Thursday, June 28, 2012

Constructive Sentence Traps

As he stepped through the front door, he wondered if he was doing the right thing. OR: Stepping through the front door, he wondered if he was doing the right thing.

I still get caught in AS, ING construction traps, especially in first drafts. And then I hope to notice them myself or rely on my trusty CP's to point them out. :D

There is nothing wrong with either sentence per se, but they can definitely be written stronger. Both of these sentences take a bit of action and tuck it into a dependent clause, which weakens your writing. It makes the action seem once removed.

Instead: He stepped through the front door. Was he doing the right thing? Or: He stepped through the front door. He hoped against hope he was doing the right thing.

According to the book, SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS, by Renni Brown and Dave King, moving away from those legitimate constructions will make your writing stronger and more sophisticated.

Here's another example the book uses:

Ripping off several large, dripping hunks of burrito, she pulled up a chair to the kitchen table and took a large bite (is all of that even possible to do, together?). As she chewed, she wondered who she was maddest at. Clark, she decided.


She pulled up a chair to the kitchen table and took a large bite of the burrito she'd found behind the milk and orange juice bottles (better details take the place of the weak construction). Who was she maddest at? Probably Clark.

Do you get caught in these traps?


Stina said...

I TRY to catch them, but I do get caught in them. Great examples, Christina.

Jaime Morrow said...

Guilty as charged. O_O I think I need to spend a little one-on-one time with my WiP and weed out the As and -ing problem. Thanks for the reminder! :)

Colene Murphy said...

I am terrible about as/ing-ing! This is great. Need to keep it in mind more on those first drafts so I don't have so much to fix. Thanks!

Christina Lee said...

Me too, Jaime, me TOO! :D

storyqueen said...

Aaauuuggghhh! Makes my brain hurt. There are some times that I will construct a sentence and then read it later, thinking, "What?"

(Much like that sentence I just wrote.)

The best was to write a sentence is the way that leaves you IN the story instead of taking you out of it.

Great post!


Meredith said...

Yep, I definitely do this all the time. I need to go look at my WiP now... :)

Matthew MacNish said...

I suffer from this big time. Both my eye and ear tend to prefer long sentences, but it's true, the writing is often more vivid with shorter, clearer ones.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Yes I do get caught in these. Thanks for the examples and sharing how to fix them.

Kelly Polark said...

I'm revising tonight, so I am going to look for these suckers!

Misha Gerrick said...

Yeah I'm definitely going to have to go through my WiP one more time only to root those sentences out.

One of my CP repeatedly points them out, but I'm not sure if she caught them all. :-)

DL Hammons said...

Yep....been there, written that! :(

nutschell said...

i definitely do get caught in these traps. My first drafts are peppered with them, but come revision time, I try to weed my manuscript of these constructions:)

Lourie said...

Oh I bet I do! Without a doubt!