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  • One of those sentences
    by Sharley at 11:48 on 19 January 2013
    I'm having one of those moments where I stare at a sentence and hate it/love it/don't know whether it works.

    It's the word 'unexpectant'. It feels wrong, yet it says exactly what I want to say.

    “Can I have a go?” Josh asked. He hung back by the bedroom door, his voice unexpectant.


    Does anyone have any suggestions please?
  • Re: One of those sentences
    by Jem at 11:50 on 19 January 2013
    Is it his tone, rather than his voice that is unexpectant?
  • Re: One of those sentences
    by Sharley at 12:26 on 19 January 2013
    Yes, it is. He spoke without expectation of having a go, so his tone would have suggested the lack of expectation.

    I'll change the voice to tone.
  • Re: One of those sentences
    by Sharley at 12:30 on 19 January 2013
    My original sentence was:

    “Can I have a go?” Josh asked, as he hung back by the bedroom door, his voice unexpectant.

    I changed it to when pasting in WW, but I've realised that this means the unexpectant voice (or Jem's suggestion of tone) doesn't link with him asking.

    Therefore, could any other suggestions, consider the following sentence, rather than the one I posted?:

    “Can I have a go?” Josh asked, as he hung back by the bedroom door, his tone unexpectant.
  • Re: One of those sentences
    by chris2 at 13:04 on 19 January 2013
    Could the problem be that, because of the word order, the 'unexpectant voice' is being applied to the hanging back rather than to the asking?

    How about:

    Josh hung back by the bedroom door. “Can I have a go?” he asked, his voice unexpectant.


    I don't think there's anything wrong with the 'unexpectant voice' itself.

  • Re: One of those sentences
    by wordsmithereen at 13:10 on 19 January 2013
    I think the problem here is one of syntax, Sharley. The way you have it at the moment, the voice/tone is separated from what he is saying and, therefore, attaches itself more to way he is hanging back. This is emphasised even more when you make the one sentence into two, one is better, I think. I would rearrange your sentence to this, or something like it:

    “Can I have a go?” Josh asked, his voice unexpectant. He hung back by the bedroom door (watching her do whatever).

    Regards voice/tone I think the terms are pretty much interchangeable, one implying the other.

    I like unexpectant.

    <Added>

    Ah, pipped by Chris!
  • Re: One of those sentences
    by Sharley at 13:16 on 19 January 2013
    Thank you Chris and Wordsmithereen

    Sometimes a person knows the sentence is wrong, but can't see what it is. I picked up the word 'unexpectant' when it was the way I had constructed the sentence.

    Thank you. I can stop staring at that one line and move on
  • Re: One of those sentences
    by EmmaD at 14:17 on 19 January 2013
    Wot Chris and Wordsmithreen said - it's about the gap between the speech and "unexpectant". I like unexpectant, too.

    Not at all trying to re-write it, Sharley, but just thinking aloud....

    On the other hand, if you were trying to evoke a viewpoint character (even if that's the narrator) noticing Josh's demeanour, there might be a case for doing something like:

    “Can I have a go?” Josh asked. He was hanging back by the bedroom door and his voice was unexpectant.


    It is the kind of "filtering" by the narrator, rather than just giving what Josh does unmediated, that John Gardner disapproves of (and with some good reason). But there are times when it's what you want, because the vp character's take on Josh is as important as what Josh is actually doing.

    As it were:

    Rather to my surprise, Josh said, “Can I have a go?” But he was hanging back by the bedroom door and his voice was unexpectant, as if he'd long since given up on me actually letting him do anything.
  • Re: One of those sentences
    by Terry Edge at 14:37 on 19 January 2013
    How about:

    "Can I have a go?" said Josh, hanging back by the bedroom door.
  • Re: One of those sentences
    by sylvia at 15:20 on 19 January 2013
    Just another idea:-

    "Can I have a go?" Josh asked hesitantly, although he still hung back by the bedroom door.
  • Re: One of those sentences
    by Sharley at 16:13 on 19 January 2013
    I guess by Josh's action, hanging back by the door, he is not expecting to have a go.

    It is the kind of "filtering" by the narrator, rather than just giving what Josh does unmediated, that John Gardner disapproves of (and with some good reason). But there are times when it's what you want, because the vp character's take on Josh is as important as what Josh is actually doing.


    The fact that she, as the POV character, notices his lack of expectation is crucial. This shows Emma's growing awareness of his unhappiness.

    Thank you, all. These discussions over a sentence are so helpful.

    <Added>

    I rephrased my second sentence but didn't go back to change the first. Ignore the 'I guess' as I know his action implies a lack of expectation.

    <Added>

    Rereading my line about discussions over a sentence, it could be implied as sarcasm when it is anything but! I should stop rereading posts and get on with another polish of the WiP.
  • Re: One of those sentences
    by EmmaD at 17:48 on 19 January 2013
    The fact that she, as the POV character, notices his lack of expectation is crucial. [my italics]


    Yes, exactly. A straightforward statement of what he's doing isn't enough - there's a whole meta-level to the narrative.

    The "his voice unexpectant" is a more internal/subjective perception, which comes from slightly further inside Emma's point of view, than the slightly more external/objective perception of his physical movements. (though of course there's a certain amount of subjectivity in "hung back" - a shade more colouring of her perception of his feeling than something like "didn't move")

    We're back to our old friend, the interaction of point of view and psychic distance, aren't we.

    If anyone's interested in this business of "filtering" - which is certainly something that weak writers and some beginner writers do too much, too often, without knowing it - there's a nice clear explanation here:

    http://writerleigh.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/filtering.html
  • Re: One of those sentences
    by Terry Edge at 18:42 on 19 January 2013
    Well, I admit I'm rather like my old-fashioned dentist: a minimalist. But I think 'hung back' indicates well enough that the POV character sees his lack of expectation. Otherwise, she'd just think 'stood by the bedroom door'. If you want to make sure the reader knows this is her and not the author's interpretation, you can always add words to the effect that she saw him hang back, etc.

    I think that stripping out 'unexpectant' does two things: improves the reading flow and tips off the reader to the characters' feelings in a more subtle, subconscious way. 'Unexpectant' rather jabs it home for me, which would be fine if what he was feeling was unequivocal, but lack of expectancy usually has shades to it: hope, for instance.
  • Re: One of those sentences
    by Sharley at 18:56 on 19 January 2013
    Thank you, Emma. That is an excellent link. I try not to use 'she noticed' etc but I'll check for similar instances and see what can be undertaken instead.


    Well, I admit I'm rather like my old-fashioned dentist: a minimalist.


    Did he leave people with very few teeth? Or is there another meaning to this expression?

    I will also consider the 'unexpectant tone' and whether it adds to the story, rather than just telling/adding words.

  • Re: One of those sentences
    by Terry Edge at 19:30 on 19 January 2013
    No, he just does as little as possible. But probably not a great analogy, now I think about it. Lacks bite . . .
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