1. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    amongst the inferno?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Mckk, Dec 25, 2013.

    Can you be amongst an inferno? Something tells me no, but I just wanted to check.

    I'd originally written "amongst the fire", but wanted to use a different word cus I didn't wanna overuse "fire".

    It really has to be "in the inferno", doesn't it?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    "amongst", or "among", properly apply to placement in the midst of a group of countable items, not within a continuous something. You could be "amidst the inferno", though.
     
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  3. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Ah, so "amongst the fire" would still be wrong. Cheers, especially considering this is... er... the first sentence in the novel :D

    Amidst it is!

    You could be "spinning in the fire" though, right?

    Edit: maybe I'll just go with "She was spinning in the inferno". Is it better?
     
  4. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    Personally, I prefer "amidst the inferno." Spinning gives me the impression of someone literally standing in place and spinning around, like when you are trying to make yourself dizzy. Then again, I'd need to see it in context to solidify my decision.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i agree 'spinning' makes little sense, while 'amid' or 'amidst' would be somewhat better...

    that said, if the inferno is literal and not figurative--is meaning an actual fire--i don't see it working all that well... but i'd need to see the entire sentence and what comes before and after it, to judge it's effectiveness..
     
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  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Spinning makes perfect sense, because she is literally spinning. She's panicking in an actual fire that's engulfed the city running around looking for her daughter, who got lost in the crowd. It's not from her POV - it was meant to be the observer's POV but I haven't quite nailed that one down yet (right now it looks more like third person omniscient, which I suppose works too). Imagine a woman who basically sees that there's nowhere to go and nowhere to look, but is desperate to look somewhere as she stands in the streets and everything around her's on fire. In this instance, if my reader takes the spinning as literal, it's quite all right. If they take it as poetic license, that also works.

    Of course, thankfully I've never been in a fire, so in terms of the physiology of standing in the midst of a city-wide fire, I haven't a clue.

    You say "amidst" is better than "in" - any reason you guys think so?

    Since 2 of you asked for context, here it is - the entire paragraph. The sentence in question is the first sentence, so there's nothing before it.

    ------

    She was spinning in the inferno, her voice high above the chaos. Her dress whirled about her legs, flying with her steps as she cried. Breaking. The houses were breaking. Flames climbed the theatre and breadmaker’s, devouring wood and flesh indiscriminately. The bell tower teetered, burning above the skyline. Another roof collapsed.

    “Gemma?” She snapped around.
     
  7. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    You learn something new everyday. :)
     
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  8. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    I'll have to back what Cogito and Mammamaia have said. Grammatically "amid" or "amidst" would be appropriate, but I would have to see the phrase (and sentence) in context before providing an opinion on the best word-choice for your purpose.

    Edit: I didn't see your addition for the context. I think the way it's presented makes it seem like she's on fire at first. Perhaps moving that detail until after the description would allow readers to picture the place on fire and a person inside it. But that's just a suggestion that would need some tailoring.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2013
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  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    'spinning in the inferno' [or even 'amid/amidst'] sounds like she's on fire herself... the whole description you've provided leaves out how she can possibly be in the middle of such a conflagration, yet is not being consumed by it...
     
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  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I like it.

    One tweak: Is "she" snapping around calling out, "Gemma", or does "she" snap around upon hearing someone else call the name? If it's the latter, the action of a different person from the speaker needs a new paragraph so the reader knows "she" is not the speaker.

    “Gemma?”
    She snapped around.
     
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  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Thank you everyone. I'll trust your judgement and change it to "amidst".

    @GingerCoffee - thank you, I'm glad you like it :D She's the one shouting "Gemma". I was wondering about reversing the order, as in: 'She snapped around. "Gemma?"' instead.

    @Andrae Smith @mammamaia
    Hmm, as for it sounding like she's on fire herself... thank you for pointing that out. That doesn't sound like the best ambiguity to have, especially as the opening. Perhaps what Andrae Smith suggested could work, since I kinda wanna keep the spinning as I like the image. How about this? I've changed the order of one sentence and added another clause, which should hopefully deal with the ambiguities.

    ----

    The bell tower teetered, burning above the skyline. She was spinning amidst the inferno, trapped on the ash-laden street. Her dress whirled about her legs, flying with her steps as she cried. Breaking. The houses were breaking. Flames climbed the theatre and breadmaker’s, devouring wood and flesh indiscriminately. Another roof collapsed.

    She snapped around. “Gemma?”

    ----

    I feel like I've lost the momentum that it had when it started with "She was spinning in the inferno" though. Although I definitely don't want her to sound like she's on fire herself.

    Does the revised one work, and do people have any preferences for one or the other? Bear in mind, this is supposed to be the opening.

    One question: is it clear that she's looking for Gemma?
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2013
  12. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    I would try moving it a little bit later, personally. Only you will know what you need for your story, but I would try something like this:
    ----------
    The bell tower teetered, burning above the skyline. Flames climbed the theatre and breadmaker’s, devouring wood and flesh indiscriminately. Another roof collapsed. Breaking. The houses were breaking. She was spinning amidst the inferno, trapped on the ash-laden street. Her dress whirled about her legs, flying with her steps as she cried.

    She snapped around. “Gemma?”

    ----------
    Does this work for you? When you build your paragraphs, think of each sentence as taking a step forward. Here we have a slightly more logical progression of information.
    1. the bell tower teetered, burning...
    2. it's burning in the fire, which is consuming other buildings and hopeless people
    ---->Suggesting a total disaster
    3. Another roof collapsed, and the scene focuses to give us houses and then a street
    4. In all this turmoil we have a girl.

    Personally, I don't know the importance of line, "Breaking. The houses were breaking." It seems like stylistic, and unnecessary emphasis that somewhat hinders the flexibility of theparagraph. If it is not important, I would rewrite it as such (just as an example, not suggesting that my way is any better):
    --------
    The bell tower teetered, burning above the skyline. Flames climbed the theatre and breadmaker’s, devouring wood and flesh indiscriminately. Another roof collapsed as the houses broke apart. She was spinning amidst the inferno, trapped on the ash-laden street, her dress whirling about her legs, flying with her steps as she cried.

    She snapped around. “Gemma?”

    --------
    The line "She snapped around." still feels a little awkward because we already have the image of her spinning/turning.
     
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  13. Macaberz
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    Macaberz Pay it forward Contributor

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    It seems strange to me that she is the one who is spinning. Having the inferno spin and twirl around is easier on my imagination and also helps clarify that she isn't on fire herself. Might I suggest:

    --

    The bell tower teetered, burning above the skyline. The inferno twirled around her, trapping her on the ash-laden street. The houses were breaking, roofs collapsing, and flames climbed the theatre and breadmaker’s, devouring wood and flesh indiscriminately. Another building collapsed. Her dress whirled about her legs as she cried.

    “Gemma?”


    --

    It's just another take on your paragraph really, I can only hope it is of some use to you :)
     
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  14. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    The bell tower teetered, burning above the skyline. Flames climbed the theatre and breadmaker’s, devouring wood and flesh indiscriminately. Another roof collapsed as the houses broke apart. The inferno twirled around her, trapping her on the ash-laden street. Her dress whirled about her legs, flying with her steps as she cried.
    “Gemma?”

    I made that up taking parts of @Andrae Smith and @Macaberz paragraphs and combining them in a different order. I think the scene plays out better showing the town burning before "she" is brought into the equation.

    Edit: The only thing this passage leaves me wondering is who exactly "her" is. Does "her" have a name? I think it would work even better as say:

    The inferno twirled around Samantha, trapping her on the ash-laden street.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2013
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  15. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    I really like this new version (and not just because it has some of my changes in it). It flows nicely. My only other concern is the use of short sentences. But that is just a small thing. Good work and good luck!
     
  16. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Andrae Smith - the lines "Breaking. The houses were breaking" are indeed just a stylistic thing. I was basically attempting to sorta merge the idea of her voice breaking, and the houses breaking. Hence the order of "as she cried. Breaking. The houses..." Stylistically I think it works, however it is true that it might not be the best place to include such a device. I have also wondered if I should keep the burning references together. I think my inclination not to do so is only because I often like to write as though I'm watching a film (which isn't all that uncommon judging from what I've read on this forum) - you know, on screen you might see the background, a flash of movement, and then zoom out for the bigger picture. However, I am still learning when theatrical devices actually *don't* work in prose, and perhaps this is one of those instances?

    Overall I feel like keeping the burning references means losing the poetry that I was hoping to achieve in my writing (or perhaps it's not poetic at all even in its original? That's possible). However, I also do feel like it flows better to keep the burning refs together and then focus in on the girl.

    Btw, when you said your only other concern is the use of short sentences, do you mean the lack of short sentences? I feel like most of the sentences are of average length. If I'd kept the "Breaking" reference, then there would be a short sentence.

    @Macaberz - thank you for pointing out the alternative of having the inferno twirl instead. It does keep the motion that I wanted whilst clarifying the fact that she's not on fire. I might use that :)

    @Alesia - like Andrae, I rather like your rewrite too because the dialogue follows well with "as she cried". I hadn't thought of putting them together (odd... lol) and it solves the problem Andrae raised about "She snapped around" being awkward in the context of her already spinning. It also clears up the potential confusion as to why she's calling for Gemma or that the woman might even be Gemma. (she's not Gemma)

    The woman's called Loretta and Gemma is her daughter. I don't want to give her a name, however, because she's just a victim of the war - there will be no reference to her or Gemma again, really, and neither has any significance in the story. It's just to show the backdrop of the situation of the novel. This scene is here actually to show my villain, Shadow Walker, who is the one watching Loretta panic in the flames. I worry that if I give Loretta's name, it'll be confusing for the readers - there's already quite a bit of panic about with the fire, there's some girl called Gemma, in the next 2 paragraphs Shadow Walker will be introduced (alongside a shape-shifting demon) and then he says some cryptic things before basically "killing her softly" lol (knife to the back whilst he hugs her to him). It's also a fantasy setting where as part of the description I mention their lord of the Underworld Morvitus in a burning prayer altar. (trying to nail that sense of being damned, but not quite there yet)

    And all that's only 450 words. It's quite a chunk to take in, so I'm not sure about throwing in Loretta's name too when she's not even important.

    Thank you for showing me how else I can rearrange this paragraph :) I must say I think I prefer everyone's rewrites in terms of clarity. I'll see how else I might rewrite it, and if there's no way to keep my stylistic preferences while still being focused and clear, then I'll go for clarity :) My stylistic preferences are come in later, in less confusing scenes where there's more context.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2013
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the problem with 'spinning' is that it refers to a specific action that doesn't seem at all appropriate in this situation... you seem to mean she was 'spinning around' as in turning this way and that, seeking a safe path out of the fire zone...

    but just plain 'she was spinning' doesn't give the reader that impression at all... it has us picturing her doing pirouettes in the middle of a fire, or being spun like a top, instead of just getting the heck out of there, which makes no sense...
     
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  18. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    @Mckk, the thing to remember is that most often writing "cinematically" (as though its a movie that you can see) does not work because film and visual storytelling methods make use of different deices to create an effect. The audio and video, or in comics just the pictures, will create certain effects, but in writing like this, we have to ensure that there is a logical progression when it comes to the release of information. We need sentences to connect to each other and lead into each other so that they create the full images before transitioning. More often than not, the theatrical style, doesn't translate the best for fiction for the printed word.. Even in graphic novels, the order of the frames will be a bit different than you might find in a motion picture. :p
     
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  19. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @mammamaia - thanks for expanding on what my sentence meant to you. It seems clear now that perhaps the spinning doesn't work. I quite like the inferno twirling idea that the others have suggested, so I think I might go with that instead. It keeps the motion I wanted, without being confusing. I guess originally I wanted a little bit of "confusion" - or that something isn't quite as it seemed. This was meant to be my villain's observation of the woman, only the reader doesn't know yet there's an observer at all at this point - in any case, that's why I went for what I did. It's the villain's romantic image of her, it wasn't meant to be how she was exactly or literally. To my villain, she's dancing. However, I get that perhaps that could only work once the context has been established and thus, this is not a good place for what I wanted. It's better for the opening to be immediately understandable.

    @Andrae Smith - thanks, yeah totally agree with you. Just haven't quite worked out when it is cinematic conventions shaping my writing and when it's good structure lol. This will take time because it's a habit, but I'll keep what you've said in mind and make logical progression more of a priority. This is not the first time when someone indicated my sentences should be restructured based on their content.
     
  20. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    With 'Breaking. The houses were breaking', to me it doesn't fit into a city on fire scene, but I love the short, sharp sentences. It conveys the panic nicely. Maybe you could have a sound like 'Crack! Another house broken.'

    If you're still going for the spinning idea, it didn't gel with me personally. I imagined her spinning on the spot. And with the word amidst, you could convey the fire being around her instead? Like 'Flames everywhere she looked. The belltower teetered...' or you could go with 'Flames surrounded her everywhere (every way?) she turned'.
     
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  21. Patra Felino
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    Patra Felino Active Member

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    What about "in the midst of"? If you still want to start with it, you could go for "In the midst of the inferno she span, her voice...

    EDIT: or "...she spun..." in American English.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2014
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  22. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Never come across "span" as a past tense form before, but you're right that it does exist. It's an archaic form, according to the dictionary, and I believe probably out of use. No one, at least in England, uses "span" as the past tense of "spin" nowadays to my knowledge.

    Anyway I like your phrase - it fits better into the overall tone of the novel, but for this particular scene it sounds a little passive. I can, however, imagine the line as part of a piece of narrative describing perhaps a dancer weaving a spell in the midst of a fire, and it's pretty :)

    @Magnatolia - thank you, I like the phrase "flames everywhere she looked". :) I am ditching the spinning idea - my use of the word "spin" was meant as a sort of poetic device, but it was clearly a failed poetic device since it seems everyone on this thread agrees it doesn't make much sense lol.
     
  23. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    Might not last long though.
     
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  24. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    good point, Robert!

    if you use 'in the midst of' or anything similar, readers will assume there's no way out and she will die... if that's not to be the case, then you need to adjust your wording to leave open the possibility for her to escape unscathed, or at least alive...
     
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