Thursday, November 16, 2006

Happy Thursday, everyone.

Thursday has always been my favorite day of the week. Long ago it was because Thursday was Friends night on TV, but now I think it's the anticipation of the weekend. When Friday comes, the demise of the weekend has already begun, but Thursday means that the freedom represented in those two days off from work and school hovers right there on the horizon, waiting but not yet used or misused in any way. Just like Thanksgiving Day, the anticipation is often more exciting than the actual event.

Hey, that's not what I wanted to talk about today! You see how our words just run away with us writers sometimes?

And that leads me to what I do want to address. Authors are always talking about how their characters having minds of their own and refuse to obey their creators -- that sometimes they just spring alive with some unexpected twist or turn that the writer had no idea was coming.

Okay, a little confession here. I thought people who said those things were a little nuts. I mean, you're the writer. You control what characters do and say, right? Then I began creating these danged stubborn characters that simply wouldn't behave the way I'd planned! And I understood.

The whole idea of characters operating independently of their creators hit home to me one day when I was tending my six-year-old granddaughter Elisa. Ellie saw me typing my manuscript and probed about what I was doing. I knew she wanted to try her hand at "writing," so I offerred to type while she "wrote" her story. After eleven pages of manuscript, I told her she had to find a stopping place where we could pick up next time. Intuitively, she chose a humdinger of a cliffhanger.

As she climbed the stairs on her way to bed that night, she exclaimed, "I'm so excited, Grammy Jo. I can't wait to find out how my story ends!"

"But you're writing the story. Don't you know how it ends?"

"Of course not," she replied. "That's the fun part!"

Out of the mouths of babes.

And I guess the movie industry had the same idea. Anyone seen the previews for Will Ferrell's new movie, Stranger Than Fiction?

What do you think? What pesky birdwalks do your characters lead you on? What serrendipitous walks around the barn yard have your characters taken?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Okay, this is the curse of being a high school English teacher for more years than God should allow: I can no longer read for the sheer pleasure of the magical word on the written page, for the riveting plot, or the redolent settings, or the outrageous characters.

Here's why: Recently a writer stated, "Oh give that to whomever is in the rec hall." I cringed, I gasped, I silently cursed whomever that writer had for freshman English. Did you notice how sneakily I slipped that example in there? Ha, not an English teacher for nothing.

Okay, here's the deal. I don't want to sound like a snob. And yes, I DO know that dialogue and jargon and regional dialects and characterizaion give us lots of room to play around. That's great. That's fine. That's A-okay. But here's the thing; it's still going to trip me up, make me pause, and pull me out of the narrative when I find a blatant error like that.

So, here's my question: Am I the only scrooge out there who freaks out over misapplied grammar, misstated malapropisms, and murky diction?

Come on, 'fess up. What's your biggest bugaboo? Come on; I know you got 'em!