Sunday, April 26, 2015

He got mojo filter

Look at this sentence:

She noticed John waving furiously to get her attention.

As the novelist and teacher John Gardner tells us, new writers often fail “to run straight at the image.” In other words, they filter imagery needlessly through some observing consciousness. That’s what is happening in this sentence.

Gardner says:

Generally speaking, vividness urges that almost every occurrence of such phrases as ‘she noticed’ and ‘he saw’ be suppressed in favor of direct presentation of the thing seen.

To avoid filtering the image (what she saw—the act of John’s waving) in the example sentence, change it to read:

John waved furiously to get her attention.

In context, the reader knows that the point-of-view (POV ) character (the woman) sees John waving. You don’t have to tell the reader that she is seeing him waving at her.

Another example:

He saw two dogs fighting over a bone.

Change this to:

Two dogs fought over a bone.

In other words, let your POV character filter emotions and information for the reader, but present the sensory details directly. Search for and rewrite sentences in your text that include phrases such as she noticed, he saw, she could see, she could hear, etc.

Paul Thayer
Your book editor

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Using a comma with an adverbial clause

A comma is required before or after an adverbial clause, depending on whether it begins or ends a sentence, and if it functions as a nonrestrictive clause. A nonrestrictive clause is not essential for the reader to understand the full meaning of the word or words that it modifies. It simply adds more information, describing but not limiting (“restricting”) what it modifies. (For more info about restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses, see my earlier post “Which hunting.”)

Look at this example:

When Charley woke up a horrible stench filled the room.

I have underlined the adverbial clause. It’s nonrestrictive in this sentence, so you should place a comma after the word up. Then readers won’t misread the sentence and think that Charley woke up a horrible stench.

For the same reason you should put a comma after the adverbial clause in this cannibalistic sentence:

When we had finished eating Robert and I left the room.

Poor Robert!

Paul Thayer
My book editing website