How do you write eloquently?

Specifics about craft, talent, technique, etc.
Corbin Maxwell
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Re: How do you write eloquently?

Postby Corbin Maxwell » Sun Jun 28, 2020 9:41 pm

Pumpkin wrote:
Corbin Maxwell wrote:Post an example so we can see the problem better.


This is a particularly bad case:

They walked through the town in the dim afternoon light. Grass filled the cracks in the asphalt and spilt into windows and doorways. Old vehicles sank deep between dark nettles, and a bicycle plaited itself into the ivy. On either side, houses stood in various states of decay, some roofs long collapsed beneath brambles and weeds. Through broken windows, pockets of rooms lay untouched: rectangular tables made from wood, flatscreen television sets, and moulding sofas, losing all colour under coats of dust.

There, everything blu d together in a pallet of abandonment. Road and not-road were purely technicalities; a footnote of well-actuallies.



If I rewrite your paragraph it doesn't really teach you very much. Read the books I suggested above. Read, Read, Read, Read! Find a writer or two whom you would like to mimic in writing style. Decide how you want to write. It's a process. Learn to look at your sentences. Learn to work on writing a sentence and a paragraph at a time.


They entered the outskirts of town across which fell the failing light of sunset. The shops and gas stations along the high-street were lost in the bronze glow spilling out of the horizon. They shaded their eyes to see what of the town lay before them. Houses in decay. Old cars overtaken by weeds and rust. A bicycle wrapped in ivy. And what remained of the houses' windows gave apocalyptic views into living rooms and dining chambers where the wooden tables yet stood their ground among the flatscreen televisions and sofas long gone to mold and buried in thick coats of dust. At a building that might have once served for a city hall the parking lot was empty as if no car had parked there in decades. Cracks stretched through the blacktop and severed the parking-space lines. And through these fissures grew high blades of grass deeply green and healthy and perhaps the only thriving life in this failed town.
For there is death in the sound of it, and a glamorous fatality, like silver pennons downrushing at sunset, or a dying fall of horns along the road to Ronceveaux.

The only easy day was yesterday.




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Reuben
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Location: New York

Re: How do you write eloquently?

Postby Reuben » Mon Jun 29, 2020 10:32 am

Pumpkin wrote:
They walked through the town in the dim afternoon light. Grass filled the cracks in the asphalt and spilt into windows and doorways. Old vehicles sank deep between dark nettles, and a bicycle plaited itself into the ivy. On either side, houses stood in various states of decay, some roofs long collapsed beneath brambles and weeds. Through broken windows, pockets of rooms lay untouched: rectangular tables made from wood, flatscreen television sets, and moulding sofas, losing all colour under coats of dust.

There, everything blurred together in a pallet of abandonment. Road and not-road were purely technicalities; a footnote of well-actuallies.


First of all, this is not a bad piece of writing. That said, the prose could be fixed up by forcibly switching up the sentence structure. If you find this hard just focus on never making a sentence similar to the previous one, and you'll get used to it. This should be done except in the case of short sentences that are emphasizing a point. Corbin did very well this with your piece.

But secondly, I think one of the main points is that your are showing a landscape, a panorama, without coloring in the perceptions of the character. That is, if you're just describing a town it's bound to seem monotonous. For the same reason we find history books boring (or maybe you don't wotf001 )
The point is that you should constantly work at making a setting come to life and look vibrant; the way to do that is to avoid repetitive sentence structures, even if you really like compound sentences (I feel like sentence 2 and 3 are especially lacking in this respect), and switch up the way the story is told: between light and deep penetration, description, action dialogue, etc. For this reason, many books nowadays switch between two or three viewpoint characters; it becomes too boring reading about the same character.

Alitiration also works well to make the writing memorable.

Lastly, I don't think the rhyming in the last sentence works well. Prose should be prose.

I figure I'll end off with the first paragraph of Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun. Although he is one of the biggest rule breakers there is, the following is a great start of a book, with similes, metaphors, a character in a setting with a problem; it even tells you the MC's name, despite it being told in first person.
It is possible that I already had some presentiment of my future, The locked and rusted gate that stood before us, with wisps of river fog threading its spikes like the mountain paths, remains in my mind as the symbol of my exile. That is why I have begun this account of it with the aftermath of our swim, in which I, the torturer’s apprentice Severian, had so nearly drowned.

Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. ~ Winston Churchill
One reject, one pending.

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Pumpkin
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Re: How do you write eloquently?

Postby Pumpkin » Mon Jun 29, 2020 5:14 pm

Thank you all!
Q3 V37: submitted after some time of staring at an unchanged word doc

Reuben
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Re: How do you write eloquently?

Postby Reuben » Wed Jul 01, 2020 11:32 am

You didn't ask for a critique, but I figure that's the point of the thread, and I would certainly appreciate if someone would critique mine, so here goes.

Corbin Maxwell wrote:My suggestions: Read Syn and Syntax, Cormac McCarthy, and Faulkner.

My two paragraphs:

John McCarthy stands awash in the finality of sunset, staring into tinted glass through which a muted sun glows out of the burnt horizon. The day’s final moments spilling forward against the window where his reflection hovers within the shaded pane. A self-portrait phantom-like in pallor and swathed in bandages. And in that burnished light he sees the ills of mankind displayed across the lower heavens. A sickness only he with his altered mind can perceive and only he with his resurrected heart can cure.

He turns away from the bronze dusklight, away from the slow death of another day, leaving behind him the vision of a city he no longer knows and a world beyond his knowing. Beyond his damaged mind. And within his injured brain his rewired synapses struggle to interpret the ethereal images given him through eyesight recently restored by surgery. By a surgical procedure wherein the surgeons were hesitant to promise any success without assistance by someone’s luck or by someone’s god.


The piece is very well written, starting off with slow, tense description in present tense, then moves into the problem in dramatic tones.
Personally, I think “John” would sound better than “John Mccarthy”, but then again, maybe not.

In the first sentence I see an adjective before each noun, which to me sounds a bit like trying too hard.. Looking at it again, I can’t see it written any differently, but I think its generally advised to lessen these, choosing a stronger noun instead. But who am I to tell you how to write eloquently?

In the second sentence, spilling should be spill, I believe, since it is a new sentence, a new thought. It seems like you have a tendency to put a period somewhere when it really isn’t the end of the sentence, here is an example; another example is “Beyond his damaged mind”.

Another, similar thing I see is the tendency to begin sentences with “And” or the word “By”. Although it definitely makes the sentences more dramatic, I feel like its overdone, and that nothing would be lost by removing the “Ands”.

Also, when talking about his eyesight, you say “recently restored by surgery. By a surgical procedure…” we know it was a surgical procedure because it was through surgery. It reads better if you just say: “A surgical procedure”.
“Assistance by someone’s luck…” I would change to “Of someone’s luck”.

In summary, my main quibble points are the tense tone that stops and starts and begins sentences with conjunctions when they could be after commas and semicolons.

I enjoy Faulkner as well (that is, sometimes, The Sound and the Fury was totally beyond me), although when it comes to eloquent prose I tend to think more in terms of Gene Wolfe and John Steinbeck.
Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. ~ Winston Churchill
One reject, one pending.

Corbin Maxwell
Posts: 454
Joined: Fri Dec 14, 2007 11:53 am

Re: How do you write eloquently?

Postby Corbin Maxwell » Wed Jul 01, 2020 3:24 pm

Reuben wrote:You didn't ask for a critique, but I figure that's the point of the thread, and I would certainly appreciate if someone would critique mine, so here goes.

Corbin Maxwell wrote:My suggestions: Read Syn and Syntax, Cormac McCarthy, and Faulkner.

My two paragraphs:

John McCarthy stands awash in the finality of sunset, staring into tinted glass through which a muted sun glows out of the burnt horizon. The day’s final moments spilling forward against the window where his reflection hovers within the shaded pane. A self-portrait phantom-like in pallor and swathed in bandages. And in that burnished light he sees the ills of mankind displayed across the lower heavens. A sickness only he with his altered mind can perceive and only he with his resurrected heart can cure.

He turns away from the bronze dusklight, away from the slow death of another day, leaving behind him the vision of a city he no longer knows and a world beyond his knowing. Beyond his damaged mind. And within his injured brain his rewired synapses struggle to interpret the ethereal images given him through eyesight recently restored by surgery. By a surgical procedure wherein the surgeons were hesitant to promise any success without assistance by someone’s luck or by someone’s god.


The piece is very well written, starting off with slow, tense description in present tense, then moves into the problem in dramatic tones.
Personally, I think “John” would sound better than “John Mccarthy”, but then again, maybe not.

In the first sentence I see an adjective before each noun, which to me sounds a bit like trying too hard.. Looking at it again, I can’t see it written any differently, but I think its generally advised to lessen these, choosing a stronger noun instead. But who am I to tell you how to write eloquently?

In the second sentence, spilling should be spill, I believe, since it is a new sentence, a new thought. It seems like you have a tendency to put a period somewhere when it really isn’t the end of the sentence, here is an example; another example is “Beyond his damaged mind”.

Another, similar thing I see is the tendency to begin sentences with “And” or the word “By”. Although it definitely makes the sentences more dramatic, I feel like its overdone, and that nothing would be lost by removing the “Ands”.

Also, when talking about his eyesight, you say “recently restored by surgery. By a surgical procedure…” we know it was a surgical procedure because it was through surgery. It reads better if you just say: “A surgical procedure”.
“Assistance by someone’s luck…” I would change to “Of someone’s luck”.

In summary, my main quibble points are the tense tone that stops and starts and begins sentences with conjunctions when they could be after commas and semicolons.

I enjoy Faulkner as well (that is, sometimes, The Sound and the Fury was totally beyond me), although when it comes to eloquent prose I tend to think more in terms of Gene Wolfe and John Steinbeck.



Thank you sir. Your advice is very much appreciated.
For there is death in the sound of it, and a glamorous fatality, like silver pennons downrushing at sunset, or a dying fall of horns along the road to Ronceveaux.

The only easy day was yesterday.




SF x 1
SHM x 3
HM x 10

Corbin Maxwell
Posts: 454
Joined: Fri Dec 14, 2007 11:53 am

Re: How do you write eloquently?

Postby Corbin Maxwell » Wed Jul 01, 2020 3:29 pm

[quote="Corbin Maxwell"][quote="Reuben"]You didn't ask for a critique, but I figure that's the point of the thread, and I would certainly appreciate if someone would critique mine, so here goes.


What did you need critiqued?
For there is death in the sound of it, and a glamorous fatality, like silver pennons downrushing at sunset, or a dying fall of horns along the road to Ronceveaux.

The only easy day was yesterday.




SF x 1
SHM x 3
HM x 10

Reuben
Posts: 43
Joined: Mon May 04, 2020 10:38 am
Location: New York

Re: How do you write eloquently?

Postby Reuben » Thu Jul 02, 2020 6:15 am

Corbin Maxwell wrote:

What did you need critiqued?

wotf019 And here I was trying to be smooth about it.

I was referring to my prose piece, that I posted before you.
Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. ~ Winston Churchill
One reject, one pending.

Corbin Maxwell
Posts: 454
Joined: Fri Dec 14, 2007 11:53 am

Re: How do you write eloquently?

Postby Corbin Maxwell » Thu Jul 02, 2020 6:59 pm

Reuben wrote:
Corbin Maxwell wrote:Anybody want to post writing snippets as practice towards eloquence, or whatever you're going for.


I really like this idea and would want to start it up again if anyone's interested. Of course, I like all exercises, as seen from the Wulf's exercises thread. (That's because they give good exercise that improves your writing in a specific area; it's much easier because you aren't under pressure to create a masterpiece; it gives you pressure to put some words on the screen; plus people will read it. Compelling, no? wotf012 ) Just put a short piece here if you're interested. I finished my Q3 so I had a little time. Here's mine. (second try)

Running rivers of red stretched across the massive hills. Filthy and unforgiving, they glinted menacingly in the morning sun. The stench was something horrible, filling Shataw’s nose and mouth, threatening nausea; and yet he hardly noticed, just stared at the horrid river of death that flowed by.
A clap of thunder roared, venting its rage against the great injustices of the Forsore. Rain hammered down, mixing with those red rivers and mangled body parts; furiously it pattered and poured, coalescing and cleaning, slowly clearing away the reddish color and replacing it with a dullish pink.
And then it stopped. The trees quivered and were still. The battle cries of the Forsore were gone. Gone already moments ago. Gone because the slaughter was over. And gone until next time their fancy struck them, and their lustful natures overtook them.
And Shataw just stared. He felt he should weep, yet he had no tears left to shed. When Father had been killed he had wept, when Mother, he had wept. And when little Futuwa had been slaughtered he had wept.
But now he could weep no more. The red rivers were now only a dullish pink, the full heinous nature of the Forsore’s crimes swept away by the waters from above. Soon they would return to their natural color; and soon his own emotions would be dulled even further, uncaring whether anyone lived or died or was tortured; and the river would be again pristine, showing no sign of a holocaust.



If it were my paragraph, I would start my description with the hills because the rivers run through them.

The hills stood against the skyline, blocking out the horizon to the far edges of the world. Through the grassy hillsides ran rivers their water red as blood. Filthy and without compassion for those who'd drink from their banks. Thin streaks of clean water cut sharply against the crimson sludge, glinting in the morning sun like sharpened sword blades.


Within your current paragraphs lies the style of writing you seek to perfect. I suggest reading Syn and Syntax, McCarthy, and Faulkner.
For there is death in the sound of it, and a glamorous fatality, like silver pennons downrushing at sunset, or a dying fall of horns along the road to Ronceveaux.

The only easy day was yesterday.




SF x 1
SHM x 3
HM x 10

Reuben
Posts: 43
Joined: Mon May 04, 2020 10:38 am
Location: New York

Re: How do you write eloquently?

Postby Reuben » Sun Jul 05, 2020 2:15 pm

Corbin Maxwell wrote:
If it were my paragraph, I would start my description with the hills because the rivers run through them.

The hills stood against the skyline, blocking out the horizon to the far edges of the world. Through the grassy hillsides ran rivers their water red as blood. Filthy and without compassion for those who'd drink from their banks. Thin streaks of clean water cut sharply against the crimson sludge, glinting in the morning sun like sharpened sword blades.


Within your current paragraphs lies the style of writing you seek to perfect. I suggest reading Syn and Syntax, McCarthy, and Faulkner.


Much Thanks! Syn and Syntax is now on my reading list. wotf007
Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. ~ Winston Churchill
One reject, one pending.

Corbin Maxwell
Posts: 454
Joined: Fri Dec 14, 2007 11:53 am

Re: How do you write eloquently?

Postby Corbin Maxwell » Sun Jul 05, 2020 2:57 pm

Reuben wrote:
Corbin Maxwell wrote:
If it were my paragraph, I would start my description with the hills because the rivers run through them.

The hills stood against the skyline, blocking out the horizon to the far edges of the world. Through the grassy hillsides ran rivers their water red as blood. Filthy and without compassion for those who'd drink from their banks. Thin streaks of clean water cut sharply against the crimson sludge, glinting in the morning sun like sharpened sword blades.


Within your current paragraphs lies the style of writing you seek to perfect. I suggest reading Syn and Syntax, McCarthy, and Faulkner.


Much Thanks! Syn and Syntax is now on my reading list. wotf007


Awesome!
For there is death in the sound of it, and a glamorous fatality, like silver pennons downrushing at sunset, or a dying fall of horns along the road to Ronceveaux.

The only easy day was yesterday.




SF x 1
SHM x 3
HM x 10


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