Common Phrases

I’ve been lacking creativity for a while now. My work in progress stories are constantly in the forefront of my mind and I’ve dabbled with a few revisions, but my writing seems to have frozen. So, I’ve dusted off a series of books that I haven’t read in a few years and started reading a month or so ago.

Almost instantly, I noticed common grammar errors in the New York Times #1 Best Selling Author’s series. Question marks outside of quotations when a character asked a question. Comma’s in the wrong place, etc. It annoyed me. When I see one mistake, I start looking for them throughout the books. I’ll be up front and honest, I’m far from perfect when it comes to the written English language, but you’d expect the next books in the series to be better than the first with the editing. This series was not.

I do love the books, don’t get me wrong. I just believe that there is an opportunity to learn from other writers.

The author continued the series with a second series filled with additional characters to accompany the main characters. However, the author’s writing pattern and point of view changed. Rather than focusing the story around a single main character, the author jumped to three to four different character voices, using the chapters as the structure to separate each character’s perspectives.

The author was able to use different traits to define each character: the funny one, the modest one, the brave one, the pretty one, etc. However, I’ve seen a pattern of the same phrases used over and over again. “If so-and-so would’ve known (fill in the blank), than the so-and-so would’ve done (fill in the blank)”. Or “so-and-so did something, but something changed so-and-so’s course.” It’s glaringly obvious when it seems to be used each time a different character’s perspective is introduced. It ends up making the reader (or maybe it’s just me) feel like it isn’t different perspectives they’re (I’m) reading. If everyone sounds the same, the books hold no depth to them and come off sounding bland.

Examples: (Without using quotes from the actual books – I don’t want this to seem like I’m bashing the author’s writing.)

  • “It seemed as if Tim’s head only hit the pillow for a few minutes, but when he opened his eyes, the sun was already shining through the window.”
  • “If Sally knew it was going to rain, than she would’ve brought her umbrella.”

Another VERY common phrase I’ve read – mostly with romance books/character’s:

“They kissed until their lungs hurts…” Or “They kissed until the need for air was too great…” etc.

I just want you writers to pay a little closer attention to what you are writing and the phrases you uses. Challenge your creativity. Stay away from these overused phrases.

Also: If you plan to write or are writing a series – if you make a big deal out of a character trait/skill/personality – continue it to the next books. The same series I’m reading, one of the main character’s go-to skill was a bow. However, in the next book, all he does is sword fight and change forms. No mention of a bow at all. I understand character growth. However, there needs to be a stair step to connect to that growth. A skill is not something you just randomly abandon, especially, if the person/character was trained with it for combat.

The earlier series featured sarcastic comments or funny phrases at the beginning of each chapter, most of the time in the form of a title. The second series starts off with it in the intro to the chapters, but loses it over the course of the books. If you’re going to start with something, stick with it.

Now, if any of you all have figured out what series I’m reading, please don’t comment on it. I do love the stories and the characters. I’m only picking at it because I’ve been reading it for the last month or so.

I apologize for not posting for a while. My work has been very demanding to the point that I’m mentally exhausted by the time I get home. Yesterday, I was allowed to leave work early, so I’ve took advantage of the time offered.

L.R. Mauck

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