1. mrieder79
    Offline

    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2013
    Messages:
    401
    Likes Received:
    283
    Location:
    Uyumbe

    Please help with a grammatically tortured sentence.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by mrieder79, Jul 11, 2013.

    When I read this sentence, something feels vaguely awkward but I cannot quite place it. I am not formally trained and have always had a rather blithe approach to the technical aspects of writing. In short, help please.


    She couldn't escape the dream and try as she might, she still couldn't shake the thought: how can I be a bassist in a band if I can't even think about being on stage without getting sick?
     
  2. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Take out everything before "How."
     
  3. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,804
    Likes Received:
    7,322
    Location:
    Scotland
    I don't know enough about the context to know if you should leave in the dream bit or not. Chicagoliz's sentence certainly reads better without it. However, if you need to keep the dream/thought bit in, why not try this:

    As I would write it: She couldn't escape the dream, and she still couldn't shake the thought: how can I be a bassist in a band, if I can't even think about being onstage without getting sick?

    (Basically, just eliminate 'try as she might' which is a cliched phrase and doesn't read well. It doesn't sound bad, if read out loud, but it does look clunky on the page.)
     
  4. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Following the advice of your Mark Twain quote, Jannert. I say get rid of it because it's excess verbiage -- we don't need it, and it doesn't add anything. We should know that she can't escape this dream of being on stage from her character. We should be shown that she can't escape this thought. The thought itself says it all. It tells us the problem the character is having. We don't need more, as far as that particular issue.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    I agree with Liz, take out what the reader doesn't need to figure out the intent.

    What dream can she not escape: That she wants to be a bassist? That she has a recurring dream she's a bassist in?

    Is that information somewhere else in the story?

    As written, with the commas where you you put them, I believe you are saying, "Try as she might she couldn't escape the dream." You put "and" in there but it contradicts the comma placement. It still confusing if she can't escape the dream or the thought.

    That makes, "She still couldn't shake the thought" a new sentence.

    If it was the thought she couldn't escape, then you've said it twice. If she couldn't escape it, the reader knows she tried.


    OK, so the more I try to parse that sentence, it still needs the excess cut, but if I replace "and" with "but" the meaning is more clear, except I don't know if that's your intended meaning.
     
  6. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,889
    Likes Received:
    10,072
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    I third this motion. Everything before the how is artsy filler. You're manipulating the reader to get your point instead of letting the reader get their of their own accord.
     
  7. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    What worries me is the overdose of modals, and the repetition:
    She couldn't escape the dream and try as she might, she still couldn't shake the thought: how can I be a bassist in a band if I can't even think about being on stage without getting sick?
    It needs trimming down, a lot, but I think you need to work out how you're going to do that yourself.
     
  8. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,969
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    There's too much in one sentence. Assuming I understand what you mean, I'd break it into several sentences. One possible rewrite:

    She couldn't shake the dream, but she couldn't find the solution. How could she join a band if just the thought of going onstage made her sick? All day, the problem gnawed at her... (blah de blah).
     
  9. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    ^^ as above maybe, but miss out the second "she".
     
  10. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,804
    Likes Received:
    7,322
    Location:
    Scotland
    Hmm. That was rather my point. It's easy to pick a single sentence to bits, but without context, we can't really comment on whether or not the information IN the sentence should remain. As a stand-alone sentence, I agreed completely with Chicagoliz, that the first half could be cut altogether.

    However, this sentence is taken out of context here. If the author is trying to link this sentence with an earlier dream or her character's previous efforts to "shake the thought," then the first half might need to be kept—in some form, anyway.

    We just don't have enough information.

    I made my comment on the basis that the author wanted a better way to say what she said—not on whether she should be saying it in the first place!

    By the way, Mark Twain meant that as a joke, and so do I! It's from his hilarious essay James Fennimore Cooper's Literary Offenses. You can certainly carry 'cutting to basics' way too far!
     
  11. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    My only problem with the sentence is the "dream" - on first reading, I thought she couldn't escape a dream she's had while she was sleeping, and that the effects of the dream/nightmare had stayed with her and she couldn't shake the feeling.

    In context though, I think it'll be fine. Judging from the explanatory nature of the sentence, I'd say it's fine if it's for YA. It could be more elegantly written, sure, but it all depends on what matches the tone of the rest of your book and character.
     
  12. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    what's confusing is whether you're referring to her having an actual dream when she sleeps, or 'dreaming of' becoming a bassist, in the sense of 'wanting to'...that needs to be made clear...

    and, in any case, you've crammed too much into one poor sentence...
     
  13. mrieder79
    Offline

    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2013
    Messages:
    401
    Likes Received:
    283
    Location:
    Uyumbe
    I have removed everything before how and reworked the preceding lines to more clearly show the inescapable nature of the dream. My gratitude to everyone who contributed.
     
  14. danihh
    Offline

    danihh New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2013
    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    1
    For me it seem like the dream and the thought should be separate. I'd go with:

    She couldn't escape the dream. As hard as she tried, she couldn't shake the thought: how can I be a bassist in a band if I can't even think about being on stage without getting sick?
     
  15. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    This isn't really much better. I'd strike "She couldn't escape the dream. As hard as she tried." I would also get rid of "she couldn't shake the thought," but there is some (weak) argument for it. The rest is just redundant.
     

Share This Page