#11 Out of the Blue
Hello, you wonderful wombats, today we have a fantasy piece from A.E.Willcox and, per her request, we have altered the characters’ names for their safety. I assume they are involved in high-level interdimensional espionage and shenanigans, and we will treat their sacrifice with the utter seriousness and honor it deserves.
Super-Secret Paragraph 1
The island was not on any map or sea chart and Lazyus Psuedonymus still wondered how Aliasus Complexicus had known exactly where to find it. The fact he was an Oysterrr sea-sorcerer was not an excuse. The Wett Ocean was vast and the tiny lump of sand and palm trees was so remote it would normally have been an act of pure luck, or misfortune to find it. The fact he’d claimed he’d hidden an Oysterrr shell on it was the only reason she’d agreed to anchor her ship outside the reef and take the jolly-boat to come ashore with him.
The first phrase I would like to adjust is ‘was not on any’ for two reasons, the obvious being its passive voice, but the second being that it strings four short glue words, and the more glue words you have in a sentence or together, the worse they tend to read. The first solution I considered was ‘existed on no’ which resolves the passive and removes a glue. The second idea was ‘marked no’ which cuts two words and maintains a more nautical theme, but may cheat a little. (taken at its strictest word, that phrasing would have the island literally marking maps and such like a cartographer. But I prefer the first option. We can also delete ‘sea’ if we so desire.
Continuing, I don’t think this ‘still’ works. ‘Still’ is a contradiction on something that came before, but this ‘still’ is referencing something that comes after it. The problem is, I don’t think this can be read the way the author wants it read. A comma after ‘chart’ may fix it but I think the best solution is a more specific word that implies no contradiction and is non-reliant on what precedes it, ‘Continued.’ This necessitates a ‘to’ be added, but I consider that acceptable for the sake of clarity.
Finally (for this sentence) we have the phrase ‘had known exactly where to find it’ which is wordy and inefficient. I would delete the ‘had’ and swap ‘known’ for ‘knew.’ Then, I would replace ‘exactly where to find it’ with ‘it’s exact location’ for two fewer words.
All my edits applied:
—The island existed on no map or chart and Lazyus Psuedonymus continued to wonder how Aliasus Complexicus knew its exact location.—
Honestly, I still don’t like the second half of this sentence. I like the first half, it boasts mysticism and intrigue, but the second half loses that momentum and I can’t tell if it’s because the specificity makes it awkward or if the concept in general is awkward, or if it’s because of the tonal shift. What I want to write is —The island existed on no map or chart, begging the question how Aliasus Complexicus knew its location.— This is much easier to digest and carries the mysticism and intrigue over to Aliasus as well, but it cuts out the (presumably) main character’s name and is a somewhat generic phrasing.
An alternative is —prompting Lazyus Psuedonymus to wonder how…—which may work, but it removes the aspect of Lazyus continuing to wonder, which indicates that she acknowledged this discrepancy before leaving. But… we may be able to add an ‘again’ before ‘wonder.’
—The island existed on no map or chart, prompting Lazyus Psuedonymus to again wonder how Aliasus Complexicus knew its exact location.—
I think this works, it maintains all the author’s points and just concentrates them, replacing some of the weaker (or more conflicting words) with more distinctive and possibly stronger alternatives.
Curiously Clandestine Sentence 2:The fact he was an Oysterrr sea-sorcerer was not an excuse.
The easy substitution here is ‘not an’ for ‘no.’ The problem comes from the three ‘was’ in close proximity here. Two in this brief sentence, and another immediately after in the subsequent sentence, meaning they echo hard. The fact they’re similarly phrased exacerbates the echo. I think the problem child is the ‘was’ after ‘sorcerer,’ which is the closest to the next sentence, so that’s the one I’ll endeavor to change. And, after several minutes of thought, I think ‘explained nothing’ works.
—The fact he was an Oysterrr sea-sorcerer explained nothing—This removes a passive, reduces the word count, and, most importantly, alleviates the echo. It does read best when married to the ensuing sentence via a semi-colon. (Which may be debatably appropriate since the author is English and I’m not immeasurably well-versed in their rules.)
Sagaciously Surreptitious Sentence 3: The Wett Ocean was vast and the tiny lump of sand and palm trees was so remote it would normally have been an act of pure luck, or misfortune to find it
I would first change the ‘the’ before ‘tiny’ to a ‘this,’ since that subtly emphasizes the island’s remoteness but also locates them at the island. Second, I would delete the second ‘was’ after ‘trees’ as unnecessary, the first ‘was’ works just as well solo (technically better since it removes the echo, but shh, we’re being covert.) Finally, I would replace ‘normally have been an act of’ with ‘have required.’ I think the original is needlessly specific (and thus wordy) without noticeable profit. ‘Required’ results in the same meaning, just takes fewer words. You lose the emphasis on happenstance, but that’s implied in ‘luck,’ and thus doesn’t gain anything from the emphasis.
My edits—The fact he was an Oysterrr sea-sorcerer explained nothing; the Wett Ocean was vast and this tiny lump of sand and palm trees so remote it would have required pure luck, or misfortune to find it.—
Fabulously Furtive Sentence 4:The fact he’d claimed he’d hidden a Oysterrr shell on it was the only reason she’d agreed to anchor her ship outside the reef and take the jolly-boat to come ashore with him.
Again, let’s start with the easy cut. ‘to come’ can go without altering the sentence’s meaning or result. The harder one is the phrase ‘the fact he’d claimed he’d hidden’ which is both wordy, and thus clunky, and feels repetitive since the author already used the phrase ‘the fact’ just a few sentences up. The first solution I can see is changing that phrasing to —His claim that— with removes a few words and escapes the echo, and I think that with a little bit of restructuring we can remove a few more glue words…
My edits —Only his claim of having hidden an Oysterrr shell on it had convinced her to drop anchor outside the reef and take the jolly boat ashore.— (deleted the ‘with him’ because I think it’s unnecessary. The fact he’s on the island will become self-evident promptly.)
Starting with ‘only’ removes the need for ‘was the’ and allows us to use ‘had convinced’ instead of ‘reason she’d agreed’ (which is two fewer words if you count ‘she’d’ as two.) This iteration of course means there’s now two ‘her’ in closer proximity, so I exchanged ‘anchor her ship’ to ‘drop anchor’ which serves the same purpose but with a fewer word and no ‘her’ thus avoiding the echo. We may also be able to replace ‘having hidden’ with ‘concealing,’ but the rhythm there is a little suspect, so we won’t be venturing into those waters.
All my edits compiled:
—The island existed on no map or chart, prompting Lazyus Psuedonymus to again wonder how Aliasus Complexicus knew its exact location. The fact he was an Oysterrr sea-sorcerer explained nothing; the Wett Ocean was vast and thistiny lump of sand and palm trees so remote it would have required pure luck, or misfortune to find it. Only his claim of having hidden an Oysterrr shell on it had convinced her to drop anchor outside the reef and take the jolly boat ashore
Looking at it again, an argument could be made for just deleting ‘so remote it.’ The information is implied in the ‘luck’ comment and the ‘vast.’
But, that’s all for today, you apocalyptic apricots. If you like our content, please consider subscribing.