# Blog 45 The Sinner
Hello Everybody, today we have a piece titled The Sinner by Not Suki from Writing.com.
“The world is doomed,” I said in a whisper, “I never realized something like this could happen.” Never in my whole life did I plan on making a plan B in case of mistakes. This was a grave mistake. Gritting my teeth and gripping my halberd, I looked down on humanity with much guilt. At the very least, there was a hint of peace in that bloody chaos. There was no screaming amidst the rampaging of the humanoid monsters everywhere. The city, gray from both the dark clouds and the dystopian atmosphere. The building that I was currently atop of, ruined. Cemented walls—despite the barricades acting as protection from the hoard of demons—appeared as shambles as the creatures from a different realm used their jaws to weaken the structure.
The paragraph starts with a proclamation of doom and in many situations this would be an excellent beginning. It’s active and presents immediate stakes, peril, and excitement, but the phrasing hurts. ‘The world is doomed’ is a cliché and inevitably rings of hyperbole, both of which result in diminishing the sentence. It is also rings false as this character is expositing to herself, which only exists for the benefit of readers and thus reads awkwardly. This is easily sidestepped by converting to inner dialogue/character’s thoughts. This, of course, necessitates changes to the ‘I said in a whisper’, which can be converted to ‘I thought’ or perhaps even voided entirely with italics (a recognized designator for internal thought) and maybe apostrophes. Another thing to note is that ‘said’ and ‘whisper’ are inefficient. ‘Whisper’ can serve as the verb via something like ‘I whispered’.
Moving on from there we have the second piece of dialogue. This is awkward for two reasons: first, ‘doomed’ is a powerful preface, it’s setting up the readers for ‘why’ and the ‘how’ because they know it’s coming, but the second bit of dialogue delays that payoff and so diminishes momentum and then ultimately weakens the result. Secondly, it’s a little wordy and doesn’t feel natural. It feels like narration, and narration is a fine line to tread. So we want to make it feel more natural, like someone in denial talking to themselves as opposed to the readers.
—‘The world’s doomed,’ I thought. ‘This can’t, shouldn’t be possible.’—
The sentence is still a little awkward just by virtue of ‘the world is doomed’ being something you say to someone else. There’s more I can do to improve it, but I want to finish editing the paragraph first because it involves the structure of this paragraph.
For the next sentence we can delete ‘in my whole life’ as that is included in ‘never’. The double ‘plan’ echoes as well and the ‘did I’ phrasing is slightly awkward because it inverts the flow of thought. Finally the sentence is just more complicated to parse than I would like, confused by the phrasing ‘in case of mistakes’. The sentence doesn’t need this to make sense, saying simply ‘I never made a plan B’ without. (The why of never making a plan B is irrelevant unless you give it relevance, which the author doesn’t in this sentence.) Adding the phrase indicates there’s more going on, specifically that our POV Character never made mistakes in the past, but there’s no indication of this in the rest of the sentence. So the readers have to parse whether it’s just empty addition or if it’s saying the POV character never made mistakes, and I prefer clarity.
—I had never formulated a plan B, never even conceived the possibility of needing one because I never made mistakes. But this was a grave mistake.—
I chose to keep the ‘mistakes’ in for two reasons. I liked how it transitioned in the next sentence, and I felt it made this sentence/character more interesting, provided more meat for the reader to consume.
Moving on to the next sentence (Gritting my teeth and gripping my halberd, I looked down on humanity with much guilt.) I think the ending here is weak. The phrasing, attaching the guilt to an action instead of centering it on our MC, distances the reader from the emotion of guilt because it separates the character from it. ‘Much’ is also too impotent of an adjective for what the author is trying to convey, or conversely too ambiguous. There two degrees of guilt the character could be experiencing: Crushing (in which case ‘much’ is too impotent) or ‘significant but not moment-defining’ (in which case ‘much’ is too vague.) Those comments aside, I think this would read so much stronger, more emotional if conveyed via internal dialogue. It put the character, and thus the readers, right in the guilt, forces them to experience it instead of glide past.
—Gritting my teeth, I gripped my halberd tighter and looked down upon humanity. ‘This is my fault. This is all. My. Fault.’—
For the next sentence (At the very least, there was a hint of peace in that bloody chaos.) I think the author diminishes the desired effect slightly. The phrase ‘at the very least’ diminishes the devastation, and thus the guilt and the reader’s interaction with the scene, by saying something to the effect of ‘it’s not all bad’ and that’s not what you want here. The devastation and the apocalyptic imagery are the hook for this story, you need to emphasize it, interact with it, not diminish it. Besides the thematic elements, it also disrupts the momentum of the paragraph itself, diverging from a high impact statement to a low impact pause/rest sentence instead of building on the momentum ‘guilt/fault’ starts. Pauses can be hugely important to tone and atmosphere, and even be used to convey information, but they’re best used in moments where a delay benefits the narrative. The delay doesn’t benefit the scenery here. Aside from that, the sentence is passive and I think it could be converted to active without too much difficulty. (The word we choose will dependi on what we want the sentence to ultimately say.) All that said, I think the sentence is unnecessary to the paragraph, which is about devastation and guilt. This sentence adds ‘bloody chaos’ to imagery, but that can be included elsewhere or just implied.
On to the next sentence.
(The city, gray from both the dark clouds and the dystopian atmosphere. The building that I was currently atop of, ruined. Cemented walls—despite the barricades acting as protection from the hoard of demons—appeared as shambles as the creatures from a different realm used their jaws to weaken the structure.)
I’ve included several sentences here because the first two are incomplete sentences, lacking verbs. But also because these sentences are all about the physical description and atmosphere, and I think they’re better handled together for rhythm and momentum-building purposes.
So apart from the first sentence lacking a verb, the phrase ‘and the dystopian atmosphere’ is weak and requires the reader to do all the work instead of the author painting an image. You want to describe and immerse them in the devastation, not pawn it off onto the books they’ve read previously.
—The city cringed beneath an ashen sky, stained with soot, wreathed in fire and crumbling.—
While I feel this is a little incomplete, you can see how this paints the world and the scene in a way that ‘dystopian atmosphere’ doesn’t. This also removes the need for the subsequent sentence since it conveys the city’s destruction, though we can still mention our MC’s structure is broken at a later time when they can interact with it in someway, making the description more relevant and feel more real.
This brings us to the final sentence, which has two elements that warrant mentioning. The first is the weakness of the phrase ‘appeared as shambles’. ‘Shambles’ is a strong word, but ‘appeared’ is not in this context; it has no violence or impact and the phrase ‘appeared as’ is a little awkward and indirect. There is likely a much stronger, more active verb, that can replace the phrase. Second is the phrase ‘from a different realm’ can probably be reduced to ‘alien monstrosities’ or something similar. Maybe just ‘demons’ as they are typically from alternate dimensions. Finally the message for this sentence is convoluted because the author takes an indirect route. What the sentence is trying to say is that demons are gnawing through the concrete foundations of structures, but the message is complicated because of the inefficient phrasing and the actual meaning being regulated to the end. So, how would I write it?
—The city cringed beneath an ashen sky, stained with soot, wreathed in fire, and crumbling. The people warred below, dying on concrete barricades as demons swarmed the streets. Yet, despite all of this, a silence draped the city, unbroken by agonized screams or monstrous howls. —
So most of the original section has changed now and that’s usually something I don’t like to do. But almost everything is present, the demons, the apocalyptic atmosphere, even the concrete, although that has changed as well. The only thing entirely deleted is the demon’s chewing through the buildings, which I removed for a couple reasons: It was a little awkward to implement, but also ultimately unnecessary. It existed to explain why the city was in ruins but that doesn’t really need an explanation as the city is currently experiencing a demonic invasion. It also brought up a somewhat awkward question: Why are demons eating buildings/their foundations? The author might answer it later on, but for right now I don’t know.
Now as I read the original paragraph again, it occurs to me that I may have misinterpreted the last section, which was always confusing because of the punctuation. It might all be referring to our MC’s building specifically, in which case my amends would have to change.
— The city cringed beneath an ashen sky, stained with soot, wreathed in fire, and crumbling. Even the building I stood atop of teetered, its concrete walls/foundations gnawed away by the rampaging demons despite protective barricades.—
This sentence reads a little run-on but its clearer to interpret. I was able to cut the phrase ‘used their jaws’ via a verb (gnawed) that indicates the use of the mouth. This strengthened the sentence, increasing its impact while making it simpler and more efficient. Beyond that, I combined it all into one sentence so that everything involving the MC’s structure was together. There was another bit of efficiency I cut in that the phrases ‘hoard of demons’ and ‘creatures from a different realm’ refer to the same thing. A little restructuring and I was able to combine them. (This is something to keep in mind, when referencing the same thing twice in a sentence you can often combine the references.) I don’t believe ‘hoard’ was necessary as an adjective because ‘demons’ was plural and the city is ruined. ‘Rampaging’ more or less serves the same purpose (putting them across the city and thus implying numerous demons) but does so with an action, thus removing the need for both a description and action. The final bit of inefficiency to address would be ‘appeared as shambles’. I’ve already mentioned how it reads weak (which is why I shifted it to an action with ‘teetered’, thus showing the effect in a way the readers could interact with) but ‘appeared’ is also the wrong word. ‘Appeared’ represents something stagnant or a visual, but the author was describing something actively occurring so ‘became/had become’ would serve better. I think that’s the entirety of my edits, so let’s combine them.
— ‘The world’s doomed,’ I thought. ‘This can’t, shouldn’t be possible.’ I never formulated a plan B, never even conceived the possibility of needing one because I never made mistakes. But this was a grave mistake. Gritting my teeth, I gripped my halberd tighter and looked down upon humanity. ‘This is my fault. This is all. My. Fault. The city cringed beneath an ashen sky, stained with soot, wreathed in fire, and crumbling. Even the building I stood atop of teetered, its concrete foundations gnawed away by the rampaging demons despite protective barricades. —
This reads all right. The rhythm is a little weak in transition from ‘possible’ to ‘I had never’ and to ‘gritting my teeth’ and ‘the city cringed’ but breaking into new paragraphs might fix it. ‘Cringed’ also reads a little off to me, though I can’t pinpoint why just yet. As weird as it sounds, I think it echoes with the tone of the preceding sentences; they have a ‘high/sharp’ sound (as in the phonetics of their words) and ‘cringed’ does as well, so it echoes with them. But that can be resolved at a different time. Earlier I mentioned something about restructuring the paragraph so ‘the world is doomed’ reads a bit better. The restructuring I referred to was inverting it, leading with the description and then following with the prognostication of doom and admission of guilt. Something like…
—The city cringed beneath an ashen sky, stained with soot, wreathed in fire, and crumbling. Even the building I stood atop of teetered, its concrete foundations and protective barricades gnawed away by the rampaging demons.
I gripped my halberd tighter and looked down upon humanity, feeling strangled by the awful silence. No one was screaming, not the humans as they died, nor the demons as they slaughtered. ‘‘This can’t, shouldn’t be possible.’ I whispered to myself. I’d never made a plan B, never even conceived the possibility of needing one because I never made mistakes. But this was a grave mistake.
I grit my teeth. The world was doomed, and it was all my fault.—
There were a couple of additions throughout, mostly added for rhythm and impact. There’re still two things I feel are a little weak, the ‘rampaging’ in the first paragraph and the transition from ‘whispered to myself’ to ‘I’d never made…’ You’ll also notice I walked-back my ‘whisper’ change from the very start. This is less a contradiction and more a symptom of how words and situation can change what works. Our MC whispering ‘the world is doomed’ doesn’t read well in my opinion. The other significant change, and the only hard break from the author’s original script, was changing silence from being peaceful to being awful. There are two reasons for this: A whole city of people passively accepting their murder and general dismemberment in silence is not peaceful; its creepy and you cannot convince me otherwise. Second, its being peaceful alleviated the burden of guilt from the MC, which we don’t want to do.
The general idea behind this restructuring is to validate the ‘doomed’ before you say it instead of leading with it and then explaining why afterward. You don’t lose the oomph behind the opening sentence because you opened with apocalyptic imagery and devastation (these tend to be pretty interesting) which then allows you to build up to the proclamation, to gather moment and tension and then use the ‘doomed’ as the culmination instead of the match. This is subtly important because it gives the paragraph narrative and progression, even if it’s not immediately visible, and that tends to read better than a paragraph without shape.
That will be all for today. If you like what you’ve read, check out some of the author’s other works.https://www.writing.com/main/portfolio/view/beginnerwrath
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