Saturday, June 20, 2009

lapetus line editing.

Lapetus posted:
A bulge of earth in the distance raced towards her at jet speed. As it passed, the ground ripped upwards, throwing Dawn into the air, almost 15 meters high. The earth threw off the top layers of soil, flinging buried pipes and wires as well as huge chunks of asphalt and concrete into the air. Dawn sailed over the soil, reminded of documentaries where tons of dynamite blew away a wall of material. The earth exploded in every direction. Dawn crashed onto a soft pile of debris and ducked from rain of high-flung rocks and bricks. A couple blocks away, Charlotte’s jewel, the HLSCO HQ building, the huge elegant structure almost a kilometer high, crumpled into itself, imploding in a huge cloud of dust and noise. Dawn spotted her own apartment complex, presumably with her Aunt Rose inside, settling down to the ground in a plume of debris.

"Bulge" seems to me still attached to the earth, not a projectile. Not sure if anyone else felt that way! Or do you mean it was still attached? You know, a line of description might clear this up-- however, it's possible only I didn't get it.

Good frenetic feel here, right for an action scene.

As it passed, the ground ripped upwards, throwing Dawn into the air, almost 15 meters high. The earth threw off the top layers of soil, flinging buried pipes and wires as well as huge chunks of asphalt and concrete into the air.

Maybe earlier say where we are? See if you can sneak it in-- like the bulge of earth ran past a highrise (we're in a city) or a silo (we're in the country).

Notice that you've buried the experience of the POV character, in the middle of a line. How close are you to her own feelings? If you're in deep POV, or any kind of personal POV, you'll want to tell how it feels to be flung that way. If you're in omniscient, however, you want to concentrate on the overall scene-- but seeing a person flung into the air might be worth describing. Are her arms flailing, etc?

Dawn sailed over the soil, reminded of documentaries where tons of dynamite blew away a wall of material.
Uh, this doesn't seem to be a real person. She's sailing through the air, and a bulge of earth is pursuing her, and she's thinking about documentaries? Come on. Be in her. Close your eyes and imagine that you are her, and you are there on earth and suddenly you're flung into the air, and there is NOTHING you can do, but you try to do it anyway-- grab at the air, reach down for the earth, anything that can stop your flight. Be in her, and tell us what it feels like, and what you're thinking as you sail through the air to probable death.
If you want to talk about documentaries, you need to be in omniscient POV, I think.
Then again, maybe she's a lot cooler under pressure than I am!

The earth exploded in every direction. Dawn crashed onto a soft pile of debris and ducked from rain of high-flung rocks and bricks.
How does it feel to crash? Can she scramble up, look wildly around, and then duck?

A couple blocks away, Charlotte’s jewel, the HLSCO HQ building, the huge elegant structure almost a kilometer high, crumpled into itself, imploding in a huge cloud of dust and noise.

I like that "almost a kilometer high", and I can really see it "crumpling".
Maybe too many short elements there? The punctuation is right, but so many short elements might be kind of choppy, and the main purpose of the sentence might be lost. Maybe if you get rid of "Charlotte's jewel"? and end the sentence thus:
crumpled into itself and imploded in a cloud of dust and noise.

See what you think--

Dawn spotted her own apartment complex, presumably with her Aunt Rose inside, settling down to the ground in a plume of debris.
I'd delete that "presumably" right away, as it bleeds out all your credibility. Come on, this is a novel. You're in charge. Aunt Ruth is there, as far as Dawn knows.

I live in the Midwest, and we have tornadoes that will mow down a town and then delicately take one car and set it down undented a mile away. So I envision that apartment complex landing intact and just causing a big dustbomb as it lands. What do you mean? Is the apartment complex destroyed? Tell us.

Also, Dawn is not just a camera. What's going on with her? Is she crouched behind a broken shard of concrete, watching helplessly as her home hurtles by and crashes into the cornfield/desert/parking lot?

See that? I don't know where we are-- the verdant farmland, the desert, the suburbs. "Ground" can be on the moon, for all I know. You did mention Charlotte, presumably the North Carolina city and not the girl I went to high school with. But you know, I'm from Virginia, just north of there, and I still want to know-- are those buildings crashing into the mountains? the mall? a lake?

Look for non-informative words. "Ground" says less than "dirt" even. Sneak in info whenever you can without calling too much attention to it. You can almost always replace a generic word like "ground" with something more interesting, like "the North Carolina clay," or "the desert sand," or "the mall parking lot."

Challenge yourself. Find every generic word and see if you can specific it up. :)

Alicia

3 comments:

Deb Salisbury said...

I think we need a hint of what caused the bulge. I assumed it was an earthquake.

It's a very exciting scene, whatever caused it! Dawn is far too cool under pressure, unless that is part of what you are trying to show.

green_knight said...

I'm having trouble with this. The ground is too fluid, and from the moment the character gets thrown into the air, she's FAR too calm and able to observe everything. I mean, who looks at a distance and judges it to be almost fifteen meters? (in a non-scientific text, always write out low numbers, and consider writing out higher ones. It's less distancing. <Copy editor off>) If you sail over the soil (not the best choice of words IMHO), would you have time to think of once-watched documentaries? I'd be scared of what happens when I'll hit the ground again, ripped up and full of piples and bricks and stuff.

If you're 15m high, *no* pile of debris is soft. *Water* isn't soft from as little as a couple of meters up (go on, try it at your local pool), and anything else - let's just say under normal gravity unless she has special protection she'd be severely injured or dead by now, not obseving her home crumble.

Also, we get absolutely no idea what's happening inside her head. This might be deliberate, but it's also very distancing. She feels no fear, no pain, and while she's meticulously recording acronyms (c'mon, the HLSCO HQ will be known by a nickname just like everything else on the planet), she's not reacting to any of it.

This means that I was starting to block out the scene and stumbling over the details because I had nothing to tie me up emotionally.

Iapetus999 said...

Thank you very much for the edit and comments. BTW one small correction:
It's iapetus.

I'm definitely working on improving my POV. I tend to write things very detached and I really need to work on getting into the character's heads.
This piece is taken from a middle of a scene where the earth has been shaking for a while, it's just getting worse and worse, culminating with this.
I think I'll change "15 meters" to "a couple stories above the ground" or something less exact.
And lets just say it's a miracle she survives. I can go thru a bunch of scientific explanations about how the soil has be aerated due to the shaking and she lands on an angle blah blah. I'll make the landing hurt a little more.
I post a new version in the comments soon.

Thanks!