In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* The Bradbury Challenge
* More on Stereotypical Speech Patterns
* When I Teach WITD
* Of Interest
* The Numbers
Quotes of the Day
“Your job isn’t to find ideas but to recognize them when they show up.” Stephen King
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” Stephen King
The Bradbury Challenge
Most of those who have joined in this challenge have written tens of thousands more words than they might have otherwise. You can still join in the challenge at any time. And if you’re a fiction writer, why not?
There’s no cost, and the challenge is a great way to increase your inventory and jumpstart your writing. Chances are you’ll have more fun than you’ve had in a long time. The challenge is also a great way to get more practice pushing down the critical voice.
During the past week, in addition to whatever other fiction they’re writing, the following writers reported their progress:
- Erin Donoho “Blind Spot” 3300 words historical fiction
- Balázs Jámbor “Matter of Choice” 3600 words Psychological
- Loyd Jenkins “Plague of the Ice Troll” 2130 words Historical Fantasy
- George Kordonis “Sow The Wind…” 2673 words Psychological Horror
- Alexander Nakul “The Miraculous Book of Princess Serenia” 1921 words Erotic Fantasy
- Chynna Pace “The Lunch Lady Secre” 6515 words Mystery
- Christopher Ridge “No Hard Feelings” 1800 words Crime
- K.C. Riggs “The Third Omen” 1597 words General Fiction (A monsoon story)
More on Stereotypical Speech Patterns
A few days ago, by way of advice on writing dialect and phonetic spellings, I wrote, “If you want to learn to write dialect (and trust me, less is more) practice mimicking your characters’ speech patterns aloud.”
After you’ve done that a few to several times so you’re speaking your character’s dialect as fluidly as the character would, do this:
Carefully sound-out each words or phrase you want to spell phonetically. Then spell those words and phrases exactly as they are spoken. Put them on the screen or on paper, and then pronounce them again. If it isn’t quite right, do it again.
Note: You won’t always have to go to such lengths. Once you learn how to immerse yourself in the dialect and phonetic spellings, it becomes much easier. But if you aren’t a natural, first you have to do the work.
If two words are combined, use an apostrophe to indicate the missing letters just as you do in a contraction. For example, “y’gotta” is pronounced differently than “you gotta.” Likewise, “What are you doing?” is different than “What’re you doing?” and “What you doin’?” and “Whattayou doin’?” and “What’cha doin’?”.
I’ve personally heard one character say “You ain’t gonna do that” and another say “Y’ain’t gonna do that”. Of course, a character with perfect diction might say, “You are not (or aren’t) going to do that.”
I am aware there are some writers who can’t hear or sense the nuances in dialogue. I know one man who writes excellent fiction but is unable to discern the rhythm of words as the rhythm is established by the arrangement of accented and unaccented syllables.
As I wrote yesterday, if you are unable to sense those nuances, I strongly recommend you avoid writing dialect.
If you set a character well enough in a particular location, the reader will “hear” the dialect anyway, if it matters to him.
Characters are different from each other. Hence the Texan Wes Crowley will not sound anything like Joey Bones Salerno, a gentleman of Sicilian or Italian descent who was born and raised in Brooklyn, or like Juan Carlos Salazár, the propriedor and keeper of the stories at the cantina in Agua Perlado, Mexico.
Nor will any of them sound similar to the Stirchian (extraterrestrial alien) or the Tursec delegate (another extraterrestrial alien). Nor will the Stirchian and the Tursec sound similar to each other as they each learn to communicate in English in different ways.
And none of those characters will sound like any of the characters, from the female captain of the generation ship The Ark as it makes its way across the galaxy to the colonists living on the several decks below the bridge.
Like other actual beings, characters are individuals but they also display certain stereotypes, and those stereotypes extend to their speech patterns. And those stereotypical speech patterns work both ways: they both inform and are derived from the characters, their history, etc.
Dialect and speech patterns can wonderfully enhance your characters and their stories if you allow them to.
When I Teach WITD
Because so many new subscribers have joined us lately, I thought I’d explain what I mean by WITD: Writing Into the Dark, meaning don’t plan, just trust your characters to tell the story that they, not you, are living. Be their factual recorder, or as Stephen King calls himself, their stenographer.
Just to be clear, when I teach WITD (writing into the dark) I don’t teach a “technique.” I teach that you don’t need a technique. I teach that you trust yourself and don’t allow anyone else to second guess you. Defend your work. Avidly. Zealously.
I do teach craft elements, the bits and pieces and best practices that go into creating inviting hooks, openings and cliffhangers and that keep the reader deeply and fully engaged in your story throughout.
But I never have, don’t now, and never will tell you that you can’t do all of that on your own. You don’t need any input from any conscious, critical mind, even your own.
So you don’t need to outline anything, or revise or rewrite, ever. Those are all functions of your own critical mind second-guessing your creative subconscious. And you don’t need other critical minds: critique partners or critique groups or beta readers or anyone at all who is willing or even eager to say “I would have written it like this” or “I suggest you change this” etc. I think it was Mark Twain who wrote that no urge is stronger than the urge of a writer to change another writer’s copy.
I mentioned that you don’t need to outline, but you don’t need to plan ahead in any other way either. I can’t bring myself to use the word “plot” as a verb. Plot is a noun, a thing, defined by Bradbury as the “footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.” How can you plan that?
Then again, Bradbury was primarily a short story writer. So what could he know about outlining or planning ahead, right? He wrote his novels the same way.
And one of the more prolific novelists alive today, Stephen King, has written the same advice, albeit worded slightly differently. He wrote,
“I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.”
How can you plan where children will run to when they’re playing in a park? How can you plan where a kitten or puppy will go when it’s set free in a yard full of fascinating things to explore?
As I wrote the other day,
“Life happens. Stories happen. Spontaneity is true to life. Anything else is fake and a manipulation. Nobody can consciously ‘think up’ anything spontaneous. Spontaneity is a characteristic of real, unscripted life and, in fiction, of the creative subconscious mind.”
So when I teach WITD, I don’t teach a technique. I teach letting go of shoulds and ought-tos and so-called have-tos like outlining and seeking critical input and revising and rewriting and polishing, whatever that is.
I teach letting go of whatever techniques others try to foist on you. Nobody else can possibly know the stories that are in your mind better than you do. You don’t need anyone else. Write to the best of your ability the first time through and then move on to the next story.
I teach that you should always be learning more about the craft with your conscious mind. After all, learning is the only valid purpose of the conscious mind in a fiction writer’s life.
But I also teach that when you sit down to write, you shut off the conscious, critical mind, trust your creative subconscious, and Just Write the Story. What you learned with the conscious mind will have seeped through into the subconscious, and your characters will use that knowledge as necessary. Trust your characters and your creative subconscious.
The creative subconscious (and the characters who reside there) only want to tell their story. They don’t care either way about all that critical mind stuff, and neither should you.
For a great deal more on this topic, key “WITD” or “cycling” into the search block in the sidebar at https://hestanbrough.com, then read everything that pops up.
Talk with you again soon.
See “ChatGPT boosts writing productivity, finds new MIT study” at https://interestingengineering.com/innovation/chatgpt-boosts-writing-productivity. So does putting your butt in a chair, your fingers on a keyboard, and writing.
See “Authors Join the Brewing Legal Battle Over AI” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/authors-join-the-brewing-legal-battle-over-ai/.
See “Pulphouse Going Monthly” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/pulphouse-going-monthly/. Shrug. Pulphouse is not open to submissions from outsiders unless you back the Kickstarter drive. If I have to bribe my way in, I don’t want to be there. Your attitude may differ.
See “How to Make a Cliché Work for You” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/how-to-make-a-cliche-work-for-you/. Notice this is from a website named “Almost an Author.” How much value should you place on any advice from such a website?
The Journal…………………………………… 1600
Writing of “Marvin McTavish Decides”
Day 1…… 326 words. Total words to date…… 326
Day 2…… 346 words. Total words to date…… 672
Writing of “A Midnight Sketch”
Day 1…… 1341 words. Total words to date…… 1341
Writing of Rose Padilla (WCG10SF5)
Day 1…… 4283 words. Total words to date…… 4283
Day 2…… 3963 words. Total words to date…… 8246
Day 3…… 1463 words. Total words to date…… 9709
Day 4…… 2445 words. Total words to date……12154
Total fiction words for July……… 2013
Total fiction words for 2023………… 112035
Total nonfiction words for July… 12010
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 143560
Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 255595
Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date………… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………… 73
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………… 221
Short story collections…………………………………………. 31
Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark, adherence to Heinlein’s Rules, and that following the myths of fiction writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.