotting the sign she was looking for, she picked her way around several old filmstrip projector carts—Shouldn’t those things be in a museum somewhere?—and inched down the crowded hallway until she was standing in front of the elevator with the wrought iron cage front elevator her grandmother had described. Hollis lifted the cage and it slid upward on a surprisingly soundless track. Stepping inside, she closed the gate and pushed the only button in the car. The car descended soundlessly and so quickly that her stomach flipped.  Apparently, it was in much better working order than anything else down here. Which she realized was a somewhat comforting thought considering she was descending into a sub-basement that didn’t appear on any maps of the university’s campus on the word of a dead woman.

As soon as the car stopped, Hollis raised the gate and stepped out, staring in awe at the seven locked doors arranged in a semicircle in front of her. Her grandmother had been completely serious. Up until this moment, Hollis hadn’t been truly sure.

Sensing movement, she glanced behind her as the elevator car ascended. It must have some sort of auto-return function. Slightly panicked, she looked for a call button. The last thing she needed was to be trapped down here without food or water. Finding what she was looking for, she turned back to the doors.

They were all wooden. All huge. And all seemed to represent different historical periods. The iron studded door to the far left looked as though it had been removed from a medieval castle. The one in the middle—the one she found herself inching closer to—looked like it belonged on gothic manor. Tall and arched, the dark wood door was elaborately carved. It was adorned with an elaborate, aged brass knocker and handle. That was the door. That was the one she knew she had to open. She pulled the key out from where it dangled on a cord inside her top then fit it into the lock and turned. Straightening, she tucked it back into her shirt and put her hand on the knob, her pulse skittering wildly beneath her skin.

She’d found what her grandmother had asked her to find. She’d completed her quest. This would normally be where the story ends, if this were a story; the world has been saved, the prince has found his bride, and there’s nothing left to do. Only this isn’t a story and the loose ends that are left belong to people that aren’t the prince, or the dragon, or the little goose girl.

“You’ll be happy to know you got an ‘A’ on your midterm.”

Hollis whirled and pressed herself against the door, stomach leaping into her throat. “What the fuck, Eoin?!”

“Well played, upstairs. Chaucer was a nice touch. I might have even fallen for it, but when you scooted past me, it was impossible to miss your scent.”

She blinked. “My scent…?”

Eion shrugged. “Perfume? Reminds me of wood violets back home.” He glanced around at the different doors, coming to rest on the one she was currently plastered against. “So…what are we doing?”

Hollis tried to ignore warm burr in his voice and focus on his actual words. “We’re not doing anything.”

He grinned, his bright blue eyes twinkling mischievously. “That’s where you’re wrong, love. This looks like the beginning of an adventure.”

She stood there with her mouth hanging open.

“Unless you’d rather be reported to campus security.” He shrugged again. “Your call.”

“Asshole,” she muttered. Somehow, she doubted this was what her grandmother meant when she said Hollis’ life would change forever.

That’s it from me this week. Be sure to check out the stories from Jess and Jessica, too!

Ten Dialogue Commandments – Part Five

 

10 dialogue commandments

I recently did a presentation on writing realistic dialogue for my local writers group. I decided to go ahead and post it here in case people who had to miss the meeting wanted a chance to read it. Then I thought you guys might like it, too. And if you end up singing Ten Duel Commandments to yourself for the rest of the day, you’re welcome. 

And here are links if you missed parts onetwothree, and four. My apologies for the terrible art. I borrowed my kid’s markers while he was gone. Shoulda waited for him!

Well-written dialogue is an amazing multipurpose tool – it’s a heavy-lifter. It’s the Swiss Army knife in a writer’s toolbox. It can convey character, emotion, and motivation all in a few carefully chosen words. It can also drive the plot. Poorly written dialogue is also a tool – usually a sledgehammer beating against the reader’s head.

It’s no secret that acquiring editors frequently scan for dialogue in submissions. And when it doesn’t work, they often pass on a manuscript without reading further.

I’ll admit that when I was working as an acquisitions editor, I always made a point to see how the author handled dialogue. If it was rife with the dialogue sins we’re about to discuss, the author received a rejection letter. If the dialogue had potential, I’d read more of the story and possibly send a revise and resubmit letter. If the dialogue was solid and engaging, I’d often read the entire submission. The moral of this story is that good dialogue will get you a lot farther.

#9 Thou shalt not spell phonetically to indicate ethnicity, accent, or dialect.

Phonetic speech attempts to visually mimic an audible accent or dialect. And just so we’re all on the same page here, I’m using accent to refer to way characters pronounce words based on the country they’re from or their ethnic background. And I’m using dialect to refer to phrasing of language based on a character’s region or social group.

Writers have long struggled with how to show a character’s ethnicity, accent, or place of origin by writing in dialect. In the past, one of the common ways of indicating dialect was by writing dialogue phonetically.

Think about how people with southern accents and dialects are portrayed in media. There are two basic modes: genteel, southern ladies and gentlemen and backwoods, good ol’ boy hillbilly types. Now obviously, there are just as many types of people and levels of intelligence in the south as there are in any other location. But because of the slower speech patterns and drawl and various colloquialisms, the predominant stereotype is that people from the south are less intelligent than their northern counterparts. Phonetic spelling of dialogue in books only reinforces this misconception.

I know a woman who has a very heavy Texas accent. When she goes to conferences in other areas of the United States, she works hard to mask her accent and speech patterns because she noticed that fewer people treated her like an idiot if her accent was softer.

Now, back to the use of phonetic spelling. Using non-standard spelling is problematic for a number of reasons, the most mundane of which is that it makes it difficult to read. If the reader constantly needs to stop and sound out every other word of a character’s dialogue, it’s unlikely that person will finish your book or buy your next one.

But the most important issue when writing in a phonetically spelled dialect is that whether the author intends it or not, it comes across as racist and/or classist. Often judgement values are implied by the author and inferred by the reader about the character’s social standing and level of education. Using language in this way tends to reinforce existing negative racial and cultural stereotypes and whether you’re writing historical or contemporary stories, I would strongly, strongly urge you not to do it.

When you choose to write in standard English for one character and for another in a phonetically spelled dialect, the subtext is that the standard English speaker is normal and even superior and the non-standard English speaker is not. It doesn’t matter what your intent is, that’s the perception that’s lurking there.

There are ways to indicate accent and dialect without resorting to language mangling or stereotypes.

If your character has a recognizable accent, there’s nothing wrong with having another character in the story note it. Phrasing is another useful tool.

For example, we might say, “What are you talking about?” if we were confused by something someone said. Someone from Wales or England would be more likely to say, “What are you on about?”

The important thing about phrasing and colloquialisms is that they must be able to be understood within the context of the story. That doesn’t always happen. If you’re unsure, ask someone who’s unfamiliar with the location that your character is from. Ask that person (or people) if they understand the gist of what’s being said.

Another method, if your person isn’t a native English speaker, is to put the words in the order in which they’d be in their native tongue.

So, if I wanted my native German speaking character to say something that meant:

“I think we should go to the store and get a gift for the baby before we go to the hospital.”

but in the order the words would be in German, it would look something like:

“I think that we can go to the store, a gift for the baby to get to before we go to the hospital.”

The meaning is clear enough, and it definitely gives the flavor of a non-native English speaker.

However, you need to make sure that your meaning can be understood. I can give you a real life example of this not working out so well.

My great-grandparents on my mom’s side only spoke German in the home. They (very) grudgingly spoke some English to my grandma when she emigrated to the United States.

Fast forward to my husband and I moving in together. I was looking for a hammer to hang some pictures. I couldn’t find one, so I asked him where it was. But those weren’t exactly the words that came out of my mouth. In fact, my husband literally had no idea what I was asking. The phrasing I’d used was a very rural German to English Michigan colloquialism that made no sense to him whatsoever. So, you know, I repeated myself. This didn’t help.

He continued to stare at me like I’d grown three more heads and said, “You’re saying words and none of them make any sense. I mean I get that you want a hammer, but what the fuck, I thought you were an English major.”

Ouch.

I couldn’t figure out what his childhood trauma was until he wrote it down for me.

Do you know for a hammer?

Because I grew up hearing this “do you know for” in place of “do you know where” from my mom and extended family, it never occurred to me that those particular words in that specific order didn’t mean anything my husband could understand. It didn’t occur to me that in that order, it made no sense to most people.

If you’re wondering whether or not a reordered-in-English sentence makes sense within the context, give that passage to someone who’s unfamiliar with questionable ways of asking for a hammer, and ask them to tell you what they think it means.

Another technique to give the feel of a person’s dialect without trying to visually mimic their accent, is by replacing some standard American English words with words common in the character’s country of origin. If your character is a Brit, he lives in a flat not an apartment, and she takes a lift not an elevator. You can find tons of lists of words and common phrases online to help you out with this.

You can also use the occasional foreign language word phrase interspersed in a person’s dialogue. Do be careful when you’re choosing to include. More often than not, the phrase consistently given to Latinx characters is Dios Mio! That is a stereotype. In fact, I’ve never once heard any of the Latinx people I’ve known use that phase, though, I’m sure some do. Probably not nearly as often as we see it commonly used in fiction. *gives E.L. James the side-eye*

 

#10 Thou shalt not write dialogue for children and teens if you don’t have or interact with children and teens. (Not without assistance, anyway.)

Often in books, it’s clear from the dialogue that the authors don’t have children or even know any. Those characters end up reading more like caricatures. Caricatures that make you want to roll your eyes or maybe punch them. The caricatures. Not your eyes. That sentence was a bit ambiguous.

If you have a child or a teenage character in your story, please not only familiarize yourself with the speech patterns and language of this age group, but also their thought processes. Now, I’m not saying that you need to take a child development course in order to write a younger character, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a look at Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. Wiki actually has a nicely condensed article that will give you the basics of each stage of development. Of course, your characters may vary from the ages and skills mentioned in the article, but it’s good to be aware of typical behavior and levels of development.

The same goes if you’re writing a child (or adult) who’s non-neurotypical. Let’s say your character is somewhere on the autism spectrum. If you don’t have personal experience with kids on the spectrum, please do some very thorough research. Don’t rely on popular culture or clickbait stories online for your information. The dialogue and communication pattern of a highly functioning autistic child will often be quite different from a child with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Much like the dialogue of a three year old will greatly differ from that of an eight year old. Not only are there several substages of development between the pre-operational and concrete operational developmental levels, there are also five years of experience with and exposure to language. Oh, and watching hours of the Disney channel to learn the speech patterns, habits, and interests of today’s kids is not particularly helpful. Not recommended.

Let’s say you don’t have kids or don’t have access to them—what do you do to make sure your characters’ dialogue reads naturally and authentically? I’m not about to suggest that you start staking out the local bus stop or playground to question small children or teenagers about their speech patterns and slang, but I am suggesting that you might want to consider asking a friend with children of a similar age to your character to take a look at your dialogue. After all, a lot of things have changed since we were kids.

Welp, that’s it for the Ten Dialogue Commandments. I hope you enjoy the blog series. If nothing else, you now know how not to ask for a hammer. And if you can think of any I’ve missed, please feel free to put them in the comments!

If I Could Rewrite a Book – What and Why?

I’ve been pondering this post ever since I saw it on this year’s topic list. There are plenty of books with elements I hated or tropes that pissed me off. But even as I purused my mental list of books I thought could use some improvement, I couldn’t come up with a single one I wanted to rewrite. Ultimately, those stories belong to other people. I wouldn’t want to rewrite them. Just because I may not appreciate the authors’ vision doesn’t mean that those stories need rewriting by me – it just means that I’m not the intended audience.

I guess if I could rewrite anything, it would be my earlier books. I know there were elements that I included that I wish I hadn’t. There are some I’d love to expand because I was hindered by publishers’ length requirements or series elements. I’d love to get my hands on those and give them another go. It’s unlikely I’ll get the chance to do that with most of the books, but I  have gotten the rights back on some of them, and I’ll be eventually reworking them to better reflect my improved skills and outlook.

That’s it from me, today, but be sure to see what books the other bloggers would like to rewrite.

Gwen

Paige

Jessica

 

Ten Dialogue Commandments – Part Four

10 dialogue commandments

I recently did a presentation on writing realistic dialogue for my local writers group. I decided to go ahead and post it here in case people who had to miss the meeting wanted a chance to read it. Then I thought you guys might like it, too. And if you end up singing Ten Duel Commandments to yourself for the rest of the day, you’re welcome. 

And here are links if you missed parts onetwo, and three. And my apologies for the terrible art. I borrowed my kid’s markers while he was gone. Shoulda waited for him!

Well-written dialogue is an amazing multipurpose tool – it’s a heavy-lifter. It’s the Swiss Army knife in a writer’s toolbox. It can convey character, emotion, and motivation all in a few carefully chosen words. It can also drive the plot. Poorly written dialogue is also a tool – usually a sledgehammer beating against the reader’s head.

It’s no secret that acquiring editors frequently scan for dialogue in submissions. And when it doesn’t work, they often pass on a manuscript without reading further.

I’ll admit that when I was working as an acquisitions editor, I always made a point to see how the author handled dialogue. If it was rife with the dialogue sins we’re about to discuss, the author received a rejection letter. If the dialogue had potential, I’d read more of the story and possibly send a revise and resubmit letter. If the dialogue was solid and engaging, I’d often read the entire submission. The moral of this story is that good dialogue will get you a lot farther.

#7 Thou shalt avoid repetition in your internal and external dialogue.

Often in fiction, a you’ll see a character thinking or saying that they need to do or say something. Then immediately doing and saying them.

Don’t. Just…don’t.

I think that this might happen because authors have been given the advice to include more thoughts and feelings in their stories to create depth and foster a connection with the reader. This is often great advice. However, a thought with repeated dialogue or action just a moment later doesn’t add any depth. Only annoyance.

Speaking of annoyance, let’s go back to the most irksome couple of the year, Abbi and Charles and look at some examples with both internal and external dialogue.

 

“C’mon.” Charles smiled and tugged at her.

She yanked her hand from his grip. She really needed to tell him to leave.  “Just go away,” Abbi said.

“I don’t see why you have to be this way.” He frowned and backed from the room.

Abbi sighed. She wasn’t being any kind of a way. She just didn’t want to go. If she were smart, she’d get up and lock the door to keep him from coming back to bug her. Abbi got up and locked the door.

 

Pretty annoying, right? I know a reviewer for whom this is a book throwing pet peeve. Again, this is one of those things that makes the reader feel that the author doesn’t trust them to be intelligent enough to follow the narrative. Often, the writer may not even be aware they’re doing it. That’s usually the case when I point it out to clients. But when this repetition happens in a story, it comes across to the reader like, “Oh my sweet, summer child. You are dim-witted and in need of guidance. Come take my hand, and let me lead you though this narrative.”

No one likes that.

 

#8 Thou shalt not allow talking heads in your manuscript.

Editors often refer to a back and forth exchange of dialogue with no action or thought as “talking heads”. It’s as if the characters freeze whenever they begin speaking and do nothing else but recite their lines.

The problem with this is even if the dialogue is good, it will still read woodenly. Your characters need be fully realized people and that means that they do things like check their phones or the time, fiddle with the labels on beer bottles, shift from foot to foot, wonder if they can leave early, wonder if now is the right time to break up, notice that they’re hungry, etc. Anything that both fits the character and helps move the story forward will work, but they need to be doing and thinking something.

Also, it’s important that your characters aren’t interacting with each other in a vacuum. This is where the setting comes in and should be utilized as part of the actions and thoughts that ground the dialogue in reality. Let’s say your characters are talking over a round of drinks. Are they having a beer on the front porch swing? Are they in an intimate booth in a quiet pub? Or are they at a loud, crowded club? How does the location impact their actions, thoughts and conversation?

This was a pretty short set of commandments this week, but check back next week for the last part of the series!

Flash Fiction #39 – Girl on Bench

photopromptBenchGirl

It seemed far too warm for the chick in black to be, well, entirely dressed in black. Black boots. Black leggings. Black jacket. Even her phone case was black. To be honest, she looked a little creepy dressed like a Hot Topic reject in the middle of summer.

But what did I know? I was lucky if I remembered to put on underwear under my cargo shorts. It was a miracle I was even up this early. I still had three weeks before classes started, but instead of sleeping in, I was awake at stupid o’clock in the morning, playing Pokémon Go. As intently as she was studying her phone, I figured she was doing the same thing.

Supposedly, someone had caught a couple rare Pokémon around here, so I thought I’d check it out while it was still too early for normal people to be awake. Which left me and goth girl alone on the bench where the two paths through the park crossed.

I gestured to the empty spot on the bench as I approached. “You mind if I sit?”

She glanced over the frames of her black (surprise, surprise) sunglasses. “Knock yourself out.”

Sitting, I scanned the surrounding area with my phone and nodded toward hers. “Pokémon Go?”

“Basically.” She lit a cigarette and continued to scroll through her phone. “How long have you been playing?”

“Since it was released. I’m trying to catch ’em all before I have to move back to campus in a few weeks. Well, you know…all the ones they’ve released so far.”

She nodded almost disinterestedly as she pushed her glasses to the top of her head and scanned the area. “How many more do you need?”

“Just one lousy Snorlax. It’s so frustrating. I’ve been looking everywhere.”

She grinned and I noticed that she was surprisingly pretty. “Bet you’d sell your soul for one of those.”

I laughed. “I totally would.”

She sat up straight and pointed toward the swingset. “Done.”

I followed her line of vision with my phone, and there it was. A Snorlax snoozing in one of the baby swings. “Sweet.”

I tossed a Pokéball at it and captured it. I’d done it. I’d caught every Pokémon available, and all before classes started. Turning back to the chick on the bench, I grinned. “Thanks, I–”

The words died in my throat. Her expression had hardened as she stubbed out her cigarette. An antique-looking scroll appeared in her hand and she extended it toward me.

With a sinking feeling I stared at it, but didn’t move to take it.

She sighed and rolled her eyes which were suddenly glowing red. “You, Connor James Bradley, sold your eternal soul for a Snorlax, on this, the first day of August, 2016. This contract  is non-transferable, unbreakable, and permanently binding.  Any attempts to void the contract will be seen as a hostile act, and your soul will be collected earlier than the date listed therein.”

“What the actual fuck, lady?”

She grabbed my hand and closed my fingers around the parchment. “Good luck. I hear they’re releasing Ditto and Mewtwo, soon.”

Shoving her hands into the pockets of her jacket, she started walking toward the edge of the park where a couple of girls were clearly playing Pokémon Go. She briefly turned back to me and winked. “Gotta catch ’em all.”

That’s it for me, today. But be sure to check out Jess and Kris‘ stories.

What Motivates Me to Write?

When this posts, I’ll be in the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for our annual family vacation, and I’ll likely be without internet. Because that’s pretty much business as usual in the UP.

But back to the original topic. What motivates me to write? That’s a damn good question. Some days, the answer is nothing. It’s depressing, but it’s also true.

Other days…

Deadlines motivate me.

Inspiration (usually while in the shower or driving) motivates me.

Notes from readers motivate me.

Working with my friends motivates me.

Sometimes just putting one word after another, even when it feels like crap, motivates me.

Coming back to a story and finding something there worth following to see how it plays out motivates me.

Wanting to give these characters that pop into my head growth and lives that will be fulfilling motivates me.

Remembering that I have the same 24 hours in a day as Lin-Manuel Miranda, and if he can do all the shit he does while still remaining an apparently lovely human being, I can finish some fucking books, motivates me.

So…what about you? What motivates you to write?

Click on the other bloggers’ names to find out what motivates them.

Gwen

Paige

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