Tony Tulathimutte Recommends...

“Of all sources of inspiration, grammar is probably the most underrated. But any writer who’s been confronted with an empty page or blipping cursor knows that language itself, with its structures and inner connections, can suggest many possibilities. When I’m stuck in a sentence, I like to reach for a preposition. Why prepositions, and not verbs or nouns? Because they’re open-ended enough to accommodate any number of outcomes, but concrete enough to orient you in a specific direction. I’ll show you how this works. Say you write: I walked to the store. Basic prepositions like to, for, after, and until will probably come to mind first (…for a gallon of milk), and okay, that’s fine, but less expected ones will probably suggest more interesting directions—among, despite, against, unlike. How about under? That immediately suggests a setting, and a spatial relationship: under a canopy of maple trees tousling in the breeze, or under a searing barrage of laser fire. Using the different shades of meaning inherent in most prepositions can push things even further: I walked to the store under strict orders from my aunt. So, prepositions are handy little multi-tools, and having a list of them tacked to the wall next to your writing desk, as I do, can keep your work moving on, toward, up, and above.”
—Tony Tulathimutte, author of Private Citizens (William Morrow, 2016)