Say What You Mean! (Revised)

If you find yourself reading a sentence more than once, or adding information for clarification, that’s a red flag.

Your reader has less information than you. If you are confused by your work, you can only imagine what your reader is going through. I love a great mystery, but my writing shouldn’t be one.

It’s not the reader’s job to interpret your work. You should be clear and concise.  If your writing causes a pause something isn’t working.

I have to admit I love dangling modifiers though. They are some of my favorite mess-ups. I even wrote a blog entitled ‘just for laughs’. They are funny, but not in the middle of a serious scene. You don’t have to try to hard to imagine how quickly they can pull your reader out of their suspension of disbelief.

Dangling modifiers occur when the modifier has no clear referent, and twist the meaning of your sentence in an unintended fashion.

  • I saw a tree walking down the street. Who knew a tree could walk 🙂
  •  The babysitter handed out sandwiches to all the children in Ziplock bags. I just want to know how those children got in those bags 🙂

Misplaced modifiers are similar but not nearly as fun to read. As with dangling modifiers, there is no clear referent, which can lead to a clumsy and confusing sentence.

  • Lucy carefully studied the situation.                                                                                                   Lucy studied the situation carefully.

Another mistake new writers make that isn’t always as obvious but makes for a clumsy sentence that will cause a pause is comma splicing.

Comma splicing is when two sentences are linked by a comma, but they don’t really work because they’re two separate ideas.

  • John saw the rabid fox and ran to the house to get his gun, and he forgot to eat lunch and his tummy rumbled.

What about ambiguous sentences? The sentence is grammatically and structurally sound, but the reader has no idea what you are talking about.

  • My older students know I’m extremely careful with my language. Is the teacher referring to age or length of time the students have been in his/her class?

Be clear and concise! Say What You Mean!

Something else to think about.

-Jan R

Say What You Mean! (Revised)

Your Reader Has To Believe

GTW_screw it upWhen you write a novel, you need to get the facts and details right. Who has ever heard of Bombay, NC or Mount Sanai, Oklahoma? They don’t exist, or if they do, I’ve never heard of them.

Sure you’re writing a fictional novel and you can do what you want. Wait a minute. You can do what you want, but if it doesn’t make sense to your reader, they’re going to shake their head and throw the book to the side. Don’t expect a recommendation.

When you write fiction, you’re already asking your reader to accept numerous situations that could occur, but odds are won’t. My novel’s hero is one of two identical twins. He was switched at birth and never knew he had a brother. They meet in Afghanistan and are blown up when one steps on an IED. One dies and the other is misidentified, taking on his brothers identity and life.

Now that’s asking a reader to accept a lot of ‘could happens’ but odds are they never would.  In order to balance the story and help my readers maintain their suspension of disbelief, I did my homework to make sure all of the facts surrounding these situations made sense.

What’s suspension of disbelief? It’s your reader’s ability to suspend critical faculties and accept the surreal; sacrifice of realism and logic for the purpose of enjoyment. However, as stated, your reader will only accept so much. Even fantasy and sci-fi need to read as real.

You have to get the facts and details right. With today’s technology and the information available, there is no reason why the details should be inaccurate. I love Google and Youtube. They are your friends.

I’m never going to Afghanistan, and I definitely want be serving in the marines. I do have a son who went to Afghanistan and was a sergeant in the marines. That helped. I also found more information than I could possibly use on Afghanistan, Camp Leatherneck, and the daily life of marines who resided at the camp through google searches, interviews with my son, and youtube videos.

Get the details right and you can get away with a lot of make believe. It doesn’t have to be real, but it does have to read real.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

 

 

Your Reader Has To Believe