1. Artist369
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    Artist369 Active Member

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    Sentence Structure, two verbs, one subject

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Artist369, Nov 24, 2014.

    Is the following sentence structure is considered valid by conventional editors in the fiction writing field?:

    I do want to be clear, so if things aren't coming across correctly, I'd like to know. There's a lot of -ing verbs I've stuffed in clauses in my writing. I'm trying to rewrite them to deliver a closer experience for the reader. I feel "swiped at her brow" sounds better than "swiping at her brow", but I'm not sure if it works. Usually I would just put "and" in the middle. For example:

    But in the interest of variation, I wondered if I could drop it. Just a note- I do use the other "swiping at her brow" structure too, just trying to cut back. Much thanks.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This is a structure I would use myself because I like its brevity and focus on the actions without intervening mechanical words. A prescriptive grammarian will tell you it's wrong; a descriptive grammarian will tell you it works and delivers a particular feel. It is technically non-standard, so don't do it every third sentence, but in the narrative of a piece of fiction, this falls under artistic license and it's not even that much license being applied. ;)
     
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  3. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    That must be me. I don't see anything important that's added by omitting the 'and'. I would also suggest it would better as 'wiped the sweat from her brow' or 'swiped at the sweat from her brow'.
     
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  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I find myself wondering about "ing" verbs and "a closer experience for the reader" and wondering if you've gotten bad advice somewhere....

    But I'm dragging myself away from that, because while I don't understand the "closer experience" part, I do aprove of maximizing the variety of sentence structures.

    So. I think that to be technically correct (and you may choose not to be technically correct), you can't say, "Subject verbed, verbed." but instead must say, "Subject verbed and verbed." Or "Subject verbed, verbed, verbed, and verbed."

    Also "swiped...noun...at" seems odd. So I would change it to:

    Sarah staggered across the finish line and swiped the sweat from her brow.
    or
    Sarah staggered across the finish line and swiped at the sweat on her brow.
    or
    Sarah staggered across the finish line, swiped the sweat from her brow, and collapsed.

    That said, fiction writing doesn't always have to be technically correct. Whether the "Subject verbed, verbed." construction adds to or detracts from your own writing voice is impossible for me to tell without a much longer sample.

    Edited to add: Hmm. I thought that I didn't use the construction, but I more or less do. I just cut the actions into separate sentences, adding yet another incorrectness:

    Jane opened the door. Dropped her backpack. Dropped her keys. Collapsed on the couch. "I'm never going outside again. Bring me a Coke?"
     
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  5. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    I find myself asking, "and then" as if something is missing with the structure the way it is. ...swiped the sweat at her brow, then kicked the guy who'd cut her off in the balls.
     
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  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Just going by 'feel' and not by a rule I can cite, it needs the conjunction (and or then).

    The reason has to do with the consequent nature of the actions, and maybe also the distance between the two verbs.

    I leave some conjunctions out, rule or no rule, as a style choice to break up a monotonous cadence. But you would want to see a parallel relationship between the verbs and the subject. In the above sentence the relationship is consequent between the verbs. Like @Fitzroy Zeph says, without the conjunction, one expects a third action.

    Also I agree with the above comments that "swiped" is the wrong verb unless the action was more than just wiping sweat, like swiped at and missed some of it.
     
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  7. Artist369
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    Artist369 Active Member

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    Yeah, I think wiped is a better verb. Thanks. Silly me. Yeah ChickenFreak, it's more of the fact that I was putting in participle phrases everywhere. I need more varying structure. And less words make it faster-paced.
     
  8. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Is there anything wrong with mixing tenses in a sentence like this? My instinct would've been to write it -
    Sarah staggered across the finish line, swiping at the sweat on her brow.
     
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  9. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like this much better as it tags on more information by way of a phrase. It tells me exactly the same thing and reads clear. The original version has a speed bump to it that causes me to go back and wonder what the heck is going on which just upsets the flow of reading.
     
  10. Artist369
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    Artist369 Active Member

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    Only if you use that sentence structure over and over, like me! XD Just asking about variation. In fact, this sentence isn't even in my writing. It was a pure example. But I did mention at the top that I still use that particular structure. I'm just trying different approaches.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2014
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  11. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    That's a toughie. I usually let context dictate changes cause I have issues with gerunds.
     
  12. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    This is not mixing tenses, it's just saying while she staggered she was in the act of wiping. In the original sentence, one act followed the other.
     
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  13. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    I kinda like gerunds, but often hear they are considered the weaker method of expression. I guess too much of anything is not good.
     
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  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    The structure doesn't bother me. I've seen it increasingly used in the last decade or so, particularly among thrillers or fast-paced novels. How comfortable an editor is with it may depend, to some extent, on the genre you are writing in.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It isn't two verbs. It's one verb and a participle phrase. The latter acts as an adverb. The greatest caveat with this structure is that the action described by the participle phrase occurs simultaneously with, and for the full duration of, the main action.

    In this case, you can reasonably argue that the condition holds, but in others it is ridiculous, e.g.:
    She fled down the street, slamming the door behind her.

    Wrong, unless she somehow continues slamming the door as she runs.

    Also, this is not a gerund. A gerund is a present participle used as a noun:

    Swimming is excellent exercise.
     
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  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I assume that you mean that the "-ing" version is a participle phrase? The following has two verbs and no participle phrase, right? If not, then I need to go read up on things that I'm confused about.

    Sarah crossed the finish line and grabbed a bottle of water.
     
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  17. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think a lot of writers are being warned off -ing endings because too often they fall into the trap Cogito referred to, making it sound like two actions are happening simultaneously when they really aren't.

    In the OP example, I like the participle phrase ("wiping the sweat..."). If your writing has too many of those, I'm not sure that just switching to another sentence with almost the same structure would really give you enough variety to make the exercise worthwhile.
     
  18. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    This (or at least, "Sarah staggered...swiping the sweat...") implies that the swiping occurred WHILE she staggered across.

    This implies that Sarah staggered across the line, and THEN swiped the sweat.



    In Cogito's example, running up the street WHILST slamming the door behind you can't happen. You slammed the door, and THEN started running up the street.
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, this is a compound sentence with an implied subject (the same subject as the first clause) in the second clause.

    I also wasn't entirely clear, the -ing form is the present participle. There is another participle, often but not always identical to the past tense, called the past participle. Both participles are combined with an auxiliary verb to form compound verb tenses, e.g. present progressive tense uses the present participle with a present tense form of the verb to be:

    Miss Carter is speaking to her staff now.
     

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