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Thread: Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, Volume 1

  1. #401
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: A Question for Uncle Jim:

    Is that a genuine recipe? Have you made it yourself?

    Yes, it's a genuine recipe. An old family recipe, in fact. (And I have friends who Really Love it.)

    I also feel, making that pie, the way I feel when writing a short story. Whether this means I'm nuts in the head I leave to others.

    Perhaps it is a koan.

    "Writing a short story is like making a lime pie," the Master said.

    The Disciple asked, "How is making a lime pie like writing a short story? It makes no sense!"

    "You are quite right," the Master replied. "It makes no sense."

  2. #402
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: Rewrites

    Is there a FAQ or a set of guidelines somewhere?

    Yes, real early on: Anything you say must be true, and anything you say must be helpful.

  3. #403
    HConn
    Guest

    Re: A Question for Uncle Jim:

    Thanks. I'm printing the recipe and I'll be making it for my wife.



    edited to add: oops, this post isn't helpful. Let me add something.

    "In art, there are tears that do lie too deep for thought."
    -- Louis Kronenberger

    Okay. Not very helpful, but it's something.

  4. #404
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: A Question for Uncle Jim:

    Another quick one: is there any problem with using "now" to refer to a past-tense action? "I now sat at the table", for instance? I've been avoiding this one on the assumption that it was an oxymoron, but substituting "then" doesn't always sound as good.

    How does ""I now sat at the table" differ from "I sat at the table"?

    If' you're using that as dialog, and trying to differentiate how your different characters speak, perhaps show something about their social class, level of education, or native region, I don't see anything wrong with either phrasing.

    Perhaps if we could see that sentence used in a paragraph?

    Words are given meaning by the words around them.

  5. #405
    qatz
    Guest

    Re: reality knocking on the door.

    HConn, I am sorry I was bad. I was trying to be helpful. See my post in Reph's thread.

  6. #406
    johnbaern
    Guest

    Re: Learn Writing with Uncle Jim

    For instance, off the top of my head:

    "'What a day!' I thought. I was right. It had been quite a day. It all started with the Grand Wizard of Schnorkle...

    ...and there were a great many things I had done that day, yadda yadda shish bam boom.

    NOW I sat at the table. A fly was on the wall. It made me hungry."

    I'm not sure if the transition BACK to the primary stream is evident without the 'now'. In speech, this sort of phrasing, oxymoronical or not, is sometimes used.

    I suppose you are right in that the "now" is not the only way to solve the problem-- the above passage could read "I sat at the table, thinking all of it over." or something to that effect. I suppose I was just looking for options.

    ..

    If the above passage were present tense, like so: "NOW I sit at the table.", it would not be oxymoronical. "Now" would still be a fluff word, but answer me this-- if there was no good, constructive phrase to indicate a return to the primary stream, might not one fluff word be better than two or three or five?

    I dunno.

    John

  7. #407
    johnbaern
    Guest

    Furthermore:

    Read this passage from Joseph Heller's Something Happened:

    ""
    . And then, with victory palpably before me, I might decide to speak; I might decide to move in skillfully for my own attack, simulating an air of smug composure that seeks mockingly to impersonate her own.
    . "No," I will say enigmatically.
    . (And this will confuse her.)
    . "No what?" she must ask.
    . "No, you're not."
    . "Not what? she is forced to inquire, timid and suspicious now. "What do you mean?"
    ""

    Within that passage we have (a) an "and then", (b) a "superfluous" now (or is it? What do you think, Jim?), and (c) a shift from the future to the present tense with no warning or explanation.

    Then again, Joseph Heller is the same guy who ticked alot of traditionalists off with his relentless circular plotting in Catch-22; and in Something Happened he sometimes employs impossibly L O N G parenthetical phrases which force you to go back and read what came before in order to continue (this annoys even me a little bit. Fortunately the atrocious ones are few and far between.).

    I like both books a great deal though (I would love to write like Joseph Heller).. and I just thought that (that) passage was kind of interesting.

    John

  8. #408
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: Learn Writing with Uncle Jim

    "'What a day!' I thought. I was right. It had been quite a day. It all started with the Grand Wizard of Schnorkle...

    ...and there were a great many things I had done that day, yadda yadda shish bam boom.

    NOW I sat at the table. A fly was on the wall. It made me hungry."


    Two thoughts came instantly to my mind: Did the readers really need the recap; and was it the fly, the wall, or table that made the narrator hungry?

    Try this: Read the passage aloud without "now," then with it. Which sounds better to you?

  9. #409
    jpwriter
    Guest

    Re: A Question for Uncle Jim:

    James,
    Perhaps you could do a lesson about transitions. Particularly on going to and from different time periods.
    You humble servant awaits.
    Jerry

  10. #410
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: Furthermore:

    Within that passage we have (a) an "and then", (b) a "superfluous" now (or is it? What do you think, Jim?), and (c) a shift from the future to the present tense with no warning or explanation.

    I think this is thought, or interior dialog. Much is allowed in dialog. Is the narrator revealing character? I suspect he may be.

    What's with the leading periods?

    I also ask, how fast is the plot moving at this point? Plain, or even clumsy writing will be overlooked if the story is strong and the plot is moving.

    (I blush to admit that I haven't read this particular book.)

    General principle: You can do anything, anything at all, in dialog.

  11. #411
    reph
    Guest

    One reader's reaction

    "A fly was on the wall. It made me hungry."

    That made me think the narrator was a frog. "With a flick of my tongue, I..."

  12. #412
    LiamJackson
    Guest

    Re: One reader's reaction

    <<Frog...>>

    Or Renfield.

  13. #413
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    On Quitting One's Day Job

    I quit my day job around fifteen years ago.

    Here's what I wish someone had told me before I did so:

    First, make sure you have a year's supply of writing contracts to work on.

    Second, make sure you have a year's supply of money to live on.

    Third, pay down all your credit cards to zero then cancel them.

    Fourth, be prepared to white-knuckle your way through life.

  14. #414
    rtilryarms
    Guest

    Well?

    Is it worth it?

  15. #415
    jpwriter
    Guest

    Re: On Quitting One's Day Job

    James,
    The real questions are these: Would you have listened to them? Could any person in your life at that time have convinced you to do other than you did?

    I have just quit a job making 50K with long hours and higher stress for one making 25K with 40 hours and low stress in order to spend more time writing and learning the craft. I listened to not one naysayer.
    Jerry

  16. #416
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: On Quitting One's Day Job

    Yes, I think I would have listened. Quitting your day job isn't some wild, crazy thing to do on a whim, and it isn't something so compelling that you can't do otherwise. It's a decision to make, with full facts available, and with all sorts of opinions from people who've been down the road ahead of you to look at and evaluate for your own situation.

  17. #417
    johnbaern
    Guest

    Re:

    Did the reader need a recap? If the passage recounting the days events was particularly long, they probably would, no?

    That particular passage was made up on the spot, with little to no thought wasted. But to answer the question-- I think it was the fly, and if the "it made me hungry" had been set off by a double-dash instead of in its own sentence, that would have been clear.

    In Something Happened the narrator is a character, and the entirety of the narration is structured as a sort of "dialogue", I suppose. As far as the pace of the plot-- it doesn't really move. That passage is on page 140, and does not advance plot (I suppose it reveals character). At that point in the book about 3 hours have passed.

    But is the book thoroughly engrossing at that point, as it is at all points? Yes.

    The period leads were to provide indentation (make it easier to read). EZBoard automatically disregards the following characters-- spaces immediately after a carriage return, consecutive spaces, and any carriage returns over 2 in a row. I actually put two spaces after each period, but as you can see they were reduced to one.

    ..

    That's a very good point about dialogue, though. I now see where I was confused-- if the narrator is *also* a character, alot of the narration also be "dialogue". Correct?

    John

  18. #418
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: Re:

    ... if the narrator is *also* a character, a lot of the narration can also be "dialogue."

    That's your basic First Person POV.

    <HR>

    &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;test

    &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;test


    <hr>

    <pre>
    &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;test
    </pre>

    <pre>
    test
    </pre>

    <hr>

  19. #419
    Duane
    Guest

    Question

    Can someone please explain the use of these characters "..." in a sentence.

    I use them in my e-mails to show a pause. But that's just me...you know...trying to slow the reader down.

    It's showing up in the novel that i'm currently reading. In fact, a paragraph has ended this way.

    I don't wish to start a grammar war here. Perhaps the answer is a simple one...or the person asking is.

  20. #420
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: Question

    ... is called an ellipsis. (If you have more than one, they're ellipses.)

    An ellipsis means that one or more words has been left out. You see those a lot in blurb quotes from reviews.

    You can use an ellipsis to show a pause in dialog.

    "What you must understand," George began," is that Frieda ... has not always been truthful."

    (What I'm trying to show there is George pausing to think of how best to say that Frieda lies like a rug.)

    You can use them at the end of a sentence to show the words trailing off (in that case you have four dots in a row, one of them being the period).

    "The old farm," Joe said. "That would mean Bill and Freida...."

    (Joe's voice trails off, as the horrid realization blooms in his mind.)

    As long as you're consistent, use of ellipses is part of your style. Do try to keep the stage directions to a minimum, though.

    Lots of your fonts have ellipsis characters [&hellip;]. Don't use 'em in your manuscript. Use three periods in a row to represent ellipses.

  21. #421
    HConn
    Guest

    Re: Question

    (Cross posted with Jim's more useful answer)

  22. #422
    Karen Ranney
    Guest

    Elipsis - elipses? - those dots

    Personally, if you use elipses (elipsis?) more than once in a book, you run the risk of having your character sound inane, idiotic, helpless, and weak. (Or TSTL - too stupid to live.) Can you tell I hate them? I think they're sloppy writing, or lazy writing, which is worse. An elipsis indicates a hesitation, an inability to finish a thought. I believe it should never be used as a pacing tool.

    My opinion, of course.

  23. #423
    Duane
    Guest

    Thank you

    Thank you Jim.

    As Johnny Carson would say, "I did not know that".

    I'ts kind of you to take the time.


    Duane

  24. #424
    HConn
    Guest

    Re: Learn Writing with Uncle Jim

    Jim, I've been meaning to tell you that I took Brust's _The Sun, the Moon and the Stars_ on my holiday vacay and read it as you recommended. It was an interesting book. As soon as I catch up with my message boards (and have a little time) I'll post my thoughts on it, such as they are.

    Just wanted to let you know we're listening.

  25. #425
    reph
    Guest

    Ellipses

    The Chicago Manual of Style (12th ed.) says to use dashes to indicate broken speech. "Bob saw the flash and whirled around. 'Walt, Joe--you guys, did you see that--those kids--I didn't think they--where would they get shotguns?'"

    Ellipsis points are used to replace omitted words. You wouldn't say "'Walt, Joe...you guys...did you see that," because you haven't left out any words of Bob's.

    Style manuals state the conventions for spacing before, between, and after the dots.

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