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Clockwork Angel
The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

You can't...

Image borrowed from:

You can't smile a sentence...
You can't laugh a sentence...
You can't sneer a sentence...
You can't glare a sentence...

That's what I learned in my creative writing class today. I was like, but...but...but... Yeah, I use "blah blah blah," he smiled/laughed/grinned/[insert anything here] a lot. 

I also learned that you can't write "Get out," he hissed. Because there's no s-sound at the end of out! I never even thought of that. 

I've finally managed to edit out all my "and's" and adverbs (see how I used an adverb at the beginning of the sentence?). I'm working on my repetitions. Now I'll have to check my dialogs to see if someone's doing something that's not possible. 

Anyone else guilty of the above, or some other no-no's?


  1. I hadn't thought of the hissed thing. But, saying someone hissed something ... it's more a manner of speaking isn't it? It doesn't necessarily have to have an s. Right?

    I'm sorry, but I'm not a big fan of all these rules. Sure some of those things you mentioned should definitely be avoided. But ... everything has it's place and can work if done well. Why the hell do we have adverbs if we can't use them? I've never bought into that rule. I get the idea behind it, but that doesn't mean we should discount all adverbs.

    I get the "blah blah," he smiled, but I've never understood when people say you can't use "blah blah," he laughed. Sure people can't heartily laugh while speaking, but they can throw a laugh in between words or stumble through the sentence while chuckling -- I guess that last one is more they have the hint of laughter in their voice. But seriously, should we write:

    "Blah." He laughed. "Blah." He laughed. "Blah," he said, managing to get the final word out.

    Sorry for my rant.

  2. Haha, that would be interesting to see in a Stephen King novel. I do agree with you, though. I was bubbling inside while she was going over this, because I don't see anything wrong with "blah" he laughed. She said that you should write: John laughed. "Blah, blah, blah." It's just not the same, is it?

    Also the hissing. I use quite a bit of hissing in my manuscript, and not everything ends on an s-sound. He's just the hiss-type of person! It's how his voice is! I suppose it's more like whisper (which is actually a cool way to show someone really angry). I don't know. I just have to be careful not to use any of this in this class's assignments, whether or not I intend to continue after class.

  3. I used to make those mistakes. For the most part, I try to get around using dialogue tags. I use action tags whenever possible.

  4. Certain rules have to be followed depending on where or how they are used. On occasion, rules are broken if it pushes the story along. Sometimes the best method for determining if it's okay to take certain liberties is to read your draft out loud. (Oftentimes your ear will catch the obvious.)

  5. Yes, I've been hearing a lot about reading the text out loud. I haven't done that yet. My manuscript is so long, as it is now, that I'll probably lose my voice the following day ^.^ But I'll definitely try it when I feel the manuscript is closer to ready.

    Nicole, we were learning exactly that in class today ^.^ Dialogue tags and action tags. I'll definitely look differently at my dialogues from now on. I think I'll probably use a mix of the two, but yeah, I don't like to write "he said" and "she said" too much, although the teacher said that most readers don't mind them because they hardly notice them as they read.

  6. Love this rule! I finally see it put to words. I've always instinctively felt this way and see it in other's manuscripts all the time! Makes me twitchy. :P But, I try to avoid dialogue tags altogether when possible.

  7. Yeah, the experts seem to agree. I'm reading Stephen King's On Writing, and he tells me to use dialogue tags instead of something "clever" like "he glared" - or worse, "blah," he glared menacingly.

  8. I agree with these rules although rules can be broken under the right circumstances. Genarally, though I try to follow them. I once had a big burly character "pipe in" to a conversation and it just didn't suit him. It took someone else to point this out to me, so now I am a lot more careful.

  9. While reading your post I wondered if you were reading On Writing. I'd recognise that advice anywhere! That book is pure gold, isn't it?

  10. Yes, Su, that book is gold! I love how he uses examples from his own writing and experience.

    Janet: Yup, some rules are meant to be broken. But after learning what I did yesterday, I'll automatically try to follow.

  11. Hi, have to agree with Quinn about there sometimes being too many rules. But I also agree with Nicole and Carolina; it's often good to insert a 'beat' within dialogue that is focused on the character's action, rather than always saying how they spoke.

    I also liked lifeafter39's comment about it feeling wrong to have a physically big character 'piping in' to a conversation. One of my pet peeves is when authors use basically unpleasant and unflattering words like gloat, sneer, or smirk when describing a character we're supposed to like. For baddies - fine. But I don't like a hero to smirk. I think Stephenie Meyer described Edward as smirking in Twilight, and it drove me nuts.

  12. Hehe, I hadn't considered that, Adina. The good guy smirking. I suppose it doesn't bother me all that much, unless they're outright acting like jerks. That's something that'll push me away (like Jace sometimes did in the Mortal Instrument series).

    I have to admit that I find the bad-boy thing appealing, but not as the main character. The main character is supposed to be the "innocent" one, while the one with the surface-bad attitude is supposed to be the object of interest (or the one interested in the MC). There's just something about the cat-and-mouse thing.