Thursday, September 8, 2011

! ? , ; : (-) . . . .

My dictionary defines punctuation as “the act, practice or system of using certain standardized marks and signs in writing and printing, as to separate sentences, independent clauses, parenthetical phrases, etc., in order to make the meaning more easily understood.” Punctuation  creates order out of chaos and provides us with clear, universal communication. Consider this: I love punctuation! Or, the alternative: I love punctuation  (It is extremely difficult for me to leave out the period or exclamation point on that last sentence. I can’t feel my pulse and I’m having trouble breathing. Punctuation withdrawal?) Actually, I feel the same way about capitalization, grammar and spelling but those are topics for future posts.

Words, all by themselves, could never fully express the thoughts that I’m trying to convey to the person or persons who are reading a letter, an email or a novel that I’ve written. I don’t even want to imagine a world without punctuation. Unfortunately, lately, I’ve had many opportunities to glimpse that world: texting, instant messaging and even writing quick comments on some of the social networks often show a total lack or blatant misuse of punctuation.

Don’t misunderstand me, I think all of those means of communication are great and I know that brevity is necessary; at least people are trying to communicate with one another and that’s always a good thing. My concern is that everyone will become so accustomed to using the abbreviated forms of words with little or no punctuation that, the practice will eventually become common and even acceptable. That’s how slang and buzz words came into being; people used them so much that they’ve become universally accepted. Let’s not let that happen to punctuation. I’m not sure my heart could take it!

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Five Senses

When I choose a novel to read, I want to be drawn into the fictional world that the author has created. Naturally, I look for a strong plot, believable characters and an interesting setting. Those are all important elements in fiction but, to me, the most memorable books use the five senses to make the story, the characters and the setting come alive. I can always count on my favorite authors to do that. I’ve recently found another author who, in my opinion, is an expert at it.

I’m reading The Wedding Shawl, Sally Goldenbaum’s latest novel. I’ve read the other novels in her Seaside Knitters Mystery series and, believe me, she can “spin a good yarn.” Sally has created interesting, likeable characters and, in each book, she’s presented them with a unique mystery to solve. The stories take place in Sea Harbor, Massachusetts, a small coastal town. Throughout the book, Sally uses seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching brilliantly. As I read, I can visualize the characters and the town, hear the seagulls squawking, smell the ocean air, taste the delicious food that Nell prepares and feel the soft, vividly colored yarn that Izzy sells in her shop. Sally makes the story come alive for me.

In my novels, which are set in Cincinnati, Ohio, I try to draw the reader into the world I’ve created by using the five senses throughout each book. Mixed Messages begins, “Ann heard the sirens the second she stepped onto the front porch. She hated the sound; it evoked too many bad memories. As she hurried down the steps and into the yard, anxious to see what was going on, the wails got progressively louder, coming closer and closer. She couldn’t tell which direction the cries were coming from but she was sure that something bad had happened to someone.” Do you want to read what happens next?