Friday, August 26, 2011

Another Feature: Power Verbs

As mentioned previously, verbs are the most important part of any story because they are literally where the action is. And with flash fiction, this becomes even more important.

One of the things that makes weak writing is using too many weak verbs. Using "Raced" or "Skipped" or "Marched" in the place of "Walked" depending on the need of the story will amp the action up a notch, add understanding to the emotion of the story, and keep a readers attention. Why did the character race? Was he scared, the situation urgent? Why did the character skip? Was she happy, a child, stupidly oblivious to her dangerous situation?

Power verbs are always best. Finding new ways of saying things make the writing interesting. Unusual verbs are great if not over used.

When I was in a critique group, one of the gals used the word "Riveted" which was awesome the first time. But when she used it a second time in the same chapter, I encouraged her to find a new word for one of the instances. She didn't like the suggestion, but eventually went with it because such a powerful and unusual verb used more than one in a chapter, or even two within several chapters of each other, that powerful verb sticks out. That sort of verb would also stick out if used more than once in a flash fiction piece.

Bottom line.
Use power verbs liberally. Use variety. Be careful about repeating the most powerful verbs, especially in short pieces, like flash fiction.

And for a list of power verbs you can look at the page I have started as a storage facility for power verbs I come across. If you have any to add to the list, I'd love to have them.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Feature: Publishers

Initially, my blog roll was a mishmash of blogs and the websites of Christian Spec. publishers. I've finally divided them out and have the Christian Spec publishers in one list and the blog roll in another. Much more organized, makes much more sense.

I already had Slashdown and Marcher Lord, and today, I've added Port Yonder. Whereas Splashdown and Marcher Lord are exclusively Spec., Port Yonder also publishes other things. All three are small, independent, and reputable presses. All three are places that I would be proud to have a book published at.

Also, I'm open to adding other reputable presses if anyone wants to suggest any.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Peculiar Lot

Us spec writers are a peculiar lot. We understand each other, for the most part. Or at least we give each other space for our peculiar creative flows. Other people, including family, well, they just don't always get us. They may love us and nod with a smile even as their eyes glaze over while we try to explain the story or flash of spec brilliance we had in the middle of the night.

On our long trip out west, my mother and I had a lot of time to talk and we covered a lot of ground. Finally it came up that I was writing again. Mom got real excited because she thinks I'm brilliant and should be a multi-published author, it's just the world hasn't had the privilege of discovering me yet. You know how mothers are.

Anyway, she asked me about it and, while loving this new outlet of flash fiction and being excited about the story world of Avenir Eclectia, I wasn't sure how to explain it so I just said, "Oh, I'm not sure if you'll like it." (What a wonderful self promoter am I.)
Then, explaining flash fiction to her, imagine my surprise that her enthusiasim did not wane one degree but rather increased. She started talking about Ernest Hemingway and Kent Hauf and their sparse yet beautiful writing styles. So I thought, what do I have to lose?

When we got to our destination I found a computer and brought up Avenir Eclectia for her to watch the video. I love the video and music and hoped that it would set the stage for her to read my stuff. Well, the computer wouldn't play videos. Disappointing. But I had mom there and didn't want to leave her hanging so I let her read my two entries presently up on AE.

I'm happy to say that she didn't hate them. Or at least if she did, she hid it well. No, I really don't think she hated them and that she even liked a few things about them.

Another note on family. I make my kids read my entries before I send them in. As I mentioned before, they aren't crazy about flash fiction. Well the last one I had them read, my son said something along the lines of, "Hey, things are starting to come together and make sense." And he said it almost like he was excited about it. Almost.

Anyway, we spec writers are a peculair lot and we've got to stick together. And if we can get support from our families, that makes it even better.

Monday, August 8, 2011

NEWS FLASH on Flash Fiction

Actually, it's a News Flash on a contest for flash fiction. It is hosted by Christian author, Lillian Duncan, and it appears to be open to any Genre. I might try it, except I'm leaving for vacation in the morning and can't pull something together. So I thought I'd pass this on to my Spec Friends and see if any of them want to give it a shot.

Houston, We Have a Problem

The kids and I watched Apollo 13 the other night. I'd seen it before but I wanted to share it with them for the first time.

Spec. Fiction, even Science Fiction, involves a lot of fantasy. But to make it believable, you have to incorporate some reality. Space travel will be more believable if you present what is known about space rather than make things up because you didn't do your homework.

I love movies like Apollo 13 for many reasons. But as a writer, I love the visuals and realistic portrayal of what space is really like, how hostile and opposed to earth life it really is. Movies like Apollo 13 helps keep things real and shows how dealing with real, believable issues make a great story.

I love technical side of Apollo 13, like putting the engineering department on earth at work to make the Command Module filters work for Lunar Module to bring the CO2 levels back down and having to burn fuel and fly manually to get the capsule on course for the angle of re-entry.

I also love the human aspect of it. Things like watching Lovell's mother's complete confidence in her son and the concern of his wife and children over their dad's safety.

Apollo 13 is a must see for anyone, but I especially recommend it for anyone wanting to write Science Fiction that involves space travel.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

More on Verbs

In the words of Steve Urkel on Family Matters, "I use verbs. Verbs are our friends."

Truer words about verbs have never been spoken. Without a verb you don't have a sentence. That can't be said about any other part of speech, not even the second most important word in the sentence, the noun.

As I mentioned before, in the sentence, verbs are where the action is, literally. And the most important aspect of a story is the action, what happens. And anyone who has ever tried to brush up on their fiction writing skills learns very quickly that authors need to keep the verbs active rather than passive.

But I must confess, even though I've known about avoiding passive verbs for some time, there was something that I've learned only just recently, like what a truly 'passive' verb is.

According to Rosslyn Elliot, historical fiction writer:

"True passive verbs occur when the action of the sentence happens to the subject:
The cake was eaten by the boy."

My husband's family used to say to each other as a joke about certain things, "And a good time was had by all." Now I know what sort of verb they were using.

Rosslyn goes on to say:
"Progressive verbs occur when you use 'was' (or am, is, are, were) with the +ing form of the verb.
The boy was eating the cake."

Until Rosslyn set me straight, I though that progressive verbs were passive verbs. Now I know better.

Rosslyn again:

"Both passive and progressive are weak, but on the few occasions when they do appear, the appropriateness of the use will differ according to whether the verb is passive or progressive.
The progressive form of verbs might occur in dialogue where you must use the phrasing that sounds natural, even if it's progressive.
The passive form of verbs is weak in both narrative and dialogue. Once or twice in a novel, you may need to use the passive voice for clarity because of your sentence order."

Rosslyn really knows her stuff. Thomas Nelson published her debut novel, an historical romance, in April of this year. You can visit her website by clicking on the link below.

Thanks Rosslyn for sharing your expertise.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Spider in the Chaparral

My second Avenir Eclectia installment is up!

And it has at least one enthusiastic thumbs up.
Thanks Walt!