About Writing on Wednesdays: I’m Confused, Where’s That Comma Go Again?

Grammar, I understand, is an important tool in a writer’s arsenal. I haven’t seen anyone ‘taste’ grammar as I have seen them do with a word, but still I’m sure it’s at least as important as the words used to write a story. It is up to the writer to set the mood, rhythm and voice of their work with the grammar they use.

During the course of my self-education I have learned commas are important, and complicated. According to Margaret Shertzer, author of The Elements of Grammar, there are thirty-one different ways to use a comma.  Strunk and White devotes six and a half pages to them in their book, The Elements of Style. *Shudder* No need to cringe, I have no intention of going over them. If you’re in to self-torture go ahead.

I ran across this definition of commas from World English Dictionary:

the punctuation mark(,) indicating a slight pause in the spoken sentence and used where there is a listing of items or to separate a nonrestrictive clause or phrase from a main clause

I like that description. Short, sweet and to the point. Me, being me, can’t leave it alone. No, I need more description. Back I go to Shertzer, Strunk and White; my eyes cross and I get a bit of a buzz in my head while I work out all the intricacies of what you can and can’t do with commas. Commas, I’m pretty sure, are the invention of some little minor demon in hell to give even the devil a headache.

Commas are misused, according to an article I read about them not too long ago. I’m pretty sure that’s true. I know I abuse them in a gleeful manner on a regular basis, and no wonder. Who wouldn’t want to abuse such prudish, uptight punctuation? Besides it’s so easy to do. Evidently.

According to another article I read the use of a comma is up to the writer.  What?! I’ve stressed over my commas, colons and semi-colons for nothing? But wait, according to this same writer they’re misused. I’m scratching my head.

My conclusion is there are basic rules for commas as indicated in the dictionary’s definition. The how of using a comma seems to depend on who you talk to or read, what you’re writing, who you’re writing for (as in your publisher, etc.), your audience and if you’re willing to say kiss my asterisk, I’m putting that dang comma here, so there.

Do you use commas correctly? Or do you enjoy to abusing those suckers? Do you stress over commas? Are you a comma-phobe, like me? Did you know you can italicize a comma? You sure can, here it is:

English: A normal and an italicized comma in T...

 

The articles I’ve referenced:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/09/fanfare-for-the-comma-man/

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/21/the-most-comma-mistakes/?src=tp

Peace.

About Writing On Wednesdays: Boogie To The Vampire Vibes

Edward in the sunlight was shocking. I couldn’t get used to it, though I’d been staring at him all afternoon. His skin, white despite the faint flush from yesterday’s hunting trip, literally sparkled, like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface. He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare. His glistening, pale lavender lids were shut, though of course he didn’t sleep. A perfect statue, carved in some unknown stone, smooth like marble, glittering like crystal.      ~Stephenie Meyer in Twilight

Experts gathered together to discuss more on my favorite subject of vampires: Faith Hunter, Kalayna Price, Theresa Bane, Tony Ruggiero.  We had lots of fun in this discussion. This is also the last post about Stellarcon.

Theresa Bane is a Vampirologist and author of Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology. “Vampires prey on the most precious in society,” explains Theresa. As an expert on vampires she doesn’t believe in the blood drinking fiends or the psychic ones.

The concept of the psychic vampire evolved in the sixties from slang such as ‘negative energies’ or getting certain ‘vibes’.

Those who practice vampirism are called lifestylers. The police call Theresa for help on some of their cases but her expertise is only with the vampire myth. Really? Modern day police actually have to know about vampires? She couldn’t tell us about any of the cases but talk about being freaked out.

Instead of advising them to sharpen some stakes and approach said vampires only in daylight she advises them to call Michelle Belanger who is a lifestyler. I’ve seen Michelle in several specials on TV including: The History Channel, A&E and on the Reelzchannel Twilight specials.

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About Writing on Wednesdays: What Kind Of Character Do You Have?

Faith Hunter, Ed Schubert and Larry Correa discussed their thoughts about character development in this panel at Stellarcon.

The focus was on the protagonist and how to create him or her with the something extra that makes a reader’s eyes pop out. Something more than eye color, hair color, weight or height. The something that makes them keep reading and want more.

You love your character. S/he is the best thing since sliced bread. Naaaannnh! This is a huge red flag that your character is bor-ing. Part of the story is the flawed character that needs improvement. To keep the reader interested your character must grow and change through the end of the book.

However, your character can’t just change without warning. Something has to make the character see him/herself clearly. This is the point where the character transitions from good to bad or vice versa. The character must make a choice that determines his or her path for the rest of the book. A choice that helps decide how your book ends.

Readers must be able to relate to your characters. Some ways to humanize characters: have them fall short of a goal; have low self-esteem; break a code of honor; unable to complete a task; make them clumsy; have bad luck; have ill-health; have a phobia; not the sharpest marble; be shy or walk away from something because it’s too hard.

Flaws to give your character: they’re judgemental; they have a temper; they’re impatient; they’re arrogant; they’re introverted; they’re a loner; they’re overconfident; they’re weak; they’re ignorant; too rigid and won’t change easily; prejudiced against race, religion, etc.; they’re amoral or too promiscuous.

A deeply flawed character discussed was Dexter from Showtime. A TV show based on a series of books. He is an example of a bad character who is fun to write. If you are not familiar with the show or books he is a serial killer.

I saw the first two seasons of Dexter before I cut Showtime loose. The premise was his stepfather saw the trait in him and directed his energies to killing other serial killers. The twist is he works for the police. I liked the show and now I’m thinking I should check out the books although I’m sure they’re nothing like the TV show.

Characters who walk a very narrow line between good and bad are Anne Stuart’s stock in trade.  In general her male protagonists are amoral but somehow she always manages to make them likeable if a little scary. True love puts them on the right path. Of course it’s a wide path.

 If you’re interested in these type books try Anne’s books from the Ice series or Ritual Sins. In case you don’t know and you’re interested, Jeff Lindsay writes the Dexter books.

Be careful when writing a character like Dexter or Bastian from Black Ice. It would be all too easy to antagonize your readers instead of enticing them to read more.

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About Writing On Wednesdays: What New Writers Want to Know

This Stellarcon panel about new writers consisted of Ed Schubert, Laurel Ann Hill and Tony Ruggiero.

There are no two ways about it; Laurel Ann Hill is an eccentric lady. At various panels she showed up with a big, fuzzy Russian hat on her head and at others she had dolls. The Russian hat I understood because that one room had temperatures colder than Siberia.

The various dolls weren’t props for her books. Maybe they were a type of security blanket? She wasn’t a big talker during the panels but she did enliven the room with just her presence.

The panel didn’t discuss the obvious like butt in seat, pen to paper. Instead they offered other tidbits for us to consider such as ways to look differently at our writing. 

One panelist, Ed Schubert, suggested putting your work away for a week or two. If possible for as long as a month or two. When you go back to it, it’s fresh.

Another way to keep your work fresh is to read your work out loud. This method allows you to view the story from another perspective. It also alerts you when a sentence is awkwardly phrased.

The panel agreed if you’re a serious writer then you must go to workshops. I’m not going to lie; it’s scary. The first one I ever went to was at Stellarcon. Intimidated to say the least, I was so out of my league it wasn’t funny.

The panel was comprised of professional editors, authors and publishers ready to critique the 100 words or so that we’d just wrote. Scary stuff but our privacy was taken very seriously, at least in the workshop I was in.

It was worth the mild panic attack when I had to read what I had just written off the top of my head because I walked away with a wealth of knowledge and a surprising bit of confidence.

Save your dollars because there’s only one problem with some workshops and that’s the expense. Well known writers charge out the rear for a workshop. We are talking at least $700 and higher for two or three days.

I don’t know about you but I can’t afford that right now. Some of them do offer videos that are cheaper and the cheapest of all would be the workshops offered at various cons. They are included with the cost of the con so you might want to check out what cons are held in your surrounding areas and see if they offer a workshop. 

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About Writing on Wednesdays: Rules For Writers

Every writer has his or her own approach to writing but when we write the same basic rules apply to all of us. Most rules are inviolate, some are more like guidelines while other rules are made to be broken.

As writer’s we want to use our voice to create characters and worlds that has readers coming back for more.  Whether we break or bend the rules or not we are manipulating them to create our own unique voice.

The trick is to know which is what. Got that? The first rule before breaking the rules is to know the rules. You have to know what you’re doing and why before you decide not to do it.

The Ten Rules About Writing panel was hosted by Amy Sturgis, Faith Hunter and Allen Wold at Stellarcon.  They had a lot more than ten and I added to their list. The distinction between rules that can not be broken or bent and the ones that can are my own.

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Curio’s Past, Shhh.