Friday, September 28, 2012

Contractions

No, not the birthing of a baby kind. I'm talking about using contractions in your writing. Unless you're writing formal dialogue or historical fiction, please please please use contractions!

I see so many writers make this basic mistake on their blogs and in their books. As badly as we wish to sound formal, the reading of such writing is difficult, at best.

I'll give a couple of examples:

John stood in the room and looked at Marsha. She looked like a goddess sitting there in her nightgown with the sun streaming through the window behind her. "Honey, how about we go tonight to that restaurant you like so much?"
"Oh, I am too tired for all that today. How about you come and sit with me?"
He would have joined his wife on the couch, but he knew if he did not get moving, he would be late for work. "I wish I could, darling. But I have not got the time. I am going to be late for work if I do not get going." John shuffled toward the door. "I love you." (116 words)

It sounds stilted and it's just plain difficult to read. Let's try again, shall we?

John stood in the room and looked at Marsha. She looked like a goddess sitting there in her nightgown with the sun streaming through the window behind her. "Honey, how about we go tonight to that restaurant you like so much?"
"Oh, I'm too tired for that today. How about you come and sit with me?"
He would've joined his wife on the couch, but he knew if he didn't get moving, he'd be late for work. "I wish I could, darling. But I haven't got the time. I'm going to be late for work if I don't get going." John shuffled toward the door. "I love you." (108 words)

Not only is it easier to read, it also cuts your word count down. Try speaking the dialogue or story into a recorder before you write it if you struggle with dropped contractions. Above all else, it needs to be natural.

Let's try again and see if we can't cut it further.

John stared at Marsha. She looked like a goddess with the way her nightgown hugged her shape and the sun illuminated her hair. "Honey, wanna go to dinner at that restaurant you like so much?"
"I'm too tired for that today. Come and sit with me?"
"I wish I could but I'm gonna be late for work if I don't get going." John shuffled toward the door. "I love you." (70 words)

There must be a thousand ways to write a section like this. I could add dialogue, add action, charge it with emotion, or do just about anything to it. If you noticed, the part where I jumped to observation of John being late for work and not joining Marsha was removed. It was redundant because he says as much when he speaks. Above all else, you have to write what you feel. Just remember to be true to your characters and use those contractions! Just like taking out the adverbs, it can help you reduce word count and say what you need to say in a more succinct manner, leaving the reader to fill in the scene (they're good at that!).

Also, check out my post on Descriptions how much is too much? for some ideas on leaving things to the imagination and don't forget to go enter the 100 FB Like Giveaway! Today is the last day.

What issue drives you bananas when reading a book?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

2 comments:

  1. I love a good historical novel, but I just hate it when the writer insists on delivering mini-exposés at every opportunity. Plain boring and tiring, if they're not organically woven into the story. One or two of these tricks every few chapters is fine, but not too many...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm with you. Work it into the story. Thanks for the comment, Helene!

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