Dialect in Writing

 

Dialect 

If one or more of your characters have a dialect or accent that you feel is important to note in your novel, I would suggest that unless you are very familiar with those regional speech patterns or accents, use them sparsely so they  don’t distract from the story. The safer way to do it would be to choose a few instances of the dialect and use them in dialogue. Try as much as possible to have the rest of the writing in plain English.

Falling out of character by messing up the dialect is going to do damage to your credibility as a writer and to the credibility of the character.

I’d like to give you some examples of how I have used dialect of a character in my novels.

One of my secondary characters in The Wind Weeps is Monique, a French-Canadian girl. I wanted to show that she spoke with a French-Canadian accent, but I didn’t want the phonetic spelling of every word of her speech become a chore for the reader. My solution was to limit Monique’s dialect and accent to a few of the most obvious speech habits that were typical of French speakers of English.

Saying the soft sound of “th” (as in “they”) is often difficult for speakers of French origin,  so, for example, instead of saying “there,” Monique would say “dere.”  For the hard sound of “th,” she might say “somet’ing” instead of “something.”

In French the sound of “h” is not used, so in English, Monique would have a habit of dropping the sound of the letter “h.” I showed this by placing an apostrophe in its place.  If she were saying, “It’s time to have something to eat,” she would say, “It is time to ’ave somet’ing to eat.”

That reminds me of the last clue to Monique’s speech being different; she would not use contractions. Instead of “can’t,” she would say “cannot,”  or she would say “it is” instead of “it’s, and “I ’ave” instead of “I’ve.”

By using these three changes in the dialogue, the reader could instantly identify that it was Monique who was speaking.  Just to be sure, I gave Monique two more habits of her own. I added the odd case of her swearing by having her say, “Tabernac,” once in a while. I also had her use an expression that was all her own by having her conflate two common phrases she had heard used in English. When she wanted to say “For sure” or “Sure thing,” as she had heard others say, she ended up saying, “For sure t’ing.”  Whenever this came up in the book, we would always know it was Monique speaking.

If you’d like to check it out yourself, you can find The Wind Weeps and its sequel, Reckoning Tide, at all amazon   (click on amazon) outlets and at smashwords.com (Click on smashwords.com).

My books are all marked down to 99 cents US so you can load your e-reader with bargain reading.

You can find a review of The Wind Weeps, by clicking on this blog post by Diana Wallace Peach,

P.S. For those who follow both my blogs, I have copied this post for both this one time. I don’t intend to make that a habit.

 

 

Verbs Again

Many times we use sentences that have clauses with a second verb in them. It’s important to keep the sense of time accurate. I liken it to keeping the boat on an even keel. We don’t want to lose balance, rocking the boat, and potentially ending up in a shipwreck.

I’d like to show some verb tenses and examples of how they can be used.

present/present

She knows the parade passes by her house every year.

present/past

I hear that you fell and broke your leg. What I don’t understand is why you climbed that tree in the first place.

past/past

I rushed out to the street when tires crunched, and a voice called for help.

past/prior past

We saw that George had hurt himself in a riding accident two years ago. He ignored the trainer’s instructions.

In this case, we are using the past tense to say that we knew about George’s accident. Then we use the prior past (often with “had”) to show that the action happened even earlier. Once that prior past is established  we don’t always need to include “had” in the verbs for the reader to know that we are still talking about the prior past. It can be done to reinforce that past setting but isn’t always necessary. You don’t want to end up with too many “had had’s.”

Above all, don’t mix your verb tenses randomly or you will confuse the reader and frustrate them, sometimes causing them to close your book forever.

We don’t want that to happen.

Knowing Your Characters – Part Three

For readers to enjoy your book, it is most important that your characters and their behaviours are believable. I remember in my early efforts at writing, I created good characters who did everything right, and bad characters who did everything wrong. It was really hard for me to give my good characters any flaws, or to give the bad guy credit for doing anything right or having any redeeming qualities.

It took a lot of rewriting to shape believable characters for my first novel. But trust me, it gets easier. Think of any person you know and like a lot. Are they really perfect? Just because we easily forgive their shortcomings, doesn’t mean they are perfect and have no flaws. We just like to bury those flaws. Look hard and you will find a flaw that your character might have which the reader will forgive, but which also makes the character more human.

The same goes for someone we may not like. If we took the time to get to know them, we would have to admit that they’re not ALL bad. Give your antagonist some redeeming quality. You’ll be surprised how the reader will then care about what happens to him, or at least feel some empathy for his situation.

Using these flaws effectively can help enrich your novel and make it easier for your readers to believe what your characters do, and it enhances our emotional involvement with those characters. If we don’t care about the characters, why bother to read the book?

So we have to know our characters if we are to tell their story. We need to know their long-term goals and their short-term goals. We don’t want the reader to wonder, “Why would he do a thing like that?”

In building the background for the character’s motivation, we might work in some family background, some incidental things that help the reader understand why the character would react the way he does as the story develops. Short flashbacks can lay the groundwork for what has shaped the character’s emotional growth, his attitudes, and his ways of dealing with situations that will come up in your plot.

How else do readers learn about the characters?

  1. The author can simply tell about the character. This is probably the easiest way but not necessarily the most convincing.
  2. Have the character tell about himself.
  3. Have another character tell about him. (This way is more believable.)
  4. Show what the character is like by his actions.

All of these methods can be used, but the last one is probably the most effective and the most believable.

Body Language

If you take the time to find stronger verbs when the character is doing anything, you can often come up with something that more precisely describes how the character behaves. Does he stand or does he slouch? Does he limp? If so, why? Does he move erratically or are his movements smooth? Find the verb that accurately describes this.

For every action the character does, consider whether the verb you use is the best one to describe his particular way of doing things.

Emotions

You can show the character’s emotions using physical descriptions (sweat beading on his forehead, slumped shoulders, furrows in the forehead).

Another way is to show some action that tells how he might be feeling. Is he drumming is fingers, sighing heavily, flexing his jaw muscles, squinting or rolling his eyes, waggling his head, lifting his chin, biting his lower lip?

Dialogue

What a person says and how he says it can tell you a lot about how they are feeling and about what kind of person they are. This is a huge topic and I would like to deal with that in a separate post.

*****

Meanwhile, study the people around you and make a note of their flaws and their redeeming qualities. You’ll be surprised how useful these can be when you incorporate them in your writing.

Verb Tense and Other Issues

iStockphoto.com DenisTangneyJr

I followed her down the dark street, gradually closing distance between us. She glanced over her shoulder and her high heels tapped on the sidewalk faster. She’s getting nervous. I could tell from the way she leaned forward that she was hurrying to reach her car faster. It doesn’t matter. I was going to catch up to her in a few seconds and then she will be mine, all mine.

Hard to believe, but this jumble of verb tenses is similar to something I came across in a novel recently. I almost put it down in disgust, but I wanted to know what happened. Still, the poor writing took all the enjoyment out of reading this crime novel. The plot was good, but the delivery was not.

Most of the story was told in third person, past tense. The trouble started when the author switched to the killer’s POV and told us his thoughts in the first person. That, in itself is not so bad, but within these sections, when we see the story from the killer’s POV, the author slipped back and forth between the past and present tense in a way that did not work. It could have been done if we were  made to believe that the killer is thinking in the present, and telling us about a past event, but that was not the case here. The author simply slipped back and forth between tenses haphazardly.

It told me that the author had not mastered the art of writing yet, and that he had not run his manuscript by a critiquing group, and certainly not a copy-editor, any of whom would have enlightened him.  Even his greatest fan, Aunt Mary, would have noticed the errors in the changing of the tense.

When you write, why not have someone else read your first drafts and offer some suggestions? A critiquing group or even a writing buddy can be good for this. You don’t have to accept what these readers say, but it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion and ponder it. Of course I’m going to say, “If you’re serious about publishing, get yourself a good copy-editor,” because that is what I do, but really, having a clean manuscript before you publish is so important.

The book I’m reading now, which has so many problems with verb tense, is full of other small errors. Some are typos, and others are grammatical errors, but the verb tense problem was the icing on the cake.  Although the author has some serious writing issues to resolve, this work was salvageable, if only he had not published too soon. As it is now, this novel will never be remembered as a great book. It could have been a good one, if he had taken the time to have someone read it over and point out the errors, and if he had hired a copy-editor to catch those many small mistakes along the way.

Self-publishing should not mean that the writer does it all himself, without the help of a critiquing group or a copy-editor. Yes, you can upload your ms and be your own publisher, but as a publisher you also need to deal with things like getting a professional to do your book cover and one to check your manuscript for errors before you bare your soul before the world of readers.

Easily Overlooked

You’ve written your first draft and you’ve read it over, perhaps focusing on some particular aspects of writing (like using your pet words too much, or checking for “ly” words), and after rereading your manuscript until you think you could recite it from memory, you feel ready to publish.

Not so fast! First, let’s check for some common mistakes. In a novel I recently read, I was reminded of two kinds of errors that are easily overlooked.

One involves words left out, and the other, words left in.

Here are some examples.

Sometimes, as you re-read, you realize that you’ve used a character’s name too many times within a few sentences, or you might have used too many pronouns when you should have used a name once in a while. So you make some changes. Let’s say you’ve used the name too often, so you put in “her” instead of “Miss X,” but you don’t take out “Miss X” until you’ve had a chance to reread the whole section, checking for a good balance of names and pronouns.

You get into your self-editing and several pages later, you remember that you should read it all over. This is when the brain and the eyes start fighting. You’re already getting tired and as you read, your brain tells you, “I know what this is supposed to say. I wrote the thing. I know what it says.”

Your eyes tell your brain, “Yes, that’s what it says. I know because I’ve read it so many times already. It’s fine.”

But is it?

“Miss X” is mentioned several times in the chapter, but now, one of the sentences has “Miss X” AND “her” as well.

The road was rough and the driver reached over to check her Miss X’s seatbelt.

See how easily that slipped in there?

Very often, mistakes like this are added to the text with the purpose of fixing a problem, but it ends up causing a different one.

*****

Correcting sentences where words have been left out is even harder to do. Again, our brains tell us what we know the text to be, and the eyes go along with it in agreement. But as we read work over too quickly, we think that all the necessary words are in there. That is how many small words are left out (words like: to, at, in, an, it). A good way to catch these omissions is to read your work out loud.

A similar error occurs when we type “and” for “an” or “it” for “if” or “in,”

*****

A word of advice:

Don’t work at your self-editing for too long in one session. Take breaks. I have often noticed that when I find mistakes in the writing, they occur close together within a page or two. This tells me that the writer was probably getting tired at that point.

*****

 

 

Words like Gold Nuggets

I was reading “Fortune’s Rocks” by Anita Shreve and had a mixture of reactions throughout the experience.

First, I was dismayed at the use of such stuffy language, but I soon realized that it suited the 1899 New England setting perfectly. This was the way people in the wealthier class spoke and thought in those days.

In a short time I stopped noticing the stuffiness of the language, and felt immersed in that time and lifestyle.

So it was, that I scoffed only mildly when the mother who was hosting guests at her summer home did not want her photo taken. One of the guests had taken up photography and the hostess was not a fan of these new contraptions called cameras. The reaction of the hostess was not out of character, but had me chuckling about her overly sensitive personality.

When I read on, I was absolutely thrilled with Anita Shreve’s description of the photography session that followed.

This quote from the book tells how it played out as the other guests, one by one, sat to have their photos taken.

Even Olympia’s mother, in the end, relents and allows herself to be photographed, albeit behind a veil with eyes lowered, flinching each time she hears the shutter click, as though she might be shot.

This description had me laughing out loud, as I imagined the scene. It was then that I realized that much of the writing was so precisely worded that I was able to picture it clearly in my mind. Reading this book became like watching a movie.

I kept chuckling over the above quote for some time and finally decided I would write a short note to the author to tell her how much I was enjoying her book. I Googled her name to get a webpage contact, but immediately the search told me that Anita Shreve had died on March 29, 2018 at the young age of 71.  My happy mood was dashed and I felt shocked and saddened to find out this bad news.

Still, Anita has left a legacy of many fine books for us to enjoy.

Now I am wondering if you readers out there have had similar discoveries of passages that are nuggets of entertainment.

If you have, why not share them in your comments. Book title, author, and quote. We’d love to see what you’ve found.

 

Samples from Julia’s Violinist

Anneli[7]

Anneli Purchase

“Julia’s Violinist” is the story of a love triangle set in Europe and Canada and spanning the decades from about  1912 to 1973.

Here are some samples from the book.

The character description is of Karl’s mother, Alana:

At last she stepped up onto the tram. Oh, it was good to be out of the wind. Alana unbuttoned her jacket and let it hang loosely. She sat and, with practiced detachment, ran her hand down the length of her leg, enjoying the feel of her chic, new silk stockings. The appreciative gazes of the male passengers pleased her. She smiled smugly at the women, inviting their disparaging glares.

The setting is of a classroom in a German boys’ school in the 1920s:

Herr Solberg took Karl by the scruff of the neck and hauled him into the school, lifting him so that the tips of his toes were all that touched the ground as he walked. Karl tingled with excitement. At the end of the break, the class had to witness his punishment. Karl stood at the front of the classroom looking at the faces of his classmates. Some covered their mouths to hide their expressions of horror at the pain they knew was coming, while others beamed openly in gleeful anticipation.

The scene ending is of Karl being freed from POW camp in 1946:

The Russian guard tossed a tatty bundle of letters to him and read the next name. Karl was stunned. Not a single letter for over a year and now, on the last day, a bundle of … thirty-one, he counted. All from Julia.

He was frantic with wanting to open them, but nothing, not even these special letters, could make him lag behind in the POW camp. Out! Out! Just get out first, and then I can look at them.

As soon as he was out of sight of the prison camp, he sank down on the ground beside the road. His hands trembled as he opened the first letter. Through tears he saw her lovely handwriting, so perfect and neat; words that spoke of loneliness and longing. Each letter contained a small anecdote of Julia’s home life and ended with the hope that they would see each other again. Around the edges of the pages his name was written over and over in a border design, “KarlKarlKarlKarl. I miss you, Karl.”

He wasn’t sure how long he sat there. Other recently released POWs walked by. No one stopped. They had seen it all and there was nothing unusual about a man sitting in the dirt crying his eyes out as he read his mail.

 

Front Cover Only

 

Still on sale for about 99 cents through January.

Julia’s Violinist is available in paperback and all e-book formats at Smashwords.com

and at all amazon sites, particularly

amazon.com

amazon.co.uk

amazon.de

amazon.ca

Find out more at my website: http://www.anneli-purchase.com 

Why You Need a Copy-editor

Lately I have been reading a lot of crime thrillers. The e-book versions are reasonably priced and I’m reading so many of them that I don’t remember them for long afterwards. It’s a bit like watching an episode of Law and Order or F.B.I. Why bother to remember them unless they are really unique and make a big impression?

Unfortunately, many of the books I’ve encountered as I go through my crime spree of reading, have elicited groans of disgust and frustration from me as I read what might have been a good book, but for the grammatical errors and word usage mistakes.

I won’t even mention lay and lie.

The most original, yet horrifying, error I have seen in a long time was used in a sentence that talked about what the elite do at a public gathering while “the sheeple snap pictures.” I did a double take on that one. “Wha-a-a-a-at?!” I had to read that  over again. “The sheeple snap pictures.” This author needs a copy-editor for sure.

I can’t remember if it was the same author or another one who called one FBI agent by different names throughout the book. Let’s say the agent’s name was Brad Benton. On one page he would be referred to as Agent Brad, and on another he would be Agent Benton, and so it alternated all the way through. All the other agents in the book had only one name each throughout.

Now for an expression that had me growling as I read. Two different characters in this book were described as having intelligent eyes. Can anyone tell me how an eye can have intelligence? I suppose all the other characters in the book had stupid eyes. Not only is it impossible for eyes to be intelligent, but this miraculous phenomenon took place at least six times in the book, once a mere two pages apart.

Puhleeze! Get yourself a copy-editor, unless you want to achieve fame for all the wrong reasons.

 

 

Laws of Nature

YOU WILL LOVE THIS BOOK!

This is Book 2 of a trilogy and, for your own enjoyment, I recommend reading Book 1, “Born in a Treacherous Time,” as well, but even if you don’t, you will enjoy Laws of Nature as a stand alone.

 

Have a look at the trailer and you will get an idea of the setting and some of the challenges Lucy and her people faced. Click the link to see the trailer.

https://youtu.be/gbyA9rDSy9k

Here is our author, Jacqui Murray, the fine lady who had  the “staying power” to study and research the world of the early humans and the imagination to put together a believable story of what it might have been like to live in those days, over 1.8 million years ago.

I can tell you one thing without a doubt: Life then was NOT boring! And neither are Jacqui Murray’s novels.


About Jacqui Murray

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman , the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Natural Selection, Winter 2022.

For more author info, click on any of the links below.

Amazon Author Page:       https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog:                                  https://worddreams.wordpress.com

Instagram:                         https://www.instagram.com/jacquimurraywriter/

LinkedIn:                           http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

Pinterest:                           http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter:                              http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website:                            https://jacquimurray.net

 

Here is an excerpt from Laws of Nature.

Chapter 1

Hunting

South Africa

Lucy

Fresh blood streaked Short-tooth’s muzzle, her golden eyes alert to every movement around her as she munched on Gazelle’s meaty carcass. Each movement made the Cat’s tawny fur ripple over the powerful muscles beneath her skin. She raised her head, chewing slowly while studying the grass field in front of her, especially toward the back where it blended into the forest. She couldn’t see Mammoth but smelled it, close to the Uprights, maybe protecting them. Despite being the size of a boulder, this pachyderm could outrun most predators and would think nothing of crushing them beneath its massive feet.

Short-tooth wasn’t interested in the Uprights. Their bodies had little meat and less fat. Gazelle was more satisfying.

Cat ripped a slab of fragrant meat from the hind leg. Snarling-dog—to the far side—slapped the ground. He was hungry but wouldn’t eat Gazelle until Short-tooth finished. Cat purred loudly, close to a snarl, and Snarling-dog withdrew, but not far. Carrion-bird overhead tightened its circle and a tiny shrew the size of Short-tooth’s paw waited patiently, out of Cat’s range, eyes bright, nose twitching. A shred from the carcass was all it needed.

None of these creatures mattered to Short-tooth. She was the apex predator in her savannah habitat.

Sticky yellow globs of Mammoth dung slid down Lucy’s back and plopped to the dry thatch. The dung coat was melting under Sun’s intense heat, exactly as Lucy planned. Its purpose was to confuse Short-tooth Cat. The hotter Sun became, the stronger Mammoth’s smell.

Lucy and her young pairmate, Garv, lay motionless, like Snake sleeping, bodies pressed into the prickly grass, oblivious to the feathery feet that scurried over their backs. She and Garv, too, wanted what Short-tooth didn’t consume. They were more patient than Snarling-dog but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t eat first. The first to arrive got the best of the leftovers.

Lucy rubbed her raw eyes, bleary from watching Cat bite, rip, and chew. If Short-tooth knew of their presence, it was not because she saw them. Lucy and Garv blended into the landscape. Their skin was the color of dirt and dry grass, impossible to find if you weren’t looking. No part of their bodies moved except their narrowed eyes as they scanned the surroundings, evaluating each new arrival to the feast. The dominant scents never changed—Snarling-dog, Short-tooth Cat, something decaying in the nearby forest, her pairmate Garv’s sweaty body, and Gazelle’s ripening offal.

Sun’s relentless heat washed over Lucy in waves. Sweat dripped down her face, over her pronounced brow ridge and into her eyes, but for reasons she didn’t understand, despite his fur pelt, Snarling-dog was dry. He reminded Lucy of Ump, her tribe’s Canis member. Even on the hottest days, Ump didn’t sweat. Instead, he panted more.

Today, Snarling-dog panted hard.

Short-tooth raised her feline head, inspecting her habitat as her jaws crunched through the fresh carrion. She reeked of malevolence which meant scavengers like Lucy and Garv willingly waited their turn.

Sun climbed through the cloudless blue sky. The morning haze had burned off long ago. The dew Lucy hadn’t licked off the leaves, Sun’s heat had. Her throat was dry, lips cracked, but that mattered less than securing scavenge. Her tribe was hungry.

Lately, unexpectedly, when Lucy sat quietly as she did now, a tingle deep inside her chest told her Raza, her former pairmate, was in trouble. The first time she experienced this tingle, what Garv called “instinct,” it churned through her body as a current does in a stream. She thought she was sick until Garv explained this was instinct and it warned of danger, not illness. He told her always to listen, but how was she to do that? Raza had been captured by the tribe’s worst enemy, a formidable Upright called Man-who-preys. She didn’t know where they’d taken him. As often as she brushed the feeling away, it returned, each time stronger than the last.

Cat’s yellow eyes snapped open and her methodical jaws slowed. Something caught her interest, maybe Snarling-dog’s impatience or Carrion-bird’s relentless approach. After a warning hiss, Short-tooth shook her big head and pawed her face. A swarm of black flies lifted, buzzed briefly, and then resettled where they’d started, again gorging on the blood and carrion that stuck to Short-tooth’s face

The flies are thicker than usual.

Short-tooth returned to her meal and Lucy sniffed, wondering what drew Cat’s attention. She didn’t expect to see Man-who-preys here, but took nothing for granted. The tall, big-headed, hairless enemy always carried a long stick which he used to kill prey. Sometimes, he didn’t eat the animal, just watched it die. This unpredictability, that he followed no norms, made him more treacherous than other predators.

She inhaled, but didn’t smell his stench so turned her attention back to the hunt.

Carrion-bird floated overhead, feet tucked beneath its sleek body. The longer Cat ate, the more of the huge birds arrived. They thought their powerful sweeping wings, sharp claws, and piercing beaks made them the mightiest among the scavengers. What they didn’t realize was that Lucy and Garv possessed an even greater weapon: They could plan. Before Carrion-bird or Snarling-dog got too close, Lucy and Garv would take what they needed and flee.

They always did.

In the edging forest, Cousin Chimp hooted, the pitch and length describing the location of a tree newly bearing fruit. Leaves rustled as his band raced away. Lucy hoped they would leave enough of the succulent produce for her and Garv.

She hunkered deeper into the tall waving stalks, tracking the other scavengers and noting again how far away the trees were in case she needed to flee. A snake slithered over her foot, through the thatch and out of sight. She and Garv had been motionless for so long, Snake probably viewed them as dirt mounds in its path.

Garv tweaked an eyebrow and Lucy motioned, hands a tight circle in front of her chest, well hidden, “Dull colors, no knobs on snake’s tail—no danger.”

Her kind—Man-who-makes-tools—used a sophisticated blend of communication including body language, hand gestures, facial expressions, mimicking, and vocalization. One of their greatest defenses in this brutal world was the ability to become part of their surroundings. Voices were unusual sounds heard nowhere in nature except from Uprights, mostly the big-headed Man-who-preys. Lucy’s kind occasionally whispered and Tree-men, like Boah who was part of Lucy’s tribe, rarely made any sounds beyond huffs, grunts, howls, and moans. Only Man-who-preys jabbered endlessly.

 

Lucy’s eyelids drooped. This hunt had started yesterday when Lucy and Garv found the fresh cloven prints of a Gazelle herd. Lucy’s kind ate copious amounts of roots, nuts, fruit, juicy stems, and insects, but only meat gave them the energy to survive their dangerous lives. Because they hunted only dead animals, they depended upon predators to make the kill. Gazelle’s fleshy body always attracted Cat and its cousins, like Short-tooth. They would pick off the injured, and Lucy’s tribe would eat what they left.

Because not enough daylight remained yesterday, Lucy and Garv set out today, at Sun’s first light. They followed the herd while the rest of the tribe—the Tree-man Boah, the child Voi, and the Canis Ump—stayed at the homebase’s cave. Before Sun had traveled far, a snarl and a screech told Lucy a predator claimed its prey. When Carrion-bird and its cousins started to circle, she and Garv knew exactly where to go.

 

Garv nudged Lucy, the movement so subtle the grass didn’t even move. “Short-tooth is leaving.”

Lucy bit her lip and shot a look at Garv. His face radiated excitement.

She studied Short-tooth, tried to see what Garv saw and finally gestured, “I don’t see anything. Why do you think she’s finished?”

He motioned, one finger moving against his palm, “Instinct.” Nothing else.

But that was enough. Garv had taught her to stalk prey, knap tools, hunt, and protect herself. Because of him, she became an accomplished hunter, never missed a print, a bent frond, the fragrance left on leaves or bark, or any other sign. As partners, they always brought meat to the tribe. Most hunters didn’t.

Garv’s instinct had found more prey than Lucy’s tracking skills or senses ever did. She had no doubt Short-tooth would soon leave.

Cat’s big tongue, as long as Lucy’s forearm, licked the bloody scraps from her muzzle, a sign even to Lucy that she had finished. Lucy shifted to her hands and toes, knees hovering above the ground, prepared for what must come next. Garv did the same, his body hard from the life he lived, senses alert to every noise. Carrion-birds cawed and tightened their circle. On the opposite side of the field, Snarling-dog’s pack bared their canines, tails stiff. Drool dripped from their jowls and their gaze bounced between Cat and the Uprights, knowing from experience the scrawny but agile creatures were vigorous competitors.

You are fast, Snarling-dog, but we are smart. We will always get there first!

Lucy tensed as Short-tooth pushed up to her massive paws, canines red with blood, saliva dripping in strands from her jowls. She yawned, her mouth a dark cavity vast enough to swallow Lucy’s entire head, and ambled off. Lucy and Garv exploded to their feet and sprinted toward the carcass. Their powerful legs churned while nimble hands pulled cutters and stones from the sacks strung around their necks. Lucy’s job was to delay Snarling-dog and Carrion-bird while Garv stripped the carrion.

“Argh!” Lucy roared, waving a leafy branch through the air to make herself bigger to Snarling-dog while Garv attacked the carcass. Ignoring the fetid stench of dung and urine, he swung the sharp cutter and sliced through the hide and then muscle and tendon.

Lucy flung a stone at the lead Snarling-dog. It hit his temple, hard, and he dropped with a squeal. His pack slowed to reassess the upright creature and Lucy threw another stone, this one at the new leader’s eye. He yipped and stumbled, shook his head, and pawed at the blood that oozed from the wound and dribbled down his muzzle.

“Lucy!” Garv tossed an almost pristine haunch to her and then swung his chopper at Gazelle’s ribs. Carrion-bird, well into its death dive, talons extended, screeched its imminent attack.

“Let’s go!” Lucy called, the unexpected sound of her voice meant to startle the scavengers.

She hurled a rock at the lead Carrion-bird. It squawked and withdrew, which slowed the rest of the flock. Lucy grabbed an almost-meatless leg bone. It would be filled with nutritious bloody marrow. Meat secured over her shoulders, she and Garv fled. No one chased them. Why abandon certain meat for an uncertain meal? Lucy raced past a termite mound, noted its location, rounded a boulder bed, and lost sight of the fracas.

Not the scent, though. The tantalizing aroma sailed through the air, announcing to every scavenger around the availability of meat.

*****

Book information:

Title and author: Laws of Nature by Jacqui Murray

Series: Book 2 in the Dawn of Humanity series

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

Editor: Anneli Purchase

Available print or digital) at: Kindle US   Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU  Kindle India

Self-editing

Wrong name and/or wrong pronoun

Lately I’ve been irked by a certain kind of error that I’ve run into more times than I should have. As I was reading some novels for pleasure (as opposed to reading them as a copy-editing job), I was shocked to come across the names of main characters being switched around.

When Tom was meant, Luke was used instead, and vice versa. This happened several times in one novel. I found the same mistake in another novel I recently read, and the wrong pronoun (“her” instead of “him”)  was used.

The author should have caught these mistakes in the self-editing part of the writing process, but since it is not the kind of error that a spellchecker or grammar checker would catch, it can easily go unnoticed.

If you have changed your character’s name after writing the first draft, you might want to have a closer look  for cases of having used the wrong name.

Have you changed your POV?

Also, if you have decided to rewrite your ms with a different POV, it will require close scrutiny when you check your ms for errors. I’ve done this kind of thing myself, where I’ve written several chapters in third person POV and then decided to switch to first person. It can be awkward to read something like:

I hurried down to the dock to wave goodbye. She hoped I was not too late.

Switching pronouns

Another horror of self-editing can happen if you decide to change a character from female to male. Let’s say you decided that a male character would work better in a certain role. You would have to change all the cases of “her” to “him.” To make the job easier you might want to use the Find and Replace feature in your Word program. But be careful not to make sweeping changes without looking at each case first, or you might end up changing “mother” to “mothim,”  “father” to “fathim,” and “other” to “othim.”

It helps to type a space before and after the word “her” in Find. That would avoid words with the letters h-e-r in them from being selected. Trust me, there are a lot of words with these letters in them. You don’t want to have to sort them all out.

And then what?

Self-editing is good and necessary, but, after you have checked your ms for all of these (and many other) errors, it will still be worthwhile to have a copy-editor go through your work. A good copy-editor can save you from embarrassment, and consequent bad reviews, when readers find mistakes in your published work.

If you would like to know more about my copy-editing work, please click the “Copy-editing Services”  tab on the top of this blog. 

***** ACK! It happened AGAIN!*****

I just put up this post and sat down to read a book. I couldn’t believe it would happen again so soon, but the author of yet another book put in the wrong name. 

Mr. Jones is in a conversation with X, discussing the demise of Mr. Smith. Two sentences later, it is Mr. Jones who is referred to as the dead guy. 

The story is going down, down, down in my estimation. This is after several other smaller errors. Sigh….