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  1. MrDecisive

    MrDecisive New Member

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    Grammar I tie myself up in knots over grammar and it drives me insane.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by MrDecisive, Jan 20, 2017.

    I run a play by post dnd role playing game which means I write most everyday. I love writing and have a great imagination but the thing that frustrates me continually is my lack of grammar sense. It drives me round the bend at times. I write, without thinking too much about grammar, to get the general idea on the page and then I go back for a second pass with the view to tidy up my prose, to make it flow, to make it clear but instead I seem to go round and round writing and re-writing sentences, moving them here and there adding word in and taking words out because i just don't know what is right. For example (and the reason that brought me here) I wrote this:

    (A svartalfar is a black elf from Norse mythology).

    The Svartalfar began to reel itself in. It's jaws flexed and it's throat pulsed as it began to draw close to the great wolf.

    then I went back and fiddle about with it and came up with this

    The Svartalfar's whip like tendrils tightened and it began to pull itself towards the great wolf with it's jaws flexing and it's throat pulsing.

    then I wasn't sure the "with it's jaws flexing and it's throat pulsing" didn't sound like the wolfs jaws and throat and not the elf's jaws and throat so I separated the two and got this.

    The Svartalfar's whip like tendrils tightened and it began to pull itself towards the great wolf. On and on it came with it's jaws flexing and it's throat pulsing.

    Then I questions whether 'and it began to pull...' should be 'as it began to pull' so I tried both and couldn't decided if one was better than the other or whether one was correct over the other so I left it as 'and'.

    Then I looked at 'On and on it came with it's jaws flexing and it's throat pulsing.' and wondered if I needed the connectives or whether just commas would do like this 'On and on it came, jaws flexing, throat pulsing'

    I know if I continue to look at it I will go around and around and around.

    Can anyone help. I've read many books on grammar and writing and style and prose etc etc but I still don't know what is write and what is wrong. I've lost so much confidence it really hold me back. Is there anywhere where I can go to get better control over the words on my page?
     
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not one of the things you asked, but...

    Every occurrence of it's in the above examples is incorrect. Possessive its has no apostrophe, which keeps it in line with his, hers, theirs, ours. No apostrophes. It's is the contracted form of it is.
     
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  3. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Gosh. Well the good news is that none of these are bad. And I think your original instincts are working well. The first version makes the most sense. There isn't any doubt about whose jaws are flexing!

    The Svartalfar began to reel itself in. It's jaws flexed and it's throat pulsed as it began to draw close to the great wolf.

    However, one major error. The possessive of "it" is its, not it's. Its jaws flexed and its throat pulsed—not it's jaw flexed and it's throat pulsed. I know, it is weird. But that's correct. There is no such word as her's or their's either, by the way. The correct form: The bag is hers. The bags are theirs.

    The confusion with "it" comes because there IS a correct usage of it's. It's is the correct punctuation when you're using it as a short form of "it is." Same as "don't" is a shortened form of "do not."
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2017
  4. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Banned Contributor

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    Aside from its and it's... don't say something is, 'whip like'. The Svartalfar's tendrils whipped...
    I'm not really picturing an elf in any of those lines, even a badass elf. I was visualizing a more cumbersome beast, definitely not of the elf family.

    Wouldn't an elf be more precise, akin to a fencer in a life and death struggle, remaining poised, graceful?
     
  5. MrDecisive

    MrDecisive New Member

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    Hi Thanks, I know about its and it's I usually pick that one up when I run through the second time. I made the opposite mistake with 'wolfs jaws'. I was more focused on the main point of my question but should have known better than posting on a writing forum without checking things like that first.

    I see what you mean about whip like. I don't think 'whipped' would work in the sentence above but maybe if I used 'whipped' in an earlier description I could just make the sentence in question "The svartalfar's tendrils tightened and it began to pull itself towards the great wolf.'

    They are not Elves as in lord of the rings. To confuse things further, in Norse mythology Dark Elves are Dwarves however in the game I run they are something different altogether.
     
  6. Elven Candy

    Elven Candy Pay no attention to the foot in my mouth Contributor

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    I like the first two best, but the third one works well also. It gives the impression of more time passing, IMO. You're right that you can just say "On and on it came, jaws flexing, throat pulsing." I write like that a lot, and it's grammatically fine. Also, if you want to say whip like, you need to put a hyphen in there: whip-like.

    The big blue bear. The bear is both big and blue, so this works
    The whip like tendrils. The tendrils aren't whip or like, so this doesn't work.

    It's jaws flexed and it's throat pulsed as it began to draw close to the great wolf.
    You can cut the second "its" and just say, "Its jaws flexed and throat pulsed," if you desire. This is totally optional, though, and doesn't negatively or positively affect the grammar. I just wanted to make sure you knew the option so it doesn't bug you later if you notice it.;)

    It looks like you have a good grasp of grammar and you're just second guessing yourself. Go with your gut and see if you like the results!
     
  7. Dnaiel

    Dnaiel Senior Member

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    The tendrils can be whip-like. This is a divergence from the traditional elf, but there's no reason you can't do that with elves. However, I would prefer to see the description earlier, when you're first describing them and their whip-like tendrils, than in this instance. Unless this instance is early in your book, of course. Too much detail in an action scene (even if it's short or small-scale) bogs down the reader. That's why your first version is well-received. Observe an important tenet of writing: don't waste words. Otherwise, I agree that your grammar is fine.
     
  8. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    The Svartalfar with whip like tendrils, began to tighten and pull itself toward the great wolf. Closer and closer it drew nearer, flexing its powerful jaws and throat.

    What is Svartalfar?
     
  9. MrDecisive

    MrDecisive New Member

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    Thank you all for your comments. I think Elven Candy may have hit the nail on the head when she says "It looks like you have a good grasp of grammar and you're just second guessing yourself. Go with your gut and see if you like the results!". There have been times when I've gone back to a piece of writing after a period of time and reading it again I think "Wow that actually sounds good!" yet I remember, at the time, struggling to stop myself pouring over individual sentences in the way I describe above. I was an 'average' English student at school but despite this, in the intervening years, I've strived to improve my technical writing ability through courses, and books, and websites, and practice but for the most part I've always done it in isolation and this isolation has probably lead to a hamstringing lack of self belief. The question "Am I doing this right?" is always in the back of my mind and the faint reply often echoes back "Probably not!". Thanks again, this has been very useful. :)

    Svartalfr (probably not spelled correctly) using google translate is Svart = Black and Alva = Elf so Black Elf. They are mentioned in the Prose Edda
     
  10. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

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    Svartalfar would be the plural form, the singlar being Svartalfr.
    Assuming you care about Old Norse and its declination paradigms. I wouldn't blame you if you didn't.
     
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  11. Francis de Aguilar

    Francis de Aguilar Contributor Contributor

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    Why not, although, should it not be, whip-like?
     
  12. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

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    Concrete imagery is king. Whiplike doesn't really tell us anything precise.
     

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