1. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    Sentence structure

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Stammis, Dec 12, 2015.

    Can I get your opinion about this paragraph? It is the first paragraphs of the first chapter and I have reworked it several times now. I need it to be perfect before I continue edit any further.

    A few candles illuminates the dark room from his desk. An elderly man is bent over a piece of parchment, copying the words from the book next to him. Suddenly a gush of wind extinguishes the light and scatters the papers and other pages on the desk as a door opens in the hallway. The old man sighs heavily, grabbing his neck-long beard, knowing exactly how much time it will take to organise them again. As he stands up and enters the hallway he is met by a young boy in his early teens removing his water soaked jacket.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Seems fine so far. You can take out "suddenly" before "a gust of wind" because gusts are sudden. The word doesn't add anything.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Aside from the grammatical error in the first sentence, it's fine. I'm not sure what kind of feedback you're looking for beyond that.
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Just my 2p... It's static.


    This
    is here....

    Also, you mention "his desk" like we already know who he is, like we've been introduced to him already. We haven't. All we know about so far are some candles.


    ... and that is there....

    Again, "the words", "the book".... all very definite statements for things we've only just now been given.


    Does the wind open the door or is the door's opening the cause of the wind?


    The "As he verbed and..." structure is overused and weak. It should only be used when two things are genuinely simultaneous. Here you are using it to indicate a sequence of events that makes the progression of events feel mushy and incoherent. In the prior sentence, as was also used in a vague manner that weakens the feeling of events and confuses the cause and effect logic. Because you're writing in present tense, you need to be clear as to sequence of events; else, it's all a jumble.
     
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  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sentence-structure-wise it's just fine. That's not where your problem lies. Your problem is that the whole paragraph is extremely passive - it's purely "telling" and not in an interesting way. This, you could say, is a perfect example of why the golden rule of "Show, don't tell" is perpetuated so widely.
     
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  6. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    I see what you are saying so I remade the entire paragraph. Hope this is better.

    He grunts as a drop of ink, from his pen, spreads over one of the letters, ruining his perfectly written paper. He bends over grabbing a new piece of paper from under his desk, careful not to knock over the candle next to him. Suddenly his vision goes dark as a gush of wind extinguishes the few candles that lit the room. He sighs heavily, grabbing is neck-long beard. The wind and the rain falls heavily against his window, wondering who would visit him on such a stormy evening.
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You still have "suddenly" in there, and it's not really a strong way of saying things. Also, we still don't know what causes the gush of wind (should that be "gust"?) because we don't yet know the door has been opened. And the last sentence makes no sense. Are the wind and the rain doing the wondering?
     
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  8. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    Well he loses his vision suddenly...

    I hoped that by saying in the end that he wonders who is visiting him would hint towards that his front door was opened. You know, showing, not telling...

    I guess the last sentence was a bit clumsy.
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    "...one of the letters..." Again, you are using the definite article and related structures for things that have not yet been presented to the reader. They aren't already known. And again as is showing up to relate sequence of events instead of simultaneity.

    This is reading like stage directions. Like instructions to the actor on the stage, where to take his mark and where to go from there.

    Suddenly is a weak, weak word. At least here the as is actually denoting a genuinely simultaneous event.

    This is fine, by itself.

    Neither wind nor rain are capable of wondering. And the idea of someone coming to visit isn't clear in the least here. I know someone has just shown up from the prior version of the paragraph, but that concept is utterly lost in this new version.

    Gush.... Gush is liquid, gush is water, gust is air.
     
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  10. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Personally I like suddenly. But I don't think it works here and I think you need to establish some basics before you use it ... like further into your WIP where no beta readers are going to notice it.
    Suddenly is a weird word. It actually seems to cause a delay rather than establishing a suddeness - so it's good when you want a pause
    as in -
    Suddenly there was a tongue in his ear.

    All very good advice here. My only opinion would be that you still seem a bit distant from the character. As though you're still trying to stay visual.
    I won't remark on what Wreybies has already touched on but I found the idea of his grunting as something happens to be off. I would actually use more cause and effect here - a drop of ink falls, he grunts.
     
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  11. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    How about now?

    A drop of ink falls on a piece of paper, he grunts when he realises that his letter has been ruined. He reaches for a new paper under his desk, careful not to knock over the candle next to him. His vision goes dark as a gust of wind extinguishes the few candles that lit up the room. He sighs heavily, grabbing is neck-long beard. He looks out the window as the wind and the rain falls heavily against it and wonders, who would visit him such a stormy evening?
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2015
  12. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's better, but the sentences don't feel like they link to one another. It's very choppy, an effect that's emphasised by the fact that you start all but one of your sentences, consecutively, with the word "He/His". The paragraph also consists solely of long sentences, adding to the choppy effect. There's no rhythm. Pause and listen to the beats of your writing, like music - make sure it sounds good to the ear, the way the words ebb and flow.

    Also, it should either be a full stop or a semi-colon between "paper" and "he grunts". What you have currently is a comma splice I believe.
     
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  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I actually think your original was better, but it needs to be given some life. Remember that you can personify and give life to things that are not alive in order to take a static description and imbue it with action.

    A few candles illuminates the dark room from his desk.

    Ok, so you've got some candles and they light the room. Have you thought about how this looks and feels? Do you have an image in your mind that you could give to us? Can the honeyed light of handmade candles reach out into the gloom of grandpa's bedroom, picking out grains of wood and fabrics that could easily have seen the Civil War?

    Suddenly a gush of wind extinguishes the light and scatters the papers and other pages on the desk as a door opens in the hallway.

    Wind, papers, mess.

    Can the wind, which had been pounding on the door for hours now, begging to be let in, gust through the room as chill and annoying as an unexpected guest, tapping out the candles?

    My examples are exaggerated and a little OTP, admittedly, and on purpose, just to make the point. ;)
     
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  14. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I completely agree with the "this feels like stage directions" comment. All versions.

    Are you trying for omniscient POV? Maybe more narrative voice would help? Or if you're going to go with close third, maybe you could be in closer from the start?
     
  15. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    It is funny that you would say that because I made the sentences intentionally longer because people were complaining that it was choppy.
     
  16. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    So you are saying that I need to add mundane descriptions before I start adding actions? I swear I have rewritten this section so many times that I have ruined the entire setting. All I see now is an old man trying to advance the freaking plot...
     
  17. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't add mundane anything. Don't be extreme or reactionary when you get feedback. Look at your work, yourself, and try to see what the crit-er is talking about. If you can see it, then fix it. If you can't see it? Don't change things on someone else's say-so. You're the one writing this!

    ETA: What's your goal for this scene? If it's your opening, you need to set us up in a time and place. The candles help me know it's not present day, but I'm not getting too much else. And there also isn't a lot of drama.
     
  18. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    My latest attempt. I am afraid that I don't have the vocabulary to make it sound quite as nice as Wreybies did.

    A drop of ink falls on a piece of paper; he grunts when it spreads over the last sentence of his letter. In frustration he crumbles the paper and throws it into the darkness of the room. He looks as the room swallows it into the nothingness. Only his desk creates a beacon of light from the void that surrounds him. He reaches for a new piece of paper under his desk, careful not to knock over one of his precious wax beacons. A loud crash coming from the other room, followed by a a gust of wind that makes the darkness swallow his surroundings. He sighs heavily, grabbing is neck-long beard. He looks out the window as the wind and the rain falls heavily against it and wonders, who would visit him such a stormy evening.
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2015
  19. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    The reader is not suppose to know a lot about the old man. He is mysterious that will only have an appearance later in the book. The goal of the paragraph is to basically to introduce the MC, and to set up the following scenes were more of the universe is unraveled.

    I cannot imagine my remark was extreme, sorry if it sounded that way... I suppose I am just frustrated. Had a lot of negative feedback about the first paragraph, just want to make it right.
     
  20. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe that's the issue - your first paragraph is about someone who's only there as a tool to introduce your MC?

    Why not follow the MC into the room? It sounds like he's in a more dynamic setting (wind, and whatever) and doing something marginally more interesting (moving, instead of sitting).

    It's hard to write an interesting paragraph about something we don't have any reason to be interested in. And, honestly, if you do make it interesting, and then shift over to the MC, I'm going to feel a bit discombobulated, I think, because my brain will still be back at the interesting scene we abandoned.
     
  21. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    I suppose you are right. But then I will make the biggest cliche of all! Introducing the book on a stormy night. But I guess I already kind of do that.

    The old man is very important character however, because he is the main antagonist. Which is not revealed until much later.
     
  22. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm seeing a combination of ambitious sentence structure and some lack of understanding of grammar. I think that you'd probably be better off practicing "plainer" writing and perfecting your grammar.
     
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  23. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    Well that ain't happening, considering I have already written a 100 000 word draft ;) but is the grammar really that bad? isn't it something I can improve while editing my story? or for that matter, a paid editor may fix? don't get me wrong, I am going to improve my grammar eventually, but I don't want to abandon my project unless you think my writing is utter garbage at this point.
     
  24. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel that you are trying too hard to dramatize this opening paragraph. I would write this as:

    "A few candles on a desk feebly illuminate the room where and old man is painstakingly copying words from an open book. A gust of wind extinguishes all the candles, scattering his paper and other pages from the desk when a hallway door is opened. The old man rises, approaches the open door and is met by a young teenaged boy who is removing his rain soaked jacket. "

    But then I don't really have a clear idea of what atmosphere you are trying to create so my words are probably just junk. However I think you can create your impact with a bit more concise wording. I love all the critiques given above and wish I could understand half of them, learning Differential Calculus is far easier than learning English. Hats off to you for getting so much writing done already, editing will certainly clean up things and this little snippet of your work seems to show some good talent, so keep at it.

    BTW I bet Wreybies can rip my paragraph apart in ways I never saw coming.
     
  25. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your grammar in your post--that is, the part of the post that isn't a writing sample-- is fine. It appears that when you're trying to push your writing to the limit, your grammar starts to crumble. I'm not altogether comfortable critiquing your sample, because I feel that it really belongs in the Review Room. If you put a piece in the Review Room (you may need to do some reviews to qualify; it looks like your number of posts and how long you've been here does qualify) I'd be happy to critique it there.
     

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