## Friday, April 27, 2012

### Exchanging slackitude for attitude

Sometimes a passage or scene feels "slack" to me-- without tension. And often it's not the action or conflict, but the sentences. And you know, I think I can pinpoint one common problem, easily remedied: using "and" as the most common conjunction between clauses.

He was late again and I let him get away with it.
He was late again and I let him have it.
He was late again and it was his mother's fault.
He was late again and it was too late for the movie then.
He was late again and that wasn't usual for him.
He was late again and he appeared disheveled and distracted when he appeared.
He was late again and it was usual for him.
He was late again and I had texted him to remind him of the time.
He was late again and it was really late this time.
He was late again and I was too happy to see him to be mad.
He was late again and that was after I gave him an ultimatum.
He was late again and I found my way to the theater.
----
You getting the point? "And" is occasionally the right conjunction, but usually something else will indicate more of the relationship between the two clauses. That's what conjunctions do. They "conjoin," but they also connect. Whenever we opt for "and," we're pretty much saying the only thing connecting A with B is proximity.
Let's try to imbue some attitude and take away the slackitude (note the comma before the conjunction... that's 1) correct punctuation, and 2) gives that pause that emphasizes that connecting word):

He was late again, but I let him get away with it.

He was late again, so I let him have it.

He was late again because of his mother.

He was late again, making us too late for the movie.

He was late again, which wasn't usual for him.

He was late again, appearing disheveled and distracted when he got there.

He was late again as usual.

He was late again even though I had texted him to remind him of the time.

He was late again, really late this time.

He was late again, but I was too happy to see him to be mad.

He was late again even after I gave him an ultimatum.
He was late again when I found my way to the theater.

--
So if you're getting comments that your voice isn't distinctive, or that your action scenes aren't very active, look for "and" as a conjunction. Once in awhile, it's the right conjunction. But often it's unrevealing and tension-less. Why are these two clauses connected? Can you show that connection? That will infuse a lot more power and urgency into your sentences.

Alicia

#### 1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very insightful. I never looked at it that way!