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Here are the problems: there is, there are, there was, there were, it is, it was, and here is. Why do editors fuss over there is and the like?
1. Dialog should reflect what characters would say, but writers should tighten dialog.
Characters do say the above openers, such as there is.
Chase and Kristin drove past Cannamart. “There is one good reason I shop at Cannamart. The low prices.”
Sentences similar to this example still stop me. Most people would use the contraction There’s:
Better: Chase and Kristin drove past Cannamart. “There’s one good reason I shop at Cannamart. The low prices.”
But why not ditch there is?
Better: Chase and Kristin drove past Cannamart. “I shop at Cannamart for the low prices.”
This says the same thing and is less wordy.
2. There is and the like employ the overused verb to be and exhibit passive voice.
Jason machine-gunned orders to his staff. It was his way of preventing them from lollygagging.
The second sentence is wordy. The writer slows down the pace. “Lollygagging” alone works for the contrast between the fast, machine-gunned orders and the slow hires’ speed.
Better: Jason machine-gunned orders to his staff to prevent them from lollygagging.
Better: Jason machine-gunned orders to his staff and terminated their lollygagging.
This example moves the first example from passive to active voice.
3. Here was (is) is wordy and passive.
Jan was in a good mood. Here was the right moment to tell Janice what he thought.
Better: Jan’s good mood furnished the right moment to tell her what he thought.
4. Passive expressions such as there were contain the uninteresting to be verb.
There were six maids in the queen’s chamber.
Ditch there were and add an interesting action verb.
Better: Six maids flitted around the queen in her chamber.
There were four deer in the flower beds.
Better: Four deer trampled the petunias in the flower beds.
There was bitterness in my heart.
Better: Bitterness gnawed my heart.
Search for there is and the like in your stories and try to rewrite the sentences, ditching the passive expressions.
What other problems have you seen in writers using such expressions as there is?
“I finished reading Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. I have AND will highly recommend it to anyone who dabbles in fiction. It’s one of the best “how to” books I’ve ever read.” Marsha Hubler, Director Montrose Christian Writers Conference
If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor
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