Dangling Modifiers :-)

4803157_700bYou ever read sentences and stop? You go back and read them again and again. Sometimes you probably laugh out loud, because they’re funny and definitely not what the author had in mind.

You want see them that often in published work. By the time your manuscript hits the publishers desk, sentences like these have been cleaned up. At least they had better be if you want your work taken seriously. Watch out for those dangling modifiers and badly placed words.

A modifier describes, clarifies, or gives more detail about a concept.

A dangling modifier is misplaced because it doesn’t have anything to modify. The word or words a dangling modifier should modify have been omitted from the sentence. I know you hear professionals say cut, cut, cut, but some words should not be cut.

“Always suspect an -ing word of dangling if it’s near the front of a sentence; consider it guilty until proven innocent.” –Patricia O’Connor.

Incorrect: Reading the regulations, the dog did not enter the park.

  • “Reading the regulations” is a dangling modifier.
  • The dog cannot read the regulations; the word(s) that “reading the regulations” modifies have been omitted.


  • Correct: After reading the regulations, I did not enter the park with my dog.

And then there’s…

The kind mother, handed out bologna sandwiches to all the children in Ziploc bags. (What were they doing in Ziploc bags?)

The robber was in his late thirties and about 6’2″, with long curly hair weighing about 160 lbs. (I think I would cut a little bit of that hair.)

The homeowner chased the intruder wearing nothing but his underwear. (Who was wearing nothing but underwear?)

Just for laughs…..

  1. Coming out of the market, the bananas fell on the pavement.
  2. With his tail held high, my father led his prize poodle around the arena.
  3. I saw an accident walking down the street.
  4. Freshly painted, Jim left the room to dry.
  5. He held the umbrella over Janet’s head that he got from Delta Airlines.
  6. Lost: Antique walking stick by an old man with a carved ivory head.
  7. The company’s refrigerator held microwavable lunches for 18 employees frozen in the top compartment.

I know most of you have dangling modifiers down, but they are so much fun.

-Jan R





Dangling Modifiers :-)

Are Your Sentences Running Loose?

compound-sentences-7-728You’re probably sitting there wondering what in the world I am talking about. I know when I first read about loose sentences, I wondered what in the world the author was talking about. Well let me enlighten you. Loose sentences are sentences with the main concept at the beginning, followed by a string of related details.

For this blog, I am focusing on loose sentences that are composed of two clauses connected by a conjunctive or relative  (better known as the compound sentence). I use them all the time, and you probably do too. ( Yes, this is one.) There’s nothing wrong with a single sentence of this type every now and then. The problem is when you string a whole bunch of them together. A mistake many new writers make.

 ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ was performed at the downtown theater last evening, and a large audience was in attendance. The actors were right on cue, and the orchestra was spectacular. The props seemed to float through the air, as the scenes were set flawlessly. The play was a tremendous success, and I’m sure it will continue it’s run. The tickets are pretty expensive, but you won’t be disappointed.

There are probably a lot of things wrong with this example, but what I hope you focused on, was the string of loose sentences. They are trite, monotonous and annoying. I know this is an extreme example, but I wanted to make sure you understood what I was getting at.

Loose sentences are easy to correct. All you have to do is rearrange some of the sentences in the paragraph to take away the monotony.  Make them simple, short, single phrases, or drop the conjunction and add a semicolon.

It’s okay to have loose sentences, but be mindful of the frequency and placement of them.

Most of the information for this blog came from ‘The Elements of Style’ by Strunk and White. If you don’t have a copy of the book, I would highly recommend it. It is short and concise. They don’t waste a single word.

Something else to think about 🙂

-Jan R

Are Your Sentences Running Loose?

What’s Your Character’s Motivation?

Thomas-Mann-quote-on-character-motivesIf your villain shoots down sixty people, blows up an airport terminal, hijacks a jet and then crashes it into the White House–all because his Social Security check arrived one day late, you’re going to have trouble selling your novel. Dean R. Koontz

When an editor rejects a book for implausibility, he is looking at the motivation of the character, not the plot. In other words, when a novel fails because of implausibility,  the reader had a hard time believing the character would do, in real life, the things the author has him doing.

What’s his motivation? If you have your character doing something bizarre, you had better convince your reader that he in fact would blow up an airport terminal because his Social Security check arrived a day late.

Most Common Character Motivators

Love- is a strong motivator for your lead character. This universal and adaptable motivator can be found across genres. Remember almost all of your readers want to love someone, be loved, or fall in love. They are predisposed to accept love as a plausible motivation for a hero’s or a heroine’s actions. This motivator  works best when paired with another motivating force.

Curiosity-  is responsible for every important discovery since man tamed fire. Like love, it works better paired with another motivator. Throw in some self-preservation, greed, love, or duty. Your reader will not believe that a rational character would willingly die merely to satisfy his curiosity, and yes, your main character must be rational.

Self-preservation- is the most common character motivation in both popular mainstream and genre fiction. If your hero’s life is at stake, anything he does to preserve it will seem plausible to the reader, which makes this the easiest of the motivators for new writers to handle. Also it should be noted, that self-preservation can be construed to mean preservation of one’s self-image and self-respect.

Greed- as you probably guessed, this is not a good motivator for your hero or heroine unless they are a bandit. It works as an excellent motivator for your antagonist. If your antagonist is trying to destroy your hero financially and get control of his business at a bargain price, greed might very will be his primary motivation, but by throwing in another motivation, the story would have much more depth. Suppose we find out the antagonist also hates the hero, because the hero won the hand of the woman they both loved. The antagonist instantly becomes a more believable and interesting character.

Revenge- is an excellent motivator for a villain, but should not be used to motivate the protagonist, unless you can show the hero is justified in his actions.  Maybe the police and courts have utterly failed in their duties to society and to victims of violent crime, and then the hero steps in.

These are not the only character motivators, but they are the most common. Remember, your character should never be motivated by something that is inconsistent with their personality. Much more on this subject but hope this got you thinking.

-Jan R

What’s Your Character’s Motivation?