Sixty-Six Words...

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#1
In the midst of checking for overused words and thinning them, I'm now on to 'was,' which unlike 'had,' is requiring some significant rewording. Still working on my literacy, I tend to either use excessive words (to try and present something clearly) or conversely, too few sounding to 'my ear' more eloquent (meaning I likely subconsciously add them). What follows is one of those paragraphs. All input welcome as I try to determine if I'm progressing.

Thanks for your help,

K2

Unlike the ‘fertile zone’ she just left, the RCFG never restored power in pastoral areas. Eerily oppressive, the moonlight illuminated the ever-constant high overcast, lighting up the sky. Every night was like twilight before a storm. The pale greenish-yellow hue reminiscent of an old fluorescent light that flickered as denser clouds passed by, diffused by some surreal lens. Easier to see because of and unfortunately seen.
 
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#2
As a post-edit time note; I'm thinking right off that 'diffused by some surreal lens,' needs to move to what it applies to... the constant high overcast. Also losing 'that' between 'light (comma)' and 'flickered.'

K2
 

Phyrebrat

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#3
Yes, it's quite er... fussy. I'm thinking of Lovecraft's florid style when I read this, but I'm afraid I don't have a problem parsing his sentences; from line opening with the pale green hue to the end, I have no idea what you mean.

I think this passage is essentialy saying twilight was/is eerie. I think there's a lot of fat there.

But then we come to author style don't we? Because you might like to be florid when describing certain things. I know I have to rein myself in when I'm writing about water or an english country meadow. The trick is finding the balance. I think this segment errs on the too-much side of the line, and if you want to give a sense of eerieness, weather and otherness, you can do that more effectively with simpler constructions and simpler words (certainly I'd lose "hue" and "reminiscent" as redudant).

I think you're aiming for a lyrical flow to your work. Here's an incredibly simple, short poem that gives an incredible sense of place, time and existence in such simple terms. It's one of my favourite ever poems.


When I'm aiming for lyricism, I think of Adelstrop.

pH
 

CTRandall

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#4
I get what you're aiming for but it is overdone for my taste. The last sentence, for example, has a very artificial construction. "Easier to see because of and unfortunately seen." There is no subject--not even a noun--in the sentence, which forces the reader to pause and think about what you mean. That takes the reader out of the story. "The pale greenish" sentence doesn't have a verb, which again makes it difficult to understand (as Phyrebrat aleady pointed out).

You could easily simplify a lot of this--"The moonlight was a mixed blessing, making it easier to both see and be seen"--but the difficulty is in maintaining the right level of poetry. That can be tricky.

As an exercise, you might try re-writing this segment as simply, directly and clearly as possible, then add in the atmospheric adjectives on or two at a time.
 
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#5
Thank you @Phyrebrat and @CTRandall ;

I understand your points, am considering them and how to improve/alter/rewrite all that I'm trying to convey.

In this one paragraph I'm trying to establish the image of the sky that except for rare exceptions, will not be mentioned again. It gets alluded to much later in a couple places, yet the amount of description I have here is only hinted at (ex: the overcast sky) with a sentence in each of those subsequent places containing additional description (ex: lights from productive zones, or, glow on the horizon of...).

That said, as I grapple with it, I instantly noted that some reorganizing/placement, use of a semicolon and so on, instantly improved it... coupled with your suggestions which inspired that firmer look, it's helping.

To show what I mean, without chopping it down just yet, this simple reorganization helps considerably:

Unlike the ‘fertile zone’ she just left, the RCFG never restored power in pastoral areas. Eerily oppressive, the moonlight illuminated the ever-constant high overcast, lighting up the sky as though diffused through some surreal lens. Every night was like twilight before a storm; reminiscent of an old fluorescent light, the pale greenish-yellow hue flickered as dense clouds passed by. Easier to see (by?) because of and unfortunately be seen.


Thanks for your input! I'm considering every bit of your advice and trying various rewrites/simplifications of it.

K2
 
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Phyrebrat

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#6
It already reads better to me! And more info too re pastoral areas. I do think you need a noun for ‘the overcast’ as in ‘overcast sheet/clouds/stratus’ etc, or perhaps adding a -ness or -ing to overcast (but that sounds awkward).

I’m reading in bed and posting on my phone so let me think more on it and I’ll expand if necessary tomorrow .(y)

pH
 

J Riff

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#7
Unlike the ‘fertile zone’ she just left, the RCFG never restored power in pastoral areas.
this sentence slows the reader down right away, maybe switch 'pastoral areas had never been restored... ' to right after the comma, otherwise it's confusing. Or, use 'she'd' instead of she. Sentence structure is everything, the words come second.
 

Ihe

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#8
Concerning overall structure, I did feel the first line has a different flavour than the rest of the paragraph. Whereas the following things are pure purple description, the first line minimalistically adresses backstory. The difference is very noticeable to me given the difference in wordage as well.

I like to separate paragraphs in function of purpose. Aside from the first line, the purpose of the paragraph is solely descriptive, so I would move the first line somewhere else, or normally to stand alone--which in this case might not be feasible as the line doesn't have enough narrative weight. I would make it part of a "backstory-centric" paragraph instead.
 

OHB

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#10
Unlike the ‘fertile zone’ she just left, the RCFG never restored power in pastoral areas.
You're merging two different concepts into one here, which makes the sentence sound awkward. Your concepts: (1) The land she is entering is different from the one she left because it doesn't have power. (2) The RCFG never restored power to the pastoral areas.

You can make this work by adding conjunctions to the sentence. Maybe try: "Unlike the ‘fertile zone’ she just left, this region was still without electricity because the RCFG never bothered to restore power to the pastoral areas." Or something like that. Whatever works for you.

Eerily oppressive, the moonlight illuminated the ever-constant high overcast, lighting up the sky as though diffused through some surreal lens.
Starting the sentence off with "eerily oppressive" sounds awkward and may not be grammatically correct (not sure there). It could go elsewhere in the sentence or in another sentence altogether.

"Ever-constant" is redundant. Maybe try "ever-present" instead.

There is no way to define what a "surreal lens" is, so using it in your description doesn't help paint a picture for the reader.

I feel like you're trying to say too much in one sentence. If you broke it up a bit more or eliminated some of the description, it wouldn't sound so wordy.

Every night was like twilight before a storm; reminiscent of an old fluorescent light, the pale greenish-yellow hue flickered as dense clouds passed by.
The description is good but the arrangement seems clunky. Maybe try: "Every night was like twilight before a storm. The pale greenish-yellow hue flickered as dense clouds passed by, reminiscent of an old fluorescent light."

Easier to see (by?) because of and unfortunately be seen.
I'm not sure what this sentence means because there are no nouns. Are you saying that the moonlight makes it easier for someone to see what's around them but also makes it easier for others to see them? I like the concept, but the wording doesn't make it clear.

Also, I don't know where this paragraph falls in your novel/story, but I would warn you that agents and editors typically don't like for stories to start off with descriptions of the weather. (I learned this the hard way.) I would advise not putting it in an opening scene.

Overall, I like the description you're trying to give. It just needs to be a bit clearer and more concise.
 

HareBrain

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#11
Unlike the ‘fertile zone’ she just left, the RCFG never restored power in pastoral areas.
This reads as saying the RCFG is unlike the fertile zone, when I think you mean to compare the fertile zone with the pastoral areas. In which case it should be: "Unlike in the 'fertile zone'"

Like others, I think there's too much of an imprecise attempt at atmosphere here, most of which you don't need for it to be effective. For example, you tell us it's "eerily oppressive", and then you go on to show us the same thing, with the description. Choose one or the other (ideally the latter). And I would pick only one simile/metaphor, the fluorescent light or the surreal lens, not both (and what is a surreal lens anyway?)
 
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#12
Thanks @OHB and @HareBrain ;

I'll add ALL of that advice to the balance above. Clearly, the consistent theme in the responses has been 'too much, too vague, how does X apply to Y?' I'll consider all of it as I attempt to rewrite that.

I suppose as the leanest version right off the top of my head, might read:
Pastoral areas never had power restored to them. The natural light, however, was so bright that it was easy to see and unfortunately be seen.

Unfortunately, that then leaves out: where she just left, that there is a difference between the zones, that the government (specifically) took less care of the PZ, that the sky has a constant overcast, with an odd hue, the sky and hence the area is bright... and oppressive, that the light is inconsistent, and so on.

NOT as a rebuttal or excuse, simply an explanation as to what I was clumsily trying to cram in, let me list out the points, many of which you all have noted were repetitive.

1. The fertile zone is unlike the pastoral zone...
because
2. The RCFG never restored the power there. (Meaning, only natural or ambient reflected light illuminates the night.

3. The light is eerie (color, strange, flickering, hue)
4. The light is oppressive (brighter than night we know, granting no relief).
5. Moonlight, backlights the...
6. constant (always there) high overcast (no breaks, and due to height thinner/translucent)
7. LutS (implying that the entire sky/clouds are bright)
8. Dts-surreal lens (the clouds work like some giant flo-light diffuser lens)

9. Every night wltbas. (That eerie intense green hue the precurses a thunderstorm at twilight)
which looks like...
10. An old flo-light (linking to the diffuser lens above)
11. Color defined (see 9+10)
12. Flickers/why (linked also to 10)

13. Point of it being that 'it helps you see... yet puts you at risk to be seen.'


I'll take a hard look at trying to simplify all of it, make it easy to understand (without leading you elsewhere) and get them to the point.

Thanks again everyone!

K2
 
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#13
The evolution of this short passage...

Original (points noted in critiques):
Unlike the ‘fertile zone’ she just left, the RCFG never restored power in pastoral areas. Eerily oppressive, the moonlight illuminated the ever-constant high overcast, lighting up the sky. Every night was like twilight before a storm. The pale greenish-yellow hue reminiscent of an old fluorescent light that flickered as denser clouds passed by, diffused by some surreal lens. Easier to see because of and unfortunately seen.

Improved Reorganization:
Unlike the ‘fertile zone’ she just left, in pastoral areas the RCFG never restored power. Eerily oppressive, the moonlight illuminated the ever-constant high overcast, lighting up the sky as though diffused through some surreal lens. Every night was like twilight before a storm; reminiscent of an old fluorescent light, the pale greenish-yellow hue flickered as dense clouds passed by. Easier to see by because of and unfortunately, be seen.

Minimal (fails to describe the environment, only stating the result):
Pastoral areas never had power restored to them. The natural light, however, was so bright that it was easy to see and unfortunately be seen.

Retaining some aspects, removing others (particularly the color and fluorescent light aspect):
(previous paragraph)...The ability to see on this side of the wall was another matter. Unlike the ‘fertile zone’ she just left, in pastoral areas the RCFG never restored power.

Oppressively luminous granting no respite from the day, the moonlight diffused through the ever-present high overcast, lighting up the sky. Every night was like twilight before a storm; the eerie pale glow flickered as denser clouds passed by. Easier for Kae to see by because of and unfortunately, be seen.

Applicable information added (though I may save these added points for much later):
(previous paragraph)...The ability to see on this side of the wall was another matter. Unlike the ‘fertile zone’ she just left, in pastoral areas the RCFG never restored power.

Oppressively luminous granting no respite from the day, the moonlight diffused through the ever-present high overcast, lighting up the sky. Every night was like twilight before a storm; the eerie pale (greenish-yellow?) glow flickered as denser clouds passed by. (Intense lighting within surrounding zones, reflected off the overcast increased the illumination.?) (Making it?) Easier for Kae to see (by because of?) and unfortunately, be seen.
(high overcast reflected daylight from halfway around the world, evident by the intense glow on the eastern horizon)

K2
 
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Toby Frost

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#14
I would suggest that you make a list of the things you want to say in this passage and write a short, simple sentence on each one. Then once you've got a list of them, I'd start sticking them together in longer sentences - if necessary. As it stands, it just feels a bit wordy to me, and I think a few short, stark descriptions would help. I do tent toward the anti-florid end of the spectrum on this, though.
 

CTRandall

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#15
I like the second, green text best, though it still isn't perfect. I don't think separating the first line into a different paragraph is necessary. We've arrived in a new zone and get a first impression--that works for me. A simple connecting phrase, like "In the absence of artificial lights," would tie the first sentence into the rest.

I get that you're setting the atmosphere but you need more clarity. The first sentence of the final version is very difficult to parse. I like purple prose (or "pale greenish yellow", in this case) but it has to be used carefully. Following Toby's suggestion, you might end up with something like this:

1. Power was never restored in the pastoral zones.
2. Despite that, there is a glow of moonlight and reflected light pollution in the constant overcast.
3. The skyglow makes it easier to see at night but also means she can be spotted more easily.

Obviously, there are details missing that your story needs (the RCFG, the character) and there are words/phrases here that you won't use ("light pollution") but it gives a basic structure to clarify the points you need to get across to the reader.

A different way to think of this is that, in your first versions, you use adjectives and description to evoke an eerie, unsettling atmosphere. At the same time, however, you are also trying to communicate the points outlined above. The result is confusing. It might work better to describe the scene first as we get the character's first impression of eerie moonglow and overcast, then have a follow-up paragraph with the info about lack of power and the benefits/drawbacks of the light.
 

Brian G Turner

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#16
I'm getting stuck on the physics - how the moon can backlight the clouds and leave everything looking like twilight? If that's the case, then the moon is so bright that there can never be any night.

As for trying to make the atmosphere "eerie" and "oppressive" - that's what the character experience is for. Otherwise, all you're doing is trying to "tell" the atmosphere, rather than "show" it. After all, what's eerie and oppressive about light? That's where your character POV comes in.
 
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#17
Thanks @Toby Frost @CTRandall and @Brian G Turner ; I'll add your points into the stew before finalizing this.


@Brian G Turner I'm actually not even questioning the physics on it in that I experience that regularly, though obviously not to the extent we're speaking.

First off to be fair, I'm blessed with rather exceptional night vision. Full moon nights I'll still get hints of color, and moonless nights I'll even note shadows moving from starlight. Beyond that I'm actually sensitive to (though cannot see) UV. When I had my cataracts worked on (yeah, I'm old) my physician explained why... in any case after sundown the world lights up for me during twilight (things become more vibrant).

Past 'my peculiarities,' nightly I'm out in our fields and woods running the boys. A high overcast, thin, will scatter the moonlight (full obviously best) throughout it. That result alone, tends to change the effect. The best way to describe it is instead of a 'spotlight' with the clouds lit-up it tends to work like a 'floodlight'. More so, (and this comes from discussions with those more knowledgeable than I), just like a mirror doubles the light (minus loss), the reflection from water-vapor within the cloud itself boosts the intensity.

Add to that light pollution from neighboring towns and distant cities. It's bright as it stands, with the right overcast even more is reflected back down lighting up the area even more. Before I forget, remember that light down also means light back up then down again (with absorption loss).

Lastly regarding added light I am hedging some... I've noted particular dawns and dusks when the twilight lasts much longer than usual due to an overcast or clouds that extends toward the sun below the horizon. Though nothing like the result in the arctic during winter, you nevertheless will get an intense glow from the horizon that actually extends the PRE/POST-twilight illumination.

All that said, I'm presenting an environment that has changed, including atmospheric changes (moisture, dust and the various levels of the atmosphere including the troposphere and to a much lesser degree stratosphere (perhaps, still checking which gasses and such affect it)). In any case, basically what's going on helps strip out red wavelengths much like during a storm during twilight. I'm sure you've seen that when the air itself even seems to turn green. Part of that result tends to make everything more 'vibrant' though not brighter.

Finally, how's your night vision if you protect your eyes from light for a while, then look. Days are more subdued, nights are brighter, so they're closer to the same... not the same, yet closer.

So, add it all together and due to climate/weather changes make it more the norm than the exception, and the nights will appear brighter ;)

K2
 
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#18
Oh, P.S. since I only hinted at it (and having just come back in from the woods)... What I'll call 'perception' is a big part of all this.

Often how we perceive things (and this applies to all of our senses... think about it after), depends upon how intense or subdued surrounding aspects are. This even applies to camouflage. In any case, let's use nighttime in that color adds a whole other dimension to this, sticking to just what for most folks are shades of gray (grey for you British folks).

Like all our senses, our sight cues in on very specific aspects (disregarding color), in particular, motion and edges (shapes). Edges pertinent to my point, can become overwhelming causing us to disregard the balance. We see the balance, yet we discount it. A crude (and somewhat misleading, not entirely true) example would be a light shined in your eyes. Everything else is just as bright as it was beforehand, you can still see it. But now your vision is overwhelmed by the light.

On a clear full moon night, you get some things directly lit that become very bright and defined, defined shadows and so on. Those aspects stand out, and other aspects around them 'seem' to vanish or all blend together not reflecting the light as well. They reflect the light as well as they did before, they're still there, yet those items that reflect light better, jump out at us. That's the detail we notice at a glance, the defined edges, the balance discounted due to the contrast.

Now, reduce that light and better distribute it. Instead of the laser like path and reflection of photons from a clear moon giving us intense and defined edges, everything lit from all sides, dimmer/darker yes... but, we're able to take in the whole picture.

With the contrast toned down, though we actually lose detail, we're able to see more of the whole.

So though it is actually darker, we see better (generally, overall). Our eyesight, taste, smell, hearing, touch, more so how we perceive it, is not overwhelmed by particular specifics.

You'll see what I mean if you look at a stand of woods be it at night or in the daytime. As the light eases off reducing the directly lit items contrast, suddenly the depth of those woods becomes clear. Truly beforehand, unable to see the forest because of the trees (along its edge).

K2
 
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#19
A different way to think of this is that, in your first versions, you use adjectives and description to evoke an eerie, unsettling atmosphere. At the same time, however, you are also trying to communicate the points outlined above. The result is confusing. It might work better to describe the scene first as we get the character's first impression of eerie moonglow and overcast, then have a follow-up paragraph with the info about lack of power and the benefits/drawbacks of the light.
Along with everyone's help and advice, all of it extremely helpful, that helped me see a better way. Due to what is stated before and then after in the story, if I reverse that suggestion to technical aspects then impression, broken up into two paragraphs, it does indeed work well.

That said...

Thank you everyone for your advice. This is one little paragraph, yet the advice and knowledge shared regarding it and other posts I've made, gets me thinking about each sentence and paragraph throughout. As I read through it, I'm already finding myself re-ordering words, sentences and so on, which has dramatically improved the flow... on everything.

Thank you all so much. Maybe now I can advance from writing on bathroom stalls to something better.

You help has truly helped.

K2
 

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