1. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    What is your opinion of this paragraph?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by waitingforzion, Dec 29, 2014.

    As you have seen, my words expressed things beyond friendship, but my words did not aim for things beyond friendship, for my words pertained only to past desire – which I formed before I knew she had a boyfriend – to prove in the present the purity of my old intentions. For Marie had stopped being my friend, which I suppose she did because she thought that my motives were ill, believing that they were based on lust, and my words were meant to counter that belief.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It's stilted and convoluted and the first sentence is just plain confusing. It feels like anime dialogue where there is a pronounced difference between the number of words that were needed in the original Japanese and the number needed in English, so it's been stretched in the English to cover the time of lip movement. The bolded words and phrase are bits of syntax that are style queues from "bad-guy" monologging. This may or may not be intentional.
     
  3. Neto Belmonte
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    Neto Belmonte New Member

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    I think it is confusing and not easy to make-out exactly what the point is. It could be a little more direct, but you have this distasteful emotional thing going on here.
     
  4. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    What makes it stilted? What makes it convoluted?
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The first sentences is stilted because of over-repetition of "my words". It's convoluted because the repetition is followed by a parenthetical interjection (in this case em dash used instead of parentheses) that is followed by a tertiary clause that is itself stilted because it's unidiomatic. Who talks that way? the second sentence is also deeply nested in clauses, but at least they are sequential and don't cause the same confusion as the first sentence where the clauses are not intuitively sequential. The end effect is that the paragraph, which I am assuming is either a piece of dialogue or 1st person POV narrative, sounds overly verbose and affected, effete even.
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is this dialogue? If so, and if you're trying to portray a character who's overly formal and complicated, I think you're on the right track. Otherwise... simplify. You'll have to use your own voice, but something like:

    The words might have gone beyond friendship, but my intent didn't. I was trying to be honest about how I had felt originally, before I knew she was taken. I hoped that honesty would make her trust me, and believe me when I said I wasn't interested any more.
     
  7. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    It seems that you are trying to give my words a more conversational tone. While I don't want my words to sound stilted, I don't want them to sound conversational either. They should sound poetic and rhythmical, not as in the manner of meter, but as in the manner of prose rich in poetic cadences. Unfortunately, I cannot seem to achieve this. Can you suggest a revision to my words, which is not stilted, but stronger in rhythm?
     
  8. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    Have you tried writing it as a piece of poetry with a view to the attributes you seek?

    It may then afford you the opportunity to bring it back to prose with the qualities you want. If it works, you've a tool for the rest of the piece.
     
  9. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    I read it a few times and can't say for sure what it is you want to say. Starting a sentence with As you have seen, suggests to me that as a reader I'm stupid and haven't seen anything at all that was written.
     
  10. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    As I see it, @BayView has matched the tone to the subject matter. For me, the sort of over-stuffed language you've used paired with the topic of a girl having a boyfriend is odd. If it's meant to be humorous, that needs to be clearer.

    The original paragraph is very hard to understand and feels very forced. Poetic is one thing, but you need to be understood. Make simpler sentences, my friend.
     
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  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Ok, but here's the thing, because this isn't the first post you have made asking for similar help with making a paragraph or sentence sound elevated and of a higher, poetic register: The original paragraph, as you wrote it, has no cadence or rhythm or flow or meter that I can discern. In order to help you conserve that thing you wish to maintain, but with words that make sense to the reader, we must first be introduced to the thing you are seeing and hearing in your original words. Right now, that thing is known only to you. I'm not trying to be a jerk, I'm just noticing that the real question seems to be one step back in the order condescendi. We're addressing an orbiting issue without understanding the planetary body around which it orbits, so to speak.
     
  12. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    Okay then, would you consider the following an improvement?

    My words involved things beyond friendship, but their purpose was far from that end, for they spoke of my attraction in the past, a time before I knew she had a boyfriend. I spoke of them to prove in the present that my former motives were pure. For I supposed she stopped being my friend because she believed they were lustful, and I wished to correct that belief.
     
  13. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe you need to give us the context for this paragraph.

    To me, without context, it still feels like you're trying too hard to be 'fancy' and are sacrificing clarity on the way.

    Real poetry is the art of expressing something in as few words as possible - there may be a lot of words involved, but that's because the thing being communicated is complicated. Each word chosen is the perfect one to communicate its part of the idea. In this case, it really feels like you're taking something quite simple and adding words to complicate it, rather than to clarify it.
     
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  14. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    This is the original version of the paragraph:

    As you observed, I used words that suggested intentions beyond friendship, but I did not mean them in such a way. I was merely describing my past attraction to her, which I developed before I knew she had a boyfriend, in order to prove my purity in the present. The reason Marie stopped being my friend, I suppose, was because she felt I had some ulterior motive, a motive that was based on feelings of lust. My words dealing with attraction toward her were only to counteract that belief.
     
  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm going to suggest, once again, that you work to achieve clarity first, and rhythm and poetry later.

    I'm not finding any of the sample paragraphs clear. Can you try writing it with a focus on clarity, just once? Just for an exercise? I know that I keep suggesting this, and it appears that you've always rejected this suggestion, but would it really hurt to go for clarity just once?
     
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  16. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with @BayView and the others who directed you toward poetry. Poetry is the art of distilling a complex concept into a devastatingly simple phrase or stanza. You seem to be doing the opposite. You're making a mountain out of a molehill.

    Not to be the least bit disparaging, but have you ever read directives from some government body or an insurance policy, and were left scratching your head and thinking ...why can't they just spit it out? Why cloak meaning in all these words?

    You end up standing on your head trying to figure it all out, don't you. Reading, re-reading. That's fine if you need to know what the insurance actually covers, or whether or not the council is going to give you the rented apartment you wanted. You'll stick with it till you finally figure it out. But if you're reading a story for pleasure instead? Very few people will stick it out. If they need to go VERY slowly and/or re-read passages constantly, most readers will stop. And if the reader does stick it out, only to discover that the narrator has pissed off a girl he fancies because she thinks he was coming on to her—which he claims he wasn't—that's hardly going to make the puzzle worth the effort it took to solve it. I don't imagine they'll stick around for many more.

    I assume you want your readers to understand your meaning—so I'd strive for making the meaning clear. If you want them to be stunned by your word choice instead (or as well), maybe start working hard at choosing words that convey your exact meaning in an unique way. The poetic rhythm you're striving for is something that will work itself into this process. What you've done here is make complicated sentences using ordinary words, which is not the same thing.
     
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  17. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    In addition to the tangled clauses:

    - "things beyond friendship" is stated twice, when you only need it once.
    - "my words" is repeated four times, unnecessarily.
    - "For..." is a somewhat archaic way to start a sentence.
    - "Ill" (in "motives were ill") is a somewhat archaic way to express its concept.

    I understand that you may feel that multiple repetitions, archaic turns of phrase, and a long tangled path to the idea that you're tryihng to communicate, will produce the poetic feel that you want. But they aren't achieving that, and I don't think that they will.

    You can write clearly when you're not trying to impress.

    To provide one tiny example of clarity, you said

    "What makes it stilted?"

    You didn't wrap that around with a bunch of clauses. You didn't say,

    "What thing, or what aspect, or what element, of my writing, my prose, my morsel of written expression, caused you to verbalize the idea, the concept, the belief, that said written expression had a breath, a mode, an air, of stiltedness?"

    You just wrote a clean, clear, simple question.

    Do you see the problems with my rewrite of your question? Do you agree that it's tangled, confusing, and convoluted and that the original question was much better? Is there any way that I can possibly persuade you that clarity is important?

    I know, I know, I should give up. I just feel that you absolutely CAN achieve a high level of writing skill, and it frustrates me that you so determinedly put this roadblock in your own way.
     
  18. Hwaigon
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    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

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    I wish my unversity years were as enlightening as your posts. Sometimes I regret it wasn't. But as Thomas Carlyle said, university
    is the state of mind. To shed some light to this out-of-place comment, I also had mandatory poetry reading and lectures at university but they were far from this enriching.
    Or else, I might be I was an ignorant jerk.
     
  19. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I have asked that you clarify the quality you are trying to preserve or maintain in your text. Telling me "prose rich in poetic cadence" is not enough of an explanation. Give me an example text already in existence that I can read a snippet of and think, ah, yes, that.

    You have dodged the question here too. You did not explain the context. You merely posted a slightly larger section of the paragraph.

    I know @ChickenFreak has asked this of you before. I have seen it. But you ignore her completely.

    You have been asked thrice now for things that would help the members help you. Thrice you have completely ignored the requests and questions of the members. These questions and requests have been perfectly cogent. I have wanted to read the replies to their questions as much as the reply to my own because their questions interest me equally. This has also happened in previous threads you have posted that have been very similar in the nature of query.

    You want us to help you achieve a nebulous something that is hidden behind a shroud of obfuscation. You are extremely cagey about what you are writing, be it a novel, a story, a religious tome (I'm leaning toward the latter of the three at this point).

    In order for any of us to help you, you need to pay the courtesy of answering the members' questions.
     
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  20. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Okay. :rofl: This made me hoot out loud when I read it. You're just about the best I've ever encountered at coming up with exactly the right made-up example to illustrate your points. This is too good. I hope the OP takes your point.
     
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  21. waitingforzion
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    waitingforzion Active Member

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    I thought that my original paragraph would be clearer. Let me try to say what I meant.

    I wrote her words that suggested something more than friendship, but it was not my intention to obtain it. I was attracted to her before I knew she had a boyfriend, and my intentions were only to prove that my past attraction was pure, because I thought she believed that I was lusting.
     
  22. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    OK, we're getting closer, but I'm still not clear on what you mean. I don't just mean that the paragraph doesn't make it quickly and easily clear; I mean that I still don't know what the situation described by the paragraph is.

    > I wrote her words

    He (the character) wrote, and presumably sent, some sort of written communication. It would be clearer if you were more specific:

    I sent her a letter
    I wrote her a letter
    I wrote a note, and she found it
    I wrote an email.

    > that suggested something more than friendship,

    "Suggested" has a little ambiguity. I'm not sure if you mean that it implied, or that he actually made a suggestion. ("Let's date!") I'm assuming the first.This ambiguity would be OK if the rest of the paragraph were clear.

    > but it was not my intention to obtain it.

    This is pretty formal. I'd have gone with

    But that's not what I wanted.
    But that wasn't my goal.
    But that's not why I wrote it.
    But that's not what I meant

    > I was attracted to her before I knew

    It's good that you used a nice, clear phrase like "attracted to her."

    However, there's some confusion here. The beginning suggests that there was never any desire for more than friendship, but "attracted" suggests the opposite. You're going past/further-past/past/further-past/past/further-past, with changing feelings for the character.

    You're describing those feelings in several different ways ("more than friendship", "attracted", "she had a boyfriend", "past attraction", "pure", "lusting") and admitting to some of them and denying some of them. And the end result is confusing.

    Are you denying any desire, at any time, for anything more than friendship? Are you describing an "attraction" that has nothing to do with romance or sex and never would? If so, then why would a boyfriend be an issue? Women can have both friends and boyfriends. If not, then why the dismissal of "lusting", since a romantic attachment is pretty likely to eventually lead to sex?

    >she had a boyfriend,

    It's good that you just said "she had a boyfriend" here, rather than giving in to a temptation for a multi-word, multi-phrase way of expressing the same concept.

    > and my intentions were only to prove that my past attraction was pure,

    I don't know what "attraction was pure" means. Attraction usually at least implies sexual attraction. "Pure" usually leaves sex out. So I don't know what this means. Does it just mean that he didn't want her to cheat, because he didn't know that there was anyone to cheat on?

    > because I thought she believed that I was lusting.

    "Lusting" isn't a word that people usually use. It's especially uncommon as a verb, as you use it here, but it's pretty rare even as a noun.

    I'm going to have my Henry character say what I think is being said:

    "No. You misunderstand. OK, yes, I wrote her a letter. See, when I met her, last spring, I did think that she was attractive. And I flirted a little. That's because I didn't know she had a boyfriend. As soon as I found out, I backed off--I'm not that kind of guy. But she was still wary around me, and that bothered me, so I wrote a letter to explain. And that just made it worse, because then she thought I was hitting on her in writing. It's a mess."

    No, there's not a bit of poetry in there. But I think that it's clear--at least it's a clear explanation of one of the many possible interpretations of your paragraph. I know that you wouldn't be caught dead with my example in your final work, but I say again that you need to START with clarity.

    I think that you need to write a lot of words, many thousands of words, with clarity as your primary goal. That will give you the writing experience with many different ways of expressing yourself, many different turns of phrase. And then, with that larger toolkit, you might be able to tweak your words and phrases so that you can achieve some poetry without destroying clarity.
     
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  23. Hwaigon
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    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

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    @ChickenFreak

    "I think that you need to write a lot of words, many thousands of words, with clarity as your primary goal. That will give you the writing experience with many different ways of expressing yourself, many different turns of phrase. And then, with that larger toolkit, you might be able to tweak your words and phrases so that you can achieve some poetry without destroying clarity."

    Totally agree. Wonderful parsing of yours with many logical inferrences.
    I guess @waitingforzion has a difficulty embracing true, core meaning of words-- that's where the lack of clarity springs from. It has happened to me a million times; I pick a fancy word I believe to correspond with the context of my story, not really checking on that one word for wider meaning, only to find out the naked truth that I've used the word completely ainappropriately.
    Choosing the right word is an art of its own, a skill of constructing a delicate structure. I'm in one with you on first making the writing perfectly unequivocal, then embellishing it with flowery language while avoiding obstruction and ambiguation. There's a lot of intuition involved, along with emotions and subtleties.

     
  24. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is still unclear what causes what. Mainly: does the narrator's attempt to explain his feelings cause Marie to distance herself from him because she misinterprets him and thinks he is still hitting on her? If not, then this is my interpretation:

    Marie thought I lusted after her and wanted to steal her away from her boyfriend.
    Therefore, she was distancing herself from me.
    But she was wrong, and I valued our friendship.
    Therefore, I tried to explain that I had developed feelings for her when I still thought she was single.

    Is that right?
     
  25. Hwaigon
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    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Initially, I felt something deep and spoke to you about it but then learned you had a boyfriend. So, I'm writing to you now to assure you of my pure intentions.

    I can't go any further because then your writing gets obstructed and unclear. A great thing would be to write down in bullet points
    what happened when:

    1) they meet (fair enough)
    2) the MC feels attracted to Marie, expressing something deep. You should know what that is, if a feeling of togetherness,
    true liking of her character, burning desire, love...whatever.
    3) here we can either assume that a) the MC learnes of her boyfriend or b) she thinks his motives ill and lust-based or even both a) and b)
    4) here Marie might have stopped being the MC's friend
    5) present time, when the MC's writing the letter, note, email, whatever

    Your message gets lost in unnecessary, fancy use of words. Tell us the timeline, so that we can better understand what happend.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2014

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