#5 – VERBS – BEING CONCISE & PRECISE 2

RESTORE BY NUMBERS

I provide a passage from a master that has been vandalized (by me) at the numbered locations.  You restore the original. 

THE CRIME:

The ends of their long sweeping boughs were hanging (1) down like searching fingers, their roots were standing up (2) from the ground like the limbs of strange monsters, and dark caverns were opening (3) beneath them.  But Gandalf was going forward (4), leading the company, and where the road from the Hornburg met the trees they saw now an opening like an arched gate under mighty boughs; and through it Gandalf was passing (5), and they were following (6) him. 

Clue:  The verbs are too loose .  Tighten them up; use fewer words.  Avoid the present participle.

Copy and paste the passage elsewhere in order to edit it.  Then check E.J.’s comments below.

A Tip:

Vigorous writing is concise. William Strunk, Jr.

THE ORIGINAL (J.R.R. Tolkien in “The Lord of the Rings”):

The ends of their long sweeping boughs hung (1) down like searching fingers, their roots stood up (2) from the ground like the limbs of strange monsters, and dark caverns opened (3) beneath them.  But Gandalf went forward (4), leading the company, and where the road from the Hornburg met the trees they saw now an opening like an arched gate under mighty boughs; and through it Gandalf passed (5), and they followed (6) him. 

E.J.’s Comments:

Use the progressive tense (the auxiliary “to be” and the participle ending in “ing”) very sparingly.  Maybe you noticed how the unchanged verbs (“the Hornburg met” and “they saw”) got the job done quickly, neatly.  A common error is to mix progressive forms (e.g., “had been hanging”) with simpler forms (e.g., “had stood”) willy-nilly.

Bonus Tip:  Note the use of rich imagery, so appropriate to fantasy, i.e., the similes (“like searching fingers”).

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About EJ Lavoie

Writer and independent publisher with website www.WhiskyJackPublishing.ca
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