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Writing for Life


10 Tips on How to Write Believable Crime and Murder Scenes


We’re starting a fun series covering a number of weeks featuring guest posts from professionals who work in medical, police investigation, and legal arenas in order to help writers get “real” in their fiction. Take a peek inside their worlds and ask questions!

Today’s guest post is from Garry Rodgers, who spent years working as a homicide investigator and fornesics coroner and has a lot of great advice for writers who plan to write about crime scenes.

I’ve been around the criminal investigation world for three decades—first as a homicide detective, then as a forensic coroner. I was also the trigger-man on Emergency Response or SWAT Teams and now, in “retirement,” I’m reinventing myself as a crime fiction writer. So I’ve got hands-on experience in life, death, and writing.

I’m also a voracious reader. Not just technical, forensic, and legal stuff but lots of crime fiction. I’m fortunate for on-the-street and in-the-morgue background to draw from, though it’s a curse when I read stuff that I know is improbable or just plain baloney. Continue Reading…

The Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing


Building Blocks: Avoiding Weak Sentence Construction


This month our editors are tackling Fatal Flaw #3: Weak Construction. Often fiction sags and wilts due to lackluster word choice, uninteresting or incorrect sentence structure, and use of passive voice and vagueness. Editor Rachel Starr Thomson kicks off this month’s flaw with an introduction to the topic.

Annie Dillard wrote that one who wants to be a writer should like sentences. In reality, I think, most of us write because we have stories to tell, but the love of words (and sentences, and paragraphs) must come into it, or else we would all be making movies instead instead of writing books.

Along the way we learn that not every sentence is created equal: that our words and how we string them together will give life to the stories we tell or drain them dry.

Thankfully, while natural talent and a good ear certainly help, good sentence writing is not some mystical skill that only the most devoted Jedi will ever attain. This month’s topic is weak sentence construction—or more specifically, how to avoid it. Continue Reading…

Grammar, Punctuation & Confusables


Double Your Adverbs, Double the Trouble

Say What new

Just as there are uncomparable adjectives (such as perfect or infinite) that cannot take a modifier, there are adverbs that shouldn’t have the suffix “ly” added to them.

We usually picture adverbs as ending in ly, so it’s common at times for writers to think those two little letters are always needed. But they’re not.

Some of those words are doubtless, thus, seldom, as well as the words first, second, third, and last. Yes, some of these words with “ly” tacked on are in the dictionary, but those letters are superfluous and, according to Bryan Gardner, “reveal an ignorance of idiom.”

See how unnecessary those two letters are:

  • She doubtless meant to come home on time.
  • First, open the door. Second, peek inside.
  • Thus, no one has to know.
  • He seldom has to lie.

Why clutter your sentences with extra letters that aren’t needed? Do you think saying “Firstly, she doubtlessly meant to open the door. Thusly, she seldomly needs to knock first” has a nice euphony to it?

I think not. Thus, doubtless, I am seldom wrong.

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