Monday, December 24, 2007

Back to Basics: Interjections!

Interjections present a challenge for those enamored of grammar. They stand alone, rogue fragments that leap out from sentences to express an overflow of feeling. Woo hoo! Great Scott! In your face!

While these “sentences” don't follow the basic rules of grammar (and may not even be words), they nonetheless comply. By their nature, interjections defy requirements for subjects and verbs. You use them to convey strong emotion to your readers.

Be cautious in using them, however. "What?!" you say. "I love those little bursts of feeling!" When used excessively, though, interjections make you sound overwrought, positively hysterical. Reserve them for emphasis and you won't be beating your readers over the head with the emotions of your hero.

Certainly, having the knife slip when cutting oneself free from ones bonds merits a hearty, “Damn!” or at least an, “Ow!” But cute catch phrases like, “Holy fishcakes, Batman!” are best reserved for cheesy television shows and poorly-written novels. You can do better than that.

Saving interjections for emergencies gives them much more impact. You subject may be an excitable person, but if you show that in your writing then their rare verbal explosions will convey the direness of the situation more clearly.

If you find yourself liberally sprinkling your writing with exclamation points, look for wild interjections that make your character appear certifiable. Knock those out and tell your reader what's happening, instead. It will make the story more powerful and the hero more believable. Unless you're writing about Homer Simpson, that is.