Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Kick Some As (out of your prose)

When I'm teaching fiction writing, I sometimes see students abusing the word "as". I'm not sure characters should do something as they are doing something else. Somehow, combining actions with "as" has the effect of watering down both actions. It takes some kind of power from the action, and it certainly seems to strip metaphorical potential. See the passages below. The first abuses "as". The second expunges "as" ... and is stronger, I believe, for the effort. Read them and see if you also believe that writers should make an effort to kick some "as" out of their prose.




                She dropped her keys down on the counter as she came into the house.
                He put a beer back into the fridge as he stood in the open door of it.
                “You’re wasting electricity,” she said as she threw her gloves across the kitchen near the sink. One toppled into the sink.
                As he closed the fridge door, he looked at her determined face. “I’m not sure about tonight,” he said, as he ran his fingers through his hair.
                As she listened, she squeezed and unsqueezed her left hand into a fist. “It’s cold out,” she said, as she started clenching and unclenching her right hand.
                “Did you hear me?” he asked, as he opened the fridge again.
                “I don’t care what you’re not sure about,” she said, as she walked past him into the darkness of the living room.
                As he stood for a moment with the cold air flowing over his feet, he touched his fingers absently over his upper lip. Then, as he closed the fridge door, the light went out.

    She came into the house and dropped her keys on the counter.
                He stood in the open door of the fridge. He put a beer back.
                “You’re wasting electricity,” she said. She threw her gloves across the kitchen near the sink. One toppled into the sink.
                He closed the fridge door and looked at her determined face. “I’m not sure about tonight,” he said. He ran his fingers through his hair.
                She listened, squeezing and unsqueezing her left hand into a fist. “It’s cold out,” she said. She started clenching and unclenching her right hand.
                “Did you hear me?” he asked. He opened the fridge again.
                She walked past him into the darkness of the living room. “I don’t care what you’re not sure about,” she said.      
He stood for a moment with the cold air flowing over his feet. He touched his fingers absently over his upper lip. He closed the fridge door.
The light went out.

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