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On writing and courage :: Confessions of a Dirty Blonde

Becky shared a badass image on Facebook earlier this week. And it couldn’t have come to me at a better time. Funny how the world seems to give you what you need, if you’re looking in the right places.

It was this:

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The day before, I was at a graduation party for one of the girls I coached. Truth be told, a lot of questions surround my departure from my previous job. Some still remain unanswered for multiple reasons, but mostly because there’s no sense explaining what some will never understand.

A former co-worker was at the party and was surprised to see me. Some of the girls who were on my team mentioned he’d pointed in my direction and said my name while talking to students I didn’t know.

“Capo,” they said, “are you friends with him? He keeps looking at you and pointing.”

But he never came to see me. Never asked a question. Never called when things were weird.

When he was leaving, a student nearby stopped him where I was standing, forcing a conversation.

“Oh my god. I didn’t see you there,” he said. “I’m just so glad things worked out for you, you know, for the best.”

Then he went on to explain all of the great things he was doing, waiting for me to act interested. I didn’t. Because I am not fake.

Here’s the thing:

It takes courage to stand in front of a person or group who want to bring you down. To speak of things we don’t normally, well, it’s ballsy. And sometimes it’s misunderstood. So we fear it. We avoid it. We label it as inappropriate.

But just because somebody, maybe even a group of people, think something is wrong with that doesn’t mean it’s true. It doesn’t mean their opinions will change my actions – or yours.

As a writer, as someone with a unique story to tell, you get to decide which opinions matter. It’s scary. It’s hard to think about negative people and their hatred. Shit, it downright sucks sometimes. Especially when people who are supposed to be your friends are the first to fire on you.

But that isn’t the point.

Courage comes when we tell our stories without flinching.

We know adversity surrounds us, yet we go for it anyway. And just when you question why you’ve said it, somebody comes forward and thanks you.

And that’s when you know it’s worth it.

As Beck says, “Nobody can tell your story like you,” and I think it’s time we all bury that in our hearts and remember why we’re here.

I believe speaking out is one of the biggest munitions we have.

The game changers, the rule-breakers, they all started with a voice as big as yours. It’s time to be a little more courageous.

Write raw. Write from your heart and know you did it with purpose and passion. That way, when haters show up at your doorstep and ask you how you’re doing, their inability to be genuine won’t control your emotions.

And you’ll keep writing anyway.

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Got writing questions for Capo? Email capo@rebeccatdickson.com. Confessions of a Dirty Blonde goes out every Thursday.

Adverbs are sucking your prose dry :: Confessions of a Dirty Blonde

The girl I used to teach next to, back in the day, had a sign in her classroom that read: “Said is dead.” A philosophy I live by. But the poster comes to mind now because was swarming with adverbs and verbs she suggested students use to replace “said” and make shit shine.

WRONG.

I’m not trying to be a hater, but I am. If you’re using adverbs in your writing, it’s because you’re scared. Or you’re lazy. Sorry, dudes. Need a reason to avoid adverbs? I’ll give you three.

  1. They’re redundant.

Redundant adverbs are the easiest to cut and, coincidentally, wide-spread in all writing genres. The point of an adverb is to modify the verb or noun, to detail it further, yet these nasty barnacles latch onto a part of speech and repeat whatever has already been said. Copy cats. And, in terms of clean writing, we’re talking about unnecessary use of language. Let’s chop it like it’s hot. (It’s example time).

She frowned unhappily.

Because I had no idea people who frowned were unhappy, did you? I’m being sass-squared, but do you see what I’m saying? She frowned works fine on its own. Here’s another.

She spied secretively.

Most spies are secretive. Using spied as a verb implies as much without the addition. The easy solution is to leave out the adverb. It’s not modifying in either of these cases, only repeating what you’ve already said. Save your words for where they’re useful.

  1. They don’t add intensity.

Not only was “Truly, madly, deeply” a terrible 90s hit, the song title is also the perfect example of three adverbs intended as intensifiers. He loved her truly. She fought madly. He grabbed her thin neck and pulled her close, kissing her deeply and without abandon. You could go back to rule one on some of these, but the real question you should ask yourself is: Are you adding an adverb to avoid failing at description? Is it an easy out?

Some others to avoid: extremely, obviously, definitely, greatly, very and completely.

  1. Said isn’t dead.

This is one of Becky’s favorites. As an editor, especially working for Beck, modifying ‘said’ in dialogue breaks my eyes. Why?

Exchanges should focus on the substance, not on how it was said. After all, the easiest way to avoid being told you’re telling a story and not showing it is by paying attention to everyword you use. Instead of adding additional ones for fear you didn’t hit the mark already. If the dialogue becomes less important than how it is being said, it’s probably useless to the story.

Example:

“I told you you’d spoil your dinner if you ate that an hour ago, brat,” his mother said angrily.

Angrily is unnecessary in the context of the dialogue and distracts from the interaction. This one is debated as often as elephants and donkeys. There are other writers who disagree and argue about teaching creativity and refusing to limit dialogue to one exit clause. Still, I come back to simplicity.

If the character needs to say something, let them say it and leave well enough alone.

What adverbs do you catch yourself using most often and why? Tell us in the comments.

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Got writing questions for Capo? Email capo@rebeccatdickson.com. Confessions of a Dirty Blonde goes out every Thursday.