Prepositional Phrases – Those Sneaky Adjectives and Adverbs

May 11, 2013

Novice writers sometimes focus on the wrong Who, What, Where, When, and How’s in their story. In all my coaching, this is a big thing I teach novices about news ways to write and better editing skills.

You can write about how your characters are feeling, or reacting to the happenings in your story. Showing.

Or you can describe to the reader how they are moving. Telling.

This is where the over-use of prepositions and prepositional phrases come in.

These are some prepositions.

about

below

from

out

under

above

beside

in

outside

underneath

across

besides

inside

over

unlike

after

 between

into

past

until

  against

beyond

like

plus

up

along

but

near

since

upon

among

by

next

than

with

around

despite

of

through

without

as

down

off

throughout

at

during

on

till

before

except

onto

to

behind

for

  opposite

toward

These aren’t the only ones, you can find fuller lists elsewhere, but it’s a start.

Some prepositions are phrases, like: next to, along with, in addition to, as well as,

 

These word types in your stories, when you use them as adjectives, tells the reader, which one? and, what kind of? You are telling the reader more about the charter or his actions — and you may not need to, if all you are doing is adding things that are known.If we know the character is in her bedroom, on her bed, then we’d edit out these telling bits:

She looked around the bedroom and leaned back on the mattress.

Using these word types in your stories, as adverbs, tells the reader, when? where? how? and, why?

But, as we already know, when we edit our stories, we want to show things to the reader, much more than tell them things.

Telling: Bad.

Showing does not mean stage directions.

Using too many prepositions and phrases tell things that in your story are obvious to the reader already. Using them too often tells too much, of what is a given.

If he “…reached out with his hand for me”, that’s telling us he didn’t use his foot to do the reaching. And of the two people in the scene, he was reaching for her. That should be a given.

Too many P-P’s in your sentences read like stage directions, or over-describing. If we know the character lives in an apartment and that she is short, then if that’s already been established .We don’t need to say it when writing a scene.

After calling me at the apartment first, he showed up at my door. He towered there, next to the door, mute, pleading to be let in.  He reached out with his hand for me as I looked up into his eyes. But this time I shook my head no.

 

Can you see the bits that can go?  Not all of them will, but most of them should. The same way you’d edit for too many -ly words (adverbs). or too many describing words (adjectives).

So, you need first – to show us your characters more in actions, reactions, motivations and in-scene, but also, you need to hunt out where you might be only telling us stuff with the over use of prepositions and their phrases in your first drafts.

 

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5 Responses to “Prepositional Phrases – Those Sneaky Adjectives and Adverbs”

  1. Karlie Says:

    The only thing I overuse more than the -ly words are prepositional phrases like that. Thanks for pointing this out, i can definitely use the reminder.

  2. Amaya Says:

    I overuse a lot of prepositional phrases to the point I bored myself while writing them. I was concentrating on getting my idea out. It should be interesting how I learn when to use them while in the midst of writing. Thanks for bringing these things to life.

  3. Amaya Says:

    *light

    • ejrunyon Says:

      Haha. And here I thought you were commending me on how one of my post brought something to ‘life’ for you!

      The wrong word is like the difference between lightning, and a lightning bug.~ Mark Twain

      Thanks for the comment!

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