Parataxis

Dan Jones

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#1
Hoo boy, not done one of these in a while. I'm writing a scene between two telepathic child siblings, who finish each other's internal dialogue. One is named Ears (because s/he is blinded and uses her ears to navigate the world) and one is named Eyes, because, well, I'm sure you can work it out. This is their first POV scene. I'm going a bit off the wall with this by using parataxis to imply their stilted but connected train of thought. So in theory the meaning should remain even though conventional grammar and punctuation has fled. It's a bit like prose poetry, I suppose.

What I want to know is... can you follow it? It's only 360 words or so - much more and I think readers would throw the book AT THE BLOODY WALL.

~

must get


home almost


there


so scared


can’t believe fathers


gone


dead


left us abed


wicked monster


has to die


not i


not i


i lost


you lost


my eye


i fear


my dear


you lost


my ear


quick


home


but ever


alone


open door


open door


hole in the


floor


get in


dark


safe


hungry


need





stop





whats that


hush


be still


wait


hold hands


is it the monste


no





sister


look who


s that


fathers


yangs


friend





grub





he sleeps


he bleeds


he breathes


he needs


poor little grub


poor little worm


when did he


why did he


howd he


return


poor little worm


dont know


stay safe now


soft peaceful man


piece of man


he looks sad miss father


and


yang and stitches and dixon and xula


all dead


so sad


want to weep


can we


weep


all gone


like everyone





we miss father


miss him so


hateful monster


got to go


want to see him


want to hear him


grub escaped


whys he here


his home now too


nowhere to go


like us


made to


die


no parent to


fuss


our home


home is the heart


heart bleeding red


beating


being


loud


incred


ible able


his mind still alive


can’t find the stitches


left undone


from the dive





he dreams





father said dreams


things undone


haunting waking


him


brother


sister


im scared


hold hands hold grubs hand


no


the real one


orphan like us


still scared monster


father said monsters come from here


Inside of the eye


Inside of the


ear


head head


under the bed


yes we remember


Under the bed


Make monster dead


Yes remember


under grubs bed


thats where we go


hear the voices in his mind


it is dark and light


the dark has escaped we have to set the voices free





monster kills


find grubs


pills


monster source of all these


ills


we know


we know


all fathers tricks


all the keys


in the mind


have to seek


First then can find


fetch onyx


fetch zhyrkas


fathers making machine


clasp hands


fix wires


eyes clicking


hands flicking





into grub


inside we go

switch it


on





into his heart


thru his minds eye


the well of


his soul


his


hole


in the––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
 

Karn's Return

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#2
I hate to say it, Dan, but due to certain ways you edited it, and my own crappy eyesight, I wasn't able to follow it that well and just about wanted to throw my monitor at the wall a quarter way through.


It's the alignment edits you went with, is why. But as I said, my eyes are pretty bad. The words themselves are fine. But visually...I just can't do it.
 

The Judge

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#3
Um... well, I got to about 70 words and gave up, I'm afraid.

For me it's far too disjointed and uninvolving. It's not helped by the huge gaps between the lines. I don't know it that's intentional or a by-product of your formatting being stripped out by the software here. You've got time to edit it if you want, so it doesn't take miles to get all 360 words in, but I can do it if you'd prefer.
 

Dan Jones

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#4
I have to admit the sheer real estate of the Chrons text box does exaggerate it beyond what it would reasonably be in a regular sized paperback, so I suppose I'm asking for a leap of faith in that respect.

Don't worry about formatting it, TJ, I'll have a bash and see what it looks like.
 

Karn's Return

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#5
Like I said, I rather liked the words themselves that I was able to get through, it really is just how the formatting wound up here. But I would say, do try to keep it as tight as you possibly can. There is a fine line between showing, telling, and info dump, and using characters with sensory challenges might be especially difficult to write through, but I think it could work.
 

Jo Zebedee

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#6
Nope. Can’t keep up.

Have you considered giving them different fonts?

Also Stewart Foster, Once We Were Kings might be useful - he deals with two twins who communicate unusually iirc. (I could be wrong but it’s still excellent and you won’t regret reading it :D)
 

tinkerdan

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#7
I made it a good way through--it is interesting, however it wastes reading surface.

I think you could break it up with some narration and make it exciting and also give the reader something to hold onto. Right now it's like words in the dark and voices that sound the same and it could be one or it could be two people but that description is missing in the whole piece, which again reaches that point of narrative that could anchor the reader's sanity and break up the ping pong of dialogue and at the same time afford some description of the characters--which again is lacking in the whole piece.

Hanging there with a lack of context it looks like a centrifugal speaker spewing out words that occasionally go centripetal as though the thoughts were a tornado struggling against the pull of black hole that wants to suck them into it's center.

You might get the e e cummings award for this.
 

Phyrebrat

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#8
I thought it was fine. Easy to grasp and read, but I wonder if it might - bearing in mind comments about paperback real estate - be better as just a block of run-on text. I get why it's split, and at times central (I assume that's them both thinking the same thing) but it might be a bit easier if you went a bit James Joyce instead.

The only two things that stuck out for me were:

1) how old or educated are these kids? Some of the turns of phrases seemed antiquated or something a child would be unlikley to say.
2) what is the point of this section:

-- our home
home is the heart
-- heart bleeding red


It seems unnecessarily poetic. I didn't get why someone would follow home with home is the heart, and then heart bleeding red. Is it free-association? Are they getting distracted, perhaps?

I should say that two of my favourite books are The Raw Shark Texts and House of Leaves, and they play with format ridiculously (well) so this didn't bother me at all. Also, in school texts, especially Drama and English, I often see excerpts and pieces written very similarly. Dance texts by Sparrow and another auteur whose name I escape (but is published by the academic Routledge Press) do this too.

You know what I'm going to say though; if it's what you want to do, do it till they tell you to stop.

pH
 

HareBrain

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#10
It's interesting, and I quite enjoyed it, though reading on a PC screen does show an offputting amount of white space. It doesn't feel quite realistic, though, in that you sometimes have one finishing not only the other's sentence, but the other's word. For example Leftie says "look who" and Rightie says "s that". How does Leftie know to stop the word at "who" rather than say "who's"?

(To be fair, a lot of "finishing another's sentence" interruptions in fiction are unrealistic, because in reality the interrupted person will usually carry on talking while the second person talks over them, but here is just seems more noticeable.)

What's happening when the line is centred? I thought at first it might be both speaking at once, but clearly it isn't because one of the lines is "my eye". Is it just stylistic? If so, it works visually but makes the whole thing seem, again, less realistic.

Anyway, I think it could perhaps be trimmed a bit, but I'd have no issue coming across this in a book.
 

Dan Jones

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#11
Seems I've split the crowd on this one, which is pretty much what I expected. It's like Brexit!

Have you considered giving them different fonts?
No I'm not giving them different fonts. By this point in the novel it's clear they are, physically at least, two separate beings so there should be enough context to make it work, at least conceptually.

1) how old or educated are these kids? Some of the turns of phrases seemed antiquated or something a child would be unlikley to say.
2) what is the point of this section:

-- our home
home is the heart
-- heart bleeding red


It seems unnecessarily poetic. I didn't get why someone would follow home with home is the heart, and then heart bleeding red. Is it free-association? Are they getting distracted, perhaps?
1. Tricky one. They're not conventional children, if you get my gist, yet they're still children. So while they still have a tendency towards broken children's language, they also have "inherited" some of their father's more profound proclivities. But if it's too inconsistent then it may have to change.

2. No it's not free association; the meaning should be inferable according to the previous passage, so that section needs work. It's Eyes being able to "See" into Grub's heart and see it bleeding, something of a metaphor for a broken heart. I'll clarify.

I think you could break it up with some narration and make it exciting and also give the reader something to hold onto. Right now it's like words in the dark and voices that sound the same and it could be one or it could be two people but that description is missing in the whole piece, which again reaches that point of narrative that could anchor the reader's sanity and break up the ping pong of dialogue and at the same time afford some description of the characters--which again is lacking in the whole piece.
I understand the point, but like I said to Jo, at this point there should be enough wider context in the book to fill in the blanks.

What's happening when the line is centred? I thought at first it might be both speaking at once, but clearly it isn't because one of the lines is "my eye". Is it just stylistic? If so, it works visually but makes the whole thing seem, again, less realistic.
Yes it's supposed to be them speaking at once. I think the "eye" line is an error. Typing and then clicking on the "align text" function after each line isn't exactly fluid. Good spot.

You know what I'm going to say though; if it's what you want to do, do it till they tell you to stop.

pH
You rule, bruh.
 

The Judge

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#12
Want me to reduce the space between lines now, to help anyone who's not been able to plough through it? (I mean between lines/paragraphs, rather than side to side by the way.)
 

Phyrebrat

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#13
No it's not free association; the meaning should be inferable according to the previous passage, so that section needs work. It's Eyes being able to "See" into Grub's heart and see it bleeding, something of a metaphor for a broken heart. I'll clarify.
Well let me read it again on the way to work and see if it was me missing it before you go changing things you trigger Article 50.

pH
 

Dan Jones

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#14
Want me to reduce the space between lines now, to help anyone who's not been able to plough through it? (I mean between lines/paragraphs, rather than side to side by the way.)
Thanks for the offer, TJ, but I don't think it's necessary. I intentionally increased the spacing for posting here so that the line spacing was clear. The vast expanses of horizontal space between the two margins exacerbate the difficulty in reading downwards, because (to me, anyway) with a the usual 1.0 line spacing sometimes it looked like separate lines of text were in fact on the same line.

In any case, in the text it'd be on paperback, (or on kindle I suppose), and the space wouldn't be so much of an issue.

I might try and see what it looks like by employing the James Joyce method that Chris mentioned.
 

The Judge

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#15
I could do something like this:

~

must get

home almost


there

so scared

can’t believe fathers

gone
dead

left us abed

wicked monster

has to die

not i

not i

i lost

you lost

my eye

i fear

my dear

you lost

my ear

quick
home

but ever


alone

open door

open door

hole in the

floor


EDIT: Eek! Was pondering this further, and just realised how pushy this post sounds! ("Dun't matter what you think about the spacing, chum, I'm tellin' you it ain't right...") It's just I know the long spaces really caused me problems in reading and taking it in, and when I was playing around with it I actually got on a bit better. Anyhow, just ignore this post!
 
Last edited:

Brian G Turner

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#16
Well, it's certainly more to the literary rather than genre end of writing.

Formatting issues aside, my big complaint about this is that it's really just pages of dialogue - which in my mind puts it in the realm of screenplay rather than a novel.

For that reason I suspect it would have limited appeal, especially if used early enough in a story - ie, sample pages on Amazon.
 

Dan Jones

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#17
EDIT: Eek! Was pondering this further, and just realised how pushy this post sounds! ("Dun't matter what you think about the spacing, chum, I'm tellin' you it ain't right...") It's just I know the long spaces really caused me problems in reading and taking it in, and when I was playing around with it I actually got on a bit better. Anyhow, just ignore this post!
Well I didn't want to get in the way of you enjoying yourself so much!

For that reason I suspect it would have limited appeal, especially if used early enough in a story - ie, sample pages on Amazon.
I agree, but it's not as though the whole book is like this. This is about 360 words out of roughly 150,000, and it occurs quite deep in the text.
 

Plucky Novice

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#18
Well I read it on my phone and found the formatting fine. Judging by the other comments this might be easier. I'm not sure how this would work on a kindle with variable font size.

I got the essence of it I think but couldn't say I enjoyed it. It's a little hard work but primarily because the combined thoughts are rather abrupt. I would have preferred it with complete sentences split between the two minds.

The split between the two minds was fine for me but I couldn't easily tell you which was which. On reading your introduction I had expected more obvious sharing of sensory information.

I'd be interested to see how this sits with the rest of the writing.

Thanks for sharing though, I'm pleased to have seen the idea.
 

TheEndIsNigh

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#19
@Dan Jones

I'm loath to say it, but to me it was gobbledegook

Worse, I'm not even sure the premise is valid.

I'm trying to picture the situation where if in real life it would work.

If you're trying to convey the fact they are speaking at the same time It doesn't come across IMO.

We also have to ask, what would be the point. Presumably they each know what the other is thinking and what the other would say if they chose to mouth their thoughts.

So we have to ask for who's benefit would it be for. Certainly not the two siblings. They don't need the verbalisations. So this is for some third person, who would observe two people speaking the same words at the same time. Which is completely different to alternate words.

Or only one says anything, then would have to be a mental exchange between themso that they didn't talk at the same time.

so it would go more like:-

The your turn, oh OK, time is, now back to you, I'm ready, twenty past, you finish it, eight.

There's also the point that if they truly could read one another's mind, the dominant (unless s/he's lazy) or the diminutive one (because s/he's being dominated) would act as the spokesperson for the pair, because they would know how confusing and weird it would be for the average listener to understand the doubletalk.

If there isn't a third party, why would they say anything at all. Surely it would be like the scene from Village of the Damned. Where the children say nothing (cos there's no need) and just know what the other is thinking.
 
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