This blog has moved to Cheryl Murphy Writes: Chronicles of an Ink Slinger. It became too hard to mirror to this site. Lots of glitches and such. I don't do much to maintain this site anymore so if you're wondering why things might look a bit wonky, that would be it.

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I hope you'll join me at my new home!

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

What famous author do you write like?

James Joyce

This is a fun little link. Not very accurate but fun, nonetheless! I posted several of my chapters in it and they all came up James Joyce.

I can't be too shabby, I guess!  :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

What software do you use?

I have StoryMill and I just got Scrivener.  I used to use Word.

Word:  Yes, it's easy to use but I couldn't help but wonder if the other, more specific, programs were better.

StoryMill:  I was so happy to switch to StoryMill!  The features were just too useful.  You can write by scenes, drag and drop them wherever you want, check your timeline, keep notes, and so much more. It will also give you a count of how many times you've used words and check for cliches (although it's limited in its capabilities in this area). You can keep track of all your characters' info.  Cons I've found:  Exporting kind of sucks with it.  Formatting gets all kinds of screwy when you export and you have to fix it all.  No just plain old highlight feature.  You can annotate but you can't just highlight?  It's not incredibly user friendly - using it requires quite a learning curve because it's not very streamlined.  For instance, in order to export, you must first go to "Chapters," highlight the chapter you want to export and then click export.  Why can't you just go to export and pick and choose from there?

Scrivener:  I'll be completely honest and say, I haven't played with it yet.  I've taken a peek at it, though and I'll tell you my initial feelings.  After that, tonight I will be setting it up for my current WIP and I'll update this post with a full review.

So here's the initial thoughts:  Holy cow!  The corkboard and index cards look awesome!  Great for putting together research and keeping it all in one place and looks easy to get to.  From other reviews, I'm hearing that it's not as good as StoryMill for fiction writers but I have to wonder if it just depends on what type of fiction you are writing.  Mine has a *ton* of research and notes.  One thing that it looks like you can do with Scrivener that you can't with StoryMill is have the webpage/file/picture actually embedded into your notes so it won't take you out and into your web browser to see it.  Nice.  I'll find out for sure tonight.  LOVE that it has just a plain old highlight feature.  How could something so basic have been missed in StoryMill?  Cons:  Looks like this takes even more time to set up and get with the program.

UPDATE:  So I have to say, I love Scrivener.  The corkboard is too awesome.  The embedded websites are so easy, I can't say enough good stuff.  I can even embed files like my mind maps.  I do miss a few features of StoryMill and it looks like I'll probably just cut and paste chapters into it for the few features I'm missing - word usage count especially.  But as a fiction writer, I have to say that Scrivener is far better for me than StoryMill.

Do you have a particular program you like to use?

Scrivener is coming to Windows!  So for all those that haven't yet seen the light and gotten a Mac, Scivener is coming to you.  Check it out:  Scrivener for Windows

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Stilted Language

You've heard it said before, I'm sure.  "The dialogue seems stilted."

You may have asked yourself what that means.  It's pretty simple and if you don't know, grab a dictionary. But I'll save you the trouble.

stilt·ed  (stltd)
1. Stiffly or artificially formal; stiff.
2. Architecture Having some vertical length between the impost and the beginning of the curve. Used of an arch.

So now you know the definition.  What does that mean to you?  If you are getting comments on your stilted dialogue, it means it just doesn't sound believable.  Dialogue should flow.  It should sound like real speech but with all the boring parts taken out.  No one wants to read every comment of every conversation.  It should be normal conversation but better.

Take for instance:

Person 1: Do you have any milk?  I had to dump my last cup when I added the wrong thing from my recipe to it.

Person 2: No, sorry, but hey, what's the number to your plumber?

P1: Oh, hang on a sec, I'll get it for you. Um, yeah. Wait, I know where it is.   I think it's somewhere in my junk drawer.

P2: You know, if you just know the name, I'll google him.

P1: Tsk, oh, um, I can't remember.  It's something like, um--

P2: Wait, wasn't it something like, um, Crane something or other?

P1:  Yeah, I, uh, think so.  I'm pretty sure it was something like that.

I could go on with useless drivel that we all do but I think it's unnecessary.  This is an example of normal, every day conversation that we all do.  Okay, so maybe not exactly like this but close enough.  But it's boring to read.  The only important thing in here for someone reading would be the question and the answer.  Do you have any milk?  No, sorry I don't.  Just ran out.  All the other boring stuff is taken out.

Here's the same language in stilted dialogue:

P1: Would you happen to have any milk in your refrigerator?  I ruined my last cup when I added the wrong spice and now my carton is empty.

P2: No, I'm afraid I have no milk.  But whilst your here, would you mind, what is the name of your plumbing specialist?

P1: Let me excogitate on that for a moment. I believe it referenced a Crane of some sort.

P2: I believe you are correct.  I recall the sign on the van said something similar to such.

Completely over the top, yes, I know.  Note the thesaurus moment.  These happen amazingly often.  But this is language that is much too formal.  People don't really talk like that.

So when you are writing your dialogue, read it out loud.  Does it sound right?  Does it sound like something a person would actually say?  If you have characters that are not native to English (aliens and whatnot) try to keep it real.  Yes, the language may be more formal but it would fit the character so long as you don't go digging around the thesaurus too much.

So many writers think that using big words somehow gives them credibility as a writer.  It doesn't.  People want to read.  They want a good story.  They want it to flow.  They want to feel.  They don't want to feel like the author is trying to prove some kind of superiority.  Use big words if it makes sense and fits the character and the plot.  But usually you can get away with just using a simple word that conveys a heck of a lot more than "I grabbed a thesaurus."

I realize this post was not very well planned.  It's a bit all over the place.  But I'm trying to do this while cooking dinner.  Shoot me.  Kids have to eat.  :)