Saturday, December 22, 2012

My five annoying questions: please advise


The topic this week is the five worst writer questions. I had a hard time thinking of these, and of course, as the Saturday person, whenever I do think of something, my evil cohorts have already written about it in fun and entertaining ways!!

However, I am a writer, and I have five questions. I have five questions for other writers as well as readers. These are my worst questions, because I had them all this week and I don’t know the answers.

Readers and writers, please answer the following annoying questions. Or, at least they are annoying to me. This week.


1. How do you feel about “gaze shuttered” or “eyes shuttered” as a way to describe somebody who kind of closes off and shuts down? I used to think it was a cheat, but I just used it today. It was convenient. Cheat or not?

2. When I have a character say something like, “Jesus, that’s hot!” Or “God, is it really eight already?” do you take that as at all religious? Either in the mind of the character saying it, or your mind? Or do you see the use of Jesus or God here as interchangeable with, say, Wowee. (But, less dorky?)

3. Do you like the lengths of points of view sections to be roughly the same when switching points of view between two or three characters? How do you feel about decreasing the length spent in a character’s point of view as a book progresses? What if your average time spent in one character’s point of view is 6000 words, and then you throw in a 2000-word point of view section from the other character? Problem? Readers, do you notice that kind of thing?



4. Cliffhanger chapter endings. I don’t like them as a reader, because I like a stopping point, so I don't use them as a writer. But I know many people insist on moving a reader forward by using them. In fact, I just read a book that advised this technique. Am I old fashioned to want each chapter to be wrapped in a nice little bow? Do readers like them? Or is this a thing writers like? If the point is to not let the reader stop, why have chapters at all? Let me know your thoughts, please! 

5. Semi-colons and colons in dialogue: yay or nay? Some say this is high punctuation and has no place in dialogue, others feel it is fine. 

Thank you in advance, my friends, for answering. You are all fabulous. Happy Holidays!!! 

xox

Carolyn Crane

20 comments:

  1. 1. Gaze shuttered is fine.

    2. Using the Lord's name in vain isn't, but I'll accept it if used sparingly. As a rule, more than 4 curse words per page in the first chapter will make me not buy a book. I include using the Lord's name on the list of words unacceptable to abuse. I will blacklist you if any womb quivers.

    3. The length should be determined by the scene and the pace of the book, not made to match anything else.

    4. I think the cliffhangers are best. There shouldn't be a stopping point in a book. Readers that stop can often find a reason not to come back. If I put down a book it's because it's poorly written, not because there was a natural stopping point.

    5. I think there are rarely cases where dialog sounds natural if a colon or semicolon is needed. People don't talk like that. Exceptions can be made for fantasy, far-future, and aliens.

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    1. Thanks, Liana! These are great answers. Really great insights. So, do you read a book in one sitting? That's what I always think with the cliffhanger chapter endings. I read in bed, so sometimes when it's late I like a stopping point. But, I don't like the idea of people abandoning my books, that's for sure!

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  2. 1) What exactly does it mean? I see a lot of phrasing like that, and I wonder what poetics like that mean.
    2) Such expressions are very common. I assume no religious intent, but that could be because I'm not religious.
    3) I change POV with whoever is talking, so my sections are only a paragraph long.
    4) At least cliffhangers give you a lead into the next paragraph. A neat ending means the next chapter is as blank a page as the first chapter.
    5) I don't see the need. Periods and commas are fine for capturing the way people talk.

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    1. Authorguy, I'm glad this post answered one of YOUR questions! On shuttered. And, thank you for your thoughts. You agree with Liana on this cliffhanger chapter endings. hmm. On number 2, maybe that's the difference, these are expressions that will be taken quite differently by different readers. I'm really glad I asked it!

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  3. See, I try to make myself use things like "his gaze shuttered." I think my default is either too literal (his eyebrows lowered 0.5 millimeters) or too esoteric (metal scraped metal as the security gates slammed in front of his emotions). And then at some point I realize holy shit, I just spend 500 words to move the heroine across the room and the reader is now confused and annoyed.

    Whereas with "gate shuttered", people get it. It's kind of like "he said" and "she said" dialogue tags. It seems like we have so many but the readers' eyes just fly over it, taking the relevant information but not getting caught up in the way it was said.

    I am a fan of the semicolon. Also, the colon. Basically, I support punctuation diversity.

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    1. Skye, I really like seeing your thinking on this. Describing the "check out" look of somebody takes a while, shuttered is a convenient shorthand. It did the job.

      Snort on the security gates.

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  4. 1. Gaze/eyes shuttered is fine. As long as it's on;y used once or twice - not every time the character is in that situation. Then I think it would be a cheat.

    2. I personally don't think of it as religious or offensive. I know people speak that way in real life and I take that as part of the characters personality. The examples you used seem fairly innocent and commonplace. However, if you combine that with other offensive behavior and he/she is supposed to be a person you like - that may be an issue.

    3. I don't care if the length is the same for each POV. I do frequently read villain's POV's that are only 1 or 2 pages though in comparison to the MC's longer ones and that annoys me.

    4. I had never thought about this until recently. Several books I've read had cliffhanger chapter endings and I liked them. It kept me glued to the book well past when I should have went to bed.

    5. I tend not to notice that either way. I've read both.

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    1. Karen - Thanks for these answers!! And, you're right, the villain POVs can run really short, particularly in romantic suspense. (Which I'm frankly always glad about as a reader.) I appreciate getting your reader thoughts on the cliffy chapter end.

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  5. 1. How do you feel about “gaze shuttered” or “eyes shuttered” as a way to describe somebody who kind of closes off and shuts down?

    Gaze shuttered...? I've actually never heard that before, hmm.


    2. When I have a character say something like, “Jesus, that’s hot!” Or “God, is it really eight already?” do you take that as at all religious?

    Not at all. I'm not religious so that doesn't bother me one bit. Someone who is very religious might take offense or consider that a religious statement, but then again someone who is really religious and/or offended easily is probably not reading a book that uses terms like that so easily.

    3. Do you like the lengths of points of view sections to be roughly the same when switching points of view between two or three characters?

    A book with more than one POV can go one of two ways. Either the amount of time spent reading from each character's POV should be almost the same (like in Vincent's Unbound series or in most PNRs where POV is shared between hero and heroine), or one character's POV is used sparingly for a certain effect (like in Moning's ICED where Kat's POV pops up occasionally or in a book where we read a chapter occasionally from the POV of the "bad guy").

    4. Cliffhanger chapter endings.

    I don't mind those at all. I mean, EVERY chapter doesn't need to have a cliffhanger but I certainly don't mind them here and there throughout a book. It gives me a brief feeling of "Holy crap!" before I realize all I have to do is turn the page to find out what happens next.

    5. Semi-colons and colons in dialogue: yay or nay? Some say this is high punctuation and has no place in dialogue, others feel it is fine.

    I'm not really a specialist in punctuation so this is fine with me! :)

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  6. Thanks Goldilox!! For your thoughts!! Oh, I'm surprised you've never seen gaze shuttered. Also, these are interesting answers, especially on this cliffy chapter ending. Like it's a little mini-thrill with an instant payoff. A false withholding. That is kind of good to get this angle, because I never thought of it like that!

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  7. 1. I don't think I've ever used 'shuttered' to describe someone, but if I run across it as a reader, I know what the writer's trying to convey. For me, that's the point.

    2. It depends on the character whether it's meant as religious or not. If the character is a religious person, and that's the way they mean it, then yes. If not, then no. (And I often use lowercase 'god' and respell Jesus into 'jeezus' or something when the character isn't using it in a religious way.)

    3. Since I've been writing a lot of first person lately, I don't do POV changes. Otherwise, I write third-limited and keep the POV's to one per chapter (or one for the whole book). As a reader, though, I don't pay attention to lengths between shifts - as long as the writing flows.

    4. Cliffhangers - as with everything, if it works for the story, it usually works for me. I'm pretty flexible about some stuff as long as the story is flowing.

    5. I use whatever punctuation feels right (and would be correct for the situation). Having said that, though, I can't think of an instance where I've needed a semi-colon or a colon in dialogue. I don't think most people speak that way nowadays, so forcing it in there because it's 'proper' would make the dialogue feel off to me. :shrug:

    Hope that helps, Carolyn. Most of the time, I'm just muddling along enjoying myself.

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    1. B.E. Thanks for all these thoughtful answers! This is great. I really like your modifications on the spelling or capitalization of God and Jesus to signal they're being used as expressions rather than names.

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  8. 4. Cliffhangers. Keeping your reader turning the pages is paramount, but I think this can be achieved without arbitrarily chopping off your chapter in the middle of a scene. Scenes and chapters should end on a point of tension: a setback, a decision the character has made, a note of ominousness, a dramatic question, etc. My chapter endings usually come at the end of a scene, with the next chapter picking up at a later date or location or at least a different POV.

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    1. Nicole, did you ever read the Anita Blake series by LKH? Sometimes her chapters would end in the middle of a conversation! And begin again, inside the convo. This is good thinking, what you've said here, that the arc of action wraps, but leaves a question or setback. In a way, there are different kinds of cliffhangers for a chapter end. This is totally going into my thinking.

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  9. 1. I feel that's a very commonplace expression I see in a lot of books I've read.. and I'm very "meh" about it. It doesn't convey a lot of meaning to me, so the writer might not capture my attention all that closely when using that phrase.

    2. Hehe, I'm the person that would probably appreciate "wowee" lol. As far as to the question at hand, I'm the least religious person in the world so seeing "Jesus ect.. God whatever" doesn't offend me.

    3. I read a book recently that had switching viewpoints with one person having had 6,000 words, and the other viewpoint only having about 1,000-2,000 words. It made the book seem, (IMO), choppy and the flow of the story seemed pretty uneven. It made the book that much harder to finish, but again, that' s just me. If the decrease in time spent in the characters viewpoint is done gradually.. and they both seem to be about equal in length, chances are I probably won't notice. If there is a big disparity, I will take note.

    4. Cliffhanger chapter endings? Again, if you're switching viewpoints, then it can be frustrating to get to particular peak, then NO, YOU'RE GONNA HAVE TO WAIT TO SEE HOW IT PLAYS OUT - NEENER NEENER. Lots of readers are probably fine with this, but it will frustrate me if it happens frequently.

    5. I'm not a stickler for high punctuation and never have been.

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    1. Thanks for these answers!! I think you're right about watching for choppiness on the different-length viewpoints. I think you make a good point there.

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  10. Cliffhanger endings: only if it's a chapter ending and you do not unnecessarily end your book with a cliffhanger. I just finished a book that after wrapping up the story added an extra unnecessary chapter to make the book end with a cliffhanger for the next book. That is unforgivable in my opinion and makes me ban the rest of that series!

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    1. That sounds like a very manufactured cliffhanger. If the book is good enough, you will want to read the next anyway.

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  11. 1) I don't particularly care for 'gaze shuttered,' but if it works, it works
    2) Dialog has to reflect how people really talk, and plenty of people use those phrases. OMG they do. Still, they're common enough that overuse of them might make for a boring character.
    3) I like longer wordcounts for viewpoints. Heck, even chapter breaks around different viewpoints. It helps me 'prepare my brain'.
    4) Clifhangers...good thing. I always love books that make me stay up all night 'cause of that.
    5) Semicolon looks a bit archaic, and it's different enough from most modern fiction writing that it may cause some readers to stumble.

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    1. Roxanne, thanks! Interesting that you like longer POV sections. I suppose, as a reader, I do, too. I like to sink in. And you like the cliffie chapters! This is the most divided-answered question, I notice.

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