Little Foxes

Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines [have] tender grapes—Song of Solomon 2:15, KJV

Do we have “little foxes” that spoil an otherwise well-written piece of prose? Let me rephrase. Do we have too many “little foxes”? All of us writers have them. They often pop out on our pages while we’re writing. Oftentimes, we’re unaware of their presence.

Little wordy foxes are words we tend to overuse, words such as so and that. Every author has his/her own foxes, and we must be careful not to overdo ours. Many times, we don’t need them.

Let’s look at the word that.

            1.         John thought that Billy played golf yesterday.

            2.         John thought Billy played golf yesterday.

In the second example, I deleted that because the sentence is clear without it. A good way to identify when this word is unnecessary is when it follows a verb. In such cases, the word usually isn’t needed. Read your that sentences without using it. Is your writing still clear? If it is, delete that.

Let’s look at the word so.

            1.         So, John sees you can cook.

            2.         John sees Mary can cook.

            3.         He lifted the bucket so he could dump out its contents.

The first example is acceptable in dialogue, but if we use lots of sentences starting with so in our narrative, write it like the second example. Example three is fine as well because it’s used as a conjunction.

Do use these little verbal foxes, but use them correctly. Also, take care not to overdo them because if too many sneak in, they’ll spoil our writing.

Till next week, friends!

Here, Squire! Come On, Boy!

Squire, Tales of a Mascot, will soon be released. Set during the longest genuine siege of America’s Civil War, the siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana, the mixed-breed dog Squire accompanies his master to war as his Alabama regiment’s mascot. When his master gets posted at Port Hudson, fun-loving Squire soon finds his life in serious jeopardy from man and beast.

Part of this book is written from Squire’s point of view, so it was great fun trying to “think like a dog.” I based Squire on my own late companion, Jebba, seen in these photos.

Port Hudson was a small village on a bend in the Mississippi River, as seen in this map. It was the last Confederate garrison on that river to surrender to Union forces, just a few days after Vicksburg fell. The garrison was totally surrounded. A Union fleet under the command of Admiral David Glasgow Farragut cut off the Rebels’ escape via river, and the Union army under the command of General Nathaniel Banks surrounded it by land. The garrison held out for 48 days.