Elements of Craft: The Syntactical Contortions of “Creative” Dialogue Tags

I would really, really, really, love it if people took to the habit of understanding the meaning of words before they used them. I know it’s a lot to ask, but bear with me anyway.

You want to get creative? That’s fine. Lots of ways to do that. Dialogue tags are, however, most definitely not the way to do it.

Who decided that “said” and “asked” and “whispered” and other clear, simple, useful tags needed to be replaced by “creative” tags like “moaned” and “laughed” and “smiled.”

Really? Who? Because we have to talk. We really do.

You’re setting a bad trend. And here’s why: Writers will go forth and use words that don’t mean what they’re trying to make them mean. Our language is already dying the death of a thousand cuts as certain factions contort words into near meaninglessness—it’s linguistic matricide (h/t Tom Kratman)—and while what I’m about to rant about doesn’t quite reach the level of insanity of making things mean whatever we want them to mean, each according to his or her own personal philosophy, well, folks, you’re not helping.

Why take speech tags that are almost invisible to readers (but still function as a valuable signpost for clarity), and turn them into blaring neon signs that take the focus off the dialogue, yank the reader out by the short hairs, and scream, “Look at me! I’m being so creative I’m ignoring what a word actually means! Love me, damn it!”Continue Reading

A rejection is an opinion, not a death sentence (part one)

“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” – Norman Vincent Peale

One-point-two million words.

Two-hundred-and-seventy stories.

Six editors.

Why sign up to write six stories in six weeks without knowing a single thing about what you were going to be asked to write? Well, one answer is, to see if I could do it. The other answer—the real answer—was that what I really, really, really, wanted was the feedback.

I went into this expecting to sell nothing. As a first-timer, I knew that the likelihood that any of my stories would make the buy pile was going to be extremely low. And I was fine with that. What I wanted was an insight into the editorial process of some real pros, people who have been doing this for decades.

When you want to learn, learn from the best.

Read the rest here: Rejection 101: A Writer’s Guide

Part Two.

My first post at superversivesf.com

Check out my first post for the wonderful people at Superversive SF.

Hard Sci-fi Made Me Cry

Tired of the remakes, the reboots, the “let’s see how much more blood we can squeeze out of this turnip” output of today’s Hollywood? I think you’ll find Passengers a refreshing change.

Seeing the light on romance

I have to admit, the last person I thought I’d see with an essay in Ardeur: 14 Writers on the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Series was L. Jagi Lamplighter.

I’d read several of the books in the Anita Blake series after a co-worker got me hooked. I did not stay a devotee of the series. I honestly can’t recall where the series lost me, and I really didn’t think much of it. Most series romances lose me a few books in. “It’s not you. It’s me.” Honest.

Lamplighter was someone whose reputation I was aware of and whose short stories I’ve enjoyed. I may or may not have read her back when I was reading just for pleasure (and the fact that I can’t recall if I had or hadn’t isn’t noteworthy either, trust me–ask me what I had for dinner last night; go ahead, I dare you!). I do miss the days when I never had to worry about reading-as-a-writer. Reading-as-a-reader is more fun. Honestly, if you love reading, and you’re considering writing, turn back now. “Danger, Will Robinson, danger.” (This is not a condition unique to writing. Beware of turning any avocation into a vocation.) But, I digress…

This enlightening essay is called “Dating the Monsters: Why It Takes a Vampire or a Wereguy to Win the Heart of the Modern It Girl” and here’s a woefully brief excerpt. To my happy surprise, said essay wasn’t about the failings of men. I almost did a happy dance.

Lamplighter offers tremendous insight into what sweeps Romance readers off their collective feet and how the “needs of drama” differ from the “needs of culture.”

I agree that these needs have been at war and I think they’ve claimed the metaphorical lives of many stories that would’ve otherwise been great. And not just in Romance (or in romance) but in all kinds of fiction.

In short–so that you’ll seek it out for yourself and benefit from Lamplighter’s extremely well-written reasoning–this essay is about what makes happy readers. So, if you’ve just finished the latest “must read” with the fastest, smartest, biggest, baddest, kickass female protagonist out there, and you’re wondering what that awful aftertaste is all about, then set aside some time for this lone gem of literary criticism and insight.