Blog #55 Demons of My Heart
Hello everybody, today we have a piece from AellaStormwind on Writing.com.
I remember what it was like to live in a cage. I remember how it felt to be sold, used, beaten, and persecuted. I remember the last vestiges of my humanity fled from me and created the monster that they so feared. The Angels? God? They had abandoned me. An empty cry to a mother never to be answered. Humanity likes to cage that which it fears. To tame forces of nature, to control that which is beyond their understanding.
This is a solid opening paragraph. The first sentence introduces immediate conflict by informing us the narrator used to be imprisoned, which immediately conjures potential narrative for us to explore and is inherently fraught with emotion. The second sentence continues with the narrative, expanding upon it with potent, impactful and emotive verbs (the ‘sold, used, beaten and persecuted’) filling the character, their history and the story with energy and thus momentum. The third sentence stumbles slightly in that it’s a broken sentence. There is also a slight echo in the end of the third sentence with ‘created the monster that they so feared’ and ‘Humanity likes to cage that which it fears’ but the time line get a bit squiggly since the opening sentences imply that it was the caged suffering that transformed our narrator into a monster humans feared, while the second sentence says humans imprison what they fear so which came first? The question marks on ‘angles’ and ‘god’ are a little confusing as well since we don’t why they’re treated as questions; there’s no preceding question to have prompted their mention and the Narrator knows the angles and God abandoned them so there would be no question here and a flat statement would be more appropriate. The seventh sentence is disjointed from the rest of the paragraph (thought it does read well with strong verbs and evocative imagery/conception.) there was no mention of a cry before this and no genesis or prompting for a cry given, and it’s not even directed at the celestial entities mentioned in the previous sentences. The final two sentence bring the paragraph to a stirring close, reminding the readers both of the suffering our narrator experienced but also implying they are someone to fear, and that humans striving to control them is a dangerous prospect. Thus, a whole narrative is outlined/foreshadowed in the first paragraph (enslavement to vengeful liberation) and a forceful MC/Narrator introduced with hints at a larger, fantastical world. This is a great example of how an ‘active opening’ does not require physical action be be transpiring. This paragraph is almost entirely exposition (albeit disguised as remembrance) but it’s forceful and drives forward and is rich with information for the readers to interpret and grasp. Thus you have an opening more interesting and involving than what a simple action sequence can provide. Now for the technical aspects.
For the first sentence the only change would be swapping ‘to live’ to ‘living’ because it reads smoother, without sacrificing impact, and is less cluttered without the additional word.
The second sentence is a little more complicated to tinker with. There’re several potential amendments to be considered, not the least of which is combining with the first sentence to remove the ‘I remember.’ Now, there’s nothing actually wrong with the repetition of ‘I remember’ here since it reads like alliteration rather than repetition, but it’s still something to consider. We could just delete the ‘I remember’ resulting in something like “…living in a cage, how it felt to be sold...” or we could cut it to ‘it felt to be’ resulting in something like “lying in a cage, of being sold…” and it’s the second of these that I would really consider. ‘To be’ is almost universally awkward, and ‘how it felt’ is a little awkward as well. The ‘how it felt to be’ is also largely unnecessary to comprehension since it’s understood from the verbs but also because it’s expressed in the first sentence via the ‘what it was like’. Now, I repeat, none of this is actively suggesting combining these sentences, which largely read well despite a few minor qualms and there’s likely a stronger resolution to my grievances. There is also a little issue with ‘persecuted’ since that’s usually applied to someone who’s free. There’s a connotation of pursuit to ‘persecute’ and you can’t really chase someone in a cage. ‘Used’ is also a little vague as to whether it’s meant to signify rape or just labor or a combination of both and I firmly believe in avoiding ambiguity whenever it is not desired.
—I remember being sold in the mud, persecuted, being abused like I was an animal and raped.—
There’s a lot of changes here but we’ll start with the theoretical one. I spent a long time reading the first and second sentences, turning them over in my head to see how best to combine them. While I was doing this, however, something was niggling at me; despite the strength of the second sentence’s verbs it just didn’t have the same impact that the first did one me. It took a while, but I think the reason for that is the first sentence conjures a scene, imagery, physical surroundings that out character interacts with. It’s all in the word ‘cage’ which physically puts our MC in misery, gives her suffering tangibility. The second sentence simply lists off actions, but without the weight of physicality they lack the impact of the first sentence. So, I endeavored to give their suffering a physical presence in the world instead of just in her head. I added ‘in the mud’ because that conjures images of someone being filthy and wet and cold. (These are sensations most people can remember feeling at one point or another and so give the description tangibility.) The phrase ‘being abused like I was an animal’ gives parameters to her abuse, but also describes her captors on an emotional/personal level; thus making them more real because we get to know them on a personal/emotional level. (That level being they’re people who have no qualms abusing animals.) The issue with ‘mud’ unfortunately is that it’s largely irrelevant to being sold; where, how, and when someone is sold is just always of lesser significance than them being sold, which makes the mention of mud feel ancillary and shoehorned in.
I ultimately decided to commit to ‘raped’ because whenever possible I prefer clarity and because it’s more impactful than just ‘used’. But also because it allowed me to replace ‘beaten’ with ‘abused’, which just has a stronger connotation of being mistreated since someone can theoretically merit a beating, or can receive a beating without trauma etc.
On the topic of ‘persecuted’ I think ‘discriminated’ is slightly more fitting for the context, but it requires the additional word of ‘against’ to make sense and I balk at that. There’s also a certain extent that ‘persecuted/discriminated against’ only adds the impact of the word itself to the sentence. What does being persecuted add to a character’s history that isn’t entailed in abuse, enslavement, and rape? (This is another potential benefit to ‘abuse’ or ‘beaten’ since ‘abuse’ covers a lot of the same space that ‘persecution’ does.) So I would consider deleting the word outright because it also is just a little bit clunky in the current iteration of the sentence. (I think it’s awkwardness is due to a mixture of being conceptually off with the concept of being sold, and with how it’s a word between two phrases and not linked to ‘sold’ the way ‘raped’ is to ‘abused’. ‘Raped’ fits neatly into the same thought pattern as abused, whereas ‘persecuted’ doesn’t for ‘sold’.)
I can’t think of a good fix for my issues with ‘mud’ so we’ll progress for now.
After reading the third sentence for the umpteenth time I finally understood what the author was trying to say and it actually does make sense. However, the fact that it took me too long to catch on is an issue that should be looked into and to resolve it I would just add a ‘how’ after the ‘I remember.’
—I remember how the last vestiges of my humanity fled from me and created the monster that they so feared.—
I think my confusion came from the subtle shift in perspective; the first two sentences come from a perspective of how their contents affected our MC, where the third sentence suddenly switches to a detached, external recount of a deeply personal event. The ‘how’ returns the third sentence to the style of the first two. Another change I might consider, though I hesitated to implement it as it felt a slightly off, was replacing ‘fled from’ with ‘forsook’. It’s one word and more distinct than ‘fled’ but as before said it does read a little awkward. I would have used ‘abandoned’ but the author uses that below. Another potential alternative is ‘died’ which is still gothic and awful, full of tragedy and misery and thus a perfect fit for the sentence’s method. It’s also more final than ‘fled from’, which may or may not fit the story’s progression.
—I remember how the last vestiges of my humanity died and created the monster they so feared.—
(I deleted the ‘that’ after ‘monster’ as unnecessary and because I felt it read better without.)
I’m posting the rest of the paragraph for restructuring reasons.
The Angels? God? They had abandoned me. An empty cry to a mother never to be answered. Humanity likes to cage that which it fears. To tame forces of nature, to control that which is beyond their understanding.
As I read over this again, I noticed how ‘humanity likes to cage…’ is very much in the same vein as the first three sentences, but also how the mention of God and Angles has little to do with the concept. Thus ‘God’ reads interruptive, but can read as the final exclamation point on this paragraph just as well as ‘their understanding’ can. So I want to reorder them and excise the interruption.
(Previous sentence included to rhythm and reference.)
I remember how the last vestiges of my humanity died and created the monster they so feared. Humanity likes to cage that which it fears. To tame forces of nature, to control that which is beyond their understanding. The Angels? God? They had abandoned me. An empty cry to a mother never to be answered.
There transition between ‘feared’ and ‘humanity is stilted and the phrase ‘that which’ can be reduced to ‘what’. I would also like to swap ‘likes’ to ‘loves’ because ‘loves’ is a stronger and more emotional word, thus more impactful. We can get away with the inaccurate description because this is coming from a resentful narrator full anger and hate. The ‘to tame forces…’ sentence is incomplete and needs to be combined with its predecessor via a comma (to maintain the rhythm of the triple ‘to’.) The ‘had’ before ‘abandoned’ is unnecessary since we know this is a recount. I have no answer to the final sentence, it just has no connection to anything that came before. (Our narrator makes no mention of crying out, there’s no mention of mother and the sentence itself makes no mention of the divine either.) Thus I will leave it as is.
—I remember what it was like to live in a cage. I remember bleeding in the mud as I was sold, being abused like an animal and raped. I remember how the last vestiges of my humanity died, creating the monster they so feared. And humanity loves to cage what it fears, to tame forces of nature and control that which exceeds their understanding. God and his Angels? They abandoned me. An empty cry to a mother never to be answered.—
There’s a lot of small changes here, so we’ll take them from the top. I finally figured out a decent way to include the ‘mud’ and that was to make it the primary function of the phrase instead of secondary to being sold. (In layman turn’s, I made her recalling it center on the mud rather than being sold; I do not believe this will diminish the impact of being sold, and it allowed me to mention the ‘bleeding’ as well, adding more physicality to the moment and suffering to her.) The follow through in to ‘being abused’ reads a bit squirrely to my ear (I think the ‘bleeding’ echoes slightly) but it reads better if read aloud so I think what I’m ‘hearing’ is my mind supplanting the word ‘in the mud’ (which phonetically separates the two INGs) with the image of it. For the third sentence, I maintain that the rhythm would sound better as ‘I remember the last vestiges of my humanity dying…’ (keeping the rhythm of the INGs) but it read poorly when we hit ‘creating’ because ‘creating’ and ‘dying’ echoed. Then I added the ‘and’ to humanity, resolving the stilted progression with a bridge word and connecting more intimately with the progression of thoughts. Now instead of just meeting the concept of being sold and feared from our narrators litany, it springs off it because the ‘and’ highlights the connection. Scroll much further down, I replaced ‘is beyond’ with ‘exceeds’ because it’s one word and active. I combined ‘God’ and ‘Angles’ because I saw no reason for them to be two separate questions when they’re basically the same question. The final sentence remains, as promised, untouched.
That will be all for today. I make no claim that my various edits are perfect, but I am satisfied with my work.
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If you want to know how the story progresses, check out the rest or some of the author’s other works.https://www.writing.com/main/portfolio/view/aelastormwind2