Terminal Black (Relic Black Thriller, book 1)
Published 29 June 2020
A stolen identity. A hitman. A bent cop.
Relic Black takes things that don’t belong to him—credit cards, golf clubs, toothbrushes. But when a hitman mistakes him for someone else, Relic lands himself in a difficult situation. With a dead man on his hands and a guilty conscience, he sets off to save the life of the man whose identity he has stolen. And that’s when the real trouble starts…
First and Third Person Singular (Was)
by Colin Garrow
I’ve never been one for getting to grips with grammatical terms like present participle, intransitive, passive infinitive, and possessive adjective, so I’m not going to attempt to clarify what follows in the sort of language some of my lecturers bandied about in the dim and distant past.
Basically, I hate the word ‘was’. It is overused, way too passive and when we see it too often, it weakens the quality of otherwise well-written tomes.
Over the years, like many writers, I’ve taken on board Stephen King’s advice that if you want to be a writer, you need to do two things: read a lot and write a lot.
Reading a lot is essential as it not only improves our knowledge of words but gives us a better understanding of what other writers are doing, how they create stories and why some passages sound magical and innovative, while others read like purple prose with knobs on.
Many of our most popular authors adopt a similar style for each book – they don’t bother trying new things, or experiment with new ideas, but use ordinary words and phrases to tell their stories. And that’s great, but there are certain words that, if you use them a lot, can stand out in a passage of writing, and one of the reasons they stand out is because they’re unnecessary. While repetition can be used to great effect, such as in Winston’s Churchill’s famous wartime speech:
We shall fight on the beaches,
We shall fight on the landing grounds…
Mostly, though, repetition for no reason only serves to emphasise our lack of imagination. Repeating words simply because that’s the way we’ve been doing it for years, can be irritating. And for me, the most irritating word of all, is ‘was’.
Here are two examples from books I’ve read. Though the repetition of ‘was’ in each case is not excessive, the passages can certainly be improved. See if you can guess who wrote them:
Tea was served by Dora, the kitchen maid, in the withdrawing room. Tea was the most erratic affair. It was always at four o’clock…
Dora the kitchen maid served tea in the withdrawing room. Always a most erratic affair and always at four o’clock…
And here’s another:
Bridge was still proceeding – with a slight difference. Sir Oswald was now playing with his wife and was conscientiously pointing out mistakes she had made during the play of each hand.
Bridge proceeded – with a slight difference. Sir Oswald now played with his wife, conscientiously pointing out mistakes she had made during the play of each hand.
While there are many much worse examples than these, I have no wish to chastise living authors. My point is that simply because we are used to using a particular word, does not mean we should gaily throw it in at every opportunity. Part of the job of every writer should include improving our craft, and if that means taking a little more care with our sentences, then that can only be a good thing.
In a quest to improve my own writing, my latest book, Deadly Black, does not use the word ‘was’ at all, although it does use ‘wasn’t’ and ‘wasnae’ (as in It wasnae me, hen).
The above quotes were taken from:
The Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry
The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie
My thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for the tour invite and to the author for the guest post. All three books in the Relic Black series are available to download on Amazon UK.
Colin Garrow grew up in a former mining town in Northumberland. He has worked in a plethora of professions including: taxi driver, antiques dealer, drama facilitator, theatre director and fish processor, and has occasionally masqueraded as a pirate. All Colin’s books are available as eBooks and paperback.
His short stories have appeared in several literary mags, including: SN Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Word Bohemia, Every Day Fiction, The Grind, A3 Review, 1,000 Words, Inkapture and Scribble Magazine. He currently lives in a humble cottage in North East Scotland where he writes novels, stories, poems and the occasional song.
He also makes rather nice cakes.