Monday, March 28, 2022

Words Matter

I put this on Twitter this morning.

Mean humor is an oxymoron and has no place at the Oscars or anywhere else. People like #ChrisRock and #RickyGervais should try FUNNY jokes. We could all ask ourselves why we laugh at mean 'jokes.'

I certainly don't think we should hit one another when we disagree. But I get standing up for someone who is pained by an illness or disability. It is never humorous to mock someone. Ask any kid who's been bullied.

Largely in America, mean and mocking humor has been more popular than true humor, but the Internet has helped spread the habit.

As long as we laugh at meanness, people will continue to tell those 'jokes.'

To be clear, Chris Rock was not paying a compliment to Demi Moore, who was gorgeous in GI Jane -- as she always is. He was saying something unkind about Jada Pinkett Smith, who has alopecia, an auto-immune disease that makes hair growth difficult and spotty. You had only to watch Jada's face as he said it to know it was mean.

Some may say it's political correctness to object to mocking people with an illness. I disagree, as many did a few years ago when a presidential candidate made fun of a reporter with cerebral palsy. Why is Chris Rock's mockery of Jada Pinkett Smith any different?

Think about it. Words matter.

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Saturday, March 19, 2022

Getting to the Point

I've been told that at times my writing is too sparse. A reader won't want to know only that a sleuth walked into a large room with antiques from several eras, they'll think I should describe several of them. 

I can see doing that if it relates to the plot. I think it was one of John Sandford's Virgil Flowers books that featured a large antique desk. Fortunately, someone knew the design well enough to know that if you pushed a button, it could reveal a secret compartment. Thus, the detailed description of the desk was very relevant. Otherwise (to my way of thinking) who cares how many drawers were on the left or right?

Readers. Especially in historical fiction. How else can one know about a style of carriage or what a Victorian house looks like?

I like to let readers know things that reach the point-of-view character's senses. Are there odors in a house? Do the dead flies seen on a windowsill say something about how long a house has been vacant? If it's really cold out, it matters if the sleuth wears a sweater or a parka.

It matters if a character is tall or short, black or white, or if they speak with an accent. And many other things. If someone is a fastidious dresser, then they'd never pair a brown purse with blue shoes or a patterned tie with a striped suit. But if fashion choices aren't integral to the plot, how much does a reader need to know about an outfit?

I do mention a character's clothes some because color gives a good image. Also, the ghost in the Family History Mystery Series (books 2 and forward) can change clothes by thinking about it. His wardrobe choices add humor or occasionally let a reader know something before the sleuth (Digger) knows.

For the genre fiction I write now, I think I'll stick with more minimal description. More may come later...

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Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Start a Book -- Even if You Don't Know How

Authors can be asked what got them to take the idea of being an author to the reality of a published book. My standard answer is that you have to stop thinking about it and start writing -- write anything related to the story.

What does "write anything" mean?

You may have ideas for scenes, a conversation, or even the ending -- the latter is good to know, but not necessary when you start a book. What stops many writers is seeing how to build from scene to scene to something cohesive. 

Just write the scenes. They don't need to connect, you can change a character's name later, and you can reorder scenes. You can't do any of that until words go on the page.

The one thing you need be certain of is whose story you are telling. If you write mysteries, is it the sleuth's story or that of the murderer? You may have both points of view, but one is likely more prominent, and that determines a lot.

Do remember you aren't writing a screenplay in which the camera bounces from person to person. If you think you need ten points of view, you likely don't. It does depend on the story, but keep in mind that the more points of view you express the less there is to reveal over time. After all, the reader knows what most of the characters are thinking.

Here's a helpful article by Angela Ackerman on K.M. Weiland's blog. Ms. Ackerman tackles writing when you have no idea where to start. We've all been there and may stray back to that position from time to time.  

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To learn more about Elaine, go to or sign up for her newsletter