Here’s another critique, this time of Alie’s two paragraph submission:
The monotone voice of the Pastor filled the chapel and pulled Tara’s attention back to the service. Tara blinked heavy eyes in rapid succession before gazing again at Chandler’s hunched shoulders. Any time now he would take the podium and sing his mother’s praises. He could always admit he killed Emma. That would please half the congregation. She glanced at Sergeant Harold Taylor two rows behind Chandler.
Suddenly Chandler moved. Here he goes! Tara flipped open the notepad in her lap, but instead of standing to go to the podium, Chandler turned his head and stared straight at her. Stunned, she returned his gaze. A scowl cross his face before he turned away.
Randy sez: This looks to be part of a fairly dramatic scene (and unfortunately we’re only seeing a tiny snippet of it). I see a couple of time-indicators that I would eliminate (“before” and “suddenly”). I would also break up paragraph 2 into more paragraphs, since what we have here is a quick succession of Motivations and Reactions. (To reiterate, a reference on Motivations and Reactions is on my Perfect Scene page.)
I am also going to insert one emotive reaction for Tara. Finally, there are some sentences I would suggest breaking up. Here’s my suggested revision:
The monotone voice of the pastor filled the chapel.
Tara forced her attention back to the service. She blinked heavy eyes in rapid succession, then looked again at Chandler’s hunched shoulders. Any time now the creep would take the podium and sing his mother’s praises. He could always admit he killed Emma. That would please half the congregation.
Tara stole a quick glance at Sergeant Harold Taylor two rows behind Chandler.
Tara’s heart lurched. Here he goes! She flipped open the notepad in her lap.
Instead of standing to go to the podium, Chandler turned his head and stared straight at Tara.
Tara couldn’t move, couldn’t think, couldn’t do anything but return his gaze.
A scowl crossed Chandler’s face and then he turned away.
Randy sez: There are some judgment calls here. I make ’em one way. Another writer would make them another way. It’s all a matter of taste, so don’t imagine that my way is the only way to do things. Mainly, I want to let you see what happens when you pay strict attention to those pesky MRUs.
Thanks for the critique, Randy. You version certainly flows better. Now I just have to apply it to the rest of the wip. 🙂
Sarah Stockton says
Randy- can this way of breaking up the sentences really work on the page of a book? I’m more used to seeing longer paragraphs, though I like the way this style of short sentences with line breaks in between, heightens the tension.
ML Eqatin says
I second sarah. If you are going to punch up a scene for action, I always shorten the paragraphs. But like anything, it only works if the non-action paragraphs are the usual length.
If these two paragraphs are a scene on which everything hinges, well and good. Splitting sentences into single paragraphs definitely adds emphasis. But it’s a little like using italics. If you use them in every other sentence, they soon lose their usefulness and the whole dialogue starts to sound like ‘valley girl’.
Then, when you have a fight scene, what will you do to make it seem slo-mo in-the-moment action?
Appreciate what you’re doing for everyone Randy. Are you getting any writing done, what with all this extra blogging load?
Another fine example. Think I might start getting the hang of this yet.
Not to be a wedding crasher but I was typically late to the party (Hope this doesn’t seem rude)…. I’ve read some of the stuff around here and thought I might try my hand at the MRU technique. This is actually the first stuff I’ve written but I have some “content” in my head that I wanted to get down. Randy, All, what do you guys think?
The first volley caused the mourners to flinch as the bugler began his sorrowful notes. Nelson’s only visible response was to clinch his hands harder. The Sergeant issued muted commands and another volley sounded. More commands. Another volley of rifle fire echoed away . The firing party ordered arms and Nelson Hawkins USMC (retired) buried his son in his heart as well as the cold earth. The final note of “taps” hung in the air as the Marine officer tread past Nelson to his daughter-in-law. His throat tightened and he looked down at his grandson standing between him and his Angie. The Marine passed the folded flag to Angie as she began sobbing. The officer kept his eyes on the flag, Nelson knowing from experience that if he had looked in Angies’ eyes, he too, would have begun crying for his lost brother Marine.
The ritual complete, Nelson felt relief. He held Angie briefly before releasing her to her family and the grief she was going to bear. The boy, still too young to fully understand, was spared the empty sadness his grandfather felt. Nelson knelt, looked the boy in his eyes and said, “Your mom is going to need your hugs, Jake. Don’t be too big a boy to give them to her. Okay?” Jake solemnly nodded.
Joleena Thomas says
I’m a little behind, this is regarding Caprice’s Critique (Alie’s to follow)and we all know how busy Randy is so any responses to this are appreciated.
Randy, Something’s quirky here-can you help me out?
Was it just a mix up in your wording or am I seeing things the *wrong* way.
You had said: I’ll reorder things to begin with a Reaction, and each change from Reaction to Motivation to Reaction will trigger a new paragraph.
This would result in:
*However* I’m not getting that.
The way I see it, your new re-writes exist as
1-Reaction characterized by Vahn’s internalization that the place wasn’t reputable.
2-Motivation characterized by the fact that it’s an objective shot which can be seen by onlookers however (it’s also a reaction-his response to seeing the rif-raf). Then there’s
3-Reaction-his internalization of the smell of sweat and cheap mead-*his POV* because the regulars probably didn’t think: “Boy this place stinks.” Their senses took it in stride.
4- Reaction: Finally, we’re getting another reaction shot-Vahn felt unusually out of place followed by dialogue.(The dialogue portions are also objective camera shots and therefore motivational, but I’m basing it on the first line of “I’m looking for Gil Hocar.”
Having went back and read again on MRU’s which sound like computereez, I’m realy feeling the idea of Outward/Inward…to describe this process. The outward objective view and the internal subjective reaction.
Re: Allie’s–My take on the new MRU sequence:
1-M 2-R 3-R(this one seems also like M) 4-M 5-R 6-M 7-R 8-M
This particular critique didn’t have me wondering as much. Only #3 “Tara stole a quick glance at Sgt. Taylor…” has me thinking it’s both an outward motivational shot as well as an internal reaction shot at the same time.
And thanks Caprice and Allie and everyone else for all of the interesting pieces to work with.
Yep, I’m starting to make the connections, Randy.
Question, why do you advise removing the time indicators?