Originally posted as the Dun Writin’—Now Whut? series on this blog, EDITING 101 is a weekly refresher series for some of you and brand new for others.
Courtesy of Adirondack Editing
Directions and Impossibilities
Welcome to today’s article! I hope you’re keeping busy and life is not getting in the way of your writing schedule too much.
We’re going to talk about two short items today. The first is directional redundancies. It’s a big term, isn’t it? It was covered briefly in EDITING 101: 01, Redundancies, but I wanted to go a little further with it. In the previous article, one of the examples was “Her tears ran down her cheeks,” and I pointed out that tears can only run in one direction, can’t they? When was the last time you ever saw somebody’s tears run up their cheeks? (Perhaps if they were hanging upside down on a jungle gym, but that’s not likely.)
Unless your book is a science fiction novel and you’ve changed the basic laws of science, gravity only works one way. Water flows downhill, things fall, drop, and ooze down, and bodies sit down. Therefore, using the word “down” in such descriptions can be redundant and cut out. Other times, it’s necessary for the sentence structure, but could be reworked to eliminate it.
Buffy fell (down) on the floor.
Buffy fell down the stairs.
Buffy’s tears ran down her cheeks.
Buffy’s maple syrup oozed (down) into the bucket.
Buffy sat (down) in the armchair.
Some words imply the action without using the word “down,” such as reduce, decline, decrease, and sag.
The same principle applies to the word “up.”
Chris stood (up).
Chris’ ball flew (up) into the air.
Chris climbed (up) the stairs.
Chris looked up.
Chris raised his hand (up).
Words that imply the action of “up” without using the individual word are raised, aloft, skyward, and upward.
The second topic for today is impossible actions. Have you ever seen a sentence like this? “She threw her eyes across the room.” Or, “His eyes traveled across the floor.” That’s disgusting! Put their eyes back in their head, please! Eyes cannot travel, roam, or be thrown anywhere, unless you’re Dr. Frankenstein and you have a bottle of spare eyeballs in your laboratory!
Sentences of this sort occur when writers are trying to be creative and are use language figuratively. In my humble opinion—and you may disagree!—this sort of construction is best left for poetry. If you’re trying to tell a story, you want it to be understandable. You don’t want to distract the reader with impossible action and take them out of the story.
As I said, though, this is a left-brained editorial opinion, and you creative right-brained writers may disagree vehemently. All I’m asking is that while you’re being creative, don’t create impossibilities.
Next week we’ll discuss ‘Self-Editing’
This series is not meant to be (nor will it be) simple static information.
I’ll be here for each post to answer questions, offer suggestions as necessary, and interact with you.
If there’s something you specifically want (or need!) to see addressed in terms of self-editing, please let me know in the comments under this, or any of the articles of the series.