Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sylvia edits

Sylvia--

[His father] had discovered it on the rocky beach of one of the far islands and immediately proclaimed it the perfect gift for his queen. It took over a dozen men to bring back to the Sithein and when she saw it, she declared that it was the perfect chair, declining even the thinnest pillow. A thick double layer of wool was wrapped around her waist and then pulled around the back and over her shoulder to tuck in at her waist. She claimed it was to ward off the cold damp of the Sithein but Tyrae suspected it was to cushion herself from the hard stone of her "perfect" seat.

Watch all the "its". What is "it"-- a stone? A chair? A stone chair? Something else? A very large conch shell (well, why not? It was found on a beach :)?
[His father] had discovered (NOUN) on the rocky beach of one of the far islands and immediately proclaimed it the perfect gift for his queen.

Do you need "immediately?" "Proclaimed" is a big strong verb. You already have three modifiers in the sentence. Remember that you don't need to make every sentence bristle. :)

It took over a dozen men to bring back to the Sithein and when she saw it, she declared that it was the perfect chair, declining even the thinnest pillow.

Now if you use a noun in the first sentence, you can use it instead of one of the "its" here. The first "it" is that non-descriptive universal it, but the rest presumably refer to the chair (or whatever). Let's just see if we can get rid of that first "it"-- sometimes that's more trouble, but we'll see:

A dozen men were needed to bring the stone back to the Sithein and when she saw it, she declared that THIS (gets rid of another it) was the perfect chair, declining even the thinnest pillow.

"she?" His mother? The queen? Repetition of important nouns is not a terrible thing. Too many "its" is worse. :)

was the perfect chair, declining even the thinnest pillow.

Oh, those participles. Now what does "declining" modify? Chair? It (or this)? Oh! She!!! That's kind of a few nouns back. Try putting the modifier close to the noun it modifies or rewrite:
and when she saw it, she declined even the thinnest pillow, declaring that THIS (gets rid of another it) was the perfect chair.

That also ends the sentence on the more important word-- the chair, not the non-existent pillow.

A thick double layer of wool was wrapped around her waist and then pulled around the back and over her shoulder to tuck in at her waist.

Is there a reason you went passive here? There are reasons for using the passive voice, mostly to hide the actual subject ("This bill must have been lost, as it was not paid"). But your default should always be active voice-- use passive only when you decide it's better in this context. (There are reasons to use passive, and one is simply that in some sentences, it allows for a structure that you want for some reason... but I don't think that's true here-- maybe it is?)
Here's how that sentence would be in active voice:
She had to wrap a thick double layer of wool around her waist and pull it around the back and over her shoulder to tuck in at her waist.
Is that better? Or does it lose something going active?

She claimed it was to ward off the cold damp of the Sithein but Tyrae suspected it was to cushion herself from the hard stone of her "perfect" seat.

Another "it", and this presumably refers to the wrapping up, not the chair? Try "this" instead.

Also, you have two complete independent clauses there, so there should be a comma before the conjunction (but).

I don't know about the quote marks around "perfect". Why not let the irony be there without too much fingerpointing? Like:
She claimed this was to ward off the cold damp of the Sithein, but Tyrae suspected it was to cushion herself from the hard stone of her perfect seat.

So-- watch the pronouns there-- "it" can refer to almost anything. So:
She claimed this was to ward off the cold damp of the Sithein, but Tyrae suspected she wanted to cushion herself from the hard stone of her perfect seat.

What do you think?
Alicia

10 comments:

Leona said...

I agree with all your line edits.

Sylvia, put the story together the way Alicia rewrote them. I couldn't get a clear picture with the original structure, but I had a much better idea after I read the edits.

sylvia said...

The only edit that I would argue is the passive to active. My point is to keep the reader firmly in Tyrae's head (the viewpoint character) so I was using passive voice there to back off from her and remain with him in the doorway, looking in. Having said that, it's not something I feel strongly about so I wouldn't resist changing it if you were unconvinced by my justification.

I suppose part of the reason I have struggled with this is the double-layer of going back in time (we are in standard past with Tyrae, who is recalling an event which happened earlier, whilst looking at his mother who is sitting there now). I've put in a stronger time reference and as a result split the first sentence.

Here's a rewrite retaining that but working with all the other changes:

Some centuries ago, [his father] had discovered the boulder on the rocky beach of one of the far islands. He declared it the perfect gift for his queen. A dozen scouts were needed to lug the stone back to the Sithein and when Tyrae's mother saw how the high sides dipped to a gentle hollow, she declined even the thinnest pillow, insisting that this was already perfectly formed as the perfect chair. A thick double layer of wool was wrapped around her waist and then pulled around the back and over her shoulder to tuck in at her waist. She claimed this was to ward off the cold damp of the Sithein, but Tyrae suspected she wanted to cushion herself from the hard stone of her perfect seat.

What do you guys think?

sylvia said...

perfectly perfect *sigh*

Just remove perfectly formed as to result in : "this was already the perfect chair"

jaymi said...

Thank you for removing the "perfectly" part. It was a lot of a bit much.

Good line edits getting rid of all of the "its". It is something that I struggle with too. It ;) is just so easy to use.

JewelTones said...

While I read it, I suspected (perhaps incorrectly) that all the it-ing was a suspense thing, that we didn't know what "it" was that they spent all this time looking for, made a big production out of bringing back and then finally found out the "it" was this perfect chair. Of course it could be that we simply knew from the paragraphs before it that the "it" they're looking for was a chair.

If it's the 2nd cause then all the it-ing definitely needs to be reworked. If it's the first, I can understand it better but would still work out a few to avoid too much repetition.

What lost me was the switch from the chair to the double thick wool part. I had a hard time figuring out what that had to do with anything right after this chair and then a hard time picturing the actual action of what was being described. I got it at the end, but I still had to go back and reread and then go, "ooooh, I get it." So I definitely prefer the reworded active voice. Much clearer for me. :)

After reading over Sylvia's comments above, I think the reworking adds in some much needed detail/description about the chair, and the explaination of how these sentences are a revisit of the past (always tricky) helped understand what she's going for her. I don't think you need passive voice to create distance or show that events occured in the past. I mean, you could say:

Back then, Mary believed grades were everything. She studied feverishly and never took time to date or hang out with friends. In the end, maybe she was right. She got a scholarship and graduated from a good college. Ivy league. Now she sat like a queen in the largest corner office of the 40th floor, commanding her subjects to perform her every whim. At the moment that left her poor personal assistant to fetch her coffee. Half-calf mocha. Two sugars.

I think passive voice is just... passive. I don't think you'd lose anything switching to active per say. In fact, by using other indicators to say "Hey! This happened in the past!" I think you get more immediacy with the characters than you do by putting it in passive. It feels more like you're in the character's head, hearing the reflection on the past without dropping into neutral in terms of tone in the story.

I was fiddling with both versions and came up with...

His father discovered the boulder a century again on the rocky beach of one of the far islands. Years of constant rain and wind had worn the rock smooth and created a regal air as the high, smooth sides sloped to the middle to create a gentle hollow. Immediatly proclaiming it the perfect gift for his queen, he ordered a dozen men to bring it back to the Sithein. When the queen saw the boulder, she declared it the perfect chair. She declined even the thinnest pillow and instead called for a thick double layer of wool which she wrapped around her waist and then pulled over her shoulders before she secured it at her waist. She claimed the cloth warded off the cold damp of the Sithein, but Tyrae suspected the wool cushioned her from the hard, unforgiving stone of her perfect seat.

Blah. Okay. That needs smoothing... but I I think it's more active voice and I don't think you lose anything.

JT.

Edittorrent said...

My point is to keep the reader firmly in Tyrae's head (the viewpoint character) so I was using passive voice there to back off from her and remain with him in the doorway, looking in. Having said that, it's not something I feel strongly about so I wouldn't resist changing it if you were unconvinced by my justification.

Well, think about what Tyrae is seeing. If you're in her POV, you're watching through her eyes. So is she seeing the shawl fly up and wrap itself around Mom? Tuck itself under Mom's rear end? No, she's seeing Mom doing it. So if you want to be in T's pov, you'll be narrating what she sees, which is Mom's action.

What if you want to distance Tyrae from the time, etc.? Then use "Tyrae remembered her mother wrapping the shawl...."

POV isn't passive. It's the reader's eyes on the scene. :)
Alicia

Edittorrent said...

OOps, sorry, Tyrae is HE.
A

em said...

Alicia: I just wished that I knew what you did about writing. :)

Edittorrent said...

Em, it's really easier when you don't KNOW this story. You can see it with a reader's eyes and see what's confusing or unclear.
But if you're the writer, well, you can't un-know what you know about the story, so it might be harder to see unclarity.

But maybe we can all be "conscious" as we revise, analytical and skeptical?
Alicia

Glynis said...

Yet again I learned something here, Thank you.
I asked a friend to look at a chapter for me, he came up with something that was so obvious. It was the over use of a name. I had missed it because as I wrote it I found I was skipping reading the name, because I knew which character I was writing about. When I eliminated a few and added new wording, I was thrilled with the flow.
I enjoyed the way you unravelled the work of Sylvia and re-wove it.