Countdown to NaNoWriMo: 4 days

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Okay, I’m currently writing this blog entry with about twenty-seven minutes to go before I hit my self-imposed deadline (If I miss it, you’ll see a “belated posts” tag somewhere around here) and the well of ideas is drawing rather dry.

I thought I’d write about the things that bug me in a work, so by necessity, this is going to be rather less focused than my usual “Countdown to NaNoWriMo” blog entries. It may even get a bit ranty. No promises.

But here are some of my dislikes about works I’ve read:

A spellchecker is not a substitute for proof-reading! (I’m sure I’ve violated this myself here on the blog, but these are more ephemeral spur of the moment pieces, and I mentally hold blog entries to a lower standard than full written works.) Something that spell-checkers will not catch are homophones and near-homophones. The ones that seem the most notorious on the internet are “you’re/your” (Hint, if you’re going to call someone idiotic, getting this right rather than going with the classic dumbass line “you’re an idiot!” is the first step in proving that the target of said insult might deserve it.) and “lose/loose,” the latter of which infuriates me beyond all reasonable capacity. To loose something is to let it free, to lose something is not to win or tie. These aren’t difficult things to figure out, people!

Also, you’re character might be a scoundrel, a thief and a braggart, but they are not a “rouge” unless they are a form of sentient make-up, a Canadian Football thing that eludes me (I can do proper football aka soccer, and American Football, don’t confuse me with a third form) or French for “red.” The word you are grasping for is most likely “rogue.”

Let me loose (see!) another complaint. A thesaurus is not a blunt instrument. You don’t need to search for a synonym for every word, but if you do decide to reach for the thesaurus, make sure the synonym you select makes sense for the context you’re using it in. And please remember literally is not a synonym for figuratively. When it comes to synonym usage, I’m torn between two quotes to illustrate the pitfalls. Mark Twain’s “Use the right word, not its second cousin” is definitely pithier and from a more well respect source, but the alternative, Inigo Montoya’s “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means” is so much more fun to say. Basically, when in doubt, go Princess Bride.

The final thing that bugs me is one of the more common violations of “show, don’t tell” where I’m told a character is smart, or witty, or clever but never given any proof to back it up. As I’m currently busily re-watching every episode of Star Trek in all its incarnations (why, yes, I am a massive nerd. However could you tell?), I came across the episode of The Next Generation entitled “The Outrageous Okona.” While the episode is terrible for more reasons than just this (Joe Piscopo) , we are introduced to a guest star, the titular Okona, who does nothing particularly outrageous. Okona’s introduction in the show comes in the form of an info-dump from Counsellor Troi, thusly:

“His emotions suggest that he’s mischievous, irreverent and somewhat brazen. The word that seems to best describe him is rogue. “

Apart from being wince-inducing exposition, it’s inaccurate. Okona is none of these things in the episode, though everyone reacts to him as if he was so. The guy is bland, beige and wallpaper-like. (Though at least Deanna didn’t confuse us and call him a rouge)

That’s my rantings and bugbears out. What are your writerly pet peeves?

(Photo by J. Gabriel)

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