Tag Archives: writers

Writing with Style 1: How to Write an Ending

Tonight I take a break from my mock-epistolary style with a different type of blog post. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I get a lot of questions from fellow writers who’ve read my books and have asked something like, “How’d you keep the pace moving so fast,” or “Where’d you come up with the idea to use … as a symbol for …” or “how do you keep the writing so clean or so tight?” Originally, I thought it was enough to address these types of questions with my bi-weekly, Letters on Literary Devices. But it appears that most folks prefer serious answers over sarcasm, and I figure, eh, what the hell, I’ll give sincerity a shot.

th (4)

For those of you who follow along with each post, you probably remember last’s week’s Letter on Literary Devices where I discussed a bizarre new way to conceptualize the development of a book ending. If you didn’t read it, check it out: The Predictability Spectrum. In that, I shamelessly compared foreshadowing the ending of a book to different variations of fecal excretions (Shit, that sounded like hyperbole). In this, I’d like to expand on the ideas expressed in that post with a slightly more serious approach and hopefully some decent tips for all you folks working on an ending for a book.

Here it goes:

One of the greatest challenges a writer faces in closing a book deals with the following questions: How explicit should I be? How much should I explain? How much should I leave open for interpretation?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a single answer here. Fortunately, I do have some important considerations that could help lead you to a decision.

Consideration 1: Are you writing Genre fiction? Readers expect certain types of endings for certain types of genres. So if you’re writing a mystery, a thriller, or a romance; you’re going to want some twists and turns in your ending. You won’t want to give to much away by means of foreshadowing, but you will want an ending that wraps up neatly. No room for interpretation needed.

Other genres bring other expectations. It’s important to know the expectation, so that you can either choose to follow it or choose to cleverly break the rules.

Consideration 2: Is your book literary? If it is, good. You have a lot of freedom. Although you can’t ignore convention entirely, you have a lot of options. The one thing to avoid is laziness. Whatever you do, don’t just end it because you don’t know how to end it. Don’t just make everything work out fine or kill everyone off for no reason (Unless you’re writing a farce). There should be reason behind an ending. (Unless you’re trying to make some homage to modernism. In that case, good luck to you).

th512TE3YT

Consideration 3: Should the ending be suspenseful? That’s easy. The answer is yes. However, there’s more than one way to create suspense. You don’t have to end the book with a shootout to keep the readers attention. If you’ve done a good job developing your protagonist, your readers will want to know what’s going to happen to him or her. By simply building suspense up to the moment where the conflict resolves, you set yourself up for a decent ending. This can be done in a number of ways. Personally, I try to make the main conflict multi-dimensional. I like it to affect more than one character; I like it to involve some type of decision; I like to foreshadow its resolution symbolically; I like to use a lot of repetition of images or actions; I like there to be a moment of recognition (Aristotle called it anagnorisis) where the protagonist or antagonist realizes and even verbalizes his inescapable fate.  And these are just the things I can think of as I’m sitting here. There’s tons of ways to build suspense towards an ending. Get creative and don’t be afraid to ask readers whether or not the ending held their attention.

Consideration 4: Did you develop any major symbols or recurring motifs throughout your novel? If you didn’t, it might not be a bad idea to go back and add a few. That’s one of the things I always do during the first round of revision. Often, an ending can be hinted at through a symbolic event or passage earlier in the novel. In the book I just finished writing, the major symbol was the image of a hawk struck by a speeding truck. There was also a set of dancing eyeballs and a puddle of stagnant river water and this song that kept playing on the radio: Always the same, / Don’t you never change…”. There was more but I don’t want to give away the potential title. The point is this: to end the novel I allowed these symbols and images and motifs to converge towards an inevitable, believable conclusion. There weren’t twists and turns per se, but that’s ok. The symbols contradicted each other suggesting more than one possible ending. And that’s what creates suspense. It’s not about foreshadowing a single ending. Its about foreshadowing several possible endings. That’s why adding symbolism can be so powerful. Inherently, symbols allow for interpretation.

thMHEOV691

Consideration 5: Should the ending be explained, hinted at, or left totally open? Personally, I like ambiguity in endings. But that doesn’t work for every book. I have four published novels now. The first ended in a tell-all. Here’s what readers said about it: “the ending is fitting” , “Throughout the story there are twists and turns, which keep you guessing right up to the very plausible and fitting end.” And that’s the type of feedback this type of ending is likely to receive. My third book was left open-ended. Check out what folks said about that one: … Yep, that’s right. No one commented on the ending. After that I decided to do a tell all with my fourth book. Check out what one reader had to say: Probably the most brilliant way to tie up loose ends in a series ever” The point here should be clear: readers remember the tell all ending. But that doesn’t necessarily make it better. It just makes it more memorable.

 

Well, that’s it for now. Hope this was helpful. If it was, and you liked this post, help me out by hitting that like button below. If you’d like to read more posts by me, feel free to click the follow button on the side of this screen. Want to check out my books. Just click this link: BOOKS. As always, thanks for reading and have a good day.

 

 

 

 


Letters on Literary Devices 13: The Predictability Spectrum

To haters of predictable endings:

As I’m sure you’ve already predicted, I’m writing this letter to expound on a new literary term I just invented. Here’s the name: THE PREDICTABILIY SPECTRUM.

Why did I invent this term, you ask? Well, these days, spectrums are all the rage. Think about it. You got the visible light spectrum – you know – like rainbows and shit. Autism has a spectrum. There’s the ol’ electromagnetic spectrum. There’s economic spectrums, political spectrums, broad spectrum antibiotics. Even poop has a spectrum. Haven’t seen it? Check it out:

th (3)

So I figured that if poop gets a spectrum, us literary folks should start thinking about getting some of our own spectrums too. Thus, I’ve created the very first literary spectrum (That I happen to know of).

On the far left side of the spectrum, we have foreshadowing. Everyone knows foreshadowing. That’s when an author builds suspense by hinting at future events. It can be done with a recurring motif, a snippet of dialogue, a direct address to the reader, dramatic irony – you get the idea, the list goes on.

On the far right side of the spectrum, we have Deus ex machina. That’s just an old Greek term for an unbelievable ending. In Greek drama, Deus ex machina was used when the plot was unsolvable. In those cases, the Gods would intervene, save the day, and everyone would go home happy. To be called Deus ex machina, the resolution of the conflict must seem random which means a total absence of foreshadowing.

To better the understand spectrum, take a moment to study this professionally drawn illustration:

Predictability Spectrum

Similar to good pooping, good writing relies on balance. While a good dump finishes somewhere between constipation and diarrhea, a good ending to a novel can be found somewhere between completely predictable and totally random.

It’s important to keep in mind that no two poops are alike and no two novels are alike either. For some genres and styles, a more predictable, softer ending is expected. Others require hard twists and turns in the plot before reaching an explosive conclusion. And that’s why I like the Predictability Spectrum. It allows for differences unique to the author and poop – I mean book.

 

Well, that’s all I have to say. I doubt that you predicted any of that. Deuces.


An Update: It Seems Like I Might’ve Written Another Book

For those of you who’ve asked, I haven’t posted in a couple weeks because I’ve been focusing my attention on finishing another book. I know, I know – lame excuse. But the first draft is finished now and I  can put it aside for awhile and get back to writing about writing. As far as the book goes, I have a title but don’t want to commit to it until after the first round of revisions and until I have a better idea about how I’d like to have it published.

thHZOGL8DL

So what’s the book about? Well, I’m keeping that to myself for now.  But I can say that its dramatically different from the genre fiction that my fans know me for. The picture below serves as either a hint or a false lead.

thSHKJDYNA

Now, for those of you who could care less about my fiction, don’t fret, I’ll be posting the next Letter on Literary Devices this week. I’ll probably post weekly through December because I’m taking a break from writing fiction until January. You might notice a few changes to my blog in the next few weeks too. It seems like most of you are interested in the posts regarding writing and how to incorporate a variety of literary, rhetorical, poetical, syntactical, and grammatical devices into fiction. So, that’s what I’ll focus on. In addition to Letters on Literary Devices, I’ll start writing shorter posts focused on creating unique narrative style.

 

For now, that’s all. If you’re interested in my books click this link: BOOKS. Take a second to click the link on the side to subscribe to my blog. If you’d like to comment, do it. As always, thanks for reading.

 

 


A Travesty – and yes, I did it on Purpose

But the Angels Never Came is on sale next week (OCTOBER 21 – 28) for a dollar. For this reason I’ll be answering some of the most common questions that readers have had about the book. And for each answer I’ll provide a little sample for those of you who haven’t had the chance to read it yet.

One of the most common questions has been this: “What’s the deal with the dreams?”

th (2)

Dreams and visions are common motif in But the Angels Never Came because at its heart, the book is a parody.

So, what’s it parodying? Well, that one’s obvious: the bible.

In writing But the Angels Never Came, my goal was to create a travesty of the “binding of Isaac”, that classic Old Testament narrative where God tells Abraham to go up on top of a mountain and sacrifice his only [good] son. And Abraham actually goes up there to do it.

I wrote the book as a travesty meaning that it is a “grotesque imitation of a serious work.” But that doesn’t mean the book is silly or slapstick. I wrote it to be ugly. I wrote it to challenge the assumptions and point towards the absurdities inherent to the original.

th5MSBBN8M
Now, anyone who’s familiar with the “binding of Isaac,” knows that Abraham has lots of dreams. In those dreams, God tells him what to do and makes all sorts of grand promises to Abraham and his future people. It was one of these dream sequences that I parodied in the following excerpt. Check it out, then check out the link at the bottom of the page if you are interested in comparing it to the original:

from But the Angels Never Came

But the Angels Never Came by Eric James-Olson

That night the storyteller woke from a nightmare. The same dream had haunted his nights since he was a young man. It first appeared only in glimpses. He would wake from the nightmare and only remember fragmented moments in time. Then it came to him as a full vision during a time of great difficulty. It was late in the day when the vision appeared, and he had not eaten for a week. In it, he could feel the presence of an inescapable force. His whole frame was gripped with fear.

There were concrete objects in the vision as well. He could see a young boy murdered. The murdered boy awoke. “you have no son,” the boy said. In the vision and in the dream, he always said that. A spirit floats out of the dead boy’s body. “Disinherited,” it would say as it floated upward towards oblivion.

The boy, now spiritless, turned his head in an unnatural direction. His skin was ashen grey. He was naked. From the wound of a dagger, black blood flowed. “He shall NOT,” the boy said “come forth out of thine own bowels who shall be thine heir.”

On most nights the dream ended here, but the original vision had more. The dream the storyteller had that night, was much like the original vision. In the dream, the boy stood up. Behind him, a field of dead flowers, each flower six feet tall swayed with a wind that the storyteller could not feel. “Count the number of these dead stalks,” the boy said, “if thou be able to number them, so shall thy seed be.”

The storyteller believed in the boy. He counted on him for his treachery. From amongst the flowers, a heifer, a female goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a pigeon appeared. Each had its throat slit. Black blood flowed. Carrion pecked at the dead. And the storyteller did nothing.

He turned back towards the boy. “This land shall thee inherit,” the boy said with his arm pointing out towards a vast, untamed wilderness. “Know of a surety,” the boy continued, “that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall be hunted by them, killed by them, be afflicted by them four hundred years.” At this, the storyteller always felt horror and great darkness. “And after,” the boy said. “When that nation should fall, when the men that hunted thee shall depart from this world, thy seed will inherit the fruitless void, and chaos will reign.”

The wound on the boy’s chest suddenly healed. His skin colored peach. His lips were red. His eyes disappeared into the blackness of hollow sockets, yet the storyteller always felt that the boy could still see.

When he felt particularly brave, as he had during the dream this night, the storyteller walked up to the boy and stared into the empty eye sockets. The boy leaned his head back. From above him, the storyteller stared directly into the sockets. Within the shell of the skin, there is only nothingness, and nothing else. And then, the eyes became mirrors, and the storyteller saw his self.

The storyteller was afraid of this nightmare, but from it he did not despair. The dream appeared to him as a threat not as inevitability. He saw it as a manifestation of his greatest fears during a time of terrible desolation, not as the words from an immutable power outside of himself. There were times when he thought he saw this vision before him. He thought he saw the dream in the people around him. There was one time, long ago, that he lived it not knowing until it was too late.

He closed his eyes, but he did not sleep.

So, that’s it. If you’re interested in comparing this to the original check out the next link. If you’re interested in buying the book for a buck, check out the links below!
Genesis 15

 

But_the_Angels_Never_Cover_for_Kindle

 

Farmers_and__Canniba_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

Just_After_the_Fall_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

The_Church_Peak_Hote_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

THANKS!!!!!!!!

 

 

 


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.

thE0305MPK

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?

th0ZIOMUYG

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.

thW8OAK126

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!”

Sincerely,
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.

 

 

But_the_Angels_Never_Cover_for_Kindle

 

Farmers_and__Canniba_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

Just_After_the_Fall_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

The_Church_Peak_Hote_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

THANKS!!!!!!!!


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.

th38W7Y1NN

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.

thOBOBM8UM

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.

thHESM1DR7

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.

 

But_the_Angels_Never_Cover_for_Kindle

 

Farmers_and__Canniba_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

Just_After_the_Fall_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

The_Church_Peak_Hote_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

THANKS!!!!!!!!


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.

untitled

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.

imagesZXZW68QO

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.

 

 

But_the_Angels_Never_Cover_for_Kindle

 

Farmers_and__Canniba_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

Just_After_the_Fall_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

The_Church_Peak_Hote_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

THANKS!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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.

 

OTHER NEWS

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”.

 

Sincerely,

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:

 

But_the_Angels_Never_Cover_for_Kindle

 

Farmers_and__Canniba_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

Just_After_the_Fall_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

The_Church_Peak_Hote_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

THANKS!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

 


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.

 

Sincerely,

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.

 

 

 

 

 


%d bloggers like this: