Posted on behalf on Simone Cooper
So I was editing my latest stories and noticed that in a number of sentences if I replaced a word or two with different words, it made the sentence more interesting, for it showed emotion, or provided a specific fact, which could only help with the reader’s enjoyment of a story. What I’m saying is nothing new of course, but I found it an interesting exercise and wanted to share my experience.
So here are some of the before’s and after’s in my stories and why I liked the revised sentences.
Before: “Don’t live your life with regrets, Charlotte. I saw what that did to my dad and…
After: “Don’t live your life with regrets, Charlotte. I saw what having regrets did to my dad and…
Assessment: changing ‘that’ to ‘having regrets’ adds a bit more spark to the sentence, because it’s touching on a specific reaction of a father who’s regretted something in life, they’re emotive words, making the sentence that little bit more interesting
Before: She sucks his tongue to taste every little drop of alcoholic/ice-creaminess still lingering on his tastebuds.
After: She sucks his tongue, wanting to taste every little drop of alcoholic/ice-creaminess still lingering on his tastebuds.
Assessment: Even though one might argue that the woman’s ‘wanting’ is implied in the ‘before’ sentence, and we’re told to cut out words where at all possible to help improve a story’s pace, I liked the fact that if I added ‘wanting’ it highlights/emphasises the woman’s want, her desire to taste, shows us more emotion from her.
Before: Once again doubts creep in. She knows she won’t go back to doing that work.
After: Once again doubts creep in. She knows she won’t go back to her Saturday night job
Assessment: Adding in ‘her Saturday night job’ reminds the reader of the woman’s moonlighting job on Saturday nights as opposed to just saying ‘doing that work’ which is a dull statement. However if you’ve already referenced her Saturday night job in the preceding sentence or earlier within the paragraph/scene, then I feel that ‘doing that work’ would be acceptable. And if it hasn’t been referenced earlier and you just say ‘doing that work’ then the reader could be annoyed they’re in the dark as to what work the writer is talking about, and/or think those words add nothing interesting to the sentence.
Before: Charlotte swivels on the spot so the front of her body is pressed to the glass balcony wall and she’s facing the two surfers. “Go in,” she whispers to Eric. He does exactly that.
After: Charlotte swivels on the spot so the front of her body is pressed to the glass balcony wall and she’s facing the two surfers. “Go in,” she whispers to Eric. He does exactly as she orders.
Assessment: Changing ‘that’ to ‘as she orders’ reinforces to the reader that Charlotte is a woman in control, who likes to give orders, highlights a character trait.
Before: “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about it, and that you had to find out this way.”
After: “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about it, and I wished you hadn’t found out this way
Assessment: Changing ‘that’ to ‘I wished’ shows more emotion from the character speaking, adds a bit more sparkle to a fairly lacklustre sentence.
Before: Her eyes sparkle and she gives him a surprisingly sweet smile. For a few moments he can see little girl innocence inside her, even though she comes across as anything but innocent
After: Her eyes sparkle and she gives him a surprisingly sweet smile. For a few moments he can see little girl innocence inside her, even though she comes across as bold and assertive.
Assessment: Changing ‘anything but innocent’ to ‘as bold and assertive’ is a more active description and shows more of the woman’s personality. It adds to who she is as a person and I believe makes the sentence better.
Before: She arches her back and sucks in a breath.
After: She arches her back, inhaling a draft of salty sea air.
Assessment: Adding these extra words creates more vividness to the reader and reminds them where the scene is set
Before: His lips caress and he plunders her mouth with his tongue, like a man deprived.
After: His lips caress and he plunders her mouth with his tongue, like a man deprived of what he’d needed the most.
Assessment: Adding these extra words brings emotion into the sentence, makes it sound better.
But there could be a fine line between changing/adding words to a sentence to create a more interesting one, to brighten up an otherwise fairly boring sentence, to provide specific fact, OR leaving these additional and/or emotive words out to quicken the pace of a sentence. I would think that striking a balance would be the way to go, that is, adding in a few extra words in a sentence to show emotion, a fact, to breathe more life into a sentence if you strongly feel it’s warranted, and then refraining from adding in additional words if it might slow down the pace too much and may not be necessary. But how to strike a balance? When is it too much adding, and when might it be not enough?
I still need to figure that one out!
Thank you for visiting!
Simone Cooper w/as Kariss Stone