Writing Tips: Sayings, Expressions, Curses

Sayings, expressions, colloquial phrases, and curses are all a part of a culture’s rich history. They can change from country to country, city to city, and sometimes even between neighborhoods. We use them without thought, peppering them into our speech.

colWhen your writing speculative fiction set in different worlds, whether it’s Fantasy, Alternate History, Sci-Fir or any other genre of fiction where you are creating a brand new world out of whole cloth, then you should consider how the inhabitants of your speculative world speak. How do they curse? How do they insult each other? What terms of endearments do they use? What colloquial phrases color their speech?

The fun of writing speculative fiction is creating new worlds and trying to make them as real to your readers as you can. So writing dialog that feels real, inspired by the tapestry of your world’s history and cultures, can enhance the verisimilitude of your world and help to draw your readers into the fantastical world that you have created.

COLLOQUIALISMSI am writing a Fantasy novel called Above the Storm. It is set in a world of floating islands above an ever churning Storm. The inhabitants travel by sailing ships that soar through the skies and upon flying beasts of burden. Some animals don’t exist in this world. It’s populated more by flying birds and fish, than by more terrestrial mammals. Weather is very important to the inhabitants. Both because a dark storm lurks below the that spawns dangerous Cyclones that ravage their lands, and because sailing is such an integral part of the universe. So the inhabitants use a lot of wind metaphors.

Be creative. Delve into your history. And don’t feel the need to explain your sayings. For instance, if a character, talking about her deceased mother says, “My ma weren’t no golden feather while she lived.” The context can tell a lot about what the character is saying. In the previous line, the character she is talking to mentioned what a terrible mother he had. The reader can infer that “no golden feather” means her mom wasn’t that great of a person either without me explaining the origin of this colloquial expression. Though a careful reader could notice earlier in the book when a story is told about the first Dawn Empress who lived two thousand years ago. She was a Luastria (bird people) and was hatched from a golden egg laid by the primary deity (Riasruo, the sun goddess). She had golden feathers, painted like the sun, and was considered a paragon of virtue.

collCurses and swearing can be even more fun. You might not want to drop a lot of f-bombs and s-words. For some fantasy worlds, they can work (GRR Martin), but if you’re not wanting to have such an R-rating work, you can uses curses and swear words drawn from your world building. Most curses relate to bodily functions, sexual metaphors, blasphemy (twisting something revered), and fears. If your world is populated by an ever turning Storm created by an Evil Goddess called Theisseg, your characters can say words like “Theisseg’s scrawny feathers” or “storming” or “storm-cursed.” Instead of having a character say go F yourself, they can say, “go jump into the Storm.”

Be creative. Have fun with them. Make your world feel alive with a history and culture that didn’t just start when you wrote chapter one. Half the fun of reading speculative fiction in all its fun and myriad forms is for the world building. Entering new worlds that you can get lost in and set your imagination on fire. When your readers fall in love with the world you created, you’ll began to grow the loyal fans that will want to read more about your world.

Author Nathaniel Sean Crawford has added his own ideas and examples of this idea from more popular sources than my writings. Click here to check out his article!

 

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New Release: The Assassin’s Remorse

The Assassin’s Remorse

by J.M.D. Reid

 

I am proud to say I’ve published my first short story on Amazon! The Assassin’s Remorse is a tale close to my heart, drawing close to some of my personal beliefs. You can buy the Assassin’s Remorse from Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, and Amazon AU for $0.99. And for those who have subscribed to Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free!

TheAssassinsRemorse2“What had she tried to say to him at the end?”

Cerena’s face transformed in the last moment’s of her life, the fear fleeing, and a strange, calm serenity overtook her. Her lips moved, whispering three words.

The Assassin was forever changed.

A decade of blood stained his hands. None of his victims had ever weighed down his conscience. He was merely the tool, the living weapon wielded by his employers. His victims had begged for their lives, had cursed him with their dying breath, and stared in uncomprehending disbelief.

But none had ever been calm in their final moments. None had ever stared up at him with such serenity.

Cerena’s blue eyes and her final words haunted the Assassin. Three simple words plunged his soul into torment.

Could a heart that had long been dead and desiccated beat with remorse? Can the Assassin survive against the crushing weight of his crimes?

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Review: The Universe Builder: Bernie and the Putty

The Universe Builder: Bernie and the Putty

by Steve LeBel

Reviewed by JMD Reid

 

What if God got a C- in Universe Building 101?

UntitledThis one sentence blurb captured my imagination and I had to buy this book. Steve LeBel has created a unique world were Gods work for the Company building universe for reasons. The reasons don’t matter, what matters is the fascinating why they build their worlds as they try and create new and interesting realities.

Enter Bernie. He’s wasn’t the best student in school. He has some difficulty with ethics (he foolishly believes higher life forms shouldn’t be snuffed out at the whim of their creators). But he is the son of the famed builder, so Ezrah (head of HR), with the urging of his secretary Suzie, decides to gamble on hiring young Bernie, assigning him to Shemal’s department.

Only there’s one problem. Bernie’s childhood rival and bully, Billy, is Shemal’s nephew, and Billy is looking to get payback on Bernie. As Bernie tries to build his first universe and pass his probation period, Billy begins to sabotage him to get Bernie fired.

With the help of his friends Suzy and Lenny, Bernie fights back against Billy’s attacks on his Universe. But unbeknownst to Billy, higher life had formed on his Universe and the inhabitants, led by Alcandor struggle to understand the cataclysm befalling their world.

Steve has created an absolutely interesting world. The Gods exist in a world not unlike ours. They go to school, they have jobs, they get married and have kids. But they also create universes and its fascinating reading about Bernie and Billy’s war as Bernie has to fix every problem Billy causes.

And while there war is going on, he explores how primitive people attempt to explain the events beyond their understanding as Alcandor’s people are afflicted by Billy’s attacks. The characters are great, and Bernie and Suzy have a cute relationship that grows so slowly as the dense Bernie finally realizes Suzy is more than just his friend.

You will not be disappointed by The Universe Builder. You can buy it for $4.99 on Amazon.

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Drawing On Your Own Experiences

When writing, drawing on your own experiences are important. I have been going through my rough draft of Above the Storm, organizing my notes and figuring out what the story needs when I start my rewrites, and I came across the scene where two friends fight and their friendship is ended, and I realized where this scene had come from.

When I was in the seventh grade, I wasn’t very popular. I read a lot and was picked on for being a nerd. Yes, I know, shocking. I had one friend at the time. We had met over the summer between elementary school and Junior High (my school district had K-6 elementary, 7-9 Junior High, and 10-12 High School). His younger brother and my younger brother where in cub scouts together and I was dragged to a meeting. He lived only ten blocks away and we became friends.

Up until the start of my ninth grade, I thought he was my best friend. We hung out must weekends, playing RPGs, D&D, Magic the Gathering, Warhammer. And while I had made other friends by the ninth grade, he was the one I was closest to. And then, out of the blue, he told me that he had never really liked me and he didn’t want to hang out with me anymore.

It was a bitter experience. Two years of friendship turned out to be a lie. After that, I didn’t really see him until my Senior year in High School where we shared a class and pretty much ignored each other. I never knew why he hung out with me so much.

I channeled this relationship into my novel without even realizing it. Writing is such an interesting exercises. You have to reach into your soul, pulling out the pain that’s been heaped on you and putting it down on paper, sharing it for the entire world to read. You dredge events you had hoped to forget, unbottling emotions long buried. I can still feel that hurt, bewildered day.

Experiences shapes you and you can draw on those experiences to shape your characters, to add conflict to their lives. Draw on your life for the colors you use to paint the canvas of your story. So don’t be afraid to dredge the good times and the bad from your life and used them to create something that moves your readers to joy, to sadness, to fear, to anger.

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Rough Draft Finished!

I finished the rough draft on my novel Above the Storm (Book One of The Storm Below) today. One step closer to being published!

photos-of-storms-13The skies above the Storm are a dangerous place. Agerzak pirates hunt for lone ships to plunder, the Empire of Vaarck is forever covetous of the rebellious skylands that have slipped out of its grasp, and the mysterious Stormriders summon massive Cyclones to rise out of the ever-churning Storm Below to attack the small, floating islands. For the Autonomy of Les-Vion, the Navy is their Stormwall, protecting its citizens from all threats above and below the Storm.

On the summer solstice, every citizen of the Autonomy that had turned seventeen are given the Blessing of Riasruo, the Goddess Above, and are entered into the yearly naval draft. All Ary wants is to marry his sweetheart Chaylene and start a life with her in their small, farming village. But life never goes the way anyone plans and the Autonomy needs fresh men and women to defend their skies.

Rushing into marriage to keep from being separated, Ary and Chaylene are taken from their homes to Camp Chubris where the Autonomy trains its new batch of Sailors, Marines, and Scouts. Dealing with the stress of training, their new marriage is strained by the guilt of Ary’s childhood and the temptations of their fellow recruits.

But Ary has a dangerous secret. As a boy, he had witnessed a Cyclone attack on his home skyland and was touched by the Dark Goddess Theisseg’s lightning. This taint poses a threat to the Church of Riasruo and their assassin plot his death for the greater good of the skies above the Storm!

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Seven Lovely Things

The very kind Paige Randall tagged me in the seven lovely things blog tour! Thanks! You can read her very interesting and entertaining post at her blog! I learned that Sciurophobia was a thing.

  1. When I was born, there was a tiny hole in my right ear. My mom was freaked out (so I’ve been told), but it’s apparently a defect from my dad’s side of the family. The hole has since grown to the outer edge of my ear, leaving only a notch on the rim.
  2. I am afraid to say that I have shoplifted twice in my life, both times as a teenager, and both times they were to steal books. Yep, out of all the things to shoplift I stole books. From the now long closed Waldenbooks I stole People of the Fire by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neil Gear. The other was Neandarthal and I can’t remember who wrote it or even what I did with the book (I feel like I traded it to a used bookstore). I stole that one from a 7-11 of all places.
  3. I didn’t go to my school’s prom. Instead, I went to a friends house and a bunch of us played Starcraft, Goldeneye, and Mario Kart 64 all night. I don’t regret this decision. I had a lot of fun with Ben, Dave, and Homechiken (or HC, don’t ask why we called him that) during high school.
  4. I have only ever loved one woman. It took me two days to work up the courage to tell her my feelings. Her answer: “That’s nice.” I didn’t make it out of the friend zone. The only picture I had of her (this was before cell phones with cameras, or even cell phones, were common) was lost in a move. I can still remember the blue of her eyes and her lovely smile.
  5. No one spells my last name right. It’s Reid, pronounced Read, and everyone assumes it’s spelled Reed. I don’t even have to think it any more. When someone asks for my last name I say, “Reid. Spelled R E I D.”
  6. I was born five minutes past midnight in Okinawa, Japan on April 30th. It was still April 29th in the States and my Grandmother still thinks my birthday is on April 29th. And then, four years later, my brother was born on May 2nd. Having to share a birthday party with your younger, bratty brother as a kid because our birthdays fell on the same weekend was annoying. I haven’t seen my brother in two years. I miss him. He’s a prosecutor out in Nebraska. The dolt married a Nebraskan girl at college and never came home.
  7. I have a weird dislike of having my picture taken. I always have hated it. You will only find one picture of me at my mom’s house and it’s from my brother’s wedding where I was in the wedding party and I set aside my dislike of having my picture taken. I’m really not sure why I hate having my picture taken, I just do. You may notice my twitter profile has my picture. I felt dirty taking it, but these are the sacrifices I make to promote my writing!

I hope you all find these random facts interesting.

Jane Bled: Jane is an author of disturbing, psychological horror and one of the nicest people you can know!

Tim Hemlin: Author of the Wastelanders and husband of the amazing Valerie!

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Self-Editing

Self-Editing

I find self-editing to be very difficult for a number of reasons and it’s taken me a while to develop the discipline to read through my work carefully. But no matter how hard I tried, mistakes kept slipping through, so I decided to do some research on the matter, trying to learn tricks to help me self-edit and produce more professional writing.

The main hurdle to self-editing is the psychological phenomena known as pareidolia. Even if you’ve never heard of pareidolia you are more than aware of it. Our brains are wired to recognize patterns and this causes us to see patterns in meaningless data from seeing shapes in the clouds to seeing the image of the Virgin Mary in a potato chip. Our brains are powerful processors capable of feats of pattern recognition that even the most powerful computers are not capable of, and we do with any effort. This comes with a downside, we see things that aren’t there.

So what does pareidolia have to do with self-editing and why is it the biggest obstacle? It’s simple, our brains are great at finding patterns and filling in the missing data to form the expected shape or most likely shape. Since your brain knows what you wrote and knows what you intended to say, your brain will often see what you think you wrote. This is why homophone mix-ups are hard to catch. You meant to write ‘there’ but instead you wrote ‘their’. Because your brain knows what you intended, you could read it a dozen times and fail to realize you used the wrong word because of pareidolia.

Now that you know about the issue, you’re probably wondering how to combat this phenomena. If you’re an indie author (like me), a student writing a paper, or a professional writing a report or presentation then you know the importance of self-editing and you don’t want to put out an unprofessional product. You need to divorce your words from your writing, putting barriers in place to keep you from seeing your work as a whole and seeing the trees that make up the forest. So here are a few tricks I use that I find are quite helpful:

      1. Word Search: Every word processor software has a find/replace function that you usually can find under the edit menu or using ctrl+f. I have a list of words that I know I mess up on, such as there/their/they’re, were/where/we’re, your/you’re, fill/feel, now/know, new/knew, form/from, who/how, etc. So I search the document and read every instance I wrote the word, making sure I’m using it correctly. This forces me to see what word I wrote in the context I wrote it and catch mistakes. Whenever I’m editing and I find I’ve made the same homophone mistake before, I add it to the list. I usually find one mistake per 1000 words with this method.
      2. Read Backwards: Another way to help combat pareidolia is to read your document backwards. You start at the end of the document and you read it paragraph by paragraph from the end to the beginning. This helps to divorce you from the story’s flow and concentrate on what you actually wrote instead of what your brain thinks you wrote.
      3. Text-to-voice Software: Hearing your work spoken aloud is helpful to spot missing words. Did you forget a the or an? Did you misspell a word that you don’t search for? Did you use the right verb tense? All of these mistakes become very apparent when you hear the text spoken. You can read it aloud, but I prefer to use a text-to-voice software. I use NaturalReader. You can purchase it, but you can also use it for free, though it pops up an annoying ad for the full version every 1500 words or so.

There is another technique that I’ve read but never tried. If you change the font of your text, it changes what your mind expects and helps to spot mistakes. If you wrote your document in Times New Romans, use Courier New on editing.

So I hope this helps with your writing because these techniques made a big difference with my own self-editing and while I still can’t achieve perfection, at least I have achieved professionalism.

Note: I edited this document using my techniques. Find/Replace method discovered an ‘are’ that should have been an ‘our’. Reading backwards found a few grammar errors. Text-to-voice discovered that I forgot to write ‘be’ in the very first sentence as well as five other mistakes (verb tense, wrong word, and missing word).

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Sleep Paralysis

I am one of the thousands of people afflicted with sleep paralysis. Most nights my sleep is undisturbed. I lay down, dream, and wake up. Night after night. But sometimes when I wake up I can’t move. I dread those times.

It always happens the same way. My bedroom door opens in my dreams and a dark figure watches me from the doorway. The fear is so intense, and I can’t move. My limbs feel like they’re made of lead. I struggle, I fight, I try to cry out for help. My heart beats, rushing through me as I struggle to move. And that figure keeps staring at me, hating me.

imagesAnd then, like I had broken the cobwebs that bound me, I could move and spring up. My bedroom door will be closed, the dark figure will be gone, and the fear will bleed off me. But I can always feel it lurking. I can’t go right back to sleep or I’ll slip back into the paralysis.

I can never predict when it will strike, but I can often recognize the signs in my dreams when an attack, for lack of the proper word, comes upon me. My bedroom door opening. If that happens in my dreams, I wake up before my body paralyzes.

So if you’ve never heard of sleep paralysis, it is a little understood condition. While either falling or sleep or waking up, a person can get locked into complete muscle atonia and often have terrifying nightmares of intruders in their rooms accompanying their complete helplessness. Some attribute this to demonic activity, and after experiencing it, I can understand why. When I’m in the grip of the paralysis, and the dark figure is watching me, nothing has ever frightened me more.

The ‘intruder’ as the figure is called in medical literature, is thought to be caused by a hyper-vigilant reaction in the brain caused by finding yourself unable to move while you’re still not fully awake and causing your dreams to react accordingly. It is thought that sleep paralysis is responsible for tales of succubus, incubus, demons, UFO abduction, out-of-body experiences, and host of other, similar tales.

Science still doesn’t fully understand the causes of sleep paralysis and there are numerous theories explaining it. Luckily, it doesn’t threaten your physical health, just your sanity. Something I try and focus on when I’m in the grips of it as I lie they’re helpless. But it’s hard to remember that the figure isn’t really there.

Last year, after a particularly bad incident, I wrote a poem about it. All day the figure had haunted me and writing down my fears went a long way in shaking off the experience.

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Sleep Paralysis Poem

Sleep Paralysis

by J.M.D. Reid

 

The Door opens, darkness enters
Paralyzed, I lie pinned before terrifying gaze.
A bug, an insect.
Why can’t I move?
Fear bubbling, clawing against leaden limbs.
Why does it watch?
Fear boiling, shouts caught in throat.
Leave me be!
No cry escapes my lips.
Desperate will, fueled by terror
Overcomes immobility.
Covers thrown, body moving.
Shout dies in throat.
Darkness is gone, the door is closed.
Why did it watch?
Why did it watch?

04-07-13

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Lesson From Writers – Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

51d5p9sav7L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_No one who has read my blog should be surprised that I was big into D&D. So I read a lot of the D&D novels and none were better than the writing duo of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance universe. They were a league above the rest of the writing in the D&D universe with rich characters, great villains, and the willingness to take risks. I ate them up in my teenage years.

And soon I moved onto their non-D&D books. I loved them from the Darksword Trilogy (later Tetralogy) to the Rose and the Prophet series. But their writing that really blew me away was the Death Gate Cycle. It was fantasy like I had never read before. Everything else I was reading was quasi-medieval Europe with magic, but Weis and Hickman showed me that fantasy could be so much more. At first blush, the Darksword Trilogy is just another in a long-line of Europe with magic, set in a small world surrounded by a magical 29118barrier. And then you find out what’s beyond the barrier—our future. Humans have colonized the stars and driven everyone with magic to this one, remote planet where they buried their heads in the sand and forgotten all about the evils of Technology. Their Rose and the Prophet series was set in an Arabic setting which was lots of fun, but neither series compared to the Death Gate Cycle.

In our future, a war happened between two sects of spellcasters known as the Sartans and the Patryns. The Sartans, losing the war, did the most horrendous thing possible—they destroyed it. Then they rebuilt it as four separate worlds based around the four elements. Weis and Hickman lead you on an exploration of these four separate worlds. The world of Air, composed of islands floating in the sky and Elvish flying ships battle humans riding dragons. The 260230world of fire, is a Dyson sphere with its suns at the center and a jungle growing around the inside of the planet. A world of perpetual daylight where entire civilizations live on the treetops never seeing the ground. The World of Earth is a labyrinth of caves worming through a planet’s crust, where seas of magma provide islands of life for the inhabitants. And the World of Water where the seas can be breathed and the races live on small, living planets that float through the water.

They taught me that fantasy can be anything you can imagine. You don’t need to be limited by any of the constraints of our physics, or logic, or universe. As long as your rules are internally consistent, you can have a world of floating islands hanging above an eternal Storm. elven-starFantasy doesn’t have to be Medieval Europe or any other representative of Earth. You are the only person that can limit your universe.

This is why I write fantasy. To create places and universes and sights that are not possible to experience. To transport my readers to new worlds and unfurl them across the pages I write. To let my imagination free to create what it wants. That’s what I learned from reading Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.

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