Monday, November 21, 2005

AH: Make the Words do the Work


Oh? That's me dancing with my daddy at my debutante ball in 1975. Being Baptists, I'm afraid we didn't do much more than step on each other's feet out there.

If I were a beginning writer, I might write the following as a caption for that picture:

The night was a beginning and an end!! A farewell to childhood, a welcoming of new horizons!! An occasion to put on my best, invest in a few formal manners, learn how to curtsey!! If I'd been a little less giddy, I might have appreciated these things!!!

What's wrong with the above? You guessed it,the exclamation points. Nothing marks a beginning writer faster than an overdose of punctuation--specifically, exclamation points. Take them out...and the bit is improved 100 percent.

Consider a president's ability to launch an air strike--you should use exclamation points with the same amount of deliberation and reserve, and you'd better be darn sure the effect will be worth the big guns. WORDS are supposed to do the work of evoking emotion, not punctuation! (tee hee).

And when you choose words, choose hunky nouns and adjectives--don't opt for those spindly little verbs that require an adverb to prop them up. (I teach my writing classes to say "Boo, hiss" every time I say the word "adverb." You might need them on occasion, but they should be, like calling in the military, a reluctantly-used option).

One of my favorite Seinfeld episodes (yes, I'm a junkie) is when Elaine is dating/editing Jake Jarmel. When he takes a phone message about a friend having a baby and DOESN'T use an exclamation point, Elaine is understandably peeved that he doesn't appreciate how important the baby is to . . . well, to women everywhere. To demonstrate her displeasure, she peppers his manuscript with exclamation points, bombing the thing to smithereens. Ker-pow! Ka-boom!

Her boss is less than amused.

So--do yourself a favor. Go through your WIP and eliminate almost every exclamation point you can find. Unless, of course, it is an appropriate target.

Angela Hunt, www.angelahuntbooks.com, is hard at work on a first draft . . . and not really worried about punctuation yet

4 Comments:

At 10:42 AM, Blogger JSB said...

That hair! Those eyes! Anyone could see she was going places!!

 
At 12:50 PM, Blogger Cindy said...

Love the pic, Angela! I mean...Love the pic, Angela. :)

 
At 6:04 PM, Anonymous Jane said...

She looked like a young Gwyneth Paltrow
A stranger, yet, to the computer
Alas, no Apple for her.

PS Top of the morning...TO YOU!!!

 
At 3:50 PM, Anonymous Josie said...

Awesome!! That's so cool!! Haha, exclaimation marks crack me up!!! Yay!!!

 

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