Use of suddenly

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bcomet
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Use of suddenly

Post by bcomet » April 21st, 2010, 5:40 pm

rules, reasons, thoughts about use of suddenly

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gonzo2802
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Re: Use of suddenly

Post by gonzo2802 » April 21st, 2010, 6:24 pm

I don't really know of the particular "rules" for using suddenly. I only know my own personal thoughts and preferences.

I think in a first person narrative you can get away with it if it's used infrequently. ie. "My fiance was in the midst of his rant about my ex-boyfriend, when he came walking into the room catching the tail end of the conversation. Suddenly, I found myself in the middle of a situation I was not in the mood to deal with right now." I think you can get away with it in first person, because we DO think in terms of suddenly this happened, or all of a sudden such-and-such occurred.

In third person narrative I don't think it ever really works. "Suddenly the sheriff was standing right in front of Tom." I think it sounds lazy when it's used in 3rd person.

Again, I have no idea what the actual rules are. Just adding my two cents.

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Quill
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Re: Use of suddenly

Post by Quill » April 21st, 2010, 7:48 pm

I think suddenly is best avoided.

I don't know that I get the distinction between first and third person. Haven't ever heard it put that way.

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gonzo2802
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Re: Use of suddenly

Post by gonzo2802 » April 21st, 2010, 8:30 pm

Quill wrote:I think suddenly is best avoided.

I don't know that I get the distinction between first and third person. Haven't ever heard it put that way.
That's because you don't live inside my brain, Quill.

I should probably say, that I don't notice it -- or it doesn't feel jarring to me -- when I'm reading first person stories, but it does irk me when I see it in third person.

Although, ultimately I agree that it's a term best avoided!

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polymath
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Re: Use of suddenly

Post by polymath » April 21st, 2010, 9:59 pm

Suddenly, an adverb. One strike against it. Another strike is its commonness of weak usage. Although it does have a power to raise suspense questions in well-crafted contexts, it comes across as a summarization-type Tell in many instances.

As a sentence adverb: Suddenly, the lights went out in the courtroom.
As an inline syntax adverb: The lights suddenly went out in the courtroom.
As a predicate complement adverb: The lights went out suddenly in the courtroom.
As an object complement adverb: The lights went out in the courtroom suddenly.

A suspense question raised by the context of any of the above is why did the lights suddenly go out.

Abruptly has more impact than suddenly due to less common weak usage, but is still an adverb.

Suddenly is one of my bête noire words for creative writing, right up there with the variations of seem, seems, seemingly, etc. My issue is it's too often used as a Tell from a narrator that can be more effective if shown by elaborating on the context of suddenness from a viewpoint character's sensory experiences. So I agree with gonzo2802, from an overt first-person narrator in direct discourse, suddenly isn't quite as unsettling to me as from a covert third-person narrator in indirect discourse.
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maybegenius
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Re: Use of suddenly

Post by maybegenius » April 22nd, 2010, 9:44 am

Polymath nailed it pretty well. This article lists the following:
6 Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose". This rule doesn't require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use "suddenly" tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.
Which doesn't really tell us anything, I know. The general idea is that you're using a weak word or phrase instead of actually describing the scene. Things don't really "suddenly" happen, they just happen. Saying "Suddenly, there was a loud noise" packs less of an impact than "My heart leaped to my throat as a crash sounded behind me." Writers often use "suddenly" in a scene that's supposed to pack emotion or tension, but it sort of drains it away.

Another example: "All of a sudden, a car pealed around the curve and made a beeline for me." This sounds very observational and lacks emotional impact. Sort of like, "Oh wow, that car is coming right for me. Huh." A more potent section would be, "A car screamed as it came around the bend. My eyes went wide as my brain registered it was coming right at me, but I couldn't move."
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Quill
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Re: Use of suddenly

Post by Quill » April 22nd, 2010, 10:14 am

I read that article a while back, and was struck by the advice about not writing "Then all hell broke loose." Funny, since then, I've found it a couple times in books, including in the otherwise stellar "How I Live Now" by Meg Rosoff. And, I realized I actually own a recently published book titled "When All Hell Breaks Loose."

Regarding "suddenly" I don't mind it once or twice in a book, but see how it can become a crutch in one's writing.

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Mira
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Re: Use of suddenly

Post by Mira » April 22nd, 2010, 10:57 am

I like 'suddenly.' It's pithy. It can be alittle funny. It can be scary. It's flexible, and you get it in one shot. But I think with words like this, that are almost cliche, you have to use them carefully. You don't want to break the reader's trance because there's something unintentionally funny or noticeable about your placement of 'suddenly.'

I really think it's best to use the right word. Whatever that word is. Look at your sentence. Maybe 'suddenly' is the perfect word. Or maybe it's not. Find the perfect word and then use it - that's what I think.....

bcomet
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Re: Use of suddenly

Post by bcomet » April 22nd, 2010, 12:47 pm

Thanks all.
Your thoughts and comments are helpful.
Personally, suddenly doesn't bother me, if it fits.
But in some cases, it can detract.
I am still muddling over its use.

Maybegenuis, I read that article too and it didn't explain it adequately for me either.
Mira, you always give a fresh perspective.
I also have observed that its use in the first person seems more fluid.

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Re: Use of suddenly

Post by Margo » April 22nd, 2010, 1:39 pm

I can't think of any instances in my reading or writing wherein I thought "suddenly" was the strongest word choice. Weak is pretty much the perfect term.

Finding "suddenly" on lists of words editors never want to see again nailed the coffin shut for me.

In general, those words and phrases that just leap instantly to the forefront of the mind as we write are more likely cliches ingrained by pop culture than the whispers of a muse. Stopping and looking for a second or even third choice (perhaps only at the revision stage) usually brings better results in the form of stronger words that connect more exactly to what is underneath the cliche.
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Mira
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Re: Use of suddenly

Post by Mira » April 22nd, 2010, 2:39 pm

Ooo. A compliment. Thanks bcomet. :)

Interesting discussion - thanks for starting it up.

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Re: Use of suddenly

Post by daringnovelist » May 2nd, 2010, 8:59 pm

I like the word "suddenly" so much, that when I was a kid, making up adventure stories about outlaws, I named my main character's horse "Suddenly." (True story. Strange name for a horse, but when I was even younger I named my favorite stuffed animal "Housie.")

I try to eliminate it where I see it because it's so familiar it's almost meaningless to me. I can't tell if it's a good use or a bad use.

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Re: Use of suddenly

Post by sooper » May 2nd, 2010, 10:39 pm

I dont use it unless I absoluteley have can't get around it. It just sounds so ~picture book.

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