Friday, February 14, 2014

Sentences Not to Include in Your First Novel Part 2

The response to Part 1 of this series was surprising. Daredevil himself, replete in red spandex, shook up some hoodlums down by the pier. He hung them by their feet over the murky wintery water. “Where are more Sentences to Not Include in Your First Novel?” he rasped. Well, Matt Murdock (aka ol' horn-head), here they are. Back by popular demand, I humbly present “Sentences Not to Include in your First Novel, Part 2.” I’ve pulled a few examples and included editor’s notes after each.

          The villain of the novel is supposed to be menacing. Some of the teenage girls drive by him on page 147.
        “A tall, wide-shouldered man stood at the corner, kicking gravel in his denim jeans.”
Well, I said supposed to be menacing, right? I mean, if he can kick gravel into his jeans, then that can be damn scary, right? Aw, forget it. – Ed.

        A number of homosexual characters exist in the novel, most notably among the police force. On page 202, Officer MacDonald proves to be the most macho gay man in the department. Officer Forester doesn’t seem unhappy with him, either.
“Office Forester rose as MacDonald entered the officer.”
In terms of a sex scene, there are so many things wrong with this one that it defies commentary. Well, almost. – Ed.

The gay cruising area in the novel is bustling at night, as evidenced by this sentence on page 354.
“On busier nights, strangers passed one another or sat on the benches staring at one another.”
I’ve heard of people checking each other out, but since when did benches check each other out too? – Ed.

          The Sergeant Leroux character is apparently very affected by the sweltering heat wave on page 258.
“Leroux shook the sweat from his head, into a nearby basket.”
Will somebody please hand the sergeant a towel and call a paramedic? – Ed.

Leroux’s troubles do not end with the heat wave, as he has an interesting reaction to a detective’s comment on page 494.
“He what?” exclaimed Sergeant Leroux, spitting ashes from his cigarette.
Spitting ashes from a cigarette? Gross! Leroux just has to cool off. Make that a wet towel. – Ed.

On page 259, another police officer, David Forester, has developed a thirst because of the heat wave.
“He just needed something real — as real as the sidewalk beneath his feet, as real as the Labatt Blue sign in the window of Pedro’s.”
Apparently, Forester’s not only developed a drinking problem, but also signed a cheesy sponsorship contract with a major Canadian brewery. – Ed.
 
On page 384, the heat wave continues continues to affect David Forester.
“Heat raked across David’s forehead.”
Yowch. Better get him that beer fast. – Ed.

- Sentences Not to Include in Your First Novel Part 2 also appeared in a different form in The Peter F. Yacht Club, Peter F. Yacht Club sails to Calgary, Issue No. 5 March 2006. The Yacht Club is a writing workshop that friend rob mclennan founded in Ottawa in around 2001.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sentences Not to Include in Your First Novel Part 1

Sentences Not to Include in Your First Novel Part 1
 
Writing is often a case of what not to include. Take, for example, the first draft of my horror novel.  At 650 pages, the book was a delightfully light read, with a good enough story featuring strong enough characters. Sadly, this drafty draft contained sentences that really shouldn’t have been in the book (or any book, for that matter), which is why I present “Sentences Not to Include in your First Novel.” I’ve pulled a few examples and included editor’s notes after each.
 
          Take, for instance, on page 8, where the hapless teenager, John Daniel, takes a break at his desk.
“John sat at his desk with only the lamp on.”
Editor’s Note: Only the lamp on? Talk about baring it all! I guess this is one book where the characters aren’t repressed…
 
John’s quirkiness continues on page 46, where he helps Alexandria Robinson, a rich snob he likes, unload some groceries from her car.
“Hey, let me give you a hand with that,” John said, pulling onto the driveway, setting his bike down on the lawn and extending some hands.
Extending some hands? Whose hands is John extending? Yikes. Well, it is a horror novel, after all… – Ed.
 
On page 155, John’s strange adventures continue as he hangs out at his pal Greg Thompson’s house.
“John shrugged and walked into Greg’s room, which fell into the den.”
          I hope that Greg’s parents’ have good insurance — getting Greg’s room out of the den sounds like a major project. Get out of the house, boys! – Ed.
 
On page 415, spoiled rich kid, Alexandria, doesn’t have a car for once.
“Unused to walking, her mind wandered.”
There is no doubt in my mind that the novel’s horror imagery borders on the surreal. – Ed.
 
John walks around his neighbourhood at night on page 80.
“John stepped into the night, crossing lamp-lit front lawns and phosphorescent, glowing concrete. He supposed that his cat was doing the same, as he hadn’t seen her in the past couple of hours.”
          What I would like to know is why the concrete is glowing. More importantly — why is his cat glowing? Time to call the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. – Ed.
 
          Of course, some characters just don’t know what they’re saying, as the teenaged Lisa Montroy proves when she replies to Greg Thompson on page 102.
“Don’t waste flatter on me,” Lisa said.
          It’s a shame the 17-year-old Greg doesn’t know what “flatter” is — he’s already pretty awkward with women. – Ed.
 
- Sentences Not to Include in Your First Novel Part 1 also appeared in a different form in issue 4 (Sept. 2005) of The Peter F. Yacht Club, a writing workshop that friend rob mclennan founded in Ottawa in around 2001.