Thursday, February 23, 2012

He did WHAT to her shoulders?!

I have been on a critting/betaing kick lately.  I've beta'ed at least four full novels, and visited over fifty blogs for blog hops (although I didn't exactly critique on the blog hops, I did notice stuff--lol).

There's one mistake that I see A LOT that I really don't get.  And it looks something like this:

Shrugging my shoulders, Liam turned and walked out of the room.

Do you see what the problem is?  The subject of the sentence is LIAM.  The sentence is actually saying that LIAM shrugged the protagonist's shoulders.

That was an extreme example, but I really do see these sentences all the time.  Another common version is this:

Closing the door, my eyes tracked across the room.

In this sentence, the protagonist's eyes somehow closed the door.

I've seen these so much at this point, that I decided to write a blog post about it.  Funnily enough, I recently visited Entangled Editor Heather Howland's blog, and clicked on a link to her "Craft Quickies." Low and behold, what is her first quickie about?

Pesky Participle Phrases.

Her post about them is informative and interesting, and so are her other Craft Quickie posts, so you should definitely check them out.

What about you?  Are there any common mistakes that drive you nuts?

P.S. During the blog fest, I hit 200 followers. THANK YOU! (*waves to Emily R. King, who was the 200th*) I like to give stuff away, so look for a contest next week!


  1. Oh boy, I do that a LOT! *is embarrassed* I will try to be more aware of it in the future!

    1. LOL--Don't be embarrassed! My rough drafts are SCARY. Just ask my crit partners. ;)

  2. I've done that before in my first drafts of my earlier novels, but I'm very conscious of it now and catch it quickly.

    I once read the back of a self-published book in which there was a participle problem. Needless to say, I didn't buy the book.

  3. Actually, the dangling modifier is one of my favorite grammar faults because of the often uproarious unintended humor.

  4. Blinking through the tears, your just and pointed post pinned itself to my consciousness.
    All right,^ I just had to. I love your first example of Liam and your shoulders.
    I’ve seen this in many PUBLISHED books of yore. Not so much anymore.

    1. LOLOLOLOL! That sentence is both awful and awesome, Mirka!

  5. My beta's get me on that all the time 'Body Parts acting on it's own'

  6. This is an excellent reminder! These phrases are easy to do but make absolutely no sense!

  7. I completely I agree with you. I taught language arts for seven years before becoming a writer, so this really makes my skin crawl. Eek!