Tag Archives: sarcasm

An Update of Sorts

Hi folks,

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update, so to please my millions and millions of dedicated, hard-core fans, I’ve decided to sit down for a moment and share what I’ve been working on.

Number 1: I don’t actually have millions of fans. And, just to update everyone, I’ve made no recent attempts at acquiring these millions. Lots of writers do that B.S. but this one doesn’t have time for all that.

Number 2: I just said number 2. So yes, I still find poop jokes funny.thSHW7SCEH

Number 3: I’m still posting Writing as Art and plan on going through the back log of submissions. I’d like to post all of them. But, as per usual, I won’t do this as a weekly sort of thing because I still hate tying myself down with self-imposed deadlines.

Number 4: I’m still looking for representation on a novel I finished a year ago. But I’m not doing this actively. So, in other words, for those of you who know how the biz works, I’m not actually doing it at all.

Number 5: I’m still ghostwriting books for other authors and my email is always open to anyone who’d like help with a book.

Number 6: The last point sounded too serious. And, to stay true to my nature, I still make jokes in serious situations. Poop.

Number 7: I’m editing my self-published series, Whom Cain Slew, with the addition of the final book to be self-published as a compendium style book thing, a Super Book, if you will.

Number 8: As the careful reader may have noticed from the previous bullet point, I still use unnecessarily complex sentence structure whenever the mood strikes me. This includes run-on sentences that aren’t punctuated correctly and seem to go on and on without making sense also without making a point and furthermore blah blah blah blah

Number 10: I still skip the number 9

Number 11: I’m still annoyed by update posts. If you couldn’t tell,  I have a hard time taking this sort of thing seriously.

Number 12: I still use a computer as my primary method for writing. From time to time, I’ve been known to write on a piece of paper or a block of wood. When I was a child in school, there were many times when I wrote on my arm or hand.

Number 13: I’m working on a new bildungsroman. For those of you who don’t speak German, I’ll translate: coming-of-age novel. I’m enjoying this one and I’ll be sure to post excerpts as I write it.


I think that’s all. Update over.

I Know why They’ll Vote for Trump

While the media has sought explanation after explanation for Donald Trump’s success in the polls, I think I finally have it figured out. The following short story is based off an experience I had a few weeks ago. It’s another example of fictionalizing an every day experience. In this story, I take some ordinary men talking about an upcoming election for a home owners association and compare it to the upcoming Republican primary election. th (14)This is written as an allegory, but the only hints are in the title and the final sentence. Here it is:


I Know why They’ll Vote for Trump

So I walked back down the gravel road and saw Ned McCumbee and Skip Wright standing beside the old white Camaro parked at the end of the driveway. Caked in dust, the car faced out towards the road and didn’t seem to mind McCumbee’s weight, all three-hundred pounds of it, sitting heavily on its hood.

I had passed the men on the way out to pay Miss Evelyn Thompson a visit. She was an older lady and a tree threatened to smash the roof of her house. She had called from her house-telephone and I could tell because the number didn’t match the one she had given me the week before. “Could you come take a look at it?” she had asked.

Well, that tree was in need of a professional. “Sorry, miss,” I had said, “But I can’t take it down. You’ll need a professional for that. I got the name of a guy. It won’t cost you much. I’ll call him for—”

But she interrupted me and asked for his phone number. “No, I’ll call. Don’t you worry. I’ll call.”

But she wouldn’t call. I knew right then and there. She wouldn’t call and later that summer the tree would come down on its own.

Anyway, I was on way back from speaking with Miss Evelyn when Skip Wright noticed me from his place standing across from the white Camaro. He waved his big hand with his long noodle of an arm. I had managed to pass by unnoticed on my way up, but they noticed me this time. Maybe they’d been talking about me after I passed them earlier.

“It’s been awhile,” I said nodding my head towards Skip. “Heard you’ve been out of town. Didn’t hear what for.”

Skip sucked his lips into his mouth. th (13)He only had one or two teeth, so whenever he spoke, his lips went in and out of his mouth slackly. It seemed as if he were chewing on them, but he had nothing to chew with. “Yep. Been back down in Georgia. Yep. Went down not a month ago. For my son’s surgery. Yep. Wife’s still down there. Emergency surgery. Had to take out nearly half his colon. But he’s ok now. Tough goin’ for him. But he’s ok.”

“I’m sorry to hear—” I began but he kept saying what he was saying without noticing me.

“But I figured I’d come up here and check out the place,” he said rocking back on his heels. His noodles for arms were behind his back and his lips sucked all the way in his mouth. “Make sure it ain’t been robbed. Figured I’d come back for the meeting too. Heard there’s a meeting this weekend. Ned told me so.”

From the corner of my eye, I could see Ned McCumbee who sat with his arms crossed on the hood of the white Camaro nodding his head.

“I’m glad you’ll make it out,” I said. “We’re having a vote on officers and—”

“Yea, I heard all about it,” Skip interrupted sucking in his lips. “What officer are you?” he asked. “I know George was president, but he’s out now for stealin’. And I was thinkin’ that we don’t have no president.”

He stared expectantly. I must’ve bit my lip and I know I looked away. “Yea,” I said. “Well I’m the acting president. Last meeting they voted for me as vice-president. But—”

“Well, if there ain’t no president, I think I should be president. I figure—why not? I can do it.”

“Well,” I began and couldn’t help but smile. I looked down at Ned McCumbee and he was still sitting on the white Camaro. “There’s a lot that goes into the position. It’s a lot of work and a lot of know-how.”

“I can do it,” he repeated. “I’m gonna turn this place around. I’m gonna do it for the people. That’s what I’m good for. I’m good for the people.”

“Well,” I said. “We’ve done a lot already—since George resigned. We’ve…” and then I listed all the things I fixed as the acting president for the association. “Now there’s three spots open for officers. And I need people who’ll do the work. The big thing is communication. We made a website and we’d like to start handling things through email and—”

“Oh I don’t have email,” Skip said. “Nope. Don’t have a cell phone neither. That’s how they get you. Learned that from when I was with Hell’s Angels. Nope. Don’t do nothing with a phone and nothing with a computer. I don’t even like talking on the phone…”

Then for several minutes Skip spoke about his distrust of the government and his trust in conspiracy theories and his favorite conspiracy shows. While he spoke, I half listened and waited for a moment to interrupt. For a brief moment he stopped and sucked in his lips. He rocked back on his heels.

“Yea,” I said. “Well, most of what we do for the HOA is on the internet. The papers we file are all electronic. We talk through email, so—”

“Yep,” he interrupted. “And I think I’d be good for president. Ned here thinks I’d be good and everyone else thinks so too. It’s ‘cause I’m here for the people and we need something different. With George trying to steal our money, we need a change. George couldn’t do a damn thing right. But I’ll know what to do to get this place back in shape. I’ll know what to do.”

I didn’t try a response. “Alright,” I said. “I’ve got to get going. See you two at the meeting.” But this is what I wanted to say: “It’s a job for a professional. It’s a job for someone who understands how the association works. Sure, confidence is great. Sure, it’s fun to make gossip and baseless accusations. Sure, it sounds good to say that you’ll ‘do it for the people.’ But the real world takes special knowledge and special expertise.” I didn’t say this, of course. Neither would have understood. When the vote comes up in the meeting, a few folks might cast their ballots for Skip Wright. It’ll be the same few folks who’ll vote for Trump.

Letters on Literary Devices 14: Writing Sarcasm

To my Number One Groupie:

I’m writing this one for you. But before I start, lets give a little context to anyone else who might be reading this.

th (5)

Last week I received an e-mail from my biggest fan. One thing led to another, a few e-mails went back and forth which concluded in her sending me this:

Let me be clear. I beg you to never high five yourself again. I was so pleased to see that you kicked that hAbbit. I was going to high five you about it but that would just send you spiraling back into your addiction. You can make it. Just slap youself on the ass and put it on youtube whenever you want to high five yourself, but make sure nobody can trace it to you and cut off your head (she meant conceal my head, not cut it off. That was explained later) in the video. You will do a kick ass job. Adios.

If you couldn’t tell, she was joking about my tendency to “LIKE” my own blog posts. That’s what she meant when she said “I beg you to never high five yourself again.” She was just joking.  Well, that’s not completely true. She meant what she said, but she wasn’t being mean or cruel or hateful.


This was how I responded:

Now THAT was funny. You certainly have hyperbole down. I haven’t tried the youtube video yet, but next time I get the urge to high-five, I’ll just get the camera rolling, put on a mask, and go for it.

And this sparked an idea which took the form of two questions: How did I know she was pulling my leg? How was I able to interpret her e-mail as clever sarcasm not vindictive malice?

Well, the answer to that one’s simple: I’m an English Teacher who’s written a few books and I know all about verbal irony. But most people don’t; most people don’t need to know how to write verbal irony or to recognize it in other people’s writing. For most people, it’s enough to recognize sarcasm in speech. And that’s usually easy because in speech we’re exposed to more than just a person’s words; we’re exposed to their tone as well.

So, you’re probably wondering: how can verbal irony or sarcasm be written? How can a writer sound sarcastic using words alone?


Well, it’s easier than you’d think.

Here are two easy ways to do it:

HYPERBOLE: That’s what my number one groupie used in her e-mail. This is the use of exaggeration or overstatement. So how did she do it? Simple. She did it through her choice of verbs and adverbs. Check out this sentence that she wrote: ” I beg you to never high five yourself again.” This sounds sarcastic because of the verb she chose: “beg”, and the adverb, “again.”  If she had written it like this: “I don’t think you should high five yourself,” she wouldn’t have sounded sarcastic. And that was just one sentence. Look at the other verbs and adverbs, “send … spiraling … slap … on the ass … cut off.” Each exaggerates the type of action I should take if I ever feel the urge to “LIKE” my own blog posts.

UNDERSTATEMENT: This is the opposite of Hyperbole but has a similar effect. Instead of using verbs and adverbs to exaggerate, it uses these to sarcastically minimize whatever is being said. Think about my response back to her. I said “You certainly have hyperbole down.” That doesn’t sound very sarcastic. But if I changed it to this: “You seem to have hyperbole down,” it would. All I did was change the adverb. “Certainly,” was changed to “seem to” which understates her ability to use hyperbole. I mean shit, she more than just “seems to” have hyperbole down.


Well, that’s two ways to do it. To my number one groupie who sparked the idea, I hope I was clear and I hope I did a kick ass job.




P.S. If you liked this PLEASE hit the “like” button. I’d do it myself but I’m no longer giving myself high-fives. Make sure to check out the youtube video: VIDEO … just kidding that was just a link to my books page. Fooled ya!

Letters on Literary Devices 12: The Double Ellipsis

To The Double Ellipsis:

The other day a co-worker showed me a text-message that read as follows:

I have a plan……We can make this work……I’ll call you this evening…….

Two things stand out here. First, my co-worker receives cryptic messages. Does he sell drugs? Is he planning a bank robbery? Does he have a lady on the side? A man? – I didn’t ask but assumed it was innocent. Why else would he show me?

Second, the message contained a punctuation mark that I have seen before in poorly written fiction, but have never truly thought about: THE DOUBLE ELLIPSIS. That’s right folks, we’re talking six periods in a row.


Now, you’re probably asking, “so what? It’s cool. What difference does an extra period make?”

Well, I’ll tell you the difference it makes.

A traditional ellipsis point(that’s actually the only kind) is made up of three periods. For those of you who can’t picture what that would look like, look here: {…}. Yep, that’s three in a row. In rhetoric and non-fiction writing generally, the ellipsis fulfills a finite function. It is an indication that a word or phrase or even a whole sentence or paragraph has been omitted.

So naturally, the text message with the double ellipsis had me asking this: how much did you omit between “I have a plan” and “We can make this work”? Was the plan hidden by the ellipsis? Is that what went there? Is that what was omitted? Was the plan so intricate that it needed not one, but two whole ellipsis? Back to back?


In the moment I was convinced. As I looked at the screen of the cell phone, I searched for this mysterious plan between the spaces of those six periods. I looked. I squinted my eyes and held the phone an inch away from my face (I didn’t actually do that. I’m just being dramatic). And I saw…nothing (I felt that the single ellipsis would do here).

But wait! There are other uses of the ellipsis because fiction, unlike non-fiction, allows for greater flexibility with its punctuation marks.

You see, in fiction, the ellipsis can be used for more than just an omission. In fiction, the ellipsis implies trailing-off in speech, a brief pause, or stuttering/stammering. Perhaps the writer of the text message wanted to seem as if he was trailing-off and then trailing-off again. A double trail-off? “We can make this work……” Or maybe it was the double pause? Or maybe the fella speaks with a stutter and likes to present that in his text messages. In the case of the latter, his stutter really isn’t that bad. I’ve met folks who might warrant a triple or even quadruple ellipsis.


Unfortunately, I won’t ever meet this mysterious text-messager. I’ll never have the chance to ask “why not just one ellipsis? 0 + 0 = 0! You can’t double omit! You can’t double trail-off! There’s no need for a double pause! A pause is a pause no matter how long it is! And if you speak with a stutter, that’s fine, but you don’t have to show that in your writing!”

Eric James-Olson

If you are interested in my books, check out my links below. KindleUnlimited members can borrow for free. For everyone else, the books are priced slightly higher than the cost of dirt:  between 2.99 and 3.99. If you like this post, hook a brotha up with a like.


















Flashback to LD 11

Hi again,

About a week ago I wrote a post on overwriting. In that post I promised future explanations of literary devices that cause a piece to feel – well – overwritten. If you haven’t read that post, it’s cool, just click this link: Letters on Literary Devices 11: Don’t Be So Dramatic. If you’ve read it already, you probably remember the following explanation which details the type of literary device capable of making a novel appear overwritten: “Well, any literary device used as a descriptor has the innate qualities necessary for causing readers to throw up.” I then listed a few and proved how “apostrophe’s” (the literary device, not the punctuation mark) when overused, can seem overwhelming.


In this post I’d like to apply the same scrutiny to the literary term “epithet”.

For those who don’t know already, an epithet is a word or phrase precluding a characters name used for description. This strategy dates back to some of the earliest influences in Western Literature. Anyone who’s read the Iliad and the Odyssey, probably remembers the “Swift-footed” Achilles and the “Grey-Eyed” Athena. For ancient writers of epics, the epithet served a duel function. First, it was used as a descriptor. Second, it allowed more flexibility for poets who had to write within the constraints of dactylic hexameter. By having a list of several different epithets for each character, all having a different number of syllables, the poet could plug in the best rhythmically fitting epithet into each line.


Well, that’s great and all, but how does this apply to novelists today? Obviously, no one writes full length fiction in dactylic hexameter anymore. It would be cool if someone tried, but probably unreadable because English doesn’t lend itself to dactyls. Writers still use epithets though, even if the rhythmic function of the device has become outmoded.

Now, I’m not going to point any fingers at my contemporaries. I’ve read some books using epithets for characters that have worked really well; I’ve read some books where the strategy just didn’t work.

Instead, I’ll just point out an example from my own writing.

In my first novel, Farmers and Cannibals, I used a epithet to describe the principal antagonist, “Big” Frank. Here’s the line from when he’s introduced: “Deep, dark, mahogany – the desk was chosen to say a lot about the massive man who sits behind it. “Big” Frank founded General Wheat Corporation sixteen years previously as a small time farmer willing to take a risk.”

“Big,” is Frank’s epithet and I chose the word because of its ambiguous context dependent meaning and relatively neutral connotation.

Now, I could’ve been annoying; I could’ve been guilty of overwriting if I used the word “Big” every time this character was mentioned. I’m glad I didn’t though, because as a descriptor that’s unnecessary. Throughout the novel, I only placed the word “Big” before his name when the character exerted his characteristic “bigness”: his tendency towards viciously controlling the fates of other men. That both gave the word “Big” its meaning within the novel, and served as a recurring motif chastising the behavior of the novel’s antagonist.


Personally, I think this is a good way for novelists to use epithets. Overuse, can be annoying and seem overwritten. When used sparingly; however, the epithet is another tool for constructing layers of meaning.

Well, that’s it, if you have any examples of annoying epithets, good use of epithets, or any questions, disagreements, etc. please feel free to comment below!

If you are interested in my books, check out my links below. KindleUnlimited members can borrow for free. For everyone else, the books are priced slightly higher than the cost of dirt:  between 2.99 and 3.99. If you like this post, hook a brotha up with a like.

















Letters on Literary Devices 11: Don’t be so Dramatic

To all of you painfully affected, truly moved, earnestly touched, really warmed, really and truly heartened melodramatists who can’t earnestly prevent the painful deluge of exaggerated emotion flowing through your writing:

This letter’s for you (For everyone else, for anyone with taste, sorry about “the painful deluge” of adverbs).

For those of you who haven’t got it yet, the topic of this week’s letter is “overwriting” and the most basic way of “overwriting”  is demonstrated above with my introduction. It’s got too many adverbs: painfully, truly, earnestly, really, really/truly, earnestly (And yes, I repeated some on purpose). Although I’m sure there are folks out there who like this sort of thing, for most folks the preponderance of words ending in “ly” has a nauseating effect.


While adverbs tends to be the chief culprit in ‘overwriting’, unnecessary adjectives can induce vomiting as well (Substitute for syrup of ipecac anyone?). Either way, too many descriptive words take away from the action of a plot, the point in a paper, the creative license of a readers imagination.

So, that covers “overwriting” basics: too much description = puke. This, of course, begs the question: what other literary devices, when used overmuch, cause readers to lose their metaphorical lunches? Well, any literary device used as a descriptor has the innate qualities necessary for causing readers to throw up. And which would those be, you ask? A whole bunch. Watch me name five just off the top of my head: metonymy, epithets, periphrasis, circumlocution, and apostrophe (not the punctuation mark), …that’s five.   For the sake of word count, I’m just going to focus on one and promise to write follow up posts on each of the others somewhere in the future (Flashback to LD 11 yo). So, which will I pick? Let’s start with the last on the list: apostrophe. (Dude, check out all the colon’s in this paragraph. Yea, that’s where your lunch SHOULD go).

untitled (3)

Apostrophe: So, you thought this was just a punctuation mark? It’s also an ancient Greek literary device that’s most commonly used in drama, but has also seen action in novels. What is it? It’s a shout-out to a God or ghost or naturally occurring phenomenon or anything that’s not really real. Let’s start with a  few classic examples. Remember the Iliad? It’s that ancient Greek epic by Homer. Check out the first lines of the poem: “Sing, O muse, of the rage of Achilles, son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans.” When he shouts out to the “muse,” oh yea, that’s an apostrophe. The muse ain’t there and she ain’t real, but as part of Greek literary convention, the author calls on this muse to speak for him. Now, is this “overwriting” because he used an apostrophe? HELL NO! Homer was one bad dude, and he ain’t gonna be shoutin’ out to no muse every other line. He doesn’t do it too much, and that’s why it isn’t “overwritten.”

Let’s check out an example from good ol’ Bill Shakespeare:

Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damn’d,
Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell,
Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
Thou comest in such a questionable shape
That I will speak to thee: I’ll call thee Hamlet,
King, father, royal Dane: O, answer me!

In this, Hamlet is calling out to the Ghost of his murdered father. Like Homer, Shakespeare uses the apostrophe as a plot device, as the inciting incident that sets off the events of the tragedy. Does he have Hamlet call out to the ghost every other line? HELL NO! Shakespeare, like Homer, was one bad dude. Sure, there are places throughout the play where we are reminded of the ghost, but it never becomes overwhelming.

In contrast with these “bad dudes” of literature, Mary Shelley, in Frankenstein, commits sin, after “overwriting” sin. I happen to be teaching the novel to an AP class at the moment. And even though I love the novel, the students and I have both noticed long dragged-out sections where the adverbs and adjectives are piled on, and the sickening overuse of apostrophe overwhelms the senses and the stomach.


Allow me an example: “Oh! Stars and clouds and winds, ye are all about to mock me; if ye really pity me, crush sensation and memory; let me become as nought; but if not, depart, depart, and leave me in darkness.” (I think I just threw up in my mouth). Victor’s shout-out to nature here wouldn’t be so repulsive if it were alone. But these types of lines litter several of the chapters with melodrama, which actually detracts from the seriousness of Victor’s emotions. I mean, shit, the creature killed his whole damn family. Is that how you’d respond to finding out your whole family is dead? Would you be calling out to “stars and clouds and winds”? Would you accuse the sky of mocking you?

And yes, I know she was being poetic. And by itself, that line is great. But seriously, similar lines are repeated over and over throughout novel. It just gets old. It detracts from the action of the plot.


Well, that concludes this letter. What was my point in all this? There’s nothing wrong with descriptive writing. The problem is when there is too much of it. So watch for your adverbs, adjectives, and shout-outs to the supernatural. If you do it too much, you might be accused of “overwriting.”


With true and humble regards (puke),

Eric James-Olson



P.S.: If you are interested in my books, check out my links below. KindleUnlimited members can borrow for free. For everyone else, the books are priced slightly higher than the cost of dirt:  between 2.99 and 3.99. If you like this post, hook a brotha up with a like. If you’d like to receive e-mails for future posts, click the link on the side to join my e-mail list.






























An Announcement… of sorts

Hey Folks,

For all of you out there interested in my fiction, my books can be borrowed free from Amazon. It’s through the KindleUnlimited program which is now offering a free 30 day trial (US ONLY). Don’t know much about the program? Check out this link: KINDLEUNLIMITED

I know – it’s awesome. And if you’re not interested in my books, or have already bought them, there are tons of other author’s with books listed through the program.



To all of you who e-mailed, my next “Letter on Literary Devices” will be out later this week. I know, I know, I haven’t posted much recently. I’m not sure if any of you out there are inclined towards believing excuses, but I do have one for anyone who happens to trust me (Suckers): for the past month I’ve been painstakingly editing and revising a new novel – well, the first half of it at least. I’m planning on having the second half written by the end of the year but am not sure of when it will be published, who it will be published by, or any of that stuff yet. I have a title, but that might change too.

So, that’s it for this evening. Below are the links to my books for anyone interested in a free borrow. As always, thanks for checkin’ out my blog!

But the Angels Never Came:

Farmers and Cannibals:

Just After the Fall:

The Church Peak Hotel: Revisited
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you!

Letters on Literary Devices 10: The Hard Period.

To all those who “go hard”:


When I first started writing, a certain “fiction writer” confronted me with a problem, well, he thought it was problem, with my overuse of the “hard period”. For those of you who haven’t heard of “hard periods” take my advice and resist the urge to search google for a definition. You won’t find one. You will, on the other hand, find several websites offering advice for women suffering from “hard periods” (We’re talkin’ menstruation here – not grammar…yea).

Anyway, the “fiction writer” said I used too many periods and should use more commas. He had a theory. His theory was this:  “There are different schools of proper grammar and writing style.  Some prefer periods, others commas.  I’m of the school of the latter, not only in my writing, but also my reading.” Having read his writing, (we had agreed to read each other’s manuscripts and offer advice), I knew that he was also a student of these other fine schools of literary thought: “The School of mind-numbing over-explanation”, “The School of telling everything and showing nothing”, “The School of boring the reader instead of entertaining him or her”, etc. etc. etc. The dude couldn’t write. Sure, he could string a sentence or two together, long, boring, painfully consistent sentences with no change in length or rhythm. But he couldn’t create suspense. He couldn’t create a book worth reading.

Now look, I’m not writing this to hate on the fella. He sucks. Whatever. It was fun while it lasted, but I have a point here: the hard period has a solid place in fiction writing. Sure, some critics will describe writing as choppy or “not flowey” when an author utilizes short, telegraphic sentences in abundance. But that doesn’t mean a writer should be afraid of “goin’ hard” when the occasion demands it.

Let me break this down for you. Typically, longer sentences are used for slowing down the pace of a novel. Longer sentences, particularly sentences whose subjects are disconnected from their verbs, disconnected perhaps by a string of phrases, disconnected by description after meaningless description, whose main point is obscured by clause after pointless clause, whose point still hasn’t been made,  which are so convoluted that you have to read them over and over to understand, cause the reader to read each word very carefully. Well, at least according to theory. But is that always the case? Look at that sentence I just wrote. Look at the one that started with “Longer sentences.” Did you actually read it all? Technically, it’s without grammatical error. Technically, it should make sense to you. But did you read it? Did you read it or just skim over it because it would’ve been a pain in the ol’ ass to read? (I just counted. There were 53 words between the subject “sentences” and the verb “cause”)

And that shows the obvious benefit of “going hard” and using the “hard period”. Shorter sentences are easier to read. The subject connects directly to its verb, its action (Like in that last sentence. The subject was “subject”. The verb was “connects”), which makes the narrative easier to follow because who and what each sentence is about is always clear.

And yes, this speeds up a narrative. But that ain’t gotta be bad. Short sentences are great for moving a plot and are particularly useful when describing action.

But wait folks, there’s more. Telegraphic sentences with “hard periods” can be used for changing up the pace, making strong points, or dropping the punch line on a joke. Just check out the second paragraph in this blog post. Check out the variety in sentence lengths. And check out that telegraphic sentence towards the end of it, “The dude couldn’t write.” EJO “goes hard”, that’s all I’m sayin’ (Please pardon the shameless self-promotion).

So, for all you writers out there who’ve been “goin’ hard” but ashamed to admit it; for all you who’ve tried to make your writing “flowey” afraid to embrace your inner “hard” self; don’t let your face turn red and don’t be overcome with fear. “Go hard”.



Eric James-Olson


Oh, and one other thing. All four novels in the series are still on sale. They are priced between 2.99 and 3.99.  Check out these links if you’re interested:





















Letters on Literary Devices 9: Incomplete thoug…

To all the incomplete thoughts out there,

A few weeks ago I stumbled across an article (I can’t remember where, when, who is was by, or what the title was) explaining the conventional differences between good ol’ American English and the slightly different, slightly more refined version of that same language on the other side of the Atlantic. No, it wasn’t about how American Standard English (AmSE) is the best and British Standard English (BrSE) is the worst or anything childish like that. Rather, it was about one of the most fascinating, intriguing subjects that man has ever conjured: punctuation.

Yea, that’s right folks. I’m talking periods, commas, and yea, that’s right, even the old semi-colon.

The article went on to explain how differences in usage are often cited as typos by readers educated under the opposing standard language. What? Let me explain with an unnecessarily awkward, convoluted sentence: So Brit readers reading American author’s might see a comma “misplaced” that is actually in a standard location according to AmSE, and an American reader reading a British author might see a comma “misplaced” that is actually in a standard location according to BrSE. Yea (1). I know. Crazy (2).

This got me thinking. Yea (3). I know. Scary (4). When a reader posts a review, what other assumptions does he or she make about typos?

Well, I racked my brain. I thought real hard and then had a milkshake. After that, I went to the gym. I lifted some weights. Did a little cardio. Checked myself out in the mirror when it seemed like no one was watching. Did some more thinking. And drove home.

As I drove home I still had nothing. Honestly, I couldn’t think of much. But that’s when it hit me.  Sentence Fragments (5). The bane of secondary school teachers everywhere (6). Sentence fragments (7).

Despite the threats, brow-beatings, scare tactics of English teachers globally, the sentence fragment has always had a home in literature. I would start to name author’s but that would be silly. Everybody does it. Open a book. Read a few pages. You’ll find one. Guaranteed (8).

Right now, you’re probably thinking this: But why? Why? God, Why!?! Mrs. Bonebreaker told me that if I put another incomplete sentence in my paper she’d snap my pencil in half, and I don’t think she was talking about the one I write with.

Relax (9). It’ll be ok. Deep breaths (10).

Let’s go back to the basics. What’s a sentence? Easy (11). It’s a complete  thought. That’s why they’re so good for writing with. It’s good to have complete thoughts. So, what’s a sentence fragment? An incomplete thought (12). Not too useful in an essay (13). That’s why ol’ Bonebreaker threatened to snap your pencil in half. You were probably writing an essay.

In fiction, however, the incomplete thought can be fairly useful.

The most obvious and probably most common use of incomplete thoughts  is through character dialogue. People don’t always speak with completely formed ideas, so  a lot of author’s imitate this when writing dialogue.

Another common use of the sentence fragment is in the imitation of real human thinking. Think about it. Do you think in complete sentences? Unless you’re really weird, you probably don’t. So a common way to show this, to show a characters thoughts is through the employment of sentence fragments. Most of the time you wouldn’t even notice that you’re looking at fragments. Check out this excerpt from a novel I’m working on:


I’m just stuck here. Stuck here watchin’ the old man take a swim every now and then. Stuck here watchin’ ol’ Linda read trashy novels and stroke the armrest of her beach chair. Stuck here bored as hell wantin’ nothin’ else but a chance to meet some chick young enough to take me seriously.

That’s the problem though. All the girls around here are so stuck up and full of shit and three or five years older than me. Sucks being fifteen.


For those keeping track at home, that’s four fragments and only three complete sentences. All those “sentences” starting with “stuck” are without subjects. There’s no subject in the sentence starting with “sucks” either.

So, what does this do? Well, it makes the ideas seem less organized. It makes the ideas feel as if each runs into the next. It makes the ideas sound like, well, thoughts.

Now, do all readers know this? No (14). An author takes a chance anytime he or she uses a sentence fragment or any other break from convention when writing fiction. There is the chance that the break with convention won’t be seen as an artistic choice, but rather, will be seen as a clumsy error.

So what? Good question (15). I’ll try to answer it in three sentences. Complete ones (16). Here it goes: with the explosion of self-published authors into the mainstream of fiction, a huge amount of poorly written, poorly edited, poorly proofread novels have hit the market causing readers to notice unheard of quantities of conventional errors in “published” books. This trend has raised awareness to the possibility of typos in independently published fiction. My point is this: although there may be a preponderance of typos in “indie” fiction, not all typos are typos; some writers are better than others; some writers have the literary knowledge to make artistic choices that bend the rules of convention.

In a free society where everyone is empowered to be a critic, a society that encourages all customers, all readers to share opinions on an authors work, there will always be those who critique without requisite knowledge, without adequate understanding. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s much better than the alternative. But it is a fact for which we should be cognizant.

I don’t know about you, but the next time I see a break with convention, I’ll think twice before I assume it’s a mistake.



Eric James-Olson


P.S. If you were wondering about all the numbers in parenthesis, the explanation is simple. I was keeping track of all my sentence fragments. No, I didn’t include the fragments from the excerpt.






Flashback: Letters on LD6: Literary Fracking

Hi folks,

Today I’m flashing back to an old post I wrote, Letters on Literary Devices 6: Jumpy Writing, and providing an example of “literary fracking” for all of you who were confused by the term. I coined this term based off an actual term in literary criticism: “the fractured narrative.”

Basically, the fractured narrative is when a book travels from one perspective to another focusing on the same event. The perspectives can come from character who took part in the event or even characters who are commenting on the event days or months or years later.

In my novel Just After the Fall, I used this strategy throughout. The main event, the beginning of a religious cult, occurred in real time for the protagonist. Two separate commentaries are provided by a future historian and a future religious leader. There is also a separate narrative that occurs after the main event but during the life of the protagonist. This is important because it shows how the cult developed into a religion which inevitably benefitted its people through the creation of a shared, common culture. Despite the fact that  it was just made up.

The excerpt below shows the commentary by the future religious leader and the separate narrative that occurs after the main event (I couldn’t use the chapters that showed the main event because those chapters are too long for an excerpt). Notice the change in narrative tone. The second chapter, the chapter that shows the beginning of the religious cult, maintains a simple, matter-of-fact voice, absent of the thinly veiled sarcasm found in  the “Sermon”.

Hope you enjoy it! Literary Fracking, everyone!




from Just After the Fall

A Sermon on Suicides from the Year 2540: Part IV


…“Followers of Abraham,” the orator continued, his voice reaching the top of a crescendo. His hands were above his head. “On this day, as you depart, as you leave this holy service, look around yourselves. See that there are powers acting independent of you. See that none of these powers are greater than you. And know that you do not have control of those powers, nor do you need to have control of those powers, for you do control your individual self, for that, above all else, was the lesson Lawrence learned traversing the wilderness. For that was the lesson that brought our people out of the darkness of the mountains and into the white light of liberty. For myself and no-one else!”

“For myself and no-one else,” the flock repeated.


In his private chambers the orator de-robed. Underneath he wore black. Sitting across from him, on a thick mules-leather chair was another man in black.

“Well done,” said the man in black. “You are a tribute to our order.”

The orator nodded his head. He grinned. His teeth were perfect. His canines were sharp.

“Some of the boys at central ran numbers last week. Faith has increased almost six percent since you began here.”

The orator said nothing. He nodded his head.

The man in black reclined further into his chair. “We’ll see productivity numbers next week. The projection from central is showing a three percent increase.” He shifted his weight. “This looks good. You’re looking good. You’re making me look good.”

“Just wait till next week,” the orator replied. “I’m beginning my telling of the Abraham stories. Those, I do particularly well.” He chuckled. “I have a name for it. They’ll eat it up. I’m calling it, But the Angels Never Came.”

The man in black laughed. “They will,” he said. “I know they will. They’ll grow fat on your sermons, and we’ll grow fat on our bonus checks from central office.”



To the East of Eden: Part IV


The top of the mountain was white rock. There were no trees or vegetation. The old man, wearing the brown cloth unique to his tribe, walked across the space separating himself and Lawrence and embraced the younger man.

“It has been too long,” the old man said. There was no hair on his head, but his beard was still thick and long. The dark hairs of his youth had turned a healthy grey.

The old man turned towards Maria. He embraced her.

“How are the boys?” the old man asked.

Maria smiled. “It has been too long,” she answered. “George is a man now. He’s a leader in our tribe. There is talk of him running for the next election. We are proud. And Cain, he was such a smart boy. As a man he’s interested in farming. He has a lot of ideas. He’s been planting trees. He wants all the breadfruit, for all the people of Abraham, to come from the south. ‘Trade,’ he always says the word ‘trade.’ He thinks very big.”

The old man nodded his head.

“So,” Lawrence began. “How are your people Chet?”

“Well fed.” Chet answered. His hands were at his sides. He was old but his back was not curved. The muscles in his legs were thick. “And yours?”

“Well fed and growing. The lands to the south are filling up.”

Lawrence looked past Chet. Resting next to the old man’s bag was an automatic rifle.

“Come across any poachers?” Lawrence asked.

“No, I never do. They see my rifle and they stay away. Besides, I’m an old bag of bones. They go after young meat.”

Lawrence nodded his head.

“It must be nice,” Chet continued, “traveling through the south, traveling without one of those.” He pointed back towards his rifle.

“We stayed as one people.”

“I still remember our splitting off. You were crazy, I thought, staying down there, near the patrols.”

“The first year was tense. But the drones got packed up and shipped off. Never saw one myself. Not after the split. The shared fear. In the beginning, that’s what kept us together.”

Chet nodded.

“How is Abraham?” Lawrence asked.

“Oh,” Chet replied, “last I heard, he’s doing fine. Always on the move. For so long he lived for the people of the Village. Since the split, he has lived only for himself. You see. I knew him. I knew him well. He was always under so much strain. I could never look at him in the eyes before. But now, he is at peace.”

Lawrence nodded. “He was right. He had the right idea all along. He had all the power, but he walked away.”

“It’s his example that they follow,” Chet said in agreement. “They can longer follow the words from his mouth. They follow his beliefs. They follow his morals.”

Time passed. Maria spoke more of her sons. Chet and Lawrence reminisced sitting with backs against the white rocks of the mountain. The sun went up. The sun went down. Maria started a fire and the three ate. It was not until after the meal that Lawrence brought up the matter of official duties. The men talked of trade, new developments in breadfruit farming, and efforts on both sides to maintain the religion of Abraham in their peoples, for the yearly gathering at Church Peak was only a month away.


Thanks for checking out this excerpt! If you still have questions about the fractured narrative or literary fracking, feel free to put those in the comment section below!


Oh, and one other thing. All four novels in the series are still on sale. They are priced between 2.99 and 3.99.  Check out these links if you’re interested:




















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