Conversations, Entry #1: Has Regret Helped You Grow as a Writer?

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From now on, I’ll share comments posted by you, dear readers, that have inspired me, in a rubric I’ve generically named “Conversations.” I highly value your insights, and occasionally I’m sure there will be a few that are too valuable to be left buried and forgotten in the comments section, seen by my eyes alone.

It’s not the first time I’ve done this, as you may recall from this post and this little survey. But I hadn’t thought of dedicating an entire category to reader responses.

Until now.

I envision this to be a weekly post. There may be irregularities, however, should I fail to sufficiently engage my readers. 🙂

For our debut, I present you this inspiring comment I received from Melissa Janda, in response to my post, “Have You Been Using ‘Epiphany’ Wrong?

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Have You Been Using ‘Epiphany’ Wrong?

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In a piece for the New Yorker titled “Laptop U,” Gregory Nagy, a professor of classical Greek literature at Harvard, told Nathan Heller—almost in passing:

I had this real revelation—I’m not saying ‘epiphany,’ because people use that word wrong, because an epiphany should be when a really miraculous superhuman personality appears, so this is just a revelation, not an epiphany.

Huh. So far I’ve used that word twice in my posts—in “Writing Is Meditation” and in “Where James Joyce Fails, Neil Gaiman Prevails“—and I assure you no spiritual apparition, holy or unholy, showed up to pass some profound heavenly wisdom onto me. If any, I probably would have fainted or would have been incapable of seeing it.

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Why You Should Write with the Door Closed

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Something’s wrong with me. For the past few weeks, I can’t seem to write anything; substantial or not. Stories form in my mind as a clear, still image, which means that the best I can get out of my head right now are single, mostly trivial, scenes.

Not good. To create a complete, compelling story, I need at least a vision of an important key-scene.

There’s another thing. What I do right now is worry too much about the end results; what readers or other writers might think when they saw my work. Completely ridiculous, of course, because by doing that I prevent myself from having any work to show in the first place.

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Where James Joyce Fails, Neil Gaiman Prevails

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A James Joyce art doll by MEDIODESCOCIDO. Some rights reserved.

A lot of people are probably going to hate me for this, but let’s have at it anyway:

No writer is perfect. Not even James Joyce.

I’ve been struggling to finish Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” for a while now. To be precise, it was the 5th of December, 2012, when my Modernism Professor assigned it as a compulsory read. (I neither finished the course nor obtained a degree in English Literature; I had to get real and find employment.)

It’s not that “Portrait” is extremely difficult, it’s just— incredibly boring. I can never bring myself to care about Stephen Dedalus, let alone what happens to him—there has not been one single event in Joyce’s bildungsroman that triggered my interest to know more. It’s like reading into the life of someone unknown, to whom I have no connection whatsoever.

There’s one other reason I have such a difficult time enjoying the novel: Continue reading

He Said, She Said: Stephen King’s Advice on Dialogue Tags

king-onwritingI think we all agree that dialogue tags are necessary for readers to know who’s talking. But writers are divided in how we use them:

Some, including Raymond Carver, simply use “he said, she said”; others apparently invent a million different synonyms for “said”; still others try to find balance between the two extremes, sometimes even fifty-fifty.

Yesterday, yet another writer, Jack Woe, jumped into the fray:

I’ve read quite a few blogs about the evilness of dialogue tags. For example, Joe Moore wrote in The Kill Zone how new authors are overusing the alternatives of said.

They go to: exclaimed, murmured, screamed, whispered, pleaded, shrieked, demanded, ordered, cried, shouted, and my all-time favorite, muttered.

Thing is, I as a reader, don’t care. I just don’t read dialogue tags — at all.

He’s not alone. To me, modifying such a perfectly fine tag as “said” is like Pimp My Ride gone bad. (Tip: Read that sentence again in Samuel L. Jackson’s voice.) Continue reading