Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Writing tips "by zombies"

If you're a writer you probably have several --if not dozens-- of notebooks lying around. I do. Some have specific purposes and others are filled with all kinds of notes, writing exercises, and doodles. One of them has the date of my next dentist appointment scribbled in the top corner of a page, unfortunately I can't remember which one. 

But I have one notebook that I keep separate from the others. It has a hard cover with a butterfly on it. This is where I keep writing related tips. It has definitions and examples of common terms, punctuation, grammatical rules, sentence structure, and often misused words.

I've decided to share some of my notes with you. Maybe you'll find something helpful.

  • Expository: adj. intended to explain or describe something.

Using exposition instead of observable dramatic action is "telling versus showing."


Melinda and Kelly had been best friends since the first grade. They were closer than sisters and shared everything.
Observable dramatic action
Kelly plucked a handful of french fries off Melinda's lunch tray. "My brown boots would look great with your new skinny jeans. You should wear them to the dance Friday."

  • Don't use passive voice!

Passive voice is when you place the object being acted upon before the initiator of the action, or make the initiator unclear.
For example "The car was hit" rather than "Jason hit the car."

Here's a helpful trick: If you can insert the phrase "by zombies" after the verb and the sentence still makes sense, then you've used passive voice.

The tree was struck by zombies.
Lightning struck the tree.

The second sentence is active.

  • Dependent clause

A dependent clause cannot stand alone as a sentence [dependent clause comma independent clause].

For example: While she was asleep, the dog ate her homework.

A dependent clause with "ing" verb implies simultaneous action. You should limit the number of these on one page.

For example: Pressing his lips together, he hesitated.

  •  Split infinitive

A split infinitive is when you put an adverb between "to" and a verb.
For example "to generously sprinkle" or "to boldly go."

Instead of

You have to really watch him.
You have to watch him closely.

  • Avoid waffling words

Words that don't add meaning and can usually be eliminated: actually, basically, quite, definitely, really, truly, ultimately, very

  • Avoid filter words

Filter words distance the reader for the point of view of the character. Words like: saw, heard, felt, knew, watched, decided, noticed, realized, wondered, thought, looked.

Instead of

Melinda knew she had to get out of there.
Melinda had to get out of there. (Or) She had to get out of there.
  • Don't use 20 words when 5 will do
I don't think I need to explain the last one. 

That's it for today. I hope my notes made sense and maybe helped you out a little bit. Next time maybe we'll tackle adverbs.

Disclaimer: Even though I may be familiar with the above rules, I'm sure I haven broken most of them at one time or another -- probably even in this post.

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