Exterminating Weak Voice Ninjas #amrevising

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This ninja seems to be climbing a rope.

In my last update, I mentioned how I decided to take a break from querying to revise my manuscript from third person narrative past to third person narrative present. Happily, I’ve finished that revision, which required changing every verb in my manuscript, and while doing so I noticed something else: I had hidden a lot of weak voicing behind the word “seem.”

For example: “John seems uncomfortable.” As an editor, I had been conscious of trying to avoid too much  phrasing like “John is uncomfortable,” but I noticed this time that the former phrase doesn’t really say anything different. “Seem” is just a less certain way of saying “is,” and the narrator should not be uncertain.

To some degree, there may be an implied indirect object, e.g. “John seems uncertain to Barb.” (No, there is no John or Barb in my manuscript.) Now, it’s not as if “seem” has nothing more to offer than “is,” but still, there are stronger, more descriptive ways to say “John seems uncomfortable.”

For example: “John fidgets”; “John avoids eye contact”; “John attempts to lean against the wall but his arm slips, provoking him to attempt a sloppy recovery, brushing his hair back and putting his hands in his pockets.” Continue reading

Narrative Now! #amwriting #amrevising #amquerying

Reading Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake for my book club, I realized that my manuscript needs the narrative present.

Narrative present (or historical present), is basically what it sounds like: instead of telling a story in the past tense, you write it in the present.

Thus:

Heathcliff felt discouraged as he walked to the store.

Becomes:

Heathcliff feels discouraged as he walks to the store.

(No, my manuscript does not contain a character named Heathcliff.)

There are important pros and cons to the narrative present, and some have complained that it has been overused in recent years. But it hadn’t even occurred to me to use it until reading Atwood. Continue reading

Fiction: The New Fairy Science

Note: The story originally appeared at How We Lost the Moon, which is now defunct.

As dusk approached, two fairies debated the nature of their universe.

“Well, we both agree that the sun is a big ball of fire.”

“I mean, basically.”

“Okay. So let’s start there.”

“Fine. The sun is a big ball of fire that gives us light and warmth, much bigger than the Earth.”

“Bigger?”

“Yes, bigger.”

“Really? How much bigger?”

“I can’t say for sure, but hundreds of times larger, maybe thousands.”

At this the younger of the two fairies shook her head in denial. “You’ve got it all wrong.” Continue reading

Fiction: The Conspiracy

A Play in One Act

Note: The story originally appeared at How We Lost the Moon, which is now defunct.

Characters

LEO FOX

DANIEL, his friend and host

MAXIMUS, friend

PETER, friend

STEPHANI, DANIEL’s girlfriend

ROBERT, friend

DANA, friend

THOMAS, friend

ALAN, acquaintance

Scene

The living room of DANIEL’s home. Two doors to the room are located at stage left and stage right, respectively. DANIEL tidies up the room when a knock comes from the door stage left. Continue reading