Saturday, August 22, 2009

My answers to comments get so long, might as well keep building up the "Theresa owes me another drink" credits

Jami G said:
Considering everything that had happened, she supposed blah,blah,blah

I don't know about other people, but I actually say "Considering..." at the beginning of sentences sometimes. If I "fix" it to "When she considered...", it sounds more formal. What's your take on this example?


Well, I'm agnostic on it. Sounds okay. the "everything that had happened" bothers me more than the participle, actually.

The problem is, you're trying to find some example of when a PPP can work. Okay. But that's still likely to be a boring sentence. Generic. Vague. Sorry, but go for meaning first. (I know you just wanted to come up with an example, but ...) My point here is, there is very little in that construction that is likely to aid in imbedding more meaning or interest or involvement into a sentence. Sometimes it's going to be inoffensive. Sometimes it's going to be okay. Sometimes it might even be right. But will it be powerful? Important? Thoughtful? Maybe you can make it so. But what I'm saying is-- make the thought worth a sentence, and then find the best way of conveying that thought AND its connections to what comes before and after. If that happens to be a PPP, go for it. But for whatever reason, PPPs are usually not very useful and meaningful sentence openings. I don't know why, though I'm sure I can speculate and come up with something that sounds momentarily significant. (g)

So looking at the "considering" sentence, well, maybe it's okay, though I will point out, even if you completed the sentence, it's likely to be pretty generic. Me-- and I always go overboard with introspection, I know-- I'd probably go ahead and show her considering. "She considered AB and C. The memory of C made her wince. She supposed she was lucky she'd only been sentenced to two years."

Or-- "With A, B, and C, she supposed she was lucky..."

But I guess if it's important enough to have in the story, it's important enough to explain. I'm not good at summary, and I think it's kind of the enemy of verisimilitude. We might think in summary, but I don't think we "consider" in summary.

Anyway, yeah, that would be an okay sentence. I just hope that we're all shooting for better than "okay" here. :)

Alicia

9 comments:

Jami G. said...

Alicia,

Here's to lots of drinks for you! :) And if we ever meet in person, I'll spring for as many as you want. (Hmm, maybe I can even turn that to my advantage...)

Yes, I understand your point. And I promise I wasn't specifically trying to find a PPP that worked just so I could thumb my nose or anything. I can see that in many cases, it would be better to spell things out.

But in my defense, can I just say that, in context, it's not boring or generic. :) The meaning of the sentence is to show the heroine's internal thought process and how she's rationalizing her behavior. The "considering" phrase is used as shorthand to explain how she reaches her conclusion. It would be redundant to repeat everything she was considering because the reader had just experienced it. Somehow, I don't think it'd improve anything to say: Considering that she was just murdered and then attempted murder and now was stuck with her murderer/victim, she supposed the old rules of her life didn't apply anymore. :)

Jami G.
(Hey, Murphy? Can I borrow that insulated cushion for this hot seat? LOL!)

Jami G. said...

On further thought, I wonder if I should just change "Considering" to "Given" and avoid the whole issue? :)

Edittorrent said...

Given is a past participle, Jami. And Theresa promised at some point to explain the problem with those, too. :)


But in my defense, can I just say that, in context, it's not boring or generic. :) The meaning of the sentence is to show the heroine's internal thought process and how she's rationalizing her behavior.


Now is that important? Yes? Sounds important to me. Why are you relegating it to a minor element in a sentence? Not even the main clause? Do you mean to signal to the reader this isn't important?

What you put in minor elements, you're saying isn't important. So if you tell me this is important, I will just tell you then it's important enough to express in its own sentence, and make the connection with what's now in the main clause a full paragraph. Why do you want to summarize something important?
Alicia

Edittorrent said...

What I'm trying to say, badly, is that part of what you want to do is think about what is meaningful here. Revision isn't just about fixing sentences, it's about deciding what needs to be amplified or explored or fleshed out. So whenever you come across the PPP, consider whether what's in there needs amplification, or whether it's unimportant enough (or just scene setting or "stage business") to be relegated to a participle. And if you have a whole lot of things minor enough to relegate to participles, the question becomes... are you concentrating too much on unimportant things in your narrative? (I'm sure you're not!)

Theresa talks about "relative narrative impact," which I think means focusing the narrative on important things. So don't summarize their argument and concentrate a whole lot on a play-by-play of the softball game. :)

Anyway, that's something to ask her to write a post about. We should remember that!
Alicia

Alicia

Jami G. said...

Alicia said:
Given is a past participle, Jami. And Theresa promised at some point to explain the problem with those, too. :)

So are there any words that are safe to use? Yeesh, maybe leaving it at a blank page is the only way to go...

*ducking* LOL!

Edittorrent said...

Or maybe we should concentrate on thoughts, ideas, images, emotions, and not words. Get the above right, and words will come. But we need the sentence constructions in our brain so that we can express our imagined world.

But the ideas come first. And to some degree, I think I'm slowly coming at this thought-- inadequate expression could be a sign of inadequate imagining. Maybe when we express something vaguely it's because we only have a vague idea to express. But giving ourselves vivid words, vivid constructions, will give us both the challenge and the method to express more complex, more interesting ideas.

I remember an immigrant who learned English in high school speculating that with so many words expressing "freedom" in the language, it was no surprise that English speaking countries found their way to freedom more expeditiously than countries whose language didn't have such easy expression of the concept.

Not sure which would come first-- the concept or the ability to express that concept. But I know with storytelling, the more advanced and flexible our ability to tell a story, the more interesting and complex our stories can become.


Alicia

Jami G. said...

Alicia,

Yes, I think there are many interesting scientific studies waiting to happen when it comes to language and thought processes. It's interesting to find out from an immigrant when they start dreaming in their adopted language. Or the fact that children tend to forget virtually everything that happens to them prior to age 8. Is that because of some inability to express their memories in vivid terms? If you can't put it into words, does that make it harder to remember?

The difference between general thoughts and feeling and worded thoughts and feeling - our internal monologue - is actually an important element in my WIP.

I also think you're right about the problems with vague ideas. The hardest scenes for me to write are the ones where that movie in my head is fuzzy.

Thanks for everything you do here. I completely agree that our stories will improve if we have more tools at our disposal. Thanks for making us think!
Jami G.

Petronella said...

Thank you for all the excellent advice, Alicia. I've got lots of work ahead of me, if I want my novel to be the way I picture it.

Jami, I see movies in my head too, and too many times I can't find the words for what I'm seeing.

One of the hardest things for me is finding the right words to show what my characters are feeling.

Jami G. said...

Petronella said: One of the hardest things for me is finding the right words to show what my characters are feeling.

Yes, I completely understand. Especially since I write paranormal stuff, this is hard for me too. It's not like I've ever experienced the things I write about. :)

Jami G.