Monday, July 6, 2009

Past, present, future

I always have to watch my "woulds" when I write. I like the flow of sentences with that word no matter how BAD it is to use them. Read these three out loud.

And she would run, back and forth, forth and back, playing tag with the amoral sea.
She ran back and forth, forth and back, playing tag with the amoral sea.
She runs back and forth, forth and back, playing tag with the amoral sea.

I can't help it. I like number one. But it doesn't fly with writers or agents.... past something or other.

As I removed them from my novel during my revisions I was thinking about why I use them. Why I like the idea of keeping the reader at the distance of the wall of "would."

And then I realized that it kept my characters behind glass. Made them untouchable. Safe couched inside of a memory that the reader could not change or rearrange.

I think I do it in my own life too. Yesterday I went to a picnic that has become a class reunion of sorts. My group of friends spanned classes, so traditional reunions don't cut it.

I see them all, those old friends... and it reminds me of time passing. I am happy that everyone is doing so well. We have all found such complete happiness, we are a lucky bunch. And still....

When I pick my oldest daughter up at highschool, I think I see them. The versions of their younger selves. And I want to yell out, "Emily!" or "Caleb!" or "Susan!" but then the teen in question turns around and I realize that it is only a mirage.

SO if I were to tell you the story of how my friends and I used to cut school and go to a walled in park a few blocks away. A park wherein even angst filled teens could still believe in fairies. I would want to use a lot of woulds to encase that time in glass.

We would walk fast to avoid being caught and then would run to one another with abandon as we nestled ourselves under the pines. We would listen Led Zeppelin and then, once feeling the truant officers were no longer hunting, we would play absolute Frisbee and I would always ride up high on someones shoulders.

Don't get me wrong. I don't want to go back. I just want to preserve what was. "Would" helps me to keep those people (including myself) beyond the reach of time, even as the present helps to move everyone forward. Forward into their own, lovely lives.


  1. Isn't it amazing what we learn about ourselves as we examine our reasons for writing or structuring sentences a certain way? It's such an amazing insight. Thanks for sharing yours!

  2. Plus, you are a storyteller. I believe the first 'would' version gives a feeling of sitting in a rocking chair and sharing a special story.

    As you know, reading is different than telling. Ah, they are pretty words, though. And it is a beautiful analogy you shared today.

  3. Interesting, I hadn't really thought about it before.I think I am a 'would' person.

  4. Good post. And I use would way too much, too.

  5. It seems that the "would" as you used in the examples (beautifully written, by the way)gives a magical feel--something that can take place again and again in the imagination, rather than it happened and there you have it.
    Intriguing post. Thanks.

  6. That's an interesting realization. I find I learn a lot about myself through writing as well. Some things I may never have known on my own and others I do in my writing because I can't do them in real life :)

  7. Time trapped under glass...I like that image. Somethings have a very bittersweet memory and perhaps your method of storytelling in this instance helps reflect that.

  8. This is so true! That's what I was thinking as I read your three sentences (I love the last one, but I'm sort of a present tense freak). I was thinking, yeah, but that's only if you're telling about something in the past that isn't happening now, that happenED and can't be changed.

    Cool post! It made me think, something I like in blog posts. :)

  9. would you could you with a phone call your friend when you're alone?

  10. I, too, am a great would fan. Don't be talked out of them.

  11. "Would" never trips me up. I find it to be a lovely word, even if agents and editors sneer. But, I am happy that you pointed it out as something that needs to be examined. I wonder how much I use it? Never really thought about it.