Writer · writing, grammar, and punctuation · YA Author

WALK THIS WAY

walking picWalk. A typical word found in every manuscript and story, but one the writer often overlooks as a way to create mood, show body language, and provide a clear picture of the character’s emotional status, without telling the reader how the character feels.

But does this really matter?  It depends on the above mentioned things, context, and what the writer is hoping the sentence portrays.

He walked to the store.

Locating her dog, she walked over.

They walked to the gate.

Without context, we don’t have any idea what the character’s mood is, what they want, and the overall feel of the scene.

With the hundred-dollar-bill burning a hole in his pocket, he walked to the store.

Locating her dog near the edge of a busy street she walked over.

Arriving at the airport ten minutes late, they walked to their gate.

With just a little more information, we can clearly come to the conclusion that each of these sentences carries a sense of urgency, and therefore, since “walked” doesn’t support that urgency, it isn’t the best word choice.

With the hundred-dollar-bill burning a hole in his pocket, he ran to the store.  running pic

Locating her dog near the edge of a busy street, she bolted over.

Arriving at the airport ten minutes late, they raced to their gate.

So before you choose to use the word “walked,” determine what you’re trying to portray to the reader (suspense, fear, urgency, happiness, etc.), and make sure each word choice supports that vision.

Below you will find a handy list of synonyms for walked.

Happy writing.

043017_0006_1.jpg

Rebecca Carpenter,

Copy editor at Kate Foster Professional Editing Services, Award-winning Ya author, Assistant Editor at Lakewater Press

 

Amble                      Stumble

Bounced                   Stump

Clump                      Swagger

Falter                        Tiptoe

Foot it                       Toddle

Footslog                    Totter

Gimp                         Traipse

Hike                          Tramp

Hobble                      Trample

Hoof it                      Travers

Leg it                        Tread

Limp                         Trip

Lumber                     Tromp

Lurch                        Troop

March                       Trot

Mince                       Trudge

Mosey                      Waddle

Nip                           Wander

Pace

Parade

Perambulate

Peregrinate

Plod

Pound

Power walk

Prance

Promenade

Pussyfoot

Ramble

Sashay

Scuff

Shamble

Shuffle

Stagger

Stalk

Step

Stomp

Stride

Stroll

Strut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writer · writing, grammar, and punctuation · YA Author

Tar”get”ing GET

Tar“get”ing GET

target

 

Let’s face it, everyone uses “get” when they speak. The verb is probably one of the most used words in the English dictionary. So what’s the big deal with all the fid“get”ing over the use of “get” in a manuscript?

Simply put, “get” is a weak verb, generic, a quick go-to which has hundreds of different meanings.

Example: He needs to get to the store and get some food before the kids get home from school.

Not only is this repetitive, but each time “get” is used, a better, more vivid verb can replace it, creating a stronger sentence and clearer picture.

Example: He needs to hurry to the store and buy some food before the kids return home from school.

This sentence paints a clear picture of exactly what’s going on, placing an emphasis on the lack of time before the children return and that they will probably be hungry. Or maybe he doesn’t like to shop with the kids. Whatever the reason, this sentence lends a hand into the precise meaning of the words.

But what if I changed the meanings of the word “get” in the sentence?

Example: He needs to sneak into the store and steal some food before the kids arrive from school.

This completely changes the meaning of the sentence, providing the reader a different take on the word “get” and therefore, creating a completely different scene.

So as you see, it really is important to be specific and make sure you’re writing paints a clear picture as to the meaning of the word.

While it’s okay to use “get” on occasion—especially if a more vivid verb doesn’t appear to be available, a strong writer will seek them out and change as many as possible. On a positive note, use of “get” is always fine in dialogue, but I still look for places that I can switch them out as well.

Whatever you do, don’t allow this pesky word to halt your creativity. Write as many “gets” in your first draft as necessary, just to “get” the story on paper. When you begin to revise, perform a search and carefully study each one for meaning, and determine if the word should be left or changed out.

Your prose will be stronger, and you will be one step closer to an unfor“get”table manuscript.

 

043017_0006_1.jpgRebecca Carpenter is a copyeditor at Kate Foster Professional Editing. She also provides copyediting for Lakewater Press, and her YA novel, Butterfly Bones, is an Official Selection in the New Apple Awards for excellence in indie publishing.

Writer · writing, grammar, and punctuation · YA Author

Utilizing Stronger Verbs (aka: Show Don’t Tell)

Stronger verbs. Do they really matter? I’ll take a commonly used one, LOOK, and provide some examples of how a strong verb lifts up the story, while weak verbs add nothing—holding down a potentially great scene.

So, what’s the big deal with look? I mean, we all look at stuff. We look down. We look up. We look over our shoulder. We look at people. We look at everything. That’s how we take in a good portion of information to our brain—through looking. So why should we use other words to fluff up something that’s so common? Because how we look at something and why we look at something helps paint a picture, therefore creating conflict and mood for an unforgettable scene. But this can’t be accomplished with the word “looked.”

Let’s start with how we look at something. mirror

“She looked through the crack in the door” provides nothing to the scene and doesn’t create a clear picture. But replace “looked” with a stronger verb, and the sentence comes alive. “She peered through the crack in the door.” The latter gives a clearer picture of the character leaning in, her eye close to the crack, and creates tension. What’s outside the door? What’s going on that has her too scared to just poke out her head? Peered is much stronger, and shows how she looked through the crack in the door instead of just telling the reader she looked through the crack in the door.

“June looked at her mother.” This sentence tells us nothing about the scene, nothing about June’s mood or the relationship between June and her mom. But if I replace “looked” with a stronger verb, the scene comes alive. “June glared at her mother.” The reader can automatically assume June is upset with her mom, something we couldn’t have determined from the weaker verb of “looked.”

“Nicky looked through the curtains.” Again, a plain scene with nothing to hint at what’s going on. “Nicky peeked through the curtains.” This gives a clear picture of the character standing close to the curtains, but not wanting to be seen, she remains hidden behind the curtains.

The next step is to determine why we look at something. This one provides a reason to “look.”  monster

“Footfalls pounded from behind. Mike looked over his shoulder and ran.” While the footsteps set up the scene for something sinister, the word “looked” adds nothing to the tension. “Footfalls pounded from behind. Mike glanced over his shoulder and ran.” To glance at something means to make sudden, quick movements. From the definition we can conclude that whatever is behind Mike is horrible enough to make him run with only a quick sighting.

“Blood gushed from Coltin’s hand. The doctor looked at the wound and determined he needed surgery.” Again, we have a nice setup, but fall short of a vivid scene. “Blood gushed from Coltin’s hand. The doctor examined the wound and determined he needed surgery.” “Examined” offers a clearer picture of how in depth the doctor went to make the determination.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s perfectly fine to use “looked” on occasion, but when a stronger verb can show instead of tell, that’s when I recommend changing it out.

But how do we know which words to use? To help you with this, I compiled a list of synonyms to use instead of “looked.” I also included synonyms for “looks like” and “walked” which are also commonly overused in manuscripts.

So search through those manuscripts and switch out those generic verbs that don’t add to the story. Words matter. Make each one count.

Rebecca Carpenter is a copy editor for Kate Foster Professional Editing and for Lakewater Press. Her first novel, Butterfly Bones, a young adult contemporary science fiction, came out in Nov. of 2016. The sequel, Butterfly Blood, is scheduled to be released in 2018.     043017_0006_1.jpg

 

Synonyms for Looked                                          

Observed

Watched

Saw

Seen

Beheld

Viewed

Considered

Regarded

Eyed

Gazed

Contemplated

Examined

Inspected

Scrutinized

Eyeballed

Studied

Scanned

Surveyed

Pore over

Stared

Glared

Glanced

Gawked

Peeped

Peeked

Peered

Gawped

Focus

Leered

 

 

Synonyms for Looked Like

Resembles         Mocks

Mirrors              Betrays

Reflects             Parallels

Implies              Reverberates

Reveals             Notifies

Echoes              Proclaims

Parodies            Exposes

Pretends            Reiterates

Refers               Proposes

Feigns               Emulates

Suggests           Offers

Assumes           Commends

Poses                Signifies

Hints                 Represents

Simulates          Tells

Mentions           Broadcasts

Mimics              Communicates

Mimes

Mocks

Declares

Announces

Notifies

Tells

Divulges

Resonates

Steers

Touts

Affects

Imitates

 

Synonyms for Walked  

Strode

Ambled                                                          Parades

Foot it                                                            Scurries

Darts                                                              Loiters

Hoofs it                                                          Lumbers

Bounced                                                         Lurches

Clumps                                                          Sashays

Mince                                                            Plods

Leg it                                                            Parade

Roam                                                            Pads

Peregrinate                                                     Limps

Power Walk                                                   Gimps

Pussyfoot                                                       Flounces

Shamble                                                         Dances

Stalked                                                           Boots

Step                                                               Barges

Tiptoes                                                          Strutted

Sneaks                                                           Skipped

Marched                                                        Wandered

Strolled                                                          Rambled

Stride

Paced

Pound

Hiked

Trudged

Toddled

Tottered

Staggered

Promenaded

Perambulated

Ambulated

Sauntered

Moseyed

Meandered

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writer · writing, grammar, and punctuation

Oh, Comma!

imageFor the past three months, I’ve had the privilege of interning as an assistant editor for a small press. I’d like to say that most writers understand and correctly use grammar and punctuation, but they don’t. The most common mistake I see is the incorrect use of commas. So for the next few weeks I’m going to focus on correct comma usage, starting with the most basic.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a comma is a punctuation mark indicating a pause between parts of a sentence. It is also used to separate items in a list and to mark the place of thousands in a large numeral. This post will focus on the pause between parts of a sentence, as this seems to be most difficult for writers to learn.

An independent clause is a sentence that stands alone as a simple sentence. It contains a subject and a predicate and makes sense by itself.

Independent clauses can be joined by using a comma when separated by a coordinating conjunction, such as for, and, nor, but, or, yet, however, etc.

A conjunction is a part of speech that connects words, sentences, clauses, or phrases, and a coordinating conjunction is a conjunction placed between words, phrases, etc.

In the most basic of descriptions, a subject is the person or thing that is being discussed or described.

The predicate is the part of a sentence that expresses what is said about the subject.

Now that definitions are out of the way, let’s take a few examples of sentences that are independent.

Example: Mark shifted from one foot to the other. The sentence makes complete sense alone and contains a subject and a predicate.

Example: He couldn’t ease the tension building in his gut. Again, this sentence stands alone and contains a subject and predicate.

If I were to join these two sentences by using a coordinating conjunction, a comma must be used.

Example: Mark shifted from one foot to the other, but he couldn’t ease the tension building in his gut.

Since both sentences are independent, a comma is inserted before the conjunction.

Exceptions to the rule: Do not use a comma in between two independent sentences when the conjunction as is used, because as indicates both are happening at the same time and negates the need for the pause. Also, a comma may be omitted if both independent sentences are short (four words or less) or at least one is four words or less.

Example: He screamed and he cried.

Although both phrases are independent, since they are less than four words, a comma does not need to be used.

But if one sentence is short but longer than four words, while the other is long, a comma should be used.

Example: Cindy cowered on the floor, and it wasn’t long before the entire school surrounded her with thunderous laughter.

The most common mistake I see is people using the Oxford comma, but not the first comma in a sentence.

Example: Mallory clenched her hand into a fist and she swung with all her might, but she missed her mark and spun to the ground.

Because the sentence has three independent clauses, the comma must be used to separate the first two (before the first and), and the third is optional. I prefer the Oxford comma and think the sentence flows better with it, but many people are opting not to use it. Either way it is a stylistic choice, so whichever you decide, be consistent.

The last mistake I’d like to mention for the comma is using them when the writer feels there should be a pause in the sentence, but the sentence doesn’t actually call for one.

Example: Brett struggled, for a breath, and slumped over the steering wheel.

While the commas before and after “for a breath” are for emphasis, the correct way to write it would be:

Example: Brett struggled for a breath and slumped over the steering wheel.

If the writer wanted a stronger visual, he/she might write:

Example: Brett gasped, struggling for a breath, and slumped over the steering wheel.

That’s the comma lesson for this week. Next week we’ll tackle dependent clauses and why one should not use a comma with them.