One Thing Leads to Another

One thing I see a lot in manuscripts is two sequential events happening simultaneously. Authors often construct sentences like this:

• Turning the doorknob, she ran over and grabbed him and pushed him away.

• She stirred the cereal on the stove, sitting down with a sigh.

• Opening the car door, he turned on the ignition and started the car.

• He poured a cup of water, setting it down on the night stand.

Certain things have to occur in sequence. You first turn the doorknob, then open the door, then grab the guy. You stir the cereal, then sit down and sigh (maybe you are sick of eating cereal?). After the man opens the car door, he then turns on the ignition and starts the car. Don’t be afraid to use then. It’s a useful word:

I wrote this sentence, then went into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee—not: I wrote this sentence, heading into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. Well, maybe if I balanced my laptop with one hand and typed with the other, I could manage to accomplish that feat.

5 Responses to “One Thing Leads to Another”

  1. Anjali May 18, 2012 at 6:43 am #

    I 100% agree with you, but I’ve had both agents and editors CORRECT me on this so that two events are happening simultaneously! I don’t get it– it makes no sense.

    I love “then.”

    • Adam Blumer May 18, 2012 at 7:47 am #

      So very true. Thanks for this post. I edit fiction and see this all the time.

  2. Bree May 18, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    It’s disheartening I see this is published ebooks. I open a lot of previews on Amazon and read the first few pages. This type of error stands out for me and I just close the preview. During a preview, I’m just waiting for the earmarks of poor editing or writing in general to just turn away (as I’m sure lit agents do as well). Another one is in the tag – often: ‘she said laughing.’

    ~the not so perfect one herself.

  3. Rachealgrace May 18, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    I too find this interesting and helpful. I have a personal “thing” about too many words, when a few well placed get your point or vision across better.

  4. Debra Newton-Carter May 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    You gave me my chuckle for the day! This smacks of professorial edits. My biggest flaw, however, was subject verb agreement. Smiles.

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