1. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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    Pulling you into a scene

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Burnistine, Aug 19, 2015.

    Below is my opening paragraph of my new book. Tell me if that last sentence is awkward. Should I insert another word between "and" and "steep?" Thanks, everyone.


    Yesterday, Glenwood Canyon lacked the defiance and ferocity Robert Jaeger craved. Today, it roared. Violent currents thrashed the banks and puked white foam on the floor of majestic sandstoned walls towering above. The day before, water along riverbanks barely covered Robert's boots. Now water swallowed his ankles. The gorge had the potential to manhandle every muscle in his body and transform the young man into a power-rowing machine. Since a rigid work schedule wouldn't permit another chance to whitewater raft for a while, he had to make the most of this opportunity. That included admiring sporadic layers of evergreen striping the canyon's 1,300 foot walls and steep cliffs with their grated edges.
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I would re-word the second half. You start off strong (except "puked" evokes the wrong image).

    But from here on: "Since a rigid work schedule wouldn't permit another chance to whitewater raft for a while, he had to make the most of this opportunity. That included admiring sporadic layers of evergreen striping the canyon's 1,300 foot walls and steep cliffs with their grated edges" you lose the style you have in the beginning.

    I'd love to say more but you asked about "another word between "and" and "steep?" and my answer to that is, no. The rest will have to wait until you have workshop privileges. You're almost there. :agreed:
     
  3. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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    "Puke" is a good word that reminds you of an upset stomach that has been jostled to and fro. The river is like that--being tossed around, puking white foam. Puke stays. Thanks for your input. Appreciate it.
     
  4. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It sounds like you've made your mind up but, for what it's worth, I agree with @GingerCoffee that puked seems incongruous. I had the same thought when I read it, before I saw her post.

    The rest of the passage emphasises how strong, dynamic and vigorous the river is, which makes it inviting to Robert. A river of puke isn't inviting, it makes you think of a sickly river trying to expel something. "Spat" or "struck" give an impression of forceful activity without having the same negative connotations.

    Edit: Forgot to answer your question. No, I don't think you need another word in there.
     
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  5. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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    You're right. My mind is made up. "Puke" stays. The two of you are proving that the word is invoking a host of reactions. From my vantage point, that's a good thing. If I saw the river that Robert's looking at, I'd get sick to my stomach. Water scares me. Whitewater rafting--well, let's just say I don't think I'd go near rushing water. What Robert sees as a challenge, I see as a good reason to about-face.
     
  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    You're entitled to your choice of word, but I agree with the others. Puke doesn't do it for me. For one thing, when I think puke I think something that looks like half-eaten oatmeal, and comes out in short, sticky bursts. Perhaps somebody riding a thunderous river might feel like puking, but the image of the river doing the puking itself just doesn't come to me here. Puking evokes a pathetic, sicky kind of action. A blocked drain pipe might puke sludge, but I don't think the word is consistent, at least to me, of a clean, raging (roared ...good word choice) river.

    Don't be too quick to dismiss people's reaction to your writing. What you intend to convey and what people actually pick up are often two different things. While you may end up keeping the word, you might want to at least consider the responses a bit longer before dismissing them? Otherwise, why ask for feedback if you're just going to quickly dismiss the responses you don't immediately agree with? Especially when all three of the people who responded have said the same thing. You considered @GingerCoffee 's response for just over a half-hour, if you picked it up as soon as she posted it. You considered Tenderiser's for only about 20 minutes—again, if you picked it up as soon as she posted it.

    Nobody is judging you. We're just reacting to what we've read. If I've learned anything since putting my work 'out there' for betas to read, is that I need to pay attention to everybody's response, as long as it's thoughtful and helpfully-given. If somebody misses something, or gets the wrong impression, I try my best to correct the situation. I nearly always end up making some change to bothersome bits that won't hurt the story, but will eliminate the problem the betas have uncovered. I certainly give every beta's remark a great deal of consideration. Beta reaction is a wonderful tool for any writer to use. How else are you going to know if something you've written actually works, unless people read it and give you feedback?

    It might be an idea to take more time to think about the issue. If puking is the image you want people to get, obviously the word itself isn't working for most of us. Are you able to come up with another way to put this notion across?

    What if you chose 'spat,' instead? For me (as well as @Tenderiser ) that's closer not only to evoking the white foam, but also the quick action, if you just want to substitute another word.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2015
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  7. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    As someone whose shoulder was once dislocated whilst canoeing on white water, I'd rather not go on it if it made me think of "puke" in any sense, whether of the sense of fear it instilled in me, or the idea that if I fell into it I'd REALLY need a shower!

    Your personal distaste for water comes across strongly, and doesn't get into the head of your MC in the slightest.

    Perhaps this is a vote for "write what you know"?
     
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  8. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I agree with everyone that puke is off - and I'm usually okay with taking a word and making it behave differently. But there is a responsibility in doing that. You want it to reflect the right thing.
    Slam might work better because within that paragraph you're trying to show the river's power. You're using the river's image to reflect things back to the character.
    If you want to create an image of fear why not have the character find a correlation. His stomach begun it's own violence watching the water being thrown as if puked over ... example.

    With a word like puke on it's own though - I'm not sure as a reader what to do with it because it stands out and not in a good way. It doesn't reflect anything about the character- not his mood, not the tone of the river which was just being built up as violence ( puking isn't really violent ) nothing. It's fancy so it's creating a discord. The better thing would be to fix other words to keep puke in sync - or to replace puke.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2015
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Puke also doesn't work for me. It's slangy; it gives me a teen/valley girl sort of feel.
     
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  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Another thought:

    But you're not in the scene; Robert is. You're telling the reader that Robert finds the water sickening--not in so many words, but that's the result of what you've written. Is that how Robert feels? If he finds water sickening, why does he want anything to do with it?
     
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  11. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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  12. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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  13. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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  14. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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    Then, please, let me exercise my entitlement. If keeping "puke" in my novel means to you that I have "not" considered other people's opinion, "so why ask," you could not be further from the truth. Because I want to keep it, does not mean I didn't think about it. I'm an avid user of the dictionary and the Thesaurus. Please give me credit for a little intelligence. I'm not mad at you, just letting you know that I've made a choice. Wrong, right, indifferent. I made a choice.
     
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  15. Burnistine
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    Burnistine Active Member

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    Soooo, are you claiming I'm not writing what I know? I' having an issue with this statement. Not sure if I should be offended or mad.

    I've been on this site for a week, and you guys make me feel like I'm being "attacked." All over the word "puke." Really?
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, you're writing a character that loves the water, right? But because it makes you sick , you make it sickening in his POV. So, I'd say write what your character knows.

    If your character loved cats but you hated them , would you have your character observe his pet's "ugly, demonic fangs", say ?
     
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  17. DueNorth
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    DueNorth Active Member

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    It is a vulnerable position to ask for feedback--tell you what you're much better off saying "I'll give that some thought," (and then honestly doing so) rather than immediately reacting that you are locked into a certain word. Words, as we all know better than those who don't write, are very powerful. One word can make a sentence, even a paragraph. For me, actually, the word I reacted to the most in your opening paragraph was not puked (although I'm not big on that word choice either), it was "sandstoned," as I found it to be awkward phrasing. I think it would be simpler to just say "majestic sandstone walls." As far as your question about your last line, if it was my piece I would drop the last line entirely, and end the first paragraph with the word opportunity.

    I have been guilty of what I would call "over-writing" or falling in love with my own wonderful way of saying things. :) Not saying you are doing this, but maybe give it some thought. I don't know if you've completed the other 80,000 or so words of your novel, but most writers do many, many revisions of that important first paragraph after all the other words have been written, and you likely will have many other looks by others you choose to have read it for comment and critique.

    BTW, there is a wonderfully written nonfiction book about the fastest raft trip ever taken down the Grand Canyon called The Emerald Mile--you might really enjoy it if you haven't yet read it. Good luck with your book.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
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  18. james82
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    Shea watches Marlin without blinking. His eyes pregnant with a deep intensity.

    ^^ That's a line from one of my screenplays. Why do I have a feeling that I'm in the same
    boat as you, as I'm sure you can identify the word that stands out in that description.
    Now I could easily change it to say 'bulging' or 'widened.' But as it stands,
    that's how it reads right now. I feel it reads well, but others may not. But if I get feedback
    from up to 4 or 5 people that say the word 'pregnant' doesn't work for them there,
    I will definitely consider changing it, even if I never do.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
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  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Fair enough. Although I never said you didn't consider our opinions. I said you didn't seem to have considered them for very long ...judging by your quick responses to the posts. But never mind. As you say, it is your choice. You're the writer!

    Nobody has ever created anything that EVERYBODY loves. :)

    However, this is what happens when people don't love what you've written. They either don't get it at all, or don't like it much. As long as you're willing to accept that your choice of words is putting people off, then by all means, go ahead. It's your story.

    I do think you've got a lot of good stuff going on in that little excerpt thus far. I've never done white-water canoeing or rafting (I do love canoeing on calm rivers, though, with maybe a tiny little rapids now and again.) So I'm initially interested in the idea.

    Just a little parting joke, though: Niagara Falls, puking again....
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
  20. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    @jannert suggested the word that felt right to me: spat.

    The last sentence is awkward. Adding another word as you suggest would not change that awkwardness.
     
  21. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    1/You say you hate water, wouldn't go near it for love nor money. But you're writing about a white-water rafting trip. How can you expect us to believe in your MCs emotions, when you're so unlike him that you puke with fear when he's buzzing with excitement?

    2/ It's OK to ignore other people's opinions if, in your artistic opinion, they're wrong. I think that the problem is that you've stated - twice - that puke stays, despite unanimous - and reasoned - arguments against. Nobody's attacking you, it's just that you're being very public about ignoring advice. You will, obviously, do as you please, and we (WF community) will give you our opinions.
     
  22. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Just a thought on your example. I think maybe people might have problems not so much with the word 'pregnant,' but what it's attached to. Pregnant means 'going to give birth to.' He's hardly going to give birth to deep intensity, is he? His eyes might be deeply intense right now. But they're not showing that they're 'going to be deeply intense' any moment now.

    What is likely to happen next? What's going to happen next is what his eyes would be 'pregnant' with. What are the thoughts, revealed in his eyes, that are letting the other person guess what he's about to do?
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
  23. james82
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    pregnant

    [ ˈpregnənt ]
    ADJECTIVE
    1. (of a woman or female animal) having a child or young developing in the uterus:
      "a pregnant woman"
      synonyms: expecting a baby · expectant · carrying a child · expecting ·
      More
    2. full of meaning; significant or suggestive:
      "a pregnant pause" synonyms: full of · filled with · charged with · heavy with · fraught with
    It's example #2 that made me choose the word, which would imply that it would work
    in describing the character's eyes.

    Here's another example of using a word in a way you wouldn't expect...

    Her eyes were shackled to the floor...

    ^^Now you read that and think you can't chain eyes to a floor, as everyone knows "shackled"
    means bound by chains mainly around the ankles or wrists, but what you are to take away from
    that line is that it implies that her eyes are simply "confined" to the floor, for whatever reasons.

    You would have to read the paragraph before that line to find out why the character is so
    fixated on looking down at the floor to begin with, and then you can appreciate the use of that word
    in describing her eyes there even more. Is there a dead body on the floor? Is she in the
    process of noticing a trap door in the floor? Even if that revelation comes after that line,
    you'd likely understand and appreciate the use of that word there even more.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
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  24. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, I can see what you mean. English is a strange language, and while some expressions seem to hit right, others
    can cause problems. Eyes shackled to the floor. You're saying the eyes were unable
    to move away. However, I've certainly heard people making jokes
    about statements like 'his eyes fell on his plate.' Ha aaa. So they're waiting to be eaten with a fork, eh?

    You can get away with stuff like that—poetic license—but it can cause some people to pause as well. When
    a phrase can be taken more than one way, it sometimes is!

    I do maintain that 'pregnant'...as in pregnant pause ...does usually imply something that is going to happen, not something that is
    already happening. The pregnant pause means something else is going to follow. That's why I maintain that 'pregnant with
    deep intensity' is a slightly off-track phrase. But it's not so bad that it will derail the train completely!
     
  25. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Can you offer any other examples of #2 beyond pregnant pause and your pregnant eyes of deep intensity?

    For me it doesn't work because in real life, intensity is projected, not contained. I'd also wonder if shallow intensity is a thing, or if the deep adjective is superfluous.

    Pregnant pauses are empty spaces filled with potential (about to happen) story energy.
    Pregnant with possibilities means a future filled with potential (about to / could) happen things / events, etc.
    Intense looks are an example of kinetic (happening) story energy.


    Just my take on things :D
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
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