My wonderful proof readers have challenged my quirky use of the word “aint” in the text of my new short story. Because it is slang, and I only use it in dialogue, I made a choice to spell it without the apostrophe, aint. I thought it might make the text interesting. However, their eagle eyes all called attention to it. One rule of writing is that the spelling and word usage should never be a distraction so I opted to follow their advice and change it to the more accepted “ain’t” with the apostrophe.
When I did this, I used the FIND/REPLACE option in the editing of Microsoft Word. That should make it very easy, right?
The stupid software turned maintenance into main’tenance, which is a word that appeared in the text more than the word “ain’t.” Therefore, by trying to take the easy road, I only made more work for myself.
I apologize for neglecting the blog the last week or so. I’ve been busy working on my novel (and fighting with health insurance companies–Yeah, I’m talking about you Blue Cross Blue Shield–and you should know you will be a bad guy in a future novel or short story. Bet on it.)
The fun part of writing for me is plot and character development. I enjoy both of those aspects more than I should. The hard part for me is the mechanics of such things as point of view (POV) and interior thought.
The POV of this novel is omniscient, but I am attempting to get a fair bit of narrative intimacy. What that means is I do not want the narrator to be distant, but instead I want the tone to be almost inside the head of the characters. Where I get into trouble with this is that I often flip POV back and forth between characters in the same scene, which is a technical no-no.
Closely related to this, at least for me, is the aspect of internal dialogue. I do not have a lot of that in the novel, but where I do it is significant. My guide in this endeavor is the most excellent book titled Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. They argue that the most common ways writers achieve interior dialogue is bad, very bad. The bad three ways are:
1. Dialogue quotation marks. This is something I’ve used in the past and they call it amateurish.
2. Italics. Browne and King show how this can be effective, but they also warn that it is so overused that it often comes across as hack writing.
3. Thinker attributions. These are those “he thought” and “she pondered” statements.
Their solution is to write it plain and let the reader recognize that this is how the character feels or thinks and not the narrator. Here is there negative example.
Had he meant to kill her? Not Likely, he thought.
This uses the common thinker attribution, “he thought.” My go-to instinct on that would have likely been to italicize it. What they teach is to write it like this:
Had he meant to kill her? Not likely.
So, now move inside the work I’ve been doing this week with a sneak peak of some of this in the novel. This is an important scene, early in the book, when the three heroes, Amber Smith, Wyoming Wallace, and Pastor Butch Gregory all meet each other for the first time. It does not go well, which is foreshadowed by some of Pastor Butch Gregory’s fear and anxiety.
She guided Butch through the back woods of the deep forest like an expert pathfinder until finally the dark blue sedan pulled up to a single-wide trailer house. A DirectTV satellite dish was mounted on the side of the trailer. A rusted barrel was smoldering with what appeared to be yesterday’s garbage. The stench of burnt plastic filled the air. A black jeep sat parked under a tree towards the rear of the trailer. There was no yard to speak of, as the trailer was set in the middle of a clearing that had been hewn out from the tall pines. Rusted-out Buicks, Chevys, A Honda and a Kia along with the bed of an old Ford Ranger formed a kind of post-apocalyptic hedgerow separating the trailer’s clearing from the forest.
The wary pastor spied a very large dog.
Big dogs panicked him beyond measure. Dogs unlock a primordial urge for him to run. That urge was a nearly uncontrollable part of his psyche. He knew the fear was illogical and he’d worked hard to get over it. Over the years he kept intending to ask his mother if he’d been attacked by a dog as a small child, but he’d never gotten around to it. Classic denial.
The dog barked thunder.
Cold sweat formed on his brow and his muscles clenched.
Oh Lord, why did there have to be a big dog?
He looked at Amber for a reprieve or at least support, but she was already unbuckled and was opening the door.