#33 The Black Rose
Hello everybody, today we have a piece titled Black Rose by Istvan Janos on Writing.com.
“We interrupt this program with breaking news. There has been another homicide on the east side of Grand Rapids. Police say it’s probably another link in the chain of homicides that occurred previously over the past week. As soon as we know more, we’ll pass the information on to you.”
As an opening paragraph this is alright; it’s active and immediately presents the readers with story elements and implied conflict, but the news reel style immediately dimmed my interest. I think this is because of two reasons: one, exposition via news is generic and a little bit trope-y, and two: as much as the contents of this paragraph are energetic, its superficial since to listen or view the news requires the character in question to be doing nothing interesting.
As for the technical prose nonsense, there is a little that my eyes doth feast upon. I would swap the first period to a colon since the first sentence is an introduction to the second. They work fine as separate sentences, but I like the rhythm of the colon. After that, I would convert ‘say probably’ to ‘theorize’ or ‘surmise’, depending on how frisky one feels at the time. This brings us to the phrase ‘occurred previously over the past week’ which is repetitive. The ‘previously’ is unnecessary with ‘past week’. But there’s more potential in this sentence, a little restructuring will remove the need for so many glue words and the ‘occurred’.
—Police theorize it’s another link in last week’s chain of homicides.—
For the last sentence, I would swap ‘pass on to you’ for ‘relay’ as that is an appropriate word and three words more efficient. This leaves us with…
—We interrupt this program with breaking news: There has been another homicide on the east side of Grand Rapids. Police theorize it’s another link in last week’s chain of homicides. As soon as we know more, we’ll relay the information.”—
Reading this now, another change I would like to make is replacing ‘on the east side’ with ‘in’. This information provides little value to the reader while slowing down the narrative and diminishing the impact of the murder statement. And an argument could be made for reordering the last sentence to —We’ll relay information as soon as we know more.— Which might read a little smoother and removes the ‘the’ before ‘information’. That’s minor, however, and I may or may not apply it. You’ll never know. Until the end of this post. Unless I decide to never end this post…Dun dun dUUUUUUN.
“Goddamn! What is this city becoming?” Istvan asks himself out loud.
Istvan Janos has everything he’s ever wanted. It’s not because he’s earned them. In fact, he’s never worked a day in his life. He has these things because he has perfected the art of piracy.
(Combined due to the brevity of paragraph 2.)
These paragraphs introduce a particular narrative style: the omniscient, interactive narrator. This style can work but not without thought. If you want to use an active narrator, they can’t just be used for easy exposition dumps, they have to have a personality, a purpose in the narrative, or to reflect the story in some way. One of the best examples of this is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. While the narrator is written as the straight man, a lot of the books insanity and comedy comes from him, and he has a vibrant, distinctive voice.
This story’s narrator does none of this, (at least so far) serving entirely as a vessel for exposition. There is no evident distain for Istvan’s piracy in the narrator’s dialogue, nor tongue-in-cheek smile at his hypocrisy. The narrator conveying this information provides no additional context or value to the author just expositing it in the course of the story, meaning this style choice provides the story with no value. This is slightly exacerbated by the fact that the exposition itself is of questionable value since it’s comprised of elements that would become self-evident throughout the story.
The final general point I would make is that paragraph three has no connection to either of its predecessors, no bridge, link or progression. This means it reads a little bit out of nowhere.
Now for the more technical aspects of the first paragraph, I would reduce ‘out loud’ to ‘aloud’. I don’t like how the third sentence reads as a continuation, but I don’t know what to replace it with or add.
For paragraph three, I have more significant changes in mind. Combining and restructuring these sentences would make them read much better because it would remove the need to ‘restart’ after every period. There is also an element of repetition in ‘has everything’ and ‘has these things’ that I would like to excise. Thus, I offer this on the altar of your insensate cruelty my minions…
— Istvan Janos has everything he’s ever wanted, not because he’s earned them, he’s never worked a day in his life, but because he’s perfected the art of piracy.—
A thing to note here is that the repeated use of ‘he’s’ is permissible here because they read like alliteration and in the voice of a narrator, which gives them natural rhythm. And that concludes my edits for this paragraph.
Istvan is a handsome man for a pirate. He wears all black, including a bandana, a black mustache and goatee. His weapons of choice, should he need them, is a pirate’s sword and a modified pirate’s gun that shoots out darts made out of the tips of scorpion tails.
I have no general comments for this paragraph (besides a soft reiteration of the ‘combining sentences’ hokum from the previous sentence) so we’ll commence immediately.
For the first sentence, we have no need to specify him as a man since that is evident from the ‘he’s’ in the previous sentence, so I would delete that and combine with subsequent sentence, delivering something like…—Istvan is handsome, for a pirate, wears all black, including a bandana, black mustache and goatee.—
(It needs to be noted that when compiling items in a list, they need to all follow the same structure, or for it to only be present in the first item. Here that means the ‘a’ before bandanna. There would either have to be an ‘a’ before all three items [bandana, mustache and goatee] or only before bandanna. If they’re not items in a row, then ‘mustache and goatee’ need a separating verb.)
Reading this again, I think it will read better if ‘mustache and goatee’ are separated from ‘bandanna,’ since that will make the sentence have three separate, descriptive elements as opposed to two, and three just tends to read better.
— Istvan is handsome, for a pirate, wears all black, including a bandana, and boasts a black mustache and goatee.—
Moving on to the next sentence, I would delete ‘should he need them’ as it is unnecessary and largely self-evident. The ‘is’ in ‘is a pirate’s sword’ needs to be ‘are’ since ‘weapons’ is plural. After that, a little restructuring will help simplify the remaining sentence and cut a few of the glue words.
—His weapons of choice are a pirate’s sword and a pirate’s gun modified to shoot darts fashioned from scorpion stingers.—
Swapping the ‘modified’ mostly just allowed me to replace ‘that’ with ‘to’ because I think it reads better. I chose ‘fashioned’ over ‘made’ for the same reason (but also because it’s more distinctive,) replaced ‘out of’ with ‘from’ and ‘of the’ with possessive ‘scorpion stingers’. The ‘out’ in ‘shoots out’ was entirely unnecessary. I used ‘stinger’ because that is more specific and replace ‘tails/tip’.
This leaves us with…
— Istvan is handsome, for a pirate, wears all black, including a bandana, and boasts a black mustache and goatee. His weapons of choice are a pirate’s sword and a pirate’s gun modified to shoot darts fashioned from scorpion stingers.—
Hmmm, the ‘modified’ in front may read better when all combined, but I see no other immediate changes.
All my edits,
—”We interrupt this program with breaking news: There has been another homicide in Grand Rapids. Police theorize it’s another link in last week’s chain of homicides. As soon as we know more, we’ll relay the information.”
“Goddamn! What is this city becoming?” Istvan asks himself aloud.
Istvan Janos has everything he’s ever wanted, not because he’s earned them, he’s never worked a day in his life, but because he’s perfected the art of piracy.
Istvan is handsome, for a pirate, wears all black, including a bandana, and boasts a black mustache and goatee. His weapons of choice are a pirate’s sword and a pirate’s gun modified to shoot darts fashioned from scorpion stingers.—
That will be all for today.
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