Comma-on

Come on!  Who doesn’t love the comma?  It’s a writer’s friend—as is most punctuation.  Embrace it.  Bring it on.  Use it.  😉

Seeing as punctuation often appears to be an issue with dialogue and dialogue tags—and we covered dialogue-punctuation basics in last week’s post—it seemed a worthwhile endeavor to review punctuation in general.  (And how’s that for a lo-ong sentence?)

Let’s look at the common ones: the comma, period, semicolon, colon.

The comma has sometimes been used in the strangest places/circumstances, at random, and in multitude.  We love the comma, but not when utilized haphazardly and/or en masse.  While there may be additional reasons to employ it, here are the more commonplace.

Use it to denote a break between clauses with a sentence—like a pause—and to separate sentences clauses (such as when providing additional details about something or someone).

    • Leo’s flat, located on a quiet park overlooking the Thames, was costly.
    • “That’s not to say, however, that MacInsey is correct in assuming Walters is the informant.”

Use commas when you’re listing things or providing several adjectives.

    • Thomas tried on two pairs of pants, three blazers, two pullovers, and four vests.
    • He eyed the tall newcomer surreptitiously. He was middle-aged, well-dressed, attractive, and shifty-eyed.  

We could also use a semicolon.

    • He eyed the tall newcomer surreptitiously; he was middle-aged, well-dressed, attractive, and shifty-eyed.  

Use a comma after an introductory phrase, clause, or word at the beginning of a sentence.

    • Today, I’ll have pastrami and Swiss on rye.
    • Later that night, the thieves crept into the empty warehouse.
    • If you’re going to stay home alone, make sure to turn on the alarm.

I’m hesitant to use grammar expressions (they can prove confusing if not overwhelming), but use a comma after <wince> a conjunctive adverb.

    • “Moreover, I dare you to find one bit of incriminating evidence, you pompous twit!”
    • Henceforth, the matter was closed.

And, when you address someone, yes, use a comma.

    • Bernie, will you be attending the party?
    • “Mom, I need a lift to work!”

The period is used to end sentences—save for those that are questions or exclamations.

    • We hastened across the field.
    • Jen and Len ran through the puddles, shrieking and laughing.

Use one to end a statement or a request/command.

    • To each their own.
    • Make sure to sign the contract before you leave.

And use a period, not a question mark, if the question is implied.

    • The manager asked her staff if they would be willing to attend the meeting on Saturday.

The semicolon can prove daunting for some.  It’s used like a period and a comma combined, if that makes sense.  It creates a full stop, like a period, yet connects independent clauses.

    • Jenny saw the man enter the restaurant; he looked angry, even defiant.
    • He decided to run along the pre-dawn beach; it was cool and breezy.

Use it instead of a conjunction (and, but).

    • Larry sank onto the patio chair; he leaned back, exhausted.
    • It was a dark, cloudless sky; no stars could be seen.

The semicolon can be used with a conjunctive adverb or transitional phrase (yeah, those grammar-related phrases are headache-inducing, aren’t they?).

    • The students were asked to collect specimens for the project; however, three of them decided to take photos instead.
    • The brothers drank beers the entire evening; consequently, neither thought they should drive the sedan back home.

It’s also used to separate things in a list that have commas.  Not my favorite “device”, and I’d never employ it, but here you go . . .

    • After graduation, Mark and Lee toured Berlin, Germany; Zurich, Switzerland; and Rome, Italy.
    • Upon winning the lottery, Sally bought a case of champagne; ate caviar and scallops by the pound; and ordered a huge triple-chocolate cake.

Lastly, we come to the colon.  It assists in introducing new information, to show that something will follow—a quote, list, or example.

    • Jason grabbed a piece of paper and jotted down the names, lest he forget: Jackson, Marty, Fiona, Frederick, Lenora.
    • I must remember to buy the following: eggs, orange juice, milk, and sugar.

You can use it before a noun or noun phrase or adjective.

    • The book was everything I thought it would be: boring, long, and cliché.
    • The trek through the mountains provided everything the tour guide promised: vistas, excitement, and exercise.

I believe I’ve provided enough . . . for now, at least.  I don’t want you nodding off or rolling your eyes.  😉  If you’re looking for a more intensive list of “rules” re the aforementioned, the internet is your best friend.

Tag, You’re It!

A fun game, but we’re not referring to it, we’re talking about the dialogue tag (and related punctuation).

Given what I’ve seen in my editing travels, dialogue writing seems to prove a bit tricky.  Because it never hurts to review—or learn something new—let’s look at a few examples.

“You’re a loser.” She said.

“That’s not the murder weapon.” Detective Leo said with a shake of his pumpkin-sized head.

“Why would I do that” he simpered.

“I’m not the killer!” And she pointed. “Marcus De Teuer is!”

“Mrs. Ladrona wasn’t in town that night” He pointed out.

“It’s not like he …”

“Don’t be silly,” Jenkins interrupted the officer.

“It’s Welland,” which was the intern’s real name.

“We normally check for fingerprints,” Pat queried.

“Frank, it could be that the knife sticking from the bartender’s temple is the murder weapon,” Ronald wondered.

“Hmm, it’s possible …” Jenny trailed off.

Which ones are correct?

Right, none.  😊  Now, some might claim literary license, and that’s fine.  But they’re still wrong.

Let’s consider what we can do to correct them, without going into eye-glazing grammar explanations (you can always google the “rules” and check out the various grammar manuals).

“You’re a loser.” She said.

“That’s not the murder weapon.” Detective Leo said with a shake of his pumpkin-sized head.

Dialogue tags are usually punctuated with a comma—unless the dialogue (speech) is interrupted.  Other punctuation would include the question mark, full stop, and explanation mark.  Ellipsis can be used to express a pause, a trailing off of thought.  But the comma is the more common.

“You’re a loser.” She said.

“You’re a loser,” she said.   /   She said, “You’re a loser.”

“That’s not the murder weapon.” Detective Leo said with a shake of his pumpkin-sized head.

“That’s not the murder weapon,” Detective Leo said with a shake of his pumpkin-sized head.

If we use an exclamation point or question mark for this example, we might want to change the verb “said” to reflect the punctuation.

“That’s not the murder weapon!” Detective Leo exclaimed with a fervent shake of his pumpkin-sized head.

“That’s not the murder weapon?” Detective Leo asked, confused, shaking his pumpkin-sized head.

The example for this one has no punctuation.  Given it’s a question, the ol’ question mark would be perfect.

“Why would I do that” he simpered.

“Why would I do that?” he simpered.

When dialogue is interrupted by an action or a thought, use em dashes to set off that interruption (don’t use commas).

“I’m not the killer!” And she pointed. “Marcus De Teuer is!”

“I’m not the killer”—she pointed—“Marcus De Teuer is!” 

Maybe we could add this:

“I’m not the killer”—she pointed an accusing finger dramatically—“Marcus De Teuer is!” 

Use a comma or rearrange this one.

“Mrs. Ladrona wasn’t in town that night” He pointed out.

“Mrs. Ladrona wasn’t in town that night,” he pointed out.   /   He pointed out that Mrs. Ladrona wasn’t in town that night.   /   He pointed out, “Mrs. Ladrona wasn’t in town that night.”

Never use ellipses for interruptions.  They’re used, as noted earlier, for pauses, trailing thoughts, a character not certain what to say next.  Use em dashes.

“It’s not like he …”

“Don’t be silly,” Jenkins interrupted the officer.

“It’s not like he—”

“Don’t be silly,” Jenkins interrupted the officer.

A bit awkward.  Who’s speaking?

“It’s Welland,” which was the intern’s real name.

Make sure information/facts are logically arranged (and not haphazardly tacked onto dialogue).

“It’s Welland,” the intern stated. “That’s my real name.”   /   The intern’s real name was Welland.   /   “It’s Welland,” the doctor told the detective.  “That’s the intern’s real name.”

The comma is fine here.  The verb, not so much.  Is it a question?  Did Pat query something?  No, Pat made a comment, stated a fact.

“We normally check for fingerprints,” Pat queried.

“We normally check for fingerprints,” Pat informed them.

If a character is wondering something, like good ol’ Ronald here, then he is asking himself a question or has a desire to know something.  It’s a silent action.  You talk to someone, suggest an idea, put forth a theory; you don’t wonder at someone.

“Frank, it could be that the knife sticking from the bartender’s temple is the murder weapon,” Ronald wondered.

If a character is wondering about something, you might approach it this way:

Ronald wondered if the knife sticking from the bartender’s temple was the murder weapon.  Should he share this idea with Frank?

The ellipsis tells the reader the character has paused or trailed off.  No need to state the obvious.

“Hmm, it’s possible …” Jenny trailed off.

But feel free to add something else of note.

“Hmm, it’s possible …” Curious, Jenny picked up the crumpled letter.

There are other components (rules) related to dialogue and dialogue tags, but these cover the more common issues to be found.

The best way to get a handle on writing dialogue is not just to read books, but to review them.  Highlight dialogue; notice the punctuation, the structure.  Apply it to your own work.  And, if you’re not sure, the internet is a wonderful source of information.  If you don’t know how to use an em dash, for example, type: when to use an em dash in dialogue.  Voila!  Bob’s your uncle.

As I said last week, if I can help even one person with my editing tips, then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.  Educate.  😉  Maybe I’ll do some more educating next week.  It’s rather fun.

“Have an awesome week, my friends,” she said with an encouraging smile.

Right Word, Wrong Word . . . Right?

Some manuscripts/stories offer bare-bones details and descriptions.  That tends to lean toward flatness . . . a story that doesn’t have much oomph.  To be engaging, there should be a certain level of information that provides mental images/pictures that enable readers to envision what’s transpiring.  No, we don’t need to know every detail about a character or setting, but it helps if we have a decent sketch.

Using the right words—like adjectives and adverbs—helps with that sketch.  But, as we know, all things in moderation.  You don’t want to add so many that the manuscript/story has the opposite effect: instead of bare bones, there’s info overload.

    • Bare bones: “I see Mr. Montague was murdered with a knife,” Inspector Rawlins said, looking down at the body on the floor.
    • Too many bones: “I see poor Mr. Montague, the town’s banker, was brutally murdered with a boning knife comprised of 31 layers of chrome stainless steel, which clearly penetrated his frail heart,” Inspector Rawlins dramatically declared as he pointed a scarred finger at the crumpled body lying face-down on the red-and-green linoleum floor that had seen many decades pass.
    • Happy Medium: “I see Mr. Montague was murdered with a boning knife,” Inspector Rawlins said solemnly.  He scratched his stubbled chin as he studied the middle-aged banker lying face-down on the linoleum floor.

Speaking of bones, one bone of contention [debatable, of course] is word usage.  Some writers make verbs out of nouns, or vice versa.  Sometimes, it’s doable, given the action or dialogue.  Certainly characters—well defined ones <clearing of throat>—have accents, speech impediments, phrases/words that are central to them.  So, yes, words may be used incorrectly because that assists in painting a picture of a given character.  What doesn’t work?  Using words that aren’t right . . . as in incorrect.

This can happen when a writer decides to consult a thesaurus to replace a word but doesn’t consider the definition, or simply uses a word he/she thinks might work (or sound good).

Quick examples:

    • She looked at Lee.  “I won’t leave you, ever,” she intimated.
    • To intimate generally means to hint or imply or provide information indirectly.  It shouldn’t be used to make an outright statement.
    • Tom watched Marshall and Beatrice hurry to the cabin.  He wondered.
    • That’s wonderful that he wondered—but what about?  Some words require a little “wrapping” to make them complete.
    • The group departed, leaving them alone at the town’s edge.  She waved and mused, and headed back.
    • Maybe she mused about the group departing, maybe about being at the edge of town . . . maybe what she’d have for dinner.  Who knows?  Maybe that musing isn’t even central to the action or story—and if it’s not central, then don’t keep it.

A story should captivate the reader from the get-go.  Nothing new there.  Words paint pictures, create images, show what we can’t see . . . use them wisely . . . use them well.  😉

Hoorah for Infinitesimal Details

I love editing.  It offers an opportunity to read authors who’ll succeed at gathering fans and making bestseller lists.  And it’s great to be there from the beginning to see their careers take off.  It also provides a chance to help aspiring writers—if they want it—to develop their craft.  Some are “naturals”, some are not.  It’s all good, though.  You become as good, as great, as you want to be if you’re willing to go the distance.  This means learning and applying what you learn.

As we well know, it’s [usually] the opening chapter or prologue that will grab readers and keep them wanting to read.  As such, it should be strong, compelling, and reel in readers like a seasoned fisherman bringing in a sailfish.  Countless “he said” and “she said” dialogue tags won’t do it.  Nor will a John-did-this-and-then-did-that style.  The show-don’t-tell approach isn’t terribly gripping, though some may debate that and that’s fine (to each his/her own).

Let’s focus on what does prompt readers to continue reading.  First and foremost: details (descriptions).  I’ve used the painting picture analogy before, but it’s a viable one.  When you draw images for readers—describe characters, reveal emotions, detail locations—your story comes alive.

I’m writing the sixth Triple Threat Investigation Agency book and, given disco plays a part in it, I’ve been listening to the music and catching the odd movie.  One that so perfectly “describes” what a movie and character are all about in the opening credits is Saturday Night Fever.  It’s one I’d recommend for writers to see how details—infinite infinitesimal ones—can paint a fabulous, vibrant picture.  Those types of details can easily be applied in an opening chapter or prologue.

The Bee Gees sing a catchy tune (marking a distinct period in music history) as we view various shots of NYC, including the subway.  Tony Manero swings a can of paint as he strolls along a Brooklyn sidewalk with a confident swagger.  We see stores and everyday people.  It’s not a rich neighborhood.  He sports a not-one-hair-out-of-place coif and fairly decent daytime clothes: black leather jacket, burgundy polyester shirt, and well-shined leather shoes.  A large gold cross hangs from his neck.  He eyes pretty women.  Stopping at Penny’s Pizza, he grabs two slices and chows down as he continues walking.  He sees a shirt in a shop and pays $5 to put it on layaway.  Finally, he arrives at a hardware store.

What have we gleaned from those details?  We know the setting is NYC.  Our main character most likely lives there.  He’s cocky and thinks himself a lady’s man.  He cares about his appearance (we see him comparing his shoes to a pair in a window).  Given the neighborhood, the $5 for the layaway, and the pizza, we can assume his finances are limited.  The paint can may mean he’s going to paint something at home, or he’s a painter who’s not working at that moment.  

If we were applying this to paper [or laptop], we could flesh it out more.  Not by [too] much.  We don’t need to inundate readers with an overabundance of facts.  We simply provide enough—yes, the infinitesimal details—to paint that defining picture.

The List: Every Writer’s Friend

You’re writing a book.  You’re loving it.  It’s great.  Hemingway would pat you on the back.  Christie would applaud your twists and turns.  . . . Your readers are scratching their heads.  When/how did Monty’s wife, Judith, become Barbara?  Cara was living in a flat in Chelsea.  How’d she end up in Greenwich?

Accuracy and consistency are important.  Both lend themselves to professionalism, something every writer—aspiring or published—should embrace.  There’s nothing more off-putting than reading something and finding it filled with irregularities . . . also known as glaring mistakes.

You want people to remember you and your work—for the right reasons.

I believe in lists and summaries.  But that’s so much more work!  I hear the groans.  Yes, it is, yet not really.  If you set up a chart, you only need add a few words here and there.  In that chart, you list points, ideas, descriptions.

1clipartlibrary (1)Having a list for characters—in my humble opinion—is necessary.  Note each one’s name (!), appearance, traits, idiosyncrasies, and significant events that made them what they are.  A quick example:

 JOHN SMITH

    • pale blue eyes, wavey blond hair below the ears, chubby at 5’7”
    • 38 years old; born in London; parents dead (mother hit by car when he was 10; father died from colon cancer)
    • likes dogs, hates cats (with a passion)
    • is a teacher by day, killer by night . . .

You get the idea.  The same holds true for a summary.  Have a list that breaks down chapters into scenes and note what happens.  It will help not have David finding Jessie’s body in a well in Chapter 3 and then finding Jessie’s body in a cellar in Chapter 10.  😉

Again, the summary / chapter list can be quite simple, a few words here and there.  Something like this works:

CHAPTER 4, SCENE 3    October, Thursday 10:30 a.m. – breezy and cloudy / Jeremy meets with Lester at a beachside bar; they theorize about the murder (how did the body end up in the cave / what is the significance of the star etched into the victim’s forehead / why can’t they determine the identity of the victim).

A summary / chapter list will help you see how your plot and book have progressed.  It will be simpler to determine if something is missing or seems incomplete.

Holes in a garment can be fixed; holes in a published book not so much.  A list for a writer can prove your best friend.  It won’t let you down.  😊

What’s in a Name?

Not much if—as writers—we use it so frequently that it detracts from the storyline.  It’s like overusing the comma, dash, hyphen, or “he said” and “she said”.  Overuse of anything lends itself to tedium.

There are many great storylines out there, but they get lost through repetition.  If readers find a multitude of references to good ol’ Roger on one page, they may not be tempted to read through to the end.  That’s not only a loss for the writer, it’s a downright shame.

Yes, editors help—it depends on the type of editing as much as it does on the editor.  He/she may comment on the redundancy, but not change it or offer examples of how to approach the story with a fresh(er)/crisp(er) slant.

“Hi there,” Ron said with a smile and placed down the coffee cup onto the table in front of the window by the door in the small room.

Julie said nothing. She simply turned to Ron and stared into Ron’s grass-green eyes.

Ron noticed rue of some kind in Julie’s baby-blue eyes. “What’s wrong?” Ron asked, his voice filled with genuine concern. Ron walked across the room to stand before Julie’s chair and hold her hand, but Julie yanked back her hand.

Mistrust was now reflected in Julie’s eyes. Julie stood up and walked to the far corner of the small room, away from the window. Ron smiled dissarmingly, hoping Julie would feel less threatened.

Julie sat down in the other chair in the corner of the small room and Ron walked over to sit on the rug before Julie.

Rather long, given the action, and repetitive.  If we had a dollar for each time we read Ron or Julie’s name, we’d have a nice fat wallet.  Maybe something exciting, frightening, or romantic is about to occur.  But given the repetition, are we that eager to find out?  If there are 20+ mentions of Ron and 24+ references to Julie on one page, would you be tempted to read on for very much longer?  It suggests lack of professionalism and/or care on the writer’s part.

Maybe we can shorten it and make it less tiresome to get through?

“Hi there,” Ron smiled, placing the coffee cup on the table by the window near the door in the small room.

Julie said nothing, simply turned to him and stared into his grass-green eyes.

He noticed rue in those baby-blue eyes. “What’s wrong?” he asked as he walked over to her chair, his voice filled with genuine concern.

When he took her hand, she yanked it back.

Mistrust clouded Julie’s eyes and she stood up and walked to the far corner, taking a seat on the only other chair.

Ron smiled disarmingly, and walked over to sit on the rug before her.

A little better, but still needs work.  How about we rearrange a bit more and add the odd adjective or adverb to give it more pizzazz?  And what genre might this be, so we rearrange/add accordingly?  Suspense perhaps?

“Hi there,” Ron smiled blithely as he entered the small dimly-lit room, placing the porcelain coffee cup on the table by the narrow window.  Seeing a large hairy spider scurrying across the top, he slammed his palm on it.

Julie said nothing, simply turned to him, her face expressionless, and stared into his grass-green eyes.  

Rue was reflected in those lovely baby-blue orbs. “What’s wrong?” he asked worriedly as he walked over, his voice filled with concern.  Crouching, he took her slim hand in his.

Feeling the remnants of the crushed spider, Julie yanked hers back, mistrust clouding her eyes. She lurched to her feet and stomped to the far corner and sat in the only other chair.

Ron sighed softly, wondering how he might win over this troubled young woman who’d murdered easily and often.  Smiling disarmingly, and donning an expression of humility, he walked over and sat on the threadbare rug before her.

Writing takes practice.  So does proofreading and editing.  And there’s nothing wrong with writing a story or book without looking back while doing so.  But do make sure to revisit it—with a critical eye, not a writer’s ego.

There’s no quality in quantity when the same names (words and phrases) are used in [over]abundance.  But there is quality in quantity when a number of revisions are made—to make a story the best that it can be.

The Facts, and Nothing but the Facts

. . . Or “ma’am, just the facts” as Sergeant Joe Friday [actually] said in the 1950s TV show, Dragnet. Whether writing fiction or nonfiction: know your facts.  Accuracy is a must.

Devices and gadgets, events and activities, fashion and customs, music and art, phrases and expressions (among others) must be correct for the time/period being written in.  Stories are made to entertain.  Facts are meant to inform.  Exactitude is vital . . . so is [a writer’s] credibility.

If you’re writing a western or historical novel that takes place in the middle of the 18th century, it’s likely people didn’t have tissues or ballpoint pens.  Women wouldn’t have worn brassieres and men wouldn’t have known about boxer shorts.  One-hundred-and-fifty years ago, it’s improbable that a person would have said, “that’s so cool” except maybe if referring to the weather.  They’d not have said “sweet” unless commenting about a dessert or fruit.  Become familiar with the period of time being written in.

If you’re writing a story that takes place present day and are using real places, ensure the details are accurate/correct.  Don’t mention that John went to a concert at Massey Hall in Toronto and have it located on the other side of town.  A real place should be in its actual location.  If your story is set in a city or country you’ve never been to, acquaint yourself with it.  Anything related to the here and now—and the story—should be properly (accurately) detailed.  Quoting someone?  Sure, have at it, but ensure the quote is correct.

That holds true of any genre, including fantasy and sci-fi.  Granted, you may be able to stretch some truths, given these worlds don’t [yet] exist 😉 but you’ll likely be incorporating some technical or scientific details.  You may even refer to events or inventions that lead to the creation of your future/other world, so it never hurts to become familiar with technology or science.  Research is never a waste of time (at the very least, you’ve learned something new).

The example above—“ma’am, just the facts”—is how Friday said it and not the way we often use it or see it: “the facts and nothing but the facts”.  This brings us to something that you may want to do and not leave to an editor, who may not always cast that critical an eye: fact-check.  This process verifies that information is factual and ensures the story/writing is correct and concise.

You can fact-check as you go along in your writing or do it at the end of the first/last draft; determine what works best for you.  My process is that I’ll write a scene, edit it, and note what I’d like to expand on, like a setting or dwelling, clothing, whatever.  Say one of my characters is attending a luau. If I want readers to get a taste of what that entails, I’ll research luaus—preparations required, types of food and entertainment, locations (where might they take place), and so forth.  I may have read pages (!) of details but, in the end, only write a couple of paragraphs.  But that piece of writing will be descriptive . . . and accurate.  😉

Get facts straight.  For all intents and purposes, your fictional world is the real world to a reader. Don’t disappoint them by having glaring errors.  And don’t disappoint yourself by not having done [provided] the best [most accurate] work that you could have.

The Curious, Elusive Comma

. . . Curious because comma usage can have us scratching our heads, asking, “How do I use this particular, perplexing piece of punctuation?” . . . elusive because this symbol can prove obscure if not crafty (in its own odd, abstract way).  Some writers use them in [over] abundance, while others use them almost never.

Now and then, I like to provide posts related to editing and punctuation and the like.  So, today, let’s look at our little friend, Mr. Comma.

There are “rules” of course, but those, as we know, are often made to be broken.  It’s really a writer’s prerogative how to utilize commas/punctuation but bear one word in mind: consistency.  Develop your own approach and adhere to it.

But, speaking of rules, it never hurts to review common practices/approaches.  Accept them as you like or will.

Use a comma to:

♣  divide separate independent clauses when connected by: and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet (most of the time, but I wouldn’t say always)

But, he was never to see her again.  (a definite no-o).

William thought about it, but decided not to see her again.  (possibly)

William thought about it but decided not to see her again.  (better)

Perhaps, the two knew better than I did.  (another no-o)

Perhaps Bill and Joe would eventually learn from their mistakes.  (best)

♣  separate less important information that may not be that relevant to the grand scheme of things

Mr. Ronaldson, an accountant of thirty years, flew to Mexico to start a new life.

♣  provide details after opening clauses or phrases or words that precede the main clause

Last Friday, she went to the movies with Lisbeth.

♣  separate three or more words (phrases, clauses) that denote a series

Tom ordered a plant-based hamburger, French fries, and chocolate milkshake.

♣  separate two or more adjectives before the same noun

Laura ran anxious fingers through her long, wavy hair.

He stopped in his tracks and eyed the shadowy, three-story, dilapidated house.

Obviously, there are more rules, but these are enough . . . for today’s post about the curious, elusive comma.  😉

Can “I” Die?

Sounds rather tragic, if not dark, doesn’t it?  Not to worry.  I’m not thinking of leaving this mortal coil.  😊  Another way to pose the title question: when you’re writing your book in first-person, can your protagonist die?  Not quite as “grabbing”, though, is it?  😉

The question was posed on a writer’s site recently, and it caught my attention.  Quite honestly, it’s something I’ve never considered.  Kill a secondary/crucial character, yes, maybe, but the central character, the protagonist, the narrator?  Never!

But then, I’m a want/need-a-happy-ending gal.  Central characters shouldn’t die; that’s just wrong.  If I enjoyed the read and the hero/heroine bites the bullet after I’ve traveled through thick and thin with them, I’m in a [major] funk for days!  I feel deprived . . . deceived . . . and downright p’o’d.

If it’s really in your heart to do so, though, to accomplish the fatal grand finale, you could switch between POVs—something that drives me absolutely crazy (and will usually have me tossing the book into the recycling bin)—and have another character, or you, detail what’s so tragically transpired.

And, just to ensure we’re on the same page, let’s quickly summarize the three POVs.

♠   1st person: the storyteller is part of the story or is involved in it and relates the action from his or her own point-of-view.  ♠  2nd person:  the storyteller talks directly to you and pulls you into the narrative (not my cup of tea, but to each his or her own).  ♠  3rd person: the storyteller is an indirect onlooker and provides particulars, rather like a journalist/reporter might.

Alternatively, you could end with, well, your protagonist’s end-ing.

I noticed the Colt Python a mere second before Lee fired it—into my heart.  I always thought death was instantaneous when a bullet burst into a vital organ.  But I was dead wrong . . . literally . . . there’s a split “reality check” second.

So, yes, sure, you can kill off your central character.  And it wouldn’t be that difficult.  But do be imaginative.  And remember this: you’d be limited in the sequel department, unless you plan to bring your protagonist back from the hereafter . . . as a narrating ghost . . . ?

Still Show? . . . Still Tell?

Belonging to different on-line writers’ groups provides an array of viewpoints re approaches to writing.

♣  No, you don’t have to use Times New Roman font anymore.  ♣  Nothing wrong with using [a jumble of] various POVs.  ♣  Don’t put two spaces after a period.  Old school.  Old hat.  ♣  On no account do you have to show and tell; many great writers didn’t!

That’s why they were great.  They possessed talent.  They had a distinct voice.  They knew how to detail and describe, and draw in readers.

Newbie writers—sorry if “newbie” is a bygone word, but I rather like it—haven’t yet mastered a voice or style.  And, if they have, hats off!  You’re nothing short of genius (using that as an adjective, just to be clear).

Perhaps you don’t want to be show-don’t-tell writer.  Nothing wrong with that.  But maybe employing the approach, if only as a learning tool, isn’t a bad or worthless suggestion.  We develop as writers—as we do in any profession or craft—by practicing, studying and applying what we’ve learned.

That’s it.  Short and sweet.  And that phrase still applies . . . I’m telling you.  😉

Judy Hogan Writes

ramblings of an apprentice author

The Nightingale

Maria Konnel - Youg Adult Fantasy Author

Avisha Rasminda

Hi, I'm Avisha Rasminda Twenty One years old, Introduce Myself As A Author , Painter , A Poet.

Random Ramblings

Random rants, musings and opinions that nobody asked for :)

KRISHNA KUMAR SINGH

KNOWLEDGE AND TIPS

J. P. D. T.

Blogs, Stories, and Poetries

MisaeMich :)

...inspiration through words...

Fantasylife

Don't forget to be awesome!

JOURNEY towards the Perfect Communicator

Hi! I'm Rev. Fr. John Mark, Religious Priest, Spiritual Director of SLRP Youth Ministry

RovingBookwormNG

Books. Poetry. Podcast. Travel.

The Wild Heart of Life

Creative Nonfiction & Poetry

Wise & Shine

A community for writers & readers

She Got Wings!

Self-development

A Holistic Journey

Finding my way back out of motherhood -- while mothering

Joan Wiley

Wayward Writer