An A-Z Journey through the Challenge: Y

As we may have mentioned once or twice ;), we’re both great fans of April’s A-Z Blogging Challenge. Set up by Arlee Bird back in 2009, it’s grown like topsy since that time. As neither David nor I are able to participate again this year, we decided instead to highlight one (or more) blogs each day, to encourage you to visit, to make new friends, and to find some entertainment during the current crazy world we’re in.

Some of these highlights will be old friends we’ve made during previous challenges, but some will be new. We don’t plan to stick to any theme other than maintaining a (possibly tenuous) connection to the letter of the day.


We’re on the home stretch now with today’s letter – Y

Y2020
A reminder that you can find participants via the Master List, but in order not to miss any of April’s blogging riches, you may also seek participants via the hashtags #AtoZChallenge and #A2ZChallenge on Twitter.

For today, I’d like to add:

How Would You Know –¬†a little bit of a cheat this one, but the letter Y does appear in the Blog’s name ūüôā¬† This year’s Challenge sees the return to blogging of Frewin55 after 7 years. Like my first Challenge, he leapt straight in on 1st April without knowing about the potential for themes. Nevertheless, a couple of posts in, a theme emerged organically – that of both personal and societal responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. Among the subjects covered are the more heavyweight examinations of Blogging and why we do it, and whether Death gives meaning to life, as well as the lighter-weight topics of the role Music is playing in our Covid-19 experience, and Sugar – a word association game with a musical theme. In all honesty, it doesn’t feel right for us to complete 2020’s Challenge without visiting a blog taking a closer look at Covid-19, and this one is a fine example.

If you’re catching up, here’s our previous highlights …

The letter A
The letter B
The letter C
The letter D
The letter E
The letter F
The letter G
The letter H
The letter I
The letter J
The letter K
The letter L
The letter M
The letter N
The letter O
The letter P
The letter Q
The letter R
The letter S
The letter T
The letter U
The letter V
The letter W
The letter X

Let us know of other blogs connected to the letter Y which we should read.


© Debra Carey, 2020

An A-Z Journey through the Challenge: X

As we may have mentioned once or twice ;), we’re both great fans of April’s A-Z Blogging Challenge. Set up by Arlee Bird back in 2009, it’s grown like topsy since that time. As neither David nor I are able to participate again this year, we decided instead to highlight one (or more) blogs each day, to encourage you to visit, to make new friends, and to find some entertainment during the current crazy world we’re in.

Some of these highlights will be old friends we’ve made during previous challenges, but some will be new. We don’t plan to stick to any theme other than maintaining a (possibly tenuous) connection to the letter of the day.


We’re on the home stretch now with today’s letter – X

X2020
A reminder that you can find participants via the Master List, but in order not to miss any of April’s blogging riches, you may also seek participants via the hashtags #AtoZChallenge and #A2ZChallenge on Twitter.

I clearly wasn’t thinking very clearly when we set up the schedule, or I was being chivalrous…lets go with chivalrous!¬† X is one of the most difficult letters in the alphabet to work with.¬† Just 0.15% of words in the English language begin with X, although it only scores 8 in Scrabble.¬† It’s no surprise that A2Zers have a tendency to fudge this post with either a made up word or a misspelling – we’re all xhausted by this point.¬† And I am no exception!¬† Having carefully scoured the master-list, I could find nothing that leapt out at me.¬† Having come up with all sorts of clever wheezes to play with X, I still could not find anything.¬† However, there is some kind of serendipity, because on my Xth attempt, I found some buried treasure: X marks the spot.

So, today, I proudly (and slightly tenuously) present Tyrean Martinson.¬† Tyrean is presenting a novella; she is one of a handful of people who are making the brave attempt to present a continuous story, with new episodes everyday.¬† The link I’ve provided will take you all the way back to A, so that you can begin at the beginning.

If you’re catching up, here’s our previous highlights …

The letter A
The letter B
The letter C
The letter D
The letter E
The letter F
The letter G
The letter H
The letter I
The letter J
The letter K
The letter L
The letter M
The letter N
The letter O
The letter P
The letter Q
The letter R
The letter S
The letter T
The letter U
The letter V
The letter W

Let us know of other blogs connected to the letter X which we should read.


© David Jesson, 2020

An A-Z Journey through the Challenge: W

As we may have mentioned once or twice ;), we’re both great fans of April’s A-Z Blogging Challenge. Set up by Arlee Bird back in 2009, it’s grown like topsy since that time. As neither David nor I are able to participate again this year, we decided instead to highlight one (or more) blogs each day, to encourage you to visit, to make new friends, and to find some entertainment during the current crazy world we’re in.

Some of these highlights will be old friends we’ve made during previous challenges, but some will be new. We don’t plan to stick to any theme other than maintaining a (possibly tenuous) connection to the letter of the day.


We’re on the home stretch now with today’s letter – W

W2020
A reminder that you can find participants via the Master List, but in order not to miss any of April’s blogging riches, you may also seek participants via the hashtags #AtoZChallenge and #A2ZChallenge on Twitter.

For today, I’d like to add:

Writing Wings¬†from author Roland Clarke. It was a tough decision to hold back featuring Roland to this late in the Challenge, but it did allow me to tick off one of the trickier letters of the alphabet, as I was confident that he would make it through to the end. Not only is Roland a veteran of many an A-Z Challenge, but he’s also shared his well thought-out posting plan. This year Roland is posting highlights from previous years, not only as it allows him to participate with the requirement of limited new writing, but provides the added benefit of bringing his previous work to the attention of new Challenge participants and readers. Last year, I started reading his tale of Welsh detective Sparkle Anwy (which has subsequently evolved into a novella Azure Spark), but life got in the way of my being able to complete this (and many other wonderful tales), so I’m delighted to have been given another chance to pick up the thread once again. Despite the tremendous calls on his time and energy, Roland is also a terrifically supportive member of the Insecure Writers Support Group. Do drop in & have a read.

If you’re catching up, here’s our previous highlights …

The letter A
The letter B
The letter C
The letter D
The letter E
The letter F
The letter G
The letter H
The letter I
The letter J
The letter K
The letter L
The letter M
The letter N
The letter O
The letter P
The letter Q
The letter R
The letter S
The letter T
The letter U
The letter V

Let us know of other blogs connected to the letter W which we should read.


© Debra Carey, 2020

#SecondThoughts: Weighing your words

I while ago I wrote a piece in defence of adverbs.¬† I don’t intend to rehash it here, but a precis of the thesis I put forward is that the modern directive to eliminate adverbs completely is erroneous (no matter how high profile the proponents of the concept), and that the advice to replace an adverb + verb with a stronger verb is not always correct.¬† An ancillary argument was that the various grammar checkers and writing aids that are available should not be followed slavishly but can be helpful to highlight things that you might want to think about.¬† I don’t know if anyone who does follow the no adverbs rule read the article; if they did, they certainly didn’t choose to comment.

As I say, I’m not going to tread old ground; instead I’d like to go into one aspect in more depth.¬† Last time I said:

The English language is full of all sorts of foibles that can be difficult to describe, let alone teach, but words tend to carry gradations of ‚Äėweight‚Äô and meaning.

And this is a hill I am prepared to die on – although hopefully it won’t come to that.¬† What I’d like to do is explore this in more depth.

In the Unbalanced Earth Cycle by Jonathon Wylie, there is a city-state, nominally a kritocracy (rule by judges/lawmakers, a form of oligarchy) but verging on autocracy, because there is a very dominant head to this group.¬† (Forgive me if the details are not perfectly remembered – I read these books 25 years ago, or so, and I don’t have them to hand for reference).¬† In this system, every ‘case’ is heard by a number of judges, with a minimum of three.¬† Each judge has a stone, which is the symbol of their authority.¬† The more senior the judge, the more their stone weighs.¬† At the point of judgement, their opinions are weighed, literally.¬† In most situations the disparity of weight is not enough to matter, but in a crucial scene, the chief judge sits on the bench, and his word carries twice as much weight as the most junior judge.¬† However, it’s a stitch up, for political reasons.¬† The chief judge wants to be seen as sympathetic to a particular cause, but there is no way that he can actually support it.¬† He votes for, everyone else votes against.¬† The fact that his word weighs more than anyone else doesn’t matter in this instance.

That’s a very literal interpretation of weighing one’s words, but when writing, we should use words with care.

‚ÄúThen you should say what you mean,” the March Hare went on.
“I do,” Alice hastily replied; “at least-at least I mean what I say-that’s the same thing, you know.”
“Not the same thing a bit!” said the Hatter. “Why, you might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see’!”

‚Äē Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

It’s tempting to assume that when we look at a list of synonyms, all words carry the same weight, that they can be used interchangeably – surely that’s the definition of a synonym?¬† It depends to some extent on the boundary conditions that we set.¬† If we say, for example, the following is a list of the way horses move, then all these words do carry the same weight.

Walk; trot; canter; gallop.

Without going into the etymology of these words, without a particular knowledge of horses, we would probably be prepared to admit that these words do not have the same meaning: they are in order of the speed that we would expect the horse travel when moving.¬† If we were horse experts, or interested in the etymology, then we would know that a) it’s all a lot more complicated than even that and there are different versions of the trot and canter, for example and that b) the gait of the horse varies between these states.¬† That’s about as deep as I want to get though!

Perhaps the most famous thesaurus in the world is Roget’s, first published in 1852 and pretty much continuously in print since then.¬† (Of course, that might be an English-centric bias at play).¬† However, the earliest (known) thesaurus is credited to Philo of Byblos (there’s a name to conjure with), a scholar living in Lebanon in the second half of the 1st Century of the Common Era, and the first half of the 2nd.¬† Philo had a bit of penchant for catalogues, and is known for a ‘dictionary of synonyms’, amongst other works.¬† (There’s a bit of an overlap between the terms ‘dictionary’ and ‘thesaurus’.¬† Some dictionaries include synonyms, some thesauri include definitions).

When you’re young and naive, there’s a tendency to believe that taking a bit of writing and using a thesaurus to change everything round is the equivalent of presenting it in your own words.¬† So a walking horse is said to trot, perhaps, but we have changed the meaning, not just replaced the word.

The suggestion that exercised me so was that adverbs should be obliterated, and that a ‘stronger’ verb should be used instead.¬† The specific suggestion was that ‘walk slowly’ could be replaced with ‘creep’.¬† Perhaps I am being unduly vociferous on this subject; perhaps it was simply a poor example on the part of the person giving the advice.¬† Creep might be a good replacement for ‘walk stealthily’ – but you would have to look at the context.

Let’s look at some synonyms for ‘walk’:

stroll; saunter; amble; promenade; ramble; hike; tramp; march; constitutional; turn; airing.

With some of these words, we need to be careful, because context is key.¬† For example, ‘tramp’, like ‘creep’, can be used as a noun rather than a verb – the tramp tramped down the road.

My list is incomplete, but does serve the purpose.  We can split the list up a little:

  1. Ramble, hike, tramp, could all be used in the context of a walk through the countryside, but sticking with our ‘walked slowly’ issue, you wouldn’t necessarily use them as replacements if, for example, you were talking about difficulties in getting up a steep hill.¬† Hike suggests a certain purposeful direction, whilst a ramble is more aimless.¬† But that difficult hill…I’m more likely to walk up it slowly, pausing often for breath.
  2. March – very military, very purposeful.¬† But as with horses’ gaits, I might need to talk about a slow march or a quick march, because these are specific things.
  3. Constitutional, turn, and airing are, to my mind, verging on slang, but are inherently evocative in their way.¬† I suspect you’d have a few sentences around them though, setting the scene, and I’d be willing to bet that one of them would include ‘walked slowly’ possibly ’round the park’.
  4. Stroll, saunter, and amble perhaps sit on some sort of spectrum, and each indicate a particular physicality to the locomotion of the person, and perhaps even some sort of marker as to their mental state.

These are all great words, but context is key.

I might saunter down to the shops, if I was in a jolly mood, or even an indifferent one, tasked with something I wasn’t particularly interested in, but couldn’t be bothered to avoid.¬† I might even creep, snail-like, in remembrance of Shakespeare’s whining school-boy.¬† Equally, I might walk slowly, being mindful of the birdsong and the sussuration of the breeze in the new leaves on the roadside plantings.

I might stroll down the path to the church, but if more pensive, I might walk slowly, brooding on the gravestones, some new and some so old that all meaning has been etched away by time and the elements.¬† I certainly wouldn’t creep though, unless up to no good, setting the scene for a Christie-esque corpse among the tombs.

I had thought that I would include a ranking here, of the relative speeds suggested by the synonyms available, but of course it is impossible.¬† Any of these words verbs could be modified as necessary.¬† After all, Crowly didn’t Fall, he sauntered vaguely downwards.¬† Yes, use adverbs sparingly – it is possible to over-write something, make it too rich – but don’t limit yourself by some notion that they are rationed, that there is a quota that you mustn’t exceed.

English is a fluid language.¬† Words become taboo or change their meaning through usage, and in some respects that is as it should be.¬† But we do risk losing words as a result, words that have a specific meaning.¬† That meaning carries a particular weight; we can modify this weight by using other words in conjunction, but we shouldn’t assume that all synonyms carry the same weight.

©David Jesson, 2020

An A-Z Journey through the Challenge: V

As we may have mentioned once or twice ;), we’re both great fans of April’s A-Z Blogging Challenge. Set up by Arlee Bird back in 2009, it’s grown like topsy since that time. As neither David nor I are able to participate again this year, we decided instead to highlight one (or more) blogs each day, to encourage you to visit, to make new friends, and to find some entertainment during the current crazy world we’re in.

Some of these highlights will be old friends we’ve made during previous challenges, but some will be new. We don’t plan to stick to any theme other than maintaining a (possibly tenuous) connection to the letter of the day.


On we go with today’s letter – V

V2020
A reminder that you can find participants via the Master List, but in order not to miss any of April’s blogging riches, you may also seek participants via the hashtags #AtoZChallenge and #A2ZChallenge on Twitter.

For today, I’d like to add:

Loose End of the Red Thread is the blog of author Varadharajan Ramesh who we met when he first took part in the Challenge in 2018, when he showcased his fabulous ‘Tales with a Twist’ series of flash fiction. The tales were a great read, being a mixture of funny and (to use his own words) downright evil. Despite being under tremendous pressure with our own Challenge, Varad’s was one of a small number of blogs I rushed to check daily. This year his focus is on a new genre – Horror. But … it’s horror with a twist, for Varad’s tales will feature Indian mythology and folklore, opening our eyes to a culture of monsters and evil spirits most of us have never come across before. Enjoy!

If you’re catching up, here’s our previous highlights …

The letter A
The letter B
The letter C
The letter D
The letter E
The letter F
The letter G
The letter H
The letter I
The letter J
The letter K
The letter L
The letter M
The letter N
The letter O
The letter P
The letter Q
The letter R
The letter S
The letter T
The letter U

Let us know of other blogs connected to the letter V which we should read.


© Debra Carey, 2020

An A-Z Journey through the Challenge: U

As we may have mentioned once or twice ;), we’re both great fans of April’s A-Z Blogging Challenge. Set up by Arlee Bird back in 2009, it’s grown like topsy since that time. As neither David nor I are able to participate again this year, we decided instead to highlight one (or more) blogs each day, to encourage you to visit, to make new friends, and to find some entertainment during the current crazy world we’re in.

Some of these highlights will be old friends we’ve made during previous challenges, but some will be new. We don’t plan to stick to any theme other than maintaining a (possibly tenuous) connection to the letter of the day.


 

On we go with today’s letter – U

U2020
A reminder that you can find participants via the Master List, but in order not to miss any of April’s blogging riches, you may also seek participants via the hashtags #AtoZChallenge and #A2ZChallenge on Twitter.

And now, as they say, for something completely different.¬† I’ve used role-playing games, or rather the mechanics behind them as the starting point for a couple of posts here before (one on characters and one on teams), so it was a delight to stumble upon Uniquely Maladjusted But Fun.¬† Jaime is building a month’s worth of prompts around table-top RPGs, which can also be used as writing prompts.¬† Entries include items, locations, NPCs, quests: none are quite like anything I’ve seen before.¬† Uniquely maladjusted, in fact, but fun.¬† Mission accomplished, Jaime!

Another blog that intrigued me, providing food for writing thought although not about writing specifically, is Ujjwal Mishwa’s.¬† Ujjwal is looking at the meaning of dreams for her challenge.¬† In terms of trying to act on the interpretation of a dream, I’d place this in the same category as astrology: the brain is far too complex to assume that everything that crops up in a dream can be ascribed to a particular meaning.¬† But the posts are full of fascinating tidbits of information which I’m looking forward to following up on.

If you’re catching up, here’s our previous highlights …

The letter A
The letter B
The letter C
The letter D
The letter E
The letter F
The letter G
The letter H
The letter I
The letter J
The letter K
The letter L
The letter M
The letter N
The letter O
The letter P
The letter Q
The letter R
The letter S
The letter T

Let us know of other blogs connected to the letter U which we should read.


© David Jesson, 2020

An A-Z Journey through the Challenge: T

As we may have mentioned once or twice ;), we’re both great fans of April’s A-Z Blogging Challenge. Set up by Arlee Bird back in 2009, it’s grown like topsy since that time. As neither David nor I are able to participate again this year, we decided instead to highlight one (or more) blogs each day, to encourage you to visit, to make new friends, and to find some entertainment during the current crazy world we’re in.

Some of these highlights will be old friends we’ve made during previous challenges, but some will be new. We don’t plan to stick to any theme other than maintaining a (possibly tenuous) connection to the letter of the day.


On we go with today’s letter – T

T2020
A reminder that you can find participants via the Master List, but in order not to miss any of April’s blogging riches, you may also seek participants via the hashtags #AtoZChallenge and #A2ZChallenge on Twitter.

Today, we have a Horror double feature!

No tour of the A2Z could be complete without a visit to a huge friend of this blog (he’s contributed a couple of short stories to our prompts, and also an article in our ‘Now with added’ series), the inimitable Stu Nager of Talespinning.¬† Stu is a Challenge veteran, and has produced several stories using the frame of the A2Z¬† (which I hope will one day be published – HINT HINT).¬† This year Stu is writing song lyrics about – well actually you should go and check them out.¬† It’s tricky to explain.

Tasha’s Thinkings, from the keyboard of the wonderfully productive Natasha Duncan-Drake, has also seen more than one A2Z roll by..¬† Natasha always finds an interesting angle on this, and this year is no exception: each day she is presenting a drabble, inspired by a vampire-related word.¬† Having used the H word above, to some extent this is simply a classification – there isn’t really room in a drabble to plumb the depths of horror, and many of these are much more fun than you might expect.

If you’re catching up, here’s our previous highlights …

The letter A
The letter B
The letter C
The letter D
The letter E
The letter F
The letter G
The letter H
The letter I
The letter J
The letter K
The letter L
The letter M
The letter N
The letter O
The letter P
The letter Q
The letter R
The letter S

Let us know of other blogs connected to the letter T which we should read.


© David Jesson, 2020

An A-Z Journey through the Challenge: S

As we may have mentioned once or twice ;), we’re both great fans of April’s A-Z Blogging Challenge. Set up by Arlee Bird back in 2009, it’s grown like topsy since that time. As neither David nor I are able to participate again this year, we decided instead to highlight one (or more) blogs each day, to encourage you to visit, to make new friends, and to find some entertainment during the current crazy world we’re in.

Some of these highlights will be old friends we’ve made during previous challenges, but some will be new. We don’t plan to stick to any theme other than maintaining a (possibly tenuous) connection to the letter of the day.


 

On we go with today’s letter – S

S2020

A reminder that you can find participants via the Master List, but in order not to miss any of April’s blogging riches, you may also seek participants via the hashtags #AtoZChallenge and #A2ZChallenge on Twitter.

For today, I’d like to add:

Shari Elder Author ¬†Author Shari, who freely admits to having a weakness for happy endings, weaves her tales of fantastical worlds around the romantic experiences of her characters. Her current WIP takes places in not one world but many, so Shari is harnessing this year’s Challenge to keep developing her craft. Her theme of world building explores topics ranging from Reproduction and Making Mistakes, to Humour and the Built Environment, name-checking the work of fellow authors who’ve already successfully trodden this particular path.

If you’re catching up, here’s our previous highlights …

The letter A
The letter B
The letter C
The letter D
The letter E
The letter F
The letter G
The letter H
The letter I
The letter J
The letter K
The letter L
The letter M
The letter N
The letter O
The letter P
The letter Q
The letter R

Let us know of other blogs connected to the letter S which we should read.


© Debra Carey, 2020

An A-Z Journey through the Challenge: R

As we may have mentioned once or twice ;), we’re both great fans of April’s A-Z Blogging Challenge. Set up by Arlee Bird back in 2009, it’s grown like topsy since that time. As neither David nor I are able to participate again this year, we decided instead to highlight one (or more) blogs each day, to encourage you to visit, to make new friends, and to find some entertainment during the current crazy world we’re in.

Some of these highlights will be old friends we’ve made during previous challenges, but some will be new. We don’t plan to stick to any theme other than maintaining a (possibly tenuous) connection to the letter of the day.


On we go with today’s letter – R

R2020
A reminder that you can find participants via the Master List, but in order not to miss any of April’s blogging riches, you may also seek participants via the hashtags #AtoZChallenge and #A2ZChallenge on Twitter.

For today, I’d like to add:

Celia Reaves: Celia has lots of great content to engage with on her blog, but her AtoZ theme this year is brilliant.¬† Each day she has a chosen word, starting with the letter of the day – but you don’t know what it is.¬† Instead, she has written a haiku clue and you have to work out what the word is.¬† A great distraction and something get the neurons firing.

If you’re catching up, here’s our previous highlights …

The letter A
The letter B
The letter C
The letter D
The letter E
The letter F
The letter G
The letter H
The letter I
The letter J
The letter K
The letter L
The letter M
The letter N
The letter O
The letter P
The letter Q

Let us know of other blogs connected to the letter R which we should read.


© David Jesson, 2020

An A-Z Journey through the Challenge: Q

As we may have mentioned once or twice ;), we’re both great fans of April’s A-Z Blogging Challenge. Set up by Arlee Bird back in 2009, it’s grown like topsy since that time. As neither David nor I are able to participate again this year, we decided instead to highlight one (or more) blogs each day, to encourage you to visit, to make new friends, and to find some entertainment during the current crazy world we’re in.

Some of these highlights will be old friends we’ve made during previous challenges, but some will be new. We don’t plan to stick to any theme other than maintaining a (possibly tenuous) connection to the letter of the day.


 

So, we kick of the start of a third week with today’s letter – Q

Q2020

A reminder that you can find participants via the Master List, but in order not to miss any of April’s blogging riches, you may also seek participants via the hashtags #AtoZChallenge and #A2ZChallenge on Twitter.

For today, I’d like to add:

The Quiet Writer is the blog of author Rachel Walkley where she wisely states “this blog is for me, as all blogs should be”. Rachel is another A-Z veteran, with 2020 being her sixth year of participating in the Challenge. Her interest in history led to previous themes of stately homes of the wealthy, the enduring gardens of Britain, and the Medieval structures of cathedrals and castles. This year she’s providing wonderfully detailed tales of buildings associated with entertainment – which will undoubtedly form a tremendously useful archive of research material for fellow authors.

If you’re catching up, here’s our previous highlights …

The letter A
The letter B
The letter C
The letter D
The letter E
The letter F
The letter G
The letter H
The letter I
The letter J
The letter K
The letter L
The letter M
The letter N
The letter O
The letter P

Let us know of other blogs connected to the letter Q which we should read.


© Debra Carey, 2020