There are about a zillion ‘pros’ to being an author, including but not limited to inflicting my opinion on the world, naming villains after those who’ve wronged me in the past, and becoming rich and famous (Just kidding! Hehe…) But if there is one con, it would have to be losing the ability to get completely lost in a book. Okay, that, and public speaking *shudder*.
I’m generally a rather picky person, but there has been a definite and noticeable shift since becoming an author in how closely I analyze a book. It’s much harder now to slip into a fictional world and let myself be taken away when I’m so hyperaware of ‘the rules’, and of clichés, and of the writing process in general. Often I find myself thinking, ‘Well, there’s a unique way to insert a character description I’ve never thought of,’ or ‘I would have done it this way’, or ‘Note to self: do not have character release a breath she didn’t realize she was holding’. I could go on, but I think you get the point. An author has to do a REALLY good job in order to impress a fellow author (Or at least me).
(On that topic, I just finished reading Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi and it was EFFING FANTASTIC!!! So you all should read it. A review to follow soon.)
But I digress.
One of the things that I’ve learned since becoming an author is to be very careful about starting a sentence using the present participle (-ing) because often times it doesn't make sense, or doesn't convey the meaning the author intended for it to. For example:
‘Brushing my hair, I go downstairs and cook breakfast.’
Terrible example, yes, but I think it serves its purpose. You can’t simultaneously brush your hair and cook breakfast. Or else you can, but it would be difficult and weird and probably dangerous. The problem here is that you can’t begin a phrase using the present participle (that is, with an –ing verb) unless that action happens simultaneously with whatever action happens next in the sentence (unless of course the author were to clarify the timing of the actions by saying ‘after’ at some point).
So while the following sentences DON’T work:
‘Starting the car, I speed down the highway.’ (Because you can’t start the car and speed down the highway at the same time).
‘Kicking off the covers, I get out of bed and take a shower.’ (Because, while you can kick off the covers at the same time as you get out of bed, you can’t take a shower while you do all that).
‘Sucking in a breath, I let out a blood-curdling scream.’ (Because you can’t inhale at the same time as you exhale).
The following sentences DO work:
‘Letting out a blood-curdling scream, I run down the alley.’
‘Running for my life, I begin to question my decision to not exercise all my life.’
‘Kissing Edward, I run my fingers down his arms. His huge, muscly arms.’
See, all those sentences begin with actions, which can simultaneously happen with the rest of the action (s) in the sentence.
Whew! Thank you for bearing with me during that boring talk. I appreciate it.
As you might have guessed, this has become a little pet peeve of mine. It gets in the way of me enjoying an otherwise lovely novel, which is too bad, because I do see this problem quite a bit. Which brings me back to my original point that being an author affects how you read a book. I might never have noticed the present participle issue before.
My critique partner Ruth Lauren Steven has accused my hatred for this style of writing as knowing no bounds. It’s true. Maybe I should relax? But probably not. Probably best I tell as many people as I can about my pet peeve, hope it lessens the amount of books out there containing it, and then get frustrated while reading books that do. YAY to responsible adult decisions!
So how about you, fellow writers? Do you have any pet peeves as a reader?