“People Watching”

Writers are never bored when they are left sitting in the car or in a room, waiting for a friend or an appointment. As long as we have a pen and paper we will be fine.

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Sometimes I play a “people watching” game using my notebook and this will help shape some of my characters when I have more time to write.

Whether you use a genuine “Moleskine” or an inexpensive scratch pad style notebook, this game is both fun and useful for adding colourful characters to a novel. You can play the game alone or take turns with another person. (For more about Moleskines, click here: https://annelisplace.wordpress.com/2018/02/11/moleskine-or-moleskin/)

When someone enters my line of vision, I think, “What is the thing I notice most about this person?” It might be some facial feature or other physical attribute, or it may be a piece of clothing or accessory, or the way the person moves. Whatever it is, the challenge is to jot down one or two keywords that stand out about this person, and to do it quickly, say within two or three seconds. If I take longer than that, I lose the spontaneity and it is no longer a valid first impression.

Examples of keywords for people who have passed by:

  1. huge leather purse
  2. crooked nose, missing teeth
  3. greasy hair
  4. tall, stooping
  5. wild hair, lots of jewelry
  6. looking over the shoulder, hunted look
  7. wiping nose with back of hand
  8. high heels clacking on cement
  9. business suit, pantlegs too short
  10. sloppy look, sweats

Later, when I look at my keywords, more of that person’s description will probably come back to me.

Sometimes I have agonized over  descriptions of  character in my novel, as I try hard not to have them all come out the same. It’s not enough to add details arbitrarily to a person’s outward appearance. These details have to suit the personality to make that person believable to the reader.

For example: I shouldn’t simply decide that Joan could wear a new red hat or should have red striped socks. Perhaps Joan is shy and  lacks self-confidence. In that case, she is unlikely to wear clothes or accessories that draw attention to herself. I might choose one of the examples in my notebook as a starting point and use the keywords to build a character in my mind. It may even be a combination of several examples. The more samples I have to choose from, the more interesting and accurately depicted my character will be. I can mix and match them if they suit the kind of person I need for my novel.

Once I have a collection of keywords for my people, I can juggle them around to build unique characters. For me, it is works best to put the new character’s attributes all on one page when I’m ready to create him or her. There are character profile sheets available on the Internet. I can easily fill in the keywords once my imaginary person is created. That way I can refer to the details later on and not give Joan blue eyes in Chapter 21 when she had brown eyes in Chapter 2. Believe me, I’ve done that.

Now, see how easy and fun building character can be?

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Run-on Sentences

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Do you strive to be a good writer? Do you have trouble recognizing  a correct sentence? Are you guilty of writing run-on sentences? Here are some ways to solve this problem.

One of the most common mistakes beginning writers make is to use run-on sentences. When two complete thoughts are stuck together as one sentence, quite often it is a run-on sentence, and is grammatically incorrect. For a copy editor, a piece of writing that is full of run-on sentences can be a nightmare to work through.

Very often, the two parts of the run-on sentence are related, most likely talking about the same idea. The red and green highlighting shows the two sentences that have been put together to make one run-on (incorrect) sentence.

(Run-on) My house is at the end of the block no other houses are beyond mine.

The simplest way to correct this would be to make two sentences.

My house is at the end of the block. No other houses are beyond mine.

*****

(Run-on) She was only fourteen years old no wonder she was vulnerable.

She was only fourteen years old. No wonder she was vulnerable.

*****

(Run-on) I shopped in the rain today I got drenched.

I shopped in the rain today. I got drenched.

Here are other options:

1. I shopped in the rain today, and got drenched.

2. I shopped in the rain today; I got drenched.

3. I shopped in the rain today; therefore, I got drenched.

4. Because I shopped in the rain today, I got drenched.

*****

Since you have so many options, please use one of them instead of jamming two complete thoughts into one sentence without the proper conjunctions or punctuation. The simplest way to fix a run-on sentence is with a period and capital letter, but as you can see, there are other alternatives. Leaving it as a run-on sentence is not one of them.

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For information about copy editing services, please go to my website at

www.anneli-purchase.com

Is Your Writing Feeble or Fabulous?

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Find out more about Anneli:

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As well as my first four novels, I have now written “Marlie,” a third novel of romantic suspense that takes place in the Queen Charlotte Islands. It follows “The Wind Weeps” (a free download), and “Reckoning Tide,” but is a stand-alone novel.

Moleskine or Moleskin?

Today I’ve just discovered what most people probably have known for years; that the Moleskine notebook is not named after the hide of a little mouse-like creature. I used to think that the Moleskine notebook was perhaps originally made with a soft, fuzzy cover that resembled the fur of a tiny mole and that the name had stuck and future notebooks were named in honour of these little creatures with soft hides.

Every serious writer should have a little notebook (a Moleskine) with him at all times, as you never know when a fantastic idea will pop into your head and you know you’ll forget it if you don’t write it down immediately.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that Moleskine is the company co-founded by Maria Sebregondi in Milan, Italy, in 1997. Ms. Sebregondi approached the Modo & Modo Company to produce the notebooks styled after those produced in Paris in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Writers love them because the acid-free pages are stitched rather than glued so they lie flat, and the elastic holds the book closed when not in use.

Below is the mole (whose species was not used to make the famous notebooks). Perhaps I was the only one who thought the notebooks were named for the soft feel of this little animal’s fur. I feel a bit foolish for even thinking that now.

Get your notebook from the “Moleskine” Company and don’t even think of skinning me for a “moleskin” notebook.

I did find out that moleskin is the name of a heavy cotton fabric used to make clothing, especially trousers. The German army used it for making their uniforms from the 1960s to the 1990s.

And have you ever had a blister on your foot? You may have put a strip of “moleskin” on it. The fuzzy material can have an adhesive backing to stick on your foot like a Band-Aid, but there is a hole cut out so it doesn’t rub on the blister, and the thick soft moleskin around it prevents further chafing of the blister.

I will no longer think of little mice and shrews and moles when I scribble my all-important author’s notes in my Moleskin notebook.

Trouble Times Four

Over the years I have found that having a gimmick to remember things works well for me. I’d like to share some of them to help you choose the right form of these four sets of words that cause many people grief. 

  1. their, they’re, there
  2. your, you’re
  3. its, it’s
  4. lets, let’s

First the three kinds of their/there/they’re.

They’re = they are. We use they’re when we mean the short way of saying “they are.”

They’re my best friends.

They’re is correct because you could say, “They are” in place of they’re.”

***

Their = owning something

That is their new red car.

This word is often misspelled, so remember that it has the word the at the beginning (THEir).

***

There = Not here, but over there, farther away. The word “there” has “here” in it.

If you think of it as “not here,” you will always remember how to spell there and which one is the correct form of “there/they’re/their.

There is a plant in the pot.

The plant is over there, in the pot.

***

You’re = you are

You’re the one for me. Use you’re if you can replace the word with you are.

***

Your = ownership. Think of our (belongs to us), and so your (which has “our” in it) belongs to you.

Your mother loves you.

***

It’s = it is

If you can replace it’s with it is, then you have the correct form of its/it’s.

It’s a beautiful day.

***

Its – belonging to “it”

The car stood with its door open. (The door belongs to the car.)

***

Let’s = let us (the apostrophe takes the place of the letter “u.”

Let’s go to the dance.

***

Lets – allows

I’ll come if my mom lets me.

***

Let’s hope that this post helps make life easier for you and lets you write with more confidence.

It’s easy to see its benefits once you start using the correct words.

You’re going to feel your confidence boosted.

Your friends over there will be proud to know that they’re going to have a good writer as their friend.

How We Speak

How we speak tells our listeners a lot about us. We don’t need to sound like Wikipedia, but if we sound as if we are uneducated others tend to judge us accordingly.

I find it annoying when a person has purposely taken up the habit of using bad grammar. This usually affects how the person  is perceived  by others, and makes a negative impression.  I see  little advantage to this, unless the poor speaker is desperate to be “one of the boys” (or girls). Perhaps I’m misjudging the reason for that kind of speech, but in some cases I have seen and heard, this seems to fit.

The kind of language I’m talking about is not so much the sentences with the *F* word thrown in  before every noun and verb in the sentence, but rather something more common — using the wrong tense of see, come, say, go, and several other verbs.

Also notice the insecure use of “this” instead of “a” or “the,” with the sentences going higher in pitch at the end so they sound like a question.

Here is an example of a conversation with the errors marked in red:

Me and my buddy seen this ad in the paper? We rented an upstairs room in this boarding house? The first day I gets up early because I hears this noise downstairs? I come down the stairs in a hurry and I seen this guy? He’s leaving the house with this black bag in his hand?

I would’ve went after him, but I never seen which way he went. So I says to my buddy, “Hey buddy! I just seen this burglar take off with this black bag.”

“Oh, that’s just the guy that’s renting the downstairs room. Probably going to school. I think he’s in college.”

“Hmpf! Good thing we got our jobs. We don’t need no grammar lessons. I could’ve went  to college  but I seen the Help Wanted sign. Don’t need no grammar.”

“But your job is to be a reporter. You need good English for that.”

“Naaahhh! I’ll just get Anneli to copy-edit my work for me.”

*****

Have you heard people speaking like this? Why do you think they do it, when they know it’s not good English?

Three Sets of Troublesome Words

 

penProbably everyone who ever wrote anything has some words they find troublesome. Here are a few that many people struggle with.

  1.  passed or past

Passed is used when you mean the past tense of the verb to pass (go by, or beyond something).

Past refers to a time that has gone by.

Examples:

I passed a car that was traveling too slowly on the highway.

My great-grandmother passed away when I was a baby (in the past).

She passed (handed out) the exams papers to the students. We all hoped we had passed the exam (passed  beyond the required grade).

Neither of us wanted to talk about our past (time gone by).

It was already past the hour (the time) when we usually went to sleep. We hadn’t realized how quickly the time had passed (gone by).

It does get tricky. You can be in a car that has passed a bicycle. That means you have gone past the bicycle. Yikes!!! Hang in there. It does make sense. Your car did the action of passing the bicycle and you went past the bicycle (to a point beyond it).

That was a tricky one. The next ones should be easier.

2. advice or advise, and

3. affect or effect

Advice is the noun and advise is the verb. I will also add the use of affect (a verb) and effect (usually a noun, but can be used as a verb).

Examples:

Long ago when the Captain and I were in a pub and a couple at the next table invited us to play shuffleboard with them, I said I had never played it before. The man came over to me, draped his arm over my shoulder and placed his hand on the back of my hand as I held one of the “pucks,” meaning to guide my hand as I slid the puck.

“Let me give you some advice (noun),” he said.

At this point the captain came over and said to the man, “I advise (verb) you to take your hands off her.”

This had the desired effect (noun) and the man moved away. How did this affect (verb) the rest of the game? Not at all. If you want to effect (here it is a verb) change, sometimes you have to speak up to get the effect (noun) you want. It need not affect (verb) the mood in the room at all.

Whew! That was hard work. I think I need to go LIE (not LAY) down.