Saturday, March 15, 2014

MCS #7: The Aristocats

The Aristocats (1970)

With the help of a smooth talking tomcat, a family of Parisian felines set to inherit a fortune from their owner try to make it back home after a jealous butler kidnaps them and leaves them in the country.

Where to start? I loved the cats playing the piano. I love the title—the pun on aristocrats. 10 points for creativity, Disney.

Now (because I have to point out voice actors) bet you didn’t know that Thomas O’Malley was the same actor as Baloo from The Jungle Book.

Oh, you did know that?

Oh Well Smiley Sign

Anyway, I have a great little story that’s related to this movie. Back in 2012, I lived in a hotel for a couple of months. I was in the process of moving states with my parents (because moving out while in grad school is a bad idea). The hotel we stayed in had a cat named Sylvester, and every morning on the way to breakfast, my father would stop at the door that led to the outdoor pool and sitting area and sing Thomas O’Malley’s song, substituting the ending for “Sylvester the hotel cat.”

Except my father isn’t great with remembering lyrics, so it went more like “Abraham DeLacey (repeat that line) *grumble, grumble* Sylvester the hotel cat.”

Blushing Smiley

Actually, it was kind of adorable because, well, my family is adorable.

[Side Note: Keep watching the video after the song ends. It’s worth it.]

Now, we can’t talk about Aristocats without mentioning this cutie.

Also, I just wanted an excuse to use this picture. But really, Marie is awesome. She’s totally got her brothers wrapped around her little finger (toe? Paw?). Oh well, ladies ftw!

Writer’s Lockbox

Siblings have a unique dynamic. My thesis novel features a lot of siblings. My main character is a twin, and I originally had her feuding with her brother. After several people informed me “the feud isn’t working” I dropped it, and the story works much better now. I didn’t overbalance in the other direction, though. They aren’t the Wonder Twins now, which I like because the “twins destined to save the world” thing is kind of overdone.

But anyway, I digress. The point of this Writer’s Lockbox is to make siblings realistic. Boys and girls often fight at younger ages. Either that or they are best buddies. Girls are either bffs or hate each other, and boys usually are all right unless they sense favoritism from a parent. If everything’s cool, they’re like “dude, video games?” “Yeah.” That is until one gets too old for being seen with the other to be “cool.”

This is just my take. I am an only child and have had people tell me what it’s like to have siblings. Any other sibling insights out there? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Last week: Alice in Wonderland

And join me next week for the last of the Disney A’s, Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

-Find me on Twitter @desantismt

P.S. Beware. That is all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Possibly the Most Ridiculous Argument for Succinct Writing Ever...with Math! (sorry)

Good Wednesday,

First, a post about writing. Then an exciting announcement.


Let’s talk about word count and unnecessary phrasing.

But before we do that, let me apologize for frightening you with the word “math” in the title.

Then let me say that there is actually going to be math.

crying puddle

You’ll live.

So words. More often than I care to admit, the following phrases come up in books I read. I sometimes pause and stare at them in wonder because “why did the author choose to write it this way?”

Shrugged his shoulders
Blinked her eyes
Nodded his head
Clapped her hands

Aside from making editors/publishers/agents cringe, these phrases monopolize on “too-many-word syndrome” (n.) the state of having too many words, and “unnecessary explanation syndrome” (n.) the state of over explaining obviousness. What part of the body does one blink other than eyes? Shrug other than shoulders? You get the idea, and if a different body part performs these actions, that is out-of-the-ordinary and, thus, necessitates explanation.

It’s “too-many-words syndrome” I want to focus on in today’s post. This is where the math comes in (sorry again…or maybe not). Let’s take the four three-word phrases above. Using basic multiplication, I calculate that 3x54=12.

Now, we don’t need the modifiers/explanatory words: his shoulders, her eyes, his head, her hands. That’s 2 words from each phrase that we don’t need. 2x4=8. 12-8=4. So what was originally said in 12 words can be said in 4.

This doesn’t seem like much, but put it into the context of a 90k word manuscript. How many times do characters shrug/nod/clap/blink/do similar 3-word phrases in that time? Odds are, quite a few. In fact, let’s say characters perform such three-word actions 500 times in a manuscript.


The math is about to get more difficult.


K, 500 three-word phrases.

500 x 3 = 1500

So that’s 1500 words.

Now, 2 words from each of those three-word phrases aren't needed.

500 x 2 = 1000

1500 – 1000 = 500

I think smiley is learning something new. But What? He seems a bit confused

Yes, by writing “he nodded” instead of “he nodded his head,” “she shrugged” instead of “she shrugged her shoulders,” etc. 1000 words were cut.


That could mean the difference between being able to submit to a given house/contest or not.

“Mary, no publisher/agent is going to glare at a project that’s 1000 words over their limit.”

They might. It’s unlikely, but if this argument isn’t doing it, here’s another.

That’s 1000 words that can be used to describe something else. The standard chapter size is between 3000 and 4000 words. We’re talking a third or fourth of a chapter here. That’s a lot of space. Trust me, I check my word count while I’m writing chapters, and I often think to myself “This one is at about 2500. 1000 words is plenty of space to finish what needs to happen.”

Every word counts.

And see? That math wasn’t too painful.


Back in January, I submitted to OddContest, the flash fiction contest associated with Odyssey Con. They received 71 stories. While I did not win first, second, or third, I placed in the top 10. I’m officially an Odd Contest finalist, and my name is on the website!

See, look!!!

That’s my name…on that list….

-Find me on Twitter @desantismt.