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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Use What You Learned in School

We all learned about spelling and grammar in grade school, but how important is that to us as writers? It’s very important. If you want to be respected as a writer/author then you must adhere to the basic rules of the written word. Some readers are willing to overlook errors as long as the story keeps them interested. Others simply won’t tolerate it.

The English language has several words that, when spelled differently, mean completely different things. ‘There, they’re and their’ are some examples. “Henry hung his hat on the rack over there.” ‘There’ is a location. “George and Jake simply held onto their hats.” Spelled that way, the word shows ownership. Henry mentioned to his date that he wished they could stay longer. “I know” she replied, “but they’re needed at another event.” They’re is the same as “they are.” There are several more examples too. Your, you’re, we’re and we are a few. ‘Whose’ indicates ownership while who’s poses the question “Who is?”

Now that we know how important proper spelling and grammar is, I have something else to say about the subject. You don’t always have to follow the rules! In real life, people don’t always use proper terms in the course of normal conversation. Locales influence the way we speak. In the northern parts of the country soft drinks are called ‘pops’ while in the south they’re called ‘sodas.’

Education also has a great influence in how we speak. A college grad is going to speak differently than someone with limited secondary education. So if one of your characters has a limited education, or was brought up in a certain area of the country, make them sound authentic. Go ahead and break the rules with their dialogue. You wouldn’t expect a man that grew up in the mountain backwoods of Tennessee to speak like a college professor would you? Of course not, he’ll use slang words and improper grammar.

I’ve often referenced the dialogue that Elmore Leonard used in his novels. His characters are rough, and street smart. Their dialogue indicates their tough personas. It works very well too because they’re all colorful characters. Use whatever dialogue works for your characters and follow proper grammar when it’s needed, but you don’t have to all of the time.

Now go ahead and start writing that great novel kicking around in your head!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Find Your Voice

Do you watch ‘The Voice?’ After missing a couple of seasons, I started watching it again. I must say that this seasons crop of entertainers is the most talented I’ve seen since the shows debut in 2011. There have been ‘steals’ where one singer may be dropped by their coach in favor of another only to be ‘stolen’ by another coach, who this season are Adam Levine, Pharrell Williams, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton. After understandably rough starts, each and every singer has found their voice.

Authors have a voice too. Do you have a favorite author? I have several favorite authors for varying reasons. Of course they must write well, but I might find a particular authors’ dialogue compelling. I might find the personal life of the protagonist interesting, even though he or she may be involved in the investigation of a murder. Some writers pay close attention to detail. Others present ideas that may seem fantastical, but they present them in such a way that it sounds believable.

Of course you enjoy particular authors because of their stories. But why do you return to the same author over and over? Besides the stories they tell, you like their style. You like how they tell the story or paint the picture. I’ll bet that as you read a particular book, you can hear the characters speaking to one another, or maybe directly to you if it’s written in first person. You enjoy the authors ‘voice.’

When you write, you have to find your voice. No matter what genre you write in, the reader has to be able to hear YOU. Express yourself in your writing. Develop your own style. Explore your own emotions so that you can express them in your characters. Are you detail oriented? Then be that way in your stories. Do you like to use slang in your characters speech? Then do it! I’ve mentioned this before, but the late Elmore Leonard used wonderful dialogue in his stories of crime, murder and mystery. You knew his characters had hard edges to them, and were rough, possibly seedy simply because of their speech. When you read one of his books you can hear his voice.

So why don’t you sit down ‘write’ now and start writing or pecking away at your keyboard and express yourself through your characters, scenery and dialogue. Find YOUR voice!

The reason for this blog is to help you, as an aspiring writer, to improve your art. Yes, you are an artist just as any painter, musician or singer is. And remember, if you write, you’re a writer. If you have a published book, even if you’re self published, you’re an author.

Not only do I want to help you improve your craft, I also want to help you get your name out there. If you want to be a featured author in this blog, let me know. If you want to be interviewed in this blog, let me know. Subscribe to this blog or find me on Facebook. Simply search my name.

Good luck to you.

Don Bordua
#BorduasCorner #writing #authors #books

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Research, Research, Research

I love a good mystery or crime novel. Do you read ‘dedication’ and ‘acknowledgement’ pages when you get a new book to read? The dedication page is the one where the author dedicates the book to a certain person or persons, usually someone that played an important role in the writer’s life or someone that supported their project in some way.

The acknowledgement page is where the author gives acknowledgement to the people that provided resources, information and aid in the creation of their book. These people are usually experts that provide the help/information required for the story to be authentic and believable.

Some authors, John Grisham and Scott Turrow for example, are attorneys that have extensive legal knowledge and a wealth of case histories in their heads. A lay person trying to write a crime novel who has no legal experience in such matters, have to rely on experts for information. This falls under research. You must search through printed material and rely on personal interviews.

Another favorite author of mine has a main character that is a medical examiner. In order to accurately describe forensic medicine and investigation practices, she needs the expertise provided by knowledgeable people in that field. She also utilizes experts from the FBI and various police agencies.

I have yet to write a crime novel, perhaps I never will. Who knows? I write in the paranormal genre. I already new much of the beliefs of werewolves and vampires, but I also researched more information on the subject.

Borough Hall has it’s beginnings in Bucharest Romania. As with others in my age group I learned very little about the European country in world history class while in high school. I had to glean the information I needed through research. I’ve traveled to tiny Luxembourg, passed through Germany to the Netherlands, and took a day trip to Brussels, Belgium. That’s the only personal experience I’ve had in Europe.

In order to set some of the scenes for my story, I had to describe them. How do you do that without knowing the scenery yourself? You research it. I use Wikipedia often for my research. I read about the history of the country and viewed/downloaded some of the images provided there. I also scoured the internet for more images. This gave me the resources I needed in order to provide accurate descriptions of the scenes for my readers. Look at the image above. I used images like that in my first novel, and described it in detail. Such descriptions help the reader see the scenes in their mind.

The bottom line is that unless you have personal knowledge or experience in the field in which you are writing, you’re going to do thorough research for your stories. I believe that you can never learn too much. Even researching for your writing, you’ll acquire knowledge that you’ll probably not forget. So get out there, do your research and

Good luck with all of your writing endeavors.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Who is this anyway?

One of the most common errors in story telling is naming a character wrongly. That is, after writing for some time about different characters and how they interact with each other, you accidentally misname one or more of them.

For example; David and Charlie both have designs on Cheryl. David arranges a casual date with her. While on the date, Cheryl asks David’s character a question. “So tell me Charlie, when will you be done shooting the scene?” Charlie ran his fingers through his hair. “It’s been pretty rough, but we should be done in a day or two.”

Do you see what I mean? David is in the scene, not Charlie. This happens more often than you’d think. It usually doesn’t occur until after you’ve been working on something for some time. In the beginning, you’re very clear about your characters, what they look like and how they act, etc. But after you’ve lived with them for awhile, you start typing automatically and sometimes your fingers just misname someone.

Obviously this can be a real problem for the reader as it leads to confusion. It can also take away from your credibility as a writer. If you have an editor they’ll most likely come to your rescue. If your goal is to self-publish or to become an Indie writer, it’s entirely up to you unless you hire an editor/proof reader.

How do you avoid this? Often mistakes such as this are caused by fatigue. When you’re tired your mind doesn’t work as well, you aren’t as sharp and alert as you should be. Take a break. Lie down. If you’ve been up most of the night writing, call it a day and go to bed. Proof read! Don’t wait until your project is finished, you’ll be sadly disappointed. You don’t have to read all that you’ve written over and over, but it’s a good idea to proof read your previous days work. It’s also a good idea to have someone else read over your work. Fresh eyes can pick up errors before yours will.

Another common error which is related to this is description errors. If ‘Isabella’ has long thick, wavy black hair don’t suddenly make her a blonde with straight hair. This often happens when we leave a character for some time and then bring them back into the story. Refer to your back ground document, often. That document that has all of the character descriptions, locations, and miscellaneous things that are important to your story.

I hope I’ve given you some helpful information.

Good luck with all of your writing endeavors.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

He's handsome and she's sexy but what are they like?

You can describe a characters physical appearance in order to give your readers an image of him or her. Hair color, eye color body build and facial descriptions all let your reader know what your character looks like.

None of those things tell what the actual character is like. Simple things like their preferred dress can help. A character that traditionally wears dark or black clothing might indicate that the character is a ‘dark’ person. If a woman repeatedly dresses in flowery dresses or frilly clothes, she might have a fun, flirty personality. Or if your female character usually wears sophisticated business suits, then she must be intelligent and business like. If she adds a blouse the shows a little and pairs it with a smart skirt with a slit, then she’s also has her feminine side.

Facial expressions often indicate characters traits. Men leering, women walking provocatively, smiling, sneering, etc. all give clues too a particular characters personality. Help the reader understand what your character is all about by using clues.

Provide some background information. Maybe your character has flash backs to an earlier time in their life or a particular event. This can help the reader understand your character better, help them understand why the character acts the way they do. Perhaps they had a devastating or traumatic event that made them completely opposite to what you’d expect.

The protagonist in a series of books by one of my favorite authors is an Italian female. She loves to cook, especially if she’s under stress. You can often ‘see’ her shopping for select ingredients for a meal later that night. The character is under stress a lot. While she’s a chief medical examiner, she’s almost always in the middle of a dangerous situation, coming close to being a victim herself.

So beyond the physical descriptions let your reader know what each particular character is like through their mode of dress, facial expressions, how they carry themselves, and language use or dialogue.

Finally, if you’d like to be a featured author on this blog find me on Facebook and PM me.

Happy writing!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

He Said, She Said; The Road to Boredom

Dialogue is so important in a novel. Dialogue can create emotion. In writing, anger can be easily expressed with an exclamation point. Excitement can be expressed the same way. “Eureka! I’ve found it!” and “So help me, if you come near her again I’ll kill you!” are two examples.

In my novel Borough Hall, the setting started out in 14th century Bucharest, Romania. The dialogue had to be old world, with little to no abbreviations, such as using the phrase ‘we can’t’ instead of ‘we cannot.’ It was also important to keep that same dialogue going throughout the story even though it covered several centuries. It was important to me that the characters maintained their ‘old world’ personas.

When you’re in a room with any number of people, it’s easy to keep track of who’s saying what to whom. When you’re reading a story, it’s more difficult. If the story has three characters talking to each other, they have to be identified with names and you have to let the reader know who is talking. Let’s say you have a woman talking to two gentlemen. “Where are you from?” John asked Sarah. “I’m originally from Salem, but I recently moved here.” Alan asked her “What brought you to this sleepy town?” You know that John and Alan each asked Sarah a question. You also know that she answered merely by the response. I didn’t have to say ‘Sarah replied, or said.’

The use of ‘he said, she said’ can be abused. Repetitive use of such verbiage can quickly lead to boredom for the reader.  Obviously if you only have two characters talking with each other, it isn’t necessary for you to tell the reader who is talking all of the time. It should flow just as in real life. However, sometimes you want to add emotion to the statements. Example: Michelle hung her head. “I don’t know what I’m going to do about him” she said with a sigh. You can tell that Michelle is in a situation that she is having a hard time dealing with, and it’s weighing heavily on her.

Dialogue can also help build a certain type of character. If you’ve ever read any Elmore Leonard you know what I mean. Most of his characters are gruff and their language reflects that through their dialogue. His books are most often crime novels and the characters are on the tough, sometimes seedy side. ‘Street language’ has a large role in his books. I love reading him.

That’s my post for the week. Take some time to check out Borough Hall: Conversion.

Also take a look at my featured author of the week:

Carrie Aulenbacher, author of The Early Bird Café (on SALE starting Feb. 1st)

Ms. Aulenbacher also contributes to iUrban an online freelance magazine that helps authors become more known.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Set the Scene

What makes a movie good? Is it the plot, the action, the drama, the comedy, or the music? It’s all of those things of course. Have you ever watched a movie and after some time you decided that it’s a really bad movie and left? I think everyone has seen at least one bad movie in their lifetime. Chances are that the movie was based on a good book. I’m also willing to bet that the movie had a bad screenplay. It simply wasn’t written well.

So much goes into making a movie. The actors have to play their roles well. They don’t even have to be well known actors, as long as they play the characters well. The music has to fit the story or scene. The sets have to be right. In case of a western, you have to have vintage sets, such as a ranch or old west town and vintage costumes. This may be a stretch but can you imagine the local sheriff walking around in a tuxedo with a six shooter hanging from his waist?

As movie goers we can watch the action being played out in front of us. We can SEE the setting. You can see the beautiful mountains in “The Sound of Music” or Tara burning down in “Gone with the Wind.” Reading a novel, we don’t have that advantage. The author has to describe the scene so we can visualize it as the author sees it in his or her mind while creating it.

Let’s say a lone medieval female character is walking through the woods at night. What is she wearing? What’s the weather like? What’s the mood? Obviously there’s a big difference between a clear star filled night and a “dark and stormy” night as Snoopy might write. So our heroine may be scared of something other than the thunder claps roaring above. The wind might be making strange sounds in the trees. Adding to the scene, maybe the wind is making her dress billow and the white top of the dress flare about, and disheveling her hair. As an author you have to describe that scene.

In the next scene the character arrives at her destination, a large room inside of a castle. There is a long heavy table in the center surrounded by padded wooden chairs. She’s having an argument with her lover. The mood is dark and charged. Do you have lots of sconces burning to give lots of light? No. But you might have a fire burning in the chimney, thus creating moving shadows on the cold stone walls of the room. Maybe a chair or two have been knocked over. What is her lover wearing? Do you want him sexy and partially dressed?

I’ve already said that they’re having an argument. Describe the action. They’re being physical with each other and shouting. Communicate that to the reader. Describe how he’s grabbing her and how she’s trying to fend him off. What are they saying (or shouting) to each other? The setting, action and dialogue all create the scene for that reader. Don’t be afraid of detail. Help the reader move from one scene to another.

Happy Writing!

Borough Hall

I have a new feature:

Author of the week!

Aria Michaels