INSTRUCTIONS

The quality of sentences in fiction are crucial for conveying meaning, shaping character, providing momentum for the story, establishing voice not in dialogue, stimulating images, transferring ideas, providing rhythmic structure for reading ease and pleasure.

Approach this with determination: look to improve . . .

Accurate word choice
Active verbs
Ideas succinctly expressed
Only one main idea, with subordinated ideas only that are directly related to main idea, per sentence
Every word, and sentence, needs a purpose

Avoidance of passive constructions
Grammatically correct
Punctuation accurate
Rhythmic
Varying sentence types for emphasis and interest.

Then submit you work for comment (not required).

 

Basics for review (Adapted slightly from Guide to Grammar and Writing, Capital Community College Foundation)

Sentence variety

Simple (one independent clause):
We drove from Connecticut to Tennessee in one day.
Compound (more than one independent clause):
We were exhausted, but we arrived in time for my father’s birthday party.
Complex (one independent clause and at least one dependent clause):
Although he is now 79 years old, he still claims to be 65.
Compound-complex (more than one independent clause and at least one dependent clause):
After it was all over, my dad claimed he knew we were planning something, but we think he was really surprised.

Periodic sentences begin with modifying phrases and clauses, sometimes piling them on, and then end with an independent clause, period.

If, instead of listening to the war-mongers of the military-industrial establishment, the politicians had only listened to what people had been writing in their letters and in the newspaper columns, if they had only listened to what the demonstrators had been shouting in the streets and on the campuses, if they had only listened to what was in their hearts, the war would have ended long ago.


Cumulative sentences
, on the other hand, begin with the independent clause and then finish with a flurry of modifying constructions.

 

EXAMPLES from literature

Example 1. Shakespeare, from Julius Caesar. Rhythm.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.

Example 2. Anton Chekhov. “Misery” Imagery.

The twilight of evening. Big flakes of wet snow are whirling lazily about the street lamps, which have just been lighted, and lying in a thin soft layer on roofs, horses’ backs, shoulders, caps. Iona Potapov, the sledge-driver, is all white like a ghost. He sits on the box without stirring, bent as double as the living body can be bent. If a regular snowdrift fell on him it seems as though even then he would not think it necessary to shake it off. . . . His little mare is white and motionless too. Her stillness, the angularity of her lines, and the stick-like straightness of her legs make her look like a halfpenny gingerbread horse. She is probably lost in thought. Anyone who has been torn away from the plough, from the familiar gray landscapes, and cast into this slough, full of monstrous lights, of unceasing uproar and hurrying people, is bound to think.
http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/1026/

Example 3. Ernest Hemingway: “Hills Like White Elephants” Setting.

THE HILLS ACROSS the valley of the Ebro were long and white. On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun. Close against the side of the station there was the warm shadow of the building and a curtain, made of strings of bamboo beads, hung across the open door into the bar, to keep out flies. The American and the girl with him sat at a table in the shade, outside the building. It was very hot and the express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes. It stopped at this junction for two minutes and went to Madrid.

 

EXERCISES—Sentence Rewrite

A downhome essential practice drill. Rewrite the following sentences. Improve flow, accuracy, conciseness, readability without loosing the core purpose. Change content ad lib. Make your remodeled sentences your own. (REMEMBER: submit your work for comment if you would like reactions and suggestions. It helps to expand value of this segment. Thanks.)

Exercise 1. Sentence rewrite.

Reanna had promised to take the girl—her granddaughter—on a big trip when she turned ten, but that year there was a crisis (the girl’s father, Reanna’s son, lost his mind) as well as a raging interest in redoing the Baptist church basement rec room, and so that year, and several years following it, had passed.

Although she knew that the girl, Leanna, her granddaughter, would never raise the question, Reanna finally felt compelled to raise it herself, when the girl was fifteen.

“How about that trip I promised you?” she asked in the girl’s in her rehab facility, after a visit that had filled Reanna with excitement and dismay . . . excitement at what her treatment wrought, dismay at the rapid passage of time.


Exercise 2. Sentence rewrite.

The monument would undoubtedly transmogrify, at a certain angle and in a certain light, the prow-like profile of a significantly androgynous face, ample lips pursed, pointed chin thrust forward, blind eyes seeking.

In direct sunlight, the profile would sink back into the stone and become a telling abstraction, delighting all in the considerable crowd who had gathered to watch her start the beginning lines of her required sketch on the pad her mother had used decades before she died in childbirth.


Exercise 3. Sentence rewrite.

It is imperative, in trying to rectify a mistake, to analyze the errors, giving full attention as to how correction might be instigated without having to reveal the source (sources) of the mistake(s), and recording, for reference in the future, your thoughts in some logical and meaningful progression, without wasting time.


Exercise 4. Sentence rewrite.

I handed exact change to the acne-scarred teenage cashier and slung my bags over my shoulder and trudged out to the bus stop. On the bench, eating a bag of in-the-shell peanuts was Timothy O’Leary. I slid onto the seat next to him, stuffing my bags underneath the bench so that no one would trip over them and they wouldn’t get stolen. He held out the peanuts and shook the bag, a few loose shells falling out, inviting me to take one, but I declined, shaking my head. He shrugged and slumped back against the bench, and belched with foul breath reminiscent of a rarely cleaned doghouse.


Exercise 5. Sentence rewrite.

I was in the vegetable aisle, near the pyramid of cantaloupes, of the grocery store when I saw Hazel for the first time. She was reading the nutrition facts off the side of bottled asparagus. I was surprised to see her, because she looked like my younger sister, who didn’t exist. She was a fairy tale in my mind, something I’d always wanted and needed . . . a sister . . . to break the loneliness of being an only child in a divorced family.

 


   Work submissions for Assignment 7: Rewriting sentences

The Butchers (An Excerpt)

By Nazib Wadood

The soft golden afternoon rays of the autumn sun were reflecting over her fresh whitish cheeks. She was looking so shining, nice and charming! As if, a hur had descended from the Heaven to the worldly compound. How could have such a beautiful girl taken birth in a poor family of such a marginal farmer like Harezuddin! thought Akber Mollah, the chief of the village. The bridegroom, a black, stout, healthy young chap of about lovely twenty years, had kept his shameless unblinking looks upon her, being unmindful even of the presence of so many people including the elders sitting around him.

Nobody could dislike the girl; it was certain, Mollah thought. And if the question of family was raised, undoubtedly it would be, then one should know the name and fame of the Gharamis had not been a matter of very distant past. Concern of the present was that the Gharamis had fallen on evil days. Harezuddin’s father, Shafiuddin Gharami, had developed a deadly disease and sold almost all his farmlands, mango gardens and ponds to get money for his treatment. After his death, he had left only one and a half acres of farmland for his son; and Harezuddin took lease another one acre of land as a sharecropper. He had a pair of bullocks and a plough for cultivation of his own lands; and used to plough other’s lands too, to earn extra money. Thus, Harezuddin Gharami was hardly managing his family.

Nosimon was sitting on an armless chair in their square courtyard fenced by jute-stalks on all three sides. She was positioned in front of their two-roomed thatched house to face to the west to let the golden sunshine of the dying afternoon kiss her cheeks and made the face more beautiful and charming. The bridegroom and his relatives, and the invited senior villagers were sitting in front of her in chairs and benches; some friends of her, along with an old grandmother-like woman, were crowding around her to maintain courage of their girl before such a gathering of unknown and honorable persons. Her face was glistening with reddish luster. Her body structure, unlike to the average Bengali girls, was some taller and slender, with long black hairs on the head spreading down to the waist. The Creator has created the fortunate girl with His own hand and poured inexhaustible beauty and youth on to her, thought the village chief, and admitted that despite his poverty, Harezuddin had nourished and brought up his daughter with much love and care.    

Akber Mollah looked back over his shoulder to see the position of the sun. The mango tree spread its branches over the roof of the thatched house as if it had held it with its huge and innumerable hands. The sun was being seen through the gaps of the branches glittering with fading glow. It was yet to set, but was rushing to the horizon. Taking his eyes back to the courtyard, he examined the shadows on the ground to assess whether the time of the afternoon prayer was yet on. Then he said, `Time of asr prayer is going to be over; I have to go, brothers, if you permit, please.’

Everybody was moved at his assertion; all they had so far been unmindful of passage of time. Especially the bridegrooms party got very much ashamed understanding that they had really wasted much time. The village chief noticed it, and to let them get rid of it, he said, `If you have no more questions to ask, or nothing to see about, I think the girl should go.’

Questionnaire phase, the main part of the matrimonial interview, was finished earlier. So the head of the bridegrooms party, a bearded old man with a white tupi on his head, said, `Yes, brother, we have to go a long distance. We should be brief.’ He looked at the girl and asked her to show her palms open to them; and like an experienced palmist, he bent forward and attentively examined her palms and fingers for a while, and nodded his head positively. Then another middle-aged man requested the old grandmother-like woman to show them her hairs. The old woman did it merrily and confidently. Her hairs were abundant and long enough to touch her waist. The old man said, `You may go now, my sweet little mother. Now go walking…!’

`I came here walking, and will leave the place certainly by walking, as I have no wing to fly, then why comes the question of walking in such a demanding voice?’ Nosimon thought, but kept her lips tight enough not to speak anything or even utter a soft sound.

A girl poured some water on the courtyard, and Nosimon walked slowly on the wet ground in the little space in front of them. They examined her footprints and smiled with satisfaction as they found the feet well formed. They also expressed satisfaction over her good and humble gait.

`Well-done, my daughter, well-done. Now go, and take rest,’ said the village chief.

What a word of relief! What a terrible time of troublesome heartache it was! –Sitting before the crowd to be shown, to answer to their absurd, confusing, unnecessary and even harassing questions, and giving bodily examinations before them! It is shameful, Nosimon thought, and moved slowly to leave the place. The old woman whispered to her, and she then turned back and raising her slender right hand to about her forehead, greeted the crowd with salam. While doing it, she had a sudden and unexpected chance of casting a glance to the bridegroom, a black but healthy young lad, still looking at her with his spellbound eyes. Not bad! Especially for a poor girl like her! Nosimon said to her, and her whole body shuddered with a warm thrill; her mind suddenly became full of euphoria; and she could not keep her standing there. She almost ran to leave the place to hide her unusualness; while she was briskly walking, she could have not even imagined if she was stepping on the ground, or flying in the air.

Harezuddin had collected all necessary details of the bridegroom and his family earlier before. Parila was not a very distant village. He himself had gone there and secretly learnt everything. Roistullah had been a medium sized farmer; the villagers knew him as a rich man with his twelve acres of land. And Mohibullah, the eldest of his two sons and three daughters, was well-known for his modesty and endeavors, and religiosity. The boy passed class nine, and then devoted himself to farming in his father’s lands, not to waste time in study that would not perhaps confirm an employment for him. Harezuddin was very much pleased with all those, and was at the same time anxious with the question of the choice of the other side. The matchmaker had assured him that they had been seeking for a beautiful girl– only a fair-looking bride, and a good family, and nothing more. They would not demand dowry, the matchmaker had categorically said, as he was expecting more clear and specific information. He had full confidence in him that they could not have but chosen Nosimon, for her fair complexion, attractive body figure, lovely face, long hairs and big enchanting eyes. She could also read and write, though not much. His daughter was intelligent enough and very much social, and skill in cooking and sewing. But Roistullah was something miserly and greedy by nature, somebody told him. He might expect something from him that would at least be honorable for his social status, if he really would not openly demand dowry, Harezuddin had thought, and despite that, he had screwed up his mind in hope. He had earlier explained everything to the village chief and informed him of his heart’s wish. Now he whispered to him, and said, `Well, now, you, elder brother, please try to manage the marriage. Put a little pressure, if necessary.’

Instructor Response

Your sentences are fine. You have your style and I’d advise you in general to stick with it. Your style tends to many words, okay as long as you’re not repeating ideas or images, and that the words you use are accurate for your meaning and story context. Note too that every sentence has movement, or lack of movement. Wherever possible in your writing, rather than a preponderance of descriptive writing (He was tall with black hair and green eyes.) or rumination in narrative back story (John had never really liked fried potatoes, in fact, he didn’t like most starches, except when his mother made them; his mother was his favorite cook.), keep sentences with moving. To keep momentum, it helps also to avoid passive verb constructions, many of which I have highlighted.
Good work!
And thanks for submitting.

WHC

The Butchers (An Excerpt)

By Nazib Wadood

The soft golden afternoon rays of the autumn sun were reflecting over her fresh whitish cheeks. She was looking so shining, nice and charming! As if, a hur had descended from the Heaven to the worldly compound. How could have such a beautiful girl taken birth in a poor family of such a marginal farmer like Harezuddin! thought Akber Mollah, the chief of the village. The bridegroom, a black, stout, healthy young chap of about lovely [this word doesn’t seem to fit]  twenty years, had kept his shameless unblinking looks upon her, being unmindful even of the presence of so many people including the elders sitting around him.

Nobody could dislike the girl; it was certain, Mollah thought. And if the question of family was raised, undoubtedly it would be, then one should know the name and fame of the Gharamis had not been a matter of very distant past. Concern of the present was that the Gharamis had fallen on evil days. Harezuddin’s father, Shafiuddin Gharami, had developed a deadly disease and sold almost all his farmlands, mango gardens and ponds to get money for his treatment. After his death, he had left only one and a half acres of farmland for his son; and Harezuddin took lease another one acre of land as a sharecropper. He had a pair of bullocks and a plough for cultivation of his own lands; and used to plough other’s lands too, to earn extra money. Thus, Harezuddin Gharami was hardly managing his family.   [This section needs to be condensed.  It stops the flow of your very good beginning.  Condense by rethinking how you delivery back story.  Can you learn to embed it in front story, dialogue, or in scene narrative?  Find the essential things you want the reader to know.  The essence is Gharamis is poor and diseased, and the family was poorly managed.  Can you use a lot fewer words to get this information across?  Work to provide the information seemlessly as much in the front story as you can.  It takes practice.  But you have the ability.]

Nosimon was sitting  [use “sat” rather then “was sitting”.  In general, try to avoid passive constructions.  It weakens the writing.]  on an armless chair in their square courtyard fenced by jute-stalks on all three sides. She was positioned in front of their two-roomed thatched house to face to the west to let the golden sunshine of the dying afternoon kiss her cheeks and made the face more beautiful and charming. The bridegroom and his relatives, and the invited senior villagers were sitting in front of her in chairs and benches; some friends of her, along with an old grandmother-like woman, were crowding around her to maintain courage of their girl before such a gathering of unknown and honorable persons. Her face was glistening with reddish luster. Her body structure, unlike to the average Bengali girls, was some taller and slender, with long black hairs on the head spreading down to the waist. The Creator has created the fortunate girl with His own hand and poured inexhaustible beauty and youth on to her, thought the village chief, and admitted that despite his poverty, Harezuddin had nourished and brought up his daughter with much love and care.    

Akber Mollah looked back over his shoulder to see the position of the sun. The mango tree spread its branches over the roof of the thatched house as if it had held it with its huge and innumerable hands. The sun was being seen through the gaps of the branches glittering with fading glow. It was yet to set, but was rushing to the horizon. Taking his eyes back to the courtyard, he examined the shadows on the ground to assess whether the time of the afternoon prayer was yet on. Then he said, `Time of asr prayer is going to be over; I have to go, brothers, if you permit, please.’

Everybody was moved at his assertion; all they had so far been unmindful of passage of time. Especially the bridegrooms party got very much ashamed understanding that they had really wasted much time. The village chief noticed it, and to let them get rid of it, he said, `If you have no more questions to ask, or nothing to see about, I think the girl should go.’

Questionnaire phase, the main part of the matrimonial interview, was finished earlier. So the head of the bridegrooms party, a bearded old man with a white tupi on his head, said, `Yes, brother, we have to go a long distance. We should be brief.’ He looked at the girl and asked her to show her palms open to them; and like an experienced palmist, he bent forward and attentively examined her palms and fingers for a while, and nodded his head positively. Then another middle-aged man requested the old grandmother-like woman to show them her hairs. The old woman did it merrily and confidently. Her hairs were abundant and long enough to touch her waist. The old man said, `You may go now, my sweet little mother. Now go walking…!’

`I came here walking, and will leave the place certainly by walking, as I have no wing to fly, then why comes the question of walking in such a demanding voice?’ Nosimon thought, but kept her lips tight enough not to speak anything or even utter a soft sound.

A girl poured some water on the courtyard, and Nosimon walked slowly on the wet ground in the little space in front of them. They examined her footprints and smiled with satisfaction as they found the feet well formed. They also expressed satisfaction over her good and humble gait.

`Well-done, my daughter, well-done. Now go, and take rest,’ said the village chief.

What a word of relief! What a terrible time of troublesome heartache it was! –Sitting before the crowd to be shown, to answer to their absurd, confusing, unnecessary and even harassing questions, and giving bodily examinations before them! It is shameful, Nosimon thought, and moved slowly to leave the place. [This idea is very good and meaningful.  It might have even more impact if readers could discover it (or form their opinion) rather than Nosimon.  This is judgment and if you think what you have is best, don’t change this.  Just learn to find alternatives and be able to create them effectively before choosing the best for your purpose.] The old woman whispered to her, and she then turned back and raising her slender right hand to about her forehead, greeted the crowd with salam. While doing it, she had a sudden and unexpected chance of casting a glance to the bridegroom, a black but healthy young lad, still looking at her with his spellbound eyes. Not bad! Especially for a poor girl like her! Nosimon said to her, and her whole body shuddered with a warm thrill; her mind suddenly became full of euphoria; and she could not keep her standing there. She almost ran to leave the place to hide her unusualness; while she was briskly walking, she could have not even imagined if she was stepping on the ground, or flying in the air.

 

Harezuddin had collected all necessary details of the bridegroom and his family earlier before. Parila was not a very distant village. He himself had gone there and secretly learnt everything. Roistullah had been a medium sized farmer; the villagers knew him as a rich man with his twelve acres of land. And Mohibullah, the eldest of his two sons and three daughters, was well-known for his modesty and endeavors, and religiosity. The boy passed class nine, and then devoted himself to farming in his father’s lands, not to waste time in study that would not perhaps confirm an employment for him. Harezuddin was very much pleased with all those, and was at the same time anxious with the question of the choice of the other side. The matchmaker had assured him that they had been seeking for a beautiful girl– only a fair-looking bride, and a good family, and nothing more. They would not demand dowry, the matchmaker had categorically said, as he was expecting more clear and specific information. He had full confidence in him that they could not have but chosen Nosimon, for her fair complexion, attractive body figure, lovely face, long hairs and big enchanting eyes. [We know this.  To repeat makes the reader fell you might be imposing on him or her with redundancy.  Just mention her “beauty” maybe].   She could also read and write, though not much. His daughter was intelligent enough and very much social, and skill in cooking and sewing. But Roistullah was something miserly and greedy by nature, somebody told him. He might expect something from him that would at least be honorable for his social status, if he really would not openly demand dowry, Harezuddin had thought, and despite that, he had screwed  [in this context, the word borders on slang and doesn’t work with the formality of the overall piece.  And it has at least two contemporary meanings—messed up or tightened— and it makes the sentence unclear.]  up his mind in hope. He had earlier explained everything to the village chief and informed him of his heart’s wish. Now he whispered to him, and said, `Well, now, you, elder brother, please try to manage the marriage. Put a little pressure, if necessary.’

  1. Your advice taught me a lot. I shall rewrite and complete the story. Thank you, sir.

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Exercise 1.

            Reanna promised to take her granddaughter on a big trip when she turned ten, but that year Reanna’s son, Leanna’s father, lost his mind. Distressed, Reanna developed a raging interest in redoing the Baptist church basement rec room. Years passed without the trip taking place.

            Leanna would never be so forward as to solicit the promised trip, but a rare visit to Leanna’s rehab facility revived the broken promise in Reanna’s mind. Excited at Leanna’s progress, yet dismayed at the sudden realization of time passed, for Leanna was now fifteen and nearly an adult, Reanna asked, “How about that trip I promised you?”

 

Exercise 2.

            If she looked at the monument at a certain angle and in a certain light, it changed its appearance, transmogrifying into a prow-like profile, with an androgynous face, ample lips pursed, pointed chin thrust forward, blind eyes seeking.

 

            People gathered and marveled; they watched her sketch on the very pad which her mother had used decades before when she died in childbirth. In direct sunlight, the profile sank into the stone, but she had captured it on her mother’s pad.

 

 

Exercise 3.

How to Rectify Errors

            Analyze the errors. Give full attention to how to make the correction without having to reveal the source of the mistake. Make note of your thoughts in a logical and meaningful progression, without wasting time.

 

Exercise 4.

            I handed exact change to the acne-scarred, teenaged cashier, slung my bags over my shoulder, and trudged outside to the bus stop. Timothy O’Leary sat on the bench, eating a bag of in-the-shell peanuts. I slid onto the seat next to him and stuffed my bags underneath the bench so that no one would trip over them. He offered a peanut, shaking the bag in my direction. Loose shells fell out. I shook my head. He shrugged and slumped against the bench. He belched with foul breath, reminiscent of a rarely cleaned doghouse. I turned my head away.

 

Exercise 5.

            I saw Hazel for the first time in the grocery store. I was in the vegetable aisle, near a pyramid of cantaloupes; she was reading the nutrition facts off the side of bottled asparagus. She stunned me. She looked like my younger sister, a sister who didn’t exist outside of my imagination, a fairy tale in my mind, something I’d always wanted, needed; a sister to break the loneliness of being an only child in a divorced family.

Instructor Response

COMMENTS

Exercise 1.

Reanna promised to take her granddaughter on a big trip when she turned ten, but that year Reanna’s son, Leanna’s father, lost his mind. Distressed, Reanna developed a raging interest in redoing the Baptist church basement rec room. Years passed without the trip taking place.

Leanna would never be so forward as to solicit the promised trip, but a rare visit to Leanna’s rehab facility revived the broken promise in Reanna’s mind. Excited at Leanna’s progress, yet dismayed at the sudden realization of time passed, for Leanna was now fifteen and nearly an adult, Reanna asked, “How about that trip I promised you?”  Yes.  Very good.

Exercise 2.

If she looked at the monument at a certain angle and in a certain light, it changed its appearance, transmogrifying into a prow-like profile, with an androgynous face, ample lips pursed, pointed chin thrust forward, blind eyes seeking.

People gathered and marveled; they watched her sketch on the very pad which her mother had used decades before when she died in childbirth. In direct sunlight, the profile sank into the stone, but she had captured it on her mother’s pad.  It’s still hard to read this passage and to really image what is going on.  I think I might try to change or delete some words so the image might be more accessible—transmorgrfying, prow-like, androgynous, etc.  I think this  great idea, yet getting effectively on paper.  I’d suggest you might capture what you think the author is trying to say and do it completely in your style—clear, direct—without so much abstract and inexact (certain light, certain angle as examples) prose.

 

Exercise 3.

How to Rectify Errors

Analyze the errors. Give full attention to how to make the correction without having to reveal the source of the mistake. Make note of your thoughts in a logical and meaningful progression, without wasting time.  Great.  Exactly what was needed.

 

Exercise 4.

I handed exact change to the acne-scarred, teenaged cashier, slung my bags over my shoulder, and trudged outside to the bus stop. Timothy O’Leary sat on the bench, eating a bag of in-the-shell peanuts. I slid onto the seat next to him and stuffed my bags underneath the bench so that no one would trip over them. He offered a peanut, shaking the bag in my direction. Loose shells fell out. I shook my head. He shrugged and slumped against the bench. He belched with foul breath, reminiscent of a rarely cleaned doghouse. I turned my head away.  Yes!

 

Exercise 5.

I saw Hazel for the first time in the grocery store. I was in the vegetable aisle, near a pyramid of cantaloupes; she was reading the nutrition facts off the side of bottled asparagus. She stunned me. She looked like my younger sister, a sister who didn’t exist outside of my imagination, a fairy tale in my mind, something I’d always wanted, needed; a sister to break the loneliness of being an only child in a divorced family.  Perfect.  You’ve made it flow by getting the ideas straightened out!

 

Good work.  Thanks.  WHC

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There were so many winding curves as I drove in the blazingly bright orange sunlit glare of the everlasting road that I was utterly exhausted by the endless ordeal and thought I might faint if given half the chance.

Instructor Response

In this sentence, you might look to succinctness. Not only in the adjectives and adverbs, but also in finding what is important and the thinking to the subject, verb, object structure.

There were so many winding curves as I drove in the blazingly bright orange sunlit glare of the everlasting road that I was utterly exhausted by the endless ordeal and thought I might faint if given half the chance.

The important elements of the sentence are: exhausted by long drive, curvy road, about to faint. Here is a possible revision:

The winding road and the relentless glare from the sun on the never-ending road exhausted me and I thought I would faint.

Everlasting doesn’t work well with a road. Maybe never-ending? I think to mention the road helps orient the scene. Note the adjectives and adverbs, many didn’t seem necessary to imagery or understanding the situation were deleted. As you work on revision, your sense of style may want you to insert some of them. But there are too many as is now.

Good work. Keep practicing. And keep analyzing sentences of writers you admire.

Thanks for your submission!
WHC

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That horrible tornado was like a raging bull charging a red cape so it could blast everything we owned to smithereens once and for all.

Instructor Response

That horrible tornado was like a raging bull charging a red cape so it could blast everything we owned to smithereens once and for all.

You have a wonderful imagination.  To improve this sentence consider these three principles:
1. Concrete rather than abstract,
2. Avoiding passive constructions whenever possible, and
3. Accuracy of metaphor.

Horrible is not specific.  And it is a judgment by the writer that the writer would like to have made by the reader.  That is let the reader decide if the damage reaches the level of “horrible.”  So, if you make this more concrete, it could be more effective.  What if you said: That tornado leveled trees, turned over vehicles, and killed four members of my family . . .   Then remove the passive verb was and substitute “rage”.  That tornado leveled trees, turned over vehicles, and killed four members of my family as, like a bull, it raged and roared and assaulted our house and blasted everything we possessed to smithereens.   Note the change in the metaphor—the comparison of a bull charging a cape to a tornado doesn’t quite work, yet with concrete imagery the metaphor of the bull can be effective. 

The changes I suggest are examples to demonstrate the principles I stated.   Use your imagination and apply the principles to create something unique and impressive.  Good work.  You’ve got the gift!

Thanks for your submission!

WHC  

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Exercise 1.

Reanna made a promise to her granddaughter:

“When you turn ten, Leanna, we will take a Big Trip.”

Next month the girl blew out her candles, opened her presents, and licked round the icing of her cake. But after the birthday there was a crisis.

Leanna’s father was taken away. He had lost his mind, they said. Reanna prayed for her only son, and sought solace refurbishing the Baptist Church rec room.

Leanna was not one to raise questions. And so her tenth year passed by, and the next and the next…

When the girl turned fifteen, Reanna visited her in the rehab facility. The benefits of the treatments were plain to see. But how much Leanna had grown in the quick passage of those years! In dismay, Reanna at last brought out the question:

“I promised you a trip. Will you still come?”


Exercise 2.

The monument stood at the top of the hill. Overhead, clouds blew from north to south, sifting waves of sunlight.

Kitty sat on a bench to the east. From this angle, when the sun shone directly, a shape would emerge from the sculpted stone. You could see eyes and a nose, thick lips and a pointed chin: an androgynous face, thrusting and prow-like.

Kitty bent over her pad and began with bold pencil strokes. As she drew, a crowd gathered around her, exchanging smiles and whispers amongst themselves.

Long ago her mother had sketched and painted, and shown her work in galleries. Talent was in the genes it seemed, for Kitty never knew her. She died in childbirth, leaving behind a half-filled sketch-pad like a speechless apology.

The sun faded and the face sank back into the granite. Without contrast, the lines became abstract and meaningless. Kitty laid down her pencil and waited for the clouds to pass.


Exercise 3.

Look. Everybody fucks up. That’s not the point. The point is to figure out how you fucked up, why you fucked up, and what the fuck you’re going to do about it. No-one hears about this. But you’d better be recording every last piss and fart about what went on, because if it happens again you’re out on your arse. Any questions? Good. Then get the hell on with it. I want a report on my desk by lunchtime.


Exercise 4.

I handed over the exact change. Five quarters and a dime: the last of our funds. The cashier threw the coins into the register and went back to picking his teenage acne. I took the tickets and slung my bag over my shoulder.

Outside, Timothy O’Leary was slouched in the bus-stop, splitting peanut shells with his dirty fingernails. I slid into the seat beside him and kicked my bag under the bench: out of sight, out of mind. He thrust the nuts towards me, spilling the loose shells. I shook my head. He shrugged and slumped back again, easing out a rancid belch.


Exercise 5.

I first saw Hazel in the vegetable aisle of the grocery store, reading the stickers on a jar of asparagus. There she was, just like I’d always pictured – nose, freckles, the lot. My fairy-tale sister. I pinched the cantaloupes to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

I was never meant to be an only child. But what with the arguments and the breakdown and the divorce and all, my parents didn’t have another one. So I was lonely back then and wanted someone to play with. I’d been looking for Hazel a really long time.


Instructor Response

Exercise 1.

Reanna made a promise to her granddaughter:  “When you turn ten, Leanna, we will take a Big Trip.”

Next month the girl Leanna CLARITY ISSUE blew out her candles, opened her presents, and licked round the icing of her cake. But after the birthday there was a crisis.

Leanna’s father was taken away. He had lost his mind, they said and was taken away. THE USE OF THE DIRECT NARRATOR IS USALLY MORE EFFECTIVE (RATHER THAN FILTERING THROUGH UNCLEAR "THEYS".  Reanna prayed for her only son, and sought solace refurbishing the Baptist Church rec room.

Leanna was not one to raise questions. And so her tenth year passed by, and the next and the next…

When the girl turned fifteen, Reanna visited her in the rehab facility. The benefits of the treatments were plain to see. But how much Leanna had grown in the quick passage of those years! In dismay, Reanna at last brought out the question:

“I promised you a trip. Will you still come?”


Exercise 2.

The monument stood at the top of the hill. Overhead, clouds blew from north to south, sifting waves of sunlight.

From Kitty‘s sat on a bench to the east. From this angle, when the sun shone directly, a shape would emerge from the sculpted stone. YOU PROBABLY DON’T NEED TO INSERT BENCH HERE BECAUSE THE PURPOSE OF THE SENTENCE IS TO TRANSFER THE DIFFICULT IMAGE OF SHAPE EMEGING FROM STONE IN DIFFERENT LIGHT.  WORKING ON SETTING IN THE SAME FEW SENTENCES CAN BE DISTRACTING.  You could see eyes and a nose, thick lips and a pointed chin: an androgynous face, thrusting and prow-like.

Kitty bent over her pad and began with bold pencil strokes. As she drew, a crowd gathered around her the bench where she sat, exchanging smiles and whispers amongst themselves.

Long ago her mother had sketched and painted, and shown her work sketches and paintings in galleries. THIS SORT OF TIGHTENING IS ESSENTIAL FOR WRITING GOOD FICTION.  Never displayed was the half-filled sketch pad of children’s portraits found after her death the day of Kitty’s birth.  Talent was in the genes it seemed, for Kitty never knew her. She died in childbirth, leaving behind a half-filled sketch-pad like a speechless apology.  THIS IS AN ENTIRE NEW THOUGHT, ARGUABLY AWKWARDLY PLACED.  RESTRUCTURE SEEMS TO HELP.  "SPEECLESS APOLOGY’ DOESN’T SEEM TO HAVE CLEAR MEANING.

The sun faded and without contrast the face sank back into the granite. Without contrast, the lines became abstract and meaningless. Kitty laid down her pencil, her gaze fixed on the featureless slab.  and waited for the clouds to pass. THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF NON SEQUITUR IDEAS.  AND THE SYNTAX IS OFF; IF THE FACE SANK BACK INTO THE GRANITE, THEN HOW COULD THE LINES "BECAME ABSTRACT AND MEANINGLESS"?


Exercise 3.

Look. Everybody fucks up. That’s not the point. The point is to figure out how you fucked up, why you fucked up, and what the fuck you’re going to do about it. No-one hears about this. But you’d better be recording every last piss and fart about what went on, because if it happens again you’re out on your arse. Any questions? Good. Then get the hell on with it. I want a report on my desk by lunchtime.

PERFECT.  YOU’VE DEMONSTRATED YOU’VE GOT THE TOUCH.


Exercise 4.

I handed over the exact change. Five quarters and a dime: the last of our funds. The cashier threw the coins into the register and went back to picking his teenage acne. ILLOGICAL.  IT WOULD TAKE TIME TO PICK ACNE AND IT’S DOUBTFUL THE PROTAGONIST WAITED AROUND TO SEE IT BEFORE PICKING UP THE TICKETS.  IT STOPS THE FLOW.  I took the tickets and slung my bag over my shoulder.

Outside, Timothy O’Leary was slouched in the bus-stop, splitting peanut shells with his dirty fingernails. I slid into the seat beside him and kicked my bag under the bench: out of sight, out of mind. He thrust the nuts towards me, spilling the loose shells. I shook my head. He shrugged and slumped back again, easing out a rancid belch.

YES!  VERY NICELY DONE.  YOU GOT THE POINT!


Exercise 5.

I first saw Hazel in the vegetable aisle of the grocery store, reading the stickers on a jar of asparagus. There she was, just like I’d always pictured – nose, freckles, the lot. My fairy-tale sister. I pinched the cantaloupes to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.  I LIKE THE HUMOR.

I was never meant to be an only child. But what with the arguments and the breakdown and the divorce and all, my parents didn’t have another one. So I was lonely back then and wanted someone to play with. I’d been looking for Hazel a really long time.

GREAT.
GOOD WORK!
WHC

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There wasn’t any critique on the noise and blur (though I wasn’t happy with it). We can only shoot in mauanl, so I’m still getting used to playing with all my settings. I normally shoot in aperture, so I’m really happy to finally braving mauanl on a regular basis. During this shoot, I was more concerned with getting a decent image of the kids rather than play with my settings which was not a good idea. Plus the particular assignment itself was difficult, so I was trying to balance all of that. I do not have a tripod yet, it’s on my list of wants but so are a bunch more things! Libbie does not cry on demand, though she had tears in her eyes in a few other images from this shoot.

Instructor Response

Thanks for submitting. I didn’t understand the word “mauanl” and was confused about what the paragraph was about. The first sentance about the critique didn’t seem to relate, and you might just state dissatisfaction with noise and blur. The last sentence about Libbie also is unrelated, and should be expressed in another paragraph.
Thanks,
WHC

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Passage 1:  Searching her only granddaughter’s vacant eyes, like coffee without cream, Reann distinctly remembered the promise she had made to her so many years ago now.  “Leanna,” she had said to the nine-year old girl then full of easy energy and hope, “when you turn ten this summer, we’ll take a big trip!  You choose some places you would like to visit, and we’ll make a plan together.  How does that sound?”  Really, Grammy?  You promise?  Reann could still see the girl bouncing on tiptoes as she pleaded with deep brown eyes round and wide, dirty-fingernailed hands clasped close to her chest. 

But so much had happened in the months afterward.  The major renovation of the church basement, for which she somehow had become overseer—not an easy task in her traditional Baptist church—had continued into the summer.  And then the up-to-now major crisis of her 68 years.  When her only son, Leanna’s father, unexpectedly snapped, his mind seemingly gone in a sudden storm of rage and violence climaxing with the murder of his pregnant wife and the taking of his life in front of his only daughter—days from turning ten—Reann was plunged into a torrential sea she suddenly had to not only learn to swim herself but save Leanna from as well.  Reann remembered the panic of watching Leanna drowning in confused agony before her very eyes.  Now, seated on a hard plastic chair across from fifteen year old Leanna, surrounded by white walls and white-coated staff in air thick with stringency, Leanna’s face nearly transparent in the wan fluorescent light, Reann felt she had not done enough to rescue her all those years ago.  Slender shoulders slumped, hands pressed together between her knees, Leanna tried to hide the white blood-seeped gauze wrapping her thin wrists; Reann tried to avoid looking there but found her eyes drifting back to the bandages again and again.  Suddenly feeling her granddaughter and time slipping from her own wrinkle-ridden hands, Reann with a trembling voice said “I promised you a trip, Leanna.  Remember?  As soon as you are ready, we’ll go.  Just you and me, like we planned.”  She reached a steady hand toward her granddaughter.  As Leanna’s hand settled in hers, Reann again looked into the young girl’s dark eyes and thought she saw a spark of hope. 

Instructor Response

Very nice work. You’ve presented a scene that flows and is informative.

Passage 4:  The change plunked into the grimy hand I was careful not to touch.  I had taken pleasure in counting out the six pennies, five nickles, four dimes, and three quarters to add to the forty seven dollars I counted first, knowing full well it would have been more efficient to hand over forty eight dollars, one quarter, one dime, and one penny, but what would be the fun in that?  The pock-skinned, buck-toothed punk looked at me with droopy lips and raised eyebrows as I counted, but what do I care?  I don’t.

I slung a heavy bag over each shoulder on my way to the corner bus stop, squinting against the intense sun.  Clouds would be nice.  My left shoe acquired a squeak as I scuffled along the sidewalk, intermittently kicking litter out of my way.  I was paying attention to the squeak in my shoe when I arrived at the bus stop, which is why I didn’t notice I had plopped down on the hot metal bench right next to Timothy O’Leary.  As I shoved my bags underneath the bench, hoping it would help keep my Ben & Jerry’s from completely melting, good old Tim shook a bag of peanuts and peanut shells in my direction.  That’s when I noticed the overgrown Rottweiler there.  Empty peanut shells jumped ship right into my lap.  “Did you have these in your mouth?” I pointed to the shrapnel he had just dumped on my skirt.  The creep just belched, emitting breath like rotten fish dropped in a deep fryer and shrugged as he shoved a peanut, shell and all, into the rancid orifice on his face.  I stood and the shells dropped on the cracked concrete.  I smashed them down with my squeaky shoe and grabbed my bags from under the bench, deciding to walk home instead.

Instructor Response

Also excellent.  Look at the second paragraph.  There is confusion over who is doing what.  This comes from unclear antecedents for pronouns, and syntax.  I’ve place my comments  below.

As I shoved my bags underneath the bench, hoping it would help keep my Ben & Jerry’s from completely melting, good old Tim shook a bag of peanuts and peanut shells in my direction.  That’s when I noticed the overgrown Rottweiler there.  The introduction of the dog here is confusing as you continue the action.  It is unclear what role the dog plays in the next few sentences.  Empty peanut shells jumped ship use something different, it’s a metaphor to disparate to be effective.  right into my lap.  “Did you have these in your mouth?” The reader has to assume this is directed to Tim, but it is unclear.  I pointed to the shrapnel he state this is Tim had just dumped on my skirt.  The creep Once you replace Tim for he, it will be clear that this is not the dog  just belched, emitting breath like rotten fish dropped in a deep fryer and shrugged as he shoved a peanut, shell and all, into the rancid orifice on his face.  I stood and the shells dropped on the cracked concrete.  I smashed them down with my squeaky shoe and grabbed my bags from under the bench, deciding to walk home instead.  Overall, very nicely done.

 

Thanks,

WHC

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