Writing Thoughts: The Bus Test

A little while back I wrote an article about gauging the quality of characters in fiction. The article focuses on one simple test I learned from some colleagues called ‘The Bus Test’. Basically, you take a character at any point in a story and hit them with a bus. Then you ask yourself, ‘Do I care that a bus just hit this character?” The method is listed on Urban Dictionary, so it has to be legit.

Writers use the Bus Test to fix characters, readers use it to know when to throw a book away.

Here is an example video for you more visual people:

Gets my point across. This method also works in film, as performed by Brad Pitt in the movie Meet Jo Black.

Do you care that they got hit by a moving vehicle? Would you care if the character you are writing or reading about just got ‘grilled’ by public transportation? If yes, then keep reading or writing. If no, then fix it.

Read the whole article on the Fiction Vortex site here.

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Writing Thought # 1 – The Em Dash

I have joined a writing group that meets every couple of weeks and I hope that this will get me writing more regularly. While most of the meeting is reserved for unholy slaughter–er, I mean ‘critique’, there is actually a little piece at each meeting called the ‘Writing Thought.’ Last meeting it was my turn to enlighten everyone with my vast literary knowledge. I figured that if my group liked it, then a bigger slice of the world might enjoy a taste.

Writing Thought #1

The Em Dash (also known as: M-Dash, long dash, pause dash, and a myriad of other nicknames writers use) The Em dash is a punctuation mark. While similar in appearance to a hyphen, the Em dash is longer and it is used differently. The em dash is used to set off a word or phrase after an independent clause or to set off words, phrases, or clauses that interrupt a sentence.

The Em Dash and its uses:

  • In place of bulky parenthesis
  • To introduce a separate thought within a sentence
  • Is more visually off-setting than a semi-colon and is not as formal as a colon
  • When cutting off dialogue, the em dash is more abrupt and urgent than an ellipsis
  • Is useful to connect two separate sentences where a semi-colon is not applicable

Warning: Do not confuse the hyphen with the em dash. The affect could be unintentionally tragic or tragically hilarious. “I like that semi—colons are applicable for many occasions!”

Example of Use:

I don’t think anyone could focus on anything when Ryan was on a waffle warpath; the amount of energy he put into eating was very distracting and curious— a whole waffle shouldn’t be able to fit in a little kid’s mouth. Somehow, Ryan managed it. Three times.