Sunday, July 5, 2009

Jordan edits

Jordan said:
set up: Molly's priest was murdered at the church three weeks ago. Father O'Leary, the new priest (*wink*wink* if you remember log line #1), has just arrived and Molly is showing him from the church to the rectory. (Side note: Originally from Dublin, Molly immigrated to Chicago with her family five years ago.)

The four sentences:
How must the buildings that were so familiar she hardly noticed them look to Father O'Leary? Three years ago, she compared the Gothic chapel, its stone facade flanked by blazing maples in a carpet of lawn, to her parents' church in city center. At the time, St. Adelaide seemed a suburban oasis; three weeks ago she was disabused of that notion.

"I'm sure it'll get to feelin' like home soon enough," she murmured.
---

How must the buildings that were so familiar she hardly noticed them look to Father O'Leary?

The construction was hard for me to follow. What's your sentence kernel-- buildings look to Father O'Leary? See how far the subject is separated from the predicate? When you want to simplify, go for the verbs and clauses. Right away, I'd identify the "she hardly noticed them" as the confusion-- it's a clause in the middle of the main clause? How to simplify? Reduce a clause to a phrase? Try:
How must the buildings that were so familiar to her look to Father O'Leary?
You could also get rid of "that were"--
How must the buildings so familiar to her look to Father O'Leary?

I still don't immediately understand what you mean, but the construction isn't as tongue-twisting.
Three years ago, she compared the Gothic chapel, its stone facade flanked by blazing maples in a carpet of lawn, to her parents' church in city center.
Do we need to know anything three years ago? I'm confused about what you want me to understand here. You've set up that this church looks familiar to her, but she's wondering what Fr. O will think of it. That's very much set in the now. Why go back three years to a different situation? How about let her show the church now to him or look over it now? I'm not sure what you're accomplishing going back three years, AND bringing in another church-- I can't get any sense of this church or what Fr. O is supposed to be seeing or how the church will look to him. As far as topic sentences go, this one ("How" sentence) doesn't seem to match the paragraph.

I would suggest trying out a sentence or two set in the NOW, with her and Fr. O looking at the church. What does she draw his attention to? What does she want him to notice and not notice?

At the time, St. Adelaide seemed a suburban oasis; three weeks ago she was disabused of that notion.

I'm assuming St A's is the church they're in right now and not the one in the city center? (We always called the Chicago city center the Loop or Downtown... but then of course, she's from Dublin, and maybe they refer to the center as the city center. :) Anyway, see the problem with introducing this other city church-- it confuses. Two churches. Which is St. A's? Yes, you probably have already mentioned St. A's as the church Right Now, but this got a little scattered... esp. when you bring in "three weeks ago". That's the third separate time period in a paragraph. What do you NEED? You are probably meaning to contrast the St. Adelaide of pre-murder and the St. Adelaide of the post-murder. That's actually complicated enough without bringing in the distant past.

I like the idea of the murder changing her sense of the place-- but don't make your reader work so hard to figure out what you're getting at. Try writing it plainly first, to make sure you're getting it across, then embellish. But really, I think you're trying to do too much for one paragraph. This might not have bothered me in two paragraphs or three, if you took your time and really explored what was happening Right Now in p. 1, then the distant past in p.2, and the disabusing in p. 3. If that's too attenuated, see what's important to keep and make sure everything is clear.

"I'm sure it'll get to feelin' like home soon enough," she murmured.

Now is she saying this to herself or to Fr. O? If it's to Fr. O, see, that's why you need him more in the paragraph, looking around at the church, nodding as she points something out. We don't have any sense that it doesn't feel at home to him, because the paragraph has all been about her. Consider at least having her see him glance around before she murmurs, and add "to him", because you can murmur to yourself too. Try something like:

She saw his curious glance at (something). "I'm sure it'll get to feelin' like home soon enough," she murmured to him.

Be thinking of a paragraph as a unit of meaning. The meaning should extend from the first sentence somehow, and everything in the paragraph should contribute to something. It's sometimes hard to make everything unified-- but if you like both parts, just consider two paragraphs. If it's worth stating (the question about Fr. O), it's worth developing or exemplifying or showing. And if her memory of before is worth exploring, it might be better in a "past" paragraph of its own.

I know I'm always saying, "Take it slow." But don't try to compress too much.

I love Chicago settings, and mysteries centered on a Catholic parish? Yum. (Memories of a Catholic girlhood, not that I ever would dare to -- even now-- imagine the murder of a priest or nun!!!!! I was easily intimidated.)

Alicia


21 comments:

Leona said...

These are great as always! you seem to be able to get an idea from very few sentences. so far, you've nailed things right on. I'm very impressed and you have earned a greater respect for all editors by being so good yourself.

Murphy said...

Hi Jordan!
I have a couple of thoughts about this. The plural term ‘buildings’ in the first sentence compared to the singular ‘Gothic chapel’ in the second, kind of jumped out at me. Anyone else? Now, the description of: ‘its stone facade flanked by blazing maples in a carpet of lawn,’ I thought was a really great visual. Kind of too good to be sandwiched in the middle of that second sentence.:)
I sort of think you either went too far with this one paragraph, with what you were trying to accomplish, or not far enough - if that makes sense. If all you wanted to do is highlight how differently she feels about the chapel after the murder as opposed to the before - I don’t think how father O looks at them/it (you see I’m going back to the buildings when I feel like I should be going back to the chapel) should matter at this point. The reader should only be concerned about her seeing them/it differently. If it was a segue you were looking for, maybe saying: She could only imagine how Father O’Leary must see these impressive buildings, that were so familiar to her now, that she hardly noticed them. Three years ago when she got her first glimpse of the(m)...well, you get my idea, right?:)

And on a different note, I’m curious Alicia. Do you find that you have a tendency to edit by cutting down paragraphs. Do you like them shorter, perhaps, than let’s say Theresa does? Not that I’m fishing to nail down my last two picks for the ‘Who Edited What, Challenge’...oh, all right! I am throwing a line out there - notice the ‘fishing’ and ‘line’ no mixed metaphors there, eh? Nope, only a lame attempt at distracting you from my original purpose of getting some inside info. Did it work?;) Or, do I need to break out the expensive chocolates?

Jordan said...

Yeah, I'm definitely trying to compress too much here. I have this compulsive need to move quickly through this section, which is stupid because it's the H/H's first meeting.

I think that pressure is just leftover from preparing this for a first five pages contest, LOL. I guess another factor was that I worry about stopping the forward motion of the story with description.

My thinking here was that she probably doesn't notice the buildings much after working there for that long, so the lead-in in the previous paragraph is a comment by Father O'Leary (he expected to end up in the inner city when he came to Chicago, not somewhere like "this"). (So does the simplified version of the first sentence make more sense in that context?)

Murphy (Murphy is the surname of one of the villains in the story, so I always love getting your comments for more than just their excellent content, LOL):
There are multiple buildings--the chapel, the rectory and the parochial high school. (They're on their way from the chapel to the rectory, so that would probably be clearer in context. I hope.)

Thank you for the feedback and edits, Alicia and Murphy! I was stuck on this because half of my CPs noted it as confusing, but I wasn't sure how to resolve it. Now I have a much clearer idea on how to fix it!

Jordan said...

Oh, and @Murphy—I totally understand what you mean by saying I either went too far or not far enough. There is a certain logic to the progression here, but I see that it's not coming across.

Thanks again!

Edittorrent said...

Murph, I hate one-sentence paragraphs and will almost always join those to make real paragraphs.

I also tend not to leave paragraphs too long, but that has more to do with how many ideas there are. There can be a three-line paragraph that should be broken into three paragraphs, with each developed into a complete thought.

Generally I like paragraphs that express, describe, or develop something, and generally that will take 3-4 lines (not necessarily sentences).

As in all things, I tend towards moderation. But paragraphs have a PURPOSE. They are paragraphs for a reason-- because they express, etc., something unified. Too many ideas, or too little development, will mean I look at the paragraphs with an eye to fix.
Alicia

Edittorrent said...

//My thinking here was that she probably doesn't notice the buildings much after working there for that long, s//

Well, you know, maybe the thing to keep in mind that she is NOT looking at the buildings. She's looking at O'Leary. She's not wondering what the buildings are like, but rather how HE is taking them. Is he disgusted by them? Entranced by them? Annoyed?

Don't tell me. She should look at him and interpret-- perhaps wrongly-- for herself. You can, of course, describe the buildings through that filter-- but the filter is what you have set up, and that's a fascinating filter. Don't wimp out by telling us what she thinks of the church-- her mind is on figuring out what HE thinks.

Hmm. Maybe good characters aren't narcissists. Think of how many narcissists we encounter in life, who are fascinated only by their own perceptions and assume everyone else is fascinated too, and who don't care at all enough to notice what's going on with the other characters, or wonder what they're thinking.

But you seldom encounter narcissists as main characters in a book these days. I wonder if it's more because we need good narrators if we're not in omniscient POV?
Alicia

Murphy said...

(Insert me scratching my head here)

Thanks, Alicia...I think. Now, how is this information gonna help me ferret out who edited what? Hmm, does Theresa like one sentence paragraphs? You've got me thinking - which is never a good thing. Oh well, sucks to be someone in my house this afternoon while I ponder upon all this.:D

And Jordan? I hope you came up with the names of these villains - in particular MURPHY, before you met me on the blog. I'd hate to think I inspired you to pick that name.;)

Jordan said...

Murphy—You didn't want a tribute character? ;)

Alicia—Ooh, that could work really well. The intent behind this description in the first place is to set the setting, but I think I can do both. In multiple paragraphs, of course. ;)

Murphy said...

Okay, truth be told I’ve always wanted a tribute character. But um, I was thinking: Goddess or Queen. No, Princess. NO, Princess of all the universe - or maybe if I have to settle, just an American Princess...in that order of course! So, Jordan, I’ll love you forever if you make any one of these happen for me. Even if it is only fiction, Okay?:D

Jordan said...

Oh. So not the underboss of the Irish mob on the South Side? (And PS a man?)

Murphy said...

Irish mob? Man? Okay, you talked me into it.:D

Babs said...

Alicia, when you say filter what do you mean? Through third person narrative?

Murph, I could see you belonging to the mob and with a name like yours it would have to be the Irish one.;)

Jordan said...

I think I can answer that, Babs. The filter she's referring to there is a bit more specific than just the third person, or deep POV. It's the filter the character is seeing the scene through.

The specific filter here is Molly, the heroine, watching Father O'Leary and his reaction to the setting (or her interpretation of his reaction), as opposed to just looking at the setting or giving Molly's emotional reaction to the setting.

In other news, I got your POV today, Alicia! I've always kind of done POV intuitively, so I'm excited to learn more about it. And it'll help with my blog series on deep POV this month, too.

Jordan said...

*your book on POV, I mean ;)

Edittorrent said...

Babs, what Jordan said. :)

I say "filter" because whatever this is will affect or color or distort the POV character's narration or interpretation of events.

Murph, notice that most "Alicias" in fiction are the Evil Other Woman. This is so utterly not me. But I think my name is Evil.
Alicia

Murphy said...

Hey, I noticed no one disagreed with Babs about me? Totally bummed about that! And Alicia, is this you:

The name alicia means an amusing person who people want to be around because she makes them laugh.

I thought maybe it could be when you're um, not working that is. Because I just can't see any of your writers laughing or wanting to be around you when you demand - oh, I ah, mean, ask so sweetly for those massive revisions:D. Evil? No. Not you!!!!

Edittorrent said...

Well, I can assure everyone I'm not the Evil Other Woman. :)
Alicia The Non-Evil Non-other

Murphy said...

Okay, am I missing something here? You said this twice. Are you perhaps the nicer other woman? And, would that be between you and Theresa? Hey, just asking, because you did qualify this point twice and that would be YOU making the comparison and leaving me really, really far from those choppy waters, K? I’m a strong swimmer but I think Ms. T might be stronger:). Just um, a hunch...

Edittorrent said...

I'm not saying anything about T's paragraph philosophy. I will say that if some semicolon managed to get through, it's probably me. :)
A

Murphy said...

Holy Crap! Now you tell me?!!!

Babs said...

Thanks Jordan and Alicia. That clarifies things for me.:)