Today we’ll continue our investigation into “Motivation-Reaction Units” — also known as MRUs. As I’ve been doing for the past week, we’ll critique a real passage posted by one of my loyal blog readers.
Thank you so much for this study of MRUs Randy. I’ve gone over the opening of my novel and revised it with MRUs in mind. I believe there are three MRUs in here, but may be completely deluded. If you have to laugh, please stuff a pair of socks in your mouth first, to save my feelings! Here goes:
“Sweet to tongue and sound to eye …”.
She was motionless outside Trocadéro metro station, looking up the steps towards the entrance to the musée de l’Homme. How had she landed here? She should have been miles away, in the Quartier Latin, heading towards the rue St Andre des Arts, to the gallery.
… wood, horn, bone, feather, thread of gut … Again, the peculiar sensation of being not herself, but her double – Laura looking into Laura. This time ‘she’ was seeing, reflected back from the blackness of her pupil, a halo. On the halo’s inner rim was a web from which tiny random drops of light were suspended. Laura recognised and remembered.
It wasn’t spider silk and the drops of light were beads. It was a made-up web – made to trap dreams, bad dreams. In the dark of the night nightmares would lose their way, bewildered by and thus ensnared in the web’s intricate cyclic pattern, condemned to execution by the touch of the first ray of daybreak.
It was a dreamcatcher. Dreamcatchers kept dreamers safe. Only good dreams could pass through the hole at the centre of the web. Four bouquets of feathers – symbols for spirit and thought – dangled from the bottom of the wooden hoop from which this particular snare was fashioned and the whole swayed hypnotically in an air-conditioned breeze. A pendulum, to remind that time was running out? It had long hung above the door to Le Café de l’Homme, the restaurant inside the museum.
The sun flooded her eyes. A flock of birds emerged from a dark stale mouth, flew into her face – a lunchtime crowd in flight from the station exit. There was a fluttering dispersal as they circumnavigated the unexpected island of her body, regrouped on the other side to move onwards as a single host once more.
“Sweet to tongue and sound to eye …”
The words were dusted across the fine blonde hairs on the back of her neck. She didn’t react, didn’t turn to seek the owner of the voice. She knew there’d be no-one there, or at least, no-one visible to her naked eye.
Randy sez: Wow, this was so good I didn’t really notice where Motivations and Reactions began and ended on the first reading. I’m going to guess, because we’re coming into this passage without much context, that the Motivations are the following:
1) “Sweet to tongue and sound to eye …”.
2) … wood, horn, bone, feather, thread of gut …
3) “Sweet to tongue and sound to eye …”
The Reactions are everything else, if I’ve understood this passage correctly. If I’ve parsed this right, then the only suggestion I have to make is to put a paragraph break after Motivation #2. That would make clearer the distinction between Motivation and Reaction. And the reason for wanting to make that distinction is so that the reader knows when to identify with the character and when not to.
This is a fine piece of writing. What can I say, other than, “Well done, Ann!”