Messages and Metamessages

Sometimes you mean what you say.
Sometimes you don’t.

Jon and Juliet discuss messages and metamessages and some of the ideas from Deborah Tannen’s That’s Not What I Meant!: How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships. (Amazon link)

They recite a few lines from Jules Feiffer’s play Grown Ups.

Jake: Look, I don’t care if it’s important or not, when a kid calls its mother the mother should answer.
Louise: Now I’m a bad mother.
Jake: I didn’t say that.
Louise: It’s in your stare.
Jake: Is that another thing you know? My stare?

Gender Verbs

Juliet and Jon talk about some recent research into Gender Verbs.
What they are. What they aren’t. How to have some fun with them.

From the Variance Explained blog, David Robinson examined Gender and verbs across 100,000 stories.

We riffed on the following graph from David’s blog:



Delicious Books from Childhood

Juliet and Jon fire up the time machine, (or is it the nostalgia machine?) and each read from one of their favorite books from their childhood.
Our selections couldn’t have been more different.

For Juliet, it’s from ‘Old Man Kangaroo’ from Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling.

He was grey and he was woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he danced on a sandbank in the middle of Australia, and he went to the Big God Nqong.
He went to Nqong at ten before dinnertime, saying. ‘Make me different from all other animals; make me popular and wonderfully run after by five this afternoon.
Up jumped Nqong from his bath in the salt-pan and shouted, “Yes, I will!”
Nqong called Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, dusty in the sunshine, and showed him Kangaroo. Nqong said, “Dingo! Wake up, Dingo! Do you see that gentleman dancing on an ashpit? He wants to be popular and very truly run after. Dingo, make him so!”
Up jumped Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—and said, “What, that cat-rabbit?”
Off ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, grinning like a coal scuttle,—ran after Kangaroo.
Off went the proud Kangaroo on his four little legs like a bunny.
This, O Beloved of mine, ends the first part of the tale!
He ran through the desert; he ran through the mountains; he ran through the salt-pans; he ran through the reed-beds; he ran through the blue gums; he ran through the spinifex; he ran till his front legs ached.
He had to!
Still ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, grinning like a rat-trap, never getting nearer, never getting farther,—ran after Kangaroo.
He had to!

From Jon, we have the beginning of Buckminster Fuller’s Nine Chains to the Moon.

Some of the books mentioned in this show (Amazon Links):

Nine Chains to the Moon by Buckminster Fuller.

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Borrowers by Mary Norton


Longline of My Dreams

Loglines are usually associated with TV and movies but as an ever-resourceful writer, but they can be quite useful for novelists.

Juliet and Jon define, dissect, and discuss loglines. Jon shares one that he’s working on and with for a current writing project.

David Macinnis Gill is an associate professor of English education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, specializing in young adult literature. We talk about his very useful blog post about loglines:

Uses #1
Log lines are very useful to you. They allow to you answer the question, “so what’s your book about?” with a succinct phrase, rather than beginning with the stock, “well, see there’s this guy….”
Use #2
A second good use for the log line is the pitch. This handy, dandy quick summary of your story is very useful in persuading agents, editors, and even your dentist that you’ve hit on a “wow” premise that simply MUST be written. Better yet, if it’s already written, then it MUST be read. Think of a pitch in terms of advertising: You’re trying to hook a reader the way a commercial tries to hook a detergent user. Seriously. Alan Gratz, author of Samurai Shortstop and several other excellent novels for teens, calls this the elevator pitch, under the assumption that if you’re riding four stories with an editor, you can finish your delivery before the doors open.
Use #3
The third use for a log line is you. A novel is a big thing. It’s difficult to hold the whole story in your mind, especially when you’ve finished a first draft and are still giddy from the flow of creative juices. Writing a log line helps you define—for yourself—the essential elements of the plot. It was also let you know immediately is major components of the plot are missing. This prevents episodic plots that are a string of (interesting and exciting) events that lack a complete story spine.

Check out one of David Macinnis Gill’s books at Amazon. Soul Enchilada.

Juliet mentioned one of her favorite books, Earnest Hemmingway’s at Amazon A Moveable Feast.


It’s Not a Cemetery. It’s a Garden of Names.

Naming characters.
Should be easy.
Bob. Alice. Ted. And Alice.

Jon and Juliet discuss naming characters. Dos. Do nots. And they consider an interesting post by J Warren Piece, who covers such naming topics as:

A) Alliteration

B) The Plain w/the Bold

C) Syllabic Echo

D) Rolling off the Tongue

E) Ending Strong

F) Describing Essence of Character

G) Initials



What the F?

A warning: We say several profane words. Including tabernacle!

Jon and Juliet talk about Benjamin K. Bergen’s book What the F? What Swearing Reveals about Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves.
In our Profanity or Amateurfanity? show we talked about some concepts from Mr. Bergen’s book. We expand upon that here.

And we highly recommend the book. Follow this link to Amazon.


What’s Always Wrong With Books (And Movies)?

She got off the phone with just a single goodbye.
The security guard put up a hell of a fight.
After being knocked out cold in each the last five chapters, the protagonist feels pretty good.

Juliet and Jon talk about those things that movies and books get wrong—spurred on by several choice examples from a recent Reddit discussion. Instead of falling in one of the usual traps, what can the writer to avoid the traps?

We read a few posts from this discussion on Reddit: What is always depicted wrong in movies?
By SadGruffman
Security guards.
I’m not just some mindless drone or hurdle you need to shoot in the back of the head without question of strangle then drag off camera.
I’m an underpaid lower class fuck and I’ll just give you my god damn radio at the first sign of trouble. In fact, you’ve never met a hostage so willing to participate in your shenanigans.


By RainyDayNinja
No one ever asks how to spell things.
Detective (on the phone): “We’ve ID’d the victim, and I need you to search her phone records. Her name is Brittney Mbeza Delacroix.”
Guy at computer: [types it in flawlessly] Got it.
By GingerbreadHouses
Mosts just hang up without saying “good-bye.”
“Ok, see you.”
“Love you.”
“Love you too, bye”
Jon mentioned YA author, Sarah Dessen. Her book Saint Anything is a good example of some of her dialogue techniques.

Hi. I’m a writer. I have an ellipsis problem…

Sometimes a writer will repeat a comfortable device…
And again…
And again…
What is happening and why?

Juliet and Jon examine a trap that Jon recently fell into—the dreaded ellipsis. Why would that happen? And what to look out for when writing…


Book mentioned in the show (Amazon Links. Click and help support the show!):

Gone Girl

Saint Anything

The Great Gatsby (From

Luis-Ferdinand Céline’s Journey to the End of Night