“Grabbing the ice pick, she plunged it into the vampire.”
“As she plunged the ice pick into the vampire, he squealed in agony.”
What’s wrong with these two sentences? the beginning writer asks. Nothing, really. But experienced writers know to use these sentence constructions sparingly because these phrases act like adjectives and adverbs. They are modifiers to the verb phrase. And while most writers know to prune back the adjectives and adverbs, they are less apt to do so with these dependent clauses. Overuse of these clauses, like overuse of all modifiers, robs your prose of power.
“She grabbed the ice pick and plunged it into the vampire.”
I’m the first to admit this is not scintillating prose, but see how this version keeps the reader with the action. It reads at a faster pace; it has the power of immediacy. Renni Browne and Dave King, in their must-have book “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” calls this ‘sophistication’. Admittedly, the writer can’t have a book loaded with subject, verb, preposition phrases, to read a novel constructed solely of these phrases would be like listening to a dripping faucet. But careful and judicious use of my beloved –ing and as phrases reads more professionally and sets your writing apart from writers who gum up their prose with modifiers. [Read more…]