Fiction editing: edit me Thursday #3

Welcome to another Edit me Thursday post where I'll be editing a page submitted by...well...anyone! To submit a one-page piece (or less) of your own writing email me at: bjbstories @ yahoo. com  (You're identity will be kept anonymous!)

Disclaimer: About my editing style...I chip a lot, I tweak a lot, and I analyze everything to the Nth degree. So as with anybody’s edits, they’re only suggestions, and they reflect my own writing style. I’ve had many occasions where someone suggests an edit that harmed the story rather than helped it. But hopefully the edits below make good sense.

My Goal:  To maintain the author's story and the authors voice while improving the story's flow, structure, vocabulary, clarity, action (non-passivity), and general readability.

When you (anyone reading this blog) finish looking over the changes I made to the entry below, let me know what you think? Did the edits help, or was it better off untouched? Or did you really like/dislike one particular edit I made? Let me know (and the author know) in a comment!

1) Draft sent to me
2) My edit
3) Suggestions and explanations
4) Clean draft with Brandon's edits


1) Draft sent to me

Areli spun on his heels, flashlight in hand, to find two middle-aged men standing before him.  The one on the left was a tall, lean brute of European descent wearing a dirty trench coat and a long white head of hair, which flowed into an unruly beard.  His companion was much shorter and seemed to have some distant Asian roots.  He was wearing a tight t-shirt and a pair of jogging pants.  It was not the rough look of the two that concerned Areli so much as the long steel rod the tall one carried at his right hip. 
         “Ow’re ya findin’ yerself in these parts at this hour, mate.”  A gruff voice issued from the owner of the metal weapon.
         “Just on my way out, friend,” Areli replied calmly.
   
“Had better choose your words more carefully,” sneered the aggressor’s companion, “Wouldn’t wanna give the wrong impression.  Not out here.”
         “Thank you.  I’ll remember that.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just be on my way.”
         “Sure, sure.  Ri’ after ya hand over yer pack,” were the final words from the tall one.
         Areli sighed deeply and assumed the stable base he had so often taken on the mat.  The dirty syncrete under him, however, was not nearly so stable, nor as forgiving, as the flooring in which he had grown accustomed.  Keeping this in the back of his mind, Areli looked rapidly back and forth at the two figures in the night.
         The first move came from the smaller of the two.  Issuing forward with lightning speed, he attempted to secure the flashlight Areli held in his right hand.  Just barely avoiding the lunging arms, Areli delivered a left elbow to the side of the head of the attacker, who, in turn, dropped heavily to the ground.  This only barely gave his accomplice time to strike Areli in the left shoulder blade with his makeshift weapon.  Staggering sideways, Areli quickly regrouped and reengaged.  Blocking another wild swing of the rod with his flashlight, just as the noble warriors did so many centuries before, he caught the dark figure square in the left side of his rib-cage with a tight left fist, followed by a final blow to the jaw with his light, which placed the fiend next to his companion on the ground.  Transferring his flashlight to the left hand so he could hold his throbbing shoulder with the right, Areli quickly made off with newfound energy in the direction of the city wall.


         2) My edit

Areli spun on his heels, gripping his flashlight in hand,(.) to find t (T)wo middle-aged men stood standing before him.  The o (O)ne on the left was a tall, lean brute of European descent wearing a dirty trench coat and a long white head of hair, which flowed into an unruly beard (too much description).  His companion was much shorter and seemed to have some distant a short Asian roots.  He was wearing a tight t-shirt and a pair of jogging pants.  It was not the rough look of the two that concerned Areli so much as the long steel rod the tall one carried at his right hip. 
         “Ow’re ya findin’ yerself in these parts at this hour, mate.(,)came the A gruff voice issued from the owner of the metal weapon.
         “Just on my way out, friend,” Areli replied calmly.
   
“Had better choose your words more carefully,” sneered the aggressor’s companion short Asian, “Wouldn’t wanna give the wrong impression.  Not out here.”
         “Thank you.  I’ll remember that.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just be on my way.”
         “Sure, sure.(,)" said the tall one, "Ri’ after ya hand over yer pack,(.)were the final words from the tall one.  
         Areli sighed deeply and assumed the stable base fighting stance he had so often taken on the mat.  The dirty syncrete under him, however, was not nearly so wasn't as stable, nor as forgiving, as the flooring in which he had grown was accustomed toKeeping this He kept this in the back of his mind, Areli looked rapidly back and forth at the two figures in the night.
         The first move came from the Asian smaller of the twoIssuing He sprang forward with lightning speed, he attempted to secure snatching at the flashlight Areli held in his Areli's right hand.  Just barely avoiding the lunging arms, Areli delivered a left elbow to the side of the his head of the attacker's head(.), who, in turn, The man dropped heavily to the ground.  This only barely gave his accomplice time to strike  (paragraph break)
         An agonizing pain exploded in Areli's in the left shoulder blade with his makeshift weapon.  Staggering sideways, he Areli quickly regrouped and reengaged saw the tall brute lift the steel rod for a second strikeBlocking another Areli blocked the wild swing of the rod with his flashlight, just as the noble warriors did so many centuries before, he then caught the dark figure square in the left side of his rib-cage with a tight left fist(.), followed by a. The man doubled over and Areli final blow to uppercutted the man's jaw with his light, which placing ed the fiend him next to his companion on the ground.  Transferring his flashlight to the left hand so he could hold his throbbing shoulder with the right,  (paragraph break)
       Areli grimaced as he touched his shoulder. He had to keep moving.  quickly made off w(W)ith newfound energy he made off in the direction of the city wall.


         3) Suggestions and Explanations

It's a good action scene, it just needed tightening and some weeding out of "distance creating language" or passive voice. Finding dynamic ways to rephrase an action sequence really brings the scene to life.

Also, in action sequences. Break up the action. It becomes passive voice all too easily when trying to string too many actions together. It's all about finding that perfect prose flow.

In an action sequence, one can't be too descriptive, because it slows the reader down and diffuses the sense of urgency necessary to create the right cadence for an action scene.

Also the character receives an injury to his arm. I think its necessary for him to remember his pain (touching it and grimacing) that way it maintains the realism, and doesn't move on as if he had never been injured at all. (and a metal pipe to the shoulder seems pretty rough!)


         4) Clean draft with Brandon's edits

         Areli spun, gripping his flashlight. Two middle-aged men stood before him.  One was a tall, lean brute of European descent wearing a dirty trench coat.  His companion was a short Asian wearing a tight t-shirt and jogging pants.  It was not the rough look of the two that concerned Areli so much as the long steel rod the tall one carried at his right hip. 
         “Ow’re ya findin’ yerself in these parts at this hour, mate,” came the gruff voice from the owner of the metal weapon.
         “Just on my way out, friend,” Areli replied calmly.
   
“Had better choose your words more carefully,” sneered the short Asian, “Wouldn’t wanna give the wrong impression.  Not out here.”
         “Thank you.  I’ll remember that.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just be on my way.”
         “Sure, sure," said the tall one, "Ri’ after ya hand over yer pack.”

         Areli sighed deeply and assumed the fighting stance he had so often taken on the mat.  The dirty syncrete under him wasn't as stable, nor as forgiving, as the flooring he was accustomed to.  He kept this in the back of his mind.
         The first move came from the Asian.  He sprang forward with lightning speed snatching at the flashlight in Areli's right hand.  Areli delivered a left elbow to the attacker's head. The man dropped heavily to the ground. 
         An agonizing pain exploded in Areli's left shoulder.  Staggering sideways, he saw the tall brute lift the steel rod for a second strike.  Areli blocked the wild swing with his flashlight then caught the dark figure square in the rib-cage with a tight left fist. The man doubled-over and Areli uppercutted the man's jaw with his light, placing him next to his companion on the ground.
       Areli grimaced as he touched his shoulder. He had to keep moving. With newfound energy he made off in the direction of the city wall.

10 comments:

Amanda B. said...

Great job, Brandon!! I love the edited version. It reads nice and smooth.
I liked all the action the author put into that short excerpt. I also liked the way he/she let the reader know that Areli had some martial art experience (the first sentence after the section break). I don't know why that stands out to me, but it does.

Brandon said...

Thanks Amanda,
I agree, the author did a good job creating a nice little action scene.

Joshua Peacock said...

You definitely cleaned that up, Brandon! Good job.

One thing I don't like is "he looked of European descent". That's an incredibly vague sentence--most white Americans are of European descent, too, and many look it too. What makes him look European specifically? One of the characters sounds like a Scotsman, why couldn't the narrator just say the man looked Scottish or Irish or German or Russian?

Just some thoughts.

Brandon said...

Great point Joshua! The European label is very broad. Something more specific would help paint a sharper image in the readers mind. Good catch!

Andra M. said...

I agree the author did a good job with the excerpt, and for the most part your edits were spot on.

I would tighten up one more thing: "The Asian sprang forward with lightning speed and snatched at the flashlight in Areli's right hand."

To add to Joshua's comment, I agree "European" is too vague. However, the man's hair does stand out and would be noticed. Perhaps something like: "Wearing a dirty trench coat, one was a tall, lean brute with long white hair and pale skin."

Anonymous said...

Sounds great. I love your take on my piece. I'll definitely take some of your advice. On the whole, the novel it was taken from is written in a slightly more "Classical" voice than your final draft conveyed (which could potentially be a hazard in trying to get published, but, hey, write what you read, right?), hence some of the over-description and longer sentences. I do, however, think that a good balance between classic lit and contemporary is important, so I appreciate the insight!
As far as the european descent, I actually wanted it to be vague, because of the beard, trench coat, and darkness, but I obviously didn't quite hit the mark. What about, "The one on the left was a tall, lean brute that hid himself beneath a tangled beard and dirty trench-coat." Similar to Andra's suggestion.
The best thing (I think) you added was when the "tall man" hit Areli. He's turned, so he doesn't see the pain, only feels it. I feel like this adds an incredible immersion for the reader into the scene that I hadn't considered before, especially since I'm attempting to attain a "close" 3rd person. Anyway, thanks again!

logankstewart said...

Great piece, and excellent suggestions/edits. I concur with most everything. The vagueness of the European descent doesn't really bother me, as it seems a step in racial homogenization. The action definitely feels tighter with the suggestions, too, and that's a huge plus.

Brandon said...

Hi Andra,
That description you wrote sounds good to me. Thanks for adding your two cents! :)

Hey anonymous!
Yeah I like that changed description, the one close to Andra's, and interestingly, Logan makes a good counterpoint to changing the "euro" description. Always lots to consider :)

And I'm glad you liked that change with the main character being struck. It's great when you can pull in the reader so closely to the view point character that they are virtually one with them. Especially if that's the feel you want ;)

Yes, a classically written story is much much harder to sell to publishers. But if that's what you love and that's what you want to write, don't let anyone stop you.

Hey Logan,
I really like your point about the European suggestion. I think I read it the way you did when I went through the piece...kind of creates this futuristic nuance, as if Europeans in the future are all the same...
Great point.

Tyrean Martinson said...

I really liked your edited version! The action is definitely tightened, and I liked how you have the character remember the pain.

Brandon said...

Thanks Tyrean!
I love a good action scene :)