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Profile: LMcL
User Name: LMcL
Forum Rank: Advanced Member
Gender: None Specified
Joined: Thursday, November 21, 2013
Last Visit: Friday, June 5, 2015 1:51:47 AM
Number of Posts: 852
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  Last 10 Posts
Topic: scramble
Posted: Saturday, May 30, 2015 6:09:25 PM
Hi, Luke!

Are you familiar with scrambled eggs?

Here's what they look like as a radio signal. They start as one thing:

And end up, well, scrambled:

It's kind of the same thing, taking an original thing--eggs or a radio signal--then scrambling them into something that is unrecognizable compared to the original. The difference is, of course, with eggs one can't put them back together. Just ask Humpty Dumpty...

Topic: rush on a decision
Posted: Thursday, May 28, 2015 12:19:35 PM
Hi, Fruity,

At the risk of repeating what FounDit and Romany have already said, I think you might be hearing the phrase a bit differently from the way it is intended. In the context of your sentence, the phrase isn't actually "rush on" but simply "rush." You could break it down as follows:

"I understand the urgency of the situation, but it would be ill-advised to rush."

"Oh? Why?"

"On such an important decision as this[, one needs to be more careful.]"

"Rush" here means simply to hurry without deliberate thought. "On" usually is a preposition, but here I believe it's functioning as an adverb describing a figurative place or time.

Topic: Speech and new lines
Posted: Wednesday, May 13, 2015 5:10:01 PM
Hi, Emma,

As usual, please take what I say as opinion and not as prescriptive advice. For whatever it's worth, my short answer is that your "new" approach is correct, for all the reasons you've figured out.

But, there's a longer answer ... There's always a longer answer.

The thing about creative writing is that it can take many forms. It is not technical writing. So, about the time that someone, either on this forum or in a creative writing course begins to describe rules for it, it is perhaps time to listen, but without allowing "the rules" to undermine one's style.

There are any number of canonized writers who broke the rules all the time to great effect, and new writers, especially those writing in the literary genre, are forever striving to find their "voice." Therefore, I would be very reluctant to use the term "wrong" when it comes to creative writing.

On the other hand, to adopt an "anything goes" approach is not by itself a "voice." Nor is it necessarily good writing. Dialogue in particular can be tricky because in real life most of us don't speak in complete sentences. And we use voice inflections that are difficult to capture without relying on all too obvious sign posts like "He said drily," or "She stamped her foot petulantly." When the writer begins to insert him or herself too fully into the story, even when simply trying to direct adverbial traffic, the risk is that the story is being told and not shown. Beyond the words themselves, the structure of their arrangement heavily influences the rhythm of a story. So, the writer needs to be mindful of the scene and how the players are arranged, their moods, their histories. I know you're going to Ireland to continue your creative writing studies, so it's especially appropriate to mention one of their greatest writers. James Joyce was a master of the short story. Regardless of what one may think of his stream of consciousness novels, his Dubliners collection is as close to perfect writing as any of us are ever likely to get. The more skilled a creative writer is, the less he or she needs to tell us as readers how to think. So we would know that the "He" that is speaking would only be speaking "drily" without being told, or the "She" who "stamped her foot" did it "petulantly" because her behavior beforehand already signaled that emotion.

Your original spacing of dialogue is not "wrong." It is simply a different approach that may very well be the best approach depending upon what your intention is. But it really should be intended and not accidental. Those breaks between what "Dad" said could be very useful, especially if the scene is deliberately heavy and ponderous, and perhaps especially if you removed the adverbs. Here's an option for you to consider:

"You brought that upon yourself. Everyone was going to find out eventually.” He swirled his gin and the ice cracked against the glass, splintering as it cooled the liquor. He raised the drink to his lips.

“Don’t come back here unless you’re willing to act like a member of this family. You’re overreacting.” He shook his head as though resigned, his paternal declaration militant in its brevity. “I didn’t want it to come to this, but you’ve given me no choice.”

... just an idea.

All manner of writing rules exist. Some more useful than others. Your task is to understand what those expected rules are before you can decide whether or not to break them.

There is also the reality that one's writing needs to be accessible to the intended audience. You've described your story "The Beast" as intended for a young audience, so making it too obscure would be an impediment that would insure that you have no readers. And no writer wants that.
Topic: Repetitive Writing
Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2015 2:44:11 PM
Hi, Emma. It's been a while since I've had a chance to respond to any of your questions, but your writing project seems to be coming along nicely.

Your instincts are sound, and the kind of unthinking, careless repetition you're guarding against all too often litters the pages of popular fiction. On the other hand, deliberately repeating a word or phrase can be useful for emphasis. Consider this:

"Before I had left that morning, he had put on a brave face, such was his nature, and assured me that he would be safe upon my return – but I was not assured..." (or, "but I didn't feel assured...").

The above emphasizes the narrator's anxiety and need for assurance, as well as the failure to feel it.

As for your second question, I agree that repeating "thought" would be a mistake, and I think your solution works well. Here's an alternative for you to consider:

"...and the possibility [or "thought"] of him coming to harm filled me with dread. With this thought, I was suddenly alert to the sound of heavy rain..."

"With this thought" functions well as a transition into the narrator's next source of anxiety, but sometimes an abrupt transition can be useful, and employing one in this case accomplishes at least two things: it eliminates the repetition problem, and perhaps allows the word "suddenly" to function more accurately. The spontaneous, sudden awareness of the heavy rain is what refocuses the narrator's attention to the current predicament. The "dread" mentioned in the previous sentence seems sufficient to create the mood and possibility of trouble, but dread seems anticipatory as opposed to sudden, and it also implies a kind of dark cloud rather than an alertness.

Please understand that my suggestions are merely alternatives, and not intended as corrections.
Topic: Thoughts
Posted: Friday, March 20, 2015 1:32:27 PM
Very well said.
Topic: Concerning syntax.
Posted: Saturday, March 14, 2015 3:11:12 PM
Hi, Paul,

Just to add to what has already been said, if you look up "syntax" on this site it will offer several different meanings for the word. You might still be confused after reading it. Most people are. All you really need to know is that when someone questions your syntax, they are usually (but not always) talking about your word order. Changing things up too much can make your sentences sound odd to most people, and can even prevent them from understanding you correctly. Do you remember the character Yoda from the Star Wars movies? His syntax was unusual and that was what made his speech pattern so distinctive.
Topic: Generation question
Posted: Friday, March 13, 2015 6:16:40 PM
Hi, Jay,

Obviously, a generation can vary when comparing individual and their families, but sociologists frequently use 33 years as an average. Here's a link to that discusses the question.
Topic: v. (?)
Posted: Thursday, March 12, 2015 6:47:47 PM
I'm going to push back a bit on what sounds like a consensus of antagonism toward the author the of passage. Whether you like David Foster Wallace or not, or admire his prose, it would be wrong to conclude that he didn't know what he was doing. In his short career, he was quite highly regarded critically. I've read two of his books and heard him interviewed. He was quite impressive. It is true that he pushed some conventional literary boundaries. And while he was not everyone's cup of tea, he was, as they say, everybody else's shot of whiskey. Still, one could say similar things about any number of writers who violated expected norms and conventions. James Joyce and William Faulkner were very clear about conventional sentence structures, so when they chose to violate those conventions, they did so deliberately. And were frequently excoriated for it. As for choosing "v." or even "versus," the usage is in keeping with the meaning, even though most encounter it in a sporting context. It's not the word I would have chosen either, but it is consistent with Wallace's style.
Topic: Brightest.
Posted: Wednesday, March 11, 2015 8:12:50 PM
Hi, mirilli. Haven't talked with you for a while.

As NKM mentioned, "most brightly" is the superlative in the adverbial form. This is so because "most" itself is a superlative, that of "much." Using "more" and "most" is the common way to do just what you're talking about with a number of adverbs. The progression is: brightly, more brightly, most brightly.
Topic: she always made it a point to
Posted: Wednesday, March 11, 2015 8:00:59 PM
Empty Seas wrote:
This is idiomatic use, I think: there is no indication that she had to think about her actions. As she ALWAYS made it a point, that indicates habitual behaviour.


I disagree, Empty. The indication is inherent in what the writer tells us: "she always made it a point..." Making a point to do something implies a different process from habitually (perhaps thoughtlessly) doing something. Just because she might do it every time doesn't mean it isn't a deliberate act, especially since that is the language the writer chooses. If the writer had said "She habitually cried relentlessly into the phone until her tears mercifully shorted out the circuitry, thereby ending the call," we would then be wrong to infer that she had made it a point to cry into the phone.

I could see how the writer could have chosen to say, "she habitually made it a point..." but that would be a different nuance entirely.