Friday, July 29, 2016

Steering The Craft: Two

Section two is on punctuation.  The exercise is on writing a confusing, busy scene without it.

I actually did a couple things with this.
1) I actually wrote without punctuation or capitalization. I found this very confusing to do because it was easy to lose track of where I was in the narrative, and when I read back to try and recapture the flow, it was very difficult to read. ee cummings I ain't.

I decided to take on one of my most favorite confusing scenes -- Black Friday shopping. I like it because it is such an awesome juxtaposition of people being the worst to each other in a season that exhorts us to be our very best. It needs polish, something that screams, "We went shopping after church..."
But here it is, in all its raw glory:

The moment the door opened just a crack mr benson the gym teacher stabbed his fingers through and shouldered the door open pushed by mrs benson she teaches the flower arranging class the door bucked the runners, twisting the gap wider as james davis holding the ad emblazoned with only ten tvs will be sold at this price crammed in behind shoving his way through an aluminum womb while stacy jenkins in a hat that matched james was pulled along her fingers dug into his down jacket sarah stacys best friend hung on to stacys other arm but was shaken off when she couldnt keep up its not midnight bryce who everyone remembered from soccer league and worked as assistant manager complete with his smart blue apron held up his hands the bensons walked by him a stranger and the crowd behind mr and mrs hurst with their coordinated maps the goodwin twins principal foster sam and joyce gredding who taught sunday school pushed forward propelled by jones hastings dykstras obermans rafferys fishers coopers grim faces that would have given a glad how do you do any other day with their plots and plans and strategies jostles turned to shoves no one remembered bryce falling to the floor deals never to be seen until next year a cart full of ads midnight black friday madness unbelievable deals no one noticed the fingers under boots mine no mine dark tracks scuffed the pristine aisles and yet more poured in the pontzes the mcaffes the sorensons a parking lot of people looking for the bargain promised only to those eager lucky few clutching grabbing elbows curses turn into screams carts overturned as yet more stepped over bryce a river of people looking for a torrent of things
2) In the second example, I wanted to take something I had written and remove the punctuation. This is actually from a short I did about Lahn and involvement in an assault on a Borg Cube

even prepared for the explosion lahn was knocked off her feet and her armor visuals became a wash of green-grey static that flickered across her eyes even as she rolled herself into a crouch she probed her surroundings with the tip of her pistol firing whenever it touched something she felt movement so she kept firing after an agonizingly long half second visuals shakily returned giving her a glimpse of a prone borg its chest blistered by antiproton ruptures her sensor net returned shortly after and its proximity alarm screamed threat from all directions she thanked gods fortunate the explosion had knocked the sentries down as well and she fired as she ran more to slow them down than to destroy them hello welcome to the new front of the war i will be your server today as she leapt over a prone form she felt a hot pinch on her thigh and fired her pistol several times in its direction abuzz in the pistol grips that let her know they were re-modulating to circumvent the continually changing borg adaption protocols her armor preemptively changed modulation patterns preparing the next wave sequence before it was needed she kept running shooting where she could kicking when they got to close step on step over run through secondary explosions shuddered through the cube and lahn used the distraction to squirm down a conduit filled passage oozing an oily nanite rich steam and crammed herself behind a buckled strut outside the passage the borg recovered and scanned for her but she pulled her sensor net in tight relying purely on visuals you cant feel me and you cant see me im not here

I love the sense of raw confusion this provides, but I think the reader, like myself, finds themselves stumbling over the words without those punctuation marks to provide cues to stop and take a breath.  Mind you, as I removed the punctuation and capitals, I realized there was a fair amount to clean up here, but I don't blame all those awkward moments on the prose itself, though it could use some love. On a side note, I'm sure the punctuated version would be easier for me to edit.

I'm torn whether the point of the technique is to teach the value of punctuation or to get the writer to experiment with not using it -- perhaps both. These are not scientific experiments where all other things need to be constant and we compare with a control. Either way, it was a great exercise.

1 comment:

  1. It does take more effort to read a paragraph without punctuation. I think it also forces the reader to pay attention to the words and how things flow together. I'm willing to bet that the point of this technique is both to teach the value of punctuation and also support experimentation with the omission of it. Both are useful for writing exercises--great way to stretch the brain!