The semi-colon and I have had a long relationship combining related ideas with seamless ease. If you're trained as a technical writer or print journalist, like me, you've used this happy wink-shaped mark in your writing with little thought. But I've come to agree with many writers that the venerable semi-colon has no place in fiction.
My final draft of my WIP is all about strengthening voice. After reading about the semi-colon debate, and learning how some writers tightened up their scenes by reducing said punctuation mark, I re-wrote some passages of my WIP, replacing semi-colons with periods and rewriting for clarity and editing thusly.
And guess, what? It worked. The action is bolder. It flows and better yet, the words move: especially in action scenes in which I am striving for conflict and suspense.
Master of suspense author, James Scott Bell, writes on his blog, "When it comes to fiction, I think of semi-colons the way I think of eggplant: avoid at all costs." Well, I do love me some eggplant, but I agree with Bell's premise and as Bell continues, he quotes Vonnegut. "Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college." Heh-heh. Harsh, but right. Did you know, by the way, Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, which is close to my hometown? Bet he would have been a Colts fan.
Punctuation Man is coming to get you, and your semi-colons.
So there you have it, or perhaps you don't if you've kicked the semi-colon to the curb. How do you feel about the semi-colon and do you use this form of punctuation in your fiction? I, for one, will continue my "find and replace" and search and destroy all lurking semi-colons like a crazed zombie in the Walking Dead; however, I will continue to use the helpful little punctuation tag in my non-fiction writerly pursuits.