#26 The Clock
Today we have a piece from Cat Caroll on Writing.com
The moon is rising, her divine light shining down on the Baroque Moszna castle before me. Its ninety-nine spires attempting to rip the moon apart. I smirk. Home is where the heart is. It’s been a long time coming. But I’m ready.
This is a decent opening paragraph, applying lively imagery and attempting an evocative statement with ‘rip the moon apart.’ (‘Attempted’ because its medium detracts from the ultimate effect.) There is some slight wordiness and a brush with repetition with the two mentions of ‘moon’ being treated as distinct thoughts instead of merged. The author also alludes to narrative conflict with the last few lines. Now, for my changes…
First, convert ‘the moon is rising’ to —The moon rises— which is active as opposed to passive, and thus significantly more energetic. The next phrase is inefficiently constructed. The ‘her’ is unnecessary for comprehension and can thus being replaced with a verb, preferably one more distinctive or emotive than ‘shining,’ which, while sufficient, is a little generic and flavorless. There are a couple options, but I prefer the second of these, even if it’s a little iterative.
—The moon rises, shedding divine radiance upon the Baroque Moszna castle before me.—
—The moon rises, painting the Baroque Moszna castle before me in pale radiance.—
(Swapped to ‘radiance’ over ‘light’ for the same reason as ‘shining.’) There are a few reasons why I prefer the second sentence, the first being ‘painting’ as a word carries connotations of beauty and art, which supplement the imagery and scenery here, and that it also interacts with the castle more physically, changing it visibly for the readers instead of just sharing the same space. The iteration I mentioned before is the word ‘pale’ since the moon generally only shines pale light. I like the word for the rhythm, but there’s probably better alternatives. You’ll also note I deleted ‘divine’ here; this is not because I dislike the word, but because I thought it reads less-well than ‘pale’ and that ‘radiance’ (which is often deific in use) conveyed much of the emotional heft ‘divine’ provided.
For the second sentence, we have a slightly more pressing error in that it’s an incomplete sentence. ‘Rip’ would normally constitute as the verb, but it’s actually an adjective for ‘attempting’, which in turn (being ING) is a helping verb rather than the defining one. There is also the problem with how it doesn’t convey its meaning with the full desired impact. I think the lack of a defining verb is some of this (its absence robs the sentence of driving force, and what verb it does have is tacked on at the end.) There is also a layer of the word choice being passive in that they lack edge, threat, malice, any of the emotions that would normally color a violent action. The lack of these emotive words blunts the sentence’s effect. A quick example of this effect is —Black and serrated, its ninety-nine spires strike heavenwards as if to eviscerate the sky—
The rhythm isn’t quite right, but the word choice is aggressive and the descriptions malignant with a defining verb that conveys violence. Combined they help to foment and accent the author’s intent, maximizing its aesthetic effect on the castle and the reader’s mind. We might be able to connect it to the first sentence via something like — The moon rises, painting the Baroque Moszna castle before me in pale radiance. Black and serrated, the castle’s ninety-nine spires strike heavenwards as if to eviscerate the sky—but the rhythm’s off. ‘Black and serrated’ just doesn’t flow well from ‘radiance’. (We can’t use ‘its’ in this situation because that would refer to the moon.) So we’ll have to do a little adjusting…— The moon rises, painting the Baroque Moszna castle before me in pale radiance. The castle’s ninety-nine spires strike heavenwards with serrated peaks, as if to eviscerate the sky.— But this doesn’t read particularly well either. Maybe a completely different structure, combining the sentences.—The moon rises, painting the Baroque Moszna castle before me in pale radiance and casting its ninety-nine baleful spires, which strike heavenwards as if to eviscerate the sky, into stark relief.—
This reads better from a rhythm and flow standpoint, but it diminishes the ‘eviscerate the sky’ portion by regulating it to an adjective phrase. We can ameliorate this to some extent by switching ‘strike’ to ‘claw,’ which takes some logical liberties but is more emotive and violent. We may be able to switch ‘which’ for ‘where,’ but that hurts the rhythm.
Another, more nuclear, restructure is— Black, serrated and painted in pale radiance, the Baroque moszna castle’s ninety-nine spires strike heavenwards as if to eviscerate the sky and (impale the) rising moon.
These last two suggestions are fairly comparable, which means it’s likely subject to personal preference. We’ve discussed the flaws in the first of these, but the second has its own as well. It doesn’t read as well as an opening paragraph, and it feels a little strung together whereas the first being broken into two sentences gave its individual pieces distinction and weight, which improved their impact. Normally, what ensues would be an important facet of this decision, but for now we’ll use the first option because it more closely resembles the author’s original.
Returning to the rest of the paragraph (I smirk. Home is where the heart is. It’s been a long time coming. But I’m ready.) We’ll leave ‘I smirked’ alone as its fine and flows well. The next three sentences, however, suffer from stiltedness, being a string of disconnect statements rather than a narrative. The ‘it’s been’ is also rather vague; we assume it means our MC’s return but what relevance does ‘home is where…’ have to that? It sort of makes sense if you don’t question it, but what is the author actually saying here? Even if we connect them more literally with— They say home is where the heart is, and this return has been a long time coming, but I’m ready. — the ‘home is where…’ still doesn’t say anything. Thus, these sentences just need more information, their purpose clarified (mostly just the ‘Home is where…’.)
That flaw aside, most of my additions in the rewrite were to improve rhythm. ‘Home is where…’ ends up feeling a little truncated in original iteration, but my rewrite doesn’t quite work. In combining the three sentences, it inevitably connects ‘home’ with the ‘but’, which doesn’t work. On the superficial level, ‘home is’ has a positive connotation and the ‘but’ contradicts it, giving the sentence a logic disconnect. Ultimately, I just want to delete ‘home is…’ because it needlessly complicates the sentence without providing discernible value besides some vague atmosphere (which is again hard to interpret.)
Thus— The moon rises, painting the Baroque Moszna castle before me in pale radiance and casting its ninety-nine baleful spires, which strike heavenwards as if to eviscerate the sky, into stark relief. I smirk. This has been a long time coming, but I’m ready.
(And the next paragraph.) I rake my wet hair and leave my old BMW behind. We might be in 2019, but the antique style still gets to me. I guess how long I lived leaves traces where it can…
Here, we have a slightly narrative dissonance with the ‘wet hair’ being that we can see the moon, which means no clouds, which means no rain. (It could have just been raining, but he also just got out of the car, as indicated by the prompt departure from said vehicle.) The next issue is the second sentence, particularly the first half. The phrase ‘We might be in 2019’ acts like a counter-justification, but is entirely irrelevant; the year doesn’t affect one’s taste, trends, age, and personality do, which means the first part of this sentence makes no sense. It does apprise the readers of the year, which is valuable information, it just needs a different medium.
There is another subtle point at work here. The initial description of the castle is from a distance because it mentions the ninety-nine towers and how the moon shines on it, thus providing the readers with an image of the castle from above, and, since we’re in the MC’s perspective, they are above the castle, which means the author is subtly telling us this prized BMW is parked on a hill somewhere. Probably forested to since it’s a castle. The problem with this is that it leaves too much up to imagination and that’s significant because there is a huge difference between an infiltration (which a car parked on a forested hillside at night seems to indicate) and a prodigal scion returning, which includes more driveways.
Finally, the second half of the last sentence. Here, it’s a little ambiguous again, a little clunky and maybe a little logically suspect, though I think that’s mostly due to the ambiguity. (Note that ‘have’ is required here otherwise they would be dead.) So what do I do? First cheat and read ahead….Okay ready.
—I rake my wet hair and start down the gravel road toward the castle, leaving my old BMW behind. It might be 2019 and long out of style, but the antique look still gets me; I guess a long life will leave traces.—
Obviously this is significantly wordier, but I think it was required to properly orient the reader (we’ll see if it was successful at the end.) I added ‘gravel road’ and ‘castle’ to orient him in front of the castle in close proximity. I added ‘long out of style’ to validate the ‘but’ and emphasize the conflict. Then I switched to a semi-colon because the last sentence is a remark on its predecessor. I still don’t like the last sentence though, the logic doesn’t follow through; people don’t have to be old to like an antique style. He likes the style because he likes it, not because his age left a trace on him. Unfortunately, replacing it requires fiction, which I tend to avoid, so we’ll leave it as it. I also deleted ‘where it can’ as unnecessary. Life leaves traces.
All my edits—The moon rises, painting the Baroque Moszna castle before me in pale radiance and casting its ninety-nine baleful spires, which strike heavenwards as if to eviscerate the sky, into stark relief. I smirk. This has been a long time coming, but I’m ready.
I rake my wet hair and start down the gravel road toward the castle, leaving my old BMW behind. It might be 2019 and long out of style, but the antique look still gets me; I guess a long life will leave traces.—
On the whole, I think this reads pretty well. Deleting the mention of ‘home is where the heart is’ does have a more noticeable impact, however, since it originally labeled this castle as his home, which is an important detail. We can achieve the same result (without compromising rhythm or comprehensibility) by adding a ‘return home’ to the last sentence of the initial paragraph, resulting it— This return home has been a long time coming, but I’m ready.—
That’ll be all for today, hope you enjoyed it. If you like what you’ve read, check out some of the author’s other work. https://www.writing.com/main/portfolio/view/gypsyherowoman
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