Author Q&A: Want Some Free Marketing?

Author Q&A interview articleHi! Today’s article is for anyone who hasn’t noticed the new “Author Q&A” link on the left. Or for anyone too lazy (or incurious) to click on it and find out what it is. Well, now all you have to do is read. How nifty is that?

Introducing the New Author Q&A Option

One of the main goals of this blog is to be a resource for authors (any type of writer really). I didn’t get a lot of feedback when I asked what you (the readers) want out of a writer resource, so I’m kind of winging it (as usual). But here are the two main reasons I’ve decided to offer an interview series with different writers.

New Perspectives

Right now, Words & Deeds is full of information I know, ideas I thought of, or articles I’ve found. There’s a lot of me in it. So I thought it would be nice to offer you some perspectives from other writers. Different points of view, different publishing experiences, etc., all in one place.

Of course, I made up all the questions, but if there are any specific questions you’d like to ask various authors, I’m open to suggestions.

Supporting Authors

I’ve been trying to figure out how to support other authors without having to critique or otherwise judge their work. After all, did I really want the support to be prejudiced by my personal reading preferences or high grammatical standards? Would my readers be losing out on different experiences and points of view if I did?

It was quite the conundrum.

Finally, I decided the best way to do it would be to open the opportunity up to all authors by offering a Google form with questions that focus on the writer’s experiences – not their books. That way, genres, language, grammar – it all takes a backseat to common writing issues, publishing problems, and general tips that offer value to other writers.

It also gives the authors an opportunity to expand their market share and spread the word about their writing. Free marketing – wooh! You get an article that links to your site(s) and that you can share on facebook to generate some interest.

Is it going to skyrocket you to the top? Idk. Probably not in the foreseeable future. But it could boost your following and SEO some. Every little bit helps!

And we writers gotta look out for each other, right?

How to Participate

If you ever want to participate (A.K.A. fulfill the author part of the Author Q&A), simply fill out the form. There are directions on it, but I’ll reiterate a few points:

  • It may not be published immediately. I don’t want to overrun Words & Deeds with author interviews and drop all the other types of articles. I’m expecting to do one author Q&A a month at most.
  • If you want it published around a certain time (like the month your new book is coming out), I’m good with that, and I’ll do what I can to accommodate you. Whether or not it’s possible depends mostly on how many people end up participating and how many requests I get.

We’ll see how it goes. I may need to revamp how it works, depending on what feedback I get and how many authors are interested. For now, fill out the form, and we’ll go from there. Or stay tuned and get ready to hear from your first author.

I look forward to hearing from you and learning from your experiences!

The 5 Worst Excuses for Not Writing

You heard me. The 5 worst excuses for not writing. And if you know my opinion of writer’s block, you may be wondering what qualifies as “worst.” (They’re all bad, right?) Well, let’s just say these are the laziest and most self-defeating that I can think of (right now).

5 Lame Excuses for Not Writing
(You heard me.)

 1. It’s Sunny.

5 worst excuses for not writing it's sunny

Writing called on account of sunshine. Said no one ever.

Really, people, a pretty day is not a reason to avoid writing. It’s not. You are using the sunshine as an excuse for being lazy and playing outside instead of working.

Oh, and if you doubt me, here are some obvious flaws to this “reason” for not working.

  • The sun will still be there after you spend an hour writing. You’re not going to spend the whole day outside even if you do go out to play. Make goofing off outside a reward.
  • Umm… the sun does set at some point. Work at 8 or 9 pm (whenever the sun sets where you are). Play in the sun and then write. Or get up at 6 and write before the sun comes up to tempt you.
  • Or, my personal favorite, take your writing outside. Enjoy the sunshine and write at the same time. [mic drop]

Uh-huh. That’s what I thought. Lame excuse.

2. I’m tired.

5 worst excuses for not writing I'm tired

Nap time!

You will always be tired. 10 times out of 9, you are going to be tired (Shut up, math people.). If you don’t write when you’re tired, you will never write. End of story.

(Which you’ll never get to because you’ll never start the story. Just saying.)

3. I need to edit first.

5 worst excuses for not writing I need to edit firstNo. No, you don’t.

Write. Finish the book. Then, go back and edit. Or set limits on how much editing you are allowed to do in a span of time – otherwise, you’ll never finish the first draft. You’ll just keep re-writing the first few chapters.

2. I don’t know what to write.

5 worst excuses for not writing I don't know what to write idk

*flat stare* Who does? Write anyway. Sure, the first few paragraphs may be crap, but after a little while, you’ll get fired up and get into a groove. You can always scrap or edit parts of it later.

Besides, if you’re writing a novel, you should have some idea of the storyline already – even if you’re not a meticulous plotter. So… start on a scene and see where it goes? Worse case, you’ll find out where it doesn’t need to go. And you’ll learn something about your characters in the process (assuming you’re paying attention).

 1. There’s no point.

5 worst excuses for not writing there's no point impossibleIt’ll never get published. No one will ever read it. I can’t write anything good.
| : Infinite variations of self-deprecating and self-defeating statements : |

*inarticulate scream of rage and frustration*

*cough* Sorry. I’ll try to contain myself, but this one drives me absolutely crazy. Before I get to the rant, however, let me say that it is not directed at anyone struggling with depression or self-esteem issues who seriously believes those statements. To those people, I will say only that I hope you learn to question and challenge those statements and that even when those feelings are overwhelming, I hope you still write.

For those who say this as a whiny prompt for attention and never actually had any real aspirations to write, I would just like to say, *thbbbt*.

First of all, it’s almost always the exact opposite of the truth. You have no chance of getting published? Really? A poorly written fanfic of a poorly written book got published and bought. So… what? Can you not write in sentences? Great! Your work will be the next abstract innovation in stuffy literary circles.

Second of all, don’t say you’ve always want to do something when it’s not true.

Yes, some people have always wanted to write a book. And if you ask those people about that book they’ve always wanted to write, they will tell you all about the plot and the characters – all the ideas they’ve ever had since they first thought of it. If someone shrugs and says, “I don’t know. Something fantasy maybe. Or a thriller,” then, no, they didn’t always want to write a book. They just think wanting to write a book will make them sound more cool or intellectual or whatever.

Cause, yeah, book writing – it’s what all the cool kids are doing.

Sorry, no. People like that get on my nerves because while they’re saying “There’s no point,” because they think it sounds right, by saying it in conversation, they give this excuse more weight. Like thinking that you have no talent or that your story is unpublishable is a legit reason not to write. And hearing it from other people like it’s a real road block makes potential writers more likely not only to use it but also to believe it.

And that would be a shame.

Don’t use any of these “worst” excuses for not writing. In fact, don’t use any excuses for not writing. Write. Make it happen however you can. I believe in you.

A Writing Prompt for the Braindead

writing prompt for the braindead

I may even be an expert on this topic…

Talked to any teachers lately? I have, and I can tell you that they are simultaneously seriously overworked and seriously excited as the school year comes to a close. In honor of that hair’s edge of consciousness, here is a writing prompt for the braindead.

Designing a writing prompt for the braindead is like setting up a marathon for the seriously dehydrated and exhausted…

If you’re still trying to write even when lack of brain power is making it hard, way to go! That’s dedication, and that’s what you need to become a writer! Mad props!

On the other hand, it ain’t gonna be easy. You’re operating a supercomputer with too little electricity. Underwater.

That’s why this writing exercise is a little different from the usual prompts. It’s intended to minimize the use of brainpower and maximize the end result. Here’s how it works:

  1. Look at your book shelf or movie collection. Or both.
  2. Pick 3 of your favorites. They could be similar or not. Or pick 3 at random. It really doesn’t matter.
  3. Write a brief plot outline for each. If you do it on the same piece of paper (landscape perhaps), then they’re easy to compare. And analysis is generally easier than creativity for a tired brain. If you’re really tired, make the outlines extra general (Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, and boy gets girl back. The end.)
  4. Pick one character from each. The main character from Movie 1, the sidekick from a book, and a love interest from Movie 2. However you want to do it.
  5. Make a new plot outline based on the 3 given. Mix and match based on the characters you chose.
  6. Write the story.

Step 6 is optional braindead-wise. You can always leave it for when you’re more conscious. Even if you do the first few steps, however, you’re still using your brain to explore plots and characterization.

And you might get an interesting story out of it. You’d be surprised. If you rename the characters and tweak them a little, once you start writing, the story can develop a life of its own. With a little editing (after the first draft’s done), you may not even be able to tell what stories you pulled from.

Plus, the first 5 steps have pretty minimal requirements brainpower-wise. With visual cues (the books and/or movies you look at), the memory area should be able to dredge up some details to pick and analyze. It’s like ordering out instead of cooking – sometimes, you’re tired enough it makes sense. You get to eat without expending too much more energy. And, of course, that’s the main idea behind a writing prompt for braindead people (metaphorically speaking).

Will it work? I don’t know. You tell me.

5 Ways to Use Inspirational Speeches in Your Story

ways to use inspirational speeches in your storyPersuasive speeches are such a strong, traditional way to motivate people that they show up not only in life but also in books, movies, musicals, and more. Here are a handful of examples of ways to use inspirational speeches in your story.

How Persuasive Speeches Affect Plots

It may seem like an inspirational or persuasive speech has an obvious purpose, and from the speaker’s viewpoint, that may be true (Persuade so-in-so of x). Within the arc of a larger story, however, things can be a bit more complicated.

Sustaining Suspension of Disbelief

The perfect example for this use is William Shakespeare’s Henry V. Henry’s army is hungry, tired, and likely suffering from malnutrition issues like dysentery. They’re faced with overwhelming odds of better armed, better trained, and better fed/rested soldiers. They’d have to be complete and utter idiots to willingly go into that battle when faced with another option.

Yet from history, we know that they not only went into battle, they won.

As a reader or viewer, there’s a very strong question of “Why?” in that situation. And there needs to be an equally strong answer, or the fact that they stayed to fight (and die) becomes unbelievable. So you see, for Henry, the purpose of the speech may be to convince his men to fight, but for the bigger picture, the purpose of the speech is to make us believe that they would stay. That he successfully convinced them.

Either way, it has to be a phenomenal speech. Luckily, Shakespeare was up to the task.

Sustain & Entertain

A weaker version of the first option happens when the answer to “Why?” doesn’t need to be as strong. Then, the speech is only partly showing the audience that, yes, the leader convinced the rest to do x, y, or z. The other part? Well, the other part is for form – it’s there to entertain.

Parody, Comedy, & Commentary

In stories that are especially trying to be funny or that are trying to bring attention to a specific problem, the main purpose of the speech may be its similarity to another speech.

In a comedy, the similarities combine with the plot to add different levels of humor. In a commentary, the reactions to the speech and the resulting plot paint a picture of either the world the author wants or the world the author fears.

And, of course, speeches can be used in both ways at the same time.

Characterization

Not to say that the others don’t include this reason, but there are times when the main purpose of the speech is characterization. Or to give Dean Martin a chance to sing. Take your pick.

Exposition

Most of the time, inspiring speeches happen towards the end – right before or even during the climax. On rare occasions, however, it comes close to the start of the story. For example, it could be

  • said by a small faction who play a very small role in the plot (like a group of crazies that everyone pretty much ignores). In this case, it’s usually a speech about something that no one else really cares about that happens to provide details on the setting and social situation.
  • given by the losing side of a conflict that happens before this particular story starts (like the first episode of Firefly, for example)
  • spoken by a side character, but the focus is on the main character’s reaction to it

And so on.

Here’s an example that not only provides exposition but also works as a part of the inciting incident – both through it’s delivery system and message.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go watch Star Wars Episodes IV-VI again. Have fun using inspirational speeches in stories!

Henry David Thoreau Quote: The Key to Selling Anything

Henry David Thoreau Quote I have great faith in a seed... Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders“I have great faith in a seed… Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.” Wow. To me, this Henry David Thoreau quote summarizes the main idea of selling your work to a publisher or a producer.* Heck, it’s the key to selling anything. And the two key words?

“Convince me.”

The Seed & the Idea

The seed is important. Never doubt that because it’s absolutely true. The promise of the seed, the map of it – because that’s what a seed is, right? – that is what you’re selling when you’re selling an idea. You’re telling them that you have a plan.

Because a seed is more than an idea. And this is where the makeup of an actual seed becomes useful in this metaphor. Seeds hold DNA for a plant, right? The blueprints for how the plant will work and what it will be. That’s the idea part. But there’s also energy. There’s food for that idea. Enough to feed it until it can begin to feed itself. Enough to get it started, to get that energy going.

Those are the elements of an idea that you need in order to sell it. No only the idea but also how it’s going to grow. And what’s going to help it grow.

Convincing (Persuasion)

That’s the other half of the equation, and unfortunately, it’s not always as simple as half. A really charismatic salesperson who’s good with all 3 appeals can convince you that a pretty bad idea has potential. On the other hand, if a person has a really fantastic idea, that person could be a worse salesperson (not horrible, but worse).

Unfortunately, the ability to convince and the willingness of the audience to be convinced can be much more important than the idea itself. In other words, if you already want to believe in the idea, then, it doesn’t even have to be that good of a salesperson. And if you’re naturally inclined against the idea, the salesperson had better be outstanding. (But I stray…).

That’s why the plan and energy of the idea are so important. You might even call them the key to selling anything.

If you convince someone that your idea has the energy to start and grow to be self-sustaining, then you’ve convinced them that the idea has potential. That’s when the value of the idea itself matters. It doesn’t matter how good the idea is if they don’t think it’ll go anywhere (or anywhere they want to go).

So what’s holding you back? Take your idea and flesh it out with the energy and the plan for making it take off!

*I haven’t even tried to sell a book or play yet, but I have worked in several sales jobs, including direct marketing and realty.

A Spring Writing Prompt in 3 Acts

spring writing prompt for spring daisyWell, 3 parts. It’s not a play or theatrical piece (or cohesive whole), so “acts” may be a bit of hyperbole. But don’t worry – it’s definitely a spring writing prompt for exercising different skills.

3 Takes on a Writing Prompt for Spring

Technically, these are 3 different writing exercises that relate to the idea of Spring. After much debate, I finally decided to put them in order from most obvious to least obvious (probably), and the difficultly level runs fairly parallel to that, as well.

Personification

I say this is pretty obvious because it’s the natural response, especially since Spring is all about growing things (mostly, anyway). And when we’re trying to use something as inspiration, a straightforward artistic approach is to write from that object or creature’s perspective. Especially in poetry.

Here’s the down-and-dirty method:

  1. Pick a part of Spring. A seed, a flower, a caterpillar, a sunny day, a rainstorm, etc.
  2. Make that thing or creature your main character. You can name it or not, but as a main character, it needs to have a perspective, motivation, and personality.
  3. Tell that character’s story of Spring. What does Spring mean to that character?

If you want to vary this one and take it to the next level, try to expand on what stories you tell from that perspective. You could even do a sort of Canterbury Tales of Spring from all different points of view.

Metaphor

Now, let’s go one shade deeper. Instead of transforming an aspect of Spring into a character, take an action or characteristic of Spring and use it as a metaphor or theme. Think extended metaphor or allegory.

  1. Pick an action or characteristic of Spring. A seed fighting through its prison and bursting forth from the soil. Weeds and flowers struggling against each other for light and nutrients. And so on.
  2. Express that action in broad, figurative terms. Think big idea.
  3. Apply the big idea to an unrelated situation. People moving to a city, a child at school, a war, aliens, etc.
  4. Use the big idea to direct the plot. Plotting with post-its can be handy for this to make sure you stick to your big-idea arc. At least for the main points (like a framework).

This one can be as hard or as easy as you choose based on how close the metaphor is to the actual plot. Just remember that the further apart they are, the less likely the readers will get it (They might still enjoy it, but they may not realize it was a metaphor for a flower bud wilting in a vase.).

Mood

I’d call this one the advanced writing prompt simply because many people feel uncomfortable with mood and have less experience trying to write specifically to create atmosphere or reader reactions. It can be a challenge, and imagery and other literary devices go a long way in making it work.

This mood exercise is pretty straightforward, and if you read the 2 writing prompts above, the first step should feel vaguely familiar – a variation on a theme, if you will.

  1. Pick a scene or moment that epitomizes Spring. Something that makes you think of Spring or reminds you of it.
  2. Describe the energy or feeling of that scene.
  3. Pick another scene. It could be totally unrelated like a bustling city street, a sterile field, or a battle in space. Some people find writing mood easier with a lot of action, and others prefer the opposite. Pick one, and if you don’t like it, try the other.
  4. Write the scene you chose in step 3 using the feeling described in step 2. Try to give that scene the mood of Spring even if it doesn’t fit – or “shouldn’t” fit but actually does.

This one’s a little bit like the free verse writing prompt in that it may take several attempts before you get the affect you want. That’s fine. In fact, that’s good. Write more!

And there you have it. 3 writing prompts for Spring. So… ready for Summer yet? 😉

10 English Jokes to Lighten Your Thursday

Friday’s almost here, folks! I can’t make it move any faster, but I can share 10 English jokes to lighten your Thursday. Some of these I found, and some I wrote. I’ll let you guess which are which!

Examples of Puns & Wordplay for English-lovers
(AKA English Jokes)

It’s hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs because they always take things literally.

Q: Why do writers have trouble sticking with one degree program?
A: They’re trained to change subjects.

Q: What does a homophone psychiatrist say?
A: There, they’re, their.

The future, the present, and the past walked into a bar. Things got a little tense.

I am the Ghost of Christmas Future Perfect Subjunctive: I will show you what would have happened were you not to have changed your ways!

Santa’s elves are just a bunch of subordinate Clauses.

Q: What foot problem makes you fall asleep?
A: Comma toes.

Q: Why do older women have trouble writing declarative sentences?
A: They don’t have any periods!

Q: What punctuation most disturbs doctors?
A: The semicolon.
English Jokes Punctuation

 

Happy Thursday! I hope the groans were interspersed with chuckles. 🙂

Should Lyrics Be Universal or Specific?

should lyrics be universal lyrics specific lyricsHave you seen Moana? Several of my family members have, and we ended up discussing a contradiction we encountered with the music – the music is catchy, but the lyrics aren’t or aren’t as catchy as the music. Mostly because they’re so specific to the story. But is that really a problem? When should lyrics be universal or specific?

The Pros & Cons of Story-specific Lyrics

Like many of my random, babble-analysis, I’m gonna have to define a few things. Not because you don’t know what they are but because my definition might be different and cause mad confusion. Or because I’m anal retentive. Take your pick.

Specific Lyrics v. Universal Lyrics

When I talk about specific lyrics versus universal lyrics, I’m talking about how well the song stands up taken outside the story. For example, many of Stephen Sondheim’s songs can be taken entirely out of context and still be beautiful songs. In fact, many of them are more beautiful separated from the story because the story is rather dark, and without it, the songs have a new, less disturbing meanings.

Here are some lyrics from “Unworthy of Your Love.”

I am nothing.
You are wind and water and sky,
Jodie. Tell me, Jodie, how I
Can earn your love.

The melody is sweetly lyrical. Put the music and lyrics together, and you have a sweet, pretty love song. You hear it and know that Charles and Jodie are singing about their unrequited love for each other. Bittersweet but beautiful.

That is, until you realize that it’s about two people who tried to assassinate different presidents singing their separate loves to Jodie Foster and Charles Manson (It’s from Assassins.). Not so sweet and pretty in that context, is it?

In that song, the only two words that are specific to its context and story are “Jodie” and “Charlie.” The rest are metaphorical, figurative expressions of love and feelings of unworthiness, which is what makes the song work outside of that context.

On the other hand, Sondheim’s “The Worst Pies in London” can’t really be taken out of context. It tells that it’s about a pie maker in London who makes awful pies because of a meat shortage. That’s what I mean by story-specific lyrics.

Think of it as explicit versus implicit. Story-specific lyrics are explicit: the story is stated clearly in the song. Universal lyrics are implicit: the story is implied in the song through more big-idea words and imagery.

Why Pick Universal over Specific Lyrics?

Because you can sell it to more people. There. I said it.

Ok, ok. Greedy capitalism aside, universal lyrics do have the potential to appeal to more people simply because they make sense out of context with the story. If you’re trying to spread a message or simply share your art with as many people as possible, universal lyrics might be more your cup of tea.

Why Pick Specific over Universal Lyrics?

If your main goal is advancing the story, vague details may not cut it. Especially if the character is having a major epiphany or making an important decision in the song. You can try to portray that through universal lyrics, but if you can’t, are you going to sacrifice the strength of the story for a single song? I’m guessing not. (I hope not.)

Which Lyric Style Is Best?

Assuming that you’re using the song in a story, the best option (IMHO) is to do a nice mix. If you can make it a little stronger on the universal side without sacrificing any plot strength, then, that’s great.

Compare Moana‘s “How Far I’ll Go” to Frozen‘s “Let It Go.” “How Far I’ll Go” weaves from specific to universal and back again. Sections of it are very compelling and can be taken outside the story. Other sections don’t make a lot of sense outside of the story. And the universal ones tend to be catchier (so meter and rhyme might be involved, too).

“Let It Go,” on the other hand, uses lyrics that support the story but can also stand on their own out of context. To me, that makes its lyrics more impressive. Don’t get me wrong – “How Far I’ll Go” is a catchy song, but the island-specific imagery and language aren’t as catchy as the melody. At least, that’s the best reasoning I can think of.

What do you think? Am I totally off-base? Should lyrics be universal? Or should they be specific? Does it matter at all?

People Don’t Listen: 7 Dialogue Tropes to Give Them Away

people don't listen dialogue tropes ear plugs

“la la la la I’m not listening!”

People don’t listen. You know it. I know it. We’ve probably even heard it but didn’t realize because we weren’t listening. And since we’re so familiar with people who don’t listen, using that idea in our stories adds a lot of realism. That makes these 7 dialogue tropes really handy for giving them away. So handy, in fact, that I’m sure you’ll recognize them from books, movies, etc.

7 Signs for When People Don’t Listen

These signs or tropes are really reflections of why the people aren’t listening. It’s a sign of their motivation and relationship with the person who’s talking. And how much they care about the subject. Ergo, which one you use is all about characterization, setting, and plot.*

 1. The Clueless Question

A.K.A. “Sorry. What?” Best said with that vague, re-focusing air.

Stereotypical of husbands tuning out their wives, this technique is used when the person in question was unaware that someone was talking to them because they’re

  1. in a crowd when the question could’ve been directed to someone else,
  2. focused on something really intently (to the exclusion of other sounds and their surroundings), or
  3. really tired (it’s easy to tune out when you’re exhausted).

Granted, wives do the same thing. Husbands and teenagers just have a worse rap.

2. The Circular Credit

Used in every comedy ever, this trope occurs when a duo is plotting, especially if a dominant character has already been established. The situation goes something like this –

Strong Character: What should we do? Hmmm… What about – no.
Weak Character: We could always try Plan A.
Strong Character: No, that would never work. … I know! We’ll try Plan A! Genius!
Weak Character: [mutters] I’m so glad you thought of it.

Examples include everything from Once Upon a Mattress to Inside Out, etc.

3. The Talk-over Takeover

This one comes up when a person isn’t listening because he or she won’t stop talking. It could be from arrogance, nerves, or a garrulous nature.

Here are some situations where this might be familiar:

  • The talkative, nosy type who can’t resist “fixing” someone and telling someone what to do or what he/she is going to do to help that person (you know – those favors you don’t want?). Aaand doesn’t stop talking long enough for that person to really object. In fact, it’s the type who interrupts any objection and assumes what the poor “helped” soul was going to say…
  • The arrogant, narcissistic type who interrupts because whatever you’re saying can’t possibly be as important as what he/she is saying, so stop wasting time blathering and let him/her talk. (Grrr.)
  • The nervous date or job interview who talks so much that everyone else eventually gives up on getting a word in.
  • The focused person so intent on telling a story or talking about a favorite topic that he/she doesn’t realize the surrounding conversation has moved on (and left him/her behind – still talking).

So… great for annoying, enraging, or funny characters!

4. The Deceptive Dismissal

Here’s where a show of politeness mixes with a lack of caring. People do this all the time when they want to appear that they care about what the person is saying but actually don’t. It’s a two-step process:

  1. Start with a sympathetic phrase. A.K.A. a platitude: “I know what you mean.” “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” “How awful.” All said with a kind of tsk or a sigh.
  2. Segue into what you want to talk about. Generally, it’s something about you (“You” meaning whoever’s doing it. I know that you would never do such a thing.).
  3. Pretend that what you’re talking about is related to what the other person says. People who do this might even believe it’s related – after all, they weren’t listening!

Don’t have characters you want the reader to like do this unless there’s some excuse. Like being distracted by something really important. And they’d better apologize when called out on it.

5. The Fuzzy Faker

This person actually does care about what the other person thinks. Maybe, not enough to actually pay attention (for this moment) but enough to try to hide that he/she wasn’t paying attention. Inevitably, however, vital details get crossed or overlooked and out the person’s lack of listening skills.

This dialogue trope is useful for

  • employees trying to impress/pacify a boss who’s especially boring and tends to monologue
  • spouses who want to avoid getting in trouble for not listening
  • students caught not paying attention in class

Sounds familiar, right?

6. The Redundant Reveal

To me, this one is an everyday kind of accidental slip that busy people make. You’re doing something, you’re moving fast, and you end up saying something before your brain catches up with what you heard. You know, when the brain assumes someone is going to say one thing and responds before you realize, nope, that’s not it (like a variation of the talk-over takeover but on a smaller scale).

Here’s an example from one of my favorite websites, Not Always Right.

(My mom is offering my little brother a snack, but she’s in the other room and he doesn’t quite hear her.)

Mom: Do you want any popcorn?
Brother: No, just popcorn.

How many times have you said, “You’re welcome,” when the other person said, “Have a nice day.” It’s that kind of brain glitch. Also known as autopilot.

7. The Taciturn Tune-out

So… back to conceit (Conceit and not listening go well together, yeah?).

In this situation, one person is giving instructions, and the other person is ignoring every word. Usually, it’s a case of arrogantly assuming that he/she knows better and doesn’t need to listen. This person may not even bother to respond or says, “Yes,” “right,” and “uh-huh,” at appropriate intervals.

Unfortunately, this is extremely common with customers and business. Businesses will pay lots of money for consultants, It departments, trainers, etc. And do people listen? Sometimes. Sometimes, they just do their own thing, break stuff, and then blame someone else. (Read not always right if you don’t believe me.)

Even thinking about it is frustrating.

Of course, that’s the point. Frustrating, funny, enraging – when people don’t listen, it causes an emotional response. I’m sure you have stories you could share for all of these dialogue tropes.

So why don’t you? Change the characters and put them in your stories. Believe me, your readers will empathize.

*Something about the word, “ergo,” feels pretentious. But it fit the sentence. I’m so conflicted…

A Comedy of Thoughts (AKA In Lieu of an Article)

What is a comedy of thoughts? I don’t know. As far as I know, I just made it up. In this case, it’s like a comedy of manners but in your head. Sounds awful, right?

Responsibility: Weren’t we supposed to do a post today?

Panic: You mean, we didn’t do it? We-

Memory: Relax. We did one.

Responsibility: We did? I don’t see it?

Memory: We scheduled it.

Responsibility: Are you sure? When did we do it?

Memory: Last weekend, we did both posts – you remember.

Wit: No. You remember.

Memory: Right.

Responsibility: And you’re sure we did this week’s? Because I don’t see any listed.

Logic: If they’re not in the list of posts, we didn’t schedule them.

Memory: Doesn’t matter. We did them.

Logic: Then, they should be in the drafts.

Memory: This is a private conversation.

Responsibility: They’re not in drafts.

Logic: He must be remembering last week.

Memory: I am not!

Responsibility: We still have to do today’s post then.

Panic: But it’s already today! It’s afternoon! We can’t-

Creativity: -Oooh! More to write? Can we do something crazy? Something out there! Or, I know, we could draw a picture – or paint one! Painting’s even-

Panic: -We don’t have time to paint! We don’t have time to do anything!

Logic: We could do it on our lunch break.

Wit: Could we? Are you sure?

Responsibility: Yes. That’s fine. We’ll do it on our lunch break.

Memory: We already did it.

Panic: But what will we write about? How can we even think of an idea that fast?

Creativity: Are you kidding? We have lists of ideas! Have you been-

Memory: We already did it!

Creativity: -listening?

Logic: If you two keep arguing, we will run out of time.

Panic: See? I told you we didn’t have enough time!

Wit: That helped.

Panic: We’ll never get it done!

Memory: We. Already. Did. It.

Responsibility: Guys, put it aside. We need to work on other things. Today’s article can wait until-

Memory: WE ALREADY DID IT!!! [Storms off.]

Logic: …he’s going to spend the whole afternoon nagging us that we already did it, isn’t he?

Wit: Nope. Absolutely not.