Saturday, July 4, 2009

Kathleen edits

Kathleen-
Thanks for asking us to do this! You've
almost got to mine on both lists! Here's mine again, slightly re-worked: (No, it's not an opening, though it is in my first scene. She's just watched a dragon materialize over a man who is lying in the street.)

Gianna pulled her cloak around herself more tightly and rubbed her eyes. Casualties were nothing new in Jarentho, but dragons that seemed to shimmer in the cold winter air were another matter completely. They no longer existed, except in fairy tales she could barely remember. True, this one's scales glistened with iridescent colors, just as those in the stories, but that didn't mean anything. Besides, people were walking through its body as though it didn't exist.

I like dragons.

Gianna pulled her cloak around herself more tightly and rubbed her eyes.

Don't work too hard to have her move. The pulling the cloak around her probably adds nothing (it's not an action connected to what just happened), and serves only to hide the actual meaningful action of her rubbing her eyes (expressing disbelief at what she just saw). Also, those actions are kind of in conflict. Act the motions out! Sounds dumb, but really, if you act those motions out, you'd get that they shouldn't be in the same sentence. If you gather your cloak around you, your hands are on the cloak and aren't immediately available to rub your eyes. Yes, you could take your hands off your cloak and apply them to your eyes, but really, if gathering the cloak doesn't add anything, why have it in there? Not all sentences have to be longer. Try this:
Gianna rubbed her eyes.

Now if you want the pulling the cloak around her to show that it's cold, that's good-- but not here. Here she has just seen a dead body and a dragon. If she's feeling the cold, she's probably not paying enough attention to the main event.

Watch out for relatively meaningless motions. If he's pushing his hand through his hair or she's smoothing her skirt and -- be honest here-- your only real purpose here is to use an action as a quote tag or as a "stutter" to break up the description or introspection, well, see if you can find an action that is more relevant to the moment we're in.

Casualties were nothing new in Jarentho, but dragons that seemed to shimmer in the cold winter air were another matter completely.
Good info here, but maybe too much for one sentence-- the info is getting lost. What I'd suggest is starting with two sentences and then combine them if that's better. A couple thoughts-- you're working with a "sight" motif here-- she saw the dragon, she rubs at her eyes, she sees it shimmer. So make the casualties a "sight" too. I'd suggest getting more visual there, but also more detailed. "Casualties" is a military term and deliberately distancing-- you use "casualty" to hide the reality of death and injury. You don't really need to distance here, do you? So think about a more vivid word, like "bodies". And elaborate. Remember, I'm saying to try a full sentence. Bodies were not an uncommon sight on Jarentho streets? Go with the sight motif-- don't lose your unifier.

... but dragons that seemed to shimmer in the cold winter air were another matter completely.
"seemed to shimmer"-- come on. Shimmering is a visual phenomenon. If it "seemed to shimmer," it shimmered. Watch the wimp out words.

They no longer existed, except in fairy tales she could barely remember.
"Dragons" is a keyword, and a come-on word-- don't feel you can't repeat it. You should repeat it here. That "she could barely remember"-- well, it feels sort of shoved in there. Whether she remembers them or not, she knows dragons are only in fairy tales. You got the important part in here-- that they did once exist. :)

Dragons no longer existed, except in fairy tales.
If you want to tell more about the fairy tales, good-- but modify fairy tales, like "fairy tales she'd heard as a child" or "fairy tales that frightened (place name) children." Or "fairy tales from the very dawn of history."

True, this one's scales glistened with iridescent colors, just as those in the stories, but that didn't mean anything. Besides, people were walking through its body as though it didn't exist.

Is it still there? I thought it had vanished and she was remembering. Don't know why I thought that. You might have (first line) she rubs her eyes, but it's still there.

True, this one's scales glistened with iridescent colors, just as those in the stories, but that didn't mean anything.
Well, actually, THAT doesn't mean anything. What do you mean? What does it mean or not mean?
The "just as" phrase is a bit clunky. Maybe try an adjective before "iridescent"? glistened with the same iridescent colors?
I'd suggest just going with the people walking through it. What you probably mean is that she's the only one who sees it, and besides, it's not solid, right?
So maybe--
True, this one's scales glistened with the same iridescent colors, but people were walking through its body as though it didn't exist.

I never like "people", but passers-by is clunkier. :) Pedestrians?

Now if the dragon is hovering over the body, are people also walking through the body? Are they just stepping over it? Is it just the dragon that can't be seen, or the body too?

Alicia

8 comments:

sylvia said...

I was thinking - but the cloak pulling shows the coldness of the moment and that seeing the dragon gives her a chill. Then I saw your further comments and once again had to agree.

JewelTones said...

I love dragons! :) I collect them, actually, and I've got a story I'm plotting out right now that involves out. *G*

When I first read the sentences I mentally did a lot of what Alicia did, I stripped out the "clutter" (for lack of a better word) from the sentences.

Gianna pulled her cloak around herself more tightly and rubbed her eyes.

I knew what Kathleen meant there but I, too, went with one action or the other.

Casualties were nothing new in Jarentho, but dragons that seemed to shimmer in the cold winter air were another matter completely.

I wasn't sure if there was a war going on (hence casualties) but I had a feeling this was more a case of "the town is so dangerous people get killed all the time" kind of casualties. But for the life of me I couldn't come up with a word I liked that didn't feel awkward. :( I hate that.

Violence was nothing new in Jarentho, but dragons that shimmered out of thin air?

Dragons didn't exist. At least, not outside storybooks like the leather-bound volumes grandfather liked to terrify her with as a child.

True, this creature/animal's scales glistened iridescent, just like those in the stories. But in *those* tales, the dragons were solid, strong, evil creatures who (whatever the heck the dragons do that you want people to think they do -- munch bones, steal kids, burn down houses and slaughter families. They didn't XYZ (whatever this dragon is doing), and they certainly didn't hover - semi-transparent - in the cold, winter air as townspeople wandered through its body and continued down the street.

One question I had was -- if the dragon is there and there's a casualty... do the people walking by not see the dead person either? I wasn't sure. Because even if they're walking through the dragon... they're stepping over or around the body?

JT

Murphy said...

Alicia: I had to laugh when you said:

Act the motions out! Sounds dumb, but really, if you act those motions out, you'd get that they shouldn't be in the same sentence.

Last week I was writing and my husband came into my office while I had my eyes closed as I imaged the movement through a scene I was working on. I have no idea how long he was standing there watching me, but when I opened my eyes to type out the action the way I envisioned it, I nearly jumped out of my skin before I turned and freaked out on him. The ensuing conversation went like this:

"Jesus! How long have you been standing there?"

"A few minutes."

"Why?" To say that I was miffed was an understatement.

"Because I thought you had company in here?"

"Company?" I had no idea what the hell he was talking about until he grinned and said.

"But now that I see that you don't, would you like some?"

It took me a second but then I thought about the scene I was 'acting' the motions out for and I wanted to die. Men!

Any way, the point I would make here is - that this is great advice. It does work for keeping a handle on the flow of movement within a scene. NOW, for some scenes? You may want to shut and lock the door so that no one thinks you're crazy. (and hey, for the record? I wasn't doing anything really bad. But um...nuff said about that, okay?:D)

Kathleen I liked your lines. I went back and had a look at what you originally posted (the longer version) and the confusion over the casualty/body issue - I think is cleared up when you read the longer post. I get what the dragon is doing - where it is and what the people are looking at from that previous paragraph.
But for the other issue? Really, the acting out thing works. Even if you still wanted to keep in the cloak idea. You would be able to better connect it once you physically worked through the motions yourself.
Good luck with this:).
Murphy

Kathleen MacIver said...

These are wonderful points.

Let's see... to be quite honest, the pulling the cloak around her was there to serve two quite important purposes. One, to hint the season, and two, to set the tone of the world, which is fantasy. "Cloak" instead of "coat" or "jacket" goes a long way. Jewel is right, in that the casualties are because this part of town is dangerous. I think I DO want the distance implied in the word casualties (although I'm not opposed to another word.) She's learned to keep death from bothering her by observing it objectively. In this scene, there's no war, no fighting, etc. Rather, a crumbling building lost a couple of blocks, one of which hit this man on the head. That's why it's natural for her to pause and do the slightly unconscious motion of pulling her cloak around herself. In my imagination, she does one and then the other, with a slight pause in between...but you're right, without the pause, it sounds very un-natural.

The second sentence...I'm curious to know what information you think is getting lost? I'm trying to show that seeing someone dead or dying isn't that rare of a sight (scene/world setting), so she's somewhat used to the sight of it and it no longer excites her or interests her or freaks her out. In contrast, dragons ARE something she's not used to seeing. That's why I paired these two things together. Is it that contrast that is being lost? Or did I fail in portraying that contrast so much that my sentences appeared to have another goal completely?

Also, the "seemed to"...I suppose I put that in there because it added to the not-sure-what-she's-actually-seeing idea. I thought that just saying that it did shimmer was a little too concrete...but maybe it isn't. It's good to get other people's point of view on these. Maybe I'm not trusting the reader's interpretation enough. I have a feeling I do that too much.

If the fact that she can't remember the stories too well is an important plot point, do you still think I should cut that? Or, in that case, should that be worked in later on? (I suspect the answer is later on.)

It's good to know that you all assumed the dragon had vanished when she rubbed her eyes. That's definitely something I need to fix, then. I also appreciate knowing that I wasn't clear about the fact that people are walking through the dragon, but that everyone can see the man. They're just moving around him, with only mild curiosity. The dragon is considerably taller and bigger than he is. (Although I now realize I have nothing that hints at size.)

The "but that didn't mean anything" phrase... you're absolutely right. I'm trying to express the feeling that she's more or less in denial of what she's seeing. (She heard a voice that told her to "look again," right before the dragon materialized, so she's fighting the impression that this is significant somehow. But you couldn't have known that from these four sentences.) She knows she's not supposed to be seeing something that is like the old stories, and she doesn't like that a strange voice got into her head. Therefore her mind is working to relegate it to her imagination and to tiredness.

But anyway... I DO need to be much more specific here...to think very carefully about exactly what is going through her mind, then portray that clearly, in a way that will tell the reader exactly how much I do and don't want them to know.

Thank you very much!

And thanks for the acting reminder, Jewel. I have done that before...but I need to be reminded sometimes, when I forget. :-) (And at least it was your husband and not a teenage son or your mother that walked in!)

em said...

Murphy, the things you say! Kathleen, that was Murphy who commented on her husband walking in on her and your right. Good thing it wasn't one of her kids.;)lol.

Murphy said...

Kathleen aren't Alicia's edits cool? Gives you a lot of insight.

As for your comments about someone else walking in?

Um...and I meant that ellipse (for the editors among us) because I have to pause before I admit this. My son has walked in on my husband and I. Of course the evening when I got the comforter tap, knowing it wasn't the husband because I mean, why would he be tapping, you know?;) I was a little stunned. Poking my head out from under the blankets and seeing my little son standing there in a sleepy sway, yawning as he asked: "what are you guys doing?" I blinked once, twice and then blurted out in panic, "Daddy and I are playing tent."
To which he responded, "Awesome!" And jumped in and the rest of my husband's and my evening was anything but that. The way I look at this now, however? Is that it could have been worse. He might still be in therapy today if I had been stupid enough to tell him the truth, right?:D

Babs said...

Murph, you are too much! Brilliant:)!!!!!!

Edittorrent said...

I think if you sharpen and simplify the syntax as I suggested, it would probably be clearer to me. In a paragraph, every word counts, so if you feel like you have a good purpose, you should work to make your expression the best and clearest and most evocative possible.