Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Marie edits

Marie-

“You didn’t even come to his funeral,” I whispered, my voice breaking as I remembered, “I needed you there Tommy, I needed you.”
“Don’t you make me feel guilty Hunter,” Tommy muttered, “I can’t take any more guilt.” I flinched away from the harshness in his voice. His glinting eyes, which had been as soft as gray velvet a moment ago, transformed so fast that it made it me uneasy.

This is first-person, and we haven't had many of those!

“You didn’t even come to his funeral,” I whispered, my voice breaking as I remembered, “I needed you there Tommy, I needed you.”

Let's work on the punctuation first. I have to get past that in order to see anything else. :)
“You didn’t even come to his funeral,” I whispered, my voice breaking as I remembered,

Correctly punctuating dialogue is very important as a sign to the editor or agent that you pay attention to details. So let's get that right. First, you have two sentences of dialogue that you're connecting with a quote tag. Now the quote tag goes with one or the other sentence, not both. As long as they're in the same paragraph, the reader will know that they are both spoken by the same person, the one identified in the quote tag. So think of the first speech unit and the quote tag as a sentence, with a period at the end, not a comma. (You'd use a comma if the second part of speech was the end of the first speech sentence, like: "You'd use a comma," she said, "if the second part was a continuation of the sentence.")
So:
“You didn’t even come to his funeral,” I whispered, my voice breaking as I remembered. “I needed you there Tommy, I needed you.”

Also, "Tommy" is set off, before and after, with commas:
“I needed you there, Tommy, I needed you.”


Parentheticals like a name are set off before and after with commas.

Okay. Now that I have the punctuation fixed, I can read. :) Really, it's a curse. But it's an EDITOR'S curse. If you want the editor to be able to read the words and sentences and paragraphs and pages, you have to have the punctuation right. And when you stop getting it right, the editor might stop reading. So fix it ALL THE WAY THROUGH. Do not give the editor a moment to think, "You know, she didn't take the time to fix the punctuation. She thinks I've got more time than she does. She's wrong. Form rejection."

“You didn’t even come to his funeral,” I whispered, my voice breaking as I remembered. “I needed you there, Tommy, I needed you.”

The only problem I have NOW is "as I remembered". As I remembered what? I do know what you mean-- as I remembered that Tommy didn't come to the funeral. But think about adding as I remembered ... what? His absence? That rainy day and the muddy gravesite? Put it in, and then take it out if it doesn't work.
“I needed you there, Tommy, I needed you.”

I kind of felt like you needed some amplification there at the end: I really needed you?

“Don’t you make me feel guilty Hunter,” Tommy muttered, “I can’t take any more guilt.” I flinched away from the harshness in his voice. His glinting eyes, which had been as soft as gray velvet a moment ago, transformed so fast that it made it me uneasy.

"Hunter". Parenthetical (direct address name). Comma. Please. This is one of those automatic commas-- no discretion at all. You really, really, really can do this. When you are using a name in a direct address (addressing the owner of the name), set the name off with commas. Really. You can do this. Incorporate this simple rule, and never, ever violate it again. It won't hurt you at all. Really.

And again, if you are interrupting speech with a quote tag, go back and check. If both parts are full sentences, the quote tag is followed by a period. So-- and you actually don't have to send me chocolate for this, but remember, if you're that grateful, I like the expensive stuff--
“Don’t you make me feel guilty, Hunter,” Tommy muttered. “I can’t take any more guilt.”

Your dialogue is good. Your punctuation should be impeccable so that the editor can see the goodness of your dialogue.

“Don’t you make me feel guilty, Hunter,” Tommy muttered. “I can’t take any more guilt.” I flinched away from the harshness in his voice. His glinting eyes, which had been as soft as gray velvet a moment ago, transformed so fast that it made it me uneasy.


Now when do I go for short paragraphs? Dialogue. All the dialogue, action, whatever of one speaker should be in one paragraph. BREAK the paragraph when that's done. So the "I flinched" should be in a new paragraph. It's about "I", not Tommy:

“Don’t you make me feel guilty, Hunter,” Tommy muttered. “I can’t take any more guilt.”

I flinched away from the harshness in his voice. His glinting eyes, which had been as soft as gray velvet a moment ago, transformed so fast that it made it me uneasy.


Much better. Last cavil-- what's "it"? It made it me uneasy? First IT isn't clear, because "it" can't refer to "eyes" (plural), and probably not "velvet," so ... I know, I know. You mean that "it" is the "transformation." But "transformation" isn't in the sentence. "Transformed" is. You might be thinking, "But the reader will understand." Yeah, maybe. And the editor will understand this: "I'm going to have to fix that. That isn't one of those easy fixes. What if there are lots of 'its' in this book? What if half of them don't have the right antecedent? My head is already starting to hurt."

Here's what I suggest. YOU fix that, and spare the editor the trouble. (Oh, and proof-- that second 'it' is a typo.)

transformed so fast I was uneasy.
? You can do better than I did, I'm sure. It's late and my brain is slow. But you can do it. Just be conscious -- in revision, not in drafting-- of every word.
Alicia

6 comments:

Leona said...

Have we thanked you enough, yet, for your seemingly effortless fixes of our prose? I'm not sure we have, but we will endeavor to fix that.

I'm continuously having "V8" moments when reading your posts. I'm also having those moments of, "Oh, I get it. I wish my English teacher had explained it that way."

So, thanks again!

Jami G. said...

Hi Marie,

Once again, Alicia made some really good points. I don't have a whole lot to add, but I thought I'd give this a go...

“You didn’t even come to his funeral,” I whispered, my voice breaking as I remembered,

Maybe try:

“You didn’t even come to his funeral,” I whispered, my voice breaking with the memory.

And:

His glinting eyes, which had been as soft as gray velvet a moment ago, transformed so fast that it made it me uneasy.

Maybe try:

His eyes, which had been as soft as gray velvet a moment ago, transformed into a steely glint so fast that my breath caught in my throat. (Or something like that - "uneasy" strikes me as one of those weeny words - describe what "uneasy" feels like.)

Thanks for giving us the opportunity to stick our noses into your work. :)

Jami G.

frohock said...

I had an English instructor in college who made me so paranoid about using the word "it" in a sentence, I dropped the word from my vocabulary! I only use "it" when "it" is absolutely necessary. ;-)

Teresa

Murphy said...

frohock, I'm with you on the 'it' thing. I blame my parents. Growing up I heard things like: "It? It who? It what? If you're going to take the time to say 'it' why not name 'it' so I know exactly what you are talking about." Keep in mind that I was all of five or so and everything that was pointed out to me at that time had to be interesting or I filed it under (in one ear out the other). I think my dad got that. One day while he was saying the old 'it' mantra for the umpteenth time, he stopped and asked, “You do understand what I'm saying don't you?" When I shrugged noncommital, he fought hard to get the point across. "Okay, I want you to think of cousin It." (the Adam's Family was my favorite T.V shows so yup, he had my attention.) "Do you know what he looks like under all that hair?" When I said no, he smiled. "That's what your 'it' is like in a sentence. It's there but not clear and if you want to be understood by the person you're speaking with it's best to make it clear."
Well, I did get the gist of what he was saying (although the visual it's left me with is disconcerting at times) but, hey, my dad was also the guy that countered my: "Can I go to the park?" With: "I don't know, can you?" Do you know how long it took me to figure that one out? I used to walk down to the park thinking: 'Why does he keep asking me that?':D

frohock said...

LOL, Murphy! I really like the Cousin It analogy. ;-)
Teresa

Babs said...

Brilliant Murphy! I liked your analogy as well and what a good way to get the 'Can I'? v.s 'May I'? across. I'll have to remember this.;)