Oh My, I Forgot!

In my defense, I was thinking I was supposed to post on the last Monday, when actually it’s the 4th Monday, which is today and almost over.

I’d decided to write about “good” authors and “bad” authors, but not good and bad in the way you might think. I’m not referring to how someone writes, but rather, how someone acts.

Over the years, I’ve been around many popular or big name authors–and some who are only big name authors in the own minds.

In my experience, most of the most popular and well-known authors are friendly and nice, even to authors who aren’t as popular or well-known. Here are a few who come to mind: Mary Higgins Clark is probably at the top of my list because I’ve met her twice, once at a small mystery conference years and years ago, and the many years later at the Editors and Agents cocktail party in New York before the Edgars. She greeted me like we were old friends– and introduced me to her then new husband. She chatted with me for several minutes. A truly classy lady.

William Kent Krueger, who has won many awards for his writing, I’ve met many times over the years at various conferences and conventions. He always acts like he’s happy to see me and asks after my husband.

I can name others, but you get the idea.

Then there are those who are on the opposite end of the spectrum. I’m not going to name names, but here are a few examples. There’s a quite popular author whom I ran into many times–but no matter how friendly I greet her, she acts like she has never seen me before or that perhaps I’ve turned invisible. I’ve seen her do that with others too, so know it’s not just me.

There have been a couple of times I’ve been on panels with authors who acted like I didn’t have the right to be seated by them–and certainly didn’t want to waste any time listening to what I had to say.

One more example, a writer who declared that far too many authors with small publishers attended a particular conference.

Guess what? I’ve never purchased another book by the above authors. No, of course it’s not going to hurt them any, but I know I wouldn’t enjoy reading something written by them once I knew their true feelings.

I’m not a “popular” or “well-known” author, but I if I were, I know that I’d be the kind of author that I am now–approachable and friendly.

Have any of you had experiences with the “good” and the “bad”?

Marilyn Meredith who is also know as F. M. Meredith








Say What?

by Janis Patterson

I read… a lot. Lately, however, it hasn’t been as pleasant as it used to be and more than a few books have hit the (metaphorical) wall. Without exception it’s the fault of the authors. Nearly every one was a first time author – I did verify that, but it really wasn’t necessary. Their writing said it all.

One of the most common (and worst) errors is a misuse of words. Not quite as bad as the homophonic mayhem such as broach/brooch or affect/effect or grisly/grizzly and the like, which sadly are quite common even among multi-published professionals, but I’m talking about the more egregious mis-choice of language. I’ll explain; there are two kinds of word usage – dialogue and exposition. Dialogue is what the character actually says/thinks – what actually comes out of the character himself.. Exposition is telling what is done.

I believe that dialogue should be true to the character speaking. (And in ‘dialogue’ I include written communications by the character – letters, texts, etc. – anything that is ‘spoken’ by the character, such as interior thoughts.) Is the character a crusty old fisherman who hates people? A feisty young heroine-type who prances through life cooking, talking with her cat and showing off her shoes? A silent but heroic Navy Seal with a deep sense of patriotism and a distrust of women? A culture-vulture society woman with a drive to climb higher on the social ladder? All have the potential to be great characters, but they shouldn’t sound anything like each other. They all need their own voice.

Each character has (or should have!) their own history, their own background, their own socio-economic standing, their own individuality. That means they have their own character-specific language, their own vocabulary, their own rhythm of speaking whether exterior (speaking to other characters) or interior (thoughts, letters, etc.). You can get away with almost any kind of grammar/word choice in dialogue AS LONG AS it is congruent with the character speaking and the time/location frame of the story. For example, you would not have a Regency dowager or a 1850s Plains Indian saying “Fer sure” or “You’ve got to be kidding me.” If you do have a social doyenne speaking like a dockworker or vice versa, you’d better have a very good reason for it stated in the book.

Expository writing, however, is different. This is everything that is not dialogue. This should be written by grammatical rules with correct and perhaps neutral vocabulary. Even in deep third POV expository writing is the author, not the character, and should be correct both in grammar and word choices.

That said, remember first person works have their own problem, for there the expository writing is from the viewpoint character and should reflect his age, status, attitude and general personality.

Correct use of both dialogue and expository writing can give your characters a depth and life. Done correctly, the reader should be able to determine who said what by the language they use, even if you don’t add a dialogue tag. However – both using a dialogue tag and not using one are constructions which should not be overused.

Writing is always a balancing act, but it becomes easier for both the writer and the reader when the languages choices are correct to the character.