By Laura Drake
When we learn to read, we’re taught to take one word at a time, reading left to right. We still read like that (only hopefully, much faster.) We picture the scene happening in real time in our heads. That’s what I call immediacy in writing – the first words you read should happen before the next words, etc.
Therefore, the order in which we write sentences, and even pieces of sentences, is important. If we get them out of order, it causes a ‘speed bump,’ that slows or stops the reader. Sometimes they’ll need to read the sentence again to understand what is being said.
There are several ways I’ve seen (and made) errors in immediacy.
- The Yoda Error. I got busted on this at crit group last week. Since I’m usually the one who catches it in other's writing, Fae was delighted to nail me on a “Yoda.”
Yoda told Luke Skywalker, “Do, or do not. There is no ‘try.’” We say this about ‘starting.’ You know:
“She started across the room . . .” “He began to talk . . .” or worse, “He thought about starting.”
Movement either happens, or doesn’t. No one can picture in their head, “starting.”
Easy fix: do a ‘find’ in Word for ‘start’ and ‘begin.’
- Out of order sentences
I sometimes get the action and the reaction reversed. Sharla caught this one of mine:
She ran her fingers through her hair. Her head felt as though ants were crawling on the inside of her scalp.
Her head would have to itch before she scratched it. This is subtle, but important.
Sometimes, it’s not incorrect, but the sentence would be stronger, reordered.
Here’s the way I wrote it:
What if, in December, when she was done here, she threw her leg over the bike and hit the road, only to find the road no longer there for her? The road had been her savior. The one constant in her life since dad died. It was her solace and her comfort.
I believe it’s stronger:
The road had been her savior. The one constant in her life since dad died. It was her solace and her comfort. What if, in December, when she was done here, she threw her leg over the bike and hit the road, only to find the road no longer there for her?
This backloads the paragraph – first explaining what the road means to her, so we then understand better what’s at stake if she loses it.
“As” is welcome when it represents “like.” It’s also welcome when used as a comparison.
Their personalities were the flip sides of a coin as well; her dad’s Atticus Finch to Junior’s Vinnie Gambini.
- When it connotes simultaneity - things happening at the same time. She recommended having “A” happen, then “B.”
- When it spotlights a stimulus/response reversal
A clock ticked in her head, matching the cadence of her feet as she pounded through the barn.
She pounded through the barn. The clock ticking in her head matched the cadence of her feet.
Okay, at the risk of being accused of blasphemy – I’m not as tough about not using the simultaneity ‘as’ as Margie is. I do believe that some things can happen simultaneously, and it’s a smoother to read that way. For example, some people can walk and talk at the same time (not me, but some people.)
You should do a find for ‘as’ in your WIP to be sure you’re happy with your usage.
So? What do you think? Are you guilty of errors in Immediacy? Which one is your Achilles heel?
Laura Drake decided to write a novel. Three years later she completed it. 500 queries, three novels, and ten years later, Laura hit pay dirt. She finally achieved her dream, signing a three book deal with Grand Central for her romances, set in the world of professional bull riding. The Sweet Spot, will be released in May of 2013. She has since sold Road Song, a ‘Biker-chick’ romance, to Harlequin’s Superromance line.
She’s a member of the Orange County Chapter, as well as the current President of RWA’s Women’s Fiction Chapter. Twitter: @PBRWriter http://LauraDrakeBooks.com