Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cheatsheet - Had

Last week I referenced my "cheatsheet" that I used when I critique and judge manuscripts. Today, I will cover the over use of the word "had" and its contraction "'d" in manuscripts.

This is a problem I deal with in my writing as well.  My first draft will have them dotted throughout the manuscript.  On one count, I found over 12 of them on a single page.

When I freestyle write, I can easily place 10 to 15 of them on a page before I know it.  But in freestyle writing, anything goes. I come back later and remove most of them. (It is the first thing that sticks out when I check my work.)

When used in the construction of "had" and another verb, one produces passive voice sentences.  Passive voice is telling.  Active voice is showing. Active is better

Examples:
Passive: He had shared a couple burritos and a soft drink with the hungry boy.
Active: He shared a couple burritos and a soft drink with the hungry boy.

P: A single squeeze of the trigger had erased the life of the man who came to kill her.
A: A single squeeze of the trigger erased the life of the man who came to kill her.

(The same is true with the contraction form of "had")

P: For months, she'd scoured the contents of her father's files until she stumbled across his magic watch.
A: For months, she scoured the contents of her father's files until she stumbled across his magic watch.

In many cases, one can correct the problem by eliminating the word "had" from the sentence.  One can find out that this does not change the meaning of the sentence and even makes it stronger.

In some cases, there may be a need to rewrite of the sentence to get rid of "had."

Example:
P:  … he'd thrown the game for the other team.  To even think he'd thrown the game in the first place, he …
A:  … he threw the game for the other team.  To even think he threw the game in the first place, he …

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