#48 Run Away
Hello everybody, today we have a piece titled Run Away by chantelle on Writing.com, so I hope you’re ready to exercise.
Gonna be honest with yall, there’s not much to work with here. The ‘run’ does indicate a sense of desperation and peril and thus serves as a decent beginning, but there should probably be a third period since ellipses come in threes. Other than that, onto the next paragraph.
A night of running away had finally paid off. She had reached a settlement and hoped they would be kind enough to take her in. The horrors of the past events would never really be wiped from her memories.
There are two general issues I find with this paragraph, the first concerns the opening sentence. ‘Run’ started the narrative with excitement and peril, potent driving forces to compel the reader forward and build excitement; but the first sentence here immediately ends the peril, ends the character’s need to press on because they reach their destination and there’s a sense of triumph and success, which conflict with the narrative the ‘run’ establishes. The other issue I noted was that the third sentence of this paragraph doesn’t relate to the first two. It doesn’t derive from the information they convey or build on their narrative. As a result, it ends up reading jarring because it feels disconnected. The final issue (and I know I only said two) is with the prose itself; it is aggressively passive but distant, it doesn’t immerse the readers in the story or the scenery it just recounts the situation and her emotions but this isn’t enjoyable, particularly not without context or preexisting story to draw emotions from. So we need to expand the story, fill out the scenery and compound the emotions dictated by ‘run’ so they build and eventually culminate in a payoff for the readers. This will probably require creativity from my part, and I tremble to contemplate the necessity.
To begin we’ll start with the easy comments. In the first sentence ‘away’ is unnecessary for comprehension and at first glance for rhythm. The phrase ‘had paid off’ is slightly repetitive since the ensuing sentence immediately clarifies what that means, or in other words restates it. If we restructure these sentences correctly we should remove the need for that, and preferably remove the ‘had paid off’ both because it’s the vaguer of the two phrases and because it’s something of a cliché. In the second sentence, the phrase ‘and hoped they would be kind enough to take her in’ feels unnecessarily wordy. The phrase ‘would be kind enough’ feels like it would be inherent to ‘take her in’. Yes there is the possibility for ulterior motives, but the sentences current iteration doesn’t really preclude them either. The word ‘sanctuary’ conveys so much of the same information but in a single word.
For the third sentence (The horrors of the past events would never really be wiped from her memories.) the phrase ‘past events’ is vaguer than I would like, being able to reference either tonight or years in the past. We intuit that it probably refers to recent events, but then why not choose more evocative language, words that impress how recent these devastating events were instead of regulating them to a distant ‘sometime’ phrase. Finally, the phrase ‘really be wiped from her memories’ again feels unnecessarily wordy. Consider (and forgive the clichés and cringe) ‘would never leave her’ or ‘she would never escape the horrors of her past…’ these convey the same information with fewer words, with the main drawback being that they’re terrible. A slightly less terrible iteration would be something like “as if anything could expunge the horrors from her mind.” There are two things this iteration adds (excluding the fewer words and the fact it reads like a continuation from something that’s not there) the first being the ‘as if’ which is a phrase with inherent disdain, or in this case, despair, and those emotions help color the sentence. The second real addition is the conversion of the word ‘wiped’ to ‘expunge’. ‘Expunged’ as a word conjures imagery of grime and poison, of sickness, and that imagery builds into the message the author is trying to convey here with ‘horror’. ‘Wiped’ is an offensive word and thus, although serviceable, less impactful, more generic and doesn’t build the story in the same way, it’s just there.
—A night of running, of stumbling through rivers and crashing through briars, and finally lights glimmered through the bracken, offering sanctuary from the horrors behind her. They could do nothing for the horrors plaguing her mind, however.—
I spent a long while debating how to adjust this paragraph, whether to add content to increase its impact and effectiveness or to restrain myself to a purist perspective. The paragraph above is where I took liberties with the source material, but I’ve also prepared a stricter edit…
—A night of running and finally lights glimmered through the bracken, offering sanctuary. They could do nothing for the horrors plaguing her mind, however.—
You all can choose which one you prefer, but I’ll break down both starting with the one immediately above. I excised any mention of a village from the paragraph because I don’t believe it’s necessary. The lights indicate habitation and the exact scale of the habitation is more or less irrelevant. I also removed the ‘after’ from the beginning of the paragraph and I will admit this might be something of a cheat, but I think the sentence reads better without it and all the information is still conveyed effectively. The second sentence of this rewritten paragraph is still awkward though, and there’s just no real way to fix it without some extracurricular addition to the first sentence; they’re just not related in their base form so I/the author would need to write in that connection.
—A night of running, of stumbling through rivers and crashing through briars, and finally lights glimmered through the bracken, offering sanctuary from the horrors behind her. They could do nothing for the horrors plaguing her mind, however.— (Reposting just for ease of access.)
For the edit where I took creative liberties not bestowed upon me, you’ll notice significant additions. First is the inclusion of the adjective phrase ‘of stumbling through rivers…’ and the purposes behind this addition are myriad. By having her interact with the environment we put her, and thus the reader, more physically in the story, it gives the narrative texture and just makes it feel real to her and thus the reader. The interactions themselves are important, the verbs are ‘stumbling’ and ‘crashing’ both of which convey fatigue but also loss of control, which helps to build the sense of desperation. The interactions are her stumbling through water and crashing through briars and these are damaging; the water weighs her down and freezes her, the briars puncture skin, poke her, and tear clothing. These are ‘assaults’ on her physical and mental, again building into her desperation and not just because they help convey the elements of fear but because they wear her down, she has to battle these events to get through. They do a third thing as well, they delay the ‘finally’ both by simply requiring time to read and by filling the space before it with actions. This means you have more build-up time, more pressure, before the ‘finally’ arrives and thus helping to validate the use of the word and relief it’s meant to convey. You can’t have relief without some level of travail, and the more travail the reader experiences the more relief they will share with the character.
The other significant addition I added was ‘from the horrors behind her’ and I have two/three reasons for this. The first, and most important, reason was that I was trying to build a bridge between this sentence and its successor. By using ‘horror’ in both, one external and one internal to avoid as much repetition as I could, I gave them a link; the first ‘horror’ serves as an introduction and an excuse for the second, and varying their natures (the internal and external) I give it progression and narrative.
The second thing this addition did was locate her peril in the world, it makes it a physical danger she’s escaping from instead of a nebulous one.
Finally, it serves to smooth out the rhythm of the sentence. I like the way it reads with one last phrase better than with it ending on ‘sanctuary’.
That will be all for today.
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