There are tons of wonderful research to help each of us write a great story, but I’m convinced that being grammatically correct, avoiding overused and unnecessary words, and choosing the appropriate names for your characters is critical to the success of your book.
Let’s take a closer look at these three elements.
Mastering Grammar and Problem Words
Nothing catches a reader’s eye like mistakes in the story, and verb conjugation, using incorrect words, and misspellings lead the list.
two of the most confusing verbs in the English language are the lie/lay verbs. I trip over these two no matter how often I try to get them straight.
Conjugation: Present Past Past Participle
lie: lie lay lain
lay: lay laid laid (remember – to put or place something)
Remember, ‘lay’ takes an object.
I lay on my bed.
The dog lies on the floor.
I think I’ll lie down for a rest. BUT – I laid my head down on the desk (head being the object)
Lay it on me, dude.
I laid the paperwork on your desk hours ago.
Of course, to lie also means to tell an untruth: I lie I lied I lied
Other irregular verbs to watch out for:
creep crept crept
dive dove/dived dived
draw drew drawn
dream dreamed/dreamt dreamed
kneel kneeled/knelt kneeled/knelt
If you’re not sure, double check. Just search for your verb conjugation
Contractions: It was = ’twas, not t’was
twain = archaic word for two
Its vs it’s. Nasty little trap, isn’t it?
its = possessive (its sound was loud and sharp)
it’s = contraction for it is
when not to use a contraction = when it weakens the strength of your sentence or when it just plain doesn’t sound right when read aloud.
s’ or s’s = many English grammar books still promote the use of s’s, such as Thomas’s, but writers have begun to use the less formal Thomas’. The latter is my preferred style.
Comparisons. According to Microsoft word:
bitter bitterer bitterest (really?)
Well, this is still used, but isn’t it awkward? Thankfully, English is moving away from this to:
bitter more bitter most bitter
Look at the sentence from my new book based on Word:
“Mark my words, Einarr. I have no intention of eating you. Your species tastes rather bitter, and I fear you are bitterer than anyone else.” He snickered at his own joke. “I’m here to save you. You are mine.”
Sorry, but that just doesn’t sound right to me. It weakens the dragon’s joke.
Other forms of bitter: bitterness (noun) bitterly (adv) nonbitter (adj) and the ever popular –
adj – over bitter (do you think I’m being overbitter about the word bitter?)
-ward vs wards
when used as an adverb, both forms are correct these days, although without the ‘s’ is supposed to be more formal
just be consistent in your use. don’t switch back and forth in a story.
Avoiding Unnecessary or Overused Words
of – so often, this word can be left out:
to each of them = to them
his level of intelligence = his intelligence
the approach of two angels = two angels approached
in – another word that can lead to saving you words
he was in the midst of working = he was working
he jumped up in a fearful way = he jumped fearfully
way is another one of those words
he laughed in a way that scared his friends – his eerie laugh scared his friends
I am going to walk to the store = I’ll walk to the store
He is going to be angry with me = He’ll be angry with me
I’m thinking that I’m angry enough to slap you across the face = I just might slap you.
Naming Your Character, Linguistically Speaking
If you are making your characters’ names up, generally speaking, a female name will end in ‘a’ and males in ‘o’, but this is a very simplified rule. It gets quite complex.
Depending on where your character is from and what time period takes research and there’s plenty of sites online to help you with that. Do your characters justice and research before you just give them a name.
Archaic English Names: http://www.behindthename.com/names/origin/old-english
Fourteenth Century Italian Names: http://www.peiraeuspubliclibrary.com/names
Find Your Hawaiian Name: http://hawaiiannames.hisurf.com/
Nordic Surnames: http://www.nordicnames.de/wiki/Surnames
You can even find elven names if you are writing about elves:
I used the above site to help me develop my elven original names by finding sounds that I liked.
My current work involves several dragons. I could have used a site like this, http://www.dragonorama.com/famous/ but I developed my own names to fit the different clans.
Finally, don’t make up a name that only YOU can pronounce. No reader likes to stumble over names. Want to take a lesson from a great name-maker? Look at the Harry Potter series. JK Rowling was a genius in her names.
Professor Remus Lupin – Remus (twin brother of Romulus, raised by wolves) Lupin (from latin meaning wolf)
As I continue to edit my latest work, The Lone Hero I continually run into these typical faux-pas regarding our language.
English – a most difficult and complicated language.
LHR my friends and I hope this information will help you in your writings.