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  1. #51
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    In summary, one should avoid "was/were" to describe actions, unless they occur at the same time?

  2. #52
    Quote Originally Posted by Kensa View Post
    In summary, one should avoid "was/were" to describe actions, unless they occur at the same time?
    Some other words to 'try' and avoid:

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/12-wo...g-ronni-morgan
    Craft / Draft / Graft And Write To Entertain.

  3. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheMightyAz View Post
    Some other words to 'try' and avoid:

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/12-wo...g-ronni-morgan
    Thanks, I bookmarked it!

  4. #54
    Quote Originally Posted by Kensa View Post
    Thanks, I bookmarked it!
    You'll find more if you search. You can't remove all of them all of the time, but you should always try if possible. One thing I will say about the site, is they've used dialogue tags to demonstrate what they mean. Don't take that as an indication you should also worry about dialogue in the same way. Don't. Whatever the characters says they say, even if it is filled with those 'no-no' words.
    Craft / Draft / Graft And Write To Entertain.

  5. #55
    Quote Originally Posted by Kensa View Post
    In summary, one should avoid "was/were" to describe actions, unless they occur at the same time?
    Yes.

    But once again, you're going to have some "to be" verb conjugations. You simply want to pay attention as you write them and consider if you are describing action, and if there isn't a more colorful ... active ... way to relate it.

    In my mind, I like to lump the copular verb discussion in with the active vs. passive voice discussion. Not every copular verb is used in passive voice, but they often are.

    A classic example is "The ball was kicked by the boy". This is both a copular verb (was) AND passive voice, as opposed to "The boy kicked the ball". If your scene is action oriented, you don't want passive voice, and you don't want the copular verb. Here they go hand in hand.

    I mentioned in my last post I used "was" in my last novel 486 times. Statistically, I could have been at 1000 times and "grammar" software would have thought I was okay. I put that novel heads up against a similar novel by a top author. He had "was/were" 1591 times! I beat the heck out of him. LOL

    Here's the difference. He wrote his novel in 1957 on a typewriter. I put mine through a sophisticated proofreading app I wrote that shows me one sentence at a time and tells me to check (among other things) if I really want to leave a copular verb in. There is one other difference. He had more exposition in his novel than I have in mine.

    Why would exposition make a difference? Because there's typically no action.

    I spent the summer in Redville. It was a small, sleepy town with one bank and two soda shops. It wasn't an upscale suburb with pools dotting every neighborhood. We had an Olympic-sized pool at the community center, and we were thankful for that. Afternoons at the pool were filled with shouts and splashes and races and games.

    Here's some exposition, and it's setting a mood. I've got five sentences and four "was/were's", and I wouldn't bat an eye about leaving it just like it is. I think passive voice works well for peaceful scenes, and passive voice will have some copulas. The last sentence has action, so it could be:

    We ran to the pool every afternoon, as soon as we finished our chores, eager to jump in and join the shouts and splashes and races and games.

    Two very different moods. I have to pick one, but if it's going to stay in that paragraph, I probably don't want to change the tone.

    One afternoon Jake and I arrived at the pool to find adults and kids crowded in a circle near the deep end. Adults tried to hold me back, but I angled over and shouldered through kids on the other side of the crowd. Hank, the lifeguard, pushed up and down on little Jenny Marston's chest. He kept breathing into her blue lips. Some of the mothers were crying while the kids stood silent, scared and confused.

    One "were", and it's a progressive verb (something else is happening at the same time). This is a tense scene, so I don't want passive voice.

    So much of this is a matter of feel and practice. Most of all, it's a matter of consciously thinking what you want to achieve with a scene and then using construction in your sentence which communicates that feel.
    Last edited by vranger; February 15th, 2021 at 09:49 AM.

  6. #56
    Quote Originally Posted by vranger View Post
    In general, yes. But once again, you're going to have some "to be" verb conjugations. You simply want to pay attention as you write them and consider if you are describing action, and if there isn't a more colorful ... active ... way to relate it.

    In my mind, I like to lump the copular verb discussion in with the active vs. passive voice discussion. Not every copular verb is used in passive voice, but they often are.

    A classic example is "The ball was kicked by the boy". This is both a copular verb (was) AND passive voice, as opposed to "The boy kicked the ball". If your scene is action oriented, you don't want passive voice, and you don't want the copular verb. Here they go hand in hand.

    I mentioned in my last post I used "was" in my last novel 486 times. Statistically, I could have been at 1000 times and "grammar" software would have thought I was okay. I put that novel heads up against a similar novel by a top author. He had "was/were" 1591 times! I beat the heck out of him. LOL

    Here's the difference. He wrote his novel in 1957 on a typewriter. I put mine through a sophisticated proofreading app I wrote that shows me one sentence at a time and tells me to check (among other things) if I really want to leave a copular verb in. There is one other difference. He had more exposition in his novel than I have in mine.

    Why would exposition make a difference? Because there's typically no action.

    I spent the summer in Redville. It was a small, sleepy town with one bank and two soda shops. It wasn't an upscale suburb with pools dotting every neighborhood. We had an Olympic-sized pool at the community center, and we were thankful for that. Afternoons at the pool were filled with shouts and splashes and races and games.

    Here's some exposition, and it's setting a mood. I've got five sentences and four "was/were's", and I wouldn't bat an eye about leaving it just like it is. I think passive voice works well for peaceful scenes, and passive voice will have some copulas. The last sentence has action, so it could be:

    We ran to the pool every afternoon, as soon as we finished our chores, eager to jump in and join the shouts and splashes and races and games.

    Two very different moods. I have to pick one, but if it's going to stay in that paragraph, I probably don't want to change the tone.

    One afternoon Jake and I arrived at the pool to find adults and kids crowded in a circle near the deep end. I pushed my way through. Adults tried to hold me back, but I angled over and shouldered through kids on the other side of the crowd. Hank, the lifeguard, pushed up and down on little Jenny Marston's chest. He kept breathing into her blue lips. Some of the adults were crying while the kids stood silent, scared and confused.

    One "were", and it's a progressive verb (something else is happening at the same time). This is a tense scene, so I don't want passive voice.

    So much of this is a matter of feel and practice. Most of all, it's a matter of consciously thinking what you want to achieve with a scene and then using construction in your sentence which communicates that feel.
    What grammar software is that? Could be handy because I don't trust Word.
    Craft / Draft / Graft And Write To Entertain.

  7. #57
    Quote Originally Posted by TheMightyAz View Post
    What grammar software is that? Could be handy because I don't trust Word.
    I put them both through Pro-Writing Aid. You'll see a sticky atop the Writing Discussion threads with my report on it. I decided not to use it, and instead added an extra check to my proofreading app.

  8. #58
    I told my wise friend that I wanted to write about what it is like to consciously understand grammar, but that seemed impossible. He agreed. I said that there must be some way of doing it. He changed topic.

    Level 1. Read your sentence and try to "feel" if it has a problem. Use inspiration to find an improvement. Use intuitive judgment to decide if that improvement actually is better.

    Level 2. See if your sentence has a copular verb (such as was). No intuition needed. Fix, usually in a somewhat obvious way, so much less inspiration needed. Use intuitive judgment (no avoiding that) to decide if the change is better.

    Level 2 will also be more accurate -- if a copular verb should be "fixed", it might sneak past your "feeling".

    Level 3. The copular verbs are used in (1) progressive verbs, (2) passive verbs,, and (3) actual copula (which has no verb other than the copular verb). These are three different situations. The problems are different, the fixes are different. And the exceptions are very different -- so a judgment of "not a problem" can be made a lot faster once the verb is categorized.

    So Level 3 is marginally better than Level 2, AFAIK. And I am thinking can be done with better understanding. There are shallow issues, like recognizing that He's in the backyard has a copular verb.

    And there can be deeper issues, which can be negotiated at Level 1, but Level 3 probably makes them easier. Look at vranger's passage: arrived, tried, angled, shouldered . All nice strong verbs; good action I think. And then I want a flashbulb moment, where time seems to stand still and the character gets a memory that will last a lifetime. The copula and progressive verbs are perfect for that, IMO. "Pushed" doesn't even have the right meaning, the pushing continues through the next two sentences. I want "her lips were blue", not "blue lips", though that is probably a matter of style. (And, as vranger noted, normal problems with the passive still apply.)

    We all know vranger was giving his valuable time and had better things to do that polish a paragraph intended as an example. My point is that this analysis is marginally faster and easier. And important when it's not just an example.

    It's a pain in the butt to learn these things -- I really do not like trying to understand English verbs or trying to sort through the linguists' endless vocabular. But I like understanding them. So it shouldn't be something you do before writing your book. No one wants that. Just . . . maybe . . . some day.

    Thanks. I tried not to make this sound like a grammar lecture. Which, as noted, wiser minds thought impossible.

    Quote Originally Posted by vranger View Post
    One afternoon Jake and I arrived at the pool to find adults and kids crowded in a circle near the deep end. Adults tried to hold me back, but I angled over and shouldered through kids on the other side of the crowd. Hank, the lifeguard, pushed up and down on little Jenny Marston's chest. He kept breathing into her blue lips. Some of the mothers were crying while the kids stood silent, scared and confused.
    .
    Last edited by EmmaSohan; February 15th, 2021 at 11:35 AM.
    Modern Punctuation and Grammar: Tools not Rules is finally published and available for $3 Hidden Content . Should be mandatory for serious writers, IMO. Italics, Fragments, Disfluency, lists, etc. But also commas and paragraph length. Discussed use of adverbs, and ends with a chapters on the awesome moment and the grammar of action scenes. Description at my Hidden Content

  9. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by vranger View Post
    Why would exposition make a difference? Because there's typically no action.

    I spent the summer in Redville. It was a small, sleepy town with one bank and two soda shops. It wasn't an upscale suburb with pools dotting every neighborhood. We had an Olympic-sized pool at the community center, and we were thankful for that. Afternoons at the pool were filled with shouts and splashes and races and games.

    Here's some exposition, and it's setting a mood. I've got five sentences and four "was/were's", and I wouldn't bat an eye about leaving it just like it is. I think passive voice works well for peaceful scenes, and passive voice will have some copulas. The last sentence has action, so it could be:

    We ran to the pool every afternoon, as soon as we finished our chores, eager to jump in and join the shouts and splashes and races and games.

    Two very different moods. I have to pick one, but if it's going to stay in that paragraph, I probably don't want to change the tone.

    One afternoon Jake and I arrived at the pool to find adults and kids crowded in a circle near the deep end. Adults tried to hold me back, but I angled over and shouldered through kids on the other side of the crowd. Hank, the lifeguard, pushed up and down on little Jenny Marston's chest. He kept breathing into her blue lips. Some of the mothers were crying while the kids stood silent, scared and confused.

    One "were", and it's a progressive verb (something else is happening at the same time). This is a tense scene, so I don't want passive voice.

    So much of this is a matter of feel and practice. Most of all, it's a matter of consciously thinking what you want to achieve with a scene and then using construction in your sentence which communicates that feel.
    Thanks, Vranger and all of you, now I understand the problem and how to fix it. "Action or exposition" is a good start for editing. And then practice, practice...

    I use Antidote to check my texts, it counts weak verbs and repetitions (but doesn't tell what to do with them).

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