1. MaybeSomeday
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    MaybeSomeday New Member

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    Too many "buts"...

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by MaybeSomeday, Apr 15, 2012.

    I have a problem. I seem to use the same sentence structure repeatedly throughout my writing. It's actually problem I've just recently noticed and now that I have, it seems to be much bigger than I thought.

    Here's a couple of examples:

    He catches my eye and smiles at me, but even he looks nervous.

    “What the hell is she doing in here?” I hear her say, but her voice sounds muffled in my ears.


    Another issue seems to be in my descriptions:

    The people on the street seem fuzzy to me, as though their edges have been smudged.

    I'm looking for ways to write these types of sentences more effectively without using the same structure over and over. Any help is appreciated. Thanks!
     
  2. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    I think here, adverbs are your friend:

    He catches my eye and smiles nervously at me.
    "What the hell is she doing in here?" she says, her voice seemingly distant to my ears.

    I'd advise against, "I hear her say" as a tag. Anything tautologous in writing should be removed. It's obvious that you heard her, because you're quoting her dialogue. It's very difficult to most writers to put down "he said", "she said" all the way down their dialogue, but it's what you need to do. Readers don't even notice the tags consciously any more, it's only the person writing them who seems to.
     
  3. Just Jon
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    Just Jon Member

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    Perhaps:

    He catches my eye and flashes a nervous smile.
    "What the hell is she doing in here?" she said, her voice muffled to my ears.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You don't seem to have a huge but problem. You can rearrange sentences, as Cooper suggested, particularly if your sentences seem stuck in a rut, structurally (a structural but rut? Tut tut...). Maybe you need to back down somewhat on point-counterpoint sentences.

    He catches my eye and smiles, then quickly looks away.
     
  5. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    None of the substitutes offered catch the "even he". If you have a problem with this being a repeated pattern I would suggest keeping this one and getting rid of some of the others.
    How about "I hear her muffled voice say, "What the hell is she doing in here?"
    Tautology. If they seem fuzzy that means it's as though their edges have been smudged. Say one or the other, not both.
     
  6. lorilee
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    lorilee Member

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    They sentences read fine to me, but if you're looking for variation, here are a few:

    He looks nervous when he catches my eye and smiles.

    Even he looks nervous when he catches my eye and smiles at me.

    Catching my eye and smiling at me, even he looks nervous.



    “What the hell is she doing in here?” Her voice is muffled in my ears.

    Her voice sounds muffled in my ears when she says, “What the hell is she doing in here?”



    The people on the street are fuzzy, their edges smudged.

    The edges of the people on the street seem like they've been smudged. Everything is fuzzy.

     
  7. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    You don't need 'seem' 'as if/like' 'to/at me' etc if the POV is properly centered in the character. If you cut them out the writing is much more dynamic. Also, you may find that it is not necessary to join sentences with conjunctions all the time, e.g.

    He catches my eye and smiles. Even he looks nervous.

    “What the hell is she doing in here?” she said. Her voice was muffled in my ears.

    The people on the street were fuzzy, their edges smudged.

    You can have 'but', etc sometimes of course, just make sure that the sentence structure isn't always the same, and have a balance of long and short sentences.
     
  8. sunwave
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    sunwave Member

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    There can never be too many butts! ;)
    No, but seriously, I have the same problem. As you can see, I just used a 'but' at the beginning of this sentence (and purposely did not erase it, just for the example).

    Things you can do:
    1) Leave it in. It's not always bad.
    2) Substitute with another word.
    3) Just erase the word 'but' and make two sentences.
    4) Change the sentence completely.

    1) “What the hell is she doing in here?” I hear her say, but her voice sounds muffled in my ears.
    2) “What the hell is she doing in here?” I hear her say, even though her voice sounds muffled in my ears. (doesn't really mean the same in this case)
    3) “What the hell is she doing in here?” I hear her say. Her voice sounds muffled in my ears. (works fine)
    4) “What the hell is she doing in here?” I hear her muffled voice say.
     
  9. tbradt
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    tbradt New Member

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    There are other ways to phrase that. Allow me to offer alternatives.

    He catches my eye and smiles at me, but even he looks nervous.
    He catches my eye and smiles; even he looks nervous.
    He loses his usual casual demeanor and nervously catches my eye and smiles.

    “What the hell is she doing in here?” I hear her say, but her voice sounds muffled in my ears.
    “What the hell is she doing in here?” I hear her say with a voice that sounds muffled in my ears.
    “What the hell is she doing in here?” I hear in a muffled voice.

    There's loads of options. The important thing is that you see it. I use the word "as" entirely too much, so I am having the same trouble.
     

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