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Graeme

Past Perfect by David Buffet

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David has started something new, here at AwesomeDude. His new story: Past Perfect is being posted here first, and David is looking at feedback to help him develop the story towards the eventual conclusion. As he says in the story introduction:

It is my intention to ?workshop? this novel on AwesomeDude. I intend to post the novel serially, at a rate of a chapter or two per week (as I did originally with Alpha Male.) Like with Alpha Male, while I have a very firm idea of the outline of where this story is heading, I?ve left somewhat fuzzy the path I?ll take to get there. So far, only the first few chapters have been written.

As a result, your constructive feedback is more than welcome. It is, indeed, a vital part of the creative process for me. It would help me if you?d periodically tell me what you like and don?t like about particular chapters, characters, and plot turns. At any given point, where do you think the story is heading? Do you want to read more? It would also help if you?d point out any egregious grammatical or spelling errors. (But please, only the egregious ones!) Awesomedude has generously offered me the opportunity of revising old, posted chapters. I can correct errors as I go.

Requesting this sort of feedback would normally be done in the Bull Pen of the forums, but David is an established author with some well known and well read stories behind him. We're pleased to be working with him in his new project.

Private comments can be emailed directly to David using the feedback form at the end of the chapter, or you can use this public forum if there are things you would like to discuss openly.

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I'll start the ball rolling. I'll say up front that this isn't going to be easy because the story is very well written.

One thing that bothered me with this story was trying to work out what type of third person story this was. It looked initially as rotating third person limited, but there were too many times that it jumped between characters, and so I decided it's third person ominiscient. I found the jumping between the characters a little disconcerting at times, but it wasn't excessive. There was maybe an overuse of pronouns, as I had to think a couple of times to work out which person "he" referred to. Of course, as a poor dumb Aussie, you can't expect me to have much experience at thinking...

Bo is new to town, and so finding "as close to a gay bar as this county can get" may have been a stretch. However, I was intrigued by the comments at the end, where Bo thinks that there is work to be done in Yakumwa, and work is work. While there is the implication that Bo is a hustler, the phrasing of "work to be done" seems to imply otherwise. I would have thought a hustler would use something like "work available" -- the phrase "work to be done" seems to imply an obligation to work.

The other thing that seemed odd was the initial scene with Bo. It gave the impression that he had been to that bar several times before. While it could be taken that he'd been to bars many times before, even if he was new to that bar, the way it described the other gentlemen seemed to imply that they knew Bo's way of doing things. This felt a little strange to me, but then it could be just that the initial chapter is still only setting the scene.

A very intriguing start, though :icon10:

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Wow. I'll never be able to match, or even come within viewing distance, of Graeme's eloquent description of what he sees/felt about the first chapter. Sadly, I'm not nearly as sophisticated in my reading ability, nor my ability to express myself well.

I was not attracted/hooked by the beginning. I was confused. I couldn't tell if there was only a shift in perspective (3rd person position) or an actual shift in location or time between one character's section and the next. I couldn't even finish the first page (I printed it) and went back to readying Control and Kaos, which DOES grip me.

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Very helpful feedback! It is my intention, here, to play with the idea of time (hinted at in the title), and the kalaidascopic perspective shifts are beginning to set that up. Clearly, not as effectively as I had hoped. I expected/intended a bit of confusion, but perhaps it's excessive. Here's a topic I'd like to return to as the story unfolds. Does it stay confusing? Does one get used to it? More importantly, does it stay annoying?

I've been diagnosed with pronounitis before! It's a malady for which I'm in treatment. If it's at the beginning of perspective shifts, I'm okay with a bit of confusion. In the middle of a paragraph is just bad writing. I'll try to pay particular attention to this. Thanks!

Bo's "newness" to town is being overinterpreted, and I can fix that easiy. "New" in a small town just means he didn't grow up there. It doesn't mean he just arrived. I can make this clearer. Thanks.

David

PS As for "this isn't going to be easy", thanks for taking the time and effort! That kind of criticism is EXACTLY what I'm looking for, and VERY helpful!

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David, are you going to make changes after several comments and then repost the chapter? If so, they need to be identified as 1/3, 3/5, or whatever. It would be nice to get all versions available for reading, rather than exchanging the old for a new version. That way it can be seen that there is change and progress. On the other hand, it's your project, so I don't want to interfere in your concept. Maybe you were thinking to just wait till the comments have died down, and then incorporate all the stuff in one go.

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Very helpful feedback! It is my intention, here, to play with the idea of time (hinted at in the title), and the kalaidascopic perspective shifts are beginning to set that up. Clearly, not as effectively as I had hoped. I expected/intended a bit of confusion, but perhaps it's excessive. Here's a topic I'd like to return to as the story unfolds. Does it stay confusing? Does one get used to it? More importantly, does it stay annoying?

I will agree it's too confusing as written. I'm sure many people here will stick to it, but most readers will walk away just like Trab if it's that confusing. You need to fix it before moving forward. Your first page is your hook. People have to love it, want more, and have no measure of confusion about who is saying what, when, and why. (Confusion about what might happen is the essence of storytelling and I am not talking about that.)

If my two editors hadn't chosen to remain anonymous, I'd tell them to speak up. My first chapter of my new work went through dozens of re-writes by me and they saw EIGHT versions (and amazingly, they still speak to me). Get as sloppy as you want later, go mystical, write in Aramaic, anything but do it later. Your first few pages are not the time to be clever because your reader may never get past that point.

My two pence :)

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I agree with you on the first page -- but my experience is that I can't write (read "rewrite") that to the level it needs to be until I'm almost done with the entire book.

Trab, good suggestion, posting Chapter 1.1, 1.2, 1.25 etc. along with chapter 2.0.

So here's a question for you(s): should I participate in this thread, or should I just let the discussion unfold and be informed by it? Or perhaps only chime in to answer specific questions directed toward me? I'd like it to be a free discussion of the pros and cons of the story (and its telling), and I expect it might be freer if I don't participate much (except, of course, to read it avidly.)

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Oh my, David. So you think people might be freer with their comments if you don't participate in the discussions? Like, you think they won't know you are going to read them anyway? :icon10: You silly man. By being there, each day, accepting our pearls of wisdom, and not getting defensive, you will accelerate the process of feedback a thousandfold. That's my take on it.

People love to be listened to, but it's even better if they get feedback on what they say. Please, I urge you to be very hands on with this.

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BTW, David, saying that you cannot easily rewrite until the story is done, is a very humanizing thing, and something I'm sure all of us can relate too. (Well, in my case, I can't really write at all, no matter where in the process, but we won't humanize ME too much, okay?) The comment bodes well for your online buddies to feel free to address issues, since you are willing to concede that you are not the 'alpha male' type, who can do no wrong. :icon10:

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Definitely participate, David. We'll feel more part of the process that way, and it is only via discussion that we can provide any assistance. After all, if you didn't join in we're likely to go off on a tangent that's irrelevant (which I'm sure we'll do anyway, but at least you'll be able to tell us it's irrelevant).

On the confusion part, it was quickly clear to me that we had two threads going in the story. What was unclear was how these threads related to each other in space and time -- and you had that sorted out before the end of the chapter. You used a line break to indicate a change of scene, which is what most printed novels do but is less frequently used online. Could this be part of the confusion? I saw the break and knew it was a change of scene, but maybe Trab didn't realise that, which contributed to the confusion.

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Good point about the line break Graeme. When I print a chapter, I strip the formatting so that I don't use too much ink. I then print in 9pt arial. (Yes, Des, I have glasses or I'd be using 24 pt)

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There's probably something wrong with me. I just read the first chapter and didn't experience the same problems you guys did. At the very first it was a little confusing, but most stories I read are a little confusing at the very first, and I've learned to accept that and read on. If it doesn't clear itself up, that's one thing, but here, it became clear what was happening very quickly. I don't think that aspect needs to be tweaked at all.

I did have some minor gripes, and mailed them to David. I feel sort of shy about pointing out errors in someone's writing in public, even if he's asked us to. It just doesn't sit well with me.

I guess I can share one concern I had. I didn't like Bo calling Todd "that guy" to himself when he was thinking about him. That seemed awkward to me, as Todd had already introduced himself. If someone introduces himself, and you know his name, then you don't think of him as "that guy," you think of him by the name you have for him.

I like what I've read so far. It seems like it could go in several directions from this point. It'll be interesting to see how it develops.

Cole

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There's probably something wrong with me. I just read the first chapter and didn't experience the same problems you guys did. At the very first it was a little confusing, but most stories I read are a little confusing at the very first, and I've learned to accept that and read on. If it doesn't clear itself up, that's one thing, but here, it became clear what was happening very quickly. I don't think that aspect needs to be tweaked at all.

I agree with you. I didn't have any problem following the story. There are some minor word usages that I'd change, but nothing really confused me.

I guess I can share one concern I had. I didn't like Bo calling Todd "that guy" to himself when he was thinking about him. That seemed awkward to me, as Todd had already introduced himself. If someone introduces himself, and you know his name, then you don't think of him as "that guy," you think of him by the name you have for him.

Cole

OK, here's where I deviate. The use of "that guy" is entirely appropriate. Bo was drunk out of his skull. He could have been introduced to Todd a couple of dozen times and wouldn't have been able to recall his name. So, Bo thinking about Todd as "that guy" is right on.

Bo uses it a second time, when he's at Todd's and looks at the pictures of Todd and a guy who I assume was (is?) his BF, and thinks about the BF as "that guy". The use of "that guy" in two contexts didn't bother me.

This isn't my kind of story. I'm not into drugs or alcohol (hey, I'm only 17), so stories about people who are into drugs and/or alcohol don't interest me. Usually. I found that I'm curious enough about Bo and his "alchemy" (He's a drug dealer? Nah.) and "magic" and what his "job" is to want to find out what that's all about.

Colin :icon10:

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OK, here's where I deviate. The use of "that guy" is entirely appropriate. Bo was drunk out of his skull. He could have been introduced to Todd a couple of dozen times and wouldn't have been able to recall his name. So, Bo thinking about Todd as "that guy" is right on.

Bo uses it a second time, when he's at Todd's and looks at the pictures of Todd and a guy who I assume was (is?) his BF, and thinks about the BF as "that guy". The use of "that guy" in two contexts didn't bother me.

Colin :icon_geek:

Colin, I wasn't complaining about the "that guy" usage early on in the story, only the cases after Todd had introduced himself the next morning. Bo was not drunk at that time; the name should have stuck, and the chapter would simply read a bit more straightforwardly if "that guy" were replaced by "Todd" in many of the places where "that guy" is used.

But it's certainly a matter of opinion rather than right or wrong. I usually go by the rule that anything in writing that distracts us from being in the story itself and makes us think about the writing is a distraction that interferes with our immersion in the story.

C

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I think Trab's confusion with the story was the way he printed it off to read it. By removing the formatting, he lost the breaks that indicated a change of scene. Without those, yes, it would be very confusing.

I was a little confused initially, but, as has already been pointed out, that's not unusual when a story is just starting and we're learning the setting.

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Wow. So much to consider...and me here in Jamaica, mon, sitting poolside with a pineapple smoothie! (Is it evil of me to admit I'm on vacation and at a resort? It's not to rub it in the face of you working stiffs--much as I love doing that, too--it's to point out that I'm really into this process. So much so, that I'm spending my time at a resort writing and thinking about your comments!)

In no particular order: no, sisyphitic is not a word. The word, points out Cole in a private email, is sisyphean. Thanks! Yes, for that kind of thing it is certainly appropriate to point it out in this forum. More than appropriate, it is helpful. That way I get to say things like: Todd was drunk. He got the word wrong. And it set up the syphilis joke. Does it work? Is it allowable?

My editor in CONTROL and KAOS would not permit me to use made-up words, even when I had a reason for doing so. I wanted Topher to consistently say, ?I could of? when, of course, it is correct to say, ?I could have.? She wouldn?t let me. But I know people who make that mistake all the time! It?s colloquial! She was unmoved. She said it didn?t make Topher sound colloquial, it made the author sound stupid. I pointed out that Shakespeare made up hundreds of words. She suggested when I'm as good as he was, so can I. :icon_geek: I don't have a proofreader yet for this project. So I'll not say that I got the word wrong (which is, of course, true), I'll say Todd was drunk, and I wrote the wrong word on purpose!

Anyway, the reason it?s helpful in this forum is that I get to ask at large: should I change it (which would require getting rid of the joke)? Is it okay to use invented words when it?s pretty clear from context what they mean (and there?s a reason to invent one)? Granted, perhaps not in the third paragraph, but in general? What are people?s thoughts?

I do need a proofreader, but generally don?t ask for one until enough chapters are posted that the person who volunteers knows (s)he is going to enjoy the task. Also, I need someone who knows the language well enough to be able to argue (for weeks!) arcana such as whether the comma is distributive. They?re hard to find. But that's going to explain a number of errors in early chapters.

Trab, I know people will know I?m looking at the thread. Still, my participation will have the effect of steering the conversation, as Graeme points out. I see that as both a good and a bad thing. But I will participate, since that seems to be the consensus. And rest assured: I am no alpha male. Nor am I a writer by trade or habit. It?s something I?ve discovered and am learning about as I go. As a side note, I can?t tell you how many people confused the author with the characters in Alpha Male. It actually got a little annoying as it was most generally assumed I, the author, was interchangeable with Mark, the narrator and protagonist. Not so cheery a thought as I did my best to have Mark be a real dickhead!

Writebymyself, the asterisk bar *** is probably a good idea. Yes, I had intended that the line break would signify a perspective shift. It?s much easier to see that on the written page than on the web. I expect I?ll include the asterisk bars in the first rewrite. Meanwhile, in the second chapter (a quasi-acceptable version of which I?ve just completed, and will post as soon as Biff gives feedback on it) I stripped out even the line breaks when changing perspectives. I?m curious about whether or not it works.

Fear not, colinian. It?s not going to be a druggie story.

Cole, regarding ?the guy?, and colinean ?(He?s a drug dealer? Nah)? I have two questions: it is intentionally unclear what Bo thinks his work is. I hope, though, it is clear what Todd (and, at this point, I?d expect, the reader) thinks Bo?s work is. Is it? If it is, then does Bo?s use of ?the guy? make it seem like it takes more than just a name for Bo to distinguish one gentleman from another? That was the intent of writing it that way. If I missed, I missed.

In fact, it is my hope that deciding who Bo really is and what he really does is going to be one of the tasks for the reader in this book. Bo and Todd certainly don?t agree now, and the reader has a choice to trust one, the other, or neither?s observations.

That might be it for today. The late-afternoon clouds are begining their rise, the rumble of thunder is thrilling the few guests around the pool, and I have to get Biff to read chapter 2.

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Cole, regarding ?the guy?, and colinean ?(He?s a drug dealer? Nah)? I have two questions: it is intentionally unclear what Bo thinks his work is. I hope, though, it is clear what Todd (and, at this point, I?d expect, the reader) thinks Bo?s work is. Is it? If it is, then does Bo?s use of ?the guy? make it seem like it takes more than just a name for Bo to distinguish one gentleman from another? That was the intent of writing it that way. If I missed, I missed.

David: I could imagine a couple reasons for you using the "that guy" description of Todd when Bo was thinking of him. If it was intentional usage on your part and there is a valid reason for it, that suffices for me. I don't know who Bo is at this point, or what his work is. I can come up with a couple ideas, but generally when reading something like this, I suspend guesses until I have a bit more to work on, so haven't done a lot of pondering on that. I'm a bit surprised if your point was that we should have a pretty good idea of Bo's occupation from what you've written. I could make a guess, and it might even be right, but I havne't spent much time considering it, and I doubt others have either.

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My editor in CONTROL and KAOS would not permit me to use made-up words, even when I had a reason for doing so. I wanted Topher to consistently say, “I could of” when, of course, it is correct to say, “I could have.” She wouldn?t let me. But I know people who make that mistake all the time! It?s colloquial! She was unmoved. She said it didn?t make Topher sound colloquial, it made the author sound stupid. I pointed out that Shakespeare made up hundreds of words. She suggested when I'm as good as he was, so can I. :icon_geek: I don't have a proofreader yet for this project. So I'll not say that I got the word wrong (which is, of course, true), I'll say Todd was drunk, and I wrote the wrong word on purpose!

Damn, man, it's YOUR story, not your editor's. I'm a firm believer that colloquialisms, jargon, slang, made-up words, and bad grammar are OK in dialog and narrative that's the thoughts of a character, when and where it's appropriate. In cases like that, I say ignore the editor!

Anyway, the reason it?s helpful in this forum is that I get to ask at large: should I change it (which would require getting rid of the joke)? Is it okay to use invented words when it?s pretty clear from context what they mean (and there?s a reason to invent one)? Granted, perhaps not in the third paragraph, but in general? What are people?s thoughts?
Keep it, but write it so the joke is obvious. Not necessarily to everyone, but so those familiar with what's correct will laugh when they read your sentence. If they're confused, then you've not done your job of making it clear.
Fear not, colinian. It?s not going to be a druggie story.

Good. Thanks for the clarification. But (there's always a "but", isn't there?), if I'd started the story under normal "I'm gonna start reading this..." conditions, I might have blown it off as soon as the drinking got out of hand. Just thought I'd add that. Don't change your story because of my aversion to drugs and alcohol in stories. I'm 17 and I'm weird.

Cole, regarding “the guy”, and colinian “(He?s a drug dealer? Nah)” I have two questions: it is intentionally unclear what Bo thinks his work is. I hope, though, it is clear what Todd (and, at this point, I?d expect, the reader) thinks Bo?s work is. Is it? If it is, then does Bo?s use of “the guy” make it seem like it takes more than just a name for Bo to distinguish one gentleman from another? That was the intent of writing it that way. If I missed, I missed.
It is unclear what Bo's work is, but not that Bo's unclear about what his work is. I didn't pick up the idea that Bo can't tell people apart. I figured he was either drunk or hung over and couldn't remember names and that's why he used the "that guy".
In fact, it is my hope that deciding who Bo really is and what he really does is going to be one of the tasks for the reader in this book. Bo and Todd certainly don?t agree now, and the reader has a choice to trust one, the other, or neither?s observations.

That I did pick up. It's the reason I want to read more of this story.

Colin :icon11:

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In no particular order: no, sisyphitic is not a word. The word, points out Cole in a private email, is sisyphean. Thanks! Yes, for that kind of thing it is certainly appropriate to point it out in this forum. More than appropriate, it is helpful. That way I get to say things like: Todd was drunk. He got the word wrong. And it set up the syphilis joke. Does it work? Is it allowable?

For me, it worked. He was also drunk at the time and mixing up words is common when drunk -- that's what I took it to be. I believe it is allowable, just like some colloquialisms are allowable, but others just make the story hard to read. The guideline I used is to have enough to give a flavour to the story/character, without it dominating. It's one of the reasons I restrict the Australian colloquialisms in my stories -- they are there but not that common.

My editor in CONTROL and KAOS would not permit me to use made-up words, even when I had a reason for doing so. I wanted Topher to consistently say, ?I could of? when, of course, it is correct to say, ?I could have.? She wouldn?t let me. But I know people who make that mistake all the time! It?s colloquial! She was unmoved. She said it didn?t make Topher sound colloquial, it made the author sound stupid. I pointed out that Shakespeare made up hundreds of words. She suggested when I'm as good as he was, so can I. :icon_geek: I don't have a proofreader yet for this project. So I'll not say that I got the word wrong (which is, of course, true), I'll say Todd was drunk, and I wrote the wrong word on purpose!

In the example given, I'm siding with your editor. Sorry, Colin. :icon11: A person does NOT say "I could of". They say "I could've" which sounds like "I could of". The later is an incorrect transcription of what was actually said. However, in this story I would keep the word as written, because, under the circumstances in the story, the character did say something that wasn't a correct word.

Anyway, the reason it?s helpful in this forum is that I get to ask at large: should I change it (which would require getting rid of the joke)? Is it okay to use invented words when it?s pretty clear from context what they mean (and there?s a reason to invent one)? Granted, perhaps not in the third paragraph, but in general? What are people?s thoughts?

Everything in moderation.... :icon6:

Writebymyself, the asterisk bar *** is probably a good idea. Yes, I had intended that the line break would signify a perspective shift. It?s much easier to see that on the written page than on the web. I expect I?ll include the asterisk bars in the first rewrite. Meanwhile, in the second chapter (a quasi-acceptable version of which I?ve just completed, and will post as soon as Biff gives feedback on it) I stripped out even the line breaks when changing perspectives. I?m curious about whether or not it works.

The issue of section breaks has been discussed in other threads here at AD. The main problem with using a line break is that if it fell on a page boundary when printed, the reader won't see it. This is less of a problem when viewed on a screen, but many readers (like Trab) print stories out to read, rather than reading them on the screen.

Cole, regarding ?the guy?, and colinean ?(He?s a drug dealer? Nah)? I have two questions: it is intentionally unclear what Bo thinks his work is. I hope, though, it is clear what Todd (and, at this point, I?d expect, the reader) thinks Bo?s work is. Is it? If it is, then does Bo?s use of ?the guy? make it seem like it takes more than just a name for Bo to distinguish one gentleman from another? That was the intent of writing it that way. If I missed, I missed.

I think it is clear what Todd thinks Bo's work is, but as I said in an earlier thread, the use of the phrase "work to be done" sounds like an obligation to do the work, which is not what I would think a hustler would think.

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In the example given, I'm siding with your editor. Sorry, Colin. :icon11: A person does NOT say "I could of". They say "I could've" which sounds like "I could of". The later is an incorrect transcription of what was actually said. However, in this story I would keep the word as written, because, under the circumstances in the story, the character did say something that wasn't a correct word.

You didn't go to my intermediate school or high school or community college! I hear "I could of" with the "could" and "of" clearly separated and not "could've". Maybe it's a colloquialism or regionalism in our neck of the woods, or maybe it's a whole West Coast thing. Whatever. I say if the author wants his characters to have a certain "sound", so be it!

Colin :icon_geek:

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"Could of" is a colloquialism that is heavily used in the South -- including by me. However, I would never, ever, ever, ever, ever use it in print -- not even in quotes.

StormFront's author Ty writes this repeatedly and it drives me nuts. It doesn't even LOOK right.

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Using colloquialisms to color speech patterns is not only acceptable practice, it's a widely used practice by all levels of writers. If you want your dialogue to sound authentic, you should write like people talk. If you write dialogue in perfect English, your characters don't sound real.

"Could of" is extremely common. So are phrases like "try and do something" rather than "try to do something" and "could care less" instead of "couldn't care less." There are hundreds of these. A formal narrative shouldn't contain them, but dialogue and personal thoughts can and, in my mind should, without any problem whatsoever.

Thus speaketh me!<g>

C

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I cringe when I read "could of". I recognize that it is used, but I agree that it should be written as "could've" since that's what is actually being said. It's always a short "could've" and not a long drawn out "could" "of" as two distinct words.

In a sense I feel that authors have a small responsibility to write 'proper' English. Sure, use something like 'try and do something', once, but then next time in the story, try to write it correctly. If every story caters to the incorrect usage, just because a segment of society uses it that way, eventually that way will become the only way, and that is unacceptable to me. "Axe" as opposed to "ask" is enough for me to stop reading a story. It is just too horrible to tolerate.

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Seems to be rather widespread:

Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda

By Shel Silverstein

All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas

Layin' in the sun,

Talkin' 'bout the things

They woulda coulda shoulda done...

But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas

All ran away and hid

From one little Did.

The more interesting (side) issue to have arisen, I think, concerns an editor's influence on matters of style. I'd have to say that if my editor (in the real world) staked out a position like David's did in Kaos, I'd move on in a hurry. I believe, and need, reasonable editorial oversight, and I want them to be thoroughly anal with their concerns, but my "voice" belongs to me and I won't be a bottom to their issues over that.

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