Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Gun Metaphors in Everyday Language

By Elaine L. Orr

As a mystery writer, I have learned more about guns than I ever thought I would. I don't use them a lot in my books, because I write traditional or cozy mysteries. Murders are more often spur-of-the-moment action or are committed with items that could be in a household. Think fireplace poker or a shove down the stairs.

The other day I heard someone say, "Don't go off half-cocked," -- an expression my dad used. He was telling us not to jump to conclusions or act without thinking something through.

That led my mind to wander to the many gun-related expressions in American English.These metaphors crop up more often in a country that started with a revolution and then bore the scars of a civil war than, for example, in Canada, where the country was settled in a more orderly fashion. I'm not attaching a value judgment to either situation, it's simply a difference.

Here are a few expressions that come to mind quickly:

Don't shoot your mouth off -- advice to think before you speak.

Keep your powder dry -- be careful or look ahead

Shoot from the hip -- acting quickly, without thinking clearly

Big guns or big shots -- important people in a business or town

Set your sights on something -- establish a goal

Come under fire -- take criticism for an opinion or action

Take flak -- see come under fire

Dodge a bullet -- fortunate to avoid a problem or accident

Silver bullet -- an almost magic solution, as in there's no silver bullet 

to solving a plot problem in a novel.

Naturally, I'm not the first to put together such a list. When I was considering examples, I came across a National Public Radio transcript on the topic -- Gun Metaphors Deeply Embedded in English Language. It's worth a read if the topic interest you. Feel free to add more examples in the comments.

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To learn more about Elaine L. Orr, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter 

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

The Reality Balancing Act

By Elaine L. Orr

Reality is not the first concern when writing fiction, but individual scenes have to be realistic --- within a book's  premise or setting.

If a book deals with mayhem or murder, an author can't describe a massive wound or injury and then have the character recover in a couple of days. The mean kid at school is not suddenly a kind volunteer (without substantial intervention), and no one gets across New York City in ten minutes.

As a traditional/cozy mystery writer, I've created sleuths who have (to me) interesting jobs -- real estate appraiser, landscaper, graphic artist, and small-town police chief. I also like my characters to be involved in things besides solving a mystery. Unless it's your job, who would stop all activity to pursue suspects?

In fact, I once made the amteur sleuth a teacher. That left too little time for crime-solving, so she broke her arm and had to be off work for a couple of weeks.

Wat about those other "things" sleuths do? 

On my website, I say this:

     "What makes Elaine’s fiction different from other traditional mysteries? Some might say the dry humor (only a few say lame), but she thinks it is the empathy her characters show to others. Fiction can’t ‘lecture’ readers. But it can contain people whose paths we cross every day — whether we know it or not. The bright colleague or grouchy neighbor who’s actually in severe emotional pain, the families struggling to provide enough food for their children, the vet with PTSD. While characters solve crimes or plan silly fundraisers, they can tacitly let us know there is a world beyond those activities. And maybe they can make it a little better."

For me, reality is recognizing the world around us isn't perfect and quietly doing something about it. However, people read fiction in part to escape reality. So, if one character runs a food pantry, part of the attention to it is through a silly fundraiser.

I think one reason I like M.C. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth books is his involvement in things around him beyond the crime he's solving. Admitedly, sometimes his fixes are pretty unlikely. But, he is a constable (at least when he's demoted) so he can do a lot.

None of a character's 'other activities' are meaningful unless they tie into the story. I've learned it's easier to have a real estate appraiser involved in many activities and get all over town than for a graphic designer. But even bad guys could need a TikTok video.

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To learn more about Elaine L. Orr, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter 

Monday, October 16, 2023

Twelth Anniversary of Blogging. Who Knew?

By Elaine L. Orr

On October 16, 2011, I wrote the first post on this blog, Irish Roots Author. Its title was "First time blogger at what age?!" Below is the post:

I have long been a writer, but have never blogged.  It took me a couple years to get a Facebook account, and I still prefer email -- faster and fewer distractions.  Now that I have "retired" I am publishing more of what I write, and would love to have people read my books or articles.  Does that happen if you sit in a home office and keep the cat off the laptop keyboard (which kitty believes is her electric blanket)?  Nope. 

So, here I sit with not a clue about how to use a blog to my advantage and willing to learn.  Did I mention I can't update my web site because the host site (Yahoo) no longer allows Microsoft Front Page?  Learning new software for the web site and creating a blog?  Yikes.

If you had told me I'd write hundred of posts on reading, writing, publishing, and what I term musings, I would have scoffed. (There's a word you don't get to use too often.)

Early posts were shorter than most current ones. However, as I learned more about publishing, I tried to share what I'd learned. It didn't take me long to figure out that I might spend hours learning how to do something (load a book to a website, develop marketing ideas), but I would use two minutes of those hours to get the job done. I kept trying to compress the information so others could take less time.

Now I try to write mostly about writing, though I diverge or relate what I write to other aspects of life. The hardest part is to write steadily. I've set on three posts a month, and appreciate forcing myself to do it. When you write fiction, self-discipline is your friend and your nightmare.

No words of wisdom today. Just acknowledging that I'm still here, pushing the electronic pencil.

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To learn more about Elaine L. Orr, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter