#8 Please, Don’t Move
Greetings, you phenomenal poltroons, today we have a piece from Johnny on Writing.com
Mark, a young man with black hair and striking, blue eyes tapped away at a computer, the only beacon of light in a room surrounded by shadows. The bags underneath his eyes indicated his growing exhaustion, but he tapped on, every typed character bringing him closer to completing the assignment given.
For the first sentence, its mostly just restructuring to remove the need for certain words. First is “a young man with black hair” to “a black-haired young man with.” Then we can delete the ‘away’ as unnecessary. Finally, we refined “the only beacon of light in a room surrounded by shadows” to “the room’s only light/light source.” There is also a grammar error here, there needs to be a comma after ‘eyes.’ I can’t remember the exact term but “a young man with black hair and striking, blue eyes” is an adjective phrase. What that means is that it is unrelated to the sentence’s core meaning and can be removed without compromising comprehensibility. (this is not the same as when I deem something ‘unnecessary.’) Adjective phrases need to be bracketed in commas, dashes or parentheses, which indicates their ancillary nature. Here I would take advantage of the fact that you don’t need the comma between ‘striking’ and ‘blue’ and just move it to after ‘eyes.’ (you only need to add commas to a series when said series hits three, or if it is comprised of two distinct elements, I.E something is hard and red, as opposed to a hard red.)
Those comments aside, the last part of this sentence does introduce a different and somewhat common mistake I call ‘sensationalizing.’ The words this author uses are loud, demanding of attention, screaming how important this thing they are describing it. The words here are ‘beacon’ ‘surrounded’ and ‘shadows.’ Normally distinct, commanding words are good, they are a core element of strong writing. Here, they’re like adding glitter to the Mona Lisa. (A little hyperbolic, but the core message is accurate.) What the author describes is a strong, distinctive image all by itself, one the readers will immediately grasp. It does not need help to be effective. Thus it doesn’t need additional spectacle and sensationalizing, these will only distract, as they do here. (the ‘striking, blue’ does toe the line of sensationalizing, because it’s unlikely his eyes will be important enough to merit such a bombastic description.)
This is far from an egregious case of sensationalizing, and can probably be attributed to lack of confidence in either your prose or the scene. The worst form of sensationalizing occurs when an author tries to make something mundane exceptional without putting any effort into making it exceptional. I read a book where an author spent a paragraph, a long paragraph, describing snow, eloquently, exultantly describing its beauty as her character looked at it from a window. My response was boredom and fatigue. Digression aside, my edits —Mark, a black-haired young man with striking blue eyes, tapped at his computer, the room’s only light.— (swapped to ‘his’ just because I thought it flowed better.)
Sentence 2 “The bags underneath his eyes indicated his growing exhaustion, but he tapped on, every typed character bringing him closer to completing the assignment given.”
First the easy cuts: ‘his growing’ as unnecessary, ‘tapped on’ to ‘continued.’ The rest of the rest is also wordy, but needs restructuring more than cutting. It also suffers a little from sensationalizing. The easiest solution would be to swap ‘every typed character bringing him closer’ to ‘desperate.’ It still rings a little hyperbolic to me, so an alternative is “…exhaustion, but he needed to finish his assignment tonight.” I prefer this, it conveys the same information quicker and without pomp.
My edits—The bags beneath his eyes indicated exhaustion, but he needed to complete his assignment tonight.—(the ‘completing the assignment give’ to ‘complete his assignment’ should be applied regardless as ‘assignment’ can perform double duty in this instance.)
Ding! (Yes, this is the entire paragraph.)
Nothing to comment here. (Whew, such an exacting paragraph. I don’t know how I survived.)
The subtle sound broke him out of his drone-like trance, his blue eyes drawn to a notification. The curiosity within Mark was peaked, and he opened the notification. It read:
Here I would exchange ‘broke him out of’ to ‘disrupted’ or ‘disturbed’ and delete ‘drone-like’ as it does little to convey a particular element to trance. This sentence reads the same with or without it, on a conceptual level. We already know he has ‘blue eyes,’ so that reads repetitive and thus unnecessary. On a more complicated level, I dislike ‘subtle sound.’ I think it reads a little off due to ‘subtle,’ which feels inappropriate as unnecessary description. (The sound being loud, quite or subtle won’t change it effect here, so what purpose does the description have?) The second issue I take with it is that we already know there was a sound, so saying ‘the subtle sound’ feels unnecessary. With these thoughts in mind, and a few as of yet unmentioned grievances, I would lightly suggest —A notification appeared in his screen’s upper corner, disrupting his trance.— (This would be in conjunction with combining the second and third paragraph.) This removes the need for ‘sound’ and for his eyes, which would have been mentioned three times in five sentences. The more important element is that we don’t need him looking at the notification to orient us to it, meaning that action is largely pointless, serving only to introduce the notification.
Continuing into the second sentence, we can swap the first half to active with “his curiosity piqued,” and even the ‘his’ is debatably unnecessary. We also excise a few words. (‘piqued’ is the correct word here.) This of course necessitates changing the second half, which is easily done with “he opened the notification.” We know it’s Mark, so his name is unnecessary.
This leaves us with a potential cheat. (Dun dun dUUUN!) We may be able to delete ‘it read’ replace ‘the notification’ with ‘it’ and italicize the ensuing message, conveying the same information via implication and cutting three words.
With all edits applied —A notification appeared on his screen’s upper right corner, disrupting his trance. Curiosity piqued, he opened it. —(It should be noted that ‘upper right corner’ is unnecessary and included mostly for rhythm.
‘Please, don’t move. I’m watching you.’
(Oh no… dialogue)
No comment. (because no comment, not due to dialogue.)
He examined the details of the message, but found nothing, not even a name attached. Mark chuckled.
First sentence, swap ‘the details of the message’ to ‘the message’s details. Then, delete ‘not even a name attached’ as that would be included under the umbrella of ‘nothing.’
“Very funny, whoever you are.”
This should probably be part of the previous paragraph, since the subject of that paragraph and the speaker are the same.
Right on cue, a series of knocks echoed throughout the room, startling him. He immediately suspected the door, wondering who could be here at this time of night
Here, I would delete the ‘right’ as unnecessary. I would also consider reducing ‘throughout’ to ‘through’ just because I think it reads better.
For the second sentence, the phrase ‘he immediately suspected the door’ strikes me as odd for two reasons. First, why would he ‘suspect’ the ‘door’. Most knocks come from a door, and even if not, he would be able to hear whether it came from the door or the wall. I also find umbrage with the word ‘suspect’ itself. Even if he can’t place the knock’s origin, he would ASSUME it came from the door not ‘suspect,’ which implies either the door was culpable of a crime or he had carefully and deliberately examined all the evidence available to him before reaching a conclusion based upon that evidence. I would choose a simpler verb, maybe just ‘glanced.’ Finally, I would swap ‘time of night’ to ‘hour.’ The context and subtle emphasis provide all necessary information for the readers to make the connection. All edits applied —On cue, a series of knocks echoed through the room, startling him. He glanced at the door, wondering who could be here at this hour.—
All edits applied to entire section:
Mark, a black-haired young man with striking blue eyes, tapped at his computer, the room’s only light. The bags beneath his eyes indicated exhaustion, but he needed to complete his assignment tonight.
Ding!A notification appeared in his screen’s upper right corner, disrupting his trance. Curiosity piqued, he opened it.
‘Please, don’t move. I’m watching you.’
He examined the message’s details but found nothing. Mark chuckled. “Very funny, whoever you are.”
On cue, a series of knocks echoed through the room, startling him. He glanced at the door, wondering who could be here at this hour.—
The flow into ‘Mark chuckled’ may be a little rough, but I believe that can be alleviated by combining with the previous sentence via “…found nothing, and chuckled.”
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