Word swap

I recently was reminded of a word that I totally forgot about. Malapropism. Sounds like a dreadful disease right?  It is a sort of disease of writing if you want to get fanciful. It means to use an incorrect word in place of a word that sounds similar resulting in nonsense. These words that sound similar and often look similar. It’s like swapping words that sound right but are definitely not. They can really gum up the works if spell check or grammar check don’t see a problem because the word is technically spelled correctly.

The funny thing about these word swaps are that we can easily scoot over them not realizing they are wrong. (unless you’re an editor or English major, which I am neither) Part of this is the easy mispronunciation of some of them. No one is perfect and those that think they are perfect are flawed for that belief. So what does a bit of Malapropism look like? Let me show you an extreme example:

Jackson ran his course hand over the bear skin of Valery’s arm. His intent was to illicit shivers from her and the move, like now, was always successful.
“This is tortuous Jackson.” Valery sighed.
“Your game not mine.” He kissed the back of her hand.
“You excepted the challenge.” She wanted romantic and she would get it. “Did I ever tell you about the first time I saw you?”
“No.”
“Hmm. It is a lovely storey. Well I was late for work, rushing to get my coffee and was about to leave when I saw you. I stopped in my tracks, stationery and unable to breathe. Loathe to approach such a stunning beauty. You stood there ordering coffee in that clingy red dress flouting your sexy figure.” Jackson ran his fingers over the palm of her hand. “It was a site I couldn’t tear my eyes from.”
“What a lovely complement.” Valery snuggled closer.
“I came up with a plan to insure you would say yes and a few plausible excuses for being late.”
“You were so bazaar.” Valery covered her mouth and giggled.
“Once I bumbled my way through and asked you out. I waited with baited breath as you smiled slowly, took a pen from your briefcase and scribbled your number on my cup.”
She smiled as his lips traveled in small kisses up her arm.
“Then?”
“I took you out and voila; now you’re all mine.”
“Jackson, that was romantically anti-climatic.”
“I still have the cup.”
Valery flung her arms around his neck peppering him with kisses.

I’d like to think I wouldn’t make those mistakes, but I would never claim to be perfect. There is one in there that I know I’ve mixed up. So how many were there? 15. Here are the corrections highlighted.

Jackson ran his coarse hand over the bare skin of Valery’s arm. His intent was to elicit shivers from her and the move, like now, was always successful.
“This is torturous Jackson.” Valery sighed.
“Your game not mine.” He kissed the back of her hand.
“You accepted the challenge.” She wanted romantic and she would get it. “Did I ever tell you about the first time I saw you?”
“No.”
“Hmm. It is a lovely story. Well I was late for work, rushing to get my coffee and was about to leave when I saw you. I stopped in my tracks, stationary and unable to breathe. Loath to approach such a stunning beauty. You stood there ordering coffee in that clingy red dress flaunting your sexy figure.” Jackson ran his fingers over the palm of her hand. “It was a sight I couldn’t tear my eyes from.”
“What a lovely compliment.” Valery snuggled closer.
“I came up with a plan to ensure you would say yes and a few plausible excuses for being late.”
“You were so bizarre.” Valery covered her mouth and giggled.
“Once I bumbled my way through and asked you out. I waited with bated breath as you smiled slowly, took a pen from your briefcase and scribbled your number on my cup.”
She smiled as his lips traveled in small kisses up her arm.
“Then?”
“I took you out and voila; now you’re all mine.”
“Jackson, that was romantically anti-climactic.”
“I still have the cup.”
Valery flung her arms around his neck peppering him with kisses.

It’s easy to miss one or two from time to time. I don’t beat myself up over it, I resist that temptation. Editing and revision are key to solving this hiccup. Having others revise your work is a good idea too. Sometimes as the one who wedged the offensive word in place, I cant see it as clearly.

Here are the words used in order with their meanings:

Course (A class) – Coarse (Rough)
Bare (Naked) – Bear (An animal)
Illicit (Illegal) – Elicit (To draw out)
Tortuous (Full of twists) – Torturous (Cause suffering)
Except (Not including) – Accept (To agree to)
Storey (Floors in buildings) – Story (A tale)
Stationery (Writing supplies) – Stationary (To be still)
Loathe (Hate) – Loath (reluctant)
Flout (Disregard rules) – Flaunt (Show off)
Site (a place) – Sight (See)
Complement (Goes well with) – Compliment (Praise)
Insure (Compensation life insurance) – Ensure (make certain)
Bazaar (Middle Eastern market) – Bizarre (Weird)
Baited (Fish hook) – Bated (On baited breath)
Climatic (Environment/climate) – Climactic (Climax)

There are many more out there, these are the ones I picked on for the example. Some that might show up may simply be typo’s.

My advice about Malapropisms.
It might be a good idea to make a list of these words(My list above is not complete) and use the “find” feature to see if any got mixed up.

-Sheryl

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Resist

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That sounds right

Subtle redundancies can clunk up writing and add unnecessary and unwanted words. As a wordy writer, I need to be aware of this since I’m constantly battling to hack out extra words. By removing simple words that were already explained in an obvious manner, the sentence can transform from clumsy to graceful.

“That sounds right.” He nodded his head agreeing with her. (10)
Those last five words can be removed. Nodding already tells us that he’s in agreement. Explaining the action is redundant.
“That sounds right.” He nodded. (5)

“Sure, why not.” He shrugged his shoulders. (7)
Unless someone has figured out how to shrug their buttocks or their lips, it’s safe to say shoulders are implied.
“Sure, why not?” He shrugged. (5)
I might even swap that around depending on the character.
He shrugged. “Sure why not?” (5)

The ball went into the net; they stood up and clapped their hands. (13)
I don’t recall anyone ever clapping their feet or elbows so that can go. Also with the up, standing implies up so…
The ball went into the net; they stood and clapped. (10) 
Or,
They stood and clapped when the ball went into the net. (11)

“Why?” He blinked his eyes at her. (7)
There is only one body part that blinks, well two if you want to be technical and if the character has both eyes and isn’t a cyclops or spider hybrid.  ::;)
“Why?” He blinked at her.  (5)
It’s pretty obvious what blink, blinking, or blinked means. You could even go so far as to say:
“Why?” He blinked. (3)

She heard the sound of a siren in the distance. (10)
‘Sound of’ could be deleted, obviously the word heard suggested a sound long before the word sound crashed the party.
She heard a siren in the distance. (7)
You could even say this instead.
A siren was heard in the distance. (7)

She looked him over from head to toe and licked her lips.  (12)
Well she didn’t lick her nose or her eyeball. However, I would leave this one alone because ‘She licked’ is incomplete and could lead the reader to any number of inappropriate conclusions. Common sense here.
She looked him over from head to toe and licked.  (10)
See? Oh boy what did she lick?  Yeah not everything obvious is redundant make sure it makes sense and its what you meant to say.

My point is that I do this all the time, I’m sure that others do as well. It might not be a huge deal, but it might make the difference between your writing looking like amateur hour or a well-revised piece of art.

My advice about redundancies.
Edit them out if you can. If you can’t or don’t have the patience or time, get someone else to proof or hire an editor if need be.

-Sheryl

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 Graceful
Sound

The blurry lines of opinion and advice

When I write I’m inconsistent. I use filter words, incorrect grammar, typos, dialog and action tags, wordiness and contractions. These things and more, are all over the map. It causes flow issues for the reader. That’s okay, well not the flow issue, but the mistakes or “lazy” writing are there. If I spent every second I’m writing worrying about every technical aspect of writing I’d never get anything done. I would stress out, get anxious, panic and most likely stop enjoying writing altogether.

I’m not interested in gumming up my creative process with rules etc. etc. etc., blah, blah, blah.  That’s not to say they aren’t there, and that I don’t employ them while writing, I just don’t care.

I say this because I used to stress out before I wrote the book. I can’t write as real authors, I don’t know what to do to make it perfect. I didn’t, it was true. Then I didn’t care, I don’t need to do it their way. I wrote and wrote and when I was done, I revised and edited, learned and edited again.

One teensy little question sent me on a whirlwind research tour. Contractions. To use them or not? Well the answer to that was not simple at first. Everyone everywhere seemed to have an opinion and it was all divided. This, believe it or not, I found to be a hot topic with serious emotional/opinionated response in writers. No serious writer would ever use them, no modern self-respecting writer would not. And back and forth and back and forth, until I still had no idea.

There comes a time when the line between an opinion and advice becomes blurred. It’s called peer pressure, when someone passes off their opinion as a rule.

So, I asked an expert, an author and ex literary agent. He would know and he did.
“It doesn’t matter as long as you are consistent and it reads well.”
I wasn’t sure. “But what if the literary agent is anti-contractions?”
“Then they will still read the value of your work and if they want to represent you, they will suggest you take them out. You still don’t have to. It’s your book.”

Talk about a load off my back. It’s not as set in stone as I thought. As long as I’m flexible and not super attached it’s all good. Here is what I learned from my epic journey in the wonderful research world of, to contract or not to contract.

  1. Be consistent in your usage.
  2. Consistent doesn’t mean always or every time. It means consistent to your voice and how you write or want a character to speak.
  3. As long as the voice of your writing is good (Almost)nobody will notice
  4. Write how you want not how others tell you to
  5. If you don’t use contractions ever, because you are a die-hard anti, or took a die-hard’s advice, be consistent
  6. If you use them only in dialogue and never out, never use a contraction out of dialogue
  7. If you write how you talk and how most of the world is comfortable and contract within and out of dialog, be consistent to your voice. Whether you use: Do not do that or don’t do that. It will depend on how you want the sentence to sound, be read and or how the character talks.
  8. Don’t sacrifice your style or voice for word count.

There I think that’s it. BTW a lot of books I read use contractions when it works for their style.

My advice about contractions.
When someone gives you a version of their golden rule, don’t jump on board immediately. Take the time to find out the other side of that set in stone opinion.  Follow your instinct. It’s your writing not theirs.

-Sheryl

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Panic
Blur

Look at the source

Confidence is a fragile thing. Especially when you take huge chance on yourself and put your work out there to be judged. My husband says something that I’ve caught myself saying/thinking often when receiving a complement or criticism. “Look at the source.”

This is a very good measuring stick to apply value to what is being said.  I often ask for honest opinions on something and I sincerely hope to get them. Good or bad I value it all. Now haters need not apply, they can stick their self loathing teardown tactics where the sun doesn’t shine. When I say bad, I mean legit criticism or constructive criticism.

For example.

“Wow I loved the character development, except for Joe, he fell flat and faded into the background unlike Sasha who steps up to the challenge.”

First I look at the source, who is telling me this? Do I trust them? Is the comment inline with them as a person? Are they being petty or honest?  Then I’ll look at the issue and determine if I did or did not let Joe fizzle out. This is useful either I’m neglecting Joe or my source is out to lunch. Chances are they saw or noticed something I’m too close to see myself.

Someone else’s opinion or advice is not gospel, it’s a suggestion I use to broaden my perspective.

Sometimes if I get a conflicting comment that stands out from the rest I pause, assess and move on respectively. I have been getting some fantastic reviews, and some interesting criticisms on my book. I will be honest I was expecting the professional critic to tear my work apart, when he didn’t I wondered if he was buttering me up. Then I put it in perspective. I compared this source with all the others and except for a couple they all lined up. Clean writing, good flow, functioning dialog, suspenseful and engaging. That was a boost and a half to my confidence. I wrote this book having never written anything more than a short story in high school (many moons ago) and technical reports in college (still a few moons ago). So to hear that all my hard work is good, was wonderful.

My advice about put-downs professional or otherwise.
Aside from critiques this can apply to anyone anytime for anything. When someone criticises you or your work unjustly, look at the source. Are they having a bad day? Are they just a down-to-the-bones jerk? Jealous? A quick way to shut them down is to smile politely and ask them, “What makes you say so exactly?” or “That’s an interesting observation, can you explain why you think so?” Having to justify unjust criticism is hard to do.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Fragile

Something different, something fun

I thought I would do something a little different today. Something just for fun.

I am still working through the information from my consultation and making the revisions and changes necessary to my Query letter and Synopsis.

I have been working on a few designs for logos and header pictures.

So I am asking your opinions on which you like best. Please comment below which you like best of the A B C images, 1 2 3 and which you like best of the X Y Z.

Let explain the reason for my choice of images. The man in the suit represents the large powerful corporation in the book that controls BiaAtlas. The earth symbolizes Atlas the Titan of strength (Titan Atlas is typically symbolized holding or holding up the earth). The elemental background is as close as I can get to the female goddess Bia. She is the goddess of force, such as gravity and resistance. The few representations of her in art show a whimsical strong being, so I represent her with powerful images of things that can’t necessarily be touched. There is also a significant amount of danger in the book thus my choice of fire.

From classic, whimsical to elegant these are my top favorites, I seem to lean toward the purples, I’m not sure why. Please note all images have been purchased or permissions granted for my personal use.

The first four are sans human. More of a ‘logo’ style.

biaatlas-logo-abcd

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The next three are the close-ups with less background. These symbolize the background to the story.

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The last three have more of the background image visable.

biaatlas-logo-xyz

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I hope you liked at least one of them and are willing to let me know. I also welcome constructive criticism. Thanks.

-Sheryl

PS I’ll be getting back to my norm soon.  😉

 

Tulips in July

Silliness and seriousness

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Elegant

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

 

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Cake

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

 

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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

 

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Oops! What did I just say?

The other day I was reading a book written by a very well known author. I was enjoying the chapter and my eyes tripped on a words and the story ground to a halt. There was a typo. A word spelled correctly, but not the correct word.  I thought “Huh, even the best make Mistakes .” That is because they are human, just like me. I smiled and kept reading.

My proofreaders and I have found typos in my book. There are probably still a bunch in there. I’ve talked about this before in revision posts, but I thought I’d show an example this time. 

Sasha turned and looked over her shoulder at the reflection in the mirror. The tight red dress made her ass look phenomenal. Billy is going to love it for sure. Their second date. Running her hands over the soft supple fabric, he imagined Billy doing the same.

Fastest sex change in history 😉 also IMO the easiest typo to make.

Billy cleared his throat as the waiter approached.
“Are you ready to order?” The waiter looked at Sasha.
Sasha smiled up at the waiter. “Yes I’ll have the Chicken Primavera.”
“Very good and for you sir?”
Billy nodded at the menu. “I’ll have the Anus steak medium rare, the spring vegetables instead of the potatoes please.”
“Excellent choice sir.”

Oops! I’m not sure what kind of restaurant Billy took Sasha to, but I hope they at least serve local beef.
In revision, I might be horrified and fix that mistake or take the opportunity to work it in.

“Excellent choice sir.” The polite waiter took their menus and shuffled off quickly.
Sasha snickered behind her hand.
“What?” Billy furrowed his brow.
“I know you want a piece of ass Billy, but I figured you could at least wait until after dinner.”
Billy’s puzzled frown lasted only a moment before his face went red and he laughed.

My advice about mistakes.
You will make them. They can be fixed. Before you do, think about it, can it become part of the story? Defiantly have someone else review your work, they might catch a typo you passed by several times because you wrote it in the first place.

-Sheryl

 

Other Posts relating to mistakes.

Spell check doesn’t catch them all.

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

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

 

 
Mistake

It’s funny you said that…

Originally, this blog was going to be about trapdoors, but that fell through.

Humor in writing is difficult. Not everybody has the same taste or sense of humor. Chances are if it’s funny to you, it will be funny to someone else too.

I found it’s all about set up. A well-timed joke or funny comment or moment requires foreshadow. Not the, hit your reader over the head with an Obvious set up, but something subtle.

The thing about humor is it’s personal. Not just to me the writer, or to you the reader, but mostly to the character in the story. If they don’t have personality or a pre-designed history the humor might fall flat. A sarcastic person is not likely to be droll but may use self-depreciating humor. A person prone to dry humor is likely witty and might lean on morbid humor. This is where its important that I know my characters.

Similes, metaphors, satire or irony are great methods of humor. A funny moment doesn’t have to be directly in the conversation either, it can be in the narrative or environment around the characters.

There are of course books galore and articles explaining how to be funny. They have some examples, but ironically are not funny in themselves. Or at least the few I attempted to read.

I found as I developed my characters funny moments just happened naturally. Conflicting or contrasting personalities helps.

Puns are easy, lazy and often work:

They were exhausted and ready to drop. As usual Carl was pushing them hard and receiving death glares from more than one in his unit.

“Come on boys bend like you actually give a squat!”

Larry leaned his head toward Cam. “Yells the guy doing diddly-squats.”

Cam snickered nearly losing his balance.

Maybe that’s funny, maybe not. I liked it.

My advice about humor.
Don’t sweat it, nothing slays the dragon of humor like overthinking it. If you’re stuck I suggest thinking about things that make you laugh. Next time someone says something funny write it down and think about why it made you laugh.

“It’s difficult to explain humor to kleptomaniacs, because they take things literally.” -unknown

– Sheryl

Other blogs you might find funny.

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