Lessons from the Fledgling Author: The Choice of Prepositions Is Limited

As I worked my way through rewriting the many sentences that started with a gerund phrase in my novel, Tishta the Crystal Orb, I found myself turning them into boring subject/predicate forms. I frequently moved the action of the gerund phrase before or after an  “and,” or added a “then,” to string it together with rest of the sentence.

Here’s an example from the book:
Dropping her hand, she turned and walked away as quietly as she had approached.

It can be rewritten as:
She dropped her hand, then turned and walked away as quietly as she had approached.
She dropped her hand and turned to walk away as quietly as she had approached.

I returned to looking for ways to vary the cadence—that was the intent, in the first place, of using the gerund phrases. Aha! Prepositional phrases.

The example sentence already contains a prepositional phrase, which makes my work easier. I also changed the pronoun, “she,” to the noun, “the girl.” I just like the way this sounds when I say it out loud.
 As quietly as she had approached, the girl dropped her hand and turned to walk away.

I like this so much better.

As I started using more and more prepositions, they began to feel repetitive. I searched for a list of English prepositions. On Wikipedia, I found an article that lists them. It turns out, the list is fairly small and doesn’t really change over time. They call it a “closed class.” They are so basic in our language, and possibly in any language, that we don’t add new ones.

It makes me wonder how they evolved. I think they must have come before articles or verb tenses—noun, verb, object, location. “beaver swim under water,” “spear make hole in deer,” or “I put stick on fire.” Now, I want to research when children start using prepositional phrases. But, I digress.

According to the Wikipedia article, there are only ninety single-word prepositions to choose from. There are thirty-six two-word phrases and only four three-word phrases.  No wonder they started to seem repetitive.

I’ll need to ask my English major sister about why a word such as “when” is considered an adverb, even if it is used to indicate “at what time.” Perhaps, in this case, “at” is not a preposition either. Does anyone know the answer to this?

What are some of the other ways you have found to vary the cadence of your sentences?


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