#7 And Fernando Makes Three
Sunshine peeped through the parting clouds as Levi latched the metal gate behind him and rambled up the cobblestone pathway. His mind drifted back to the afternoon he had left the house, full of bitterness; vowing never to return, but his anger was now well and truly spent. This was no time for grudges, he needed his aunty’s help and needed it badly. She was perhaps his last hope.
The first sentence is just about refinement. We can delete ‘parting’ because sunlight can only peek through parted cloud. ‘Behind him’ can also go as both the ‘cobblestone path’ and the paragraph as a whole, locate him inside the gate. Finally, I would suggest changing ‘rambled.’ The end of this paragraph indicates he is desperate, and ‘ramble’ is a lazy, unconcerned action, which disagrees with the paragraph’s overall message. (On a side note, though this is purely my opinion and I cannot explain why, I prefer ‘peeked’ to ‘peeped.’ It may just be I prefer the sound, or that peeped has a slightly more childish feeling.
My edit —Sunshine peeked through the clouds as Levi latched the metal gate and started along the cobblestone pathway. —
This sentence is more complicated as it deals with impressions, tone and grammar. On the superficial level, Levi’s mind had plenty of time to peruse this subject and it is unlikely that he would only be beginning to drift back now. On a secondary, more impression-oriented level, ‘drift’ is a soft word, it eases and soothes whatever action it’s preforming or modifying. To me, this feels at odds with the sentence’s purpose, which is to convey that he left this house violently, and that returning is a significant choice. I would like to replace it with ‘returned,’ (coincidentally also removing ‘back’) which has a sharper sound, emphasizing the action and ensuing description, providing both additional impact. But, this echoes with the ‘return’ further on, and that’s hard to resolve since ‘returned’ lacks true synonyms. We can’t even replace the ‘return’ below with something else. We may be able to get away with the echo since ‘return’ is a fairly common word.
Continuing, delete the ‘had’ as it is grammatically incorrect, the ‘back/returned’ already put this sentence in the past. The semi-colon is also incorrect. The ‘vowing to never return’ is a continuation of ‘full of bitterness’ and is part of the same subject, so a semi-colon is too much of a break. You could use a semi-colon before the ‘but his anger…’, but a period works just as well. I would avoid the comma however, since the ‘but his anger…’ is a different, albeit related, thought. (The related bit is why a semi-colon works.)
My edit —His mind returned to the afternoon he left the house, full of bitterness and vowing never to return. But his anger was now well and truly spent.—
Sentence three/four:This was no time for grudges, he needed his aunty’s help and needed it badly. She was perhaps his last hope.
To start, we have the reiteration of ‘he needed his aunty’s help’ and ‘and needed it badly,’ which I would like to remove. Something like ‘he needed his aunty’s help desperately,’ might work, but while I think ‘desperately’ is a great word here, I’m not sure it sounds good. I think this is because the Y in ‘aunty’s’ echoes with the LY in ‘desperately,’ in which case I would suggest just going ‘aunt’s.’
Just delete sentence four, its only purpose is to amplify the peril and tension of Levi’s situation, but ‘desperately’ does it just as well alone. (This is why I chose to cut the Y from ‘aunty’s’ despite it being a subtle character trait/exposition.)
My edit —This was no time for grudges, he needed his aunt’s help desperately.
He stopped briefly halfway up the path and stared over at the small garden directly adjacent to the fence, wondering whether the carrots he had planted were making any progress. His Aunt Wanda had warned him at the time he was no green thumb. Determined to prove her wrong, he had ventured into her garden shed and spray painted his left thumb with florescent green dazzle. Unfortunately in his haste he inadvertently sprayed his best jersey/ His mother was far from impressed when he arrived home that night.
This sentence is mostly just wordy and would benefit from being shorter. To start with, I would delete ‘halfway up the path,’ because we can. Where exactly he’s located on the path is irrelevant to the ensuing action, and we know he’s on the path because he hasn’t reached the house yet. I might also swap the ‘and’ to a ‘to’ because that reduces the ‘stared’ to ‘stare’ and saves us a syllable. (I know, the profit beggars belief.) Delete the ‘over’ as unnecessary, and maybe consider swapping ‘stare’ to a less aggressive synonym. If you’re staring at something, you’re looking at it hard and for an extended period with notable interest, which doesn’t feel appropriate here.
Next we have the phrase ‘directly adjacent to.’ ‘Directly’ can go as unnecessary since ‘adjacent’ already places them together. Another change that warrants consideration is swapping ‘adjacent to’ with ‘running along.’ While ‘running’ is inferior to ‘adjacent,’ ‘along’ is superior to ‘to.’
Finally, I would change ‘the carrots he had planted’ to ‘his carrots.’ In context, this conveys the same point since he is looking at a garden, and is mostly referring to carrots he planted and opposed to rotting ones.
My Edit—He stopped briefly to observe the small garden running along the fence, wondering whether his carrots were making any progress. —
Here, just delete ‘at the time’ as that is understood, especially since it is the cause of his planting the carrots. After that, I would consider combining the sentences into something like —His Aunt Wanda had warned him he was no green thumb, and determined to prove her wrong he ventured into her shed to spray-paint his left thumb florescent green.—(You should only need the first ‘had’ if the sentences are combined.) A shed is a shed, so designating it a ‘garden shed’ is unnecessary, as there is little difference between a garden or tool. Maybe if it was a murder shed, or a forbidden shed, it would warrant designation. Swapped ‘and’ out for ‘to’ because I think it reads smoother and wanted to avoid the potential echo. Deleted the ‘with’ because necessary only because of ‘dazzle’ which IS unnecessary for the joke. ‘Fluorescent’ and ‘dazzle’ serve the same comedic purpose of exaggeration, so including both is unnecessary.
Sentence 4&5: Unfortunately in his haste he inadvertently sprayed his best jersey/ His mother was far from impressed when he arrived home that night.
Here, I would maybe delete ‘in his haste’ as Levi is young enough to mistake the meaning of ‘green thumb’ and would be unlikely to be practiced/careful enough with spray panting to avoid painting himself. It is also a subtle repetition of ‘inadvertently’ later on because they are both explaining the accident. The problem is, it might be required to separate ‘unfortunately’ and ‘inadvertently’ so they don’t echo, and it might be a benefit to the rhythm by elongating the sentence. For the elongation point, we can just combine sentences four and five via ‘and’, and I think the LYs don’t echo too egregiously.
For sentence five, the phrase ‘when he arrived home that night’ is unnecessary. It provides ancillary details, but they don’t affect the joke or point. They don’t necessarily hurt the sentence, so they can be preserved if the author is so inclined.
My edit —Unfortunately he inadvertently sprayed his best jersey, and his mother was far from impressed.—
Levi smiled at the memory, then continued his ascent and finally climbed the three steps onto the veranda. He drew a heavy sigh then timidly pressed the doorbell and waited anxiously.
Here, we can delete ‘at the memory’ as that is understood and I would delete ‘and finally climbed the three steps.’ ‘climbed’ is unnecessary due to the previous use of ‘ascent,’ ‘Finally’ feels inappropriate because he only paused briefly, and the number of steps is irrelevant. If we apply these cuts, I would exchange the ‘then’ to an ‘and,’ because it’s smoother and connects the ideas more whereas ‘then’ separates them more.
MY edit —Levi smiled and continued his ascent onto the veranda.
My main issue with this sentence is that it conveys his nervousness three times with the heavy sigh, timid press and anxious waiting when one suffices to convey the point. I would do something like —He inhaled heavily, pressed the doorbell, and waited.— The first part of this sentence is a little suspect as ‘drew’ in an inhale’ but ‘sigh’ is an exhale. So you just have pick the one you prefer and do either ‘sighed/inhaled heavily.’ ‘Then’ is entirely unnecessary since all these are actions in a series, and can thus be replaced with a comma.
With all of my vindictive edits applied…
Sunshine peeked through the clouds as Levi latched the metal gate and started along the cobblestone pathway. His mind returned to the afternoon he left the house, full of bitterness and vowing never to return. But his anger was now well and truly spent. This was no time for grudges, he needed his aunt’s help desperately.
He stopped briefly to observe the small garden running along the fence, wondering whether his carrots were making any progress. His Aunt Wanda had warned him he was no green thumb, and, determined to prove her wrong, he ventured into her shed to spray paint his left thumb florescent green. Unfortunately he inadvertently sprayed his best jersey, and his mother was far from impressed.
Levi smiled and continued his ascent onto the veranda.He inhaled heavily, pressed the doorbell, and waited.
I’m not entirely pleased with this, since the flow from sentence to sentence is often a little off. In the first paragraph, we can switch the first ‘returned’ to returning and combine the first sentences. This flows better but is a mouthful. We can also probably delete the ‘but’ from the third sentence as the ‘now’ serves as a soft contradictor. We then combine it with the fourth sentence via ‘and’ and swap ‘the house’ in the sentence to ‘this house’ (which makes it more personal, and thus appropriate for an emotional memory) and I think the first paragraph flows pretty well. Not perfect, but nothing ever is.
The second Paragraph reads a little better, but I think we can still improve it. We can delete the running, and the ‘any.’ We may also be able to delete the ‘his’ from the second sentence, but hard to say for sure.
For the third paragraph, I would combine the sentence and swap ‘smiled’ to ‘smiling.’ After combining them, I would also delete ‘and waited’ since that is understood when ringing a doorbell.
My edits, #2 (WC 137 to
Sunshine peeked through the clouds as Levi latched the metal gate and started along the cobblestone pathway, his mind returning to the afternoon he left this house, full of bitterness and vowing never to return. But his anger was now well and truly spent, and this was no time for grudges; he needed his aunt’s help desperately.
He stopped briefly to observe the small garden along the fence, wondering whether his carrots were making progress. Aunt Wanda had warned him he was no green thumb, and, determined to prove her wrong, he ventured into her shed to spray paint his left thumb florescent green. Unfortunately he inadvertently sprayed his best jersey, and his mother was far from impressed.
Chuckling, Levi continued his ascent onto the veranda,inhaled heavily and pressed the doorbell.
I added the semi-colon to the first paragraph because the pause helps the flow there. I also switch to ‘chuckling’ because I think it reads better and it adds an element of sound to the narrative. One could also make an argument for replace the ‘and’ before ‘his mother’ with a semi-colon.
Still not perfect, but even my infinite brilliance can only achieve so much. (Yes, I acknowledge that is a contradiction. Attribute it to my infinite brilliance being infinitely ahead of yours and never speak of it again.)
All of my edits, assaults, tweaks and heinous errors aside, the prose is solid. The author employs a variety of strong, uncommon verbs the audience knows to propel and characterize his sentences. His descriptions are, for the most part, relevant and brief, and he uses comedy for a little extra flavor, without it defining or subtracting from a mostly serious narrative.
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