Life in the Slow Lane

Contemplating life, faith, words, and memories

I Can’t Decide! — April 24, 2013

I Can’t Decide!

“I can’t decide,” sighed the child.“How hard can it be — either chocolate or vanilla!”

“But  I can’t decide.”

UNDECIDED .  Haven’t we all felt undecided.  Making decisions is not always easy, even if it’s something as simple as the ice cream flavor we want.  Life decisions are even harder.

And harder yet is portraying that undecided character.  Body language plays a role here along with the dialogue for this character.  Think of someone wavering or vacillating, back and forth between choices.

undecided | adjective

1. not decided or determined.
2. not having one’s mind fully made up.
Synonyms:  indecisive, fluctuating, wavering, vacillating, irresolute.

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Writing dialogue for the undecided character is simpler than building an image of that character in the reader’s mind.  The answers of the undecided character easily come to mind.  Look at the options in this image.

But it’s the person, the character the writer wants to breathe life into.  Characteristics that come to mind are:

  • scratching the head
  • looking up while holding the chin
  • an expression of confusion or perplexity
  • agitation shown by pacing or walking around

Images may help portray body language:


If stumped when writing, always search for images such as these and print them out. Tack them on the wall or stand them against something on your desk and use that image to spur your imagination and creative juices along in the development of your undecided character, or any character for that matter.

Image attributions may be found by clicking on the image.

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Terse Is Neatly Compact — April 23, 2013

Terse Is Neatly Compact


The sound of the word “terse” would lead you to think perhaps this reflects only a tense and cutting personality.

However, terse is a composite of many emotions. The terse person is usually polished, smooth and elegant. Another who is terse might be brusque and short.

terse | adjective

1 : smoothly elegant : polished
2 : using few words : devoid of superfluity <a terse summary>; also short, brusque <dismissed me with a terse “no”>

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With its origins in Latin, its root, tersus, means clean and neat. Researching the word “terse” showed me as a writer I could not only develop a character of many proportions from this adjective, but also could learn a bit about my writing style.

In my career as a legal secretary/administrator, an attorney for whom I worked for a short period was terse.  There were times when it seemed that he had no time to answer my questions or share the time of day.  Over time, I came to understand that this was a man who did not believe in wasting his words or breath.  However, in the courtroom, he dazzled judges with his terse arguments and closing statements — concise, to the point, simple.  This attorney was well-trained, both from the standpoint of time management and the legal aspects of his clients’ needs.


The writing tip in the definition above is held in the words “using few words : devoid of superfluity.”

Instructors and coaches teach us we should write tight, ridding our writing of any unnecessary words.  In essence, we are to be terse writers.

Examine some of your writing to see if indeed you are a terse writer, or is this something you need to be conscious of more often.

The more information passed along with the fewest words may make for more readers, happy readers, well-informed readers.

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Image attributions may be found by clicking on the image.


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Gonna Take a Sentimental Journey — April 22, 2013

Gonna Take a Sentimental Journey

Some of you are likely too young to remember the song, Sentimental Journey. Les Brown and Ben Homer wrote the song, and Homer wrote the lyrics.

Here’s a recording featuring Doris Daysinging Sentimental Journey,the song her first hit in 1945.

The song’s melody and lyrics set the tone for the word “sentimental.”



sentimental | adjective

1 a : marked or governed by feeling, sensibility or emotional idealism
  b : resulting from feeling rather than reason or thought sentimental attachment> <a sentimental favorite>
2 having an excess of sentiment or sensibility

Most often the sentimental person tends to sugar-coat things, to be lovey dovey, cloying, soupy or corny.  All this meaning characterized by a tendency toward the romantic or nostalgic.

Source: Dreamworks Studios
Source: Dreamworks Studios

This image from the movie, War Horse, reflects an expression in the young actor’s face of sentimental feelings toward his horse.  The knowledge that his horse may be taken from him to serve in the military’s cavalry creates feelings of nostalgia, emotions related to love for his animal, and loss.



Steps back in time, memories, photographs, letters from special
friends or family can all evoke sentimental responses. Keeping these in mind as you
write in your sentimental character will make it easier
to develop that character’s persona.

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Oh, It’s Such a Relief — April 20, 2013

Oh, It’s Such a Relief

Experiencing relief can be the result of any of a numberof life experiences or situations.  We can express relief over a child’s safety, a spouse not losing a job, finding a new home that fits our budget, a doctor’s diagnosis being better than expected, from pain and much more.


If you have experienced relief, perhaps you’ll leave a Comment on how you would develop a character experiencing relief.

relief | noun

1. alleviation, ease or deliverance through the removal of pain, distress, oppression, etc.
2. a means or thing that relieves pain, distress, anxiety, etc.
3. money, food or other help given to those in poverty or need. 4. something affording a pleasing change, as from monotony. 5. release from a post of duty, as by the arrival of a substitute or replacement.

* * *

Several times in his childhood my younger brother managed to take my parents to the emergency room.  He had a penchant for hurting himself in many ways:  accidents on his bike, his head meeting a thrown rock, running into a metal type drawer in our dad’s printing business, and then there were the auto accidents.

Our mom’s reaction to each of these incidents was the same — all out panic and fear for the worst and then absolute relief when a physician or emergency room staff member announced that all was OK.  Not a time to take a photo, I have none of her on hand to share but perhaps this one shares the element of relief.

Absolute exhaustion after coming off her adrenalin high to be the mama bear watching over her little boy, mom likely fell into a chair or a bed on arriving back home.

Some types of relief exhibit a jumping and dancing around, letting one’s head fall back, asking someone to repeat what you think you’ve heard, slow smile, covering your mouth with a hand, tears welling up and spilling over, and more.  Take a look at The Emotional Thesaurus and its description over at The Bookshelf Muse for a good resource on emotions.

Descriptive language reflecting relief will include both physical, internal and mental responses as well as cues of acute relief and suppressed relief.

Developing our characters is a lot of work, and for our readers’ sake it is well worth the effort.

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Meet Querulous, a Distant Cousin of Petulant — April 19, 2013

Meet Querulous, a Distant Cousin of Petulant

Meet “querulous,” a distant cousin to petulant, our descriptive word in yesterday’s post.  Not too familiar with querulous, it surprised me to see “petulant” listed as a synonym for querulous.

Similarities exist, but there are differences as well.

querulous | adjective

1. full of complaints; complaining.

2. characterized by or uttered in complaint; peevish: a querulous tone; constant querulous reminders of things to be done.

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Children use a querulous attitude to express themselves when not feeling well, when things aren’t going their way, or when they aren’t being amused by someone else.  Whining is the only way they have of letting others know something needs to be done.  Perhaps it’s hunger or a wet diaper.  Maybe they’re teething.  But what about older people, like teens or adults.

They too use a querulous posture to get their way — in a relationship, on the job, while socializing with friends.  Not as forgivable as in young children, this attitude borders on disgusting in teens and adults.

This young woman may have just learned she  is not going out with friends, or getting the keys to the car, or perhaps she isn’t being allowed to get her way in any number of things.  Her whining is an example of the querulous attitude in action, her tool in attempting to get her way.

Remember the infant/young child can’t help him- or herself.  They have no other mechanism for communicating wants and needs.  You may need a querulous young child to build tension between a young married couple in your book or story, or the young whining teenaged girl is the focal point of the novel you’re writing.

Think on these images and tips, and see what you can come up with.

Image attributions may be found by clicking on the image.

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Petulance Can Be So Irritating! — April 18, 2013

Petulance Can Be So Irritating!

Have you ever written about a petulant person?  Perhaps you need to write one into your book now.  Whatever does a petulant person do that is irritating?For one thing, they get upset or irritated at the most trifling of situations.  That’s when you might get the head toss, roll of the eyes, deep sigh of displeasure . . .  you know the moves, right?

Like the letter “P” here the petulant attitude can make a mess of most any situation.

petulant | adjective

moved to or showing sudden, impatient irritation, especially over some trifling annoyance: a petulant toss of the head.

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A few images will help define the facial expressions or body language found in the petulant character:

No, you don’t have to write about cats, but this fellow (or girl) says it all in the eyes.  Pretty snarky, right?  The word “snarky” is a synonym for “petulant.”  Looking pretty tough and immoveable, this cat has no intention of playing nice.

And then there’s the young couple having a tiff.  Her back is turned to him, and there’s the slightest hint of a pout in her expression.  Another classic example of petulant behavior.

For our last example, how about an actor who spends a great deal of his time being petulant. If you’ve ever watched House, you know Dr. House can be petulant — or testy, irascible, irritated (and irritating), and more.

If you feel you need more to go on for the word “petulant,” take a look at the list of synonyms and related words at Merriam-Webster.

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