Time for another Ranee's Pet Peeves rant. I want to talk about some words that crowd up your manuscript. Usually you hear all about adverbs, so I'll spare you that lecture for now. The words I want you to get rid of fall into two categories:
* words that dilute the action
* words that crowd the sentence
First let's talk about words that crowd sentences. The word that always jumps out at me and stares me in the face is had so let's talk about it first. Its a double offender because not only is had sometimes an unnessary word crowding your sentences, but it's also more often than not a "telling" word. "Had" can be a very necessary word for pointing out a gap in time. But when you use "had" to explain backstory, consider what you're doing. You're already in a situation where you have to tell about something that happened in the past. Make the flashback as action oriented as possible by leaving out had when the time frame is clearly established.
Let's consider the paragraph below (from an unedited draft of my YA fairy tale novel, "Stolen Ones."):
They all said she’d had a bond with Aderes from the moment he stole her. She had stayed in his household longer than any other girls he stole from the slaughters in Lirg. Most of them had been passed quickly on to others in Torpec; families in need of servants, couples not blessed with children of their own and willing and able to pay for the dark Lirgan girls. Aderes had hesitated in giving Evie up and had finally only done so to a trusted friend, Lord Vernon. Aderes had been knighted by the Prince long ago for his service in taking so many babies to safety, but he had never stopped his wandering ways. His estate in Zekaz, a gift from the Prince, was empty more often than it was occupied.
If your brain isn't OCD wired like mine, you might be looking at me and saying, "I don't see anything wrong with that paragraph." And you'd be right. But re-read the paragraph edited to take out "had."
They all said she had a bond with Aderes from the moment he stole her. She stayed in his household longer than any other girls he stole from the slaughters in Lirg. He passed most the other girls on to others in Torpec; families in need of servants, couples not blessed with children of their own and willing and able to pay for the dark Lirgan girls. Aderes hesitated in giving Evie up and finally only did so to a trusted friend, Lord Vernon. The prince knighted Aderes long ago for his service in taking so many babies to safety, but he never stopped his wandering ways. His estate in Zekaz, a gift from the Prince, was empty more often than it was occupied.
Is the paragraph confusing without had? Has deleting it changed the meaning? Of course not. The sentences are just cleaner, less cluttered, easier to read. So why not delete them? Like a lot of other “words you shouldn’t use,” if you can delete it without changing the meaning and voice of a sentence, say good riddance.
Some other UWs, as I call them: adverbs, that.
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I've been writing since I was old enough to grasp a crayon--my grandma even has an early copy of a "book" I made her. I have a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wyoming and will (hopefully) soon be starting a graduate program in English. When I'm not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in the living room or losing miserably to my boys at Uno, I'm ... well, writing or editing, of course! I'm married to my best friend, and we have three rambunctious but simply amazing little boys.