Ten Second Writing Tip – Combing My Hair, I Brushed My Teeth

by Gayle Towell


Performing those two actions simultaneously is a feat that might earn you a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, but being that it is an unnatural act, you’re going to confuse your readers. Actually, odds are they may not even register the oddity. Their eyes move over the words, and because there isn’t clear sense to be made, they just move on without the intended action even sinking in. Weirdness like this often keeps your reader from the full story experience. Then they tell you they just didn’t connect with it and you are left puzzled as to why.

This construction—doing this, I did that—can work just fine if it is logically consistent. That is, if the two actions being performed are actually being done simultaneously as implied. Otherwise this reeks of a bad attempt at varying sentence structure. I can’t possibly start another sentence with “I,” so bumping a secondary action to the front is surely the solution! Frankensteining your sentences is never the answer. Consider changing the narrative dynamic instead—give some inner monologue or wax poetic as a break from action. If every sentence is starting with “I,” then find a new noun. Maybe there’s a hand grenade on the sofa. Tells us what the sofa grenade is doing to you, not what you are doing to the sofa grenade. “Fumbling the grenade, I drop it at my feet,” doesn’t work, but, “The grenade falls from my hands and lands at my feet” does. Until it explodes.


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