Articles to Resume in September (I hope)

my blogs: a history

Drawing while lying down is harder than I expected…

So… no new posts to Words & Deeds for almost a month. Sorry about that. I dropped the ball. Then, after a day or two of pondering how to make time to go back and pick the ball up, I cursed loudly and kept walking (and taking care of the things that pay the bills… priorities, you know). Of course, after I caught the cold and aggravated a herniated disc, I stopped walking for a bit, but the ball was well out of arm’s reach at that point.

If you can interpret my crappy drawing above, you’ll get the gist.

Anywho, articles are going to be delayed a bit longer. I’m hoping to be able to start catching up with them in September. That said, I’m going to have a lot of other things to catch up on, as well, but we’ll give it the old college try.

For now, here are a few things I’ve learned recently:

  • While glitter pens may be a rather awesome birthday present, resist the urge to use them for the background of anything you need to scan – especially if it needs to be legible.
  • If your back hurts for a few weeks, check with the chiropractor before going on a long drive… or a camping trip.
  • Coughing while standing + herniated disc = falling down in new and hilarious ways
  • Typing while lying down is a bit like trying to eat an ice cream cone while doing a handstand.

Which is why I will stop now (I never could do handstands).

Until Next Time,
Em

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“I Got Sucked In”

I got sucked inThat’s what we want people to say. That’s the reaction we want readers to have – “I got sucked in.” It’s the sort of answer you give when people ask why you look so tired (AKA why you spent the night reading instead of sleeping like a sane adult). 

We want that! We want the reader to get so caught up that he or she (or both) cannot stand to put the book down long enough to go to the bathroom or fix dinner. Let alone get some shuteye. We want the story to consume their lives until they each finally reach the last page and close it.

What kind of @#%holes are we?

Seriously, though, we want to take over people’s lives if only for a short time. That makes us a kind of puppetmaster (or puppetmaster wannabes). A kind of puppetmaster who can control your mind through a book.

We want to be Tom Riddle without magic (or the evil… most of us, anyway).

But how? How can you have that much control with only words on a page? With no direct contact with the reader whatsoever? I got sucked into a book last night, and I’ve never met, talked to, or otherwise interacted with the author. So how do you do it?

How Do You Get Readers to Say,
“I Got Sucked In”?

Well, other than having some sort of contest where they have to record themselves saying that and send it to you for a chance at a prize (not quite what I meant), you have to make the story into a kind of emotional vacuum cleaner.

*snicker* Sorry.

You can think of it as a magnet instead (it’s a better image), but either way, there has to be something in the story that not only grabs the reader’s mental and emotional attention in but also holds it.

Something like

  • a hook (by definition, the first way you get the reader’s attention)
  • characters readers can relate to (Do you keep reading if you can’t relate to the characters? I’ll be honest, if I think all the characters are self-centered idiots, I’m not reading the book.)
  • an interesting setting (Oooh. This is new and different. I wanna draw it and write fan fiction in it!)
  • an unpredictable plotline (Where is this going? I mean, I’m guessing the good guys are going to win, but how?)
  • believable actions (OMG! That is so Character Name! That is exactly what she would do!)

Or any combination thereof. Right? If you have a good hook, relatable characters, and believable actions, can you get by without an unusual setting or an extra-unpredictable plotline? Absolutely.

Oh, sure, it depends on the genre and the reader, but you can totally draw readers in with great characters and a predictable plot. It’s not going to draw as wide a variety of readers as great characters and an unpredictable plot, but it’s definitely doable.

So… wait. Doesn’t that mean that good writing will always draw in readers?

Umm, yeah. I guess it does. If you have a good hook, an intriguing plot, relatable characters, believable actions, and an interesting setting, do you really think that readers interested in that genre are going to set it down? Have you ever set down a book that had all of that? I haven’t, especially not in a genre I like to read. So if you focus on writing a good book, readers are definitely going to get sucked in!

There are just 2 major problems: 1. writing that good of a book (time, practice, effort, etc.) and 2. getting your book into the hands of the right readers.

But that’s a problem for another day. For today, commit to writing your story as best as you can and becoming the ultimate puppetmaster! Er… author. *cough*

Old Grammar Rules That Should’ve Died with Latin

Here lies an obsolete grammar rule…

A friend of mine sent me a link to Oxford Dictionaries’ “Can you end a sentence with a preposition?” a few weeks ago. Obviously, I wasn’t horribly curious to hear the answer (having only just read the article). And why not? I already knew the technical answer, and I still didn’t care if anyone ends a sentence with a preposition. I still don’t. In fact, I’d bet you don’t either. And neither does most of the English-speaking world – it’s one of those old grammar rules that is so under-emphasized that I don’t know why we still have it.

That said, as an English-loving person, I read the article anyway (eventually). Ok, ok. To be honest, I skimmed it for interesting tidbits, and I found one. A little-known historical fact that answers a question I’ve felt but never tried to put into words:

Who made up those old grammar rules
and why did *he/they do it?

Now, you know me: I support knowing grammar rules for the simple reason that they give you the tools to shape sentences to create the effect and meaning you want. They’re especially good for making meaning clearer and easier to understand (especially these 5 grammar rules). And in absolute terms, I can sort of see that putting a preposition next to its object should be clearer than separating them. It really should.

But it usually isn’t.

The problem is that we usually separate prepositional phrases when saying the phrase as a whole interrupts the flow of the sentence, requires additional words and phrases, and makes the whole statement downright clunky. That’s not simplifying anything. And it rarely makes the sentence clearer (unless you’re drawing a sentence diagram… you know… for fun.).

So why did they do it? Why did they care about the rule?

Well, according to aforementioned blog post, they did it to follow the rules of Latin. That’s right. They criticized people’s English skills based on Latin rules.

And you thought today’s Grammar police were bad!

Can you imagine criticizing someone’s writing based on a different language system? I mean, I get that English stole its grammar, syntax, and words from a variety of languages, so, yes, it’s got a lot in common with Latin. But still! That’s like judging American football by rugby rules because they have a shared origin (at least, I hope it is… sports aren’t my best thing.)

Long story short, no wonder no one cares anymore! You want me to rewrite this sentence based on the rules of a dead language? Um… no.

Because that’s what Latin is – a dead language. Instructors even had to make up an accent for it because there was no one left to speak it in outside of academia. Yet a tiny handful of people are still judging English on it – telling us not to end sentences with prepositions or not to split infinitives.

And they don’t even know. But they will, right? The next time they try to correct you. 😉

*I assume “he” because of the time period of the rule and the lack of influential female grammarians from that time.

This Week Keeps Getting Better: My Week in Play Form

ME: I have today free. I should be able to get the paperwork together, clean the car, and go trade it in for a new one. No problem.

*FATE: Nope.

ME: Where the heck is all the paperwork?! No, it’s fine. It has to be here somewhere. I have plenty of time left.

FATE: Nope.

ME: How on Earth could I miss it when I looked there the first three times?! Now, I’ll barely have time to clean the car before we leave! No, no. It’s ok. They shouldn’t get here until 1.

FATE: Nope.

ME: 12:30? What? Did church let out early? Never mind. Give me a few minutes. It’ll be fine.

FATE: Nope.

ME: Ok. That took way too long, but the actual trade-in and new car deal should only take a few hours.

FATE: Nope.

ME: [sigh] That was a lot of time sitting around. At least I got my new car though!

FATE: Nope.

ME: You’ve gotta be kidding me. This…this isn’t the car I was buying. You know what? I’m gonna call. We’ll fix this right now.

FATE: Nope.

ME: Ok… It has to wait til tomorrow. Fine. It’ll be fine. I’ll go in tomorrow, and it’ll all be fixed. They open early enough. I should be able to get to work for at least a half day.

FATE: Nope.

ME: No work. Fine. I’ll shift those hours.

FATE: Nope.

ME: Why do people keep scheduling things in the middle of the day? You know what? Never mind. I’ll deal with it. And the week will have to get better after this, right? Right?

FATE: Nope.

ME: Is that the only word you know?!

FATE:

*I would apologize for putting words in Fate’s mouth but… nope.