Ian said...*jumps and waves* me me meeee!
Here's a couple paragraphs from my current WIP:
He found Javier sprawled across the hall. Foamy, pinkish vomit leaked from his mouth and nose and his complexion had gone deathly pale underneath his normal olive skin tone.
What I'd be working on here, and it would take some rewriting, is the whole "he/his" problem. Probably I'd fix it by making the description a trailing participial phrase so it's clear it modifies Javier? And I might end with the vomit as it's more striking, but I think it's all about what the POV character would notice first, and I really don't know-- would you notice vomit first, or deathly palitude? Both are pretty visible. Also trim the last-- too "writerly," that "skin tone. Olive skin. And he always has olive skin, not just normally. It might not be olive colored now, but it's olive skin. :) And "pinkish" is ... oops. I sound like a sexist. But most men tend to be, um, less than discerning about the differentials between shades, and it's sort of impressive he'd even notice "pink". Pinkish is too prettified for vomit. :) It's either pink or not. And I usually delete commas before colors (before noun).
He found Javier sprawled across the hall, foamy pink vomit leaking from his mouth and nose and his complexion deathly pale underneath his olive skin.
You know, I would go ahead and put the skin first, because then you can get rid of "complexion," that monstrous word, because HE is deathly pale, not just his complexion. Like this:
He found Javier sprawled across the hall, deathly pale underneath his olive skin, with foamy pink vomit leaking from his mouth and nose.
Maybe I'd use "under" or "beneath"- underneath is a bit old-fashioned. Foamy and leaking are a bit off, but I couldn't think of another verb. Bubbling? Or pink vomit foamed from....
Tommy cursed and yanked off his gloves to check for life signs. Javier’s pulse was weak and seemed dangerously slow, and his breathing bordered on catatonic.
I never leave "seemed" there unless a bit later it comes out that whatever "seemed" isn't actually so. Tommy's not stupid. If he knows how to check for vital signs, he knows if the pulse is dangerously slow.
And I'm not sure what catatonic breathing is, but I like the phrase, so what the heck.
Tommy cursed and yanked off his gloves to check for life signs. Javier’s pulse was weak and dangerously slow, and his breathing bordered on catatonic.
Using his fine control of air currents, Tommy raised Javier up on a cushion of air, face down, and tilted so his head was lower than his torso.
"Fine control" sounds like -- well, what do you mean by "fine"? Is it a compliment, like "he has fine manners," or do you mean "fine" like "fine motor skills?" Since the word could mean either here, I'd either find another word or (my preference) delete it. Control is control. If I hadn't just used "with," I'd have that instead of "using". Diminish, diminish-- and a participial phrase, because it uses a verbal (using) is "bigger" than a nice efficient prepositional phrase. And "bigger" should be reserved for more important words that "using," which, like "having" and "being" are lame ways to start a sentence. They almost always are substituting for something more punchy (in this case, probably "controlling"). That is, participles and other verbals shouldn't be wasted on what are basically modals -- well, they're not grammatically modals, but they feel like modals, like they're there to help some other, more important verb.
"Tilted him," or "tilted the body," I'm afraid, otherwise we're going to imagine Tommy leaning to the side. ("Tilted" can be either a reflexive or a transitive verb-- Tommy can tilt to the side, or Tommy can tilt Javier, but without an object there, we're going to assume Tommy is tilting himself.)
Torso sounds prissy. Sorry, just sounds Victorian to me. Head lower than what? his stomach? his hips? his feet?
With his control of air currents, Tommy raised Javier up on a cushion of air, face down, and tilted him so his head was lower than his hips.
If you mean "tilted" as the past participle (modifier) not verb, so that it's with "face down," then no comma between them, so we know they are of the same weight/part of speech:
With his control of air currents, Tommy raised Javier up on a cushion of air, face down and tilted so his head was lower than his hips.
He used a gentle stream of air pressure to force Javier’s lungs clear, inflating them to push out syrupy hunks of bloodstained phlegm.
Okay, usually I try to trim, but here, I'd ask for more. Did he bend over J's head? Or was this done by remote? I mean, was it like artificial respiration, or some other technique that goes with his levitation ability? I think you probably have to go ahead and describe it, because there aren't enough visualization cues. If he bends over him and puts his own mouth right on that vomity mouth, I think we have to know, and probably see him flinch from the feel and smell, and also dodge the hunks of phlegm. If he's got some remote ability, show that, and I'd still suggest he needs to dodge the hunks of phlegm.
But this is the sort of problem I'd have to send back to the author, because I don't know what you want here-- it goes beyond line-editing into the actual action of the scene.
He wished he could keep Javier breathing, but Tommy couldn’t control so much air so finely as he needed to now. Javier would have to breathe on his own for a few minutes, because the next part would be even more unpleasant.
Again, I'd query this, because I don't get it-- he wishes he could keep him breathing (which indicates that J is going to stop breathing unless he gets help)? And then J would have to breathe on his own?
And ... Tommy couldn’t control so much air so finely as he needed to now.
Probably by this point in the book, the reader will know what Tommy can do with air and how he does it. But even so, I'd query what does he need to do now? That is, it sounds like he can either keep J breathing, or do this other thing (keep J up in the air? something else that will come clear in a minute? If the latter, I'd probably say "as he would need"-- as something that's going to happen in the future, even two seconds in the future, should be in that weird future past (that is, future tense in literary past, and that's the same as conditional, but it's not really conditional, never mind... it's "would"). And I'd cut "to"-- don't need it, and ending on a preposition, etc. "Now" doesn't count-- you're still ending the predicate on a preposition, and you shouldn't do that if you have another choice. So assume that I'd query, and you'd make it clearer what you meant-- here's how it would look, and, oh, yeah, I wouldn't have "so"twice there -- a bit prissy and British, but that might be what you want, a more formal tone. And do you need "so finely"? Controlling air does tend to mean you're doing it the right way, whatever way that is.
Tommy couldn’t control as much air as he needed now.
That probably doesn't say what you mean, which means that you need to go back to the original sentence and make it say what you mean, and then I could line edit that.
Javier would have to breathe on his own for a few minutes, because the next part would be even more unpleasant.
The next part of what? More unpleasant than what? Or more unpleasant for which of them? And the "because" sets up a causal relationship there, that because it's going to be unpleasant, Javier has to breathe on his own, and that's not really what you mean. You probably mean that Tommy can't take over the breathing, or do CPR or whatever, because he was going to do this other more unpleasant thing. That is, why does J have to breathe on his own? Because Tommy can't do it because he is going to be too busy doing something else? So this whole section I'd probably have to query on.
While maintaining the air cushion under his teammate, Tommy forced another stream of air in through Javier’s mouth, pushing it past his throat and esophagus into the man’s stomach. He couldn’t see what he was doing and had to estimate distances. If he guessed wrong, he could rupture an intestine.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
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Wow - very in-depth analysis. You're giving me loads to consider. Fortunately, this is still a first draft project, so I haven't even gone back through to clean it up yet (I'm like the guy who eats a box of Oreos before going to the dentist, except I'm giving an unedited first draft to you instead of brushing first).
To answer a couple of your questions...Tommy is a superhero with the ability to control air. This is established much earlier in the book. He's also gay, and fashionable enough to know the difference between pink, magenta, and rose. :-) What he's doing here is pumping Javier's stomach (Javier mixed the wrong drugs with alcohol).
Word Verification: Spulaco, which sounds like what's coming out of Javier's mouth.
Just a suggestion from someone who works with people with catatonic conditions - they never describe respiratory effort...
I stumbled over the same phrase as the last anon. Catatonic means no speaking. I've never heard the condition to affect breathing.
I guess you mean that he's not speaking because he's unconscious. But we already know that.
I'd cut. Catatonic puts the stress on speaking, and that's not where you're heading. Or so I guess.
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