1. UberNoodle
    Offline

    UberNoodle Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2010
    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    0

    Past perfect and Mr. Apostrophe

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by UberNoodle, Jan 18, 2011.

    Hi,

    I am wondering what to do with all my past perfect constructions. What are your thoughts on how to render them in prose?

    • Then he realised that he had put on two different colour socks!

      OR

    • Then he realised that he'd put on two different colour socks!


    I came to the conclusion that unless the narration was styled as spoken word, only the pronouns would be rendered in that way and while nouns and proper nouns would be written in full.

    • He'd already been to the store twice that day and it'd been quite harrowing.


    I was also wondering what to do in prose when 'would' is used.

    • She'd come running down the driveway to meet us.


    And how about constructions with "there"?

    • There'd been a fire and the whole house was charred.
    • There'd always be something cooking in the oven


    And as a bonus question for all you players at home - are these examples readable or "correct" to you? Use of the apostrophe for 'is', is fine (for 'are', it looks weird with anything but 'we' and 'they') but how would one render the elision of 'has' (shown in the last two examples)?

    • "Anakin's a slave to the dark side," she intoned woodenly under George Lucas' direction.
    • "When's it ever OK to make Greedo shoot first?"
    • "Great! The Jub Jub song's been removed!"
    • "Why's Old Anakin's ghost been replaced by that glowy mannequin?"

    Thanks!
     
  2. Melzaar the Almighty
    Offline

    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,792
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    UK
    The thing I see as the problem is knowing whether it's is/has, or would/had

    These:

    could be read as either would/had, and it's down to the context. Really it comes to knowing which is which. Sometimes a sentence might be grammatically correct, but the way it's been written would make you think that it was "had" just because of the context. I have corrected this more than a few times in critiquing before. Usually I advise writing it out in full unless it makes the character sound stilted and robotic. 90% of the time though, you can get away with doing it in full, and use contractions elsewhere to tone down the formality of the speech.
     
  3. UberNoodle
    Offline

    UberNoodle Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2010
    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    0
    True, Almighty Melzaar. If the context is clear, it shouldn't be a problem. However, if a book chops and changes its standards for contractions, would you see that as a problem?

    • She would come bounding down the driveway, her tongue lolling from her wide, slobbering grin. "Hi dad!" she would call, and I would marvel at the world's only talking dog.

    In that prose (which I just wrote and is far too silly to be in any of my stories), the 'would' is awkward and begs for contraction. What do you think?
     
  4. Melzaar the Almighty
    Offline

    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,792
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    UK
    Almost certainly, though I'm wondering why you'd write such a long piece with so many "would"s. Generally you can avoid it pretty easily.

    "It was always the same: she came bounding down the driveway, her tongue lolling from her wide, slobbering grin. "Hi dad!" she would call, leaving me to marvel at the world'd only talking dog."

    If you were insisting on keeping the example as it is, then I'd leave the first would for context, then "she'd call" and "I'd marvel". Though, obviously, that particular sentence it's just a matter of clunky-sounding prose and not a confusion, since grammatically you can't get "she had call" out of it.

    I dunno, something like this you really just have to go by ear and example by example.
     
  5. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    they're all ok technically... their use should be dictated by the 'voice' of the narrator and speech style of the characters...
     
  6. UberNoodle
    Offline

    UberNoodle Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2010
    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    0
    Is there some rule that one should not use "would" in fiction? To me, its use denotes a kind of wavy lines reminiscence, perhaps as the speaker gazes off into space, smiling. Is it "clunky" because it's long or because it uses "would"?

    Melzaar's rewrite is fine but I think it has a different atmosphere, of a particular instance of a long string of regular events. Using "would", the image is of a whole lifetime perhaps of these repeated events.
     
  7. Spacer
    Offline

    Spacer Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2011
    Messages:
    136
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Texas

    I would not contract it, since the had is more prominent (in a manner of speaking; not necessarily a verbal stress) to indicate that tense.
     
  8. UberNoodle
    Offline

    UberNoodle Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2010
    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    0
    I guess the core of my query is whether or not it is proper "form" to use contractions like that in prose. I see some writer's do so, and other's do not.
     
  9. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    it's not a matter of 'proper form' at all... only of what fits with the 'voice' of the narrator and the characters...
     

Share This Page