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The Inkspiller

Part two! Here we go!

The young woman’s mouth worked for a moment, and then she nodded.

So I have to amend my previous statement on ‘and’ & ‘then’; the main case for using them together would be to add the sensation of a tangible pause in between the two conjoined actions. However, that can be achieved by other means, such as by a semi-colon or by additional description.

(A) The young woman’s mouth worked wordlessly for a moment; her words lost to silence, she nodded at last.

(B) The young woman’s mouth worked for a moment in seeming thought; apparently satisfied by her conclusion, she nodded.


Drastan rubbed his head as she began gathering the knives and sword.

Would you replace ‘began gathering’ with ‘gathered?’ I.e, are words like ‘began’ and ‘start’ ever okay to use?

#1: Yes, I would, either ‘gathered’ or ‘gathered up’. ‘Began’, ‘start’, and gerunds/present participles (e.g., ‘gathering’) aren’t completely forbidden, but should only be used when its important to indicate that the action is in progress – often so that it can be interrupted by another action.  In this case, if nothing stops her from gathering the knives and sword, then it is better to just use the past tense.


“Yes. I’m having a hard time piecing together who in the world is after us. The fact that all three of us were attacked–” Drastan swallowed as an image of Kelren’s pierced chest flashed through his mind. “–it clearly shows that whoever wants us dead has something to do with last night’s murder.”

For some reason, I’m having a hard time finding how to properly punctuate a break in dialouge with m dashes. How should the above be written?

Well, without even knowing who is speaking, I felt able to understand what you were saying. I hesitate to advise any particular change here.


Then the wave hit.

That was when the door swung open.

Above are two examples of almost speaking as if the character is telling you what happened, not as if it is happening to the character. Would you ever write a sentence like that for third person limited?

Absolutely, I do it all the time, that’s one of the greatest strengths of third person limited – you get to see the world through their eyes and get their thoughts and feelings on the situation, not just a dry after action report. An example from my own work:

Then someone began to snore. 

It wasn’t Alois, or Erhard would have pelted him with a shoe. No, it was coming from the room below, through a pair of floorboards that hadn’t been properly tarred. At first Erhard tried to adapt, searching for a pattern in the snore to roll with its noisy tides, but this mouth breather would sometimes croak like a bullfrog for a full minute; then he would fall silent as death for what seemed like an hour before reviving with a hoarse sonata like the aria of an asthmatic goose.

With third-person limited, you can potentially expand the scope of the character’s POV to even affect your narration and description, allowing each POV to present their own take on a situation. Your shining white knight might cause your narrative voice to take everything more seriously and dramatically with flowery prose, while writing from the perspective of a cunning gutter rat might present a grittier tone and less than charitable descriptions.


She felt no panic, no anxiety, nothing. But that didn’t mean she had surrendered self-preservation.

Two questions here. In the first sentence, is that too much telling for emotion? In the second sentence, would you ever use the phrase ‘but that didn’t mean?’

#1: No, that’s okay, though the first sentence could stand to include more physical description alongside the telling. I’ll put an example below.

She felt no panic nor anxiety, not even so much as a quavering heartbeat to signal terror.

#2: No ‘but’s at the beginning of sentences. You could join the two sentences with a semi-colon if you really want a ‘but’ there, but then you don’t really need the ‘but’ thanks to the semi-colon. I would still change the second sentence, it just sounds vaguely… rhythmically unsatisfying, if that makes any sense.

She felt no panic nor anxiety, not even so much as a quavering heartbeat to signal terror. Even so, she had not yet surrendered self-preservation; her body might be ready to lay down and die, but she wasn’t.


Ignoring the sensation of vulnerability that lying on the ground while talking gave to her, she said,

How would you write the above?

Laying out on the ground, she felt like a side of meat left out on the butcher’s counter before a line of hungry dogs. Nevertheless, she swallowed the bile of fear and spoke.

“[Insert dialogue]” (she said is optional here)

Aren’t metaphors and similes great?


With a skipping step that matched the flute notes filling the air, Wren entered the inn’s main hall.

Would you use the bolded ‘that’ above?

It’s not terrible; the sentence functions. Without knowing the context of this line, this is how I’d rewrite it:

Flute notes drifted out from the main hall of the inn like temple incense. Wren’s feet followed the piper’s melody, carrying her skipping into the main hall.


I hope that these answers have been more a help than a hindrance. Let me know if you have other questions or editorial needs, or if I can clarify anything I didn’t answer clearly or helpfully!

Non nobis Domine, sed nomini, Tuo da gloriam.

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