Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Red Pen Flows Freely - 3

A rumble came from the end of the table, indicating that first I must wait while the temporal reasserted itself. Everyone subdued themselves with the reminder that an examination was still in progress.
Dr. Lionel Sinclair who taught us the language used in England before the Normans came required a modicum of reassurance that eight months of seminars had instilled in our memories something more than a well-honed ability to use a glossary and an appreciation of his rich baritone.
When Dr. Sinclair was sure he had everyone's absolute attention, he gave another rumble nicely calculated to depress any budding conversations about supernatural manifestations and said dryly:
"I'm greatful(sic) to whoever is practising his trumpet for providing such a satisfying atmospheric footnote to our last class...It's a pity he couldn't have waited until the seminar was over."
He peered from under his shaggy eyebrows. They resembled nothing so much as a pair of cinnamon-coloured caterpillars that had crawled across his forehead and were trying to go to sleep. I suspected him of brushing them to increase their ferocious effect.
Fixing me with a level stare he growled,
"Thank you, Miss MacArthur."
He sounded like Lear accusing Cordelia.

This is a perfect example of a wall-banger passage.
It should be harshly slashed in half.
First paragraph should stop after "A rumble came ("rose/erupted" or some more active verb) from the end of the table" - rest is unnecessary - and go directly to "Dr. Sinclair."
Clunky and contradictory description of eyebrows, for another. Better if simply,"His shaggy eyebrows twiched. I suspected he brushed them for a ferocious effect." or something like.
Only good line is "He sounded like Lear accusing Cordelia."
And it contains one of those egregious spelling mistakes that sets editors off like a pre-empt missile.
Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.


Gabriele C. said...

Lovely. *grin*

Here's one of my former specialties: Dab a chunk of description at the beginning of a chapter - I've read too much Balzac, it seems. ;-)

When Roderic had handed the letter given to him by King Henry to one of the pageboys and requested to meet Duke Heinrich, he was led into the main hall, the Rittersaal. It covered the entire size of the main building's upper floor, a splendidly decorated room. Two rows of reddish porphyr pillars supported the ceiling. The marble floor showed ornaments in mosaic style; the walls were lavishly gilded and painted, the dominating colours shades of red and brown, gold and bronze, and some green. Intricately wrought candelabras hanging from the ceiling illuminated the hall. It was a rich but tasteful splendour.

The attirements of the people in the hall matched the decoration. Expensive fabrics, bright colours everywhere, capes and coats in scarlet and crimson, yellow and seagreen, dark blue and violet; embroidered in silver and gold and lined with fur, mail shirts polished to a shine, swordhilts inlaid with diamonds, emeralds, topazes and sapphires, sheaths encrusted with enamel and ivory.

Gabriele C. said...

I should post those on my own blog, I know, but I don't dare lest they may get confused with the snippets of my present NiPs I post there sometimes. :-)

Bernita said...

Gabriele, it is with profound pleasure that I see I'm not the only one who made the mistake of introducing too much, too soon.
At least yours is colorful.
I do think though, that historicals have a little more leeway in that regard.
Don't worry about it.
The point of these posts is to illustrate beginner's errors with an actual manuscript.

Gabriele C. said...

Oh, some of the description will stay (it's an actual place, btw. the restored Burg Dankwarderode in Braunschweig) but better connected to Roderic who indeed sees such splendour for the first time - the royal palace, if you could call it that, in Inverness wasn't that grand.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

No, no, no don't take out the caterpillar part...Ohhhh...I loved it, What a word picture. There's a nutjob professor type character in something that I watch where his big caterpillar eyebrows are brushed up into spikes....I LOVE THAT PART....KEEP IT

Robyn said...

I vote for the caterpillar, too.

Bernita said...

But it's clunky...
Isn't it?
OK, would have to add "they were twitching now" and remove the "ferocious" and /or replace it with another term. Ferocious does not compute with sleepy caterpillars.

Robyn said...

Okay, I'll give you that. Scratch ferocious. But I love the caterpillar line- you don't even have to describe the rest of him. Caterpillars and King Lear; I know this guy.