BTT: “Grenade!” Tom Exploded Wildly.

The following originally appeared on my Defunct Blog, Battlestar Grammactica. It was intended to be a Science Fiction and writing blog, but never took off (ha!). It is reprinted here as I shut down the other site.

Novice writers haven’t changed much in a hundred years. Take this dialogue from Tom Swift and His Giant Cannon:

“I guess Tom’s ears would burn if he could hear your praises, Mr. Damon,” laughed Mr. Swift. “Don’t spoil him.”

“Spoil Tom Swift? You couldn’t do it in a hundred years!” cried Mr. Damon, enthusiastically. “Bless my topknot! Not in a thousand years—no, sir!”

“But where is he?” asked Mr. Peterson, who was evidently unused to the extravagant manner of Mr. Damon.

“There he goes now!” exclaimed the gentleman who frequently blessed himself, some article of his apparel, or some other object.

What’s Wrong with this ?

Well for starters, the Tom swift stories were so full of this kind of dialogue, the term “Tom Swifty” became a parlor game. take these example, which are humorous, but not much worse than what was actually published:

“How much for the William Shatner poster,” Tom said enterprisingly.

“Where are the handcuffs?” Tom said arrestingly.

“I like it when you do that,” Tom ejaculated.

The problem here is that the writer does not trust the simple word “Said.”

“I saw you,” he said.

“I saw you too,” she said.

Then he said, “Well, Didn’t you say anything?”

It gets the job done, but it gets boring. so beginning writers try to dress it up using bigger words and more adverbs. They forget that “Said” is unobtrusive. it’s nearly invisible and for the reader is just a kind of placeholder. Often, It’s not even needed:

“I saw you.”

“I saw you too.”

“Well, Didn’t you say anything?”

Again, It’s banal, but between two characters it’s easy to tell who said what. If your characters have something to actually say, you can keep track of them other ways too, like this passage from Marion Zimmer Bradley’s A Door Through Space (1961):

But only a minute. Then one of the mob yelled, “We’ll go if you give’m to us! He’s no right to Terran sanctuary!”

I walked over to the huddled dwarf, miserably trying to make himself smaller against the wall. I nudged him with my foot.

“Get up. Who are you?”

The hood fell away from his face as he twitched to his feet. He was trembling violently. In the shadow of the hood I saw a furred face, a quivering velvety muzzle, and great soft golden eyes which held intelligence and terror.

“What have you done? Can’t you talk?”

He held out the tray which he had shielded under his cloak, an ordinary peddler’s tray. “Toys. Sell toys. Children. You got’m?”

I shook my head and pushed the creature away, with only a glance at the array of delicately crafted manikins, tiny animals, prisms and crystal whirligigs. “You’d better get out of here. Scram. Down that street.” I pointed.

A voice from the crowd shouted again, and it had a very ugly sound. “He is a spy of Nebran!”

Look at what Bradley does here. Not a single said, but it’s easy to tell who’s saying what through the use of action and dialect. Keep the Tom Swifites out of it.


ASM: Turkey City Lexicon

The following originally appeared on my Defunct Blog, Battlestar Grammactica. It was intended to be a Science Fiction and writing blog, but never took off (ha!). It is reprinted here as I shut down the other site.

Just like the military, Fiction writers use a specialized language born out of a need to accurately and succinctly describe situations in a hostile and changing environment. Enter the Turkey City Lexicon for years. Growing out of a science fiction writer’s group in Austin, Texas, it’s an invaluable resource for all writers.

It’s a collection of humorous writing tips, apt names for writing errors and a kind of secret handshake for writers all rolled into one.

For Example:

  • The Kitchen-Sink StoryA story overwhelmed by the inclusion of any and every new idea that occurs to the author in the process of writing it. (Attr. Damon Knight)
  • And plotPicaresque plot in which this happens, and then that happens, and then something else happens, and it all adds up to nothing in particular.
  • Eyeball KickVivid, telling details that create a kaleidoscopic effect of swarming visual imagery against a baroquely elaborate SF background. One ideal of cyberpunk SF was to create a “crammed prose” full of “eyeball kicks.” (Attr. Rudy Rucker)

And it’s now been released to the public at the SFWA website.

Learn these terms. Use them wisely and you’ll get more out of your writing workshop. The other writers wil no exactly what you mean by an “As you know,Bob” passage and you’ll look like you know what you’re doing.

Which, of course is half the battle.

BTT: Apostrophes, Possessives and Pronouns, OH MY!

The following originally appeared on my Defunct Blog, Battlestar Grammactica. It was intended to be a Science Fiction and writing blog, but never took off (ha!). It is reprinted here as I shut down the other site.


It’s a writer’s easiest mistake to make. You write one wrong word, followed by another, followed by yet another. And spellcheck doesn’t catch any of them. You proofread it, your eyes skimming over the mistake and hit send. Shortly after, you get yet another rejection letter, making fun of your heritage, your education and your dreams. You read your work, the tears swelling up, your vision blurring, and you see this:

The Cylon’s saw there prey over their, they’re spines glowing in anticipation.

Ok, You deserved that one. Have a good cry.

Look, It’s easy. Apostrophe’s do two things in the English language:

  • Show Possession
  • Show Contractions

The Problem is they can’t do both at the same time

Apostrophes Show Possession

If the noun doesn’t end in s, add ‘s, regardless of plurality

Baltar’s demons

The Cylon’s Basestar

The men’s triangle team

If the word ends in s, usually add just the apostrophe. Some style guides do show ‘s for words ending in s, as that’s the way they’re still pronounced. Sorry, this is still in flux

Gaius’ fantasy

Pilots’ Vipers (Pilots’s Vipers? Nahh…)

Compound words and joint ownership put the ‘s at the ery end of the bunch of nouns:

Commander-in-Chief’s quarters

Starbuck and Apollo’s relationship

Six and Gaius’ destiny

Personal pronouns do not have the apostrophe : Indefinite pronouns do.

His, Her (hers), Your (Yours), Their (Theirs), Its

Everybody’s home planet


While we’re on the subject, here’s where we start having problems. The apostrophe can contract “Is” and “are” down so they sound the same as the possessives:

Everybody’s home planet

Everybody’s going home

This leads to all kinds of homophones in English:

It’s looking at its former body.

They’re standing over there next to their ships.

You’re not getting your weapon back.

And in the heat of battle, typing away at your desk, it’s easy to miss these small mistakes. But editors, who are looking for any way they can to cull their paperwork, see these small, common mistakes, they make the snap decision that you are a small, common writer.

Go ahead, have that cry.

BTT:Focus On POV: Point of View

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Image via Wikipedia

The following originally appeared on my Defunct Blog, Battlestar Grammactica. It was intended to be a Science Fiction and writing blog, but never took off (ha!). It is reprinted here as I shut down the other site.


Obi Wan: Anakin, Chancellor Palpatine is evil.
Darth Vader: From my point of view, The Jedi are Evil!
Obi Wan: Well…Then you are lost.

Revenge of the Sith

Point of View is one of those basic things that writers understand is important, recite back to you, post on the wall, and then ignore in the heat of the moment while drafting. The rules of Point of view are simple:

  • Pick one POV and Stick with it to avoid confusing your readers.
  • If you must have multiple POV, make it clear where one POV ends and another begins.

What is POV?

POV is related to your narrative voice as the author. If you think of your main character as your viewppoint character, POV tells us how closely the narrator (That’s your role) is following that character around. Luckily, their are only five main POVs worth worrying about:

First Person:

The first person POV is the closest to the viewpoint character : It’s their story told by them using “I” and “Me”. The author is pretending to be his main character, and letting us in on their thoughts and emotions. It’s the most immediate POV and instantly brings us into the world of the story. A lot of classic Science Fiction is written in this POV- Wells, Verne, Burroughs- they all used the immediacy of someone telling this amazing tale to give their fantastic stories veracity. However, it can be limiting. Your character cannot know the motives, thoughts or emotions of the other characters. If you have a grand, sweeping war story to tell,you’re limiting yourself to one small part of the action. Not that this hasn’t been done before:

All this time I saw no human beings, and no signs of the Martians.
I encountered a couple of hungry-looking dogs, but both hurried
circuitously away from the advances I made them. Near Roehampton I had seen two human skeletons–not bodies, but skeletons, picked clean–and in the wood by me I found the crushed and scattered bones of several cats and rabbits and the skull of a sheep. But though I gnawed parts of these in my mouth, there was nothing to be got from
them.    — H.G. Wells”The War of the Worlds

Second Person:

The second person is tricky. It is seldom used, although science fiction readers probably remember it from the old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. In the Second Person POV, the narrator directly addresses the reader as the main character. “You do this and You Feel That,” the narrator says. “Oh Yeah?” you respond. There have been a few successful books written in the second person, notably “Bright Lights, Big City” and “A Prayer for the Dying,” but second person works better for short forms: Stories or connective passages:

You sink down and muffle your head in the clothes, shivering all the while, but less from bodily chill, than the bare idea of a polar atmosphere. It is too cold even for the thoughts to venture abroad. You speculate on the luxury of wearing out a whole existence in bed, like an oyster in its shell, content with the sluggish ecstasy of inaction, and drowsily conscious of nothing but delicious warmth, such as you now feel again. Ah! that idea has brought a hideous one in its train. You think how the dead are lying in their cold shrouds and narrow coffins, through the drear winter of the grave, and cannot persuade your fancy that they neither shrink nor shiver, when the snow is drifting over their little hillocks, and the bitter blast howls against the door of the tomb.—Nathaniel Hawthorne “The Haunted Mind”

Third Person Limited:

In the third person limited, the narrator follows the viewpoint character around from somewhere over their right shoulder, kind of like their guardian angel. The Narrator knows what they are thinking and doing, and can notice things that the viewpoint character might miss, but is still attached to them. Important plot points can happen offstage, other characters can have hidden motives and feelings, but we’ve put a little distance between the reader and the character and can get a little larger picture:

He heard shouting, quarreling voices, but nothing made sense through the
haze of his agony. He felt someone grab at him–more than one person–and they were dragging him willy-nilly across the ground. Something was clutched around his throat, almost choking him. He opened his eyes just as something clicked behind him.  —Lester Del Rey “The Sky is Falling”

Third Person Objective:

A little farther out, and we’ve lost the psychic connection we had with our viewpoint character. Third person objective is still focused on the viewpoint character, but now our narrator can no longer see inside that character’s mind. This POV is journalistic and cinematic. the author can spend time on description and action.

Manning waited for him to finish, then he turned back to the rest of the men in the room and spread his hands. “Now that, gentlemen, just shows how much weâ’ve found out so far.”

 He looked over at Rynason again.

“Has it occurred to you, Lee, that if these horses are the Outsiders, that maybe they know a little more than we do? I suppose you’re going to say you had a telepathic hookup with one of them and you didn’t see a thing to make you suspicious ; but just remember that they’ve been using telepathy for several thousand years and that you hardly know what you’re doing when you try it. —Terry Carr, “Warlord of Kor”

Third Person Omniscient:

And finally, farther out, we have the narrator as God. Third person omniscient is just that: The narrator can switch characters, knowing all thoughts and feelings. He can view things away from any characters, knows what’s happening on the far side of the world. While this POV gives the author the most leeway, it can be confusing to the reader. Perhaps it’s best to narrow your scope a little?

Jellico, with Van Rycke at his shoulder, halted before he stepped from the ramp so that the three Inter-Solar men, Captain, Cargo-master and  escort, whether they wished or no, were put in the disadvantageous position of having to look up to a Captain whom they, as members of one of the powerful Companies, affected to despise. The lean, well muscled,  trim figure of the Queen’s commander gave the impression of hard bitten force held in check by will control, just as his face under its thick layer of space burn was that of an adventurer accustomed to make split second decisions–an estimate underlined by that seam of blaster burn across one flat cheek. —Andre Norton “The Plague Ship”

Which should I use?

Well, That all depends on you. Each POV has it’s advantages and disadvantages. Generally, the wider the POV, the less connection with the main character. Each story has a unique POV that suits it best. A war story can have either a first person POV, in which we’re stuck in the mud with the main character, or an omniscient POV where we can see the generals make their errors, the politicians bicker, and our characters suffer.

The main thing is to try to stick to one. Switching point of view is confusing to the reader. The narrator becomes a character, and changing narrators is like changing characters:

I had thought that Ben had the egg, but he didn’t. Instead the Dark Lord, high in his obsidian castle, chuckled to himself as he stoked the velvet shell. Ben was scared that i would find out, of course, but I hadn’t yet and if he kept up the ruse, there was a chance that he would get my egg back from you.

Huh? I guess I know what I was trying to say there. But it’s hard to follow. If you have to change POV, Do it on a chapter or page break, and let the audience know the POV is Changing: Go from first to third, go to a character we haven’t visited before, do something that let’ss us know something fundamental has changed about how we view this world.

Which one’s right for your story?

It all depends on your point of view.

Google+ as Blogging Platform for Writers From “The Outlaw King” Author S.A. Hunt

Amazon Affiliate Link to S.A. Hunt's Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree

Available on Amazon

Author S.A. Hunt shares with us a few thoughts on Using Google+ as a blogging platform. Moderator of bothLibrary of Shadows On Reddit and Dark Fantasy Writers Workshop on G+, he seems to be ahead of the curve in finding new and unique ways to share his work, and I was interested in his thoughts on using G+ as an alternative to traditional blogging.


I don’t know why I keep doing it. Like my mother always warned me, it’s making me go blind.

Maybe I’m trying to give something back to the writing community, but every time I set myself up in another moderation role, I have to wonder: have I bitten off more than I can chew? What am I thinking? I should be writing, not trying to quote-unquote “run shit”. I have one novel out and another on the way. I don’t even know what I’m talking about anyway. But that’s just the Doubt Demon talking, isn’t it?

I keep telling people I don’t have time for this, don’t have time for that. That’s malarkey. I have plenty of time, it’s just the things they want me to do don’t involve writing, and to answer the Basement Jaxx, that’s where my head’s at.

Communities, subreddits, intermittently barking semi-authoritative writing-related madness at my friends like some kind of retired drill sergeant sitting on the front porch. I don’t have time to come to your birthday party! I don’t have time to help you move house! I’m got things to do. And they involve killing imaginary people.

By the way, this blog post is going to get pretty crazy, so if you have a weak stomach, consider this your official warning.

Library Of Shadows

The real answer is not because of my overwhelming need to push people around, I do that plenty on the swings down at the park, thank you, and no, I don’t have somewhere else to be, Officer Fussypants. It’s because I like to be up to my eyeballs in the craftmanship of writing.

Between moderating at the Dark-Fantasy Writers Workshop community on Google+, the 3,000+ subscriber Library of Shadows suspense magazine at Reddit, and interacting with thousands of writers on the bustling Google+ (like the indomitable Ksenia Anske and rock-god John Ward), I get to basically swim in words all day. You’re pushing people on the swings to help them get higher. It’s a honing mechanism. You hone each other. You jump in and come out sharper.

The Library of Shadows was initially created a couple of years ago — before Google+ really took off — as a way to siphon off the obviously fictional NoSleep stories that were getting everybody’s hackles up. Third-person anecdotes, end-of-the-world epics, nail-biters in which the protagonist dies: these tales were coming from very talented people, but they didn’t quite fit in at a forum where everything is true, even if it isn’t and killing off the hero stirs outrage like “if the guy is dead, how did he post this?” and “if the world was taken over by zombies, why don’t I see them when I look outside?”

So I made a subreddit and gave it the opposite stipulation: everything here is fiction. This is where you can go apeshit and really put your characters through the wringer. And while it hasn’t attracted quite the same following as NoSleep, it still has its die-hards, and occasionally I hear of budding novelists being “tactically directed” to the Library to offload their unbelievable fiction.

And that’s good. That’s how we get some of the best talent.

Now the Library has evolved into a continually rotating showcase of some of the best unfettered writing thatReddit has to offer. Unlike subreddits geared toward workshopping, being a moderator at the Library is to be a gatekeeper of quality.

If it’s a link without an excerpt (so we can see what we’re getting into), if it’s less than two pages’ worth of text (it’s a showcase, not a workshop), it goes back into the microwave to heat up the middle. Visitors to the Library are there to read for enjoyment, and while critique is often solicited and sometimes earned, it’s not the primary purpose.


People don’t tell you this, but being a person in charge of something like that is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, emotionally speaking. It gives you a sudden and sharp appreciation for what editors and traditional publishing houses commit to on a daily basis. You don’t see it coming. Having to put the kibosh on earnestly submitted bad prose eats at the edges of your soul like few other things.

It’s like jamming a hat down on a man’s head so tight the thoughts can’t get out, but sometimes you have to bear down and be mean. Sometimes those thoughts come squirming out half-formed and gnarly like some stillborn bovine, flopping headfirst onto the pavement greased in the black, stringy soup of confined rot. A pale, glistening bag of legs covered in what looks like Karo syrup.

That’s a horrendous mental image, isn’t it?

Now you know there are those whose job it is to plant their hands firmly on the end of that limp-limbed dead thing and heave it back into the womb, its lifeless eyes rolling, its purple tongue hanging out. You think you hate rejection letters, but imagine putting your lips against those damp, hoary folds and whispering, your white-vapor breath curling in the barn’s February silence, “I’m so sorry I had to push you back in. Better luck next time.”

Sometimes the corpse is so pretty we realize it deserves a chance to fret its stuff upon the stage, so we break out the makeup kit and defibrillator. Sometimes it pops right out sweet and dry, frolicking and playful, covered in fresh brown fur that doesn’t need more than an ounce of help.

We don’t love them any more than the dead ones, but they fetch a better price at the cattle auction. Sooollld! To the lady in the red jacket. Soooollld! To the businessman on the bus.

All things in Moderation

Moderating a fiction workshop is infinitely easier; it mainly centers around maintaining the firehose of self-promotion and making sure your fringe contributors don’t muck up the works with irrelevance and nonsense like videos of themselves singing and posts in a language nobody else can understand.

If it’s low-volume enough you feel the impetus to fill it up with your own insights to get things moving again. Which, if you’re like me, turns out to be that dead calf’s placenta, a veiny and rancid blob of advice. And like placenta, I don’t expect anyone to enjoy it, but there it is, stinking up the place, ready for clinical dissection.

I didn’t think that analogy would be as apt as it turned out to be. I just wanted to gross you out again.

Google+ as Blogging Platform for Writers

I keep hearing the clarion call from other writers: keep a blog! Fill it with stuff! What stuff? Insight? Who wants my blobs? I don’t have that many blobs. Blob blog. Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog. Say that three times fast.

I’m still in a learning stage myself, and most of my insights are calf-davers themselves. I’m not sure I could fill up a blob with my insight (I totally meant to say “blog”, but you see what came out), so what I do is toss it out onto the stoop of Google+ and see if the cat licks it up. I find it simpler and more organic and interactive to post the scrapings of my experience on Google+ because

A. It keeps me from having to force people to leave their social network to go look at my ridiculous website( Ed. Hey!), and

B. It allows for much richer and faster feedback than waiting for people to stumble across my blog and leave comments. Which I don’t think I can set up anyway, as my site’s on Weebly and while they’re the best, I don’t think they even have a module for comments. Which is just as well, because comments sections are the rotten apples of the internet. If you’re about to send me hate mail, go look at YouTube sometime. Also,

C. Social media deserves better than cat macros and depressing links to the nation-embarrassing perpetrations of Pat Robertson and John Boehner.

In other words, it takes out the internet middle-man and consolidates the user and the end-product. It takes the salesman out of the shadows of the mall or the big-box store, and sets him up on the sidewalk with a cart. What he’s selling isn’t always haute cuisine, but it’s a lot easier to access — and accessibility and visibility can make or break a salesman.

Especially when beef is what’s for dinner.


 About S.A.Hunt

S. A. Hunt writes horror and fantasy fiction, and loves each and every one of his readers. If you’d like to see what kind of wild-eyed insanity he can get up to when the rent’s on the line, check out his new fantasy gunslinger novelThe Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree (The Outlaw King)
, available now on Amazon Kindle and paperback from


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