What’s in a question?

Who, what, where, when and why. These are the beginnings of interrogative sentences. They are a type of sentence that requires an answer and always ends with a question mark. They are best used in dialogue and often called questions.

Unless I’m writing in the first person I try to avoid interrogative sentences in the narrative. Mostly because I write the in the third person and narrative questions come off as rhetorical and out-of-place. In the first person, they fit better because a rhetorical question is easy to read as the characters’ thought.

There are four types of Interrogative sentences to be used.

The yes-no
The alternative
The Wh-
The Tags

The yes-no are questions that elicit a yes or no answer.

Dale popped his head around the desk divide. “Hey, Amber did you take your vitamin?” 
“Yes.” She scowled. “Do you have to nag?”
“Yes.” He smiled and kissed her forehead quickly. “Yes, I do.”

or

“Dale are you ready to go?” Amber tapped her foot on the tiled floor.
“Yes, I am.”

or

“Scott do you have that proof ready?”
He ran his hands through his hair. “No.”

The alternative – Are sentences that can result in two or more answers.

Dale smiled at Amber. “Do you want Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry or all three?”
“All three… Ooh and butterscotch.”

or

“Should I finish this now or later?” Scott looked up at Valery.
“Hmm. Later.” She tapped her chin. “I need you to run the reports first.”

Wh-  they are sentences that have the Wh- words. Who, what, where, when and why. They force an open answer that is not a yes or no. 

“Ouch, he’s hot. Who was that?” Jeannie asked quietly as Detective Thorn passed their desk.
Amber rolled her eyes. “Ugh, the detective who’s looking for Sasha.”
“Why is he looking for her?”
Amber shrugged. “She’s MIA and in trouble or something.”
“What did she do?”
“Nothing, I think that crazy face slasher guy is after her.”
Jeannie frowned. “That’s scary.”
“Very. I’m not a fan of Sasha, but I hope she’s okay.”

Last but not least are Tag questions. A declarative sentence with a question tagged on at the end. It leads to a yes-no or sometimes a statement answer.

“You finished that proof, didn’t you?”
“Yes.”

or

“You finished that proof, didn’t you?”
“I ran out of time, but it will be done first thing in the morning.”

or

“It’s dark out already?”
“Yup.”

or

“It’s dark out already?”
“And has been for two hours.”

Questions or interrogative sentences keep things going, they get the readers’ wheels turning. In dialogue, they can be key to keeping things from becoming boring. It’s also natural.

In the narrative, it can become tricky.

Third person.

“I‘ll get it, Scott said as he jogged up the stairs. Why was he always the one to have to go? He scowled at the thought.

While this can feel natural when written because the words I write come from inside my head, it’s not the best way to express that.

“I’ll get it,” Scott said and scowled as he jogged up the stairs. He went because nobody else ever did. 

There better. Let me try another.

“Seriously Dale I need you to stop.” Amber swatted his hand away. Why was he always so annoying after work?

This comes across as the first person but the story is third. Let me try again.

“Seriously Dale I need you to stop.” Amber swatted his hand away. He was always more annoying after work. 

Now when in the first person to start with a narrative question might not be so bad.

I walked into the room and felt instantly at home. Why? I had no idea.

Still, I would probably change that too.

I walked into the room and instantly felt at home; I have no idea why.

or

I have no idea why I felt instantly at home when I walked into the room.

I can’t write dialogue without questions of one kind or another, it’s necessary because it’s realistic. My fault lies in the questions I dump into the narrative. I have to stop and ask myself, does it belong there? Is it actually ‘inner thought’ of the character or am I being rhetorical in my own mind’s voice? Chances are I need to rephrase that narrative.

My advice about interroragtive sentences in writing.
Advice is only that, advice. Should you keep interrogative sentences and questions in the narrative of a story? Only you can answer that, I don’t like to. Let me ask you. “Should it be in dialogue?” I’d answer, “Yes, yes it should.”

-Sheryl

Other grammar-ish posts

Hey! Its’ Interjection

Word swap

It’s not, not negative

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

Wheel

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What Do I Do About That?

I write a lot. I make mistakes and I correct them. I try and I fail. I’ll try again until I succeed. It’s not easy to take something and show it to the world. It’s hard. There are outside forces one must face. Someone asked me what I do about the outside forces that affect my writing, my tenacity and my emotional state.

  1. Rejection
  2. Opinions good or bad
  3. Degrading Criticism
  4. Constructive Criticism.
  5. Doubt
  6. Fear
  7. Jealousy
  8. Sabotage
  9. Help and kindness
  10. Encouragement
  11. Trolls and haters

There is so much more I could list. The bottom line is no matter what a person does there will be things that help and things that hurt. I can’t say what you should do about either, it is a personal thing on how to handle them. What I can do is tell you what I do.

Recently I had an encounter with a man at a grocery store. The cashier kindly reminded the man he had some strawberries that he hadn’t packed yet. The man lost it. Yelling about knowing what he damn well bought. He used some strong language and even used a racial slur among his insults on the poor unprepared cashier. I’m not okay with any of that. I turned to the man and told him there was no need to be rude the cashier was only being kind. The man turned on me and used some more colourful language and called me all sorts of feminist derogatory comments. I told him to have a nice day and that I was sorry he was so miserable to attack someone who was being nice.

Long story short, it made me think. His insult was to call me something pretty offensive. I’m sure he found that to be a great and vindicating insult. I didn’t take offense. Why? Because to me what he called me wasn’t an insult. Sure he meant it to be mean. But the truth is he’s just a sad and miserable man. I shook it off and complimented the cashiers kindness and patience.  Water off a ducks back is the saying.

The reality is that I looked at the situation from the grumpy belligerent, racist, homophobic, rude mans perspective. I have no idea what brought him to sputter such hateful things(And loudly). But it couldn’t be good. What I do know is that he was interesting and yes, I tucked him away for a character bio.

So regarding my list… What do I do about that?

  1. Rejection… I keep trying. Even when others say not to. It’s up to me. Not them. Not giving up is harder than it seems. I have my ups and downs, but in the end I keep my eye on the prize. I set my stubbornness to task and I move forward.
  2. Opinions good or bad – Take them with a grain of salt, but never ignore them. The good ones are considered, the bad are heard but they don’t get a say in the end.
  3. Degrading Criticism – Look at the source. Is it from someone worth listening to? No? then I don’t listen. I won’t take criticism from anyone that hasn’t taken the time to get to know my work or me for that matter.  I check to see if they might possibly fall into haters, trolls or the jealousy category.
  4. Constructive Criticism – Take it, sit on it and revisit later. It takes time to accept it. This is the best of all. Sometimes it hurts to hear or read right away. Sometimes it looks like degrading until I look at the source and weigh the merit of the criticism. Does it have a good source? Someone with my interests in mind? Yes? Then I’ll take it and put it on a list to mull over later once I’m ready.
  5. Doubt – Doubt will come no matter what. I literally talk myself through it. I have a list of others that struggled to get published. I remind myself it’s about perseverance and dedication. This goes hand in hand with rejection at times. I get rejected then I doubt. It’s perfectly normal. But normal doesn’t mean I have to let doubt stick around. No thanks. doubt, I’m good.
  6. Fear – There is only one way to deal with this… head on. I take a deep breath and press enter. I take my chances putting my work out there with the understanding that I may fail and knowing that I may succeed. It takes tremendous courage to try, and even more courage to not sink if it doesn’t go how I dreamed.
  7. Jealousy – There is nothing I can do about jealousy. Personally I distance myself from it and do my best to not indulge. Either the source will come around or they will wallow in it. I’m not going to stop being proud of who I am and what I’ve accomplished because others aren’t happy. If I can I’ll bolster them in their own achievements. If I can’t… then I do my best to ignore it. 
  8. Sabotage – See it for what it is, acknowledge it and walk away from the source. Cut them off and if I can, I’ll confront them. This is hard to do but necessary. I have a goal, to be a published author. I’m not going to let someone actively attempt to crush my dreams.
  9. Help and kindness – I try not to overlook this one. Sometimes bad opinions sneak into this category in disguise. The trick is to identify it and act appropriately.  Those that are genuine will shine, they will make you feel worthy and they often offer help in what way they can. Sometimes it’s an ear to listen or a solicited opinion. Whatever the case may be, cherish the kind and helpful people.
  10. Encouragement – This is what will lift me up. I suck it up like a sponge and add it to my rainy day arsenal for when fear and doubt come out to play.
  11. Trolls and haters – Just walk away. Unfriend, block and ignore. Once I identify a hater or troll I cut them out with no mercy. These people take perverse pleasure from hurting others. I cut some out of my life. Some were strangers, others were close. Was it easy? Nope. Was it worth it? Hell yes. Later haters.

Nobody is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Our trials and tribulations help define us as who we are. While I look at that list I ask myself, regarding others, am I on the right side? Do I do unto others as I would want unto myself? Sometimes it’s not easy to see when you’re on the wrong side of the list.

I could have yelled back at that man, I could have easily been rude or just as offensive. I didn’t. I might have when I was younger and more stubborn. But I couldn’t. Life is hard enough and it doesn’t need to be harder. I chose not to add to his grief and misery. I did “people watch” him. I learned from his behavior so something good came from it.

My advice about facing the good and bad.
Be prepared for both. Be ready to embrace the good and reject the bad. If you want encouragement, give it. If you want kindness, be kind. Be to others what you want for yourself and never give up.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

Other fun posts

People Watching

Who’s who in the grand scheme of things

It’s not always the obvious choice

And the link to all my previous posts in order: My Posts From The Start

Impression

Mirror, mirror on the wall…

I have recently become aware of a type of cliche writing. Over used scenarios and set ups in writing.

When describing a persons appearance no writer, including myself wants to be dull, boring or give a marathon list of aesthetic traits as one would find on a manifest. So we try to get clever and look for ways to make it more real or feel more plausible to the reader.

One that I know I’m guilty of is the use of a mirror to describe a character. Whether in first person or third, this is a tired over used way to do this. Mirror descriptions are tricky because the perspective can go wrong real fast. In and out of the characters head we go. I’ve done this I’ll admit it. I wont anymore and you can bet I’ll be going back to remove this tired method.

Here is what its like in first to use a mirror.

I spat out the toothpaste into the sink and looked up at my reflection in the mirror. My dark brown eyes were lined and tired. My two day old stubble needed a shave and my bed head was out of control making my black hair disheveled.

And a better way in first without the mirror.

I spat out the toothpaste and wiped a dribble from my itchy stubble covered chin. I ran my hands through my messy black hair before splashing cold water on my face. I rubbed my tired dark brown eyes; it was going to be a long day.

Here is a short example of what using a mirror is like in third person.

Scott spit out the toothpaste and raised his head to look at his reflection in the mirror. His dark brown eyes were lined and tired. His black hair was mussed from sleep and he needed to shave his two days worth of beard growth. 

Here is a better way to describe the same features in third without a mirror.

Scott spat out the toothpaste and wiped a dribble from his itchy stubble covered chin. After running his hands through his messy black hair he splashed water over his, face and rubbed his dark brown eyes.

No matter how I look at it, removing the mirror made for better describing. As long as I work the features in with actions it’s way better than listing them off. And a lot less lazy IMO. I look to find better ways to describe anything without resorting to the classic, ‘he had black hair, as stubble covered chin and tired dark brown eyes.’  I think we can all do better than that.  After all we are offering our readers an invitation to take part in the story not read a recipe.

My advice about mirrors as a descriptive tool.
Who’s the fairest of them all? Tell me without listing what you see please. A bad writing habit we can break without the 7 years bad luck.

-Sheryl

Other descriptive posts

Paint a desperate picture

Details, details, details

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Aesthetic
Invitation
Marathon

That’s what she saw

Choosing a book’s POV, point of view is important. It is partly conveying I am as a writer. Sticking to the POV chosen is most important. Swapping or mixing is generally not a great idea. I have read stories that mix and it’s hard to read.

A frustrated reader isn’t reading. Third person POV is the style I write in. There are two types of third person. Third person Limited and Third person Omniscient.

Third person limited is the story revolving around one person. There is no conspiring behind their back, no major or minor events happening away from them. It’s not limiting, just restricted. Things can happen out of their eyesight (Unlike the first person) but the view of the story revolves around one character’s actions, thoughts, and emotions. You can still show the emotions of others.

Third person Omniscient allows the story to be told through multiple characters. Less is more. Two maybe three IMO.  Now some big famous authors do write with a plethora of characters view, however, they do one very important thing. They don’t mix the views. Some say keeping the views to separate paragraphs is good, and I agree it totally is if it’s one, two or maybe three and they are in the same room or area. However, if there are many characters being followed keeping each to their own chapter (unless they cross paths) is recommended. So if I were writing about Pirates and this part of the story was about a Pirate named Tapper who secretly refuses to rob and pillage, I would start the chapter off with   -Tapper-  that way the chapter is clearly labeled as from Tapper’s view. (This chapter labeling can also work really well for first person perspective if you have more than one character narrating.)

I use Omniscient in BiaAtlas, I have two main characters, a third that sort of gets a bit of alone time and a bunch of support characters. If I decide to give them the spotlight I am ultra careful to either use a new paragraph or they get a whole chapter to themselves.

In third person narrative, I as the writer know everything. Thoughts, emotions, actions and well everything. I can say, show and explain whatever I want to. As long as I stay out of my characters’ bodies/minds. No jumping into one’s mind and speaking from their view(that would be first POV)  This is harder than I thought. Filter words and emotional tags are a good indicator I’ve slipped to the wrong POV. It also means I’m being wordy and can remove some.

This is where Showing emotions instead of telling them comes into play. I talk about this all the time. Why? Because it is super important.

For example how not to third person…

Valery felt sad as she looked out the window feeling the cool glass against her forehead. “I feel helpless.” She couldn’t think of anything to do to help Sasha.
Jackson came up from behind sensing her distress and slid his arms around her. The draft from the window felt damp as it brushed his arms he could feel goosebumps rise on his skin.
“Ah baby, that you feel this way shows how good a friend you are. The police will keep her safe until they catch the guy.”
She didn’t think the police were as reliable as they used to be and snorted a response.
Jackson felt she needed a change of activity he wanted her to stop staring at the depressing rainy view.” Come away from the drafty window love.” (131)

Now I’ll take that rubbish and shift it to one POV, the third. Remove the filter words such as feel, felt, want and think…

Valery frowned as she looked out the window, the glass cool against her forehead. “I feel helpless.” Her mind stuck on her missing friend Sasha.
Jackson came up from behind and slid his arms around her. The damp draft from the window raised goosebumps on his arms. “Ah baby, that shows how good a friend you are. The police will keep her safe until they catch the guy.”
She snorted in response, her faith in the police not as strong as it used to be.
Jackson nudged her from the rainy dismal view outside. “Come away from the drafty window love.”  (101)

Not only did I remove 30 words from the original draft, but I managed to pull the reader out of the characters heads/bodies and let them be a part without jumping perspectives. I have to say once I figured out how to highlight the filter words all at once,(Well colour me silly) it made a huge difference in how I look at my sentences when revising a third person POV story.

My advice about 3rd person POV writing.
This is the most common for a reason but can be challenging. Stay focused and watch out for those damned pesky filter words and emotional ‘feelings’. 

-Sheryl

Filter word blog post No “Filter Word” Parking Here
Dialogue Tag blog post Tag! You’re it. 
A showy Blog posShow and tell 
What I mean by Highlighting Filter words Well colour me silly

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Pillage

What do you see?

POV. Point of view in the second perspective. I think writing in this point of view would be hard for many reasons. It is a narrative that talks to the reader as if they are experiencing the story. It requires assumption that the reader is okay with the story and choices being made for them. Now unless it’s a “choose your own destiny” book I personally don’t think that would go over well. People don’t generally like to be told what to do and how to feel.

Second person perspective uses the pronouns “You”, “Your” and “Your’s” to describe the central character. (the reader is the character…)

I would think this style shows up mostly in directions, advertising, emails, memos and songs. Maybe poetry?  I can’t say I’ve ever read a book entirely in the second perspective, I wonder if it would be odd? Or maybe uncomfortable? I’m going to have to find one I think and read it.

This perspective will stay outside all other characters and focus on the reader as the main. Telling instead of showing will be overly tempting and I wonder if it would be nearly impossible to not tell emotions or if you really can. Hmm. I’m going to have to go scifi-ish for this example.

When you woke this morning you probably didn’t expect to find yourself here. You opened the cover and now you are the sole guardian of the Omnis. The force of creation, the very being of the world you are imagining this very moment. The soft grass beneath your feet, the smell of life mixing on the cool breeze tempered by the salty sea in the distance. The pink and orange clouds in the evening sky casting their hue upon your skin. There is a temple not too far, hidden in the immense jungle before you. Making your way to it will be easy, unless you’re afraid of a challenge or two. Even when your soul leaves Somnium and you return to your body nestled in your so-called ‘real’ world you will take the Omnis with you.

Be aware the dark creatures that seek to destroy the Omnis. They will cause trouble and wreak havoc for you every day until you restore the balance. The lord will put a bounty on your head and they will hunt you relentlessly.
“Go on.”
What is this? Who said that you wonder.
“I’m Omnis, the source of creativity. With you I will defeat the empty darkness and banish the lord, Liber Mortis.”
You know what that is, it’s haunted you for weeks as you stare at the cursor on the screen. The words stuck unable to free themselves from your mind.
“He is there, and he has imprisoned you. Let’s go to the temple before it’s too late. Before all is lost.”

Yeah okay, that was not my best or even close to my favorite. I’m not sure I can or will ever write in this point of view for an entire book. Maybe if I put an email or letter in a book I might. I will definitely have to find a novel written in second perspective and see if it’s readable. I couldn’t see a way to incorporate second perspective into any of my writing unless it was a text or email. Maybe, but then it’s not really second POV is it? Hmm.

My advice about second point of view writing.
If it works for you, all the power to you. I don’t see myself writing this way for an entire novel but if you can go for it… I guess.

-Sheryl

Other posts (not in 2nd POV)

Hold your tongue!

It’s funny you said that…

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Bounty