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Ursa major

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So that's Ursa also showing the perils of ALLITERATION for us!
Always glad to be of service. :)

I've always thought of them [their, my, our] as possessive pronouns, but having checked I see they are possessive 'determiners', a determiner being 'a modifying word that determines the kind of reference a noun or noun group has' ... so that's made everything clear then... :rolleyes:
I used to see these as pronouns; and in absent minded moments (which can last for days), I still do. The possessive pronouns are: mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, theirs.
 

Ursa major

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chrispenycate

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I've been following this thread since its inception, and feeling I should contribute, but what? After all, I specialise in punctuation, co-ordinating sentence structure with the concepts to be communicated, and homophones. I can't write an article on the difference between "past" and "passed, or the "their", "there". "they're" tricotomy, can I?

So let's, at least until someone requests details on the care and feeding of the domestic gerund, concentrate on the "why", rather than the "what".

After all, the publishing houses will have 'people' to get the grammar right, don't they? All I've got to do is get the story down and they'll take care of the niggling details.

Yes and no. Yes, they have the people, probably better than we can manage here (perhaps not: I should probably be looking for a job as a proofreader, except that I'm too slow.), on salary, but would prefer to have a minimum to change. Mainly, no. Agents, publishers, they're receiving thousands of submissions for every one they can commercialise, and must either speedread first pages for immediate first filtering, of get someone to skim off the hopeless majority. It is important not to be in this first rejection wave, and even more so not to get classified in the heads of the primary filter as 'someone whose writing is going to need a lot of work before it's readable'. Oh, sure, my manuscript was probably in its SAE before yours, for its polysyllabics and over-long, convoluted sentences, but mine is proudly rejected, not due to lack of preparation.

The other reason is more subtle. Even changing punctuation, as I do, can change meaning, and if you haven't learnt the rules, you can't be sure of how your piece is being changed. I'm not accusing the proofreader or subeditor of deliberately distorting the work; if the information isn't there, it must be created to the best of someone else's judgement. Getting it grammatically correct, with all the tenses consistent, is almost certainly going to introduce more changes. Subtle ones, I hope, but you've sweat blood over those words, getting them just right, and now you have to accept tampering outside your control.

So learn the rules so you can bend them to your will. Frequently real dialogue contains fragments; almost sentences lacking a verb, or a subject. To make written dialogue accurate/believable, occasionally the grammar Nazi needs to look the other way. It is terribly easy when you're correcting things to render the dialogue clean, grammatical, sterile and unnatural.

And finally, don't trust your computer grammar checker. There may well better than in my Word, but they all rely on rules programmed into them by people who hadn't seen your manuscrypt (a region to store dead stories; and off goes the spelling alarm, the grammar flags, and whirled righting day). I sometimes turn mine on (I spent several days lobotomising it when I changed operating systems) just for a lark; it can never work its way accurately through my labyrinthine subordinate clauses; I think if was evolved for business letters.



©hrispy
 

Peter Graham

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Good point, Chris. Although in all fairness, your recent and detailed post about tenses was at the forefront of my mind when I suggested this thread. How about cutting and pasting it in here?

Culhwch - not a bad plan at all, although it might involve a fair bit of work for you or one of the other mods to update the thread every time we start arguing about split infinitives or narrative voice. But I'm all in favour of increasing the amount of "stickied" information to help those who post in Aspiring Writers (and also to save the fingers of the critiquers!).

Since I'm here:-

ACTION SEQUENCES

When you are describing the sword fight, car chase, space battle or whatever, keep the action at the forefront. If you have set up your action sequence and have instilled in your reader the willing suspension of disbelief (of which more later), you need to take them with you into the action. The reader should feel that they are there with the characters, seeing, smelling and feeling what the characters feel.

Avoid dropping out of the action sequence to dump a load of extraneous information:-

"Peter the Mighty ducked to avoid Lord Babyeater's wildly swinging axe. His heel turned on the broken ground and he fell. Lord Babyeater grinned maniacally and brought his axe down. At the last second, Peter rolled to one side. The axe smashed onto rock with a deafening ring. Babyeater stumbled forwards. But before his enemy could recover his balance, Peter had unsheathed Cheeseslicer and was back on his feet. Cheeseslicer was a Really Good Mage Sword, forged three million years ago in the furnaces of N'yrrpxxq'n by Blodwyn the Flatulent, the greatest sorceror that Khroniklos had ever seen. Some prophesised that Blodwyn would one day return to lead seven half armed villagers to victory against King Eviltude's teeming hordes of goblins and undead. but Peter only half believed the tale. He drove Cheeseslicer forwards, splitting Lord Babyeater's ribcage in twain."

See what I mean? The background information about the sword totally breaks the reader's relationship with the action sequence, dragging the reader away and forcing him or her to look at something else. Such dramatic tension as there was is totally lost.

Short sentences also help to keep action sequences punchy - check out the scene in The Two Towers when Grisnakh does a runner with the hobbits.

Make sure that your narrative voice is consistent - if we are seeing the scene from character p.o.v, limit the description to only what that character can see, feel or hear. If you come out even for a second to tell us what is going on elsewhere on the battlefiled, you risk breaking that dramatic tension again.

Finally (although this may just be personal preference) do not leave the reader hanging as though this was the end of the first part of a "to be continued" episode of a TV programme. Once you have the reader immersed in the action, finish that scene before going off to start something else. Unless there is a good dramatic reason for it, don't leave Peter the Mighty sprawled on the floor struggling to draw his sword whilst you start a new chapter telling us what is happening to the Lady Graham three hundred miles away.

Regards

Peter
 

MattyK

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"Peter the Mighty ducked to avoid Lord Babyeater's wildly swinging axe. His heel turned on the broken ground and he fell. Lord Babyeater grinned maniacally and brought his axe down. At the last second, Peter rolled to one side. The axe smashed onto rock with a deafening ring. Babyeater stumbled forwards. But before his enemy could recover his balance, Peter had unsheathed Cheeseslicer and was back on his feet. Cheeseslicer was a Really Good Mage Sword, forged three million years ago in the furnaces of N'yrrpxxq'n by Blodwyn the Flatulent, the greatest sorceror that Khroniklos had ever seen. Some prophesised that Blodwyn would one day return to lead seven half armed villagers to victory against King Eviltude's teeming hordes of goblins and undead. but Peter only half believed the tale. He drove Cheeseslicer forwards, splitting Lord Babyeater's ribcage in twain."
I totally see your point, take your advice on board, all that jazz...but for the moment, can you please ignore your own advice and continue writing this story? I'd really like to know what happens next! :D
 

ctg

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Good point, Chris. Although in all fairness, your recent and detailed post about tenses was at the forefront of my mind when I suggested this thread. How about cutting and pasting it in here?
I agree. Chris, you could write a piece about tenses, but in same time, you could make another one on differences between colon, semicolon and full stop. But then again, I really would love to see you explaining why the first person is better than the third person narrative.
 

chrispenycate

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As requested.

Think yourself a timeline; a bit like a road you're standing on, but since it's one dimensional, very straight, and very strait, and (as far as we know) invariably with a one way sign on it.

Where you are standing is, by definition, the present. When you are writing, occasionally you get so involved in the past you forget you're not actually there, and start describing it as if you were actually living it; this can enhance the immediacy of the action, or confuse the reader totally (Aaargh! When am I?) depending on how well it is done.

We have two main present tenses, present continuous "Is is raining" and – well, just sort of present "I open the door". These can be mixed and matched "It rains on me when I am opening the door" or "When I open the door it is raining" We have present conditional, where one action depends on another "It would rain if I opened the door." Negative is generally done with a "not" or abbreviated "n't", or using the auxiliary "to do", ("I don't like the rain") while interrogative is sometimes done by word order ("Is it raining?", "Are you out in the rain?") but frequently by the use of the verb "to do" as an auxiliary ( Do you open the door when it is raining?")

Close behind you is the immediate past, with the perfect tense ("I have opened", "it has rained") which uses an auxiliary verb (to have) with the past participle of the verb (ordinarily an "ed" after the infinitive, but there are enough irregulars to keep anyone happy; assuming memorising lists makes you happy, that is. And different irregularities, too; I think, I thank, I have thunk doesn't cut it. But you know them; you use them in speech.) Then there's the imperfect : I closed the door, it rained (yes, with regular verbs it looks a lot like the past participle, doesn't it?) the continuous perfect (it was raining, I was opening the door) conditional perfect ("I would have opened the door" and I suppose the continuous form "It would have been raining {if I had been stupid enough to open the door}") Negative associates our "not" with the auxiliary verb, if there is one ("You haven't come in out of the rain yet.") and frequently uses "to do" as an auxiliary ("You didn't close the door") wit only a few verbs negating directly ("No, I didn't; I wasn't in the mood.") while interrogative inverts the auxiliary and its subject ("was it raining?") or again uses the verb "to do" ("did I open the door?")

Then there is a region even further back on the line, with events that had already occurred when the ones you are describing take place ("it had been raining, but now the clouds were retreating") which I learnt as the 'pluperfect' but believe now has another label. This one is easy; there's only one form of it, and it stretches back to the beginning of history. Interrogative by inverting word order ("Had it rained that afternoon?"), negative a simple "not" ("I hadn't opened the door") no conditionals or subjunctives… I think we'll ignore subjunctives for the time being anyway, don't you? There are barely any pedants remaining hard-headed enough to insist on them. So, pluperfect is easy, and logical for flashbacks, but is quite clumsy to write in, and frequently, once the time period is set, an author will regress to simple past (to the expressed complaints of pedants)

Which leaves working out when to use perfect and imperfect (I was, I have been) and I can't think of a convenient rule for which I can't think of an exception. In conventional tale-telling mode, where generally one explains what has already happened, there is a lot more imperfect than perfect tense, but that is hardly a rule.

Future tense is another compound in English, "will" or "shall" with the infinitive of the verb. Future perfect, future continuous perfect, future conditional are all formed exactly as expected – it will have rained, will have been raining, would have rained – and I'm not ready to explain exactly where they fall on the time line; generally a bit ahead of "now" but not necessarily "when you reach Grandma's house it will have been raining for six hours"

Change when you change place on the timeline, or when the action catches up to "now", and never change without a reason. Not everybody's as sensitive to tense as I am, but jumping around in time disturbs readers; they need timing clues to know when they are in a narrative, and the four time zones: now, then, longer ago and yet to come are the only indications we can give them.

Now, that must be about the most confusing explanations of time structure ever; but at least I didn't try and include time travel…

As I reign over the weather, I will rein in the rain.


Only two things to add. The pluperfect is now - I think - called past perfect, as opposed to present perfect (ie the ordinary past tense). And although you obliquely refer to it, you don't give any credit to the historic present. This is usually limited to dialogue 'so it's raining, right, and I open the door', though Damon Runyon managed to write whole stories in it very successfully. (The only ones I've seen are written in the first person, which perhaps isn't so far removed from dialogue at that.) As a title, 'The Empire Strikes Back' is a kind of historic present as well, used to convey immediacy.

J

metalspider said:
I really would love to see you explaining why the first person is better than the third person narrative.
Who said it was 'better'? I happen to have a personal problem with characters, relative to environments, and a tendency to shift points of view. I find that, for me, going first person doesn't only lock my viewpoint, it forces me deeper into the motivation and thoughts of my protagonist, so I have more insight while my readers get a more intense immersion in his, her or its personality. This also has the advantage that I'm not likely to veer off into historical lectures, explaining how things got the way they are, unless I'm in the head of a historian.

But I wouldn't suggest everyone adopt this technique. The simple past narrative has served long and well, and there is a huge mass of example as to how to do it well, and it works, so why change?

Unless you happen to be pigheaded perverse, like me.
 

Peter Graham

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Which brings us neatly to:-

Narrative Voice

There are no rights and wrongs here, provided your narrative voice is consistent. Basically, the reader needs to know from whose point of view or from which perspective the story is being told. Once that is established, the narrative voice should ideally remain consistent, although this does not mean that you cannot tell the story from more than one character p.o.v, if that is the narrative voice you have chosen.

There are oodles of different narrative voices, but three common ones are as follows:-

1. The "As flies to wanton boys are we to the Gods" voice (aka Omniscient Narrator). This style is possibly the most common and involves the writer decscribing the action from outside the heads of the characters, usually from a dispassionate perspective. Where necessary, the narrator tells us what is happening in the heads of the p.o.v characters (but watch for head hopping). By way of example:-

"Peter the Mighty sheathed Cheeseslicer and brushed the worst of Lord Babyeater's innards from his flared chainmail trousers. He gave a sigh as he considered the futility of male pride and the fickle nature of honour.

"What sort of chump enters into single combat when he has an army if hard luds to do his bidding? All I had to do was tell him that he was a wuss and he was happy to chuck ten years of carefully laid plans to the wind!"

Lord Babyeater's cooling corpse did not answer. Peter adjusted his hair in order to look his best for any passing lady fauns and set off down the forest track at a jog."


2. The "Jackanory". Used to great effect in the Hobbit and Tom Jones, the narrator speaks directly to the reader as though the narrator was a chronicler or storyteller recounting the tale to an audience.

By way of the same example:-

"You can imagine how Peter the Mighty felt as he sheathed Cheeseslicer and brushed the worst of Lord Babyeater's innards from his flared chainmail trousers. He had gambled on Lord Babyeater being insecure enough to react to any imputed slight on his male pride and he had bene right.

"What sort of chump enters into single combat when he has an army of hard luds to do his bidding? All I had to do was tell him that he was a wuss and he was happy to chuck ten years of carefully laid plans to the wind!" chuckled Peter

Unsurprisingly, Lord Babyeater's cooling corpse did not answer. Peter adjusted his hair in order to look his best for any passing lady fauns and set off down the forest track at a jog."


3. The first person narrator. In many ways, both the most limiting and the most freeing of voices. You tell the story from the internal perspective of your main character and are limited to his or her knowledge, observations, reactions and experiences. Done well, you end up with a rounded and credible protagonist, but you need to be adept at it to avoid traps like info dumping!

"I sheathed Cheeseslicer and brushed the worst of Lord Babyeater's innards from my flared chainmail trousers. I had taken a massive risk, but it had paid off. I knew that Babyeater was no match for me in single combat, but the question was how I could get him to face me man to morris dancer.

To think that all it had taken was for me to suggest that he was a big wuss hiding behind his men! Ten years he had been planning the fall of Kroniklos and now he was dead at my feet. I deciced to share the benefit of my wisdom with the trees and the flowers.

"What sort of chump enters into single combat when he has an army of hard luds to do his bidding? All I had to do was tell him that he was a wuss and he was happy to chuck ten years of carefully laid plans to the wind!" I laughed.

The trees did not answer. I adjusted my hair in order to look my best for any passing lady fauns and set off down the forest track at a jog."

Regards,

Peter
 

MattyK

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Can I put in a request for some dialogue formatting guidance? I'm never quite sure how to format a line of dialogue when the speech is broken up with some descriptive writing in between. For example:

"Hit the brakes." shouted Frank, "You don't want to go down there."

That being two separate sentences spoken by Frank, is the full-stop after the first sentence, the comma after 'shouted Frank' and the upper or lower case of all words involved correct?

Then there's:

"Hold on a second," said Frank, "what is that?"

That being a single sentence that would only be separated by a comma were it not for the 'said Frank' description. Are the commas after the first part and then after 'said Frank' correct and again, the upper and lower case?

Also, are there any other pitfalls that should be avoided or rules that should always be adhered to to avoid confusing dialogue?
 

pyan

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"Hit the brakes." shouted Frank, "You don't want to go down there."

That being two separate sentences spoken by Frank, is the full-stop after the first sentence, the comma after 'shouted Frank' and the upper or lower case of all words involved correct?
I'd expect an exclamation mark after "brakes", because Frank shouted, (and probably one after "there" as well), and if it's two sentences, a full stop after "Frank".

"Hit the brakes!" shouted Frank. "You don't want to go down there!"


If Frank had just said, that would be different.

"Hit the brakes." said Frank. "You don't want to go down there."


Cases are correct, but if you intended it to be one sentence, split by the attribution, it would be:

"Hit the brakes," shouted Frank, "you don't want to go down there!"

- losing the capital "y" on the second half of the sentence.




The second sentence is fine, AFAIK.
 
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The Judge

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If Frank had just said, that would be different.

"Hit the brakes." said Frank. "You don't want to go down there."
NO!!!

'Hit the brakes,' said Frank. Comma.

An attribution like this runs straight on. Say it out loud - you don't pause long enough for a full stop.

'Hit the brakes.' Frank touched the pressure gauge as he spoke. Full stop.

A full stop is used because there is no attribution and the next sentence is separate from what he has said, notwithstanding the reference to 'spoke'.

J
 

pyan

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No, you can replace the full stop in the first half with an exclamation point...

"Hit the brakes!" said Frank. "You don't want to go down there."

Using a full stop is less emphatic, but it still needs more than just a comma.


IMHO. of course...:)
 

MattyK

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Apologies, that's my fault for using a poor example. My intention was to ask about something like:

"Dialogue." said Frank. "More dialogue."

Another question I've thought of now, is there a rule regarding the use of the " or ' to contain dialogue? Is it simply a writer's preference or is one preferred over the other?
 

pyan

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Just checked 25 books at random on my shelves: 23 used ', 2 used "...

Don't know whether that's significant or not...
 

HoopyFrood

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I don't think I've ever seen an example where a fullstop is used in dialogue before he/she/they(etc) said. It's always a comma, as far as I'm aware. Or a question mark or exclamation mark to change the tone of the sentence. Otherwise the S in said would have to be a capital and it would also make the "said Frank" a sentence by itself.
 

The Judge

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Exclamation mark is fine, Pyan. Ditto question mark. Full stop is wrong, sorry. :p It might be illogical but that's how it is.

Matty:

'Dialogue,' said Frank. 'More dialogue.' Comma

I always use single quotation marks (because it's easier for me to reach when I'm typing!) and then if I have to quote within the speech I use doubled marks. ie
'The quote is "Whoever loves that loves not at first sight?" isn't it?' asked Grace.

I understand this is the preferred English version, while in the US they do it the other way round ie use doubled marks and then use single for quotes inside speech. How true that is, I don't know. I believe they also punctuate differently where there is a quotation eg I would write:
'The quote is "Now old desire doth in his death-bed lie, and young affection", isn't it?' asked Grace.

ie with the comma outside the quotation marks because it is Grace's pause, not that of the quotation itself. It would be different if I had ended it earlier:
'The quote is "Now old desire doth in his death-bed lie," isn't it?' asked Grace.

But as I understand it the Americans put the comma inside the quote regardless:
"The quote is 'Now old desire doth in his death-bed lie, and young affection,' isn't it?" asked Grace.


We'll have to wait for a passing American to tell us whether that is right though.

J
 

HareBrain

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No, you can replace the full stop in the first half with an exclamation point...

"Hit the brakes!" said Frank. "You don't want to go down there."

Using a full stop is less emphatic, but it still needs more than just a comma.


IMHO. of course...:)
Sorry Pyan, but although the exclamation mark is fine, you cannot use a full stop and follow it with "said Frank".
 

pyan

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*bows* I stand corrected...but I'm sure I've seen a full stop used somewhere. Ah well.

Quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus
 

Pyar

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I understand this is the preferred English version, while in the US they do it the other way round ie use doubled marks and then use single for quotes inside speech. How true that is, I don't know. I believe they also punctuate differently where there is a quotation eg I would write:
'The quote is "Now old desire doth in his death-bed lie, and young affection", isn't it?' asked Grace.

ie with the comma outside the quotation marks because it is Grace's pause, not that of the quotation itself. It would be different if I had ended it earlier:
'The quote is "Now old desire doth in his death-bed lie," isn't it?' asked Grace.

But as I understand it the Americans put the comma inside the quote regardless:
"The quote is 'Now old desire doth in his death-bed lie, and young affection,' isn't it?" asked Grace.


We'll have to wait for a passing American to tell us whether that is right though.

J
Passing American here :D

You are correct, over here in America the standard use is double quotations and then single inside of speech. Also the rule for us is ALWAYS put punctuation inside quotations not outside no matter what.

So for example it would look like:

"What is it those Trekkies always say?" Pyar wondered, "I believe it's, 'Live long and prosper.'"

Here's a reference page for more info on American quotation rules: Quotation Marks | Punctuation Rules
 
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