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

Other posts

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Sweat

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Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved
Resist

Mystery Items

There was a story I read recently that had me scratching my head. No, it wasn’t about head-lice or dandruff. I got to a scene and during this scene, there was an item being used. The descriptions were spot on, detailed and wonderful. Right up until the name of the object was used and hold the phone… that is not at all what I thought it was.  My imagination plunked in something that the author did not intend.

This kind of mystery item can cause a story to crash into imaginary oblivion and frustrate the reader. Or I suppose it can go virtually unnoticed as if it’s not really important, but that oversight alone is a whole other problem. There is a simple explanation as to why this might happen. One the writer simply forgot to flat-out tell me what the object was. This paragon of an author assumed I would know because it’s story related or possibly (And very likely) The author was trying to be too clever or ‘fancy’ with their descriptions they figured the reader should get it.

When I’m using creative descriptions I try to just announce what the item is in a non-abrupt way or get to it sooner than later. Too much later can be disruptive and reflect poorly on my skill.

HOWEVER, there are times when this can be funny, or done purposefully to add levity to the situation.

For example:

Amber shook her hands again for the fifth time in an hour. She couldn’t focus on the report she was reading. It was dull and boring and her mind was too jumpy. 
“Hey, you.” Dale grinned mischievously as he approached. 
“Hey.” Her eyes widened as he held out a small blue cube shaped box for her. 
“This is long overdue,” Dale said as she took the box.
Amber bit her bottom lip to contain her excitement and opened it. “Oh Dale I love you it’s perfect!” She jumped up from her chair, threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. 
He chuckled as she backed up. “Is that all I have to do to get you to say you love me?” He teased.
Amber bounced on her feet taking the small shiny gold ring from the box and slipping it over her finger. 
Dale brushed a stray strand of Amber’s hair behind her ear.”You’ve been so stressed lately and I know you’ve wanted one.”
“Maybe tomorrow at this dumb meeting I’ll be able to stay awake with this to fidget with.”
“That’s the idea.” Dale kissed her forehead. 

Sooooo that should have been more romantic right? Maybe, maybe not. Dale and Amber may be headed toward unplanned parenthood but…

Amber shook her hands again for the fifth time in an hour. She couldn’t focus on the report she was reading. It was dull and boring and her mind was too jumpy.
“Hey, you.” Dale grinned mischievously as he approached.
“Hey.” Her eyes widened as he held out a small blue cube shaped box for her.
“This is long overdue,” Dale said as she took the box. 
Amber bit her bottom lip to contain her excitement and opened it. “Oh, Dale a finger-fidget. I love you it’s perfect!” She jumped up from her chair, threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.
He chuckled as she backed up. “Is that all I have to do to get you to say you love me?” He teased.
Amber bounced on her feet taking the small shiny gold flexible ring from the box and slipping it over her index finger.
Dale brushed a stray strand of Amber’s hair behind her ear.”You’ve been so stressed lately and I know you’ve wanted one or something to help with your anxiety.”
“Maybe tomorrow at this dumb meeting I’ll be able to stay awake and focused with this to fidget with.”
“That’s the idea.” Dale kissed her forehead.

Poor Amber, though I’m not sure she’s quite ready for a different type of ring. They just started dating after all. With the lack of clarity, the first example had not only a different meaning but a different feel.

Now if I wanted to write these examples properly to demonstrate the frustration I would have carried on with ring comments, her fidgeting with it in the meeting, maybe someone commenting on it and then dropping the bomb that it’s just a stress revealing toy. That would be annoying if the reader was excited for them to be engaged. And annoyed that in hindsight the scenario did not fit a proposal whatsoever.

My advice about mystery items.
There is time and place for mystery, forgetting or neglecting to let the reader know what that something is, is not mysterious, it’s maddening.

-Sheryl

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Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Oversight
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Building chemistry

I have set down books that fail to build proper inter-character chemistry.  Why? Because there is nothing more awkward than reading stiff lifeless interactions that feel forced or unwelcome. They should flow and feel organic to the reader.  I love a story that sucks you in, makes you feel at home and a part of the story. So if conversation or interactions fall flat, chances are I’ll either slog it out or set it down. As a writer that would be the ultimate worst to know someone felt that way. Therefore I spend extra time building the relationships, good or bad.

So what do I do when it comes to interactions? I know that I respond/react/interact differently with different people. This should be true for my characters. If I don’t have a clear set idea of how that is I will make sure to keep notes on it in my character bio’s. I Cant have Amber being friendly with Sasha for no reason. Or Anne talking silly with Tony. These aren’t always super obvious things either, a reader will appreciate the detail even if they don’t outright notice it. In fact, they may appreciate it more if they don’t.

Some things that a person might do with one person but not necessarily another

Joking around
Teasing
Flirting
Show respect
Touching – touch an arm, back or hand
Intent listening undivided attention
Eye rolling or sneering behind back

Chemistry isn’t always about romance or the potential for it, however, it is what people think of when the subject comes up. It is a big factor in story telling. So I will focus on that as well. Building romantic chemistry is a very serious business. A lot has to happen. Physical cues, verbal suggestions, behaviors, actions, and reactions. It’s an elixir of buildup. If I’m writing a sudden ‘romantic’ chemistry the scene will be intense and hold a lot of action tags and cues.  If I can build it up over time I like to sneak in little tidbits. Like touching of hands, blushing and things like seeking out their company over others and maybe doing small favors that have great meaning.  Subtle and flirty.

Since chemistry is an internal thing, for me it is tricky. I don’t use internal or first person POV. So I use a lot of action and description to show the chemistry instead of telling the reader it’s there. I find this is the best way to suck the reader into the romance and build the hope that the couple will get together.

The chemistry between friends should, in my opinion, be about making each other happy or comfortable. Set them at ease and or rev them up for stress releasing fun. An awkward show of friendship in the form of stiff interaction or conversation would be unbelievable to the reader. Real friends chill, tease and care.

Dale leaned his head back on the sofa. Scott handed him a beer and flopped down next to him. After a long draw, Dale sighed heavily. Scott glanced over at Dale’s miserable face, picked up the remote and turned on the game. Distraction was necessary.
Scott decided to go fishing for the right conversation topic. “Amber was weird today.”
Dale nodded. “Sure was.” he lifted the beer bottle to his lips.
Scott smiled slyly. “Rachael tripped today. She did a fantastic face plant into the meeting-room floor.”

The tension left Dale’s shoulders. The non-Amber conversation welcome. “Oh?” He finished the last half of his beer in one chug.
“No blood, but the clients got quite the show.” Scott got up to retrieve Dale another bottle. “Thanks.” Dale took the offered drink, sat back and settled in to watch the game.
“You should have seen it.” Scott began to tell the spiteful story.

Romantic chemistry seems easy to write, but in reality, it can be difficult to stay in POV and show instead of telling. Fluid movements and simple reactions are, in my opinion, the best way to illustrate this.

The stars twinkled in the cloud-free moonless sky. Anne breathed deeply the cool air as they left the restaurant. Immediately Tony slipped his hand in hers lacing their fingers. With a small smile, she glanced at the delighted gleam to his face.
“I’m not used to this.” Her confession needed no explanation. 
“I know.” He squeezed her hand gently and rubbed his thumb over the soft skin.
“How?” She licked her lips. “How do you know?”
“Because.” He lifted their hands and kissed the back of hers. She sighed softly and he smirked. “You react to every little thing I do as if it were some grand romantic gesture.”
“Oh.” She looked away and swallowed several times. It was true, she just didn’t know it was obvious. 
“Don’t act like it’s a bad thing, Anne.” Tony stopped, let go of her hand and made her face him. 
“It’s not?” Anne blinked slowly as his right hand brushed her cheek, cupping her face.
His lips parted and he leaned closer. “No.” His warm breath played across her lips and she shivered. Their eyes locked and she held her breath. “I’d say it’s a good thing.”
It was all she could do to nod her head, speaking was not an option. 

Whether it’s romantic, platonic or rivalry, the interaction between two people should be personal. I do my best to keep it this way because it not only reads better but it elicits emotions from the reader. I really try not to mix styles between characters. Scott and Dale can chill and depend on the other for distraction, I wouldn’t have them behave the same way exactly with other characters. This quiet understanding is strictly for them. Same goes for Anne and Tony, he’s not her first boyfriend, but he’s the only one she gets breathless around.

My advice about building chemistry.
Start from the first moment characters meet. If they have met or already know each other before the story starts, show their comradery or chemistry subtly and often in little ways that will endear the reader to them and their Symbiosis.

-Sheryl

Other romantic posts

Setting the mood

It’s a love hate sort of thing

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Fishing
Symbiosis
Elixir

What exactly did cupid do?

Conversation is necessary, it moves the story along. In one little conversation, I try to expose a little back story, a bit of character/persona show, and some allusion to back story and of course a little foreshadowing. I pack in as much as I can to make it worth writing in the first place.

If the conversation doesn’t have a point the reader will know. It will also drag the story down.  Each conversation should have a purpose, a reason for existing. Stiff conversation usually tells me I’m missing the human factor or emotion people exhibit when talking. If I read it aloud and it sounds like they are sitting stiff like Barbie and Ken then it needs a little smoothing out, relaxing of the sentences if you will. It also means I’m probably using filter words and too many dialog tags.

Let’s take a peek at the rough draft:

“Are you serious?” Val asked shocked and set her cup down.
“I am serious it maddening.” Anne replied sadly, “I like him, he likes me but nothing happens beyond kissing and cuddling.” Anne pouted. “Nothing.” 
“What is wrong with him?” Val asked.
“When I asked him about it do you know what he said to me?”
“What did he say to you?” Val asked and leaned closer. 
“He said he wants me to fall in love with him first because I am worth more than just lusty sex.”
“Aww Anne, that is so romantic.”
“I know,” Anne replied with disgust.
“So?”
“Well, if he walked away or I found out he is married or something, I would be heartbroken.”
“Oh. I understand.”
“Val, I swore I would not fall in love. I like being single and free. But he is just so perfect.”
“Is he too perfect Anne?”
“We do argue. He works too much. He bites his hangnails, slurps soup.”
“So cupid shot you with his arrow. Why can’t Tony see that?”
“I think it is too soon and you know I cannot say I love you to him.”

Blech, gag, and yawn. Oh boy.  SO if that was a first or rough draft of a conversation I would definitely need to soften that up, relax it and take the starch out. Oh and oops I have too much ‘tell’ and not enough ‘show’ going on. This always happens in my first attempt.

Revise time…

“You’re serious?” Val covered her mouth and set down her now empty paper coffee cup.
“Deadly.” Anne shook her head. “Nothing. He’s so sweet and hot and he kisses like nobody I’ve ever kissed before. There is too much chemistry yet…” Anne shrugged. “Nothing.” 
“What’s wrong with him?” Val waved her hands dismissing her question. ” Sorry, I mean…” 
Anne chuckled. “When I posted about it do you know what he said?”
“What?” Val leaned closer. 
Anne mocked Tony’s voice. “I want you to fall in love with me first.” Anne rolled her eyes. “I swear word for word, then he said because you’re worth more than just lusty sex.”
Val stomped her feet and clapped her hands quickly and lightly. “That is stupid kinds of romantic.”
“Ugh, I know.” Anne feigned disgust.
“So?”
Anne looked at her hands. “If only he knew. If he walked away or I found out he’s married or something, I’d be devastated.”
“Oh.” Val patted Anne’s hand. “You’re in deep aren’t you?”
Sighing heavily Anne nodded. “I swore I wouldn’t ever. But he’s just so perfect.”
“Too perfect?” Val grimaced.
“We argue. he’s annoying and works too much. He has the worst habit of biting his hangnails and slurps his soup. Oh and he puts his feet on the coffee table.”
“Yup. So how doesn’t Tony know cupid shot the crap out of you?”
Anne shrugged. “It’s too soon and I can’t say the words, so if that’s what he’s waiting for we’re doomed.”

I may be tooting my own horn, but I think that revision went well and reads better. The moment was experienced, not shoved down the reader’s throat. I think it’s important to really take a look at conversation and make sure it does more than babble. Anne has trouble with the word love and is reluctantly romantic, Val is a full on romantic and Tony is likable and charming.  That was fun to write and then revise.

My advice about cupids actions in writing.
Awww… everyone loves a little love, so long as the scene or conversation allows the reader to feel the jab of the arrow and live the moment not want to skip over it because it missed the target completely.

-Sheryl

Other posts

It’s a love hate sort of thing

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Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Maddening

Lust

It’s a love hate sort of thing

I spend a lot of time talking about feelings. How to show them instead of just tell them. That’s because the books I’ve loved the most suck me in and make me feel. However, there are times when showing an emotion can get lost if the context is missing. If I forget to set up or keep up the scenario it can be misread or taken, well a whole other way. Ideally, this would be part of a bigger picture, but what if it’s not?

 Balor put his hand on Sasha’s shoulder as she backed up into the counter.
“You need to leave.” She squeezed her eyes shut. She barely knew him, this can’t be .
His fingers brushed the side of her neck and she whimpered.  “I’ll teach you a thing or two.” Balor’s deep voice made her lips tremble. “Teasing me at the bar.”
“I didn’t mean to.” Sasha had barely looked at this man.
She spent most of the night trying to ditch Valery and Anne. She gasped for air as Balor gripped her Stylish“>stylish pink shirt in his left hand and brought his other hand up to her clammy neck. She moved her trembling fingers behind her reaching for the counter.

The door flew open and Balor let her go.
“What’s going on here!” Cal advanced on Balor fists clenched, he swung hard and fast at Balor, the sickening smack of fist to jaw made her flinch as Balor hit the floor.
“Did you follow me too?” Sasha’s legs wobbled.
“Dammed right I did. I saw this scum follow you out of the bar.” 

That’s not much to go on, so what did you take from it? What emotion was being shown through Sasha? I put in all the correct emotional responses in, I didn’t cheat. Yet it wasn’t clearly showing what I wanted. Still even in that scrap, the reader should know what’s going on.

What was really happening.

Balor put his hand on Sasha’s shoulder as she backed up into the counter.
Screaming was pointless nobody would hear.
“You need to leave.” She squeezed her eyes shut, she barely knew him.

His fingers brushed the side of her neck and she whimpered.  “I’ll teach you a thing or two.” Balor’s deep voice making her lips tremble. “Teasing me at the bar.”
“I didn’t mean to.” She had barely looked at this man, she spent most of the night trying to ditch Valery.
Cal was the one that made her laugh; he made her feel alive again.
She gasped for air as Balor gripped her stylish pink shirt in his left hand and  brought his other hand up to her clammy neck. She moved her trembling fingers behind her reaching for the counter as he raised his fist to strike her. If she could reach the knives, she might survive this.

The door flew open and Balor let her go.
“What’s going on here!” Cal advanced on Balor fists clenched, he swung fast and hard at Balor, the sickening smack of fist to jaw made her flinch as Balor hit the floor.
“Did you follow me too?” Sasha’s legs wobbled.
“Dammed right I did. I saw this scum follow you out of the bar.” Cal pulled out a badge and a pair of handcuffs. “Detective Cal Thorne.”

Taken out of context or not shown properly you might think that the first attempt was a romantic interlude and a jealous lover. However, her emotional responses belonged to Terror. The reason I brought this up was that I was reading a book this summer and set it down. I didn’t get back to it for a while and when I picked it up, what I read didn’t make sense. It was a large block of a chapter missing specific content. Sure, it was there but not right away. I had to go back a couple of pages to get the right feel and read it again.

In the grand picture the creepiness of Balor following her is clear as is his initial and violent contact when she gets home. But what if you had set the book down and couldn’t get back to it for a while and tried to pick up at that point?

My advice about showing feeling without context.
Put it in even if it’s subtle and just a little. For example, love and hate can be similar in select action tags.  You don’t want someone’s intense fevered stare of hate to be read as an intense fevered stare of love just before a fist fight, that might be awkward.

-Sheryl

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Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Stylish
Survive