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7 03, 2012

ARE YOU A PIDDLER?

By |2012-03-07T08:15:29-06:00March 7th, 2012|one word Wednesday, Uncategorized|7 Comments

ONE WORD WEDNESDAY and today’s word is PIDDLE. No not what puppies and kittens and small children do. Piddling is spending time in a trifling, or ineffective way according to Dictionary.com 

Some call it dawdling. The dictionary defines it as wasteful. I’m not so sure about that wasteful part. I think we all need piddle time.

Southerners are said to have fine-tuned the act of passing time, without waste or regret into a fine art. The whole idea of piddling is to kill time, but without any great effort or much meaning, according to Rick Bragg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. He claims it’s a cause worthy of lifelong study in his February 2012 Southern Living essay column, The Fine Art of Piddling

Piddling is not a necessity. In fact in most circles, it’s frowned upon. In Western pragmatism, we have to do most of the time. I’m a diehard multi-tasker. I loathe just sitting and doing nothing. Though you will find me stopping to smell the roses, not for long! The one exception–I can easily lose myself in a good book for hours until I come to THE END. Much like Rick Bragg described his wife, I piddle with purpose.  

But sometimes, piddling’s a forced condition. My latest piddling was neither planned nor welcomed, an unfortunate necessity. A torn rotator cuff took me down. I’ve had no choice but to kill time waiting to regain full use of my repaired shoulder muscles. Weeks in an immobilizing sling, now Attila the Hun physical therapy.

I’ve whittled away the hours sleeping with my guard dogs at my side.Or we watched movies. Turner and Hallmark movie channels mostly. I learned a lot about plotting and story development from those so I guess technically it wasn’t wasted time.

We also found some fascinating History channel offerings like Pawn Stars and American Restoration. Toby, Buster and I learned a lot! I really missed my daytime soap operas. Made me mad all over again that CBS canceled Guiding Light and As the World Turns.

Timing was the pits too. Two weeks into Kristen Lamb’s Social Media class. Wore me out typing one handed to get in my tweets, FB, and blog out there.I’ll be out of the sling soon and up to speed on the keyboard. But I’m thinking I’m gonna miss the piddling. Ironically, it’s been relaxing, refreshing and renewing. I’m thinking I’ll keep at least some piddling a part of every day.

Sentence Game Time: Dictionary.com suggests He wasted the day piddling around.

YOUR TURN: Have a sentence to share? Or a comment about your piddle habits or a time you were forced into piddling?

5 03, 2012

COLLOQUIALISMS and WEASEL WORDS

By |2012-03-05T09:00:29-06:00March 5th, 2012|Uncategorized|6 Comments

 When I shared a recent chapter with my critique partners, one of them called me for this sentence, “He found himself in deep water.”

 She didn’t understand that my POV character’s internal thought meant he found himself in trouble. She thought I put him in a swimming pool and forgot to put that detail on the page. Another problem I have… getting what’s playing in my head accurately portrayed on the page. But that’s a topic for another blog.

Her stumbling over the phrase led to a discussion of colloquial language and how words, phrases, and even clichés vary from one geographical area to another.

 Being from Texas, we have a whole slew of regional words. I just used another one—slew, meaning a whole bunch. We’re always y’all-ing and gonna and fixin’ when we talk. Foreigners sometimes need an interpreter. Consider these colloquial phrases I’ve been known to use verbally and in my writing:

  •  hot as tin toilet seat – in Texas we know that’s HOT
  • screaming bloody murder or  screaming banshee– used to stop the  pleasant sound coming from a kid or grandkid
  • grumpy as an old sitting hen – gives a more vivid image than grumpy old men
  • bone tired – yep, been there
  • slow as molasses – can’t you just see that black syrup oozing out of the jar?
  • keep your pants on – meaning not what you think, but to be patient!

 Besides colloquialisms that slip into my first drafts, I have “favorite” words that pop up when I’m being lazy with my writing or rushing. Words like: had, that, could, was, felt, knew, thought, saw, walked, come.

“Weasel words”  Margie Lawson,  editing guru, calls these words and colloquial phrases. I learned in her deep editing class, The EDITS System, to keep a WEASEL WORD CHART listing phrases, overused word, throw-away words, clichés and opinion words. The chart is easy to populate. The words we overuse stand out like sore thumbs. (Sorry, Margie had to use a cliché to make my point.)

Then, during the revision stages, I use the chart with my word processor’s search and replace function to eliminate them.

BUT sometimes using colloquial language fits characterization. Sometimes it has a function in dialogue especially if the protagonist is a Texan or the piece is written about Texas.

 Throwing such informal colloquialism into novel narrative, on the other hand, can be a stumbling block for readers by pulling them from the story. And, then they do what no writer wants—quit reading!

If using colloquialisms is your writer’s voice, okay. I caution you to be sure your reader can understand from the scene context what you’re saying.

 REMEMBER: Our writer’s responsibility is to always make sure in the battle of words that story reigns.

 What did I do with my CP’s suggestion? Eliminate the phrase or not?

 In this case, I believed the reader could discern the meaning from the rest of the scene and left the phrase “deep water.”

Your turn:

What are your favorite colloquialisms and weasel words? Do they slip into your writing?

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