Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jami's edits

Everyone's made such great comments already in this edit exercise, and Jami's made a few great changes, so I don't have much to add (except this is a great exercise for writing groups!). Also, notice how each of us might see something different to fix. Hmm. It takes a village to revise a paragraph?

My thoughts:

She cringed at his perfectly innocent question. Before he noticed, she quickly faked another yawn and covered her face with her hands. Sharing the reasons she’d stared at the ceiling for hours last night would only add to her guilt. It was bad enough that she’d dreamed about her ex-boyfriend, Daniel. Add in his command that had burrowed into her thoughts – ‘Come to me’ – and it would sound downright horrible. Instead, she offered, “Uh huh.”

Okay, I'm one of those who has to sleep 10 hours or I yawn the whole next day, so I'm not clear why she had to fake a yawn if she hadn't slept well. But beyond that=
Before he noticed, she quickly faked another yawn and covered her face with her hands.

Can you clarify with some transitional word? I mean, is she faking the yawn SO she can cover her face then? Why are those two actions together? See if you can make the connection more than they happen about the same time.

Sharing the reasons she’d stared at the ceiling for hours last night would only add to her guilt.

Sharing with whom? I'm saying that because, though of course the reader will know that from earlier paragraphs, you might want to have a bit of emphasis. It's not just sharing, but sharing WITH HIM. We all know that as soon as he's gone, she's going to be on the phone with her best friend. "You would never believe what I dreamed last night!" She won't mind sharing with her... it's the current bf she doesn't want to share with. So think about putting his name after-- Sharing with Joe the reasons....

It was bad enough that she’d dreamed about her ex-boyfriend, Daniel.

Don't use a comma with a "name appositive" like Daniel there. An appositive is a word or phrase that explains more about a noun, and generally, yes, you set it off before and after with a comma (no comma at end of sentence, of course)-- I went to Chicago, my favorite US city, to visit Theresa. You don't use a comma usually with a name or a one-word appositive (her coach Joe Parcells/ the color purple). So:
It was bad enough that she’d dreamed about her ex-boyfriend Daniel.

Add in his command that had burrowed into her thoughts – ‘Come to me’ – and it would sound downright horrible.

I'd put "Come to me" in italics, to distinguish it from the real dialogue that follows. As it's not vocalized (it's in a dream), I think we can get away with italicizing as we would thoughts.

Whenever you use "it," think about what "it" refers back to. There isn't a clear antecedent there, so I wonder if you can recast that? I can't actually come up with an alternative, but put your mind to it and see what you come up with. That's two sentences in this paragraph I've ended with a preposition. Don't follow my bad example. :)

Instead, she offered, “Uh huh.”


Instead of what? See, where that's placed suggests that "instead of doing A, she did B"-- it's what we call a "sentence adverb" which modifies the whole sentence or clause, rather than a verb (as adverbs usually do). "Additionally, I will sing The National Anthem" is an example of a sentence adverb-- It's not "I in addition to dancing will sing," right? When you put an adverb at the start of the sentence, removed from the verb, usually you're saying it's a sentence adverb. Okay. What I'm getting at is I think you want it to be, uh, the direct object (that is, not a modifier at all, but a noun). Okay, that all sounds weird, but understand, some words can be different parts of speech depending on where you put them, and depending on the role they're playing in the sentence. So words like this have to be placed especially carefully. In this case, I think you mean "instead" as "instead of that other thing she could be saying"-- that is, a noun phrase that is the object of "offered". So "She offered instead" might be more correct.

Finally, this is a long leadup to an uninteresting line of dialogue. But maybe that's what you want? It's sort of funny, really, that "uh-huh" is all she can manage.

But that come to me is so sexy, and it's sort of buried in the middle of the paragraph. Is it important, like is she going to have to go and find Daniel? If so, I'd really suggest =that= line is what the paragraph is about, not about the heroine saying, "Uh-huh." I guess you might want to assess what's important in this paragraph, and make the last line in the paragraph reflect that important aspect somehow. How could you do that? Well, now really, I might be entirely wrong about come to me being important-- I'm easy to seduce, obviously-- but if in fact that's important, try putting it at the end and go back and build the paragraph towards that.
Just an example of rearranging:
She cringed at his perfectly innocent question. Before he noticed, she quickly faked another yawn and covered her face with her hands. Sharing the reasons she’d stared at the ceiling for hours last night would only add to her guilt. So she offered, “Uh huh.” It was bad enough that she’d dreamed about her ex-boyfriend, Daniel. Add in his command that had burrowed into her thoughts – ‘Come to me’.

Okay, obviously it needs some work. But think about what you want to lead to, and if it's not that "come to me," ignore me. :)

Just everyone keep in mind -- a paragraph is a unit of meaning. It has some purpose beyond just grouping sentences together. When the paragraph ends, the reader should have advanced to some additional understanding-- maybe not a radical advance, but an increment. That this is a paragraph, that these actions and events and reactions are grouped together adds some meaning. And where you end the paragraph adds meaning too-- you're saying, "This is what all this has been leading up to." (Another ending preposition! Arrgh!) There's a dramatic pause in there, just by the line ending and the white space of the next paragraph's indentation. So when you end the paragraph, you're identifying what's important, what the reader should pay attention to. (Eeek. Another one. You can tell I'm tired. I can't figure out how to fix those.)

You can reverse this to bury a clue, btw. If you hide the clue in plain sight in the middle of the paragraph, the reader can't say you tried to trick her.

I think also you can manipulate this expectation for comic effect, by ending as Jami does on something anticlimactic.

Alicia

26 comments:

Murphy said...

Okay:

Here is my revised take on this one. Poor Jami. Man, I told someone that Alicia was going breeze in, didn't I? I think breeze is a stretch - because she's more like a storm I'm thinking.;) Any way, after looking at this with the command, at the end of the paragraph - I had some ideas. I changed the placement of quickly to give it distance from perfectly. I didn't like the repeated (add) so I took one out and I felt the bottom end of the paragraph didn't have enough weight so I gave it some. Just my thoughts.
Murphy

She cringed at his perfectly innocent question. Before he noticed, she faked another yawn and quickly covered her face with her hands. Sharing the reasons she’d stared at the ceiling for hours last night would only add to her guilt. So she offered, “Uh huh.” It was bad enough that she’d dreamed about her ex-boyfriend, Daniel. But now, vividly recalling his whispered command, hearing those silken words, that had called to her in the night.‘Come to me’, she shivered.

Jami G. said...

Hi Alicia,

Thank you so much for your comments. I have a couple of questions for you, however...

- Can you clarify when you would/would not use a comma for the appositive? I think you were trying to explain that if the appositive is just one word that the comma wasn't always necessary. See, I thought that if we switched the order (...dreamed about Daniel, her ex-boyfriend.) and needed a comma, that we'd need a comma in the other order too. But I'm probably confused about how to figure this out. :)

- Are you trying to make our brains explode with the sentence adverb stuff? (Just kidding - I'm just having a hard time following all that.) I guess I was thinking that she was saying B (Uh-huh) instead of A (sharing her dream). So, does that mean that because the action is still "saying" you wouldn't want a sentence adverb (at the beginning of the sentence) and you'd instead want the "instead" in the sentence itself? (I'm not even sure that sentence made sense I'm so discombobulated with this...) Can you help explain this more?

In answer to your question, yes, it's okay that the "Come to me" gets buried (believe me, it all gets revisited much more later), because the "Uh-huh" dialogue is the point of the paragraph in that it leads into the next line:

“Right.” He stood up and mussed his rumpled brown hair in what she recognized as mild frustration with her vague answer, but he didn’t press the issue.

At this point in the story, it's more about her reaction to the dream than the dream itself. The reader suspects that the dream is important more than she does. When she has another dream the following night, the reader only has to know that it had happened before. Yes, I love burying clues in the middle of sentences and paragraphs.

Thanks!
Jami G.

Edittorrent said...

Commas are not necessary for name appositives ever, except when you restrict the noun it modifies-- kind of complicated, and you don't do that. But if you said:
She thought nostalgically of her fourth ex-boyfriend, Daniel--

That is, you'd use the comma if you are making a point in the sentence that he's not the only ex-boyfriend.
Daniel, her ex-boyfriend, was stalking her.

See, in that, "Daniel" is the noun, and "her ex-boyfriend" is the appositive, neither one word or a name. It's the role the name plays that counts-- when it's an appositive, it's not set off with commas. That's just the rule.

As for "instead," you got me. I can't explain it anymore than I did. I just know that if you have "instead" as the sentence adverb beginning the sentence, there's an antecedent problem that was too complicated to figure out (or explain). And that problem vanishes when you use "instead" as a noun/direct object at the end of the quote tag. I'm sure if I had some brain cells left, I'd explain it better. Transformative sentence diagramming would help too.

I'd just say-- what do you mean by "instead"? If you mean "instead of another noun-thing", then "instead" should be in a noun position (as the direct object, as I suggested).

Sorry. This is the sort of intuitive change I'd make but have trouble justifying, and I hope no one would argue enough to make me justify it. :)
Alicia


As you have it, no comma. Sorry.

Edittorrent said...

Okay. Notice that "sharing the dream" is a NOUN. It's a gerund (-ing word used as a noun) but it is the subject of the sentence. So "instead of a noun"-- that should be in a noun role, because the antecedent (what it refers to) is a noun.

This is one of those examples of when it's probably best not to investigate intuition. But I really do think I'm right, and all along I thought it was an antecedent problem (like the "it" above there).
And I think I was right. :)
Alicia

Edittorrent said...

Okay. Notice that "sharing the dream" is a NOUN. It's a gerund (-ing word used as a noun) but it is the subject of the sentence. So "instead of a noun"-- that should be in a noun role, because the antecedent (what it refers to) is a noun.

This is one of those examples of when it's probably best not to investigate intuition. But I really do think I'm right, and all along I thought it was an antecedent problem (like the "it" above there).
And I think I was right. :)
Alicia

Edittorrent said...

Sorry to dupe there. But one more thing I want to make clear:
Commas are not necessary for name appositives ever,

I should say-- this isn't really discretionary. You are not supposed to use a comma with a name appositive following a non-restrictive noun.

There are certain mechanical errors that make us think that someone isn't entirely sophisticated, and this is that sort of error. It's not a huge problem, and it's easily fixed. But as I noticed it, it would register for me. I'd never reject an otherwise good ms for that, but I would notice, and I would think that the writer had not absorbed all the grammar rules from her reading. NOT a big deal-- but I'd notice, and the error would have a bit of meaning for me. I might be dealing with a fabulous storyteller, an amazing characterizer, but I would suspect I wasn't dealing with a top-level wordsmith.

That is not as important as storytelling, not by a mile, of course. Easy to fix commas. Not easy to fix stories. But if you want to burnish your prose, well, take out the damned comma. :)

Jami G. said...

Alicia,

Thanks for trying to wring some more sense out of those rules for me! I certainly wasn't arguing with you about the comma (I'm sorry if it came off that way, but believe me, I'll trust your brain cells over mine any day), I just wanted to make sure that I was understanding the correct rule correctly. :)

Thank you again for all that you do to help us here!
Jami G.

Jami G. said...

Murphy,

Naw, there's no "poor Jami" here. :) I'm loving all this help. And on top of everything, we get Alicia giving us more mind-blowing grammar instruction... Whew! This is great stuff.

So, I can't figure out how to move "quickly" and follow Alicia's suggestion to have a transition word between the yawn and covering phrases. But I didn't notice the doubling of "add" until you pointed it out. Thanks!

She cringed at his perfectly innocent question. Before he noticed, she quickly faked another yawn to cover her face with her hands. Sharing with Caleb the reasons she’d stared at the ceiling for hours last night would only lead to more guilt. It was bad enough that she’d dreamed about her ex-boyfriend Daniel. Add in his command that had burrowed into her thoughts – ‘Come to me’ – and her dream would sound downright horrible. She offered instead, “Uh-huh.”

Jami G.

Edittorrent said...

Jami, what do you think? Isn't it amazing how everyone notices something different? And how cool it is that your intention (to bury the "command") is recognized? Nice and subtle. :)
Alicia

Jami G. said...

Alicia,

Yes, burying clues is one of my favorite tools. In this same WIP, I mention an important clue 3 times and not one of my readers has guessed it in advance because it's buried all 3 times. They all get the *smack forehead with palm* reaction when it's revealed, saying that they should have seen that coming. I just love that... :)

Jami G.

Edittorrent said...

And you are being entirely fair. There it is, in plain text. Their fault if they didn't connect the dots. :)
a

Jami G. said...

Alicia,

I think I'm closer to understanding the sentence adverb stuff. Could you maybe give an example of when it would be appropriate to use "instead" (or another adverb) at the beginning of a sentence? I'm noticing now that I tend to use it to contrast the situation between two sentences (usually they're right next to each other):

He didn’t seem concerned by her lack of greeting in return. Instead, his eyes widened as though he’d just remembered something.

And I'm wondering if I'm always wrong. :) If so, maybe I'll just need to come up with a different word for these situations - "rather"? Or do I just need to move the "instead"?

Thanks!
Jami G.

Edittorrent said...

I'm too sleepy to think of anything-- let me try tomorrow instead. Or Instead, I'll try tomorrow. :)
Alicia

Murphy said...

Alicia:
I'm just pointing this out. Only saying, you know? But, when I did my reworked version and cut and pasted from YOUR example - that comma was in there.:D
Murphy

Jami G. said...

Alicia,

*Shhh* Ignore Murphy over there... :) Okay, so call me a sick puppy, but I woke up at 4am and thought I might have figured out this sentence adverb stuff.

So, in the original example, the "instead of" was referring to a gerund (the "sharing her dream") that was acting as the noun of the sentence, so that would make the "instead" at the beginning of the sentence incorrect. However (and if I'm wrong here, just chalk it up to being awake since 4am), in my example above, the "instead of" refers to "showing concern" which sits in the verb spot (I think) of the previous sentence, so it'd be okay to have "instead" at the beginning of sentence. *crosses fingers* Did those sentences make any sense? And if so, was I right?

Thanks!
Jami G.

Wes said...

Welcome back.

Your analysis, Alicia, is a tour de force. Sometimes when I read what you and Theresa write, my head hurts. I wish I could tell Mrs. Flood, my high school English teacher and sentence diagramming guru, what I've learned.

PS: Is my use of commas after "Mrs. Flood" correct?

Jordan said...

I have a funny apposition story:

When I was in middle school, I read The Scarlet Pimpernel over the summer so I'd be ready for the September book report. And then I forgot to write the report. So I turned it in days late. The day I turned it in, we learned about appositives.

I got back my book report and I'd gotten a D with all the late deductions. The two points that pushed me from a C to a D were deducted for NOT putting a comma in this sentence:

He called himself[,] the Scarlet Pimpernel.

My mother (BA in English) went to the line for me and brought her grammar textbooks to show the teacher that was ridiculous. The most the teacher would admit was that it was optional there. (Even after my mom pointed out the most famous opening in literature would be "Call me, Ishmael." [Let's do lunch.])

I got the two points back. And I've never forgotten how wrong that teacher was. ;)

Great discussion on burying clues!

Jami G. said...

Wes & Alicia,

Oh! *waves hand* Pick me! Pick me! Okay, so if I understand the use of commas with appositives correctly, then your comma after Mrs. Flood would be correct since your appositive was more than one word and you weren't using the name as the appositive (my...teacher...guru Mrs. Flood).

So, Teach, did I get it right? :)

Trying really, really hard to wrap my brain around this stuff (especially after only a few hours of sleep),
Jami G.

em said...

Jordan,
That's a good one!

Babs said...

I think I used to know how to use a comma, but after reading this I'm not so sure. There's quite a bit to take in, isn't there?

Jordan that was a good story.:)

Jami G? Haven't you noticed? Murphy is impossible to ignore!;)

I think I'll have to print this and read it over a few times.

Murphy said...

Hi Jordan!

Glad your mother stared the teacher down. For me, the best part of your story was:

"Call me, Ishmael." [Let's do lunch.]

Hilarious!

Murphy

Edittorrent said...

Murphy, that's why there's a copy editor backstopping me. I make typos too. :)

Also, there are commas when a name is used in direct address, and I don't remember whether that's the case with yours. Sorry, I don't remember. In one eye and out the other. :)
Alicia

Edittorrent said...

Wes, Mrs. Flood would be very happy that you got that appositive right!

Alicia

Edittorrent said...

That sounds right, Jami. I'm still in brain fog, so won't say definitively, but yours sounded right. :)
Alicia

em said...

Alicia & Theresa?

Did you see Murph's story in the previous post? If not you have to read it. You have to!

Babs? She was right. I'm still laughing!:)
Em

Babs said...

Em:

Me as well! Just brilliant!