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Author Topic: Pauses within a sentence - the opportunity to take a breath  (Read 8202 times)
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Woody
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« on: July 30, 2009, 02:47:29 PM »

Commas, semicolons, en dashes & em dashes and ellipsises - not forgetting full stops, are all opportunities for the writer to add a space for a breath. (Let alone sentence structure)

However, can "and" do this - is it the right thing to do or should long sentences only be broken up by punctuation?
« Last Edit: July 30, 2009, 02:55:23 PM by Woody » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2009, 02:53:17 PM »

I spend a lot of time trying to get a smooth flow, and - at times - an interesting rhythm to my sentences. But usually I find that the intricate rhythms only work if it's me that's reading the stories (either to myself, or aloud). When I come back to some of these pieces years later, by which time I've usually forgotten the original intent, I find myself deleting the extra 'ands' and reverting to tried, tested, and simple punctuation.

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« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2009, 03:02:03 PM »

I know exactly what you mean and it's especially difficult when writing rhythmical poetry - trying to convey that rhythm and foster it for a reader that's not you.

The reason I posted was because of this paragraph I've been working on.
"Placing his cup back on the small table he turned on his radio and rotated the dial so only a loud static noise could be heard as it filled his room like an early morning sea mist coming in with the tide to hide the shoreline. He closed his eyes."

But after consideration I've gone with this instead.
"Replacing his cup he turned his radio on and rotated its dial so only a loud static noise could be heard. As the sound filled the room like an early morning sea mist coming in with the tide to hide the shoreline, he closed his eyes."
« Last Edit: July 30, 2009, 03:05:44 PM by Woody » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2009, 05:19:42 PM »

Second's a marked improvement, but still a little awkward and wordy to my ear. This is what I'd do with it:

"He replaced his cup, turned the radio on and rotated its dial until all he could hear was loud static. His eyes closed to the sound of early morning sea mist rolling in with the tide."
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« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2009, 05:43:33 PM »

I've been trying to cut down on my use of ands, but I find the deeper I get into a writing session, the more the rhythm and beats take care of themselves without the need for me to think about punctuation. I just write what I hear in my mind.

If I was editing that sentence of yours, Woody, I would start by getting rid of the present participle at the outset, for two reasons. Actually, three. First, I was told not to use them at Borderlands. Second, if you imagine the simultaneous actions the description gives you, it doesn't seem likely, and thirdly it gives you a passive construction as a by product. The word 'back' is almost always superfluous, too.

I'd edit it to say:

"He placed his cup on the small table, turned on the radio and rotated the tuning dial until he could hear only loud static. It filled his room like an early morning sea mist coming in with the tide to obscure the shoreline. He closed his eyes."

Edit: hah - simpost - I see Delph beat me to it smiley

« Last Edit: July 30, 2009, 05:59:49 PM by Ed » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2009, 05:53:10 PM »

Thanks Delph. Obviously the paragraphs are wholly out of context, because I've posted nothing to do with the situation, but what I was trying to achieve was the description of how the static noise filled the room. For me, your interpretation makes it sound like the MC is actually listening to the sound of mist rather more than a metaphor. huh But poetically I love it - the idea of just sitting back and listening to mist; very relaxing indeed.

Thanks Ed. I'm persuaded. If you don't mind I'll use your rendition.  afro
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« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2009, 06:00:37 PM »

Thinking about it some more, I don't have any faith in the latter part of the paragraph, though. You're using an audio simile to describe a visual thing, and it doesn't quite work, IMO. I know what you mean, but I think you need to explore it in more depth to make it ring true.

Maybe:

"He placed his cup on the small table, turned on the radio and rotated the tuning dial until he could hear only loud static. The sound filled his room. He closed his eyes and pictured an early morning sea mist coming in with the tide to obscure the shoreline."
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« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2009, 06:08:09 PM »

I dunno. Like you say, it's difficult to judge it out of context. It's one of those things you could drive yourself crazy reworking over and over, when it was probably perfectly alright after your first edit
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« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2009, 06:10:35 PM »

As if to further illustrate my point, I now find myself thinking I would change 'coming in with the tide' to 'rolling in', or preferably 'drifting in'
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« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2009, 06:14:29 PM »

"He placed his cup on the small table, turned on the radio and rotated the tuning dial until he could hear only loud static. The sound filled his room. He closed his eyes and pictured an early morning sea mist coming in with the tide to obscure the shoreline."

This is the problem with the missing context - one thing is definite; the MC wasn't picturing any early morning mist - that is furthest from his mind, but without the context all manner of ideas can come to the fore. Essentially the static is there to blot out everything, to free the MC's mind from the daily rigmarole.

So here's a bit more;

He gulped the rest of his coffee down and as he did he realised there was only one choice he could make; one choice that he would feel comfortable with.

He placed his cup on the small table, turned on the radio and rotated the tuning dial until he could hear only loud static. It filled his room like an early morning sea mist coming in with the tide to hide the shoreline. He closed his eyes.

My guide, my guide of all guides, if you can hear me now please speak, Janus thought and waited for a response. The white noise of the static coming from the radio continued.

My guide, please hear me.

I hear you, Janus, his spirit guide responded, manipulating the hiss of the detuned radio into sibilant words. What do you want of me?

I want to know what is coming. What I have to do.


What are you speaking of, Janus?

I’m speaking of Gosbecks Manor.

There is nothing to fear of Gosbecks Manor. Only what was before.


Janus considered his spirit guide’s answer for a moment. But what of Mark Royce? Why was he attacked?

There is a score to settle, Janus; a score of long standing.

What score? That was settled before, months ago. You told me what to do, then.

The score was appeased, that is true. But not settled, Janus.

How can the score be settled?
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« Reply #10 on: July 30, 2009, 06:16:50 PM »

I like "rolling in" and "drifting in" much more than "coming in".

Thanks once again, Ed.  cheers
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« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2009, 06:17:47 PM »

Chosen "rolling in"

cheers mister.
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« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2009, 06:43:20 PM »

I knew starting out this was going to get long, but I didn't think EIGHT posts were going to come in before mine hit... Oh, well, I only want to help, and to do that, I thought I'd give an explanation of what made delph's version work better, and also throw in a couple extra ideas. If any of what I say below is still relevant or useful, great. If not, well, I guess I'll have to learn to keep it shorter.  bleh

1) Your first couple of attempts used "Placing" or "Replacing," which is a verb in the present continuous tense. It means that the action was ongoing as he did something else, as opposed to completed. In delph's example, she used the verb "replaced," which showed the action of putting the cup back had been completed before he twiddled the radio dial. This is important because in real life, your character most likely would not be doing both actions at the same time. I see this construction a lot in beginners' writing. Sometimes it's appropriate; many times it's not. You need to be careful about using an -ing verb in the same sentence with a past tense verb.

2) Your version used the phrase "could be heard" which is passive construction, meaning there is no "actor" or subject stated for the verb. The static could be heard by whom? In delph's version "he could hear" the static.

3) Your 1st version was 50 words, broken into two sentences of 46 and  4 words.
   Your 2nd version was 46 words, broken into two sentences of 21 and 25 words.
   delph's  version was 36 words, broken into two sentences of 20 and 16 words.

4) If it were me, I'd put a comma after the phrase "turned the radio on" to prevent it sounding quite so rushed. People disagree over whether a comma is needed after the penultimate item in a list. I argue on the side of using it for the sake of clarity, and in this case, for the sake of pacing.

All right, that does it for the examples already on the table. You've only given us the bit we've seen with no context, so I'm not sure what the setting or mood is, but just from the sentences we see here, I'm sensing a man who is either lonely or involved in an end-of-the-world scenario. The mood seems melancholy to me. I've hinted that the first sentence seems rushed. I'd slow it down by separating the action of replacing the cup from the radio tuning altogether. In addition, I'd introduce a second sound for contrast:

He placed his cup back on its saucer, where it clinked against the spoon.

I wasn't crazy about the "all he could hear was" construction, so I'm offering an alternate wording with this sentence:

Then he turned the radio on and rotated its dial until he heard only loud static.

I really liked your version where you used the simile, so I've restored that bit, but in addition, I think we can gain a sense of place with a single adjective. The one I've chosen is uninspired ("small") but it may work given the large sound coming out of the radio. Also, I don't know your character or his setting, so you might choose something like cluttered, cozy, stuffy, chilly, barren... you get the idea:

The small room filled with sound, like the early morning sea mist rolling in with the tide. His eyes closed.

In total, my version is back up to 50 words, but now there are 4 sentences of 14, 16, 17, and 3 words:

Quote
He placed his cup back on its saucer, where it clinked against the spoon. Then he turned the radio on and rotated its dial until he heard only loud static. The small room filled with sound, like the early morning sea mist rolling in with the tide. His eyes closed.

I know delph hates the word "then," so you may want to try do some additional word-smithing to avoid it. I couldn't figure out a way around it off-the-cuff other than the phrase, "With a sigh, he turned..." which wasn't any better in my estimation, but I'm sure you can come up with something.
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« Reply #13 on: July 30, 2009, 06:44:27 PM »

No problem - glad my ramblings were of some use.

I like the way the passage fits into the story. Sounds intriguing.

BTW, a couple more words I spot in the passage that are almost always superfluous - 'that' and 'down'. Can't remember who it was for sure, but it might have been FPaul Wilson who said when he's finished a manuscript he runs a search for a list of words, such as: up, down, back, that, 'it was', 'there was'. And deletes them, or in the case of the latter two finds an active verb to replace them.

"He gulped the rest of his coffee down and[,] as he did[,] he realised there was only one choice he could make [he could only make one choice; [the] one choice that he would feel comfortable with.

He placed his cup on the small table, turned on the radio and rotated the tuning dial until he could hear only loud static. It filled his room like an early morning sea mist coming in with the tide to hide[tide and hide rhyme, so replace with 'obscure' instead] the shoreline. He closed his eyes.

My guide, my guide of all guides, if you can hear me now please speak, Janus thought[,] and waited for a response. The white noise of the static coming from the radio continued poured from the radio, unchanged.

My guide, please hear me.

I hear you, Janus, his spirit guide responded, manipulating the hiss of the detuned radio into sibilant words. What do you want of me?"
« Last Edit: July 30, 2009, 06:54:20 PM by Ed » Logged

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« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2009, 07:05:36 PM »

Thanks Pharosian & Ed - a big yes to all the suggestions - will be updating the pre-draft accordingly. Thanks for spending time on this.

 cheers
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