Congratulations to Chris for winning a copy of Dreaming in Hindi. I will be e-mailing you for your mailing address.
I want to try something different for today. James Frey in his book How to Write a Damn Good Novel gave some good tips on writing good prose. I thought it might be fun to use these tips to revise a passage as a group.
Below is a passage written by yours truly. After the passage, I will give a tip from the book for improving it. I invite you to rewrite the passage in the comments. If people like exercise, I will choose one of the comments as a starting point for revision using the next tip and so on.
Here's the passage:
Sarah arrived at school eager for the afternoon's Halloween party. As she sat down at her desk, she looked inside her bag for her costume. Most of her robot costume was there, but she couldn't find the helmet. She looked around but couldn't see it anywhere. She asked her teacher whether she had seen it, but the teacher said no.
By recess time, Sarah was very worried indeed. What would she do? She couldn't possibly be a robot without a helmet. Finally, she had an idea. She found the school janitor and asked him to open the supply closet. In the supply closet, she found an old bucket that fit perfectly on her head. Her costume was saved.
And here's the first revision tip: be specific. Frey rewrites “When Mrs. Applegate arrived at the terminal, the train had already left,” as “When Beatriz Applegate arrived at the Reno's Amtrak terminal, she found the 5:15 for San Francisco disappearing on the western horizon.” You don't necessarily have to be that elaborate, but you get the idea.
Can used this tip to rework the passage? Please leave your revisions in the comments!
Sarah arrived at school eager for the afternoon's Halloween party. As she sat down at her desk, she looked inside her bag for her costume, but couldn't find the helmet. "Oh, no," Sarah thought. "How can I be a robot without a helmet?"ReplyDelete
By recess time, she had an idea. With the help of Mr. Jenkins, the school janitor, she found an old bucket in the supply closet. It fit perfectly on her head. What a relief! Her robot costume was saved.
This is funny timing, since I just wrote about specificity and product placement for PopMatters in relation to ads in books!ReplyDelete
Great idea for a series; I'll come back and post properly when I'm near the 'puter.
Very awesome idea. Here's my attempt :ReplyDelete
Sarah arrived at school eager for the afternoon's Halloween party. As she sat down at her desk in the front of the class, she looked inside her bag for her costume. Most of her robot costume was there, but she couldn't find the helmet. She looked around but couldn't see it anywhere. Just before the teacher started the class, Sarah asked her whether she had seen it, but the teacher said no.
By recess time, Sarah was very worried indeed. What would she do? She couldn't possibly be a robot without a helmet. Finally, near the end of recess, she had an idea. She found the school janitor and asked him to open the supply closet. In the supply closet, among the brooms and other supplies, she found an old bucket that fit perfectly on her head. Her costume was saved.
Sarah arrived at school eager for the afternoon's Halloween party. As she sat down at her desk, she looked inside her backpack for her costume. She found the box, plastic piping, and gloves, all spray-painted a metallic silver, but couldn't find the robot's helmet. She searched through both closets and in every cabinet at the back of the classroom, but didn't see it anywhere. Mrs. Brannigan hadn't noticed it, either.
By noon, when the rest of her class headed out to recess, Sarah was very worried indeed. What would she do? She couldn't possibly be Bender without his head. Finally, she had an idea. She found Mr. Hossburn, the school janitor, and begged him to unlock the supply closet. Beneath a stack of paper plates and a folded plastic tablecloth, she found what she was looking for: an old gray bucket that fit perfectly on her head. Her costume was saved!
Of course, this passage might read even better if we showed some of the action through dialogue, but that's a lesson for another day...
Great exercise, Livia. My attempt:ReplyDelete
Sarah skipped all the way to school on the day of the Halloween party. As she sidled into the last bench in her classroom, she remembered her costume. She unzipped her haversack and rummaged inside it. The silver-painted cardboard box and metallic arms were there, but the little silver hood Grandma stitched for her was missing. She turned her bag upside down. Pencils and pens clattered on to the desk, but no hood. She walked up to Miss Penbury.
‘Ma’m have you seen my robot helmet?’
‘Why, have you misplaced it?’
Sarah returned to her seat, her head bowed low. When recess time rolled around, she decided that becoming a helmet-less robot wasn’t an option. An idea struck her. During the break, she rounded the corner to the washroom and sure enough, the school janitor stood there, mopping up the tiles. She asked him to open the supply closet.
He led her to the supply closet and swung open the door. She peered around inside. A mop and a broom stood in one corner, and an array of bottles lined the edges.
‘There!’ she said, pointing to a silvery bucket. The janitor stepped gingerly inside, grabbed the handle of the bucket and pulled it out.
Sarah positioned it on her head. It fit perfectly.
Another good book about writing is Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. Check it out!ReplyDelete
Arriving at school, Sarah slid into her seat, excited for the Halloween party after recess. Rummaging in her backpack for her costume, she found everything but the helmet. As she searched the room, she asked the teacher if he had seen it. He hadn't.ReplyDelete
By recess, Sarah was frantic. No one did the robot without a helmet. Finally she asked the janitor to open a supply closet. Grinning, Sarah emerged with an old bucket on her head. Her costume was saved.
Sarah disembarked the battered No. 5 shuttle at Saint Heinlein Elementary School, eager for the afternoon's Halloween party. After jostling with her classmates through the airlock and the corridor, she settled at her homeroom desk. The first thing she did, before engaging her comp terminal or signing in, was to uncurl the plastic shell of her costume pack. The helmet was gone.ReplyDelete
Sarah held down her panic. Kids at Saint Heinlein's learned early not to behave panicky, but to consult the nearest authority. She pinged Mrs. Teller from her desktop comm. When the orange LED flashed, Sarah said, "Part of my costume is missing. The helmet part. I had it on the shuttle."
Mrs. Teller's voice had a soothing influence on Sarah. The AI's social scripts worked that well, even when most kids knew it was programmed that way. But what she said wasn't soothing: "Your helmet is nowhere within sensor range."
Sarah checked the pack again and again, as if the helmet part of her robot costume would turn up on its own. If Mrs. Teller couldn't see it, then it wasn't to be seen, so she needn't waste time running back to the shuttle platform.
The high-pitched Class Chimes put the robot helmet out of Sarah's mind, and the Recess Chimes let it back in. Only the music of the AI's instruction filled the time between.
Once Sarah came back to herself, her worries rang out over her thoughts. What kind of robot could she be without her helmet? No kind of robot at all. Not even the AI's bot, Mrs. Teller, had a human-looking head. And the lesser robots, like the principal bots and the cook bots, looked even more mechanical. As for the lowest rung janitor bots...
Sarah flashed on the idea like that. She bounded up from her desk, not even bothering to power down her school comp. She hugged her hard plastic case to her chest and ditched the chow line, heading for the maintenance hall.
Pastel corridors gave way to military grey, and the lights dimmed. Here, few humans were expected or welcome. Bots trundled this way and that on their tracks. Sarah found the supply lockers, all of them locked tight. She didn't worry, merely opened her plastic case.
A few minutes' worth of grunting and muttering had her done up as a headless robot, with parts scrounged from her father's workshop. The left limb on her torso included a passkey that identified her as a Peak Bot, one of those robots with an inefficient humanoid frame that neared the edge of the uncanny valley. She touched the passkey to the locker, and the metal door irised open.
Inside, amongst the tools and spare parts, she found a robotic head. Big and square, fitted with grills and LEDs, it was perfect...once she hollowed it out into a helmet. She finished just in time for the Recess Warning Chimes, and she hurried back the way she'd come, as fast as her perfect robot costume would allow.
This is a fun idea.ReplyDelete
I noticed "couldn't" two times near one another. I also think there could be more action. Instead of her being worried indeed, show action to convey worry, like being unable to concentrate in class (you can even have the teacher notice to create more tension) or tapping her pencil.
This definitely could be drawn out more. Details of the party. Fear of being ridiculed for an incomplete costume. Telling a friend the situation and having them come up with solution together.
And maybe ground the scene with more visual details.
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
oh sorry - forgot to mention that the bucket was bright redReplyDelete
All she could think was 'halloween-robot day! today is halloween-robot day!'. Sarah ran to all the way to School and raced to her desk and opened her bag.. but what's happened ? It's not there! Her halloween-robot helmet. She rummages and rummages but it's blatantly just not there. Her robot helmet. Her special helmet.ReplyDelete
She looks wildly around. But there, at the front of the class, Sister Agatha is looking straight at her, with icy, knowing eyes. Sarah starts and blurts 'My helmet has gone! Have you seen it Sister?' and then there is an awful pause. Sister Agatha in her dread, fearsome voice spits 'No. You. Sit!'
Sarah collapses onto her chair in fear and spends the morning in a quivering, frantic guilty state; avoiding the dreadful eyes. She lost the helmet. You can't be a robot without a helmet. She knows that. How can she have a helmet ? How ?
Then. Suddenly. As the recess bell rings. She remembers a cartoon and she sees it! - a bucket-headed Robot. She's up, and races to find the school Janitor.
He's a good egg. He smiles at her as he opens the supply closet. She sees it immediately - a bright red bucket. He helps her on with it. It's a perfect fit! And as her muffled voice asks 'Is it OK?' he taps on the top of the bucket. 'You look like a proper robot'
Sarah jumps for joy. She can be a Halloween-Robot after all!
Sarah Baley arrived at her fifth grade class at Rossum Elementary School eager for the afternoon's Halloween party. As she sat down at her desk, she looked inside the bulky shopping bag that she had lugged in for her costume. Most of her RUR robot costume was there, but she couldn't find the helmet, that her brother made for his knight costume that he wore yesterday. She looked around near Daneel, the class practical joker, but couldn't see it anywhere. She asked her teacher, Mrs. Asimov, whether she had seen it, but her teacher said, “Sarah, please sit still and stop looking around. No, Sarah Baley, I haven't seen any helmet, and I haven't seen Daneel Olivaw near your desk either.”ReplyDelete
By the time for afternoon recess, just before the party, Sarah was very worried indeed. What would she do? She couldn't possibly be a robot—especially an RUR robot—without a helmet. Finally as the bell rang for the start of recess, she had the hope of an idea. She found the school janitor, Mr. Capek, and asked him to open the janitoral supply closet. In the supply closet, she found a rusty old bucket that not only fit perfectly on her head, but was rusted out just where her eyes could look out. Her costume was saved in plenty of time, she thought, as she raced back to class before recess was over.
BTW, may I suggest that you add a word limit? I was uncertain how much I could expand. Surely not to novel length, my objective mind says, but my muse just smiles in amusement.ReplyDelete
Perhaps X times the original number of words, depending on the exercise.
Muddleglum -- Since the exercises here are just for practice, any length is fine. I assume people will be limited by how much time they feel like working on it. This is just meant to get your juices flowing as a writer, so feel free to make as few or as many changes as you wish. If you want to experiment with changing just a few words, that's fine. Or if you get carried away and write a novel, I'd be super tickled too. Except perhaps don't paste the entire thing in the comment box, since that might crash blogger :-)ReplyDelete