Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal February 11, 2016 - 10:16pm

So let's show some before/afters of prose edits we do. Call yourselves out! Like show don't tell. Here's mine:

 

I can read his expression like a book. He knows it was me. But he doesn’t ask why.

 

Annnd the edit...

 

I can read his expression like a book. He knows it was me. 

 

I didn't need to say But he doesn't ask why. I show it in the following lines... when he doesn't ask why.

 

 

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated February 14, 2016 - 8:24am

Not saying you are wrong or anything but why not...?

I read him like a book. He knows.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal February 15, 2016 - 8:52am

^ You know, I might end up with something like that.

Cutting "it was me" has this really foreboding sound that I don't want at the moment, and "it was me" kiiiind of has a guilty feel. And it's a bit more of a reminder of something that hasn't come up in the story for a good while.

I liked keeping "expression" but revisiting, I'm going to change it to "face" or something.

And the word "can" is definitely gone.

Okay, latest version:

I read his face like a book. He knows it was me.

 

Max's picture
Max from Texas is reading goosebumps February 18, 2016 - 10:10pm

if you keep cutting, you'll eventually get this:

I read facebook.

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Tana French! February 22, 2016 - 8:35am

You know, if you want to take this a step further you could look at the actual phrase "read like a book" which is kind of a cliché. It's always fun to twist clichés on their head, make them into your own thing relevant to the story. So considering this what could you replace the word book with? Something real basic and easy like a picture book? Or maybe a manual, a magazine, ingredients list, prescription side effects...? Something that ties into the theme of your story or your narrators character is always good. The right word can add humor or snark or emotion. Plus it's a pretty fun thing to do. 

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal February 23, 2016 - 7:31am

^

I know what you mean, like in star trek you'd say "he talks at warp speed" or whatever. this isn't the right point in the story for humor, but doing something like that may still work... good input.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal March 2, 2016 - 11:15pm

Here's another one I can't believe I let slip by me until now.

...disable the antenna so it no longer functions.

Because you disable it for some other reason???

 

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated March 7, 2016 - 7:21am

...disable the antenna so it no longer functions.

Maybe add permanently or temporarily? 

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal March 12, 2016 - 9:20am

Hmmm, maybe... Wasn't going for any of those, though, you give me too much credit.

Actually, I'm thinking disable is temporary and destroy is permanent, so maybe not? 

I think I would if it mattered to the story, but it doesn't.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated March 12, 2016 - 8:24pm
Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal March 13, 2016 - 9:24am

Hmm, well look at that. And it does make sense, because you, in a way, disable something just by turning it off. It's, you know, not able. Destroy is something stronger. 

Chance Harrison's picture
Chance Harrison from Earth is reading The Godfather March 13, 2016 - 12:55pm

This looks like fun. Here's one that a friend pointed out to me the other day:

As for Catt and Bunyard, I had set them up to run on solar-charged batteries, so they never really slept. It helped a lot, since they really didn't need homes unless they really wanted one.

Then the edit:

As for Catt and Bunyard, I had set them up to run on solar-charged batteries, so they never “slept,” in terms of robots. It helped a lot, since they didn't need homes unless they really wanted one.

All I can think about is the guy from that one Dust-Off ad...

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann March 13, 2016 - 1:31pm

Gotta say, my biggest writing advice pet peeve is the robotic suggestion that cutting is always good. "I read his face like a book. He knows it was me." is fine. If it's cut down to "I read him like a book," then we no longer know how the narrator is reading this person like a book. Body language? Tone of voice? Past actions? Personal prejudices? You don't need to parse things down to where every sentence could be a Tweet. The logic behind "show, don't tell" is that you're showing the reader 2 + 2 instead of 4. Get rid of unnecessary verbiage and keep your verbs active, yes, but you don't want to keep whittling away at 2 and 2 just for the hell of it. You'll end up with 1 + 2 or 1 + 1, scratching your head, wondering why the reader didn't get to 4. If you cut, make sure you have a reason to do it. Don't just cut because you think you're supposed to always cut.

One of my bad writing habits is defaulting to "to be + infinitve". I print stuff out now and just go through it with a pen, crossing out every form of "is" and putting my verbs in active mode (allowing some exceptions). I still can't seem to avoid doing it in the first draft though. :/

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated March 13, 2016 - 4:59pm

If you show a reader 2 + x = 4 they'll get that x is 2.

Chance Harrison's picture
Chance Harrison from Earth is reading The Godfather March 13, 2016 - 5:11pm

^

Great analogy.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal March 14, 2016 - 6:36am

i think betwhenn and dwayne have points. if you can do it with less, do it with less. BUT! you might lose something.

here's an example from my own stuff again, because i'm egocentric. (and it's easier to think of off the top of my head.)

 

He frowns. That means he agrees.

 

Now, I could have said He frowns in agreement. But I lose that little bit where I throw out the implication that the narrator knows his mannerisms, knows him, etc. So, use your best judgment.

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann March 14, 2016 - 7:24am

If you show a reader 2 + x = 4 they'll get that x is 2.

I feel like you're not understanding the analogy, but I'll leave it at that.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated March 14, 2016 - 10:24am

I get it, I just disagree. 

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal March 14, 2016 - 1:46pm

I'm telling you, you're both on the same page and don't realize it...

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated March 14, 2016 - 3:02pm

No, we really aren't. Look at what she said.

She is saying writers need to be careful when revising downward, to avoid a work that is by accident not exactly what they intended, often in a way that is confusing and off-putting to the reader. She thinks you need a reason to cut. She said it right there.

If you cut, make sure you have a reason to do it.

I'm of the mindset a small amount of confusion and off-putting make a reader think, and they'll love you for it. Or hate you, but I'm always willing to roll those dice, twice on Sundays. I am of the mindset that you need a reason NOT to cut, that if you can cut do it unless you have a strong reason you can think of keep. We put words on the page like cheap whores, whenever and however we get the urge, and they need to be treated like ladies.

If you cut, make sure you have a reason to do it.

Plus I'm fine with passive verbs occasionally, passive voice has a bad wrap.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal March 14, 2016 - 8:57pm

Well, until Bethwenn says I got it wrong, I'd say that...

...disable the antenna so it no longer functions

... had a reason to be cut.

Where as...

He frowns. That means he agrees.

I don't have a reason to cut. I have a reason not to.

 

I mean, we all agree that excessive words ruin writing, but I think she's saying we're not technical writers composing instruction manuals either.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal March 14, 2016 - 8:57pm

Also, the original idea of this thread was for people to post silly little before-afters of revisions/cuts they did. Someone else do one!

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann March 15, 2016 - 6:37am

I was just offering what has been helpful for me. My cranky two cents. I shouldn't have been cranky about it, but the minimalist writing advice on here is just a huge pet peeve. Every time I post on here, it starts some kind of argument, which is why I tend to not post. I like the edits, Thuggish. I agree in both cases.

Dwayne, you're not understanding the elements of the analogy because you're reading it as causes and effect instead of showing and telling. What I'm talking about is not giving the reader enough to solve the equation. In my anology, 2+2 is showing; 4 is telling. 2+2 and 4 are meant to be two different ways of saying the same thing. Your example gives one way of saying one thing, where 2+2=4 represent causes and an effect. 2 + x = 4 is fine since it would be giving them enough to solve the equation and you're talking about showing instead of telling. It really doesn't matter; I don't want to get into a back and forth thing. You should write and edit the way you like. There's no one correct way to do it, even though we all probably feel like we have The Correct Way. It's creative and free. I also agree that the passive voice is useful. I just use it way too much so I have to fight against it.

 

Here's two of mine.

I'd bring it up endlessly to family, neighbors, animals. Anyone who would listen.

Cut down to:

I'd bring it up to family, neighbors, animals.

Just got rid of redundancies that weren't doing anything for me. I tend to use repetition for emphasis too much.

 


I'd talk all about how I was worried he wouldn't know what house to go to when he got back to New York. I'd ask neighbors if they'd ever been to Florida, about what it was like. Was it really ninety degrees all the time and full of sharks and alligators and old people? I'd ask mom and dad every day, sometimes twice a day: When is Erik coming home?

Expanded to:

I'd give names to birds and squirrels and tell them how I was worried that he wouldn't know what house to go to when he got back to New York. I'd ambush Mrs. Peressini running to get the morning paper and ask if she'd ever been to Florida, about what it was like. Was it really ninety degrees all the time and full of sharks and alligators and old people? Do sharks and alligators like to eat old people? Do the police have special boats to go after them? Would they ever eat somebody younger, like thirteen, fourteen? I'd ask mom and dad every day, sometimes twice a day: When is Erik coming home?

Dropped it down a few rungs on Hayakawa's Ladder, from abstract and general down to specific and individual exemplum. Specific details make it much more charming and alive. I tend to sometimes skirt specifics and instead give a general, blurry, incomplete picture.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel March 15, 2016 - 7:51am

@bethwenn - Minimalism is a very specific thing. Just because people are editing sentences and making them shorter doesn't make it minimalist.

Think surrealism, cubism, realism, minimalism.

And this site is pretty much built on a minimalism mentality considering the founder, Chuck Palahniuk, writes in a minimalist style, and that's how many of us got here.

But, I'm positive you know this. I just wanted to throw my two dull cents into this thread.

I'm bored at work.....

 

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated March 15, 2016 - 5:25pm

Beth, you aren't getting that I think sometimes you should imply and hint instead of show and tell.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal March 15, 2016 - 7:36pm

@bethwenn

What's interesting about your first example is you could very easily not cut that second sentence. (But I don't know the context).

Also, it doens't have to be as much of an "argument" as "debate" because we all have styles, tastes, etc. So don't take it personally, this is a good little discussion so far.

 

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann March 16, 2016 - 7:44am

@Thuggish It's from a bit of a mammoth of a paragraph. I end up illustrating that second sentence through her memories of pestering people, so it became redundant to make her narrate it. Here it is with the sentence that follows it. A whole series of examples come after.

I'd bring it up to family, neighbors, animals. My big brother was away in Florida but he would be coming home when school started again, I'd say, riding my bike alongside Mr. Sylvester around the cul-de-sac and talking at him as he walked Bugsy, the wheezing, hundred year old pug.

 

@Dwayne As far as I'm aware, showing and hinting/implying are the same thing. But what are your definitions of them that you see a difference there?

 

"Just because people are editing sentences and making them shorter doesn't make it minimalist."

I didn't mean to over-simplify or be derogatory towards minimalism. I do like it as a genre. One of the main stylistic markers is to use words sparingly though and not waste time on much beyond surface description, and it seems like the trends in writing that overemphasize the importance of cutting are heavily inspired by current minimalist writers, like Chuck (although I like him). That is most of the advice I see people giving on this site. I'm just a huge lit nerd and I like all sorts of stuff, so not seeing a diversity of styles or just seeing one way of doing things promoted across the whole site is a bit of a bummer. As you said, though, the site is built on a minimalist mentality so it's silly to expect otherwise.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal March 17, 2016 - 5:24am

^I think showing and implying may have overlap, but are different. 

 

Can we define "minimalism" (preferably in a new thread) because I'm getting the distinct impression it goes far beyond using as few words as possible.

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann March 17, 2016 - 8:50am

I think this is a good, basic overview. There are are a couple of PDF's on that page worth looking at. Most of my professors seem to agree it started with or can at least be partially credited to the influence of Hemingway.

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Tana French! March 18, 2016 - 8:32am

"Literary minimalism is a way to evoke great impact from simple sentences and is characterized by economy, simple Anglo Saxon language, and a focus on observation and description over Latinates and adverbs." Suzy Vitello

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal July 14, 2016 - 9:07pm

Something hits me in the skull...

It was pointing out to me that this is technically not correct. (My character is not Skeletor). I could get fancy with it, smashes my brain againsy my skill or whatever... Then I realized I could cut some words.

Something smashes my skull.

 

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated July 17, 2016 - 1:42am

@Bethwenn -

Showing - No debate.

The man walked across the desert.

Hinting - It can be debated. 

The man put on his sandy boots and sweat-stained t-shirt.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal July 21, 2016 - 9:49pm

I double back, running past the booby-trapped street to the next. 

 

I double back past the booby-trapped street to the next. 

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal September 25, 2016 - 3:53am

She reaches for a towel and sees me in the mirror.

Borderline POV break, and more telling than showing...

She reaches for a towel and our eyes meet me in the mirror.

Much better.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel September 25, 2016 - 10:35am

um....

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal September 25, 2016 - 11:10am

Goddammit...

She reaches for a towel and our eyes meet in the mirror.

There! Better still!

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel September 25, 2016 - 7:48pm

Great! moving on...moving on...

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal October 7, 2016 - 8:43pm

 

She puts it on and fiddles with it, trying to adjust it but never getting it quite right.

 

 

She puts it on and fiddles with it, never getting it quite right.