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GRAMMAR LESSON EIGHT REVISITED

July 13, 2022

            We’re back with the final set of similar sounding words with entirely different meanings.

Our illustrious former Henderson Writer’s Group el-presidente, Linda Webber, presented grammar lessons each week on the back of our meeting agendas. The gist of them were the improper use of words.

As a reminder, I’ll add the standard intro below before I get into the word list.

BACK IN THE DAY

            I once wrote a screenplay with my bud, Doug Lubahn (RIP), a famous musician. During our correspondence, I once told him I was waiting with “baited” breath instead of “bated” breath. He’s never let me live that one down.

            The proper use of words is something a lot of writers don’t always get. So, for your reading pleasure, below is a list of words and how to use them properly.

            The list is the last of the series, and it’s Grammar Lesson Eight.

            Once again, my many thanks to Linda Webber, who went through the trouble to compile these words all in one place for me to steal and present to you here at Fred Central.

These are common words that are often used out of context. They can be a quandary for a writer, and a quick trip to a dictionary, or online.

COMMON SIMILAR SOUNDING WORDS (WITH ENTIRELY DIFFERENT MEANINGS)

Cereal                         A grass-producing edible grain, or a breakfast food made from grains

Sasha at her cereal with lots of milk.

Serial                          Happening in a series

The old science fiction serial played a half-hour episode each week.

Chord                         A group of musical notes

Fred learned a new chord on guitar the other day.

Cord                           A length of string or a cord-like body part

The cords of muscle rippled through is body when he lifted the three-hundred pound barbell.

Climactic                    Forming a climax

It was a climactic ending to an otherwise dull story.

Climatic                      Relating to climate

Those climatic events had to do with hurricanes.

Coarse                                    Rough

The coarse cloth felt like sandpaper on her skin.

Course                        A direction, a school subject, part of a meal

Captain Johnson set a course for Hawaii.

Complacent                Smug and self-satisfied

His complacent attitude was sure to lead to a major mistake.

Complaisant               Willing to please

Holder’s second banana was so complaisant, it turned Jenny’s stomach.

Complement              To add to so as to improve, or an addition that improves something

The addition of the breadfruit was a complement to the ship’s crew diet.

Compliment               To praise or express approval, or an admiring remark

Ruby blushed at the compliment from the senator.

Desert                         A waterless, empty area or to abandon someone

The Mojave Desert isn’t as dead and dry as some think it is.

Dessert                        The sweet course of a meal

The kids couldn’t wait for the dessert of ice cream.

Discreet                      Careful not to attract attention

Remember to make discreet inquiries to the bad guy doesn’t catch on.

Discrete                      Separate and distinct

Those are discrete issues from what you proposed.

Disinterested              Impartial

We come from disinterested parties.

Uninterested              Not interested

I find it uninteresting.

Draught                      A current of air

The draught of warm air caught him as he opened the door.

Draft                           A first version of a piece of writing

I settled down with the first draft of the manuscript and began the editing process.

Draw                          An even score at the end of a game

After all of those plays, it ended up with a draw.

Drawer                       A sliding storage compartment

She slid the drawer closed after stashing her diary.

Dual                            Having two parts

The carburetor had dual chambers.

Duel                            A fight or contest between two people

Snelling died in a duel with Hampton.

SUMMARY

            Once again, thanks to Linda Webber for her hard work putting these original words together!

            Happy writing!

GRAMMAR LESSON SEVEN REVISITED

July 6, 2022

            We’re back with another set of similar sounding words with entirely different meanings.

Our illustrious former Henderson Writer’s Group el-presidente, Linda Webber, presented grammar lessons each week on the back of our meeting agendas. The gist of them were the improper use of words.

As a reminder, I’ll add the standard intro below before I get into the word list.

BACK IN THE DAY

            I once wrote a screenplay with my bud, Doug Lubahn (RIP), a famous musician. During our correspondence, I once told him I was waiting with “baited” breath instead of “bated” breath. He’s never let me live that one down.

            The proper use of words is something a lot of writers don’t always get. For your reading pleasure, below is a list of words and how to use them properly.

            The list is not near complete, so that’s why this is called Grammar Lesson Seven.

            Once again, my many thanks to Linda Webber, who has gone through the trouble to compile these words all in one place for me to steal and present to you here at Fred Central.

These are common words that are often used out of context. They can be a quandary for a writer, and a quick trip to a dictionary, or online.

COMMON SIMILAR SOUNDING WORDS (WITH ENTIRELY DIFFERENT MEANINGS)

Loath                          Reluctant, unwilling

She was loath to eat the burger.

Loathe                        To hate

I loathed getting a haircut.

Loose                          To unfasten: To set free

She let the squirrel loose and it scampered off

Lose                            To be deprived of, to be unable to find

If you don’t put your wallet back in your pocket, you’re going to lose it.

Meter                          A measuring device

The gas meter showed a large consumption the past month.

Metre                          A metric unit, rhythm in verse

Carl tried to get the metre of the chorus so he could keep up with the song.

Militate                       To be a powerful factor against

The two parties’ views militate against a common core of reference.

Mitigate                      To make less severe

Because he gave them the location of the loot, that mitigated his sentence to six months instead of a year.

Palate                          The roof of the mouth

The pudding slid smooth against his palate.

Palette                         A board for mixing colors

She dabbed three colored paints together on the palette and created ochre.

Pedal                           A foot-operated lever

Randy had never used a clutch pedal before and when he tried, he stalled the truck.

Peddle                         To sell goods

Oscar peddled dry goods at the fair.

Council                       A group of people who manage or advise

The city council voted on the measure three to one.

Counsel                      Advice, or to advise

I really appreciated my dad’s counsel when I was growing up, though I didn’t show it much.

Cue                             A signal for action or a wooden rod

Stephanie took her cue from the director and hit the stage.

Queue                         A line of people or vehicles

The queue to get in to see the Tut exhibit was over a mile long.

Curb                           To keep something in check or a control or limit

I’ve been told to curb my enthusiasm by my pessimistic friend.

Kerb                           In British English it’s the stone edge of pavement

Sally tripped over the kerb when she crossed the street.

Currant                      A dried grape

My best friend loves currant pie, but I can’t stand it.

Current                      Happening now, or a flow of water, air or electricity

Jack eased the dingy out into the river where the current pushed it further downstream.

Defuse                        To make a situation less tense

The cops came in to defuse the situation, but their uniforms only added to the tension.

Diffuse                                    To spread over a wide area

The dandelion spread in a diffuse pattern over the lawn.

SUMMARY

            Once again, thanks to Linda Webber for her hard work putting these original words together!

            Happy writing!

GRAMMAR LESSON SIX REVISITED

June 29, 2022

            We’re back with another set of similar sounding words with entirely different meanings.

Our illustrious former Henderson Writer’s Group el-presidente, Linda Webber, used to present grammar lessons each week on the back of our meeting agendas. The gist of them were the improper use of words.

As a reminder, I’ll add the standard intro below before I get into the word list.

BACK IN THE DAY

            I once wrote a screenplay with my bud, Doug Lubahn (RIP), a famous musician. During our correspondence, I once told him I was waiting with “baited” breath instead of “bated” breath. He never let me live that one down.

            The proper use of words is something a lot of writers don’t always get. For your reading pleasure, below is a list of words and how to use them properly.

            The list is not near complete, so that’s why this is called Grammar Lesson Six.

            Once again, my many thanks to Linda Webber, who has gone through the trouble to compile these words all in one place for me to steal and present to you here at Fred Central.

These are common words that are often used out of context. They can be a quandary for a writer, and warrant a quick trip to a dictionary, or online.

COMMON SIMILAR SOUNDING WORDS (WITH ENTIRELY DIFFERENT MEANINGS)

Forbear                      To refrain

Joe could not forbear a smile.

Forebare                    An ancestor

His forebares were early pioneers to this territory.

Foreward                   An introduction to a book

The foreward to Cindy’s book was elaborate but unnecessary.

Forward                     Onward, ahead

It’s time to move forward with our plan.

Freeze                         To turn to ice

If you leave it outside today, it’s going to freeze.

Frieze                          A decoration along a wall

I attempted to strip the paint from the frieze without damaging the detail.

Grisly                          Gruesome, revolting

The horror movie was full of grisly scenes.

Grizzly                        A type of bear

It’s a good idea to avoid the grizzly bear in the woods.

Hoard                         A store of items

The homeless man guarded his hoard of cans jealously.

Horde                         A large crowd of people

The Mongolian horde stormed the castle.

Imply                          To suggest indirectly

Are you implying that I’m guilty?

Infer                           To draw a conclusion

Without any evidence, his testimony inferred that Roger was guilty.

Pole                             A long, slender piece of wood

She used the pole to push the boat along in the canal.

Poll                              Pertaining to voting in an election

We polled the democrats and republicans in the district to see who had the edge.

Pour                            To flow or cause to flow

She poured the milk into the pan.

Pore                            A tiny opening: To study something closely

Stephanie pored over the document to see if she could make sense of it.

Practice                      The use of an idea or method: Work or business of a doctor, dentist, etc.

The doctor’s practice is in that building over there.

Practise                       To do something repeatedly to gain skill: To do something regularly

(NOTE: This is also the British spelling of the word. American English usually uses the C instead of the S. It covers both definitions.)

We went to band practise but spent most of the time partying.

Prescribe                    To authorize the use of medicine: To order authoritatively

The doctor prescribed ampicillin in a very small dose.

Proscribe                    To officially forbid something

The council proscribed dancing on the holiday.

Principal                     Most important: Head of a school

The principal shut down the school in order to address a gun threat.

Principle                     A fundamental rule or belief

A fundamental principle of drumming is the paradiddle.

Sceptic                        A person incline to doubt

There are true believers who go on faith, and sceptics who won’t believe it unless they see it.

Septic                          Infected with bacteria

The leg wound went septic because it was left untreated.

Elusive                        Difficult to find, catch or achieve

The fish made elusive targets, especially with the wrong bait.

Illusive                        Deceptive, illusory

The magician used illusive movements to fool the eye.

SUMMARY

            Once again, thanks to Linda Webber for her hard work putting these original words together!

            Happy writing!

GRAMMAR LESSON FIVE REVISITED

June 22, 2022

            We’re back with another set of similar sounding words with entirely different meanings.

Our illustrious former Henderson Writer’s Group el-presidente, Linda Webber, used to present grammar lessons each week on the back of our meeting agendas. The gist of them were the improper use of words.

As a reminder, I’ll add the standard intro below before I get into the word list.

BACK IN THE DAY

            I once wrote a screenplay with my bud, Doug Lubahn (RIP), a famous musician. During our correspondence, I once told him I was waiting with “baited” breath instead of “bated” breath. He never let me live that one down.

            The proper use of words is something a lot of writers don’t always get. So, for your reading pleasure, below is a list of words and how to use them properly.

            The list is not near complete, so that’s why this is called Grammar Lesson Five.

            Once again, my many thanks to Linda Webber, who went through the trouble to compile these words all in one place for me to steal and present to you here at Fred Central.

These are common words that are often used out of context. They can be a quandary for a writer, and a quick trip to a dictionary, or on line can solve them, but I’ve cut to the chase.

COMMON SIMILAR SOUNDING WORDS (WITH ENTIRELY DIFFERENT MEANINGS)

Elicit                           To draw out a reply or reaction

I’ll elicit a response from him when the time comes.

Illicit                            Not allowed by the law or rules

Their illicit activities would get them thrown in jail sooner or later.

Ensure                        To make sure that something will happen

Are you ready to ensure the trap will spring when the time comes?

Insure                         To provide compensation if a person dies or property is damaged

We can insure the car only for its resale value.

Envelop                      To cover or surround

She let the blanket envelop her.

Envelope                    A paper container for a letter

He licked the envelope and sealed it before mailing.

Exercise                      Physical activity – to do physical activity

Exercise is the only way to keep in shape.

Exorcise                      To drive out an evil spirit

It was all the priest could do to exorcise the demon.

Fawn                          A young deer – light brown

The fawn was fawn colored. (Couldn’t resist that one!)

Faun                           A mythical being, part man, part goat

The faun guided Cyrill through the labyrinth.

Flaunt                         To display ostentatiously

She flaunted her assets to the male crowd.

Flout                           To disregard a rule

It’s dumb to flout safety.

Flounder                    To move clumsily – to have difficulty doing something

He floundered on the dance floor.

Founder                     To fail

You’re going to founder if you do it that way.

Appraise                     To assess

We’ll need to appraise the house before we can set a price.

Apprise                       To inform someone

You should apprise Joe of what just happened.

Assent                         Agreement, approval

She nodded her assent.

Ascent                         The action of rising or climbing up

They began their ascent of the mountain.

Aural                          Relating to the ears or hearing

It was a thunderous aural display of rock music.

Oral                            Relating to the mouth – spoken

She gave an oral presentation to the board.

Balmy                         Pleasantly warm

It was a balmy day up on the mountain.

Barmy                        Foolish, crazy

He had a barmy sense of right and wrong.

Bare                            Naked – to uncover

He was bare except for a loincloth.

Bear                            To carry, put up with (or the animal)

It was too much weight to bear.

Bated                          In great suspense

She waited with bated breath.

Baited                         With bait attached or inserted – lured

He baited the thieves with an unlocked car.

Titillate                       To arouse interest

She titillated him with a swerve of her hip.

Titivate                       To make more attractive

The cat titivated himself by licking his paws and preening in front of the female.

Tortuous                    Full of twists – complex

The book had a tortuous plot.

Torturous                   Full of pain and suffering

It was a torturous journey.

Wreath                       A ring-shaped arrangement of flowers

He placed a wreath on the gravestone.

Wreathe                     To surround or encircle

The fairies wreathed her before she had a chance to get away.

Yoke                           A wooden crosspiece for harnessing a pair of oxen

The yoke snapped, releasing the two beasts.

Yolk                            The yellow center of an egg

My egg had a double yolk.

SUMMARY

            Once again, thanks to Linda Webber for her hard work putting these original words together!

            Happy writing!

GRAMMAR LESSON FOUR REVISITED

June 15, 2022

            We’re back with another set of similar sounding words with entirely different meanings.

Our illustrious former Henderson Writer’s Group el-presidente, Linda Webber, used to present grammar lessons each week on the back of our meeting agendas before she moved on to greener pastures (literally). The gist of them are the improper use of words.

As a reminder, I’ll add the standard intro below before I get into the word list.

BACK IN THE DAY

            I once wrote a screenplay with my bud, Doug Lubahn (RIP), a famous musician. During our correspondence, I told him I was waiting with “baited” breath instead of “bated” breath. He never let me live that one down.

            The proper use of words is something a lot of writers don’t always get. So, for your reading pleasure, below is a list of words and how to use them properly.

            The list is not near complete, so that’s why this is called Grammar Lesson Four.

            Once again, my many thanks to Linda Webber, who has gone through the trouble to compile these words all in one place for me to steal and present to you here at Fred Central.

These are common words that are often used out of context. They can be a quandary for a writer, and a quick trip to a dictionary, or online.

COMMON SIMILAR SOUNDING WORDS (WITH ENTIRELY DIFFERENT MEANINGS)

Appraise                     To assess

I’ll appraise the house’s value next week.

Apprise                       To inform someone

Tomorrow, Mary would apprise the committee of the bad news.

Assent                         Agreement, approval

Joe gave his assent with a nod.

Ascent                         The action of rising or climbing up

The balloon began its ascent into the heavens.

Aural                          Relating to the ears or hearing

The band was an aural assault with their wall of amps set at full volume.

Oral                            Relating to the mouth or spoken

Marvin gave an oral report instead of a written one.

Balmy                         Pleasantly warm

The balmy day lent itself to water skiing.

Barmy                        Foolish or crazy

He was a barmy sort, prone to rash actions.

Bare                            Naked, or to uncover

She came out of the shower bare, didn’t bother with a towel and never blinked an eye when he walked in on her.

Bear                            To carry or put up with

It was too much frustration for one person to bear.

Accept                        To agree, to receive or do

He was ready to accept the consequences.

Except                        Not including

It was okay, except for that one thing.

Adverse                      Unfavorable or harmful

After all, there were adverse consequences to shooting him.

Averse                        Strong disliking or opposed

She had such an averse reaction to him, it was clear on her face.

Advice                        Recommendations about what to do

My advice is usually right.

Advise                         To recommend something

His lawyer can advise you before you make another move.

Affect                         To change or make a difference to

If you do this, you can affect the outcome.

Effect                          A result or to bring about a result.

When he spilled the acid, its effect on the Ph of the entire lake was instantaneous.

Aisle                            A passage between rows of seats

She walked down the aisle in the theatre.

Isle                              An island

The ship steered clear of the small isle and headed for the deep channel.

SUMMARYI

            Once again, thanks to Linda Webber for her hard work putting these original words together!

            Happy writing!

GRAMMAR LESSON THREE REVISITED

June 7, 2022

            We’re back with another set of similar sounding words with entirely different meanings.

Our illustrious former Henderson Writer’s Group el-presidente, Linda Webber, used to present grammar lessons each week on the back of our meeting agendas. The gist of them were the improper use of words.

As a reminder, I’ll add the standard intro below before I get into the word list.

BACK IN THE DAY

            I once wrote a screenplay with my bud, Doug Lubahn (RIP), a famous musician. During our correspondence, I told him I was waiting with “baited” breath instead of “bated” breath. He never let me live that one down.

            The proper use of words is something a lot of writers don’t always get, especially new ones. So, for your reading pleasure, below is a list of words and how to use them properly.

            The list is not near complete, so that’s why this is called Grammar Lesson Three.

            Once again, my many thanks to Linda Webber, who went through the trouble to compile these words all in one place for me to steal and present to you here at Fred Central.

These are common words that are often used out of context. They can be a quandary for a writer, and a quick trip to a dictionary, or online.

COMMON SIMILAR SOUNDING WORDS (WITH ENTIRELY DIFFERENT MEANINGS)

To                   Indicates motion

He went to the store.

Too                 Also, or excessively

She had too much to drink.

Two                The number two

There are two examples of this problem to deal with.

Then               A point in time

If you do it then, it will be better.

Than               A method of comparison

If you do it this way rather than that way, it’ll work better.

There              A place

Put it there.

They’re           They are

They’re the best at what they do.

Their               It belongs to them

It’s their problem, not ours.

Your               It belongs to you

It’s your problem, not mine.

You’re                        You are

You’re the greatest.

Were               Past tense of are

We were happy before that happened.

We’re              We are

In some ways, we’re never going to achieve that.

Where             A place

Where is it?

Bated              In great suspense

We’ve been waiting with bated breath.

Baited             With bait attached or inserted

Mary baited the hook and tossed out her line.

Bazaar            A Middle Eastern market

We explored the Bazaar on our last trip to Istanbul.

Bizarre           Strange

That was a bizarre song structure.

Berth              A bunk in a ship or train

Joe slipped into his berth and closed his eyes to ride out the rough seas.

Birth               The emergence of a baby from the womb

Jane gave birth to a baby girl.

Born               Having started life

I was born under a bad sign.

Borne              Carried

It was hard to imagine having borne such a heavy burden.

Bough             A branch of a tree

Jess ran for the heavy bough to gain shelter from the rain.

Bow                To bend the head down, or the front of a ship

Skip moved along the deck to the bow to get a better view of the ship ahead of them.

SUMMARY

            Once again, thanks to Linda Webber for her hard work putting these original words together!

            Happy writing!

GRAMMAR LESSON TWO REVISITED

June 1, 2022

            We’re back with another set of similar sounding words with entirely different meanings.

Our illustrious former Henderson Writer’s Group el-presidente, Linda Webber, presented grammar lessons each week on the back of our meeting agendas. The gist of them were the improper use of words.

As a reminder, I’ll add the standard intro below before I get into the word list.

BACK IN THE DAY

            I once wrote a screenplay with my bud, Doug Lubahn (RIP), a famous musician. During our correspondence, I once told him I was waiting with “baited” breath instead of “bated” breath. He’s never let me live that one down.

            The proper use of words is something a lot of writers don’t always get. So, for your reading pleasure, below is a list of words and how to use them properly.

            The list is not near complete, so that’s why this is called Grammar Lesson Two.

            Once again, my many thanks to Linda Webber, who went through the trouble to compile these words all in one place for me to steal and present to you here at Fred Central.

These are common words that are often used out of context. They can be a quandary for a writer, and a quick trip to a dictionary, or online. We’ll start with a common one.

HOW TO USE PASSED OR PAST

            Passed is a form of the verb to pass. It’s merely the past tense of pass with the “ed” added on.

            I’ll pass it on to you.

            I passed it on to you.

            The law was passed in 2017.

            Now past is a bit different.

            It can be an adjective, an adverb, a noun or a preposition.

            As a noun, it refers to a specific span of time.

            It hasn’t worked in the past.

            He never talks about his past.

            As an adjective, it something that’s gone in time.

            Let’s forget our past differences.

            Their best days are past.

            As a preposition, it goes from one side of something to the other.

            Corey rushed past her.

            Don drove past the house.

            As an adverb, it’s sort of the same as a preposition.

            …going past

            …ran past

            …walked past

            Just know this. Past is NEVER a verb. That’s a big red flag.

A FEW SIMPLE WORDS

            Broach: To raise a subject or discussion

            Jerry decided to broach the subject to the group before the meeting.

            Brooch: A piece of jewelry

            Nassar grabbed the gold brooch off the night stand and headed out the door.

            Canvas: A type of strong cloth

            Marie stretched the canvas tight before applying the base coat.

            Canvass: To seek people’s votes

            The party canvassed the neighborhood for the mayor.

            Cereal: A grass producing an edible grain or a breakfast food made from grain

            I eat cereal every morning for breakfast.

            Serial: Happening in a series

            Son of Sam was a serial killer.

            Chord: A group of musical notes

            Lucy tried to stretch her fingers to make a B chord on the guitar.

            Cord: A length of string or a cord-like body part

            The kidnapper grabbed his hands and tied a thick cord around his wrists.

SUMMARY

            Once again, thanks to Linda Webber for her hard work putting these original words together!

            Happy writing!

GRAMMAR LESSON ONE REVISITED

May 25, 2022

            Our illustrious former Henderson Writer’s Group el-presidente, Linda Webber, presented grammar lessons each week on the back of our meeting agendas. The gist of them were the improper use of words. I thought I’d revisit this 2017 series as it still applies today.

BACK IN THE DAY

            I once wrote a screenplay with my bud, Doug Lubahn (RIP), a famous musician. During our correspondence, I once told him I was waiting with “baited” breath instead of “bated” breath. He’s never let me live that one down.

            The proper use of words is something a lot of writers, especially newbies don’t always get. So, for your reading pleasure, below is a list of words and how to use them properly.

            The list is not near complete, so that’s why this is called Grammar Lesson One.

            Once again, my many thanks to Linda Webber, who went through the trouble to compile these words all in one place for me to steal and present to you here at Fred Central.

These are common words that are often used out of context. It can be a quandary for a writer and a quick trip to a dictionary or online.

HOW TO USE LIE, LAY, LAID, LAIN

            The first one is lie, lay, laid and lain.

                                    Present tense                          Past tense                   Past Participle

Be recumbent              Lie                                           Lay                              Lain

(recline)

Joe is going to lie down. Beth lay on the bed for two hours. Margaret had lain on the bed for two hours.

Deposit                        Lay                                          Laid                             Laid

(set down)

Joe will lay the watch on the nightstand. Beth laid the watch on the nightstand. Margaret had laid the watch on the nightstand.

Tell an untruth            Lie                                           Lied                             Lied

(fib)

Don’t lie, Joe. Beth lied when she said she liked you. Margaret had lied that night she was there.

FARTHER AND FURTHER

Farther is something you can measure as in distance.

How much farther is the gas station?

Further is a continuation of a thought or idea – figurative distance.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

POTPURRI OF WORDS

All together    all in one place, all at once

We gather all together to celebrate!

Altogether      completely, on the whole

That’s altogether a separate issue.

Along              moving or extending horizontally on

Move along, keep up the pace!

A long             referring to something of great length

That’s a long way!

Aloud              out loud

Meleena didn’t mean to say it aloud.

Allowed          permitted

No dogs allowed!

Altar               a sacred table in a church

She gazed up at the blood dripping from the stone altar.

Alter               to change

It’s not right to alter the sacred document.

Amoral           not concerned with right or wrong

They have an amoral view of life.

Immoral         not following accepted moral standards

Murder is an immoral way to handle that.

SUMMARY

            There’s sure to be more to come. I’ve outlined a few common mistakes writer’s make, whether through lack of knowledge or from just typos, we all do it occasionally. It’s good to catch this stuff before we get caught with “baited” breath.

Happy writing!

DON’T OVERDO PASSIVE: REVISITED

May 18, 2022

            I just read a great book that I almost put down after the first page. Really a half page, with the chapter number in the middle of the page halfway down, follows the pattern of many books. I’m emphasizing this to put things in perspective.

            The story started so passive I couldn’t help but count the was’s. There were two paragraphs. The first short three-sentence paragraph was clean. The second one had eight, that’s eight was’s in it. It was downhill from there. The same pattern continued for seven pages before the book finally took off. If it wasn’t for the reputation (and subsequent movie that just came out) from this author, I wouldn’t have continued. At least it was written in third-person, past-tense.

            It’s a good thing I decided to keep going because it turned out to be a great read. However, I could just as easily have tossed it because of those first seven pages. Anyone heard of those first-page read contests?

            This never would’ve made first pass at a writer’s group, let alone any editor worth their salt. Of course, this author has a rep and lots of power, so he could write the phone book and his editor will be saying “Yes Sir!” We, as unknowns, and low-down-the-totem-pole authors would be ostracized, criticized and sent back to writing school. To be blunt, the writing sucked, at least at first. It could’ve been so much better, and I think the author did his audience a great disservice. However, what do I know? He’s got the millions and I don’t.

            There’s nothing wrong with a little passivity in your writing. It’s part of our language. However, there’s a time and place for it and should be sprinkled throughout the story, not slammed into every sentence and paragraph. Active is almost always better than passive and makes your writing so much stronger. Examples:

            “Jodi had been a great friend but she stabbed Mark in the back.”

            You should do a word search through your manuscript and get rid of every had been in your narrative, except in dialogue, and they should be used sparingly!

            “Once a great friend, Jodi stabbed Mark in the back.”

            This revised sentence is much more active.

            How about this old standby:

            “It was a dark and stormy night.”

            How would you fix that and make it more active?

            “The dark and stormy night raged outside the window.”

            That is one of many ways to fix the sentence.

            “It should’ve been the best way to take care of what was once a grand scheme.”

            Hmmm.

            “The solution they came up with did not take care of the once grand scheme.”

            You can’t get rid of every passive word. That would make your prose too flat and dry. However, you should cut them down drastically.

            You can use passive words in dialogue if you don’t overdo it.

            Leave a few sprinkled throughout your prose, especially a was here and there.

            Words and word combinations to get rid of.

            was

            had

            Anything connected with been

            should’ve been

            has been

            had been

            had’ve been

            would’ve been

            as

            There are probably more I’m not thinking of right now, but those are a good start.

            What you do when you find one in a sentence is rethink the sentence. Try to reword it so that the sentence says the same thing, but it doesn’t have to use those words and it’s active, in other words, it moves forward instead of backward (or stands still). All of these passive words move backward or nowhere. They’re not active. Active words move forward, move somewhere.

            I’m not immune to passive either. I once read an excerpt from Meleena’s Adventures – Gods Of The Blue Mountains at the Henderson Writer’s Group and our el-presidente, who’s also an editor, caught me on several passive sentences. Forest through the trees!

            Until next time…

            Happy writing!

POV FROM THE BEGINNING – THE BANE OF NEW WRITERS

May 11, 2022

One of the most dreaded “rules” of fiction writing, and one of the least understood by new writers, is point of view (POV). POV is either whoever is speaking, thinking, driving the scene, or telling the story.

Because there seems to be a host of arbitrary rules for new writers doesn’t mean they’re not good ideas. POV is the perfect example. Have you ever read a book and discovered there was something about it that didn’t sit right? Maybe you skipped whole paragraphs, sections, or reached certain points where you were confused, lost, and had no idea what was going on. POV could be the problem.

Before we get into the mechanics of using POV, let’s discuss a few (but not all) types of POV. There’s first-person, where the story is told through the eyes of the character. In this type of story, you’ll see a lot of I’s, me’s and my’s throughout. I picked myself off the ground and rushed to the door. Many authors prefer this viewpoint as they feel the reader will become more immersed in the character if they’re seeing what that character is seeing through their eyes. I personally despise that point of view, but that’s a whole ‘nuther blog and not the point of this presentation.

Another type of viewpoint is omniscient. The story is told through the eyes of “God,” an omnipotent viewpoint as if it were being told by an all-seeing being. The story is not seen or told by a character but by a narrator (the author). Things are not seen through the eyes of the characters. If it’s told well, the viewpoint is neutral. If not, it gets into something called author intrusion which jerks the reader out of the story and into the personality of the author. The characters see and know things they shouldn’t and couldn’t because the author (or God) tells you ahead of time. The author might spoil things for you by foretelling events you shouldn’t know until the characters discover them.

The most commonly used POV and the one I prefer is third-person, past-tense (versus present tense). In third-person, the story is told through the eyes of a character, but as it has happened. In other words, instead of “I put on my hat and rushed through the door.” It would be “Jim put on his hat and rushed through the door.” In third person, you, as the author have a lot more leeway to describe things and show things that first-person doesn’t allow. In first-person, action scenes don’t play out near as well as they do in third.

Since I mentioned past-tense, I should also mention present-tense. Either first or third can be written in present-tense. Some authors feel that the story is more immediate or more urgent if written in present-tense. For example, in first person, “I put my hat on and rush through the door.” Or in third person, “Jim puts his hat on and rushes through the door.”

For me, as a reader, I find that anything written in present-tense drives me nuts. It’s a personal preference, but I’ll put a book down because I can’t get through one written in that style. I won’t mention the author’s name (but her initials are PC… cough cough). I’m still a big fan when she writes third-person, past-tense. Unfortunately, she tends to write this wretched first-person present-tense. It’s so irritating, I can hardly get through a paragraph let alone an entire book. I know another author that writes third-person present-tense. Same thing. Can’t read it.

Some authors like to mix POV’s. In the writing world, that is perfectly acceptable and seems to be a trendy thing to do, though it can be hard to pull off successfully. The most common used to be third-person and omniscient. However, keep in mind that these POV shifts are from one chapter or scene to the next, NOT mixed together (or there not supposed to be)! Another style that is becoming more common is first and third-person. That’s why I always leaf through books by authors I haven’t read. I’ve been tricked before. I don’t like first-person, and I don’t like present-tense, so I specifically leaf through a book and look for those features.

Regardless of which POV you decide to go for, there are some mechanical rules you need to follow. We’ll go over them in part.

MECHANICS

To use POV effectively, each scene should be told through the eyes of one character, the one driving that scene. In other words, that scene is seen, heard and felt by a specific character, not several at the same time. Every sentence should be how that character would see or perceive what’s going on. Unless your character is a mind reader, he or she cannot tell what another character is thinking. At the same time, they cannot see something that’s physically impossible for them to see, or understand things they have no knowledge of (this is where first-person can become awkward, especially in intense action scenes). Other characters can speak and perform actions, but any thoughts or feelings must be expressed only through the eyes of the character driving the scene.

If another character expresses feelings or thoughts within a scene, they must be visual or audio so that the main character of that scene can see, hear or feel them and perceive them. For example, the POV character of the scene is Jane. During the scene, Alex is disappointed in something. How do we know this? Jane has to see or perceive this by something Alex says, the expression on his face, or something he does, like his body language. Since it’s Jane’s scene, she has to perceive everything that’s happening. It can’t be Alex. That would be a POV violation. It can’t be you, the author, or that would be author intrusion. Both of these violations can jerk the reader out of the story. If Jane perceives Alex’s disappointment, it’s a perfectly natural way to keep the reader immersed.

Randall didn’t like the idea of walking down that alley. This first sentence establishes the scene in Randall’s POV. He had been attacked before. He was sure some deranged killer lurked behind that green dumpster on the right side. Now this continues his POV as he thinks of all the bad things that could happen by walking down that alley.

The next paragraph continues. Jeremy had to laugh at Randall’s paranoia. The guy was a total wimp. This is a POV violation. The scene is Randall’s, yet the author jumps into Jeremy’s head within the same scene. Now the reader has two different heads to contend with, and has to shift POV. This is likely to confuse the reader. Randall can’t possibly know what Jeremy is thinking, so how does he know this?

You can correct his by changing what Jeremy sees into dialogue. Jeremy laughed. “Man, you’re the most paranoid guy I know. You’re a total wimp.” Turning Jeremy’s thoughts into dialogue keeps the scene in Randall’s POV because now Randall can hear and react to what Jeremy says. The dialogue reflects what Jeremy is thinking.

Randall stepped down the alley with Jeremy in tow. His eyes bored into every shadow. What he didn’t know was that the alley was empty and he was worried for nothing. The first two sentences are solidly in Randall’s POV. However, the third sentence is omniscient and author intrusion. In other words, Jeremy couldn’t possibly know what is going to happen, and the author is blatantly telling you. The fix for that third sentence is: When they reached the other end of the alley, he sighed with relief. It was empty. This puts the same thought solidly into his POV.

When the POV changes within a paragraph or a scene, it’s known as head-hopping. This is the sign of an amateur and should be avoided. Sure, you’ll see some big-name authors doing it, some because they can get away with it, others under the guise of style or technique, but those are garbage excuses for poor writing. The thing is that as a new writer, no editor or agent worth their salt is going to let you get away with it. Not only that, you’re going to make it harder on your readers and that’s something you don’t want to do.

There’s nothing wrong with changing POV within a story. However, it needs to be done in the right way. If you want to get into another character’s head, change scenes, or start a new chapter.

Another thing about POV. First, always start and stop a scene or chapter in that character’s dialogue, thoughts or actions. I’ll go more into that in another blog on structuring chapters, but always start a scene or chapter with either dialogue, some action or thought from that character. Second, always end it with their dialogue, thought or action.

By keeping your POV’s straight, your readers will appreciate it whether consciously or unconsciously and you’ll have one less excuse for an agent to toss your submission into the reject pile.

Happy writing!