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. T’is 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). T’is pronounced LOOZE, to rhyme with snooze/shoes/I demand to have some booze.

See the source image

See? T’is 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 if they could do with a l’il 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.

 

The Perfect Short Story

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Mc

Books. I love ’em. But only the good ones. Only the unputdownables, whose brilliance has you gasping/ salivating/ doing a bit of a sex wee. 

But there’s a thing, and the thing is this: I don’t have time to read for pleasure any more. What with reasons and stuff and things, the only sort of bookage my eyes get to see is that-which-I-am-being-paid-to-edit. 

And then last week happened. I took a basketball to the chops, stabbed myself in the foot with a fork, and the laptop threw a six. What’s a gal to do when she can neither walk nor work? 

And so, I started a sentence with ‘and so.’ Then I regrouped and decided to delve into the pocket universe of Steve Shaw’s Black Shuck Books; specifically, the Shadows collection. T’is a darling l’il assortment of tasters —micro-gatherings that showcase individual authors. Or, y’know —single-author collections, as they’re more commonly known. 

Gorgeously designed by Steve himself, and complimenting one another like blackcurrant ‘n’ liquorice and pineapple on pizza (what?), these wee bookies are a delight to behold.  And once beheld, they shall be reviewed. And the reviewer should read a book in its entirety, right? Because unputdownable, remember? 

Nope. Nuh-huh. I just read a story so fucking good I just had to put the book down. I had to leave it alone while I did a rather ungainly thigh-wobble of a jig, and immediately messaged seventeen-thousand-and-thirteen friends to tell them about it (the story, not the wobble). 

This was a first for me —virtually nothing impresses me these days— but Gary McMahon just.fucking.floored me. The fucker. 

I couldn’t think straight. I could barely breathe. And no —I’m not exaggerating. I was bouncing off the walls and squeeing ’round the house. I just wanted to savour the taste of those words —that idea— a little longer, so I didn’t —couldn’t—move on. What I’d just witnessed was, well, perfection.  

I’m talking about *Text Found on a Defunct Webpage; which opens Gary’s collection, At Home in the Shadows

Jesus. Hermione. Christ. How on Kepler-452b has this work of art passed me by for eleven frickin’ years? And how the HELL am I supposed to do it justice without spoilers? I dunno, like. But I’ll try. 

Originally published online as ‘Under Offer’ (The Hub, 2008), this story is smarter than the average bear. It is, as they say in those parts where they use terms like ‘a fucking diamond,’ a fucking diamond.  

Not every story has to be story-y. Not every beginning has to begin with a start. IT’S OKAY TO BE DIFFERENT, FOLKS! I’m not talking about clever choices of tense here, or ‘surprise’ dog-POV, or anything of the sort. I’m talking unique. Despite its originality, the piece is deceptively simple. And yet, this dude is writing so far outside the box that he isn’t even in the vicinity of the forest where the trees are felled to make the cardboard.  

I’m not gonna do that fucking annoying comparison thing. McMahon isn’t the next so-and-so, and neither is his work reminiscent of such-and-such in their finest hour. But what I will tell you is this: it’s impressionism at its best. Monet didn’t paint every leaf, right? He painted GREEN; your brain fills in the rest. 

From conception to execution, Text Found is one of those sinister AF pieces that stays with you for yonks afterwards. Why? Because omission, my friends. Because ambiguity. The power of suggestion —literally (and I mean ‘literally’ literally, not figuratively, before you say it, pedants). Take an idea, suggest the events, hint at the characters, and tease the reader. Be subtle; leave ’em wanting more —brevity is the order of the day.  Be sneaky; be wickedly funny. And be out-and-out creepy. Be everything on the list of must-haves and definitely-dos, and do none of the don’ts. Be. Just be. 

And Gary McMahon has beed, indeed. And that ending —damn.  

 

The Obligatory Link (i.e. the BUY EEEEET) Section: 

 

Black Shuck Shadows on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/bookseries/B07NRKT4M5/ref=dp_st_1913038114

Gary’s Amazon page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gary-McMahon/e/B004B6NN3A?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1565956801&sr=1-1

And, for Steve Shaw’s freelance design: http://www.white-space.uk

Black Shuck Books: https://blackshuckbooks.co.uk/shadows