I like the terms de-had’ing and de-was’ing

I’ve been so caught up in my writing goals, I completely forgot my Friday post. First things first. 🙂 I haven’t drawn a winner for the Kitty Thomas Interview. Give me until midnight tomorrow.

On to new things! A few days ago, I made the suggestion to a writer to consider de-had’ing and de-was’ing his work. I know, I know: screw the rules!

Here’s the thing, “was” and “had” are not bad words to be avoided at all costs. However, a work bombarded by them is a bit drab. In fact, it turns into a laundry lists of descriptions and actions. Take the following example:

Jack stacked the last box and leaned against the fork lift. He had a smile as I approached. He was dressed like any other worker. He had on loose blue jeans and a white tank top. He was gorgeous. His hair was black and curly, and his eyes dark brown. He was average height, five ten and slim.

Straightforward enough. We got his stats. Good enough, right? Well, if you say so. Try this one.

Jack stacked the last box and leaned his five ten frame against the fork lift. A slight smile played on his lips, as he hooked a thumb into his blue jeans, drawing my attention to narrow hips. He’d trimmed down since I’d last seen him. The heavy lifting had devoured the chubbiness from high school and left lean muscle in its place. The white wife beater, which stretched tight against his chest, begged to be replaced with a shirt more accommodating to his growing pecs (not really, but hey! work with me). He flicked his head, and dark curly bangs lifted out of his brown eyes before settling on his broad forehead. With his olive skin, he was well on his way to becoming a Greek god.

Maybe not the best writing, but pretend like it is. 🙂 Notice I didn’t remove every “had” or “was.” Like I said, they do have their place in writing. But by weaving the descriptions within activities, those words can be reduced while livening the writing a bit. Look here. 🙂 I found a picture for you. Wanna give it a try?

She looked at the ceiling as if in deep thought. She had on a black denim dress with ruffles at the hem. Her hair was dark blond.

Head Popping

Before I start, let me say most of my short writing career is in romance. I’m not at all familiar with other genres, so I can’t so the idea of head popping applies to them. Although, I think they should at least in some part.

In my mind, romance is a highly emotional genre. A decent romance draws the reader into the story and creates an empathetic bond between reader and character. Part of achieving this affect is to use a deep point of view (POV). That means being deep into the head of the character—knowing what the character is feeling, his/her motivation, and experiences with the world.

Head popping interferes with this concept. So what is head popping? Head popping is changing the POV to the point it’s difficult to determine who exactly is doing the thinking. Other times it prevents the reader from really forming that connection with the character. Sometimes its subtle, sometime obvious. I feel like I’m rambling, so I’ll just give an example of head popping.

Bryan checked his watch. Two thirteen—just enough time to catch the next subway. He paid the toll and walked onto the platform. A woman rushed past. He jumped back, but not before she jostled him to the side, knocking him into the wall.

“Excuse me.” She glanced over her shoulder without missing a step. Her red cropped hair fanned in a semi-circle as she turned away.

“Watch it,” he called after her.

“You watch it.” Mandy pushed through the crowd. She knew that little street rat had to be here somewhere. The little punk had snatched her cell phone right out of her hand.

“Some people.” Bryan straightened his clothes and took his place amongst the throngs. The train approached, the low buzz growing louder as it screeched to a stop in the tunnel. He shuffled forward, just part of the crowd.

Okay. So, we start in Bryan’s POV. Then somehow the story pops into Mandy’s POV before switching back to Bryan’s again. That’s head popping. If we’re in Bryan’s POV, we should NEVER EVER know what Mandy is thinking unless she says it aloud. Furthermore, we shouldn’t even know Mandy’s name, since it wasn’t introduced to Bryan.

Let’s use the same example, but make the shift in POV a little more subtle. Just going to truncate it a bit.

“Watch it,” he called after her.

“You watch it.” The aggressive redheaded pushed through the crowd to make her way to the front.

“Some people.” Bryan straightened his clothes and took his place amongst the throngs.

The underlined phrase, just that little slip switched to Mandy’s POV. I see it all the time. Bryan does not know why she’s  pushing through the crowd, he’s just assuming. Substituting the underlined with “and made her way to the front” or just deleting it would fix that issue. While in deep POV, the MC doesn’t see the intent of others, he/she only sees the actions.

So that’s it for now. Later, I hope to talk about writing styles which distance the reader from the story—a trait a writer does not want to do. Stay tuned for my weekly Friday posts.

Chaffing Under the Rules

I’m in a couple of critique groups, which are very helpful. As a new writer, it amazed me at how little I knew. I’ve been an avid reader for all my life, going through several books a week (until recently that is). Yet reading as a reader is so different than reading as a writer. I’ve learned about show versus tell, things which distance the reader, dialogue, and so much more.

Then I started reading books with a new perspective based upon all the guidelines I learned in my critique group. And what I found was very few published authors follow these special list of rules. So then there’s this thing I keep hearing: Until you’re published, just follow the rules. After you’re published then you can break them.

Honestly, I hate this concept. It’s like setting the standard for the readers, then saying “You know what? You bought my first book, I’m sure you’ll buy my second/third/whatever regardless of the crap I spew.” Please writers, If you have the ability to produce good work, don’t give your readers crap just because you have a fan following.

On the other hand, I find the rules stifling at times. When I take off my writer’s hat and just read as a reader, I still enjoy the books even when the writer breaks the rules. Writing isn’t about following the rules; it’s about creating enjoyable content. Check out the big name authors (Stephen King, Stephanie Meyers (recently), ). They tell stories people want to read. They don’t get bogged down by how many ‘to be’ verbs are on the page.

Rules are great. But don’t let them stifle your creativity. One of the great things about writing is artistic freedom.