Writing the Wedding Night: Suzan Lauder’s LfmM

Sexual tension tends to underscore the conflict in a romance novel. Part of the fantasy that many readers enjoy is the culmination of that sexual tension. However, many authors are squeamish about writing “Those Scenes.” Thankfully, a number of approaches are open to authors who want to include consummation in their romance novel.

The author can prepare by developing a vocabulary by doing some research, i.e., reading examples of steamier scenes. Historical romance writers such as Sarah MacLean, Miranda Neville, Tessa Dare, Amy George, or the older works of Abigail Reynolds have good examples. Modern writers will have an easier go of it. I don’t read many modern romances, but Catherine Gayle’s and Sylvia Day’s works have some good inspiration in them. When reading such scenes by authors you like, keep a list of words that work well for you as a reader.

Suzan Lauder’s Learning from my Mistakes Lesson #15: Get inspiration from others for those difficult-to-write scenes.

 

Don’t utilize full phrases or sentences from others’ work, though, as you don’t want to violate copyright. I use a rule of thumb of fewer than five words.

Utilize language reminiscent of fire and heat. Use a thesaurus for “passion” and “desire” and similar words to develop a vocabulary for your scene. If you’re writing a period romance, use words that evoke that time period. Clothing details are important, and language that reflects the period is just as critical. Research slang words of the era, ensuring not to use them inappropriately.

Scenes that build up to the consummation are essential to your scene-setting. Begin with observation of the physical attributes or actions that the protagonists admire, coupled with descriptions of their personal physical reactions they try to hide from their future love interest. If you’re writing from a limited third person (close or deep) point of view, remember your point-of-view character can’t see their own physical response, e.g., a blush. Describe their reactions as if you’re in their head.

You don’t have to go into elaborate detail in every scene. Use step-by-step scene building with brief interludes of physical contact in earlier chapters as the attraction between the couple builds. That way, the reader won’t be startled by the time the author has reached the sex scene. The types of language and descriptions of body parts is the only difference.

Suzan Lauder’s Learning from My Mistakes Lesson #17: Let your romantic encounters build. Pick and choose aspects of love making to prepare the reader for the culmination.

 

As the duration and intimacy of the prelude contact becomes longer, it becomes more important to imagine the choreography of the interaction broken down into steps, even if you don’t fully describe each step. Be aware of how the sexual tension is fulfilled yet lacking at each step. Ensure you’re describing not only physical reactions, but the thoughts of the point-of-view character for the scene—and it should be told only from one point of view! Head-hopping will ruin your flow.

The rate at which the physical encounters develop differ dramatically between a modern New Adult or contemporary romance novel and a period romance such as Victorian or Regency. Opportunities and societal norms will delay physical contact in the latter, and the writing will involve more sexual tension via dialogue, observation, and physical reactions. Consummation will often preclude relationship-building in the former, meaning more full sex scenes. Dramatic tension in modern scenarios will tend to be related to outside forces at least as much as the relationship itself.

In physical interaction scenes, take care not to make the action mechanical: “Tab A into Slot B.” I once got caught out in a modern romance with a car make-out scene where I mentioned she had one arm on the armrest and the other on the console as she leaned in for his kiss. Who cares where her elbows were? Readers want the lip action!

How much the author is personally affected while writing the scene, or objective and unaffected, depends on the individual. I find that considering step-by-step movements and struggling for the right sexy word does not make me, as the writer, feel all that steamy, even in a fairly descriptive scene. Others may need to plan ahead to relieve some energy.

A new author asked a group of others, “I’m a virgin, so how do I write a sex scene?” As with any aspect of writing, reading and Internet research becomes more important with lack of personal experience, but it’s not impossible for a person who has never had sexual contact to write an excellent sex scene any more than to write about speakeasies, car chases, or a ballroom lit with candelabras. Reading romance novels can help develop a sense of the aspects within the scene that any author is comfortable communicating. The author has the opportunity to choose the detail they wish to include, from a romantic inference to full-on erotic descriptions of the act.

An exercise that many have enjoyed is “The Kissing Challenge.” The object is to write a steamy scene that involves kissing but no consummation. It’s good practise of your mature scene vocabulary and coordinating of movement. My first “Kissing Challenge” scene became Chapter 21 of my first published novel, Alias Thomas Bennet, and the A Happy Assembly Playground story A Garden Encounter was a further opportunity for me to spread my wings in a non-consummated scene. Both are somewhat explicit, something that’s not necessary in order to create the sexy atmosphere you want as a writer. Sometimes less is more, and implications can be stronger than explicit language. Here are some examples of sex scenes that don’t include a great deal of detail:

The first sex scene from JustineR’s unpublished modern Pride and Prejudice comedy-romance Off Balance: “As in their professional lives, she was highly energetic and creative, while he was thorough, careful, and steady, a detail man. She was very goal-oriented, but he paid attention to process and to making certain all the important points were touched on methodically and completely. These complementary approaches made for excellent teamwork, and their joint efforts produced an impressive outcome all around.”

From Studio 54, my unpublished novel-length, mature, music-centric, late 70’s, P&P inspired romance in the Meryton Reading Room: “When their bodies joined, there was no hurry, just one prolonged, gliding movement until they became one being. They moved gradually together, their eyes focused on each other’s in a tender communion of souls. A barely perceptible acceleration brought them each to the inevitable pinnacle of satisfaction at precisely the same moment. All that was left was to hold each another reverently and feel the comfort of shared love and peaceful understanding.” There are more explicit scenes in the novel, but this one is the example I like to cite for those who prefer to avoid direct descriptions of sexual activity.

There’s a time and a place for both explicit and implied, though. Many romance readers look forward to the intimacy, expect it, and see it as the ultimate expression of the attraction between the couple—and the steamier the better for their future felicity. Other readers prefer not to read the details, however, take care here. Avoiding the topic altogether is tantamount to hiding the truth—it’s no better than telling a lie. Sex happens as part of a healthy young loving relationship, and it’s up to the author to find the essential balance to suit each specific book. For example, if you prefer your unmarried protagonists’ ending to be chaste for the most part, a sexy kiss can still do your story wonders.

Rachel Knowles’ Georgian romance, A Perfect Match, is an inspirational novel with the following: “Her body was responding to the kiss in anything but a sisterly way. If she had been standing, she would surely have fallen. That kiss told her more about the state of her heart than her head had ever done. She had thought herself above temptation. … Whatever his intention had been, that was no ‘brotherly’ kiss.”

I’m sure other authors have opinions to contribute, so please share in the comments! Even the most seasoned writers can be nervous writing these scenes, and I hope this article has eased up writers’ tension at least a little.

Disclaimer: I’m not a writing expert. I’m just a writer who learned some stuff other writers might like to know instead of learning the hard way. My approach is pragmatic, and my posts are not professionally edited!

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Another #Free #writingtips list! LfMM 100 non-#Regency Words to Avoid

Anachronisms pull the reader out of the story like no other writing issue can. My novels are predominantly set during the period of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1811-12) in the Regency period in England (1811-1820). Because of this, I try my best to ensure that I don’t use language that was coined at a later date. Some non-Regency words are subtle and not that important, but some can have a jarring effect on the reader. The last thing you want is that WTF moment because of language you could have easily avoided.

Suzan Lauder’s Learning from My Mistakes Lesson 14: When writing in a specific period in history, use good judgement to choose language and scene setting used that suits that period and doesn’t include obvious anachronisms or incongruities with the period.

This article is focused upon language of the Regency period.

Over the years I’ve been writing, I’ve developed an extensive list of words that were not in use before 1813. My simple 6-page alphabetical listing has roughly 750 words, and a longer (65 page) document lists alternate choices for many of the more common words and phrases that are non-Regency. These were generated for the most part by beta readers and editors catching me in my writing. I am simply the person who recorded the incongruity.

I use the Online Etymology Dictionary and Johnson’s Dictionary of 1806, 1812, and 1836 (via Google Books) as references, as well as other Regency era Google books. The full Oxford English Dictionary is another excellent reference, but it’s too expensive for me.

This blog post contains a sample of the most common words that were not in use during the Regency, plus a few that were in use in a different sense during that time and some non-Regency non-British language words, since most Regency romances are set in England. For fun, I’ve broken the words down to headings that will be of interest to writers and readers alike. I’ve thrown in some okay Regency words that are interesting as well.

Most commonly noticed in non-Regency words in Regency novels, considering how contemporary they are:
Mesmerize (1862 for “sense of enthral”; prior it meant a specific type of hypnotism.)
Normalcy (1920 outside of mathematics.) Normal, abnormal are also non-Regency.
Guffaw (A Scottish word, not used in England before 1836, and then low classed.)
Livid (Before 1912 it was a colour.)

The modern words and expressions that jarred me out of the era when I read them in actual Regency romances:
“Get yourself together.”
“No worries.”
“…plead the fifth.” (set in England!)
“That was (a time period) he’d never get back.”
“…playing head games.”
“Where had that come from?”
“Going through the motions…”
“…brutally honest.”
“…let it slide.”
“Hissy fit.” (1983)
Morphed (1955)
Gobsmacked (1985)
Snit (1935)
Hello and okay, both American and not used in Britain until the 20th century.
Contractions used for higher-class and intelligent characters. They were slang then.

Most over-used words from Austen by JAFF writers (these are okay words for the Regency era):
Impertinent
Sardonic
Alacrity
Panegyric
Pedantic
Obsequious
Sensible for sensitive
Handsome for pretty. The former means sublime and the latter means natural beauty.
“Superior sisters” for the Bingley ladies.
“Breaking their fast” (Austen used the word breakfast.)

Note: I’ve been guilty of using some of these words too much, too!

Worst American non-Regency words and phrases (most are also not modern British English either):
Gotten
Outgoing
Upcoming
Reckon
“Right now” for “at present”
Store for a shop, including in compound words
Braid for plait
Corn for maize
Stage for stagecoach
Jeopardize
“Nice” to describe a person
“I guess”
“Visit with” for chat
Write or wrote instead of “write to” or “wrote to”

Some surprising and not-so-surprising words and phrases that were not used in the Regency, yet Regency romance authors love them:
Décolletage, décolleté, neckline
Debutante (for come-out)
Society, as in high society
Socialize
Compromise, as in trap into marriage
Bounder, poser
Cad (It meant cadet.)
Acerbic
Adore
Breathy
Sashay
Outerwear
Misfit
Fiancé, fiancée
Fingertips—use “fingers” instead.
Foyer
Delusional
Spar (for argument)
“Sheet music”
Sex or “Making love” for sexual relations
Bah!
“Chimed in”
“Old man” or “old chap”

Another error is Australia and Canada as countries. They were not yet countries, they were groups of separate colonies with different names. Thus Halifax, Nova Scotia was not in Canada, and Upper Canada and Lower Canada combined were called “the Canadas.”

The spellings realise, scrutinise, and organise are not Regency. Realize, scrutinize and organize are the correct Regency spellings, whereas today either spelling is acceptable for British English, and the latter are correct American spellings.

Hardest non-Regency words to find replacements for:
Snob
Burp. All synonyms are low-classed.
Assess/evaluate/“take stock of”/scan/scour (for looking at a person)
Contact/connect/interact/liaise
Pouty
Bored/boring as in nothing is interesting. Reword to use ennui, tiresome, or tedious.
Corridor, hallway, and passageway are American.

Okay Regency words and phrases that surprised me!
Electric, electrify in the figurative sense (1787 and 1752).
Heavy meaning serious.
Gift as a verb for giving something.
“Beat about the bush.”
“At sixes and sevens.”
Fall for autumn was acceptable and became an Americanism much later.

New words that may fit your story:
Histrionics (1820)
Millionaire (1821)
Catarrh (1828)
Bobbinet (1809)
Gawp (1825)

Words out of style in the Regency that came back into use in the 1830s:
Doff, don were considered archaic from the mid-1700s.

Words with a bigger meaning during the Regency period:
Terrific: think very, very terrible! A terrific headache is your worst migraine.
“Magnificent!” “Marvellous!” “Wonderful!” were grand exclamations, not just “That’s fine/good.”
Chuckle meant to guffaw until the 1820s, so I use it only where it works for both definitions so savvy readers won’t mind! Remember, guffaw is not proper in the Regency.

Words with a lesser meaning:
Disgusting: think holding your nose in the air or being slightly disappointed as opposed to vomiting in your mouth as a reaction to a disgusting person.

Words with many meanings now that had only a few of our modern uses in the Regency to the point where I try not to use them unless consciously in the one Regency-appropriate situation!
Checked
Headed, heading
Tension, strain, mood

Words whose meaning changed or definitions were added:
Attitude meant stance not a state of mind or antagonism.
Bony meant “strong, stout, full of bone,” lusty meant “stout, healthy, able of body,” and stout meant sturdy, but did not mean fat.
Snort and tic were literal and only described animals’ actions, and nothing related to a human reaction, commentary, or feeling.
Condescending and affable described a person of higher rank who made the effort to be nice to a person of lower rank, different than our modern usage.
Genteel to describe upper class people was only used by “ignorant” lower class people.
Sensual meant lewd or unchaste, a more negative connotation than the modern one.

General advice on how to deal with non-Regency words:

  • Note that there are probably well over 1000 words on most Regency editors’ lists that would surprise you as not being Regency, and thousands more very modern words and expressions (related to technology, science, medicine, social media, entertainment, space, psychology, politics, economics, etc.) that most attentive authors would know to skip.
  • Get used to paying attention to words when you self-edit. If a word is suspect as modern, look it up in the Online Etymology Dictionary.
  • Keep a list of your own most commonly used non-Regency words and do a search for them in your writing. Add Regency-appropriate synonyms to your list for future reference.
  • A good source for synonyms is the former Austen Thesaurus, now Write Like Jane Austen, but take care, as some modern definitions have been used in some of the synonyms listed.
  • Sometimes you’ll have to rephrase because you can’t find the exact synonym. Good writing techniques suggest avoiding too many prepositions, though.
  • It’s always the author’s choice. You may put a Victorian parasol with your Regency costume just like you may have your reasons to choose to use some words knowing they’re modern. Just beware that your readers are savvy, and too many hits of non-Regency words will take them out of the era, therefore become disengaged from your story. Essentially, one area of author lack of attention will ruin it for all your effort on the rest of the novel.

Limited time offer: For your copy of my alphabetized list of about 750 non-Regency words, leave your email (spelled out with spaces such as “username at gmail dot com”) in the comments before July 19, 2017.

All follows and comments become entries for the gift package draw at the end of this series, which will include a signed copy of my novella A Most Handsome Gentleman (fall 2017 release) as well as some handmade and signed Suzan Lauder Regency costuming gifts.

For simplicity’s sake, I hope the little list in this post proves a useful start for Regency writers!

Disclaimer: I’m not a writing expert. I’m just a writer who learned some stuff other writers might like to know instead of learning the hard way. My approach is pragmatic, and my posts are not professionally edited!

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The Centennial Belles in Regency Costume

Special end note: I’m in Port Alberni next weekend for a fun costuming event: the town of 25,000 is attempting the Guinness record for people dressed in Regency costume on Saturday, July 14, and I hope you’re there as part of the count, as we’re going to beat the 2009 record of 409 people! I’m joined by Austen Variations author Shannon Winslow and Regency romance novella author Helena Korin for a readings event and signings, as well as my sister and Mr. Suze. I’ve made some new costuming items, and my sister did brilliantly by following my Regency Costuming Cheat Sheet! I’ll share the results in a couple of Thrift Shop Regency Costuming Experiment posts!

Learning from my Mistakes: Theory of Relativity for Writers, or how to use Point of View

Over the last few years, Romance novels have undergone a profound change, where the point of view (POV) within the story is now almost always Third Person Limited, Close, or “Deep POV.” This is hard for some writers who are accustomed to writing in a voice called Omniscient Narrator (ON), which is much easier to tackle and is familiar, especially to older writers, since so much of what we have written during our lives has been impersonal, particularly professional writing.

The up-and-coming New Adult romance genre almost exclusively uses first person POV. This preference is a result of New Adult’s growth out of the Young Adult genre, which uses first person POV a great deal. It also focuses on Deep POV, where the reader is not just being told the story, but the reader’s head is almost inside the narrator’s head.

What does all this mean? Here is a summary of what I’ve learned, with some more of my Learning from My Mistakes rules and external links.

ON versus Third Person Limited

Think of the POV as a camera: if you are writing in ON, you are allowed to see and show everyone’s point of view. In this case, the camera is up high, almost an eagle’s view, showing the entire scene on behalf of all the characters in the story. It can focus on one or more characters, but there’s a catch—the voice is that of the narrator, and not that of the character. That is, the narrator tells the story, expressing the viewpoints of each character.

Head-hopping can add confusion as to whose point of view is being represented.

It’s advisable to limit the number of characters who are “speaking” and to show clearly when that character’s viewpoint is over. Otherwise, the story winds up having a condition known as “head-hopping” where the reader can become confused as to who is having these particular thoughts.

Suzan Lauder’s Learning from my Mistakes Lesson 10: Avoid head-hopping like the plague!

 

Both ON and Third Person Limited are third person voices. The main difference is that in Third Person Limited, the story is told in the voice of the character and not a narrator. Using the camera analogy, the camera is sitting on the shoulder of one of the characters, and is almost in their head. This is as close to first person as third person gets. In fact, you can write Third Person, Limited POV in first person then change to the person’s name or a pronoun to achieve this POV for each of your characters. Further limiting the number of characters with a voice, this POV should have no more than four lead POVs, and Lesson 10 is imperative, not just a great idea.

One point of view per section or chapter, with clear markings when it changes.

Many Romance novels use only the voices of the hero and heroine, and change them by chapter. I recently read a novel by mature Regency romance author Tessa Dare where the character’s voice changed within a chapter; however, she used an extra line break to signal the reader to the change in POV speaker within a scene. I prefer changing only by scene and using a section break or scene separator, which is a graphic like a curlicue, to show this change within a chapter.

Suzan Lauder’s Learning from my Mistakes Lesson 11: To avoid a choppy or head-hopping effect within a chapter, use an extra line break, a graphic section break, or a scene separator when changing point of view.

In the initial draft of Letter from Ramsgate, I’d used Deep POV with four characters and section breaks for all character POV changes, but had a longer section where I showed reactions of all the characters in the scene, including a minor character, and had it as one section. My anonymous beta editor suggested that I cut those who were not main POV characters and reword so the information could be told by a main POV character.

A good way to discover which POVs are important is to put in the section breaks as per Lesson 11 through one chapter that’s busy with characters. This will show the choppy head-hopping sections, encourage the author to change the story to reduce unnecessary POVs, and help set a direction as to what is the most important information to retain. It’s always possible to find a way to reveal a non-POV character’s motivation and character without “telling” it.

Deep POV

A further enrichment of Third Person Limited, the great advantage to Deep POV is the reader is so close to the character, they almost feel as if they are in the story, and a more profound effect results. I recall the first time I read this style. It was a novel by author Catherine Gayle with a hilarious and very realistic virginal sex scene from the female protagonist’s POV. It was such amazing writing, I wanted to write like her and wanted to know how to do so! I thought it was just Catherine Gayle’s personal style until I read Jill Elizabeth Nelson’s Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View from a recommendation by MP author Karen M. Cox.

Deep Point of View is achieved with a character-driven story with tight characterization, a minimum of POV characters (usually two), a lack of filter words, a “show, don’t tell” style, and a certain amount of introspection, though care must be taken not to overdo this latter aspect.

What are filter words? Because the story is being told by the character and not the ON, there is no “He thought, knew, felt, saw, smelled, heard, wondered, pondered, etc.” The character just does these things without thinking. The author is challenged to show, not tell, these filter words, as in Lesson 9.

Suzan Lauder’s Learning from My Mistakes Lesson 12: Change filter words of thought, feeling, and senses to make the POV deeper and enhance the reader experience.

 

This useful article by Jodie Renner covers many of the main points of Deep POV. Deep POV is not just for third person, but can also be used to enhance first person writing.

First Person

This is the “I” POV. Not much else to say, except you’re stuck with one character’s eyes through the entire story.

I thought I’d never use this until I started writing A Most Handsome Gentleman (my latest novella, in editing for publication by Meryton Press this fall) and it just came out of me that way. I had a lot of fun with it, and it worked well for a comedy!

Many famous books use this POV, but for some reason, a certain number of readers don’t much care for it. It can be difficult if the author wants to sneak in a second person’s POV, but it’s always possible to do excellent characterization and motivation of another protagonist through a first person narrator’s eyes, as is done routinely in Young Adult and New Adult writing these days.

As noted, deep POV can be used for first person—just eliminate those filter words as in Lesson 12 above.

Mixed POVs

One of my earliest A Happy Assembly stories Performing to Strangers mixed first person and ON, and separated them by scene. In the ON scenes, the POV was clearly the male protagonist, and the female protagonist was in the first person scenes. It was a moderate success, with a bit of reader confusion. That’s why many experts recommend against switching from one style to another in a story. Changes in POV style are not recommended and if done, section breaks are even more necessary than with the POV character changes.

A slight exception is Deep POV, where it’s permissible to break up the depth by brief ON scene setting every so often at the start of a scene. A scene in Letter from Ramsgate was about to be told by Georgiana, but first, I described the guests at Pemberley as they lazed on the lawns. I tried to make it seem like Georgiana’s POV until I read about this exception. It could easily have been her thoughts or a camera high in the sky, but the generalized tone broke up the heaviness that can come with being in one head at a time for long time periods. It was one short paragraph, then I zoomed tight for her POV.

I read a JAFF novel where the bulk of the story was in ON, then all of a sudden, the author had gone into the character’s thoughts, using an introspective type of style different than the bulk of the novel, and head-hopped while doing this, without enough cues as to who was doing the thinking. I was jarred and had to go back to re-read.

Suzan Lauder’s Learning from My Mistakes Lesson 13: Be consistent with your POV selection.

 

How to Choose?

With several main POV types to use and four rules suggested by my experience in writing and reading, an author can be overwhelmed in deciding which is best for their story. Sometimes the easiest style is not the best for your readers, and you have to work for good communication. Sometimes you have to be consistent with the genre in which you are writing. For example, Third Person Limited, Deep POV, two speakers (male and female protagonist) is best in most romance novels, though hipper subgenres such as New Adult and Chick Lit utilize first person a great majority of the time. Sometimes, like in my experience with A Most Handsome Gentleman, the choice is easy.

There are tons of articles touting one POV over the other, and a lot of what you’ve read in this one may assist you. However, if you’re still unsure, check out this excellent article by Janice Hardy that explores the pitfalls of each POV.

Of course, there are exceptions to everything, and many famous authors have achieved success with exceptions. But when you think you can be the exception, ask yourself: are you truly as talented as that Pulitzer-Winning author? A reply of “yes” is rather bold. Don’t be caught as a diva by kidding yourself in your vanity! The rules are made for us “regular” authors who love to improve our craft and don’t ever sit on our laurels and say we’re the best.

Have fun picking your POV!

 

Disclaimer: I’m not a writing expert. I’m just a writer who learned some stuff other writers might like to know instead of learning the hard way. My approach is pragmatic, and my posts are not professionally edited!

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Take a pause: LfmM on commas.

Remember back in school when they told you that if you read a sentence and there’s a natural pause, a comma is necessary? I followed that advice until I realized that half my commas were in the wrong places, so I had to learn to forget that advice. I don’t know about you, but I pause where commas are not appropriate and vice-versa.

The better habit is to learn to recognize when you need that comma by “the rules” and practise, practise, practise. The first and most common situation is the complex sentence.

Before I continue, I must clarify that I’m going to speak only to the simplest of cases.

To recognize a complex sentence, look for two complete sentences of equal importance with a joining word (conjunction) but different subjects. This is best done by looking for the new subject in the second part of the sentence then checking to make sure it has its own verb. In a complex sentence, each of the two sentences are properly referred to as an “independent clause.”

You also have to learn which conjunctions (joining words) deserve a comma. But, and, which, yet, for, or, and so are the most common ones. The Editor’s Blog’s article has many examples of where they are used and not used.

Because I read pauses before the conjunctions that don’t normally get a comma (they signal a dependent clause), I found it important to learn some of them as well. As, where, since, that, while, when, and because are the most common ones. This article from Grammar Monster has a listing that’s helpful as well as examples to help you understand more than my little explanation.

Watch carefully not to use the comma when the object end of the sentence has two complete sentences, though! In that case, they’re called “dependent clauses” because they sort of lean on the first part of the sentence rather than form a new one. Grammar Monster has a useful link with examples to help learn these situations.

If a chunk in the middle of the sentence can be pulled out and the sentence makes sense if you read it with the chunk missing, it’s probably what’s called a “parenthetical phrase.” Think like you could put it in parenthesis, except that parenthesis are rarely used in fiction. This phrase is usually separated out by two commas, but if it’s a total change in direction of thought, the em-dash is used.

If you re-name a noun in a sentence, the second one is called an appositive. My trick to knowing if the appositive deserves commas or not comes from the editing of Alias Thomas Bennet for publication. Meryton Press copy editor/proofreader/layout editor (yes, she’s all that and a cover artist too!), Ellen Pickels marked explanations on two sentences similar to the following:

Mr. Darcy’s cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam joined him in the call to Hunsford.

Lady Catherine was speaking to her daughter, Anne, on the settee.

My “trick” is to remember the “Mr. Darcy’s Cousins” examples. The simple explanation to the reason there is no comma for Colonel Fitzwilliam and commas for Anne deBourgh:

  • Mr. Darcy has more than one cousin, so Colonel Fitzwilliam doesn’t get commas.
  • Lady Catherine has only one daughter, so Anne gets commas.

The “proper” explanation relates to restrictive and non-restrictive appositives. Yeah, sounds scary! In the first italicized sentence, “Colonel Fitzwilliam” is a restrictive appositive. The appositive is necessary for the reader to know which of Mr. Darcy’s cousins is there. In the second sentence, if Anne was removed, the sentence would have the exact same meaning. This is called a non-restrictive appositive. It’s easier for me to remember many cousins and one daughter, though. Chicago Manual of Style has another way of explaining it that may help if I’ve mucked it up worse in your mind!

When a sentence appears to be complex with a parenthetical phrase (perhaps a prepositional phrase) that can be pulled out, it becomes confusing as to where the comma goes—before or after the “and?” That is, the “and” may appear like it should stay with the sentence, leading you to believe the comma goes after it. In some cases, that is correct. But when?

Gail Warner, my Meryton Press editor for my two novels and most recent novella, taught me a trick. “If you pull out the phrase, would you use the comma in front of the ‘and?’” So if the second sentence is part of the end of the first sentence (dependent clause) you wouldn’t use a comma if the phrase was missing. In that case, the comma goes after “and.” If you have a pair of independent clauses, there would be a comma before the “and.”

A comma is used before the closing quotation mark if a dialogue tag like “she said” is used, like the example on the left.

As in the picture below, a comma is necessary to break off a name when a person is addressed below.

Wow, we’ve learned a lot about commas today. Trouble is, there are about 100 other rules for them. Just another reason to have a good editor who knows the details!

Speaking of which, Gail Warner and I are working on my latest, A Most Handsome Gentleman. She’s removed dozens of commas that I put before the subordinating conjunction “as.” I need to practise more!

Yeah, I know. Preaching to the choir! Thanks for continuing to read, but how about those comments? There will be a draw for a prize at the end of the series!

Disclaimer: I’m not a writing expert. I’m just a writer who learned some stuff other writers might like to know instead of learning the hard way. My approach is pragmatic, and my posts are not professionally edited!

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Suzan’s JASNA Regency Costume Adventure

My costuming road trips continue as I purchase hats, ribbon, beads, and trim in Mexico in the winter and bed sheets for gown fabric in Canada in the summer for my Regency costuming events each year. What adventures I have! This time, the gig was a presentation on the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment (TSRCE) at the May meeting of the Victoria BC Region of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA).I shared a PowerPoint presentation explaining the TSRCE and its success, showed off a portion of my collection of Thrift Shop upcycled finds, and enjoyed the tea and goodies with other like-minded Austen fans on May 13, 2017. Here are the pictures to prove it. The presentation, complete with references to parasols:

Here are some of the materials on show (click on the thumbnails to enlarge):

 

This is just a sampling of my stash. I really need to buy less and construct/sew more as the raw materials for Regency costumes are taking over my closet!

Me with my new coral beads, earrings, and fan, with some Regency hat wannabes in the background:

There was good interest in the program, and I did a pitch for the Jane Austen Festival in Port Alberni on July 14-16, 2017. I’ll be there for the Guinness Book of Records count for most people in a room in Regency costuming on July 15 at 10am-noon. I also offered to email my drawings of patterns for a lace cap and my original cushion-cover reticules to interested members.

Thanks to Merle Brown and Alison Dacia Brown who shepherded me through my worries and needs for this event and helped make it a success, and to the members of Victoria JASNA for being so welcoming. Photo credit goes to Bruce, who also helped me with my technical issues for the projector, and Alison Dacia Brown.

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Other news:

  • I’m currently editing A Most Handsome Gentleman, a P&P-inspired Regency comedy-romance novella that just finished posting at AHA, for a fall release.
  • Learning from My Mistakes will return soon with more punctuation and some POV tips!Save

Suzan Lauder’s Learning from My Mistakes: Show, don’t tell

I’m a “tell” kinda gal. I’m better at narrative than dialogue, and after all the experience and practice on “show, don’t tell” writing techniques, my beta (unpaid editor) stills calls me out on my on blunt statements where I should have immersed myself in description. It’s not that I can’t do it or do it well, it’s just that being straight and to the point worked well for me in business and academic writing, and I got used to it. Well, in fiction writing, we must get over that bluntness!

So what does this mean?

Suzan Lauder’s Learning from my Mistakes Lesson #9: Show, don’t tell: Describe the feelings and senses to show your readers what is happening rather than stating them in plain language.

The writer wants to make the reader feel like they’re in the moment, and descriptive phrasing is more engaging. This style issue ties in well to Deep Point of View, which will be discussed in a later post.

I find there are three places which benefit from this rule: in comments about observing senses and feelings, in dialogue instead of boring old dialogue tags, and in scene-setting.

Example 1: Observations about senses and feelings (good for Deep POV).

Original:

She smelled it before she saw how embarrassed he was. It must have been him.

Show, don’t tell:

The air became heavy with a distinctive odour. Someone had passed wind, and she’d bet it was the fellow whose face was now crimson to the tips of his ears. His lack of eye contact confirmed it.

Example 2: Basic dialogue with a boring old dialogue tag.

Original:

“Oh, I wondered about that,” he said angrily.

Show, don’t tell:

He clenched his fists at his side much the same as he set his jaw. His full lips were turned down in a decided scowl. “Oh, I wondered about that.”

Example 3: Dialogue where you think you’ve been pretty descriptive already is a combination of the two above examples.

Original:

She was distraught about the situation. “Why would you do such a thing?”

Show, don’t tell:

Her eyes filled with unshed tears and she swallowed deeply to prevent a sob, moving away before anyone could see her reaction. How could this be happening? “Why would you do such a thing?” Her quiet voice broke at the end.

Although there’s nothing wrong with the original, can you see how much better the revised version is from a reader’s viewpoint? How could you further improve on the paragraph?

Example 4: Scene setting.

Original:

The boy seated himself on the grass in the dog park to eat soup from a Styrofoam cup on this sunny afternoon.

Show, don’t tell:

He spent little time considering the place where he dropped himself down on the lawns of the dog park, just a short perusal of the ground to make sure there was no shit there. No assessing how close to sit by the path, whether to go nearer to the trees or farther from the street, or considering watching the other kids in the skate park as he ate, even if it was noisy over there. He just plopped down, crossed his legs, peeled back the lid to the fragrant soup, and sipped its hot goodness.

As he adjusted himself in his seat, the parched grass crunched and crackled below him and scratched him through the hole in his jeans. He squinted into the sun.

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Notice how the senses are used in the latter example, and more deeply than “he smelled” or “he heard.” Describing these features is “show, don’t tell,” and it’s one of the most powerful tools a writer can use.

As an author, this may not be your problem. Some writers use helpful descriptions with ease, but it’s a theme some of us are constantly working on improving, and it’s another way you can learn from my writing mistakes.

 

Disclaimer: I’m not a writing expert. I’m just a writer who learned some stuff other writers might like to know instead of learning the hard way. My approach is pragmatic, and my posts are not professionally edited!

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