Today’s Writing Tip

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Watch for mixed metaphors! “Her eyes flew across the room” is a classic example. If this doesn’t conjure up eyeballs springing from someone’s head and soaring across the room, like often seen in cartoons, I don’t know what does. While the reader is likely to know what you mean and may not even catch it, this is one of the things a pro will avoid. Metaphors are great, but need to be constructed with care.

This confusion can also happen with misplaced prepositional phrases. Make sure they’re in the most logical order or they can have a similar effect. I know that my thought process as an author is often not linear, which can cause this to happen. I get quite a few laughs when I start editing.

What works for me is to make sure related phrases are kept close to whatever they describe. If it relates to the character, then make sure it is next to the subject, not trailing along at the end of the sentence. This also serves as another indictment on prepositional phrases, which generally should  be used judiciously and avoided when another literary vehicle will do the job more effectively.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Another way to avoid too many he’s and she’s, at least when you’re in their point of view, is to not say he saw, he heard, he thought, etc. Instead of “He heard the crow of a rooster in the distance, reminding him of his childhood” say “The crow of a rooster in the distance reminded him of his childhood.”

The viewpoint character is the one experiencing the story. Specifying how he perceived something is somewhat redundant. It also nudges the reader out of the story rather than assimilating the character and seeing the story through his or her eyes.

This is another thing to watch for in your final edit. With enough practice, you may be able to shift to this technique in your early drafts, but don’t worry about anything that might interrupt or inhibit your creative flow.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Another way to cover an event that occurred before the story action starts, yet relates to the plot, is to use flashbacks. If its a somewhat long explanation, then a prologue works best. If it can be broken up into several short scenes, then flashbacks can work. Make sure you know how to introduce and then close them out, coming back to the present, by  using past perfect tense.

In other words, to transition to the past, say something like “he’d gone to the movie” (past perfect) as opposed to “he went to the movie” (simple past). After that first sentence, switch to simple past until the flashback is over, then use past perfect again to alert the reader that the story is back in the present. If flashbacks are not introduced and closed properly, it can be very confusing to the reader and cause one of those “WTF moments” you want to avoid. In other words, it will throw them out of the story as they go back to try and figure out when something happened and whether they missed something.

Careful handling of such writing protocols is what labels you a professional versus an amateur.

Today’s Writing Tip

coffee-3047385_1280 copyWatch for mixed metaphors! “Her eyes flew across the room” is a classic example. This can also happen with misplaced prepositional phrases. Make sure they’re in the most logical order or they can have a similar effect. I saw one the other day that said “Wanna Clone Your Dog Like Barbra Streisand?” So, are they suggesting that your dog is like Barbra Streisand? I don’t think so, but it could be read that way. Adding “did” to the end of the sentence fixes it grammatically. Most would know what was meant, but it’s still best to avoid statements which can often be hilarious, but throw your reader out of your story while they have a good laugh.