6 Answers Writers Have for the Grammar Police

I thought you all would find this post interesting, and Marcia said today would be a good day to reblog it here. Enjoy, and I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

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One of the frustrations of being a fiction writer is the occasional need to defend ourselves when accosted by the Grammar Police.

Now, that’s not to say that we don’t sometimes become the Grammar Police ourselves. Most of us have had a lot of training in the use of language, including proper grammar. So we grind our teeth when we see flat-out errors (apostrophes in places they don’t belong is one of my pet peeves).

But often our own grammatical “mistakes” really aren’t mistakes at all.

Certainly we writers do sometimes make boo-boos in our writing. Anytime one is feverishly typing — trying to get the words down before the muse snatches them away again — there is bound to be an occasional “your” slipping in where we meant “you’re.” (That’s why it’s so important for writers to get fresh eyes to proofread their final work.)

But many of the things the Grammar Police see as horrific errors are more examples of literary license and/or the evolution of language.

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

1.  Sentence fragments are okay in fiction. Honest! They are. For emphasis. They should be used sparingly, but it really is okay to leave out the subject, or even the subject and the verb, or some other component of a grammatically-correct sentence, when writing fiction.

Read more…

 

Selling books is great; making an impression is even better

image By Ned Hickson

Two years ago tomorrow, I attended my first book fair as an author. Today, I’m going to share that experience in a post I’m calling:

Reasons to Hide Liquor Under Your Book Fair Table

Admittedly, it’s very exciting to walk into a room of 50 or so booths with publishers and authors offering their latest releases and services. And when you see your own booth tucked among them, with your book cover on display and a large photo of yourself hanging on the wall behind your table, you can’t help but pause and quietly think: I have arrived as an author and, judging by its size, my nose arrived about an hour before I did. My point is that book fairs are about taking the opportunity to become three-dimensional to readers and making a connection beyond the printed page; it’s about revealing yourself to people in ways that are spontaneous, real and unrehearsed, and giving them an experience they can take with them and talk about with others. This led to another realization almost simultaneously: Why is there no liquor at this thing?

This notion was underscored moments later, when a woman appearing to be in her mid-60s approached my booth and began telling me how much she loved my writing, almost to the point it was becoming a little embarrassing. “I NEVER miss your column!” she declared. “Really — If it wasn’t for your column, I doubt I would even subscribe to the Register-Guard!”

In my mind, I began pouring two fingers into a shot glass. Why?

“Um, I write for Siuslaw News,” I said with an awkward smile. “I think you’re talking about Bob Welch. He’s got a table right over there.”

“…Oh… I see.”

In that moment, if there had been an actual shot glass on the table, I’m pretty sure she would have taken it from me, chugged it, wiped her lips with one of my bookmarks and gone to see Bob Welch. Instead, she stood immobilized and looking for a gracious exit.

“OK, actually I am Bob Welch,” I said. “I killed Ned Hickson and have assumed his identity to expand my writing empire. If you don’t tell anyone, you can help yourself to one of my books over there.” I pointed to Welch’s booth, which was unmanned but stacked with copies of My Oregon, Pebble in the Water and others. “If anyone asks, tell them Bob sent you,” I said, and winked.

The woman who I came to know as Joan, smiled. “So… who did you say you write for again?”

Those words led to my first book sale of the day, and understanding the importance of meeting readers face-to-face, even if yours wasn’t the face they were looking for. During the course of six hours at my booth, I met lots of people who had no idea who I was, many of whom were drawn to my keen marketing strategy…

As you can imagine, the corners went very fast...

As you can imagine, the corners went very fast…

Continue reading

Once divorced. Has fear of clowns — things you may not know about me

image Ned Hickson

This week, Marcia has asked us to tell something about ourselves that others may not know. Whether this is to help us learn a little about each other, or for Marcia to collect incriminating information, I’m not sure. But I DO know Marcia is a gracious interviewer who had me on her other site Bookin’ It last year, during which she hypnotized me into revealing things from several past lives. What follows is an excerpt from that interview that actually reveals some things about both of us…

Marcia: Welcome to Bookin’ It, Ned. It’s great to have you here today. Can you tell us a bit about how you became a writer?

Ned: I am frequently asked how I became a writer. Mostly by my editor here at Siuslaw News. Except when she says it, the words sound more like an accusation than a question. I can honestly say I’ve been a storyteller since as far back as I can remember, back before I could actually write words. My mom used to record my spontaneous stories on cassettes, which she lovingly kept, knowing that someday I would want them and be willing to pay any price to keep them from falling into the hands of someone like Jerry Springer. By the time I was in middle school, I was writing regularly and exploring storytelling through making my own comic books, stories on cassette with background music and sound effects, and eventually movies with a Super 8 camera. Yeah, I was that kid. After graduating from high school, I drove to Texas and found work as a busboy before eventually making my way into the kitchen. A few years later, I was promoted to head chef, then regional chef in Atlanta, Ga. But even while pursuing that career, I continued to write short stories and a mystery novel in hopes of writing full time someday. In 1998, after returning to Oregon with my family, I was hired as a sports editor and columnist at Siuslaw News here in Florence, Ore. That’s really where my “professional” writing career began. Clearly, I’ve always been a late bloomer.

Marcia: Wow! Like me, you started young. Unlike me, you have your tapes and movies to prove it. Also, unlike me, you didn’t wait until you were ancient before settling into the career you were obviously meant to pursue, for which I, like all your readers, am immensely grateful! Can you tell us a bit about who inspired you? What authors did you enjoy growing up, and in what ways?

Ned: I didn’t actually read much as a kid. *An audible hush fills the blog-o-sphere* However, my grandmother introduced me to the short stories and novels of Stephen King when I was in my late teens, which inspired me to try my hand at horror-themed short stories. It wasn’t until several years later, during my first marriage, that my horror writing really evolved and I found some publishing success. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Haha! Just kidding! *cough cough*

Anyway, on the advice of my grandmother, I read The Client by John Grisham, which inspired me to write my first — and only — mystery novel, No Safe Harbor. By that time, I had just settled into my job at Siuslaw News and turned my attention to learning the ins and outs of journalism and becoming a columnist. I had no idea what I was doing and it took me a while to find my voice, which began being compared to Dave Barry and Art Buchwald. I’m embarrassed to say I had no idea who they were. When I eventually found out and read their work, I was flattered. But more importantly, it gave me a lot of confidence in the voice I was developing.

Marcia: Okay, finding out you didn’t read much as a kid is startling, I admit (though it would take more than that to cause an “audible hush” to fall over ME, you understand)! But finding out you didn’t know Dave Barry made me gasp out loud! Art Buchwald, I can almost understand, since he may have been a bit before your time. But Dave Barry? I think I still have the shrine I built in his honor a decade or two ago, when he was saving my life through his humor. Tsk. I’m glad you have now been enlightened, and yes, you were being complimented, for sure. And you have definitely earned the comparison, though you certainly speak with your own voice these days. Can you tell us about your reading habits today? (Asks she, crossing her fingers that they have broadened a bit). Do you have a favorite genre that you head to as soon as you enter a bookstore? Do you even ENTER bookstores? 🙂

Ned: Admittedly, I still don’t read as often as I’d like to or should. The last book I read was two years ago. But when I DO read, I gravitate toward mysteries, horror or sci-fi. Someone once said horror is the flip-side of comedy, and that the same essential elements apply to both in order for them to be successful. Unfortunately, the person who said this was murdered by a gang of clowns…

(And there you have it. Things you probably didn’t know about me. To recap: Weird kid, chef, divorced and afraid of clowns. Probably more than you wanted to know. However, for anyone who’d like to read the complete interview, possibly because you’re serving life without parole, here’s a link to the original on Bookin’ It)

Coming out to the ones you love about your alternative (writing) lifestyle

image By Ned Hickson

It began with my parents of course, who held hands as I explained that I had always felt “different,” and that I wanted to embrace who I was, without shame, hopefully with their acceptance and approval. They both exchanged glances, my mother squeezing my father’s hand and offering him a worried smile before turning back to me. She knew what was coming and slowly blinked, nodding her head ever so slightly, encouraging me.

I cleared my throat. Took a deep breath.

“Mom… Dad… I think I might be a writer.”

It’s been many years since I came out of the closet. Or, in my case, the laundry room, which is where I did most of my writing until becoming a columnist in 1998. But before that — before I actually started getting paid to write — that conversation replayed itself many times over the years with family, friends and co-workers, most of whom thought of my writing as something akin to collecting salt and pepper shakers; a “unique” hobby that I was asked not to talk about at parties.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but for people who don’t know you — it makes them uncomfortable when your eyes light up like that.”

The bottom line is that no one took my writing seriously (And, yes, I realize the irony of that statement considering I am a humor columnist, but still…). In retrospect, there were many reasons why my wanting to be a writer was perceived as a bucket list item instead of a legitimate rung on my life ladder — beginning with my own perception of “wanting to be” a writer. Because we’re conditioned from an early age to view money as a prime indicator of success and achievement, we naturally use that same measuring stick as validation when it comes to pursuits that don’t fall into traditional categories.

In short: If you aren’t getting paid for it, then you’re not legitimate.

That’s like saying you can’t include “skydiving instructor” among the achievements in your obituary just because your parachute didn’t open the last time you jumped. Even if you’ve landed flat on your face in terms of monetary or publishing success with your writing, it doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer.

It just means there’s a good possibility that every publisher you’ve submitted your work to was a skydiving instructor who died before they could read your masterpiece. I honestly can’t tell you how many publishers plunged to their death before I saw my first words in print.

Regardless, if you spend time formulating words for the sheer enjoyment while, at the same time, agonizing over those very same words, congratulations:

You are a writer.

How do I know this? Because no one who isn’t a writer would put themselves through this process. Ask the average person on the street to write five paragraphs about their favorite memory while holding them at gun point, and most will help you squeeze the trigger. The ones who don’t?

They’re the writers.

Or masochists. Which I realize is somewhat redundant.

My point is the only legitimacy you need as a writer comes from yourself — and it starts with believing what you do is important and has value that isn’t measured in dollars or even common sense in the eyes of others. Let’s face it, toiling alone over the choice and arrangement of words on a page doesn’t make much sense to anyone who isn’t a writer. They may nod their heads and smile when you try to explain it, but in their minds they’re wondering if buying a home so close to high-voltage power lines was a mistake. Again, the only thing that matters is giving yourself permission to take your writing seriously.

And by “serious,” I don’t just mean getting published or paid for the words you write. It simply means serious enough that you make time for it, in the same way you do other routines that are important to your daily life.

If you take your writing seriously, so will others.

And if they don’t? It doesn’t make you any less a writer. Published or unpublished, novelist or columnist, fiction or non-fiction, accept yourself for being a writer and always make time for putting those words down on paper. It is both a gift and a responsibility — and a pursuit that is uniquely your own to determine and discover. Make it part of your lifestyle and treasure those who embrace it with you.

As for everyone else?

I hear that skydiving makes a great holiday gift…

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Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.

Sometimes, your Muse needs to be romanced

imageBy Ned Hickson

Today, we’re going to focus on tips for writing intimate love scenes. Or more specifically, how to effectively insert (see what I just did there?) descriptive phrases like:

“He grabbed her bare shoulders, caressing them with the kind of longing one only reserves for fresh-baked bread …”

And

“She de-pansed him in one quick motion, opening a floodgate of memories from freshman gym class…”

As you can see, this is a genre I am intimately familiar with because, as I’ve said before, you need to write what you know. And believe me, when it comes to intimacy no one knows it better than myself. That said, as a personal favor to 50 Shades author E.L. James, I will actually NOT be offering insights regarding the the ins-and-outs (See how I did that?) of writing descriptive lovemaking scenes. The reason is because her latest book, “14 Shades of Puce” is due out later this week, and she is concerned many of you would recognize some of the techniques I would be discussing today.

In short, that “fresh bread” example wasn’t something I pulled out (are you following these?) just willy-nilly (Did I mention subtlety is important?)

So instead, we will turn our attention to a different aspect of romance and writing. If you’re a serious writer who also happens to be in an equally serious relationship, I have news for you: We all know about your love triangle! That’s right! Don’t try to deny it. We know you’ve been spending a lot of time together. And yes, they get your heart racing too because, when things are going right, there’s nothing quite like it. Now, before I inadvertently send someone off to confess an affair they think may have happened because they woke up at a neighbor’s New Year’s Eve party clutching a pair of party favors in a suggestive manner, let me put your fears to rest. In this case we’re talking about your writing Muse; that voice of inspiration that whispers sweet somethings that just have to be written down.

In the case of those party favors… Just don’t ever let it happen again.

Some of you might be asking:

What If I’m not in a serious relationship?
Or What if I’m single by choice because I AM serious about my writing?
Or Did my mother call you again?

Whether you are seeing someone on a regular basis or have temporarily stopped seeing anyone due to irregularity, being a writer means you are already in a serious relationship with your Muse. And like any relationship you want to see flourish, you need to do your part in providing opportunities to help it grow. If one or more of the following statements could be made by your Muse, it’s time to make some changes;

1) You never take me anywhere — As I’m sure E.L. James would agree, an integral part of any relationship is exploring new things. With your Muse, however, I’m talking about actually leaving your home/apartment/bonds and getting out to experience new sights, sounds, scents — things that can inspire you and your Muse. Or at the very least provide experiences you can file in a mental cache and refer to later. In addition, consider taking some photos and jotting down your impressions in case, like mine, your “mental cache” is more like Snap-Chat.

2) I need to be romanced a little first — It’s easy to fall into a pattern of groping at your Muse, getting what you want and then — at least in the case of many men — falling asleep at the keyboard. Much like having a lover, there is a certain amount of foreplay involved when “seducing” your Muse. Even if yours is slutty like mine, the seduction process — i.e., your writing preparation routine — is important. My writing foreplay involves making a cup of java that is best described as a liquid Coffee Nip, then putting on my headphones to listen to AC/DC, checking and responding to any comments on my blog and Twitter account, then getting to work on whatever I’m writing. If I can’t finish a piece I’m working on, I always leave off in the middle of a sentence. That way, when I come back to it, I can start right out with some momentum by finishing the thought I had. Your Muse will appreciate you coming back to finish what you started.

3) I think your Mom hates me — If your Muse tells you this, it’s a good indication you might be spending too much time together. If nothing else, it’s time to take a break and re-evaluate your relationship. Possibly with the help of professional.

Whether you’re in a love triangle or monogamous relationship with your Muse, it needs to be nurtured and appreciated.

It’s the little things you do on a daily basis to express your appreciation that will keep your relationship strong, supportive and continually inspired.

Oh, and the same applies to your Muse, too.

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Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.

An excerpt from ‘Humor at the Speed of Life’ by Ned Hickson

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I believe some introductions are in order. And by that, I mean the introduction in my book, which seems like a good place to start. Given that Humor at the Speed of Life is a collection of my newspaper columns, I felt the need to give readers a little background as a jumping off point. Hoping, of course, that they weren’t reading it while perched on the ledge of a building…

***

THIS JUST IN…

After 15 years as a humor columnist, it finally hit me. And by that I mean my editor’s stapler. She had been threatening to throw it since 2004, when I first discovered the secret candy drawer she had cleverly labeled: Extra Work for Reporters. For the past nine years she had been warning me, “If you don’t stay out of my candy drawer, I am going to set this thing for ‘stun’ and hurl it at you!”

As I sat there, blurry-eyed and rubbing the back of my head, I came to an important and potentially life-changing realization:

I really need to publish this book now, before she gets a new stapler.

Once my editor replenished her candy stash, there was a good chance another direct hit would result in serious brain damage, ending my career as a journalist and leaving me to write for daytime television. The truth is, readers have been asking me for years to compile a book of columns. As one reader from Gwynette, GA., wrote in, “If you ever come here for a book signing, you better have pastries or something.” Continue reading

Tips to jump-start your writing (unless you’re in Arkansas)

imageBy Ned Hickson

There’s nothing quite like staring at a blank page, knowing that with a few strokes of the keyboard you will transform a landscape devoid of life into a living, breathing thing of your own creation. There’s also nothing quite like finishing that fourth cup of coffee only to find that same blank page staring back at you.

Sure, you may have typed several sentences — or maybe even the same sentence several times — in hopes of gaining some kind of momentum to carry you over that first hump, but the cursor repeatedly stalls out in the same spot, leaving you with the same blank page after riding the “delete” button back to the beginning.

Hey, that’s why it’s called a “cursor.”

I’ll be honest. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the notion of writer’s “block,” which suggests some kind of blockage — such as a cheese wedge or too many butter biscuits — restricting movement through a hypothetical colon of creativity. Although there are some books in print that offer evidence to support at least part of the colon theory, I prefer to think of the writing process as cells in a battery; when they are fully charged, things start easily. But if the alternator belt slips too much or the terminals get corroded, you end up without enough juice to turn the engine. Because we are writers and not mechanics, and because that last sentence exhausted the full extent of my automotive knowledge, I will sum up my analogy with this: When your battery is low, you get a jump, right?

Writing is no different. Continue reading

Forget that image of Bruce Jenner and start writing

write write write copy By Ned Hickson

I’m going to open with a simple truth:

Step one to being a writer: Write!

That advice seems pretty straight forward. The kind of obvious straight forwardness that carries you with complete confidence toe-first into a brick. Like most advice we’re given, the wisdom behind it is simple; the problem comes in the execution.

And while there are countless books out there offering tips on everything from how to get inspired and avoid writer’s block to the kinds of foods that promote creative thinking (which, judging from what I read, you will be doing mostly while on the commode), all of those books essentially come down to one universal truth:

Nothing promotes and stimulates writing better than…

You guessed it:

Excessive drinking.

But let’s suppose you don’t want to become an alcoholic? Does that mean you’re not truly committed to being a writer? Could it jeopardize your dream of becoming a novelist, columnist, short story writer or inner city tagger?

Let me answer those questions by answering the single most important question you’re probably asking yourself right now:

Has HE been drinking?

Of course not. At least not yet.

I have four children, remember?

Regardless, my point is that the other universal truth to writing is this:

The fastest way to jumpstart the writing process is to put your fingers to the keyboard and just start writing.

I purposely sat down to write this post without any preparation. I did this to 1) challenge myself, and 2) because I really had no idea what I was going to write anyway, so it seemed like a good plan. To that end, I started putting words on the screen.

Did I take a wrong turn or two?

Absolutely.

But the beauty of writing is that — like the Kardashians — nothing is permanent, and you can easily fix imperfections by injecting or removing the things you don’t like. And many times, what you thought was going to be a wrong turn or dead end leads to a doorway you hadn’t expected — or at least a window you can jump out of.

Especially if you walk in on Bruce Jenner getting a body wax.

OK, in an effort to move on quickly from that image, how about a show of hands from anyone who has ever found themselves staring at a blank screen with their fingers poised over the keyboard, even if they have applied my advice?

Seriously, I’m watching, so get them up.

I ask this because, in spite of my advice, there are still times when you need to jump-start your jump start.

Something I’ve discovered from writing a daily blog is that the interaction with other writers on blogs and websites — whether replying to a comment or leaving one on another writer’s site — is a great way to grease the creative process.

… Great, just when we had gotten past that image of Bruce Jenner…

Sorry, everyone.

Anyway, starting your day with some social interaction at your computer not only gets you into writing position at the keyboard, but can get the creative process started by reading others’ work, getting inspired by it, and formulating responses or comments in a creative frame of mind.

Warning: Set a time limit!

As I can attest, it’s easy to lose track of time, or become so caught up in commenting and replying that your momentum is carried in the wrong direction. I usually give myself until I finish my first cup of coffee.

Which, by the way, I have switched from the giant 128-ounce Big Gulp size to a standard mug. Not only because I was using it as an excuse to blog until noon, but also because I discovered my bladder only holds 120 ounces.

Bottom line, once you’ve established a writing routine, solidify it by putting words on the page — whether for your actual writing project or during a social network warm-up — each time you sit down at the keyboard. Before you know it, your writing will be waiting for you in your mental queue at the same time each day.

Assuming you can get the image of Bruce Jenner out of your mind.

Again, my apologies for that.

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Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.

Tools for thought… or food for your toolbox… or something like that

image By Ned Hickson
A while back, I talked about three of the most important tools a writer wields when it comes to establishing their voice. Does anyone remember what they were?

For the sake of time, let’s just assume all of you remember what those tools were and, in a series of uncontrollable outbursts, begin shouting out:

TIMING!

TRUTHFULNESS!

and…

CUERVO!

No, the third tool is RELATIVITY — not Cuervo. Even though I think we can all agree Cuervo does have a way of making even the most abstract things seem relevant.

In this case, however, Relativity means ensuring the reader can relate to what we’re writing about. This is especially true when it comes to personal experience and family anecdotes. For example, that hilarious story about how Aunt Frida got mad and stomped through the garden won’t be nearly as entertaining to readers as it is to you unless, like you, they already know Aunt Frida was a mule. I realize that’s an overstatement, but unless you take time to lay the foundation of your story in a way that involves the reader, they will likely sit down and refuse to follow.

As for Timing and Truth, they’re pretty self-explanatory. In a nutshell, Timing is the use of punctuation and sentence structure to create a rhythm that enhances your storytelling, while Truth is exactly that: writing about what you know and, whenever necessary, doing the research to educate yourself about a topic before presenting it to your readers. For example, when I wrote about the first wedding proposal in space, I prepared myself by going through NASA’s extensive astronaut training program.

OK, fine. But I did do my research before writing about how awful the food would be at a space wedding, with puree’d roast beef and cedar-plank salmon from a tube, and how throwing rice would be a big mistake since, thanks to zero gravity, the wedding party would spend the rest of the evening surrounded by clouds of floating rice. And how do you spike the punch when it’s served in a squeeze box?

Now that we’ve re-summarized those first three important writing tools, here are two more:

Vocabulary
Economy

Vocabulary seems straight forward, right? A knowledge of words. But more important than knowing a lot of words — or big words — is knowing the perfect words. Think of it as the care you put into choosing the words to express your love for someone. Or quite possibly while trying to get out of a speeding ticket. In either case, there’s a lot riding on your word selection. One wrong word, or too many of them, and you could find yourself in hand cuffs. (I realize for some of you that might be the objective in the first case, but just play along.)

Let’s take a look at the last sentence a few paragraphs ago, about educating myself at NASA. What if I had written it like this:

…when I wrote my column on the first person to propose in space a while ago, I learned about the subject by participating in the astronaut program at NASA.

Here’s what I went with:
…when I wrote about the first wedding proposal in space, I prepared myself by going through NASA’s extensive astronaut training program.

The breakdown:
1) “…when I wrote my column” versus “…when I wrote about…” In the second instance, I’m assuming you already know it’s “my column.” I wanted to avoid another “me” reference and also improve the flow.

2) “…on the first person to propose in space a while ago…” versus “…the first wedding proposal in space…” We all know it’s a person who is proposing since there has been no reference to aliens or talking animals, so I didn’t feel it was necessary to refer to “the first person” proposing. Instead, I went with “first wedding proposal in space” since the proposal is the subject. Now, if alien or talking dog proposals were common place, then yes, I would make sure to clarify it was a person proposing. Hopefully to another person and not a talking dog. And I chose to completely drop “a while ago” because it really doesn’t matter when I wrote it, and trimming it cleans up the sentence.

3) “…I learned about the subject by participating in the astronaut program at NASA” versus “…I prepared myself by going through NASA’s extensive astronaut training program.” To get to the action of this sentence, I dropped “learned about” and “by participating in” and combined it into “preparing myself by going through,” then moved “NASA” closer to the action as a way to bring those two images together much faster. From that point, I built on the satire by describing what I did as “extensive astronaut training.”

Are you having flashbacks from eighth-grade sentence diagramming? Sorry about that. I hope the breakdown was helpful in offering at least some insight into the thought process of choosing the right words or, if nothing else, why my daughter won’t let me anywhere near her book reports.

Our last writing tool, Economy, is directly related to Vocabulary because choosing the right word can often mean fewer words. Economy is big part of the revision process, when you take a hard look at what can be eliminated from the literary structure you have created while maintaining its integrity. While this isn’t as important in novel writing, it is critical for columnists, short story writers and journalists. Every story requires being as concise as possible by using an economy of words. Ironically, as I say this, I just realized the current word count makes this my longest post ever.

Fortunately, Hypocrisy isn’t one of the tools we will be talking about today.

Alfred Hitchcock once said everything in a movie must have purpose and propel the story. If it doesn’t, it needs to be eliminated — which could explain the number of murders in his films. In short, when it comes to Economy, think of Alfred Hitchcock.

But probably not while you’re in the shower.

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imageNed Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications.)

A few things writers and superheroes have in common

image By Ned Hickson
As I’m sure you’ve already gathered from the title of this post, yes: I look really great in tights and a cape. At least on paper. In fact, all writers do. However, the power writers wield with words (such as using four “w” words in a row) — whether (make that five) for inspiration, contemplation or revulsion — got me thinking about the things writers and superheroes have in common. And I don’t just mean how often people confuse me for Chris Hemsworth. At least on paper.

To begin with, like any superhero, every writer experiences a transformation process before going into action. Sure, it doesn’t involve hastily peeling your clothes off to reveal a fancy costume (depending on your genre and dedication to research), or a blinding flash that changes you from street clothes to colorful tights — something for this reporters in my newsroom are extremely thankful. However, while not as dramatic, there is a transformation that takes place as a writer’s body language, facial expression and overall focus shifts from “earthbound” to “alternate universe.” Ever see a photo of yourself immersed deep in writer mode? It’s like looking at someone else. Which, in my case, is often mistaken for Chris Hemsworth. I mentioned the alternate universe part, right?

Speaking of which, like Thor’s mighty hammer, Spiderman’s web-shooters, Green Lantern’s ring or Hulk’s endless supply of purple pants, writers wield their own super-powered tool for getting the job done. I’m talking, of course, about a cranky editor. Haha! Just kidding! That will be next week’s NWOW topic: Things Editors and Super Villains Have in Common. Naturally, the super-powered tool I was referring to is the computer or tablet a writer wields as a defender of the written word. I realize some of you might be saying:

“I don’t write on a computer, so that’s not entirely accurate.”

And I suppose you’re right. The again, Moses was technically the first person to use a tablet, but let’s not split hairs.

Another characteristic that writers and superheroes share is having their powers thrust upon them. Like any superhero, a writer discovers their gift and realizes “With great power comes great responsibility to pick up a second job.” There’s no avoiding who your are, the powers you have been given, or finding the best way to use them. Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker, Jean Grey, Bruce Banner, Clark Kent — they all tried to deny their powers and the responsibilities they carried as a result of what fate had bestowed upon them. In each case, they came to realize they were only living within a shadow of who they were meant to be. The same goes for writers; they return to action because they can’t stop being writers.

So, does all of this mean you should should expect a call from The Justice League or S.H.I.E.L.D.?

Probably not. But as a writer, rest assured you are in the company of some really super friends.

(P.S. This one was for you, Marcia!)

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image Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. He ic currently working on his next book, Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing: Pearls of Writing Wisdom from 16 Years as a Shucking Columnist.