Monday, September 2, 2013

ON WRITING: Nothing is "Caused". It Should Just Happen

Okay, pet peeve time.

There's a book in my library that is a great little historical romance, generally well-written and compelling.

However, it is peppered with the characters (and inanimate objects around them) being "caused" to do things.


""Indeed," he said, giving the seat a push, causing it to sway gently back and forth."

"...the fellow looked a little familiar, causing him to wonder if perhaps they had met before..."

Seems harmless, I know, but can I plead with you, dear author friend, to avoid this phrasing at all costs? Not only is it "wordy" (requiring more words than necessary), but it's also passive. It separates the reader from the action by describing what's happening, rather than showing it.

The above examples could easily be wittled down:

""Indeed," he said, pushing the seat. It swayed gently."

"...the fellow looked familiar. Had they met before?"

This isn't the only kind of phrasing with these issues, but it's one that I find particularly irritating, so it's the one I'm highlighting for you today.

Working on this has reminded me that it's almost time to take my final manuscript through the last stages of self-editing (to make sure it's as tight and free of over-used phrases as possible). So over the next few weeks I'm reprising the self-editing series. Tune in for more tips and tricks on tightening your manuscript!

Your Turn: Is there a phrase or word that irritates you when you read it? What is it? How would you fix it?


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