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  1. Damage718

    Damage718 Active Member

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    Help with a passage, please

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Damage718, Jul 5, 2020.

    Okay, here is a classic show vs. tell moment that I'm struggling with.

    I'm writing a first-person POV story about my old house, and what I saw when I visited it years after moving out. Here is the passage in question:

    The place went through a couple different owners after my family moved out, and in the last few years, it just sat dormant. No “For Sale" sign adorned the yard. The landscape went untended and became overgrown with weeds and bramble. The whole lot took on an eerie, abandoned look. There it remained for some time, a once tranquil little estate, now a forlorn beacon that signaled what once was. To see it in its current state but knowing what it used to be gave a strangely unsettling, even frightful feeling.

    Now I realize there's some passive voice in there which I can fix - remember I'm speaking in past tense, reminiscing about the place. It's the explanation of the feeling that I'm struggling with. When I saw the house decaying, it felt strange to me. It even scared me. I don't know WHY it did, only that it did. It just came from nowhere. I saw the place in it's rotting state and it spooked me.

    How can I best convey that in active, "show" voice, especially the last part?
     
  2. Damage718

    Damage718 Active Member

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    My first idea is to compare the fear I had seeing it in it's fallen apart state to the classic fear that kids have of their basement or monster in the closet?
     
  3. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Edit—I think I misunderstood what you're looking for. I thought you felt it was to 'tell-y' and wanted more show, but now I see you're looking to get across the desolate feeling of seeing it reduced to its current state. My bad. If I think of anything I'll add it below.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2020
  4. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    You can strengthen it by making the comparisons directly. Compare things now with what they were as you remember them.

    Masses of weeds overran the formerly manicured lawn. The front door swung slowly in the breeze, held on by a single hinge, the peeling paint only showing hints of the once brilliant white.

    Or something along those lines.
     
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  5. Damage718

    Damage718 Active Member

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    I love those suggestions. How's this update?

    The place went through a couple different owners after my family sold it, and in recent years, it just sat dormant. No “For Sale” sign adorned the yard. The landscape went untended and masses of weeds and bramble covered the once beautifully maintained lawn. The front screen door swung open in the breeze, barely clinging to the frame by a single, loose hinge. Glinting piles of glass in the sunlit dirt lay below broken windows. The whole lot took on an eerie, abandoned look, as though something remained deep within that allowed – even encouraged – its own decay. There it remained for some time, a once tranquil little estate, now a forlorn beacon that signaled the splendor that once was.
     
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  6. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    Looks good. Much more powerful.

    The only thing I might suggest is to try and avoid the repetition of "once" - you use it in two sentences and twice the last sentence.
     
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  7. LazyBear

    LazyBear Banned

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    In the first version, you perfectly described my garden with the overgrown bush, high weed and wide moss, so you need to describe some of the narrator's feelings to hint the tension. 90% show with 10% tell would work. Remember to explicitly set the mood with a reminder of a horrible event to adjust the reader's expectations ahead of neutral details.

    In the second version, remembering how the garden used to look broke the spooky mood for me.
     
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  8. TheOtherPromise

    TheOtherPromise Senior Member

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    I like it though if you're still looking for suggestions, I'd emphasis the notion that the house is decaying. Maybe use words that convey that meaning, like corpse, carcass, rotting, festering, and the like. Paralleling the description of its living state with its now deceased one is a nice choice, and really makes the second version better.

    To me the idea of seeing my childhood home in such a dead state would be quite sad. A reminder that all things must die.
     
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  9. Damage718

    Damage718 Active Member

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    Grr, thanks, that's about #3 in my "Shit Habits" repertoire. (The other two, are not surprisingly, too much telling and using passive voice.) My editor has pointed that out to me as well, that I repeat words a lot.

    Edit #3:

    The place went through a couple different owners after my family sold it, and in recent years, it just sat dormant. No “For Sale” sign adorned the yard. The landscape went untended and masses of weeds and bramble covered the beautifully maintained lawn of the past. The front screen door swung open in the breeze, barely clinging to the frame by a single, loose hinge. Glinting piles of glass in the sunlit dirt lay below broken windows. The whole lot took on an eerie, abandoned look, as though something remained deep within that allowed – even encouraged – its own decay. There it remained for some time, a once tranquil little estate, now a forlorn beacon that signaled the splendor that it used to be.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2020
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  10. Damage718

    Damage718 Active Member

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    I posted a version of this on one of the short story boards a few months ago.

    This particular chapter is a big challenge to write, for several reasons. First, it's 100% true. It tells the story of my thriving childhood home and neighborhood, and how wen I saw it years later it was left to rot and then ultimately torn down. But I wrote it as fiction, despite it being all factual. So basically I'm writing a short suspense/horror piece that's based on real life events AND a dream and trying to convey feelings that I had but I don't know WHY I had them o_O:eek::meh::confused:

    In the middle of the story I describe a dream sequence - a recurring dream I had for years - where I visited the house and was attacked, in a way, by some dark presence. The dream was vivid but disjointed and fast paced, like many nightmares are. My editor tore it up pretty good in that the pace is too fast, and I don't setup much suspense, and don't invoke many feelings. She's right, and this passage is just one example.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2020

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