HOW TO NOT TO USE HAD ALL THE TIME
I have recently been reading a book that’s an epic saga, and it’s not Twilight. Please don’t accuse me of that. Haha!
I won’t mention the saga because I may make several references to it that may be good or bad over the next few days. Perhaps later, I’ll reveal which one it is. But I’m not into bashing people’s work. That said, this isn’t a bash, as much as it is an observation.
When writing, using the past participle “had” can weaken your words. Whenever the past participle had comes up in my writing, I always make sure that this is precisely what I intend.
She had stepped out into the rain, and once she had pushed up her umbrella, she had headed down the road.
I’ve read some people’s writings, and these “hads” just creep up when they shouldn’t be there. Reread the example sentence again. Notice how the “hads” tend to distract you from the writing.
Let’s write the same line again, this time without the past participles.
She stepped out into the rain, and once she had pushed up her umbrella, she headed down the road.
After reviewing the sentence, notice how there’s only one “had” that we need. We want to describe that what this lady is doing has already taken place. But to do that, we can eliminate the unnecessary “hads” and just stick with the narrative.
In real life, we don’t tell a story like that. Let’s say we want to talk to one of our friends who almost got hit by a car.
She had stepped out into the busy highway, without looking both ways. And when the car had come up to her, she had jumped back onto the sidewalk to keep from being hit.
That sounds uneventful and anti-climatic. And believe me, that’s what it does to your work.
Try it again. This is how we’d tell the story to our friend if we wanted to give the dramatic / immediate effect.
She stepped out into the busy highway, without looking both ways. And when the car came up to her, she jumped back onto the sidewalk to keep from being hit.
Please keep in mind your “hads” whenever you’re telling a story. They tend to creep up on you, and if you’re not careful, they’ll run you out of house and home.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope this helps!
I face this issue in my writing. And I don’t notice I’ve done it until I’m rereading… Thanks for bringing it up!
Yeah, it’s strange because it’ll just start happening whenever I’m not paying attention, but I always get them out of there on the edits.
I run into this just this morning (at 5:05 a.m….). My WIP is written in past tense. My MC was going to summarize his uneventful weekend in two paragraphs before jumping back into a conversation in the “present.” Because of the hads, I separated the weekend summary into a single “scene” of two paragraphs, then made the “present” a separate “scene.”
That’s a good way to separate it because it can really become confusing and vague otherwise.
I did a post on “HAD” back in May in my Strong vs.Weak Word series. If you are interested, take a peek!
We think alike.