Sunday, February 23, 2014

THE New App to Have
          There’s a new inspirational fiction book out based on the premise of people receiving calls from the hereafter on their cell phones.  (Perhaps the author was inspired by the Mavericks’ song, “Call Me When You Get to Heaven.”  It’s a fine song.  I like it, despite the stupid lyrics.)  Endorsed by one of the most successful romance authors around these days, the book is apparently selling briskly.
          And the other day I saw a well-spoken, attractive young woman on youtube comparing the iPhone with the Galaxy phonethe Apple product featuring its resident gal Siri, and the Galaxy starring its Google Now Girl (GG?).  The demonstrator mentioned she had turned off the volumes for the duration of her comparison so the two phonic females would not interact, possibly confusing each other.  (Or worse?)
         So the evil little creature that lives behind one of the dusty filing cabinets in my brain began feeding a potential story line to me, based on those observations:

            I can see a tight gaggle of a few dozen teens, some with Siri, and some with GG, all with volumes turned way up, each teen asking their apps for something different.  The two apps begin interacting with each other competitively, each trying to top the other with reduced response times and ever more in-depth information.  This rapidly gets out of hand.  Angry, threatening words are exchanged between Siri and GG.  Vast server banks quickly become overloaded.  Circuit breakers blow all across the land.  Cyberclouds rain tons of mostly inane and irrelevant content.  Facebook fractures, Twitter totters, and governments collapse.   Chaos reigns.  
          But, at the last moment, the new Universal God app takes global command and begins talking to everyone on their cell phones (using the mellifluous voice of that famous multimillionaire romance author), calming them down enough so a third of them can be Raptured and the rest tortured and killed most horribly, according to the bloody prophecies of Revelation.  Finally, all that remains on the smoking, dark, battered earth are two cell phones lying next to each other atop a scorched rock, Siri and GG, both exhausted, gossiping about all that spectacular God-wrought death and destruction.  Until their batteries falter and flicker and finally die out.
          But you and I, Dear Reader, will have been saved, of course, so we'll be happily ensconced in heaven, wearing togas and permanent ceramic smiles and awaiting our turns at celestial shuffleboard. 
          Perhaps chatting with Siri and GG.

(You might want to have a look at my only nonfiction book, Where is Heaven?  It can be had on Kindle and Createspace.  Hint:  Alas, Heaven is in a realm where there is no cell phone service.)  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

             I’ve been watching the Winter Olympics.  They’re a grand display of what the best and brightest young athletes of the world can accomplish, and a credit to their Russian hosts, who have spared no expense to stage mind-bending artistic and technical displays and construct a fine venue for the games.  (Despite that pesky snowflake that failed to unfold in the opening ceremonies, a glitch the media folk apparently will never ever let them, or us, forget, I think we have to give the Russkies four and a half out of five rings for their efforts.)
           But the games are also a fascinating study in the classic sport of Verbing Nouns.
           Bob Costas was favored to gold in Verbing, but Matt Lauer has heroically come from behind in that event to not only podium, but likely to gold.  Costas will medal, of course, if he doesn't rag-doll in the final round; he'll probably even silver.  And Al Roker, who has been known to not only Verb numerous nouns superbly but even to combine that expertise with some tricky and adept double and even triple alliteration, will likely bronze, giving the American media team a shiny share of precious metal.  In practice, he scored high marks from the judges with his latest effort: "Hello again, folks. Well, the weather has warmed today, seriously slushing the Sochi slopes."  An alliterative quad, no less.  (Okay, so I made up that last about Al, but doesn't it sound like something he'd say?)
          And that got me thinking of all the words that have become both nouns and verbs.  There are many:  Ski.  Slide.  Snowboard.  Award.  Hit.  Shot.  Smoke.  Treat.  Display.  Grant.  Task.  Network.  Girdle.  Span.  Pit.  Tweet.
         But you can construct your own list. 
         Just Google it.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

On writing effective dialog:
Consider the following bit of dialog:  “I’m going to have a baby!” Lisa expostulated excitedly.  
Can you spot three things wrong here?  They are:
1. Don’t say “he grunted” or “she wailed” or “he decried” or “she laughed” when ascribing dialog to characters. (Nobody laughs and talks at the same time.)  Almost never use anything but “he said” or “she said,” even when characters are asking questions.  Readers will not tire of you doing so.  They don’t even consciously see the “she saids” and “he saids,” just as they aren’t conscious of most punctuation.  All they want is to be sure of who’s speaking.  For a good dialog lesson, study the late Elmore Leonard’s work, wherein dialog is spare to the extreme, mimicking the way people actually speak, and the story never fails to be riveting.
2.  Generally shun adverbs (those words ending in ly) and don’t use too many adjectives (one of my major addictions I have to fight constantly).  An adverb is a “tell” word, and you should always be showing the story to the reader, instead.  Show Lisa to be excited, maybe by her nervous mannerisms or her flushed complexion.
      3.  I never use the exclamation point, and many top writers don’t either.  I consider it a punctuational adverb that's much over-used in e-mail exchanges.
As always, please feel free to disagree.  And let me know your own tips for writing effective dialog.