Monthly Archives: April 2013

Dialogue Tags

There has been a lot of talk, and online writing, about dialogue in fiction this past week. The issue seemed to be divided between two distinct groups. Group One: these grammarians believe that you should only use the word said after any character statement. Group Two: these grammarians believe that you should use as many dialogue tags as possible.

What is a dialogue tag? You ask. Pretty much any other verb that describes a section of dialogue than said. These verbs are often in the past tense, meaning they end in -ed.

  • She screamed
  • He murmured
  • They trumpeted
  • Ze giggled

And so forth, and so on. People in Group One find this type of usage onerous. And there are clear reasons why they should. Books ala the Twilight Series take dialogue tags to lofty new levels that might crush even the most adventurous dialoguers spirit. If you, my dear reader, would like to take a look at some examples, I recommend the Reasoning with Vampires tumblr. It is hilarious. tumblr_lzv90zN5TS1qd0quuo1_500

Did you like the above sample? There are a lot more examples on the RWV blog. After reading prose with such flowery dialogue tags, part of me agrees with Group One. After all, said blends into the background. It allows the conversation between the characters to flow without being interrupted by the infamous telling, not showing. 

The problem with Group One’s assertion: it gets boring. If people only say things, I feel that the full range of emotions isn’t being expressed. Sure, you can probably tell there’s a fight going on in the scene without people snarling and hissing, at each other, but sometimes it’s nice to have that extra modifier to let you know what’s going on in the character’s head.

What happens if you have a normally monotone character, then suddenly, they burst into song. Something like that would be a shock, so using a good dialogue tag is a great way to show the out of character nature of the situation.

“The hills are alive.” He caterwauled, paints a much brighter picture than, “The hills are alive!” He said. Even with the exclamation point thrown in there, the first example has a stronger meaning. It just sings out. (Sorry, sometimes I can’t help myself.)

I find myself falling in between the two groups. When I write fiction, I use both. For the most part, my dialogue tags are of the plain, ole, boring said variety. There are occasions that I use other verbs, mostly when I want to put emphasis on something, or subtly (at least I hope so) point the reader to an important plot point.

What do you all think? Do you prefer Group One, Group Two, or a mix of both. There is no right or wrong answer. Do you all have a favorite dialogue tag? I happen to love warbled. 

Thanks for reading, please share. 

Saturn and Sponges and Volcanoes, Oh MY!

This has been a fun week for science news. There has been a lot of cool things that have come about, including a big volcanic explosion in East Russia, on the Kamchatka Peninsula. The photos that have come out of the region are amazing! Check this out.article-2313109-196E5DD2000005DC-528_964x642Impressive, right!? This is the Plosky Tolbachik volcano. You can read the article, and check out more photos on the UK Daily Mail site. Trust me, the photos are worth it.

On to the science links! There is a mixed bag today, including:

  • An article from ABC Science explaining the cloud system found in Saturn’s Rings.
  • From The Guardian, a quick video about sending humans to live on Mars. This is a real thing! In our lifetime, there could be people living on Mars.
  • Cool health news from ISNS, tiny nanosponges have the potential to soak up infections and venom in our blood.
  • From e! Science News: There is an upcoming vaccine with the potential to help Autism symptoms by killing off Colstridium bolteae. C. bolteae, is a stomach microbe that causes diarrhea and other stomach aliments that are often found in people with ASD.
  • Also from e! Science News: There are a group of scientists that have found the Earth’s core is around 1,000 degrees hotter than previously thought. Pretty neat.

On a personal shout out, friend and local Portland artist, Carli Davidson from Carli Davidson Pet Photography has a book coming out this fall. It’s called Shake and is filled with amazing pictures of dogs mid-shake. Her photography is beautiful, and the dogs are hilarious. Pre-order the book through her website. How can you deny a face like this? Photos are the sole property of Carli Davidson.Carli Davidson Pet PhotographyThat’s what I have for the week. I hope you all have an amazing weekend. I’ll be back on Monday with a new episode of Grammar Grit. Just an FYI, I don’t have any jobs lined up next week. Contact me at for any of your writing or editing needs.

Thanks for Reading, please share.



Gendered Pronouns

I thought I would write a quick post about gendered-pronouns. Gendered-pronouns (GP) are those little things that help people figure out who they are talking about. She had red hair, green eyes, and is taller than Lilly. Or, he wore a ball cap and saggy shorts. Makes it easy, right? Not always. There are many people out there who don’t go by a specific GP, or they go by a different GP than you think they would. Some people don’t like the whole gender binary thing, and want something neutral to go by. So, where do we go from here?

Gendered-pronouns 101: My favorite way to go is to use they. Some grammarians out there will tell you that using they as a non-gender-specific-pronoun is incorrect. I say, hogwash! They can be especially helpful when writing copy. I don’t assume that I am writing for a specific gender, so why would I use he/she, or the horrible (s)he, when I’m writing. They works great.

Gendered-pronouns 201: If you know a person, or group of people and know their specific GP, use it! Some people like using he or she—even more so if it fits with their gender expression. There are also ze, zie, zir. If you have a group of friends, and have heard these expressions, try them out. Your friends will appreciate the effort. Along these same lines, there are ze, sie, hir, and others. Check out the chart.


Really, one of the best things you can do, is learn someone’s name, and use that. It is surprising how easy that can be. If you take a bit of time to listen and figure out what GP a person prefers, it can save you a whole lot of trouble. Or, if you are feeling confident (and nice, not jerky) ask the person in question what GP they prefer. You might make a new friend.

Thus ends my gendered-pronoun lesson. Thanks for reading, please share.

Weekly Wrap-up

As most of you know by now, it has been a hard week for the United States. We have, so far, been safe here in Portland, but my heart goes out to those in Boston, and West, Texas. On the international front, my heart goes out to any citizen hurt by terror campaigns, industrial accidents, and life in general. I am hoping that the world can have a better week as we come to the end(ish) of April.

To retaliate against the scary things going on in the world, I have collected a few fun links, and a great link about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It made so much sense to me when I read it, both in terms of my way of processing the world, and my son’s. I hope it can help some other people too.

On to the links!

  • From The Daily Beast, A Radical New Autism. This really is a great read.
  • In the start of the body news, a new vaccine patch could really help distribute life saving vaccines to countries with limited access.
  • From Pink News UK, (I love them) a 5,000 year old transgendered skeleton (buried as a female, but the skeleton showed male markers) was discovered. The woman was buried facing east, and surrounded with ceremonial jugs.
  • For the guys, Circumcision Alters Penis Bacteria. The picture that goes with this article is priceless. Thus ends the body news for the week.
  • And Oregon, you are awesome. Oregon names a State Microbe, one that is essential for making beer, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, otherwise known as yeast.

Your photo of the week comes from the amazing Elena Kalis‘ photography site. She takes underwater photos that will blow your mind. Check her out.



As always, thanks for reading, please share. 

Story Time, Paused for Now

Hey all! Thank you so much for reading the first two pages of my debut novel. I have been having a hard week, and I think I should wait to post the rest after it has gone through another round of edits. When that happens, next month! I’ll throw the whole thing up here behind a cut, and you can check it out if you would like.

Now, I have a request. I need beta readers. I already have one that I know of (I’m looking at you Ms. Cedar), but I would like to have at least two more. If you don’t know what a beta-reader is, I’ll explain it to you. It is someone who reads a text with a critical eye for plot discrepancies, atrocious grammar, and boring ideas. Wikipedia has a better description, as my brain is a little dead from all the glorious spring time pollen. Please forgive me.

If you are interested in reading the first, second, or third book, leave a comment, or email me. I would love to get some feedback from people who aren’t my lovely husband. (He has to root for me.)

Thank you all for understanding. If anyone wants to read the rest of the chapter, send me a message with an email address, and I’ll send it your way.

Thanks for reading, please share. 

Story Time-Ch1-Pg2

Thank you all for reading yesterday. Here is the second page of my debut novel, Ruby and the Killer Amp. I hope you enjoy and share! As always, comments are appreciated.

The hall on the second floor was especially creaky. I didn’t want to wake up any of my housemates, so I eased open my door and tiptoed to the bathroom. I shared the upstairs with the twins (named because of looks and habits, not biology), Eva and Evan; Blake had the ground floor room; and Corey had run of the basement. We got along alright and managed to pay the rent on time. So far, it had been a great housing situation. I had lived in worse places.

I was careful to avoid the squeaky spot in front of Eva’s room. I knew she’d been out later than me last night, and would kill me if I woke her up early. It would almost be worth it to see the look on her face, she was extra cute when she first woke up. Finally, I got to the bathroom and closed the door after myself.

Our bathroom was cool and clean, it was the soothing balm I needed for my pounding headache. I was glad that the twins were neat-freaks like me. Blake’s room would make frat boys on a bender proud. I turned the water on as hot as I could stand it, and sighed as I stepped into the steaming shower. There was nothing like showering in a nice clean tub, even if it was an old claw foot and the curtain occasionally got a little friendly.

After I got out of the shower, I finished my bathroom routine. It was quick and easy: face lotion, deodorant, the morning floss and toothbrush, then I wrapped a towel around me and repeated the careful walk back to my room. I stood in front of the closet and wondered what to wear for work. Not that it mattered. I wore almost the same outfit every day. Inevitably, I chose some variation of jeans, t-shirt, and hoodie. If I was feeling glamorous, I would throw on an argyle sweater. Today felt like an all-black day and that suited me just fine, though I did throw on my favorite robot socks just for kicks.

I checked my appearance in the mirror; the dark clothing looked good against my pale skin. The light coming in from the window showed the ruddy-brown highlights in my elbow length, wavy, black hair. My face was thinner than I liked, and I kept threatening to get a nose job. My mom always said I should be proud of my Irish and Slavic heritage, and for the most part I was. I felt like my best facial feature was my eyes. They were big, with arched brows, a pretty hazel-brown, and rimmed in thick black lashes. Aside from my little beer belly, I was thin without looking scrawny. I wouldn’t mind being taller than my five foot three, but that’s why the gods invented boots. One last look over in the mirror, and I decided I was good for the day.

Story Time-Ch1-Pg1

I have been reading about the Events in Boston today, and am worn out. My heart goes out to the families involved. Stay safe and hug your loved ones. My guys will be getting extra snuggles tonight. Since I can’t imagine coming up with a coherent Grammar lesson, I thought I would try something different and post the first page of Ruby and the Killer Amp. If you all like it, I’ll post a page a day until the chapter is done. I’m wondering what people will think, and if there will be any interest. Any feedback would be great. And here we go. FYI, all text belongs to me.

Chapter 1-Ruby and the Killer Amp

As soon as I woke up, I knew that my day had started wrong. I woke before it was fully light outside; my insomnia had kicked in again. I rolled over and looked at the alarm clock.

Oh man, is that really the time? I thought.

My vision was slightly blurry, and I could feel the hangover starting from the night before. I had consumed too many PBRs and cheap whisky shots. I would have to give Sven hell for not cutting me off. Not that he was my keeper or anything, but wow. I felt terrible.

It was early, not even six am. What had woken me up? I wondered.

It was probably nothing more than house sounds. I had been living in this house for six months now, and I still wasn’t used to its creaks and groans. It was a beautiful, old, craftsman style house, but it was noisy. I was betting that my housemates would still be sleeping. None of us worked until after ten, we all liked it that way. Eva and Corey were both on the closing shift at the coffee shop; and I worked with Blake and Evan at Slate’s Guitars, we didn’t have to be in until eleven thirty. That is, when I made it in on time.

“Ugg . . . need coffee.” I said aloud.

Even though I was running on three or so hours of sleep, I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back to bed. Sleeplessness was a curse I had learned to live with. I might as well get up and enjoy the morning. A shower would be the first order of business. Maybe that would clear some of the cobwebs from my head. Then some toast, my stomach was a little wobbly. Suddenly, the urge to get out of bed overwhelmed me. I had never been good at staying still, and that problem seemed worse late at night and early in the morning. I hated waking up early.

I stretched and heaved off my covers. I took one last lingering look at my bed, wishing I could fall back to sleep. At least my room was nice and tidy. The early morning light caught the clean lines of my bookcases and poorly matched, but well taken care of, bed set. I looked out my window; amazingly, there were no clouds in the sky. Sunshine was a rare occurrence for Portland in November. I loved how the light shined through the bare trees and bounced off the frost still clinging to the shadows. The view was making the morning a little more bearable.


So Much Good Stuff!

It has been a good week. My migraine finally went away, I have brought in some editing and writing work, and I had a great meeting with my Freelancer’s group. It feels so nice to be validated. No job is too small. Keep that in mind. I would be happy to write blog posts for your business, or take on quick editing projects. A well written and edited piece can make your business shine.

Most of my news comes from Twitter. I like social networking, but Twitter has taken awhile to grow on me. One of the things I am using it for now, is to get the word out about my business, and connect with other writers. Thankfully, there are a dearth of writers on Twitter and a great number of rad scientists! Feel free to add me @dylanbenito. I think I am finally getting the swing of it, and I am enjoying it much more.

On to the links!

  • An NPR article about cities saving the Earth. The gist: If we all moved into cities, our wildlife would stand a much better chance, and we would use less resources. 
  • Our Hypothetical oldest ancestor, named Shrewdinger! By popular vote.
  • An amazing site, by the Kennis brothers. They are the guys behind the recent hominid reconstructions featured on NatGeo covers. The photos are amazing.
  • Juan Cole (great source for news on the Middle East, fantastic author), posts about Denmark’s  upcoming wind-power capacity. Fifty percent by 2020!
  • The Oatmeal posted about the Mantis Shrimp, and it is amazing. If you like science, or comics, or awesomeness, it is well worth the read.
  • Also awesome, this video about animal eating habits. You might pee.
  • The cutest thing EVAR! A new bat genus was discovered in South Sudan. PANDA BAT!


This is one of the cutest things I have seen in a long time. And, I’ll stop freaking out about the cute bat now.

And there are many other things out there. I have been writing my tail off, so I don’t have any great book recommendations for you all. At least not science type books. The book I’m reading right now is about a woman behind Pope Innocent X, Mistress of the VaticanSo far, it is a fun historical read. If you like that kind of thing, check it out.

Thanks for reading! Please share. 


010511comic-sound-effect1Onomatopoeias are great. They are one of my favorite parts about language. As a person who uses a lot of sound effects in my daily life, onomatopoeias fill me with great joy. They are so expressive, and in the comic/visual arts world, they are incredibly important. (At least I think so.) They can bring a sense of liveliness to a conversation. They are the hand jive of the English language. And everybody likes to do the hand jive, right?

What is an onomatopoeia? You ask. The New Oxford American Dictonary gives this definition:

*  *  *

Onomatopoeia |ˌänəˌmatəˈpēə, -ˌmätə-| Noun: the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named (e.g. cuckoo, sizzle). The use of such words for rhetorical effect.

ORGIN: late 16th century, Latin/Greek. Onomatopoeia ‘word-making’ from onoma, onomat- ‘name’ + -poios ‘making’ (from poiein ‘to make’).

*  *  * 

Pretty cool, right? So why do onomatopoeias matter? Without them we wouldn’t have great words like zing, crackle, hiss, ooze, slither, snooze, and a whole host of SQ words: squish, squawk, squeak, and many, many more.

adv413powWithout onomatopoeias, Supergirl wouldn’t have as much oomph (see what I did there?) beating up the bad guy. She lets us know, that . . . “with a little effort, POW!” Her leg snaps up and she cracks the bad guy on the kisser with a resounding “UGH!”

From a comic point of view, onomatopoeias are priceless. They bring a visual element that enhances the storytelling. What was a fine picture can be enhanced by a sound descriptor.  We can really picture the scene and everything that’s happening in it.

Think of your favorite onomatopoeias and use them in casual conversation. It could be a great way to find a new friend. Or amuse the old ones you already have.

Thanks for reading, please share.

Autism Awareness Month

I was going to have an awesome post about Autism Awareness Month, and then I got a migraine. I have a couple of cool links you all should check out, and I will try to properly write about this important issue next week.

With the rise in diagnosed cases, I’m sure that most of you know someone on the spectrum. If you know me personally, you know that my kid is on the spectrum, and he is rad. Just like most people with Autism. I think it’s important for neuro-typical people to understand this isn’t a disease, or bad way of being, it is just a different way of thinking and viewing the world. I will share more of our personal story and more links next week.

For now, onto the links:

  • From Download the Universe, we have a great review of two books on Autism. Asperger Love, by Amy Harmon and Straight on Till Morning, a collection of essays written by Autistic people. I am looking forward to reading both of these titles. 
  • There is an awesome Kickstarter going right now, This is what Autism Looks Like, headed by Carole Burns. The video is great, and they need some help to meet their goal by the end of May. Go contribute a dollar and spread the word.
  • And finally, a link to the Autism Society. It is a great website to check out if you want more information.

Hopefully I’ll be feeling better in the next week and I can share some really great stuff. Thanks for hanging with me.

Thanks for reading. Please share.