Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tip for April 29, 2010; The Terrible 'Was', and the Prepositional Ending

This post is mostly all about the 'was' and how to get rid of it. I'll tell you about the prepositions in a minute.

I was editing along today on my novel (the first one), when I suddenly spotted 'was'. Seven times... In my prologue alone. As you might imagine, I was horrified. How had the Wases infiltrated my precious refuge?

It's easy to use them. In fact, I used it unknowingly just a few seconds ago. See? 'I was horrified'. It even infiltrates the blog!

I took out the sword of 'delete', and struck at the enemy. To my astonishment, it showed up in the improved sentence. Here's how it happened;

The sentence, 'His plan was in effect, and there would soon be no one able to stop him.' was the one I was trying to fix. The typical doom and destruction from a villain. Anyway, I tried changing it to this; 'His plan was now being put into action, and there would be no one to stop him.' I sat back, pleased. Until I spotted the 'was' again. How did that get in there? So I changed it. ' His plans would soon be fufilled, and then there would be no one to stop him from acheiving his goal; the throne.'

Not only did I defeat the Was, but I also added clarity to the sentence. And it sounds much more sinister.

I proceeded to destroy five other Wases in quick succession. But then I came to one sentence that stumped me and left me frustrated and speechless.

'The night watchman was asleep by a table, a drugged ale by his hand, oblivious that a terrible thing was about to happen.' In all respects, it sounded fine. But it was 'showing'. You know the writing phrase; "Show, don't tell." When I use Was, it's telling. I need to 'show'.

Back to the sentence. I couldn't think of anything to replace it. I toyed with 'The night watchman was oblivious to the terrible thing about to happen; he was asleep, with a drugged ale in his hand.', but it used Was again.

Finally, I managed rewrote the entire paragraph, turning it into the following;

"They reached the palace doors, and the man noiselessly let the in others. The night watchman lay fast asleep at the small table, a drugged ale by his hand. His face rested on the rough wood, his eyes closed, oblivious to the terrible thing about to happen."

Wonderful. And it 'shows' a little better.

Anyway, to the prepositions.

One of the common mistakes in writing is ending in a preposition; in, of, to, before, etc.

'He let the men in.'

It's really quite simple to solve, though. Simply take the preposition, and put it in somewhere else.

'He let in the men.'

One of the reasons I posted on prepositions is that I first learned of this mistake through one of Donita K. Paul's books; The Vanishing Sculptor.

Wizard Fenworth was arguing with Librettowit (again), and Librettowit ended in a preposition on one of his sentences. Of course, Fenworth had to correct him... Anyway, that was rather random. :)

If you haven't voted on the 'What should I post next?' poll, please do. There's a three way tie going on, and I need someone to break it. :D

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