1. Matthew Cox
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    Matthew Cox Member

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    Choice of Phrasing - Looking for opinions

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Matthew Cox, Mar 29, 2013.

    Hello all.

    While trying to get Division Zero published, I wound up sending a sample chapter to a freelance editor just to get a quote to see what that sort of thing costs. (Yipe is all i'll say).

    Anyway, he did make one suggestion that I'm not sure how I feel about. It breaks from my tone, I think, and sounds a bit crass. Below are both passages, I'm looking for which one people think reads better. (If this excerpt is too brief to make a judgement please let me know and I will post a bit more.)

    Basically, i'll just explain the set up. the MC is in a mall, waiting for the antagonist to show up. She got some Chinese food, reconstituted on a molecular level from a base protein slime. Unfortunately the place did a lousy job and it's melting back into its constituent oozes.

    ---

    What I had:

    What he suggested:


    Thanks :)
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Well the second is definitely clear and concise. The first a bit flowery. But you might not be comfortable with
    swearing. I avoid myself when I can.
    My suggestion would be to cut some of the flowery words - incontinent,
    flock of, had their way with it - maybe - Kristen had ordered Chow Mein, but it looked like a sidewalk bombed by seagulls.

    I suggested bombed - because it would be humorous without being too crass.
     
  3. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    I can't see the analogy to a sidewalk/footpath.

    Say something like, Kristen had ordered Chow Mein, but it looked like a mouthfull of pre-chewed tobacco;
    ...the contents of a seagull's stomach;
    ...part-digested curry;
    ...an alcoholic's liver...

    Your mind can run riot with that one.
     
  4. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Instead of seagulls, try pigeons. Seagulls are not immediately synonymous with urban landscapes.
     
  5. Matthew Cox
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    Matthew Cox Member

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    good point on the pigeons...

    SwampDog - i'm going for the allegory that the contents of the plate looked like bird poop.


    "... but it looked like the aftermath of a flock of pigeons." ?
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Depends where you live. ;)
     
  7. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    True, i live in a city where we have both Seagulls and Pidgeons.... so either would fit...

    if you dont like the idea of swearing, try and find an alternative way of saying it, for instance

    it looked like the slime in the bottom of a garbage can...
    it gave the appearance of congealed eggs...
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    matthew...
    aside from everyone's ideas on what you 'should' have written [a la that overreaching editor], the point is that he has totally ignored his client's 'voice' with that drastic change in the text... which is a mortal sin, to my mind, since i always make sure to maintain each client's distinctive literary 'character' when editing his/her work...

    i'd have only made a few minor grammatical corrections and suggested that 'had their way with it' doesn't really relate to the situation as well as it could and offered something a bit more relevant, such as 'had done a flyover' or, 'had made a bombing run'...

    i sure hope the sample was free of charge...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  9. Matthew Cox
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    Matthew Cox Member

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    how's that sound? :)

    Thanks mamma :) I was kind of surprised at the drastic change he suggested. yes it was his free sample.


    Oh.. one other question. (glances hopefully at mamma)

    Another thing he said was that it was a bad idea to name my chapters. I have a habit of doing that; in both of the manuscripts i've written so far. The newer one I stuck to one word names, the first has longer ones. Is that just a preference thing or is it inappropriate to do that for adult fiction?
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I think seagulls are fine - they imply the character is from a coastal area, and believe me, seagulls are messy scavengers!

    There are perhaps other elements of your brief excerpt I'd recommend changing before the part he suggested, but that's not really the issue. I think the reason he flagged that, and I'm inclined to agree with him, is that it tries too hard to be cute. The analogy works well without detracting from it with overworked phrasing.

    The KISS principle prevails: keep it simple and smart.
     
  11. Matthias King
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    Matthias King New Member

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    Perhaps use the pigeons and the classic example of a freshly washed car being victimized by bird droppings the second it's driven out of the car wash.
     
  12. Matthew Cox
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    Matthew Cox Member

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    ^ less cute?
     
  13. Matthias King
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    Matthias King New Member

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    That's good. It gets your original idea across, but is less cute and more concise.

    The editor's original note served the purpose too, but if you're trying to avoid swearing, this is a good way to go.
     
  14. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    To be honest, I like the second one better. No offense, but your prose is a tad verbose and convoluted. Try trimming the fat.
     
  15. Matthew Cox
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    Matthew Cox Member

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    :) thanks.

    I have nothing against swearing, but it just didn't feel right here. The POV at the time (Kirsten) generally doesn't swear unless she's angry or scared and pushed out of her comfort zone. 'a plate of seagull shit' and 'the sidewalk after a flock of incontinent seagulls' both say the same thing. I suppose I do take a few more words than necessary at times to convey a thought; but I am trying to carry a voice and add variety. I've been going through the ms and whittling out some of the overworded parts. I just thought that the particular suggestion I got for this was a bit TOO starkly different than what I had before.

    The other character at the table with her would have no qualms of calling it a plate full of bird shit; maybe I should just use dialog for it rather than omniscient narrative... I'm trying to add an artistic sense to the writing rather than just a rote - she does x. x happens. Y looks like Z. Maybe i'm trying too hard.
     
  16. Matthias King
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    Matthias King New Member

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    I think you have to go with your gut, since we lack the context of everything that comes before and after the part in question.

    And nothing says that this editor is right. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with being verbose.

    Keeping it simple can be helpful, but it can also water things down, it depends on the circumstance. Like I said, go with your gut. You know your material, and if you think your original wording fits the character and situation better, don't be afraid to stick to it.
     
  17. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It was--I agree that it's a drastic and therefore probably inappropriate change in voice. As I see it, the description is only useful for insight into your character's thoughts (or personality or mood), and therefore it should reflect her way of thinking. If she would circle around the concept, then the description should as well.

    Now, it may turn out that the description doesn't earn its keep and it has to go. But if it stays, it should reflect the character's, er, character.
     
  18. Markowen
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    Markowen New Member

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    Well, just reading this sentence, I would have cut it at the same way. For my style, I don't like beating about the bush. But I don't know the register you used in your work, so it's complicated to talk about it.
    Besides, I don't think the word "shit" is so crass, but of course this doesn't depends on me, but on the nature of your character.
    By the way, I don't think it is a so drammatical modification. It seems that Gordon Lish did a lot more cuts on the Carver's shorts.
     
  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    The word isn't so crass, but for some people it would be entirely out of character. I don't think I've ever used it, in my entire life. And it's very informal, so if it's used, it would, IMO, express a viewpoint character's personality, rather than a narrator's voice. To me, that wouldn't work.
     
  20. Matthew Cox
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    Matthew Cox Member

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    That's good advice... I'll take some time and go over the scene in my head, and think about how the character would imagine it... I doubt that Kirsten would use 'incontinent'... About to leave to head home from work. Thanks everyone :)
     
  21. Markowen
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    Markowen New Member

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    Yes, it's what I meant when I said "this doesn't depends on me, but on the nature of your character".
    But if it works or not, I think, it's possible to know only having read more than this sentence.
    And, :), I never used it too...
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's not usually done for adult fiction... just numbering is best...
     

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