Blog #56 Broken Fate
Hello Everybody, today we have a piece titled Broken Fate by Mr. Midnight on Writing.com.
“Virtually no impact. No change.” The operations room was cold and so was her artificial voice.
There’s not much here to explore by way of opening paragraphs. The opening dialogue successfully conveys that something’s happening (which is good) and thus kindles a bit of interest. The third sentence suffers from the passive structure however, with its verbs solely existing to describe something instead of pushing the story forward or building momentum and interest. The result is that the third sentence’s solitary bit of narrative relevance derives from ‘artificial voice’. This is an interest-attracting element though, but it’s also regulated to an afterthought at the end of the sentence, which saps some of its potential effect. A final note is that the double ‘no’s in the first and second sentences echo slightly (though ‘echo’ is quite the right word, they more of sound and act the same in such close proximity that they would benefit from distinction.)
—“Nominal impact, no change.” The operations room was cold and so was her artificial voice.
‘Nominal’ functionally the same as ‘virtually no’ but removes the need for the LY and the double ‘no’. I combined the first two sentences because I thought they read better/more natural. The sentences are so short and not so emotional or important that the speaker would pause between them. I also think the additional terseness makes it sound more military and professional, which is appropriate from what I can deduce. I would make more changes to the third sentence but don’t have enough to go on for now; we’ll probably return to it.
The reddish glow radiating from the screen was like an old nemesis, one that Raven gave up fighting long ago. Instead, it had become an annoying roommate she’d learned to tolerate. World statistics and data pertinent to their missions and goals displayed on the giant holo-screen that took up the entire wall. She watched it with tired eyes as she swirled a cup of wine in hand. “What’s the point anymore?”
This first sentence again struggles with the passive voice, but also with an awkward simile. What about this red light makes it Raven’s nemesis? And what is the fact that it’s her nemesis supposed to convey about her or it? Similes are best used to conjure imagery for something you don’t have the words to describe, or (on rare occasions) to build tone and aesthetic. This simile isn’t describing anything physical, so it’s intended to convey tone but again to what end and what tone specifically? The red hue inclines my thoughts to the darker spectrum of emotions, but is it supposed to be anger? Ominous? Malignant? And if any of these why not use the word you want to describe? Why use this smile over ‘Malignant’? Malignant is an awesome word and oozes threat, and doesn’t risk confusing the reader the way a simile does. The second sentence continues the simile and at the end I feel the simile is simply an inflated way of saying “red glow Raven hated but had learned to tolerate.” Yes this is rough, but it achieves the same impact with greater clarity and less time. You might complain that this simplifies it, but I would argue complicating a message or phrase without reason doesn’t benefit a book. You could make an argument for maintaining the simile (after some clarification) if the rest of the narrative and descriptions were building toward the same, unified theme, but they’re currently not.
So, consider this alternative.
—“Nominal impact, no change.” The holo-screen’s crimson radiance painted the frigid operations room in malignant hues Raven hated but had learned to tolerate.—
While this particular rendition does feel overloaded and a bit rushed/jumbled, it paints a clearer picture for us to grasp. Instead of the screen just glowing red (which restrains the visuals to the screen only) the screen’s radiance now describes the room as well, conjuring the image of chairs, desk and sundries viewed through a bloody lens. This is a striking image and justifies the use of ‘malignance’ later on in the sentence (that being chosen in lieu of the ‘nemesis’ simile as it seemed mostly likely to be what the author tried to convey.) This structure also converts to active so the sentence is actually doing something instead of just existing, and the adjectives are describing the nouns instead of parading as verbs. Unfortunately this iteration falls about when we reach ‘Raven’. It’s not terrible but it does feel off; the transition is so quick it barely exists and the flip from environment description to character information is jarring. Then there’s the element of how ‘malignant’ and ‘crimson’ radiance already conveys emotion onto the reader, describes how they’re supposed to feel about it, only for Raven to echo that emotion. I think we can fix the last issue by separating Raven’s opinion and introduction into its own sentence, thus making her opinion a description of her rather than risk it being conflated with the description of the room. (I changed ‘reddish’ to ‘crimson’ because it’s a stronger, brighter hue and— if the intent was to be intimidating or ominous— thus more fitting. Commit to what you’re telling; don’t used ‘seemed’ or ‘appeared’ unless you want the reader uncertain of something, don’t use half colors when you’re trying to achieve the connotations of the full color.) This rewrite also doesn’t mention the artificial voice, which is a relatively important element. So maybe we can fix these various issues simultaneously with something like…
—“Nominal impact, no change.” The holo-screen’s crimson radiance painted the icy operations room in malignant hues, an aspect reinforced by E-VA’s—their sub-AI virtual assistant—equally frigid artificial voice. Raven hated that light but had learned to tolerate it (like an annoying roommate.)—
(‘E-VA’ as a name is supplied latter in the narrative, so I just migrated it up as a way to reintroduce the voice and remove any ambiguity as to whom is speaking here. The ‘like an annoying roommate is unnecessary from a comprehension standpoint but could be included if one just likes the phrase or the tone it applies to Raven.)
There were several changes but I’ll start with how I used ‘frigid’ for ‘artificial voice’ and ‘icy’ for ‘operations room’. This is purely because I disliked how ‘icy’ followed the Y sound of ‘equally’ immediately with another Y sound and how ‘frigid’ had more texture, allowing it to slow the pace of ‘equally icy artificial’. Usually when I make a change to its rhythm to smooth out a section but use a rougher word in an overly slick section can provide benefit as well, giving a phrase texture so the various words don’t jumble together. That aside the largest change I made was adding the E-VA phrase, which reintroduces the artificial voice with two significant improved elements (to my thoughts) over the original rendition. First, in the original structure the cold room and the cold voice weren’t particularly related, one was just used as a segue to the other. In this structure, the cold voice interacts with the environment, adding to the imagery via ‘an aspect reinforced.’ This interaction is subtly important because it means the voice and the room share a ‘theme’ in that they’re both describing the environment and room, where before the voice wasn’t and so didn’t synergize with the room’s description. The second improvement is that it’s active where the original was not, and the additional words and actions help to distinguish the mention of the voice from the rest of the sentence, giving it more heft and meat for the reader to explore. An improvement on my first attempt is that mentioning the voice anchors the dialogue in the story/immediate succeeding sentence instead of it just floating in the ether. I am content with all of this so far, so onward.
(Reminder)World statistics and data pertinent to their missions and goals displayed on the giant holo-screen that took up the entire wall. She watched it with tired eyes as she swirled a cup of wine in hand. “What’s the point anymore?”
Before launching into the more significant rewrites as I need to excise the introduction of the holo-screen here since I’ve already mentioned it, I’m going to mention a few efficiency changes one could make here. First, ‘occupying’ instead of ‘that took up’ and we can delete ‘in hand’ as unnecessary since it’s unlikely she would be swirling the glass in anything else. Another change would be converting ‘with tired eyes’ to ‘exhaustion/exhausted’ in the vein of “Exhausted, she watched it…” conveying this information via the state of her eyes doesn’t provide much additional value other than mentioning she has eyes, and since most readers would assume that passively, mentioning her eyes is mostly just additional words. ‘Mission’ and ‘goals’ need to be distinguished more as most mission information would include its objective; ‘goals’ could easily refer to the organization’s general goals, but that would need to be clarified.
Now for the proper edit, the most important being avoiding the repetition of introducing the ‘holo-screen twice’. Aside from that, these sentences read fairly solid with distinctive words and active voice. Thus, I (taking undue liberties) might suggest something like…
—Now she squinted into it despite her exhaustion, watching world statistics and data pertinent to their current and grander objectives scroll across the immense screen while swirling a glass/mug of wine.—
Admitted these changes would read better if connected to the others, but I can make do regardless. The important change is ‘Now she…’ which continues from where the previous sentence explained how she hated the light (which we know originates from the screen) and the ‘now’ also serves to reorient us in the present moment as we leave the descriptive introduction. We progress from there into her squinting into the light, which is both an active verb to progress the sentence but also shows her interacting with the environment, making both her and the environment feel more real, more physical. After that, we have ‘despite her exhaustion’ which is only a slight improvement on ‘with tired eyes’. They require the same number of words, but ‘despite’ is more forceful than ‘with’ and highlights the conflict of her ‘being tired but still working’ slightly more than ‘with tired eyes’ does. (It does this by my actively mentioning the conflict instead of just letting it be understood.) The next notable change I implemented was swapping ‘displayed’ out for ‘scrolled’ and there were two reasons for this; A: ‘displayed’ reads more like a passive verb/adjective to me than an active verb, things are displayed, and thus ‘displayed’ read off to me; B: the verb the author used was ‘watched’ which is a verb for something that is moving or liable to move, you don’t ‘watch’ stagnant text, you read stagnant text, but ‘displayed’ has no inherent movement so I replaced it with a verb of movement. Alternatively, you could have swapped ‘watched’ to ‘read’ but I preferred how ‘watched’ read in this iteration. I switched ‘goals’ to ‘objectives’ because ‘objectives’ reads more official and secret agency-ish to me and added a ‘grander’ to distinguish it from their regular missions. I also unfortunately removed ‘the entire wall’ in lieu of just ‘immense’ and I solely did this because I couldn’t find an easy way to transition to that specification. I choose not to concern myself with it overdramatically since the exact size of the screen doesn’t appear to be of immense relevance so it simply being describe as ‘immense’ serves the same functional purpose at the moment. I’m not particularly pleased with the ‘while swirling’ transition as it doesn’t break the ‘watching’ action hard enough for the reader to realize we’re describing a separate action Raven’s doing. Finally we have ‘glass/mug’ and this is a comment on the utilitarianism of ‘cup’. ‘Cup’ functions perfectly well in this situation, but it doesn’t say anything, it’s just exists. By exchanging it out for an alternative we can tell the readers more about Raven; with the ‘glass’ we cultivate a classier (if somewhat more generic) disposition; with ‘mug’ we paint a rougher picture, describing someone with a potential absence of social tact, or someone who just doesn’t care. I am personally a fan of ‘mug’ because I find the inherent conflict in that concept more interesting, but it’s ultimately up to what the author wants it to say.
—“Nominal impact, no change.” The holo-screen’s crimson radiance painted the icy operations room in malignant hues, an aspect reinforced by E-VA’s—their sub-AI virtual assistant—equally frigid artificial voice. Raven hated that light but had learned to tolerate it over the years. Now she squinted into it despite her exhaustion, watching world statistics and data pertinent to their current and grander objectives scroll across the immense screen while swirling a mug of wine. “What’s the point anymore?”—
For the most part this reads fairly well, it does read slightly overloaded and could use a few more words to slow the rhythm. I would add a ‘detected’ to ‘no change’ and, if I could, delete ‘the immense screen’ purely for rhythm. I would also consider replacing ‘while swirling’ with ‘and swirled’ (though that is someway dependent on whether or not we delete ‘immense screen’) resulting in…
—“Nominal impact, no change detected.” The holo-screen’s crimson radiance painted the icy operations room in malignant hues, an aspect reinforced by E-VA’s—their sub-AI virtual assistant—equally frigid artificial voice. Raven hated that light but had learned to tolerate it over the years. Now she squinted into it despite her exhaustion, watching world statistics and data pertinent to their current and grander objectives scroll across the immense screen, and swirled a mug of wine. “What’s the point anymore?”—
—“Nominal impact, no change detected.” The holo-screen’s crimson radiance painted the icy operations room in malignant hues, an aspect reinforced by E-VA’s—their sub-AI virtual assistant—equally frigid artificial voice. Raven hated that light but had learned to tolerate it over the years. Now she squinted into it despite her exhaustion, watching world statistics and data pertinent to their current and grander objectives scroll across swirling a mug of wine. “What’s the point anymore?”—
For the most part I am content with these changes and so will leave it here. That will be all.
If you like my work, consider subscribing.
If you like what you’ve read, check out some of the author’s other work