Category: Sins (page 1 of 2)

Ditch This Lazy Simile

There is one simile that mutters lazy. It’s more thoughtless than the most common of cliches. It’s so bland and pointless it has no business even calling itself a simile. It evokes less than nothing. It’s boring. Dull. Dried up like a dog turd on concrete during a drought.

It sucks the life out of whatever you’re trying to convey.

A simile should be evocative or convey a new dimension to whatever you’re describing. Trite or cliched similes are bad enough, and those should be avoided as well. But I’d argue this one simile is not only hackneyed but worse than your average cliche.

Ditch this empty simile every single time it turns up in your writing. The only time you should ever use it is as a placeholder when you’re breezing through a first draft and don’t want to pause to think of something better on the fly. But you must replace it with something stronger, richer, more colorful and more creative. Or just leave it out altogether, because it’s better to use no simile at all than this lifeless, lame, zombie-brained excuse for a simile.

Continue reading

Thesaurusitis

Monday Evening, 62°F and partly cloudy
Listening to Tame Impala—H.F.G.W. (Canyons Drunken Rage)

I’m begging you, dear writers, beware of the scourge of Thesaurusitis. Symptoms include reader head scratching, books being flung against walls, and misuse of new-to-you vocabulary words. If you’ve noticed any symptoms of Thesaurusitis, it’s essential that you set aside your thesaurus and take several giant steps away from it. I’m not saying you should burn it (well, maybe, but let’s not be too hasty).  For now, simply put it down and take some time to consider how you’re using the thesaurus, and why.

A thesaurus is a powerful tool when used properly. But abuse it and it will ruin your writing and out you as an insecure rube with a weak vocabulary and possibly an inferiority complex. Never attempt to use a thesaurus to make your writing more interesting or make yourself appear more intelligent and well read. It will do neither. A thesaurus can’t give you anything you don’t already have. But it can give your writing a rampant, itchy case of thesaurusitis. Continue reading

How not to tag dialogue

Wednesday evening, 25°F and cloudy 
Listening to The Nice, War & Peace

Please, fiction authors. I am begging you. Learn how to properly use dialogue tags. It’s not that hard, I promise. The bad dialogue tags in self-published fiction make my eyeballs spurt blood. I’ll be covering several varieties of bad dialogue tags and what you can do to fix them. If you’re not sure how to properly tag dialogue, keep reading. If you think you’re sure but are using dialogue tags other than said or asked more than once every 5,000 words, keep reading.

Said and asked are your dialogue tag MVPs

You could write a 150,000-word novel using no dialogue tags other than these. It doesn’t mean you have to, but they should make up the majority of your dialogue tags (not including properly used action tags or “beats”). Said and asked are your go-to tags because they are practically invisible. Continue reading

Why story ideas are worthless

Friday Evening, 32°F and cloudy
Listening to The Nice, She Belongs to Me.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but those story ideas you have for your upcoming, as-yet-unwritten novels? They’re worthless. Nobody, and I do mean nobody, is buying up ideas for novels. Go ahead, Google around and see if I’m wrong. I’ll just wait here.

The good news is, if you’ve been wasting energy hoarding your novel ideas, you can relax. The dollar value of your great idea is $0.00. Nobody is angling to swipe it from you. Even if they did, it wouldn’t matter.

Yet I keep seeing comments like these in writers’ groups:

“I avoid social media pitch events like ass herpes because writers are lurking around hoping to steal my ideas.”

“Whatever my current idea is, I guard it like a state secret.”

“I flat out refuse to even tell my editor what the story is about until I’ve got the first draft finished.”

Now, there may be some good reasons to not share your story ideas, but “people are going to steal them” isn’t one of them. The value isn’t in the story idea. It’s in the story’s execution. Continue reading

Peeve of the day: the late opener

Monday morning, 20°F with snow flurries
Listening to Tame Impala, Skeleton Tiger

A Bad Beginning

The  late opener story begins with the main character alone and late for work, school, or a date. She has overslept. Curse you, malfunctioning alarm clock/newfangled smartphone! She hurries to get dressed, and rushing about, she stubs her toe. Curse you, secondhand ottoman! She runs her pantyhose. Curse you, patriarchy! She spills her cereal. Curse you, Count Chocula!

While all this is going on, she’s fretting about how disappointed/angry/annoyed her boss/teacher/date is going to be. Or worse, ruminating about her backstory (because it’s just fascinating that she grew up an awkward and bookish only child in Poughkeepsie, but moved to the Big Apple after graduation to pursue her dream of blah blah blah, and if only her stupid boyfriend hadn’t blah blah blah, and back when she was in 10th grade in Mrs. Fitch’s honors English class she should have blah blah blah).

And then, oh, the humanity, her car refuses to start. Curse you, Detroit!  Continue reading

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