Tuesday, June 9, 2009

More line editing examples

Blogger HWPetty said...

I'll play.

“I’m Max,” I said, holding out my hand. I knew what hers would look like before it came up to squeeze mine weakly.

Hers, mine, it-- kind of complicated. Also, this is probably in the middle of the encounter, and we've already gotten Max's description of her overallness, whatever he thinks is important and about how she looks and sounds, and this comes after that, when we're at the handshaking point. :)

The emphasis on body parts is a bit distancing (before IT came up to squeeze MINE-- you know, like the hands are touching, but WE are not?), and a little of that is okay, but too much might put too much focus on things and not on people. It kinda depends. Maybe you WANT to emphasize the estrangement, say, to imply that she's keeping her distance or her heart isn't in this or something. I'd probably say-- think about what you want here. If you want to show that Max is super-intuitive or that she's a particular stereotype, okay, but is it just her hand that is like that? Maybe you've just established that she's punk-looking, and so Max knows her hands are going to be this way. If I were working with the whole book, I'd probably know what you were aiming for, and if anything was needed to get to that.

So assuming that the description of the hand is important:

The black paint was chipped at the cuticles, like she’d scraped it away. And there was a ring, thick like a man’s ring, with some kind of continuous pattern engraved into the silver.

What's your focal point here? You were talking about her hand. Now you're talking about her fingers. Got to move down to that level. For example, "paint" doesn't say "fingers". "Polish" might. And I might say "fingernails" or something like that-- "cuticles" probably isn't enough to make the transition to fingers, but if you had "polish," maybe? And I like the word "scraped," but that's not really what she probably did with nail polish. She probably "picked it away."

And the ring has to be somewhere-- it's not in the palm of her hand. So:
The black polish was chipped at her cuticles, like she’d picked it away. And there was a ring on her thumb, thick like a man’s ring, with some kind of continuous pattern engraved into the silver.
You probably need to use "her" -- her thumb, her cuticles-- or it's going to sound sort of disembodied.

“Um, I think I know your name,” she said.

Well, duh, he just told her his name, so of course she knows it. What you mean is probably that she already knew his name? And also, there's been three sentences between the "call" (his line) and the "response" (her line), and I'd be careful about that. I don't know how to fix that, except again, what's your focus here? (And is he still holding her hand?) What do you want to get to? Is it her hand, or that she already knows him? If it's that she already knows him, then I'd probably group those sentences together, and the hand sentences together. I know usually we thrust out our hand and say our name more or less at the same time, but sometimes for narrative coherence, you break it down more-- after all, we can't truly convey simultaneity because sentences are linear, not layered. So put his name last, or close to last, and have him say something else first?

“Howdy,” I said, holding out my hand. "I'm Max." (Maybe new paragraph here? I don't know-- experiment.) I knew what her hand would look like before it came up to squeeze mine weakly.
The black polish was chipped at her cuticles, like she’d picked it away. And there was a ring on her thumb, thick like a man’s ring, with some kind of continuous pattern engraved into the silver.
“Um, yeah, I already knew your name,” she said.

Her dark purple lips spread into a brilliant, toothy smile,

The lips and toothy are weird-- lips don't have teeth. But I know you want that Goth thing of the purple lips, so I don't know what --

Her dark purple lips spread to reveal a brilliant, toothy smile,?

and her cheeks slowly darkened to a soft pink under the white powder. Her next words were slightly more breathy, and rushed, like she thought it was a stupid thing to say even before she said it. “I’ve known you since you were six.”

Watch your adverbs there. I got nothing against adverbs, but don't use them when they aren't needed. There's only a second between her first line and her second, and so there isn't time for her cheeks to "slowly" darken. They just darkened. And darkening to soft pink is odd. Maybe flushing? Blushing? "Slightly" is another deletable adverb-- anything "slightly" anything might not be worth mentioning. Either her voice is more breathy now or it's not. Sin boldly (that's a good adverb :).

Now about her thinking this was a stupid thing to say-- you know, watch your focus here. She's going to say something that is presumably going to surprise Max. Is Max's forefront thought the WAY she said it, or what she said? The reader is going to take cues from Max. If Max doesn't snap to attention, the reader will have to assume that he already knew that, or something. Now it could be that you want to characterize her voice -before- the words come out (as you sort of do), but you seem to be making a judgment on what she said (stupid words) before the words come out, which indicates, I don't know, I guess that Max knows what they're going to be? Try something like:
Then her voice became more breathy, and she rushed the next words out. “I’ve known you since you were six.”

That is, you can probably characterize her voice before you have the words, but you can't really characterize the words ("next") before. Her voice is breathy, not the words. Her voice would still be breathy if she was scat-singing, no words at all, right? So have the words, and then have her act like they're stupid, and have him react, maybe something like:

She stopped suddenly, like the words came out more stupid then she intended. And I stared at her. "What did you say?"

Intriguing start there!

More later-- the game is starting. Must cheer on Anybody-But-the-Lakers.


Edittorrent said...

---a ring on her thumb, thick like a man's ring...

I'm not wild about that structure. It reads as though her thumb is thick.

Just sayin.


Edittorrent said...

And a thumb ring, thick ....


Julie Harrington said...

is it ok if we chime in on stuff too?

Re: the thick ring band

How about something like...

And there was a ring on her thumb, the band thick like a man's.



Edittorrent said...

Sounds good to me, JT.