Over at writingforums.com, the question was recently asked how we as writers should handle the use of words like “uh”, “um” and “ha ha”.
This was my response:
People in real life say “um” all the time. Just like they say “ah” too. If you are going for realistic dialogue between real people then these words will get used. Not everyone is an eloquent speaker after all and when people are struggling to talk these filler words will slip out. So I say use them. But use them sparingly and perhaps as part only of a particular character’s speech pattern only. If every character is having spasms of “um”s and “ah”s that will definitely get annoying.
Now, as for “Ha, ha, ha,” I only use that when the character specifically says, “Ha, ha, ha”. You know, like in a sarcastic laugh in response to something that was said like this:
“You sure are ugly in the morning,” Peter said as he rolled over in bed to look at Amanda.
“Ha, ha, ha,” She replied. She knew that Peter thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world no matter what time of day.
If it is a normal laugh I prefer to say something simply like, “so and so laughed.”
I was sitting down today and thinking about conflict and how we as authors get to the conflicts that drive the stories we write.
Every story needs conflict. Without it, nothing happens of any importance and no one cares about the story and the characters contained within.
As writers we must set up the conflict. But before we can do that though we have to know what the conflict will be. How you set up conflict is important and it is imperative that the reasons for conflict makes sense. The best character in the world becomes boring without something that motivates him or her to move forward or backward in life.
To be honest, there really are not that many reasons conflict exists on a grand scheme although the details are what make them unique and intriguing to the reader. Do not think for one minute that you have some unique conflict that has never been seen before. Everyone major story arc has been tried and written at some point. Again though, it is the details that make the story unique even if the overall plot driven by the conflict is not. (more…)
The past couple days I have been taking a break from working on the actual texts of any of my current story projects. This break has mostly been driven by a lack of inspiration on how to progress on each of these projects. Although “The War Within” is ready for some polishing, I do not want to jump right into it. I want to get some separation from that story before I get into the minutia of editing.
Rather than write for the sake of writing, something that tends to frustrate me, I have stepped back and been catching my breath. However, to stop from getting stale and out of routine I have committed myself to coming up with story prompts for potential future stories. The past three days I have come up with at least four prompts each day and looking at them I was actually well pleased with each of them. The list is quite long and should provide fertile ideas for the next year.
This morning before work I also sketched out the final couple chapters of “Dark Moon” in a bullet point format. That initial sketch to wrap up the story looks good as well. Now it just needs to be translated into the story.
It is good to keep busy as a writer. I don’t like not working at least an hour each day on at least one of my projects. Losing momentum seems like a real possibility any day that goes by where I don’t do something writing-wise.
I started years ago trying to write a novel and worked at it well for several months but then slowly and surely I started to focus on other pursuits and abandoned that project about halfway through it. Maybe if I can find that old novel I should dust it off as well.
I just don’t want to get too many projects on my plate at once.
Friday marked a milestone in my progress towards my first completed short story. The first draft of “The War Within” is sitting completed and ready for a fresh look in a week or two after I have let it simmer for a bit.
Total word count sits right now at 5,553.
In the meantime I will be revisiting project “Dark Moon”, my novel which this short story is based on, as well as “Sacrifice”, my other previously existing short story project. Also I have opened another new project file preliminarily titled “The Yoke” which I came up with during a brainstorming session on Friday. I will be putting down some ideas for it as well.
Last night I sat down wanting to touch up some things with my short story “The War Within”. But I couldn’t quite get in the mood. The story still needs work however I just could not figure out what to work on exactly.
Some parts are right as I want them. So rather than do something I would later regret I started free writing the short story “Sacrifice” and adapt to a story in a whole other world.
Unlike “The War Within” which gives some background to a secondary character in my project called “Dark Moon”, “Sacrifice” gives flesh to a character that I have written about in short stories (unpublished) before. However she is much more the main character in those stories.
I think the exercise was a good one. It got me off my current rut with “The War Within” and quickly I had a new story with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Right now it stands at 1,500 some words but there is a lot of straight dialogue without any added features to break it up. I plan on fixing that to make it more than just he said, she said, he said, she said, he said which is boring and can confuse the reader without pointers every now and again to let the reader know exactly who is speaking.
I have also decided to tell much of this story through flashbacks. Normally I abhor flashbacks but for this story I am going to try them. It seems to work.
I have updated the site to include basic information on what are now two short stories I am working on. The first is being called “The War Within” which is the short story spawned by project “Dark Moon”. This story focuses on a particular event which helped form the world view of a secondary character in the later.
The second story is being given the working title of “Sacrifice” and is a short story spawned by elements I had started to put into “The War Within” but which did not seem to fit that story’s main character. They did however fit another character from another short story I wrote nearly two decades ago for a writing class in college. I am adapting those pieces of story that I scrapped to a new story in a completely different world.
More on all these projects soon.
Ok. I have some good news. That short story I wanted to write? You know, the one that instead turned into tens of thousands of words and what appears to be a novel? Well, I have found it within the plot of what I am writing.
It is going to require some changes to the longer story I have been typing out, but I think those changes are going to be for the better. Most of those changes have to do with the way magic is used in the world and a little bit of tweaking of the world history as well. It is amazing how thinking out a small part of the story to make it into a short story of its own allows me to see better ways to do other things within the main story itself. It also solves a couple conundrums I have been having with certain plot points. Putting the ideas for this story down have clarified a lot of the problems.
What happened was I was just free writing and jotting down notes yesterday when I was brainstorming some interactions between two of the novel’s characters. Out popped the short story in the form of a monologue by one of them.
Having happened long before this particular story, of course this short story does not fit into the novel’s full framework. The character’s summary of events in the novel does not tell the whole story so here is the chance for me to do that now and add some depth to this particular character, a female elf whose perspective and actions are only viewed in “Dark Moon” through the POV of the main character. So it has what I think is the makings of a good short story to work on.
It has taken a while to get there. But I have gotten there.
Title not decided on yet. Working title to be come up with.