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Thursday, December 15, 2011

No Name-Calling!

In Monday's post I mentioned the common error of name-calling -- no, not dirty names, but having the characters repeat one another's names whenever they speak in dialogue. It doesn't happen often in real life, although I have a friend who makes a point of putting my name into almost every sentence he speaks. In fiction, it sounds weak and amateurish. I have to admit, though, that it's something I often do in first draft writing and have to catch in revision.

This week's excerpt comes from EASTWARD TO ZION, my first historical. In this conversation James Martin and Eliza Wells are just getting to know one another. He is English, she Irish, and they've met in Australia. James has made a comment about his mother and Eliza responds with a gasp. The first draft of this was full of name-calling; this draft seems a little better. See what you think:

James patted her hand. “Tell me about it?”

Eliza nodded, still trying to regain her composure. “We’d all agreed that it was best for me to leave home to find work,” she began, “and after I’d looked around the nearby town of Castlebar a bit, we knew I’d probably have to go as far as England and possibly farther in order to make a future for myself. I s’pose I knew that, going that far away, I’d likely never see my home again, but I thought my ma would still be there, y’know? That I’d get letters and be able to write back to her, telling her about my life?”

James nodded reassurance, still holding her hand.

“She took ill the day I was to leave. I wanted to delay, but she said no, it was just a minor illness and I should go ahead as planned. I left, but I wasn’t pleased with it. Da sent a letter that caught up to me in Southampton just days after I got there. He told me she’d died suddenly the day after I left her, and she was askin’ for me at the end.”

“He shouldn’t have told ye that,” James said, solemnly shaking his head. “Ye couldn’t do a thing about it then, and knowing it didn’t help you any.”

“I believe Da thought it would be a comfort that Ma was thinkin’ of me.” Eliza wiped tears.

“I didn’t mean to speak ill of your father. It’s just … well, you don’t seem to be very comforted.”

“No, I don’t s’pose it was a comfort, after all.” They sat together while Eliza sniffed and wiped more tears and James held her hand. “I miss her so,” she said after a moment.

“I know,” he answered. “I miss my mother, too.”

I may still revise it further to include even less name-calling, but it seems to be coming along now. Let me know if you'd like to see changes.

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