Monday, February 26, 2007

Writing Dissection - Part Three

Yesterday I did a passage breakdown on a passage from John Aubrey Anderson's book Abiding Darkness. Today I want to look at a smaller passage from 2/3's through in Wedgewood Grey:

Ceedie stepped close and took the jacket from him. "Put your arm in here, then stand still." She got him jacketed by standing on her tiptoes. When he was dressed, she patted his good arm and momentarily set the stability of his knees back twenty-four hours when she locked eyes with him. "You stay calm, now, an' be nice to the other children."

"Yes, ma'am." The special attention caused his cheeks to use blood he couldn't spare.

Again I'm doing a small section without context to appreciate what can be done in just a small blurb. Seven sentences, including the dialogue.

There is much less than the passage studied yesterday, but we learn about Ceedie and the man (Jeff Wagner) quickly with good description. What I see is this:
1. Ceedie is short or Jeff is tall ("standing on her tiptoes").
2. Jeff has an injured arm (she helps him with the jacket, "good arm").
3. It was a significant injury ("set the stability...back twenty-four hours") that probably included some blood loss ("use blood he couldn't spare").
4. There is attraction from Jeff for Ceedie (his knees weaken when she locks eyes, the blush).
5. He is going into a confrontational situation ("be nice to the other children").

The example from yesterday was more of a keystone passage, set apart at the beginning of a chapter. Becky commented on the flowery description. I would agree, except that in the context it sets up tension/suspense as well as reinforce characterization already begun.

Today's passage is in the midst of dialogue and action as Jeff's FBI supervisor comes to confront him about being out of action. It is a quick break of description, but it accomplishes a lot in its brevity. Reading it in context, we pick up on Ceedie's increased attention to Jeff that was absent earlier.

Now, all that information can be given to the reader in different ways, but isn't it more fun to see a weakened, tall agent feel the effect of the blushing. To me, this type of writing enriches the story and the enjoyment from just following a plot to savoring the style and craft in a book.

That's all I have for now. If anyone has anymore comments, I'd love to hear from you on this. I've enjoyed reading, discussing, and dissecting these two books, and I'm grateful to Mr. Anderson for sharing with me. Look for book three in the Black or White Chronicles in August 2007.

Now I have to think of a new topic... aw, fishsticks...


  1. I really liked this passage because I thought it showed the powser of interlacing description and action--the things you pointed out. This is my kind of reading. But, the point you made yesterday--that a special circumstance calls for a special type of persentation--is excellent!


  2. Thanks Becky. If no one else got anything out of my little dissection, I did by thinking through what made these passages work.

    It also shows that you can accomplish a lot in a passage, but often we sell it short by just writing action or providing description.