Archive | October 2010

Becoming someone else.

How often do you base your characters based on yourself? How often do you have your characters be someone you want to be?

Advertisements

Don’t relay on spell checker

I’m presenting a workshop on Monday about commonly done errors in papers. One of my common errors is relying on spell checker. (Yes, I know. It’s relay on the subject. That was to make a point.) I wanted to give an example of something that works with spell checker, but is not correct, and I happened to find this.

I have a spelling chequer,
It came with my pea sea,
It plainly marks four my revue,
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key an type a word,
And weight four it two say,
Weather eye am wrong oar write,
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid,
It nose bee fore to long,
And eye can put the error rite,
Its rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it,
I am shore your pleased two no,
Its letter perfect awl the weigh,
My chequer tolled me sew.

This came from this link and was just too awesome not to share.

If you’re looking for more of these words, they are called homophones.  I will post a more comprehensive list when I get it. (Which looks to be around November 8th)

Why one-sentence summaries are the best.

As I mentioned a while ago, I have become, over the last several months, a fan of one-sentence summaries. Basically, you are to summerize what you have written in one sentence.

First, some guidelines.

  1. It can only be about 20 words long.
  2. It cannot contain any character names.
  3. It has to give a true overview of a story (or paper. I have been using this with research papers as well.) So in other words, you can’t say you’re paper is on abortion’s medical complications when it’s really more a persuasive piece explaining why abortion’s dangers have never really been researched.
  4. If you have more than one character, write an overall summary for the novel, and then another summary for each character.

I have done this, and it was actually a lot of work. So why would you want to all that hard work? I shall tell you.

1) It gives you direction in editing. If you have that summary in the back of your mind, you’ll be able realize what can be deleted and what you can keep. If you are only kinda sure, you still might need something kept.

2) It tell you when to stop. Oftentimes, newer writers go on longer than they need to, and the end stuff is all boring drivel.

For example: In Shad, my one-sentence summary is along the lines of, “A talented pilot tries to escape his life of condemnation after rescuing a doctor.” So based on this, he needs to leave his current life and settle down somewhere else for the story to be complete. However, and I can’t include this all in my sentence, in order do that he needs to race a big race and win it.

What if I just made my sentence along the lines of, “A talented pilot decides to compete in the most prestigious race in hopes of escaping his criminal background.” Based on this, when he crosses the finish line on the race, he should have just one more chapter to tie everything up. Instead, I have closer to four. Why? Various reasons along the lines of him telling me so, but more than that, the story isn’t done, because the story is truly about what I said earlier–him finding a new life away from criminals.

3) It tells you what to include in your introduction. This is more for formal writing and short stories. Both of these need the plot, or direction of the story told quickly. If you know what your story really is about through the one-sentence summary, then you’ll know what to say in your first page or so, in order to tell your reader what direction the story will take.

Example (again. I know. You can skip over it if you’re bored. :)): I’m writing  story about mermaids, which I’m hoping to post shortly. (maybe by Thanksgiving.) Unfortunately, I didn’t write a one-sentence summery about this story but the plot focuses around the disappearances of Adamah’s, false alarms, who’s doing it, why, and the results of knowing that answer. But in order to make it so you can understand this background, I couldn’t have it start where I needed to. This informal, vital information, came much too late for the reader to understand it. Thus, I needed to make a new introduction, and it worked quite fine.

4) It makes sure that everything stops together. This goes back to number 2, butt the idea is that if you have summary, then you don’t leak the substory over onto the ending of the real story. Trust me–this is really important.

5) It helps other people edit your story. I work in the writing center at my school, so when students need help with editing their papers. they come to me. Oftentimes, I ask them what the paper is about. If they give me an answer along the lines of, “Well, it’s kinda a reaction paper about the education of athletic trainers and, yeah, that’s it.” it’s a lot harder for me to edit it than when you say, “It is a reaction paper of the educational requirements for an athletic trainer.” Make sense?

So that’s about all there is. I really do encourage you to consider trying to do one sentence summaries for your writing assignments. They have proved to be very helpful.

A future of genetic testing.

I’ve said many times before, I’m a science fiction writer. My biggest question in life is “What happens if…?”

I read an article earlier this week that gave the suggestion of a mommy gene, and the physical possibility of it. She had an interesting line in it.

“More Mommy genes!” the headlines raved. Mice and humans share many of the same genes, so these genes may influence women’s nurturing instincts, too. Perhaps we can test every wannabe mom to see if she has working copies of FosB, Peg1/ Mest, and Peg3. [The mommy genes identified in mice.] Then we’ll know who can soothe babies into submission and who thinks it’s a good idea to leave them to cry under the stars.

So, this started me thinking, What if a place did test women to see if they were able to be nurturing or not? What if they started tying this into the adoption process? What if they didn’t let anyone have a baby who didn’t have this gene?

So there’s a thought for you. You can find out more about mommy genes here.

Why to use a dictionary.

You know what a dictionary is, right? That big, 3000 page, dust-covered book at the top shelf of your bookshelve. The one you never dared to look at because you knew the font would be maybe -20 and you didn’t want to have to squint and find the right word, only to discover you’re spelling it wrong and need to try again.

Good news! That’s not the case anymore.

First of all, many computers have built in dictionaries. If they don’t, google has a good dictionary. There are also dictionaries available for your touch, so you can have one wherever you go.

So why don’t you dare use it? Or why would you even want to use it? They’re only for when you’re really stuck, right?

Not exactly. I use a dictionary all the time and it’s not because I don’t always know the meaning of a word, but because I want to find a better word.

1) Dictionaries are great to know the meaning of words. Sometimes we think we know the meaning of words that we really don’t know fully. Case in point: I talked with someone this past week about the word vehemently. I said I generally think of the world vehemently as angry and tense. But if you look it up, it means “Showing strong feeling, forceful, passionate, or intense.” In the way this person wanted to use it, it worked and it worked well. but I wouldn’t known that if I didn’t look it up in the dictionary. My perception of the word was not accurate with what the word really meant, and oftentimes, I find that to be true.

2) Dictionaries almost always contain a thesaurus. As a writer, this is a very useful tool. Say I’m writing a paper and I use the same word ten times on one page. Even if I have it spread out over the whole page, ten times is quite a lot. So I look up my word and find another word that replaces it, one that on occasion will sound better than the original word, or mean something better.

Case in point: I wanted to point a one-sentence summary of my story. I came up with:

A youngnaive pirate questions everything after her ship accepts a new passenger.

I didn’t like “young, naive” at all. It sounded too repetitive and vague. It didn’t fully capture the attitude I was trying to find in this young girl. So I began looking words up and I eventually came up with:

An ingenuous pirate begins to question everything about her life after befriending a desperate brother.

(more on this process and the sentence development  here. Why to do one-sentence summaries coming next week.)

Ingenuous means, “(of a person or action) innocent and unsuspecting.”  with a futher note here:

Most people would rather be thought of as ingenuous, meaning straightforward and sincere (: an ingenuous confession of the truth), because it implies the simplicity of a child without the negative overtones.

(From the Apple dictionary.)

This word worked out very well for what I wanted to imply, which was exactly the innocence, unsuspicious, carefree nature of this girl.

3) You need to replace like forms with like forms. Say I have my sentence:

The oscillate of conservatism in America came suddenly after the election of Barack Obama.

I decide that I’ve used swing to much and I need to replace it. So I look it up.

swing

verb

1 the sign swung in the wind oscillate, sway, move back and forth, move to and fro, wave, wag, rock, flutter, flap.

2 Helen swung the bottle brandish, wave, flourish, wield, shake, wag, twirl.

3 this road swings off to the north curve, bend, veer, turn, bear, wind, twist, deviate, slew, skew, drift, head.

4 the balance swung from one party to the other change, fluctuate, shift, alter, oscillate, waver, alternate, seesaw, yo-yo, vary.

5 informal : if we keep trying, we can swing this deal accomplish, achieve, obtain, acquire, get, secure, net, win, attain, bag, hook; informal wangle, land.

noun

1 a swing of the pendulum oscillation, sway, wave.

2 a swing to the New Democrats in this constituency change, move; turnaround, turnabout, reversal, about face, volte face, change of heart, U-turn, sea change.

3 a swing toward plain food trend, tendency, drift, movement.

4 a mood swing fluctuation, change, shift, variation, oscillation.

I pick the first word I see: oscillate. I decide that’s good and insert it into my sentence.

The oscillate of conservatism in America came suddenly after the election of Barack Obama.

Did that work? No. Because I used a verb in place of a noun. I didn’t look to make sure it looked correct.

4) To confirm the type of word you are using. I do this often in my job as a writing assistant. If a person comes to me with a paper and I’m reading it, I might see a word that I’m wondering if they can even use it. Oftentimes, I can identify what the word is suppose to be functioning as, so I look it up. If the word is really a noun, when it should be a verb, I can then give my person a concrete reason why they cannot do it.

5) To confirm the meaning of similar sounding words: My sister wrote on her facebook wall today:

warmth=happiness therefor I’m not happy.

I’m not going to focus on her puncuation. Instead, I want to focus on the word “therefor.”

Therefor is a word; when I write it now, there’s no red line. However, I look up the meaning and I find:

adverb archaic

for that object or purpose.

She did not mean that. She meant:

adverb

for that reason; consequently : he was injured and therefore unable to play.

Yes, therefore probably came from therefor, but a) it’s archaic, so she doesn’t really want to use it, and b) “[For that purpose] I am not happy,” does not work.

Keep this in mind with all words that sound alike, but don’t quite look like. Words like summary and summery, and others like that.

music makes the world go ’round

Do you listen to music while you write and if so, what kind? Why do you?

How to write less badly.

When an article is named like my subject, it’s hard to compete with coming up with something as equally interesting. Because seriously, less badly sounds wrong.

That being said, my friend shared a link about how to write less badly. But just the highlights here.

2. Set goals based on output, not input. “I will work for three hours” is a delusion; “I will type three double-spaced pages” is a goal.

4. Give yourself time.

5. Everyone’s unwritten work is brilliant. And the more unwritten it is, the more brilliant it is.

7. Write, then squeeze the other things in.

8. Not all of your thoughts are profound. Many people get frustrated because they can’t get an analytical purchase on the big questions that interest them. Then they don’t write at all.

9. Your most profound thoughts are often wrong. Or, at least, they are not completely correct.

And then my most favorite thing of all time:

10. Edit your work, over and over.

I do encourage you to read the whole article however, since it is quite good, and since I only gave you a small outline of it here.

Paddles!

During many movies and TV shows, we see a patient goes flatline, he’s basically dead, and the doctor and rescue team swoops in, grabs the paddles, shock him a few times and he walks out of the hospital in two hours.

In movies and TV shows. Generally speaking, in ONLY movies and TV shows.

Why is that?

Because if the person is in a true flatline, meaning there is no electrical activity in the heart, paddles, or defibrillation as it is known in the medical world, will do nothing.

So, a few comments on this, so your stories are a bit more accurate.

1) If a patient is flatline (asystole), the patient needs two drugs. A) Epinephrine. B) Vasopressin. With epinephrine, you can give that as many times as you want, spaced about every three minutes I think it is. With Vasopressin, you can only give that once and that is all. Keep in mind that this i when the heart has completely stopped.

2) If you really want to shock a patient, they need to be in ventricular fibrillation (V-Fib) or Ventricular tachycardia without a pulse, otherwise known as V-tach without a pulse. In common language, the ventriculers are going really, really fast, which will manifest as a fast heart rate.

3) There are these things called automatic defibrillators in many public locations. With these things, anyone can shock a patient, because it’s all automatic. You attach the pads, run the read cycle, and then the machine will tell you whether or not you can shock the patient. I’m sure there’s a video out there if you are very curious.

Free day!

What do you do when you have a day off?

To want to write.

Well, I did it.

In spite of three nursing classes, a 6:30 AM clinical and two, small jobs, I have officially finished a rough draft of my story. Yes, it’s just a short story. Yes, it is just a rough draft. But it is something that I have finally finished.

I honestly think it’s a pretty awesome story. I had to change a few things from when I first started. Like, I added a section onto the beginning to more set the scene. And as I wrote, the characters talked to me more, so I learned a lot about their government. (That is particularly of excitement, since the characters are so difficult in talking during the school year.)  For example, the king’s children are elected to be the heir, so that way even though the main character, Avda, is the youngest, she may very well be the heir.

I also know I need to develop things a lot more, since I really want to build up Avda’s loyalty of government and all, and her desire to rule.

On a side note, I began to watch Firefly. That is such an awesome show, to be quite honest. But, the very interesting thing is that it made me start thinking about my pirate story again.

If you don’t know what Firefly is about, it’s basically about space pirates who are trying to survive in the world. Now does that make sense why I keep thinking about it? Let me give you an example as to why this helps. In the show, the people are very poor because they have a hard time getting a job. In my story, they’re actually rather rich, just because they aren’t picky. So the whole entire concept of my own story is being questioned by this show.

What makes that very strange is I didn’t want to watch Firefly when it first came out, because the conditions on the ship very closely resemble that of Shad. I figured that the ideas of Firefly would merge into Shad and I didn’t want that. Now… I’m not too sure.

I like that, because it makes my life actually easier. I might actually start writing it again soon.

On a more personal note, if you are reading this post, that means that I have broken 3,000 readers!

You guys also broke the record last month (September) for the most amount of visitors per month which is the second month in the row, and based on the current stats, we’re looking really good for this month too. So thanks ya’ll!

(And yes, I like the word ya’ll. It makes a plural second person, which we don’t have in English.)