Avoid shifting point of view in your story
Editing client publishes new short story collection

Shun beautiful writing done for beauty’s sake

Ever read 12301575_10153091988070216_1149649224683972340_na beautiful image in a story but then ask yourself, “So what?”

If so, you’ve probably been a victim of the “foreground to” trick. Coined by CSFW’s Sarah Smith, “foreground to” occurs when you draw attention to some object in your story purely for artistic effect.

A type of card tricks in the dark, it’s just another way of showing off. Consider this example:

He stood 5-foot-11 and had a vicious mustache.

Sure, it’s descriptive – and vicious mustache sounds cool with its use of alliteration and assonance – but it doesn’t move the story forward. First, 5-foot-11 is an average height, so there’s nothing remarkable about it and probably would only need of appear if the author wanted to show that the person was average; but vicious mustache instead suggests an atypical character. In giving the height, the author merely appears to want to demonstrate to the reader that he’s done his due diligence and thought about what the character looks like. Secondly, the purpose of vicious mustache appears to be simply to show that the author is capable of creating a poetic-sounding image. After all, exactly what is a vicious mustache?

To be effective, an image or description – like every other word in the story – should serve a purpose. For example, it might be used to develop a character by offering descriptions that manifest personality traits. Or it might be used to set atmosphere and mood. Or it might be used for thematic purposes, such as drawing parallels between two objects so as to show how a situation is analogous.

But to do it solely to demonstrate you’re capable of writing a pretty simile or description isn’t a great idea.

Need an editor? Having your book, business document or academic paper proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. Whether you come from a big city like Jackson, Mississippi, or a small town like Fleatown, Ohio, I can provide that second eye.


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