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Literary Glossary

If you have only just arrived at the Tollbooth, let me explain that this summer the nine members are each taking a week and instead of posting about craft we are posting about craft books. We are reviewing them.

Except me, Carrie Jones. I am ruining the entire thing, selfishly. I think maybe because I'm intimidated by the brilliance of my other Tollbooth bloggers, I'm not sure. I'll be seeking help for it soon.

Anyway, I am not in a craft book mood, so I am posting a glossary of terms that you would find in the kind of craft book I am currently looking for: A ridiculous craft book with absolutely no merit at all.

Today we start with the Letter L.

(Note: the rest of the summer will be much more intelligently done, I promise)



This must be pronounced LIT-er- AHHHHHH-ture with either a wealthy Bostonian or Philadelphian accent (Although if you can become fake British for a moment, please do it. Everything sounds better when you sound like the Queen) or else it doesn’t count as literature and you obviously aren’t writing it.

There’s been some debate over literature writing vs. genre writing and which is better, or if there’s even a difference.

There are differences.

People who claim write Literature always say the word with that special accent and they remember to make the word capitalized. It’s that important. And gosh, darn it, so are they.

People who write in specific genres tend to be able to afford to eat dinner, lunch, and breakfast, and occasionally even have snacks.

(Note: This entry is not written so as to offend the literature writers. It’s just that if there is a penultimate smack-down between the two, I have to side with the genre writers because:

  1. I get hungry when I don’t eat and they can feed me. Angry Irish poets usually only have Guinness available, and tea.
  2. Steve Wedel writes genre officially and well, I don’t want to go up against a guy who writes good werewolf horror, you know? Plus, he makes me laugh.)

I, of course, would like to wave the flag of happiness and peace and beg both sides to love each other, and say: C’mon, dudes. The two things are not mutually exclusive. Do not tell me that OCTAVIAN NOTHING is not both Literature and Genre. It is! All Young Adult novels count as genre.


Seamus Heaney shows what happens when Literature goes into the Death Pit Match with Science Fiction. The squat pen may sit in Heaney's hand, but he doesn't just dig with it. He stabs, too.



This is something many writers never actually see.  Although, sometimes if you read your poems loudly enough on a street corner and put a hat out, people will throw their hot dog wrappers into that hat, which is almost like money.

Note: Licking the ketchup off of used hotdog wrappers and occasionally catching a tiny piece of onion is enough to nourish a starving writer for 10 hours.


Melodrama (this entry is provided by the brilliant fabulousfrock)

Melodrama is something many writers add to spice up their conflicts.  

Beware!  Melodrama is like pepper.  If you must pick up the melodrama grinder, you only want to twist it once or twice!

Melodramatic characters tend to have tragic pasts.  They are often orphans because their parents died, and they did not die of heart disease or cancer, they died in a house fire, car wreck, or, best of 
all, were murdered in front of the protagonist's eyes so the protagonist can weep over their dead bodies and slip the wedding ring from their mother's finger and carry it as a keepsake.  (Not that I 
ever wrote a scene like this.  Ahem.)

Watch out if your character description looks anything like this:

"Azadriel is a fallen angel vampire who was cursed to be an assassin by the Dark God Lazmortius.  His parents died when he was 6 when they were murdered by a demon ghost.  Also, he is missing an eye and wears  an cool-looking eyepatch and he has some awesome scars.  Now he wanders the earth assassinating people...but secretly yearning for the love that will end his curse!"



Become familiar with this word! You will hear it often from your agent/editor/copy editor/publicist/writing group/critique partners/readers.

Examples of the word ‘no’ used in a sentence are as follows:

No, writing about condoms is not a good idea for a picture book.

No, writing about rainbows who fall in love is not a good idea for a young adult horror novel.

No, you did not earn out your advance.

No, you may not sleep over again tonight.

No, I am serious, there is no narrative arch in your book.



Objective Case

According to THE TONGUE UNTIED, Using the objective case indicates that the pronoun is acting as an object. The object pronouns are: me, you, him, her, them, us, whom and it.”

  • A pronoun is direct object
    • My agent likes me wayyyyyyyyy too much. Wink.
      • Me is the object. Of course, I am.
    • If you aren’t too busy clipping your toe nails, would you mind telling him to stop stalking me.
      • HIM is the direct object.
  • As an indirect object
    • My agent handed me the review from Kirkus.
      • ME is the indirect object.
    • When I opened it up, my agent gave me a hug because I was about to collapse from fear.
      • ME is the indirect object.
    • I wondered whom I could complain to since the reviewers are anonymous.
      •  WHOM is the indirect object.
  • As an object of a preposition
    • For her, no other choice seems reasonable. She must send out a blog post complaining about Kirkus
      • HER is the object
  • As an object of a verbal
    • Reprimanding Kirkus and her does little good.
      • HER  equals object
    • I want to murder them.
      • Them is the object.
    • Murdering them over a review, the author tried to get more publicity for her book.
      • THEM is the object.


Opening Sentence

Almost all craft books will tell you that the opening sentence MUST catch the reader’s attention. It must be beyond brilliant. The opening sentence must have hands as strong as the Incredible Hulk so that it can grab the reader by the throat and the reader can not get free, not ever, not even if she/he wanted to, because that Opening Sentence’s grip is so strong.

Opening sentence! Opening sentence! Loosen up. The reader needs to breathe. Vessels are popping the reader’s eyes, you’re holding on so tightly.


Okay. Reader? Reader? Can you breathe?


Example of a good opening sentence: Yikes!

(I know you think this is cheating, but come on. It’s hard to lose a reader’s attention with just one word.)

Example of a bad opening sentence: While ornithology may be the study of birds and some people may enjoy studying things with feathers those same people have been know to extol the charms of beaks that are of the yellowish-tint as opposed to the orange-tint of others, which has come to be a major issue in the field causing ornithologists to occasionally have full-throttle pillow fights, the likes of which only rival the throw-downs between writers of the literary vs genre factions.


Page Count

What some authors get obsessed about. Others get obsessed about word counts.

Author 1: I only wrote 10 pages today. I am such a slacker.

Author 2: Dude. I only wrote 24,000 words.

Author 1: Oh my God. Why am I so slow?

Author 2: Dude. You think you’re slow. I should’ve at least written 28,000 words today but I started looking at Facebook.

Author 1: (bangs head on computer keyboard) I can’t believe I suck so bad.

Author 2: Dude….

Author 1: (screaming)

Author 2: (points at blank screen) Dude, I think you erased your file when you hit your head on the computer.

Author 1: (passes out)



I refuse to talk about this because if I do the comma splices will hear. They hear everything. And then they will come, to get me, I can feel it, oh no, they, are already here.


Periodic Tables

The sexiest of all the table. Seriously. Look at them.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 6th, 2008 02:50 pm (UTC)
"Rainbows who fall in love is not a good idea for a young adult horror novel."
Hahaha, I want to read that!

The page count section had me laughing out loud the entire time. I wish I could complain about ONLY writing 24k in a day, heh.
Aug. 6th, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
I think you should write it.

And think how quickly it will go if you write 24k in a day.
Aug. 6th, 2008 04:09 pm (UTC)
Ahhh! I wanted to write a melodrama entry for you but I've been busy--not too busy to write it...just too busy to remember to write it.

*stabs self, collapses and dies*

Oh, I love these entires...especially the page count one. Dude!
Aug. 6th, 2008 04:20 pm (UTC)
You can still do it! I can add it in.

Stabbing, collapsing and croaking are a beautiful start.
Aug. 6th, 2008 04:55 pm (UTC)
I emailed you an entry. I hope it's okay. (I am intimidated at the idea of adding to your lovely glossary.) There are a number of ways I could have gone with the melodrama thing...
Aug. 6th, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC)
It is brilliant! I have added it. You are so great.
Aug. 6th, 2008 07:42 pm (UTC)
Aug. 8th, 2008 06:36 pm (UTC)
Heeeee! I love the page count entry! :D
Aug. 8th, 2008 07:09 pm (UTC)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )