Why is it so difficult to remember how to spell mnemonic?
Why is phonetic spelled exactly the way it sounds?
Why isn’t palindrome spelled the same way backwards and forward?
Why does cleave mean to split apart and stick together?
Why is abbreviated such a long word?
Why is there and ‘s’ in lisp?
Is there another word for thesaurus?
Is there another word for synonym?

But regular old me wants to know:

Why is it your nose runs, but your feet smell?
Why, when we sit up or sit down, we accomplish the same thing?
If nothing sticks to Teflon how the heck did they get it to stick to the pan?
If they can make an indestructible black box for a plane, why don’t they make the whole plane out of the darn stuff?
If we all love our family members so much, why do we dig through a loaf of bread, bypassing the first few slices to get to softer ones in the middle?  Eventually someone in the family is going to have to eat those undesirable first few slices, right?

Yes, these are just a few of the things I wonder about.  Well, those things and why, if a store is open twenty-four seven 365 days a year, did they bothered to install locks.  Or, why do they have braille at the drive-up ATM.  Speaking of ATM, why do we call it ATM Machine?  That’s like saying the automated teller machine machine. PIN number – same thing.  My personal pet peeve?  Dethaw. <- how does one do that?  Geez, am I the only one who thinks pal is for principal of a school when I want to write about someone with principles?  I also consciously envision two cupcakes when I want to write the word dessert instead of desert.  Am I crazy?  Maybe.  Hmm…  has anyone else ever envisioned a world with no hypothetical situations?

M…wondering.

When is a scene not to be seen?  When it’s a fake. Yep, that’s right.  Every once in a while an impostor shows up and tries to charm his way into your work. Oh, you may have written it, revised it, edited it, and sent it off to your CP in good faith, but then?  Then, the doubts settle in.  You begin questioning the direction, motivation, and flow, within the scene. You– hey, who am I kidding?  Let me replace that you with an I, and tell you what happened.

I came to an emotional and pivotal point in my WIP, and I choked.  Actually, it was more like the author in my head went off the meds she needs to keep all those characters honest to themselves and unique. (Think Sybil before she met her analyst) So, there I was working in this new territory, and the more uncomfortable I became, the more I pushed the proverbial envelope. Why?

Beats the heck out of me. *insert me pointing up to the Sybil comment* But just to be on the safe side, I declare now that I’m playing that as my get-out-of-jail-card-for-free. :D

Okay, there I was waiting to hear back from my CP – who could probably get arrested for reading the stuff I wrote – seriously, I think two of the actions I included are illegal in her state, :0 when a calm comes over me.  A sneaky little feeling with a seductive voice that whispers: “Don’t fret.  It’s not as bad as you think. Full-Monty-erotica romance isn’t bad. ’

BUT it was bad, because the next day my chapters arrive in my inbox and these are the first typed words I read:  Holy moly!  Well, it’s definitely not holy!  Then there’s this whole…well, I’d say come to Jesus talk, but I wouldn’t want to insult him, how about I call it: A let’s break this down rationally speech and remember what publishing house we’re targeting.

Geez, it wasn’t until I got to her helpful phrase of: ‘You could always switch that out for doggie style.’ That I had to pause for a moment and reread those two words – so casually offered as an alternative.  I mean, think about it.  If doggie style is the alternative? Sheesh!

Cringing, I opened the accompanying attachment and began to read through.  I was one page in and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the comments.

CP comment in red: Would she really use that word?
Me thinking: Hmm.. Sure, if she were a depraved hooker looking to turn-on her John.
Next comment in red: I don’t like rope.  Maybe you could use cord?
Me thinking: Wow, I forgot about that bit.
Next comment in red: Get rid of this.  It’s crass.
Me thinking: Flaming loins of Bathsheba! How did that get in there?

I read through the next three paragraphs and I come across a word that leaps out at me.  No, worse, it strobes off the page – hitting my eyes – over and over again, until I’m nearly blinded, and I’m forced to look a way.  What the…?  How had my CP caught everything else and missed this–this–atrocity?  I was ready to call her on it when I scroll down and see the huge block of red at the bottom of the next paragraph.  It’s so bright, it kind of looks like a Macy’s ad on the Fourth of July.  Crapatola!

I read and I read and I read, until I get to the part where she says: Oh, and I’m 99.9% sure that most women would be offended if you use: #$@! as a description.  Although, personally the word #$@! doesn’t bother me, I do think #$@! would bother most readers.

I blink and swallowed hard.

Okay, she had a good point there, because those sentences strung together were freaking me out. I will give her credit on that, though.  She did punctuate them with a winking smiley face.  I’m sure she thought its presence would make me feel better.  It didn’t.

Needless to say, this was only the beginning of the chapters from hell discussion.  There were a few emails and texts too.  During which I never laughed so hard in my life.  The conclusion? It’s okay to write a Sybil moment occasionally.  In fact it’s cathartic, in that it reminds a writer just how sane and true to their characters they usually are when their author’s voice is on her meds. ;)

Now, where to bury these pages so the parents, kids, and dog don’t find them?  Wait, the doggie part will be in the rewrite. *snap* Anyone know a good pet therapist?  ;)

M.

Just because I haven’t spoken about Honey in a while doesn’t mean he hasn’t made me laugh.  I laugh.  He cries.  Such is life. ;)

Before I tell you what happened yesterday, I have to preface the story with the fact that I got a new car in December.  It’s a beautiful car, full of all kinds of newfangled gadgets.  My fav? The built in bluetooth – I love that feature.

Anyway, yesterday happened to be the first time I was going to have to gas up my little beastie.  I’m halfway to the station when it occurs to me.  Hmm.. I don’t know what side of the car the gas tank is on.  So, what do I do?  I call Honey with my new Bluetooth connection and ask him.

Ring.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.

Drat!  He’s not there.  Wait, he has to be there this is his cell phone.  I request redial.

Ring.  Ring.  Ring.

*insert his frustrated tone of voice here*  “Hello?”

“Hi it’s me.”

“What’s up?  Is everything okay?”

“No.”

“What’s the matter?”

“I need to know what side the gas tank is on.”

“What?”

“The gas tank.  On my car.  Hello?  I’m almost at the station and I don’t know which side to pull in on.”

“Are you serious?  That’s why you’re calling me?”

“Yeah.”

*insert a big – no,  huge sigh here.*    “It’s on the driver side.”

“Are you sure about that?  If it’s not I’m going to call you back.”

*insert him doing another huge sigh before he grumbles.* “Okay, but could you wait two minutes so I can put my phone down and get back under the house I’m working on?”

Me, cringing.  He is a general contractor, so this stands to reason.  Unfortunately, it never occurs to me that he might be doing actual work on occasion and not just standing around with a clipboard.  Crapatola!  Meh, I felt bad for thirty seconds, then I got over it.  The way I looked at it?  He should have filled my car up the day before, when he took it to get it washed. ;)

Gee, I wonder what he’s doing now?  Where’s my phone?

Riley :D

Yes, that’s right. A flaw is a good thing, and I’ll tell you why.  A flaw or weakness, especially in a fictional character’s make-up, is a writer’s opportunity to highlight that character’s strength.  A flaw gives a good contrast that the reader can use as a counterpoint.  Think about it.  A hero or heroine who acts despite their fears, is stronger than the one who moves forward through the scene without a fear or doubt.

I think where the confusion comes in, is in a writer’s interpretation of a flaw.  A flaw is a flaw – not virtual impairment or baggage. Simply put,  it’s a minor imperfection, not THE imperfection itself.

I mean, you wouldn’t say a blind hero’s flaw is that he can’t see, his loss of sight is his state of being – his virtual impairment – but his wallowing in self pity over his state of being could be a flaw.

Baggage, in my opinion is something altogether different.  I believe a character’s baggage is a pile of emotional stumbling blocks they’re stuck with – until they accept them, because those things can’t be changed. I’m thinking bitterness over divorce, heartache over grief, that kind of stuff.  Meh, it’s there and it will lurk for eons. :)

Now, before I get to the nitty-gritty of defining a flaw.  I wanted to mention that my CP has an amazing post on:  How To Create Stronger Characters – Give Them Flaws. It inspired me to write about the topic  – so you should go over there an check it out.  Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Okay, back to my thoughts on flaws versus virtual impairment and baggage.

I believe, a character’s flaw is the extension of self that goes beyond these two things.  Maybe, in the case of the blind hero, the writer would focus in on the hero’s neatly laid out landscape.  Every item in his immediate surrounding has a particular place so that he can find what he needs and doesn’t have to rely on anyone else.  Can we say martyr syndrome? That’s why he’s alone ( flaw, right?)  But then enter the heroine, and his suddenly changing landscape, and before he knows it, he’s being propelled out of his comfort zone – until he’s struggling against his fear of change to attain his goal or save the day or whatever.

In the case of baggage <-ha, no pun intended :) A writer shouldn’t focus on the angst of what came before just to milk reader sympathy.  The reader doesn’t want to be pounded over the head with that past drama.  In my mind, the reader only needs to know about it so they can understand the emotions that are driving the character in this moment-of-drama now.  Let’s face it, the reader doesn’t need to know the details of someone’s nasty divorce (that happened three years prior to the page in front of them) to understand the character would have some emotional issues today about committing to marriage.

Bottom line?  A character’s flaw is a very powerful tool in a writer’s toolbox providing a writer doesn’t confuse it with something it’s not.

M.

I’m not talking about the star hook of your story, either.  Why?  Well, because this is my blog and I get to do whatever I want.  With that said, the hook I’m referring to is your end of the chapter hook.  That tasty incentive that makes the reader want to turn that page instead of turning out the lights for the night.

I’ve been doing some contest judging this week and the entries have given me much to think about.  Zeroing in on the end chapter hook, I’m wondering how effective one really is, if there’s no tension leading up to that point?  If there’s no amped up ‘uh oh’?

Here’s a totally made-up example of an end to a chapter. Please note, we can safely assume that the writer has done a good job moving the story along to this point.

“I told you not to come.”
After everything that happened, Jenny was glad that Bill wasn’t mad anymore.  At least she didn’t think he was, although now that she got a good look at him, she saw him scowling. “What’s the matter? Do you have a problem?”

He didn’t say anything.  He didn’t have to.  His dark glare spoke volumes.  Too bad she chose to ignore the warning sign.  But then, how was she to know he’d react so badly?

Not two minutes later, she regretted that she hadn’t been more atune to his mood, but by then it was too late…

Okay, That’s a crook.  I’ll rate that a: ‘Meh’ I’m not a big fan of being told – even if it does make me wonder how he reacted.  It’s kind of the lazy way of coaxing a reader to turn the page. So, looking at this, I’m thinking it’s because there’s no building tension.  No present and real time – on-the-page – drama.

Similar scene, written with building tension.

“Listen, I don’t want company.  Especially your company. Not now, or ever.”

She smiled.  She couldn’t help it.  He sounded so ominous and mean, when she knew he really wasn’t.  She ignored his glare and stepped around him to go inside.  She didn’t stop until she was halfway to the couch.  “Now,” she whirled around.  “Tell me what your problem is – Oh!”

She turned and he was right in front of her.  He grabbed her by the shoulders and held her at arms length.  “You. You’re my problem!”

Ah, better.  We know he’s mad and we also know she’s caught off guard and in his arms, so, yeah, I’d turn the page because now I’m involved and I’m the one that’s worried.  The example prior has the heroine/writer telling me she’s worried – I didn’t get the: right-in-the-moment drama.

I’m just saying because I’m seeing a few lazy hooks out there and I’m not liking it.  A lazy hook is crook.  It steals the suspense from the end scene and robs the reader of the pleasurable agony of trying to decide whether to turn the page or not.  Look at it this way.  With a lazy hook – it’s like the old byline on a TV show.  “Tune in next week and see the exciting conclusion of…” The reader is comfortable because there’s an assumption everything is okay – I mean, the writer was good enough to do the hand pat to the reader with the phrase ‘but how was she to know’, right?

Now, with the second example, that hook has the reader engaged, like they’re in the middle of a great scene in the movie.  Their eyes are glued to the set and then click, the TV goes black.  Wouldn’t you be scrambling to turn that sucker back on?  Or, in the case of our book, turn the page to make sure everything is okay for the heroine?

I don’t know about all of you, but I want a hook that cooks!  Is anyone else as teed off as I am, when they see that lazy hook dangling at the end of a chapter? Do you think it’s okay, or is it as annoying to you, as it is to me?

M.


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