#23 Aunt Rosie’s Flower Stand
Hello everybody, today we have a fantasy piece titled ‘Aunt Rosie’s special flower’ from Joto-Kai on Writing.com.
Pargraph 1&2 (combined because first paragraph was a single sentence.)
The lines on the deserted country road had long since washed away.
Leery of committing and getting stuck in the mud shoulder and uncertain if I should even be on such a road, I took my half out of the middle and drove down the center. The gold of the sunset ahead of me bled into a vivid red that time washed away to leave the purple mark of impact. At the chasing darkness, I checked my watch.
This is a hard paragraph(s) to edit; its flaws aren’t superficial inefficiencies or simply rough rhythm, but more conflict in the narrative itself and the author’s style with the narrative. The author tries to merge action and description (which is my preferred method for conveying information) but it doesn’t work because the action and description don’t interact with one another. Take the first paragraph/sentence as example; it describes the environment and then just stops without any narrative resolution or explanation for why it was mentioned. A new paragraph is added and the narrative resumes, using the first sentence description but not flowing from or building on it. This leaves the first sentence feeling incomplete and the second feeling orphaned. The first sentence is the description, the second the relevant action, but they’re treated as separate entities.
The second sentence also contributes to the paragraph’s awkwardness. Some of this is because (I believe) a word is missing from ‘I took my half out of the middle’ but not entirely. The second sentence is a string of different thoughts just tacked one onto the other exacerbated by a meandering style of prose. That, at least, is easily fixed with a few deletes and reductions. We don’t need ‘of committing’ since that needlessly complicates the sentence without adding clarity or description (he’s leery of getting stuck in the mud.) ‘Uncertain if I should even be on such a road’ is just wordy and needlessly interjects perspective, again inflating the prose and complicating the sentence. I would like to employ something more like — and deeply mistrustful of the road’s viability— but that doesn’t quite work with what’s to follow. (We’ll return to it in a moment, I want the entire sentence laid out first.)
For the rest of the sentence I would just delete ‘I took my half out of the middle’ which I don’t understand, but doesn’t seem to be saying anything ‘I shifted to the middle of it’ doesn’t.
This leaves us with something like— Leery of getting stuck in the mud shoulder and uncertain if I should even be on such a road, I drove down the center. —
This is already an improvement on comprehensibility and readability, reducing the previously cluttered sentence to three thoughts, two of which are related and lead to the third. There is a narrative to this sentence and it is easily grasped. The ensuing problem, however, is that the descriptions are ambiguous and potentially contradictory. We know the lines had ‘long since been washed away’ but the ‘mud shoulders’ indicates a recent enough rain to compromise the grip of tires, only we have a clear sky as evidenced by the sunset. Obviously, it could have rained and then stopped, but then why mention the lines having been ‘long since washed away’? And it’s only implied that it rained in the first place, but also the road’s presumably asphalt (due to the previous presences of ‘lines’) so the mud shoulder shouldn’t really be a concern. The author also calls the road’s viability into suspect, but never explains in what way. I originally assumed it was a dirt road because that would explain our MC’s caution (being that a dirt road would degrade in rain), but the aforementioned lines cast that into doubt.
It may sound like I’m ranting, but I’m not. This is just elucidating how ambiguous the description was; it’s a bunch of allusions and assumptions to validate an action that doesn’t really make sense. This situation could have come about two ways: either the author was uncertain of how to start, or he got a little too fancy in his style. Also, don’t take this as ‘descriptions via allusions are bad,’ they can be an effective and enjoyable form of description, they just need a solid foundation.
The problem here is that I don’t know how to fix it because I don’t know what the author’s original intent, or rather I can’t fix it without radical alterations and probably some fiction. We know the road’s bad, that’s it’s not currently raining but(presumably) rained recently, and that the MC shifts to the middle of the road. (The only relevant information from the first sentence/paragraph is that it’s a back-water country road.) Maybe something like—
Driving along the faded country back road, I shifted to the center, leery of its crumbling edges and the treacherous mud to either side, still wet from the spring storms.
It’s not perfect by any means, but it conveys the desired information clearly and marries the action to the description efficiently. I choice ‘spring storms’ over ‘earlier rain’ because I think it’s livelier and more thematic. ‘Back road’ conveys the ‘deserted’ and reads better because it doesn’t front-load the description. The ‘crumbling edges’ provides a reasonable incentive for him to shift to the middle and works in conjunction with the ‘mud.’
Now for the rest of the paragraph. (The gold of the sunset ahead of me bled into a vivid red that time washed away to leave the purple mark of impact. At the chasing darkness, I checked my watch.)
Here, the flaws are simpler, mostly amounting to undesirable words, with a little ambiguity thrown in. I would reduce ‘gold of the’ to ‘golden’ or (potentially) ‘Ahead of me, the sunset’s gold bled into a vivid red…’ I debate on this because the ‘ahead of me’ only serves as a rhythm inclusion or to indicate he’s on a vaguely westward trajectory, which is of questionable value. I think we’ll preserve it, though, because it does read well. This brings us to the phrase ‘that time washed away to leave’ which is just really wordy. We need neither ‘time’ nor ‘leave.’ I would like to reduce ‘washed away’ to ‘ebbed’ (if we can get away with it) or ‘receded’ (if we can’t.) Next we have ‘the purple mark of impact,’ which doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t know what the author’s trying to say it. I assume he means something like a bruised purple, but that’s not what the words say. ‘Mark’ is what confuses this sentence, because ‘mark’ isn’t a color, but ‘impact’ also doesn’t quite work because it’s too ambiguous on its own. We need to know what kind of impact. Ultimately, I think we’ll stick with…
—Ahead of me, the sunset’s gold bled to a vivid crimson that in turn ebbed to bruised purple.— (Changed to ‘crimson’ to avoid the echoing D sound, and added ‘in turn’ for the sake of rhythm.)
This leaves us with the final sentence. The only comment I have here is that I dislike ‘at the chasing darkness’ because it’s a little ambiguous. I think the meaning is ultimately conveyed, I just don’t like it.
All of my edits applied:
— Driving along the faded country back road, I shifted to the center, leery of its crumbling edges and the treacherous mud to either side, still wet from the spring storms. Ahead of me, the sunset’s gold bled to a vivid crimson that in turn ebbed to bruised purple. At the chasing darkness, I checked my watch.—
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