Swiggers by Joey Pinkney

In the brevity of a short story, Swiggers by Joey Pinkney manages to give us some great insight into a subtle aspect of the African-American community. Also, Joey’s Author Notes at the end give us more to ponder as he discusses the inspiration and life experiences that he called upon to create this little gem.

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Within these pages, we’re given a glimpse into the “theater of reality.” Except, within this particular theater, it is the Greek Chorus which serves as the main character. The theater is a shady park bench near a corner liquor store and the play is the daily habits of the townsfolk. A group of older men meet at the park bench, drink, tell stories, relate jokes, and offer commentary on the people who frequent the store.

Remember, in the play “As You Like It,” Shakespeare said “All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances…” However, what can a humble Greek Chorus commenting on the theater of the real do when their little piece of the world stage begins to change? I don’t like to put spoilers in my reviews, so you’ll have to read it to find out.


The jokes are rather funny too. I think my favorite was the one about the Pussy Willow.


About the Writing

PinkneyI did not come across any oddly constructed sentences or glaring errors. With Swiggers, Joey Pinkney has produced a clean product. There are some word repetitions here and there, but not enough to destroy the reading experience. The dialog is quite natural and flows well despite that it is written with something of a U.S. Southern accent.

FaceBook Page  https://www.facebook.com/joeypinkney

Twitter @JoeyPinkney

Blog  https://joeyspen.com/

 

Overall, this was an enjoyable, easy-to-read little story that kept me engrossed all the way to the end.  Highly recommend!

 

 

A Personal Writing Process

I’ve been to many NaNoWriMo write-ins in my day. Naturally, I’ve conversed with many authors and have heard about personal writing habits that differ from others. I don’t mean planning versus pantsing. Sometimes it’s simple, like a naming convention for files, or a color code for highlighting certain passages for editing. Most authors write a 500-page draft and then whittle it down by one-third; I simply can’t operate in such a manner.

The manuscript for M&M: The Tales of Tyrennia Book II now stands at 235 pages. Sounds a bit short, doesn’t it? Well, in a word, No. The original first draft was only 112 pages. My creative writing classes were in screenwriting; therefore, I tend to write a first draft (which I playfully call Version 0.5) that is 90% dialog. It’s a nasty habit, which I do not recommend for any author. This method is a rather personal quirk or “comfort zone.” I prefer having my plot laid out, no holes or characters ignoring the path of least resistance. Also, it helps me to scrutinize my dialog. pencil

Version 0.5 of Book II moved like a rocket-powered roller coaster. Way too fast and somewhat overwhelming for a reader. Most authors love to write a “page-turner,” but there can be a point where a reader needs to come up for air. My current draft certainly leaves them underwater for way too long. But there were other problems.

Book II’s disparate events in separate locations on a collision course created a dizzying story line. Not only was information zipping by too quickly, but such a plot demanded many shifts in point-of-view (POV).

To solve this problem, I wrote out a small synopsis of each chapter’s events and noted the POV shifts. Yes, way too many. But I also noted the need for characters to perform certain actions, and subsequently work on solving glitches in their plans of action.

So far, I’ve fleshed out the first four chapters and have written a new chapter 5. I saw the necessity of other new chapters as well. For instance, the original chapter 5 is now chapter 9. Because of the minimalist nature of my first draft and outline, the plot is still rock solid. *wipes brow*

Do you have any personal writing quirks in your process?

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Indie Review: “Shadows in the Stone” by Diane Lynn McGyver

In her book, “Shadows in the Stone,” Diane transports us into a fantasy world that she describes with enough expertise to fully immerse a reader. There are some overlaps into our own world, but they do not shake a reader out of the fantasy. Now, you may be thinking, “All fantasy does that.” Yes, you’re correct, in the sense that the moment an author mentions a sword, a shield, or a horse, they’re pointing to the real world. However, Diane brought in the concept of canned foods, and described a diligent accounting / government system within Aruam Castle, complete with pre-made forms, records, and bureaucratic filing. Yet she incorporated it so well into her world-building that any reader will seamlessly accept.

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Love is the fine lace woven through the main plot. We see familial love, the love of friendship, and romantic love all growing from the main story. It is the driving force behind the actions and determination of the characters.

Besides love, during our time within Diane’s world, there is murder, mayhem, magic, sword-play and a long, gritty pursuit. From these struggles and hardships, much is revealed about the characters’ pasts, loves, and fears. These aspects of the characters are revealed as a consequence of the main plot, rather than being conveniently parachuted in as filler material.

On Writing Quality: Diane Lynn McGyver stands head and shoulders above other indie authors. Her dialog flows well, as does her setting and internal descriptions. She knows how to show and not tell better than most. There is also a skillful knowledge of writing at work. Diane knows how not to overuse ‘to be’, adverbs, and a throng of other useless crutch or weasel words.

Word Creation: One item in the skill set of any fantasy / sci-fi author is creating new words and terms, either for things out of this world or renaming the mundane. I’ve seen other books where this practice is performed ad nauseam, to the point where a lengthy glossary is needed. But Diane managed it flawlessly. I especially liked her creations of sumortide, springan, yesternight, and Hauflin. These words helped me to immerse and stay there (very crafty, Diane). DLM


 F.Y.I  –  Diane maintains a spiffy blog as well


Characters:  “Shadows in the Stone” is a deep look into the heart and soul of the Dwarf Bronwyn Darrow. Now, I simply ask you to drop all of your Tolkien Dwarven standards. Diane has beautifully tweaked and redefined the notion of Dwarf, both in the physical and cultural sense.

Bronwyn Darrow stands as one of my favorite characters ever created within the sci-fi / fantasy genre. The other is Qui-Gon Jinn from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Let that sink in about the company Bronwyn Darrow keeps.

Parting Thoughts: I enjoyed every page of “Shadows in the Stone” as you will too. This is the first in the Castle Keepers series, which is available on Amazon.

 

 

 

Editing Crutch Words

When we (the Queen and I) were on the cusp of completing the final draft of my fantasy novel, Storm of Divine Light, I came across an intriguing post by #WritingCommunity member, Indie Author and Editor Dan Alatorre. His blog post concentrated on the dreaded phenomenon known as “crutch words.” Just when we thought we were safe, it was back to the draft for another round of editing.

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What are crutch words?

They are words or expressions that an author’s brain defers to like a default setting (and therefore, they become over-used). These repeated words / phrases should not be obliterated from your writing, but rather, their frequency and usage needs to be reduced.

What do I mean by “usage”?

Word usage falls into two broad categories. First, there is description / exposition and second, there is dialog. I’ll use the word “look” as an example in exposition.

Janet flashed a stern look at him.

Occurrences like this are borderline “telling.”  You can allow about fifteen per novel; just make sure they are distant from each other.

John looked at Janet’s stern face.

Blatant “telling” and also “distancing.” Please edit (with extreme prejudice) such usage from your manuscript.

On the flip side, the word “look” seems quite natural in dialog:

John held up the old photograph. “Wow! Come over here and take a look at this.”

Proper, simple, and to the point. Good job!  Now here’s an example where I make a special effort to  avoid the word “look.”

“Hey, Janet! Amble over to my location and visually scan this old photograph and let’s see if it surprises you?”

An overzealous crusade to edit any and all occurrences of a crutch word in dialog may result in stilted, wooden, and unrealistic conversation.

In another example, you may have placed the word properly, but it appears too many times within a short space.

John held up the old photograph. “Wow! Come here and take a look at this.”

Bill glanced over his shoulder and said, “Now look, I can’t drop everything whenever you think you’ve found something important. Keep searching and we’ll look everything over later.” He huffed a breath and stared at John with a disdainful glare.

“Don’t look at me like that.” John flung the photo into a box.

Every single line of dialog is perfectly acceptable. However, “look” is used four times within five lines of text. Do not only refer to the sidebar within MS Word. When you do a search for any crutch word, scroll though and look for clusters.

Is it possible to use a crutch word to one’s advantage?

People, not just authors, have crutch words in their arsenal. Therefore, to make a character more realistic, give them a crutch word or phrase that is reflective of their personality. Remember to use it and don’t abuse it. If a particular character has a verbal crutch, don’t let another character say the same phrase or word as much.

In Storm of Divine Light, I used the word “quite” thirteen times in dialog. The main secondary character, Cyril, uses it seven times, Maynard four times, Dagorat once, and Liberon once. I gave the character Cyril the phrase “Quite right.” Maynard says the same with some frequency, but I also established that he and Cyril are peers in age, education, and social status.

How to find those crutch words

I searched on-line for crutch word lists. Although some results geared toward public speaking and therefore contained “Um,” “Ya know,” and “like.” I found enough sites to compile a general list, but then came the ultimate problem associated with crutch words in your manuscript:  finding the personal ones unique to your own brain.

You may find those elusive personal crutch words by searching for a different one. When I searched through my manuscript for “very,” MS Word also highlighted “every,” “everything,” “everyone” and “everywhere.” In this way, I discovered that “every” was one of my personal crutches. By the time I was done, I had an extensive list to scrub:

  • A bit
  • A few
  • Actually
  • Almost
  • Appear
  • As though
  • Basically
  • Beginning
  • Certainly
  • Could
  • Definitely
  • Each
  • Every/thing/one
  • Felt
  • Finally* (Obliterate this one)
  • Gaze
  • Glance
  • Heard/hear
  • Just
  • Look
  • Nearly
  • Nod
  • Only
  • Probably
  • Quite
  • Rather
  • Reach
  • Realize
  • Really
  • Saw
  • See
  • Seem/Seems/Seemed
  • Shrugged his/her/their shoulders
  • Simply
  • Slightly
  • Some / Somehow
  • Touch
  • Turn / return
  • Very
  • Virtually
  • Was
  • Watch
  • Wonder
  • Would

Remember to apply the principles of usage and frequency when hunting these buggers down.

I’m somewhat knocked out by the difference between a crutch word-cleaned draft and the preceding draft. My manuscript for Storm of Divine Light became tighter, and neater. Or shall I say more groomed?

Did you find this helpful? Did you find a personal crutch word not on my list?

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My Favorite Films of the 1950’s

O.K. Movie Buffs, here’s a list of my favorite movies from the 1950’s. Now I’m sure that some of you are going to say, “You’ve got to be kidding me?” for a few selections. But, although there are some cheesy sci-fi flicks listed, they are part of my favorites, the ones that I like to curl up with on a lonely night or rainy day.

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Public Domain Image courtesy of Pixabay

One listing has its controversy. There was a bit of a burning question in Cinema Studies during the 80’s and 90’s. Who really directed “The Thing”? IMDB currently lists Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks (uncredited) as co-directors, so I guess the mystery has been settled. By the way, this film has some of the best dialog ever written for the silver screen.

I still believe that it was Howard Hawks. He had a somewhat legendary status by 1950, and he probably didn’t want an association with a Sci-Fi film. The story was incredibly original and the film looks, tastes, feels, and smells like his fingerprints are all over it. I also once recommended this film for authors who want to write better dialog.

50. Earth vs. the Flying Saucers…d. Fred F. Sears

49. Umberto D…d. Vittorio De Sica (Italy)

48. Sunset Boulevard…d. Billy Wilder

47. Rashomon…d. Akira Kurosawa (Japan)

46. Paths of Glory…d.Stanley Kubrick

45. Witness for the Prosecution…d. Billy Wilder

44. Showboat…d. George Sidney

43. Le Journal d’un Curé de Campagne…d. Robert Bresson (France)

42. Pickpocket…d. Robert Bresson (France)

41. Sanjiro Sugata…d. Akira Kurosawa (Japan)

40. The Seven Samurai…d. Akira Kurosawa (Japan)

39. A Face in the Crowd…d. Elia Kazan

38. Mr. Roberts…d. John Ford / Mervyn LeRoy

37. North by Northwest…d. Alfred Hitchcock

36. Rear Window…d. Alfred Hitchcock

35. Bob Le Flambeur…d. Jen-Pierre Melville (France)

34. The Man in the White Suit…d. Alexander Mackendrick (UK)

33. I’m Alright Jack…d. John Boulting (UK)

32. Them!…d. Gordon Douglas

31. House on Haunted Hill…d. Robb White

30. The Caine Mutiny…d. Edward Dmytryk

29. Rear Window…d. Alfred Hitchcock

28. From Here to Eternity…d. Fred Zinneman

27. The Quiet Man…d. John Ford

26. The Day the Earth Stood Still…d. Robert Wise

25. The Captain’s Paradise…d. Antony Kimmins (UK)

24. The Rose Tattoo…d. Daniel Mann

23. High Noon…d. Fred Zinneman

22. 12 Angry Men…d. Sidney Lumet

21. Singing in the Rain…d. Stanley Donen / Gene Kelly

20. Written on the Wind…d. Douglas Sirk

19. Touch of Evil…d. Orson Welles

18. The Seventh Seal…d. Ingmar Bergman (Sweden)

17. Throne of Blood…d. Akira Kurosawa (Japan)

16. Creature from the Black Lagoon…d. Jack Arnold

15. Les Diaboliques…d. Henri-Georges Clouzot (France)

14. Invasion of the Body Snatchers…d. Don Siegel

13. All About Eve…d. Joseph L. Mankiewicz

12. Ikiru…d. Akira Kurosawa (Japan)

11. Forbidden Planet…d. Fred M. Wilcox

10. Les Quatre-Cent Coups…d. Francois Truffaut (France)

09. A Christmas Carol…d. Brian Desmond Hurst (UK)

08. Les Jeux Interdits…d. René Clément (France)

07. Hiroshima Mon Amour…d. Alain Resnais (France)

06. The Wages of Fear…d. Henri-Georges Clouzot (France)

05. Stalag 17…d. Billy Wilder

04. The Searchers…d. John Ford

03. The Thing From Another World…d. Christian Nyby / Howard Hawks (uncredited)

02. Ben-Hur…d. William Wyler

01. The Ten Commandments…d. Cecil B De Mille

Check out my other lists of favorite movies from the  1960’s  1970’s  1980’s  1990’s 

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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.

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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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