Anaphora Paragraphing?

 

A dictionary definition of “Anaphora” would state, the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive verses, clauses, or paragraphs.

“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and on the streets, we shall fight in the hills.” – Winston Churchill

“This blessed plot, this Earth, this realm, this England.” – William Shakespeare

From the above examples, you can see how this technique is used for a heightened dramatic effect.

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The word “paragraph” in the definition poses a bit of a problem. Other language / writing guru’s like Hofmann referred to the paragraph as a natural barrier to anaphora. Creativity Hacker refers to starting paragraphs with the same word whether consecutively or just too often as “Echoing Headwords.” This concept seems to apply to both paragraphs and consecutive sentences.

Let’s say that your MC is named Lisa. Imagine the paragraphs on one page starting as follows.

Lisa grabbed…

Lisa looked…

She stepped on…

The dog barked…

Lisa hurried….

She opened…

Lisa went…

*Psst…I know that most of the sentence starters above seem like an assault of declarative sentences, but that is the subject for another blog post.

As you can see, beginning paragraphs with repeated words just doesn’t work very well. Unlike adverbs, where the usage rate is one for every five to seven pages, I couldn’t find the acceptable rate of repetition concerning echoing headwords.

It would be quite a daunting task to complete a novel with every paragraph starting with a different word. I went back into some drafts to find a rate of repetition in my own #writing. I found that you can repeat the start of a paragraph every other page, or at least eight to ten paragraphs apart, as long as they are not on the same page.

As for sentences, try not to use the same “headword” consecutively or bunched too close together.

Have you found evidence of this faux pas in some of your drafts?

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To be or not to be: Avoid overusing this verb

Many blog posts implore authors to avoid using the most common verb in any language, ‘to be.’ In any of its conjugated forms, it slows your writing down to a crawl and readers find it boring to say the least.

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Lego Shakespeare by Ryan Ruppe. Used under CC License

 

1. Using ‘to be’ in an initial draft is not the end of the world. I use it too. After all, you shouldn’t sit at your desk with your arms folded trying to rephrase a sentence when you’re hammering out a first draft. It’s better to get your ideas down on paper and revise them later.

2. ‘Was’ can push your #writing into a passive voice. I consciously avoid the passive voice, even in a first draft. However, you’ll see in the sample paragraph below, I used it without realizing.

3. Of course this “rule” does not apply to dialog. Remember, dialog should never appear as grammatically perfect and edited sentences. That will make your characters seem wooden and artificial. For more on dialog, follow the link to an older blog post. Writing Better Dialog

Here’s a sample from a short story called “Hope and Prey,” which will appear in my next collection, “Stasis & Other Dystopian Tales.” You will notice other revisions besides different forms of the verb in question. The ‘find’ function in Microsoft Word can help you to isolate the words you’re trying to avoid. Then as you edit, you’ll notice many other places where revision is needed.

There’s no context concerning the following paragraphs (we’re jumping in on page 3), but I think you’ll understand.

A First Draft…

From this point on, any exposure can be deadly. Crossing an open field means leaving the cover of trees, shrubs, and shadows behind. Jennifer cupped her daughter’s chin and nudged it to get the child’s undivided attention. She held up her index finger and placed it on her lips.

Baby Sarah nodded that the message was received. Remain quiet, remain still.

There were many stories of this area. But the lack of people made her wonder if any of the stories were true. Then she wondered if their numbers were down from eating each other. It seemed plausible to her, but it wasn’t enough to take any unnecessary risks.

“Why don’t we walk around the edge?” Baby Sarah whispered.

Jennifer nodded. Out of the mouths of babes, she thought. It would take a lot longer, but the safety of cover was too important. After all, they were about to enter cannibal country.

And a revision…

From this point on, any exposure could be deadly. Crossing this open field meant leaving the cover of trees, shrubs, and shadows behind. Jennifer cupped her daughter’s chin, gained the child’s undivided attention, and held an index finger against her lips.

Baby Sarah nodded. She understood the message. Remain quiet, remain still.

Many stories about this area circulated around the trading camps. But the lack of people and activity in these woods made Jennifer wonder if those tales possessed any truth. Perhaps their population decreased from eating each other? That idea seemed plausible, but not definite enough for her to take an unnecessary risk.

“Why don’t we go around the edge?” Baby Sarah whispered.

Jennifer agreed. Out of the mouths of babes, she thought. Crawling around the perimeter would take a lot more time, but the importance of cover forced her decision. After all, they stood on the border leading into cannibal country.

 

Was this helpful to you? Now go edit that stack of paper from NaNoWriMo 2015 🙂

The Queen and I (Part II): Let the Editing Process Begin

I’ve only published short stories; editing them was something of an easy task.  Because they are short, everything from proofreading to substantive editing can be done with each pass. After all, I was only dealing with 8-20 page stories.

A common rule of thumb I’ve read says to wait at least two months before picking up your manuscript to start editing. Well…NaNoWriMo ended two months ago, so the time has come for the grueling process to begin.

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Editing a Paper by Nic McPhee used under CC License

The first two editing passes will be a Substantive Edit. “The Queen” (editor, wife, p.i.t.a.) has never read the manuscript, and she wants to do a complete reading with her notes to me. Those tiny plot holes, character motivations, vagueness, passages that slow down too much, or dialog that doesn’t fit a character need to be addressed first. Essentially it’s a “big picture” edit.

It can be a bit overwhelming at first, but after looking over The Queen’s notes for the first eight chapters, the proverbial light bulb is on. I understand the issues being addressed and it didn’t take much “mental juice” to develop a solution for all of the little problems. Of course what helps me out the most is her ability to write specific notes.

Instead of something like “This is vague,” she’ll write “Seems like he (my MC) gave in too quickly here. Consider more of a discussion or explanation that…” The Queen’s detailed notes readily facilitate a solution. Also, numbering her notes helps. Her first note in chapter 2 will be called (2.1) and so forth.

Communication is the key when performing a substantive editing pass of an entire manuscript, and it’s a two-way street.

Of course, any changes that I make to the manuscript will be typed in green. When I pass the MS back to her, she will see how I addressed each suggestion. For the sake of clarification, I always include the number of her note to my correction. This system is very advantageous when a note calls for something in one chapter to be moved into another chapter.

What’s the first thing you do in order to edit a manuscript? Got a special system?

Ernesto San Giacomo is the author of

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Click the Pic and go straight to Amazon!

 

Your Second Draft: Paragraphing

Now that #NaNoWriMo 2014 is over, many authors, including myself will be scratching our collective heads in the #editing phase of bringing our works to market.

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Journal Entry by Joel Montes De Oca used under CC License

What you should look for in your first glance at your manuscript is spelling, grammar, punctuation, and paragraphing. The first three, spelling, grammar, and punctuation are obvious enough, but you’re going to have brush up on their rules.

If I were to go into every rule for those three concerns, then this would be a book rather than a blog post. Try to obtain a copy of the Harbrace College Handbook, or if you’re in a pinch check out the Ask a Grammar Guru page on Facebook.

In the end, paragraphing seems to perplex quite a few #authors out there. After all, your paragraph can be spelled and punctuated properly and yet be considered wrong.

As far as the mechanics go, the general consensus out there for proper paragraphing is as follows…

When the speaker-tag changes, then a new paragraph is needed. If done right, then you can actually avoid the over-use of tags.

The action of one character causes a reaction from another character. The action-reaction dynamic needs to have its own separate paragraphs.

paperball

A Crumpled Paper Ball by Turinboy used under CC License

A character can only think, say, or do something. Therefore, keep it all in the family in the same paragraph. However, this can lead to paragraphs that are just too long.

Keep the length of a paragraph to five or six lines. If your character says and does a lot, then keep any internal dialog separate in order to avoid a lengthy paragraph.

You can go as far as half a page in one paragraph, if your intention is to slow down the pace.

Did you find this helpful? Did I forget to address something?

7 Tips: How To Write Better Dialog

So why am I writing a piece about dialog? There are two main reasons. First, I’ve noticed that even some of the best writers, i.e, those who can craft a great plot, create great characters, and write beautiful exposition, can write wooden dialog.  Sometimes the dialog doesn’t sound like the character, but rather like the author holding up cue cards.

Second, I’m a far cry from Shakespeare, but I almost always receive compliments on my #dialog from critique groups and beta readers. In college, my creative writing credits were in screenplay #writing, and I think that’s where I developed good dialog skills.

So here are #writingtips to help you out, if you find yourself struggling. Please pardon my occasional extreme examples, I just can’t help it.

dialog

Original Photo – Statues by Tim Evanson used under CC License – Chat Bubble Modifications by E San Giacomo

1. Forget yourself and let the character do the talking

Remember, the reader will continue to read because the character is interesting. Therefore, bury your own ego and let the character say the things they would say under the circumstances. Of course you have to factor in the aspects of the character, like their age, gender, and education.

And the Lord ascended the mount, and upon seeing the gathering crowd, he turned to his disciples and said,”Yo Pete, got enough grub for all these folks to chow down?”

2. Forget the long speeches

Even if your character is giving a speech, remember to break it up with beats, like adjusting their posture, dramatically pausing, or taking notice of the crowd’s reaction. Dialog really needs to be short and snappy and complemented with actions.

Here’s a sample of a character giving a speech from my yet unpublished #ShortStory Little Red Revolution. Notice how I break up the speech.

John stood tall at the podium. “So the company has the nerve to call the latest contract an offer.” He shook his head. “Well, where I come from it’s called an insult!”

The crowd applauded and cheered.

“No more zeroes for our mining heroes!”

While John stirred hearts and minds, he saw a pasty-gray looking man skulk over to a dark shadow cast by a staircase along the back wall. With everyone’s attention fixed on the podium, John knew that he was the only one who took notice of the strange man.

This is quite different from the John Galt speech in Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. It’s about 80 pages without a break.

3. Forget about grammar

Notice that I said grammar and not punctuation. Dialog has to be properly punctuated in order to be understandable. However, people do not speak in grammatically perfect sentences. Learn to ignore your word processor when it’s warning you about sentence fragments and other errors. “Okay?” See, that’s not technically a complete sentence, but it will work as dialog.

4. Don’t forget that you’re writing literature

When one character says something that makes the other character surprised, taken aback, or fumble for a quick response, show some sort of reaction other than another line of dialog.

“I‘m your father.”

“Really? I never would’ve guessed.”

“And I murdered your mother.”

“Let’s go get a burger and talk about the good old days.”

5. Don’t use forms of address

People just don’t talk like that, especially family members. I’ve seen it way too often where each character starts or ends their dialog by addressing the other character by name.

“Bill, I’ve got something to tell you.”

“I’m all ears, Bob.”

“Bill, promise you won’t get angry.”

“Only if you keep repeating my name, Bob.”

“I don’t do it all that much. Do I, Bill?”

“You certainly do, Bob.”

“Well Bill, I learned it from you.”

Of course there are times to use it, like a commander spouting orders, or a formal setting, or anger and frustration.

“Dammit, John,” Phil said as he threw the folder on the desk. “How many times do I have to explain this to you?”

6. Don’t forget to read and watch

Many self-help authors always remind us that a good writer does a lot of reading. True enough, but you can also learn something by actively watching a movie. Don’t underestimate the abilities of quality screen-writers when it comes to dialog. I can’t list all of them, but consider the following…

“The Thing” The original from 1951 by Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby.

“My Favorite Wife” (1940) starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne

“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969) d. George Roy Hill, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford

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7. The dreaded info-dump dialog

This happens when a writer tries to create too much back story and character description through dialog.

Brandon held out his hand and showed the little box to Susan. Her eyes brightened at the sight of the gold foil wrapping and the intricate red ribbon adorning the gift.

“On this day, July 15th, 2014, I’d like to present this gift to you on our thirtieth wedding anniversary,” Brandon said.

“As a retired English teacher, I appreciate your proper use of an indirect object pronoun after a preposition,” Susan said.

“Perhaps you should sit on the green chaise lounge and open your gift. It matches your eyes and accents your red hair.”

“Oh yes, remember? It was the robbery at the furniture store where we bought this lounge that started your career as a private detective.”

Of course I’m sure there are many other examples that you can use to fine-tune you own dialog. If you can think of a few more, please share.

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