Monday, June 1, 2009

Notes for June 1st, 2009

This Day In Writing History

On June 1st, 1809, the famous albeit short-lived weekly literary newspaper The Friend made its debut in London. It was founded, edited, published, and written by legendary British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, best known for his celebrated poems The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan. More than just a newspaper of literature and literary criticism, The Friend also featured articles by Coleridge on philosophy, politics, law, history, and other subjects, all of which he possessed a formidable knowledge of.

Although The Friend had over 500 subscribers - over two dozen of them members of Parliament - it would only last for 25 issues. Despite his brilliance as a writer, Samuel Taylor Coleridge tended to be highly disorganized and didn't have much of a head for business. He was also battling an opium addiction at the time, having used the drug to treat his crippling bouts of anxiety and depression. He was most likely bipolar, and suffered from the mental illness most of his life.

After it ceased publication, all the issues of The Friend were republished in book form a number of times. Years after its debut, The Friend remained a highly influential work. It had a lasting effect on writers and philosophers such as John Stuart Mill and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The Guest Room

Today's guest essay is Dialogue That Sings by Wayne Scheer:

Dialogue That Sings

by Wayne Scheer

Will Squires read an advertisement for a new book about writing. "Add pizzazz to your stories by adding punch to your dialogue." Although Will feared he had read far too many Write While You Sleep self-help books, he thought the latest, Writing Dialogue that Sings, just might be worth looking at.

Jerzey Piscataway, author of forty-three self-published novels, claimed the key to effective writing lay in active dialogue tag lines. "The word 'said' is passé," he wrote. "Replace it with words that sing, like 'grumbled and whimpered, squeaked and squealed. Never let your characters merely speak when they can blurt out, proclaim and butt in."

Will decided Jerzey might be on to something, although his first impression was that Jerzey was simply on something. But as he scanned the writing section of his favorite bookstore, he noted that no one else focused on dialogue tag lines. Books lined the shelves on activating description, incorporating all five senses into each paragraph and making friends with gerunds, but no author seemed to focus exclusively on tag lines.

Will forked over $19.95 and hurried home to revise his latest story to see if his dialogue could be resurrected from the he said/she said doldrums.

He began correcting his dialogue at once, substituting the suggested words whenever he had used "said," or worse, no tags at all.

"I'm unhappy," Miranda murmured pensively.

Phillip scoffed, "Why?"

"Because you bore me," she opined, adding, "To death."

"But," he lamented. "I've given you everything you've wanted. A home in Beverly Hills, a Jaguar, diamonds and pearls," the dashing Phillip proclaimed.

"You've got a point," Miranda quavered. She gasped, stuttered and stammered. "S-S-Sorry to have bothered you."

"No problem," he smiled.

Will sipped a cup of coffee and read what he had just written. Searching his pockets for the sales receipt, he wondered if he could return the book and get a coffee mug in its place.

Wayne Scheer's latest book, Revealing Moments, is available as a free download at He can be reached at Do you have an essay on the art and craft of writing that you'd like to contribute to the Guest Room? E-mail me!

Quote Of The Day

"A poet ought not to pick nature's pocket: let him borrow, and so borrow as to repay by the very act of borrowing. Examine nature accurately, but write from recollection; and trust more to your imagination than to your memory." - Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Vanguard Video

Today's Vanguard Video is Creative Writing Masterclass 5: Redrafting - the last in a five-part series of creative writing lectures by Keith Gray. For those of you who don't know, best selling and award winning Scottish writer Keith Gray is one of the hottest young adult novelists in the United Kingdom today. Enjoy!

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