Friday, March 03, 2006

LS: Your Own Drummer




I recently was privy to an email exchange by some writers who were asked by a friend if the phrasing in a certain sentence was appropriate.

It was a beautiful sentence with an aching description, a haunting thought, and a waltzing rhythm. Some people loved it; others didn’t and offered up alternative wordings. I could have told you based on their writings what the individual response would be.

The more literary, descriptive writers, understood inherently what he was trying to do. Even the genre fiction writers whose works go that extra mile in craft had minor suggestions. But the grammarians put their lips around it and sucked the very life from the sentence.

I just went over the line edits for my upcoming novel, Straight Up. This short paragraph came to my attention and I thought, “Cadence! Hey, there’s something I can talk about on Charis.” I was going to write about the proper use of prepositions, but, oh that’s right, I’m no grammarian!
So here’s the portion in its original form (at least original to the edited ms). I did my part. Now you do yours. Make this the flattest, most tone-deaf paragraph you can, all in the name of grammar and succinctness. If you have to add a few words to make it even worse, go right ahead. Oh, and (hint), there are three, count them, three usuallys in there. Surely only one is necessary right?

Jesse usually doesn’t talk like this. Jesse usually minds his own business when
it comes to things like sex, drink, and any questionable behavior he’s been
guilty of a thousand times or more himself. Jesse usually isn’t this annoying.

Musicality and rhythm are important to crafting a novel. How do you employ cadence in your writing?

Lisa Samson, author of seventeen novels, is bopping to the rhythm of life, love and an amazing cup of assam tea. Lexington KY witnesses this mayhem. Find her at www.lisasamson.typepad.com

7 Comments:

At 9:30 AM, Blogger JSB said...

"How do you employ cadence in your writing?"

I want all my words marching toward suspense. That's my first order of business. But as they do, they can sing a little, like troops, you know, "You had a good home but you LEFT. You're RIGHT!"

"Unobtrusive poetry" is what I like to see. If it's obtrusive, I'm out of the story. Who is the best at this? No question: Raymond Chandler. I'm reading "The Long Goodbye" right now. Stunning how good he was. John D. MacDonald, too, in the 50's.

 
At 11:09 AM, Blogger Angela said...

Oh, boy, a chance to write something that doesn't count!

Okay--you wrote:

Jesse usually doesn’t talk like this. Jesse usually minds his own business when it comes to things like sex, drink, and any questionable behavior he’s been
guilty of a thousand times or more himself. Jesse usually isn’t this annoying.

(This reminds me of when George Costanza begins to speak of himself in third person! LOL)

Dry and flat? How's this:

Jesse usually pontificates with succinctness. He neither broaches taboo topics nor does he comment upon others' affairs. He is a consummate raconteur.

 
At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, I'm game. Actually, I'm quite good at writing horribly, as any first draft can testify. How about this--

Jesse's glum, because he's mum;
his toes wiggle in his mouth.

(Lisa may never talk to me again.)

Jack Cavanaugh

 
At 10:27 PM, Blogger sherri said...

You could save ink and paper with this version:

Jesse's atypical, hypocritical advice about my personal business annoys me.

But I think the tree would rather give it's life for yours. ;-)

Sherri

 
At 11:28 PM, Blogger S. A. Miller said...

I can hear some in one of my writer's groups alredy. "There are three 'usually's' in there!"

Uh, yeah.

I can write as flat as the next person, I guess:

Jesse usually isn't this annoying talking like this. He says little about sex, drinking, and other questionable behavior he's done, but does not want to share.

 
At 5:32 AM, Blogger Brad Whittington said...

"Although I personally think Jesse is a twit with knobs on, there's one thing I can count on from him -- forbearing reticence. Until today, at least, when he suddenly morphed into the love child of Miss Manners and Dr. Phil, long on advice and short on sympathy."

I realize I didn't follow the assignment, but everybody had already taken the good lifeless rewriting angles, so I just decided to write it with a different cadence. It needs a good zinger sentence on the end, but it's after midnight so it'll just have to wait.

 
At 6:10 PM, Blogger lisa said...

Oh, these are great, you guys. And Jack, I can't imagine not talking to you again!

 

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