Thursday, August 15, 2013

Day 221 of the 365 Days of Blogging

The author, Dane F. Baylis





You're right, this is one of my pet bitches. Proofreading , and the apparent lack of it, sometimes, can send me into a state bordering on psychotic paroxysm. For another author's take on this dying art, might I suggest you check out this link: Life and Death: Proofreading Your Novel, over at The Kill



Had, simple enough. Right? Three letters that seem to turn up everywhere. There are times when you really want them. But, when you're trying to establish immediacy with your reader, they can definitely get in the way.
For example: "He had swung the axe with all his might!" What's wrong here? Well, nothing. It's a well constructed, descriptive sentence. Except that it's temporally once removed. It places the action just a step into the past. Wouldn't it be more effective to say, "He swung the axe with all his might!"? We've moved the action forward, establishing immediacy and eliminated a word.
In the case where we're trying to establish a series of events, then there's nothing wrong with using past-perfect. "I shook the box and realized someone had beaten me to the contents."  In this way, we have established an exact sequence to actions.
When we're writing from a particular character's point of view, we often use internal dialogue to indicate when they are rethinking past events. This is okay, until it becomes a long, drawn out rehash. This can tend to muddy the waters when it comes to the ease with which your audience can follow you.
You can use the past-perfect early in any recalling of facts or back story. Then switch to the more concise verb usage, eliminating "had" wherever possible. For example, unedited; "He had looked down at the melee from atop the hill. Then he had mounted his horse and had dug in his spurs. He had drawn his sword and had charged headlong at the mob. He had thrown all caution aside!"
Now, how about; "He had looked down at the melee from atop the hill. Then, mounting his horse he dug in his spurs. Drawing his sword, he charged headlong into the mob. He threw all caution aside!"? The first sentence establishes this as a past event. The next three bring it closer to the present and involves the reader more closely with the action.
Three little letters that, when used properly, help to establish timelines, and also, when the excess is trimmed, can propel your tale forward. Over the course of a longer work, such as a novel, this can lead to significant savings in unnecessary words.
Just a helpful hint from your Uncle Dane.
Dane F. Baylis

Cute sayings annoy me
"He who dies with the most toys wins?"
Has any one given consideration to
"He who dies with the most toys is still dead?"
Is he
More comfortably dead?
Feeding a higher class of worms dead?
Bones bleached whiter dead?

Better dead than
A Skid Row wino
Lying beneath weeds
In a nameless potter's field dead?
Perhaps you're just survived by
Other "Most Toys" boys,
Sweating how long
They'll have
To enjoy the most toys
Left behind?
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------, love, write.
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Dane F. Baylis

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