Character: E is for Emotional Traits

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E is for emotional traits.

Your character’s emotional makeup affects his interaction with other characters and defines how he handles both his daily life and whatever adventures (or mishaps) you decide to give him.  Is the character outgoing or quiet?  Does everyone know when he’s mad, or does he keep it buttoned up?  Does this change during the course of the story?  If so, how?

According to some psychologists, the Big Five of personality / emotional traits consists of:

  • Openness:  receptive to new experiences and new ideas; intellectually curious, creative
  • Conscientiousness:  dependable and organized
  • Extraversion:  talkative; gains energy being around others
  • Agreeableness:  cooperative, compassionate, and friendly
  • Neuroticism:  worries a lot; nervous, anxious, and sensitive

You can inherit personality traits, but they are influenced also by environmental factors.  Each person is different, and each person has different levels of these traits.  Mix and match and see what you come up with.

I’m guessing REALLY low on extraversion and agreeableness. 

I’m guessing REALLY low on extraversion and agreeableness.

Image:  Colin Hutton/theguardian.com

Probably neurotic as hell.  But can you blame him?

Probably neurotic as hell.  But can you blame him?

Image: bbc.co.uk

When a character goes through a trauma or some event that causes him to adjust his worldview, it can change his personality to a degree.  Increases and decreases in these traits also occur with changes in age, such as neuroticism becoming quite high in adolescence, and because of depression, etc.  However, if your character is mostly agreeable, he probably will continue to be so overall after something bad happens, but maybe not in certain situations.

For example, let’s say I made up a character named Tim.  He’s pretty friendly and nice, until someone kills his sister Marian during a convenience store robbery.  Now Tim is very upset and angry.  It will take him some time to recover from Marian’s death.  Once he is able to get past the bulk of his grief, people will say, “Oh you’re back to your old self again.”

That doesn’t mean Tim will be the same as he was before.  Maybe he is really depressed, and all his rebound sociability is fake.  He could be suicidal (Marian was his best friend; they were twins and he couldn’t confide in anyone else, and he is lost without her) and then he meets a woman who reminds him of his sister, someone he can talk to.

Or, he could go to eleven on the anger scale and start hunting for the bastard scum who killed his family.

My name is Tim.  You killed my sister.  Prepare to die.

My name is Tim.  You killed my sister.  Prepare to die.

 Image:  graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net   

Tim could fake being okay by day, while at night, he scours the streets of the city to dispense vigilante justice while wearing a black—oh wait, that’s Batman.   Anyway, consider your character’s emotional makeup as you develop him or her.  Strong emotions or hang-ups create interesting interactions with other characters.

Character: D is for Dynamic

atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910

No tornadoes yesterday, at least not here.  But it’s now cold again.  I don’t know about you, but I’m thoroughly sick of it.  It’s cold in my house and it’s hard to type.  What I really want right now is a nap (thanks, comfy blanket!), but I’ll do the best I can.

D is for dynamic.

A dynamic character is one who changes over the course of the narrative.  Does he learn anything?  Do the events of the story alter his perceptions in any way?  Does he do things he would not have done at the beginning, for whatever reason?  Is there growth?

Unlike static characters, who stay the same throughout a story, the inner personalities, thought patterns, and outward behavior of dynamic characters will alter as the events unfold.  The change can be abrupt or it can be a slow process, a struggle through the entire story arc.  It doesn’t have to be a positive change either.  The character can fall apart completely and then either stay that way, die, or hit bottom and come back up.

Whatever you do with him, it must make sense within the narrative.  People don’t alter their entire worldview for minor things.  You can’t have your character show signs of extreme trauma when he’s merely stubbed a toe.

“Finding out your wife has an enormous and dangerous secret vs. tripping on the kerb?  Well, bollocks; I don’t know which one’s worse.” 

“Finding out your wife has an enormous and dangerous secret vs. tripping on the kerb?  Well, bollocks; I don’t know which one’s worse.”

Image:  buddy2blogger.blogspot.com

You must also avoid derailing the character; that is, don’t make him do things he would never do based on how you showed him earlier.  If he’s doing something because the story demands it, then it better be an action he could and would reasonably be capable of performing.  Keep your evil characters evil.  Don’t make a menacing villain suddenly turn into a ginormous teddy bear.

SPOILER! 

This happened in The Dark Knight Rises, when Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter revealed her childhood association with Bane, who then made puppy eyes at her like a nanny on crack.  All the air went out of him at that point, and he ceased to be a frightening and credible threat and just became stupid.  TV Tropes calls this badass decay.  Don’t do it; it’s annoying.

OKAY, SPOILER OVER.

Sorry, I’m on the free version of WordPress and it won’t let me blank out spoilers (that I’m aware of).

Don’t make the cute little girl suddenly pick up a machine gun and blow everybody away, unless you’ve established a clue earlier that she either might know how to use it or can learn really quickly.  Most small children can’t handle automatic weapons.

I have my doubts about these two.

I have my doubts about these two.

Image:  Phaitoon/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dynamic characters will move your story along.  As they evolve, their actions and reactions will initiate changes from other characters.  When Samwise Gamgee leaves the Shire with Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, he’s just a simple gardener and Frodo’s manservant.  By the time they reach Mount Doom, he has ridden in a boat, fought orcs, and killed the horrific giant spider Shelob.  Frodo’s deterioration and steadily decreasing ability to even care for himself brings out fortitude in Sam that he never knew he had.

Come on, say it with him; you know you want to.

Image:  xoyannie.com

The best protagonists don’t stay the same through a story.  Have fun putting your characters through their paces.  Give them things to do that challenge them.  We should all live this way in real life, too, because it keeps us fresh.

 

Character: C is for Critical Flaw

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We’re under a tornado watch today, so I’m charging my phone and blogging my post right now, just in case.  Welcome to spring east of the Rockies!

 

I’m in yer backyard, rearranging yer patio furniture.

 Image:  NWS/NOAA  / Wikimedia Commons

A critical flaw is something inherent in your character that will affect the story conflict in some way.  It might drive him to act, perhaps wrongly, in situations or keep him from acting when he should.  There are a million examples—Harry Potter always trying to do everything himself without asking for any help, the Marquise de Merteuil’s blindness to the consequences of her mean-girl enjoyment as she toys with her lovers (and everyone else) in Les Liasons Dangereuse.  I’m going to use Sherlock Holmes as an illustration, because I’m reading the stories right now.

 No, truly, I am.  Did I really need an excuse to post this?  Did you mind?  I think not. 

No, truly, I am.  But did I really need an excuse to post this?  Did you mind?  I think not.

 Image:  benedictcumberbatch.co.uk

Holmes’s insatiable curiosity and expansive intellect make him an excellent detective, because he 1) can’t resist the mystery, and 2) he’s driven to learn what he doesn’t already know.  He’s also an eccentric jerk.  I’m talking about Literary Holmes, not BBC Holmes, though my first impression of that version was “What an ass.”

The stories are from Watson’s point of view, so we get a bit of an exalted impression of Holmes.  Watson is enamored of his intellectual friend and partner.  He’ll get up out of bed in the middle of the night to go run off on an adventure with this guy, who basically treats him like an adoring and slightly annoying puppy.

Literary Holmes is a perfect example of a charismatic sociopath who is capable of occasional social niceties, though he can hardly be bothered.  He’s more engaging with people than the BBC Holmes and even laughs.  I don’t recall BBC Holmes ever smiling, except in the “His Last Vow” episode, and I knew in one second that was fake.

At times, I find Literary Holmes’s superior way of explaining things insufferable.  I wish Watson would tell him to stuff it, but he’s far too polite.  He often reminds me of Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory, only without the insecurity that makes Sheldon so endearing.

 

*knock knock knock* Watson…*knock knock knock* Watson…*knock knock knock*Watson…

*knock knock knock* Watson…*knock knock knock* Watson…*knock knock knock* Watson…

 Image:  bigbangtheory.wikia.com

Sherlock Holmes has an interesting critical flaw; because he’s so intelligent, he thinks he’s one step ahead of everyone.  As Irene Adler clearly showed him in A Scandal in Bohemia (1891), he isn’t.  It interests me that Doyle chose to make this defeat come at the hands of “the woman,” which was ballsy for a writer in protectionist Victorian times.  Despite his admiration for her smarts, Holmes neither trusts nor exhibits any apparent physical desire for any member of the female sex.

It’s a pity Doyle didn’t work this flaw to a greater extent.  I’m not finished reading the stories yet (you should see the size of the collected works—oof), and I know there is one where Sherlock shows a bit of affection for Watson, who is just about his only friend.  (Not like that—good cripes, get your mind out of the gutter!)

What I would like to see on the show is someone (not Irene—too easy) utterly destroy the great detective with an entire episode series story arc.  Make him flail.  You can’t appeal to sociopaths on an emotional level, so the only way to do it would be to frustrate him nearly to death.  I want to see Sherlock Holmes LOSE HIS COOL COMPLETELY.  Perhaps this could happen after they’ve worked their way through all the story adaptations.

Give your character a major flaw, and then exploit the hell out of it.

 

 

Character: B is for Backstory

atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910

Today, I went to the passport office to turn in my application, so I can invade the U.K. later this year.  It will be so nice to have an actual vacation, far away from the yapping dogs and revving low-riders that have overtaken my neighborhood.  Perhaps I’ll win the Lotto drawing before then and I can afford to move.

 This will do. 

This will do.

Image: xedos4/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 On to A-Z!

B is for backstory.

 In what sort of culture did your character grow up?  Whether we like to admit it or not, our backgrounds influence what sort of adults we’ll be.  While backstory doesn’t have to be a part of your narrative, you should definitely think about for your major characters.

The three male protagonists in my novel Rose’s Hostage had absentee fathers and one who was abusive.  This shaped them in various ways:

  •  Pierce the detective adopted his wife’s dad as a surrogate father
  •  Joshua the bank robber values independence and control
  •  John Cook the serial killer rebelled silently, underneath a façade of decorum

Libby the hostage also never knew her father, though she spent summers with her grandparents and did have a male influence.  Still, she seeks a bond with a strong man who perhaps to her is the fulfillment of a wish fantasy, a hero type she has built up in her head who will swoop down and save her from her humdrum life.  Too bad the one she finds (Joshua) is more of an anti-hero.  Libby is every woman who ever fell in love with the wrong man.

Single mothers raising kids alone is common.  Will this bond the character to another one over their shared background?  Will they seek to put it behind them?

Actors who study or practice Method acting talk about motivation.  As a writer, you’ll seek the same inner contemplation for your major characters.  To make them well-rounded, you will have to think of them as real people, with hopes, dreams, traumas, and fears.  They feel all the same things you do, in varying levels of intensity.

 Even this guy. 

Even this guy.

Image:  fanpop.com

 So how to do this?   It’s not always easy to identify with people in situations that are alien to you, and that can make it difficult to write a character’s behavior authentically.  If you can draw parallels to the situation, you might find moments in your own life where you can recall a similar feeling.

You can elicit your own past here, but eventually, as a writer, you’ll have to imagine scenes to which you have no possible real-life connection.  Re acting techniques again (so many of them are useful for writers; or maybe it’s just me, because I did so much theater in high school and college), Stella Adler modified the Method and urged her students to use the scene’s circumstances to stimulate their imaginations.  Adler also advocated doing research to understand different experiences better.  (I do this too!)

Another helpful tool is character worksheets.  I love these; I make one for each of my major characters and even paste pictures of people or drawings in them that resemble how they look in my mind.  Many of them have questions or list items where you can jot down things like your protagonist’s socioeconomic status, whether they have siblings, where they spent most of their childhood, etc.  Imagine you are your character as you fill it out.

You can make your own, or google character worksheets for writers.  There are thousands of them.

————

Reveal backstory carefully; avoid the “information dump,” where all your backstory suddenly shows up in the narrative in one large clump.  Work tidbits in here and there.  Let the reader get to know the character as we read (I need to work on this one).  Your tale may not make much use of all the background, but your characters will have more depth if you think about where they came from.

Character: A is for Age

atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910

OH HOLY CRAP YOU GUYS.  I completely forgot about the A-Z Challenge!!!

I had a meeting at school on March 31, late in the day, regarding a class project.  Since the professor is also my adviser, we had a discussion about my desire to run like the wind from school.  Conclusion:  I’m taking the summer off to write the sequel to Rose’s Hostage, and I may or may not come back in the fall.

I apologize for forgetting, so today I’ll be posting my A and B posts.  (I knew I should have put a pop-up reminder in my calendar, but noooooooo, I thought I would remember.  Bollocks.)

The theme for this year’s challenge is Character.  Throughout these posts, I’ll discuss elements I consider when I’m developing a character for a story.  I might even make one up as we go along.

Ready?

A is for age. 

What the character does and thinks affects the story, so your first task is to figure out how old the person should be.  There are profound differences between perspectives at each age and how they drive a character’s actions.

For example, children lack information that adults have gleaned through experience, and they don’t always see things as they actually are.  Stephen King’s It and The Body (you may know it as Stand By Me, the film version) and Robert R. McCammon’s Boy’s Life contain fairly realistic depictions of how kids see and cope with events in their worlds.

Let’s make our character a single adult woman named Sarah.  What are some of the things she might be concerned with?

  • Family (children)
  • Career
  • Money
  • Relationships

These are pretty basic to every adult, but Sarah will most likely be thinking about them in a different way at forty-three than she was at twenty-three.

 Nope, gonna party ‘til I drop!

Nope, gonna party ‘til I drop!

 Image:  photostock/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 Twenty-three

If Sarah is typical of most young people, she’ll be on her own but still learning how to handle her own affairs.  A twenty-three-year-old who went to college might not be working, but if she is, she’ll likely be entry-level.  She may be a saver, or she might blow her entire salary on cute shoes (or books, or computer parts, or whatever hobby you want to saddle her with).

Sarah could be in a relationship or dating around.  It’s up to you.  A serious boyfriend is an option here, but depending on where she lives and how she grew up, she may have a family already.  If so, her responsibilities will differ from other people her age.  She may be more resourceful or mature (unless you decide to make her a complete meth head or party animal).

This is a good time for a character to meet an older mentor, someone who will guide her into adulthood.  It could be an older lover.  It could be a coworker, a relative, or a friend.  It could be the story’s antagonist—adversity builds character, you know.

Her outlook on the future will skew toward possibilities.  When I was this age, I felt I had the whole of time and space ahead of me.  I could have adventures.  I could do things that mattered.  I might even change the world.

 Boy, I really didn’t know jack. 

Boy, I really didn’t know jack.

 Image: David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 Sarah in her twenties will adapt to almost instantaneous changes; she probably rents instead of owns a home, and she may move far from where she grew up, more than once.

Forty-three

By this age, Sarah will probably have settled into some kind of routine existence, unless she’s a test pilot or an archaeologist or an astronaut.  Most people entering their forties have been working for a while, so they’re more aware of how to handle money, their time, and their duties.

This may also be a time where Sarah looks at career changes—maybe she had a family earlier and wants to do something different with her life.  She could return to that future optimism she had at twenty-three.  She could go back to school, which would revitalize her.  Overall, older adults tend to be more risk-averse, so Sarah might decide that she’s not willing to risk any stability for what could amount to a pipe dream.

Many people start to face their mortality in their forties.  They begin to lose parents, siblings, friends, and classmates.  Their kids grow up and have kids.  They may face health issues of their own.  They discover signs of aging (this can really mess with a character’s head).  It’s the age of evaluation:  is my life what I wanted it to be?  Is there anything I can do about it at this point?  If so, what?

Sarah in her forties is still young enough to change her life, but unless change is forced upon her (divorce, loss, asteroid), will she want to?

———-

You’ll find tons of things to think about when deciding how old to make your character.  If you’re stuck in your story, try changing your protagonist’s age and write a few scenes from that perspective.   It might be just what you need to give your story some punch.

 

Vocabulary – S is for (lots of) Stuff

I might have done two R posts—I lost track.  Whatever.  On to the letter S!

S stands for silly, sentimental, sexy, and smart, all things that I am.  Modest too—oh, that doesn’t begin with S?  Too bad!

This may be a long list, unless I can’t find anything.  S pairs with quite a few consonants.

Sacristy – a room in a church where sacred objects, candles, vestments, etc. are kept.

 Image:  Wikipedia.com

Salacious – lecherous, indecent.  When someone leers at you in a creepy, perverted manner, they’re being salacious.

Moriarty gave Sherlock a salacious glance, licking his bottom lip.

sherlock3

Can you blame him? Sherlock is delicious.

Image:  benedictcumberbatch.co.uk

Scintillate – to sparkle or flash, as with brilliance or charm.  Or actual sparks, if you’ve just stuck a fork into a socket.

(PS:  Don’t do that.)

Scarify – to make incisions or break up something, as with skin or soil.  Also used to denote cutting or wounding remarks.

 Professor McGonagall’s criticism of her methods scarified Dolores Umbridge.  Although she laughed politely, later in her office, she broke four kitten plates in her fury.    

Seine (sayne) – a vertical fishing net.  Also a river in France that flows through Paris into the English Channel.

Sexton – the caretaker of a church, its grounds, and the attached graveyard, if it has one.  A sexton may also ring the bells for services.  These days, most modern churches have electronic carillons, but some older ones still have actual bell ringers.

Bell ropes in the church of All Saints, UK.

Image: Evelyn Simak / Wikimedia Commons

Shtick – in comedy, a bit of business that draws attention to the actor or character, especially one associated with that person.

A good example would be Jack Tripper’s physical clumsiness in the old Three’s Company sitcom, though the schtick doesn’t have to be physical comedy.  Another one would be Ellen DeGeneres’s verbal rambling (Bob Saget does this too).

Sic (Latin) – an adverb meaning thus, or short for sic erate scriptum, or “thus was it written.”  When you see it in a document, it means that whatever text it refers to is reproduced exactly as it appeared in the original, even if there are spelling errors.  You put brackets around it instead of parentheses, like this:  [sic].   It does NOT mean spelling incorrect.

Skive – 1. to shave or remove the surface of something, as with leather.  2. (British) to evade or shirk work or some other responsibility.

 We’re experts at it.

We’re experts at it.

 Image:  eclecticdragonfly

Sluggard – lazy person.

Smirch – to smear or stain something; a stain or smudge.  What a sluggard might have on his clothes if he’s too lazy to do laundry.

Snaffle – a common bit used for horses, made of a bit piece (jointed) with two rings on either side.  The bit acts to guide the horse through direct pressure when the rider pulls on the reins.  It does not amplify the pressure the way other bits do.

Mmrrff mgmmmpphhh fmmmmpphfgg.

 Image:  Thowra_uk / Wikipedia

Sommelier (French) – Pronounced saw-muh-LYAY.  The waiter in charge of the wine in a fancy restaurant.

Spiracle – an insect’s breathing hole.

Squalid – filthy, neglected.  Often refers to living conditions resulting from extreme poverty.

Stentorian – loud, a sound with great power.

 Principal Wood read the names of the misbehaving students into the microphone in stentorian tones.  Buffy winced as the Scooby Gang’s monikers were announced one by one. 

Suctorial – adapted for suction, an organ for sucking or producing suction (such as tentacles or the mouthparts of leeches).  Leeches are harmless and don’t hurt; I’ve had one or two on me when I used to play in the creek as a kid.  Doctors have been using them for various treatments even today.

 I’m in yer hand, suckin’ yer bad bloods out.

I’m in yer hand, suckin’ yer bad bloods out.

 Image:  spinalstenosis.org

 Okay, I’m sorry about that; it was kind of gross.  Here’s another picture of Sherlock to get that out of your head.

Sherlock again

Image: benedictcumberbatch.co.uk

 Mmmmm, yesssss……my preciousss…..oh sorry, where were we?

Svelte – slender.

Sward – a piece of land covered with grass.  Hear the word greensward in Daffy’s song here:

Syncope (SING-kuh-pee) – the medical term for fainting. 

That’s all for today, kids.  Find a word you like?  Use it—it’s free!

Editing, Homework, and Blogging From A-Z

Whew!  It’s been a busy time, and I’m sorry I haven’t been around much lately.  Here’s what has been going on:

  • Homework, homework, homework.  A cliff on which I am hanging by the tips of my fingers.  Perhaps it wasn’t a good idea to take these two classes together (healthcare writing—blargh!—and advanced tech writing, which mostly consists of document design).
  • Fitting in those workouts I promised myself I would do.  They take time.  Why can’t humans have super speed so we can do an hour’s worth of exercise in ten minutes and call it good?
  • Revising Tunerville.  So far, I have done the things my reader suggested, and now I’m beginning the tedious line editing process.

Line editing is going through the book looking for stupid things like spelling and grammar errors, consistency in language, and stuff that plain doesn’t make sense.

A little bird told me this was a lot like homework.

Image:  Wikimedia Commons

Let me give you an example.  In this post, I talked about the plot and mentioned Callahan, the Explorer from the Realm who visits Chris with a warning to set things right.  This character is several hundred years old and very reserved.

His dialogue contains no contractions whatsoever.  He says “do not” instead of “doesn’t,” and his speech is somewhat lofty.  He would not say someone made something; he would say they constructed it.

Same with Chris.  His dialogue is much simpler, as are his thought patterns.  Since he is the protagonist, a lot of the book is from his point of view.  When inside his head, I try not to use the same kind of language I use for Callahan.  Look at the difference between this introductory text from Chris’s POV:

In the dark basement, he sat on the bottom step and picked at the splinter.  Emo crawled into his lap and purred, pushing his ears against Chris’s chin.  He rubbed the cat absently and wondered for the thousandth time if the house, built in 1907, could possibly be haunted.  Never quite had the nerve to bring the group here; he would be too disappointed if it wasn’t.  Still, what about those funny noises he used to hear at night when he stayed here as a kid, the ones his grandmother told him were mice?  Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could tune ghosts in like a TV channel and see one whenever I wanted? 

And this, from Callahan’s:

His pace slowed as he drew nearer.  The Directorate meetings weighed on him lately.  He disliked the formality, the pomp.  He would much rather be in the Gardens, tending the lilies and wildflowers that were his favorites, or in the Library reading Poe or perhaps conversing with him.  News of the tuner had naturally reached the Realm.  No one but the Directorate seemed the slightest bit concerned.  The readers read, artists painted, fishers fished, writers wrote, children played, and on the vast azure surface of the Realm’s ocean, sailboats bobbed.  

 The language is slightly more formal, and you won’t see any sentence fragments (yes, they have their place in fiction) in Callahan’s scenes.

Thanks to advice from Write Tight: Say Exactly What You Mean with Precision and Power by William Brohaugh, I’m also searching for words like up, down, off, over, together, behind, and anything ending with –ly.  With each pass through the book, I find rewriting with stronger verbs and ditching these adverbs and modifiers reduces the word count.  I’ve gone from 89,300 to below 88,100.

Heh.

  • Another thing I’m doing is preparing for the Blogging from A-Z Challenge in April.  Once again, I’ll be blogging every day except Sunday (unless I get behind, which may happen).  I am NOT quitting this time!

I will discuss characterization, using the alphabet structure to illustrate different aspects of a person I think about when I build them out of nothing.  I’ve already begun making notes for each post.   This challenge goes easier if you have a game plan right from the beginning.

  • In addition, I’m preparing to take the summer off and write a sequel to Rose’s Hostage.  Enough research is in place for me to start the first draft.  I might do a mini NaNoWriMo for it, so you can follow along.
  • And I’m planning a trip in the autumn to England and Wales to visit family and see some Doctor Who locations (and castles) in Cardiff.  Woot!  I’ve been to England, long ago, but never Wales.  It’s so exciting, it’s all I can think about.

Wales has the most badass flag in the world.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Of course I’ll blog from there, never fear.  I hope to snap lots of pictures to post as well, so stay tuned.   It would be nice if I could spend a whole month and write, but a sabbatical is not practical for me right now, darn it.

Expect another vocabulary post soon; those are way too much fun.  Once they’re finished, I’ll have to come up with another series for you.  If you have any suggestions, I’m open to them; just post in comments.

Vocabulary – R is for Rawr!

UPDATE:

I’ve finished the hard copy edit of Tunerville.  Now to put the marks and changes I made on the paper manuscript into the digital one.  I think I’ll do that in the evenings, so I don’t have to lug that damn binder around.

I had a doctor’s appointment the other day and ended up waiting for an hour, but luckily, I had the manuscript with me and just sat there and edited.  Once I got away from the idiots in the waiting room who would not shut up, that is. 

————–

Today’s vocabulary letter is R, the favorite letter of pirates everywhere.  Rrrrr!

Oh, it’s not?  Really?  Well, it’s a pretty cool letter anyway.  Lots of interesting words begin with R.  Let’s look at some, shall we?

Rawr!  Okay, that’s not really a word.  But it’s my favorite. 

Raconteur:  a teller of tales and anecdotes.  No, it isn’t meant to describe writers; it refers to oral stories.  Beowulf is an oral tale passed down for generations before somebody finally wrote it down so generations of English students could gnash their teeth over it. 

Hint:  it’s easier to understand if you read it aloud.  

Raita:  (RY-tah) Hindi.  A dish made of yogurt and spices and/or vegetables eaten in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.  It’s used as a sauce or dip, and sometimes a salad.  I haven’t tried it, but I like Indian food so someday I might.  We have a decent restaurant here. 

A raita with cucumber and mint. Try not to double dip, you dirty thing.

  Image:  Elisabeth Nara/Wikimedia Commons

Realism:  in literature, theater, or art, portraying things as they really are, i.e. in a realistic manner.  Also a literary movement in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that deeply analyzed characters and situations.  Mark Twain, Henrik Ibsen, and Norman Mailer have all been classified as realists.

Recalcitrant:  resists authority, is hard to manage. 

No matter how hard Watson tried, he could not persuade a recalcitrant Sherlock to sit down and relax for a while. 

Well, I give up….

Well, I give up….

Image: stupidfacesofsherlock.tumblr.com/

Rhetoric:  This is a tough one, because it has more than one meaning.  Collins English Dictionary has four definitions:

1.

the study of the technique of using language effectively

2.

the art of using speech to persuade, influence, or please; oratory

3.

excessive use of ornamentation and contrivance in spoken or written discourse; bombast

4.

speech or discourse that pretends to significance but lacks true meaning: all the politician says is mere rhetoric

(rhetoric. Dictionary.com. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/rhetoric (accessed: February 16, 2014).

In my Analysis of Scientific Literature, we used definition 1 to study how science writers got their points across.  Pretty interesting, but I often got so wrapped up in reading the actual articles that I forgot to analyze them.  Because science is cool. 

Rhizogenic:  produces roots. 

The Doctor shook his head sadly.  “This poor alien’s rhizogenic properties doomed him.  See, he could not get out of the Cyberman’s way and was crushed.” 

“Doctor,” Sarah Jane said.  “That’s a carrot.” 

“Well, so it is.  Must have left my glasses in the TARDIS!  Hmm…suddenly, I’d like a salad.  With extra aliens, if you please!”

Rictus:  gaping or open mouth.  I’ve seen / heard this word refer to a grimace as well. 

Riposte:  a sharp and fast retort.  This is what you give when someone disses you and you zap them right back. 

Roister: (verb) to swagger, to revel boisterously.  

Kinda like this.

Kinda like this.

Image: WikiPaintings.com.  Painting by Jan Steen (1626–1679)

Rotund:  round in shape, plump or fat. 

“What a lovely, rotund roast of beef that is, Margaret,” Sir Giles said, licking his chops. “I can’t wait to tuck in.”

Rudimentary:  basic, primitive. 

“Your brain defines rudimentary when compared to mine,” Sherlock said, seemingly failing to notice that Moriarty’s lady friend was sneaking up behind him about to clock him with a vase. 

Ruminate:  to chew cud, as with a cow (ruminant).  Also to ponder something. 

EASTER EGG ALERT!  My sister and I had a lot of fun with this one.  The writer of the early Nancy Drew books, Carolyn Keene (pseudonym for a number of contract writers) made Nancy ruminate over something.  Of course, we knew the other definition first and laughed for days over Nancy chewing her cud.  I use this word in every book I write, for my sister. 

Rye:  a cereal grain used for bread, animal food, and some whiskeys.  A good rye bread is very tasty.  I like the dark kind myself. 

An ear of rye. Similar to but not the same as ryegrass. Don’t try to make bread from that stuff on your lawn.

Image: Wikipedia

That’s all the vocabulary I have for today, people.  Go out and word!

News: Bloggers have First Amendment rights too

A U.S. federal appellate court recently ruled that bloggers have the same First Amendment rights as traditional news media against libel suits.  Read the story here.

This is a good thing; with all the changes in how we get our information, bloggers have picked up some of the slack from traditional journalism.  And, as the article says, how much more free can internet posting be?

Granted, there has been a lot of flap about free speech lately, what with that duck guy (I know his name; I just don’t care to repeat it) and others tossing their opinions out like poop-throwing monkeys.  Let me remind you again:  the First Amendment protects people against government infringement of speech, except under certain circumstances (like in wartime).

You can absolutely be penalized or even fired by your employer for what you say and write.  And you can be sued, if it is blatantly false and damaging to the other party.  Libel is written; slander is spoken.

We’ve all had to be conscious of things like copyright, defamation, disclosure, and fair use.  But now, we bloggers know that if we have something important to say, that anyone attacking us because they don’t like it will have to conform their accusations to the same standard as if we had published in the paper.

 

Tunerville Update and Principles of Design

Just a quick dash in to let you know that my friend and first reader Jim Allder finished with his reading of Tunerville.  He liked it!

He said it reminded him of a cross between Michael Crichton and Bruce Joel Rubin (author of the screenplay for Ghost; probably because there are ghosts in it).  High praise indeed.  To be compared to the great Crichton made me squee.

Rest in peace, sir.  You left us too soon.

Rest in peace, sir. You left us too soon.

Image:  michaelcrichton.net

Next, I will incorporate his suggestions (one was something I was thinking about doing anyway, which tells me it was on track) and then print it out for its first hard copy edit.  D’aww!

Although that means I have to haul it around in a binder for a few days.  Ick.  Also I better buy some paper.  And revisit my copymarks, most of which I’ve forgotten by now.  I still have my study sheet.

That’s all I have time for right now, since I’m drowning in homework (the four principles of design are:  Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity.  Acronym:  C.R.A.P.  Tee hee!).  But I’ll be back soon, when I get my edit finished, and I might even post a wee bit of text.

‘Til next time, people.  Keep your feet warm.