1. That Secret Ninja
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    That Secret Ninja Member

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    Using 'as' Too Much?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by That Secret Ninja, Jun 16, 2010.

    Well basically, when I'm writing my stories, it feels like I use 'as' way too much. I'll give a line of dialogue and then go on to say something along the lines of '....he said, as he looked past the sweltering sun and into the eyes of the man he feared most.' But aside from that, it also feels like I use 'as' way too much as a medium through which I can string imagery or description into the progression of the narrative.

    Here's an 2 example paragraphs from a story I've been working on for the past week. It's a mix of dialogue and imagery in a fairly important scene. Of course it's in the middle of a story no one has read yet, so just get over the fact that you won't know what's happening. Do I use 'as' too much here?

    ' “Not too excited to meet Him are you? Well, I can understand and respect that. I'm dreading Saturday. But at least we have the day off then, you have the possibility of meeting with Him hanging over all your days events and actions. “Scarlett said as she glanced out the window behind Desmond. The Citadel towered over everything as it began to grow larger and larger in the presence of the speeding Relay Tram. Scarlett looked back at Desmond as he sat in rapt fascination at what was unfolding before him. “I hope this day isn’t too stressful for you Dez. But everyone I have spoken to about the subject swears of the power of His words. They say honesty with yourself and with Him is key. I....I don’t know if I can do that…” She said as she looked downward to her small soft hands. “No matter what you think of me, just know it’s hard for me to be what I appear to be to you and everyone else. I cannot even be honest with myself when I’m around others. I fear they will see what I hide as a weakness. That they will focus on my faults and tear up everything I have worked so hard to accomplish…” Scarlett’s voice descended into a slight whimper as Desmond could see tears forming at the corners of her blue eyes. His first instinct was to slowly bring his hand to her face and take away the lone teardrop. As he began to lift his hand, the Relay Tram began to decelerate
    “Arrival into three, two, one.” Spoke the hollow feminine voice as the Tram gently arrived at Detritus Academy. Desmond had just witnessed something he had never seen in Scarlett. Something, he thought, no one had ever seen, but something she had to think about and contend with at every turn. Is there more to Scarlett? Is there something I could understand? Something I could relate to? Something I could even love? Desmond looked out the window beside him and saw that cadets were already filling out of the Tram and going about their ways. By the time Desmond spun around to face Scarlett, she was gone. '

    *mind you, this is an example in which I think I use it too often. Is this okay? or should I find alternative ways to string dialogue and imagery into the narrative?

    Some authors I enjoy seem to use it all the time and I still enjoy their writing. But there are others that don't use nearly as often and I like their writing just as well. Is there a strict rule for this? or is this one of those things that comes from a writers' own writing style?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    One thing you should always watch out for is that as, used as a conjunction this way, really means concurrent actions. That means they occur at the same time throughout both actions. So in your first example sentence, you are gazing into the eyes of your nemesis the entire time you are speaking.

    Behind this overuse is often an addiction to compound sentences. You're probably more sensitive to overusing and, and but, and several other common conjunctions. Consider reducing the number of compound sentences instead. Embrace the power of the simple declarative sentence.
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Consider dropping the dialogue tags (sometimes) when it is clear who is speaking. Scan your work and check to see how many times you use the as as way to link your dialogue tag to the action that is either concurrent or that follows. If you drop the dialogue tag in the example you've given, it remains perfectly clear who has spoken to whom.

     
  4. That Secret Ninja
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    That Secret Ninja Member

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    thanks for the help guys.

    I probably do have an addiction for overusing compound sentences. But that's something I gotta work on in later drafts. My story is only in it's first drafted form.

    I think I will cut down on using 'as' when stringing bits of dialouge and imagery together. But for some reason it feels weird to me not mentioning concurrent actions when one of the characters isn't speaking. I just find it odd to have a character just stand there like a goon doing nothing but spewing out lines like a robot, or just standing there listening. But, I'll work on it.

    I'll also cut down using dialogue tags within paragraphs that only have one character speaking, that makes perfect sense. No reason to keep saying 'he said, she said' when it's obvious that same character is still speaking, but is just taking breaks to do things.
     
  5. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are many ways you can rewrite some of these sentences without using as, e.g. your sentence:

    The Citadel towered over everything as it began to grow larger and larger in the presence of the speeding Relay Tram.
    (actually, I'm not at all sure I get the meaning of that sentence...but anyway...)

    can be:

    The Citadel towered over everything while it grew larger and larger in the presence of the speeding Relay Tram.

    The Citadel towered over everything, growing larger and larger in the presence of the speeding Relay Tram.

    The Citadel towered over everything, and grew larger and larger in the presence of the speeding Relay Tram.

    When the Relay Tram sped into view, the Citadel towered over everything.

    ...and we could go on...
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would say that there are too many sentences with similar form, yes. One possible rewrite, cutting out every single "as" (and compressing the dialogue because it's unchanged), could be:

    Scarlet glanced out the window behind Desmond. She said, "Dialogue."

    The Citadel towered over everything, growing larger and larger in the presence of the speeding Relay Tram. Scarlett looked back at Desmond, noting his rapt fascination at what was unfolding before him. “Dialogue…” She looked downward to her small soft hands. “Dialogue…” Scarlett’s voice descended into a slight whimper, and Desmond could see tears forming at the corners of her blue eyes. He lifted a hand to reach for the lone teardrop, but dropped it when the Relay Tram began to decelerate.

    The Tram gently arrived at Detritus Academy. “Dialogue.” announced the hollow feminine voice overhead. Desmond had just witnessed...
     

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