Sunday, April 22, 2012

Character Descriptions

Somewhere along the way, I was taught or think I was taught to give complete descriptions of characters - physical stats like hair and eye color, body build, and so on.  But for some time now, I've paid close attention to descriptions in books and good television scripts which seem to slip in as snippets here and there and don't follow the old patterns of including every detail.

I just finished reading a novel in a popular mystery series in which the main character is a successful writer and thief.  During the story, he mentions that his passport photo looks nothing like him.  After I finished the book, I realized that was the only description of him in the entire book.  Nothing about age or the typical tall/short, blue/brown eyes, blond/brown hair, fat/skinny, etc.  And yet, I formed my own mental picture of him and could see him clearly.

I remember a description from the TV series, Frasier.  His father commented on a brief affair his wife had and he summed up her paramour in these few words - a urologist with a bad comb-over.  I think it's one of the best descriptions ever.

I tend to make descriptions fairly brief because I don't like them.  So, I skip long-winded descriptions when I read and go for less is more when I write. 

What kind of descriptions do you like to write or read?  Brief?  Detailed?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Abused and Misused Pronouns

We've become speakers of colloquial English and I'm okay with it.  I enjoy using it in my novels since my characters live in the present and reflect their age and time.  I have fun adding -ish and -ism to words or hyphenating words to make up new words.  To me, it's part of the magic of playing with words.

Having said that, I can't believe the number of times in a single day that I hear knowledgeable people, especially television newscasters and commentators who should've mastered basic grammar in college or elementary school, screw up their pronouns. 

*Simply put, a nominative pronoun is the subject of the sentence:  I, you, he, she, it, we, they, who, and whoever.
Ex:  She and Mark like ice cream.  Not - Her and Mark like ice cream.  
Ex:  He and I went to the party.  Not - Him and me went to the party. 
Ex: Who is going?  Not - Whom is going? 

Two subjects can make it a little tricky so take out one of the subjects and listen to the sentence.  If you use the wrong pronoun, it sounds weird and you'll know it.
Not - Her like ice cream.  Not - Me went to the party.

*Objective pronouns are used with direct objects, indirect objects, and as objects of prepositions:  me, you, him, her, it, us, them, whom, and whomever. 
Ex:  The ball hit him and me. (Direct Object)  Not - The ball hit he and I.
Ex:  I told him my secret . (Indirect Object)  Not - I told he my secret.
Ex:  The plane flew above him and her (Object of Prep.)  Not - The plane flew above he and she.
Ex:  To whom does this belong? (Object of Prep.)  Not - To who does this belong?

The use of pronouns extends far beyond these examples but, in my opinion these are the most abused.  I expect my readers have a good grasp of pronoun rules so perhaps they can pass the info to someone who needs it.  At least, I've done my bit for these little words whose incorrect form ends up in sentences more often than the correct form!