Oh no! Not the not’s!

I’ve talked before about the really very weak adjectives that are used too often in my post ‘it’s really very unnecessary’. I thought I’d slink back to that subject to discuss the not so good adjective use. Something I’m guilty of doing.

This is worse than using weak adjectives such as really and very, it’s when I start using ‘not’ to say what isn’t opposed to saying what is.

For example;

It’s not hard. > It’s easy.
It’s not very tasty. > It’s gross. or It’s disgusting.
He’s not really mean. > He’s nice.
They’re not expired. > They’re fresh.
That isn’t hot. > It’s cold.

Even with my few examples of ‘not’ the really’s and very’s snuck in.
How would this look in my writing? I just happen to have an example.

Dale grabbed Amber from behind wrapping his arms around her waist and laughing when she yelped in surprise. 
“Crap Dale! You scared me half to death.” She said nervously as she turned around. “That was not nice.”
“You’re not paying attention today. It wasn’t hard to sneak up on you.” Dale kissed her tenderly then asked. “How was Scott today?” 
“He wasn’t mean. I think he regrets what he did and isn’t acting weird.” Amber frowned and looked away. 
“But?” Dale prodded.
“Scott wasn’t my problem today. I found out something about myself that was not flattering.”
Dale took her hand in his. “Let’s go back to your place and we can talk about it.”
Amber nodded, squeezed his hand and sighed contentedly as they started walking. (127)

I even had some contracted not’s in the form of Wasn’t, but not all of them have to go. Like with all things, moderation is key.

Dale grabbed Amber from behind wrapping his arms around her waist and laughing when she yelped in surprise. 
“Crap Dale! You scared me half to death.” She said nervously as she turned around. “You’re mean.”
“You’re distracted and easy to sneak up on.” Dale kissed her tenderly then asked. “How was Scott today?” 
“He was nice. I think he regrets what he did and is acting normal.” Amber frowned and looked away. 
“But?” Dale prodded.
“I found out something unflattering about myself.”
Dale took her hand in his. “Let’s go back to your place and we can talk about it.”
Amber nodded, squeezed his hand and sighed contentedly as they started walking. (112)

With some or all of not and it’s contractions highlighted such as I suggested in my post “well colour me silly” I was able to focus on them and remove the negative and redundancies. I also read the dialogue aloud and the not’s and whatnot’s did sound better removed or changed.

Not only did I fix some awkward naughty-not’s but I was able to do my favorite thing and reduce word count by 15 words. Not a huge number but a good start. I’m super guilty of this, so I add not and version

My advice about Not not-ting.
Highlight them and then proof read, if they are necessary or fit in perfectly then keep them. Otherwise I suggest cutting them out. 

-Sheryl

Related posts to this one that are worth a read.

Well colour me silly

It’s really very unnecessary

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

 Nervous

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Mystery Items

There was a story I read recently that had me scratching my head. No, it wasn’t about head-lice or dandruff. I got to a scene and during this scene, there was an item being used. The descriptions were spot on, detailed and wonderful. Right up until the name of the object was used and hold the phone… that is not at all what I thought it was.  My imagination plunked in something that the author did not intend.

This kind of mystery item can cause a story to crash into imaginary oblivion and frustrate the reader. Or I suppose it can go virtually unnoticed as if it’s not really important, but that oversight alone is a whole other problem. There is a simple explanation as to why this might happen. One the writer simply forgot to flat-out tell me what the object was. This paragon of an author assumed I would know because it’s story related or possibly (And very likely) The author was trying to be too clever or ‘fancy’ with their descriptions they figured the reader should get it.

When I’m using creative descriptions I try to just announce what the item is in a non-abrupt way or get to it sooner than later. Too much later can be disruptive and reflect poorly on my skill.

HOWEVER, there are times when this can be funny, or done purposefully to add levity to the situation.

For example:

Amber shook her hands again for the fifth time in an hour. She couldn’t focus on the report she was reading. It was dull and boring and her mind was too jumpy. 
“Hey, you.” Dale grinned mischievously as he approached. 
“Hey.” Her eyes widened as he held out a small blue cube shaped box for her. 
“This is long overdue,” Dale said as she took the box.
Amber bit her bottom lip to contain her excitement and opened it. “Oh Dale I love you it’s perfect!” She jumped up from her chair, threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. 
He chuckled as she backed up. “Is that all I have to do to get you to say you love me?” He teased.
Amber bounced on her feet taking the small shiny gold ring from the box and slipping it over her finger. 
Dale brushed a stray strand of Amber’s hair behind her ear.”You’ve been so stressed lately and I know you’ve wanted one.”
“Maybe tomorrow at this dumb meeting I’ll be able to stay awake with this to fidget with.”
“That’s the idea.” Dale kissed her forehead. 

Sooooo that should have been more romantic right? Maybe, maybe not. Dale and Amber may be headed toward unplanned parenthood but…

Amber shook her hands again for the fifth time in an hour. She couldn’t focus on the report she was reading. It was dull and boring and her mind was too jumpy.
“Hey, you.” Dale grinned mischievously as he approached.
“Hey.” Her eyes widened as he held out a small blue cube shaped box for her.
“This is long overdue,” Dale said as she took the box. 
Amber bit her bottom lip to contain her excitement and opened it. “Oh, Dale a finger-fidget. I love you it’s perfect!” She jumped up from her chair, threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.
He chuckled as she backed up. “Is that all I have to do to get you to say you love me?” He teased.
Amber bounced on her feet taking the small shiny gold flexible ring from the box and slipping it over her index finger.
Dale brushed a stray strand of Amber’s hair behind her ear.”You’ve been so stressed lately and I know you’ve wanted one or something to help with your anxiety.”
“Maybe tomorrow at this dumb meeting I’ll be able to stay awake and focused with this to fidget with.”
“That’s the idea.” Dale kissed her forehead.

Poor Amber, though I’m not sure she’s quite ready for a different type of ring. They just started dating after all. With the lack of clarity, the first example had not only a different meaning but a different feel.

Now if I wanted to write these examples properly to demonstrate the frustration I would have carried on with ring comments, her fidgeting with it in the meeting, maybe someone commenting on it and then dropping the bomb that it’s just a stress revealing toy. That would be annoying if the reader was excited for them to be engaged. And annoyed that in hindsight the scenario did not fit a proposal whatsoever.

My advice about mystery items.
There is time and place for mystery, forgetting or neglecting to let the reader know what that something is, is not mysterious, it’s maddening.

-Sheryl

Other posts

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Squeaky clean

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