Quote Originally Posted by thomasrydder View Post
Good morning...I've heard some discussion about the overusage of "had" in sentence structure. Several times, the solution of using it once at the beginning of the paragraph, and once at the end was brought forth. So I rewroter a paragraph of a story I'm working on, based on that. I wonder if someone would cast a second set of eyes on it, and give me their take? Thanks!

This was the most life Elizabeth had shown in quite awhile. For days after her parents’ death, she'd remained in an almost catatonic state for days. But during the following months, a slow thaw took place, brought on by careful nurturing and attention. No one can plan for tragedy, but The close relationship Jackie enjoyed with her sister and family paved the way for an easy adoption. Conditions were had been laid out in Loretta and David Jacob’s wills for Jackie to have immediate custody in the event of anything unforeseen, and from there, it was mere formality. Elizabeth moved into Jackie’s house, and was overjoyed to discover a bedroom had been decorated entirely in Dora the Explorer motif.
I hadn't heard of the technique of avoiding too many "had's" by only using them at the beginning and end of the paragraph. I too, struggle with this. Something that's worked for me is sometimes using contractions--allows for the tense to remain the same, but without the use of "had"-- she'd instead of she had, he'd instead of he had, etc.

My humble take on your paragraph is that it's off in a couple spots. The timing of events is jumping around some--she's showing the most life she's shown in a while, then back to being catatonic, then forward to the slow thaw--could be confusing. Also, the sentence beginning with "No one can plan for tragedy," seems like a nice enough sentence, but it broke up the paragraph too much for me--stepped out of the series of events you were talking about and sort of into editorializing.

I tried making some changes to your paragraph above--not sure if I correctly crossed words out, it was my first time trying that--I'll see what it looks like after I send this. Regarding "hads," I added one "had been" and crossed out another, and I added "'d" to "she" to form "she'd"--seemed to me it needed that tense, but I didn't want to give you another "had." So, my changes didn't add any "had's." Hooray!