This week’s topic is revising sentences. I’m suggesting some rewrites for sentences in a story I read recently (it’s been disguised). This is the second of three posts. (You can read my first post at this link.)
Here’s the situation: An inmate is describing a violent incident in his corridor. Two other inmates – Tony and Cal – have been carrying on a loud conversation that annoys Bert, another inmate who’s trying to sleep. Bert comes out of his cell and punches Tony.
Tony hit the floor, curling up like a newborn. “Oh, no!” I muttered aloud. Bert administered a kick to the face of Tony, who was still prone.
There’s a lot to like here. We’re seeing action. (“Hit the floor” is wonderful!) We’re getting a picture of what happened to poor Tony. Even better, our narrator is reacting (always important when you’re writing fiction). One more nice point is that the attack on Tony is broken into parts – after Tony hit the floor, he got a kick.
- Separate “hit the floor” and “curled up like a newborn.” Don’t rush when you tell a story. Give each action its own sentence.
- “Muttered aloud” unnecessary. You can’t mutter silently!
- “Administered a kick” is…bad. You kicked him. No fancy words unless they’re absolutely necessary.
- Prone is an objective word that’s suitable for a medical textbook. It doesn’t convey the agitated feelings in that prison corridor.
Here’s my version:
Tony hit the concrete floor with a thud. “Shit,” I muttered. A thought formed – I should go out and help – and dissolved just as quickly. Bert was a lot bigger than me.
Two of the old-timers – big guys who lived in our corridor – made a lunge for Bert, but he managed to kick Tony one time before they grabbed him.
Tony lay on the floor, shuddering and curled up like a newborn. Nick (in for fifteen years on a murder conviction, but a nice guy) hollered “Medic! Medic!” to the officer on duty at the bottom of the stairs.