A. Catherine Noon here, with some thoughts on spies. Under cover operatives are a common theme in romance novels. Rightly so, in my view; they’re fun to write and fun to read. But it’s even more fun to be one.
No, I’m not about to confess I was a spy in another life. But I have been a spy in order to write.
A popular writing exercise is to record snippets of conversations around us as they occur, like in a cafe or on a crowded train. This helps us get better at writing dialog, because spoken language is a lot different than written language. It’s full of incomplete sentences, pauses and nonsense words, fillers, and grammatical mistakes. But, like, if we, say, wrote the way, um, that we talked, it’d be fuck of hard to read, don’t you think? (All the editors need to pretend they didn’t just read that sentence.)
I once assigned this exercise at a crowded cafe for a prompt circle. When I gave the prompt, I didn’t realize that most of the tables around us had emptied, and there was just a deuce by the window with a father and son trying to enjoy a cup of coffee and some convivial conversation. Having twelve adults staring at them, sneaking glances, and scribbling furiously probably put a damper on their father-son night out and they left before the prompt time was up.
Lesson learned. If you’re going to spy, you know, like, be discreet, will ya?
(And I shall now hide from all my grammar friends.)
– E.E. Cummings
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