Blog #47 Forget Me Not
Hello everybody, today we have a piece titled Forget Me Not by Aussie1 on Writing.com, I’m sure it will include much tragedy about flowers forgetting to not forget themselves.
Standing in the Florist shop, I looked at the young bright-eyed assistant, Joan, serving the gentleman before me. Her sparkling manner made her a pleasure to be around. I wondered what made her so cheerful, but I never asked. I had always been told it was impolite to pry.
This is a good opening paragraph. It’s not immediately exciting, but it’s not that kind of story, and what flaws I could number are purely rhythmic and minor. What the paragraph does well is introduce the readers to its story, gives them a reason to keep reading and enough information to know why they should want to. It does this via three elements: first is with the sentence “Her sparkling manner…” which paints Joan in an attractive, likeable light from our MC’s perspective, conveying romance and attraction, but also subtly indicating she’s worth pursuing, and thus this sentence tells the reader about the story (albeit in a romantic way rather than blunt and off-putting like I did.) The next element occurs within the third sentence “I wondered…” which continues the theme of attraction and interest, but adds an element of conflict with ‘but I never asked/impolite to pry.’ The final element comes in the final sentence “I had always been told…” and what this does is introduces the readers to our MC, gives them a taste of who they are. And it’s a likeable taste, giving us a glimpse of someone polite, maybe a little bit shy, and hinting at conscientiousness. Thus this paragraph, without any exterior existence, introduces us to a romance story between two likeable people with just a touch of conflict, all elegantly without fuss or incitement, or taking us out of the story. That’s why I like it. Now, my interpretation of this paragraph could be completely off and we could be about to embark upon a psychedelic murder mystery concerning the serial killer Joan who lures unsuspecting victims in with her warm personality. Or Joan could just be a random florist, you may never know. Unless you read what’s left of the story after I finish editing it.
Now to the rhythm instances I mentioned before. There’s two, the first, and most egregious, being the ‘Joan’ in the first sentence. While it serves an important function and is appropriately placed, it’s still interruptive, forcing the readers to stop and step out of the narrative (however briefly) and rhythmically I dislike that. The other, very minute, instance of stuttering rhythm is the second sentence, which reads just a little bit stilted, either because of being too short or not flowing into the subsequent sentence as smoothly as it could.
Both of these are hard to fix, the first especially since its current state is grammatically correct, because the word choice and sentences are solid. I hesitate to touch anything because they read well. However, I do have one possibility to consider.
— Standing in the Florist shop, I watched as the young bright-eyed assistant, Joan, served the gentleman before me.—
The idea here is fairly simple, the ‘as’ and ‘watched’ (being a constant action instead of one that begins and ends) make the lead up to ‘Joan’ merge into one continuous thought rather than a sequence of thoughts, those being action into description into name, into action. In my potential iteration the entire sequence is a single action with concurrent description and the ‘Joan’ acts more as a break/respite in an otherwise long phrase rather than as an interrupter. A further iteration could be deleting the ‘as’ and converting ‘served’ to ‘serve’. They are comparable but I prefer the presence of ‘as’ because ‘serve’ ends up reading rushed to me.
Paragraph 2&3 (Combined for many duplicitous reasons, but mostly because there was no reason to separate them.)
The gentleman left with a dozen red roses, Joan thanked him and turned to me. “I have some new flowers this time Mrs. Jackson, I hope you’ll like them,” she said, excitedly, before disappearing into the back room
Here, in the original format the author had inserted a paragraph break after ‘turned to me’, probably because there was a newer speaker, but since there was no previous speaker and Joan was at least somewhat the subject of the previous sentence (as well as being the speaker) the paragraph break is unnecessary. You’ll also notice that these paragraphs ruin the romantic subtext I envisioned from the initial paragraph, but I maintain that all my original points stand. Their colors and context just wiggle a bit.
The nonsense of my egregious error aside, this paragraph has two general points to note. The first is the sequence of events in the first sentence: the gentleman leaves, Joan thanks him then turns to our apparently married MC. Joan expressing her gratitude should probably occur while he’s leaving or beforehand, not after, which is what the current sequence of events details. The other point to note is that ‘she said’ is unnecessary. Joan being the primary subject of this paragraph automatically indicates she is the speaker, but the ‘she said’ does improve the rhythm and sound of the sentence in its current iteration. Still, I would prefer to occupy that space with something of more narrative value. Thus, I offer this possibility.
—Joan thanked the gentleman as he left with a dozen red roses, then turned to me.” I have some new flowers this time, Mrs. Jackson, I hope you’ll like them.” Beaming excitedly, she disappeared into the back room.—
There’s nothing fancy here, just switching Joan thanking to the front and adding ‘beaming’ as the bridge action to her disappearing downstairs. Also, since the ‘Mrs. Jackson’ is a direct address in dialogue it gets commas/punctuation on either side. I added another comma after ‘red roses’ just to preclude any possible misinterpretation of the gentleman turning to Mrs. Jackson.
Reappearing, carrying a large bunch of flowers, Joan said, “These are some lovely native flowers I managed to get in. I hope you like the arrangement?”
Again there’s just a few things I would consider changing here. The comma after ‘reappearing’ is unnecessary and potentially incorrect, specifically in regard to the ‘carrying…’. It’s designating the ‘carrying a…’ as an adjective phrase and thus unnecessary, while also wanting to be read as “Reappearing, Joan said…”
The other thing I would like to comment on is the word ‘bunch’ where here is a catch-all term and thus more boring than a specific could be, something like ‘bushel’ or what the ‘bunch’ actually is, an ‘arrangement’. One could also add more description to the text here, so the flowers develop an image in the story instead of just serving as a prop. Obviously, we don’t want that description to be distracting or overly inflate the sentence, and it would have to successfully cultivate an appreciable image for the reader, otherwise it’s little better than ‘flowers’ alone.
— Reappearing carrying a bushel of fragrant wildflowers, Joan said, “These are some lovely native flowers I managed to get in. I hope you like the arrangement?”—
Again nothing fancy here; I switched to ‘bushel’ over ‘arrangement’ because ‘arrangement’ was already used later in the sentence. I used ‘fragrant’ because in conjunction with ‘flower’ it cultivates the impression of a pleasant aroma, and I used ‘wildflowers’ because it paints the flowers into an eclectic light, both in shape and hue.
Looking at it again, though, there are another two instances that could stand to be improved; the two uses of ‘flowers’ do echo slightly, and the phrase ‘to get in’ reads a little weak. I don’t believe there’s much we can do about the ‘flower’ echo as there’s no acceptable synonyms, but we can probably exchange ‘get in’ for ‘order’. There are other synonyms that work like ‘obtain’ or ‘acquire’ but they’re too academic and ostentatious for the character and prose here. Unfortunately, ‘order’ carries its own complications because of ‘managed’. If she had experienced no difficulty in acquiring the flowers then ‘get in’ and ‘order’ functioned basically identical, but struggling to order flowers and struggling to acquire them are different enough that I hesitate to implement the change. Ultimately, I think I will risk it because there is no specific story element depending on the trouble being in the actual acquiring portion, meaning we have some leeway in manipulating reality.
All my changes.
— Standing in the Florist shop, I watched as the young bright-eyed assistant, Joan, served the gentleman before me.
Joan thanked the gentleman as he left with a dozen red roses, then turned to me.” I have some new flowers this time, Mrs. Jackson, I hope you’ll like them.” Beaming excitedly, she disappeared into the back room.
Reappearing carrying a bushel of fragrant wildflowers, Joan said, “These are some lovely native flowers I managed to get ordered. I hope you like the arrangement?”—
Once they’re combined, there are a few issues that arise to me. Between the first two paragraphs ‘Joan’ and ‘the gentleman’ echo due to their close proximity, and as a whole these paragraphs end up feeling slightly rushed to me.
— Standing in the Florist shop, I watched as the young bright-eyed assistant, Joan, served the gentleman before me.
They exchanged ‘thank yous’ as the gentleman accepted a dozen red roses and left, freeing her to address me. “Just a moment, Mrs. Jackson, I have some new flowers this time and I hope you’ll like them.” Beaming excitedly, she disappeared into the back room.
Reappearing with a bushel of fragrant wildflowers, Joan said, “These are some lovely native flowers I managed to order. I hope you like the arrangement?”—
This is the second iteration of these sequence and you’ll notice more significant changes to the second paragraph. I used ‘they exchanged’ instead of ‘Joan/she thanked’ because it lengthened the span between the two ‘the gentleman’ while also avoiding any potential ‘she’ echo in the sentence. I chose to preserve the second ‘gentleman’ because it slows this sentence slightly and ‘he’ ends up feeling rushed again. I added the additional step of ‘accepting’ again to the slow the pacing slightly but also because that’s when he would typically express his gratitude. I chose to use ‘freeing’ over ‘then she’ because it’s smoother, which of course required further amendment and I was left with either ‘to turn to me’ or a variation of ‘attend/address me’ and there was simply too man Ts in the first option. I added the ‘just a moment’ to Joan’s dialogue to (again) slow it down since proceeding immediately into ‘I have some new flowers…’ felt rushed. In spoken dialogue this wouldn’t be an issue since people speak slower than they read and tone takes effect, but on the page its spoken at the speed of reading. I migrated the ‘Mrs. Jackson’ over since it read better after ‘just a moment’ than after ‘you’ll like them’, but that could just be me.
The final change I’m still debating, this being transforming ‘carrying’ to ‘with’. ‘With’ is altogether a less interesting word, but it does read better in my opinion. It changes the sound of this section by removing one of the INGs for a deeper sounding word. I had considered this change before this rendition, back when I first worked on this sentence, but hesitated due to having a ‘with’ at the beginning of the second sentence and fearing two would weaken the prose (‘with’ being a generally weak word.)
I think that will suffice for now, but I’m still not entirely sure of the first and second paragraphs’ rhythm.
That will be all for today. If you like my work consider subscribing.
If you like what you’ve read here, check out some of the author’s other works or the rest of this particular story. https://www.writing.com/main/portfolio/view/treforj3