I just… AAA!!!!!

I try to give people the benefit of the doubt.  A messed up word here, a punctuation thing there, and I can overlook it.  But there are those that I cannot overlook, and it’s this story: “You’ve Got (Blutbaden) Mail“.

I have a personal pet-peeve when a story description is nothing but a clip from the story.  I mean, that can work if you’re actually setting something up for the reader.  But the description of this story doesn’t really do much.  But it goes beyond that.  I personally didn’t get past the first paragraph.  Why?  Here it is:

It had all started rather innocently. Whilst trawling through Marie’s trailer one late evening, Nick happened across a very old watch. At first he had been cautious as most of the trailers contents were either weapons, books or more weapons. What if it send him back in time? Or forward? What if poisoned the wearer? Holding it up to the light, he had noticed that it was stopped. Its hands frozen forever on three minutes past twelve. He wonders if it has any relevance. Knowing the things that lurk in the dark interior of the trailer, probably. Carefully setting it back down, he forgot about it.

So the things that get me right off the bad are the tense changes – sometimes within the same short sentence.  Such as the sentence “Holding up to the light, he had noticed that it was stopped.”  Present tense in the first five words, but not the rest of the sentence.  Same thing with “Carefully setting it back down, he forgot about it.”

Writers: You give your readers whiplash when you write like this.  You need to pick a tense, and stick with it.  A good way to tell, is to read your story aloud.  If it doesn’t sound right, then you need to fix it.  If you’re not a native-English speaker, or if you just don’t know what to fix, then find a beta.  It’s relatively easy these days!  There’s a community on LiveJournal called “Find Me A Beta“; people are there to help  you.  Trust me!

If you’re looking for a well written Grimm fic, then try “Hotel California” by VampirePam.  She’s only written one work in the Grimm fandom, but it’s phenomenal!

2 thoughts on “I just… AAA!!!!!”

  1. While that excerpt is certainly rife with mistakes …There is nothing wrong with the sentences you mentioned. They’re actually wonderful examples of complex sentences, relating the immediacy of actions through independent and dependent clauses.

    Take the second quote, for instance.

    “[Carefully setting it back down,] he forgot about it.”

    If you separate the part in brackets from the rest of the sentence, it becomes a sentence fragment.

    “Carefully setting it back down.”

    To become a complete thought, this dependent clause requires a subject+helping verb (e.g. “I am carefully setting it back down”) or an independent clause to ride on.

    “He forgot about it.”

    Now let’s examine the second part of the sentence. Subject? Check. Active verb? Also check. This clause is independent, able to stand on its own, which makes it perfect for a dependent clause to, well, depend on.

    Sure, the actions this sentence depicts could just have easily been described another way, with less redundancy and more vibrant word choice…

    “After he carefully replaced it, he put it out of his mind,” or “He put it back down with care, and decided to forget about it,” or even
    “He carefully set it back down and forgot about it.”

    All are correct grammatically and contain the same information as the original sentence–but they don’t tell the same story. Combining the sentence through in- and dependent clauses shows the reader more about the timing of the described actions. Instead of “This happened and this happened too,” we read the sentence as “This happened when/because of/directly after this other thing happened.” We understand the events to have a stronger relationship because of the sentence structure.

    This is not a mistake made by a writer to whom English is a second language. It’s a grammatical tool that even many native speakers are unaware of. It’s a shame, too. It’s such a brilliant way to convey information in a concise, fluid manner–more detail for less words.

    It’s an honest mistake, but do some research on the properties of clauses. They add so much to your writing, and they’re scarily addicting once you start using them.

  2. Thank you for mentioning “Find Me a Beta.” I’ll be sure to point certain writers to it. I have a journalism degree and work as a professional writer, in addition to dabbling in fanfic. Nothing irks me more than seeing a story posted on AO3 that is full of grammar and spelling mistakes because the writer is too lazy to have the work edited. And not having English as a native language isn’t an excuse. There are plenty of native English speakers, like me, who have expertise in grammar and spelling and will help a non-native speaker.

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