Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rachel line edits

‘You can’t go!’ cried her mother, not for the first, or the last, time.

‘Mother! Stop!’ She turned a look on her mother to silence her. Her usually beautiful face was taut with panic. ‘I have to go to Findlay. I can save him!’
‘And how will that look? A soldier everyone knows; a soldier on his deathbed; a soldier who has been declared by the King’s Imperial Guard to have the Grey Death!’ Her mother rushed to her a grabbed her by the shoulders, and lowered her voice to a horse, harsh whisper. ‘A soldier saved by the Earl’s eldest daughter.’ Her mother took a deep breath. ‘The King’s herald will race to denounce you for your Myght.


Theresa refers to exclamation points and the like as "bling punctuation"-- and you don't need much of it if you have strong enough prose. So let's start by eliminating the ! .
‘You can’t go,’ cried her mother, not for the first, or the last, time.

‘Mother, stop.’ She turned a look on her mother to silence her. Her usually beautiful face was taut with panic. ‘I have to go to Findlay. I can save him.’

Now we can see better!

First-- and there's nothing wrong with this, but I want to point it out, because it's something I miss seeing-- notice the inverted quote tag (cried her mother, rather than her mother cried). I like that. You used to see that a lot. It gives a nice formal feeling to the prose. Not that it should be used much anymore, because it doesn't feel contemporary, but I like it. (There goes Alicia, getting all nostalgic about quote tags.)

Now you have "Mother, stop," but I don't see what Mom is supposed to stop doing?
Also-- you have two women here, so you have to watch out for pronouns. Who is "she?" Use names when possible. We don't know whose face is usually beautiful, for example.

‘And how will that look? A soldier everyone knows; a soldier on his deathbed; a soldier who has been declared by the King’s Imperial Guard to have the Grey Death!’
Your dialogue isn't matching up here. Mom says you can't go, daughter says stop. Daughter says, I'm going to save him, and Mom says and how will that look. See, the "call and response" aren't interlocking. It's like they're not really listening to each other. Try some echoing, some repetition from one line of dialogue to the next:
"You can't go." (etc)
"I have to go, Mother." (etc) "I have to save him."
"Save him? And how will that look?" (etc.-- Notice you have, too late in the paragraph, "A soldier saved...."

See how the dialogue locks together now? We actually do that. We pick up something the other has said, we finish sentences, we supply words, we echo. One key to plausible dialogue is hearing and replicating the rhythms of real conversations. Remember that your readers hear conversation every day, and they are subconsciously pretty expert at knowing what sounds real. So you have to become an expert at it too. Here's a post I did about the echo in dialogue.
Here's some nice echoing:
A soldier everyone knows; a soldier on his deathbed; a soldier who has been declared by the King’s Imperial Guard to have the Grey Death!’

Her mother rushed to her a grabbed her by the shoulders,
Proofread, proofread, proofread. Then proofread again. Try reading aloud. You can't rely entirely on spellcheck as it will not flag anything (like "a") which is a word of some kind.

and lowered her voice to a horse, harsh whisper.
More proofreading needed. I like the alliteration. The terms are redundant, sort of, but the alliteration and rhythm indicate the writer has some voice. :)

‘A soldier saved by the Earl’s eldest daughter.’ Her mother took a deep breath. ‘The King’s herald will race to denounce you for your Myght.


Now I'd be thinking that "saved" could be replaced with "healed" if she's a healer and she's going to heal him. That is, have the "saved" before that and the echo, and then the transformation, the narrowing to the real truth there. Always be looking for continuity but transformation-- what links together but also progresses to something new.
‘The King’s herald will race to denounce you for your Myght.'
This feels like too long a line. Not sure why, but it does. I'd suggest just
‘The King’s herald will denounce you for your Myght.'

Notice the British quotation convention there-- single quote marks. Go with whatever is conventional for the publisher you're submitting to. And alas, you can't rely on Find and Replace for this, as the single quote mark has another very common use-- the apostrophe.

Alicia

6 comments:

Edittorrent said...

I'm such a hardass about the bling. But that's because I'm right. ;)

Theresa

em said...

It's great how you break this down. I stumbled over the hoarse/harsh pairing as it stuck out to me. :)

rachel.capps said...

Thank you, Alicia. I hadn't expected to benefit from your excellent advice on both submissions (I figured one cancelled out the other).

I consciously try not to use bling, so I'm off to trim the WIP more. I like seeing better - thanks Theresa ;)

Alicia, the dialogue changes you made with your echo advice are great. A real improvement (but you already knew that). I just read your post on echo in dialogue and I'm keen to try more.

Doh! My head says "hoarse" my fingers type "horse". Argh! I need to stop looking at my WIP for a bit so these mistakes jump out at me. Of course, I should teach my eyes to read the page, instead of my head. Thanks for pointing out the need to proofread *blush*.

Thanks also for the tip on quote marks. I'd always thought to submit to the UK first. Research is changing my mind, which will mean a big, yucky edit is coming my way ...

I must add, you two ladies amaze me. Your insight into our great language enlightens me every time I visit your blog. I honestly appreciate your comments and can't wait to knuckle down and finish my WIP with all your advice in tow.

You have me hooked!

Wes said...

What about the first sentence? "‘You can’t go!’ cried her mother, not for the first, or the last, time." Is it foreshadowing or giving away too much information? Is it necessary or even advisable to state that this scene will be replayed later?

Edittorrent said...

I don't know, Wes. I'm stuck puzzling over whether that should be "or" or "nor." I'm not big picture today.

But foreshadowing can be fun. And of course, if your mother's been nagging you all her life, you can predict she'll be doing it in the future too, right?

Not that I have ANY experience therein.

Rachel, I didn't mean to do two of yours. I was thinking I'd already hit you, but couldn't remember. Well, you get what you pay for. :)

Alicia

Babs said...

That first line where there is the bit about not for the first time or the last time? Unless it is true foreshadowing I would trim it. Of course a Mother is going to cry, vent, argue, whatever with her children no matter how old they are so in my mind it's a given;).