Schemes and Scenes – Part Nine

Standard

Schemes and Scenes – Part Nine

This is the ninth article in an occasional series on scene development.  Self-Editing For Fiction Writers, Chapter Nine, focuses on breaking paragraphs apart, with two exercises. Read the eighth article.

crossed 1Edit the following exchanges.

A.

Original:

It had been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon. Sunday morning Clarence Busen stepped into the shower and turned on the water — which was cold, but he’s Norwegian, he knows you have to take what you can get — and stood until it got warm, and he was reaching for the soap when he thought for sure he was having a heart attack. He’d read a Reader’s Digest story about a man’s heart attack (“My Most Unforgettable Experience”) and this felt like the one in the story — chest pain like a steel band tightening. Clarence grabbed the nozzle as the rest of the story flashed before his eyes: the ride in the ambulance, the dash to the emergency room, unconscious as the heart team worked over him, the long slow recovery and the discovery of a new set of values. But as he imagined what was about to happen, the heart attack petered out on him. The story said it felt like an elephant stepping on you. This felt more like a big dog, and then somebody whistled and the dog left. So it wasn’t a heart attack, there was no story, and Clarence felt better.

 My Thoughts

This is a stream of consciousness, with four distinct pieces.  The last sentence is strong enough to stand as an ending, all on its own.

 My Revisions

It had been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon. Sunday morning Clarence Busen stepped into the shower and turned on the water — which was cold, but he’s Norwegian, he knows you have to take what you can get — and stood until it got warm.

He was reaching for the soap when he thought for sure he was having a heart attack.  He’d read a Reader’s Digest story about a man’s heart attack, My Most Unforgettable Experience. This pain felt like a steel band tightening around his chest.

Clarence grabbed the nozzle as the rest of the story flashed before his eyes: the ride in the ambulance, the dash to the emergency room, unconscious as the heart team worked over him, the long slow recovery and the discovery of a new set of values.

But as he imagined what was about to happen, the heart attack petered.  The story said it felt like an elephant stepping on you. This felt more like a big dog, and then somebody whistled and the dog left.

So it wasn’t a heart attack, there was no story, and Clarence felt better.

B.

Original

Jeanine stared at the spider plant hung over the kitchen sink. Most of its leaves were yellow and as a few were going brown at the edges. “I don’t believe this,” she said.

“What?” Ed said.

“I only gave you this plant a month ago, and look at it now.” She reached out and tenderly touched one of the leaves. It came off in her hand. “I mean, this is a spider plant. You can’t kill these things, they thrive on neglect. How did you manage to do this much damage so quickly?” She stuck one finger in the potting soil.

“I don’t know. I’ve been watering it once a week, just like you said. I’ve even been using plant food I picked up in the hardware store the other day. It’s that blue powder that dissolves in water, one tablespoon to the quart.”

“Ed, let me see that plant food.” He opened the cupboard under the sink, rummaged for a moment, and came up with a box with a picture on the front. She took it and scanned the instructions. “According to this, you’re supposed to use one teaspoon to the quart.”

“Oh, well, I guess that explains it then.”

Beats

Dialog

Thoughts

The beats could use some trimming.  The third paragraph has too much about the poor plants.  The fifth paragraph has way to much description.

The little speech in the fourth paragraph could be broken up just a little, because the clue is hidden in it.

The ending is unsatisfying, and I chose to end it with her diagnosis, and not his uninspiring comeback.

My Revisions

Jeanine stared at the spider plant hung over the kitchen sink. Most of its leaves were yellow and as a few were going brown at the edges. “I don’t believe this,” she said.

“What?” Ed said.

“I only gave you this plant a month ago, and look at it now.” When she touched one of the leaves, it came off in her hand. “I mean, this is a spider plant. You can’t kill these things, they thrive on neglect. How did you do so much damage so quickly?”

“I don’t know. I’ve watered it once a week, just like you said. I’ve even been using some plant food I picked up the other day.”

“What kind?” she said.

“That blue powder that dissolves in water, one tablespoon to the quart.”

“Ed, let me see it.” He rummaged under the sink and came out with a box. She scanned the instructions.

“That’s one teaspoon, not one tablespoon.”


This section was more difficult than I expected..  In the first exercise, my instincts were to go after that paragraph, and break it up.  I didn’t hit on the same breakouts as the books solution.  I kept pulling the action away from the explanatory text, into difference paragraphs.  I can see that style would annoy readers.

In the second exercise, I missed the breakout of paragraph four.  But it is fair to assume he might not immediately go get the plant food.  If he had, we might be looking at a guilty conscience, but he seems clueless, and far less interested in figuring out the problem than he is.

I liked my ending to the second exercise better than the book solution.  She finds the problem.  He has nothing to say.  Sometimes it is better to let people wonder if you are a fool, rather than opening your mouth and proving it.


 Read Part Ten

 

.

Advertisements

One thought on “Schemes and Scenes – Part Nine

  1. Pingback: Schemes and Scenes – Part Eight | Simply Silent

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s