Tag Archives: Novels

messages_go_meta

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

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:

7dd65dfa-1d54-4085-96bb-bbba29643191

log-lady

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:

https://davidmacinnisgill.com/2009/08/01/how-to-write-a-log-line/

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.

loom_is_done

Ten Years To Finish A Book

We talked about movies and TV.
We talked about how Jon finished his third novel.
We mentioned that it took ten years.
We talked about the difference rewriting makes.
We talked about the business of writing.
We talked about how late in the process major details are figured out.
We talked about what it takes to take a book from good to great.
We talked about metaphors for editing.

psychopaths

Truth, Lies, And Psychopaths

Need a bad guy for your novel?
No problem. Grab yourself a crazy, hell-raising, face-mask-wearing, serial killer psychopath.
Perfect. Right?

Maybe not.
For many reasons. Juliet and Jon discuss what psychopaths probably really are and why we write about them.

Podcasts that Jon mentioned in the show:

From Radio Lab several years ago: http://www.radiolab.org/story/91616-people-who-lie/
This is more about the con artist Hope Ballantyne from the Radio Lab Story: https://www.craigslist.org/about/press/encounters_with_hope
This is Actually Happening: 78: What if you narrowly escaped with your life?

 

Books about psychopaths that Jon liked:

Books Jon didn’t like as much:

northkoreangenerals

Write What You Know. But What Do I Know?

Writing teachers everywhere say, “Write what you know.”
Forget if it’s good advice—What do I even know?

In this show, the Js (writer Jon Armstrong and editor Juliet Ulman) talk about some examples of novels where maybe… just maybe the author didn’t know what he was writing about. How do we know what we know? And do we know anything?

In the show, Jon expressed concern about Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son. (Amazon link)

A tweet from Paul Gilmartin was mentioned. (He is the host of The Mental Health Happy Hour):

Sara Zarr’s A Writer’s Life podcast was mentioned. Author Coe Booth offered advice to white authors writing characters of color.
A quote from Alain de Botton’s The Course of Love: (Amazon link)
“Look at you,” she says, “you big cross numpty, you.”
italic_goodorevil

Italic—Good or Evil?

Italic? What’s the matter with italic? I use it everywhere!

Juliet and Jon discuss italic’s use in novels and YA novels. We have a little anecdote, a little history, a little caution, and a little advice. And none of those words should have been in italic. Including italic.

profanity

Profanity or Amateurfanity?

Beware!
We cover all the letter-bombs…
from F to N.

Juliet and Jon discuss the use of profanity in novels and its use for specific characters. We also consider the four types of profanity, strengths, weakness, and the cultural trends.

During the show, Jon mentioned Benjamin Bergen’s book:

31FtFM59l8L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves by Benjamin K. Bergen
(Amazon link.)

Smart as hell and funny as fuck, this book explains why we can’t stop swearing and what it tells us about our language and brains.

Everyone swears. Only the rare individual can avoid ever letting slip an expletive. And yet, we ban the words from television and insist that polite people excise them from their vocabularies. That’s a fucking shame. Not only is swearing colorful, fun, and often powerfully apt, as linguist and cognitive scientist Benjamin K. Bergen shows us, the study of it can provide a new window onto how our brains process language. How can patients left otherwise speechless after a stroke still shout out “Goddamn!”? Why did Pope Francis say “fuck” in the middle of a speech? When did a cock cease to be a rooster? Why is “crap” vulgar when “poo” is just childish? And what are we shooting when we give someone the bird?

What the F? Let me effing tell you.

Jon also mentioned that Benjamin Bergen appeared on a recent podcast. The show was Why Are So Many Swear Words Monosyllabic? on Slate’s Lexicon Valley.

 

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The Next Chapter—Length and Title

Chapters.
Novels are made from them.
How long should they be?
What to call them?

Juliet and Jon discuss chapters. How long should they be? What about chapter titles?

It turns out Jon had considered—at least for a time—the worst chapter name in the history of the multi-verse for one of the books he’s working on.


 

Bonus images. After Juliet’s help, here’s the before and after from Jon’s murder mystery:

Before:

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 1.14.49 PM

 

 

 

After:

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 1.15.15 PM

sentence_structure

Your Favorite Sentence Structure

You’re over doing it.
Aren’t you?
You’re repeating yourself.
Aren’t you?

Every writer has a couple of favorite sentence structures that they use and use and use. Juliet and Jon explore the hazy, instinctive, and uncharted land of the favorite sentence structure of authors.

What are they? What do they mean?
We endeavor to over-explain.