#9 The Amount of Red Tape is Baffling
Greetings all you wrathful wombats, today we have a supernatural piece from Loreli on Writing.com.
“There is some mistake.” Nicole protested as she was stuffed into a police car, hands secured behind her back with a pair of thick metal handcuffs.
First off, a quick grammar fix. When dialogue is introduced or ensued by a dialogue tag, it is connected to that tag with a comma. Specifically, the period after ‘mistake’ needs to be a comma since ‘protested’ is a dialogue tag.
After that we have the passive phrase ‘as she was stuffed’ which can easily be converted to active with ‘as they stuffed her into a police car.’ The remainder of this sentence can be reduced to a single word ‘handcuffed.’ Handcuffs are generally metal; they typically restrain the hands behind the back (or at least that would be the immediate image to arise for the unenlightened readers such as yours truly.) Thus, the second part of the sentence is largely devoted to explaining a concept most readers will be familiar with. So, just trust to experience and use ‘handcuffed.’
My edits —“There is some mistake,” Nicole protested as they shoved her, handcuffed, into a police car.—
Paragraph 2&3 (combined for reasons soon to be stated.)
The officer that held her messenger bag by the black, cloth handle peered into the car after her with a chuckle.“You assaulted him.” He motioned across the street to the man being questioned. Although the other man was restrained with cuffs as well, he was out of a car talking to two officers. By as animated as he was, she could only figure he was relaying his part of the story.
First, there would be no paragraph break after ‘her with a chuckle’ since the officer is both preforming the action and speaking. Yes, you have to start a new paragraph when someone new speaks, but that’s only when they share a paragraph.
Second point, ‘that held’ can be reduced to ‘holding,’ which reads better in my opinion due to the absent ‘that’, which rarely reads smoothly. Continuing on this section, I hold the description ‘by the black, cloth handle’ deeply suspect. Why does this bag’s handle matter? It is not immediately evident in this sentence or paragraph, nor is it a particularly interesting tidbit. So what is the author trying to tell us? Maybe, there something relevant about the handle that will arise further on in the narrative, but then why mention the handle here where its details are irrelevant? Maybe it’s the way the officer is holding the bagthat’s important? But, that’s pure assumption, which means the description here failed to convey the authors point. We do not know if this description is description for the sake of description (a disreputable practice,) a description to indicate relevance or foreshadow (viable but potentially misplaced or not distinctive enough,) or is immediately relevant (point failed to be conveyed.) The main, immediate flaw is that is reads clunky. ‘Black’ does not flow well into ‘cloth’, which does not flow well into ‘handle’ (though they can flow just fine in other circumstances.) Thus I suggest we delete and restrain ourselves to ‘holding her messenger bag.’
I would delete ‘peered into the car after her.’ This action serves mostly to orient the reader to the officer, and show him interacting with her, thus introducing the dialogue. But, you don’t need these points. When people converse, they face one another naturally, even in groups. There are obviously occasions where this is not the case, but they are an exception to common behavior. This means that the officer is naturally going to be looking at her as he speaks. However, if one wishes to be obdurate, they can preserve ‘peered after her’ since it flows fine and peered is a strong verb. I would delete ‘int the car’ regardless as we know she’s in the car and specifying here is just reiteration. (if you make the full delete, ‘chuckle’ would be promoted to the main verb as ‘chuckled.’
Sentence 2&3:“You assaulted him.” He motioned across the street to the man being questioned.
My main qualm here is that the dialogue feels incomplete and lacking purpose. Why did the officer say this? He’s not comforting her, he’s not accusing her, he’s not responding to her claim of innocence, he’s not gloating etc. This dialogue is geared toward telling the readers what happened, and as such has no reason to exist in its current state. Long story short, I have no idea what heis trying to tell her.
I would consider shifting ‘across the street’ to after ‘the man being questioned’ to avoid any potential displaced modifier concerns and to move ‘the man’ closer to ‘him,’ which feels more appropriate. Rhythm is janky unfortunately, current iteration reads better if sentence is read slowly, altered version reads better if sentence is read faster.
Sentence 4: Although the other man was restrained with cuffs as well, he was out of a car talking to two officers.
Here, I believe we can delete ‘with cuffs.’ We also can also rearrange so ‘the man’ preforms double duty with ‘Although restrained as well, he/the man was…’ ‘as well’ may also benefit from converting to ‘likewise’ or ‘equally’ and being shifted to between ‘although’ and ‘restrained.’
We also need to cut ‘other.’ We have already introduced this subject as ‘the man’ so adding ‘other’ implies a second victim. There is no confusion as who she is referring to since the officer was designated ‘the officer.’
I believe we can reduce ‘out of a car’ to ‘outside,’ and I would exchange ‘talking to’ for ‘conversing with’ to avoid the two Ts.
All edits applied: Although likewise restrained, he was outside conversing with two officers.
Sentence 5:By as animated as he was, she could only figure he was relaying his part of the story.
(My initial reaction here is to delete most of this sentence and combine with the previous via “…with two officers, probably relaying his version of events.” Result is the same, you just remove the walk-through.)
First, I believe we can reduce ‘by as animated as he was’ (Side note: ‘by’ and ‘as’ don’t quite work the way the author wants here, ‘based on’ or maybe ‘by how’ would serve better) to ‘by his animation.’ I would consider exchanging ‘figured’ to ‘assumed’ both because I feel it reads better and suits the author’s word preference. We may also be able to get away with ‘was relayed’ to ‘relayed’ since this sentence is devoid of ‘had’ and firmly structured as present-past via ‘figure.’ Finally, ‘his part of the story’ to ‘his version of events’ which just cuts a glue word.
Settling back into the seat, Nicole struggled to keep a handle on her temper. The police had been more sympathetic toward her as a female walking home from work until her attacker said that something she did frightened him. They seized her bag and searched it.
Here, cut ‘into the seat’ as there is nothing/nowhere else for her to settle back into, and reduce ‘keep a handle on’ to ‘control/master/govern,’ depending on your personal taste.
My edits: Settling back, Nicole struggled to govern her temper.
I would delete ‘more’ as unnecessary, which leaves me at the rest of the sentence. I do not like the way this sentence is written, its wordy but hard to cut or restructure to reduce the word count. The least offensive phrase to cut is ‘walking home for work’ as her being female in the conflict with a man easily suffices to explain their sympathy. It could also be reduced to ‘returning from work,’ since ‘home’ is fairly irrelevant, not easily assumed just irrelevant. But cutting it does straight up excise it from the narrative, which I struggle with. The specification and description is mostly boring, however, so I am inclined toward its immediate, gristly purging.
We can reduce ‘said that’ to ‘claimed,’ but the phrase ‘something she did frightened him’ is frustratingly vague. The author probably wants to conceal it for story purposes, but it makes no logical sense for this to have been conveyed in this way. Nicole is either unaware of what she ‘did,’ in which case, she would have gleamed it (or at least more information) from where she learned she supposedly did something. Or she’s aware of what happened and he’s lying, which again removes any need for the author’s vague ‘did something,’ because she would know his lie and would be internally debunking it. So, I feel like this is the author playing coy with the readers to the detriment of the story, which I dislike.
My edits:The police had been sympathetic toward her as a woman walking home from work until her attacker claimed something she did frightened him.(Swapped to ‘woman’ just because ‘female’ reads a little weird.)
Sentence 3:They seized her bag and searched it.
This leaves us at the final sentence, which I believe needs a ‘had.’ It can’t ride on its predecessor’s tense since it is a new sentence. The sentence itself also feels a little abrupt and disconnected (the disconnection being due to the lack of transition). The only solution to the abruptness, short of adding content, is to combine with the previous sentence via ‘prompting’ or a similar word.
Finally, it can potentially be restructured to ‘they seized and searched her bag.’ Removing the need for ‘it.’ We can also delete ‘seized’ entirely as it would be difficult for them to search it without grabbing it. Not impossible, but not likely either.
With all of my edits applied:
“There is some mistake,” Nicole protested as they shoved her, handcuffed, into a police car.
The officer holding her messenger bag chuckled. “You assaulted him.” He motioned to the man being questioned across the street.Although likewise restrained, he was outside conversing with two officers, probably relaying his version of events.
Settling back, Nicole struggled to govern her temper. The police had been sympathetic toward her as a woman until her attacker claimed something she did frightened him, prompting a search of her bag.
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