Monthly Archives April 2014

Critique Technique, Part 48—Danglers

By Ross B. Lampert

Shoes hanging from a wire

Photo by dhannte, via

When we think about dangling things—in writing, anyway—we usually think of dangling modifiers, the grammatical fumbles that lead to sentences like, “After spending weeks in the forest, the town was inviting.” So, the town had spent weeks in the forest, eh?

For this post, though, I’m thinking about a different kind of dangler, a story line or character the author lavishes some attention on, then forgets. It’s never developed, it’s never finished, it’s just left—you guessed it—dangling.

This is a continuity problem and it can be hard to catch, for both the author and the reviewer. Why? The author had some reason for putting that character, subplot, or story line in or she wouldn’t have done it...

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Critique Technique, Part 47—Padding

By Ross B. Lampert

A filled packing box

Photo by slideshowmom via

There are times when padding is acceptable, even desirable. When preparing something fragile for shipping, for example. Or filling out a Santa Claus suit. But in writing? Not so much. Not today, anyway.

Back in the day, that is, back in the pre-Hemingway years, padding was acceptable, even expected. Check out anything written by Henry James, for example. “Never say in ten words what can be said in fifty” must have been his motto. No, sorry, more like, “Never say in a mere, miserly ten words, my good man, I exhort you, from the bottom of my soul, not to mention the bottom of my inkwell, what could be said, with the greatest of sincerity, depth, and yet extravagance, in not less than fifty, if not more.” There...

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