He Said. She Said.

A blog reader recently left an excellent comment on an earlier post:

Tamela, fiction workshop presenters taught me that the best word for “said” is “said”–that others only tend to slow down the reader’s eye. I’d appreciate a discussion on this.

While I don’t know the workshop presenters in question, what I can guess they meant is to avoid substituting creative verbs for “said” as a tag. For example:

“Cyrus, tell that joke about the tortoise and the hare,” the cowboy chuckled.

“This caviar is not up to my standards,” the dowager sniffed.

These tags aren’t without merit, because they do help convey the emotions and actions of the characters. In fact, they could even be expanded into effective action tags. At the least, simple punctuation would keep these characters from performing the improbable task of sniffing and chuckling words:

“Cyrus, tell that joke about the tortoise and the hare.” The cowboy chuckled.

“This caviar is not up to my standards.” The dowager sniffed.

So why would fiction workshop presenters tell writers to use the word “said” as a tag? I would say that there is a time and place to use a simple tag. In a fast-paced scene, a simple tag will keep the action flowing. For example:

“Get the gun,” Bruce said.

“What?”

“I said, get the gun.”

“Why?”

“Don’t ask questions,” Bruce said. “Just do as I say. Now.”

In a case such as this, complicated action tags could slow down the rhythm and urgency of the scene, distracting the reader rather than adding to the story. The “said” tag is used infrequently to help the reader keep track of the conversation.

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En-TITLE-ment: Finding the Perfect Title (Part Three)

Remember that old adage for retailers, “The customer is always right?” Well, for novelists seeking the perfect title, that should be “The audience is always right.”

Tip #4: Remember Your Audience! Novelists do a great job, on the whole, of keeping their audience in mind as they write. But sometimes when trying to come up with a catchy title or cover image, they go a bit far afield of that audience. The result is that readers who would love the story won’t even pick it up. And those who do pick it up may not find what they expected inside. So as you work on your title, remember who your reader is. For example:

Age range. If your book would appeal mostly to Christian women in their 40s and up, then don’t use a trendy title that will appeal to the twenty-somethings. And watch out for technology phrases. Unless your certain your core audience is familiar with both the meaning and use of something technologial, steer clear. For example, using RAM, bits, bytes, and bauds as words in your title may work for a younger audience, or one that’s technologically savvy, but for older readers? Odds are good you’d lose ’em. (Or have them writing you letters scolding you for misspelling bites.)
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News You Can Use – August 30, 2011

Are Books Dead? Can Authors Survive? – Ewan Morrison presents a bleak picture of the industry. Agree or Disagree? (I disagree.)

The Golden Era of Books Isn’t Over – As the writer says, “The Golden Era is NOW.”

I Can’t Think of Anything to Blog About! – This is a fantastic article on ways to break your blogging writer’s block.

Economics Rewrites the Book Business – The Wall Street Journal show how recent events effect every publisher and thus every author.

What NOT to do if you get a Literary Agent – I wish I had written this article!

The Five Most Common Blogging Mistakes – Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Hmm. I guess I still have a lot to learn!

 

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To Pay or Not to Pay: For Your Own Media Travel Costs

I have had the privilege of knowing Ellie Kay since I first found her book proposal in the slush pile while an editor at Bethany House. That proposal became the first of her fourteen published books. I later became her literary agent and together we have seen her wrestle with a number of issues related to a growing platform. From those humble beginnings in the late 90s Ellie has been on nearly every major radio and television program including Nightline (twice) and was a regular on ABC’s “Good Money” for quite some time. I invited her to be our guest blogger on the question of whether or not an author should pay their own way to a media opportunity. I know you will find her thoughts insightful. Make sure to visit her web site at www.elliekay.com and get her newest book The 60 Minute Money Workout.

__________

One question authors often ask is, “Where should I put my marketing dollars?” When you have an opportunity to go on a national show but you have to fund the trip yourself, how can you make sure it’s worth what I call the “Media Investment.”

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Fun Fridays – Aug. 26, 2011

Don’t tell me you haven’t done this with your own books.

I’ll admit that after leaving a bookstore my clients tend to have their books face-out.

[I do not recommend moving books around! Publisher pay good money for product placement and the poor booksellers have enough to worry about.]

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A Matter of Perspective

During a recent visit to my local bank, I produced a document bearing the Virginia State seal. The banker commented on how terrible the seal is for men.

What an odd thing to say!

Mrs. Judith Gue taught third grade at the small private school I attended in a bucolic part of Virginia. Mrs. Gue was a plump woman who favored silk dresses, kept a paddle on her desk as an unspoken and ever-present threat, smoked cigarettes like a fiend and had also taught my mother. She relished the first story in the Virginia history book, about how Sir Walter Raleigh covered a mud puddle with his cloak so his queen’s feet would not be sullied. Pride filled her voice when she shows us the seal, speaking of “Victory over Tyrants” for our great state. The woman depicted is the Roman Goddess Virtus, the goddess of virtue, and the defeated man is a tyrant. I have my doubts that the men responsible for the seal, designed in 1776, were raging feminists.

I said to the banker, “You’re not a native, are you?”

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En-TITLE-ment: Finding the Perfect Title (Part Two)

First, here are the answers to last week’s questions:

Name That Tone!

The Boneman’s Daughters–chilling

Redeeming Love–romantic

The Shunning–Amish

The Riddlemaster of Hed–fantastical

A Vase of Mistaken Identity–whimsical

Without a Trace–suspensful

Three Weddings & a Giggle—humourous and romantic

Name that Genre!

Kidnapped–adventure

Sister Chicks Down Under—witty women’s fiction

The Lightkeeper’s Ball—historical romance

Deadly Pursuit—suspense

The Twelfth Prophecy, A.D. Chronicles—biblical fiction

Okay, now, on to Tip #3 for crafting strong titles. As USA channel puts it, Characters welcome! Ever and always, Keep Your Characters in Mind. Sometimes the best title for a book focuses on the character.

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News You Can Use

World’s Highest Paid Authors – According to Forbes – August 2011.

Four Top Twitter Feeds for Book Lovers

How an Author Can Use Google+ – Fascinating new social network. Worth adding to your circle? And click here for a complete guide to Google+.

Who Do You Write Like? – This little word game has you paste clips of your writing and it tells you which classic author your style echoes. Mine? H.P. Lovecraft, who is probably best known as a writer of weird fiction. How is that for irony?

The Danger of Using Stock Photos – The Caustic Cover Critic blog found these three book covers that use the same image.

Presidential Reading List – This is a list of the 23 books President Obama has read since he took office. Here is a list of his Summer Reading List according to ABC News. And here is a link to a discussion of the 95 books President Bush read in 2006.

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The Woman Behind the Man

by Steve Laube

Thirty years ago today a beautiful young lady said “I do” and we have been married ever since. They say that behind every good man is an even better woman. I couldn’t agree more. Through the ups and downs of life, my wife Lisa has been the foundation of our home and raised three incredible daughters.

I can safely say that The Steve Laube Agency would not be what it is today without her efforts behind the scenes. Her consistent prayers, her pursuit of God, and her love for me have made it all possible. She has been there through every agonizing twist and turn.

My sentimental side lacks a little polish and words tend to fail me. So in a simple way, today on our 30th wedding anniversary, I would like to honor my wife and say “I love you” and “Thank you for all that you do.” I am humbled to be married to such an amazing woman of God.

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