Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Jamiebabette's line edit

Jamie's--

“You’re sending me away!” The anguished voice of his grandson, Kefran, shattered Joahaal’s focused spell, losing him mindsight of their enemy’s advance through the foul jungle.

Narrowing his bleary eyes against the torch-lit gloom, Joahaal glared up at the boy. He dragged in a deep breath, stunned as always to see Kefran now on the cusp of manhood. “You have my orders, boy. Take the garrison to Dasanus at the Pass and await me there.”

Okay, I have probably bored everyone's ears off with my constant imprecations against starting with a line of dialogue, so I'll just point out-- the speaker of the line is not the same as the POV character who is thinking in the same paragraph. So the reader is likely to be confused (we tend to assume that the speaker "owns" the whole paragraph associated with the speech lines). Who is speaking? Kefran, or Joahaal? Upon further examination, I figure out that Kefran spoke, and Joahaal hears him.

Okay, but do you need to make the reader work for it? What are you trying to accomplish here? Joahaal is your viewpoint character-- we're in his mind. So why not start in his mind? If you're trying to give the reader the experience of being J, well, he doesn't just come to life when someone speaks to him. He has been sitting there thinking all this time, right? And then the grandson came up and startled him. Show THAT. Otherwise you're implying that 1) we're not really in J, and 2) whatever he's doing isn't important. Now if what's important is Kefran-- if you're going to follow Kefran to the Pass, for example-- then I'd suggest the scene should be in K's POV.

But if you're in J's, then (and I don't know what you had before this-- you might have been in him, showing him trying to mentally find the enemy, etc.) have a paragraph before clearly in J's POV. Then stay with him and have him hear the dialogue and conclude it was Kefran. Like:

(Paragraph showing Joahaal’s focused spell?)
His mindsight of their enemy’s advance through the foul jungle was shattered by his grandson's anguished voice.

“You’re sending me away!”

Okay, now what? Still in J's mind. He narrows his vision, comes back to the here and now, and what does he see? Kefran standing before him-- give us a picture. It's sort of hard because J is our eyes on the world, so even if he wouldn't actually THINK what K is doing, he's got to kind of narrate it for us. Think about what he automatically registers before he reacts, like "Kefran was standing before him, hands clenched into fists." Something that tells us K is mad.

Then we can go with J's reaction- and I know what you mean-- it's so weird with teenaged boys. Suddenly they're big. And I mean suddenly. Like overnight. They were this little kid, shorter than you, piping voice, and then the next morning they're 6 inches taller than you and sound like a man. It's very disconcerting!
Narrowing his bleary eyes against the torch-lit gloom, Joahaal glared up at the boy. He dragged in a deep breath, stunned as always to see Kefran now on the cusp of manhood. “You have my orders, boy. Take the garrison to Dasanus at the Pass and await me there.”

Now I'd suggest something before he speaks, like, "He made his voice hard" or something that transfers from vision/thought to speech. Also you have "as always" and "now on the cusp," and that doesn't really work. A boy is only on the cusp for a short time, so it can't be "always". I'd suggest getting rid of the "as always" so the importance of this moment is crystallized (a one-time realization is always more important than just noticing yet again). After all, he is giving the boy a man's commission-- putting him in charge of the troops-- so he might be on the cusp for a moment, but not for long.

I thought a garrison was the force protecting a, well, garrison. If of course they're taking it away from the fort.... well, no use my saying anything about that, because I know nothing about it!


Summary-- know whose narration you are following in this event. If it's J, then start and end with him. Otherwise you'll lose the reader's focus.

A

3 comments:

Deb Salisbury said...

> Summary-- know whose narration you are following in this event. If it's J, then start and end with him. Otherwise you'll lose the reader's focus.

Very good advice. I've been careful to start with my POV, but it hadn't occurred to be to end with him. Thank you!

jamiebabette said...

Thank you so much for the advice on my paragraphs. I knew they weren't working as well as they should. Now I can see why. I needed fresh eyes to look at them.

I did have a short paragraph for the spell just before, where Joahaal is viewing the enemy approach, but I see I need to make one that clearer as well. And, yes, they are evacuating the fortress.

Going to go tinker and fix now.

Babs said...

I have this problem. Sometimes I shift and when I go back over my work it looks right to me. It isn't until I go to my critique group that I get it.:)