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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Writing Ideas - New Novel, part 558, more Words Best Not Employed Q and A

20 October 2015, Writing Ideas - New Novel, part 558, more Words Best Not Employed Q and A

Announcement: Delay, my new novels can be seen on the internet, but the publisher has delayed all their fiction output due to the economy.  I'll keep you informed.  More information can be found at  Check out my novels--I think you'll really enjoy them.

Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through this blog, I gave you the entire novel in installments that included commentary on the writing. In the commentary, in addition to other general information on writing, I explained, how the novel was constructed, the metaphors and symbols in it, the writing techniques and tricks I used, and the way I built the scenes. You can look back through this blog and read the entire novel beginning with

I'm using this novel as an example of how I produce, market, and eventually (we hope) get a novel published. I'll keep you informed along the way.

Today's Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website and select "production schedule," you will be sent to

The four plus one basic rules I employ when writing:

1. Don't confuse your readers.

2. Entertain your readers.

3. Ground your readers in the writing.

4. Don't show (or tell) everything.

5. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.

All novels have five discrete parts:

1.  The initial scene (the beginning)

2.  The rising action

3.  The climax

4.  The falling action

5.  The dénouement

The theme statement of my 26th novel, working title, Shape, is this: Mrs. Lyons captures a shape-shifting girl in her pantry and rehabilitates her.

Here is the cover proposal for Escape from FreedomEscape is my 25th novel.
Cover Proposal

The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action.  I'm on my first editing run-through of Shape.

I'm an advocate of using the/a scene input/output method to drive the rising action--in fact, to write any novel. 

Scene development:

1.  Scene input (easy)

2.  Scene output (a little harder)

3.  Scene setting (basic stuff)

4.  Creativity (creative elements of the scene)

5.  Tension (development of creative elements to build excitement)

6.  Release (climax of creative elements)

I can immediately discern three ways to invoke creativity:

1.  History extrapolation

2.  Technological extrapolation

3.  Intellectual extrapolation

Creativity is like an extrapolation of what has been.  It is a reflection of something new created with ties to the history, science, and logic (the intellect).  Creativity requires consuming, thinking, and producing. 

One of my blog readers posed these questions.  I'll use the next few weeks to answer them.

1.  Conflict/tension between characters

2.  Character presentation (appearance, speech, behavior, gestures, actions)

3.  Change, complexity of relationship, and relation to issues/theme

4.  Evolving vs static character

5.  Language and style

6.  Verbal, gesture, action

7.  Words employed

8.  Sentence length

9.  Complexity

10.  Type of grammar

11.  Diction

12.  Field of reference or allusion

13.  Tone - how tone is created through diction, rhythm, sentence construction, sound effects, images created by similes, syntax/re-arrangement of words in sentence, the inflections of the silent or spoken voice, etc.

14.  Mannerism suggest by speech

15.  Style

16.  Distinct manner of writing or speaking you employ, and why (like Pinter's style includes gaps, silences, non-sequitors, and fragments while Chekhov's includes 'apparent' inconclusiveness).

Moving on to 7. 7.  Words employed

The list is gone.  I’d would be nice to keep it up and add to it as I thought of more classics.  I want to give you more ideas about the employment of words or the right word for the moment, but I’m going to come from a different point of view for a moment.  Let’s look at words not to use.  Here’s the list:





These are words you want to reduce in your writing.  If you check every use of had, was, and were, you will get rid of most incorrect –ing constructions too.  Here is a little more on the –ing construction in English.


Replace weak present participle constructions like:

He was walking.

(with strong past tense verb constructions like)

He walked.

-ing Constructions in English

I'm kind of irritated about this issue.  I already wrote that present participle constructions are an indication of bad writing.  They are a distraction and should only be rarely used in good fiction.  In general, they should not be used at all unless you fully understand them.  Perhaps the problem is identifying and correcting present participle constructions.  I will go through the different -ing constructions and usage in English and show exactly what I am talking about.  (If you can pick out the present participle constructions in the above paragraph, you pass.) Note, that these constructions are effective above because this is not fiction writing, but rather an instructional essay.  Also, I used present tense.    


We are not talking about nouns that happen to have an -ing ending.  Nouns are good.  Building, thing, being, etc. are not the problem.  Please use these words appropriately and accurately and no one will complain.


Gerunds can become annoying, but these aren't the focus of my jihad either.  Gerunds are a verb that acts as a noun.  Gerunds can be a subject (nominative) or object (accusative) of a main verb.  Examples of gerunds are:

Studying is good for you.

I participate in trading.

Gerunds are a legitimate means of turning a great action word (verb) into a great noun.  Please do so with care and always use the appropriate word--do not use gerunds to replace stronger nouns or to pervert good verbs.


A present participle can be used as an adjective.  This can also be overdone, but it is a completely reasonable and good way to write.  Here are some examples:

She was a fascinating woman.

An interesting man accosted me.

Using a present participle in this manner is completely acceptable and can add real zest to your writing. (Note: I used a gerund at the beginning of this sentence.)


The problem with the present participle form is when it is used as a verb.  This form should only be used in the very rare case of indicating an immediate present tense event--even then it is dangerous and should never be used if it can be replaced with a common and past tense or perfect tense construction.  What do I mean?  Whenever you see a verb construction of this form, you should flinch: to be (verb) + verb-ing.

He was singing.

She was engaged in fighting the horrid monster.

He was opposing the forces of darkness and present participles.

Rewrite these sentences in simple past tense.

He sang.

She fought the horrid monster.

He opposed the forces of darkness and present participles.

When you see a was followed by a present participle form--fix it.

Participle phrases, dangling or otherwise are rarely worth reading.  Don't use them.  Here's what I mean:

Ginny stood.  Glancing behind her, she nodded and turned to go.

Why not write:

Ginny stood.  She glanced behind her, nodded and turned to go.


Ginny stood and glanced behind her.  She nodded and turned to go.

Wow, no more participle phrase.  It sounds better, looks better, and reads better.  The first example is what you expect from a middle schooler; the rewrite is what you expect from a professional.

Here is another example:

The people skipped joyfully around Tina, reaching to touch her, straining to meet her gaze.

Instead write:

The people skipped joyfully around Tina and reached out to touch her, strained to meet her gaze.


The people skipped joyfully around Tina.  They reached out to touch her, strained to meet her gaze.

Are participle phrases ever reasonable?  If they are part of a prepositional phrase, you betcha.  You decide.  Here is an example from Shadowed Vale:

Den flipped off his Combat Environment Suit’s visual sensors.  He glanced at Natana in the driver’s seat.  A slight hum leaked from between her lips.  She managed the vehicle with cat-like reflexes.  Her mind took in a million bits of information every second and computed it.  She turned it into precise movements of the controls.  No one in the universe could think of driving this kind of vehicle at this speed across the sands of Acier, but Natana could.  She could have conversed with Den at the same time and run a few other advanced computations through her brain.  Den knew that, but he didn’t want to risk a break in her concentration.  His was really an irrational view, but he didn’t want to risk her life or his.  He was too invested in her—he loved her too dearly.  She was just always like this.  She lived her life at the edge—always on the edge.  Den hoped to be her governor—like the governor on a generator or a nuclear reactor to keep it from running out of control.  Never her overseer.  Perhaps her leader.  Natana might like that.  She was a fantastic First Officer for the Family Trader Vessel, Regia Anglorum, and he was the Captain.

The answer is yes!  Note how the present participle is used as a part of a complex sentence.  In each case, it is preceded by a preposition.  The phrases are prepositional phrases using a present participle as the verb.  You can overdo this too, but it is a reasonable and normal means of writing about complex ideas.  This kind of writing can be rich.  It is as simple and direct as possible.  That's the point.

Now, when are straight present participle constructions appropriate?

In the rare case where you want to specifically indicate a current condition:

Right now, they were searching for a long lost psyonic facility on the surface of Acier. - Shadowed Vale

Changing this sentence to past tense loses the immediacy.

Right now, they searched for a long lost psyonic facility on the surface of Acier.

Still, it could be easily made past tense.  Needless to say, this is almost the only present participle use in the entire 118,000 word novel.  The use is specific to draw the reader to the "now" from a section that is a flashback--and there is the purpose.  In this case, it intentionally draws the reader back out of a flashback to the immediate events of the novel.

Here is an example from a writer friend's awesome novel As Eagles:

She was eating her breakfast now.  She sat with perfect posture alone in her house. - As Eagles, Alison Pickrell

You can easily turn this sentence into past tense:

She ate her breakfast now.

If you do this, you lose the feel Ms. Pickrell is trying to develop (note the present participle construction in this sentence).  Her point is to set an event in the now and draw the reader into it.

The point is that if you understand what you are doing (note the present participle use), you can use present participle constructions in your fiction writing (verb as a noun).  If you find more than one a chapter you need to fix them.  And I ain't kidding!

By the way, if you are writing in present tense, everything I said about present participle verbs change.  Why you would write a novel in present tense?  I don't know; that would be annoying in itself.  It's been done poorly and well in the past, but mostly, it's just annoying.

One final note.  Conversation in the present tense is an appropriate place to use the present participle (present participle, present tense--get it).  You can still overdo it--so watch out.  The proscription of the present participle is in a past tense narrative--that's where it becomes annoying and is an indicator of poor writing.

More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site, and my individual novel websites:

fiction, theme, plot, story, storyline, character development, scene, setting, conversation, novel, book, writing, information, study, marketing, tension, release, creative, idea, logic

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