Blog #51: The Great Escape
Hello everybody, today we have a piece titled The Great Escape Part 1 by Lady H on Writing.com.
I hesitate, left leg resting over the ledge of my windowsill, the other planted on the carpeted floor of my bedroom. A gentle summer breeze ripples the edge of my short emerald dress, teasing and taunting me to follow. I wiggle my bare toes hanging in the cool night air, and bite the inside of my cheek, undecided.
This is a pretty good opening paragraph for a couple reasons, my favorite being the first two words. ‘I hesitate’. What this does is starts the story with a question and a decision, a conflict. The resolution might be foregone, and we don’t understand or know the conflict yet, but the simple fact that it’s means something is going on engenders interest and push, it gives the reader a reason to continue immediately. After that the narrative expands with ‘leg resting over the edge…’ which orients the orients the readers and further expands on the conflict/narrative with an element of intrigue and subterfuge. Finally the sentence ends with a bit more orientation and a touch of physicality, our Mc is physically inhabiting the world and interacting with it. This isn’t just about her leg hanging out (though that is part of it) but in her weight being focused on the back foot and the fact that she’s actively doing something instead of just standing still or walking somewhere (neither of which actually involve a characters manifesting change on the world or being forced to change because of it.)
The second sentence also continues with praiseworthy details, melding information (that it’s summer) and description (the emerald dress) with an action that also builds atmosphere (the ‘gentle’ breeze, which softens the paragraph and cultivates a sense of security, but more importantly just colors it.) There is some level of repetition in this sentence with ‘gentle’ and ‘breeze’, since a ‘breeze’ by definition is a soft wind, and maybe a bit with ‘teasing’ and ‘taunting’ (albeit very minor.)
We continue into the third sentence and again, it’s active. The ‘wiggle’ is also playful, continuing the themes of the previous sentence and having the MC interact with the world while expressing more information. The end of the third sentence is a little lackluster, with ‘bite my cheek’ being a little bland since it’s not interacting with the larger world (which would give it texture and physicality) and it doesn’t have the tone/atmosphere that ‘wiggle’ and ‘gentle breeze’ do. It’s also a little weak/repetitive because the author has to immediately explain what they meant by the phrase with ‘undecided’, a theme they introduced in the opening paragraph.
All that aside, there are still a few places we could adjust, and cuts to consider.
For the first sentence ‘leg resting over the ledge of my windowsill’ which could technically be shortened to ‘left leg resting on my windowsill’ but I think the sentence reads better with ‘ledge’ included. I think this is due to two reasons, the first being that the additionally phrase helps slow the sentence and smooth the flow (a slower sentence benefits her conflicted thoughts and builds into the tranquility the rest of the paragraph espouses) but ‘ledge’ also is a deeper sounding word slid in between ‘resting’ and ‘windowsill’ (which have a higher sound) and thus helps to balance them. But we don’t need as many glue words to achieve this effect.
— I hesitate, left leg resting over my windowsill’s ledge and the other planted on my bedroom’s carpeted floor.—
Just a few additional changes; I swapped the comma after ‘windowsill’ to an ‘and’ because it flows slightly better, connecting the two actions instead of them just sitting next to each other. The reason they didn’t flow as well was because they lacked a bridge (the ‘and’ I added) and because the designators ‘left leg’ and ‘the other’ don’t match each other. As example consider “one leg resting over my windowsill’s ledge, the other planted…” they read more like one thought this way instead of two, which results in them not needing a bridge phrase or word. Then I just swapped ‘the carpeted floor of my bedroom’ around to ‘my bedroom’s carpeted floor’ because it still flows well and cuts a few words. We could probably have cut ‘floor’ entirely but I preferred the way the sentence sounded with it included. Now for the next sentence.
(A gentle summer breeze ripples the edge of my short emerald dress, teasing and taunting me to follow.)
For this sentence I would consider deleting ‘the edge of’ as unnecessarily specific. This additional specificity doesn’t really alter the story/scene in a meaningful way and doesn’t help to build the atmosphere further and so provides little value outside of rhythmic, which I don’t think is required. As mentioned above, we could delete ‘gentle’ as well (since it’s innate in ‘breeze’) but it’s not an offensive repetition and doesn’t delay or detract from the story in any notable way so it would be up to the dealer to decide whether to keep it or not, or the rhythm of the paragraph when it’s all combined. Finally, I would consider swapping ‘ripples’ to ‘ruffles’ and this is purely phonetic: I just prefer the way ‘ruffles’ sounds here, but can’t accurately explain why. We’ll be leaving the subtle repetition ‘teasing and taunting’ because there is enough difference between them to justify their existence and they improve the rhythm of the sentence.
Final sentence of the paragraph (I wiggle my bare toes hanging in the cool night air, and bite the inside of my cheek, undecided.)
For this sentence we can delete ‘hanging’ as unnecessary since it’s obvious from context and ‘undecided’ as ‘bite the inside of my cheek’ conveys that. This leaves just the phrase of ‘inside of my cheek’ to resolve because it’s actually rather vague. Not vague in the action itself (which is accurately conveyed) but in the exact tone of it; we don’t know if our MC is scared or excited. Also specifying ‘inside’ is probably unnecessary because most people can’t bite the outside of their cheeks.
—I wiggle my bare toes in the cool night air and anxiously bite my cheek.—
Nothing fancy here, just cutting what I mentioned above and then adding a ‘anxiously’ (after reading ahead to ascertain our MC’s disposition.) She’s excited by somewhat fearful as well. I initially considered ‘nervously’ but ‘nervous’ doesn’t clarify the sentence sufficiently as people can be nervous from excitement and fear. ‘Anxious’ is similar but inclines more heavily towards fear.
All of my edits,
—I hesitate, left leg resting over my windowsill’s ledge and the other planted on my bedroom’s carpeted floor. A gentle summer breeze ruffles my short emerald dress, teasing and taunting me to follow. I wiggle my bare toes in the cool night air and anxiously bite my cheek.—
For the most part, this reads fairly well in my opinion. Whether it’s an actual improvement is up to you all. The only other change I might consider inflicting is deleting ‘night’ from the final sentence as unnecessary.
That will be all for now.
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