Yesterday, I analyzed a short segment posted by Katie. Today she offered a revision, and I think it’s clearly better.
Karel barely let the door swing shut before turning on him. “What is with you? First you treat me like some empty-headed dolt only good for a kitchen, then you try to ruin the deal with the only guide we have available!”
“The man is an arrogant pig!”
Randy sez: So far, this is the same as before. But now watch…
“Who cares? Of course he’s arrogant – he’s the best guide in the area! He’s willing to take us to Paravel at the swing of an ax, knowing his earltan is after you, and you’re complaining because he’s confident about his work?” She stabbed her hands on the table between them. “You’re the one who’s too arrogant. You’re willing to throw our lives away for one condescending remark?”
The question stung. “You’re willing to risk your own country to prove you’re my equal. Why do you think I was trying to lead the conversation?” He bent forward and lowered his voice. “If he thought this was all my idea, he’d be less curious about your motives. I was trying to protect your identity!”
Randy sez: In both paragraphs, Katie has inserted a small action tag, breaking up long segments of speech into more manageable segments. In both cases, we now are getting some visuals to go with the audio. This is better!
She stared at him, her breath choppy.
Tahir felt her breath on his lips, which meant she was far too close to him. He couldn’t look away. He didn’t want to.
The rage in her eyes faded to confusion. Pink dusted her cheeks. She looked down and leaned back, away from him. “I’m sorry.”
Randy sez: This has now been broken from 2 paragraphs into 3, and we are now seeing the entire thing. In yesterday’s version, the pace moved from “showing” to “telling” to “showing” again which seemed a bit choppy to me. Today, it remained almost completely “showing” with a bit of a transition at the very end, when we see things summarized a bit: The rage “fades to confusion” which takes a bit of time, as dust “pink dusting her cheeks”. This transition is a lot more natural.
Katie asked this question:
The “far too close to him” seems a bit like a motivation, but since she isn’t moving, he’s just noticing her closeness, I placed it as a reaction. Is this correct?
Randy sez: Actually, he’s making a logical deduction, so this is interior monologue, and is therefore part of his Reaction. Katie, you’ve made just a couple of tweaks to this section and I think it now reads quite a bit better. Very good!
Parker Haynes says
Amazing how a few simple tweaks can make such an improvement. This would be so much easier if we all had Randy’s analytical genius.
In addition to the changes Randy commented on, I really appreciate you bringing in Tahir’s name. Much more fitting than the anonymous “Joe.”
Good work, Katie! When do we get “the rest of the story?”
Pam Halter says
This may sound a little picky, and I think I know what you were doing, but “she stabbed her hands on the table?” I’m trying to visualize it without seeing a knife in the picture. 🙂
It’s a good revision, Katie.
Amy VR says
I agree that the second version reads better. I only have one question.
I remember that in one of Randy’s newsletters he spoke of what order to put certain reactions. The fastest reactions happens first. (I think he used the example of a fight scene.) If I have this right, then shouldn’t Karel’s cheeks be dusted pink BEFORE the rage in her eyes fades to confusion? Most people blush instantly, but the word “fade” implies it takes a bit longer to happen.
Am I right? Or am I completely confused? Or does it not really matter?
Katie Hart says
Parker, the rest of the story resides mostly in my brain. 🙂 I’m almost 20,000 words into the rough draft. This scene takes place a few chapters in. I do have the first chapter online (click my name above) but after this lesson it’ll need some MRU work!
Pam, I’m envisioning her thrusting her hands, palm down, onto the table in a quick motion.
Amy, the reactions happened in that order. Karel’s angry, then confused. Then, as Tahir continues to stare at her (new motivation, if this was from her POV), she gets embarrassed, and so she blushes (involuntary) and looks down (voluntary).
On the heels of Amy’s question, this is where I would have been tempted to use one of those pesky “as” words. I really like the contrast of the fading rage happening simultaneously with the growing blush. I would have probably used AS there. Sorry.
Doesn’t AS work if the two things are truly simultaneous? Or does it too often weaken a phrase?
Nice job, Katie.
What a good job you did with those few small changes! The section reads more smoothly; it rushes (as it should) through the heated dialogue and slows at the end, almost like a wave crashing on the shore and then receding. I, too, wondered about your use of “stabbed” for her hands on the table, and in your explanation later you mentioned they were palms-down. Maybe another word like “slammed” …? Just a thought.
Thanks for letting us learn through your before-and-after efforts.
Ted Domay says
The magic of the proper re-write right before my eyes, thank you. For a new writer like me, very valuable. I agree with the dusted pink, it’s what happens after rage subsides and is well placed toward the end. I like it. Believe it or not, I can’t wait to be shown my own flaws. Aloha, Ted.
Bruce Younggreen says
Re: hands moving to table, palm down.
The result of this action is that the body is no longer centered over the feet. If the table were not there, this position would result in the loss of balance and the person (Karel) would fall over. This action, moving from upright to bending forward and being supported by the table, is more important than the speed with which she moves her hands to the table.
All that said, the verb “stabbed” implies penetrating the surface of the table. “Slammed” (from Davalynn’s comment) implies force and possibly noise or movement in the table. Both focus the reader’s mental image on the action of the hands. It is the action of the body, leaning forward, getting closer to Tahir’s face, that is the most important (based on the conclusion of this sequence of events). Therefore, I would find Karel’s movement easier to visualize if I could see her arms become supporting pillars for her upper body. My suggestion would be that she “planted” her hands on the table.
Amy VR says
Katie – Thanks for the explanation. You are absolutely right about the order of the reaction.
Daan Van der Merwe says
I clicked your name and read chapter one. I read it as a reader searching for a P.E.E. without paying attention to scenes, structures and MRU’s.
I enjoyed reading it and would like to read more. Had you not posted the above paragraphs, I would have thought that Tahir may well doublecross Karel and take of with the stone. 🙂
As a matter of interest, is this Christian Fiction? In a fantasy novel? The only Christian fiction I have read so far was Randy’s TRANSGRESSION. It so much inspired me that I spent over 5 months translating it in Afrikaans.
Parker Haynes says
Thanks for pointing us to chapter 1. I enjoyed both the writing and the story. Let us know when it’s published.
I think I’m finally getting this! One of the hardest things for me has been grasping the terms you use, maybe because I’ve learned this in another venue (Margie Lawson?) who uses different words to convey the same thoughts. I’ve tried to be conscious of keeping things in order, but recently went back to a scene and saw where I could rearrange a bit. Thanks for your diligence in keeping this thing going until we, er, I got it!
Just when I thought I was getting this, I hit a speed bump. Can’t a thought (which I’m assuming is rational speech, but could be wrong) come BEFORE a feeling or reflex? In my example below it’s the thought that causes the feeling. Putting the feeling before the thought (which caused the feeling) seems out of order. What am I not getting about MRUs?
I waved at him, but he focused on herding the students to their desks. What if I was forced to listen to a detailed lecture on forensics? The all too familiar agita churned.
I’m VERY new at this, but I was nonetheless about to put my theory forward when I realised it didn’t work!
I wanted to say that in your example, the thought or internal monologue is the motivation, and the subsequent feelings the reaction. THEN I remembered that the motivation needs to be external. In this case, the character is just thinking about something that would be external if it happened, and I’m confused…
Still, thought I’d let you know you’ve got me thinking, while someone else comes up with the ‘real’ answer!
Karen, I would think the motivation was the first sentence. It’s what led to her thought which seem out of the MRU order. Anyone have any other thoughts?
Ted Domay says
Hi, Randy. Thank you for what I’ve learned sofar. Just one question, are you done with this session or do I still have a chance to get my piece critiqued? Aloha, Ted.