Archives for April 2017

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10 English Jokes to Lighten Your Thursday

Friday’s almost here, folks! I can’t make it move any faster, but I can share 10 English jokes to lighten your Thursday. Some of these I found, and some I wrote. I’ll let you guess which are which!

Examples of Puns & Wordplay for English-lovers
(AKA English Jokes)

It’s hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs because they always take things literally.

Q: Why do writers have trouble sticking with one degree program?
A: They’re trained to change subjects.

Q: What does a homophone psychiatrist say?
A: There, they’re, their.

The future, the present, and the past walked into a bar. Things got a little tense.

I am the Ghost of Christmas Future Perfect Subjunctive: I will show you what would have happened were you not to have changed your ways!

Santa’s elves are just a bunch of subordinate Clauses.

Q: What foot problem makes you fall asleep?
A: Comma toes.

Q: Why do older women have trouble writing declarative sentences?
A: They don’t have any periods!

Q: What punctuation most disturbs doctors?
A: The semicolon.
English Jokes Punctuation

 

Happy Thursday! I hope the groans were interspersed with chuckles. ūüôā

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Should Lyrics Be Universal or Specific?

should lyrics be universal lyrics specific lyricsHave you seen Moana? Several of my family members have, and we ended up discussing a contradiction we encountered with the music – the music is¬†catchy, but the lyrics aren’t or aren’t as catchy as the music. Mostly because they’re so specific to the story. But is that really a problem? When should lyrics be universal or specific?

The Pros & Cons of Story-specific Lyrics

Like many of my random,¬†babble-analysis, I’m gonna have to define a few things. Not because you don’t know what they are but because my definition might be different and cause mad confusion. Or because I’m anal retentive. Take your pick.

Specific Lyrics v. Universal Lyrics

When I talk about specific lyrics versus universal lyrics, I’m talking about how well the song stands up taken outside the story. For example, many of Stephen Sondheim’s songs can be taken entirely out of context and still be beautiful songs. In fact, many of them are more beautiful separated from the story because the story is rather dark, and without it, the songs have a new, less disturbing meanings.

Here are some lyrics from “Unworthy of Your Love.”

I am nothing.
You are wind and water and sky,
Jodie. Tell me, Jodie, how I
Can earn your love.

The melody is sweetly lyrical. Put the music and lyrics together, and you have a sweet, pretty love song. You hear it and know that Charles and Jodie are singing about their unrequited love for each other. Bittersweet but beautiful.

That is, until you realize that it’s about two people who tried to assassinate different presidents singing their separate loves to Jodie Foster and Charles Manson (It’s from Assassins.). Not so sweet and pretty in that context, is it?

In that song, the only two words that are specific to its context and story are “Jodie” and “Charlie.” The rest are metaphorical, figurative expressions of love and feelings of unworthiness, which is what makes the song work outside of that context.

On the other hand, Sondheim’s “The Worst Pies in London” can’t really be taken out of context. It tells that it’s about a pie maker in London who makes awful pies because of a meat shortage. That’s what I mean by story-specific lyrics.

Think of it as explicit versus implicit. Story-specific lyrics are explicit: the story is stated clearly in the song. Universal lyrics are implicit: the story is implied in the song through more big-idea words and imagery.

Why Pick Universal over Specific Lyrics?

Because you can sell it to more people. There. I said it.

Ok, ok. Greedy capitalism aside, universal lyrics do have the potential to appeal to more people simply because they make sense out of context with the story. If you’re trying to spread a message or simply share your art with as many people as possible, universal lyrics might be more your cup of tea.

Why Pick Specific over Universal Lyrics?

If your main goal is advancing the story, vague details may not cut it. Especially if the character is having a major epiphany or making an important decision in the song. You can try to portray that through universal lyrics, but if you can’t, are you going to sacrifice the strength of the story for a single song? I’m guessing not. (I hope not.)

Which Lyric Style Is Best?

Assuming that you’re using the song in a story, the best option (IMHO) is to do a nice mix. If you can make it a little stronger on the universal side without sacrificing any plot strength, then, that’s great.

Compare Moana‘s “How Far I’ll Go” to Frozen‘s “Let It Go.” “How Far I’ll Go” weaves from specific to universal and back again. Sections of it are very compelling and can be taken outside the story. Other sections don’t make a lot of sense outside of the story. And the universal ones tend to be catchier (so meter and rhyme might be involved, too).

“Let It Go,” on the other hand, uses lyrics that support the story but can also stand on their own out of context. To me, that makes its lyrics more impressive. Don’t get me wrong – “How Far I’ll Go” is a catchy song,¬†but the island-specific imagery and language aren’t as catchy as the melody. At least, that’s the best reasoning I can think of.

What do you think? Am I totally off-base? Should lyrics be universal? Or should they be specific? Does it matter at all?

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People Don’t Listen: 7 Dialogue Tropes to Give Them Away

people don't listen dialogue tropes ear plugs

“la la la la I’m not listening!”

People don’t listen. You know it. I know it. We’ve probably even heard it but didn’t realize because we weren’t listening. And since we’re so familiar with people who don’t listen, using that idea in our stories adds a lot of realism. That makes these 7 dialogue tropes really handy for giving them away. So handy, in fact, that I’m sure you’ll recognize them from books, movies, etc.

7 Signs for When People Don’t Listen

These signs or tropes are really reflections of why the people aren’t listening. It’s a sign of their motivation and relationship with the person who’s talking. And how much they care about the¬†subject. Ergo, which one you use is all about characterization, setting, and plot.*

 1. The Clueless Question

A.K.A. “Sorry. What?” Best said with that vague, re-focusing air.

Stereotypical of husbands tuning out their wives, this technique is used when the person in question was unaware that someone was talking to them because they’re

  1. in a crowd when the question could’ve been directed to someone else,
  2. focused on something really intently (to the exclusion of other sounds and their surroundings), or
  3. really tired (it’s easy to tune out when you’re exhausted).

Granted, wives do the same thing. Husbands and teenagers just have a worse rap.

2. The Circular Credit

Used in every comedy ever, this trope occurs when a duo is plotting, especially if¬†a dominant character has already been established. The situation goes something like this –

Strong Character: What should we do? Hmmm… What about – no.
Weak Character: We could always try Plan A.
Strong Character: No, that would never work. … I know! We’ll try Plan A! Genius!
Weak Character:¬†[mutters] I’m so glad you thought of it.

Examples include everything from Once Upon a Mattress to Inside Out, etc.

3. The Talk-over Takeover

This one comes up when a person isn’t listening because he or she won’t stop talking. It could be from arrogance, nerves, or a garrulous nature.

Here are some situations where this might be familiar:

  • The talkative, nosy type who can’t resist “fixing” someone and telling someone¬†what to do or what he/she is going to do to help that person (you know – those favors you don’t want?). Aaand doesn’t stop talking long enough for that person¬†to really object. In fact, it’s the type who interrupts any objection and assumes what the poor “helped” soul¬†was going to say…
  • The arrogant, narcissistic type who interrupts because whatever you’re saying can’t possibly be as important as what he/she is saying, so stop wasting time blathering and let him/her talk. (Grrr.)
  • The nervous date or job interview who talks so much that everyone else eventually gives up on getting a word in.
  • The focused person so intent on telling a story or talking about a favorite topic that he/she doesn’t realize the surrounding conversation¬†has moved on (and left him/her behind – still talking).

So… great for annoying, enraging, or funny characters!

4. The Deceptive Dismissal

Here’s where a show of politeness mixes with a lack of caring.¬†People do this all the time when they want to appear that they care about what the person is saying but actually don’t. It’s a two-step process:

  1. Start with a sympathetic phrase. A.K.A. a platitude: “I know what you mean.” “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” “How awful.” All said with a kind of tsk or a sigh.
  2. Segue into what you want to talk about. Generally, it’s something about you (“You” meaning whoever’s doing it. I know that¬†you would never do such a thing.).
  3. Pretend that what you’re talking about is related to what the other person says. People who do this might even believe it’s related – after all, they weren’t listening!

Don’t have characters you want the reader to like do this unless there’s some excuse. Like being distracted by something really important. And they’d better apologize when called out on it.

5. The Fuzzy Faker

This person actually does care about what the other person thinks. Maybe, not enough to actually pay attention (for this moment) but enough to try to hide that he/she wasn’t paying attention. Inevitably, however, vital details get crossed or overlooked and out the person’s lack of listening skills.

This dialogue trope is useful for

  • employees trying to impress/pacify a boss who’s especially boring and tends to monologue
  • spouses who want to avoid getting in trouble for not listening
  • students caught not paying attention in class

Sounds familiar, right?

6. The Redundant Reveal

To me, this one is an everyday kind of accidental slip that busy people make. You’re doing something, you’re moving fast, and you end up saying something before your brain catches up with what you heard. You know, when¬†the brain assumes someone is going to say one thing and responds before you realize, nope, that’s not it (like a variation of the talk-over takeover but on a smaller scale).

Here’s an example from one of my favorite websites,¬†Not Always Right.

(My mom is offering my little brother a snack, but she’s in the other room and he doesn’t quite hear her.)

Mom: Do you want any popcorn?
Brother: No, just popcorn.

How many times have you said, “You’re welcome,” when the other person said, “Have a nice day.” It’s that kind of brain glitch. Also known as autopilot.

7. The Taciturn Tune-out

So… back to conceit¬†(Conceit and not listening go well together, yeah?).

In this situation, one person is giving instructions, and the other person is ignoring every word. Usually, it’s a case of arrogantly assuming that he/she knows better and doesn’t need to listen. This person may not even bother to respond or says, “Yes,” “right,” and “uh-huh,” at appropriate intervals.

Unfortunately, this is extremely common with customers and business. Businesses will pay lots of money for consultants, It departments, trainers, etc. And do people listen? Sometimes. Sometimes, they just do their own thing, break stuff, and then blame someone else. (Read not always right if you don’t believe me.)

Even thinking about it is frustrating.

Of course, that’s the point. Frustrating, funny, enraging –¬†when people don’t listen, it causes an emotional response.¬†I’m sure you have stories you could share for all of these dialogue tropes.

So why don’t you? Change the characters and put them¬†in your stories. Believe me, your readers will empathize.

*Something about the word, ‚Äúergo,‚ÄĚ feels pretentious. But it fit the sentence. I‚Äôm so conflicted…

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A Comedy of Thoughts (AKA In Lieu of an Article)

What is a comedy of thoughts? I don’t know. As far as I know, I just made it up. In this case, it’s like a comedy of manners but in your head. Sounds awful, right?

Responsibility: Weren’t we supposed to do a post today?

Panic: You mean, we didn’t do it? We-

Memory: Relax. We did one.

Responsibility: We did? I don’t see it?

Memory: We scheduled it.

Responsibility: Are you sure? When did we do it?

Memory: Last weekend, we did both posts – you remember.

Wit: No. You remember.

Memory: Right.

Responsibility: And you’re sure we did this week’s? Because I don’t see any listed.

Logic: If they’re not in the list of posts, we didn’t schedule them.

Memory: Doesn’t matter. We did them.

Logic: Then, they should be in the drafts.

Memory: This is a private conversation.

Responsibility: They’re not in drafts.

Logic: He must be remembering last week.

Memory: I am not!

Responsibility: We still have to do today’s post then.

Panic: But it’s already today! It’s afternoon! We can’t-

Creativity: -Oooh! More to¬†write? Can we do something crazy? Something out there! Or, I know, we could draw a picture – or paint one! Painting’s even-

Panic: -We don’t have time to paint! We don’t have time to do anything!

Logic: We could do it on our lunch break.

Wit: Could we? Are you sure?

Responsibility: Yes. That’s fine. We’ll do it on our lunch break.

Memory: We already did it.

Panic: But what will we write about? How can we even think of an idea that fast?

Creativity: Are you kidding? We have lists of ideas! Have you been-

Memory: We already did it!

Creativity: -listening?

Logic: If you two keep arguing, we will run out of time.

Panic: See? I told you we didn’t have enough time!

Wit: That helped.

Panic: We’ll never get it done!

Memory: We. Already. Did. It.

Responsibility: Guys, put it aside. We need to work on other things. Today’s article can wait until-

Memory: WE ALREADY DID IT!!! [Storms off.]

Logic: …he’s going to spend the whole afternoon nagging us that we already did it, isn’t he?

Wit: Nope. Absolutely not.