Friday, May 15, 2015

Enriching Your Writing—Colloquiums

The use of slang, colloquiums, and clichés can add flavor to your writing, so long as those devices aren’t over used. It can also characterize your setting and add to your characters—without getting into a bunch of backstory. The use of slang and colloquial phrases are usually confined to character speech (or inner thoughts) and not to the whole manuscript.

Not every character will speak in the same manner (and wouldn’t it be boring if they did). The big city girl comes to the country for a job or another purpose. She uses proper English in her speech but hearing the way others speak can add conflict in her perception of the people or another character she comes into contact with. She might perceive them as uneducated and this could cause her to make judgments or underestimate the other character(s). That can work both ways, of course.

There are those who don’t agree with using slang, colloquiums, or clichés and that’s fine, but even some of the classic literary giants, if you will recall, used them.

A blue collar worker may have a different vernacular then a college teacher or stockbroker. A street-smart punk isn’t going to speak in perfect English and if the author, critique partner, or editor tries to force that on the character it will make the character flat
and unrealistic. Someone from the Deep South isn’t going to use his or her words or even the same sentence structure as someone from, fill in the blank____ Maine, California, Upper Midwest, Western states, Pennsylvania Dutch country, does.

Those differences can be used to give flavor to our characters and settings.

An author who does this well, in my opinion, is Carolyn Brown. She writes about people from Texas and Oklahoma in small town and ranch country. She gives richness to her stories with the use of colloquial phrases and regional slang. Her writing pops with location, setting, and realistic people. I laugh because it captures that area so well. Even if you’re not from or never visited the area it works. She doesn’t waste time defining the phrases or words she uses but the context in which they’re used is self-explanatory.

If you write Regencies, you automatically use syntax of the era as well as the slang. It gives the feeling of place and time. Military suspense, thrillers, or romance use slang or jargon because the military has its own terminology as does law enforcement. Someone writing sci-fi or paranormal will create his or her own world jargon and slang.

I think it’s perfectly legitimate to use colloquial speech and clichés in your writing to add texture to your story so long as the terms fit and aren’t use merely as a form of laziness.

  • Do you use, colloquiums, and clichés in your writing?
  • How do you decide when and how to use them?

Monday, May 11, 2015


The moment between dark and dawn is magical.

The morning dew coats the grass and leaves. It softly drips through the thin wisps of fog that skirt the trees and stroke the tops of the brush. A transparent moon hangs above the western hills. The hush of the early morning is haunted by the last echoes of the whippoorwills. The blaze of rust as the fox fades into the tree line and home. The triumphant cry of the owl and shriek of its prey cuts through the moment between dark and dawn.

The breeze pushes back the dark grays and purples of the dark leaving mauves, a blush of rose and turquoise in their wake. To the east a crimson glow highlights the silhouette of oaks waiting to greet the sun. The scent of flowers merges with the rich smell of fertile earth and trees.

All around is the murmur and rustling wings of birds as they stretch and shake off the shadows of the night.  Mourning Doves are cooing among the branches and flash of red and bright chirps of cardinals weaving through the leaves toward the feeders. The sudden flutter of wings as a flock of doves land under the bird feeders to break their morning fast. Flickers of yellow and green announce the arrival of the finches.

Layer by layer the morning symphony builds. The buzz of the bees harvesting nectar. The aerial display of the crows against the rose and gold sky crying out a counterpoint rhythm to the chorus of birds as they sing up the sun. 

The sun opens its arms on the horizon banishing the shadows and bathes all in the golden glow of morning.

There is just something magical in that moment between dark and light. And it fills me with peace and quiet joy.