1. BonanzaFan2011
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    BonanzaFan2011 Member

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    Using Contractions

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by BonanzaFan2011, May 18, 2011.

    Hi guys,
    After getting a lot of encouragement to start writing fan fiction about my favourite show, I started searching for a beta reader with the same interest in me. Writing Bonanza fan fiction. It took a lot of courage from other friends to get me going and with a lot of work I finally finished my first story.

    I then needed a beta reader which isn't easy to come by as people are with their lives etc but I got lucky and scored one who has the same interest than me, writing Bonanza fan fiction.

    During the writing of the story she advised me to stop using contractions such as don't, won't cant' etc..and to use will not, can not etc. My first story finally gets posted on a Bonanza site which I am lucky isn't a busy one and after asking a couple of other people about using contractions, they tell me that the Cartwright charachters in the show didn't talk like that saying can not, will not etc. and they used contractions such as can't , won't etc.

    Also someone pointed out to me that this beta reader, whom I thought was becoming a friend, used contractions in her stories!!!

    I have now started on a second story writing it on my own but will be getting another beta reader.

    Why would this beta reader give me such bad advice? To make me feel bad? I have only received one good feedback and nothing else and now I know why. It's not going to stop me from writing since I've been bitten by the bug.

    It is so hurtful that someone that you put trust in would hurt you like this.
    Why :(
    What are your thoughts on this?
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My recollection of "Bonanza" was that these guys were rugged Westerners, so they not only would have spoken using contractions, they would have used other idioms in their speech (although, being the 1960s, their speech was still squeaky clean). So, I would dismiss your beta reader's advice.

    More importantly, though, once you ask others to comment on your work, you have to be prepared for some constructive crtiticism but you also have to be prepared for the fact that the person might be wrong. From your post, it sounds as if the person who read your story has no particular qualifications as an editor or proofreader, which means her opinion is no more valid than yours is. Moreover, if she has the same interests as you (which I interpret to mean the same writing interest), she may actually have other motives to denigrate your work.

    If you are going to be serious about writing, you need to have confidence in it. I've been fortunate enough to have received some very good advice on two of my novels, one from an agent and one from an editor. Neither was ultimately published, but both were greatly improved after the input I received from them. The key was that I didn't just blindly accept the advice in either case. I sorted through it, used what made sense and rejected what didn't.

    Good writers take advice from editors, but they remain in control of their own work. You have to do that, too.

    Good luck.
     
  3. BonanzaFan2011
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    BonanzaFan2011 Member

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    Hi,
    Thanks for responding. As I said I am really new at this and didn't know any better so I took her advice. She has written quite a few Bonanza stories and only found out that she had used contractions too.
    The other person had said why did she give me such bad advice. I didn;t know any better and accepted it.
    Also because I thought she took the time to make my story sound better than what I had written because I am new at it, I accepted what she had told me and did what she asked as I thought it was only fair.
    She also told me , now I remember, also not to start a sentence using words ending with ING all the time. such as talking, taking etc. Is this wrong too? I am so confused on what is right.
    Also starting sentences using the word AS.
    I am serious about writing especially Bonanza fan fiction which is my interest.
    I was and am prepared for critisism but not the wrong advice which now I know she has given. It hasn't made me want to stop writing that's for sure but am confused on what is wrong or right.
     
  4. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    Your reader might mean you should avoid using contractions outside of dialogue. Spelling out the words tends to look more professional, while contractions add a little bit of a casual feel. If she's advising you to throw out contractions altogether, narrative and dialogue, then I'd say she hasn't a clue what she's talking about in this case.

    Omitting contractions in the narrative is fine if you're looking for a more professional air for your story, though it's entirely up to you if you want to do it. On the other hand, not allowing the characters to use them in their speech... That's not exactly true to their Western nature.
     
  5. BonanzaFan2011
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    BonanzaFan2011 Member

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    Hi There,
    She didn't specify where to stop using them, she just said to stop using contractions. Not knowing any better I didnt know to ask to clarify what she meant.
     
  6. Wes
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    Wes Member

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    I've always felt that using contractions in dialog is fine. But if it's not in dialog it should be seperate. Or that's what we were taught in my English class. College and high school. IMO, it looks better that way, but what do I know. Good luck with it tho.
     
  7. BonanzaFan2011
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    BonanzaFan2011 Member

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    Hi Wes,
    What do you mean about it being separate? Like out of dialogue?
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Using them in dialogue is perfectly fine. I try to avoid them outside of dialogue unless I am in first person POV and use them to capture the voice of the narrator.
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm hoping that she meant that you should stop using contractions in narrative, as opposed to dialog, and you misunderstood her to mean that you should eliminate them altogether. In her stories, does she use them outside dialog?

    Personally, I think that they're fine in narrative, unless you're being quite formal, but I can see the other side.

    ChickenFreak
     
  10. BonanzaFan2011
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    BonanzaFan2011 Member

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    She didn't quite tell me where to stop using them She just said to stop using them. So as I said not knowing any better I did :( Now I know better. I was told that she uses them in her stories and was told why did she tell me to stop using them. I said I don't know why.
     
  11. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Using or not using contractions is a stylistic choice, neither is wrong. You'll have to try to see some of the Bonanza shows and find out for yourself which characters used contractions and which didn't.

    Maybe your beta reader has it right but her own writing isn't up to scratch? Or sees you as competition? Many possible reasons.
     
  12. BonanzaFan2011
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    BonanzaFan2011 Member

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    I think that maybe one character might have spoken saying will not etc..but the others no. As you say there are many possible reasons why she advised me that way.

    What's your stance on starting sentences with words ending with ING ? Is it okay to use it once in a while? Another advice she told me not to do. Also sentences starting with the word AS.
     
  13. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Even in third person, depending on the style you're going for, you'll want to try to capture the voice of the narrator. Common misconception that third person has to be a distant pov, but contemporary trends find third and first person really not much different if you're trying to deliver a through-the-character POV.

    For example, if you're working a third person story where a teenager is your MC, it'll probably be seen as awkward and sloppy these days if your prose is formal (which not using contractions gives the feeling of formality, often). The norm, that I've seen, is using contractions even in third person prose, unless you're specifically trying to create a more formal, older, mature sort of mood/feeling/style.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Can you clarify what you mean by this? Are you talking about sentences like:

    Chopping the onions, she explained the problem to Joe.
    or
    As she chopped the onions, she explained the problem to Joe.

    I don't think that there's anything inherently wrong with that type of sentence, but if you tend to use them a lot, so that it's a detectable pattern in your writing, then I'd suggest varying the sentence structure more.

    ChickenFreak
     
  15. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Just make sure the grammar is sound. She can logically talk to Joe for the duration of chopping onions. The 'ing' starting verb implies that action will exist for the duration of the sentence, while the other actions also then occur.

    So, 'chopping the onions, she uncorked the wine' (and yes, I've seen sentences this poorly constructed in manuscripts, lol). That implies she somehow uncorcked the while, all the while chopping onions, which takes a LOT of talent.

    The best I've ever seen was where a scene was set up for the character to be running late, rushing down the stairs, she pulled her clothes on in haste. Or something like that, that basically implied the character was running SO late that while rushing down the stairs the character was somehow dressing as she ran, in the stairwell, at a full run (which, hey, I've known people to do crazy things, but the writer was simply trying to say that the character was so late she'd had to rush to get her clothes on as well, not saying the character had to dress on the way down the stairs, lol).

    The tricky ones are like 'firing the gun, he ducked for cover' as it implies the character was somehow ducking for cover AS they were firing the gun, which is possible, but creates some odd, haphazard shooting (where the persons arm is still not behind cover, lol), when people usually mean 'he fired the gun and ducked for cover' which is a first then second action, not imply a first and second action.
     
  16. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't see why we shouldn't use contractions in fiction. Whether it's dialogue or not. I actually googled it because for some reason it did not cross my mind to avoid them. From the looks of it there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with it.

    Unless it's supposed to be a formal thing. One website mentioned that if you wanted to have a character sound more formal then you should avoid using contractions in their speech.

    To be honest I don't even notice whether or not an author uses Would Not or Wouldn't. I also think that contractions seem to make for a smoother sentence. When I am aware of contractions I find they are actually easier for me to read.
     
  17. AvihooI
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    AvihooI Member

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    You cannot base your entire self-worth and critique soley on one person's point of view. If you're writing to get good reviews, then there's absolutely no value in your writing. You need to have some sort of confidence in order to convey a piece of art - not just in writing. Just the same way a singer isn't going to stop singing just because eighty-percent (and many times it can be more) of the population can't fathom his or hers songs.

    As for contractions - sometimes they feel right, sometimes they don't. If you're writing about a show, which has a rather modern depiction of life and isn't archaic. Then certainly contractions fit both in dialog and in content. Contractions are perfectly correct grammatically in the English language and they're just as colloquial.

    The only place I would not use a contraction is when I wish to make a point by purposely using the full form (just like in this very sentence).
     
  18. Mister Cheech
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    Mister Cheech Member

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    Always use contractions unless they feel weird to you somehow, like if there were a bunch of contractions in the one short sentence.

    If you do not use contractions, you are going to sound phony and stilted, which I do not think is the kind of prose you are after.
     
  19. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are other reasons for not using contractions, such as emphasis or formality.

    "I absolutely cannot do that!" is more emphatic than "I absolutely can't do that!"

    If I'm writing a technical report for work I'm not allowed to use contractions. If somebody is reading from such a report then it would sound unconvincing if they used contractions. What's more, after working for a long time on such reports (or after dealing for a long time with people with limited English skills) my own speech can take on a bit of that formality, something that could affect one of your characters too.
     
  20. BonanzaFan2011
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    BonanzaFan2011 Member

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    My Thread

    Hey guys,
    I can't see my thread of where I started on called "Using Contractions"

    After my bad experience with my first ever beta reader , I now have a new one and she is great. She also writes Bonanza stories and she has explained to me about the story being in either past or present tense which I had been struggling with. It all makes sense now!! The story has to be in either past or present so I'm finding writing in present tense easier.

    What are your thoughts on this? I hope I'm not going to get advice saying she is wrong as I think I finally understand. I hope I do. Thanks.
     
  21. BonanzaFan2011
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    BonanzaFan2011 Member

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    Thanks to whoever found it and adding this :)
     

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