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Characterization, dialogue, Romance, Uncategorized

Dialogue: Show and Tell

The other day I was thinking about how different a scene can be depending on how the dialogue is written. Not just the lines themselves, but the tags, the action, the tone and gestures. So I asked my author- sister, Annette Larsen, to play with some scenes from her books to demonstrate. She’s taken a couple scenes from her books and changed them up to show the difference between neutral or nonexistent tags, telling, and showing. I think they are a fantastic demonstration of the huge difference some good showing can make.

Example 1: Raina and West (From Painting Rain)

1: Dialogue with neutral tags.

“Who do you cry for?” he asked.

“You know how selfish I am. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I cry for myself,” I responded.

“I don’t believe that’s selfish.”

“You should,” I said.

“Are you ever angry with him?” he asked.

“More often than I ought.”

“Good. Because it makes me angry to see him still hurting you,” he said.

“I carry plenty of the blame,” I replied.

“More than you should. Why did you paint yourself facing the darkness?”

“Because—” I said.  “I fear I’ll never be able to escape it fully.”

“Did it help to paint it?” he asked.

“It helps to know how I see myself.”

Notice how, emotionally, this scene went way too fast and felt pretty flat. It almost doesn’t make any sense, and as readers we might find ourselves confused, disinterested, or annoyed.
2: Dialogue with “telling” descriptions instead of showing.

He wiped my tears away. “Who do you cry for?”

“You know how selfish I am,” I said in a whisper. “So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I cry for myself.”

“I don’t believe that’s selfish.”

“You should,” I insisted, feeling guilty.

He studied my face. “Are you ever angry with him?”

I knew who he referred to and it caused more tears to come to my eyes. “More often than I ought.”

His jaw clenched in anger, then he nodded.  “Good. Because it makes me angry to see him still hurting you.”

“I carry plenty of the blame.”

“More than you should.”

I wanted to disagree, but his insistence made me emotional and I couldn’t talk.

“Why did you paint yourself facing the darkness?” he inquired.

I shrugged. “Because—” Suddenly I knew the answer— “I fear I’ll never be able to escape it fully.”

“Did it help to paint it?”

I looked at the canvas, the way I had painted myself to look desperate and alone. “It helps to know how I see myself.”

I have read far too many books that actually sound a lot like this. It barely scratches the surface of what’s going on emotionally. Maybe the writer knows what’s going on, but if they don’t show us, we can’t feel fully involved and invested.
3: Dialogue with “showing” description (in other words, done right.)

He reached up, brushing his thumb over the tear there. “Who do you cry for?”

“You know how selfish I am.” My voice came as a bare whisper. “So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I cry for myself.”

“I don’t believe that’s selfish.”

“You should.” I didn’t know why I said it. Perhaps I was hoping to scare him away and regain my solitude. Perhaps I hoped that he would condemn me in the same way I condemned myself.

His eyes dove into mine, searching for something. Finally he spoke, his question bold. “Are you ever angry with him?”

I didn’t have to ask to whom he referred. Several more tears streaked down my face. “More often than I ought.”

He clenched his jaw, but nodded his head. “Good. Because it makes me angry to see him still hurting you.”

“I carry plenty of the blame.”

“More than you should.”

I wanted to argue with him, but his insistence made a different sort of emotion well up to clog my throat.

“Why did you paint yourself facing the darkness?”

I shook my head, lifting my shoulders. “Because—” The answer hit me with sudden clarity— “I fear I’ll never be able to escape it fully.”

“Did it help to paint it?”

I stared past him, at the way my hand grasped for the light while a branch snagged my skirt, holding me back. “It helps to know how I see myself.”

This is the scene as it’s written in the book. The subtle additions make a huge difference: his thumb on her cheek, her voice a bare whisper, his clenched jaw, plus her reactions, internalization of emotions and thought process all lead us through the scene and help us experience it as readers.

 

Example 2: Lylin and Rhys (From Missing Lily)

1: Dialogue with neutral tags.

“You were dishonest,” he said.

“Yes, I was,” I replied. “I wanted to have an enjoyable afternoon, and he offered to teach me and seemed eager to do it, so, yes. I let him. What does it matter?”

“It was a side of you I hadn’t seen before,” he said.

“You don’t know everything about me,” I stated.

“Believe me, Lylin. That I know.”

“I have not given you permission to use my name,” I said.

“But I could call you Lily? And carry you to your room? And tend to your injured forehead? And lie down to gaze at the stars together? And—”

“You know that was different!” I shouted.

“Yes, I do know,” he replied.

The dialogue in this one is strong enough that it doesn’t suffer quite as much as the first example did from the missing descriptions. But as it’s written, it’s just an argument, and the only emotion that really comes through is anger or annoyance.
2: Dialogue with “telling” descriptions instead of showing.

He looked at me with disapproval. “You were dishonest.”

“Yes, I was,” I said defiantly. “I wanted to have an enjoyable afternoon, and he offered to teach me and seemed eager to do it, so, yes. I let him. What does it matter?”

“It was a side of you I hadn’t seen before,” he said meanly.

“You don’t know everything about me,” I whispered, hurt.

“Believe me, Lylin. That I know.”

His words surprised me. “I have not given you permission to use my name.”

He took an intimidating step forward. “But I could call you Lily? And carry you to your room? And tend to your injured forehead? And lie down to gaze at the stars together? And—”

“You know that was different!” I interrupted, embarrassed by the reminder.

He let out a defeated sigh. “Yes, I do know.”

I actually think this one is worse than the first one. The inane tags and descriptions actually detract from the scene rather than adding to it (I think she threw “meanly” in there for a laugh). It feels like someone very…young wrote this scene.
3: Dialogue and description done right.

The disapproving glint was back in his eye. “You were dishonest.”

“Yes, I was.” I threw my hands up. “I wanted to have an enjoyable afternoon, and he offered to teach me and seemed eager to do it, so, yes. I let him. What does it matter?”

“It was a side of you I hadn’t seen before.” He spoke quietly, his words slicing into me.

“You don’t know everything about me,” I stated in a vicious whisper.

“Believe me, Lylin. That I know.”

My eyebrows shot up. “I have not given you permission to use my name.”

He moved almost imperceptibly closer. “But I could call you Lily? And carry you to your room? And tend to your injured forehead? And lie down to gaze at the stars together? And—”

“You know that was different!” I shouted to make him stop, stumbling back a step.

He sighed, the fight gone out of him. “Yes, I do know.” He took a step back.

Notice in this one that she has used almost no adjectives or adverbs to describe the characters or their lines, but we feel a whole lot more emotion than we did in the first two. Now, I’m not one of those people who say you should never use adverbs, but if you can imagine those minute, often subtle details and then show it using specific descriptors–as she has here, with characters throwing their hands up, speaking quietly, whispering viciously, and stumbling back a step, it will feel so much more genuine and emotive.

Annette K. Larsen has been writing clean romance for over ten years and is the author of the Books of Dalthia series, all of which can be found on Amazon. 

Characterization, Romance, Uncategorized

Romance 202

A few years ago, my romance-writing author-sister wrote a couple of amazing spoofs on bad romance writing. She filled them with in-your-face clichés, cheesy wording, and melodrama. Let’s talk about a few ways to avoid turning your tender romance into a ridiculous comedy.  Read Annette’s post here for a good laugh or to see what to avoid.

Nuance

In the spirit of not hitting readers over the head with romance, please try to avoid the following phrases and any variations thereof:

  • the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen
  • an instant connection
  • an undeniably strong pull
  • they didn’t have to fill every moment with conversation
  • gazed lovingly
  • his voice full of love
  • awakened every nerve
  • perfect for each other (or perfect in every way)
  • never wanted this night to end
  • would do anything for her/him

In their place, may I suggest that you take a moment to close your eyes and feel what it’s really like to fall in love? Try to experience the physical and emotional sensations of looking at that person and feeling that pull, and describe what it’s like rather than just saying it. Showing instead of telling. What would it look like in a movie? If you weren’t allowed to tell us how they’re feeling, how would you show us?

Love Languages

Have you read about the five love languages? If you haven’t look it up. Gary Chapman. It’s so interesting and could give you a lot to think about in terms of romance. Basically, we all demonstrate love and receive love in different ways. When we’re falling in love, we often speak all these love languages or focus in on the one that your partner responds most to (sometimes once we’ve been together a long time we fall into our pattern of showing love using our own love language instead of our partner’s, which doesn’t translate well and causes problems. Kind of a tangent, sorry).

These languages are: Gifts; Acts of Service; Physical Touch; Quality Time; and Words of Affirmation. You might decide what languages your characters are going to speak. You might want to balance several of them. You might consider what your language is and be sure you don’t rely too heavily on just that. Different readers will enjoy reading about different expressions of love.

For example, physical touch and gifts are my two lowest love languages. So when I read too much touching early on in a relationship or if they’re always kissing, I don’t feel like it’s a deep connection. There’s not much emotion involved for me when I read about physical affection unless they’ve already spent time building their connection in other ways, like spending time together and sharing confidences and building trust.

I recently read a manuscript in which two characters who were getting to know each other started exchanging gifts. While I don’t know that I would feel especially drawn to a guy who sent me a bunch of stuff, I found it to be original and refreshing, a different way of expressing interest than I’ve often read about.

May I also take a moment to say that Being Hot is not a love language. Please don’t spend too much time describing just how breathtakingly handsome, hot, beautiful, gorgeous, or sexy someone is. Sure, mention it in context or as a first impression, but I beg you to be realistic and not to put too much emphasis on it. Avoid clichés like “flawless porcelain skin, narrow waist, and long flowing” for women or “a rugged face, strong jaw, and broad shoulders tapered to a narrow waist” for men. Personally, I’d love authors to also steer clear of ogling in general—admiring fabric clinging to muscles or curves, appreciating the way someone’s hips move, etc., but that might be too much to ask.

Sacrifice

One of the deepest expressions of love, if not the deepest, is sacrifice. I can’t say for sure if I would call this a requirement for romance, but almost any sacrifice, big or small, for the one you love will add a noble and compelling aspect to a romance. (I say “almost” because we don’t want to venture into that unhealthy realm of “I’d catch a grenade for ya…but you won’t do the same for me” à la Bruno Mars {unless you’re portraying an abusive, neglectful, or otherwise unhealthy relationship, in which case this post isn’t for you anyway}.)

And when I talk about sacrifice, I’m talking about anything that a character gives up to put their love first. A job or a raise, a lesser relationship, comfort, approval, time. Consider asking yourself what each will give up for the other, but again, don’t draw unnecessary attention to it. It’s one thing for the benefited character to show appreciation or awe in action, dialogue, or internal thoughts (“Are you sure? After all this work you’ve put into it?”), but another to point it out to the reader. (“He wanted to make this sacrifice for her, and he knew it would be worth it, even though it meant so much to him.”) One of those respects the reader; the other patronizes them.

As always, in the world of writing, once you know the rules, sometimes it works to break them. Knowing when that’s the right thing to do is a matter of style, intuition, and experience rather than a matter of hard-and-fast rules. But maybe start with the rules (and these opinions of mine which I have so brazenly set forth as rules) and see where they take you.

Characterization, dialogue, Narrative Voice, Romance, Uncategorized

Romance 101

What makes a good romance? Why do some romances seem so cheesy while others pull you in and give you butterflies and goose bumps and ALL the feels? How do you find that balance between realistic and deliciously perfect? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I’ve edited and read for fun and done some writing of my own, so I thought I’d share some thoughts (and hope they come out making sense).

First of all: In romance, possibly more than in any other genre, the mantra “show, don’t tell” is crucial. Romance is all about feelings, and feelings only feel genuine if we are allowed to absorb them and experience them. Telling me someone is sad is not nearly as effective as showing me someone curled up in their bed sobbing, her chest aching and throat exhausted from crying as her mind replays memories of the time she had with him. So in all of the following suggestions, you’ll see the common thread of showing instead of telling.

Obstacles = Tension

What is the obstacle keeping your characters from being able to fall in love or be together? This, in my opinion, is the most important element of a romance. It can be external–outside forces keeping them from being together–or internal–causing turmoil about whether they should let themselves fall in love. And there can be more than one obstacle.

If your book is primarily a romance—if that’s the most important part of the book—then it should take the ENTIRE book for your couple to overcome all of their obstacles. If they’re happily together by the middle of the book, the romance element is over. It’s not super fun to read about two people who are wildly in love. It’s fantastic to read about them falling in love and experiencing the tension that comes with the obstacle, but once they’ve come to an agreement—either declared their love, had their first kiss, or gotten married, depending on the type of romance you’re writing—then romance readers are satisfied and won’t be driven to keep reading. If there are no more obstacles to their romance, you’re no longer writing a romance, so it better actually be a book about good versus evil or magic or a kidnapping or spies or terminal illness or major family secrets or something.

So what might these obstacles be? There are so many options, and you can make just about anything work with the right balance and character development. Some examples:

External Obstacles

  • Family rivalry (à la Romeo and Juliet)
  • Social status/inequality or other inherent differences (rich and poor; race difference; religion difference)
  • Situational taboo (war enemies; competing businesses or teams; prior or current relationships)
  • Age issues (too young or too far apart)
  • Illness
  • Fantasy world obstacles (different species; a curse; a prophecy)
  • Distance
  • Bad guys
  • Zombies, armageddon…

Internal Obstacles

  • Bad first impression: think Pride and Prejudice. Make sure not to make it unforgivable.
  • Competing personalities
  • Insecurities: use EXTREME caution. Nobody wants to read pages of “poor me” or “I’m not good enough for him/her.”
  • Misunderstandings: again, use caution. Don’t make your readers want to hurl the book at a wall because the characters won’t just spit it out or have a conversation. And don’t use the old “Oh, I was about to tell you five times but got interrupted every time” tactic.
  • Past trauma: How do emotional scars inhibit a character’s willingness or ability to be vulnerable or let love in?
  • Broken trust or suspicions
  • Secrets and lies: another one to use with care. Don’t make readers hate your love interests. They’d better have a darn good reason for keeping secrets or telling lies. And they’d better pay the price for it.
  • Fears: of marriage; of commitment; of the kind of bad relationship their parents had. This could tie in with past trauma.
  • Loyalty: she’s in love with her sister’s intended or he’s falling for the girl who ruined his best friend’s life. This would be more like an intersection of internal external conflict.
  • Love triangle: it gets a bad rap, so make sure it’s believable and serves a purpose.

The point of any of these obstacles is to create romantic tension. The internal struggle; the forbidden fruit; the impossible decisions; the seemingly insurmountable odds. By the time we reach the climax, the reader should be invested—stressed out, curious, nervous, wondering how these characters can possible overcome this impossible situation. Will they make a sacrifice? Will they defy society? Will they convince everyone to let them be together? Will they run off? Will they finally forgive each other?

Once they overcome their obstacle(s) and are free to be together and happy, you only need a scene or two after that to wrap everything up. After all that work, we want to see the couple happy and together and carefree. But we don’t need much of that. Once we’re satisfied and the questions are answered, we don’t have the driving curiosity to keep reading. So get them to that happy place and wrap it up.

Details and Description

Respect your readers. Give them the benefit of the doubt by not stating the obvious. Don’t skip over the new relationship and the tension-filled encounters by simply telling us that they happened; let readers experience the moments instead of summarizing them. I don’t want to read “They had a great time at dinner, full of conversation as well as comfortable silences. The chemistry was palpable.” I want to actually read and experience the chemistry, listen in on the conversations, hear their tone of voice, see their facial expressions, and take in the implied meanings.

So give readers those details. What is she doing with her hands? Does his voice lower or crack? Does she keep nervously tucking her hair behind her ear? Do their eyes meet, or is there avoidance happening? What kind of back-and-forth game do they play? Is one pursuing the other or is it mutual? Show us how they hold back as well as what they choose to share. Use your empathy, your observation skills, and your emotional memory to create a realistic moment that evokes emotion without shouting it from the rooftops.

Read more about this kind of detail in “Give Me a Beat” or “Humans First, Please.”

Complementary Characters

One of the jobs of any love interest is to provide what’s missing in a character’s life. They should complete one another with a balance of shared interests and opposing traits that together make them more whole.

An uptight gal could use a laid-back guy. A studious guy could use an adventurous girl. Someone who came from a broken family could benefit from a relationship with someone whose family is awesome. But you don’t need to point any of that out for us. Just make it happen.

So do your character studies. Write their backstories. Give them flaws and balance them with the right love interest. Let your couples learn from one another and rub off on each other. Show us (remember, don’t necessarily tell us) why they need each other. Charm us with their easy banter, but don’t tell us that they’re charming or that their banter is easy. Allow them to comfort and lift each other up in hard times, but don’t say “She loved how he could always comfort and lift her up in hard times.”

So much of this goes back to respecting your readers and allowing them to absorb, make inferences, and experience the story as closely to first-hand as possible. Remember that your readers are smart, and allow them to come along for the ride instead of telling them about it later.

{I find that I have far too much to say on this topic than most people want to read in one blog post, so I’ll end for now and leave you hungry for Romance 202. In the meantime, feel free to peruse my other blog posts, such as “What’s My Motivation (for reading your book)?” or “Don’t MAKE Me Throw This Book Across the Room.”}

Grammar, Uncategorized

English is Weird! {Episode 1}

Pop quiz: Which of the following sentences is grammatically correct?

  • My sister Cherise lives in Texas.
  • My brother, Eric, lives in New York.

Commas or no commas? (Hint: This is totally a trick question if you don’t know my family. Or if you don’t know the weird rules about appositives.)

The answer: they are BOTH correct. Because I have one brother and five sisters.

And how about these—hyphen or no hyphen?

  • She had on a pair of ripped-up jeans.
  • Her jeans were all ripped up.

Also both correct. Because compound adjectives are usually hyphenated before nouns but not after.

Weird, right? English is so weird!

question-2309042_1920

Why is it so weird, you ask? Well, I’m no linguist, but from what I remember of my college English classes (and the fascinating book The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got that way by Bill Bryson), it has something to do with the fact that English is a Germanic language that got “French Fried” as a result of some invasion in 1066. Possibly it had to do with William the Conqueror. Or Charles Martel. And the Franks/Gauls/Angles/Saxons/Celts history, before the big 1066 invasion by the Normans. But anyway, being a Germanic language with influences from like 60 different languages (I may be exaggerating), its spelling is ridiculous and it tries to follow both Germanic and Latin sets of rules, like a poor little confused poodle with at least two masters.

Don’t quote me on any of that. I’m useless with history.

Anyway, back to the number of siblings I have affecting my comma usage.

Appositives

An appositive is a word or phrase that renames a noun. When it’s necessary, it doesn’t need commas around it. When it’s extra information, it does need them. So I can write that my brother lives in New York without adding his name to clarify, because he’s the only brother I could be talking about. But I can’t just say that my sister lives in Texas. Because my sister lives in Utah. My sister lives in Idaho. Those are also true. (Actually, three of them live in Utah. I just don’t want to be misleading here.) I need to add the name for clarity, so it’s not extra information. No extra information, no extra commas.

So if you’re not sure if you should say “My friend Becky” or “My friend, Becky,” think of the commas as parentheses. They’re kind of saying “In case you didn’t know the name of my friend,” and could be taken to mean she’s the only friend I have, unless we’ve already been talking about my friend and I’m just throwing in her name to clarify. So in general, you’d want to say “My friend Becky will be there,” since you have so many friends there’s no way the reader would know which one you’re talking about otherwise. It’s essential (also called restrictive) information. On the other hand, since I only have one set of parents, I could say “My parents are coming to visit” without saying their names, so if I add them, I need the commas for my nonrestrictive appositive. “My parents, Don and Karen, are coming to visit.” So now you can address them by name. Convenient!

I’m not planning on going into great grammatical detail on this blog, just to give you a general idea for some of the issues that mess up so many of us. So if you want to learn more about appositives—nonrestrictive, restrictive, starting with appositives, etc., go study up and report back to me what you learn.

Compound Adjectives

So how about those ripped-up jeans we were talking about earlier?

As you know, an adjective is a word that describes a noun. A compound adjective is made up of more than one word. Sometimes these compounds are words you can find in the dictionary, like mean-spirited or half-baked. Others are ones you throw together as you’re writing, like a less-than-desirable donut or your mostly-crazy aunt. To avoid possible misreading of these phrases, we add hyphens into compound adjectives when they’re placed before the noun. It could cause confusion to say I didn’t want to eat the less than desirable donut, though it might not for everybody. When we turn it around, though, it’s fine to say that “The donut was less than desirable for my aunt, who was mostly crazy anyway.”

This rule makes sense for me until we get into more complicated examples and exceptions. Telling you about my dirt and stain covered couch could easily be misread the first time, so I add the hyphens: my dirt-and-stain-covered couch. But when I turn it around and tell you my couch is dirt and stain covered, it doesn’t make sense without the hyphens, as it should according to the rule. It sounds like I’m saying my couch is dirt, instead of dirt-covered. In this case, honestly, the best thing to do is reword. I mean, that’s a pretty dorky-sounding sentence, my couch is dirt and stain covered. So if that’s all you’re wanting to say, change it to “My couch is covered in dirt and stains.” If there’s more you want to say about it, use the hyphenated compound adjective and say what you want to say: “I’m finally loading up my dirt-and-stain-covered couch to take it to the dump.”

So those are some of the ways you can deal with this weird English language. Stay tuned for episode 2 of English is Weird, which will deal with me, myself, and I, or possibly apostrophe usage. You just never know what crazy thing I’ll talk about next.

 

dialogue, Grammar, Self Edits, Uncategorized

You Can’t Shrug a Line

One of my favorite lines from Huckleberry Finn is “You can’t pray a lie.”

That doesn’t have much to do with my topic, though I’m sure I could make a good connection if I wanted to. I just like how it goes along with my title, “You can’t shrug a line.”

So. Dialogue tags. In my editing, I see a lot of this:

  • “I don’t know,” I shrugged.
  • “You bet,” he smiled.
  • “Well,” she leaned closer, “we can try.”
  • She giggled, “I’d love to!”

And I’m sorry to say, they’re all wrong. Yes, they seem to make sense when you read them, but none of the verbs used here—shrugged, smiled, or leaned—are ways you can deliver a line. You can’t shrug “I don’t know.” You can shrug before, after, or while you say it, but it’s not how you’re saying the line. Even laughing: though we sometimes laugh while we say something, we don’t actually laugh the words.

So here’s a little grammar tidbit and a trick. Verbs are either transitive or intransitive. That means they either have an object or they don’t. You hit a ball: hit is transitive, and the ball is the object. You scowl: scowl is intransitive, because you don’t scowl something. In dialogue, the spoken lines—the words in quotations—are the object of a transitive verb, such as say, reply, answer, ask, yell, scream, blurt, retort, bellow, whisper, sing, etc.

You can test whether your dialogue tag verb is transitive by asking “What  did they ___?” For example, if you want to use “scream,” What did he scream?  He screamed, “Get out of here!” That definitely works. On the other hand, What did she lean? Uh…no. What did she smile? Well, she probably smiled with her mouth, but she didn’t really smile anything. What did she laugh? I know this one is tempting, because laughing is a vocal thing. But it’s not actually how you say words. It doesn’t make sense to say “This is what she laughed.” Laughing can happen during speaking, but technically you don’t laugh words. (Though you may disagree and choose to use this one anyway.) How about What did he shrug? Well, he probably shrugged his shoulders. So while it is a transitive verb, the object isn’t the dialogue; it’s his shoulders, though that doesn’t have to be stated.

Luckily, there’s an easy fix for this problem. Several possible fixes, in fact.

  1. You can simply split the sentence, adding the action before or after the dialogue with a period instead of a comma: “I don’t know.” I shrugged. Sometimes it works better to put the action first: I shrugged. “I don’t know.” In this example, you could also add a descriptive tag: I shrugged. “I don’t know,” I admitted. (What did I admit? “I don’t know.”)
  2. You can insert “said” with a comma and change the verb to the “-ing” form: “I don’t know,” I said, shrugging.
  3. You can add “with” and change the verb to a noun: “I don’t know,” I said with a shrug.
  4. For interrupted dialogue with action inserted in the middle of a sentence (such as the leaning example above), em dashes are often the best way to go: “Well—” she leaned closer “—we can try.” In this example, it shows that she pauses for a moment to lean forward. You could also use ellipses in place of the em dashes for a more trailing-off effect. If you don’t want the character to actually pause, but want to insert action, the em dashes go outside of the quotation marks: “I know that you’ve”—she blushed—“said things about me.”

While there are plenty of verbs that can be transitive or intransitive that might give you pause and might not have a hard and fast rule (huff, gasp, snarl, growl), hopefully just being able to stop and do this little test on them will help you decide whether or not it’s the way someone can deliver a line.  And luckily, if you’re intent on using them as dialogue tags anyway and call it a style choice, that’s up to you! (she said with a shrug).