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

Shhh… Don’t say a word.

There are times when conversation is too easy and unnecessary. I try to be careful to not to have everyone talking to themselves. That is if they are not prone to it by character flaw. The temptation to have someone muttering or whispering under their breath is hard to ignore. Not everybody does so refraining for some characters is a good idea.

Huddled beneath the desk within the small office, Joe could only listen to the violent chaos beyond the locked door. His laptop open before him the waiting cursor taunted him. Cow-ard, cow-ard it blinked.

He wiped the sweat beading at the back of his neck and scrunched his eyes tight.

BAM! Joe’s legs darted out as his back clenched. A whimper escaped his throat as the walls rattled from someone likely being thrown against it. The muffled sound of fist on flesh turned his stomach to acid. He reached a shaking hand to the keyboard, he had a job to do while everyone else fought for their lives.

As his fingers touched the smooth keys Joe relaxed. All his emotions were eclipsed by his compulsion to do his job. He focused on the screen, this is the only way he was of use, the only way he could be of use. The blinking cursor now urged, help-them, help-them.

Solo interactions are easier to write dialog free, (IMO) than are two people communicating sans dialogue.

Allen grabbed the wrench from the near empty toolbox. “I wish we had better weapons. This is handy though.” He glanced out the doorway then to Sasha.

Sasha finished tying up the man she just knocked out. “At least you have something.” More intruders were on their way approaching cautiously.

Allen waved his hand. “Get back Sash, they can’t see you.” Readjusting his grip, he shifted his feet for a better stance.
Sasha watched wide-eyed, lips pursed and fists clenched. The intruders had guns and they did not. The element of surprise was all they had.
“Three men, one gun on the man on my right.”
“Got it.” Sasha nodded.

I don’t hate that, but if they are under attack and trying to surprise the oncoming men, conversation even whispering can alert them.

Allen grabbed the wrench from the near empty toolbox. A useable weapon or projectile is always handy to have. He glanced out the doorway then to Sasha. She finished tying up the second man she just knocked out. More were on their way approaching cautiously.

Allen caught Sasha’s attention, gesturing for her to get back to the wall. He was the decoy, the obvious target, not her. Readjusting his grip, he shifted his feet for a better stance. Sasha watched wide-eyed, lips pursed and fists clenched. The intruders had guns and they did not. The element of surprise was all they had. He raised three fingers on his right hand and crooked one finger on his left hand toward his right. Sasha nodded; three men, one gun and the gun was on the far right.

There are scenarios when my characters go quiet. Whether its necessity or they don’t have anything to say, depends on what’s going on. For example a wordless conversation between two kids on opposite sides of the classroom. Or, an awkward car ride after a fight.

My advice about going conversation-less.
Take a peek at a long string of conversation, is it all necessary? Are the characters just stating the obvious? Or telling what you, as the writer, can show the reader in a more effective way? I found a long unnecessary conversation leads to a lot of; he said, she said taglines or surplus awkward action tags.

– Sheryl

Related posts

Show and tell

Tag! You’re it.

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