Writing stuff…

This is ‘my’ approach to writing short stories, take it for what it’s worth…

e.g. $0…

Seven little items I use…

  1. A character
  2. In context (e.g. what genre)
  3. With a problem
  4. Try/fail cycle by the character (fail)
  5. Try/fail cycle by the character (bigger fail)
  6. One more try/fail or try/succeed (depending on the arc of the story)
  7. Validation or denouement of the character

The other thing I screw up is using the ‘right’ word on occasion… sigh…

Easy words to mix up

eminent v. imminent
eminent: adj. famous and respected within a particular sphere or present to a notable degree
imminent: adj. about to happen
She was an eminent author, winning prestigious awards and accolades. At the moment, what she was most anticipating was not the National Book Award ceremony, however; it was the imminent arrival of her breakfast burrito. 

substantive v. substantial
substantive: adj. having a firm basis in reality and so important, meaningful, or considerable
substantial: adj. of considerable importance, size, or worth
My point is substantive, derived from thorough research, and it is this: Your substantial chocolate stash takes up an entire drawer, so you should be willing to share.

censure v. censor
censure: v. express severe disapproval of (someone or something)
censor: v. examine (a book, film, etc.) officially and suppress unacceptable parts of it
They wanted to censor the film, removing the sex scenes. So we censured the decision in a scathing op-ed article called, “Give the People What They Want!”

indeterminate v. indeterminable
indeterminate: adj. not exactly known, established, or defined
indeterminable: adj. not able to be definitely ascertained, calculated, or identified
The goodie bag’s contents were indeterminate until we opened it. There we found a coupon worth “a gajillion hugs,” a number of hugs that was indeterminable.

denote v. connote
denote: v. signify the literal meaning
connote: v. (of a word) imply or suggest (an idea or feeling) in addition to the literal or primary meaning
According to the dictionary, the word denotes strength. Unfortunately, when he used the word to describe my perfume, it seemed to carry a negative connotation, especially once he began coughing.

elude v. allude
elude: v. escape from or avoid (a danger, enemy, or pursuer), typically in a skilful or cunning way; fail to be attained by (someone)
allude: v. suggest or call attention to indirectly; hint at
He eluded the trip to see the horror movie by playing sick, but the following day, when his friends alluded to the scene when the zombie attacks, he actually felt ill.

ambiguous v. ambivalent
ambiguous: adj. open to more than one interpretation; not having one obvious meaning
ambivalent: adj. having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone
She was ambivalent about the date because he was funny but also hogged the popcorn during the movie, which would give anyone mixed feelings. When he sent her an ambiguous text message that she couldn’t decipher, she decided she preferred watching Downton Abbey to dating.

And my ‘favorite’ screw up is queue and cue… How many times… Sigh


Writing stuff… — 28 Comments

  1. assure v. insure v. ensure.

    See here:

    One that’s a personal pet-peeve and that I’ve been seeing far too often on internet forums as of late:

    loose v. lose

    Most commonly I see people using the term “loose” to describe something they didn’t win. “Lose” is the correct word.

    You loose an arrow from a bow to send it downrange. You only lose it if you can’t find it afterwards.

    If something is not tight, it’s loose.

    • Aye, that.

      And the “red folk” that believe themselves to be not of the usual – the self-described rouges.

      But *my* pet of the peeves is rein/reign (though rain occasionally gets into the mix, too). I do ponder the power of “free reign” and the limits of being “reigned in.”

      • I go off on “running the gauntlet” vs “running the gantlet”, though “gauntlet” seems to be the most common usage. (I’m finding it hard to find the gantlet usage any more. Sigh.)

        Maybe they should try running the mitten. 🙂

  2. Oh, and the try/fail cycles you mention in your writing reminded me of the “rise, fall, rise” character progression that is very common in writing, and it’s something that readers never seem to tire of.

    This site has it described as the “man in a hole” story arc:

    There are others in there as well.

  3. You know, I thought I was pretty good… I write a lot of technical docs, then I proof-read…. and I still don’t find everything… since I work in WORD mostly I started using their spell-check/grammar/clarity checker and its surprising how much crap it tends to catch… I may not necessarily agree with some of it and don’t make the change it suggests accordingly, but its right probably about 90% of the time and is a big help

  4. Misused Words That Aggravate Me Immensely
    Colombia (the country) / Columbia (the District)
    marshal(verb) / Marshal(title) / Marshall(name) / martial(military)
    vocal chords

    • Orbit (satellite TV guide in the big dish C-band day) had a section of movie listings for karate films and the like… with the title “MARITAL ARTS.” Uhm…

    • The country was in dire straights after the viscous violations of important ordnances. In the passed few days, the insurgents had launched lightnening raids against the capitol, wrecking havoc. The leader of the nation, Marshal Thomas, martialed his forces and ordinance before declaring marshall law to stop the chaos before it could end his rein. ;-p

  5. The ones I always have to stop and think about are effect/affect. Not so much the definitions of each but which is appropriate in this case.

    • affect: FA
      effect: FO

      …is one version I’ve seen.

  6. don’t forget ambidextrous vs. amphibious 🙂

    From Wikipedia:
    [Charles] Shackleford of NC State is sometimes remembered for telling a reporter after a NC State basketball game that “I can shoot with my left hand, I can shoot with my right hand, I’m amphibious.”

    The thing is, in this case I don’t think he knew the difference!

    • Well, AI can be involved in story telling… It’s proven itself to be quite talented at losing the plot.

        • Just thought of a last minute addition:

          desert v. dessert

          “I’m so glad he got his just deserts.” What, Muad’Dib is holding court on Arrakis again?

  7. I think there’s too much reliance on spell checkers and if there’s no wiggly red line then you think you’re good to go. I’d add a couple of recent sightings to Duke of URL’s list:


    • Indeed. I see Council/counsel & Ordnance/ordinance misused so very many times.

  8. When did “normality” become “normalcy”? I hate what is being done to the language.
    In Australia our National Broadcaster the ABC (aka Always Been Communists”) is pushing the pronunciation of the letter “h” as “haitch” not “aitch” as I was taught in school. :haitch” was regarded as a sign of someone with little interest in schooling.

    • It started (or gained much ground) in 1920 with the Harding campaign. “Return to normalcy.”

  9. I have found My People. Thankew, Internet!

    BTW, I yelled at NPR two or three times today on a not-long drive: it’s “effect”, not “impact”! Profanity removed…

  10. Then and Than , I always use them correctly , but too often these days , even on edited news stories these two words are used as the same in meaning . One is comparative and one is a point in time . I’ve been waiting to post this pet peeve of mine , this seems like an appropriate time…Ahhh , I feel better .

  11. Flammable/Inflammable.

    Most of the time, the “In” means not.
    But we have chosen to make something that is dangerous, confusing.

    (Yes it’s a pet peeve!)