Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

I find it absolutely fascinating that a single word can cause so much anger and controversy. Such is the tale of Mark Twain’s “Huck Finn” novel. One of the most popular works of fiction has been continually barred, banned, and censored from public schools because of the prevalent use of a single word: Nigger/Nigga. The word, as defined by Miriam-Webster dictionary means: usually offensive: a black person or member of any dark-skinned race. This word is actually long-derived from the Latin word niger, which means ‘black’.

So what’s the big deal with the use a word that simply means black? Well, connotation is everything. In the “Slave South” when many people owned black slaves, people would refer to them as niggers; Nigger=black=slave. So through the lines of language evolution, the word came to be considered a racial slur, an offensive to anyone of dark skin. Now the word can hardly be spoken without repulsion or reprehension. Such is the way of our language; words come and go, definitions alter and change, connotations are molded to fit modern culture.

So where am I going with all this? Well back to Huck Finn, since the book has constantly been banned from public schools due to the use of that word, Alan Gribben and NewSouth Books have finally taken it upon themselves to release a ‘censored’ version of the classic. The ‘revised’ version will replace the offensive ‘n’ word with ‘slave’. Releasing ‘revised’ versions of classics for new/younger generations is nothing new and if this will help get classics like Huck Finn into schools, I’m all for it. On the other hand, degrading classic literature just to fit our ‘modern’ molds seems a little ridiculous. Why do we need to change everything to our modern way of thinking? Can’t we just accept the fact that something was written in a different time and different place and therefore will be different from our modern philosophy/culture?

Anyway, thus concludes what might possibly be the longest article I’ve written:) If you agree or disagree, feel free to sound off in the comments.

*Update* Thanks to Rosa Sow of Newsy.com for pointing this out this excellent video on their site:

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Hey everyone. Just a quick update: I’ve uploaded a screenplay I wrote several years ago titled “Jolt”. It’s available for public viewing on Google docs. Feel free to take a look at it and tell me what you think (bear in mind that it’s still in beta. I might tinker around with it and possibly submit it to Amazon Studios:)

Here’s a quick synopsis:

Jo Timin, living off his parent’s fortune, is at the height of his “pro” swimming career; but when a mysterious “accident” charges his body with electrical current, he finds he can’t even touch water without disastrous results. Reluctantly, he begins to explore his newfound powers and with the help of some new friends, he begins to establish himself as the city super hero. But when another “hero” arrives on the scene and tries to expose Jo as a fraud, the battle for the city begins.

I recently had an interesting idea that I wanted to bounce off my fans/followers and the world in general: would you watch me write my next novel, live via Ustream, with an open google doc to read and a chatroom to comment/question in? I know people will watch almost anything, I just wanted to know how many would actually want to watch. For me it could be a great way to connect with current/potential fans as well as provide motivation(for myself:) and a sounding board for any ideas.
So, would you like to watch/help me write my next novel? Let me know in the comments or on twitter @JoshuaCaleb75

Dialogue. The primary means of communication for human beings. Even your novel characters must you this to converse with each other. So, it should be easy, right? We all know how to talk, so writing dialogue should be a snap. Welllll…… It’s not quite that simple. Let’s say you did transpose a conversation from real-life, into your story, (adding the proper denotations to signal who is speaking of course) it might look something like this:

John walked up to the coffee machine. Frank was already filling his mug. “Hey Frank,” John said.

“Hey John,” Frank said. “How are you?”

“Doing okay,” John said. “How about you?”

“All right,” Frank said. “The kid broke his arm trying to climb our old tree.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” John said.

“Yeah,” Frank said. “Kids sometimes do the stupidest things.”

“Yeah, but ya gotta love em,” John said.

I don’t know about you, but I’m on the edge of my seat. (insert sarcasm) Okay, I’m being very extreme with this example, but you get the idea. Turns out, a lot of the conversations we have with other people can be downright boring. Not to worry though, we can spice, slice and dice up character dialogue so your readers hang on each word spok–er–written.

First step, get rid of those darn saids. ‘Said’ is an empty word. All it does is denote who is talking, and often is unnecessary. An alternate route would be to use said-isms: “He shouted. He sighed. He growled. He whispered” The problem is, if overused, it can become worse than just using ‘said’. Since ‘said’ is an empty word, it often fades into the background, becoming invisible to most readers. But it’s still there, taking up space.

Of course, an even better alternative is to use action to denote who is talking: “What’d you do that for?” Frank ran to the base of the tree.

Another alternative, similar to the action tags, would be no speech tags whatsoever. This only works in some instances, usually when only two people are talking and it’s obvious who said what:

“Hey Frank, how are you?” John asked.

“Good, how about you?”

“Doing okay, how about those Red Socks?”

It basically comes down to using everything in moderation. A couple said-isms here, some action tags there, no tags over there, maybe an occasional adjective here for good measure. And of course we need something interesting to talk about as well. Let’s try it:

John walked up to the coffee machine where Frank was already filling his mug. “Hey Frank,” John greeted his friend.

“Hey John.” Frank plunked the coffee pot down. “How are you?”

“Doing great. How about you?”

Frank sighed. “All right. Jimmy broke his arm trying to climb our old tree.”

“Oh, that’s not good. Is he okay? Are you okay?” John put his arm on Frank’s shoulder. Frank was having money trouble and the last thing he needed was a big medical bill. Not to mention what the poor kid was going through.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Frank shook his head despite his positive answer. “Kids. Sometimes I wonder where their brain is at.”

“Yeah, but ya gotta love em.” John said reassuringly.

See what we did? Took out nearly all the saids, replaced them with some said-isms, threw in some action tags or just left the speech tag empty. Plus we needed to give them something interesting to talk about, so I increased the conflict about the boy breaking his arm and how it was affecting the father. Pretty neat, huh?

This is a very basic example of what you can do to improve your dialog. For more inspiration, try reading some of your favorite authors and see how they write dialog. Find one that suits your style and implement it in your story. Your readers will swear they’re listening to a real conversation.

Just a quick update on the status of the Warped & Wired sequel. I’m currently about halfway done with the second draft. After that it should just need some polish and trimming before publication:D I’m trying to work extra hard to get it out by/before the end of the year, so here’s hoping everything goes according to plan:) I should be able to post a few sample chapters in the near future to whet your appetite for the exciting adventure to come.
In the meantime, be sure to read the first book in the series, Warped & Wired or explore this site and learn all about the exciting world within my novels.

Read all about it! I’ve started uploading various short story betas I have lying around my hard drive. These are short stories that never made public release and are available to read in the “Extras” section on the top nav bar. Be warned though, these stories are still in beta so there may be grammar glitches, plot holes, and spelling bugs. Read at your own risk;)

Enjoy!