Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Your Writing DNA: Diction and Syntax


Five Scribe Readers: Today I’m excited to bring you one of the most talented women I know. As former Overall Coordinator of the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, I saw today’s guest rise to the rank of Overall Winner of “The Daphne” for RWA’s Kiss of Death Chapter. Few rise to this level, but many aspire to earn the coveted title. Today, Jo has her educator hat on and she’s here to teach us a thing or two … or several. Please welcome Award-Winning Jo Robertson, Author of THE WATCHER.

O
ne of the greatest tools in the author's arsenal of revision and rewrites is working with language. Once you've got your plot and pacing well defined, what can you do to elevate your book above the common fray? What sets your story apart from the myriads available to readers?

You've written the draft, tightened the plot, and strengthened the pacing. What's next? We talk a lot about an author's voice, but often writers fail to understand the concept. Voice is the unique tone of your writing; if your voice is strong, it's as distinguishable from another writer as fingerprints. It's your writing DNA and arises from two strong writing elements many authors pay little attention to: diction and syntax.


Diction is word choice and includes tone, which is the attitude of the writer toward her subject, characters, or writing. Diction is the foundation of voice. Effective writers use words that are clear, concrete, and precise. Largely this can be done by skillful understanding of words' denotation (the literal, dictionary definition of the word) and connotation (the implied or suggested meaning of a word, the emotional tag).


Consider the words "gaunt" and "slim." Both have the same denotations – both mean extremely thin.


Example: Your character hasn't seen her friend since last Christmas and she's lost a lot of weight. When Sara first sees Jane, she exclaims, "Oh, my gosh, you've lost weight! You look so ______." Consider the words you could use and how they convey the precise meaning you want.


skinny, thin, slender, gaunt, slim, trim, tiny, petite, svelte


Connotatively "gaunt" evokes memory of a concentration camp survivor or a cadaver. "Skinny" suggests too thin, perhaps even anorexic.


If you want your character to be a bit snarky, you will show her character by using "skinny," which has a negative connotation (not as negative as "gaunt," but that'd be going too far). If you want to convey sincere congratulations, your character might use "slender" or "slim."


Diction, then, is word choice, a powerful tool.


As a writer, you have great power over diction and an entire world of words to use. I advise my student never to use a thesaurus. If you don't know a word already, you're likely to misuse it in context.


If you need a word bank, start one of your own. When you read or hear interesting or evocative words, type them into your word bank and note how they're used. Play attention to their connotations as well as their denotation. Study their rhythm. Or you might consider investing in a good synonym dictionary. The difference between this kind of dictionary and a thesaurus is that the synonym dictionary will jog your memory for words you (hopefully) already have in your mental lexicon.


Another example: "Plump" and "obese" are denotatively the same – they mean overweight – but "plump" has a more positive connotation (pleasingly plump) suggesting a well-rounded or over-endowed person, while "obese" is a clinical term and suggests being grossly overweight.


Consider what the writer does connotatively with the underlined words in the following sentence:


The finalist surveyed the audience, clutching the RITA statue and congratulating herself for snatching the highest honor in the profession's contest.


All four words suggest that the finalist stole the honor from the other contestants, rather than achieved it fairly. The tone is gloating; the finalist surveys her fellow contenders as one looking down upon the audience.


Choose words that fit the tone of the passage or character. Don't overreach for these words, but do consider how tone is conveyed through your word choice. Your voice is closely connected to your diction.


The second tool we rarely talk about is syntax. Syntax is the arrangement of words, phrases, or clauses in a sentence or passage. It involves a number of devices like sentence structure and phrasing.


Attention to syntax is more useful in your narration than your dialogue, but is important.


A. Sentence structure includes different kinds and types of sentences, rhetorical question, specific punctuation, and specific patterns of phrases and sentences within a passage.


Let's look at this periodic sentence:


The man died because the ambulance arrived late.


Because the ambulance arrived late, the man died.


The second sentence is arranged so that tension is built as the reader waits to find out what happened; the first one tells you up front. Which is better for your writing purpose?


An example from Jane Austen: "The garden sloping to the road, the houses standing in it, the green pales and the laurel hedge, everything declared they were arriving."


The periodic sentence delays the important message (they were arriving); plus Austen has this lovely layering of phrases as she builds toward the final clause.


B. Phrasing refers to the placement and variation of phrases in sentences, parallel structure, and purposeful repetition.


Caveat! The point of understanding and using these syntactical devices is to underscore or enhance your content. Not for showing off! Whatever syntactical devices you use should (a) mirror the content and (b) not detract from the story.


Look at this passage from Patrick Henry's Speech to the Virginia Convention:


"Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price or chains and slavery?"


Rhetorical question – no answer expected or needed. Also notice the nice alliteration of the letter "p."


Another syntactical device is varying sentence structure in a passage. Simple sentences, compound sentences, complex, compound-complex sentences – all can be controlled by the writer to deliver a desired effect.


Note in the example below how J.D. Robb (Naked in Death) has wedged the complex sentence between two simple sentences. Consider the effect on the reader.


"She woke in the dark. Through the slats on the window shades, the first murky hint of dawn slipped, slanting shadowy bars over the bed. It was like waking in a cell."


Also from the same book:


"He had a vision of himself dragging her to the floor, pounding himself into her until her screams echoed like gunshots, and his release erupted like blood."



Note the parallelism in the two participles (dragging and pounding) and the parallel similes ("like gunshots" and "like blood"). This is particularly evocative because in this scene Roarke and Eve are in the gun collection room, surrounded by the implements of death and blood. The primitive sexual feelings he has are underscored by the environment.


Parallel structure from Sherry Thomas' Private Arrangements:


"His kiss was as light as meringue, as gentle as the opening notes of Moonlight Sonata, and as nourishing as the first rain of spring after an endless winter drought."


Not only does she maintain the parallelism with the "as – as" construction, but each subsequent phrase is longer than the one before it. If she'd put the last phrase in the middle of the sentence, the meter and continuity and smoothness of the sentence would be lost.


Note: Good writers may do this kind of construction subconsciously (leaving the analysis to us English teachers) or deliberately, but they never allow the syntax to drive them. They drive their syntax.


Diction and syntax also account for rhythm. The English language is a series of accented and unaccented syllables that can be arranged to be very pleasant or very jarring to the ear.


During revision or rewrites consider where you've placed words, phrases, and sentences for maximum effect. Choose words that convey the tone you've intended. A strong use of these devices enhances your voice. For example, we could read passages by Hemingway and Faulkner and easily distinguish between them. Their voices are that distinctive.


Revision is not editing. Editing attends to the mechanics of the language. Manipulating the language to a specific purpose – that's revision!


As a writer what do you consider the most effective tool in your arsenal? Any pet peeves or pitfalls? Share! Inquiring minds want to know.


Questions? Comments? For those who do, you'll be entered in a drawing to win THE WATCHER either in print or digital format. Sorry, U.S. residents only. The overseas postage is prohibitive. Check back on Friday evening September 2nd when Jo will announce the winner. And to learn more about Jo, check out her website: http://www.jorobertson.com/


57 comments:

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Donnell! Hi Jo! Jo, I'm really enjoying your blog posts promoting THE WATCHER. This one was gold. One of the things I find amusing/annoying is that there seems to be one or two pet words that turn up in every manuscript. Different words each time and each time I have no idea I'm over-using them until a crit partner sees them and says, hey you've used 'ineffable' 500 times. Yes, sadly, ineffable was one such word. Yup, everyday word you use ALL the time. Sigh. Oh, well, if the journey wasn't interesting, we'd get bored, right?

Misty Dietz said...

Really enjoyed this post, thank you! :)

Anna Sugden said...

Hi Donnell! Hi Jo!

So excited that I've finally got my hands on The Watcher - managed to download it yesterday!

Great article - very informative, Jo. Like Anna, I have some pet words that seem to crop up in every book. I also some pet actions eg raising a chin, arching an eyebrow, shrugging *g*. They are invisible to the author's eye, but stand out to a crit partner! LOL

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Donnell! Hey Jo! I do love it when you talk grammer, Jo. Grins. I always learn something and it always gives me an "ah-ha!" moment.

Wish I'd had YOU for a teacher! :>

Love this post. And what's more, it's so useful!

Grins. Also love your book, The Watcher - fabulous! - and am looking forward to The Avenger!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Awesome post, Jo! Very informative! I also notice that I have favorite words I use too often. Then have to go back and change some of them.

Carly Carson said...

Interesting post. Re Anna's comment, I read once that the more unusual your word, the less often you could use it in a story. 'Ineffable' is a great word, that could probably be used only once. Maybe twice. Also re Nora, parts of the public dismiss her as a romance storyteller, but her use of language is one thing that makes her so successful. It's not something one has to notice, but it adds to the experience of reading her book.

Donnell said...

Good morning, Jo. I hate to say this, but I'm such a genius. When I asked you to guest blog, I could have easily done an interview, but I knew inside that amazing head of yours was something writers needed to know. This is one great article, and what Five Scribes is all about.

I love words, and I'm like a kid in the candy store with an eating disorder when I find one I like, I use it over and over again. We have to realize that words are our tools. And it's so important and oh, so difficult not to fall in love with them.

I appreciate you being here with us today. Can't WAIT to read The Watcher, and I just saw the cover of The Avenger. OMG!!!! Congratulations, Jo!

jo robertson said...

Hi, all! It's 7:30 on the West Coast and I'm prying my eyes opening, wishing seriously that I was a coffee drinker!

A big thanks to Donnell and the Five Scribes for hosting me today. It's such fun!

Ruby Johnson said...

Hi Jo:
I think this was one of the most helpful articles I read in a long time. I'm referring it to my writing group. A word that seems to stick out lately in many novels is the word "strode". I don't recognize the words "I" overuse.
Donnell, thanks so much for this wonderful guest.

jo robertson said...

LOL, Anna, I think that's true. With my second book THE AVENGER, due out any day, I use "sinewy." It's really hard to see those things in your own work.

jo robertson said...

Thanks, Misty! Glad you enjoyed it.

Hello to another Bandita, Vrai Anna! Oh, yeah, I think the actions are more annoying than the isolated words. I mean how many times can one scrape his hand over his jaw? I have a penchant for that one.

I think all writers do this to an extent. In J.D. Robb's series I notice that Eve is always tugging at her hair. With both hands!

jo robertson said...

Is talking grammar kind of like talking dirty, Jeanne LOL?

Language is one of the few things I know what I'm talking about. I had a reader, a friend of Boyd's, wonder how I knew all the stuff about forensics and medical issues. I take classes, I told him, and what I didn't know I made up! Hey, it's fiction!

jo robertson said...

Vonda said, "I also notice that I have favorite words I use too often. Then have to go back and change some of them."

Thank goodness for search and replace, right! I find I do that for swear words. I only want a certain number in the book, so I try to limit them to the bad guys so they have more effect.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Carly. Thanks! Yes, the more a word "stands out," the less it should be used, IMO. I got stuck on "inky" in this last book. My daughter called me on it LOL. Not that it's an unusual word, but still, there are only so many things that should be "inky"!

jo robertson said...

Speaking of words, I find the word verification words very interesting. They not quite actual words, but they have the flavor of something that should be real. This one is "dimidig." Is that "almost a dig" or "a dimly lighted dig?" Is it a verb or a noun. Yes, I'm a bit crazy about words.

jo robertson said...

Thanks, Donnell. I don't get to do semi-scholarly posts very often, so this was a nice treat for me.

You said, "it's so important and oh, so difficult not to fall in love with them."

It's almost impossible for me not to fall in love with them, but I try not to "show them off." LOL.

When editors or agents talk about "overwriting," I think they mean just that. Even though a writer has lots of words in her word bank, she doesn't have to use them!

jo robertson said...

Thanks, Ruby, for the compliment. I'm glad the article was useful to you.

Barbara White Daille said...

Hi, Jo,

Great post!

I think I'm one of the authors who does a lot of this subconsciously, although I admit to spending an awful lot of conscious time in choosing *just* the right word!

Also, I love the caution about not showing off. That's probably my pet peeve. Why pick a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word does the job equally well?

Donnell - thanks for hosting Jo!

Barbara

Brenda said...

Hi Jo-

Great blog! I remember when you suggested we do a workshop on diction. I said, "What's diction?" LOL

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Hi Jo and Donnell!

GREAT post, Jo! And BIG THANX to Donnell for asking Jo to write something on one of her favorite subjects. :-)

I'm a BIG proponent of parallelism and often it does come to me unconsciously in the first draft. If not, there's always REVISION! And thanks sooo much, Jo, for making that distinction between editing and revision.

Lucky for me I have this FANTASTIC critique partner who keeps me on my toes about diction and syntax. ;-) Often I get pages back with big red WC scribbled all over. No, she doesn't need to use the facilities. She's telling me to consider my WORD CHOICE! Most of the time she is right on.

AC

Nancy said...

Jo, this is a great post! I'm with Anna in that have pet words or pet physical reactions in every book. I depend on critique partners to peg them for me.

You make a good point about connotation, especially in the award ceremony example and with gaunt/slim. I read published books that contain words used either incorrectly or awkwardly, and every example yanks me out of the story.

Lie/lay, anyone?

Edie Ramer said...

I love this post. Great examples.

I've taken classes by Margie Lawson, and I learned about backloading from her. Ending sentences with a power word or phrase, which is what J.D. Robb often does. And Patrick Henry with "the price or chains and slavery?" Even the end of Jane Austen's sentence -"everything declared they were arriving." - was backloading.

Donnell said...

Jo, and everyone, thanks so much for your comments! Jo, while I have you at my disposal -- told you there would be ulterior motives for having you here. Let's talk about the expletives you mentioned.

In my soon to be released book I have a couple... so not me, but it's the characters, and like you, I flavor the novel with them, so you get a grasp of how an ex-con would talk. -- He's not going to say gosh and darn.

But I found myself as I went through the book toning him down.

What would you say to those people who use expletives as part of their character. For me who finds the word so offensive -- yeah, and it's in there -- I find myself putting a book down if it's every other word.

If this isn't relative to Diction and Syntax, just let me know. But I do think it becomes, unfortunately, part of a writer's DNA.

Cindy Sample said...

Hi Jo. This was such a wonderful concise post and perfect timing since I'm in my final edits. I wish Microsoft would come up with a new system warning us of our pet words such as "Are you sure you want to use the word "strode?"

THE WATCHER is now on my TBROK. Thanks again for the great tips.

Bev Pettersen said...

Great post, Jo. Thanks for sharing these very useful tips. Look forward to reading The Watcher.

Dr. Debra Holland said...

Great blog, thanks!

One disagreement. I use my thesaurus all the time. I don't use it on words I don't know, but because I've already used a certain word in the story I'm writing, and can't use it again within the same paragraph or page. Thus, I need an alternative. Obviously, my mind is stuck on that one word and needs some variety. The suggestions of the Thesaurus jogs my memory. I'll only pick a new word that works in context with what I'm writing.

That's why the thesaurus is so valuable to me.

Misty Evans said...

Hey Donnell! Hi Jo! What a wonderful, informative post. You really made me think about my word choices, Jo. I use the thesaurus on my computer every day and I have a Flip Dictionary whose spine is broken from so much use!

I love words and I love playing with them to create just the right mood for every scene. Thank you so much for the refresher course on syntax, tone and picking the best word choice!

Diana Mcc. said...

Jo,
I really enjoyed your post! I do use my Thesaurus for finding a replacement for over used words.

Kathy Bennett said...

Hi Jo!

Interesting post. I like to think I'm one of those writers who uses diction and syntax automatically - my critique partners would beg to differ!

LizbethSelvig said...

Hi Donnell and Hi Jo. Thanks so much for this post! I am an old journalist and a "grammar ninja" who annoys the heck out of my CPs when I pick on exactly what you've blogged about here. I love word connotations. I love synonym finders and even thesauruses for the very reasons listed here -- to jog my memory for the right word.

I have two writing pet peeves aside from my own propensity to double-up on favorite words. One is overuse of sentences that start with dependent clauses. E.g.: "A work in progress, her novel is about life on the moon." In addition to lending itself to misplaced modifiers, this construction is very strong (i.e, noticeable) to me, and I have friends who fill 1/3 - 1/2 of their books with variations on this theme.

The second peeve is overuse of sentence fragments. I love frags. They are useful and they make for great realistic dialogue and emphasis if used at the right time. But they definitely get to be a habit sometimes and then they just stop the flow.

Hah, who knew I had a soapbox? LOL. Thanks for bringing up a grammar topic and making my day! I wish you great success with your wonderful book!

jo robertson said...

Hi, Barbara!

You said, "Why pick a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word does the job equally well?"

Exactly! It's important to keep audience and purpose in mind as you write. Erudite (ha, ha) words may be important to a scholarly paper, but if it pulls your reader out of the story -- very bad!

jo robertson said...

Brenda, you're too funny! I always wanted to do a workshop with you and that's the only thing I know LOL.

Thanks for swinging by!

Brenda gave me a lovely quote for THE WATCHER, and I believe she has a new release. Today, Brenda?

jo robertson said...

Hey, Cindy, critique partner extraordinnaire! We try to keep each other on our toes, right?

jo robertson said...

Hi, Nancy, another Bandita!

You said, "I read published books that contain words used either incorrectly or awkwardly, and every example yanks me out of the story."

These moments are truly cringe-worthy and often the difference between a correct usage and an off-kilter one is just a shade.

jo robertson said...

Nancy, you mentioned "lie" - "lay" usage. This is one of the most difficult ones to understand. Students almost never get it right and I believe it's because "lay" is also part of the lie-construction.

Just in case someone's wondering, the verb "to lie" means to rest, so "Sara lies down every day for a nap." "To lay" means to place or put, so "Lay the book on the table."

Okay, that's easy.

Here's where the problem lies (ha!). The PAST TENSE of "to lie" is "lay" -- confusing, huh?

So if I'm speaking in the past I'd say, "I lay down yesterday on my bed and fell fast asleep like Goldilocks!" And the past perfect of "to lie" is "lain," so it would be "I have lain in the hammock every day since summer began."

Thus, it's (to lie) lie, lay, lain

And (to lay) lay, lay, laid.

You'd never say I laid down at eight last night.

Okay, enough! LOL.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Edie, thanks for the compliment.

I've never heard it called backloading. That's a good term and helpful for remembering what you're doing.

jo robertson said...

Donnell said, "Let's talk about the expletives you mentioned."

ROTLOL, Donnell, because I didn't know at first if you were talking about expletives, like swear words or expletives like "it is" or "there is."

Those are considered no-no's in academic writing and loosen your writing in narrative fiction writing.

I call it loosey-goosey writing LOL

jo robertson said...

Okay, Donnell, now to your REAL question LOL. Can you tell how easily distracted I am?

You said, "What would you say to those people who use expletives as part of their character?"

I can tell we're nearly of the same generation because too many "nasty" words jar me too. OTOH, we try for realism in our writing and "Oh, shoot" just doesn't make it.

I usually do a word check and allow myself so many eff words, so many gd words (I'm actually more offended by profanities even though I'm not religious).

Funny thing, I have ONE little-c word (female not male) in THE WATCHER and when I reread it on my Kindle last night, I was actually shocked! It was at the end of the book and I'd forgotten I'd allowed my very bad guy to say it during the denouement!

What do the rest of you think? What's the line between realistic and "just too darned much"?

jo robertson said...

Again, with the swear words, it's important that they sound authentic and we who don't swear (although I'm learning to pick it up LOL) would do well to listen to cable TV shows or other venues where you can get the feeling of their usage. My sons have called me on a few words used inexactly.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Cindy, thanks for swinging by. I hope you enjoy THE WATCHER.

Usually my daughter (who is also my copy editor) points out my repeated words; then I run a search and find and determine if she's right or not.

I could NOT live without that function.

jo robertson said...

Thanks for swinging by, Bev!

Hi, Debra, it's good to "see" a familiar face.

Absolutely! You've proved the exception to (my personal) rule. I've found high school students are unable to use a thesaurus properly, however. Obviously, your personal word bank is much larger than theirs LOL.

I know that feeling of looking for a synonym but being UNABLE to get your brain off the one you've already used. So frustrating.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Misty! Thanks, I'm glad the article was useful. I find as I get older my mind goes totally blank when I'm searching for a word. Couldn't be without my synonym dictionary.

Donnell said...

Too funny, Jo, I forgot that expletive could mean something different as far as grammar. You're right, I was going back to my legal roots and the court system where we insert "expletive."

As for your comment -- What do the rest of you think? What's the line between realistic and "just too darned much"? I think this would make another great blog topic, but by all means if anyone wants to continue, go for it... I did ask!

jo robertson said...

Hi, Diana! Glad your thesaurus works well for you.

Hi, Kathy, glad to see you here! Hey, I'm on your side. I'm sure you use words precisely LOL. I don't usually use words wrong, but once in a while I get caught.

One time I'd written "door jam" for "door jamb." Now, I have to be honest and say I don't think I ever knew the correct spelling of that word! It's funny how some things just sail right over your head!

My daughters and I like to play a game of "malapropism," deliberately misusing a wrong word. It's lots of fun. Our favorite was when one said, "Well, you need to nip that in the butt."

We roared with laughter until we realized she thought it WAS "butt" instead of "bud."

jo robertson said...

Hi, Lizbeth, sounds like your CP's are lucky to have you.

You said, "One is overuse of sentences that start with dependent clauses"

Oh, yeah, that leads to all sorts of misplaced modifiers and dangling participles. I think new writers are told to vary their sentence constructions and they get stuck in that rut instead.

jo robertson said...

Hey, I liked your soapbox, Lizbeth!

I try to use fragments only in dialogue or interior monologues (when a character's thinking). I've tried to work hard on this because my natural writing style is formal (a product of my age and education) and I know it can be off-putting.

jo robertson said...

Sorry for blathering on, folks. I don't want to miss anyone's comments!

jo robertson said...

Donnell said, "I was going back to my legal roots and the court system where we insert 'expletive.'"

That's interesting. I didn't know court recorders did that. I wonder if they still do. Anyone know?

jo robertson said...

Jo said, "You'd never say I laid down at eight last night."

Okay, I have to correct myself. Your character most likely WOULD say that. In fact, it'd sound odd to the reader's ear if you didn't. It's like saying, "This is she" when you answer the phone. The correct way sounds WRONG! Crazy language!

Leslie Ann said...

Donnell and Jo,
Fantastic Post. I want to take a class with Jo. An aside, an English teacher in Jr. High told me I would never be a good writer b/c I wanted to tell the story and not learn the art of grammer. Wrong...and right. BTW, I didn't write again until my late 20's.

What is too much? I think expletives should be used sparingly to offer the greatest impact.

I understand a character may have a filthy mouth, but allow your hero/ine to cut them off :)

When I wear my novelist hat, I often have to revise :) and cut out most of the expletives b/c it's too much, but putting them in worked well when I was puking the story out.

As a screenwriter thus movie watcher I get so GD'd, effing tired of all the effing use. Really, find another way, dear screenwriter.

Huge Hugs
~LA of the Scribes

jo robertson said...

Leslie Ann said, "I would never be a good writer b/c I wanted to tell the story and not learn the art of grammer."

That makes me so sad. A pox on that teacher. It may be true of expository writing (gotta know the rules there), but narration -- you need a great imagination.

I'm so glad you went back to writing!

Mary Marvella said...

Interesting post, Jo. As an former teacher I love this stuff! The southern writer in my says, "See, it's about the way that southern character thinks." It's in my DNA and his!

I see a lot of writers trying so hard to vary sentence structure they make no sense.

Barbara White Daille said...

Jo - thanks. I'm definitely all about keeping the reader *in* the story.

Also...

Jo wrote: << expletives like "it is" or "there is."

Huh. Never knew they were called that. You learn something new every day!

And I'm afraid I'm guilty of using them more than I should. Maybe now if I think of them as expletives, I'll work harder to keep them out of my stories. LOL

Barbara

Barbara White Daille said...

Donnell wrote: What do the rest of you think? What's the line between realistic and "just too darned much"? >>

I agree with Leslie Ann about using expletives sparingly for the greatest impact.

She had a great suggestion, too:

<< I understand a character may have a filthy mouth, but allow your hero/ine to cut them off :) >>

Another way to get the point across without having to be explicit is using something like "he swore under his breath" or "she bit back a curse."

Some authors might consider all the above too wimpy, but then others may have readers who much prefer the "softer" versions.

Just my two cents.

Barbara

Donnell said...

Jo wrote:

That makes me so sad. A pox on that teacher. It may be true of expository writing (gotta know the rules there), but narration -- you need a great imagination.


L.A., don't you wish you would have had Jo for a teacher?

Barbara, I respect immensely what you say, and this is too funny. In Deadly Recall, I can probably count on one hand how may curse words I have in that book. But in the Past Came Hunting, that darn ex-con. He just wouldn't use nice words ;) I had to block out my OMGosh, I'm going straight to **** and just say what he would say.

That being said, I did tone him down as the book goes on because things are going his way, he needs to fit in etc. etc.

What a fine, hard line to draw. Thanks for all these comments. Jo, you did a spectacular job. I can tell you these blogs on craft are the ones readers seek out months to years afterward. Well done.

Barbara White Daille said...

Donnell - it *is* a fine line to draw.

But you stayed true to your character, and that's what your readers will expect.

And respect.

Barbara

Theresa said...

Wonderful blog, Jo! Thanks for bringing Jo to us, Donnell. Such good points. Kaki Warner insists at part of a final polish we must read our work out loud and it's these fine points that pop out at me when I read my stuff out loud.
This stuff makes the difference in good writing and powerful writing. Good Lord I hope I do much of it subconsciously, because often times I know there's a stronger word there or way to phrase something, but just can't think of it.
That's another place I find writing pals to be essential! Thanks for sharing with us!