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I suppose it is high time I return to the ‘Writing Central’ folder of this blog and give some practical tips for my fellow writers out there. The lesson for today (one that you and I could both stand to learn/re-learn): the way you phrase and punctuate your writing can drastically effect how your characters are viewed.

Example #1:

A: “We found nothing,” she figured.

B: “We found nothing?” she asked.

Not only is the intonation different, we find ourselves looking at two different emotions and circumstances. 1A  is more confident and assured. Probably, she does not rely upon the person to whom she is speaking. 1B is likely more willing to admit lack of knowledge, more likely to ask for help, and less likely to be the alpha of the group. I should note that the same character might use 1A with one character (someone she considers herself superior to, for example, or to whom she is trying to prove herself) and 1B with another character (someone she trusts, respects, and/or looks up to).

Example #2:

A: “We never should have split up,” he thought.

B: “We should have stuck together,” he thought.

Grammatically, they boil down to the same meaning. But, in the minds of your readers, 2A and 2B subtly display whole different personas. 2A shows more nervousness and regret than 2B. Furthermore, 2B displays a sudden certainty, while 2A focuses on a sudden dread.

All in all, you might find these little changes almost unnoticeable as you write. You may they think are not worth the time to consider. But your reader will pick up on the clues you give them. So every comma, exclamation point, period, and question mark counts. The way you put your sentences together really does matter. So join me in carving out the time to think things through–be it as you free-write or as you edit.

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I tried and tried to make today go one way, but it was destined to go another.

My mom and I planned to dash down to Belfast and then straight back to Bangor. I longed to catch up on the oodles of work this cold has put me behind on. I finished my morning’s tasks at the law firm right on time, but as we tried to leave the office building that one last phone call turned into a half hour session. I watched as my mom took the time and invested the patience to love on someone who had no one else to turn to, someone she could barely communicate with but who was in real need. And I knew right then that I had to accept a timetable designed for real people instead of piles of work. I was inspired by her action.

We enjoyed ourselves in Belfast, though we came back empty handed as for our mission. And I had hopes that work might be accomplished when I finally got upstairs to my room. I turned on Pandora, pulled my laptop open, and started to blog. I never finished. Because one phone call after another I chose to invest in real people instead of piles of work. Everyone had a different story. Each invested some tenderness in me and shared a burden with me. And not one of those phone calls should have been skipped. Did I get a lick of work done today? Nope. Did I do everything I was meant to today? Yep.

So thanks, Mom, for setting such a good example. May I always put people above piles.

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