Don’t start a sentence with a conjunction; don’t end with a preposition. These two basic rules of English grammar are the most ignored among fiction writers today, and yet they create PPP.
Here is an example from the Prolog of SEEING MAGIC:
BEFORE:I gave up. We had been going back and forth like this for four days. I knew that there was nothing I could say that would change her mind.
“Can you at least tell me what it is?”
“No, I don’t want to scare you.” But those words scared me most of all.
I relented, but tried one last time to learn the driving force behind her decision.
“Can you at least tell me what this is?”
Her eyes wouldn’t meet mine. “No, I don’t want to scare you.”
Those words scared me most of all.
Eliminating the grammatically incorrect ‘But’ at the beginning of the last sentence makes the impact of the words much stronger.
Whenever I see a sentence start with ‘AND’, ‘OR’ or ‘BUT’ I ask myself one question. Is this sentence really a continuation of the thought expressed in the sentence before it? If the answer is yes, then I rewrite it as a clause to the previous sentence, separated by a comma. If the answer is no, then I eliminate the conjunction.
From the first edition of SEEING MAGIC:
“What the hell did you think you were doing yesterday, Buach?” He shouted at Green Eyes. The man he’d called ‘Buck’ had taken a step back under the cover of the trees. He looked a little intimidated by Evan. But he still wore a sinister grin.
From the second edition:
“What the hell did you think you were doing yesterday, Buach?” He shouted at Green Eyes. The man he’d called ‘Buck’ had taken a step back under the cover of the trees. He looked a little intimidated by Evan, but he still wore a sinister grin.
The technique of using periods to separate clauses instead of commas is common in marketing material intended to emphasize the story in as few words as possible. That technique doesn’t work within a novel. The use of the full stop causes the reader to stop reading, slowing down the flow of the prose. What the author wants is for the reader to keep going until the end of the book. Using a comma, as in the second edition, allows the flow to continue unimpeded.
A while back, I wrote a pitch for fellow author and friend, Chris Bostic, promoting his novel, FUGITIVES FROM NORTHWOODS. An indie publisher, Krill Press, bought the publishing rights and decided to keep my pitch as part of the back cover.
My original pitch was written as follows:
“Child slave labor...that's what it's come down to. After the total collapse of the world economy, even the United States couldn't stand together, so they failed separately. In the small region-state of Minnkotasin, poverty and greed have turned the idyllic Northwoods of Minnesota into barren wasteland of clear-cut forests and over-fished lakes. Every able-bodied teenager is conscripted into a labor force and sent to work in harsh, prison-like conditions. They're enslaved young so they never learn to think for themselves. Penn is different, and he's determined to win back freedom, for himself, his friends, and someday for his homeland.”
The editors at Krill Press rewrote the pitch as follows:
“After the total collapse of the world economy, the United States could not stand together. So they failed separately. In the small region-state of Winnkota, poverty and greed are turning the idyllic Northwoods of Minnesota into a barren wasteland of clear-cut forests and over-fished lakes. Every able-bodied teenager is conscripted into a labor force and sent to work in harsh prison-like conditions. They are enslaved young, so they never learn to think for themselves. But Penn is different. He’s determined to win back freedom – for himself, his friends, and someday for his homeland.”
Thankfully the editors deleted the first sentence with the dangling preposition, but notice what they did after that. The conjunction ‘so’ is used to start a new sentence. They added a ‘But’ before ‘Penn is different.’ These deliberate errors in grammar work in short marketing pitches. They are PPP in novels.
Chris’ novel is available at http://www.amazon.com/Fugitives-Northwoods-Chris-Bostic-ebook/dp/B00B9676BU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404357395&sr=8-1&keywords=fugitives+from+northwoods/.