What They Said – Continuing the Writing Excuses Discussion

(I had to update this post because I wrote “Someone transcript” and not “Someone transcripted”, even though trasncripted doesn’t show up as a word.)

Someone transcripted the entire writing excuses podcast that aired this week (it was actually recorded on July 31st, just fyi.) Here is the part where they read and critiqued my book.

[Brandon] All right. Let’s move on to TJ. By the way, you’re all very brave individuals, and thank you for letting us do this.

Loving Elizabeth Harrison’s kidnapping was the third in the last week. First was Mary Hollywell who disappeared from school. Then Alex Tanner never came home a few days later. Every teacher at Frontier High School, many of the students, and all family members were questioned by the police. This was the third time, however, that Elli was questioned. The first couple were informal, a 20 minute interview with a local officer in the principal’s office, just like everyone else. This time was different. Elizabeth was his twin. They took him to the police station and put him in the interrogation room.

[Dan] Wow. Steep learning curve. (I take this to mean that Dan thinks I suck. :))
[Howard] Steep learning curve. I’m going to argue that the first word needs to not be the first word. (Note: Someone suggested giving an adjective before Elizabeth’s name. That person also told me that it was confusing. Now I’m confused by the original suggestion.)
[Brandon] Yeah. I was having real trouble with that sentence.
[Howard] Loving is a verb, and you’re going to have to convince me that that’s not a verb by putting it in the middle of a sentence and capitalizing it instead of leading the book with it. (I agree that it’s a verb, but yeah, it was a poorly placed adjective. How I wanted to scream at this point.)
[Brandon] Yeah. I think it’s supposed to be her name. Loving Elizabeth.
[Howard] Yeah.
[Dan] Uh-huh. It’s a cool name, but that’s a very awkward place to put it. (So should I change her name? Nah.)
[Brandon] Right. Because I had to… the first time… listen to that pause when I tried to read that.
[Howard] I heard you read it. That was interesting.
[Brandon] I was really trying to figure out what that sentence meant.
[Dan] There’s actually several sentences in here that are awkwardly phrased. I especially liked “Alex Tanner never came home a few days later.”
[Howard] [laughter] Sorry to laugh. But I do the same thing. That’s often the way we think. (At least I don’t feel alone on this.)
[Brandon] Right. That sentence is backwards. It just needs to be, “A few days later, Alex Tanner never came home from school.”
[Dan] Well, and “never came home” doesn’t need a day on which it happens because it’s always happening forever.
[Brandon] Right. And we’ve got a lot of passive voice in here. “Every teacher at Frontier High School, many of the students, and all family members were questioned by the police.” That’s a classic passive sentence. (Yep, classic passive. Didn’t even notice it.) It’s not a bad one. It’s the sort we always use. But you’ve really got to watch them, particularly in the beginnings. If you start with “Police questioned every teacher at Frontier High School and many of the students. This was the third time that Elli had gone through that.” (Two thoughts: One, Brandon stated an incomplete sentence here. Two, I really do like his suggestion.) We have police doing something, and then we have the sort of conflict with the character in the last… the predicate. It will set the sentence up much better and set the scene much better. So in this one, I’m really worried that the language really could use a workover. Clarity is going to be the thing that I would suggest to you. (What does that mean? 😉 ) Watch that clarity, watch that passive voice.
[Dan] What we meant when we said steep learning curve, there’s a lot of names given to us. Very quickly. Just in the first… it looks like, I think, you read two paragraphs instead of one? (I take this to mean, I overwhelmed Dan with too many names.)
[Brandon] I did read two paragraphs this time.
[Dan] We get five or six names. That’s not necessarily bad, as long as it’s very clear and we understand what’s going on.
[Brandon] Yeah. I may suggest getting rid of last names for this. If it’s from Elli’s viewpoint, and these are friends or people she knew, you may start with the first one and then just say, “Then Alex…” I don’t know, I might keep the last names. The one that’s really worrying me once “Elizabeth was his twin.” I’m trying to remember, “OK, is that Loving Elizabeth?” And whose twin is the “his?” Is the “his” twin the officer or was it Elli? I guess it’s Eli, not Elli? So…
[Howard] Yeah. I actually did not…
[Brandon] Yeah. So she was the twin of Eli who’s being questioned… see, that’s something I’d lead with. “Eli’s sister was kidnapped the third day of the week.” We’ve got a viewpoint character that something terrible happened to. We don’t… he’s not going to care as much about Alex Tanner. His twin sister’s been kidnapped! We don’t find that out for quite a while.

[Brandon] All right. We’re going to go ahead and do our book of the week. By the way, TJ, thank you very much. Brave man. (Yes, everyone complimented me on my bravery. Maybe one day soon I’ll post a revised first two paragraphs.)

So, that was it. What are your thoughts about what was said? I concluded that I needed to change my first word, be more clear, and watch my passive voice. Oh, and that Brandon sees an extra L in the name Eli.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.


2 Responses

  1. Hmm…constructive criticism is fine but they’re a bit harsh. It could be that I’m offended that they would talk about MY brother this way though. I just picture a couple of dorks with no friends making comments about others’ work…but again, I’m just biased.

  2. yes… very brave. keep writing!

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