Weekly riddle

Daily I arrive but while you work, I am absent. Only when you lie do I come to your side and labour. What am I?

Answer to the riddle from a few weeks ago: A flowerbed.

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Writing Tips – “… to and … from”

Not a big tip but it alters flow. Or should I say, improves it. The “…to and … from” sentence has always been a clunker for me. Serviceable, it conveys the proper information but it’s like eating an ash sandwich: very dry and leaves me asking if there’s anything else I could have.

Example: “The wealth given to and taken from Mr. Moneybags created a cyclone of bad decisions everybody suffered for.” Writing in this way delays introduction of your subject and deadens the action. Instead of that, this: “The wealth given to Mr. Moneybags, and just as quickly taken from, created…” We’ll skip the suffering. We’ve had enough of it from this sentence’s first draft.

Isn’t the second version better? More direct, it gives wealth to our subject and then, as we’re comfortable with Mr. Moneybags’s station in life, creates the shock of taking it away again – the cyclone everybody suffered for.

If the meaning should convey a circular motion of wealth in Mr. Moneybags’s life, “… to and … from” still doesn’t satisfy. Move Mr. Moneybags up in the order and we have: “Wealth for Mr. Moneybags came in an unending cycle of giving and taking, creating…” Again, enough suffering.

This isn’t an example ready for all instances where “… to and … from” can occur. But I hope it illustrates the ability to always find a better way, one with more finesse and oomph, to deliver information without it reading like bookkeeping. That and the benefit of a good writer.

Story, Elements of

Story does not live in incident. Incident is largely interchangeable. Instead, story lives in an ongoing narrative, inside the writer, of what people might think or might do when way of life is challenged or examined. Tidbits of dialogue or self-analysis suggest the meaning of an unwritten story. Incident only expresses it through what is supposedly true, the actual lie, speaking of an inner reality.