This character, Tall T Reynolds, is growing in my mind. I can see him tanned and raw and a bit dusty. I know his world is the 1940’s rural west and I know he’s going to briefly meet Lottie, a beautiful girl in a gleaming open topped coupe. Their brief exchange will never leave his mind. Soon after, Tall T will go off to war in Europe. He and Lottie will meet again in a most unexpected way.
I want these two MCs to be drawn as very different in all ways but the heart. I want to show those differences subtly and naturally. I want to tell the story mostly in dialog, no long narratives, no narrative tells. I know that means voice and tone will have to be pitch perfect so it’s language that shows their differences, that makes each wholly human and credible. I thought about using dialect but rejected the idea. I don’t trust my skills to pull that off successfully. Besides, they are both smart and fairly well educated. This is not a rustic pauper gets the princess story. Still, they are from very different worlds – until they’re not.
After rummaging about a bit in the writer’s toolbox, I’m thinking slang as a way to initially set them apart and ultimately bring them together. Slang is an interesting critter. It’s a very flexible tool. It’s hard to pin down what is slang and what isn’t. Slang changes so fast. Yesterday’s ‘far out’ is today’s ‘snatched’, but it’s pretty clear what slang does for us. The casual use of slang terms show we’re in the know, we belong to that group who understands what it is to ‘I oop’. More to my purposes, slang is a shared affinity of age and disposition and attitude.
Slang can be subversive, playful, derisive, affectionate, even endearing – all such very human qualities – and human is what I want to show in circumstances that aren’t all that humane. Ever changing, almost updating itself to fit shifting circumstances slang morphs from common terms to become familiar to a community who is living and sharing shifting circumstances. How else explain today’s use of ‘ghost’? Slang can turn meaning topsy turvy, assigning an opposite meaning to words – an effective response to a world that feels turned upside down. To say you ‘destroyed’ something today certainly doesn’t mean to me what it means to a teen.
Because slang is a hallmark of a shared, exclusive world it’s the perfect devise to reinforce the journey of Tall T and Lottie through the chaos of a world war to a shared reality. They will be tested in ways they’ve never imagined in a world where familiar conventions don’t always apply and time can be frightfully short. At their first meeting, Lottie’s language will baffle Tall T; he will know from that brief exchange that they are from very different worlds. By the end, they will share an unspoken understanding of how fubar life can be. They’ll both know the world is cockeyed and with one exchange of peepers they’ll know where to meet because they have all the dope on the good places. They are people with plenty of moxie who become each other’s killer diller.
I will be careful though. I don’t want them to sound like they’re trying too hard to be cool, or are too stupid to express themselves in any other way. I want to salt the slang effectively, add just that kick of heat a touch of chili adds to a good stew. Like seasoning, I’m going to need a deft hand. I can imagine how clumsy a slang word could feel, or how tiresome the overuse could become. There’s a lot of revision ahead for me if I’m going to Keep it 100. Forewarned is forearmed. I’ll stop beating my gums now and immerse myself in the slang of The Greatest Generation. Roger. Wilco.
By Dianna Sinovic
It must have been at least one in the morning, the inkiness of the night now washed out by the full moon cresting the horizon. Sophie sat up and felt around her for her shoes. She’d been stargazing on the hill, the grassy spot beyond the embrace of the forest. With the moon up, the stars would soon fade until they were too faint to see. Sometimes she felt like that, diminished, dismissed.
Except that the full moon doesn’t rise at 1 a.m. or anywhere near that time. A full moon appears as the sun is setting, giving its full face to be illuminated.
Jeremy was hopelessly lost, and night was falling. He was walking on what seemed like an endless plain of snow, every direction the same. Zipping up his jacket until it was at his chin, he wished he’d remembered his watch cap. Already his ears felt numb. The sun was now just an orange glow on the horizon, and in the eastern sky, the slender form of a crescent moon had risen. He headed in that direction.
Except that a crescent moon doesn’t rise at sunset. A slender crescent is either in the eastern sky as the sun comes up. (It often shares the sky with the planet Venus, the “morning star.”) Or it’s in the western sky, following the sun down.
It’s easy to get the sun’s position correct when you write a scene. It rises in the morning and it sets in the evening. And on sweltering summer days it’s usually right overhead.
But the moon follows a different time keeper. And authors who don’t check the phases of the moon before adding them to their fiction risk yanking the reader out of the story. I have been stopped cold in otherwise compelling scenes by a moon depicted in a way that could never happen.
It doesn’t matter where in the world you set your story, the same astronomical parameters apply. (OK, the poles are different, both for the moon’s and the sun’s appearance.) The details aren’t hard to master. There are websites (NASA is an example) that will spell out the phases of the moon for you.
So when you’re fact-checking your draft, don’t forget to check the moon. Us astronomy geeks will thank you.
Of course, if you’ve set your story on another world, none of this applies. Instead, just be consistent with the rules of that world or universe. Double moons might be a nice touch.
A simple Internet search can become a journey down the rabbit hole. A phrase or a word catches my eye, I click and find myself wondering down a path light years from the original intent. I was looking for info on clay pot cooking and got entranced by all the entries about things people are in praise of. Not sure how I got there, it’s a Google thing, but I couldn’t look away; all those heart felt testimonials extolling an incredible array of individual passions.
I was delighted by a man’s elegant praise of Velcro (who could argue with that?), an oratory on the simplicity of the ten penny nail (it really is an elegant and useful item), a poetic discourse on the play of sunlight on soap bubbles in the kitchen sink (I’ll take her word for it). The essays in praise of the rubber band, the sound of a child’s heartbeat in a quiet moment, the meditative smell of a crackling fire on a cold night all touched a universal human note—and I asked what I am in praise of.
Answer: writers. I write in praise of writers. I work with authors. I know something of the blood, sweat and tears invested in the books that are my passion to read. Writers are people with such a strong drive to tell stories they dive into unchartered waters and do it—despite the requirements of life. Writing is a full time occupation for a rare few. For most, the act of putting pen to paper is precious time carved out between client conferences, parenting, shift schedules, basic survival—the business of life. Amazing, praiseworthy.
Every book began as a spark in the mind of a writer. Might be an event, or a word overheard or grandmother’s lace collar that ignited the spark. With trial and error that spark becomes a premise to be populated with characters and action and goals. With more trial and error a burgeoning universe grows into a draft. More trial and error—okay, call it what it is—revisions and rewrites. Then more of same. Finally, a deep breath and first cautious preview. Writers group, spouse, beta reader, editor; it doesn’t matter who, the writer bears their soul. Feedback is absorbed (emotionally, technically, inspirationally), and it’s back to revise and rewrite, until the whole tough process results in the best effort of the writer.
That journey from idea to finished book is praiseworthy enough. That it’s just the beginning of a new sweaty effort is a fact. A book isn’t alive without readers. Reaching those readers is the next act. Even with a traditional publisher every writer has to promote their work — a fact even more vital for Indie authors. How else can the reader find your book among the 1100 new postings per day? Nothing makes me sadder than to have a client hang up their keyboard after publishing because sales are few to none. These are wonderful books, I know they are, but the author made no effort to promote. No one found the work. That wonderful book never stood a chance.
The investment of writing a book is a labor of love. Promoting and selling the book is just hard work. The effort begins with well-chosen genre categories and killer key words. An educated approach to pricing techniques, a website, blog and social media are promotional gold. Reviews are essential; consistency is key. Every author must invest the sweat equity needed to allow people to find their book. Fortunately, hundreds of Indie pros share promotional know-how, experiences and techniques on line, a lot of it free.
When I have found that ‘just right’ book I can snug up the Velcro on my slippers, hang my troubles on the ten penny nail, drain the supper dish soap and with the kid sit before the fire and travel wherever those pages take me. I am in praise of writers.
From our archives . . .
As many tourists will tell you. One of the most recognizable landmarks of Hollywood (besides the Hollywood sign and the Chinese Theater) is the round Capitol Records building. It opened on April 6, 1956. That evening a red light on the tip of the spire atop the building at 1750 Vine Street (a couple blocks north of Hollywood Boulevard) began spelling out H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D in Morse code.
Then Capital president Alan Livingston ordered the light be added as a symbol that the Capitol Record label was the first with a presence in Los Angeles. Except for the years 1992 when the light blinked out C-A-P-I-T-A-L 5-0, celebrating Capitol Records fiftieth anniversary and 2016 when it flashed C-A-P-I-T-O-L 7-5 for the company’s seventy-fifth anniversary, the red light atop the spire continues to flash the original message.
World famous singers and musicians made Capitol Records their label, including: Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, Judy Garland, Dean Martin and many more.
Even the most casual observer can see that the wide curved awnings over the windows on each story and the tall spike emerging from the top of the building resembles a stack of records on a turntable. But, Lou Naidorf, the building’s designer, didn’t have that in mind at all.
While Hollywood has undergone a lot of changes, this landmark has held its ground. Even in the 21st century, while many well known artists are recording music in a digital format. Turntables and vinyl LPs have regained popularity. Perhaps the meaning of the Capitol Records building’s design will once again be connected with the entertainment capitol of the world.
This iconic building was featured in several movies, including the 1974 movie “Earthquake,” 1997’s “Volcano” and 2004’s “The Day After Tomorrow” where it met an undignified demise. Despite these cinematic disasters, the light atop the building blinks out its H-O-L-L-Y-O-O-D message to this day.
We are starting a new series of murder mysteries taking place in the1960s. To make the story real we must research what life was like in that decade. After all we do have to dress our characters!
The 1960s fashions for women showed a major change from the 1950s strait-laced, conservative styles to the relaxed, youthful, even unisex styles of the 1960s. In other words, wardrobes had a major overhaul in just one decade.
Skirts changed from the swing skirt in the early 60s to straight (pencil) to A line shape by the end of the decade. And the hemlines were raised drastically as the decade continued.
Casual dress became more and more popular. Women were more comfortable wearing Capri’s, bell bottoms and shorts even at social events.
Couples wore matching clothes or unisex clothes which sprang up in the mid to late 60s. Teenagers to young adults jumped on the unisex look.
The little black dress came into fashion for cocktail parties while the evening/ball gowns started with a layer of lace ending the decade with classy one-layer dresses with stylish decoration.
Bell-bottoms became fashionable for both men and women in Europe and North America. They flared out from the bottom of the calf and had slightly curved hems and a circumference of 18 inches (46 cm) at the bottom of each leg opening. They were usually worn with Cuban-heeled shoes, clogs, or Chelsea boots.
The Empire waist style dress became very popular, reflecting the less strict social mores of dress from the 1950s (cinched waist). The 1960s women’s fashions considered women’s comfort and individual style as opposed to the earlier decades.
An interesting note: Capris’ acceptance in the United States was influenced by the 1960s television series The Dick Van Dyke Show. The character Laura Petrie, the young housewife played by Mary Tyler Moore, caused a fashion sensation by wearing snug-fitting capri pants.
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