Listen Carefully

14 Jan

The flu bug hit Bev shortly after Thanksgiving and it is still “bugging” her.  She’s slowly on the mend but she was one miserable human being for awhile there.  I thought I was coming down with it the other day. I started feeling achy but then I went to bed, woke up, and felt fine.

False alarm!  I boast all the time about my ridiculous good health. Thank the gods I didn’t have to eat crow and tell you about getting sick.

“Eat crow” . . . I wonder where that phrase came from?

My dad used to say “that guy’s dumber than a doornail.”  Really?  A doornail?  Who thought that one up?  Is a doornail really stupid?  Are there even nails in a door? I’ve never seen them.


Go have a cup of coffee at some Starbucks and listen to the conversations.  It’s pretty fascinating, really.  We all use the same language basically, we all use pretty much the same  words, and yet each of us speaks in a unique way.

Remember that when you are writing dialogue.  It’s amazing how many writers ignore this basic fact,  and all of their characters sound the same.

A barista I know uses the word “like” all the time, as in “it’s like, I don’t know, really cold outside,” while another one uses the phrase “you know” at the end of almost every sentence.

Go out and listen!  You know I’m correct!


Supposedly we might get snow the second week of January.  It’s kind of a big deal in Western Washington.  It sure doesn’t happen often, although last February we were buried under eighteen inches of the white stuff.  Anyway, snow is inspiring for me. I love to take walks in the snow and just stand still and listen to the silence while it snows.

“Listen to the silence” . . . the sounds of silence . . . totally illogical but a great image.  That’s what writers do. We transform the mundane into the spectacular and beautiful.


Think of a unique phrase, never before heard or written.  You can do it.  You have over twenty-thousand words to play with.  Let’s see what you come up with, shall we?

My dad was also fond of saying “he was busier than a one-armed paperhanger with crabs.” Now there’s a lovely image.  I really would love to meet the guy who thought of that witty phrase. I’ll bet he was an interesting dude.


Only one taker so far on my offer…I can make you a better writer…$50 for a month of unlimited instruction…you can’t beat that with a stick…see, there’s another one of those charming colloquialisms.


Finally, the memoir….end of this week….I promise.

Someone asked me why I wrote a memoir.

It’s simple: I don’t want my life story, and the Holland family story, to be forgotten. I think our story…my story…your story…is important.

Have a brilliant week!


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

30 Responses to “Listen Carefully”

  1. Janine Huldie January 14, 2020 at 3:19 pm #

    Bill, I am so sorry to hear about, bev, but glad she is almost on the mend. I had something nasty after we got back from Disney at the beginning of December. It wasn’t the flu, but man did my throat hurt and I was truly miserable. I thought Strep, but supposedly my doctor said it wasn’t. I did get better, but like Bev it took some time. Here is to hoping we all stay healthy for the rest of this winter now. And hoping you are not buried under too much snow this week. Here is to a great rest of the week, as well now 🙂

    • Billybuc January 14, 2020 at 3:45 pm #

      I’m glad you are feeling better, Janine. Whatever this stuff is, it really did a number on Bev. Spring needs to get her soon.

  2. Shauna L Bowling January 14, 2020 at 5:57 pm #

    I feel so bad for Bev, Bill. That’s an awfully long time to be feeling under the weather. Under the weather? As opposed to over the weather? 🙂

    My mom used to tell me quite often when I was little that I was wigglier than a worm in hot ashes. Now that one actually makes sense!

    Have a great week, Bill. Send my best to Bev.

    • Billybuc January 14, 2020 at 6:04 pm #

      I will do that, Sha! Thank you! She is quite frustrated right now. The only good to come of it is her promise to get a flu shot from now on. 🙂 Love the worm in hot ashes…that is definitely descriptive.


  3. explorereikiworld January 14, 2020 at 6:04 pm #

    While I wish Bev speedy recovery, I am glad you are clear of this bug 😛

    I agree every individual has a unique way to just talk about the weather for instance. Good pointer to sketch our unique characters for a novel 🙂

    Good luck with your memoir. Will give it a read 🙂

    Gonna be on the look out for ‘silly’ phrases 😉

    • Billybuc January 15, 2020 at 3:09 pm #

      Thanks for everything, my friend. Bev is feeling much better, and the memoir comes out Friday.

  4. Lawrence Hebb January 14, 2020 at 6:47 pm #

    Too many stories get forgotten, good on you for writing yours down.
    I loved the mental picture your dad’s ‘one-liners’ gave me, by the way doors have nails, but they’re under the veneer, they hold the frame of the door together! We Brits use the expression ‘dead as a doornail’!
    I actually came out with an expression the other day that I thought was common but my workmates had never heard it.
    “Man may be head of the house, but woman is the neck that turns the head!”
    Great for post.

    • Billybuc January 15, 2020 at 3:09 pm #

      Lawrence, I’ll be laughing about the woman/neck line all day long. Thanks for that chuckle, my friend.

  5. nightlake January 15, 2020 at 3:48 am #

    It is true that people talk differently and authors make everyone sound the same:) The idea, ‘sound of silence’ is inspiring. Reminded of this haiku by Jay Friedenberg

    empty house–
    the silence of snow
    falling on snow


    • Billybuc January 15, 2020 at 2:59 pm #

      I love that, Nightlake…the silence of snow falling on snow…simple beauty!

  6. Irina Dimitric January 15, 2020 at 10:47 am #

    Oh the silence of the snow…. happy memories! I must go back to my memoir. Like you, Bill, I don’t want to forget. Thanks for this post… I’ll try to think of a unique phrase.

    • Billybuc January 15, 2020 at 2:52 pm #

      Thank you for the visit, Irina. I’ll be by to visit you soon.

  7. phoenix2327 January 15, 2020 at 12:13 pm #

    The flu is harder on people with asthma. It can take weeks, sometimes months to get back to normal. Glad to hear she’s on the mend and lucky you for not falling prey to it.

    “He was busier than a one-armed paperhanger with crabs.” Not sure lovely is a word I would use for this (eewww would be better) but it’s certainly an image. One that is now burned into my mind and I may require a course of electroshock therapy to remove it. Thanks for that, Bill. lol

    Waiting patiently for your memoirs. Can’t wait to get stuck in.

    Have a great day, Bill.

    Have a great day, Bill

    • Billybuc January 15, 2020 at 2:50 pm #

      Thank you Zulma! Bev is having her best day today in over a month. Let’s hope it is gone from her system and not just waiting patiently to pounce again.

      You don’t like that saying? LOL

      Friday release of the memoirs…thank you for being patient. 🙂

      Happy Wednesday my friend!

  8. manatita Hutchinson January 15, 2020 at 1:06 pm #

    You’re ‘walking with the dawn’, Bro: Fresh, ever anew, vibrant …impactful, full of light and wisdom … ever-creative and ‘flowing with the rays of sunrise.’ Ha ha. Just made a spontaneous start. Love.

    • Billybuc January 15, 2020 at 2:46 pm #

      Love always my friend….the dawn is almost here this morning

  9. manatita Hutchinson January 15, 2020 at 1:08 pm #

    Get well, Bev. – Manatita

  10. divalounger January 15, 2020 at 5:56 pm #

    I hope Bev feels back to snuff soon. This flu is bad. I have been thinking about taking a draft of a novel back out for some revision. Poetry and prose seem like different universes to me. But I have been thinking about that draft a bunch lately. If I do rework it would you be willing to help me?

    • Billybuc January 15, 2020 at 6:07 pm #

      I would be very happy to help you, Audrey! Just say the word when you’re ready. Thanks for thinking of me and having faith in me.

      • Audrey M Howitt January 16, 2020 at 6:55 pm #

        I will let you know –I am often full of good ideas that never see the light of day–but I have been thinking about this for a while now —

      • Billybuc January 17, 2020 at 2:50 pm #

        I’m here if you need me, Audrey!

  11. phoenix2327 January 16, 2020 at 2:24 pm #

    Hey, Bill, I just remembered something. A couple of years ago, I attended a gaming show with my kids. I stopped in at a workshop for voice actors and learned a lot about dialogue. The actors didn’t just discuss how a character should sound but also how they should deliver their lines. Would the character jump straight in with an answer or talk in circles eventually arriving at an answer? Would they say ‘um and uh’ during their response or would the answer with certainty? It was enlightening and I learned quite a bit about another branch of acting I was only mildly aware of.

    Have a good weekend, Bill.

    • Billybuc January 16, 2020 at 2:37 pm #

      Great info, Zulma! Very valuable, me thinks, for a writer as well. I try to do that with my Shadow characters, but I still need the reminder and the practice. Thanks a bunch, my friend, and Happy Thursday to you.

  12. Lori Colbo January 16, 2020 at 8:18 pm #

    Poor Bev. I hope by now she’s all better. My dad and sister used to do this little back and forth thing:

    Dad: Chris, you’re a card.
    Chris: I don’t go in a box.
    I always thought “how can a person be like a card and since when do cards go in a box. As far as I knew, they went into envelopes. Now I wonder if he meant a playing card not a greeting card. Never did figure it out.

    My mom used to say “It’s colder than a witches ti**y in a tin bra.” Later I added, “in the Yukon.” But how did it come about that my mother, or whoever made up that saying, know that witches have cold breasts?
    These are the deep questions of life.

    • Billybuc January 17, 2020 at 2:49 pm #

      They truly are, Lori, questions we may never answer. lol My dad said that about the card…then he would say I’m the joker!

  13. phoenix2327 January 17, 2020 at 9:42 am #

    Oh, I finally got one, Bill. “It’s cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.” Back in the day iron cannonballs were placed in holders called brass monkeys. When it got very cold, the brass would contract causing the cannonballs to fall out.

    It was one of the first sayings I heard when I first arrived in England. After 30 years I still find this amusing.

    Wishing you and Bev a wonderful weekend.

    PS Any snow yet?

    • Billybuc January 17, 2020 at 2:42 pm #

      I’ve always loved that saying, Zulma, but I didn’t know what it meant until now. Hooray! Two inches of snow but all gone now. Fifty miles north they got 21 inches. We got lucky!

      Have a brilliant weekend, my friend.

      • phoenix2327 January 19, 2020 at 11:06 am #

        21!!! Wow. The deepest snow I’ve ever walked in was 10 inches. I must seem like a total amateur by

      • Billybuc January 19, 2020 at 3:23 pm #

        It is a rarity around here for sure, Zulma! Last year we got 18 inches in February in Olympia. The city shut down for a week.

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