Overusing the Participle Phrase

Apparently, I like the participle phrase. And also adverbs, but that’s for another post.

It has come to my attention that I use participle phrases way too much. It’s my 853rd pass of my manuscript, and this time, as I read it aloud, again, I’m noticing so many of my sentences have the same exact structure. And I freaked out. I freaked the hell out. My first thought, of course, was, How did I not notice this until now? Then I thought, Really? I have to go back again?

Let me give you some examples so you know what I’m talking about.

Hunter joins me, draping his legs over mine.

Anna sits at her desk in her black power suit, rapidly chewing gum.

He’s sitting on the edge of his coffee table, picking at his guitar.

No way my first day back will be spent behind a desk, trying to keep my eyes open.

I squeeze his hand and slide over, crushing him against the side.

Notice anything? Don’t flatter me. Of course you do. It’s like the same sentence with different words. OK, not the best way to explain. But you do see it, right?

I know how this happened. I’m not blaming anyone, because I honestly don’t remember who it was. But I was told in a pretty early draft that I have too many sentences starting with I. Turns out, he/she was right. So I found a detour from I did this, I did that. 

The positive of using participles is how it allows you to add another action without making it a new sentence. It sort of just flows with the previous action. If that makes any sense at all.

But now I have this participle problem. I mean, there are a lot of sentences like these.

There are ways around this, which I’m now facing. Use a conjunction. Use the dreaded I. Rework the sentence entirely. For example, Hunter joins me and drapes his legs over mine.

I didn’t even include some -ed examples, the past participles! But rest assured, I have a bunch of those too.

I’ve been on the look-out for these sentences so I can fix them. I don’t mind the edits so much, contrary to the tone of this post. But I thought I was getting somewhere. I had the finish line in sight. Hey, it gives me an excuse to stick with my characters longer.

I’ll leave you with this advice: Read your work out loud! It will help you catch repetitive sentences, unclear or unnatural dialogue, overused words, and, best of all, it’s practice for all those public readings you’ll have to do on your book tour. 🙂

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