Living in the woods provides me a sense of seclusion from the rest of the world. When I hear vehicles crunch gravel, I know they are bringing either friends or family, or maybe the UPS man. Although on occasion I can hear traffic on the highway, those travelers are too far away to mistake for friends.
Being one of literally millions of bloggers gives me the same sense of isolation. Folks stopping by my place are usually friends and family; they frequently leave messages for me. My blog stats let me know how many folks traveled down the highway, seeing my place but not stopping to chat. The anonymity gives me a security I have since learned to be wary of.
Bill Brohaugh actually stopped by my place, dropped in a rocker on the porch and talked to me. Oh. My. Goodness! I feel like a teenager who has just met Brad Pitt.
In case you haven’t read it, here is what Mr. Brohaugh had to say in (an unnecessary) defense of his “ball on the nose” line quoted in my previous post:
Then again, you haven’t witnessed the spinability of my proboscis . . . um, nose . . .
Looks like I may have to come up with a different example when I revise Write Tight, but I otherwise stand by my advice to weigh pronouns carefully and remove doubt as to what they refer to when such doubt is possible. I agree absolutely that context and previous setup (and, in this case, physical likelihoods) can and do clarify pronoun connection. Establishing such elements so that you don’t have to spell everything out is one of the core points of Write Tight. But consider in the case of Sarah and the doll that the reader can fully understand who has the doll and still be momentarily distracted by the amusing image–yes, while understood not to be true–of mom reverting to childhood. Rivers may have been working to preclude that momentary distraction.
Sometimes such balancing is even trickier than spinning a ball on one’s nose . . .
I stand by Mr. Brohaugh’s advice to weigh pronouns carefully, too. I hope he didn’t get the impression I disagreed with him overall. And if I left anyone with that impression, I do apologize. The opinons of both Brohaugh and Rivers far outweigh those of this wannabe novelist.
But I’m stickin’ to my pea shooters like a cranky kid at playtime: It’s not wise to insult the readers. While I can’t for the life of me find a better way to say, “I put the ball on my nose, then spun the ball,” other than substituting “it” for the ball, I do believe Francine Rivers could have reworked her sentence to avoid any distracting, amusing images. The original sentence: “Sarah watched her mother speak with him while Sarah played with her doll near the fireplace.” An alternative sentence: “Sarah played with her doll near the fireplace and watched her mother speak with him.”
Just in case Ms. Rivers finds Peppermint Place, too, let me just add that finding one off-sentence out of the five of her books I’ve read speaks more of how beautifully she writes than otherwise. Francine Rivers is one of my all-time favorite authors. (So, if you do come, can I have your autograph–five times?)
Back to Mr. Brohaugh: I recommend his book to any fiction or non-fiction writer. Much of what he discusses is so pop-your-forehead obvious that you’ll blush four shades of red for not seeing it yourself. The rest is great advice and instruction, and it’s not dry reading. You’ll get a kick out of it while learning.
By the way, I know what “proboscis” is–Buckley didn’t stump me that much with his Latin!