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First, I'm going to apologize right off the top to Victor Echo. I am NOT meaning to pick on you. Honest, I am not.
But there is a big difference between "celebrate" and "celebate."
Errors in stories are one thing, but in story descriptions? What quicker way is there to discourage potential readers?
And before you say anything, I'm sure I've made similar misteaks.
So far I have gotten an even dozen responses to my previous posting. I don't have time to respond individually, so I thought I'd do it here.
To all who responded, thank you.
Most were positive, even encouraging.
One suggested that the people who needed to read and understand my "lesson," if I can call it that, won't.
My hope was that by making that posting I'd save some potentially good stories from the bit bucket. As the cliche goes, if just one author gets the point, it's worth it.
Another complained that I was suggesting short, clipped sentences all the time. I didn't think I was, but I agree that the length of sentences really depends on the flow of the text, the dialogue particularly. That's a whole 'nother subject, too complex to get into here.
Again, thanks for the responses. Keep them cards and letters coming in, folks. I hope to return to the lists of fiction and Naked in School in the near future. For now I'm dealing with a family loss. It's gonna take some time.
What's wrong with this passage:
I kept holding it and said, "It's hard, but soft on the outside." Billy said, "Yeah, that's the way they are," with a trembling in his voice.
I'll tell you. It is one paragraph. I took this from an actual story, and this is only a small part of a 15 lines long paragraph.
Even this short excerpt should be two paragraphs.
Because in dialogue each character gets his/her own paragraph as they toss the conversation back and forth.
I kept holding it and said, "It's hard, but soft on the outside."
Billy said, "Yeah, that's the way they are," with a trembling in his voice.
That way it is clear who is saying what.
Also, a paragraph without dialogue is not made up of a random amount of lines or sentences. The simplest structure is to establish a subject for that paragraph in the first sentence, and then elaborate on it with a few more sentences.
Finished with that subject? Start a new paragraph.
A single paragraph that rambles on through more than about ten lines makes my eyes cross and my head hurt and I stop reading right there. That particularly applies when a paragraph includes dialogue.
You want people to read your story? Keep the paragraphs as short as is reasonable.
The rules for dialogue provide a great framework.
...I mean like real people, ya know?
It's not exactly a pet peeve with me, but it sure does discourage me from reading what might otherwise be a good story if the characters don't talk like real people do.
It's why we invented contractions like "it's", ya know?
And another thing. The way a character talks can be used to establish the character, identify him or her, distinguish them.
For example, a selection from my own writing:
"Hi! I'm Judy Liu. You're new here! Are you okay? Can I help?"
"I am Hadiya," she responded, amazingly calm, bobbing her head without really looking up. A colorful scarf concealed her hair, hung over her face."I do seem to have offended someone."
"That was Dolph Foster. He's just offensive, 'specially to anyone who's not his color. We try to avoid him, but that's not always possible."
"He is what you would call a bigot?" She had a lovely accent.
"He is what we call an asshole."
See what I mean? English is a second language to Hadiya, so she's more precise. Judy Liu is American to the core and sounds like it.
LISTEN to your characters. Hear them in your head. Don't make them all sound like they're reading from a dictionary.
Ya know? I mean, see what I mean?
Okay, it's been a while, and yes I have NOT slumped over my keyboard. I intend to resume posting stories here, just not right away. Personal reasons. 'nuff said.
Instead I am putting on my Grammar Nazi helmet.
Now "lose" and "loose" are not quite homonyms, in that one (lose) has a soft "s" sound, more like a "z" and the other (loose) has a hard "s" sound. To wit: looze as opposed to loose.
I know, counter intuitive but that's American English for you.
Now, and this has cropped up in an SOL story I'm currently reading (name redacted to avoid embarrassing anyone) as well as on another web site I frequent.
To "lose" something is not to "loose" it.
If you "lose" something you can't find it.
If you "loose" something it means you have released it, untied it, set it free.
If you loose something you may, indeed, lose it. Not necessarily a bad thing. If I have a loose tooth I might eventually lose it.
Good. Because I think I just lost my mind.
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