Obeying the Rules of Grammar

There’s one thing to remember about the rules of grammar….They are not rigid; they change as our perceptions of our language change. What satisfied our eighth-grade teacher certainly won’t satisfy an editor, but then our eighth-grade teacher wasn’t trying to be an editor. The rules, however, were there to be learned, and once we learned them, we could believe they applied only when they made our work better.

William Noble, Noble’s Book of Writing Blunders, 2006

There's one thing to remember about the rules of grammar….They are not rigid; they change as our perceptions of our language change. What satisfied our eighth-grade teacher certainly won't satisfy an editor, but then our eighth-grade teacher wasn't trying to be an editor. The rules, however, were there to be learned, and once we learned them, we could believe they applied only when they made our work better.

William Noble, Noble's Book of Writing Blunders, 2006

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Dark Humor

     A friend of mine once told me about a guy who murdered his first wife and put her in a freezer. He had her in a storage locker and his second wife stopped paying the bill for it, so the contents were auctioned off, and one lucky buy…

     A friend of mine once told me about a guy who murdered his first wife and put her in a freezer. He had her in a storage locker and his second wife stopped paying the bill for it, so the contents were auctioned off, and one lucky buyer purchased a freezer with a dead woman inside.

     Gruesome certainly, but I could easily imagine a darkly comic story about such a situation.

Robin Hemley in How to Write Funny edited by John B. Kachuba, 2001

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Benjamin Franklin’s Self-Help Book

My favorite self-help book may be The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, for Franklin’s unrelenting, very American optimism that the effort will make him happy. I have the same delusion.Atul Gawande, The New York Times Book Review, October 26, 2014 

My favorite self-help book may be The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, for Franklin's unrelenting, very American optimism that the effort will make him happy. I have the same delusion.

Atul Gawande, The New York Times Book Review, October 26, 2014 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Is Writer’s Block Just An American Phenomenon?

     The phrase “writer’s block” was coined by an American, a psychiatrist named Edmund Bergler…In other ages and cultures, writers were not thought to be blocked but straightforwardly dried up. One literary critic pointed out that the concept of writer’s block is peculiarly American in its optimism that we all have creativity just waiting to be unlocked. By contrast, Milton, when he could not write, felt that he was empty, that there was no creativity left untapped.

     If writer’s block is more common in the United States, it would not be the first weakness that is peculiar to our culture. The modern American idea of the literary writer is so shaped by the towering images of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald struggling with every word, that there is a paradoxical sense in which suffering from writer’s block is necessary to be an American novelist. Without block once in a while, if a writer is too prolific, he or she is suspected by other novelists as being a hack.

Alice W. Flaherty, The Midnight Disease, 2004 

     The phrase "writer's block" was coined by an American, a psychiatrist named Edmund Bergler…In other ages and cultures, writers were not thought to be blocked but straightforwardly dried up. One literary critic pointed out that the concept of writer's block is peculiarly American in its optimism that we all have creativity just waiting to be unlocked. By contrast, Milton, when he could not write, felt that he was empty, that there was no creativity left untapped.

     If writer's block is more common in the United States, it would not be the first weakness that is peculiar to our culture. The modern American idea of the literary writer is so shaped by the towering images of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald struggling with every word, that there is a paradoxical sense in which suffering from writer's block is necessary to be an American novelist. Without block once in a while, if a writer is too prolific, he or she is suspected by other novelists as being a hack.

Alice W. Flaherty, The Midnight Disease, 2004 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Pretentious Characters Make Readers Laugh

Pretense is a common trait of many humorous characters. An audience will laugh at any character that lacks self-knowledge–one who is a fraud and tries to publicly present himself as a authority figure deserving of respect. When exposed by other charac…

Pretense is a common trait of many humorous characters. An audience will laugh at any character that lacks self-knowledge--one who is a fraud and tries to publicly present himself as a authority figure deserving of respect. When exposed by other characters as a fraud, the audience will laugh. When these pretentious characters try to cover up and continue their pretensions, the reader will laugh again because these characters are not a threat to them.

Richard Michaels Stefanik, writersstore.com, 2000 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

The “Cozy” Mystery Novel Genre

A “cozy” is a mystery novel with a light tone and an element of fun; the setting is usually a small community and the protagonist is an amateur sleuth who’s a member of the community. Sex and violence occur, for the most part, offstage. Agatha Christie…

A "cozy" is a mystery novel with a light tone and an element of fun; the setting is usually a small community and the protagonist is an amateur sleuth who's a member of the community. Sex and violence occur, for the most part, offstage. Agatha Christie's Miss Jane Marple remains the quintessential cozy protagonist.

Hallie Ephron

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Elizabeth George on Sherlock Holmes and Imperfect Characters

     No one wants to read about perfect characters. Since no reader is perfect, there is nothing more disagreeable than spending free time immersed in a story about an individual who leaps tall buildings of emotion, psyche, body, and spi…

     No one wants to read about perfect characters. Since no reader is perfect, there is nothing more disagreeable than spending free time immersed in a story about an individual who leaps tall buildings of emotion, psyche, body, and spirit in a single bound. Would anyone want a person as a friend, tediously perfect in every way? Probably not. Thus, a character possessing perfection in one area should possess imperfection in another area.

     Sir Arthur Conan Doyle understood this, which is one of the reasons that his Sherlock Holmes has stood the test of time for more than one hundred years and counting. Holmes has the perfect intellect. The man is a virtual machine of cogitation. But he's an emotional black hole incapable of a sustained relationship with anyone except Dr. Watson, and on top of that, he abuses drugs. He has a series of rather quirky habits, and he's unbearably supercilious. As a character "package," he emerges unforgetably from the pages of Conon Doyle's stories. Consequently, it's difficult to believe that any reader of works written in English might not know who Sherlock Holmes is.

Elizabeth George, Write Away, 2004

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Researching a Crime For a Book

Writing a true crime book requires the writer to dig into angles not covered in the original rush of publicity and to deeply research the stories of victims, survivors, investigators, attorneys, and others; review all court, prison, psychiatric, medica…

Writing a true crime book requires the writer to dig into angles not covered in the original rush of publicity and to deeply research the stories of victims, survivors, investigators, attorneys, and others; review all court, prison, psychiatric, medical, police and other documents about the perpetrator and interview people close to him.

Gretchen Brinck, authorsontheweb.com, 2002 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Stephen Glass: Notorious Fake Journalist

Whether fabricating sources or inventing scene settings, four journalists made headlines by choosing fiction over fact. It was discovered in 1998 that Stephen Glass had made up nearly half of his New Republic magazine stories. The New York Times reporter Jayson Blair was fired in 2003 for fabricating quotes from people he never met…Janet Cooke, a reporter with the Washington Post had to return her Pulitzer in 1981 after admitting she had created, out of whole cloth, an eight-year-old heroin addict to write about. In 2014, USA Today reporter Jack Kelley resigned after falsely creating stories, including a piece about a drowned woman who later turned up alive.

K. C. Baker, “Under Fire,” People, February 23, 2015 

Whether fabricating sources or inventing scene settings, four journalists made headlines by choosing fiction over fact. It was discovered in 1998 that Stephen Glass had made up nearly half of his New Republic magazine stories. The New York Times reporter Jayson Blair was fired in 2003 for fabricating quotes from people he never met…Janet Cooke, a reporter with the Washington Post had to return her Pulitzer in 1981 after admitting she had created, out of whole cloth, an eight-year-old heroin addict to write about. In 2014, USA Today reporter Jack Kelley resigned after falsely creating stories, including a piece about a drowned woman who later turned up alive.

K. C. Baker, "Under Fire," People, February 23, 2015 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Memorable Movie Dialogue

Some movie quotes become popular because they evoke a great film, or a great scene, or a great actor. Sometimes the words of the quote become proverbial–something like, “The natives are restless,” or “If you build it they will come,” or “Win one for t…

Some movie quotes become popular because they evoke a great film, or a great scene, or a great actor. Sometimes the words of the quote become proverbial--something like, "The natives are restless," or "If you build it they will come," or "Win one for the Gipper!" They enter into the language.

William Goldman in Leopold Todd, "What Makes a Movie Quote So Quotable?" CNN, August 22, 2014 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/