PDA

View Full Version : Be definite.



Olly Buckle
July 26th, 2011, 10:35 AM
This is a short passage I have made up as an illustration,

“The music was kind of soft and lilting, almost in the background of his mind. It was as though it was calling to him. Suddenly it seemed to swell, a sort of purpose and meaning was in it and he felt a real voice speaking to him through the music.”

Not bad, I can imagine it in story, now read it without the qualifiers,

“The music was soft and lilting, in the background of his mind calling to him. Suddenly it swelled, purpose and meaning was in it, and a voice was speaking to him through the music.”

Can you see how much more powerful it sounds? By “qualifiers” I don’t mean all the adjectives, the music was still soft and lilting, words like that add something to the description of the music. I mean all the words and phrases that are indefinite, these are the ones I edited out of my example,
Kind of; almost; It was as though it was; it seemed to; a sort of; he felt a real.
Editing out things like this, that qualify your meaning by detracting rather than adding, will make your writing more powerful, clearer, and simpler; all good qualities. But be careful of your grammar.
In my example I have had to change ‘swell’ to ‘swelled’ and add ‘was’ to make it ‘was speaking’, though I could have made it ‘spoke’.

The Backward OX
July 26th, 2011, 11:23 AM
A short illustrative passage I created... :-\"

Olly Buckle
July 26th, 2011, 11:32 AM
Or possibly,

"This is a short example I made up."

When I am trying to explain something I think it pays to stick to 10cent words, even if I have to use two, but bang on the nail as usual, a good example of concise.

Rob
July 26th, 2011, 08:47 PM
You've completely changed the tone in the second piece, which could be fine, or it may not be what the author wanted to convey at all.

Bloggsworth
July 26th, 2011, 09:17 PM
This is a short passage I have made up as an illustration,

“The music was kind of soft and lilting, almost in the background of his mind. It was as though it was calling to him. Suddenly it seemed to swell, a sort of purpose and meaning was in it and he felt a real voice speaking to him through the music.”

Not bad, I can imagine it in story, now read it without the qualifiers,

“The music was soft and lilting, in the background of his mind calling to him. Suddenly it swelled, purpose and meaning was in it, and a voice was speaking to him through the music.”

Can you see how much more powerful it sounds? By “qualifiers” I don’t mean all the adjectives, the music was still soft and lilting, words like that add something to the description of the music. I mean all the words and phrases that are indefinite, these are the ones I edited out of my example,
Kind of; almost; It was as though it was; it seemed to; a sort of; he felt a real.
Editing out things like this, that qualify your meaning by detracting rather than adding, will make your writing more powerful, clearer, and simpler; all good qualities. But be careful of your grammar.
In my example I have had to change ‘swell’ to ‘swelled’ and add ‘was’ to make it ‘was speaking’, though I could have made it ‘spoke’.

To be brutally honest Olly, I don't find either of them attractive, they both seem overblown, a case of not using 5 words when 10 will do. If the music was in the background it would be out of his conscious perception and would hardly be calling to him. If it were calling to him then there's no need to say that it was speaking to him through the music.

The music, once soft and lilting, swelling suddenly, spoke directly to his consciousness.

Just a thought.

Olly Buckle
July 26th, 2011, 09:56 PM
That it may not be what the author wanted to convey, but if he wanted to covey more why make it sound as though he is simply using excess words without precise meaning or association. Any change of wording will change the tone change the tone. But let me reword a bit in different ways and see if I can illustrate how a possible sense and tone could be made more precise.

The music was of a sort that was soft and lilting,
The music gave the impression of being soft and lilting,
He could best describe the music as soft and lilting,

I may be wrong, but when someone writes in the style of the original I take 'kind of" to actually mean that the author wants the music to have a unique quality without knowing what it is, the imprecision is caused because he does not know what he is writing about. If he takes away all the imprecision it is possible that he will see that what he really meant was.

It seemed to him the music had an imprecise, magical quality, that human speech best conveyed as 'soft and lilting', an inadequate description.

This may seem to break the rule of being concise, but to convey all those varied elements that is not bad.

Enter the Ox no doubt, to render it in three words of Strine, or point out that 'imprecise' as a precise element has its humorous side.

Cran
July 28th, 2011, 11:21 PM
Isn't it interesting how people tend to focus on the examples, and what's wrong with them, rather than on the point of the message?

Lord Darkstorm
July 29th, 2011, 04:00 AM
I think the point here is that you need to be certain. If the author isn't sure, then the reader might not be sure either. It's something I found myself doing quite often when I first started writing. If what I write shows doubt, the the reader might doubt I know what I'm talking about. You're the author, and you should know what is going on. Now, the character can sometimes have doubts and be unsure, but it needs to definitely be the character with the doubt.

Dreamworx95
July 29th, 2011, 04:17 AM
My English teacher tried showed us an example of this to show us how much better an argumentative essay sounds if you sound sure. She told us never to use "I think" She asked a student three questions and told him to answer first with "I think" then answering the same questions without. It went like this:

What is your name?
I think it's Frank.

What city do you live in?
I think Seattle.

What school do you go to?
I think Cascade High.

So you can imagine how much smarter and more certain it sounds without all the "I thinks." I learned quickly that this also applies to creative writing.

Olly Buckle
July 31st, 2011, 12:04 AM
Now, the character can sometimes have doubts and be unsure, but it needs to definitely be the character with the doubt. Good point, Lord Darkstorm.

And a nice vivid example Dreamworks.

candid petunia
August 1st, 2011, 06:22 PM
When I read the first passage, I thought that is how I write (connected immediately--just saying hehe :) ). But I see the difference between the two and I realise, gosh, I have a lot to learn.
Thank you for posting this, Olly. :)

patskywriter
August 24th, 2011, 03:17 PM
… The music, once soft and lilting, swelling suddenly, spoke directly to his consciousness. …

I like your rewrite. I'd probably suggest:

"The music, once soft and lilting, swelled suddenly and entered directly into his consciousness."

The phrase in blue is a common one, although it seems a bit awkward to me. If this were my writing project, I'd probably wrestle with it for a while. O:) There's a subtle change in meaning as well. The success of the rewrite would depend on how it would work with the rest of the story.

Gamer_2k4
September 6th, 2011, 08:01 PM
Isn't it interesting how people tend to focus on the examples, and what's wrong with them, rather than on the point of the message?

I would expect the mindset behind that is simply that if you can't come up with a good example, the validity of your message comes into question.

And don't take that the wrong way, Olly; your example was fine for what you're trying to say. I just disagree with your premise.

Olly Buckle
September 6th, 2011, 10:40 PM
I am notsure of the reason, but Cran is correct in the implication that this is a recurrent phenomena, I would refer you to my recent thread "An exercise" in non-fiction.

Transformation
October 10th, 2011, 12:17 AM
Thanks Olly,

Beautiful example used. Message recieved. That darn grammar gets me everytime too. :beaten:

Bluesman
October 16th, 2011, 09:01 PM
Well Olly , I read it and i got the message which was made simple by your goodself. I'm here to watch and learn, and i'm appreciative of anything that my contempories have to say thank you for your time and effort.

Robdemanc
November 8th, 2011, 08:38 PM
I read the OP and got the point straight away. The second version stood out a lot more than the first. It was more direct.

Shpob
December 22nd, 2011, 04:42 PM
I think the idea was laid out quite well. This is something that I've been paying attention to (read: struggling with) in my own writing lately and you have a good point Olly. I find that it's rare that a piece of writing ends up better when you leave those messy "kind of's / seems to be's" in it. Now I'll really be paying attention. Thanks!

= )