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Posture and Prose

2015 September 9
by Fay Lamb

Girl with books on her head holding thumb upWhen I wrote down the title I intended to call this post, I had no idea why I envisioned my grandmother telling me to sit up straight, but I gave it a thought, and it gave me a smile.

When a person slumps or slouches when walking or sitting, she doesn’t look put together or efficient. Actually she looks disheveled and ineffective.  Think about writing that tends to slouch or slump. Why does it appear that way? It needs posture. In other words, it needs to walk straight.

Meandering prose is one of the first indication that the writer lacks editing skills necessary to strengthen the story. Slumping or slouching content contains unnecessary words, repetitive narrative, dialogue that has nothing to do with the story, or dialogue and thought that repeats what the reader has already been shown. Weasel words and telling phrases are used throughout.

Let’s look at an example of a lazy, slouching, ineffective scene:

Mary walked down the street with her head hung down. Her stomach growled. She was hungry. She walked because she had nowhere else to go. No one would take her in. What was she to do if no one would open her doors to her. “Kindness and mercy are all I ask for. Why won’t someone show me some kindness and mercy.? She trudged along, looking down at her feet. Snow flakes began to touch the pavement under her feet, little white flakes. Without kindness and mercy things would never change in her life. She placed  her hand in her coat pocket. The coat was worn and tattered. Something crunched in her hand, like paper, but not paper. Green paper. She knew it had to be green paper. Money. She lifted it from her pocket. Where had this come from? It hadn’t been there when she put the coat on. Maybe, after she put the coat on, maybe at one of the stores where she’d begged for money, for something to eat, someone had placed this hundred dollar bill inside. What a blessing. She was so blessed.

“Ma’am?” Someone tugged on her coat. She stepped back. She had to step back. The old man was filthy, sitting on the street. “Ma’am, I haven’t had a meal in two days. Could you spare an old man enough for a meal.”

Mary looked at the green paper, the hundred dollars. Her blessing.

She shook her head and walked away. “Get your own blessing, old man.”

**

Some might think this is an exaggeration of awful writing, and it is. I haven’t seen anything that badly written for a long while, but it makes my point. The writing slouches. I look at it like I would my kid if his body lay bowed on the couch with his feet on the coffee table. In the same way I would reprimand my child, I’d have to say something to the writer whose prose has no backbone.

Let’s straighten out that scene:

Mary walked the street, her head lowered. Her stomach growled, and she placed her hand against it. She’d exhausted her last chance at finding food for the day. “Couldn’t someone, somewhere just offer a little grace and mercy,” she mumbled. “A little boost to make things better.” Flakes of white fell on the sidewalk, and she pushed her hands into the pocket of her tattered coat. Paper? No. One could never forget the feel of something she had coveted for so long, but how much? She lifted the bill that had not been there before her previous stop to beg food at the grocers.  A hundred dollar bill. A blessing.

“Ma’am?”

Mary stepped away from the man who sat on the street, his clothes filthy, his face dark with dirt. “I haven’t had a meal in two days. Could you spare enough for a hamburger. They’re only a dollar down the street?”

Mary shook her head and walked away. “Get your own blessing, mister.”

Books Collage

Fay Lamb (The Tactical Editor)  is an author, editor, and writing coach, who loves to work with authors to help them meet their goals.

Her emotionally charged stories remind the reader that God is always in the details. Fay has contracted three series. Stalking Willow and Better than Revenge, Art of Characterization Cover FINAL FRONT (2)Books 1 and 2 in the Amazing Grace romantic suspense series are currently available for purchase. Charisse and Libby the first two novels in her The Ties That Bind contemporary romance series have been released. Fay has also collaborated on two Christmas novella projects: The Christmas Three Treasure Hunt, A Ruby Christmas, and the Write Integrity Press romance novella series, which includes  A Dozen Apologies, The Love Boat Bachelorand Unlikely Merger. Her adventurous spirit has taken her into the realm of non-fiction with The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.

Future releases from Fay are: Everybody’s Broken and Frozen Notes, Books 3 and 4 of Amazing Grace and Hope and Delilah, Books 3 and 4 from The Ties that Bind.

Fay loves to meet readers, and you can find her on her personal Facebook page, her Facebook Author page, and at The Tactical Editor on Facebook. She’s also active on Twitter. Then there are her blogs: On the Ledge, Inner Source, and the Tactical Editor. And, yes, there’s one more: Goodreads. Anyone interested in learning more about Fay’s freelance editing and her coaching, should contact her at fay@faylamb.com.

 

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