Friday, March 21, 2008

A Little Bird Told Me

Amethyst Hummingbirds,
Martin Johnson Heade,
oil on canvas, about 1863-65.

LURK: I've never been a gossip. In fact, people usually don't gossip around me.

But I like to hear it.

In its purist form what is often termed gossip is actually a low-level type of intelligence gathering.

Which is why I lurk on sites such as Karen Knows Best, Dear Author, and the Smart Bitches for industry trends, attitudes, smoke/fire and bewares.

Amazing what useful stuff about publishers/publishing one can learn from the comments on various topics of interest.

MURK: Imagine my surprise this morning when google alerts provided me with the following on Technorati:

Running Shoes
The Ghisallo Timesn H “She shut the palpebra of her washer and walked away, her healthy streaming position making petite slapping sounds on the tile floor, aforementioned wet hair on river stones. The russet touchable liquefied downbound her backwards was as daylong as
15 days ago in Running Shoes · Authority: 3

Sounds vaguely familiar? My post on March 5 included:

"She closed the lid of her washer and walked away, her red running shoes making small slapping sounds on the tile floor, like wet wool on river stones. The russet hair flowing down her back was as long as mine."

Haven't been able so far to chase down the source since Technorati suspended the site as near as I can tell, and my search skills for this sort of thing are primitive.

The lifted passage sound more like a double translation than a straight paraphrase.

I hooted over the Dylan Thomas-altarwise-by-owlight style of "downbound her backwards."

I'll have to figure out a way to use that somewhere.

PERK: To avoid sliding into the cliche rut of stereotype expressions, like lifting eyebrows and biting lips and such, consider going through several novels and listing mannerisms. Might suggest the ones to avoid at all costs because of their ubitiquous over-use.

Might also provide you a few you can tweak to suit your characters and their situation.

Of course, the very best way is to find a corner, watch actual people and take notes.


StarvingWriteNow said...

Interesting... and kind of confusing. I re-read that bit from running shoes, still trying to decipher it. Your passage is way cleaner and cooler--and recognizable as actual sentences!

Bernita said...

Allows one to understand what "lost in translation" means, WriteNow.

SzélsőFa said...

This does sound as double translation. Is this considered theft, too?

re: watching actual people. I like that advice, and I often watch people when shopping in a supermarket.

Bernita said...

Without a context like attribution, yes, Szelsofas, it's theft.

BernardL said...

There are way too many similarities, but what an odd lift. Good luck with 'downbound her backwards'. :)

writtenwyrdd said...

Love that painting! I would love to see hummers like now, thank you very much. We got an inch or so of sleet yesterday, followed by heavy snowfall amounting so far to about 8", 3" or so more today. I was shoveling merrily this morning. At least it was mostly powder, though. Hope yours wasn't as bad!

Re the googgle alert: Sounds like you may have been picked up by a splogger site; or one of those ad sites that paraphrase you, but when you click the site link on google, you get an ad site without the content that google 'hit' on. (I hope that makes sense.) Anyhow, I did a couple of articles on splogging a while back:

Bernita said...

So weird, it's funny, Bernard.

That storm missed us, Written ( thank God fasting.)
Thank you for the link to those posts. I'll check it and try to understand.

Jon M said...

Love the expressions hint! My characters are forever frowning and biting their lip! I'm going to do a bit of lurking now!

bookfraud said...

i've had the same thing happen to my blog -- the dreaded "splog." consider it a rite of passage.

nice tip re: mannerisms. it's too easy to get into a rut, as you say.

jason evans said...

There are lots of sites that seem to grab content on an automated basis. Maybe that's the culprit, with an automated translation to boot. The fact that Technorati banished it suggests that the site was not human-driven.

Bernita said...

Jon, I have to slap my hands sometimes. Mine have active eyebrows.

I don't think there's anything one can really do about it, Book.
Anything that's worth the bother, that is.

Probably, Jason.
Isn't the use of "palpebra" for "lid' precious?

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I'm always staring at people because of that very thing! And then I find my characters staring at each other all the time...

I always have to search look/stare/gaze/met eyes for obliteration.

Bernita said...

I have to go on a hunt and peck for "watched" all the time, SS.

Jaye Wells said...

Great tips on the mannerisms. My characters do a lot of eyebrow raising, nodding and clenching of teeth. I try to break myself of these habits by imagining real people doing those things as often.

Bernita said...

"clenching teeth" is one that always thrills me a little when the hero does it, Jaye.
I never get tired of reading it for some reason, cliche be damned.

I would imagine some of your characters have to be careful not to not to bite their tongues - being vampires and all.

Charles Gramlich said...

That's bizarre. The spammers are gathering intel themselves it sounds like and feeding it back in gibberish form.

raine said...

Oh, gawd--now we have to look out for "splogging"?!
I'd never even heard of it! What the heck is the point?
(Raine, biting lip...)

But making a list of mannerisms is a good idea.
And that's a lovely painting.

Lisa said...

I like your idea about making notes of good descriptions when we read them. They always grab me when I read them, but I can rarely remember them later when I try to recall why I thought the author was so deft with imagery. I may try to keep a notebook nearby for noting such gems so that I can think about how they were derived.

Lana Gramlich said...

I absolutely LOVE that painting! Such wonderful, bright colors!

Billy said...

You can't go wrong watching people. When I observe people in public, I have a running interior soliloqy with myself about what I am seeing, as if it's a rough draft of some narrative.

Bernita said...

"Gibberish" is the word, Charles.

Written's link helps explain it, Raine, but like you I can't see any value in turning it into gibberish.

I always intend to, Lisa, but never seem to do it.

Thought it interesting, lana, how he uses a patch of blue sky to draw the eye.

A very useful mental exercise, Bill.

spyscribbler said...

Funky. What a thing to find! I'm going to check out Writtenwyrdd's post on splogging.

I wish I understood how you found it!

Chumplet said...

I've noticed such passages in those search sites and they sound like those spam emails with a string of nonsensical words.

Mannerisms? That's a tough one. Not only is it helpful to watch people in a crowd, but watching movies helps, too.

I watched a bit of Forest Gump this morning (for the eightieth time) and the scene came up with Jenny seeing her childhood home for the first time in a long while.

She didn't make faces, didn't lift a shoulder. She didn't say, "I hate my dad." She simply strode to the house and started throwing rocks at it. This simple action perfectly illustrated her rage.

Sometimes we need to pull back a bit and look at action to convey emotions, like in the movies.

Readers aren't dumb. They don't have to have it all spelled out for them. Let them interpret on their own. It's like looking at art! The picture tells a different story to everyone.

Bernita said...

My google alert, Natasha.

That's a wonderful example, Sandra.

Shauna Roberts said...

Gorgeous painting of hummers, and I had never seen it. Thank you for putting it up.

I struggle mightily with showing emotions. I'm not an expressive person to start with, and I feel nearly every emotion in my stomach. In my writing, I tend to fall back on clichés because otherwise every event causes my stone-faced characters to have stomachaches.

I need to take your advice and watch other people more. Which means, I guess, I need to get out of the house more and watch more TV.

Gabriele C. said...

Which proves that Babblefish, em, Babelfish can mangle lifted paragraphs a lot better than Cassie Edwards.

Gabriele C. said...

Btw, I've never bothered to google my snippets, and I'm not sure I want to know what happens to them out in the World Wild Web.

Bernita said...

TV can be useful, Shauna.
Reactions are always a challenge.
In my case in my WIP I have characters trained to control their expressions, which in retrospect, might not have been the best idea.

More creatively anyway, Gabriele.
I have only a few alerts, but since the "original" was suspended, I have no idea whether my name or blog was attached to it initially.
After reading this sample, I hope not.

ChristineEldin said...

I also like teeth-clenching. Something about what it does to the jaw muscles....

Bernita said...

And that it means those alphas have to control their manly selves, Chris!

Suzanne Perazzini said...

Never heard of splogging either.
As for mannerisms I like Chumplet's tip of the movies since I go at least once a week and had never thought to watch their mannerisms.
I find myself trying to feel the emotion and taking note of my own mannerisms. Rather weird sometimes but lots of stomach cramps and hearts burning.

Bernita said...

"Never heard of splogging either"
Suzanne, for me the internet is a continuing education course.