1. Bakkerbaard

    Bakkerbaard Active Member

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    Was that it was

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Bakkerbaard, Feb 16, 2021.

    I keep running into an issue that's probably due to the limits in my English vocabulary. The problem is sentences like these:
    All they knew was that it was where the light came from.

    In fact, I lack the proper vocabulary to describe what my problem is, but I suspect it's evident.
    Sometimes I'm able to cut out one of the highlighted words, but in the case of this particular sentence (which I made up because the written version is too ridiculous to post out of context), the only way I see is to break the sentence.
    As in, make it wrong, by removing the first was.
    At least, I think that's wrong. Either way, I run in these often enough now that I should like to know a way around it.
     
  2. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    All they knew was that the light had come from there.
     
  3. Bakkerbaard

    Bakkerbaard Active Member

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    Thanks.
    I actually can't apply this to the sentence I've got in the story, but I did use it as a crutch to fix it.
     
  4. TJ Waters

    TJ Waters Member

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    They knew it was where the light came from.

    At least now they knew where the light came from.
     
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  5. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    Either "had come from" if the light is no longer shining, or "was coming from" if it is still shining, assuming the story is written in past tense.
     
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  6. Bakkerbaard

    Bakkerbaard Active Member

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    Ah, yes. The whole thing is in past tense and the light would still be shining, but I don't think the latter part is my problem. I want the sentence to state that they know only one thing and that thing is the origin of the light.
    Let me just grab the actual line. I think that'll speed things along, but do know that it looks rather pretentious, out of context.

    All they knew was that it was where gods and demons went after their form of death.

    Forget about form of death. That's still a work in progress. So, these two scientists are having lunch and one wonders where demons go after they die since they have no soul and in this particular case, have no corporeal form. The other guy says they become Nothing and that's all they know. The Nothingness is where they go.
    Trust me, it's gonna make all kinds of sense in the final product.

    Anyway, the already correct version is
    All they knew was that it’s where gods and demons went after their form of death.

    It's a bit of a cheat, since I just contracted it was, but at some point I'll have to focus on getting the ideas down instead of how they read.
     
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  7. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    All they knew was that gods and demons went there after their form of death.
     
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  8. Bakkerbaard

    Bakkerbaard Active Member

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    Fckin' gold, that is.
    Copy/paste/thanks.
     
  9. baboonfish

    baboonfish Member

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    Look up 'copula spiders in writing'. 'Was' is the main concern for this. I immediately searched my work for 'was' and noticed I was incredibly guilty of overusing it. I had to go through hundreds of pages of work and every other page had a splurge of wases. Removing around 60% of them was fairly easy and improved the writing considerably. Once you've spent 3 hours removing wases you tend to avoid them, making you a stronger writer, but I still have to do a spot 'was' check every now and then and I still fail, more like one in every 4 pages now! Was is a worrisome word weed to watch. 'That' is another word you can actually do away with most of the time, even more than 'was'.

    "They only knew the source of the light" Both wases and the that gone :)
     
  10. TJ Waters

    TJ Waters Member

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    Good work!
     
  11. Shannon Davidson

    Shannon Davidson Member

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    "All they knew was that it was where the light came from."

    "As best they could tell, the closet was the source of the light," or something like that
     
  12. Bakkerbaard

    Bakkerbaard Active Member

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    Term like that, I'd look it up even if I wasn't haven't this problem. Thanks!

    I did learn one other thing too: Every time I come on here to ask how I should write something, the paragraph surrounding the offending sentence usually gets deleted.

    Thanks for the help though.
     
  13. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    I looked up copulating spiders. I don't think that's the same thing.
     
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  14. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

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    There's a lot of good answers. I'm going to try to add an option too!

    All they knew was that it was where the light came from.

    This structure is a static statement in the form: A was B.

    All they knew was that it was where the light came from.​

    The real problem is in the that-clause. It could just be "(that) the light came from there." That's a good way out. (But that was already said up above.) I'll try to give you another option . . . I'm assuming that how the line ends is very important. The last words drive the idea. If they're flipped then the target changes.

    that the light came from there (emphasis on location, "there")
    that it was where the light came from (emphasis on the emanation itself, "came from")​

    (I know they're almost the same, and maybe it isn't worth the effort. Every time you try and make a line more elegant, something is lost and something is gained. There's some shift in meaning and you have to decide if the gain is more than the loss. (I sure love parentheses.))

    You can yank the basic statement right out of the original without "was." The static statement of the original will flip to active.

    They knew where the light came from.
    And then what was lost can be added back in, namely the fact that it was the only certainty. There are a zillion ways to do that. Separate lines, compound/complex sentences, etc.

    Despite Hagrid's blatant lies, they knew where the light came from.
    They couldn't explain X, Y, or Z; nevertheless, they knew where the light came from.
    In a time when men are assured of nothing, there can still be certainties. They knew where the light came from.​
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2021
  15. Bakkerbaard

    Bakkerbaard Active Member

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    No, actually, I saw a picture of a copula spider and it was pretty lewd.

    Incidentally, I worked at a TV show yesterday that had a segment on the mating rituals of spiders. So, consider me educated.
    And traumatized.
     
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  16. Ellis Grove

    Ellis Grove New Member

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    When I have a sentence that I think is unwieldy or cringey, instead of trying to rescue it, I examine what I’m trying to say, and become open to new ways of saying it. I don’t mean merely a new arrangement of the words in the sentence I’m having a problem with. I mean new ways of expressing the idea.

    Here’s how I’d break out your problem sentence: There may be much they don’t know, but the one thing they do know is that the light they saw came from a place they could identify.

    “All I know is...” is something people frequently say - in the US for certain. I’ve said it myself. I would never write it as part of the narrative, mainly bcs of its colloquial feel and because it’s an emotion the characters need to express in dialogue.

    In this story, how does the reader know what more than one person is thinking? Is it really you who are privy to what 2, 3, more people have in their heads? Is this a character talking, and we read that she knows that her friends feel as she does?

    “...that it was where the light came from.”. < the word ‘it’ refers to the place where the light came from, right? Why not say what that place is?

    “I knew that light came from the bedroom.”

    Here’s one way of re-writing your sentence:

    “Megan was certain of one thing: the light came from his bedroom.”

    to me if a sentence is twisty and turny, it needs to be taken down to the essential ideas and re-worked.
     
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  17. Bakkerbaard

    Bakkerbaard Active Member

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    I try to do that, but a lot of times I get hung up on one word, or the one way I want to say it. One tends to get to a point that you can't see the forest through the trees.
     

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