A little bit of a writing tip post today, simply because so many of us out there think we need to use perfect grammar. I recently nuked a copy of The Skyehawk Chronicles and am re-reading the document to find places where I need to reinsert italics since I wiped the entire document clean in an effort to create a better .mobi file. I was pleased to see the work kind of follows the way of the great authors. In other words, I didn’t make The Skyehawk Chronicles sound like a term paper.
Needless to say I’ve found zero typos and plot holes thus far; not bad for a self-published reader magnet that was never professionally edited; just my eyes and what the Jerry Jenkins Writers’ Guild taught me last year.
But I did find some spots in my narration which I describe as “loose writing,” and one sentence that went like this: Seneca climbed to her feet, which took about thirty seconds, but succeeded.
Obviously, ‘but succeeded’ could’ve and probably should’ve been omitted, but at the same time, most readers might overlook this.
Even if Jerry Jenkins himself would’ve grilled me.
Now, if you have glaring grammar errors and typos, you might be on a shorter leash. But if there are some loose ends here or there, most readers shouldn’t mind. In fact, it’ll make the work sound authentic.
Why is that?
Read on and you’ll discover.
So, if you write books as if you’d write a college term paper, I can tell you right now you’re going to lose a reader’s attention unless you’re writing something sophisticated in the non-fiction genre. For fiction writers, you want the characters to be believable, and that means a screwup or two (not glaring, obviously) in either narration or especially dialogue can work in your favor.
It adds in authenticity.
Just listen to people talk around you.
Do any of them sound perfect?
Of course not, so why are we giving our characters a uniformed voice?
Are they real people or robots?
So, a tiny error in grammar or tense when in deep POV or dialogue will actually work in your favor. Again, we’re not trying to misspell anything or give a glaring weakness unless the character calls for it, but hardly a soul on this Earth speaks proper grammar.
Now, if you have a character of high IQ, then of course you DO have to go to the grammatical extremes, but again, it’s all on the characters’ voices.
Here are a few examples of my own:
1. I have one character in Raven’s Flock who constantly says ‘is’ where ‘are’ should be and likes to use double-negatives.
2. Cain, my main character in Books I-III tends to swear and also likes to say ‘I could care less.’
3. A supporting character in Raven’s Flock never uses contractions and speaks in a passive manner.
The list goes on, but you get the point.
Using some grammar miscues in narration might work to your benefit. For instance, if you’re writing deep first-person POV, miscues further adds to authenticity.
The same can even go via third-person POV.
So, even outside dialogue miscues work to your favor and good readers will pick up on these immediately.
I’m not saying a misspelled word is going to do favors. For instance, when I proofread Northern Knights, I had a line that stated ‘Cain picked up a third create.’
Clearly, the line makes zero sense and needs to be changed.
‘Cain picked up a third crate’ is what I meant to say, and you can bet the second I came across the sentence a few months back I hurried into KDP and made the correction. Thankfully, this came before I started really pushing the book via promos and building a subscription list.
So, a few grammar miscues are good, but typos are a huge no-no, so remember that golden rule.
Each character should also have their own unique voice. Try to make the voices so unique that you don’t have to constantly use dialogue tags. The readers should know who’s speaking without tags.
They can tell when Cain’s talking in Northern Knights due to his speech pattern, his use of swear words and (at times) inappropriate jokes. Yes, my protagonist has the persona of an anti-hero; he’s not the most likable guy, but on page one I give the readers a reason to root for him.
I have one supporting character in the work named Ferguson, who’s really just comic relief for the reader. Ferguson stutters and makes strange bodily movements while speaking at a lightning pace.
Clyde Flanders, another supporting character, tends to speak slow and will mix his words up.
Being in Cain’s POV throughout the work, it’s not uncommon for me to use swear words in my narration or use lingo that one might find in the Pittsburgh region, since Cain’s native region is based on that Greater Pittsburgh Area. In fact, an early draft of the work included the word ‘jagoff,’ which is specific to Pittsburgh, so if you find my narration using words like jagger bush (thorn bush), spicket (spigot), crick (Creek), pop (soda, soft drink, cola, cokes), sammich (sandwich) or the most notable term, yinz (you guys) that’s basically the native colloquial language of Cain’s region, and therefore SHOULD be included in narration.
Again, the more voice is used, the more authenticity one can bring to the table and good readers understand this.
So, don’t be afraid to overlook some small speech errors or even minor grammar errors in your narration unless you happen to be writing for a formal audience or if your character speaks in a one-hundred-percent grammatically correct manner.
These days, writers need to add believability in fiction as we continually compete with TV, radio (those fossils still exist), smartphones, iPads, and other devices. Luckily, we have audiobooks these days and can always download works to our own devices, so reading will never die in the same manner that certain types of music will always live on—and I’m from Steubenville, Ohio, so I can attest to you from experience old music always lives (Dean Martin, anyone?).