Sunday, October 31, 2010


Jaxine Daniels
 It's our pleasure to welcome Jaxine Daniels to our blog. She is a prolific writer and has numerous articles on craft on  the cata university website.

We’re going to make a two minute movie. At least on paper we are. I know you’re all asking “What the heck is a two minute movie?” Be patient – we’ll get to it. First, just a quick review of three act structure.

Previously, we did a more in depth study of three act structure (TAS). If you missed it – stop right here – and go back to it. It’s important for our two minute movie.

 These articles on the three act structure may be found at the following website:

TAS – Get your hero up a tree in Act I, throw rocks at him in Act II and get him out of the tree in Act III. Act I takes about one fourth of the book and ends with the first plot point (an event that spins the action in a different direction). Act II takes about half the book and ends with the second plot point. Act III takes another fourth of the book and brings us into the dark moment where all is lost, then resolves the story in a satisfying way.

With that in mind, let’s go on. The two minute movie is a plotting tool that will help us get past the page 30 crisis. You know the point – you’ve taken this wonderful idea and are happily typing along when you hit the wall. Your story comes to a screeching halt because you don’t have a clue what comes next. Writer’s block sets in and you either bang your head against the monitor until you need ibuprofin or you head straight for the harder drugs. Just kidding. I would guess, though, that we’ve all been there.

The two minute movie is a two page – not one or three or four – a two page treatment of your story. Whenever I hear the word “treatment” – very Hollywoodish – I can’t help but think of Cosmo Kramer – but I digress. In this treatment, you “consciously develop your idea” into a story. The idea comes from Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 434.

In this two-page, double-spaced overview, you walk your story through the three act paradigm.

Act I gets three paragraphs or so, setting up the characters and their needs. The last paragraph here sets up the first crisis – plot point one.

You’ll use five or six paragraphs to tell the rising action of Act II. Remember to fill Act II with obstacles that stand between where your character is and where he wants to be. This section is the action – reaction part of the book. Each action forces the characters into situations in which the stakes are higher than the last. Each action cranks up the tension until you arrive at plot point two.

And that leaves two or three paragraphs to cover Act III – the dark moment where all is lost and the resolution.

There’s your two minute movie. Hunter suggests that you may want to show this two page treatment to trusted friends who will be able to give good feedback. He states that this exercise not only helps you in the next process (the step outline) but will tell you if you really have a story at all.

Syd Field, in his book The Screenwriter’s Workbook has a similar exercise. He calls his the 4-page treatment. Syd says that “the hardest thing about writing is knowing what to write.” I couldn’t agree more.

His method has the author starting at the end and writing backwards, so to speak. He wants you to map out the ending, the beginning and plot points one and two before you start your treatment.

Here’s how Field’s four pages look:
One half page describing the opening scene or sequence;
One half page describing the general action of Act I;
One half page that describes the plot point at the end of Act I
One half page for the action of Act II
One half page for the plot point at the end of Act II; and
Three quarters to one page for Act III, the resolution.

These exercises are much harder than they look on the surface. It’s way too easy, as you’re writing these paragraphs, to wonder at the why’s – to get hung up with character motivations and the small actions that thrust your character into the bigger moments. However, if you’ll stick to the overview method in this phase of building your story, you will have much better luck staying out of the bogs and moving forward.

Another time that two minute movies are invaluable is in the midst of writing. I have a recurring problem with getting ideas for future books while I’m still embroiled in the current book. Somewhere, recently, I read that when these ideas come to you and you’re concerned about losing them, take a few minutes to an hour to get the idea on paper. That way, the idea doesn’t escape and it won’t be hounding you as you write the work in progress. The two minute (two page) movie would be perfect for getting this idea down before it escapes. Then simply file it away and when you get quickie ideas that go with that story – characters, locations, whatnot – just stick them in the file.

 I'll leave you to your movie making. Don’t forget the most important thing, BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard). Cheers, jax (

You may also be interested in 1.STORY TIPS #5 – OUTLINING YOUR NOVEL –THE SCRIPTWRITER’S WAY. 
Following the two minute movie we have a four-page treatment of our story. The next step is the outline, or the Step Outline. A Step Outline is simply a skeletal version of the story, your two minute move played out scene by scene. Robert McKee...

This is the blurb on my latest book, A SOFT PLACE TO FALL. 

Nic D’Onofrio is a hotshot pararescueman without a mission, on vacation, trying to understand the loss of his best friend in Afghanistan. His teammates say he has a Batman complex, even call him Batman when it suits them. All Nic wants is to ski hard, drink a lot and fall into bed at night, with or without a willing babe.

And then, there she is, stranded on the side of the road in Tahoe. Soft, sweet and so danged vulnerable. Julie. That’s all she knows. She’s wearing her pajamas. Batman does the only logical thing. He takes her home.

A Soft Place to Fall is the first in the Simpliciter Paratus series featuring Bravo Element, a highly trained team of Air Force PJs
Jaxine's book may be purchased at

Thursday, October 28, 2010


This is another exerpt from Jeff Turners book Notes To Stephanie: Middle Aged Love Letters And Life Stories.

father and daughter. http://

The Other Side Of the Sky       

Well, seeing Jane so sad when we left Galveston made me also sad. As I said, when we were driving back, it had been a long time since I’d seen that look on her face. She is usually a pretty happy young lady and full of life. But at her dorm she certainly looked like life had been sucked out of her. We glanced at her Sad-Sack eyes, hugged her goodbye, climbed into the truck and turned for home.

Once we left Galveston, did you notice that there was a shield of cirrus clouds stretching from the southwest to the northeast? It originated somewhere southwest of Houston and flowed northeast with the jet stream. On the top of the causeway with the clear sky, the filaments of these ice clouds arched over the Earth stretching back to the western horizon and beyond. The clarity of the air made the clouds stand out sharply over the land of the coastal plain, its own features visible in such crisp relief that one could see in the far distance the surface slope up to the rolling terrain. And as time and miles unfolded, we were underneath it for a while. Then once we were nearly to Waco, we were on the other side of it. As we drove further north away from Jane and closer to home, I kept looking in the rear view mirror at those clouds, still arching over one far horizon to another.

Perhaps you thought I was just checking the traffic, but my gaze was looking far beyond what was just behind us. And while this visage was, of course, very beautiful, I still kept thinking of Jane, sitting alone in her dorm room on the other side of that sky. The clouds represented crossing a Rubicon: a divide in time and one’s life. We had crossed it, so had Jane, and the past was gone forever as she took one more step into her adult life. She would be at college far from home, pursuing her own dreams and not that smiling little girl standing in a field in the picture on my desk.

Many times, I guess our lives are like this. The past is always on the other side of life’s sky, not ever to be the same again. Just as clouds flow overhead never looking the same, and vanish in the distance, our memory of past events fade over time as they recede ever further from the present.
So, when you gaze outside on a day like yesterday, and a web of cirrus clouds spread across the sky, you should remember that there are some people who are dear to our hearts far away on the other side of those airy wisps, perhaps, also looking up at those same clouds towards us and thinking of home, family, and being loved.

Jeff Turner

Jeff's books are available at

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Author Spotlight
Carol  Preflatish
Carol, Welcome to our blog. This has to be an exciting, as well as, busy time for you. Your debut novel has been published and your second novel is complete. What inspired you to write your first novel, Love, Lies, and Deceit? What ignites the passion and galvanized you to write that second novel?

CP: Thank you for having me here. I've always been such a fan of spy books and movies, it was only natural that Love, Lies and Deceit would about the CIA. With my latest novel, the plot itself was my motivation to keep writing since it was loosely based on a real mystery that happened near my home.

RJ: Could you tell us a little bit about your book, Loves, Lies, and Deceit?

CP: It's about a CIA rookie officer, Julie McBride, who against agency regulations, falls in love with her training officer, Jason Reid. When Jason is arrested for treason, he turns to Julie to help him clear his name and to find the people who set him up.

RJ: You work in social services and your husband was a counter intelligence agent and electronic whiz in the Army. What influence did that have when you developed your characters for your first novel?

CP: So far, my job in social services has not yet influenced my writing. I actually try to keep them separate, although some of my co-workers have been encouraging me to write about some of the antics that go on in our office. My husband has been a huge help with the technological things in my books. He was also a police officer for a while after the army and that helped in my second book.

RJ: Your second book is loosely based on a real mystery. Could you tell us about it and how you developed your novel from a real incident?

CP: About fifty years ago, a family disappeared near where I live and the mystery of their disappearance was never solved. I'm a huge history buff and that story has always fascinated me. I only included the part about a missing family in my story. I changed the names, of course, and I solve the mystery in my book, unlike in real life. I had several newspaper articles about the real disappearance, in addition to reading many of the local history books about it.

RJ: Do you use a particular plotting mechanism, ie. Storyboard, three act structure or are you a pantzer when you write?

CP: I keep all of my notes and research in a three-ring binder. One of the sections is for an outline. It's not a traditional outline like you would think, but more of a paragraph-type outline of the story.

RJ: What do you think makes a good mystery or thriller?

CP: I have to really like the main characters of the novel. If not, then I lose interest in the whole book. Obviously, the plot has to keep me trying to figure out who did it.

RJ: What is your typical writing day?

CP: I have a job that I work at full time during the day, so my writing is usually done on the weekends. I usually spend about an hour each weeknight doing the marketing for my writing, and working on my web page and blog. I try to get my weekend housework done in the mornings so I can write in the afternoons. My husband works on the weekend, so I normally have the house to myself. I do sometimes write in the evenings during the week, depending on if I am close to getting a chapter finished.

RJ: What tools do you feel are a must for a new writer?

CP: I don't know how writers ever researched before the Internet was around. I find it invaluable when it comes to researching a location. I think you also need a good place to write. I have a desk, but I rarely write there. I like sitting on the couch with my laptop, or taking it to a coffee shop. Wherever you feel the most comfortable and the most creative without interruptions is where you want to write.

RJ: What was the most difficult thing you encountered on your road to publication?

CP: My first obstacle was learning about proper formatting of the manuscript. Then I ran into the problem of head-hopping the point of view, definitely something you don't want to do. After learning about those things and getting my first acceptance, I then realized that I had to do all the marketing for my book. I learned real fast about the techniques on how to get the word out about my book.

RJ: What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

CP: I have had many authors tell me not to get discouraged. It's hard not to when you have received so many rejection letters. They told me to keep at it and it would finally happen. I didn't give up and finally, I got that acceptance call.

RJ: What would you like to tell the readers about yourself? What are your future plans? This is your opportunity!

CP: I will definitely keep writing romantic suspense. I'd like to try writing a contemporary mystery with little or no romance in it. I actually have one started, but haven't worked on it for months. I will be starting my next book in November and am already plotting and working on character development. I don't have a title for it yet, but it will be located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and involve lots of hiking and mountain climbing.

RJ: Thank you so much for visiting with us. I wish you great success with your books and hope you’ll visit us again.

CP: Thank you for having me here. I have enjoyed our discussion.

Carol Preflatish says she first started writing in elementary school where she wrote funny plays. Today, she writes romantic suspense, and her first novel, Love Lies and Deceit was released from Red Rose Publishing. Also an avid photographer, she has had photos published in Golf Journal, the official publication of the U.S. Golf Association. Carol lives with her husband in their cabin in the woods of southern Indiana. To learn more about Carol, visit her website at or her blog at
You can purchase her book from by clicking here, Love, Lies, and Deceit for a kindle edition or from for a download of an e-book.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Funny Friday-How Men Can Ruin A Romance

According to Billy Mernit, author of Writing the Romantic Comedy, a romantic comedy is a comedy whose central plot is embodied in a romantic relationship. So how can a man ruin a romance? The following video should give a clue.

Sunday, October 17, 2010



Shirley Jump
  In my last blog post, I talked about Showing, Not Telling, in general terms. I gave some tips, but mainly explained the concepts and talked about the struggles SO many writers have with that concept. I have, my friends have, maybe you have. It seems to be one of those universal problems that stymie even the best of us. Over the past 30-odd books I’ve written, I’ve developed a few hints and tricks that work for me, and I hope they’ll work for you, too!

Here’s a list of quick tips to keep in mind that should help you show, not tell:

1. Use specific details.

The best are ones that are really specific. Is the car a Toyota or a Volkswagen? Is it cherry-red or apple-red? Does the man sit in a La-Z-Boy or a Barcalounger? Brand names help the reader identify with things better, too. Also, the more concrete your details are, the more your reader can get a visual picture. One way to do this is to take a simple sentence and increase it with details by adding to it (example from

My lawn was covered with leaves.

• Leaves blew through my yard and piled up against the shrubs and fence.

• A cold autumn breeze blew leaves through my yard. I stared out the window and watched them pile up against the sparse shrubs and worn out fence.

A cold autumn breeze blew leaves through my yard. Summer had ended and I would be the last one to leave the cabin. I sat alone, holding a mug of hot chocolate without drinking, and stared out the back window, watching the red, gold, and brown leaves pile up violently against the sparse shrubs and worn out fence. I had long since given up caring about anything.

2. Use sensory images:
Add in all five senses. If you’re describing a beach, don’t just talk about the heat or the color of the sand; add in the smell of Coppertone, the feel of the sand beneath your toes, the sound of the seagulls, etc. The more you can create a world for your reader by adding sensory details, the more she’ll be drawn into your writing.

3. Use good comparisons for your metaphors - not clich├ęs. Metaphors can be a great way to show (Ex: No wonder the dog barked all the time. She had all the courage of a ninety-pound knight about to undertake his first jousting match. From KISSED BY CAT by Shirley Jump, February 2005). But you want to be unique. You don’t want to compare your things to the same tired old things that everyone else has used. When in doubt, use Shirley’s Rule of Six (which is a whole other workshop in and of itself. If you want more on that, I have an online YahooGroup, called Just Write It, and we do workshops there).

4. Vary Your Sentence Structure. Go back to the example with the bedroom and see how a varied sentence structure can keep the reader on her toes, paying attention to the writing. It’s also a great tool to use when you want to show suspense or fear (use shorter sentences) or draw out suspense (use longer sentences). Or emphasize a point with a sentence set out by itself (check the example below for how varied sentence lengths can show the character hurrying, show her reaction, show the action in the scene).

Example: From The Dress, by Shirley Jump, in Christmas Weddings, October 2008

“Damn!” Marietta broke into a run, the dress banging against her back as she wove in and out among the crowds, negotiating her way through the milling passengers and down the long, long concourse toward gate C-31.

She narrowly missed a collision with an elderly man in a Santa hat and green plaid shirt pushing a wheelchair carrying a woman wearing a matching hat. A mother in a snowman decorated skirt pushing a stroller, followed by three little girls, all in coordinated snowflake jumpers. A man taking a picture of the decorations at a fast food restaurant--why, Marietta didn’t pause to think. A janitor cleaning up a spilled coffee, humming a Christmas song as he mopped.

And then, finally, she spied the signs for Gate C-29, Gate C-30--

Reed Hartstone.

It took a second for her brain to process his image, her mind cartwheeling through the flurry of activity around her, trying to fit this anomaly in, as if playing “What doesn’t belong?”--

A father lecturing a son about running too far ahead. A weary pregnant woman collapsing into the nearest seat. An overstuffed carry-on bag exploding, revealing an embarrassment of red and white lingerie in the middle of the aisle--

And still, Reed Hartstone.

Reed? Here? Now? Why?

Her attention on him, not on where she was going, Marietta stumbled, her foot caught on the corner of a suitcase left in the aisle. She felt her weight twist on one ankle, while the rest of her was still trying to move in the opposite direction.

Her leg crumpled, a quick, sharp pain shooting up from one high-heeled boot all the way to her thigh and she winced, gasped, then straightened, still half-sure she was seeing things. “Reed?”


In the space of a breath, her mind processed every inch of him. Six feet two, short dark brown hair, deep blue eyes so dark they were almost black, a lean figure with broad shoulders, the kind a woman could lean on when she needed to, but also the kind that stayed in her line of sight long after the rest of him walked away. Her gut tightened--damn, still she reacted to him, all these years later--and she reminded herself there was a very good reason they were no longer together. “What are you doing here?”

A grin as familiar as the beat of her own heart curved across his face. “I could say the same as you. But let me guess. Still globe-trotting. Making your fortune or--“

And then his gaze caught the garment bag over her shoulder, the bride pictured on the front, the bit of white embroidered satin still sticking out of the open zipper, the part that she hadn’t managed to fit back in, in her rush to get away from the nosy guard and on her way again. She glanced at it, about to explain, when Reed beat her to the punch and added two and two. “--or getting married.”

5. Use specific actions to make your point. Don’t say things like “he had a reputation for driving like a maniac” -- show him driving like a maniac. Let us see him doing those things. Or, you can have other characters talk about him, too. Dialogue can be a great showing tool.

6. Use dialogue as a showing tool (duh! You knew that one was coming). Dialogue is wonderful for bringing out information. Don’t do the recap kind of dialogue “oh, don’t you remember, she’s your real mother because your sister had an affair with your father and then we all passed you off like a sibling” kind of thing. That’s information the other character would already know. However, you can do something like:

“I hate Julia.”

“She did the best she could,” Kenny said. “What choice did you expect her to make at fifteen?”

“A different one than pretending I was her sister, for God’s sake. All this time, I’ve grown up thinking I’m somebody else’s daughter.” Anne slammed the refrigerator door shut. Inside, the mayonnaise shuddered against the salad dressing. “If she was old enough to have a kid, she was old enough to admit the truth.”

Kenny shoved his sandwich away, as if the bologna no longer interested him. “This family is really good at secrets. If there was a Guinness record for the most lies ever told, we’d have it.”

He sighed, then met her gaze. “Your father really is your father.”

(Now, look at this example below and analyze what the dialogue SHOWS about the characters. How does it SHOW the sexual tension? SHOW the hidden secrets? SHOW the conflict? SHOW the bit of backstory that Allie is hiding?)

From Really Something by Shirley Jump, December 2007:

“Did you give a bad forecast and now everyone hates you? Nicolas Cage already made that movie, you know.”

Duncan glanced toward the house, then back at her. “Something like that.” He paused a moment, then released the spade. Set deep in the dirt, it stayed upright. “I’ve had a hell of a day and I’d like to end it on a nice note. Would you like to go to dinner? You and me. No strings.”

She considered him. Considered playing with fire a second time. “Will you let me plead my case about your property?”

“Only if you let me plead my case about kissing you again.”

One corner of her mouth turned up. Traitorous hormones, staging a mutiny. He was the enemy. To her family, her goals. But every time she tried to remember that—

Well, she forgot.

Was that Coppertone she smelled, too?

Work. Concentrate on work. She’d get the job done, then leave Duncan in the Tempest dust.

“Dinner?” Duncan asked again. He grinned at her, and she lost the battle with sound reasoning.

7. Don’t pad it too much. Don’t overwhelm the reader with description either. You’re not writing a travelogue, you’re writing a story. Add enough details to give them a picture, then move on to the meat of your story. If you have several paragraphs in a row of description, chances are you’ve gone overboard. Try to work the description in with the dialogue and action instead so you can maintain your pacing and reader interest.

8. Don’t be afraid of telling sometimes, too. A mix of both showing and telling is a good idea. You don’t have to show every single thing in your book. Sometimes, a quick telling helps get through a slow part or provides a quick recap. The goal is to make the MAJORITY of your writing vivid and strong (i.e., showing) and keep the telling to a minimum.

Show…don’t tell…and you’ll power-up your story! And for extra credit, you can go back to those above examples and look for touches of all eight tips in those passages ;-).
Any questions??

You may purchase Shirley's book at any bookseller's store.  Click here for a direct link to

Monday, October 11, 2010


It is my pleasure to welcome Shirley Jump to our blog. Shirley is a New York Times and a USA Today best selling author of romantic comedies.

I SHOW NOT TELL: What the Heck is That Anyway?
By Shirley Jump

"Don't tell us that the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream." -- Samuel Clemens

shirley Jump

We’ve all heard the phrase “Show, don’t tell” but may not know what it means or how to do it. It’s one of those elusive things that seem impossible to capture, even harder to get down on paper. However, there are a few tricks of the trade that can help.

First, you need to know the difference between TELLING and SHOWING. Telling is abstract, passive and less involving of the reader. It slows down your pacing, takes away your action and pulls your reader out of your story.

Showing, however, is active and concrete; creating mental images that brings your story -- and your characters -- to life. When you hear about writing that is vivid, evocative and strong, chances are there’s plenty of showing in it. Showing is interactive and encourages the reader to participate in the reading experience by drawing her own conclusions.

There are several signs to look for that will indicate if you are TELLING:

1. Those nasty adverbs: Basically, anything ending in -ly is an adverb. For example:

BEFORE: “You are such a jerk,” he said angrily.

First off, you should never modify “said” with an adverb. Second, keep adverb use to a minimum. They’re not evil little words that have to be avoided at all costs, but they should be kept to a minimum. It’s far better to SHOW he was angry:

AFTER: “You are such a jerk.” Dan slammed the phone book shut and threw it at the couch. The pages ruffled open, the names inside seeming exposed and vulnerable against the stark black leather. Dan got to his feet, moving so fast his chair skidded against the floor and dented the new drywall.

Do you see the details in the second example? Nowhere did I use the word “angrily” or even “angry.” I didn’t have to say he was mad. It’s pretty clear. In fact, I didn’t even have to say he said the words. By showing with his actions right after his dialogue, you know it’s him talking.

2." Not “To Be”: Avoid the forms of this verb -- am, is, are, was, was being, will have been, could have been, et al. These not only put you in the passive tense much of the time, but they also tend to remove your reader from the action. Again, they aren’t evil words to be avoided at all costs (see I just used the verb myself) but if you can work your writing to make it stronger without the word “was” or any form of it, you’ll show more than you told.

BEFORE: The room was perfect. She saw it and was immediately transported back to her childhood because it had all the elements she remembered.

AFTER: She threw open the wide oak door and stepped into a past from twenty years ago. The bedroom she remembered, down to the last detail. Pink candy-striped walls with white trim, A thick white shag carpet, two plush maroon velvet chairs flanking a silent fireplace and an enormous canopy bed draped with a sheer white veil.  Linda pressed a hand to her mouth. What were the chances?Another room, just like the one she’d had, years ago, before she’d grown up and grown out of the one space that had brought her happiness.

 I don’t have the word “was” in there at all. Granted, I took a little poetic license with the rules of grammar, but you can do that. You’re the writer. You can “see” the room now, though. You can feel it, too, I hope. You can see the details that bring her back to the past, rather than just being told that it does. This gives the reader something concrete to visualize and connect with.

** Writing Exercise: Take this phrase: “It was hot.” Rewrite it without the word was. Better yet, don’t even use the word hot. Think of all the things you can use to describe heat. Make a list, if you want. Write a few sentences that SHOW the weather is hot.

3. Starting with As or -Ing: Again, as with all of the other examples, this is not a do or die rule either. However, in general, you should avoid starting a sentence with an “As” or “-ing” construction. “As she walked” or “Rapping at the door” are okay beginnings, but just okay. They’re again, telling, not showing.

BEFORE: Rapping at the door, Elaine made her presence known to the people inside the house.

AFTER: Elaine formed a tight fist with her right hand and pounded on the unforgiving oak. They’d hear her, or she’d break her hand letting them know she’d come to call.

Do you see the tighter imagery in the second example? The stronger beginning? Removing that -ing construction really helps. The same principle applies with “As” constructions.

4. Don’t just Look and Feel: Looked and felt are great words, but they certainly aren’t powerful and they certainly don’t show much. Go back to example 1. You could interchange “he looked angry” or “he felt angry” in the “he said angrily” part. Rewriting it without those words is much stronger. Telling the reader someone looks a certain way or feels a certain way is cheating the reader out of drawing her own conclusions. SHOW the reader and let her interpret.

** Helpful Hint: Study movies. In movies, they can’t TELL you anything. Everything is visual, thus, shown. How do you KNOW someone is upset, angry, happy, sad, frustrated, etc.? Watch movies and write down facial expressions, movements, actions, gestures, etc. Use these to describe your own characters when you’re writing. This is the best way to learn how to SHOW emotion instead of telling it.

5. Using Anything OTHER than Said for a Dialogue Tag:
Said is a perfectly good word for a conversation. Why? It becomes invisible. People see it all the time and readers skim over it. When you insert “he exclaimed” or “he screamed” or “he growled,” you are TELLING the reader how the character is acting instead of showing. Yes, you can use them from time to time (meaning, VERY rarely) but not all the time. It’s a very quick mark of a newbie writer.

Instead, you have two choices: Use “he said” or “she said” or use an action tag. Following is an example that uses both to rewrite a passage:

You’re a jerk,” Joe grumbled. “You never tell me anything.”

“I do, too,” Jeremy whined.

“Yeah? Then how come I didn’t know there was a party tonight? How come I wasn’t invited?” Joe shouted. He started to cry and dropped into a chair.

“It’s okay,” Jeremy soothed. “It’s okay. You can still give me a gift.”

Granted, that’s an extreme example, but honest to Pete, I have read passages just like that in contests I have judged. Now see this version, which hopefully does a much better job of showing the character’s emotions. Watch their ACTIONS. What do they SHOW you? What about the dialogue? [That, BTW, my friends, is a whole other handout, but dialogue is also a showing tool]. What does that SHOW you?

Joe flung the empty beer can across the room. It pinged off the armchair and dropped onto the tile floor with a clatter, then rolled under the table with the four others that had also missed the trash can.Jeremy, you’re a jerk. You never tell me anything.” He reached for another beer, popped the top. Didn’t bother to give one to Jeremy.

“I do, too.” Jeremy plopped onto the couch, flipped on the TV and started sofa surfing.

Oh, yeah?” Joe ripped the remote out of Jeremy’s hands. “Then how come I didn’t know there was a party tonight for your birthday? How come I wasn’t even invited? What kind of friend does that crap?” He tossed the remote into an empty chair and turned away.

Jeremy didn’t say anything for a long time. Bill O’Reilly ranted in the background. “I’m sorry,” he said. “But look at the bright side.”

Joe spun back, and hated himself for letting hope rise in his chest. For still caring what Jeremy had to say. “What bright side?”

Jeremy grinned, that cocky one-sided smile that begged forgiveness and said he knew he had the upper hand in the relationship, all at the same time. “You can still buy me a gift. And I’ll bring you some leftover cake.”

Then he headed out the door. But not before Joe pitched his half-full beer can at Jeremy’s head. And this time, had damned good aim.

** Writing Exercise: Here’s an exercise for you to do with that -- take a word: scary, weird, ugly, etc. And then tell what it looks like. What does scary look like? Weird? Ugly? Don’t say the baby was ugly (and you know, we’ve all seen one ugly baby in our lifetimes), describe it. Don’t say the man acted weird -- tell us how he acted. SHOW us him in action.

Now, in this blog, I didn’t use a single excerpt from my current release. :-) I just made some up. I do, however, have excerpts from many of my books up on my website, if you’d like to read a bit of my work. And yes, I admit, I do sometimes cave and use the evil was word and the occasional adverb. Don’t tell my sophomore English teacher or she’ll hit me with that Warriner’s Grammar book. ;-)
My website is  Sign up for the contest to win a chance at a $25 gift certificate to DSW.

Bio: Shirley Jump was a host of two cable-channel television shows and a co-host of a late night comedy show for two years. She is the author of over 3000 articles and 2 non-fiction books. She sold her first novel of fiction in 2001. She has since sold over 26 novels in the romantic comedy genre. She is the winner of Booksellers awards, Reviewers Choice awards, the Holt Medallian and the More Than Magic awards.
Contact her at, read her blog at , join her on facebook and join her discussion group Just Write It at
Her books may be purchased at any bookseller including Harlequin,, and Barnes and Noble.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Arlene Miller is back to give advice on grammer and sentence structure. If you have a question about a sentence, please submit the sentence in a comment and she will try to help you with the correct words.


A cloaked figure stealthily walked the landscape, careful not to snap a twig or rustle the leaves that lie hidden beneath the mist.

A cloaked figure stealthily walked the landscape, careful not to snap a twig or rustle the leaves that lay hidden beneath the mist.

The first sentence is correct. It should be "lie" unless it is past tense, but it sounds present tense to me. The leaves lie. I lay the leaves down. Lay needs a direct object. For example,

I lie in the sun -- but

I lay the blanket on the sand
He could not get past the lump in his throat.

He could not get passed the lump in his throat.

He could not get pass the lump in his throat.

Wow! That is an easy one! Not even in my book! The first sentence is correct!

Passed is used to describe motion, eg: I passed by the house.

Passed – a verb in the past tensePast is used to describe the passage of time, eg: It was past ten o'clock in the morning.

Passed is the past participle of the verb “to pass”. It can be an intransitive verb (one which doesn’t require an object) or a transitive verb (one which requires both a subject and one or more objects).

“To pass” means “To proceed, move forward, depart; to cause to do this.” (OED) This can refer to movement forwards in time, in space, or in life (such as “to pass  a car ”).
•“The days passed quickly.” (Intransitive: subject “the days” and no object).
•“I passed all my tests!” (Transitive: subject “I” and object “my tests”.) 
 Past – relates to location.

The word past locates something in time, and sometimes in space. It can be
used as an adjective, noun, or adverb.

Past as an adjective:
•“The days for studying until midnight are now past.”
When attributed to a group of people, past can also mean “Having served one’s term of office; former.”
•“All past teachers in the school were female.”
And in grammar, we have more examples of past being used as an adjective, such as in “past tense” and “past participle”.

Past” as a noun:
The main meaning for the noun form of past, is “The time that has gone by; a time, or all of the time, before the present.”
•“In the past, standards were lower.”
•“Elderly people live in the past.”

“Past” as a preposition:
As a preposition, past can mean:
•“It is almost half past twelve.”
It can also be used for location:
•“The meeting is the held in the building just past the school.”

“Past” as an adverb:
For example:
•“The ball zoomed past the goalkeeper.”

Arlene Miller, M.A. - bigwords101 - Your words are our business!
Author of The Best Little Grammar Book Ever!
Available from Amazon.
grammar workshops, seminars, editing
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