Kernels of Writer Wisdom from the Messy Desk of McGovy

Welcome to the second installment of kernels of writer wisdom. I’ve picked up these tiny hints at various workshops and via editors red marking my work. I can’t guarantee I (or you) will never make these same mistakes again (Isn’t that a song lyric?), but I hope it will help us avoid making them all the time.

1.       NAME DROPPING IS TACKY.

Avoid overuse of your main characters’ names.  Particularly in romance, the reader wants to feel like they’re IN the book they’re reading. They want to be the hero or heroine and they want to be the one on an adventure or falling in love.  Once you set up the scene, transition into she or he instead of using the character name over and over. It jolts the reader out of the story. 

Example #1:

Kinsey sighed, knowing this was a losing battle.

Sawyer cleared his throat and opened his mouth wide.

“Okay, okay!” Kinsey stuck her Be Right Back sign in the window and locked the door. 

Sawyer helped her up into the carriage and climbed in behind her. “Don’t forget your kiddy drink,” he said, passing her the neon green cup with pink swirly straw. He sat back beside her, legs sprawled out in front of him and sunglasses on as he sipped away. Sawyer might as well be on a beach somewhere.

“I knew you were going to do this,” Kinsey told him.

“You’re a smart woman.” Sawyer grinned, his pretty teeth, tan face and sculpted arms perfectly suited for the late day Charleston sun.

 

Tedious, right?! Yes, I over killed it on purpose, but check your own work for name dropping.  Try it this way instead.

Example #2:

She sighed, knowing this was a losing battle.

He cleared his throat and opened his mouth wide.

“Okay, okay!” She stuck her Be Right Back sign in the window and locked the door. 

Sawyer helped her up into the carriage and climbed in behind her. “Don’t forget your kiddy drink,” he said, passing her the neon green cup with pink swirly straw. He sat back beside her, legs sprawled out in front of him and sunglasses on as he sipped away. He might as well be on a beach somewhere for how relaxed he looked.

“I knew you were going to do this.” She sat arrow straight.

“You’re a smart woman.” He grinned; his pretty teeth, tan face and sculpted arms perfectly suited for the late day Charleston sun.

 

2.       GRAMMAR KERNELS

Know the difference between these words and when to use them:

Further/Farther:  Both are an adjective or adverb relating distance. Further is used for figurative distance and Farther is for actual, physical distance. (ie. That statement couldn’t be further from the truth. VS Columbia, South America is farther than Columbia, South Carolina.)

Hanged/Hung:  Hanged is the past tense and past participle of hang when someone dies by hanging. Hung is used every other time. (ie. The man hanged himself. VS The man hung the picture on the wall.)

Dove/Dived:  Past tense and past participle for dive. For centuries it was dived and only dived. Dove is “recently” in fashion and now neither is frowned on in use. It will depend on the taste of your editor/publisher. YAY! An easy one!

Whale/Wail:   Whale is a sea mammal. Wail is a high pitched cry. You wail on the guitar or wail on someone if you’re beating them up. The blue whale is the largest living mammal.

Sneaked/snuck:  Past tense of Sneak and both are acceptable in modern times. They’re also a great excuse to include this clip:

Bear/Bare:  Bear means to support, to bring forth, to hold up underneath something.  Bear is also a furry mammal that lives in the woods. Bare means without covering, open to view.  It is very important your characters NOT “Grin and bare it” unless they’re going streaking or about to have fun naked times. I’m totally for that by the way. More characters should grin and bare it!

Hope you enjoyed this installment of kernels for writers. What kernels would you like to share with the class? =)

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