weaver of the unseen
- Aug 21, 2007
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More guideline than rule. You can expect extended descriptive passages to be picked up on in workshop settings, and much more so these days, in my experience. And yet I can think of excellent books where extended description has been used to great effect. In the right hands, it can be a forward moving experience for a reader, even in the temporary absence of narrative development. In fact, the line between action and description, between narrative and scene, isn't necessarily all that clear, all of the time. And definitions of "purple" are highly subjective. I've seen the word thrown at prose that I hated and I've seen it thrown at prose that I loved.When did this became a rule? You need description, but it's not recommend to excessively purple unless it's part of your style and it's needed for the story.
The locked, linked post:Eek. I'm going to have to critique a critique!
A word of warning to everyone of the perils of participial clauses, ie ones which start "[Verb]ing". More detail here in this post of mine The Toolbox -- The Important Bits
Dangling participles are the devil's own work, and anyone who uses them will be taken to the Staff Room Dungeons and subjected to horrific treatment -- HareBrain's singing, among other ordeals. You have been warned.
The present participle is the form of a verb ending in '-ing'. The past participle is the form of a verb ending in '-ed' or '-t' (or eg '-en' for irregular verbs like break/broken).
As any writer knows, it quickly becomes boring to keep using the past simple when a character is engaged in a list of things eg 'He walked to the door. He opened it. He looked outside. He stepped onto the patio.' Therefore we often try to vary the list, to help it read more smoothly, by opening with the verb and creating a participial clause eg 'Walking to the door...' or 'Bred on the farm...'
But such clauses have to be used with caution. The three problems that beset them are, in descending order of importance:
1. Dangling participle
Where the subject of the participle and the subject of the sentence don't agree eg 'Driving home, the light traffic told me it wasn't rush hour after all.' The subject of the main part of the sentence is the traffic, but I'm the subject of the participle since I'm the one doing the driving, not the traffic. This should read 'Driving home, I realised from the light traffic it wasn't...'
2. Non-continuing participle
Where the present participle describes something which is over and done with before the next part of the sentence is begun, so the use of the continuous '-ing' is inappropriate -- this is apparently a big problem for writers of SFF fiction eg 'Running up the stairs, I went into the bedroom.' This should be 'Having run up the stairs, I went into...' No problem is encountered provided the actions are simultaneous eg 'Running up the stairs, I whistled the National Anthem.'
3. Irrelevant participle
Where the participle describes something which has no (apparent) connection with the rest of the sentence eg 'Being a first-class athlete, I was born in Leicester.' This simply looks amateurish.
Use of participial clauses can add vigour to writing, and help it read more smoothly, but like any stylisitic device it can become boring if overused.
Your idea of rephrasing to avoid all the "she"s was a good one, but it's not always easy, since to prevent the dangling participles you need "she" or her name again. So instead ofSarah felt a bit self-conscious as everyone watched. Usually most of them would be busy elsewhere and there wouldn’t be such an audience. Stepping forward [dangling?], [yes] peering [non-continuing?] [probably, depending on whether she is peering as stepping, which is just about possible, but if not non-continuing, it's dangling with the other one] into the pit, its entire base glistened as if full of diamonds [irrelevant?]. [not sure what you mean here] There was a horde of red markers clustered together, though nothing specific among them. Looking back at Aziz frowning [dangling? Although, the problem here I see clearly. Sarah is frowning, not Aziz.]; [nope, not dangling, just badly put together! There isn't a second clause for the subject to be different, but she is implied as the subject as she's the one speaking] “We weren’t planning to dig anymore in this area. It’s too hard going on the equipment and every change of drill head costs a lot of money.”