“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.” Taken from “Old Newsman Writes,” Esquire, December 1934.
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.
next week, friends!
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.