Monthly Archives: February 2019

#DC386: Drawings and Dewd

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This week’s Diva Challenge is to either finish an incomplete tile, or make a new one using the patterns Drawings and Dewd. I didn’t have anything in progress, so I tried my first-ever Drawings and Dewd.

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Video of the Week #190: This Book Rocks

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Guest Post: THE DOS AND DON’TS OF DIALOGUE TAGS by Ryan Lanz

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Many thanks to Ryan Lanz of A Writer’s Path for this article on good writing.

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Writers use dialogue tags constantly. In fact, we use them so often that readers all but gloss over them. They should be invisible. However, there are ways to misuse them and make them stand out.

In an effort to avoid that, let’s take a closer look at dialogue tags. Toward the end of “Tag travesties” is something I sorely wish someone had told me before I started writing.

Why do we use dialogue tags?
The simple answer is that we use them to indicate who’s speaking. In visual media, such as movies or television, the viewer can easily tell who’s talking by lip movement and camera angles. When reading a book, obviously that’s not an option.

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There are certainly ways to misuse dialogue tags. When I was a new writer, I felt compelled to overwrite. I ‘m sure every new writer goes through a version of this. I observed how successful writers used simple tags like “said/asked” and thought to myself, that’s boring. I’m going to be an awesome writer by making them more interesting. You don’t have to admit it aloud, writers, but we all know that most of us have. Let’s look at an example of this:

  • “We can’t cross this river,” Alanna exclaimed repugnantly.
  • John crossed the room and shouted disgustedly, “I’ll never take you with me.”
  • “This has been the worst day ever,” Susie cried angrily.

For those of you who still aren’t convinced, let’s up the dosage with a paragraph:

Hank crossed the room and sat down. “We should have never waited this long for a table,” he seethed, leaning over to glare at her. 
“If you wanted a better spot, you should have called ahead for a reservation,” Trudy returned pointedly.
“Well, perhaps if you didn’t take so long to get ready, I could have,” he countered dryly.

Can you imagine reading an entire book like that? *shiver*

So why do new writers feel the urge to be that . . . creative with their dialogue tags? Back in the beginning, I thought the typical tags of “said/asked” were too boring and dull. It didn’t take me long to realize that dull (in this context) is the point.

Imagine your words as a window pane of glass, and the story is behind it. Your words are merely the lens that your story is seen through. The thicker the words, the cloudier the glass gets. If you use huge words, purple prose, or crazy dialogue tags, then all you’re doing is fogging up the glass through which your reader is trying to view your story. The goal is to draw as little attention to your actual words as possible; therefore, you keep the glass as clear as possible, so that the reader focuses on the story. Using tags like “said/asked” are so clear, they’re virtually invisible.

Now, does that mean that you can’t use anything else? Of course not. Let’s look further.

Alternate dialogue tags
Some authors say to never use anything other than “said/asked,” while others say to heck with the rules and use whatever you want. Some genres (such as romance) are more forgiving about using alternate dialogue tags. I take a more pragmatic approach to it. I sometimes use lines like:

“I’m glad we got out of there,” she breathed.

The very important question is how often. I compare adverbs and alternate dialogue tags to a strong spice. Some is nice, but too much will spoil the batch. Imagine a cake mix with a liter of vanilla flavoring, rather than the normal tablespoon. The more often you use anything other than “said/asked,” the stronger the flavor. If it’s too powerful, it’ll tug the reader away from the story and spotlights those words. In a full length book of around 85,000 words, I personally use alternate dialogue tags only around a few dozen times total.

By saving them, the pleasant side effect is that when I do use them, they pack more of an emotional punch.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Wordless Wednesday: Palmlets

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Hiking Different Trails at South Mountain Park

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Hiking Different Trails at South Mountain Park

I’ve been back to South Mountain Park three times since I last posted about it. My first visit back, I hiked further along the Kiwanis Trail. But after a while, I couldn’t tell where the trail led; it wasn’t clearly marked. I turned to retrace my steps, and I couldn’t remember which way I’d come up. Luckily, a little old man and his wife appeared, coming down, and I watched where they stepped. It was tricky, harder than coming up. They wanted to wait for me, but I told them to go on–I’d be awhile. I did catch up to them again–much later.

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That little red dot left of center is a person. He gives some scale to the landscape.

So the next time, I decided to find an “easy” trail, and decided on the Marcos de Niza trail, which starts near the Pima Canyon trailhead on the eastern end of the park, which is a lot closer to my home than the main entrance near Central Avenue.

 

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Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the Marcos de Niza trail once I got there. Instead, I hiked a very nice, wide, fairly level trail which I think is the National Trail. Part of it parallels a sandy dry wash.

 

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I walked about half an hour, stopping along the way to take photographs. Lovely wildflowers along the path (click on smaller pictures to enlarge):

A dead saguaro cactus:

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An ominous threat of rain on the mountain:

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When I came to an intersection, I turned right on the Beverly Canyon trail, and then picked up the Pima Wash Trail, which I could see headed back toward the parking lot. (There it is, behind those red-roofed ramadas, with the city of Tempe in the distance.)

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Though this ocotillo looks dead, closer inspection shows new growth coming out among the thorns.

This tree, however, is very dead:

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The Pima Wash trail is narrower than the National Trail, and has more ups and downs, making it a bit more demanding, but not too bad. More wildflowers:

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This little cave looks like the perfect home for a fox:

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I swear this cloud followed me.

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Yesterday I went back to the Pima Canyon trailhead, but I was in the mood for something a little more challenging. I left my camera at home and took the first part of the Desert Classic trail, which wraps around the southeastern edge of the mountain. The first mile or so borders along the back of a housing development. Thirty years ago, when we were exploring moving to the Phoenix area, we looked at some of these houses with “mountain views.” However, the ones in our price range were quite small, too tight for our growing family.

This trail, like the other South Mountain trails I’ve hiked so far, are popular with runners, mountain bikers, and dogwalkers. I overheard one biker tell his companion, “This is one of the least rocky trails in Phoenix. I’d hate to see a rockier one.”

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You can’t always see the surrounding trails, but every once in a while you get a peek of other hikers.

The Desert Classic trail starts out fairly level, but then it climbs. After a little more than mile, it intersects with the Beverly Canyon trail, which continues up and over the mountain. It’s steep, but there are adequate footholds. I was not afraid, as I have been on some trails. After I descended, which was a little tricky (I handle uphill better than down), the trail becomes a bit easier and ultimately crosses the main National Trail, which I followed back to my car.

I’m very comfortable with yesterday’s hike, and I will come back to it. Parts of it are a little harder than what I expect I will experience when I visit Israel this summer, but if I train hard now, I’ll have a great vacation.

Monday Morning Wisdom #195

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It’s not about winning; what it’s about is not giving up. If you have a dream, fight for it. There’s a discipline for passion, and it’s not about how many times you get rejected or you fall down or you’re beaten up–it’s how many times you stand up and are brave and you keep on going. ~ Lady Gaga

Congratulations, Lady Gaga and collaborators Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt, on your Oscar for best original song. You deserve it.

 

Flower of the Day: African Daisies

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Flower of the Day: African Daisies

 

 

In February in the Sonoran desert, a minor miracle occurs–the blooming of African daisies. They pop up all over in the town where I live, but nowhere in more profusion than this yard, completely taken over by the yellow and orange blossoms:

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I almost ran off the road a few times as I drove past, until the day I happened to have my camera in my car and stopped to take a few shots.

Check out Cee’s Flower of the Day.