Author Archives: Dylan Benito

Dialect, Ya’ll

My family and I made it back to Portland from our extended weekend on Vashon Island. We had a great time with my mom on the Island, and a lovely visit with friends in Seattle. My kid got to ride a horse, play outside, and snuggle with his grandparents. He was very happy. The train rides were mostly wonderful, and our trip back home was quick and easy. All in all, it was a great vacation.

6001112875_4bc5339dc7On our train ride up to Seattle, I found my inspiration for this post. We sat across the asile from a group of four older folks, who were just a little bit country. I found them charming, and fun to listen to. At one point in time, during the card game they were playing, one of the group used the term, “Dag gum!” in a sentence. It was in no way ironic, and I almost died trying not to giggle.

Mind you all, I wasn’t laughing at the speaker, I was laughing at the turn of phrase. Aside from the Cars movies, I had never heard anyone use the term aloud. It made me think of all the other turns of phrase that are a part of our world. America, being the large country it is, has many local dialects. I have been lucky enough to travel to most of the states, and have gotten to hear many different local sayings.

6156757838_3841287917_nWhen I was a teen, I lived on the Big Island of Hawaii. I was a goofy Haole with a sassy mouth and was a little unprepared for my new environment. I managed to get out of a fight one day by playing off a specific phrase. One of the girls I knew came up to me (’cause she was mad about me hanging out with her boys) and asked me, “Eh, you wan’ beef?” Meaning, “You want to fight?” I couldn’t help myself, and responded very literally. I told her, “No thanks. I’m a vegetarian.” Fortunately for me, this made her giggle and we decided we could live with each other.

I still have random bits of Pidgin in my sayings. I also have a bit of the South in my speech patterns. I tend to say “Ya’ll” and get a bit Belle-ish in certain situations. I pick up dialects, and I have stayed in many places around the country, so I have a lot to choose from. Every now and again, I’ll slip into a Boston accent. It tends to make people wonder where I’m from.

What does this have to do with writing? Everything. When you are writing characters, there is a fine line between making a insensitive (and potentially rasist, sexist, other -ist) caricature of a person instead of adding a bit of flavor to your narrative. I love having a feel for where the characters I’m reading grew up, or are at, but it can be done very poorly. It can also be hard to read straight dialect.

6214449310_7c50a4ea25_nHow do we, as writers and audience members, solve this? All I can tell you is what I like, and what I do. Maybe you’ll agree with me, maybe not. I like a few turns of phrase thrown in. When a character I’m reading says something like, “Wicked! Let’s get to the park.” I automatically read the rest of the character’s dialogue in an East Coast, Boston accent. If the whole thing is phonetically spelled out, or all in dialect, it drives me crazy. It actually takes me out of the story.

Adding a bit of dialect shouldn’t be used as a way to get out of writing good dialogue. Sometimes authors use it as a crutch instead of the burst of personality it should be. Enough about how I feel, what do you all think? Should dialect be used in dialogue? Or should all our dialogue be in Newscaster speak? Where is the line for you?

As always, thanks for reading, please share.

Vacation Wrap-up!

Life is good! My guys and I all took the train up to Vashon Island for my mom’s birthday. We have lots of good things planned for the weekend, including a swank overnight in Seattle with my guy. As always, the Island is an allergy-tastic, wonderland. But! I have some cool links for you all. Just because I’m on vacation, doesn’t mean I can’t find things for you all to look at.

Speaking of Seattle:

  • The New York Times has a great post about national fruit parks. One is slated to become the Beacon Food Forrest in Seattle. There are many other public fruit venues springing up around America. 
  • Want to know more about the Beacon Food Forrest? Check out Why Don’t You Try This?
  • Feathered dinosaurs? Here are the 10 Best Recent Dinosaur Discoveries. Suck on that Jurassic Park.
  • NPR writes about a new set of closed-captioned glasses are going to help the hard-of-hearing-movie-going-public. These glasses will have closed captions on the inside of the lens. I’m looking forward to owning a pair of these.
  • This is the physical therapist, Optimal Results, that I have gone to in Portland. They have been great for my health. This is an awesome piece on Physical Therapy for Fibromyaliga.

For your media this week, Col. Hadfield’s version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity:

Col. Chris Hadfield is my new hero. For those of you not in the know, he is a Canadian astronaut who just came back to Earth after a five month stay in the International Space Station. He has made a ton of amazing experimental video about what happens to things in Space. You should definitely check him out.

With that, I’m off to enjoy my vacation.

As always, thanks for reading and please share. 

Visual Storytelling

How do you all feel about comics as a medium? I think they can be an amazing way to tell a story, but I know not everyone agrees. There are some people out there that think comics are for kids, or that they have to be called Graphic Novels to have any kind of importance. Hogwash! I say.

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to take a class with Brian Michael Bendis. Brian is one of the main Marvel Creators right now, and has written some amazing self-produced comics, including the Powers series with artist Michael Avon Oeming. The two of them along with a host of amazingly talented comic artists, and self-producers, including David Mack (one of my favorites), have changed the way we look at comics as a genre.

Durring the class, we were expected to write a number of scripts, small comics, and a final, full length comic. This final project was all about constructing a full length comic from start to finish, and all that entails. We had to write the script, storyboard, and draw the final product (or get an artist). I chose to draw it myself, which was funny and gave me an unholy appreciation for artists. That process was no joke.

When I was finally done I turned in Trainedthe story of a young man who gets taken on an adventure across country with two Hobos. There is geological humor, bad drawings, and what I hope, is an alright story. The whole thing is on Webcomics Nation, feel free to check it out. As a teaser, here is the front page.

1_copy115I know, my artistic skills are amazing.

What does all this have to do with writing? Well, a lot. There is a ton of writing that goes into making comics. It’s one thing if you are drawing the piece as well, there can be little more leeway with the visual descriptions. Then you have to take into consideration your artist, and how much information you want to give them as far as artistic direction. Some artist like a lot of direction, some just want the script. Talk to your artist and figure it out beforehand so you don’t make anyone mad.

When the whole thing is finally laid out, the drawing begins. In the mean time, you still have to worry about grammar, punctuation, and storytelling. The storytelling process is, in my mind, sometimes more important than that of fiction writing. If you, as an author, don’t have a clear picture, how is your artist and your audience going to see and understand that vision?

What does this all have to do with anything? If you want to craft a good story check out some comics. They can teach you a lot about the craft. Learning more about comics certainly helped me craft a better story.

If you’re interested, here are a few books to check out:

There are many more out there, the above list is just a sample of books that helped me. Check out your local comic store for more info.

As always, thanks for reading and please share. 

It’s the Weekend!

This will be a short post. My wrists are acting up and typing isn’t helping. I do have some good links to share, and I wouldn’t want to disappoint anyone by not posting. Science ahoy!

First up:

  • Valley Fever, something I had not heard of before, is on the rise, reports the Washington Post. An interesting article, especially if you live in an arid region. 
  • ScienceOnline talks about the male pill. I think birth control would benefit from having more choices.
  • If you are of European decent, you’re probably related to everyone else from Europe. My family is already big enough, so a few more members won’t phase me. Hi all!
  • Finally, a megafauna extinction humans didn’t cause. Check out this article by ScienceDaily about the Australian big game extinction.
  • As an author, and a nonconformist, this book cover, gender-flip article by the Huffington Post really resonates with me.
  • And your autism article for the week. How ‘balanced’ coverage harmed the diagnosis. This mainly relates to the idea that vaccines cause autism. An idea that has been disproven many, many times.

Your photo for the week:


Image credit Shane Gross, Shutterstock. Taken from a funny article about finding ambergris, otherwise known as whale vomit. It’s worth a read.

As always, thanks for reading, please share. 


Where does inspiration come from? I think that question is one of the more important questions that writers can answer. I take a lot of inspiration from my personal life, books I’ve read, and past experiences. I also find inspiration from my dreams and other visual media.

I have crazy dreams that I remember very well. Often they are fun, sometimes they are scary, but they usually have some sort of idea hidden within them that I can use in a story. Even if I only use them as an example in a blog post. Last night, I dreamed I was at a High School graduation overnight party. I saw a lot of my hometown friends, and got to relive the feelings I felt in High School (I shudder). Someday, that feeling could be useful.

Pictures are also a great resource. I’m a visual person, and I love to look at pretty images. It’s one of the reasons I like Pinterest so much. For those not in the know, Pinterest is a social network designed to show off pictures found on the internet to people. Some of the boards can be a bit silly, there are a lot of great ideas though. I have a whole board devoted to Sci-fi book ideas. Feel free to check it out and see where my brain’s at.

The book I am working on right now, Ruby Three (until I come up with a real title) has a house that is a big part of the story. Ruby finds herself in Laurel Canyon, California, writing a screenplay for some friends. I really wanted to have the house set in my mind. I had a good idea of what it would look like, but I really wanted some reference photos. Enter Google! K.D. Lang happened to be selling her home in the Canyon, and it was perfect. Check this

That is the pool that I need! I made some adjustments to the layout of the house, and the way that guests would look over the pool, but . . . that’s what I get to do while writing. So, thank you K.D. Lang, for selling your home and providing me with the perfect inspiration for my third book. Thank you for being a fine musician.

Another good question is how to keep inspired when you’re writing. My favorite authors are of the opinion that you write every day, until it becomes habit and go from there. I happen to like this idea, but it can be hard to keep up. I’m most inspired when I have a goal or deadline. It makes me feel like I’m really accomplishing something instead of just doing it. I have used the NaNoWriMo site twice now to get a draft done. The last Camp NaNo ended on April 30, I clocked in with a little over 50,000 words for the month. It was a great start, now I have to finish the darn draft!

What am I going to do about it? I have a goal. My guys and I are going on a mini-vacation mid-May, and my new goal is to have the R3 draft done by then. If I get it done, I will feel fine about taking a few days off and getting into trouble with friends and family. If I don’t get it done, I’ll probably take my computer with me and hide from people. Which sounds like fun, but not as much as the making merry part.

What is your inspiration?

Thanks for reading, please share. 

Human Health

Most of the cool things I found this week were human related. My lovely mother is a nurse, and I grew up talking about health and wellness at the dinner table. Needless to say, I have a strong stomach when it comes to gross dinner conversation. I have a healthy (har har) appreciation for medical news. I love new innovation in medicine. I was excited to see so many good articles in the news this week. Here are a few of the best ones.

I give you some great links to check out:

  • A interesting post from Double X Science explaining all those statistics in regards to the giant increase in Autism diagnosis. Basically  it’s not as bad as it sounds.  
  • From the New York Times Science section, the story of an amazing, groundbreaking surgery for a two year old girl born without a windpipe. Doctors used the girl’s stem cells and plastic fibers to create the new windpipe. This is the sixth surgery of its kind, and the first preformed in the United States.
  • Cannibalism in the United States! Cosmic Log reports on Jamestown’s lean years, and anthropological evidence that early colonists resorted to cannibalism. Creepy, and fascinating.
  • In food related news, Discover gives good reason why companies should label their GMO products. An interesting, objective read. I highly recommend it.

_Your photo for the week, Eocypselus roweipossibly the common ancestor for swifts, and hummingbirds. Found in Wyoming, the fossil is around 52 million years old. As you can see, the specimen is incredibly well preserved, so well that microscopic features were visible. This is very cool.

As always, thanks for reading! Please share. 

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.