Sunday, November 27, 2016

Yes you can

Words for authors or would-be writers to live by. And everyone else as well.

There’s a four lettered word
As offensive as any
It holds back the few
Puts a stop to the many.
You can’t climb that mountain
You can’t cross the sea
You can’t become anything you want to be.
He can’t hit a century
They can’t find a cure.
She can’t think about leaving or searching for more.
Because Can’t is a word with a habit of stopping
The ebb and the flow of ideas
It keeps dropping
itself where we know in our hearts it’s not needed
And saying “don’t go” when we could have succeeded.
But those four little letters
That end with a T
They can change in an instant
When shortened to three.
We can take off the T
We can do it today
We can move forward not back
We can find our own way.
We can build we can run
We can follow the sun
We can push we can pull
We can say I’m someone
Who refuses to believe
That life can’t be better
With the removal of one
Insignificant letter.

~ words by Andy Flemming

And for visual learners:

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Dialogue tags versus action tags

This is an area where most publishers have “house style” rules which must be followed. So if you are submitting to a specific publisher you need to follow their rules even if they aren’t what you’d prefer.

Most fiction publishers these days allow some action tags to be used as dialogue tags. By this I mean “he grunted”, “she squealed” are acceptable. Generally speaking, “he nodded” is not as it’s a silent move.

Another thing to watch is that while many literary workshops strongly encourage the use of words other than “said”, many readers of popular fiction find an endless list of “she snorted”, “she laughed”, “he groaned”, “he rasped”, intensely annoying. It pulls them out of the story. If it’s quite clear who is speaking, and if their action makes the descriptor unnecessary (they are running away from the bad guy while he speaks, so unless he is very fit, the reader can guess “he gasped”) you don’t need a dialogue tag at all. A brief section of dialogue with no tags at all can be much more dramatic and immediate than even the most creative of dialogue tags.

Which do you prefer?
“Is the bad guy still chasing us?” asked the heroine.
The hero glanced over his shoulder. “Yes, sweet one, I’m afraid he is,” the hero explained.
“Oh dear,” she replied.

“Is the bad guy still chasing us?
The hero glanced over his shoulder. “Yes, sweet one, I’m afraid he is.”
“Oh dear.”

In the second version it’s quite clear who is speaking, and the pace is faster, more appropriate for a chase scene.

Helen Woodall
Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Kick-ass heroines

These days, a heroine who sits on a silken cushion, weeping gently into a lace handkerchief, her tears sparkling in her eyes, her nose never becoming red, while she waits patiently for chapter after chapter until the hero overcomes all ills and rescues her, is frowned upon.

So are long, run-on sentences like the one above. Both sentences like the above one, and heroines as described therein, used to be the mainstay of romance. No longer.

Today’s heroine is permitted to have red eyes and a nose to rival Rudolph’s if she cries. But more importantly, she is expected to be digging her way out of the dungeon with a spoon, while pretending to sit on her silken cushion. Or even better, slapping her guard upside the head with a brick inside in the cushion and escaping all by herself.

Women are no longer a man’s property, and part of that empowerment means the heroine is expected to be an active leader in the story. The hero is still Alpha, but the heroine is no doormat, or piece of property. She makes him work for everything she permits him to have and is right beside him, as they save the world together.

So answer me this riddle? Why is it so rare to have a female werewolf or vampire who turns the Alpha human male? Why do male vampires and werewolves still turn human heroines?

Helen Woodall
Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy et al

Some years ago I was an amused onlooker as about twenty editors had a fierce and bloodthirsty battle over whether or not the Easter Bunny deserved a capital B for bunny.
I’d edited a book where the Easter Bunny (or possibly bunny) played a minor role. The author had given him two capital letters and that had seemed correct to me.

Little did I know.

The battle ranged back and forth for three days with references from the Chicago Manual of Style (the bible for editors internationally) being tossed like bombs into the fray.

Santa Claus gets two capital letters because that is his name, Mr. Santa Claus, just as Ms. Jane Doe or Mr. John Doe would be capitalized. But the Easter Bunny (bunny) is different. Easter is a proper noun so it’s capitalized. But a bunny is just a bunny (lower case) unless his real name is Mr. Bunny.

Then someone mentioned the Tooth Fairy (or tooth fairy). Is she Ms. Tooth Fairy, or Ms. Fairy (lowercase tooth) or… That caused the argument to reignite and continue for another couple of days.

In the end the publisher declared it too difficult to decide a winner from CMOS rules alone and directed that henceforth House Style would be two capital letters for all such characters.

I noticed even Google is sitting on the fence for the Easter Bunny with Wikipedia giving it a capital but the search engine using a lowercase b.

Writing professionals take their job of being completely accurate very seriously. Never ever get between two determined editors arguing a point of professionalism.

Helen Woodall
Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.