1. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Asking for input: your most common style 'gripes'

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Tea@3, Jul 24, 2016.

    Hi Everyone,

    This is for me, just to have. I want to make a little pyramid of common style/grammar 'construction' mistakes (please, no spelling or punctuation comments. Those go without saying, no?) 'undeveloped' writers make. Just as a reminder for me. I will make a sticky note to put by my writing desk. Will you help me fill in the list?

    I am gonna start it off with my personal number one gripe:

    1-- Using passive instead of active voice.
    2--
    3--
    4--
    5--


    Anyone want to chip in for 4-5?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Hmmm. Maybe I shoulda reversed it and made it things 'to do' rather than mistakes to avoid?
     
  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    When you say passive voice, do you mean actual grammatical passive voice or do you mean using verbs that are somehow considered not "strong"? And if you mean the actual grammatical passive voice, do you hate it across the board, or just when used inappropriately?
     
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  4. Imaginarily
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    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

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    The fucking word "would," when narrating.

    He would get up and make some coffee.

    Well did he or didn't he? Are we just being told that that might happen if something else were to happen? And what is that something else? *pulls hair out* :wtf:
     
  5. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Adverb overuse is a common one.

    Also, needless verbosity especially when pertaining to the description of objects, but primarily of characters (specifically in such cases where the writer feels the need to expound on their magnificent and wondrous attractiveness).
     
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  6. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I think I'm gonna go with the overuse of : was -ing sentences.

    I was horribly guilty of this until someone pointed it out to me & now it drives me nuts.
     
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  7. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    I mean, you know, when 'the sentences were written backwards by the writer' instead of 'the writer wrote with passive too often'

    And yes, weak verbs, although I don't know enough to delineate, if there is a separation, as you indicated.

    And, RE passive, I don't mind it if it fits where it should be used. I guess I'm referring to only using passive, or, passive voice run amok.

    But the verbs thing is a good one to add to the list, thanks. How should I word that?

    And do you think I should make it a 'to do' list to be more proactive? (opposed to a 'gripes' list)
     
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  8. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've honestly never understood the "weak" or "strong" verb idea. I can see how individual verbs "work" or "don't work" in a certain context, but the idea that some verbs should just never be used makes no sense to me. So I'm probably not a great resource on that one!
     
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  9. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Bingo! Thanks for reminding me of this one. That should go as number 2.
     
  10. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Well thanks for saying that, because I never really got it either. I am willing to listen what anyone has to say about them, but so far it's not on my radar. I liked the speech Lee Child gave recently that blew most of these 'rules' out of the water. Did you hear about that?
     
  11. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    That's participles, right? Maybe that should be number three.
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm staring at this, trying trying trying trying to suppress starting the usual, "Are you sure you're talking about passive voice? Passive voice is hardly ever used; how are you seeing it often enough for it to be a pet peeve?"

    Trying trying trying trying....

    Look! Yay! @BayView did it! Thanks, BayView! I'm so happy. Now I can join in.

    OK, one of my pet peeves is throwing in bits of description that are utterly irrelevant to the scene, in an effort to avoid an actual flat out description. The bits are usually far more distracting than the actual description would have been. Example:

    A shot rang behind her. She turned, scarlet-nailed hand pushing her gleaming rippled auburn hair behind the shoulder of her ruched satin evening gown, to see her husband on the ground in a pool of blood.

    Yeah, a little extreme in the irrelevance/action contrast, but I wanted to make the point. :)
     
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  13. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Lack of sentence variety. Too many writers, especially beginners, use the same structure all the time. For example:

    John woke up. He took a shower. He got dressed and ate breakfast. He drove to work. He parked his car and went into his office. He got himself a cup of coffee. He sat down at his desk.

    Etc. etc. etc. Boring!
     
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  14. Laurin Kelly
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    Laurin Kelly Active Member

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    I seriously dislike epithets (i.e. the blond man, the smaller girl, the German) in place of a character's name or appropriate pronoun. Drives me absolutely batty, and nothing will send me running from a story faster.

    I'm also not a fan of steriodal-filled dialogue tags like "he gritted out".
     
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  15. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    1. Not varying sentence length, therefore everything reading like a drone.

    2. Excessive detail because the author's a little too in love with their setting and/or characters (not necessarily but including infodumps)

    3. Complete lack of description resulting in something that's utterly bland

    4. Starting the novel with a description of your fantasy world (this only works when done well, and amongst novices, it's rare for this to be done well)
     
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  16. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I have a friend who does that...

    ETA: she often describes action of a character's limbs entirely separate from the character itself. It's most strange... Example:

    Slender arms wrapped around a muscular waist.
     
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  17. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    1. A tight style blown by using clichés to gussy up descriptions.
    2. Purple prose - when the writer isn't all that good at descriptions.
    3. Using fifty words when ten words would work better.
    4. Irrelevant metaphors - like when a monk compares something to a video game.
    5. Fluky pacing - The paragraph starts one way but the rest of the sentences don't match.
    6. Working backwards - I.e. Henry dropped dead when a bullet entered his heart from the smoking gun held in his wifes hand in the parlor. It kills suspense.
     
  18. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    The thing that bugs me the most with new writers is when they replace said with bigger words. You almost always want to use said. It becomes invisible and is usually the best option.
     
  19. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    Weak conflicts we've seen a thousand times, that are obviously leading towards some sort of reader/writer wish fulfillment.

    Oh, there's some bully we've only had about 30 seconds of time with, just enough to know he's a terrible person, and you're about to beat him up and make him pee his pants?
    Sounds like a solid story arc.
     
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  20. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    Well, weak verbs are those that take a regular suffix to form their past tense, like "Walk, walked". Strong verbs conjugate to past tense by altering their stem vowel, like "Begin, began, begun".

    Sorry not sorry. I couldn't help myself.
     
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  21. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Excessive dialogue with little or no action.

    HATE.
     
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  22. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I don't enjoy stories that rely too heavily on dialogue to do all the work. And worse yet, dialogue that is awkwardly attributed (or not attributed at all) so you have to start keeping count of who said what as you tumble down the page—even if there are only two speakers in the scene (god help you if there are more than two.)

    I'm totally put off dialogue written by people who are afraid to use any beats or attributions that aren't 'said' —which is certainly NOT invisible if it's used every third line or so. It's about as boring a device as I can think of. (This doesn't mean you have to become melodramatic or silly with your word choices. Just vary them, use beats and narrative to give shape to the dialogue, and make your word choices as specific as you can.)

    Dialogue that is poorly punctuated or divided into paragraphs that don't match the speaker bothers me no end. This common mistake ends up totally confusing the reader as to who is saying what, and what is going on.

    In short, I hate dialogue that spins out of control. It happens a lot. For some reason, lots of newbie writers think dialogue is the way to go, for various reasons. However, in the wrong hands it can end up as talking heads or reading like a script for a movie. Which is fine, if it IS a script for a movie, because good actors will provide the pauses, the facial expressions and the body language that helps convey the meaning. The setting will be there in front of the viewer. ALL these extra things need to be provided by the writer in a novel or short story, though, because all the reader has are the writer's words.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2016
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  23. Sal Boxford
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    Sal Boxford Active Member

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    Both of these points are part of my biggest bugbear: the writer being so besotted with their own creation that they feel the need to put them into every cool situation that pops into their head and have them come out the hero every time. It makes reading/watching their work feel like watching them, um, 'make their own entertainment'.


    I also hate sly self-praise. Don't have a character say something and then have another character say how witty or clever it is (unless that second character is: taking the piss, an idiot, or someone we're not supposed to like): I know that you wrote the original statement and the praise.

    Sal thought Sal made a really good point. Why hadn't she thought of that before? Sal was so fucking insightful. If only Sal could have that same clarity of thought!

    (I suppose this isn't exactly a 'style' issue but it seemed connected with the above so...)


    I'm guilty of this. I should be better at avoiding it. It annoys the hell out of me when other people do it.
     
  24. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    It sounds silly, but I'm fighting to learn to write shorter sentences well. I have an ugly tendency, perhaps brought upon by my work, perhaps by a certain unconscious desire to show off, to create monstrosities that, while grammatically correct, just spiral further and further out of control until even the most patient reader, indeed, even an avid fan of my work, were such a person to exist, would feel the I hope not insurmountable urge to toss their hands up and toss my book out the nearest safely-positioned window.
     
  25. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Frequent semi-colons; even when they're used correctly (and so not a SPAG issue) they're distracting.

    Present tense. Hate it.

    Descriptions of first-person narrators awkwardly thrown in. Not just the dreaded looking-in-a-mirror but things like, "I tossed my blonde hair and..." NOBODY THINKS OF THEMSELVES LIKE THAT.

    Comma splices. Again, I know you said no SPAG, but people who don't know how to use commas have told me it's their style choice to use them.

    Frequent use of wrong-way-round dialogue like: She said, "Dialogue." instead of "Dialogue," she said. Distracting.

    Frequent use of pet words/phrases. Like the novel I read where everybody's mouths "quirked into a smile" or the dreaded "my breath hitches" in 50 Shades.
     
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