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Archive for March, 2011

When I was in high school, our English teachers encouraged us to use lots of descriptive words in our writing. Adjectives and adverbs were our friends, making us sound educated and interesting. Flowery prose was admired, and many of my favorite stories spent more time describing the scenery than the action.

Times have changed.  

The type of writing I was taught is now considered “purple prose.” That means it’s writing that calls attention to itself by being excessive or exaggerated. The writing itself becomes the focus rather than what is written.

Though the excessive use of adjectives, adverbs, clichés, similes, metaphors, and alliteration is no longer in vogue, it doesn’t mean these literary devices shouldn’t ever be used. Sometimes they’re effective in clarifying what we mean, and they can add to characterization. They can be used to grab the reader’s attention or adjust the pacing of a story. In dialog, they add a sense of realism as real speech is generally full of description and clichés. The key is—don’t overdo it.

Today’s readers are less impressed with flowery writing than those of yore. Choose words that say what you mean and are appropriate for your target audience. An occasional adjective or adverb can spice up a sentence, but too much of a good thing can get old quick (like clichés). Limit your use of them to those that are essential to the image or thought you’re trying to convey.

So, how do we know which ones are essential? They’re the ones that make what we’re describing come alive for the reader, or clarify an important noun or verb. They’re the ones that, when missing, make the sentence feel incomplete or unclear.

For those of us who could use a refresher course, here are excellent references for understanding some important points of grammar.

Adjectives  http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/adjectives.htm 

Adverbs  http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/adverbs.htm  

Verbs  http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/verbs.htm  

Nouns  http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/nouns.htm

Another helpful site for grammar info is: Purdue OWL  http://owl.english.purdue.edu/   

 

 

   

Did your high school English teacher tell you adding lots of adjectives and adverbs made your writing more interesting? Do you use lots of them in your writing or deliberately limit them? What criteria do you use for determining whether words, phrases, or sentences are essential to what you’re writing?

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A good suspense novel is full of unexpected twists and turns. Sometimes there are clues leading up to the climax, but their meaning isn’t clear until we’re close to the end of the story. Sometimes the clues prepare us for what’s to come, so events make sense as they unfold. At the crucial point, however, something always happens to up the stakes for the main characters and to make readers wonder about the final outcome. Life is like that, too.

My family’s story took an unexpected turn last week. Though we’d seen the clues and thought we knew how to avoid the crisis they foretold, we weren’t prepared for what happened. Faced with a no-win scenario, we chose to trust in God and the doctor’s skill rather than accept the inevitable dénouement. Praise God it was the right decision.

Today is my 29th wedding anniversary. Thanks to our merciful God and the prayers of my family and friends, my husband is alive to share it with me.

Thank you for your prayers and good wishes in our time of need.

Carol

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Due to a family emergency, I will not be online for a couple of weeks. I would appreciate prayers for my family and myself, especially today and Friday. Thanks.

 Carol

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Our Witchdoctors are too Weak, by Davey and Marie Jank, relates some of the adventures Davey Jank experienced as a missionary to the Wilo tribe, deep within the Amazon jungle. He tells his story through a series of personal anecdotes, beginning with his arrival in the remote village of Pakali and ending with the fulfillment of his goal—sharing the Bible with the Wilo people in their own language.

As their language was completely oral, the missionaries assigned to the village had to devise an alphabet and convert the sounds they heard into a written language before they could begin teaching the Word of God. In order to ensure their message would be understood in the proper context, the missionaries had to learn the customs and beliefs of the Wilo people as well as their language. This took many years, but Davey Jank remained faithful in his service to God and to the villagers. Eventually he and his team were able to share the message of God’s love with them, helping many of the people to find hope and peace through faith in the saving grace of Christ’s death and resurrection.

I enjoyed reading about the Wilo’s culture, especially their daily activities and religious beliefs. Since Pakali was far from any large town, I was surprised to learn the villagers had some modern conveniences, such as outboard motors on their canoes and aluminum pans for cooking. Their beliefs, however, were similar to those of earlier generations, including shamanism and the fear of witchdoctors. Yet they waited eagerly for someone to translate “God’s Talk” into their language so they could break free of the fears that ruled their lives. That someone was Davey Jank.

The authors’ wry humor and conversational writing style make this book an easy read. The chapters are all very short, with each one covering a separate incident, making it a good choice for those who want something interesting to read during breaks from work or other activities. It isn’t preachy or judgmental, so even non-Christians might enjoy reading this book, but its message is profound. I highly recommend Our Witchdoctors are too Weak.

To get a feel for the entertaining—yet informative—style and content of this book, visit the Jank’s website. You can buy this book on Amazon.com.

Our Witchdoctors Are Too Weak: The Rebirth of an Amazon Tribe  

 

 

(This book was provided to me for review by a representative of the publisher, Monarch Books.)

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In general, mysteries follow the typical story structure of an enticing beginning, a middle building tension to the climax, and a satisfying ending. Sometimes these stories feel more like a circle, though, as they may open with a crime (often a murder) or other event that needs investigating and end with that mystery being solved. Many of them are part of a series of books that have the same protagonist. Those books may end with an event that leaves open the possibility of a new mystery.

Mysteries tend to be somewhat formulaic, with subgenres that have characteristics readers can rely on. The protagonists range from hard-boiled detectives to amateur sleuths and can be any age. Though characterization and setting are important elements, the plot is always the central focus of the story.

Clues are interspersed throughout the story so readers feel involved in solving the mystery along with the protagonist. An occasional red herring to throw the detective—and readers—off track is fine, but the twists and turns of the plot must make sense when the outcome is revealed. Mysteries must be solved using logic rather than supernatural means or deus ex machina.

This is a genre that’s popular with readers of all ages. Some mysteries involve elements of romance, fantasy, or suspense, and the degree of danger to the protagonist varies. Factual accuracy is important, and certain types of mysteries require extensive research to create a believable story.

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Some common types of mysteries are:

The Cozy: usually involves an amateur sleuth in a small-town setting, with little violence involved

—For more on cozies, check out http://www.cozy-mystery.com/Definition-of-a-Cozy-Mystery.html

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Private Eyes: a hired investigator follows clues to solve the mystery       

—A good site for more info is http://www.writing-world.com/mystery/PI.shtml

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Hard-boiled Detectives: police investigate crimes involving violence, with a gritty feel to the story

—If you’re interested in crime fiction, you might enjoy http://www.crimeculture.com/

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For a more complete description of subgenres, check out http://www.writing-world.com/mystery/genres.shtml  or  http://ticket2write.tripod.com/id29.html

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For more tips on writing mysteries, here are a few helpful sites:

http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/genrefiction/tp/mysteryrules.htm  General mystery writing tips

http://www.right-writing.com/child-mysteries.html  Writing mysteries for kids

http://www.writing-world.com/mystery/floyd.shtml  Writing short stories

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What type of mystery stories do you enjoy? Who are some of your favorite mystery authors? Who is your favorite fictional detective?

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