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The Basics – How to make your writing ‘consistently interesting.’

“Mr. Martin Tanner, baritone of Dayton, Ohio, made his town hall debut last night. He came well prepared, but unfortunately, his presentation was not up to contemporary professional standards.

His voice lacks the range of tonal color necessary to make it ‘consistently interesting.’

Full-time consideration of another endeavor might be in order.”

Harry Chapin – ‘Mr. Tanner’

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a HUGE Harry Chapin fan. I think his talent for poetry to lyrics was incredible. I was fortunate enough to see him in concert just a few months before he died, and that concert (from over 39 years ago) still plays in my memory.

So, the term ‘consistently interesting,’ has a meaning that transcends music, lyrics, and creative writing. However, in creative writing, the author needs to play by certain conventions: The Rules of Grammar, Punctuation, and Word Usage.

Suppose an Author doesn’t follow the basics. How can they possibly believe that the average Reader will understand what they’re saying?

This is why it’s crucial to understand ‘HOW to write,’ and learn the basic rules.

The critics said that Mr. Tanner’s voice wasn’t ‘consistently interesting.’ Don’t let that be what your Readers think of you.

English comes in three different forms: formal standard, informal standard, and nonstandard. There is a great deal of overlap among these types, but you get the picture. Formal English isn’t used very much unless you’re writing a research paper. Still, some of the elements will leak into Informal English. And nonstandard language can become so familiar that it becomes part of the Informal vernacular.

So, happy writing. And remember, until you’re as BIG as Stephen King, you can’t break the rules.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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The Process – The Role of the Main Character

The trickiest part of writing the Main Character of your story is that the character arc demands that we put the poor person through hell. (The PROBLEM or INCITING event is often life-changing,) BUT we need to write about everything so that the READER wants to cheer OR hate the main character. WITHOUT this strong emotion or RELATIONSHIP between READER and CHARACTER, the story falls flat.

But there are two ways to accomplish this OR making the Main Character RELATABLE so the READER can identify with the character in one way or another.

First, make your Main Character someone who is REAL. The READER finds commonalities, and they are stirred up by your prose. They are entertained or fascinated or sympathetic. Any of these emotions will tie your READER to your MC.

The MC is rarely mysterious. For your READER to care, they must know who the MC is.

We will discuss this further in future blogs – but for now, just know that your MC is a complex character. You will have to punish them (or make bad things happen) and do it with LOVE so your READER can relate and cheer or Boo.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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The Basics – Formatting your Manuscript

Over the past year, I’ve been trying to help other writers learn ‘the rules of the road.’ And in that capacity, I’ve had more than a few manuscripts sent me for one reason or another.

And I cannot tell you how many DIFFERENT ways these MS were sent to me. It disturbs me because, as a ‘rule girl,’ I’ve always made sure that my document was formatted in the manner that wherever I’m sending it to has requested.

Rule One: IF you are submitting something – a book, a short story, an article – it is EXTREMELY important to find out what format they are requesting your MS to be in. You can always find this somewhere on the site or rules of the contest, etc.

Rule Two: It is rare to see two places requesting you submit your MS in the same manner. So, you must understand your formatting system well enough to manipulate your document to meet their standards.

Rule Three: RARELY is your MS to be submitted with fancy formatting and headers/footers. Sometimes, it’s requested that your document has a numbering system. Still, it is ALWAYS crucial for you to check with the rules/regulations to find out.

Rule Four: If you are using a program that you can’t accurately manipulate your documents to bit standards – LEARN how to do these things OR find someone who can FORMAT your document for you. There are many sources for this service. (I’m one of them.)

The most basic format is to use one-inch margins all the way around, double-spacing, and a twelve-point font, such as Times New Roman or Courier.

Just a bit of information for you

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Elements of the Short Story – The Plot

What Is A Plot?

Simply stated, ‘A plot is a series of events that make up a story.’

All plots have beginnings, middles, and endings. For reference, the first quarter of your book is the beginning, the second and third quarters are the middle, and the last quarter is the ending.

In an 80 000-word novel, this generally means that your beginning is 20 000 words long, the middle is 40 000 words long, and your ending is 20 000 words long.

Do not get your story idea confused with the plot. A plot involves much more than a basic idea.

There is a conflict for the protagonist, which was caused by the antagonist. These two characters have opposing story goals – and they are concrete – meaning that they are expressed with certainty. The inciting moment will reveal these goals and problems and tell how the protagonist’s world is changing.

  • To further define how you structure your story around the plot: (Keep in mind that NOT every story has all of these plot elements.)

According to Gustav Freytag, a German writer, a traditional plot is made of:

1. Exposition: The exposition is generally the first quarter or beginning of your book. The story begins when the main characters and setting are introduced. The conflict or main problem is also established. The inciting moment presents the problem.

2. Rising Action: This usually is the middle of your book (the second and third quarters). Rising action means that a series of events occur that move us closer to the conflict. The storyteller uses tension, cliffhangers, and pacing to get the most out of the rising action.

3. Climax: The climax occurs in the last quarter, or ending, of your book. Your protagonist must overcome their enemy, their own fears, or challenges. This part is packed with drama, action, and excitement. Your characters also undergo some sort of change here.

4. Falling Action: The falling action occurs in the last quarter, after the climax. The author ties up loose ends. This is sometimes known as the winding up of the story. The conflict is mostly resolved, and the main character evaluates their part in the story.

5. Resolution: This is at the end of the falling action. The conflict is over. The story has ended. You can also have a denouement here. This is generally a paragraph (or a few concluding paragraphs) that resolves any remaining issues and ends the story.

Plotting your story is essential. When I think back on how I used to write stories – without thinking about the plot, I can see where it was easy to get lost, go off on tangents, and worse – bore the reader.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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The Process – Evaluating an Idea

Those of us who write know that in order to overcome the blank page, we need an idea. Essentially, the idea is the FIRST PART of the writing process.

But an idea is truly just the beginning. When the project (book/story) is done, the idea HAS to be fully developed. As a writer, it is crucial to breathe life into the idea by populating the landscape of the story with vivid characters, great settings, inciting events, and a resolution.

Erik Bork has a written a wonderful book, The Idea. I gave a copy away several weeks ago, and the woman who received it was so excited. She read the book and evaluate her own writing and saw where she was ‘skimming over’ the basics of developing the idea.

So, before you write a single word, you need to take the time to evaluate your idea. Will this idea support a full story? Can you build a plausible plot around the concept? Will the Protagonist of your story carry his mission to fruition? More importantly, can you define his mission?

These are the kinds of things to consider, and I strongly you read the book, The Idea. I know it has helped me tremendously.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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The Importance of Veterans – AND Why they’re SPECIAL

Happy Veterans’ Day. For those of you who live in the U.S., you know that this holiday was traditionally celebrated on November 11th. When it became fashionable to move holidays to Mondays, it is now celebrated on the Monday closest to the date.

For years, the military of the United States has been a driving force in protecting the population of the globe. Our brave mean and women serve all over the world, and their service takes them far from their families, homes, and friends.

I’m a Veteran, and so is my husband, and three out of my four children served in the military. In fact, my daughter and her husband are still serving. One could say that we’re a military family, but my daughter and her husband are the only career soldiers.

Perhaps all these familial ties make me a bit more preoccupied with the lack of respect and love our Veterans receive in the United States. Despite the political rhetoric, Veterans receive the worst care of anyone in the U.S. They must go to overcrowded facilities, put themselves on waiting lists for services, and receive NO help for long periods.

The troops returning home from the current fronts are facing new challenges. Rather than coming home in body bags, they return home, but they are missing parts and have far-reaching injuries. Due to the nature of the fighting, we have more soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines returning to the U.S. with Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder.

These injuries require more care than a surgery or two. It is impossible to hand someone a ‘crutch’ and walk away. We need to make sure there is more being done.

OK, I’ll get off my soapbox, BUT please take the time to THANK someone for their service today.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Elements of the Short Story – The Hook

~Your first line sells the book. Your last line sells the next book. ~

MICKEY SPILLANE, AUTHOR OF KISS ME DEADLY 

Many of the sources I read to write this blog post discussed how writing the First Words on the page is always the hardest you’ll write. This is partly because it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the importance of your beginning.

Some say there is a ‘secret formula’ used by bestselling authors. Others say that you will return to this opening line repeatedly as you polish your manuscript.

If there is a secret formula, it is all in how you construct the opening line. It has acted as a ‘hook’ to catch the readers’ attention and leave them wanting more. This literary technique is all about grabbing the readers’ attention and nothing more.

One way to build your knowledge of great opening lines is to read your favorite authors and pay attention to how the story opens. 

I was obsessed with Erich Segal’s book, ‘Love Story,’ when I was twelve or thirteen. He drew me in with the line,

“What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died?”

So remember, that opening line has got to draw your reader in. But that isn’t its only purpose, but it also needs to present the body of work. 

Here are some great lines for you to consider:

J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Book One, “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

“In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, he told me, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

 The Go-Between by LP Hartley

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” (How many of us only remember the first clause?)

 Peter Pan by JM Barrie

“All children, except one, grow up.”

 Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

All this happened, more or less.”

I don’t know about anyone else, but I would LOVE to have one of my novels’ opening lines show up on this list someday. But the main point of this conversation isn’t becoming famous – it’s all about making the reader interested in reading the rest of your book.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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The Danger of Putting TOO much in Your Novel

The number one reason many beginning writers do NOT finish their first novel is because they try to cram every thought and idea they’ve had over the months and even years they’ve been working on the basic idea. As with any skill that you want to do well, you need to take the time to learn the rules of the road.

There are definitely rules for writing – both the short story and novels. One of the most important – Do NOT overwhelm your readers.

How could you do that?

Your book or story could have TOO many characters. Your reader wants to be able to identify with your MC, and if they’re appear to be too many important roles in your book, it leads to reader confusion.

So, learn to build your storyline around FOUR main characters with special emphasis on your MC – or Protagonist. It is important for your reader to be able to identify with them.

Another aspect of your storyline could be TOO many settings. When you create the world where your characters live, it is important for your readers to be comfortable. If you are constantly interrupting the flow of the story to describe a new setting, your readers will once again be confused.

The basic rule about settings is that you need to introduce them within the first quarter of the book. They should also be limited to the worlds of the four main characters.

Real problems arise when you have TOO many plots. Readers will get lost if you have too many storylines within your book. The general rule of thumb is to have one main plot and one or two subplots.

Feeling confined and restricted? Remember that this isn’t the only book you will write. Save some of those other plots for subsequent novels – OR even a sequel.

Happy Writing!

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Grammar – Summary of the Parts of Speech

*image source: ted-ielts.com

Over the past several weeks, I’ve discussed the Parts of Speech on my Wednesday blogs. I think that writers need to understand the functions of all of these parts. To write well enough to entertain, engage, and tantalize our readers, we need to know how to use words effectively.

We talked about nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, and interjections. I also threw in a discussion about articles because I think it is essential to recognize the difference between ‘a’ and ‘an,’ ‘the’ and ‘that,’ etc.

One of the reasons I write about grammar is because it is crucial to your writing. Understanding words and their roles will help you develop your style and find your voice. Unlike some opinions about ‘my style,’ finding it involves using proper grammar and punctuation.

Next week and for the weeks after that, I’m going to talk about paragraphs, and after that, I’m going to concentrate on ways to create your style through mechanics and form.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Elements of the Short Story – The Inciting Moment

I’ve discussed how your story’s plot is built around a problem or challenge that your MC faces. When the issue makes its first appearance is known as the inciting moment. It acts as a beginning point where your MC’s world changes. This moment is interesting and important enough to create a response in you or your protagonist. It makes them act.

The MC is now aware of this difference, and they are uneasy. The problem is impossible to ignore. Your hero can feel it, taste it, see it, and smell it. This would be the starting point of any explanation your MC would give, and if they told an oral story, they would begin here.

In the fiction world, every problem has a solution. Finding the answer is a process and the things you have to go through to solve the crises. A goal is set up, and the journey is your MC’s story. It is the story of this journey that drives your story or novel. And while not ALL goals are solved, the journey is still essential.

The inciting moment concerns either a major or minor event – but the result is the same

nothing is ever the same again for your MC.

The change can be immediate, cause a significant conflict, action, change, or reaction.

To show the impact of this change, it is essential to discuss the MC’s world BEFORE the event that comes along and causes upheaval to their lives.

What is the purpose of the inciting moment in YOUR story?

From this moment, your MC has a story goal. BE SURE to get to the moment sooner rather than later. Your reader will become bored if you don’t.

Make the reader care about this character (or hate them), and they will want to know what happens next. 

All your backstory can be woven into the rest of your story with dialogue.

Once you’ve introduced the inciting moment, the storyline progresses. Your MC deals with the problem, and they CHANGE while they solve the upheaval in their lives. As the story moves along, everything changes. To accomplish this, add conflictsuspense, and action. 

At the end of your story, check: Did your MC solve the problem? Does he or she achieve his story goal? That is up to you.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Your Manuscript and the Editing Process – Part Three

In my discussions over the past two weeks, I explained the importance of Editing. I stressed how you need to write the FIRST DRAFT before you worry about Editing.

The FIRST DRAFT is when you empty every thought you have about your storyline. DO NOT self-edit as you go – it doesn’t matter how ugly the document looks. Some people feel more comfortable writing out the FIRST DRAFT by hand, while others feel more confident if they use their computer. (I find that if I write the FIRST DRAFT by hand, the first round of Editing will occur when I’m transcribing the work from handwritten notes to a Word.doc.

So, now once you’ve emptied your brain and you feel like you’ve expressed all of your thoughts about the story in writing, you’re ready to begin the EDITING PROCESS.

The PROCESS is something you will develop over time, but it is always best to look at what the experts say when starting out. After reading numerous articles from famous – some very famous, and some not-so-famous, authors, I realize that everyone has their personal methods. The editing process becomes a checklist for each author to root out the errors they know are there. I’ve boiled down the different steps I saw across the board and came up with some common steps. They are:

The best place to begin is CONTINUITY. If you have basically done an idea dump onto paper, the MS needs to be put into a logical order. Your story needs to have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Along the way, you introduce the Characters, the problems they face, and the Setting.

I think the best place to start when it comes to Characters, is with your PROTAGONIST or MC. This character will have the main problem that needs to be solved. Your PLOT revolves around the actions of the Protagonist. (Without the full development of the PLOT – your story will fizzle out.)

Next, it is time to determine a general idea of how your character will change during the story. How will dealing with the problems and obstacles make a difference in their lives? (IF your MC does NOT change over the course of the story – the PLOT and OBSTACLES aren’t clearly defined.)

And then, you determine the SETTING for your story. Depending on whether you are writing a short story or a novel, your plot should involve just one or a handful of scenery changes. Write the descriptions in a separate document and sprinkle the details throughout your prose.

Next week’s Blog entry for Friday will continue the discussion on Editing.

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~

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The Interjection and Your Writing

According to my favorite source for Grammatical information:

An interjection is a word that expresses emotion and has no grammatical relation to other words in the sentence.

Therefore, this will be a very short blog. Knowing that the interjection has absolutely no connection to anything – it is merely an EXPRESSION of EMOTION, and quite often followed by an exclamation point.

Damn! Well, that makes it easy, doesn’t it?

A nice easy blog entry to start off our week. I hope you are ready for Halloween if you live in the U.S., and if you don’t, well I hope you’re ready for All Saints Eve.

Enjoy this last week of October!

(For those of you doing NaNoWriMo, ENJOY the last bit of breathing room before the marathon begins!)

Until Next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Halloween Giveaway!!

If you are looking for a great reference for Grammar – SIGN UP for this giveaway. Yes, this is a real paperback that will be sent to you in the mail. And, it’s a great book!! For those of you who are working on a NaNoWriMo project, this will be helpful when you’re ready to do the second draft!!

To ENTER:

  • Send me an email with your name and address.
  • Tell me why you would like to win this book.
  • Describe your latest writing project, and tell me how long you’ve been writing.

GOOD LUCK!!

~Mustang Patty~

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Elements of the Short Story: What exactly IS a Short Story?

Short stories are a unique artform. They are not novels that are compressed into fewer pages. They do not require less skill to write than a novel – in fact, they are actually more complex. And lastly, writing the short story allows a writer to hone their skills in ways that a novel never will.

So now that I’ve told  you several things that a short story is NOT, let’s talk about what they are.

If we talk about the very basics:

A short story is where something happened to somebody.

The short story only has one main character – and this is their story. This character is usually known as the Protagonist.

The thing that happens to the Protagonist is the Plot of your story.

Trying to attain some sort of goal or complete a mission is your Protagonist’s motivation and the driving force of your storyline.

To thicken the plot, and make things more interesting, there is something standing in the way of your Protagonist. This thing can be a person, thing, thought, or idea that keeps the Protagonist from attaining their goal or completing their mission.

If it a person standing in the way of your Protagonist, this is usually your Antagonist. The main purpose for an Antagonist in any short story is to give the Protagonist nothing but grief.

A short story has a limited wordcount.

BEFORE I say anything about the WORD COUNT of a SHORT STORY – I want to first tell you that IF you are writing a short story for a specific publication or contest – MAKE SURE YOU CHECK THE GUIDELINES!!

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming:

Depending on the particular article you are reading on the internet, a short story can be defined as anything between 500 words ALL THE WAY UP TO: 17,000 words. (Within my guidelines, this would be more of a Novella, but obviously the editors were willing to look at lengthier stories.)

I’ve come to accept the following guidelines for myself.

 A story with a word count between 500 to 1,000 words is FLASH FICTION.

      When I made a study of the short stories by famous authors, I came up with an average. I chose to look at the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury, Ernest Hemingway, and last, but certainly not least, Stephen King.

      Stephen King once answered the question of how long a story should be with ‘as long as it takes to tell the tale.’ When you read his stories, it is obvious he takes his own advice. In his several different collections, my favorite being ‘Different Seasons,’ his  stories included a wide range in wordcount; anywhere from approximately 5,000 to 11,000.

While King is arguably the most prolific short story writer of our time, his work differs a bit from the Masters of the Short Story.

      I personally consider those folks to be:

                Edgar Allan Poe

                Ray Bradbury

                Ernest Hemingway

Poe is known for saying that the proper length of a short story had to be something readable in a single sitting. This is a wonderful way to describe a short story, but we all know that different people read at different speeds. Therefore, I will stick with using word count as a yard stick.

          When you look at Poe’s works, you find that with the exception of “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Poe tended to keep his short stories short. In fact, he must think people read very slowly, or they don’t sit for very long, three of his short stories are in the mid-2,000 word count.

          Reading Ray Bradbury’s short stories gave me an insight into his beliefs. As a legend in the short story world, he has a great deal of diversity in the lengths of his stories. They range at the upper lengths of mid-6,000s, but he also writes stories at the lower end of the 1,000s, as well as, in the mid-range at 4,000 words.

          Hemingway seems to be obsessed with variety. His stories are either very long or very short. One has to wonder if this was something he did on purpose – OR  — were the ideas he came up with either lengthy or short. This great master is a good example of how you don’t have to stick to just one length of story.

          I think Bradbury, King, and Hemingway teach us that you can create amazing stories using both few and more words. It all depends on how YOU tell the tale.

          However, here’s a number:

5,000 words

According to my evaluation, that’s the number to aim for. So, if you don’t know how long to make your short story, shoot for around 5,000 words.

What lessons did I learn while researching this topic?

After spending a lot of time researching the length of different stories, I came up with an average after looking at a total of fifty short stories. This bit of research did teach me a few things: There isn’t a ‘perfect length of a short story.’ It is up to the writer to define whether the IDEA they have can be carried for more or less words.

But here are a few things to think about:

Unless you want to enter competitions for flash fiction (which there are very few, you should probably write longer short stories.

It’s much harder to write very short stories that are good. So, start out by giving yourself 4 to 5,000 words of space.

Remember, the key to writing a great short story isn’t measured by the amount of words, but by how long it lasts in the memory of your readers.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

(I’m chuckling because this was a BLOG about the Short Story, and it is one of the longest ones I’ve written.)

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Your Manuscript and the Editing Process – Part Two

Last week, I started this series on the editing process. But let’s stop for a moment and look at WHAT you will be editing. I mean, if you haven’t written anything, you aren’t ready to EDIT.

You will be starting with the all-important FIRST DRAFT.

The first draft of anything you write is just the beginning. It’s all about getting your thoughts on paper. You want to completely empty your mind about your story idea. Describe in great detail your MC, and the supporting characters, too.

The MOST IMPORTANT part about the first draft is to simply get the story down on paper. 

Tess Gerritsen says: “I don’t stop to revise during the first draft. Because it’s all going to be changed anyway when I finally figure out what the book is about.”

Once you’ve written the whole story down, you can look at it objectively. You will find out if you even have a story.

It’s also important to remember that nobody writes a perfect first draft. There will be many rewrites and edits after you’ve completed this first step. Most writers write at least three drafts and sometimes as many as 10 or more.

The Editing process is essential, but more importantly, you have to WRITE. Some of you will edit yourselves as you write – but I don’t recommend that. Just write – let yourself get it all out without censorship. You can take out or add parts when you begin to work on your manuscript.

Remember: Writing is a journey through your mind. When you’re writing fiction, you are telling YOUR VIEW on reality. Editing is bringing it into terms that your readers can understand.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Another Part of Speech – The Preposition

At their basic level, prepositions are defined as ‘connecting words.’ They connect nouns and pronouns with other words. Taken a step further, prepositions give information about time, places, and direction.

It is that last bit that makes prepositions so fascinating. On one hand, the discussion about prepositions could be very simple:

It is that last bit that makes prepositions so fascinating. On one hand, the discussion about prepositions could be very simple:

“Prepositions are connecting words, and without them, writing would have no time, place or direction.”

But that one word – time – creates an entirely new level for the preposition. Suddenly, there are phrases like ‘simple’ and ‘perfect’ tenses in the past, present and future. The simple tense merely conveys action in the time narrated.

I would love to be able to discuss these phrases on some intellectual level, but frankly, my understanding of them is limited. (So, we will learn together.)

But for now, the basics of the preposition are as follows:

They describe:

      The position of something: The pen fell between the cushions.

      The time when something happens: My alarm goes off at six a.m.

      The way in which something is done: I type by touch.

A few examples of preposition words are above, after, among, around, along, at, before, behind, beneath, beside, between, by, down, from, in, into, like, of, off, on, out, over, through, to, up, upon, under, with. (But this is only a sample.)

As connecting words, prepositions link nouns and pronouns to other words, called objects, in a sentence. They show space or time between the noun and the object.

For example:

My wheelchair is in the trunk.

 (In this sentence, wheelchair is the noun, in is the preposition, and trunk is the object.)

In the next grammar blog, we will explore more about the preposition as we discuss ‘prepositional phrases,’ and how they affect word usage.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Elements of the Short Story – The Outline

I wanted to share this graphic for creating an Outline for the Short Story. I hope you will find it as useful as I do.

One surprising thing is that most people think that writing the short story doesn’t require as much planning as writing a novel, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Why?

Because to tell the story entirely and correctly, within the word count, every single word has to count. Every scene needs to fit the framework, along with the arc of your MC. The story needs to reach a peak and come to a satisfying conclusion at the end.

Now, it IS true that writing a short story is a wonderful way to learn the craft of writing and to identify your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Because you are working on a smaller word count, there isn’t as much pressure as writing a novel.

Additionally, writing the short story and submitting them to the myriad of short story competitions will help you find ways to meet deadlines. One of the best things to drive a writer to write is a deadline. And besides, these short-term goals can be great motivators.

There are fewer rules in writing the short stories, and you can even take the MC of your novel and write about their backstory. Or you can follow the fate of one of your supporting characters after they’ve left the book.

Though most people do not take the same amount of time to research and work on the plot of their short stories, the reality is that to make your story as sharp as you can, you need to do your diligence.

One of the best things you can do is write an outline. The outline will help you identify the key points you need to put into the story, and if you have created this road map, it will be easier to navigate the rocky road while you’re going over seventy miles an hour.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Your Manuscript and the Editing Process

For the next several weeks, I want to talk about EDITING. While it is quite common to feel that ‘your Editor’ will fix all the nits, gnats, and SPAG (spelling and grammar) unless you have UNLIMITED funds for your writing, a Professional Editor is costly.

The cleaner, more concise, and well-written work you can send to an Editor, Proofreader, or anyone else for that matter, the MORE you will earn the RESPECT and PROFESSIONAL courtesies from people who understand everything it takes to create a readable manuscript. (Not to mention – you will save MONEY in the process.)

Over the last twenty years, I’ve belonged to several writing groups. One of the best things about these groups is having OTHERS read your work. And these folks are not your mother, your significant other, or your best friend. No, they are other writers, and often they are more experienced, OR they have eagle eyes. Part of my education as a writer started with the folks in these writing groups. And, I’ve never forgotten how much I learned. I’m also extremely grateful to the writers who took their time to educate me in the intricacies of producing a manuscript versus ‘writing a story.’

EDITING is often used as an UMBRELLA phrase for two very distinct steps in the writing process.

REVISING is a different process, but it is the first step for the writer. We will discuss this further as we move thought this series, but it is important to note the differences. REVISING deals with ADDING sentences, words, thoughts, REMOVING unneeded words and sentences, along with MOVING paragraphs, sentences, or even chapters. Lastly, the REVISING process includes substitutions of words, sentences, etc.

EDITING is the actual process of checking your CAPITALIZATION, word USAGE, PUNCTUATION, and lastly SPELLING.

Both of these items are part of The EDITING Process. They constitute one of the most essential parts of writing.

However, it is often the most neglected, and one that writers hate.

WHY?

Editing your work is extremely difficult. Let’s face it: we all fall in love with every single word we put on the page. We know the pain of placing those words, and we’re not willing to let any of them go away. But the truth is: Not all of your words need to be in your story.

In this series on Editing, we’re going to talk about the different types and how to self-edit. And I’m going to do my best to give you an overview of how important the edit is to your writing.
MOST IMPORTANT FACTOID – Editing is much more than finding spelling or grammatical errors.

Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing:
Developmental Editing – this is a catch-all phrase, and we will look at the many different terms used for this type of edit.

Proofreading – this IMPORTANT step is crucial. While a perfect manuscript is nearly impossible to accomplish, it is imperative to find as many typographical, grammatical, spelling, and nitpicking errors as you can.

Next week, we will start on the Developmental Editing process and how important it is to your work.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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The Adverb and your Writing

When I think back on those dreary grammar lessons in the fourth and fifth grade, I can remember quite clearly being taught that adverbs were helping verbs. Perhaps I remember it wrong, or my poor teacher had to find an easy way to drill into our heads just what this part of speech is all about.

An ADVERB is really defined as descriptive words used to qualify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs.

In writing, we use adverbs frequently, but these words have earned a bad rap. Why? Because we are told that the adverb is NOT our friend. I know that I make it a routine to evaluate the adverbs I’ve used on my editing steps, especially those pesky words ending in ‘ly.’

I think the warning is about using too many adverbs and using them as a crutch. They do not accurately ‘show’ versus ‘tell,’ yet we feel that their descriptive nature makes them do just that.

So, when used right, there are nine distinct types of adverbs.

For example:

  • They describe time-WHEN something happened.
  • They describe place-WHERE something happened.
  • They describe manner-HOW something happened.
  • They describe degree-EXTENT to which something occurs.
  • They describe frequency-HOW OFTEN something occurs.
  • They describe probability-The CHANCE something will occur.
  • They describe duration-HOW LONG something lasts.
  • They describe emphasis-ACCENTUATES as an action.
  • They are interrogative-ASK QUESTIONS.

The frazzled clerk screamed loudly (HOW did she scream?) as the mouse quickly (HOW did the mouse walk?) disappeared behind the microwave.

The previous examples are the MANNER type. Most of this type of adverb end in ‘ly.’ They tell you how something happened.

The other adverbs describe adjectives or other adverbs or add information about the place, time, degree, and frequency.

For example:

I will not go there (place) without a buddy.

After all, I bought two bags of groceries yesterday (time).

The resume we received from him is extremely (degree) extensive, which we seldom (frequency) see when we advertise for this position.

Whenever possible, I always (frequency) fly Southwest.

An easy way to identify adverbs in sentences is to ASK QUESTIONS about the nouns and verbs contained in the text.

Check back next Wednesday for further discussion on the Parts of Speech.

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~

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Elements of the Short Story – Endings

Within this series, we’ve looked at how you need to create strong beginnings, meaningful middles, and now we will dive into what must be present in your endings.

Your ending MUST tie up the events created in the middle. The reader has been following the story and watched your characters being pushed into action. Maybe disasters are waiting to happen. It could be that secrets are about to be disclosed, or a deadline is quickly approaching.

Whatever problems you presented in the middle will have to come to a reasonable conclusion in the end.

Stories show us opposing forces that will eventually collide in some way. When this happens, your story is finished. That’s the end.

But you must show the action and satisfy the reader’s need for a satisfying conclusion. If you don’t, your story fails.

For instance, introducing new characters to save the day at the end of your story doesn’t work. It also doesn’t work if a last-minute conflict crops up at the last minute. The ending cannot evade the promised collision.

It is the middle – and how you’ve presented the problems – that sets up your ending. Your ending must be tied to the middle.

So, how do you find a suitable ending for your story?

First, think carefully about where you’ve taken your characters. What problems or obstacles have you presented? What has your story promised the reader both emotionally and intellectually? Have you hinted at your MC growing into a more stable person? Then your ending must show the new stability.

Next, you need to evaluate the forces you’ve set in conflict throughout the story? What are they? Can you list them? Your ending needs to be crafted in such a way that each situation comes to a plausible, satisfying collision, and then a conclusion.

This skill is one of the most important things a writer can learn. Being sure to leave your reader satisfied creates your fan base.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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A Closer Look at Genre and How it Affects Your Writing

Terms for genre can be very confusing. When I was a new writer, I had a great deal of difficulty identifying which genre my stories and novel fell into. It took a lot of reading and searching to figure it out.

I’ll share what I have learned over the past several years here.

What is a genre? Does my story have to fall into one?

Genre is a style or category of art, music, or literature.

As a writer, you will find that the genre of your story controls how you write your story or novel. The genre describes style and focus.

Additionally, it gives you a map for each genre. There are general rules to follow such as: manuscript length, character types, settings, themes, viewpoint choices and plots.  Remember: certain settings suit specific genres. The world of your book will vary in type, details, intensity, and length. (Science-fiction genre stories involve much more detail in the setting than most other genres.)

When it comes to the tone and mood used by the writer, it is important that they also match the genre. Within each genre, there are often sub-genres. For instance, Thrillers can be mysteries, horror, or psychological.

Why Does It matter which genre my story is?

A genre sets up the reader for an experience they are looking for. When a writer chooses a specific genre, they need to remember to fulfill the readers’ expectations. Readers purchase certain books because of the familiarity of the story. Some readers enjoy being on familiar ground and there are reading groups that concentrate on one particular genre.

It is the READER you need to satisfy. Your story must conform to the standards of the genre.

A writer can use genre to their advantage because there are boundaries and models on which they can base their stories. Genres often reflect trends in our society, and they evolve when writers push the guidelines.

Below is a list of the current most popular genres in fiction.

 Romance – generally speaking, these stories are about a romantic relationship between two people. The storylines are all about sensual tension, desire, and hope. In most cases, the storyline keeps the two MCs apart. The obstacles thrown in their way creates tension. There are many sub-genres of the romance storyline – paranormal, historical, contemporary, fantasy, and Gothic.

Action Adventure – these are the stories that put your protagonist in physical danger. There will be thrills, near misses, and courageous feats of danger. The pace is fast and with each second passing, the tension mounts. Finally, the story ends with an intense climax that puts all the fears to rest.

Science Fictionin this type of story, the setting is set in the future, past, or other dimensions. Featured are scientific ideas and advanced technology. A writer who wishes to write these stories must be prepared to spend time building new worlds and using different language. There are many different science fiction sub-genres.

FantasyNot to be confused with science fiction, these stories deal with kingdoms rather than ‘other worlds.’ Again, writers will need to spend plenty of time on world building. These magic-based stories are based on mythical and otherworldly concepts, as well as specialized characters. Specific terminology applies to this genre, and the novice writer will want to study other stories written by well-known authors in the genre, as well as other resources. 

Speculative Fiction-This genre usually overlaps one of the other genres such as science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural, or superhero and utopian fiction. Additionally, the apocalyptic fiction is considered as part of this genre, along with dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction and alternate history.

Suspense/Thriller. A character in jeopardy dominates these stories. This genre involves pursuit and escape. It is filled with cliffhangers and there are one or more ‘dark’ characters that the protagonist must escape from, fight against, or best in the story. The threats to the protagonist can be physical or psychological, or both. The setting is integral to the plot. This is often described as a gripping read. A Techno Thriller is a sub-genre.

Young Adult. Young Adult (YA) books are written, published, and marketed to adolescents and young adults. The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) defines a young adult as someone between the ages of 12 and 18, but adults also read these books. These are generally coming-of-age stories, and often cross into the fantasy and science fiction genres. YA novels feature diverse protagonists facing changes and challenges. This genre has become more popular with the success of novels like The Hunger GamesThe Fault in Our Stars, and Twilight.

New Adult. New Adult (NA) books feature college, rather than school-aged, characters and plotlines. It is the next age-category up from YA. It explores the challenges and uncertainties of leaving home and living independently for the first time. Many NA books focus on sex, blurring the boundary between romance and erotica.

Horror/Paranormal/Ghost. These are high-pitched scary stories involving pursuit and escape. The protagonist must overcome supernatural or demonic beings. Occult is a sub-genre that always uses satanic-type antagonists. (This genre is more difficult to write than one would first thing – tone and tension must be kept high throughout the story)

Mystery/CrimeThese are also known as ‘whodunits’. The central issue is a question that must be answered, an identity revealed, a crime solved. This novel is characterised by clues leading to rising tension as the answer to the mystery is approached. There are many sub-genres in this category.

Police Procedurals are exciting mysteries that involve a police officer or detective solving the crime. The emphasis rests heavily on technological or forensic aspects of police work, sorting and collecting evidence, as well as the legal aspects of criminology.

Historical-These fictional stories take place against factual historical backdrops. Important historical figures are portrayed as fictional characters. Historical Romance is a sub-genre that involves a conflicted love relationship in a factual historical setting. 

Westerns-set in the old American West, these stories are rich with setting. Plotlines include survival, romance, and adventures with characters of the time, for example, cowboys, frontiersmen, Indians, mountain men, and miners. 

Family Saga-in this genre, plot lines with on-going stories of two or more generations of a given family are told in great detail. Plots are usually concerned with businesses, inheritances, and perhaps family curses. With the passing of time, the stories are primarily historical, but may bring resolutions into contemporary settings. There is usually a timeline involved in these stories.

Women’s Fiction-this genre encompasses plot lines that are populated with female characters who face challenges, difficulties, and crises that have a direct relationship to gender. This is inclusive of woman’s conflict with man, though not limited to that. It can include conflict with things such as the economy, family, society, art, politics, and religion.

Magic RealismWithin this specialized genre, magic and magical events are part of ordinary life. The characters – usually witches, warlocks, or other mystical creatures do not seem abnormal or unusual. They are simply part of the story.

Literary Fiction-While this genre focuses on the inner lives of the characters, and themes rather than plots, it is declining in popularity. So, it is difficult to sell and maintain a successful career.

And there you have it. Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Source for Image: https://www.scifibloggers.com/is-genre-writing-literature/#.Vpe8Nfl96_5

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The Article – and how it is a part of GRAMMAR

Though the article is NOT considered a Part of Speech, I want to take the time to look at how this important part of sentences can make or break your writing.

Articles are defined as words that introduce and give information about nouns.

This being said, articles are the most common words in most world languages, and ‘the’ is the most frequently used word in English. (Go back and look at your latest piece of writing and count how many times you’ve used ‘the.’)

There are several types of articles, but the three main ones writers most frequently encounter are: ‘a,’ ‘an,’ and ‘the.’

If you have a noun that is undefined (like ‘a’ or ‘an’), it’s called an indefinite article.

However, when you are referring to something specific (like ‘this,’ ‘the,’ or ‘that’), it becomes a definite article.

So, indefinite articles do NOT refer to a specific object – thus it is NOT definite.

One way to think about it is, if three identical objects were placed in front of you, referring to them by indefinite articles wouldn’t tell you which of the three objects you are referring to.

Conversely, definite articles refer to a specific object. ‘The’ is known as the definite article because it points out a particular object or class.

Other articles that are definite include ‘this,’ and ‘that.’

A good way to think of the definite article is that it specifies which or what you are referring to.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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The Conjunction and Your Writing

Does anyone else remember the song for conjunctions from the Electric Company? Now that I’ve thought of it, I have it stuck in my head. But, that little song taught many of us the purpose of a conjunction.

A conjunction is defined as a word that joins words or groups of words.

In writing, we use conjunctions all the time, but these words cause many writers headaches. Why? Because of comma use and the conjunction.

A simple rule of thumb when punctuating a compound sentence when you have two clauses.

If you are joining two independent clauses – they can stand alone as a sentence; they express a complete thought,

This is when there IS a comma before the ‘and,’ or ‘but.’

Conversely,

If you are joining one independent clause with a dependent clauseit cannot stand alone because it doesn’t express a complete thought,

This is when there ISN’T a comma before the ‘and,’ or ‘but.’

However, there are other kinds of conjunctions and they are as follows:

(The conjunctions are in bold type, and the words joined will be underlined.)

  • Please bring your lunch and three dollars.
  • You must pass every subject and maintain a good average.
  • I placed an ad, but no one responded.
  • I can use the car or the truck.
  • He can either stay here or come with us.
  • He invited both Nancy and me.
  • She succeeds because she works hard.
  • He will let me know when he hears from her.

As illustrated in the above examples, and, but, or, either, because, and when are all conjunctions.

Additionally, there are three kinds of conjunctions: coordinating conjunctions, correlative conjunctions, and subordinating conjunctions.

The coordinating conjunctions are:

  • and
  • but
  • or
  • nor
  • for

The correlative conjunctions are always used in pairs.

For example:

  • The work is not only profitable but also pleasant.
  • Do you know whether Heather is coming alone or with her mother?
  • either . . . or
  • not only . . .but (also)
  • neither . . . nor
  • whether . . . or
  • both . . . and

Subordinating conjunctions are used to begin subordinate clauses (we will explore these further later on.)

In the following sentences the subordinate clauses are bold, and the subordinating conjunctions that introduce them are underlined.

  • There is no use arguing since you have already made your decision.
  • We stayed inside until the storm stopped.
  • You may stay where you are.

One of the tricky things about subordinating conjunctions is that they do not always come between the sentence parts that they join. Sometimes they come at the beginning of the sentence.

For example:

      Although speed is important, accuracy is more important.

      When I take an examination, I become frightened.

These are the commonly used Subordinating Conjunctions.

  • after
  • although
  • as
  • as much as
  • because
  • before
  • how
  • if
  • in order that
  • inasmuch as
  • provided
  • since
  • than
  • that
  • though
  • unless
  • until
  • when
  • where
  • while

Please note that some of these words can also be used as prepositions: after, before, since, until; and others may be used as adverbs: how, when, where. That is often used as a relative pronoun.

Check back next Wednesday for further discussion on the Parts of Speech.

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~

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Mustang Patty Presents:

Creating Character Arcs by K. M. Weiland

(There is also a workbook that goes with this book, and I highly recommend the exercises it contains to help you create strong characters. The most important lesson here is WHY your characters need Character Arcs and what they bring to the story.)

I will be giving away a copy of this book sometime in the next week.

Would YOU like to add it to your library?

Simply send me an email: patty@mustangpatty1029.com and tell me how

you think this book would help You and Your Process.

Everyone who sends me an email will be eligible for the prize.

The Winner will be announced on October 1st, 2020

A paperback of the book sent to you at your home address.


When I first read this book, I was just beginning to take the writing process seriously. So, the first thing about this book was that I had zero idea of what an arc was or how it was important to my story.

Reading this book let me in on the secrets of the five most important types of character arcs and how to use them to bring my characters to life. You too, can learn about the:

  • The inspiring Positive Change Arc
  • Negative Change Arcs
  • The Heroic Flat Arc
  • And how to align the structure of your character arcs with your plot

This book is one you will want to review again and again as you learn to create strong characters, and continue to use them to build powerful stories.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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The Adjective

The definition of the adjective tells us it is a word used to modify a noun.

Sometimes it is easier to think of the adjective as describing the noun, but modifying is ‘limiting,’ or make more definite the meaning of the noun. Adjectives modify nouns or pronouns in any one of three different ways.

  • By telling what kind:
    • Brown eyes, small town, or smart student
  • By pointing out which one
    • This woman, that suggestion
  • By telling how many
    • Several reasons, ten players

As you can see in these examples, the normal position of an adjective is directly before the word it modifies. Occasionally, for stylistic or dramatic reasons, a writer may use adjectives after the word they modify.

For example:    The night, cold and foggy, drove us indoors.

There are also predicate adjectives. These are separate from the word they modify by a verb. (We will talk more about predicates when we are futher along.)

For example:    Samantha is pretty.

                          George looked pensive.

                          The dinner was delicious.

                          Her hand felt cold.

One of the things to look out for is words that can be used as an adjective and a pronoun. Some words can be used as more than one part of speech. See the list below for words that can be used both as pronouns and as adjectives.

  • all
  • another
  • any
  • both
  • each
  • either
  • few
  • many
  • more
  • neither
  • one
  • other
  • several
  • some
  • that
  • these
  • this
  • those
  • what
  • which

Nouns are also sometimes used as adjectives.

For example:

  • Sofa cushion
  • Bread pudding
  • Hotel lobby
  • Glass beads

As illustrated with these examples, an adjective describes the noun, but it can be used in many different ways. Using the adjective in different ways will enhance your writing and give it a great deal of range.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Elements of the Short Story – Setting

Your Character’s World – Setting the Stage

All too often, setting is overlooked when writing a short story. I think part of it is the limited word count, and the other part is a tendency to assign very little importance to the setting.

So, I’d like to take a look at how your setting influences the other elements of your story. It’s quite possible to build your world just by ‘showing’ how it effects the other aspects of the story.

All too often, the setting is underutilized and doesn’t help character development when it is a vital part of who your character is, does, sounds, etc.

The setting of the story consists of eight overlapping elements. These elements work together to create a complete picture. They also influence almost every

1. Setting and Plot

The setting can be a driver for your plot. The geographical location, the language spoken, and the weather are all a part of your setting. They will drive your plot with the small details.

2. Setting and Character

Our characters are affected by where they grew up. Was it a small town or a big city? Does your character have an accent? Do they smoke? Were they exposed to drugs and violence while they were growing up? Did they grow up on a farm?

3. Setting and Viewpoint

While the viewpoint of your story may not seem dependent on the setting, it is vitally important to ‘show’ the viewpoint through the narrator’s eyes. Your narrator is either a character or just someone telling the story. What do they think of the setting?

4. Setting and Genre

Certain genres lead readers to expect certain things.

  • Happy stories tend to have happy settings and unhappy stories tend to have darker settings.
  • Love stories set in London make the rainy days and dark corners romantic.
  • Crime drama in London uses those same rainy days to wash away evidence and dark corners as dangerous and threatening.
  • Sci-fi and fantasy writers have their work cut out for them. Not only do they have to invent and reinvent so many elements, they have to think of new names for everything. World-building is a specialized technique that sci-fi and fantasy writers have to consider and work hard at.
  • Historical fiction also demands a lot of research and fact checking. Make sure you get it right.

5. Setting and Dialogue

As students of creative writing, we were taught to ‘set the scene’ when we started a story. This usually meant paragraphs of setting description.

The short stories of the twenty-first century start with more of a bang, and that increases the need for dialogue to inform the reader of what is going on. Using descriptive words is nice, but if you can use what the characters are saying to help set the scene, it’s so much better. 

Understanding the use of dialogue to help add setting allows you to save on your word count without sacrificing important information. Make your characters speak about their surroundings. 

6. Setting and Pace

Setting the pace of your story is a learned technique. Learning to use your setting – such as the weather — can force your plot forward if, for example, the characters have to escape a threatening storm.

Are your characters in a hurry? Set the pace of urgency with traveling from place to place.

7. Setting and Description

Avoid overloading your readers:

Details, people, details, but not too many details. Knowing what to add and what to leave out of a description is one skill a writer must develop. It is up to your to decide if a detail is important to the story or not.

8. Setting and Change

The setting of your story may change, which will also change how your MC is reacting to external forces – the weather, locale, and how the character reacts all add to the layers of your story.

The next Element of the Short Story we will examine is creating a strong beginning to your MS.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Verbs

The definition of a verb is a word showing an action, a state of being, or express a time.

Verbs are sometimes called the ‘doing’ words, and they are also known as the ‘working’ words.

When you use a verb, you also set the tense with the action.

  • I walk. (Present tense)
  • I walked. (Past tense)
  • I will walk (Future tense)

All verbs help to make a statement of some sort. Some will express an action and the action expressed may be physical. Examples of this type of verb are hit, move, and run.

The action could be mental, as shown in these examples: think, know, imagine, or believe.

Verbs have several types. There are transitive and intransitive types.

These types of verbs may or may not take an object – defined as a noun or pronoun that completes the action by showing who or what is affected by the action. A verb that takes an object is called transitive, and are shown by the following examples.

  • The goalie missed the puck.  (Puck is the object of missed.)
  • Sally trusted Mark.  (Mark is the object of trusted.)
  • The waitress dropped the dishes.  (Dishes is the object of dropped.)

(We will talk more about objects in a sentence as we explore further.)

There are certain verbs that are transitive only such as ignore and complete, while some verbs are intransitive only such as arrive or sleep, but most verbs can be either transitive or intransitive.

Verbs can also be linking verbs. These verbs help to make a statement not by expressing action, but by expressing a state of being or condition.

These verbs link to the subject noun, pronoun, or adjective that describes or identifies it (the subject.)

For example:

  • The author is our guest.  (The subject complement guest refers to the subject author.)
  • This is she.  (She, the pronoun, refers to the subject this.)
  • She looks serious.  (Serious, the adjective, refers to the subject she.)

Some common linking verbs:

  • appear
  • grow
  • seem
  • stay
  • become
  • look
  • smell
  • taste
  • feel
  • remain
  • sound

Many of the verbs in this list can also be used as action verbs – when they do not have a subject complement.

The rule of thumb is that a verb is a linking verb if you can substitute for it with some form of the verb seem.

For example:

  • Babe Ruth looked (seemed) pleased.
  • Folks in the stadium felt (seemed) happy.
  • All of the passengers remained (seemed) calm.

In addition to the other types of verbs, there are helping verbs. These verbs are used with the Verb Phrase.

In this case, the verb phrase is made up of a main verb and one or more helping verbs.

Helping verbs are called this because they help the main verb to express action or make a statement.

The helping verb is shown in the following examples:

  • has played
  • will be coming
  • should have paid
  • Must have been injured

A verb phrase can therefore be defined as a verb of more than one word.

In next week’s grammar lesson, we will discuss the adjective.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Telling a story from Multiple Characters’ view

As I stated in last Mondays blog entry about character development, I would like to take a closer look at the creation of multiple characters for a story. I think it’s important to ask yourself some questions.

How many characters can your storyline support?

Are there one or two complex characters, and then some supporting roles?

Can you write believable dialogue for ANY character without doing some sort of development?

I can give you my viewpoint on this matter and share with you what some other writers have said.

I know I can’t write believable dialogue if I can’t ‘hear’ the character in my head? There are more times than I’d like to admit that without delving into the character’s space, I can’t write either dialogue or action.

Additionally, I like telling a story from multiple characters’ points of view when there is a great deal of action. You can describe a scene four different times and each one be unique.

Even in an introspective story, it is always good to have secondary characters. And remember, they don’t always have to be a person. Your antagonist can be the wind, the sea, or an inanimate object.

Next week, we will look at another Element of the Short Story — Setting,

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~

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Mustang Patty recommends: The Writer’s Process

The Writer’s Process by Anne Janzer

The entire book title: The Writer’s Process: Getting Your Brain in Gear

I will be giving away a copy of this book sometime in the next week.

Would YOU like to add it to your library?

Simply send me an email: patty@mustangpatty1029.com and tell me how

you think this book would help You and Your Process.

Everyone who sends me an email will be eligible for the prize:

A paperback of the book sent to you at your home address.


This is one of my favorite books. I refer to it every few months, and it is always a comfort when I think I’m blocked. This well-written non-fiction book assures me that my brain is doing exactly what its supposed to do.

Within the pages of this book, Ms. Janzer goes into great detail to explain how ideas and writing need to go through a process in the writer’s mind to become stories and books.

With meticulous research into the psychology of writing, the author takes us deep into our minds. She describes the Inner Process – through engaging prose.

One of the ideas expressed that I’ve really latched onto is that IF the writer is willing to work with the brain, rather than against it, the idea can grow into a well-written piece organically.

The practicality of the book is a welcome addition to your library. I found that by understanding the process, I’ve practically eliminated Writer’s Block and I understand that a story cannot be forced.

What the reviews for this book look like:

“If you’ve ever struggled with getting your ideas out of your brain and onto something others can access (and who hasn’t?), Anne’s book is for you.” Ann Hadley, Author of WSJ Best-seller, Everybody Writes

“Research-based, hands-on, step-by-step wisdom that can help you wrestle with the lizard brain. Certain to help thousands of would-be writers write.” Seth Godin, Author of The Icarus Deception

About the Author:

          Anne Janzer is an award-winning author on a mission to help people communicate more effectively through writing. She is also author of books The Workplace Writer’s Process, Subscription Marketing, and Writing to be Understood.

www.AnneJanzer.com  to join her Blog mailing list and learn more about the process

Until next time,

(Don’t forget to enter your name in the drawing!!)

~Mustang Patty~

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Nouns

While it may seem too basic, or unnecessary to go back and describe the Parts of Speech, it’s essential to regain knowledge about sentence structure when writing prose. While some of us may retain the experience, we picked up in school, many more will discover that their grammar has tarnished over time, and in need of some polish.

When you are editing a piece of your writing, it is essential to autopsy paragraphs and sentences. Understanding the basic principles of what goes into a sentence will be helpful.

If you remember school days, you recall that a noun is defined as a word used to name a person, place, thing, or idea.

Nouns will be the subject or object of your sentence. Therefore, it is crucial to understand what a noun is and what role it plays in your sentences.

The rest of the definition says that nouns can be classified in one of three ways. They can be proper or commonabstract, or concrete, and lastly, concrete.

Proper nouns name a particular person, place, or thing. They are capitalized, and a few examples are Mustang Patty, Salem, and the Statue of Liberty.

comma noun doesn’t name a particular person, place, or thing – common nouns are not capitalized, and a few examples are woman, city, and building.

An abstract noun names a quality, a characteristic, or an idea. A few examples would be beauty, strength, love, and courage.

Conversely, a concrete noun names an object that can be perceived by the senses: hat, desk, book, or box.

Collective nouns name a group: crowd, team, and class.

Grammar is important. Going through the parts of speech will give you the foundation of English. Understanding how sentences are built will allow you to develop your unique style of writing.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Elements of the Short Story

Characters

As a novice writer, I searched for some information regarding character development. I’d heard rumors that the best stories were character-driven, and the better you knew your main characters, the better you’ll be able to write believable dialogue and action.

Wow!

If you’ve ever googled, ‘character development,’ or main characters, I’m positive you found a wealth of ‘Character Questionnaires,’ in your search.

I think I have a total of twenty-two of these questionnaires saved to my computer, but I do not use any one of them – instead, I created a list of questions for myself, by taking certain questions I found to be key from the myriad of online offerings.

So, here are the questions I use when I’m creating a new character. Please note that I have different processes for the short story versus a novel. While the characters in your short story should be three-dimensional, it isn’t essential to study them, create a backstory, or know their entire life history.

(But remember – tailor your questions to what works for YOU!!

  1. What is your character’s full name?
    1. Where did the name come from?
      1. Was it the Mom’s idea?
      1. Or the Father’s?
      1. Are they names for anyone who is deceased?
      1. For a family member
  2. Is your character pretty? Ugly? Beautiful? Will the reader be able to see this person perform the actions you write?
  3. Was your character’s childhood a good one?
  4. Male role characteristics or Female role characteristics OR neither?
  5. Unique gesture
  6. Physical attributes and words
  7. Create a Pinterest board for visualization
  8. Specific genre of music or books or movies?
  9. Is this character your protagonist or antagonist?
  10. The most important goal this character wishes to achieve.

In my opinion, for a short story, you aren’t interested in writing a lot of background. You are usually limited to a certain word count, so unless a piece of information is essential to the plot, it DOESN’T GO IN THE DRAFT.

Depending on the length of your short story, there could be several complex characters. In this case, and that of a novel, you would study characters and their interactions more fully.

We’ll explore that further in next Monday’s blog entry.

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~

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Mustang Patty Presents

The Idea by Erik Bork

The entire book title: The Idea, the seven elements of a viable story for screen, stage, or fiction.

I will be giving away a copy of this book sometime in the next week.

Would YOU like to add it to your library?

Simply send me an email: patty@mustangpatty1029.com and tell me how

you think this book would help You and Your Process.

Everyone who sends me an email will be eligible for the prize:

A paperback of the book sent to you at your home address.


I added this book to my reference library a few years ago because I wanted to understand how other people came up with their ideas. As always, I doubted myself. I find it strange that my ideas come to me in the shower, or as I’m just starting to come out of a deep sleep. (I’ve since learned that I’m very lucky to have this happen.)

In Bork’s book, he stresses how finding an idea is the most important part of the writing process – in fact, it’s the FIRST part of any writing project.

Developing the idea fully is key to understanding where you want to take your storyline, but all too often, writers rush right through development and simply start writing.

Bork sites how lack of understanding the idea and sufficiently developing it can kill a project. So, he outlines the seven key ingredients in stories that have a chance of selling and appealing to a wide audience.

They are as follows:

  • Relatable
  • Original
  • Believable
  • Life-Altering
  • Entertaining
  • Meaningful
  • and Solving the Problem

          Bork analyzes each of these key ingredients and how they are important to the premise of the central idea of your writing project.

          I found the book to be well-written and easy to follow. I know that after reading it, I found myself analyzing my idea before I began to write. It simply no longer makes sense to pursue a project that won’t go anywhere.

5 Stars *****

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Introduction to the Parts of Speech

A few years back, I came across an excellent find in a Used Bookstore. It was in an almost-new condition, and it’s a high school Grammar and Composition textbook.

So, I will be using this book as one of my references as we work our way through the Parts of Speech.

To start, I want to list the Parts of Speech – many of you may remember them from high school English, or early college classes.

They are:

  • The Noun
  • The Pronoun
  • The Adjective
  • The Verb
  • The Preposition
  • The Conjunction
  • and
  • The Interjection

I think it is essential to review these terms because, as a writer who wants to use language to convey your meaning, you will need to understand these terms when you’re building meaningful sentences and paragraphs.

Next Wednesday, we will kick off the series with a discussion about NOUNS.

Until next time, (FRIDAY)

~Mustang Patty~

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Monday Blogs Moving Forward

As some of you may know, I’m reformatting my blog entries. So, starting today, my Monday blogs will be devoted to Short Story Elements. On Fridays, I will be highlighting resource material on various aspects of the short story. Mondays will follow up with information I’ve gleaned from different places.

While the basic idea for your story is vital, it is also essential for you to understand the elements of story building. The information I give you in these blogs will help you to maximize the impact of your stories.

I will post blogs featuring:

  • Characters
  • Viewpoints
  • Story structure
  • Finding your Voice
  • And much, much more…

This coming Wednesday, I will begin my new Grammar series.

So, until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Your Resource Guide

As some of you may know, I’m reformatting my blog entries. So, starting today, my Friday blogs will be devoted to Writing Resources. If you’ve ever googled ‘books on writing,’ or scrolled through Amazon’s offerings, you know there are hundreds of books written on various aspects of the craft. I’ve decided to give my readers a short synopsis of my favorite resource books, and more than likely comments about the books I didn’t find to be particularly helpful.

While the basic idea for your story is vital, it is also essential for you to understand the industry standard for your presentation. Utilizing resource books such as Style Guides and other references will help you find your voice.

I have a page for Resources on my website, and I will add the books I blog about to my site with a reference where you can find out what I thought and whether I recommend it.

(Hopefully, this will help you build your resource library.)

I will look at writing books featuring:

  • The Short Story
  • Creating Believable Characters
  • Plot Development
  • Building tension within your story

And much, much more…

Check back on Monday when I introduce the new format for that day of the week,

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Mustang’s Guide to Desk References

As the main contributor to ‘Mustang Patty Talks Writing’ (okay, the Only contributor,) I thought I would share the resources I believe every writer should have at their fingertips. I know I’m not the only one who has an extensive library of writing books, but the HUGE choice of these tombs is daunting for some folks.

So, which books do I find essential? (They sit on a shelf just over my desk.)

Dictionaries            

I bought a box set of Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, Thesaurus, and Vocabulary Builder several years ago. Each volume is an excellent size to keep on your desk and have at your beck and call.

  1. Dictionary – Spelling – You know when the word just doesn’t look right – (DO NOT always TRUST any spell-checker.) Ensure you are using the word correctly by looking up definitions.
  2. Thesaurus – Finding synonyms, so you’re not always using the same word within your text. The use of the thesaurus is a tremendous help.
  3. Vocabulary Builder – The Merriam Webster edition helps me by introducing new words and quizzing me on their use. Marketed as a guide to preparing for standardized tests like the SATs and ACTs, the book is written in an easy-to-understand manner.

Style Guide(s)          

I have several.

  1. My favorite is ‘Elements of Style 2017,’ because it is organized in such a way, I can always find what I’m looking for.
  2. ‘The Chicago Manual of Style,’ is used by the majority of publications, so I own both a hard copy, as well as subscribe to the online resource.
  3. ‘APA Style Guide’ is another resource – each of these guides has a specific type of writing outlined. ALWAYS check with any submission guidelines to determine which guide is used by the place you are submitting stories.      

Editing:                   

I cannot stress enough how important it is to EDIT your work before you share it ANYWHERE. Nothing will make a writer look sloppy and amateurish than spelling errors, obvious grammatical mistakes, or missing words.                            

(I’m a judge for an online site and a teacher of Creative Writing, which is one of the biggest downfalls of the beginning writer. Nothing will make you look like an amateur when you submit a work that hasn’t been edited.)                                 

If had to choose a favorite resource. In that case, I probably refer to ‘Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors’ by Kathy Ide.

Grammar:               

The guide I keep on my desk and I’ve needed to replace time or two is ‘The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need’ by Susan Thurman. The book is easy to understand and user-friendly. (I find this book so useful, it is what I give away when I do Author Takeovers on Facebook.)

Character Development:

Since your characters’ development is a crucial element of your storyline, there are LOTS of references out there. My personal favorite is ‘Creating Character Arcs,’                         by K. M. Weiland.

Plot Development:

Along with character development, it is imperative for your storyline to be fully developed. Frequently, your original idea needs to be fleshed out, and taking the time to read some information helps me a lot. My favorite book for inspiration in this matter is the Writer’s Digest book, ‘Crafting Novels & Short Stories.’

The foreword is written by James Scott Bell, who writes excellent guides about story structure and he is considered one of the best Writing Coaches around.

Guidance and Inspiration:

I have several books by my favorite authors, which are mostly their thoughts on the writing process. These non- fiction books are wonderful when I’m experiencing a ‘block,’ or when I need to be reminded why I spend so much time in my den, pecking on keys.

                                  ‘On Writing,’ by Stephen King

                                  ‘On Writers and Writing,’ by Margaret Atwood

                                  ‘The Book on Writing,’ by Paula Larocque

These are just a few of the books I turn to while writing. I hope you will consider this list to be just the beginning of your search for the right guides.

Not everyone will find the same books as me to be a useful resource.

SO, if you have a favorite book on writing and the process that I haven’t listed, please leave a comment, and share your secret!

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Grammar Basics – The Comma – a Definition and RECAP

As we are wrapping up our discussion of the comma, it’s a good time to define the comma and look at the most common usages of it.

A Comma is a punctuation mark. (,)

Commas can be found in:

  • Lists,
  • separate clauses,
  • direct speech,
  • to mark off parts of a sentence,
  • with however,
  • to separate adjectives,
  • and finally, to distinguish a name from the rest of the sentence.

Using a comma in a List:

For Example:

They bought books, pens, staples, and erasers.

(This is where the Oxford Comma comes in. I blogged about it earlier. When the last comma in the series is placed before ‘and’ or ‘or,’ it is known as the Oxford Comma.)

Using the Oxford comma helps you avoid misunderstandings, as illustrated in the following:)

For Example:

My favorite burgers are bacon, cheddar and mushroom and swiss cheese.

Without the final comma, ‘the Oxford,’ in this sentence, the hamburgers could be either mushroom and swiss cheese burgers, or cheddar and swiss cheese.

“There are people who embrace the Oxford comma and those who don’t, and I’ll just say this: never get between these people when drink has been taken.” ~Lynne Truss

Regardless of which camp you fall in, either sentence is correct. It appears to me that the Oxford comma makes your meaning understood.

Using a comma to Separate clauses:

 Commas indicate where one phrase or clause ends, and another begins.

  • Use them where two independent clauses (sentences that are complete and make sense on their own) are joined by conjunctions like ‘and,’ ‘or,’ and ‘but.’

For Example:

I walked to the shops, and I took the bus home.

  • Use them after a relative clause, which is a clause beginning with ‘who,’ ‘which,’ ‘that,’ ‘whom,’ or ‘where.’

For Example:

Authors, who write every day, create a daily habit.

  • Use them when you start a sentence with a subordinate or dependent clause. This type of clause does not express a complete thought. It is not a complete sentence.

For Example:

After we changed the place for the conference, we went home.

  • Use them after introductory words or phrases.

For Example:

Once again, I was sent home for my bad behavior.

Using a comma in Direct Speech:

Use them to quote somebody’s words exactly as they are said or spoken.

For Example:

Johnny answered, ‘I think we have a problem.’

                         ~or~

‘No, you’re wrong,’ she said.

Using a comma to Mark Off certain parts of a sentence:

Use the comma to add information that could be inserted in brackets or between dashes. This information is NOT essential to the main sentence to make sense.

For Example:

His latest novel, The Institute, was another bestseller.

Using a comma with However:

Use commas before and after words like ‘however’ and ‘nevertheless.’

For Example:

However, she was still late for the bus.

  • TIP: Don’t use a comma after ‘however’ when it means ‘in whatever way.’

For Example:

However hard she tried; she couldn’t make the cut.

Using a comma to Separate Adjectives:

We need commas if the adjectives are each separate description for an object or person.

For Example:

Sarah’s gorgeous, uppity, devious partner

So, while NOT needing commas to separate all adjectives, we merely need them in the case when the adjectives are part of the same object of the sentence.

For Example:

Lydia’s white cotton blouse

And, finally, using the comma to distinguish a Name from the rest of the sentence:

When you are addressing a person directly, the use of commas will set off their titles, names, or terms of endearment.

For Example:

George, did you sell the farm?

Oh, honey, of course, I will.

Good morning, Colonel.

So, there you have it. I hope you found these short lessons on comma usage to be useful to you and your writing.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

 

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Grammar Basics – Commas with Dates

Before I start this blog entry, I want to say something about consistency. While it is important in many things in your life, consistency in your writing goes a long way. Regardless if you aren’t sure about how to punctuate something, make sure you punctuate it the same throughout the piece you’re working on at the time. Sure – you’ll still be wrong, but the work doesn’t look nearly as sloppy.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest let’s talk comma usage when you’re using dates in your writing.

When you’re writing the month-day-year style, commas must be used to set off the year—this is traditional.

{October 29, 1958}

Further, when you are stating the day of the week, it is also separated from the month and day by a comma.

{Tuesday, November 3}

Conversely, commas are usually unnecessary between the name for the day and the ordinal in references where the month is not expressed. Commas are also unnecessary where month and year only are given, or where a named day (such as a holiday) is provided with a year.

{Christmas Day 2020}

When you are using a date as an adjective, as when the date is describing a noun, the rules are different.

In this case, when using the month-year or month-day date, there is no hyphen or comma needed:

{October 31 festivities}               {December 2014 financial statement}

However, if a full month-day-year date is used as the description, a comma is sometimes considered necessary both before and after the year:

{the November 8, 2016, elections}

This particular construction is awkward and not used very often. Usually, you would see it this way:

{commencement ceremonies on May 27, 2016}.

A few more examples:

The play took place on December 2, 2003, at the Heritage High School Auditorium in Vancouver, Washington.

Her hearing was scheduled for Friday, June 3, 2018.

Monday, July 4, was a holiday; Tuesday the fifth was not.

Next time, we will look at comma usage with addresses.  I hope you’re having a good week and getting lots of writing done,

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~

 

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Grammar Basics – Commas with Introductory Words and Phrases

Another day, and another kind of comma to discuss. As you may be aware of by now, there are so many ways to use a comma in writing, that it’s no wonder people get confused.

And while you might be wondering why bother with learning all this, I think it is vitally important to every writers’ work to understand basic grammar, and especially the comma.

Today, we’ll talk the comma that sets apart the introduction of a sentence from the rest.

As with all the rules and regulations of the comma, it isn’t cut and dry. One cannot say a comma follows ALL introductory phrases or words.As with all the rules and regulations of the comma, it isn’t cut and dry. One cannot say a comma follows ALL introductory phrases or words. It seems that whether or not you use a comma is dependent on the type of expression, its relationship to the rest of the sentence, and its length. You can’t say it because it isn’t true. Whether or not you use a comma is dependent on the type of phrase, its relationship to the rest of the sentence, and its length.

Wow – that was quite a mouthful. As it turns out, though it sounds complicated, once you familiarize yourself with how things work, you will find yourself naturally building this routine into your process.

If a sentence begins with yes, no, OK, well, and the like, using the comma is appropriate. This is also true for oh and ah.

Now that you’re aware of this convention, it is even more critical than ever to read your work out loud before you show it to anyone else.

As some of you know, I have the honor of being a Judge of the weekly contests of Reedsy.com*. One of the most common things I see from these mostly novice writers is some glaring errors that a basic edit would take care of. Which leaves me to wonder, doesn’t everyone do some type of edit before they post their work where the entire internet has access?

Here are a few suggestions from my writing process.

Before I release the majority of my work to the world-wide-web or enter it into a contest, I always READ the piece OUT LOUD. You’ll be amazed at the errors you will find as you read. You will be able to identify missing and overused words. It is also possible to catch grammatical mistakes – such as missing or extra commas if you read with emphasis on punctuation.

Next, at a minimum, use some form of spell-check. While it is true that spell check only looks for misspelled words, and not incorrect word choices, it helps in eliminating basic mistakes.

Grammarly has a free version. Using the free program forces you to learn the basics because it is not foolproof, but if you struggle with sentence structure and word choice, this is a good step for you to incorporate into your editing routine.

Next time, we’ll finish up this short series on the comma. I think we’ve covered the basics, but we will come back to this punctuation mark repeatedly.

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~

*If you would like to compete in the weekly contests, check out Reedsy.com. The site is a valuable resource for writers.

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Grammar Basics – The Comma with Descriptive Phrases

Here we are with yet another lesson dealing with the comma. I think when you realize how many blog posts, articles, and Style Guides are dedicated to comma usage, you begin to understand why this little punctuation mark is such a bother.

Today, I want to talk about using commas with descriptive phrases.

Basically, there are two types of descriptive phrases – one is considered essential, and the other is non-essential. The difference between these two phrases comes down to the emphasis of what is being described, the noun serving as the subject of the sentence.

When the phrase is essential to the meaning (and often the identity) of the noun it belongs to, a bracket of commas is NOT appropriate.

The reason for this is because without the descriptive phrase, the noun isn’t complete.

Conversely, when the descriptive phrase is non-essential and isn’t needed to identify the noun, then the phrase is set off with commas.

Here are some examples:

In the sentence,

      The man with the gray and black moustache is my husband.

      (The descriptive phrase, ‘with the gray and black moustache,’ is how the husband is identified – therefor it is essential information, and NO commas are used.)

In this sentence,

      My hubby, with the gray and black moustache, threw the ball for the dog.

      (In this instance, the descriptive phrase, ‘with the gray and black moustache,’ is NON-essential because it is already clear that the subject of the sentence is ‘my hubby’ – therefore it is non-essential information, and commas are required to set it apart from the rest of the sentence.)

Next time, we will cover Commas with Introductory Words and Phrases.

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~

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The Oxford Comma Debate

The definition of the Oxford comma (also known as a serial comma—or even a Harvard comma apparently):

It’s the comma that follows the penultimate item in a list of three or more things. It is also a thing that many writers and grammarians love to debate, though I’m not sure why.

So, let’s take a look at the Oxford comma debate. While I fall with those who believe that using this highly debated comma – because it actually makes things easier to understand. (Remember – we want readers to understand what we write.)

So, as far as I can tell, the main argument against using the Oxford comma is that it’s somehow easier to not insert a comma at the end of a list of three or more items.

Let’s look at this example: 

We invited my parents, Herb and Liza.

To me, this makes sense if I invited two people named Herb and Liza, who both happen to be my parents. I included their names in the sentence for easy reference.

But if I actually invited four people, then this could be confusing, because I should’ve done one of the following:

Example #1 (with serial comma): We invited my parents, Herb, and Liza.

Example #2 (sans serial comma): We invited Herb, Liza and my parents.

Both sentences make some sense AND both are grammatically correct.

The confusion comes in when the reader realizes they do not know who Herb and Liza could be. And once your mind begins down that path – it becomes apparent that by not consistently using the Oxford comma, confusion arises for the reader by omitting a comma.

As a writer of flash fiction, I love streamlined language as much as the next person, but this sets up a problem for your reader.

And as a writer who wants to avoid being misunderstand, I’m going to use every tool in my Writer’s Tool Box – including the Oxford Comma.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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Grammar Basics – The Comma with Dependent Clauses

(Notice how in the graphic I’ve included with this post, one person is dragging the other – or is it one person trying to stay with the other – this is the dependent relationship I want to illustrate here.)

Well, here we are – back with another day filled with fun facts about the comma. (Okay, maybe it’s only me who thinks they’re fun facts.)

So, in my last post, we discussed the use of a comma when you’re joining an Independent Clause with another one, OR when you’re joining a Dependent Clause with the Independent Clause, also known as a compound sentence. We discussed how a Dependent Clause is one that doesn’t express a complete thought; it cannot stand alone, and it needs more information to make a statement.

In addition to the compound sentence scenario, you will also have introductory dependent clauses. I see this error in a lot of peoples’ writing. The introductory phrase does what it says – it introduces the sentence.

For example:

If you accept this scholarship, we will pay for all college expenses and fees.

~and~

Whether you agree with her or not, she is right.

In both of these sentences, you have the opening phrase followed by a comma. As illustrated in these two examples, you can see that a subordinating conjunction (if, because, or when) introduces the dependent clause, and the second part of the sentence is an independent clause.

Conversely, you have instances where a main, independent clause opens the sentence, and a dependent clause follows it. (Very similar to the compound sentence rules)

We will agree to the proposal if you accept our conditions.

~and~

Paul sighed when he heard the news.

There are several more discussions in the Chicago Manual of Style** about the use of commas with different kinds of predicates, appositives, etc. I’m not going to cover those – for a few reasons, I fear I would confuse you because just reading about them makes my head spin. And, obviously, I do not feel like I’m understand them well enough to give you any kind of explanation.

So, next time, we will take a look at the Great Oxford Comma Debate.

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~

**the Chicago Manual of Style is the most widely used style guide in writing. It is well worth the investment to include one in your library of reference books, OR subscribe to the online service.

Elements of the Short Story – Theme

What Is A Theme?

If you think about it – the Theme of your story is what the Story is REALLY about.

For instance, you write a loving story about spending time with your grandmother in her kitchen while you were young. You tell about the smells, the feel of spending time with her, and you even describe the kitchen down to the last detail. But the story is about how a child experiences LOVE.

While the term, theme, is often misunderstood, it is an essential part of your story. Too many people view it as an abstract concept instead of the actionable item within the context of your writing. This trend is unfortunate, because if viewed correctly, the theme is the story.

I just read a great book on this concept. The author is K.M. Weiland, and the book is Writing your story’s Theme, The Writer’s Guide to Plotting Stories that Matter. The book was just released in October and it explains the concept of how a powerful theme comes about.

“Powerful themes are never incidental. They emerge from the conjunction of strong plots and resonant character arcs.” ~K.M. Weiland

I couldn’t decide whether to put this blog entry in the ‘Mustang Patty presents,’ or here. I think ‘theme’ is an important element of the short story, so I ultimately decided to put it here.

Watch my blog on www.mustangpatty1029.com – I will be giving away a copy of this book sometime in December, 2020.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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