Seeing Red – by CM Franklyn

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Santa-dad creeps past the boys’ bedroom in case they’re asleep; he jingles all the way in case they’re not. That’s how his mam used to do it, back when he was a mere snapper of whips. ‘You must get straight to bed!’ she’d say. ‘And stay asleep—or he won’t visit!’ But come midnight, she’d be janglin’ those bells—the ones she’d inherited from her morris-dancin’ father: shin-pads, so he could kick noise straight down the lugholes of his Cornish neighbours whether they liked it or not. That’s tradition for ya. And, because some things don’t change, here they are—again. This time, owing to the fact that her son has arms like legs, they’re on his biceps.

They rattle as he edges his heavy way downstairs lugging a sackful of goodies, careful not to make a sound. Apart from the not-exactly-quiet arm-bell thing he’s got goin’ on. And the majesty of his girth adding a clump-clump to the festivities. And the intermittent sneezing caused by the permanent hay fever with which he suffers—even in the bleak midwinter. There’s nothing silent about this night, I tellzya.

Freddie’s onto him. He’s eight, but he’s not stupid. And he has ears. ‘It’s Dad. I told you last year but you didn’t believe me! Just listen!’

Bobby’s gonna take some convincing. He might be the older of the two, but he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Hell—he’s not even in the drawer (neither is the knife, but we’ll get to that). ‘I dunno. All them prezzies we got last year—how would Dad manage that on his own?’

‘He doesn’t,’ says Bobby. ‘Mum helps him out, dozy arse.’

‘Yeah—but why? Why would he dress up if we’re not supposed to see him? It makes no sense.’ Ah, Freddie and his incessant questioning. If only he’d open his peepers.

‘It’s in case we do. See him, I mean. If he catches us watching, he can just go, “Ho-ho-ho!” or whatever, and pretend to be him. Didn’t ya notice half the cushions are missing off the sofa? He’s tucked them under his costume.’ (Why is the dude always on the porky side? Why not have Slender-Claus for a change?)

The noises continue as the kids carry on listening. Rustling happens. And crinkling, too. The rustling and the crinkling of the paper-wrapped packages being de-sacked and placed by the fire. Even though they don’t have a fire. And if they did, it wouldn’t be particularly advisable to put the presents anywhere near it, really, what with it being a BIG BURNY DEATH-FLAME HAZARD ‘n’ all. Around the tree would make more sense—yes, let’s go with that. I should’ve typed that in the first place. Idiot. (Me, not you. Although …*)

*Depends who’s reading, really.

So, this dad geezer—are you still with me?—places the presents around the tree. He drops a box as it slips from his grasp. Nothing’s broken, apart from the almost-silence, which is as shattered as his children’s innocence. Twigging on to the shuffling of boy-feet upstairs, he shushes himself like a lush doing an honestly, I haven’t touched a—hic!—drop routine, and darts behind the living room door to hide.

‘That’s it!’ says Fred, who’d just that moment shortened his name because it takes slightly less effort to type. ‘What’s it?’ asks Bob, in italics.

‘I’m going out there. I’m gonna get proof once and for all. Giz yer phone. I know where to hide. Keep yer eyes peeled in case Mum’s on the lookout.’

‘What if Dad gets past you and comes upstairs before you get back?’

‘Watch for the red,’ says Fred, coz it rhymes. ‘As soon as you see the red, run back inside and close the door. I’ll be fine—I’ll sneak back in once he’s gone to bed.’

            Fred slinks downstairs, taking the steps four-at-a-time owing to his really lengthy legs which I probably should have mentioned earlier even though they have has no bearing on the story other than to add a really jarring, meandering bit to please my editor who says I should vary the length of my sentences, irrelevance be damned. Having a quick gander, he spots the prezzies by the fire under the tree, and smirks inwardly. But there’s no sign of his dad. Hmm, he thinks. ‘Hmm,’ he says, and makes his sneaky way back upstairs to his brother.

            A scream, then, followed by some unintelligible words, which I cannot even begin to spell. Bob’s there, at the bedroom door, bloodied and eyelidless, along with the obviously-telegraphed and hideously-foreshadowed ending. The peelings are on the floor—somewhere. I mean—it’s impossible to make them out amongst the gouged flesh and the sanguine splats all over the discarded blade.

Next comes the Santa Dash as Dad legs it up the stairs to the source of the noise. Mum’s already on the scene, because she loves a good Police Squad! reference.

            ‘What the hell did you do?’

            ‘He … he told me to keep my eyes peeled,’ Bob whimpers. ‘But it’s okay, Freddie. I believe you now. I see the red.’

            ‘It’s a good job I didn’t tell him to keep his ear to the door,’ giggles Fred, ‘or he might have taken me literally on that, too!’

            ‘Ha-ha!’ Mum chuckles.

            ‘Ho-ho-ho!’ laughs Dad.

Let Loose and Lose the Eyebrows

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Further to part one (here: https://liberatetutemet.com/category/eds-blogs/), this is … erm … part two of How to Avoid Dem Pesky Mistakes  —identifying some of the most common wordie whoopsies.

Loose and Lose are first up today —so, what’s the dealio? Well, the word on the street is that —gasp!—they mean different things!

Loose: something wot’s not tight, innit—’tis pronounced in such a way that it rhymes with moose and hoose (admit it— you’re singing it now).

Lose: To misplace something (or even someone)—’tis pronounced LOOZE, to rhyme with snooze/shoes/I demand to have some booze.

See the source image

See?— ’tis a doddle. Of course, there’s also LOOSED, which throws itself rather splendidly into the mix as the past tense of LOOSE, and means … erm … loosed. Not to be confused with LOST, which means lost. Gottit?

“He loosed his grip around her throat” —indicating a deliberate action: second thoughts, perhaps. Remorse, maybe … Bless him.

Vs:

“He lost his grip” —which might indicate either clumsiness or an inability to retain said grip upon, say, a glass (or reality itself, owing to an exaggerated state of inebriation caused by ill-advised imbibement of lighter fluid).

Speaking of which, a friend of mine once had soooo much of the stuff that upon lighting a cigarette, he ignited his face instead, his eyebrows scattering to the floor in ashy despair. This may or may not be true, but it brings me nicely onto the topic of furry facethings. Because GAWD DAMN IT, people.

Perhaps your creative writing class suggested you employ the furrowing of brows to indicate expression, which is no bad thing, if used sparingly. But, dear LAWD —must EVERY single line of dialogue come with a description of what the character’s face is doing? The same applies to nodding, m’dears.

When you over-egg the prose, it sounds like this to me:

“He raised an eyebrow, browishly. It was the only way he could express his emotions, emotionally. There were other adverbs to be had, adverbially, but he would save those for the next paragraph, in which he would explore the exploratory possibilities of nodding, noddingly. Unsurprisingly, he did, indeed, nod once more, which set his damn eyebrows off again. They looked as though they could do with a wee twitch, arch, or furrow —after all, it had been a while. Right on cue, they did an ugly little jig, like Theresa May at a Tory Party conference.”

I challenge you to search for “brow” in your latest WIP. “Nod,” too. Now, there are no hard and fast browcount rules, of course, but please bear in mind that I recently edited a 60,000 word novel wot came with 1,657 brow references and 2,313 nods of one head or another. Yes, really.

It’s just YUK. Stop it.

The Science Bit (maybe):

Here’s why it doesn’t work (aside from standing out like the proverbial thumb): come with me, if you will, to the makings of an anecdote.

You witness an event. Perhaps a car crash, or maybe even a pastie of chavs havin’ a scrap. How do you tell the missus/hubby/whoever about your day?

DO you say:

a) So there was this gaggle of chavs, right, knocking proppa shit out of each other down the pub today;

or:

b) Let me tell you, Ethel —what a day I’ve had. Trying to relax at lunchtime over a pint of mild and a bag of squirrels, I happened upon a group of strangers having a bit of a to-do. I took a swig, furrowed my brow, and began to watch the unfolding drama. With an eyebrow raised, a young woman approached a rather unkempt young man, and glared right at him. He furrowed his brow, and nodded. Then a third person joined the fray, Ethel. A third person! His eyebrows were set in surprise, they were. Like a stone clock. Ten-past-ten, right there on his face.

Catchie mah driftie? Keep it REAL, folks! Please get out of the habit of describing every.single.thing your characters’ faces do. Be descriptive, not prescriptive.

On that note, I’m off. Unlike my eyebrows, which are very much on (I’m a Scouser —it’s the law).

th1K0RNZBG

Bert was surprised to find he actually preferred version B.

It’s *You’re Call —fixing the fundamental

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*Your.

Damn it.

Do you have to be gud wiv werds to be a decent writer? Nah —but it certainly helps. If you want to cut down on those rejections, for instance, it’s not a bad thing to up your technical accuracy game. If you wish to master your craft or hone your skills, then you might want to start with the basics.

Here are some of the most common mistakes writers make —and some easy ways to remember the correct usage. I’ll stick with cat/dog/coffee/pizza analogies, because writers (be warned: this might get a little gross and/or sweary, because me).

ITS vs IT’S 

ITS is possessive; that is, something belonging to it. So, if we’re talking about a cat who has a propensity for displaying all things posterior, then we might say it had its ‘… tail in the air, flaunting its sticky brown bumhole …’

Just as that which belongs to her is hers, or something belonging to him is his, then that which belongs to it must be its.

IT’S is a contraction of IT and HAS, or IT and IS. A contraction is the abbreviation (shortening) of a phrase or word group, using apostrophes to denote the omission of a letter (or letters).

Common contractions include: 

  • Don’t (Do not tell me how to write);
  • Haven’t (I have not written anything today because I’ve been dicking around on Facebook for twelve hours);
  • Shouldn’t (You should NOT ever, ever, ever put pineapple on pizza).
  • She’s (She is banging on about fucking grammar again, the pedantic bint).

And the one we’re talking about here: it’s (it has/it is).

Example:  ‘It’s too late.’ (i.e. ‘I was just about to scoff a bunch of soggy, overboiled ramen but it is too late because the cat’s been sick in the bowl, so I guess I’ll have pizza instead. But with no pineapple. Because ew.’)

PLURALS vs POSSESSIVES

Speaking of apostrophes —those buggers get everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Have a gander:

shop

Sofa’s. The sofa is what? Comfortable? What about the chair’s legs? The recliner’s a bit tatty but that’s nothing compared to the bed’s grotty old mattress? Maybe something belongs to the bed, which is owned by the recliner, which is the property of the chair … AAAARGH!

Assuming the store has more than one sofa/chair/recliner/bed for sale, they should have used plurals here, which, in this case, is as simple as adding ‘s’ to the end of each item.

As for Goodwyns Furniture; assuming Goodwyn is one person, Goodwyn’s Furniture would be correct. I dunno —perhaps signwriters are easily confused these days. Humph.

Here are some photos of a rather splendid bookstore chain. I guess only half of these shops belong to Mr W.

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Are you still with me? No? Okay —back to animals, then:

  • The dog’s knackers —a pair of soft, dangly objects between a dog’s legs;
  • The dogs’ knackers —the danglies of more than one canine;
  • The dog’s knackered —the dog is exhausted, probably having tried and failed to catch the cat who spewed in the noodles earlier today.

Recap

Something belonging to one thing: the thing’s thing.

Something belonging to more than one thing: the things’ thing.

It’s easier to nail if you sort out the plural first and then determine the correct possessive:

Cat —>cats —> I wuv cats’ wikkle toebeans (aww).

YOU’RE YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY

You’re writing a nice l’il story, but you’re just not sure about your grammar. Here’s a quick once-over:

You’re —a contraction of you and are.

Your —something belonging to you.

So:

Your coffee’s gone cold. You’re just too wrapped up in your novel to remember to drink it (you badass wordsmith, you).

On that note, here endeth the first lesson. Up next: You and Me, Lose and Loose, and Why Eyebrows are Ripe for the Pluckin’.