What stupid Writing Error did your Beta Reader come across this week? – Verb Confusion.

I just love verb confusion.  It’s a riot.

Unless someone points it out to me in my own work.

Okay, well it’s funny for me too, as long as I catch it in time.

The lovely Miss Dawn just pointed out to me that I have to be especially careful with my verb confusion, because in a fantasy world, it is entirely possible that furniture might come to life.

This is what I wrote:

Nurses tended to beds holding the badly infected.  Some held the patients withered hands.  Many smiled.  How could they provide comfort?  Weren’t they afraid?

I read this at least ten times on my own.  I knew what I thought I wrote… a beautiful scene of nurses tending to their patients.  But when Dawn read it, she saw nurses tending to the beds, not the people.  She saw beds holding the badly infected people.  (Like the beds were alive)  She also saw smiling beds.

When I read it back, I realized (after I stopped laughing) that she was completely right!

Thank goodness this is a very simple fix.

Nurses tended the badly infected.  Some held their patients withered hands.  Many smiled.  How could they provide comfort?  Weren’t they afraid?

The funny thing is, Dawn is a new reader for me.  She is not a fantasy writer, and she picked this up.  Three other people completely missed this.  That is why you send your manuscript out to multiple people…. To save you the embarrassment later.

Thanks, Dawn!

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26 responses to “What stupid Writing Error did your Beta Reader come across this week? – Verb Confusion.

  1. Maaaaaan, that’s the sort of thing I miss all the time. Good spot!

  2. So funny and so very very true…

  3. This is hilarious! It’s so funny the stuff betas pick up that you don’t notice when writing. I have a friend reading my MS right now and there’s a scene where a girl is running through the rain to the car. The girl gets into the car and pulls off her sweater, shivering. I never really noticed that I didn’t describe what she was wearing *under* the sweater. My dear friend informed me that she had a mental image of a naked girl shivering in the car seat. Eeek!

  4. writerwendyreid

    I have tremendous trouble with tenses. I switch from present to past and back again often, without ever realizing it. I’m more aware of it now so I am looking for it.

    I only have one reader and have tried through all avenues to try to find more but to no avail. Had one offer…for a fee. 😦

  5. Good catch beta reader. Laugh and enjoy. I’ve had my share of laughs about things like that too. 🙂

  6. Thank heaven for those beta readers! Minor point, and tt may not be in your actual manuscript, but “patients hands” should be patients’ hands.

    Happy weekend!

  7. Jenniver, a good BETA reader is better than a Christmas present, better than chocolate and someone to be cherished. I don’t think it was so much “verb” confusion as noun misplacement. Tending the bed and not the patient … the subject and the predicate … thus the next sentence assumes the wrong focus. Great catch, Dawn 🙂

  8. What? You got something against living furniture? Shouldn’t the beds get the same treatment as anything else? I can see the protests and unions forming now! 😛
    Rise up my bed brethren! Cast off your pathetic fallacy chains!

  9. If only we were all so lucky to have a reader like Dawn. Good catch on her part. And it’s great you can laugh about it!

  10. Guilty! I didn’t catch that. ANOTHER reason acting out scenes is both fun and informative.

  11. hee, hee. I caught it, too, in the first draft. I remember laughing then because the picture in my mind was very funny.

    I do this stuff all the time and I am so lucky to have you and my other betas catch them before I send the piece out. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, betas (readers, not the fish) are worth their weight in gold and then some.

  12. Ah yes, so easy to slip into these little verbal mishaps. I fall into them too, but my favirites are the ones about eyes. “Her eyes shot across the room.” Really? 😉

    • I agree about the eye thing to a certain extent, but when you’re reading and you get to the part where it says, “their eyes met”, the reader knows that their eyes didn’t jump out of characters’ faces and meet. The sentence alone reads ridiculously, but in context, the reader understands.

      Time and time again the experts say “don’t talk down to the reader. They understand more than you know. You don’t have to tell them everything. Let them imagine.” Well, unless you’re talking about someone with bungee-jumping eyeballs, I’d know exactly what “her eyes shot across the room” meant in the context of the story. Granted, we should try to avoid these things when we can, but to always use ‘gaze’ or some such word when trying to describe eye movement is ridonculous…at least to me. 🙂