The Naked Writer

HOMONYMS

George was air to his father’s bred shop. The neighbor, who had a women’s close store, said she wanted to brooch a topic with George. First, Gene was very complementary, trying to butter him up.  

She said, “Hay, George. Its so grate to have you hear now. I remember when you were jest a kid. You’ve groan so much since then. Your father told me about all the hurtles you’ve overcome. Do you remember when I used to bring jamb into the store for you to eat with your bred? You all ways peaked inside the packages I brought. ”

George smiled. “Your rite. I never liked plane bred, but I loved the sweet treat you maid. I could have feinted when I eight those. My mother wouldn’t let me half them.”

“George, I would like to sea weather you and I cud go into business together hear. This wood be a grate spot for a mail close store.”

George felt week with anger. “Know,” he tolled her. “And know means know.”

Homonyms are words that sound like other words with completely different meanings. All too often, writers will use the wrong homonym. Most often the ones misused are “there” instead of “their”; “your” instead of “you’re”; and “it’s” instead of “its”—and vice versa. I just wanted to have a little fun with the above.

You probably don’t need the translation, but here it is:

George was heir to his father’s bread shop. The neighbor, who had a women’s clothes store, said she wanted to broach a topic with George. First, Jean was very complimentary, trying to butter him up.

She said, “Hey, George. It’s so great to have you here now. I remember when you were just a kid. You’ve grown so much since then. Your father told me about all the hurdles you’ve overcome. Do you remember when I used to bring jam into the store for you to eat with your bread? You always peeked inside the packages I brought. ”

George smiled. “You’re right. I never liked plain bread, but I loved the sweet treat you made. I could have fainted when I ate those. My mother wouldn’t let me have them.”

“George, I would like to see whether you and I could go into business together here. This would be a great spot for a male clothes store.”

George felt weak with anger. “No,” he told her. “And no means no.”

You’ll find many such pears. I mean “pairs.”

Are you sure you have the correct word? Do you know the difference between “compliment” and “complement,” for instance? If not, look it up.

In addition to this type of uncertainty, I often find writers become confused and will use a word that sounds somewhat similar to the word they’re actually looking for.

For instance: The knife clamored to the floor.

The writer meant: The knife clattered to the floor.

I’m always surprised when writers don’t use the dictionary. I make mistakes, too, but using the dictionary allows me to pretend I knew the difference all along.

Hide your writing flaws. Surgeons can’t usually fix their mistakes. But we can.

——-

Hey, how about downloading my The Naked Writer at Amazon. Or taking one of my classes at Writer’s Digest University. Or getting an edit from me at ghayden2@nyc.rr.com .

 

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The Naked Writer

The Naked Writer

Present Tense Versus Past

When should we use present tense in writing, and when should we use past tense?

In writing for publications, of course, we need to use house style—the standard the publication uses, that is. I once wrote for a periodical that used present tense for articles, which is rather unusual. But of course I did get used to writing as called for.

I’ve had a couple of students who wrote for film and who always reverted to present tense in writing their novels—a reflex action, though both understood that most fiction is written in past tense. Writing fiction in present tense presents somewhat of a barrier to selling, even if that doesn’t make placing a novel impossible. Some short stories as well as some literary novels might sell in present tense, which is thought to be “literary.” Also, young adult fiction can sell in present tense because a few YA novels written in present tense have been exceptionally successful.

Yet another consideration in tense: While writing in past tense, how should we speak of ongoing conditions. This can be slightly tricky.

  •  Reverend Brown came out to speak to the press. Brown is blind, having been blinded by shrapnel in Iraq.

That’s how we would write this for a nonfiction piece about Brown. However, if Brown is a character in fiction, we’d write this differently.

  • Reverend Brown then went out to speak to the press. Brown was blind, having been blinded by shrapnel in Iraq.

In fiction, we mostly stick to past tense—including when referring to conditions and events that might be ongoing. Brown is likely to continue being blind, but in fiction, we write “was.”

  • Dan took the kids to the Hudson River, which was clean enough to jump in and swim.

While this is pretty true today, in fiction, we’d have this in past tense. We don’t want to jerk the reader from past to present back to past tense.

Yet some facts are so present tense in our bones, we have to write them in present tense, regardless of other considerations.

  • The family traveled on the subway down to New York Harbor and from there took a boat out to where Lady Liberty stands.

Even in fiction, we wouldn’t put Lady Liberty in past tense. And we would protect other icons similarly.

  • The family caught a train to Washington and hurried from Union Station to where the Washington Monument stands.

We wouldn’t say “where the Washington Monument stood” unless we were writing some kind of post-apocalyptic story.

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Past, present, future. Read my post-apocalyptic novel, Question Woman & Howling Sky, available on Amazon, where you can also buy my YA novel that time jumps, but is written in past tense—The Heroine’s Journey—and my middle-grade fantasy, Strings, based oh so loosely on string theory.

Or if you want to learn more about writing, download my The Naked Writer for your Kindle or take a class with me online at Writer’s Digest University. Need a line edit for an article, story or novel? GHayden2@nyc.rr.com

The Naked Writer