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2020 - June 27th

Ellipsis or Em Dash?

EXAMPLE
When the pace of your story is fast—and you need to interrupt it with an extra thought—the em dash is a much faster pause than a comma.

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EXAMPLE
“I wish you wouldn’t interrup—”

“But I can’t wait!”

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EXAMPLE
When the pace of your story is slow … and maybe … you need a pause that’s slower … yes … much slower than a comma, the ellipsis is quite handy.

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EXAMPLE
When a character's dialogue slowly trails off, and a period doesn’t pause long enough…

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The em dash and ellipsis should almost exclusively be used for internal or external dialogue. The same goes for a question mark or exclamation mark.

Narration is most often an unknown impartial voice that serves as background noise. It is the "glue" that fills the gaps and holds the story together. The reader knows it’s there, but he shouldn’t really notice it.

Narration offers important information. It can also speed up or slow down the pace of a story. However, it should use only periods and commas to prevent calling attention to itself. Other punctuation can be distracting. A surprising number of people aren’t sure how to read the em dash, ellipsis, colon, or semicolon, so they might read it incorrectly or stop reading to figure it out. This is why writers are often told not to use them unless they are absolutely necessary.

Good writers strive to prevent confusion or distraction. They want readers to be glued to the story from beginning to end.

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OTHER NEWS

My husband recently won FIRST PLACE in the Children's Fiction category of the annual Friends of the Tulsa City-County Library Adult Writing Contest! Click here to visit his website and learn more about him.

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The 2nd Annual La Viness Short Story Writing Contest is already receiving submissions. We’re only taking the first 100 entries this year, so don't wait until the last minute!
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Two pieces of my work have recently been published in anthologies. One is a memoir, and one is a short story. Here are a couple of links:

Writing Our Lives: A Southern Storytellers Anthology, Volume III

The Vault of Terror: Tales to Tell, Volume 3


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PREVIOUS MESSAGES:

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2020 - June 15th

Am I male or female?

I’m not sure why, but when I read a story, and I’m not told right away if the main character is male or female, I usually assume it is a male. So, I seem to read from a guy’s point of view, unless otherwise directed. This works out in some stories, but when I read two or three pages of the story and THEN I find out the main character is a female, I have to start the whole story over, which is frustrating. So, I normally stop reading that story and move on to the next.

Yes, I move on, unless I’m editing the story or judging it for a contest. In that case, I take points away for the author not clueing me in right from the start.

Guys and gals just don’t see things in the same way.

If a girl has a cat or dog in a story, it’s usually a sweet little cuddly creature. Guys are more likely to be buddies with them, so the animals may take on a main character role. This goes for any other animals, too. Girls tend to fret over the sweet things or be afraid of them, and boys will talk to them out loud, as if they’re going to respond.

Even a house is subject to male-female differences. A guy tends to see the house as a temporary location. It should serve his basic needs, and it has to be there when he needs it. But most women see a home as a place of comfort. It needs to look pleasant and be comforting. She needs to be able to cuddle up on the sofa and read a book. A guy needs a sofa to sit or sleep on. He doesn’t care what it looks like, as long as it’s not slimy or stinky. And when he’s had an extra hard day at work, even that might not matter.

Now, before you get all fussy with your views on how we shouldn’t stereotype our characters, you should know that I’m speaking about initial interpretation, ONLY. A character’s gender should be identified in a very clear manner as soon as possible in a story. If you want to have a guy who acts more feminine, that’s fine. Just be clear at the beginning that we are reading about a guy, so we can relate to him better as we learn more about him. Same goes for a female.

And what if the name is Lynn, or Mattie, or Sam? There are a lot of names that will not help the reader identify the character’s gender. So, find a way to be clear, and make sure it’s near the beginning of the story.

The next issue is making it clear. Since we’re supposed to start our stories in the heat of a situation, how can we clearly identify the gender of our character without coming out and saying it is a woman? Even worse, what if it’s written in first person? What gender is an “I” person? How do we make that clear right away?

Sometimes, you can let the character talk to himself: “OMG! I’m a guy. I’m not supposed to be afraid of a half-inch spider. If anyone finds out, I’ll die. I’ll just die!”

Other times, you can rely on stereotype: “It’s just a mutt, Laura. Ya gotta be firm with ‘em.” Lou turned toward the German Shepherd. “Now, get on outta here! Get!”

And there’s clothing: When the elevator doors closed, they grabbed the hem of Sam’s dress. (If Sam’s not a woman, you might want to make that clear pretty quick.)

Look for ways to help your readers instantly connect with your main character. It will make the beginning of your story much stronger and more believable if they don’t have to keep on guessing until page two or three.

And remember – If you’ve submitted something to a publisher or a contest, you are losing points if it’s not clear from the beginning.

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2020 - June 3rd

How many books do you have in you?

One thing serious book publishers are looking for is whether an author has more than one book in them. If you have a trilogy, that's great, but what's next? A trilogy will carry you for more than one book, but if you're a big hit, your readers will want more, and the publisher is expected to give more.

Do you have more? Are you an author that a publisher can sink their money into and get a good payback on, or are you an author who has only a few good words?

If you're a one-hit-wonder, then as soon as that book is done, the publisher has to look for another good author. That takes more time, and more time equals more cost.

Publishers are looking for authors they can invest in. They don't publish your books for free. They have people to pay. In many cases, those people only get paid when your books sell. That's what royalties are all about. But some entities, such as the printers, usually get paid up front. Where does that money come from? The publisher's bank account.

So, the publisher wants to know, "Are you worth that investment?"

How many books do you have in you?

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2020 - March 10th

Welcome to my new website. The old one got...old. I wanted something a little different. It's not quite perfect, but I'm working on it.

Please, take a little time to check out the site. Feel free to link to any of my pages. And thanks for stopping in. I hope to see you this year at a conference or other event on my schedule.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I always encourage writers to attend at least one conference each year, so they can learn more and connect with other writers. But, we all have a first time, and first times can be a little scary. So, if you are new to a conference and would like to hang out with me, just let me know. I'd love to have your company. I remember what it's like to be the newbie.

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All images and text on this site, were created by JesPiddlin - copyright 2017 and forward.