by Fae Rowen
Because I've got the October 2 blog date, I get to say Happy Birthday to my mother here. Happy Birthday, Mom!
Thanks for indulging me. And for finding today's target word twice in the first sentence. "Get" and it's multi-tense derivative "got" could be nominated for one of the words everyone, not just writers, uses loosely for coming into possession of.
You could probably list a dozen or more words describing how you can come into possession of something. Some, like "obtain," are definitely too writerly to be used in general cases. "Acquire"—think acquisition— works, but can have a somewhat negative connotation as to how you've acquired something.
"Procure" or "gain" can imply that others helped or that what you got was a for personal use that could be a bit shady. (Think of procuring a prostitute.) "Secure" shows the difficulty in getting something, while "attain" is usually reserved for a commendable, difficult goal.
Our job as writers is to find the right, the best, word for every description, every bit of dialogue, and every scene. As easy substitute for get or got doesn't always work.
Take a moment to think of how I could rewrite the first sentence in this article without using got or get. Typically we use get for its brevity in the context of the sentence. What if I'd said: I'm taking advantage of today's date, October 2, to say Happy Birthday to my mother. Happy Birthday, Mom! We could spend ore time with this exercise, but that's not the main point of today's post.
I'm working on the final edits for PRISM 2: Rebellion, my follow-up science fiction book to PRISM 1: Prisoner Relocation Internment Security Management. In one scene, I noticed way too many gets. That dreaded Find editing feature revealed the truth. I had a get/got problem in the middle of my book. I'd like to share some before with you. I'm not going to share all the fixes (just the most difficult ones) because I'd like you to think about what you'd do. Sometimes, I found, the best thing to do is leave it and go on.
Often, you can remove the get or got with no other work necessary. Example: "I have to get going." Fix: "I have to go."
Example: "Where did you get the protein bar?" Fixes: "Where did you find the protein bar?" or "Who gave you the protein bar?" or "Did you steal the protein bar?"
Example: He got the message. Fixes: He received the message or He understood the message or He read around her words and understood what she couldn't write for others to see.
Example: Dinner was getting cold. Fix: The continuing argument allowed the meal to grow cold.
Example: "You got me with that puzzle map." Fix: "You confused (or bemused, or bewildered, or stumped, or beat) me with that puzzle map."
Example: "The conglomerate owner gets paid a trillion credits a year." Fix: "The conglomerate owner (grosses, pockets, earns, is paid, takes home, rakes in, nets) a trillion credits a year."
Example: "Did the police get their suspect?" Fix: "Did the police (apprehend, arrest, catch, capture, seize, take into custody, detain, put...in jail, collar, nab, bust, pick up, pull in) their suspect?
Are you seeing how getting rid of get allows you to better define not only what happens, but change the tone or put the view in a deeper POV? By taking care of your gets your writing can be stronger in many ways.
Think of how you could rewrite the following. There are a lot of possibilities for each, depending on how you perceive the situation.
I got a skimmer.
She got the flu.
I got a pain in my leg.
I got him on the phone.
She didn't get what he said.
He didn't get the joke.
We got there late.
I've like to get to see her.
She got him to go.
I'll get lunch.
Someone should get him for that.
What gets me is how mean she is.
I had to use crutches to get around.
Use a picture to get your message across.
I just wanted to get ahead.
She tried to get along with her mother-in-law.
Jim gets around.
It's not easy to get to those wires.
He had to get away from his co-worker.
Some other "get" phrases to think about: get over, get up, get together, get out, get on, get off, get lost, get down, get by, get back, get back at, get on with, get out of
I hope you see the possibility for enriching your work simply by looking at one short word. You readers will thank you for your extra effort.
Yes, today really is my mother's birthday.
Are you having trouble revising a "get" sentence from your WIP and would like to post it in the comments for suggestions? What takeaway is most useful to you about sending your "gets" to the gallows?
Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes that she can live anywhere but the present. As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules.