Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 44


a novel told entirely from letters. Recent examples are Alice Walker's The Color Purple and Stephen King's Dolores Claiborne.

Edward C. Patterson

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 43

Metaphor medley - (also metaphor marathon)

two or more metaphors strung together in the same sentence. This is effective when the two metaphors are in contrast or a dichotomy. However, when they are similar, they give the reader a choice and they tend to slip off the path and the story. It also gives the appearance that the author can't make up their mind and is pushing a task off to the reader. Tsk Tsk. A metaphor medley can be effective, especially when expressing dichotomy, irony and comedy. It's also effective in dialog. However, authors should only use or retain when it works. If in doubt, cut one out and run.

Edward C. Patterson

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 42


a noble and pompous presentation or word order usually in the second person to give a ceremonial effect. Used in poetry, but in novels can reset or commence a section making the words more iconic than the subject matter. Authors should take care it its use or readers will either enshrine you or throw their Kindles against the wall. Example: the following set non-elegiacally: Most people would agree that wealthy men are in the market for a wife. Set elegiacal: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife — of course, the iconic opening of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

Edward C. Patterson

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 41


a post action or event reacting by a single or multiple character, usually occuring in the next or subsequent chapter from the action. This is one of the key ingredients for testing an author's mettle. Any event not worth sequeling, should probably be jettisoned from the work. Sequeling develop characters and also underscores an events significance in the reader's mind, as well as summarizing what just happened by eliminating the less important details allowing the event to gel into a particular shape for future reference. A sequel is not a second book or film in a series, a misnomer for a follow-up piece.

Edward C. Patterson

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 40

passive voice

a clause or phrase that utilizes a stative verb, such as IS or HAS and generally has no object, just a subject and verb. The door opened. The tree was big. There is nothing wrong with this construction, however, when it occurs frequently, it makes for sluggish and flat writing. Therefore, the first example, The door opened can be converted to Donald opened the door. The second, The tree was big, can become a fragment - Big tree. We are encouraged to refrain from passive sentences, because in general writing, it makes for a weak delivery of information. However, using the passive voice is an important technique in writing, the use of which can allow the reader to fall into the scene on a pastel cloud. (The last 2 sentences were passive voiced). Passive voice is discouraged for action sequences (duh) and narrative. Editors who attack every passive voice sentence should be questioned, because they are being slaves to a rule. However, an author needs to recognize every passive voice clause and question its existence, usually in revision, because when drafting, passive generally predominates, because the human brain favors its use, but readers are rarely engaged by it. There is a whole science that authors must know about the difference between writing and Reading, the one being the brain engaged to the hand and the other being the eye engaged to the brain. But that's another story.

Edward C. Patterson

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 39


unlike the story, which is the sum of the parts, a theme is a universal extraction from the parts. Like an orange, the story is the pulp, while the theme is the juice. Most successful novels have themes that rise like a halo from the book, but does not drive the novel. As such, themes are not generally part of the original process, but are grafted on after the substance of the work is finished or in revision. Novels that start with the theme generally sink like lead and stink like skunk. Nipping and tucking a theme into the work after the bread has risen lets the work breath and fills the reader with a sweet literary aroma.

Edward C. Patterson

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Authr's Jargon 38

logic suspenders

an impossibility presented and accepted by the reader, generally as a necessity that serves art, but sometimes as a triviality that gives an author great joy. The prime example is W.S. Gilbert's setting of The Pirates of Penzance Act I on the protagonist's birthday on a sunny day on the Cornwall shore, but in Act II we learn that the protagonist was born in Leap Year on the 29th of February, which would make that first Act setting an impossibility. My own use of this is when I set a split action scene, one in San Francisco and the other in Tuscany both simultaneosly at nightime. Triviality references (mine) include a cricket chirping in February in Georgia (I hang a lantern on that one) and (my favorite) a reference to a hummingbird by a Chinese character (in the 12th Cenury), an impossibility, because hummingbirds are indiginous to the Americas only.

Edward C. Patterson

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 37

kinetic redundancy

this is the inclusion of redundant words when describing an action, usually as a colloquialism. ie. He kicked the door with his foot (with his foot being redundant). She clapped her hands, (her hands being redundant). I shrugged my shoulders (my shoulders being redundant). Of course, I could kick the door with your foot, or clap my knees and even shrug my duties (I know it should be shirk), but when the action needs specific body parts to complete the action, they are best left on the wayside of the road in the dust. (That last clause demonstrates triple redundancy).

Edward C. Patterson

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 36


a rhythmic device. It’s the gallop we all know from the William Tell Overture, where the stress comes on the third syllable. Ta-ta-dum, ta-ta-dum, ta-ta-dum-dum-dum. It spices things up when things get dreary and too grammatical. It’s effective in getting the reader’s attention at the beginning of sections. ie. Flat = In the apple tree’s shade, she ate a peach tart. Spicy = She sat in the shade of the old apple tree eating her peacherine tart. Most anapests can be formed by transforming a possessive into the more rhythmic “of the.” “Peacherine,” is not any word in my or your dictionary. Writers must be prepared to invent new words that have meaning outside the dictionary. A peacherine tart is a wonderful thing to behold and eat, I’ll tell you.

Edward C. Patterson

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 35

red herring

the introduction of a memorable object, event or character that you lead the reader to believe is crucial, but turns out to be a distraction - sleight of hand. This covers the seeding of a crucial element that is hidden in plain view. This is a popular device in mysteries. Irony is the key to its success, otherwise it is merely a device and not an engaging element.

Edward C. Patterson

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 34


the introduction of memorable objects or characters that can be used as crucial elements later on in the story or not. Usually some irony is attached to seeding. i.e. a favorite silver letter opener might becomes the murder weapon. (I have a set of MountBlanc pens, I even name them, that have a life of their own).

Edward C. Patterson

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 33

full sensing

The application of the environment so the characters (and the reader) use all five senses to convey the mood. Many authors use sight and sound primarily and forget to use touch, smell and taste. As a result they spend time describing a characters wearing apparel or the nail poilish color. Full sensing brings a reader further into a scene than any other technique. Aromas, in particular, can set off imagery, while touch can extend into pain or goose flesh (horripilation).

Edward C. Patterson

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 32

sound distraction

Inserting an errant sound in a quiet or a dialog moment to break the reader's concetration but letting the outer world intrude in the inner one. For example, a seriious conversation between two lovers can become so weighted that it sags. So we insert - "A hawk cawed in the distant woodlands." That'll do it (corny as it sounds) and it works every time.

Edward C. Patterson

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's JKargon 31

Concise Inference

The revision or rewriting of a novel from its draft manuscript employing top-drawer writing techniques that have been purposefully ignored when authoring the draft, since a draft must capture the core spirit of an author's creativity without interference from craft. Art and craft are allies only after the fact. Many readers fail to acknowlege (nor should they care), that the product they consume has been written usually three times and, in most cases, upward of eight. In the process of concise inference, the author travels the pages with a different intent with each go-through, always to make a good work better, and a fine work, great. This is not to be confused with third party intervention by editors, beta-readers and authorial panels. Only the author has the top-drawer tools to apply to the work, even in response to outside stimuli.

Edward C. Patterson

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 30

section break

often misunderstood, this is an internal break within the chapter required for a major scene shift, but particularly when the Point of View changes from one character to another (another major scene change). POV rules apply most strictly in 3rd person limited story mode, where the narrator is limited to only one character point of view at a time and other character's most reveal their intentions and development through dialog and action (and other narrating devices, such as probability assumptions). The section break, in its loosest manifestation, is signaled by three carriage returns, but most often is represented by three asterisks centered at the break ( * * *). More formally (my preference) is a number sequence (1,2,3 etc) for each section break. Even if the POV switches for one paragraph or one sentence, the section break should be observed.

Edward C. Patterson

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 29


a formulaic book written for a surefire audience with the promise of steady revenue. This does not mean they are poorly written, it just means that their author depends on the income, knows where the paycheck is and writes it to readers taste, in most cases severing the creative bond between art and commerce. The name derives from the poor starving artist metaphor that needs to pay the gas bill to keep the pot boiling. The expression usually applies to books, but the concept can be applied to any art form that is driven by popular demand instead of creative integrity. It is possible to line the two up. Usually, works of this nature are not enduring, because popular tastes change leaving these whales beached.

Edward C. Patterson

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Reader's Guider to Author's Jargon 28


the speed of delivery for a novel, which varies at different points of the work. Generally, books need a moderate to fast pacing at the onset. (The opposite is called - slow burn). The pace should be steady and secure for the exposition and developmental portions of the work. However, the last act should have a significantly faster pace. Pace is a tactical device, taken paragraph at a time. There are many ways to speed up or slow down deliver, including fragmentation, tense shift, anapestic and other rhythmic devices. Word use is important, a simplification of language hastens pace, while metaphoric overlay slows things down. A major fault in many novels (even ones by the big names) is a steady delivery through a consistent style throughout the work. This delivers a slow burn over the entire work and tends to disengage readers midstream. If I could cite one style element that can make or break the structure of a book, it is pacing.

Edward C. Patterson

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 27

Deja vu event reinforcement

a repeating event or template throughout a work that weaves the structure into a whole. Such parallel scenes can remind the reader of important events, enhance character development or heighten the effect of similar events. An example of this can be seen in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, which has a recurring image of a woman draped in shimmering gold and fading further and further away. (Goldberry, Galadriel, Arwin).

Edward C. Patterson

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 26


trade edition

a standard 6 x 9 (technically 5.32" x 8.51') paperback edition of a book, usually perfect bound for durability.

hardback edition

a 6 x 9 (5.32" x 8.51") trade edition affixed to hardcover using a single stitch and glue. Technically not a hardcovr at all.

library edition

a 6 x 9 (5.32" x 8.51") true hardback, with stitched covers reinforced for durability since it must withstand the test of lending.

mass market

a smaller format (4.33" x 7.01") or (5.12" x 7.8") on thin paper and smaller type, glue bound and of short shelf life.

Edward C. Patterson

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author Jargon 25

Story vs. Plot

a story

the product of events, character reaction, interaction and development, and narration that organically evolves into an engaging and satisfactory experience for a reader or a listener.

a plot

a hole dug in a cemetery where failed novels are buried en masse. Akin to outlines, plots are fabrications meant to hold stories together, but like a skeleton, is a fossilized contrivance.

Edward C. Patterson

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon

Second person omniscient restatement

A mode of narrative whereby the 2nd person is used and the language is puffed or pretenscious giving an epic effect. This is a good device for short stretches toward the end of a work when an author needs to bring the reader up out of the minutia and into the rarified air of summary. In this case, the distance assumed between the narrator and the reader is sufficiently startling as to reset the work on a new plane. Story elements familiar to the reader are treated as newly introduced and with different language, and main charaters are refered to in type as opposed to developed characters. Since this is used after the reader is embedded in the work, the effect is like an iceberg hitting a volcano.

Edward C. Patterson

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 23

tense change

This is a section change from past tense to present tense to indicate a break in the story line. It can be disorienting, however, in this case it is meant to be so.

Edward C. Patterson

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 22

tense shift

The slight and imperceptible switch from the past tense to the present tense in an action sequence. This is done to make it more alive for the reader. However, it can also disorient readers and get you an F from Miss Biddiebartlestein's English grammar exam (not to mention a reviewer's perverse glance). It's done all the time, but can only shift for a few sentences and needs transitioning.

Edward C. Patterson

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 21

About Point of View - avoiding POV Violation

POV filters

These are words that glue the reader into the particular POV, generally the word knew - Paul knew that Leslie loved apples. However, when overused, filters become the source of loose writing, so authors need vigilance in their use.

POV maintainers

These are words and phrases that allow the non-POV character to express their probable point of view, yet maintains the POV established in the section. i.e. She probably knew him. OR Sydney always ate his sandwich with his hand, no doubt (that is when Sydney is not the POV character). These words generally do not cause reader anxiety, or less so than a slip in POV.

Edward C. Patterson

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 20

Novels by specie and genus

A sword and sandal

Traditionally a gladiatorial novel, but now any work that reflects the arena, featured in many SciFi books.

A horse opera

Traditionally, an American Old West setting, but now has been adopted by fantasy works as well.

Slice of Life

At one time a popular term for a gritty, realistic work that connects to the readers real life. Is less used now since this type can fall in many genres.


a particular type of fantasy where the fantasy world and the real world is express by a slight degree from each other so as to produce an illusive familiarity. Tolkien called his brand of fantasy faerie.

Edward C. Patterson

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 19


a technique of creating cloned or similar characters that either strengthen a view through underscoring or opposition. Usually these characters have a similar look, names and are genetically related. Their use is important for continuity. Generally less important characters, they can shore up structure when the story moves to different locales and the characters do not. I look upon it as double or triple casting roles to serve the protagonist at all point in the stories development.

Ed Patterson

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 18


a trail off from the high point in the work, which should be reserved for sequeling and the end of the story . Sometimes the climax is placed to close to a powerful core scene and becomes anti-climatic, usually viewed as a major structural flaw.

Edward C. Patterson

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Reader's Guide to Author's Jargon 17

string of pearls

this is a technique of developing characters and event in a circular pattern, alternating between at least three sets of story-lines and characters, each time tightening to a climax that stands in the center. Usually all the characters and events come to a head. This structual technique works best in a five-act structure, between the third and fourth act.

Edward C. Patterson