Update and Dragonsword Chapter 1 Sample

Hello all. It’s been a busy month with Christmas on the horizon and NaNoWriMo a few weeks past. I’ve spent time on some poetry for an ebook and hours on my beta manuscript. The manuscript is for the first book of my series Ethereal Seals. I renamed the first installation to Dragonsword to better fit the context.

Lots of edits, fixes, and enhancements transpired over the past several months. Right now, I’m seeking an editor and beta readers. If you’d like to become a beta reader, please contact me through this blog or at my email energyflux2012@gmail.com. Thanks.

Without further ado, here’s an up-to-date sample of the book’s first chapter. Enjoy and let me know what you think. 🙂


Death wafted in the air. Shadows crept around the ancient blade. The sword’s destination was a red-haired woman with a weapon of fire and ice. Two armored knights, one a dark twin of the other, created a crescendo of intensity within their shadowy arena. Sparks flew, and the earth trembled. The redhead missed her mark, and the dark twin found its own.

The defeated girl fell to her knees. She retreated into silence before the enemy’s blade finished its job.

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The girl opened her eyes. She regarded the legendary sword in her left palm, the weapon now only a stick. Through extensive use, the practice sword was little more than a wooden splinter. She tossed the makeshift sword away and sighed. Dirt mounds next stole her attention. She stood and brushed the dirt off her tan work clothes. “Enough daydreaming and swordplay for the day; it’s time to get back to work.”

The girl picked up a fist-sized crystal of aquamarine where the dark twin had once been. The stone’s surface reflected faint images, the illusion faded.

Pepper yawned and stretched her tall body. The light from the Twins, two stars of the sky, outlined her athletic figure. She winced at the view of midday and combed her hair, running fingers through strands of red. When her hand reached the knot of her ponytail, the redhead withdrew her hand. The girl’s tanned and freckled complexion radiated a youthful look, no more than twenty-three. She shielded her vision from the bright rays of midday, noticing air vessels gliding through the sky. Further still, she observed three moons. One of the moons emitted commercial flashes of activity.

She curled her bare toes in the dirt, feeling the earth swallow her flesh. Her gaze turned to the sloping leas. Distant snowy mountains and thickets stretched into the horizon. The sound of insects tickled her ears. She closed her eyes and allowed a gust to rustle her hair. The air proved humid but balanced with a gentle wind—typical weather.

“That dream was surreal, fighting with a shadow duplicate. Maybe someday I’ll get a chance to explore the world again and figure out what to do with my life.” She frowned. “Yeah right, maybe when I learn how to fly properly.”

Pepper dug into her pocket and withdrew a coin of gold. Despite the penny’s worn edges, the depiction of a gauntlet shrouded in vines shone clear as day. Underneath the design, curvy Atlasian cuneiform, engraved with a master smith’s arm. “The Slyhart family emblem,” Pepper said. She smiled and squeezed the coin before it fell to the ground.

The bauble flashed and light shot up a few inches high. The image of a man with red hair and a long ponytail emerged. He wore a blue jacket with a sword strapped to his undershirt. A red goatee jutted with a bold flair.

“You’ll get your chance at adventure, Pepper,” he said. “Life isn’t easy for everyone, especially us. Treasure it like I treasure your mom.” He fiddled with outstretched arms, as if for a weapon. “When we get back from this war, I’ll have some stories to share. We’ll take some epic voyages too like we used to—hoo-hah!”

A second image appeared of a short woman in a silver dress and a green braid. She bore a stubby tail and pointed ears. A pair of leathery wings folded behind her. She frowned and hugged the man in the blue jacket. “We hope this message reaches you well, dear. We love you very much.” Pepper rolled her eyes. “There’s extra food in the shed and a month’s worth of gold if you need it. Please promise to stay out of trouble. Don’t forget to water the fields.”

“We’ll have these demonic invaders routed by month’s end,” the red man averred. “We’re sorry about the delay, Pepper, but we’ll be home as soon as we can.” He clenched a raised fist as his silhouette wavered with the green-haired woman.

The vision vanished and the coin’s light dulled. Pepper pocketed the coin. She hesitated and brought a hand to her rear. At the base of her spine, there was a stubby tail of scales. It twitched at her touch.

“A tail but no wings,” she said, with a sigh. “Yes mom, I’m right on it.”

She regarded the water crystal in her other hand. Her grip on the stone tightened. Mist spouted from the rock, drenching the rows of crops around her. The crystal shrieked with a flash of light as it finished.

I miss them more than I thought I would. That’s the third message this month.

“I see you still enjoy the farm plots, Miss Pepper Slyhart,” said a calm, masculine voice.

Pepper turned to the voice. Her jaw dropped.

She smiled and ran towards a youthful and slender man of white robes who had approached her from the far road. His blond hair flowed down his back like a stream of gold, broken by a pair of pointed ears. His appearance suggested him in his early twenties as she. He was half a head shorter than she was. The youth carried an oaken staff tipped with crystal and some prayer beads. Vir’gol, they were called, or conduits for divine miracles.

“Sal’av, Tarie Beyworth,” she said. “I wondered when I would see you again.” The redhead and the monk exchanged bows and clasped their hands sideways—a native sign of Atlasian greeting.

“Sal’av, Miss Slyhart,” Tarie said with a smile.

She glanced over his robes and paused on a symbol of a flame imprinted onto the center of his habit. Herbs and medicinal bags hung at his sash. “How are you, my friend? I see—like most elves—you still haven’t grown a beard.”

“Elves don’t grow facial hair,” he laughed, “you know that. Besides, you should use our official name, not the archaic one. The world calls us Nymphians now.” He paused and smiled. “Besides, you Hyerians—you humans—are the ones with all the fur on your faces.”

“I’m just teasing. What news do you have of your abbey and the rest of the world?”

The monk stroked his elfin chin and grinned. “Well, affairs around the planet keep my church busy enough. One involves a clan of brigands and cultists causing mischief in several cities.” He hesitated. “I’d wager our planet Atlas still recovers from the war from years ago, let alone the previous conflicts.”

Pepper clenched her fists. “Those damn Elemental invaders. If they hadn’t shown up, we wouldn’t be in such a state.” She punched at a nearby bale of hay. It scattered over the vicinity. She exhaled to relax. “Now we have these Nog’roth demons plaguing our planet again. What I wouldn’t give to enter the Royal Guard and show them what for.”

Tarie gave a start. “I-I understand your frustration, Miss Slyhart. Maybe someday the Royal Guard at Midvale will accept your application as a knight. Though, I remember you’ve tried applying ten times already.”

“I suppose I can only keep trying, as depressing as it is for me.” She kicked at a rock. “I know I’m worth more. Maybe it’s because my mother is a Dragonite. That makes me half-dragon and half-Hyer.”

“Pureblood Dragonites are formidable,” Tarie said, “what with their supernatural strength. I’ve seen them spew fire and ice from their breath, even half-bloods can do it.

“For all that’s worth, I can’t do any of that. Here I’m stuck defending the farm plots from hill bears, crag wolves, and heavens know what else. My father was a renowned war hero who taught me swordplay and for what? How did it come to this?”

Tarie frowned and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Not many know of your dragon heritage. Thank the divine Aspects too. They say there’s a terrible curse, in which dragons trade their sanity for power.” He grimaced. “Anyway, you’d sooner be imprisoned rather than denied employment in the guard for your genetics.”

“Society doesn’t condemn us half-breeds without cause, but they sure keep us on a tight leash.”

“Take heart, Miss Slyhart. Good things come to those who are patient. If there’s anything my church or I can do, please feel free to ask.”

She smiled. “I appreciate the concern Beyworth, but maybe I’m not cut out for guard duty. I do well as a farmer anyway.” She paused. “It’s been months since I’ve seen my parents. I hope they’re okay.

“I had this nasty dream last night,” she said with a pout. “Honestly, I’ve had it on a routine basis. In my dream, I face off against this shadow variant of myself. This evil duplicate kills me. She’s always two steps ahead of me.” She leaned up, hands behind her head. “I don’t understand it—and the dreams are painful…too painful for a normal dream.”

“You’ve had a lot on your mind. I do believe some food and time off the farm may help you consider the idea better. It’ll be on the church.” He winked.

“You’re serious? You’ve been so busy with the abbey, and I wondered if you—” She hesitated. “I mean, that sounds fine with me, Beyworth. Let me grab a couple of things at my house first.”

She ran towards her conical residence. An oaken barn stood next to the egg-shaped house. Bars bolted the shed’s door, but with the metal rusted and bent from use. A brick chimney opened towards the far end of the estate where a smithy stood. The glimpse of an anvil, a rack of hammers, and metal tools caught the corner of Tarie’s eye.

“Okay,” said he, “I’ll take in the scenery here while you prepare.” The Nymph found a pile of hay for rest. He smiled at the sky and white clouds.

He perked up when his ears twitched at the sound of approaching footsteps. Pepper now dressed in long emerald skirts, guillotined with white and opal gemstones. Her earrings glinted in the afternoon sunlight, a match for her scarlet hair. The fragrance of herbs wafted into Tarie’s nostrils. He stood speechless and slack-jawed, the image of the young woman a stark contrast to the dirty farmer. He cleared his throat. “T-that green dress looks exceptional on you, Miss Slyhart,” he stuttered. “The place I have in mind shouldn’t be too far.”

Pepper blushed at his compliment. “I’m guessing Traveler’s Rest.” She smirked, hands akimbo. “Judging by that astonished smile, I’m right, aren’t I?”

“Yes, Traveler’s Rest is a small local town, but it has its share of marvels and plentiful commodities.”

“How should we get there? My parents took the family’s ship.”

Tarie pointed above. “I take it you still remember the art of flight?”

Pepper bit her tongue and glared at the sky. “I was never good at flying, but I do recollect the basics. Can we try something safer like riding an airship?”

“Ships cost a fortune unless you work for the Grust Cartel; a bunch of greedy and corrupt merchants they are.”

“True, we’d be lucky to rent a small shuttle for the day selling my whole farm. I have a Yazell ostrich mount I use for business trips.”

“That wouldn’t be fun,” he teased. “Come on; I’ll guide you through it. Ships and Yazell are better for long-distance travel anyway. Traveler’s Rest isn’t too far.”

“Frankly, I’ve only practiced Atlasian telepathy from time to time, but with my reclusive and dutiful life, I rarely get many chances to leave the farm.” She sighed and shrugged her shoulders. “My parents never taught me the basics of flying for fear of me traveling abroad with my genetics, I think. They wanted to keep me around the Crescent until I was ready, and I had the habit of going off on little adventures when I could. The one time I did try an extensive flight trip as a child I ended up in a coma for a week.” She cringed. “It’s been years since I attempted it and the idea makes me uneasy.”

I’ll keep an eye out for you. You can fly close to me,” Tarie said telepathically. The voice echoed in her mind and filled her cells with a warm tingle. “Be sure to ease into it,” he added, switching back to vocal speak. “Remember to first still your mind and then visualize a sphere of force around your body. The air of the Ether should surround you like a bubble.”

“Fine, I’ll give it a shot again,” she telegraphed. “You go first.”

Tarie nodded and kicked off from the ground. His blond locks flowed like gold curtains in the breeze. Tarie gazed down.

With several breaths, Pepper shut her eyes and wrung her hands. The air churned about, swirling against her flesh. Pepper heard a popping noise as gravity weakened. The refreshing breeze of weightlessness filled her being, fed from the ether traveling through her spine.

“Heavens, it has been a while,” she said, lifting into the air, albeit unsteadily.

They set out towards a town spotted miles away. The air invigorated their bodies with the smell of fresh pollen and foliage. Beautiful was the countryside of Atlas, with its mass of levitating islands, each with a share of waterfalls. Flowering groves and forests littered the landscape. Snowy mountain ranges reared on the horizon like sentinels safeguarding the Fertile Crescent.

Pepper regarded a herd of animals fifty feet below her. The creatures bore mats of fur like a bear, streaked with brown and black. Their muzzles and round ears twitched at the two flyers several yards above. One of the bears gave a screeching moan. It flourished its boney tusks at the aerial intruders.

“Look Beyworth, a herd of Grasnouts. Good thing we’re out of their reach. My farm owns a few docile breeds. They’re like a tusked hill bear.” Pepper smacked her lips. “I can still taste their delicious milk.”

“Grasnouts are a dangerous animal,” Tarie said with an uneasy chuckle. “They’re increasingly rare nowadays though.”

“What do you think of Grasnout milk, Tarie?”

He shrugged. “Unfortunately, the abbey only offers the staple water and fruit. It’s part of living a simple life for the divine Aspects.”

“That sounds boring,” Pepper argued.

“Perhaps, but I still—watch it, you’re floundering in the air—appreciate the simple lifestyle of my abbey. The church has done a lot of charity and missionary work, not to mention the refuges from the late wars they took in. I was also—” He stopped.

“You were what?”

“I—it’s nothing,” Tarie added hastily.

 


Thanks for reading. Hit that follow button if you like what you see. I’ve recently published poetry in an ebook, presented by ZPublishing. Here’s the link to their site. Be sure to check it out, as I get a commission on any sales. Thanks for the support, you guys. 🙂

http://www.zpublishinghouse.com?rfsn=2072883.91d12f

 

 

Dangling Participles

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Another revisit to a past post, this article describes how to improve one’s prose via dangling participles. I will define this term and how best to use it in written work, whether in essays or novels.

It can be tricky to spot at first, but addressing dangling participles adds clarity to a sentence, providing information that the reader may not have. Let’s begin with a basic definition of all the terms.

Definitions

Participles

Participles are challenging to define, but generally speaking, they are a word similar to both an adjective and a verb.

Take the phrase polish for example. You can say: it’s time to polish the wardrobe. This uses the vocab as a verb. If you say: the polished wardrobe, then the verb acts as an adjective, describing the wardrobe.

Other examples of participles may attach an -ed or an -ing to the end of the verb to create the past or present participle, respectively. This is the crux of what a participle is. They have other uses too as with verb tenses, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

Participle Phrase

When you have a group of words with a participle in it, it’s called a participle phrase (PP). Consider these examples:

Running up the hill, Pepper heard the churning waterfall.

Taking a breather, Tarie considered the canyon that yawned in the distance.

The underlined words are the PP. Notice how they modify the second half of the sentence, using run and take as the base verbs for Pepper and Tarie. Here’s one more example:

Calming herself, Pepper felt the mindful void.

Notice the proximity of the participle phrase to the modified subject: Pepper. The noun doesn’t have to be adjacent, but it helps clarify what the participle phrase modifies.

Dangling Participle

A dangling participle occurs when the subject modified is unclear, leaving a dangling impression or meaning to the sentence. Here’s an example:

Running up the hill, the waterfall churned noisily for Pepper.

Taking a breather, the canyon yawned in the distance in front of Tarie.

In these examples, it sounds like the waterfall and canyon are modified. The correct identifier doesn’t follow, even if the author thinks it does. Implied modifications are never wise in prose.

Always bring the proper noun/subject closer to the participle phrase, like sticking them together with glue. That said, you can call this process glue participles, or glue parts, to help remember how to address dangling participles. 🙂

Here and here are more examples and exercises for those of you who are curious.

Exceptions

Comedy

As with most mechanics in the English language, there are exceptions. Sometimes an author may desire a dangling participle for the sake of comedy (most dangling participles read hilariously).

Steering Prose

A dangling participle can also—albeit crudely—keep a sentence or even a paragraph centered on a specific item. First, read the article as an unfamiliar reader would. Examine how the paragraph influences the reader’s perspective.

When done correctly, a writer can manipulate a reader’s viewpoint in creative ways. This can lead to interesting prose that may build up to a particular point later on.

Conclusion

Whatever the reason for using a dangling participle, make sure the audience understands the rationale behind using one.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Reread over your prose and dissect the usage of a dangling participle. Here are some questions to help:

  1. What is the participle—the modifier—in the sentence?
  2. What is the subject of the modification?
  3. Is the subject close to the participle for clarification?
  4. What is the objective of the dangling participle—if it exists—in this sentence?
  5. Can I do without it?
  6. Are there any other options available?

Develop a solid understanding of the sentence first before you rewrite or change the prose. Don’t speed through it. The mind takes time to analyze the layers that constitute English writing.

Rules Are Meant to be Broken?

Nine times out of ten, a dangling participle won’t be the best choice; but you’re the author of your own story or world so you can choose and define how prose should flow.

Mainstream professionals may not agree, but as long as your audience comprehends the reason behind a dangling participle, it should read okay—I say that lightly. Yet there’s always that one way to make it work. I’m certainly not a master of it.

I hope this article has helped you with any questions concerning dangling participles and the other vocabulary associated therein. Happy writing and thank you for reading!

Another mention to all you NaNoWriMo writers—a job well done. Sadly, I was too busy to engage this year. I’m hoping to attempt NaNoWriMo next November. Until then, there’s plenty to read, write, and research. Cheers. 🙂


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Book Length and Word Count

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I decided to revisit this old article and dress it up a bit. Take the word count example lists with a grain of salt. They are averages. Anyway, onto the meat and potatoes of this article.


The length of a book can be a vital factor in its success. It may not appear to be at first, but there is a formula followed by countless writers and publishers. Depending on the target audience, genre, and book type, the word count in a book can vary.

That said, there are always outliers—books that have done well outside of word count brackets—so these guidelines are best loosely followed.

Book Length Guidelines

Although there is no fixed word count, there are generally recognized guidelines depending on their genre and audience.

Audience

Younger audiences have smaller attention spans and therefore cater to short, fast-paced book length. Adults are more tolerable with longer manuscripts. Likewise, YA (young adult) will—usually—be less than the book length for a more mature audience.

Age group Examples:

  • Poetry: 5 to 3k
  • Picture Book: 400 to 800
  • Play: 1k to 32k
  • Middle Grade: 25k to 40k
  • Young Adult: 50k to 80k

Genres

Book genres, of course, play a considerable role in word count.  Science fiction and fantasy works tend toward a high word count since the writer develops a fictional world.

Historical fiction, Young Adult, Westerners, and Mysteries tend towards a lower end of the spectrum—of course, there are always exceptions.

Genre group examples:

  • Romance: 40,000 to 100,000 words
  • Mystery/Thriller/Horror: 70,000 to 90,000
  • Horror: 80,000 to 100,000
  • Historical: 90,000 to 100,000
  • Sci-fi/Fanasty: 90,000 to 130,000

General Book Types

Depending on the type of book you intend to write, word count plays another significant factor. Flash fiction and short stories are, of course, brief. A novella—for those who don’t know—is a short novel with a compact story; ideal for a quick read.

Book type examples:

  • Flash Fiction: 300 to 1,500 words
  • Short Story: 1,500 to 30,000
  • Novellas: 30,000 to 50,000
  • Novels: 50,000 to 100,000

The Endgame

Legacies

Ultimately, these listings are a guide, not necessarily a strict rulebook. You can have your long epic fantasy and do well with it. However, for new writers, it is best to start small and work your way up. A book length that is simple and sweet reads best.

Once one’s legacy is built, a writer can gamble a little more. Agents and publishers can reference this track record and this increases the chance the book gets published regardless of word count or even prose finesse. If you have enough avid fans who will buy the book, publishers will overlook certain shortcomings, since they know the books will rake in profits regardless.

For this reason, some authors start small in self-publishing like Michael J. Sullivan before they hit the goldmine.

Quantity Versus Quality

Another thing to remember is that quantity alone does not a good book make.  You have to earn your manuscript, one word at a time. If a document is 150,000 words long but fills its pages with redundant vocabulary, it won’t read well.

Adverbs and excessive prose often slog writing; an attempt by the writer to look professional. As a general rule of thumb, the shorter the word/phrase is, the better. The simpler a manuscript is, the more people can read it, and the more can enjoy it.

Word Impact

Each word in a manuscript should contribute to the book in at least one of the following ways:

  • Character progression
  • Plot development
  • Environmental immersion

There are exceptions, but if you find a word that doesn’t fit one of these criteria, it can usually be removed. You don’t want to be overly descriptive either.

Half of the fun comes from the reader’s imagination; give half and let the reader form the rest. This stimulates the reader’s mind, bringing with it a sense of fulfillment. Remember, a book is as much of a journey for the writer as it is for the reader.

Conclusion

Wrapup

The length of a book is up to the writer, depending on his or her goals and ambitions. Identifying core variables like the audience, genre, and book type are essential to the process.

A writer must first do the research, just as a builder must first draw out blueprints for a house—and research the terrain. Each brick of a manuscript’s foundation should be carefully placed with meaning. If you do this, your house of stories will last against the elements of agents, publishers, and readers alike.

A Final Note

Happy writing and have a great Thanksgiving! Also, one last shoutout to all you NaNoWriMo writers. Great work—keep it up! 😀

For those who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, you can check out the community page here for more information. The website also has an archive of helpful pointers for writers.

Thank you for reading. 🙂


If you like what you see, hit that follow button. Thanks.

 

 

What is creativity?

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This is a revised version of an older post. I wanted to revisit the idea of creativity. Through the books and media I have consumed since then (months ago), I developed a deeper sense of what is creativity.

Side note: It’s also my two-year anniversary since I started on Ethereal Seals! It’s amazing to think I’ve come so far in only a few years. Who knows what lies on the horizon for my story. I’m certainly looking forward to it. 🙂 Anyway, back to the article.

A Creative Introduction

What is Creativity?

“Creativity is defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.”

―Robert E. Franken―

What is creativity or imagination? These elusive terms are difficult to pin down. Human imagination shows terrific promise. It accomplishes achievements while participating in humanity’s gruesome sins.

Human vision has no limits, save the ones we place. With enough ingenuity and patience, the strength of creativity can move mountains. Channeling one’s creativity is paramount as humans. It is our birthright and sets us apart from lower life forms.

Who uses creativity?

Creativity often links with artisans, such as writers, painters, musicians, and so forth. Yet imagination is so much more—even business people can use it.

Some may say creativity is an extension of free will. We choose the variables in a given system, for better or worse. The arts are akin to our souls experimenting and expressing our true nature to the universe. This ability to choose that renders us as creators, preservers, and destroyers.

“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” 
Osho―

The Responsibility of Imagination

We are responsible for how we use this awesome power, ultimately determining our trajectory in life. What is creativity without a guiding hand to steer imagination’s wild nature?

Even so, there may be limited resources in place to restrict or test our creativity. Accumulation of these resources, whether it is money, food, or authority, strengthens our ability to choose.

We associate value with these resources, as they enable us. This ability to act may be coined power. Therefore, creativity fueled by resources and implemented through power builds the reality around us.

The Workings of Creativity

Creative Alchemy

Creativity is different from imagination. Imagination forms the creative idea—creativity transmutes the concept into a final product. Lacking one or the other destroys the creative cycle.

In this sense, the act of creativity is like alchemy—transmuting lead to gold. Birthing the creative gold takes work—and sometimes you may fail in the process. Commitment is a significant factor in the creative process.

The Components of Creativity

Here’s a diagram by Harvard Business Review ’98 that details the facets of creativity.

3-components-of-creativity

  1. Expertise is the logical, restrictive, and straightforward intellect. A left-brained category.
  2. Creative-thinking is the right-brained category of imagination, fertility, and freedom.
  3. Motivation is the commitment factor—the long-term objective; the journey wrought by the mind.

When these three categories mesh together, creativity ignites within us.

The Global Creativity Gap

Here’s another comparative study by Adobe regarding creativity and how people view it. I found it insightful.

Adobe-State-of-Create-InfographicWEB

It is ironic that our world values creativity, yet most don’t live up to their creative potential. We live in a society of mechanized production rather than free imagination.

What will the future hold for humanity if we continue at this pace? Will it change? How? Some questions to ponder after you finish this article.

How to Maximize Creativity

Here are some ideas for you, the reader, to try. Forming a routine with these steps could provide dividends.

Do Something You Enjoy

It was Einstein himself who proposed this idea. Performing a task that brings fulfillment can help ease stress, clearing the mind. Whatever it may be, include it in your schedule for that creative boost.

Do Nothing

Work and rest go hand-in-hand. Sometimes the greatest ideas come to those who unplug from our busy world.

“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.”
—Alan Cohen―

If you’re out of ideas, try relaxing or meditating. Practice mindfulness meditation for the best results. Here’s an older article I wrote on the science behind it.

Exercise

Exercise stimulates brain circulation. Long walks are a great way to feed your brain that creative juice. This Standford study suggests that walking improves creativity.

Embrace the Absurd

Sometimes the craziest ideas have merit. Many writers and artists, like Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, made use of the inane to fuel their creative works. Sometimes, from the depths of absurdity, genius can emerge. It can’t hurt, can it?

Another illustrative Diagram

Here’s a chart summarizing other ways to maximize your creative potential.

stimulate-creativity-infographic_32181

Conclusion

Creativity is an elusive mistress, full of mystery and arcane prowess. Discovering the foundations of imagination may reveal untold secrets to humankind.

In an age rife with conflict and misery, perhaps the solution is surrendering to the creative child within us all.

I hope this article has helped you in whatever creative projects you have. That said, I’ll finish with one last inspiring quote. Cheers.

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.” 
Pearl S. Buck―

Thank you for reading. Have a great weekend, everyone. There’ll be more to come. 🙂


Want to stay connected? Hit that follow button below. Thanks!

Sources For You to Check Out:

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/creativity

https://www.csun.edu/~vcpsy00h/creativity/define.htm

https://www.creativityatwork.com/2014/02/17/what-is-creativity/

https://creativityworkshop.com/what-is-creativity.html

https://quotefancy.com/quote/761201/Alan-Cohen-There-is-virtue-in-work-and-there-is-virtue-in-rest-Use-both-and-overlook

https://www.mindful.org/apply-mindfulness-creative-process/

https://www.fastcompany.com/3057486/10-exercises-to-fuel-creative-thinking

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fantasy Book review, Mistborn #1: The Final Empire

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Hello to my readers. I hope you all had a lovely Holloween. I’m attempting a new type of post—a book review of other science fantasy works I’ve read. This review will focus on Mistborn book 1: The Final Empire. I wanted to read the second book—The Well of Ascension—before I finished this review. I’ll keep spoilers to a minimum.

With that said, let’s delve into Brandon Sanderson’s world of intrigue—a perfect start to November!

Mistborn, the Series

Premise

Mistborn is an epic fantasy series that spans multiple books. The story also incorporates some dark fantasy elements. Each book is long—and well worth it. Expect to invest time in each installation if you so desire.

If I could describe Mistborn in three words, it would be—gloomy, epic, and intricate. There is a sense of adventure too, though most of the plot takes place within a capital city.

Characters

The main character, Vin, struggles to understand herself in a turbulent world of war, oppression, and darkness. She meets many characters in her journey, most that popped out of the page for me, the reader.

Sanderson did an excellent job with the characters. The cast came off as likable and amusing. There were a few scenes where I laughed and had to reread for the fun of it. Sanderson knows when to cut the tension with old-fashioned comedy relief—an essential element in manuscripts, by the way.

The villains were sadistic enough—and arcane enough—to warrant interest. The antagonist in book 1 is practical a god who survives decapitation, experiences immortality, and can manipulate thousands of people at will. Talk about a challenge for the protagonist!

Magic System

The magic in Mistborn is intriguing—an alchemical system where a person burns metals within the body. Each metal provides a specific power when burned. The effect is usually temporary and limited by the metal resources at hand.

Superhuman feats are common in Mistborn, so, expect some Avengers-grade thrills. The action blew me away and kept me reading. It is refreshing to see supernatural action mixed it for once rather than the usual sword or gun fighting.

My one complaint is that the action is a little confusing with all the unique terms. Brandon Sanderson could have improved on the readability during these scenes. I sometimes skimmed over the fight scenes because they weren’t easy to follow.

Romance

The romantic interest for the main OC, Vin, starts late in the book and builds up gradually. It may not read like the best romance novel—and came off a little flat to me—but it fits in well enough with the plot and characters.

Romance does play a stronger role in the second book, Well of Ascension; admittingly, Sanderson did a better job of it in the second installation.

Conflict

Mistborn is rife with conflict—another good detail of the book. I couldn’t go ten pages without feeling sympathy, pain, or anticipation. Sanderson knows how to keep the pages turning—never a dull moment.

I sometimes compared the feeling to Dragonlance—another favored series of mine.

Overall Summary

The Good

The characters, magic system, conflict, and atmosphere of the book are my favorite elements of Mistborn. It set the proper tone for a dark fantasy epic novel. I imagine I’ll be rereading it again in the future.

The Bad

The action/combat scenes were confusing, and the romance was not deep enough. I feel Sanderson could have developed these scenes more. Regardless, they weren’t terrible and never impeded the book’s flow beyond a few pages.

The Ugly

There were a few graphic scenes in Mistborn, some which made me pause (not in the wrong way, mind you). I’m all for gore and blood if it helps add dimension and immersion to a book. That said, this book isn’t nearly as extreme about it as Song of Fire and Ice (another excellent book, by the way).

Still, Mistborn isn’t for the light of heart. After all, it is a dark fantasy novel to some degree—and I still enjoyed it.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars—outstanding

Thank you all for reading. This review post was a first for me. If you have any feedback, comments, or suggestions, let me know in the reply boxes below. Love and gratitude to my readers. 🙂


Want to stay in touch with updates? Hit that follow button below. Thanks.

Lately, I’ve been live streaming creative writing on Twitch. Sometimes I stream other media too. Come check me out sometime.

For more information on dark fantasy or other types of science fiction, be sure to check out my guest post here, hosted on Richie Billing’s blog. Cheers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Essentials for SEO Article Writers

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This is a revised article of an older version on this forum. Additional and updated material should provide a better guide to SEO articles.  As always, any suggestions or feedback is appreciated.

Regardless, this article is for those who have some idea about blogging and digital articles.

Introduction to SEO Articles

Articles are attractive specimens for the presentation of information. In our age of information, the internet is rife with these nifty critters. Surprisingly, few fully understand it, but I will address that here.

While the method of writing an article is solely up to the author, there are some guidelines to understand. These pointers should improve searchability and make the lives of both reader and writer convenient.

SEO Articles—What Are They?

The Definition of SEO

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is a convenient and lucrative way for a brand to advertise itself. Usually, through search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, or Duckduckgo, an article with good SEO will appear higher on the listings.

This feature encourages viewers to visit the article’s page. As a result, the page gets higher views and ratings. With increased scores, search engines rank the page higher, leading to more visits.

In other words, the SEO is like the pitch given to the search engine. Better pitches get better hits. Here is an idea:

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Types of SEO Pages

There are many types of web pages with SEO. Here are some to consider:

  • Product review pages: designed for the retail of goods and services
  • Blog posts (like this one): a flexible—and popular—way to engage an audience
  • News articles: essentially a digital newspaper or magazine
  • Guides and pointers: instructions on ‘how to’ something
  • Vlogs: pages that—unlike blogs—focus more on video and visual presentation; text transcripts work in this scenario
  • Glossaries: lists or dictionaries that viewers can reference

How to Write SEO Articles

Preparation for SEO Writing

Before you write that excellent SEO article, you must plan out what you intend to publish to the world. Ask yourself the following:

  • What idea is worth pitching?
  • What is the objective of this article? What are the keywords?
  • How does one present said idea efficiently?
  • What type of audience should the article target?
  • How long should the article be?

Define Your Goals

Keep it simple, but detailed enough that it satisfies what readers need. For example, on a product review page, the prose should be alluring and informative. Use supplementary blogs and pages to add to your testimony.

Google, in particular, ranks articles higher if other blogs and pages link to it. This suggests trust. If you link to one person’s blog, they—or someone else—may return the favor. Forming a web of digital blogging networks is an excellent start.

Keywords and key phrases

Identify what your article is about with a few core words. Let this be the crux of the article, what drives it. Include it in the title, intro paragraph, and ending paragraph. Distribute the keywords throughout the section in an informative way.

Do not go overboard. This may seem sloppy and unappealing (the keywords should be around .5% to 1.5% of the words, for most articles). This will boost the quality of your SEO and attract more readers.

Develop a spreadsheet first, detailing the data about keywords and potential competition. A simple Excel or Google spreadsheet works well enough. You can also use AdWord to help with the analytics of it all.

Remember, research, double check, and research again. The level of research you pour into an article will illustrate itself through length, clarity, uniqueness, and readability. Perfection is an impossibility, of course, but it is a solid ambition.

Audience

It is essential to know your viewer base before article construction. Different age and ethnic groups react differently to content. Research can help you identify the right audience group.

Depending on your reader base, the prose and complexity of the article should scale appropriately. For example, younger viewers prefer faster, more visual content. Older readers may prefer a more traditional or slower presentation.

If you’re writing for a very generalized audience and are unsure, use the average reading level for the country (around 8th grade). Here is an excellent program you can ‘copypasta’ your work into for analysis. It is also suitable for word counting and frequency— a fantastic SEO writing tool.

Headers

On that note of selecting an audience, there are ways to improve readability. For starters, master the usage of headers. Headers come with tags H1 through H6. H1 is the largest and most important. Use the header tags as you would a filing cabinet.

Here is an example:

H1 Header {the title}

->H2 Header {main section of the article}

—>H3 Header {minor section}

—>H3 Header {minor section}

->H2 Header {main section of the article}

—>H3 Header {minor section}

—>H3 Header {minor section}

Notice how the headers nest within each other in an organized manner. The H1 header contains the H2 and H3 sections—the H2 only the H3. An organized routine like this can greatly improve readability in an article.

Headers are also an opportunity to insert keywords into your article, for the sake of SEO. Search engines rank keywords in headers higher than in paragraphs. Headers summarize and offer hints to what a paragraph contains.

The words in a header should be unique and tailored towards the article’s objectives (which you hopefully outlined enough, before writing). If not, do not worry, it will come with practice and dedication.

Scale, Intro, and Outro Paragraphs

Most articles drift between 500 and 3000 words. Items longer than this some people won’t have the time to read. Instead, they will examine the first and last few paragraphs to get a general synopsis of the article.

Search engines tend to favor articles around the 1500 to 2000 word count. This implies abundance and value. Determine what word density is best for your blogging or company needs. Some writers do better on less.

Limit your paragraphs to three lines or less, if possible. The average attention span is low for readers in our busy modern society. Most readers prefer to get to the juicy tidbits of the article, rather than slog through paragraphs.

Highlight Important Points

It helps to highlight vital pieces in an article. Highlighting with headers, italics, or bold can help skimmers detect the juicy information in your article. Keywords also help, as some readers may use a find tool to locate a specific vocabulary.

This practice provides the reader with more flexibility, as those who are pressed for time can extract crucial parts readily, while others can choose to read the whole document at their leisure.

Catchy title

This should be a no-brainer for most writers. The title should be unique, snagging the reader’s interest, while not long enough to sound daunting. The title should match the information you present, giving the reader a snapshot of what to expect.

Make it a point to remember this point, as people absorb scientific articles differently than subjective ones. A simple blog update versus a lengthy report is like comparing apples and oranges. They will each attract their own unique viewer base.

Lists and bullet points

Readers love organized records, and bullet points should improve SEO.  Lists are easier to comprehend and take less time to digest. Make sure your listings are informative and straightforward. Your readers will appreciate it.

When you construct a list, capitalize only the first letter in a list item. Forgo periods at the end of the sentence, unless the listing is lengthy. Keep it short and sweet. If you find another method that works better, great, keep at it.

Coffee

Last, but not least, be sure to have that cup of coffee ready. I’m joking, of course (well maybe), but you should make whichever adjustments you feel necessary for a working environment.

Some people function better in an organized office, for example. Others find that classical music helps focus—whatever gets you going.

Conclusion

SEO articles are a curious breed of digital beasts. While difficult to understand at first, they can significantly improve the hits an article receives—this is no guarantee, of course. Persistence is important.

Becoming adept at SEO content takes time. Be patient with yourself. Take breaks from writing if you need to (I’ve done all-nighters before so I can relate). SEO articles are still a relatively new phenomenon in our digital age.

Regardless, learning the basics of SEO is essential to any digital writer. I hope this humble blog post has shown the significance of SEO—how to get started. For more information, visit the hyperlinks below.

And don’t forget the coffee. You’ll need it. 😉

Thank you for reading and good luck.

Love and gratitude to my viewers—click that follow button if you want updates. Thanks. 🙂

Additional SEO Writing Sources

SEO Copywriting and Search Engine Optimization

SEO for Dummies

SEO Beginner’s Guide

Secrets to Professional SEO Writing

Additional SEO Software Tools:

BuzzSumo—quick searches on a keyword for relevant social media threads

Moz—another keyword research tool

SEMrush—keyword rankings; fast and easy to use

WordCounter—keyword density, word counting, and more

Grammarly—grammar, readability, and overall sentence structure

 

A quick look at en dashes, em dashes, and hyphens

dashes

 

Hey, welcome back for another installation in my writing advice articles. 😎

As an amateur writer, I often wondered how dashes and hyphens functioned. At first, I assumed they joined words together. It wasn’t until I delved into the matter that I realized there are multiple variants of these critters, each with a specialized function in writing. Let’s take a look at each in turn.

Hyphens

The function of hyphens is to connect two or more words that are related, usually pairs that work as one word; e.g., two-headed, half-human, semi-conscious, long-term, up-to-date, free-for-all.

The hyphen serves as the glue that welds the pairing vocabulary, forming a compound phrase. This works for nouns, verbs, and adjectives. You can also use hyphens to punctuate character stuttering.

Never use a hyphen in place of an en dash or em dash. We’ll discuss that more below. Be on the lookout for closed or open compounds, as these do not need a hyphen.

Hyphen Examples

Closed: typewriter, skyscraper, notebook, fireman.

Open: lounge chair, living room, real estate.

Quite often a compound modifier is hyphenated if it comes before a noun it modifies, but not after.  The reason is for added clarity on what’s being modified. For example:

Incorrect: Let’s head to that run down church.

Correct: Let’s head to that run-down church.

Other examples for hyphen usage are:

  • With the vocabulary low/highlow-income, high-interest.
  • With fractions: one-third, one-half, one-tenth.
  • With prefixes ex, self, all: ex-wife, self-employed, all-powerful.
  • With numbers: second-century, third-floor, thirty-minute, ninety-four, fifty-one, one hundred and fifty-five.

Mastering hyphens can be tricky. I encourage my readers to check out that Grammarly article I linked above for more examples on when to use this symbol.

En dash

An en dash(–) is longer than a hyphen(-), but shorter than an em dash(—). While simpler than hyphens, en dashes find less use in modern writing.

The function of this critter is to establish a range, whether by numbers, distance, or parties of a spectrum such as in a versus debate or business partnership.

En Dash Examples

  • Number range: 1050 hours, 30006000 days, 15–30 people.
  • Distance range: ChicagoNew York flight, EarthMoon voyage.
  • Opposing parties: ClintonGore debate, RightLeft convention.
  • Partnership: RalphHeath Company, JonesMary Inc.

Em dash

Here’s where the fun starts. An em dash(—) is a versatile symbol. This tool separates phrases and clauses in a sentence. They are similar to commas, parenthesis, and semicolons.

Em dashes symbolize a pause in a thoughtlike I did here—, perhaps informally, while parenthesis is more formal. You could take a regular sentence and insert a pair of em dashes somewhere betwixt as in the sentence above.

Otherwise, for a single break, use only one em dash—to avoid confusion of course. Em dashes can also substitute for colonsor used in a list.

Em Dash Examples

  • An em dash is a break in written thoughtuseful for fixing incomplete sentences.
  • Two em dashes are an insertion for additional information that could be—depending on the writer’s situationexcluded.
  • An em dash can be substituted for a comma, colon, semicolon, parenthesis, bullet point, and much more.

Again, I advise my readers to check out the hyperlinked articles above for more examples. Em dashesat firstseem confusing, but once mastered, the versatility of this tool cannot be underestimated.

Personally, I enjoy using it a lot more than I did a few years ago. That said, using more than two em dashesfor the sake of clarityin a sentence is not recommended. Some people represent em dashes with spaces, others with three hyphens joined. Whatever method you use, be sure to let the reader know.

Thank you for reading, and I hope this article helped with whatever creative projects you harbor. Love and gratitude. 😀


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Editing and revising: concision, precision, and other goodies

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Yay for Snoopy—I mean, hey, welcome back. It’s been a while, but I’ve got another post to share. 😎

This article is a revisit on improving conciseness in prose, or rather, an updated variant of it (I mentioned it briefly in one of my earlier posts).

Concision work typically comes after the initial draft during the editing passes, so don’t worry about it too much when you draft the story.

What is Concision in Prose?

Definition

Conciseness and precision are essential to good prose. Minimizing words used, trading weak vocabulary for a single stronger word, eliminating redundancy; these are but a few of the processes involved with concision.

Why Bother with Concision?

Not only will a manuscript read smoother and faster (your readers will thank you), entire pages may animate in unimaginable ways.

Fortunately, there are a handful of nifty techniques to help. Although the result may not be crispy clean, you can bet a lot of unnecessary and nasty vocabulary are gone.

“A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.” ~The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White

That said, we’re all human beings, so perfection is only an ambition that drives our efforts (and I doubt this article is optimized). Anyway, let’s cover some of those concision techniques.

Techniques

Wordiness

When editing your work, look for ways to shorten a phrase or set of vocabulary. Sometimes you can convert a few words into a single one. Examples of this include, but are not limited to:

  • a number of → many/some
  • at the present time → now/at present
  • despite the fact that → although
  • on a daily basis → daily
  • he was going → he went (passive voice correction)

Notice how a single word or two can substitute for a whole phrase. Passive Voice (which I covered here) always violates the concision of prose, but there are exceptions for this. I encourage you to examine the hyperlink for more information.

Invisible words

Certain words appear ‘invisible’ to the reader’s eye. Words such as ‘said,’ ‘the,’ or ‘and’ are fillers that won’t particularly grab the reader’s attention. Their purpose is to bridge the gap between words that do matter.

Regardless, if used in excess, they can cause friction in the rhythm of prose. Mix up the frequency or remove them entirely.

These tools can hold significance in dialogue when using tags to denote the speaker. Sometimes you can get away with no labels at all for ideal concision.

Descriptors and Pacing

While there are invisible words and prose symbols that serve some purpose, sometimes a writer can use a stronger one to enhance a sentence.

You can trim down excess adverbs and adjectives into shorter, stronger versions. Often this involves a little ingenuity to mold the phrases to the tense of your written piece. Consider these scenarios:

He ran to the store quickly. → He sprinted to the store.

Marle cried loudly. → Marle bawled.

The Kraken roared ferociously. → The Kraken screeched.

He was very tired. → He was exhausted.

The use of a stronger descriptor can better highlight the action or details. Sometimes a writer will ignore this rule to highlight a particular phrase or slow the story’s tempo. It’s up to you to decide how and when to manipulate pace for the reader’s benefit.

Long paragraphs slow the pace of writing and may come off as daunting to a reader (like this one—eep!). While seldom large sections serve a function, overuse forces slower prose tempo and gives writing an unfavorable taste. Action paragraphs need to be quick and to the point. Short sentences add to the jarring sensation of battle, increasing the depth of the reader’s experience.

Descriptive paragraphs are longer, slower, and more robust, similar to how human perception slows when we study or observe. Not surprisingly, scientific papers are often sluggish and detailed.

Redundant words

With concision and precision, a writer can delete an entire word without substitution, thereby strengthening a sentence or phrase. Some words are unnecessary, and you’re better off excluding them. Here are a few to watch out for:

Irregardless, obviously, very, almost, just, essentially, basically, totally, seriously, honestly, and actually.

Naturally, in dialogue, there are exceptions. Reread a sentence a few times and feel out the flavor of the words. Take your time with it and savor every morsel. Writers sometimes use these words in clever ways to better demonstrate a character’s speech habits.

Contractions in dialogue are another easy way to sharpen your manuscript, so don’t feel afraid to use them.

From my experience, contractions rarely appear in narration for a more formal tone. Some characters may purposely speak without contractions for that flair of formality. Again, it’s up to the writer to decide how to present it.

Conclusion

Writing with concision is essential to good prose. It allows for a smoother and more readable script. There are some techniques to help with the process, such as reducing redundant or wordy vocabulary, shortening paragraphs, and using stronger verbs.

Thank you for reading, and I hope this article helped with whatever creative projects you harbor. Love and gratitude. 😀


Want to stay in touch with the blog’s updates and other nifty tidbits? Hit that follow button below. Thanks!

Here’s a bonus: www.wordcounter.net. This website is a nifty piece of software you can use to sharpen your prose. Have fun!

 

Touching base

Hello to all my readers. I’m just touching base in this post as per my absence, and I wanted to jot down some of my thoughts and feelings for those interested.

My new job has kept me busy (6 days a week at a postal position does that). It’s not my ideal occupation, but it’s certainly a step up from my last one. I plan to save up enough money with this job to pay the bills and hire an editor for my upcoming book: Dragonsoul. The postal job is difficult, so, I’m hoping I make the probation period and become regular. Personally, I’d prefer fingering through a book or manuscript than a bundle of letters. As a CCA, the perks you get are good exercise and fresh air.

Outside of work, I’ve busied with reading science fantasy like Ender’s Game, The Dark Tower, Mistborn, and an informative book for writers called The Frugal Editor. I’d highly recommend these books for any SF writer, especially amateurs like myself.

Outside of reading and family obligations, I’ve done editing passes with Dragonsoul. It sounds better with every pass, but I always find new typos or issues to resolve. I’d say my manuscript is coming along, and I look forward to the end product. I have two other books planned for a trilogy at present. Creating fantasy worlds, especially on Atlas where Dragonsoul takes place, gives me a lot of fulfillment. No matter where this project goes, I’ll always be grateful for this chance to engineer such a beautiful world.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I’ll post a new writing article when I get the chance. Thank you for reading. Love and gratitude. 🙂


For anyone who has read my series thus far, I’d be interested in hearing feedback or if you have questions about it. If you haven’t read it, I’m always looking for more beta readers. Let me know in the comments below. Thanks. 😀

 

 

Passive voice in written work

The dreaded passive voice (PV) is oft the bane of writers, especially those just starting out. PV has a crude and redundant place in writing, yet there are times when it is okay to use it. This brief article will elaborate on the nature of this litany device and how best to evoke PV to one’s benefit.

What is PV?

PA is when you make the object of an action into a subject in a sentence. The actor isn’t doing the activity, or doesn’t seem like it is; instead, the object (like a road) seems to be doing the work. See below for example:

The man crossed the trail (non-passive). The trail was crossed by the man. (passive).

The dragon destroyed the town (non-passive). The town was being destroyed by the dragon (passive).

Positioning the actor before the action associates the actor with that activity. The second sentence is more vague with the actor at the very end. Look for to be with a past participle, and ask yourself if the phrase describes an activity and who is the actor. Examples of word groups to watch out for: to be, are being, was being, was doing, is being, has been.

In contrast, active voice (AV) bring a crisper, shorter variant of prose. It caters to the reader, bringing more quality over quantity. Ask yourself this: would you prefer ten rotten apples or two ripe ones?

Here and here are more examples of PV and how to address them. Doing so often improves the conciseness of prose as well as readability. There are–of course–exceptions to the rule, and learning when a to be word group works may come with experience, as the below section illustrates.

When to use PV

There are times when PV is fine in prose. When you want to focus on the action instead of the actor, PV is the technique of choice, although it may diminish readability. Other times when PV is okay:

  1. The actor is anonymous
  2. The actor is unimportant
  3. Intended generalization

Character dialogue often uses PV and AV. Ask yourself how a character speaks. If an actor talks strange, but it’s in-character, then it’s okay. Usually–in our everyday lives–we speak with a passive voice. This method takes longer, allowing our minds to enjoy conversation and prepare our next sentence. However, in prose, a reader absorbs words much faster, therefore written PV is harder to digest.

Personal thoughts

I’ve seen PV used mainly in scientific works, like a thesis, research project, or business report. In these situations, it is generally accepted to defer to PV for a longer, more monotone and bureaucratic flair. For fiction, you’re better off staying away from PV if possible, except of course for the situations above.

Still, I’ve seen bestsellers with PV usage, so abusing this litany tool isn’t the worse sin a writer can commit. Lastly, don’t worry about PV for your first or second draft. Fixing prose is for the editing and proofing passes, much later on. Direct all your energy towards that creative muse.

Thank you for reading! I’d love to hear any feedback or questions you have in the comments below. Love and gratitude. 🙂