Important to Know

Lotte Lehmann became a famous opera singer just before WWI and performed a total of 93 roles in her career. She retired from the opera in 1951 and became a music teacher for over twenty years.

One day she was visiting with an up-and-coming young soprano who remarked sympathetically that “It must be terrible for a great singer like you to realize you’ve lost your voice.”

“Not at all,” the older lady replied. “It would be terrible indeed if I didn’t realize it.”

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How FF and JJ Shortened My Patience

Reading Judy Dykstra-Brown’s post, Too Much Information, reminds me of an article I worked on yesterday, so I’ll post it as my response to today’s Word Press prompt word: overwhelming.

Overwhelmed by Adjectives

My mind registered a familiar ring tone and I reached for my navy faux-leather handbag, the one I’d bought with the gift certificate Mom gave me for the trendy new fashion store that just opened up three months ago at a nearby mall. I rummaged around, feeling my wallet, a few tissues, and several small spiral notebooks I carried for jotting down bits of poetry before I pulled out my shiny pink cell phone, now steadily tinkling out the tune to Fleur Elise, my favorite of all the tone options on this phone, hit the tiny green Talk button and said “Hello.”

The caller had hung up.

Would you? If this were the opening paragraph of your story, would you keep reading?

I started a book last week and soon discovered the writer is a lover of vividly descriptive adjectives. I had the feeling of walking on a wet beach where your feet sink into the sand at every step. In Chapter One the main character gathers her things, heads to work, and arrives there. Not what you’d call fast-paced, but her home and workplace were well described.

Some readers enjoy this type of descriptive writing and will find this story interesting. They are a market, albeit limited, some writers aim to please and that’s great. But like most readers, my attention span has become short. I like a bit of description, but then let’s get on with it. Give me a quick, smooth trip, no slogging through wet sand.

May Heaven Bless Good Editors

If you’re working on a novel and intending to publish it, do run it by a professional editor. And listen to their advice — even if it hurts.

The editorial cry of, “Cut, cut, cut!” can be painful. One tactful editor a century ago told a writer, “Your work is like a rare jewel. And like all jewels, it will sparkle all the more once it’s cut.”

Mark Twain once said, “When you see an adjective, kill it.” He admitted that adjectives do have their place, but cautions writers to use them sparingly.

For a travelogue descriptive adjectives are great, but do we care that, in the opening scene, Fleur Elise is this girl’s favorite among all the ring tones on this phone, or do we want to find out who’s calling and why?

Writer Charles Todd, in the Bess Crawford Mysteries series, has achieved what I’d call a perfect balance. While including descriptions of WWI battlefield scenes and the shattered bodies brought in for Bess and the doctors to patch up, the story line moves along quickly and holds a reader’s attention.

Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild

A few months back my husband signed up with the Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild and I started following his articles entitled “How to become a ferocious self editor.” We get a demonstration of how Jerry would edit the first page of someone’s manuscript — and he does EDIT. Chop, chop, chop!

The story may start out with 200 words and end up with 50 when he’s done, but he explains each change. We hear that one adjective is usually enough. Instead of talking about the great big house, you say the great house or the big house. Better yet, eliminate both and say the cottage or the mansion. Instead of “The lonely lost lamb shook with cold and fear,” pick one good adjective and choose your verb well. “The forlorn lamb shivered.”

Friday Fictioneers: Putting It Into Practice

This is a group hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Every week she posts a photo as the group’s writing prompt and we’re to post a hundred-word story in response. I’ve been finding these a real challenge!

A hundred words means barest bones. Every superfluous word goes. Every line that can possibly be omitted is.

My opening paragraph contains 102 words, the entire allotment for a for Friday Fictioneers story. Action sum total: a female answers her phone. For an FF story I’d boil it down to:

I grabbed my ringing phone from my purse. “Hello.”
Mom’s voice sounded worried. “Sue, I can’t reach Patty. Have you seen her lately?”

Word count: 23. And go on from there. In the final edit I might even have to cut out the purse, though its mention tells readers she’s on her cell phone and not at home. This type of editing is terrific practice for writing tight, which is mainly the writing that sells these days.

As a reader, are you fond of description in your stories, or do you prefer the “cut to the chase” version?

Making A House A Home

LANDLORD AND TENANT

by Edgar Guest

The landlord wouldn’t paint the place
or keep it in repair,
yet at the window panes was lace,
though every board was bare
and those who passed it by could trace
the tenant’s tender care.

And those who passed it by could see
a blossoming plant or two.
Despite the tenant’s poverty
a little garden grew,
lovely and gay and orderly
the blazing summer through.

The landlord Life at times seems cold
and deaf to every plea,
yet to our dreams we still can hold;
courageous we can be
and round the place plant marigolds
for passers-by to see.

We, too, with faith, can plant a rose
where all is bleak and bare
and fashion pretty furbelows
for windows of despair,
and work, till our poor dwelling shows
a tenant’s tender care.

From his book, LIFE’S HIGHWAY
© 1933 by the Reilly & Lee Co.

What Could Be?

I came across this little poem recently and found it encouraging. Hope you enjoy it, too.

I’d rather be a Could Be
if I couldn’t be an ARE —
for a Could Be is a May Be
with a chance of touching par.
I’d rather be a Has Been
than a Might Have Been by far —
for a Might Have been has never been,
But a Has was once an ARE!

Author Unknown to me

I’ve posted my Friday Fictioneers response, on my Christine Composes blog. You can read it here: Jack Miner’s Discovery

Plugging the Infinite Loopholes

Today’s WordPress Daily prompt: infinite. I thought this quote might fit the bill.

Ever wonder why legal contracts are pages long? I was just reading a book by Canadian humourist Stephen Leacock, who offers this tongue-in-cheek explanation:

Legal sentences must of necessity be long. A lawyer dare not stop. If he ever seems to have brought a thing to a complete end then somebody may discover something left unsaid and invalidate everything.

The Tenth Commandment is able to say “Thou shalt not steal.” A lawyer has to say, “Subject always to the provision of clauses 8-20 below thou shalt not steal, except as hereinafter provided.”

Even at that the lawyer would have to take another look at the word steal and scratch it out in favour of, “thou shalt not steal, pilfer, rob, appropriate, hook, swipe, or in any other way obtain unlawful possession of anything.”

Then the word thing would start him off again to write: “thing, object, commodity, chattel, property….”

Excerpt from the book HOW TO WRITE by Stephen Leacock
Published 1944 by JOHN LANE THE BODLEY HEAD LTD
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This reminds me of a news item I read one day:

Corporate lawyers must have a tough job fine-tuning lawsuit-proof explanations, especially in the US.

One day an American bought himself a brand new motor home, but crashed it while travelling down the highway. He explained later that he’d left the motor home to drive itself while he went to the back to get himself a cup of coffee. He sued the manufacturer for (I forget how many) million dollars in damages because the instruction manual didn’t specify that you can’t leave the steering wheel unattended while the vehicle is in motion.

Won his case, too. Good lawyer?