Shut your cake hole

Blabbermouths are common in the real world. To your face or behind your back. So why not put them in the story? I love a good jerk, the one that makes you grip the book a little harder and hope they get their comeuppance or feel bad for what they’ve done. Whether they know they are loudmouth squealer or not, doesn’t matter. That they stir the pot does. A proper bigmouth can change the game and save a floundering storyline.

Here is a little tid-bit of mine from a work in progress:

“Good morning Nell, Wendy.” Hank smiled and sat at the meeting room table.
“Oh good morning Hank.” Wendy gushed. She had no problem flirting with the unnaturally handsome Hank. “How was your weekend?”
As usual, Nell sat quietly since Wendy cut off any chance of casting Hank a greeting. Hank finished his tales of golf, beer and a spontaneous trip to the beach without a glance toward Nell. “How about yours Wendy?”
“Ah same ole, same ole.” She waived her hand. “Now Nell had quite the adventure.” Her sly tone was devastating.
There was zero chance Hank would drop the subject. Nell shot her a what-the-hell look. She knew better than to confide in her friend, but did it anyway.
“Oh really.” He slid his gaze to Nell. “Do tell, what could Nell possibly do that has her redder than your blouse Wendy?”
“She had a hot date.” Wendy ignored Nell’s kick to her leg. “Like really hot.” Wendy fanned herself.
Hank tilted his head staring at Nell. She was quiet, mousy and barely noticeable on a good day. All work and no play. Usually. “With whom?”
“Wendy.” Nell’s clenched teeth made her plea to shut up, louder than she meant. The last thing she wanted was Hank, of all people to laugh at her. “Please don’t.”
“Now I have to know.” Hank chuckled.
“She and Barry from accounting went to Point Garrison beach yesterday. Apparently it has an amazing view.” Wendy waggled her eyebrows.
Nell’s cheeks drained of all colour as he smiled broadly, understanding that he was the view.

My advice about Chatterboxes.
Use them. Make them make your story tantalizing or spice up a dull storyline. Someone spilling the proverbial beans can start a good conflict. I like to use it as an opportunity to let someone behave outside their comfort zone.

-Sheryl

 

Other posts of mine

Oops! What did I just say?

Eyes that carry worlds

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Cake

Shhh… Don’t say a word.

There are times when conversation is too easy and unnecessary. I try to be careful to not to have everyone talking to themselves. That is if they are not prone to it by character flaw. The temptation to have someone muttering or whispering under their breath is hard to ignore. Not everybody does so refraining for some characters is a good idea.

Huddled beneath the desk within the small office, Joe could only listen to the violent chaos beyond the locked door. His laptop open before him the waiting cursor taunted him. Cow-ard, cow-ard it blinked.

He wiped the sweat beading at the back of his neck and scrunched his eyes tight.

BAM! Joe’s legs darted out as his back clenched. A whimper escaped his throat as the walls rattled from someone likely being thrown against it. The muffled sound of fist on flesh turned his stomach to acid. He reached a shaking hand to the keyboard, he had a job to do while everyone else fought for their lives.

As his fingers touched the smooth keys Joe relaxed. All his emotions were eclipsed by his compulsion to do his job. He focused on the screen, this is the only way he was of use, the only way he could be of use. The blinking cursor now urged, help-them, help-them.

Solo interactions are easier to write dialog free, (IMO) than are two people communicating sans dialogue.

Allen grabbed the wrench from the near empty toolbox. “I wish we had better weapons. This is handy though.” He glanced out the doorway then to Sasha.

Sasha finished tying up the man she just knocked out. “At least you have something.” More intruders were on their way approaching cautiously.

Allen waved his hand. “Get back Sash, they can’t see you.” Readjusting his grip, he shifted his feet for a better stance.
Sasha watched wide-eyed, lips pursed and fists clenched. The intruders had guns and they did not. The element of surprise was all they had.
“Three men, one gun on the man on my right.”
“Got it.” Sasha nodded.

I don’t hate that, but if they are under attack and trying to surprise the oncoming men, conversation even whispering can alert them.

Allen grabbed the wrench from the near empty toolbox. A useable weapon or projectile is always handy to have. He glanced out the doorway then to Sasha. She finished tying up the second man she just knocked out. More were on their way approaching cautiously.

Allen caught Sasha’s attention, gesturing for her to get back to the wall. He was the decoy, the obvious target, not her. Readjusting his grip, he shifted his feet for a better stance. Sasha watched wide-eyed, lips pursed and fists clenched. The intruders had guns and they did not. The element of surprise was all they had. He raised three fingers on his right hand and crooked one finger on his left hand toward his right. Sasha nodded; three men, one gun and the gun was on the far right.

There are scenarios when my characters go quiet. Whether its necessity or they don’t have anything to say, depends on what’s going on. For example a wordless conversation between two kids on opposite sides of the classroom. Or, an awkward car ride after a fight.

My advice about going conversation-less.
Take a peek at a long string of conversation, is it all necessary? Are the characters just stating the obvious? Or telling what you, as the writer, can show the reader in a more effective way? I found a long unnecessary conversation leads to a lot of; he said, she said taglines or surplus awkward action tags.

– Sheryl

Related posts

Show and tell

Tag! You’re it.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

 

Eclipse

Did you smell that?

My one weakness when setting a scene is forgetting to write in smell. Or if I do it’s hasty and obvious. Like. ‘He smelled pie.’  or  ‘She smelled wet dog.’

That’s what revision’s for.

However when I read a book and the described smells appear too often, over done or frankly unimaginable, I squint at the pages and no longer can I smell them in my mind.

Without:
Sasha made her way through the busy open-air market to buy the ingredients needed for dinner and desert. She wanted to impress. She stopped in her tracks on the busy sidewalk upon seeing the ripe peaches. Her plan was to make chocolate cake. She couldn’t resist the fresh peaches and bought the basket of them. Cobbler would be better than cake.

With:
The aroma of fresh baked breads, pies, herbs and meats of various types being cooked wafted up to greet her. Sasha loved the open-air market in the morning. She made her way through the bustling sidewalk purchasing the ingredients she needed for dinner and dessert. She stopped in her tracks on beside a busy stall as the sweet scent of sun warmed ripe peaches hit her nose. She planned to make chocolate cake, that idea faded as she picked up the fuzzy red and orange fruit and held it to her nose. With her mouth-watering, she bought a basket. Her grandma’s cobbler would impress better than cake.

I do this all the time, write a scene and forget to make it appeal to the imaginary senses. It usually means I was hasty and to make it right it will add words.

Without:
Tanya walked across the lawn in her bare feet. The feeling of the long cool grass soothing her tired battered soul. It had been a long day of nothing going right. She stepped to the sidewalk, reached into the mailbox and took out the stack of junk mail and bills. With a sigh, she turned and set her foot down in the still warm dog poo.
“You have got to be fu.” She bit her tongue as a mother and toddler in as stroller went by.

With:
Tanya walked barefoot across the lawn. The long cool grass soothed her tired battered soul. It had been a long day of nothing going right. She stepped across the sun-warm sidewalk, reached into the mailbox and removed the junk mail and bills. With a sigh, she turned to go back and set her foot down in a pile of still warm dog poo hidden in the grass. The pungent foul odor hitting her nostrils as it squished up between her toes.
“You have got to be fu.” She bit her tongue as a mother and toddler in as stroller went by.

It’s not much, but it’s enough to engage my memory of smell. Everyone knows what things smell like so there is no point dragging out the description of the scent, a vague or short direct reference is enough.

My advice about sniffing out smells.
People don’t smell things constantly every moment of every day and remark on them mentally or verbally. The unpleasant smell of rotting fish will cause a nose to wrinkle, fresh cut onions may bring tears to the eye. Make the character experiences it and therefore the reader. A smell is a great way to set the scene, evoke an emotion or liven up a dull paragraph/scene.

-Sheryl

Other related posts

Oops! What did I just say?

That sounds complicated

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Sidewalk
Scent

Switch it up, and swap it out.

“If you don’t read it, you will never know how it all begins and how it ends. Not to mention all the good stuff in the middle.” -SLM

I have been talking a lot about emotions and making people feel them in my writing. People run on emotions so putting them in writing is important as long as it doesn’t become eye rolling melodramatic. I read a book recently that made me bawl my eyes out. The kicker is that the story that made me so upset wasn’t even about the main characters. It was a side story of characters not even active in the book. Awesome.

Recently a friend told me she became emotional and teary at a scene in my book she is proofing. I told her that was a huge complement. Am I sorry she cried? No, because eliciting emotions is what I strive for.

Sometimes the obvious isn’t, just as the subtle can be blatant. Even if I know what is coming, maybe I don’t. I have had moments when I’m writing when all of a sudden I look at the screen and I think, holy that would be crazier if… And then I change it up. Sometimes it’s a character swap, something designed for someone would be more impactful for another. Other times it’s a scene change. The library was the scenario but I swap it out for a dog treat bakery. If it can lead to better conversation or something funny, I tend to lean to the unusual.

This example is not from my book, but from a collection of bits and pieces for another.

Side by side, Yava and Theo lie facing each other, the melodious sound of Mary Lou Williams softly filling the small room. It has been a day since Yava last spoke; too weak for words.
“They say my love, that your entire life flashes before your eyes.” Theo brushed a stray wisp of white hair from her cheek. “The days of youth, the pesky teens, dancing the night away, your first kiss, your first love.”
The corner of Yava’s mouth curled and relaxed.
Theo sighed softly. “Ah the wedding, making love, all those crazy kids. The fights and make up sex. The cool nights and days in the sun. Our kids growing up, moving out and getting married. All the wee grandbabies now grown. Some with their own tots.”
Tears pooled in her eyes and her lips pressed tightly together.
“Oh my love, my Yava, we have lived, truly lived have we not?”
“Yes Theo darling.” She let her unchecked tears fall to the pillow. “No life has been filled as much as ours.” She rubbed her thumb over his fingers clasped in her hand.
A deep long exhale, the last blink of those sky-blue eyes etched in her mind as he slipped from his.

Originally, Yarva was the one to pass on. However, as I got to the end I thought, what if she doesn’t?

My advice about switching it up.
Don’t be afraid to try out a different angle or outcome. Write both or more and see what tugs at your emotions. Give it to someone else and see what they have to say.

-Sheryl

 

Other emotion evoking posts.

That is disgusting

It’s funny you said that…

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

 

Melody

Over used and oft abused.

Ah, the word shiver. Over used and oft abused. This is on my personal list of filter words. One that is injected into a sentence to replace showing an emotion. I find it in plethora among the words of a romance, horror or mystery. Or just dumped in to lazy writing, like I’m guilty of. 😉

At first I used this word freely, it’s a great way to express an obvious feeling right? Well yes and no. People shiver for different reasons, it’s those reasons that suggest this blanket word can be stretched out or removed altogether.

Example 1.

Billy’s fingers gently brushed the back of her arm sending pleasant shivers across her body. (15)

Not a bad sentence really. A few unnecessary words. If I’m also worried about (word count) I would remove gently and pleasant, they are implied anyway. Three words doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up quickly.

Her skin tingled as Billy’s fingers brushed the back of her arm. (12)

Example 2.

Elouise shivered suddenly for no reason whatsoever. “Someone must have walked across my grave.” She muttered to herself. (18)

Meh, it could use a little trimming and rewording.

Elouise frowned and rubbed her arms. “Someone must have walked across my grave.” (13)

Example 3. (I still write like this.)

Tod had never felt so bone achingly cold in his life. He was shivering so hard his teeth chattered loudly. (20)

Now I know enough to rewrite it to this. FYI the word felt is a super filter word.

Tod wrapped his arms around his aching body, unable to stop his chattering teeth. (14)

Do I never use the word shiver? No, it’s a fun word that evokes a personal response. I do use it sparingly or try to anyway. Sometimes a plain ole shiver is just what the story needs, especially if there is no established reason for it.

My advice about overuse.
Overuse can happen with any word, shiver is just an example. Make a list of ‘important’ words you see too often in your writing and then see how often you actually use them. Then see if you can switch it up or swap it out, but don’t jeopardize the story or the flow if you can’t think of a way to change it.

-Sheryl

 

Other related Posts.

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Show and tell

Tag! You’re it.

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Shiver

Obvious

Jeopardize

Bam! Pow! Kaboom!

There is a part of my writing that makes me actually sit up and enter typo land as their unchallenged champion.

Violence and action. I LOVE a good action scene in a book, especially when it’s fun, interesting and Fierce. When I’m preparing to write my own, I sit and envision the scene over and over. Each persons’ actions and reactions and what’s going on around them. It’s a lot to take in let alone get out into written word.

My first action fight scene is a long one, several chapters in fact. It had to be, a lot happens. The entire story is pulled in, the whole point of it all is laid out and the villains for the next book are introduced and humanized.

That isn’t the first violent action scene in the book, but the first one I wrote. After I finished the first draft it was evident something was missing. So I wrote an intriguing and dangerous introduction for a character who is basically the reason the whole story takes place. I honed and revised that chapter so many times until I knew it flowed well and was pleasing to the imagination.

Writing violence is fun, but risky. The temptation to become melodramatic, cheesy or start telling vs showing is strong. I had oodles of tag lines, filter words and typos in the action scenes. Some of the reactions were over the top and they needed to be toned down to more realistic responses. Sure the science fiction allows for a certain amount of embellishment in the action department, but even fantastic it needed to be believable within the parameters I set throughout the story.

My advice about action and violence.
Get it out of your mind and onto paper or the screen. Once there, whip it into shape and draw the reader in by showing not telling the events. Action is exciting and violence is thrilling, it’s a great way to jolt a timid story or give a character reason to progress, regress or become someone altogether different.

-Sheryl

 

Related posts:

Show and tell

Tag! You’re it.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

More is less, and vice versa.

Today’s prompt made me realize something was missing from my writing tools. My arsenal of tricks, techniques and knowledge. Something forgotten and lost. Something to relearn. Not an addiction, trendy magazines, or Florida based TV show references, but a method to convey the reverse.

Vice“>Vice Versa. Simply put, it means to state the opposite of what was said.

Easy to use and easy to use incorrectly.

For example.

“Can I come?”
He smiled. “Sure, but bring your own book, and vice versa.”
She raised her eyebrow, the temptation to let him know that a book cannot bring her to the book review club on the tip of her tongue.

“If he wants to win the cooking competition, he needs to spend more time prepping the meals, and vice versa.”

Meals cannot prep a person. I have heard this used incorrectly a few times, but in the right place, it can make the point shorter, cutting word count too.

“It cannot be. Birds do not breathe under water, just as a fish cannot breathe air.”
“It cannot be. Birds do not breathe like fish, and vice versa.”

How I might use visa versa.

Billy sauntered into the café, ordered his usual and found his back corner table. Sitting comfortably with a slouch he pulled his book out to read and wait.

He hid his malicious smile behind his book as she hesitated outside the door. “Glutton for punishment.” He chuckled as she ordered. She sat with her mug of coffee three tables away, casting icy glances his way.

Halfway through her cup, he stood with his and strolled by her table.

She glared up at him. “You owe me a cup of coffee you deplorable creature.” He looked down at her abnormally tidy hair and perfect makeup. This woman snubbed him because of his clothes, she treats the baristas as inferiors and steps on others to get where she is.

“You’re right.” He looked at his mug. “I can only afford half today.” He dumped the remains of his coffee into her mug. “I’ll get you the other half next time.” He set his mug down and once again left her stunned as she watched him leave.

There was no doubt, she despised him, and vice versa.

My advice today.
Things you knew well can be forgotten and rediscovered again by something as simple as a word prompt. Just don’t overdo it when you get it back. 😉 After all more is less, and vice versa.

-Sheryl

The story that occurs before this one: That is disgusting

And another post by me.
The “word count” down.

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Doubt

The ‘been there, done that’ people

I have no illusions to the fact that I need sometimes need an expert’s advice and help.  Why? Because I am not a professional writer nor editor and there are always going to be someone that knows more or has more experience than I do. I would be a fool to pass it up for ego’s sake.

That advice and information that I’ve found has been instrumental to me getting where I am today with my book. I have seen some people shun the advice of experts for a few reasons. Ego, laziness, and even fear. Yes fear. Taking advice from someone ‘better’ than I am, can be intimidating. What if they say my work is crap? But, what if they don’t? Even if they did, I would hope that they would advise me on what is needed to un-crappify it.

Without advice I would never have turned this:

The seats were all full at the coffee shop. Abigale liked routine and needed to sit. Even though the other occupant at the table was that annoying guy she approached him.
“May I sit here?” She asked.
“I don’t think so.” He replied and put his foot on the chair.
“Jerk.” She said and walked away.

Into this:

The café was unusually busy with the patrons from the busker’s carnival outside. Abigale needed her routine, sit, drink her coffee and read blogs before work. There was only one seat at a small table; and that unpleasant lowlife was seated at it.

She hastily glanced around and swallowed her pride. “Excuse me. May I sit?”
Billy looked up from his book. “I don’t think so.” He put his sneaker-clad foot on the vacant seat.
Her mouth fell open and she furrowed her brow with a hard exhale.

A young couple nearby surveyed the area and made eye contact with Billy.
He smiled at them. “I’m done here if you two want these seats.”
“Oh thank you so much.” The young woman sat when Billy moved his foot and stood.
“You’re a first class jerk.” Abigale lowered her chin with a sneer.
Billy dunked his finger in her coffee. “You have no idea.” He stuck his finger in his mouth and left her staring after him in shock.

With some simple rules from those that have ‘been there and done that’, I was able to learn to turn a simple encounter into an annoying one.

My advice about experts.
Seek them out, take what advice you need and learn from them. You don’t have to do every single thing they say, but be open minded. Don’t forget some ‘experts’ are merely know-it-all’s with nothing constructive to say. I don’t pay them much attention.

-Sheryl

 

Related posts:

Read, revise and repeat. The shampoo process of editing.

Tag! You’re it.

Copyediting. Why I didn’t pay someone to destroy my fragile confidence.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

Expert

“How could you?”

Me and my first.
“Are you cheating on me?” That question was a long time coming.
I cast my eyes away. “Yes, yes I am.”
“How long has this been going on?”
I swallowed hard. “Half way through revision I took a break.”
“A break!”
I need to be honest, to come clean. “Yeah, I started another book.”
“How could you? I thought I was your one and only!”
“You are my first, and I love you, but I need to move on. I need more.”
“So it’s over?”
I smiled and tilted my head. “Oh no, it’s far from over. You and I have a big future ahead of us. I’m sorry if you don’t understand, but I’m not a one book kinda gal.”

Moving on from working on one book to another is strangely emotional experience. I’ve spent so much time with my first book, reading, revising, and editing that it feels as if I’m being unfaithful. Which is funny because it’s a continuation of the story and characters. Even so, as I sit and read through my very, very rough draft of my second book, I feel as if I should be working on the first one.

I shake my head in amusement at all the typo’s, taglines, grammar errors, filter words and so on. I have a lot of work to do and it’s not at all daunting for me. I love editing my own work, because its mine. The satisfaction of seeing it go from simple raw ingredients to a beautifully decorated cake, is unbelievably rewarding. Unless it turns out to be a nut filled fruitcake, then something went horribly wrong.

With first book is finished and in sort of limbo. I have an appointment in a week and a half with a consultant to work on my first 50 pages, synopsis and query letter. Once they are perfected, I will begin the hunt for a Literary Agent. I’m so excited.

My advice (that has nothing to do with this post).
Go ahead and let someone tell you that you can’t do something. Then prove them wrong in a spectacular way.

-Sheryl

 

Other posts related to editing.

Read, revise and repeat. The shampoo process of editing.

Show and tell

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Cheat

Ghosts that write stories

Ghosts that write stories

When people think of ghosts, they think of apparitions or the spirit of the dead. They possibly they conjure the image of something slight that floats around haunting or interfering with life.

The verb ghostwriting means to write on behalf of another. Doesn’t that make us all ghostwriters in a way? We write on behalf of the characters in our creations. We control every aspect of everyone and everything. From the colour of their eyes to whether or not they pick their noses. From the colour of the carpet to the rain that suddenly falls and soaks their new suit before an interview.

I decide if the people I invent are happy, sad, angry or in love. I choose if they are nice, mean or selfish people. It’s partly why I (maybe even other writers) love to write; to control the entirety of the world just created and it’s a lot of power and responsibility.

Yesterday I saw a fellow blogger post a graph. One similar to the one I use to chart out my characters and their progression. Alongside that, I have an excel sheet for each character with every possible thing about them on it. Including things not ever mentioned in the book. This way Joe’s eyes are always ice blue and I can look back to see why he’s secretly angry at women in general and mean to them on the sly. His entire history is there from when his father died from an overdose of heroin to when his mother started yelling at the dog that never existed.

Keeping track is extremely important. People need to have quirks, bad habits, sayings overused and speaking and behaviour patterns. I have many characters, some minor, some major and others only appear to sweep a floor. They all have bios and backgrounds. That way when the Data collection officer is overly friendly and speaks in honeyed tones to the new woman. I know it’s because he’s been passed up for promotion six times, and is now outranked by said woman who is half his age and only been with the company for three months. Is that important to spell out in the book? No. However, if I want to use this later on as part of a plot turn then I need to make sure he’s always overly friendly to her and perhaps she or someone else catches a glimpse of pure unadulterated hatred in his eyes as she walks away.

My advice.
Whether you put an actual ghost in your story or not, keep track. You don’t have to use a graph, chart or the excel program. (I love spreadsheets for some weird reason) You can use a word document, or a notebook or even stick them up on your wall in flowchart form. Whatever you do remember they depend on you not to magically change their height or their dog’s name.

Every story ever written and every character created has a Ghost . We are that ghost to them.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved