Thursday, January 24, 2008

Just say it once....

Here's something that made me laugh/cringe-- it's from a best-selling author (not a submission), and makes me think that you get better editing when you're not a big name ....

Jared gave his wife a quick kiss, then took one last look at the woman he loved.

Now of course I was thinking how bold that guy was, envisioning him kissing his wife and looking over her shoulder at his girlfriend. But in fact, he's much more boring than that-- his wife and the woman he loves are one and the same. There's something called a "pronoun," I want to tell him, which replaces a noun you don't want to repeat so we understand it means that noun:

Jared gave his wife a quick kiss, then took one last look at her.

Or... then gave her one last look....
Or...
Jared gave his beloved wife a quick kiss and a final glance.

Here's another, same book, not so funny--

"How long have you lived in the city?" she added, trying to get more information.

Well, yeah, asking a question (that's what the question mark means) is trying to get more information. Now if she was trying to get DIFFERENT information than the question, like she was actually trying to ascertain if he'd embezzled from his last employer, I can see adding something in her mind that showed that the dialogue isn't transparent... but she actually is just asking how long he's lived in the city.

There's no reason to echo in the quote tag what the dialogue has said straight out. (Tagging a question with "she asked" is so conventional it's okay for most of us, but "she asked, wanting to know how long," is too redundant for me.)

Quote tags with introspection are VERY useful when you want a contrast between what she said and what she meant-- when the dialogue isn't transparent.

"How long have you lived in the city?" she asked, just to lull him.

"How long have you lived in the city?" she asked, pulling out a knife and laying it on the desk.

"How long have you lived in the city?" she asked, her gaze on the lie detector monitor.

This is something to watch for in revision-- redundancy and doubling up. There are uses for this, certainly, but it's to alert the reader to a NON-doubling, that the two things are not actually the same even if they sort of seem that way. If they -are- the same (wife/beloved, question/intent), don't signal they aren't with redundancy.

Alicia

2 comments:

Edittorrent said...

"Why do people think that's an effective technique?" she asked, wondering why people think that's an effective technique.

Excellent points!

Theresa

Patricia W. said...

"Hmmm, should I ask a question?", she wondered as she considered asking a question.

Anyone else?