Tag Archives: words

Shades of Gray

I dream in color. Only once did I dream in black and white. The absence of color jolted me awake. I don’t remember the dream—only the starkness.

I climbed out of bed and bolted to the bathroom mirror. All I saw was a disheveled white hair above snowflakes splattered across gray pajamas. What happened to color? Then I noticed the red drawstring. Whew! I returned to bed and snuggled under a purple rose patterned comforter with the assurance that the only place absent of color was my dream.

My mother’s hair was called jet black in the twentieth century. Following present writing trends, I would have to call it coal, ebony, jet, licorice, onyx, or raven. When it grayed then lightened in her advanced age, it was would have been designated as salt and pepper before it turned white. Today, a wordsmith might describe the silvery strands as argent.

I imaged blogging about my her hair or my black and white dream using synonyms. Licorice and lily or licorice and magnolia sounded like a southern writer’s work-in-progress title. Blending licorice and snow gave me shudders. I searched for wider options. Licorice and pearl? Nope. Coal and oyster? Ugh! Raven and milk. Definitely not. Ink and ice. Not so bad, but still nondescript compared to a color palette created from my HP printer in less time than trying to remember the drab dream.

Writing, like dreams, needs color. I experimented with azure, sapphire, cobalt, or indigo for shades of blue. I splashed crimson, scarlet, ruby, carmine, and magenta as stronger shades of red. I daubed flecks of gold, flaxen, lemon, and mustard for yellow. I skipped Princely Purple aka Ultra Violet (yes, it’s two words), Pantone’s color of the year.

CMYK printers diminish the value of black by designating it as K, supposedly for key color.  Digging for truth during the California political campaigns is a good time to advocate for writers to join me in a revolution to return to plain color names like red and blue and yellow. Writing advisors may tell me how to shape my novels, but like my dream, all blog posts can’t be CMYK, PMS, or RGB. Some words are like shades of gray paint—rich, warm, soft, airy, wispy, or charcoal. Other words must be bold statements in black and white.



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Embellishments – Fact or Fiction?

Just as lace or glittering trim defines a designer outfit,

fictional embellishments to true stories give them sparkle.

My eyes lingered on this pearl of wisdom while shredding notes from past Las Positas College writing classes. There was no attribution for this aging handwritten note. Perhaps it was a quote from the instructor, or my response to a class activity when she asked us to define creative nonfiction.

An embellishment, I learned, is an exaggeration or glorification of the simple truth to bring a story to life. Not full-grown lies, but tiny white ones, bursting through the soil of harsh truth and budding above fallow ground. These additions bring sparkle to a story like shimmering sequins hand-stitched to a basic Mardi Gras gown. They transform a sluggish truth to the cadence of a marching band. They soar like a bright-colored balloon caught up in strong winds.


My father detested fiction or the slightest deviance from facts. A man of few words, he taught me to tell the truth, and punished me when I didn’t. To say he was stressed years before that word soared to the top of the charts describes his hidden anxieties. Assuming that he worried about basics like housing and food was true—a major concern during those Great Depression years. Perhaps he would have agreed with a simple nod if someone had said he showed no excitement at my birth. Yet none of these statements enhance a story.

The listener in a story-telling session, or the reader engrossed in a biography, wants to know my father’s reaction to unexpected twins born twenty-five years after his first child, almost a year after his first grandchild. They want to hear his words when he first saw two identical babies sleeping on a single pillow. Long after my father died, I asked my older siblings about his attitude at that surprise. I wanted to know what he said.


One of my older brothers remembered many of our father’s words but interchanged the corresponding events. One sibling insisted that that our religious father’s spoke a similar mantra for every financial crisis. One sister, a fifteen-year-old present at the birth and with a sharp memory in later years, discounted the others with her version. If you were reading the story about surprise twins, the last of nine children, which quote you would attribute to our father, whether true, false, or embellished?

  1. “We’ll make do.”
  2. “Two more mouths to feed.”
  3. “The Lord will provide.”

Post your reply in Comments and tell me why.


Violet Carr Moore, author and editor, helps writers attain their publication dreams. Along the way, she weaves her legacy with pearls of wisdom and mystic moments.


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The Thought Police

Livermore Civic Center Library

Winston Smith, George Orwell’s main character in 1984, a futuristic novel published in 1949, defies “Big Brother” who sees every move Winston makes in Oceania. The telescreen monitors his heartbeats, emotions, and thoughts. One evening he finds a small corner in his flat where he escapes and writes his musings in one of the last blank, bound journals that escaped destruction when the world went paperless. He shapes his destiny when he uses ink, not pencil, to record his thoughts on quality cream-colored, pages.

Grammar Police Award

Last October I blogged about editing (“Grammar Police” post October 17, 2013). English grammar, both in speech and written form, are replete with multiple rules that require writers to employ a team of editors before submitting manuscripts to an agent or publisher. Since George Orwell’s fantasy more than 65-years ago exposed the limited thought process, it would seem that writers are finally free to fly. Ah, but not so. Although the “Thought Police” Orwell painted exists only in his novel, a new guardian force rules today’s writers.


Instructors and mentors, whether academic or associated with for-profit publishers, have formed a new stratum of Thought Police. Every paragraph, perhaps every sentence, is monitored for point of view (POV). Authorities justify this “Big Brother” scrutiny with a single question: Whose story is this? Thoughts are limited to that character.


In Next of Kin, I have two main characters, Captain Luis Rojas (male), and Detective Taylor Madrid (female). Rojas has more than twenty years of experience in law enforcement; Madrid less than half that. It’s impossible for them to see the world of crime through the same eyes, so I chose a dual POV. Supervisors and associates clamber for their individual POV rather than be seen through the eyes of the duo. That can’t happen. Why? because modern Thought Police have blown the whistle on verbs like thought, believed, recognized, realized,  reflected, ruminated, understood, considered, wondered, imagined, concluded, presumed, mused, surmised, commiserated, envisioned, pictured, conjectured, guessed, anticipated, expected, speculated, pondered, brooded, despaired, sympathized, and dozens more.

Tree chopper

I can only hope (Oops! That’s the narrator’s POV) that neither of my main characters fall prey to the misfortune of Orwell’s Winston Smith. When tortured by the Thought Police, he was brainwashed to believe that two plus two equals five. If that happens, future agents and publishers might require a math class as a prerequisite to writing. I hope I publish my novel before then.


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Synonyms, antonyms and echo words

WordsWriters are plagued with the stigma of echo words. Critique groups and editors naysay a word duplicated in a paragraph; some so harsh as to declare no repetition on a single page. I searched for synonyms to avoid this conflict in my mystery novel in progress.

An online dictionary declares synonym to be the “same, or almost the same, as another word in the same language . . .” Aha! This reference source failed the echo word test.

I entered “antonym” in the search box of a synonym website.

Sorry, I could not find synonyms for ‘antonym’.

It can’t be that difficult. If synonym is the reverse of antonym, then “opposite” must be the synonym.

Another website asserts “parallel” as the synonym and “unlike” as the antonym. That sent me on a mission to change the subplot in my mystery novel.

My protagonist (hero) who solves a homicide by stabbing, is fortunate to have “murder, killing, shooting, or stabbing” as acceptable synonyms. The antonym for protagonist is “antagonist” (adversary/opponent). The synonym is “friend.”

Editing all the synonyms proved to be too much, so I gave the story an opposites-attract twist when a romantic involvement between the cop and the killer explodes and makes friends (synonym) enemies (antonym).

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Go for the uns

WordsThursday. My blog post day and I’m unprepared for the unforeseeable situation that unabashedly confronts me. I’m uninspired to write and unwilling to admit it. I’m unencumbered and uninterrupted at this quiet time of the evening. Still, I’m unimpressed with unconventional words to fill the screen. I prefer unlimited combinations of syllables to convey unexposed theories. So, I’m going for the uns—an unassuming topic.

 Among nearly 700 uns, unadulterated grabs my attention. Why don’t I substitute a synonym? Because, beyond the unclear choices of absolute, sheer and simple lurk three uns—unalloyed, undiluted and unmitigated.

With that in mind, I exit on an unshakable premise. It’s easier to publish an unpretentious blog than to undo these  unremarkable uns with an unending search for the right words.

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Spelling Bee

I was a timid student. I didn’t volunteer to answer questions in class. I hated standing up front to give oral book reports, the object of everyone’s attention. I preferred silent written tests. My shyness persisted to upper elementary. In the eighth grade, my teachers recognized my expanded vocabulary and A+ spelling abilities and pushed me to enter the school Spelling Bee.

My confidence climbed as other students dropped one by one, downed by misspelled words. At last, a single student stood on the stage between me and the winner’s applause. The audience stared at me as the final word was given—a complex word beyond my vocabulary. I rolled it through my mind wishing it were an Agate marble or a Steelie ready for the strike. I spelled it wrong! The winner, who later admitted he had no idea how to spell the word, reversed two letters and became the winner. I slinked out, too embarrassed to face anyone.

I’ve tossed my printed dictionary. My spelling ability hugs me like a warm winter blanket. When my assistant, Ms. Spellchecker, tries to defeat me with a red underline word like “Steelie,” I go online to prove that I’m the hands-down winner in this spelling contest.


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