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~

Elements of the Short Story: Middles

Last week, we addressed Beginnings and how important they are to your story. This week, we’re going to take a look at Middles.

The Middle of your story is essential to the overall success of the piece. First of all, it needs to build on the elements that began in the Beginning. The characters you introduced must move towards the end of the arc, and the conflict must be fleshed out.

While one definition of the Middle is everything after the introduction of the main characters/conflict and before the climax. Well, that’s not really ALL the Middle of your story is.

Is it?

In the short story, maybe. But in longer stories and a novel, the Middle is the good stuff. The things that breathe life into your characters and show the progress being made to work through the conflicts.

In a novel, the Middle is easily most of the book. For instance, by the end of Chapter Six in Gone with the Wind, we’ve met the four central characters, we understand what each of them wants and expects from the others. We know the obstacles keeping each character from what they want. We’ve also witnessed the Beginning of the Civil War.

If you use Gone with the Wind as a blueprint for a novel, you can see that its climax is summarized in the last chapter. Therefore, Chapters Seven through Sixty-two – roughly eighty-six percent of the book could be called the Middle.

Seven through Sixty-two. Think about that. Yes, Gone with the Wind is an epic and a long book, but it is rich and detailed. When I read it for the first time when I was twelve, I decided right then and there that I would write a book, or books, that could move people the way it moved me.

A term used for the Middle of the story is Throughline. This means your story’s main plotline, which answers the question, “What happens to the Protagonist?” In a novel, many things will happen to the protagonist, and the Middle describes them.

In a short story, it is often the only thing that happens to your protagonist. The Middle of your story tells the tale of the journey. The Middle moves your protagonist from the introduction through the climax.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Mustang Patty Presents:

What’s the Story? By Melissa Donovan

The subtitle for this book is:

Building Blocks for Fiction Writing

(from The Storyteller’s Toolbox)

Melissa Donovan has an excellent series of books written for writers of fiction. I own several and they are a great resource for me. She also has a few books of exercises that I go to when I’m ‘stuck.’ Additionally, she has a blog that is always full of good information. 

Check it out: https://www.writingforward.com/writing-resources/   

(While you’re there, sign up for her weekly newsletter.)

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 find that this book is an excellent resource because it covers so many of the elements of story writing all in one place. This book explained, in great detail, so many different terms: character, plot, conflict, and change. It challenged me to understand the story in a myriad of ways.

If you want to understand how the elements work together to form your story and allow you to learn about what a story is made of and how it is developed – then this is the book for you!

Send me an email TODAY so you will be entered in the drawing – you won’t be sorry!!

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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~

Elements of the Short Story – Beginnings

One of the most critical elements of the short story is the beginning. We’ve all been told at one time or another that it is only with a strong opening that you will hook the reader. And while a reader may give a new novel a few pages, or even a chapter, chances are that that same reader will only give a short story a few paragraphs.

And if you’re dealing with an editor, publisher, or agent, you have maybe three paragraphs to hook them.

So, what is a writer to do?

Consider these four elements:

  • Character
  • Conflict
  • Specificity
  • Credibility

While all four of these elements are mandatory throughout anything you write, they are essential in the beginning.

Character: Your opening should give the reader a person to focus on. In a short story, this person should show up almost immediately. And the writers’ job is to produce a believable character.

Conflict: Within the beginning, it is crucial to let the reader know where the problem, rub, or possible personal confrontation will be coming from. Characters without issues are bland.

Specificity: An effective beginning makes use of specific details. These consist of how your character thinks, speaks, where they are, and what they need to address. These are the things that make the character believable. Additionally, using specifics makes your beginning different than the thousand others out there.

Credibility: Are your descriptions and prose believable? This is where a writer’s skill and understanding of the craft come into play. You only have the beginning of the story to convince your reader that you – as the writer, understand how to tell this story and present it so that it’s entertaining.

Other things a reader will look at is your sentence structure, sentence variety, and your understanding of all things grammar.

These are just a few things that need to shine in the beginning. And remember – the shorter the piece, the less time you have to prove to the reader that your work is worth their time.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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~

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~

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~

Mustang Patty Presents:

On Writers and Writing by Margaret Atwood

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.


Margaret Atwood is the book’s author, The Handmaid’s Tale – now a popular and award-winning miniseries on Hulu. However, she has also written more than forty books, including fiction, poetry, and critical essays. Her books have been published in over thirty-five countries. She has won several awards to include the Edinburgh Book Festival Enlightenment Award for a distinguished contribution to world literature and thought.

Her non-fiction book, On Writers and Writing, allows readers to learn more about the writer herself and gain powerful insights into the writer’s world. The book is based on the Empson Lectures given by Margaret at the University of Cambridge. 

Sprinkled with humor and delicious tidbits, this book is a pleasant read for the writer. It allows one to think about the correlations in one’s life that mirror hers and other writers.

Atwood explores the writer’s role and the mindset required to live the ‘writing life.’

If you’re looking for inspiration – you need not look any further.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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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