The Choice

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The brand new gripping, gritty crime thriller from Kerry Barnes that will have you hooked.

The wrong choice may just get you killed …

Mike Regan and Zara Ezra believe the so-called Governor is safely locked away – in Zara’s hangar.
But less than twenty-four hours later, the Governor is loose and out there, wreaking havoc.
After what Zara made him do to his own son, she knows he’ll be back with more than murder on his mind.
Moving the families to a safe place was all the firm could do to protect them. But now one of the boys goes missing. It can only mean one thing – the Governor has started his revenge.
Zara is faced with an unimaginable choice just as she forced the Governor to make his – only this time, it could cost the man she loves his life.

The Use and Abuse of Dialogue Tags

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Dialogue tags are used in various ways and to varying degrees in fiction writing. One writer, I noticed, regarded them in a metaphorical sense as ‘seasoning’ and not ‘the main ingredient’ in writing. A dialogue tag is also called an ‘attribution’ – a small phrase that is used before, or after, or in between the dialogue. And this is important because it enables the reader to identify the speaker, which can be quite difficult if you have more than two people having a conversation. 

The said tag is probably the most common one, having the advantage of being neutral in its application. It becomes almost a silent tag, one which the reader resonates with but one that equally becomes almost invisible in its use.

At the same time, the said tag is often criticised for its overuse in fiction writing. But this isn’t the only criticism: the maxim ‘Show, don’t tell’ is not easily followed when using said bookisms.

The purpose of this post is very briefly to look at ways in which the said tag works well and where it doesn’t and to look at alternatives such as said bookisms.

The said tag for identification

Example one:

‘Hi,’ said Richard. ‘How’s it going?’

‘What do you mean?’ Jessica said.

Richard said, ‘Well, all I wanted to know is how’s the revision going?’

‘What? You must be joking!’ said Jessica sarcastically. ‘Sod that! I’m going down the pub. Are you coming with me?

As one can see, the overuse of the said tag is quite overwhelming. It becomes repetitive, stilted, and very annoying. It also takes the reader away from the point of the conversation, making them focus on the said tags. It does a disservice to the writer in trying to communicate their story because if the focus is on the said words, the point of the story is lost!

Where there are only two people having a conversation, the said tags are only necessary for identification unless there is a considerable amount of conversation taking place.

Example two:

‘Hi,’ said Richard. ‘How’s it going?’

‘What do you mean?’ Jessica said.

 ‘Well, all I wanted to know is how’s the revision going?’

 ‘Sod that! I’m going down the pub. Are you coming with me?

Here, the said tag is almost invisible in so far as it has any noticeable effect on the reader. Used sparingly and appropriately, it works well.

The use of said bookisms

A said bookism is a way of avoiding the word said in the tag. Go on the internet and you will find literally hundreds of these alternatives to the word said. It is even possible to purchase said books, hence the name said bookism.

Verbs like laughed, sighed, replied, exclaimed, and hissed will be familiar with readers as alternative ways of overcoming the repeated us of the word said. Some verbs like asked, and, to a lesser extent, replied are perfectly acceptable substitutes.

However, verbs such as laughed, shrugged, or smiled are not acceptable at all because the character cannot say these words.

Actions in place of said tags and said bookisms

Using phrases in place of said tags or said bookisms is a great way to keep the reader interested in the story and not become irritated by the way the action is spoken. Here is the same set of speech written in a different way.

Example three: Letting the action and the dialogue do the work of the said tag, where possible

Richard came bounding over to Jessica, who was on her way to the university library to revise for her sociology exam.  

‘How’s it going?’

Richard was keen to coax his friend Jessica to go into the library with him to revise for end-of-year exams.

Jessica flung her bag over her shoulder and flicked her head towards Richard, somewhat annoyed by his enthusiasm. He always studied, she thought bitterly. Richard was the college bookworm. She waited for him to come up to her.

‘Are you coming with me, then?

 ‘Where to?’  She knew that was a dumb question to ask.

‘The library, of course.’

Picking up her bags she gave Richard a cold stare.

‘Sod that! I’m going down the pub. Are you joining me?

Looking at both the above conversation, the verbs said, asked, and replied, and exclaimed could all have their place in the story, but they are not needed. The actions of the characters speak for themselves.

Example four: Focus on the action by removing the dialogue tag

In the following example, the focus is on removing unnecessary dialogue tags, which slow this part of the story down, in favour of emphasizing the action.

‘I want you to keep me company tonight,’ Max said. He kissed his girlfriend on the lips.

But better still and easier to follow:

‘I want you to keep me company tonight.’ He kissed his girlfriend on the lips.

Example five: Don’t repeat what the dialogue has just told the reader

Sam and Alice, who were engaged, were embroiled in a fierce argument about Sam messaging a girl on Facebook.

‘Who is she?’ asked Alice?’

‘Just someone I knew years ago,’ replied Sam.

‘That’s not good enough. You’re always so evasive. Tell me her name and where she lives. I’ll throttle the bitch!’ exclaimed Alice.

‘No you won’t because she’s your best mate! hissed Sam.

As can be seen, the use of each dialogue tag is completely unnecessary.

Example six: A good tag doesn’t impair how natural the speech sounds

The said word makes perfect sense when the writer wants to focus on the way a character speaks and on what he / she says without using said bookisms.

Mike forced the gun into the back of Raff as they walked into the lounge and said, ‘Ya know I’m going to shoot ya, if you so much as open that big gob of yours, don’t ya?’

‘Please, Mike, mate,’ said Raff. ‘Do I look that bleedin’ stupid?’

The said words could be replaced with said bookisms such as whispered, hissed (Mike) and spluttered, whined (Raff) but the context and the action renders such words as unnecessary.

Useful websites


The Rules

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The second instalment of Kerry Barnes’ explosive trilogy involving Mike Regan and Zara Ezra!

Do you live by the rules, or die by them?
Holed up in prison, Mike Regan is offered a deal – his freedom in exchange for his firm taking down the gang that is supplying a new dangerous drug that has hit the streets. What starts as a game soon becomes a shocking revelation with devastating consequences.
Meanwhile, Mike’s fiancé, Zara Ezra, has her own firm to run. But when the so-called Governor is out to take her down, she has her own decision to make – either fight, run, or write her own rule book …

The Double Possessive

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The Double Possessive I

This is the first of two parts, in that I believe it is easier to grasp somewhat complex grammatical issues in bitesize chunks wherever possible. At least that is the theory.

One of the websites below discusses this issue in the encapsulating title Double Genitive: Twice as Much Possession.

Here we go then.

My author, Kerry Barnes, wrote these sentences in her latest book: The Rules

‘Victor was a close and trusted friend of my father’s. He’s now on my payroll, so we can speak freely in his company.’

‘You hoped to brainwash me into believing that you had my back, that I couldn’t survive without you, while you picked and clawed away at my business and my money, but, most of all, my name and that of my father’s.’

Why, you might ask, does a second possessive need to be included in the phrase trusted friend of my father’s and my name and that of my father’s?

Isn’t the fact that the word ‘of’ is sufficient to imply possession in each of the above cases?

So, what is a double genitive?

It occurs when the preposition ‘of’ and the apostrophe plus s are shown in a phrase, clause, or sentence.

Grammar has structure, and so you won’t be surprised to find that there are rules here that help a writer to get the double possessive right every time!

One rule is that what follows the word ‘of’ will be definite and human. Where it is inanimate, we do not use the double possessive.

The second rule is that what precedes the word ‘of’ will be indefinite.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • Where the double genitive is used

The chambers contain photographs of the judge’s.

  • Where the double genitive is not used

The chambers contain photographs of the judge.

Immediately one can see why a double genitive is needed in the first case but not in the second. The double possessive enables the reader to distinguish very clearly the semantic meaning of the sentence. In the first example, the reader should grasp that the photographs in the judge’s chambers belong to the judge. In the second example, the reader is expected to interpret this as meaning that in the judge’s chambers there are photographs of the judge.

Clear then, I take it?

Well, let’s see, shall we? What about the examples below?

I am a friend of Kerry Barnes [actually I am her editor, but I am also a friend of hers.]

I am Kerry Barnes’s friend

Are these meanings the same? Actually, they are not, and so the double genitive has a useful purpose in avoiding ambiguity.

In the first example, I am saying that I look upon Kerry as a friend. In the second example, I am saying that Kerry Barnes sees me as a friend of hers. In this example, the reader will interpret this as Kerry Barnes being instrumental in having a more active role in the relationship.

As alluded to above, when referring to inanimate objects, the double possessive is not permitted.

So, for example, he is a friend of the cricket club’s is incorrect: it should read he is a friend of the cricket club. The clue here is in the word ‘a’ which makes this definite and of course ‘cricket club’, which is inanimate.

The second and related post will look at possessive pronouns: mine, thine, his, hers, its, ours, yours, theirs.

Useful websites

The Hunted

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This book is the first in the Mike Regan and Zara Ezra trilogy.

Having spent her life watching her father run his East London firm, Zara Ezra has learned a thing or two about being a gangster, and she’s ready to take over when the time comes.

Mike Regan, a blast from Zara’s past, is the head of his own firm, but when his son is kidnapped in the middle of a gangland feud, Mike has no choice but to accept help from the Ezras to get his little boy back alive.

With a rival firm playing increasingly dirty, murder moves to the top of the agenda and Zara has some big choices to make. It seems that the only way to come out on top is to play them at their own game . . .

But will she become The Hunter or The Hunted?

Using advanced punctuation in direct speech

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Should punctuation in direct speech mirror that of punctuation in the narrative of novels?

Firstly, it needs to be made clear that the kind of punctuation being discussed here applies only to semicolons and colons – in other words advanced punctuation. Secondly, other punctuation (comma, full stop, em dash, exclamation mark) appear so regularly in novels that it is pointless to argue against the inclusion of these forms of punctuation.

So back to the use of semicolons and colons.

For my part, I do not see that they are entirely necessary, although, on occasions, I understand they do provide another way of communicating an author’s thoughts through their characters. And, when the dialogue is lengthy, varying the punctuation (by using a semicolon for example) may help to communicate the character’s thoughts better.

One reason why I do not think they are necessary in the main is that the comma and full stop do an adequate job of addressing the punctuation of phrases, clauses, and sentences themselves. Another reason is that when I read what a character is saying, I am also putting myself in the place of that character, and I would not speak in such a way that semicolons and colons were necessary – for the most part.

But some authors use advanced punctuation and it appears to work – notwithstanding the point that a comma and a full stop might do the job just as adequately. And here is a final thought that I found on the internet referring to the use of advanced punctuation in dialogue: there’s no sense in buying a specialized tool when you can use a general one just as effectively.


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Someone’s watching you …

Living in a beautiful home on the edge of a council estate, Kara Bannon can’t imagine what it’s like to have nothing.

An eerie phone call plays on her mind and within three days she loses everything – her job, her home, and Justin, the only person she thought she could trust.

Alone and terrified, she makes a decision that will change her life forever.

Suddenly she has to enter a new world – prison.

Revenge is not always so sweet …

The Direct Object, the Indirect Object, and the Object of the Preposition

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The eye and the ear: a short analysis of the direct object, the indirect object, and the object of the preposition


This post will not cover in detail issues relating to the direct object, the indirect object and the object of preposition. I like to write short posts, and so perhaps, at another time, I will return to this area of grammar.

Sometimes a sentence seems to work semantically but not grammatically. It is the way the sentence is constructed that is the problem. Many books can now be bought in an audio format. Listening to a sentence, which on the face of it is not constructed grammatically but which sounds fine to the ear, shouldn’t be an issue for the narrator of the story or for the person listening to it. This will certainly be the case if the sentence makes perfect sense semantically but not grammatically. I have given an example below of what I mean.

On the other hand, when a sentence is written in a book that is grammatically incorrect, there is the potential for the reader to focus on the error rather than the intent of the sentence. Rather like a poorly placed piece of punctuation – or even a lack of it – the reader may find their enjoyment of the story spoiled if the construction of the sentence lacks grammatical polish.


Skip this part, if you want to get to the thrust of the post


Were any of us taught anything about the direct object, the indirect object, and the object of the preposition, I wonder? It is quite possible you weren’t. I know I wasn’t!
In the examples below (just two), I am going in to a little detail to define what is meant by these terms.

Example 1

I baked Margaret a cake.


Here the direct object cake receives the action performed by the subject I. It shows the result of the action. It answers the question ‘what?’ or ‘whom?’ after an action verb. Another way of putting it is that cake is the direct object of the verb because it receives the action from the verb.

An indirect object precedes the direct object and tells ‘to whom’ or ‘for whom’ the action of the verb is done and ‘who’ is receiving the direct object. And an indirect object is always a noun or pronoun that is not part of a prepositional phrase.The indirect object refers to Margaret as she is the one receiving the direct object. She is therefore the beneficiary of the direct object.

Example 2

I baked a cake for Margaret.


Notice the sentence is constructed virtually the same, but Margaret appears at the end of the sentence, and the preposition for precedes Margaret. In this case the phrase for Margaret becomes the object of the preposition.

How can you tell if a word is an indirect object or the object of a preposition? If it comes just after a preposition, then it is the object of a preposition. If it does not come just after a preposition, then it is an indirect object. The indirect object is usually followed by a direct object. The object of a preposition is not and is often found at the end of a sentence.

Hopefully, it is now clear how these three elements of grammar work in a sentence.


Back to the focus of the post


So to the point of the post. The sentence shown in italics focuses on the position of the direct object in the sentence

Then she pulled from under her bed a photo album.

To me, this seems perfectly understandable. Semantically, I don’t have a problem with it. If I heard this said in an audiobook, I would be fine with it. But grammatically, it is expressed incorrectly. And it becomes a problem when the sentence appears in a book. It sticks out like a sore thumb. This is because the object of the preposition from under her bed precedes the direct object.

To express this sentence correctly, the prepositional phrase should come after the direct object. Like this:

Then she pulled a photo album from under her bed.

Examining the sentence in detail we have the following:


So, now, the sentence below has been rewritten grammatically.

Then she pulled a photo album from under her bed.

The principal constituents of this sentence to focus on are the words photo album, from, and bed. The way this part of grammar works is as follows:

The direct object photo album receives the action performed by the subject she. It shows the result of the action. It answers the question ‘What?’ or ‘Whom?’ after an action verb. Another way of putting it is that photo album is the direct object of the verb because it receives the action from the verb. The phrase ‘from under the bed’ is a prepositional one; so it would be correct to refer to the word bed as the object of the preposition.


Pulling it all back together


There may be people who disagree, but for me – and leaving aside direct speech, which has its own form of language depending on the genre – what is audibly expressed in the story does not matter to anything like the same extent as to what is read in the story.

Perhaps it is because when we listen to what the narrator is saying we do not have time to think about the grammatical aspect so much. Or could it be that the narrator’s skill masks the incorrect grammar used?

However, when we read the story for ourselves, the author cannot hide their incorrect use of the English language!

So, I for one, do not mind at all seeing the following sentence said in an audiobook:

She pulled from under her bed a photo album.

In fact, as it is being said in the story, I can quite easily see in my mind what is happening.

However, I can also see why grammarians and those who do not consider themselves as such but who do know the principles of grammar, may wish to see the sentence expressed correctly:
She pulled a photo album from under her bed.

Useful websites


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Where two nouns or two noun phrases are placed side by side they are said to be in apposition. In writing fiction and in academic articles, the identification and renaming assumes great importance.

They are often introduced by such words as namely, or for example, or that is, or and these were or less common, to wit. They help clarification.
The main issue for the writer is whether the second noun or noun phrase needs to be set off with commas. In other words, is the second noun or noun phrase essential to the meaning of the sentence? If it is, then commas serve no useful purpose because they would otherwise suggest that what is enclosed in parentheses is not strictly necessary, when, in fact, it is. If, on the other hand, the noun or noun phrase is not essential to the meaning of the sentence they can be set off with commas.

Examples: non-restrictive appositive noun
My sister-in-law, Pauline, is experiencing problems with her car not starting properly.
Usain Bolt, Olympic champion and a member of the Jamaican team, has fans across the world.
In both the above cases, the noun (first example) and the noun phrase (second example) illustrate how to use the appositive correctly. Each appositive is non-essential to the sentence. In the first case, the person in question is my sister-in-law and she is the only sister-in-law I have. Readers who are unfamiliar with my family would assume, quite correctly in this case, that I have included Pauline’s name in the sentence to provide additional information, not essential information. In the second example, the person reading this sentence would have had to live under a rock all the time that Usain Bolt has been in action for them not to be aware of how well known Bolt is. So, placing his fame in parentheses is correct.

Examples: restrictive appositive noun
There are, however, occasions when the noun or noun phrase cannot be separated with commas because the information is essential for it to make sense to the reader. Here are some examples:
My best friend, Peter Thomas, has his sixty-sixth birthday next April.
The story The Winner is written by David Baldacci. It is about a woman who cheats the United States Lottery.
The author Kerry Barnes has written a trilogy about the Vincent family.
There is another test that the writer can use to check on whether they have punctuated the appositive noun or noun phrase in the sentence correctly. When the sentence is read either silently or out loud, the reader can often judge where a comma is required, just by the pronounced emphasis on where the comma needs to be placed.

Test yourself:
A Alex, my brother, sang in the choir this morning.
B Athlete Iona Lake won the 3000-metre race last week.
C My friend John has bought over one hundred and twenty cars in his lifetime.
D Ernest Hemingway, the American novelist, is often referred to as a minimalist writer. He wrote Less is More: Literary Minimalism in American Short Story.

Answers are as follows:
A Alex, my brother, sang in the choir this morning. [non-restrictive]
B Athlete Iona Lake won the 3,000-metre race last week. [restrictive]
C My friend John has bought over one hundred and twenty cars in his lifetime. [restrictive]
D Ernest Hemingway, the American novelist, is often referred to as a minimalist writer wrote ‘Less is More: Literary Minimalism in American Short Story. [non-restrictive]

Rationale for this on request.

Wicked Lies

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Wicked Lies is the second book in a trilogy of novels about the Raven and River family.

It is now ready for you to read on Amazon. Incredibly, Wicked Lies achieved over fifty consecutive five-star reviews on Amazon’s website.

Behind the cold damp walls of the cottage, seventeen-year-old Malakai River is left to fend for his younger sisters. In her selfish quest for freedom, his mother shacks up with a small-time gangster and recklessly leaves the children behind.

When Jean River returns a year later, she makes two shocking discoveries – a decomposing body of a young woman in her cottage … and Kelly Raven.

Malakai, battling to keep his sisters safe, steps into a world he knows nothing about, but he soon realises he has what most men fear – the face of his father. Yet even that won’t stop the enemy in the wings trying to destroy everything and everyone Malakai holds dear to him.

Four children – four fathers – four lies.