Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Yeah, it happens. Though if you had told me that's what I'd eventually be "when I grow up" (although I'm still not certain about the growing up part), I'd have looked at you as though worms were crawling out your nose. And some of my grade school teachers would probably cringe if they could see the way I lay words down on the page.
When I was probably 11 or so I got a diary (yes, boys keep diaries). I didn't have a clue what to put in there other than what happened to me through the day. So, that's what went in there -- "Tried to dig a tunnel in our backyard today over to my friend's house. Decided to turn it into a swimming pool instead. Dad made me cover it up." Those entries had gaps of weeks, months, or years.
Next came the full-o-angst raging-hormones teenage diary, full of rantings and ragings about no one understanding me (especially my parents), plans to hit the road and find myself, and why I couldn't get a date. Lots of late-night hours in all-night diners. I didn't need sleep then. Teenagers don't need sleep.
The 20s'. Ah, yes, the 20's. Man, how I don't miss them. Still full of angst and all-night diners, but now add coffee and cigarettes, along with books by Carlos Castaneda. Yeah, I was full into the road then, although I never did the Kerouac thing. My one excursion out west lasted about three weeks, then I got homesick and headed home. Lots of deep, dark philosophizing, and really listening to song lyrics. Simon and Garfunkel, and John Lennon were my mentors.
The old saying is true, at least for me, that goes, "When the student is ready, the master will appear", or something like that. Somewhere in the mid- to late-seventies, I took an English Comp class at Brescia College (now Brescia University). David Bartholomy. He was my teacher, the one to really open my eyes to the power and possibility of writing.
Bart. Or David. Either one, didn't matter. Knew I was gonna like this guy when he came in all long-haired like the rest of us, blue jeans, sneakers (I think), and if my fading memory is correct, a corduroy jacket. He was packin' an old copy of "Sirens of Titan" by Kurt Vonnegut, and he told us that he didn't care about spelling or grammar. By now, we should already have that stuff (or similar wording) down. Nope, he was here to teach us how to write. From the gut. If we needed to misspell or hose the grammar for the purpose of a story, so be it.
From Bart I learned that the written page was mine. I owned it. Mine to put down whatever the hell I wanted. Create, destroy, reshape, it was all mine. And, that's when I began to feel my writing breathe. Oh, it was still on the table, like old Vic Frankenstein’s creature, but within another decade it would get several more blasts of juice to stir it to life.
Keep writing, friends.
Monday, April 25, 2016
Why do we say ‘in other words’? I can almost understand it when talking, because we’ve perhaps said something politically correct, when we realize no one knows what the hell we’re talking about, so we say it more directly. But do we ever need to use the expression ‘in other words’ when writing? If we find we’ve said something all inflated and bombastic (I love that word), we just go back and edit. That’s why we do that…editing. Or, in other words…
Emailing a friend of mind this morning and we brought up the word ‘queue’. One of the most common definitions for ‘queue’ is to line up. That’s fine, I don’t have a problem with its meaning. My problem is with all those extra letters in the word. Did someone stutter when typing it? Maybe they just wanted to write it as ‘que’, then their hand spasmed and they typed an extra ‘u’ and an ‘e’. But why even have ‘u’ and ‘e’ at all, unless they had extras lying around? What’s wrong with the word ‘queue’ just being plain old ‘q’? I mean, we pronounce the letter ‘q’ as ‘kyoo’, which is how we pronounce ‘queue’. We use other single letters as whole words. ‘A’, for example, as in ‘a cat’ or ‘a bat’. And ‘I’, as in ‘I wrote this mess’. So, why can’t we say, “Everyone q up.”? And another question is, “Why does the blog writer use single quotes when he should probably use double?” I don’t have a good answer to that.
Then we got into tonight and tonite. It was never “The Tonite Show”. I have to admit, though, looking at it now, we save a letter by writing ‘tonite’. I’ve never really understood the whole silent letter thing, anyway. For ‘tonight’, the ‘gh’ is silent (Shhh…), so we replace it with a different silent letter, ‘e’. I’m guessing it’s a sort of power transference thing where certain letters give up their power for the greater good of a word. Take the word ‘fit’, for example. You can throw a fit, and I think at one time you might have fit someone, but you take the power of ‘gh’ combo, toss them in, and you get ‘fight’. And a ‘gh’ would be good in a fight, as ‘gh’ begins the word ‘ghost’, and ghosts are scary, so…in other words…
For other word-playish posts, click on the following links:
Keep writing, friends.
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Thought I’d take a look in the electronic world and see what kinds of technology-related acronyms are floating around that we use often. Just sort of curious about the ones most of use and when we use them. The first thing I noticed in my cruise around ‘net world is that acronyms are everywhere. And they have multiple meanings depending on context. Sooo…that being said, let’s get rollin’ ASAP.
And there’s our first one—ASAP. Now, most of us know this one as ‘As Soon As Possible’, but that’s not all. It also stands for the Alliance of Security Analysis Professionals. Hmm, so I wonder if their members have ever seen an email that says something like “…and so we need to have a meeting of ASAP ASAP”?
Continuing on, it also means ‘As Slow As Possible’, but that one seems counterproductive when you need something ASAP.
But before I dive into the deep end of the pool, let’s get to first cause and see if we can find out when all this acronym jazz started. According to the web site (or website, depending on where you look) dictionary.com, the word acronym cranked up between 1940 and 1945. A Google search says that it was formed from a couple of Greek words—akron (not the city), meaning end, or tip; and onuma, meaning name. So, end of the name is what it kinda sorta means. But who decided to put those Greek words together and why? Certainly not the dead old Greeks, as ‘acronym’ didn’t come about until the 40’s.
Now, what was happening in the world then? How about World War II? And aren’t there a bunch of military acronyms?
Like SNAFU. Situation Normal All F***ed Up. Substitute the letters of your choice where the asterisks are. I cannot. This is a family-friendly site.
Way back when in grade school, I learned about AD (or A.D.) and BC (B.C.), and all us kids heard the definitions as Anno Domini (as in 1945 AD) and Before Christ (as in 1,000,000 BC—when Raquel wore her fur bikini). But that got into all sorts of calendar fun, so we moved to a more globally-standard CE (or C.E.) for Current or Common Era (which is it, folks? Current or Common? Make up your minds.) and BCE (or B.C.E.) for Before Current (or Common) Era.
Confusing things further, in the 1970’s (or 1970s, which is material for another post), we got our first ATM’s, or Automated (or Automatic) Teller Machine. I have seen, and I know you folks have, too, signs advertising ATM Machines. Automated Teller Machine Machines?
Along the way, also, we saw the rise of VCR’s (Videocassette Recorders—why weren’t they abbreviated VR’s?), which played VT’s (Video Tapes, although we really don’t use that term) in the VHS (Video Home System, patented by JVC—Victor Company of Japan, Ltc—I don’t why they didn’t become known as VCJ) format or the BetaMax format(which did not have an abbreviation that I could find, but if it did, would’ve been the unfortunate ‘BM’, though BetaMax was the superior format). And completely confusing matters, they threw DVD’s (Digital Versatile Disc, although it used to mean Digital Video Disc. I would disagree with the ‘Versatile’ designation, anyway, as it’s not as versatile as a video tape) at us. One source mentioned a DVD as a compact disc, which it is, but it’s not referred to as a CD, which we think of as an audio disc.
Well, I’ll take my leave now, as I’m all confused, and I’m sure you folks are, too.
Stay tuned next time as we delve into when to use periods in acronyms and other strange rules.
TTFN (ta ta for now), as Tigger would say.
Keep writing, friends.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
And no, I'm not making that word up. Here's what happened.
I became curious about the origins of the word 'slang', and, well, you know how it is with me...I started following a 'net thread and wound up at the Online Etymology Dictionary (OED for short), at http://www.etymonline.com/index.php. Here I found that 'slang' probably had Scandinavian origins, coming from 'slengenanm', meaning 'nickname', or 'slengja kieften', meaning 'to abuse with words', or possibly 'to sling the jaw'. Or, they just made it up.
At any rate, there's a footnote from the OED that says--A word that ought to have survived is slangwhanger (1807, American English) "noisy or abusive talker or writer."
I think we need to bring 'slangwhanger' back into use. Seems it could apply to a lot of situations in these increasingly noisy times.
But what I started investigating was the oldest slang terms, especially some currently in use in Facebook. 'Unfriend' dates back quite some time ago, long before the electronic era. Here is a quote from an 1891 novel titled "Men of Iron" by Howard Pyle:
Well, this old slangwhanger better saddle up his trusty word processor and ride off before I am unfriendedeth by thee.
Keep whangin' those slangs, friends.
Monday, April 18, 2016
As we're boldly going towards the 50th anniversary of the launch date for Star Trek, I thought this would be a good time to split an infinitive or two and see what terms that iconic show gave us. So, ahead warp factor 1. Engage.
There were Trekkies and Trekkers. A subtle distinction, but I heard it this way: a Trekkie would give up a paycheck for an original pair of Spock's ears; a Trekker just loves to watch the show. Yeah, I'm a Trekker, that's about as far as I'll go.
Warp drive and warp speed. And hyper drive. I remember hyper drive from one of my favorite science fiction movies, Forbidden Planet (1956), and there were perhaps science fiction books that referred to something along those lines even earlier, but Trek put those three terms in the driver's seat for the general public. Hyper drive was the term used in the pilot episode with Captain Christopher Pike. They switched to warp drive in the Kirk era. Means faster-than-light travel.
Transporter. Something that Dr. McCoy hated. Turns you into energy, beams you to a distant location and hopefully reassembles you. Which leads to the next term...
Beam me up. That's what the transporter does to you--beams you up to the ship or elsewhere. And hopefully intact.
Phaser, as in "Set phasers on stun." A beamed weapon that can stun or destroy, depending on the intensity.
Vulcan. It's both the name of Spock's planet and the name of his people. Vulcans. Really logical folks, they had to evolve in that direction or else they would have wiped themselves out, as they were barbaric in their past. Spock, however, has a human side, which occasionally creates problems for him.
Live long and prosper. A really nice form of goodbye. Has a good 1960s feel to it. In response the other party would say, "Peace and long life."
Photon torpedo. What the Enterprise uses when Kirk is really hacked off at an enemy. Not much left of the bad guys when that thing hits them.
Communicator. Now we have smartphones, but back then (or back then in the future) these hand-held gadgets were ultra-cool. Sort of the first flip-phones. Allowed two-way voice communication. That's when we'd hear one of our favorite phrases, "Kirk to Enterprise."
There're plenty more terms, but we'll keep it short.
Live long and prosper.
Keep writing, friends.
Thursday, April 14, 2016
Welcome to the weird world of time, distance, and speed. Here we have three concepts that we can't see...well, okay, you can see distance up to a point. Beyond where we can see, we have to imagine how far away something is.
Let's just take a quick view at time today, and the various ways we've used to describe it. I'll try to cover a few basics before we run out of time. There should be time enough for that.
I'll get started now. When? Right now. Starting with 'when'. When do we want something?
'When' is one of those weird multiple-personality words. Depending on usage, it's adverb, conjunction, noun, or pronoun. Check out this site for more detail: http://partofspeech.org/what-part-of-speech-is-when/.
Its definition is elusive, as are many words relating to time. My old friends at Merriam-Webster struggle with a true definition, telling us how and where it's used rather than an actual definition. Here's an example: a) at or during the time that; b) just at the moment that; c) at any or every time that.
See what I mean? And that's the problem with time words--they're slippery. Take 'now'. It's either a) at the present time; b) in the next moment: very soon; or c) in the present situation.
Huh? Vague, right? Perhaps that's why we call in our other vague words, 'distance' and 'speed', to better describe time concepts. We have 'fast time' and 'slow time'; we talk about our clocks running fast or slow; we use distance to talk about a 'long stretch of time', or a 'short gap of time'. We'll also emotionally color time by talking about 'down time', 'happy times', 'sad times', and 'up times'.
Then (when?) we get into specific time periods: seconds, minutes, hours, years, centuries, and so on. But that's a topic for another time. When? Later?
For a related post, click on this link: http://writefromthegitgo.blogspot.com/2016/04/where-do-these-words-come-from.html
Keep writing, friends.
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
As I'm finishing the final read-through of my manuscript, I've hit several sources, both paper and electronic, to help with the editing. I'm always on the hunt for useful tips and tricks. One of my favorites is editMinion at http://editminion.com/.
Lately I've used a post on the SmartBlogger site called "297 Flabby Words and Phrases That Rob Your Writing of All Its Power". This list proves amazingly helpful. Here's the site: https://smartblogger.com/weak-writing/.
One thing I'd like to point out. Everyone warns about not using passive verb construction, and that's good advice, but there are exceptions. In my novel, most of my characters are warriors. Powerful beings. So, yes, active verbs suit them. However, if I have a weak character, a victim of war, perhaps, then I might want to have them speak in a passive sense. So, careful with obeying rules absolutely. Don't be a writer slave.
Check out one of my previous posts on this subject: http://writefromthegitgo.blogspot.com/2016/03/it-all-depends-on-whos-talkingand.html
Keep writing, friends.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Wendy's writing a couple of mysteries, with characters that she has to focus on, and stuff happening simultaneously. In The Avengers they handle it well by showing us what Iron Man's thinking or doing, then hopping over to what's going on with Captain America, or the Hulk. The transitions are smooth, and we're tracking parallel timelines.
I brought up the case of Chariots of Fire, too, where we see Harold Abrahams and his reasons for running, then leap to Eric Liddell and his motives. Parallel timelines. I think that if you hop back and forth, and don't stay too long on each character, we won't forget about the other ones. Case where they dwell on one too long (or not enough) is, and I hate to rag on it again, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. We spend nearly the first third of the movie on Batman, which is great, but Superman gets just some tips of the hat, leaving Wonder Woman with a small slice at the end.
For more of my meanderings on the movie/writing subject, check out these posts: http://writefromthegitgo.blogspot.com/2016/04/words-like-fire.html
Hope some of this made sense. I just had this embedded in me, like a splinter, and had to yank it out.
Okay, I've yapped enough. Stop reading me and go write.
Keep writing, friends.
Monday, April 11, 2016
When writing, I consider myself a student of language--always learning. Especially as I'm a writer by desire, not originally educated as one, I feel I have a lot of catching up to do. Still, though, I don't let grammar rules stand in my way.
One thing that fascinates me is the origin of words. I finished reading an adventure book from 1911 called "Tom Swift and His Wireless Message", one of a series of young adult (or perhaps juvenile fiction). And certain words and phrases caught my attention. For example, I saw the words 'today' and 'tomorrow' written as 'to-day' and 'to-morrow'.
Returning to the Internet well, I ladled out this bit of research, from a site called the Online Etymology Dictionary: http://www.etymonline.com/
To-day derived from the Old English to dæge, meaning 'on this day'. Those Old English folks wrote it as two words 'to day' until the 1500s, then 'to-day' until sometime after 1911, as my Tom Swift book has it as 'to-day'.
About the same origin for 'to-morrow', meaning 'on the morrow'. Those Old English folks again, and it started as 'to morgenne' (morning evolved from morgenne). Once again, 'to morrow' until the 1500s, 'to-morrow' until my Tom Swift books, then 'tomorrow'.
On a side note, I just broke Spellcheck with the Old English words.
I have other word origins to toss your way, but not to-day. How about to-morrow?
For more about word origins, click on the following links:
Keep writing, friends.
Saturday, April 9, 2016
I'm a bit slow at things. Finally got around to watching Chariots of Fire (1981) last night. I mean, it's only been 35 years since it was released. And in spite of all the cliches, it deserved every award it received, and more. Here was an example of fine acting, directing, and writing.
I wrote the other day about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and how, even though we had godlike beings, and a classically mythological tale, it didn't work because of editing. Please refer to my post on B v S: http://writefromthegitgo.blogspot.com/2016/04/a-few-scenes-shouldve-hit-cutting-room.html
With Chariots, we had young men who wrestled with the gods, each with his own reason for striving to be the best, the fastest. The writing was tight, no dead spots, but they paced it to allow the story to breathe. And the music. In B v S they felt they needed to pummel us with walls of sound so we knew we were watching Titans battle. In Chariots the music was there for punctuation. From the story and the actors we knew we were watching young Titans contending.
If you're writing a story of a mythological nature, I can think of no better example to study than Chariots of Fire. Then you'll have words like fire.
Keep writing, friends.
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
As writers, and really, a lot of us creatives in general know, we work alone mostly. Occasionally, we'll collaborate, but for the most part, our craft requires a lot of alone time. So, we may feel isolated at times, unaware of what our brother and sister creatives are up to. Well, I thought I'd poke around in my bookmarked writing sites just to see what's happening here in Kentucky, where I live. I'll take a look around outside of my state soon, but I thought I'd get started here. Here's a sampling:
"Kentucky Literary Newsletter" is an online publication that lists several bookstores around the state, various literary publications, and writers' groups. Check them out at: http://windpub.com/current.htm
I've checked out a few of their links. Here are some I've looked at:
new madrid journal of contemporary literature -- http://www.newmadridjournal.org/
The Louisville Review -- http://www.louisvillereview.org/
Appalachian Heritage -- http://appalachianheritage.net/
There were other sites listed, but they didn't seem to be up and running when I clicked on the links.
Here's a link called WriteByNight, a list of Kentucky writers' resources -- http://www.writebynight.net/kentucky/. A few of the links I clicked on are:
Kentucky Author Forum at http://www.kentuckyauthorforum.com/, but it appears to be a little high-powered for us regular folks.
Kentucky State Poetry Society at http://www.kystatepoetrysociety.org/
Kentucky Outdoor Press Association -- http://www.kopa.us/. Kentucky's oldest writing association deals with anything to do with the outdoors in our state.
Louisville Romance Writers -- http://louisvilleromancewriters.com/
Here's one from my former home town of Owensboro, the Owensboro Writers Group -- http://owensborowritersgroup.com/.
Kentucky Writers' Day at http://artscouncil.ky.gov/KentuckyArt/Event_WritersDay.htm
Poezia Writing Groups -- http://www.katerinaklemer.com/poezia.html
Eagle Creek Writers Group -- https://eaglecreekwg.wordpress.com/
This is just a random sampling. I know there are others out there, and as I find more, I'll list them. We can be a solitary bunch, us writers, and we need to hear other voices at times.
Keep writing, friends.
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Going through my bookmarked writing sites, seeing which I can jettison, which I need (or want) to keep. I found another one that may help with trimming bloated writing:
This blog has a list of 297 words or phrases the author has identified as unnecessary. As I've pointed out in previous posts, remember that there are no absolutes when writing (even this one), so consider this hit list as suggestions. If you have a character who uses some of these phrases, then that's part of that character's style. Talking is different from writing, and we all have turns of phrase that may not pass a grammar check. So, take this list of words with a grain of salt (cliché used intentionally).
Here is a link to a previous post on this subject:
Keep writing, friends.
Sunday, April 3, 2016
A good friend of mine and I saw Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice recently, and he summed it up succinctly with these words: "I'm ambivalent."
Now, why am I writing about a movie in my writing blog? Because movie-making, like writing, requires editing, and that's what kept B v S from being a great, or even a good, movie. Oh, it was entertaining, and I was involved with the characters, but it had its faults.
First, transitions. When we're writing, we need to make sure that when we leave one scene and head to the next, it's a logical flow. In B v S we'd slip into a strange scene, which, of course, it's a comic book movie, but we should be able to tell when we're hitting a dream sequence. Couldn't always tell with this movie. Some scenes seemed to have been inserted randomly at times.
Pacing. Yes, it's an exciting movie, but there was little white space. The punctuation was off. All stories have a rhythm, and with B v S the rhythm was off.
Mood and tone. To make sure we understood, they deemed it necessary to bombard us with music that ranged from bombastic to pathos. It was like a wall of sound through the entire movie. Think of that as too many exclamation points or too many adverbs or adjectives. If you've set your scene up well and you have interesting characters, you don't need to pound into us the fact that godlike beings are warring.
Motivation. Loved Ben Affleck's turn as the Batman, and he had this whole "all-powerful-alien-who-could-destroy-us" attitude about Superman, so I get that he wanted to stop the Big Blue Boy Scout, but Clark (Superman) fell in with everyone else in thinking that Batman was a menace. He's an investigative reporter, so let him investigate and see what the Bat's really up to. And, really, Lex cons Supes into taking out the Bat just by holding his mom hostage? Really? Seen that old set-up before. Supes should've, too.
Also, watch your length when writing. Weighing in at two-and-a-half hours, B v S felt heavy, bloated. Could've benefited from some trimming.
These are just a few things to keep in mind with your writing. Think about it especially if you see your book as a movie.
Check out a couple of my other posts on editing:
Keep writing, friends.