Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Language and Communication

If you are at all a Trekkie, like I am, you will be familiar with the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where Captain Picard and his crew came in contact with aliens whose language they didn’t understand and couldn’t processes through their translators. But ever diplomatic Picard made valiant efforts to try to communicate with them. They were able to determine the aliens were simply saying the names of people and places the humans wouldn’t know. Eventually they learned these aliens communicated by saying just the key figures of an event or story from their past. It would be like us communicating by saying, “The princess and the pea at Snow White’s cottage,” to say we experienced a lumpy mattress, and a resulting poor night’s sleep, while spending the night at a friend’s house.
Humans can and do develop a sort of shorthand speech. We are familiar enough with the stories and fables of our past that I don’t have to explain what I mean by the Princess and the pea or Snow White. Using the names and places is enough for you to know the story.
I’m sitting here thinking about this type of shorthand and wondering if I’ve ever even used it in my stories.
As human beings we all have it. A shared memory with someone and all either of you have to do is say a word or a phrase and you are either howling in laughter or somber or whatever the mood required.
For that matter do we ever transplant a person into a new place, a new culture, a new society then have some confusion ensue simply because words and phrases don’t translate well.
I’m reminded of one time, while I was in Tennessee, and I mentioned to a gentleman that the young lady I was with and I need to go to the store.
He offered to “carry” us there.
I could not for the life of me figure out why anyone would carry us that far or how he expected to carry two women. Besides we had a car.
It took several minutes to figure it out but the man meant he could “drive” us to the store.
I could also come up with examples of the differences between British English and American English. Anyone remember the Candid Camera episode (old version) were a young British woman was asking everyone she could for help finding a pharmacy, though she used a different word for it, which I don’t remember, so she could get a “plaster”. Of course, none of the American’s knew she was asking for a Band-Aid.
I’m also reminded of a movie about an airplane disaster and two young black men were unable to communicate with the stewardess or any of the other passengers and they needed help for some reason, though I could not decipher what it was.
Then, of all people, the character played by Barbara Billingsly (Leave It to Beaver’s Mom) was able to understand them, carry on a conversation and tell the stewardess they needed some aspirin.
Like Picard and the aliens he couldn’t understand, have we ever put a character into a confusing situation simply because they didn’t understand what those around them were talking about? Or the above mentioned airplane disaster where two men couldn’t communicate with those around them because their language didn’t make sense to anyone else?
Language is words. It plays a major role in our writing. Think about how we use our words differently and how that can affect understanding and clear communication while you’re writing your stories.
Smile. Make the day a brighter day.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Names part 2

On reading, what Konnie wrote last week, I got to thinking some myself about characters and the names we give them. I have given some of my characters some unusual names, but generally not uniquely spelled unless I had a source outside of Spell Check for it.

Yeah, that’s right. Unless my source come from somewhere outside of Spell Check, I spell it the way my computer says it should be spelled. And I’ve yet to use the names of Bryon  (or even Brian), Konnie (or Connie), and Bonnie.

That’s not to say I haven’t used some of our siblings names. I have. Two, in fact. The youngest two. I haven’t even used our oldest sisters name, but that’s because I’m positive I couldn’t spell that moniker in full without using a newspaper headline any more than our mother could the day our sister was born.

Way back in high school, I had one teacher try to tell me I was dropping an ‘e’ on my middle name. I looked him right in the eye and said, “Would you like to see my birth certificate?”

He conceded.

Around the same time as that incident, I got into a conversation with another girl at school and well, I can’t remember why it came up, but I mentioned my middle name was spelled unusual. She asked what it was, I told her, and she said, “Oh, so it’s spelled L-E-I-G-H instead of L-E-E.”

I replied, “Neither.”

Whereupon she said, she’d have guessed “Li” except there is clearly no Asian ancestry in me.

“Yeah, well, that’s not right either.”

And another teacher complained about my own atrocious spelling. (Thank God for Spell Check!) And I smiled at him and pointed out how my middle name is spelled, how Konnie’s first and middle is spelled, and how the oldest of our brother’s first name is spelled, then I informed him that our big sister’s name was spelled correctly because our mother got it from the paper’s headlines that day. Then I told him, “I think it’s in my genes!”

But Konnie does have a point, not all of us feel the same way about our names, but have we ever considered how our characters feel about their names?

What’s the story behind your main character’s name? Does it have some effect on the character?

I do have one character where there is a rather detailed story behind her name, and it goes back to her very existence. It does have a bearing on the story, and on her. Have you ever had a character like that?

Or have you ever had a character who was sensitive in some way about their name? Or maybe hated their name? Sometimes kids don’t like the names their parents saddled them with. How does that make the character feel? How do they react to it?

Or how about a story with a sort “A Boy Named Sue” scenario? How does the fellow feel about that? And what does he do?

Then too, the reverse can occur. Does the fact that your female character has a masculine sounding name effect who they are? Or do they take it in stride?

Names do mean something in real life, they should mean something for characters, and affect them the same way.

Happy Writing everyone!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


I quite recently read several things about names. I have to tell you, I’ve had some people tell me I’m too touchy on this topic.
I once asked someone how to spell the name of a relative, I was told, “it’s just a name, sound it out.”
I’m sorry, it’s not “just a name”, it is that person’s moniker. It is part of who that person is. I might be more of a stickler than most about how my name is spelled, but I have reason to be.
One of my earliest school memories evolves a teacher telling me, several times I was spelling my name wrong, which I repeatedly refuted. She finally looked at me quite sternly and said, “You’re Bryon’s sister aren’t you?”
I’d like to point out that is exactly how my brother spells Brian. So yes, both of us have common names spelled exceptionally.
The teacher decided to let me spell Connie, with a K. Then she turned to Bonnie and asked, “How do you spell your name?”
Of course we thought she was crazy. How else are you going to spell Bonnie?
Mind you, we were five at the time.
In high school I had an experience where someone needed to write my name down and didn’t bother to ask me how to spell my rather common sounding first or middle name, but then did ask how to spell my last name.
I’d like to point out that our maiden name was a combination of two simple four letter words. I replied. “Just like it sounds,” I repeated it for emphasis. “You spelled the rest of it wrong.”
I then had to explain how she misspelled my first and middle names. She also had to write down my brother’s and Bonnie’s names, leaving her to believe our whole family had weirdly spelled names. (Only Bryon’s first name and Bonnie’s middle name, and no, just us three, in our whole family.)
Now, as an older woman, and aspiring author, I’d seriously looked at the notion of a pen name, but was told in a nutshell, why monkey with something as memorable as what I already have.
As a young adult, a group I belonged to made a phone list that listed everyone’s name with their nickname. Each listing read: first name “nickname” last name. Mine read: Konnie “Konnie with a K” then my last name. Even after I moved out my Dad got phone calls asking for “Konnie with a K”.
I also have another reason to stress how my name is spelled. “C” Connie Enos, is the wife of my husband’s younger brother. I tell people if they spell my name incorrectly they have my kids’ aunt, not me.
But as I think about how names are spelled, I wonder about how our characters feel about it. How my name is spelled is part of who I am. I find it rude to misspell it, when it’s intentional or done repeatedly. I do understand mistakes. But as strongly as I feel about my name, I’ve never written a character with the same intense feelings nor have I had any problems with changing a character’s name as a story progressed. Then again, I’ve never written a story with a character who had a name that was unusual or spelled in a surprising way.
What do you think about names, and how they affect characters attitudes?
Smile. Make the day a brighter day.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Brainstorming and life

Dang! It's Wednesday morning again, and I’m again caught without a post. And I’d like to blame my busy life, but the fact is the last couple of days I have been mulling over a problem I’m having with my WIP, and not getting very far writing wise.

I also totally forgot until this morning that it was my turn to post.
Have you ever had days like that? One where you wake up and realize you’ve completely forgotten something you needed to do?
I thought it was bad the time I woke one morning and realized that my sister-in-law had an appointment the day before, and we’d both spaced it. (Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen again.)

But this time I spaced it because I was staring at the screen trying to figure out how to fix a problem in my manuscript before it came up. Yes, I said before. The other day I realized if my heroine resorts to the tactics I was planning for her to use “to get the hero’s attention,” he was going to blow his top. So far, I’d been thinking of my heroine’s future actions while totally forgetting the hero’s backstory. Not good.

But this wasn’t changing what I already had written to fit the story it was reworking how I moved forward, to fit the story.
And while I did that, everything else went by the wayside, chores, errands, and my blog post. :)

So, how many of you sometimes spend way too much time cogitating on scenarios for your stories and forgetting about all the other things, you need to be doing?

Happy writing everyone!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Voices We Hear

Recently I was typing along and as I did things popped into my story which I hadn’t anticipated, leaving me looking at my characters and thinking, “you could have told me”. Not once, but twice.
Then another character, which isn’t even one of my main characters (i.e.: she isn’t a POV character) actually got in an argument with me about a scene I had to write for her. I couldn’t fathom why I had to write it nor was I about to make my monster even bigger by adding one more POV.
She is, however, one smart cookie, and made her point. I did need what turned out to be three scenes, which I was able to write from the viewpoint of two of my main characters who she interacted with.
On an even more recent occasion, I asked Bonnie if she was writing and she said in a nutshell, “no, I’m mulling over stuff that doesn’t come up yet in my story”.
I told her to get her characters talking about what she was still writing.
She said it was actually a secondary character who wanted his story told, something that would be part of the next book. After she explained in full what the problem was I offered my solution. Write a scene for the guy and see if it appeased him.
Then just the other day my girls and I were in the kitchen talking, I could not tell you what brought it up, but at some point we were talking about people’s behavior and we decided that my youngest daughter had characteristics like one of the twins in my opus while my oldest son had those of his twin brother.
As I was thinking of all of these real conversations, I often wonder what non-writers think about us writers.  It is somewhat hilarious when my girls and I will get to talking about our stories and the people in them and my poor husband will come into the conversation totally thinking we’re talking about real people and wondering where we met them.
“Who exactly is Harry, and what did he do?”
(Just an example. Any character names could be substituted.)
My point being, writers talk about characters like they are real people, because to us they are. They tell us their stories and ask us to write them. Most of the time they let us know what is coming up in their story before we get it down on paper, or screen. We even have arguments with them.
When those characters won’t talk to us, we stare a blank screen and wonder what to do to get them talking again, or try to find another character who will tell their story. That’s why writer’s, like Bonnie, with ADD, have several books going at one time. If one character won’t talk, then fine, I’ll talk to this one over here.
I personally do have several stories I could work on, however my opus has seven POV characters and more supporting characters than I care to count, making a number of stories in one. So while I may only being working on one book, I’ve got several characters talking to me.
Then there are the other books whose characters are quietly waiting in the background for their turn. I’m also sure as soon as I’m finished with one, another one will come along. There is always going to be another story to tell. Remember that, the next time you stare a blank page or screen, and no characters are talking to you.
Smile. Make the day a brighter day.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

As The World Turns

Living alone it’s easy to form a habit of writing every day, there is little to distract or pull you away from the goal, but the problem with that is if you get caught up in the writing you are doing and put off all the other chores that need done.

Dishes, and laundry, still need washed. Floors need swept, or vacuumed, or mopped, and bills need paid, checkbooks need balanced; the world doesn’t stop moving while we’re concentrating on our fictitious worlds and sometimes that catches up to us, sometimes in heart stopping ways.

The other day I got a call from sister-in-law, her asking or a ride to do some errands was no big deal, I do that all the time, but I about had a heart attack when she said, “Today after my appointment.”

Today! I instantly racked my brain, positive I’d looked on my calendar that morning to be certain when her next doctor’s appointment was, and I was sure it wasn’t until the following day. So I was reaching for my planner as I asked her if she’d read her calendar correctly pointing out what day of the week it was.

She groaned, “It’s tomorrow isn’t it?”

Her calling for a ride was one thing. She doesn’t drive, I chauffeur her around all the time, but her mentioning an appointment I didn’t have on my calendar? That’s a whole other problem, and the fact is, I’ve spaced her appointments before. That’s why I’d specifically checked my calendar, I knew one was coming up, wasn’t sure when.

But such is the life of a writer. She needed a ride to run errands, I thought it would be easier to do them on separate days, so I took that day to run her errands, the next day was her appointment then I woke up this morning and moaned. Today is Wednesday!

Yeah, sometimes life just gets away from us. J

Happy writing everyone!