View Full Version : A Little Help, Please

Home - Discussion Forums - News - Reviews - Interviews

New reviews, interviews and news

New in the Discussion Forum

June 11th, 2007, 11:57 PM
I have a sentance that just sounds wrong to me, no matter how much I rework it. Any ideas?

The man turned his head to Hotaka; the scrutinizing gaze of the two bright green eyes signature to the family was paralyzing.

June 12th, 2007, 12:49 AM
How about:

The man turned to Hotaka; the (INSERT FAMILY'S NAME) family's signature bright green eyes paralyzing (INSERT OTHER NAME OR DESCRIPTOR OF HOTAKA...SUCH AS "the knight" or "the scientist" or whatever else the reader would know as Hotaka).

So, if the man's family name is FRANCIS
And Hotaka is a KNIGHT
It would read like:

The man turned to Hotaka; the Francis family's signature bright green eyes paralyzed the knight.



June 12th, 2007, 12:53 AM
"signature to the family"

is what needs to be changed, maybe something like family trait.

instead of saying the bright green eyes, say his (or her)

depending on if Hotaka is male or female

James Carmack
June 12th, 2007, 03:40 AM
One of the first key grammatical points is that it's the signature of the family, not to the family.

Structurally, this is a rather large and clunky sentence. You'd lose nothing by breaking it in two. Also, it wouldn't hurt to make a smooth flow from Hotaka the object to Hotaka the subject as opposed to going from "the man" to "the gaze".

Stylistically, I wonder why we refer to someone simply as "the man" when we know the signature of his unnamed family. If "the man" is simply a generic label used for the character's secondary appellation, I think you can use something a little more specific.

Here's one potential rewrite (with some poetic license taken):

[name] turned to Hotaka, who squirmed under the paralyzing gaze of the signature green eyes of the [name] family.

And a more faithful alternative:

[label] turned to Hotaka. He/she was paralyzed by the scrutinizing gaze of the [name] family's signature green eyes.

June 12th, 2007, 05:43 AM
James already mentioned "to --> of".

In addition, since "signature of the family" is an apposition to "eyes", you'll have to enclose it in commas. So we now have:

V1.1 The man turned his head to Hotaka; the scrutinizing gaze of the bright green eyes, signature of the family, was paralyzing.

Now, we have the same sentence with proper punctuation. All that follows now is style, not grammar or punctuation.

The next thing I notice is a syntactic ambiguity:

What is the "signature of the family"? (a) the bright green eyes, or (b) the scrutinizing gaze, or (c) the bright green eyes of the scrutinizing gaze. What I mean by this is that I can't answer the following questions:

(a) Do all the family have green eyes?
(b) Are they famous for their scrutinising gaze?
(c) Or are having green eyes and a scrutinising gaze two sides of the same coin; i.e. is there a cultural trope that combines "green eyes" with "scrutiny" (say the family are foreigners, and green eyes are traditionally associated with cats, not humans...)

One way to deal with this is to leave out the "signature"-apposition, leaving the info for later:

V1.1.1 The man turned his head to Hotaka; the scrutinizing gaze of the bright green eyes was paralyzing.

Now, there's the "was paralyzing" to deal with. The simple word "was" makes this a sentence of its own. This transfers emphasis on the information given. But perhaps you'd like to have it a vivid image instead? One solution could be to make it, instead a clause of its own, an subject complement. This can be achieved by simply deleting the "was", and changing the semi-colon to a comma:

V1.1.1.1 The man turned his head to Hotaka, the scrutinizing gaze of the bright green eyes paralyzing.

Next, you can improve the cohesion of the sentence (the grammatical interconnectedness of a sentence), by transforming "of the ... eyes" into "of his ... eyes" (like arinth suggested):

V1. The man turned his head to Hotaka, the scrutinizing gaze of his bright green eyes paralyzing.

Finally, you may re-arrange the sentence, so the "his" comes closer to the start of the clause. This can be achieved by moving the "eyes" forward and changing the "of" to " s' ". If you do so, I suggest also turning "scrutinizing gaze" into "scrutiny" to avoid too many modifiers in a row:

V1. The man turned his head to Hotaka, his bright green eyes' scrutiny paralyzing.

Or perhaps delete the "scrutinizing gaze" altogether?

V1. The man turned his head to Hotaka, his bright green eyes paralyzing.

But let's backtrack a bit. You may not want to get rid of the "family signature" after all.

One thing you may realise is that "turn ones head to" is more an objective description of movement than a description of intention. Alternative things you can turn (though I suggest the preposition "on" instead of "to", if you do change): eyes, (scrutinizing) gaze, or scrutiny. All of these words would make the "head" redundant: the eyes are what you gaze with, scrutinise with etc., and they are in the head.

V1.1.2 The man turned his bright green eyes, signature of the family, on Hotaka, the scrutinizing gaze paralyzing.

V1.1.3 The man turned his scrutiny on Hotaka, the bright green eyes -- signature of the family -- paralyzing. (I chose em-dashes instead of commas for the apposition to avoid too many commas. To add to the confusion, the commas would have been of two different kinds: clause-seperating and apposition-enclosing.)

This is most certainly not all you can do to the sentence, and you'll also notice that I got lazier near the end (taking many changes in a stride).

Things to bear in mind when fiddling with sentences:

1. You can shift words around, even tranform them from one type into another (e.g. scruitnizing --> scrutiny)

2. Find very general words and see if they can be implied by more specific words you've already used. (e.g. head --> eyes, gaze, scrutiny...)

3. See if you can get rid of words that have a grammtical function, but invoke no image ("was scrutinizing" --> "scrutinizing"). But be careful, doing this can result in intricate grammar (in this case "independent clause as adjunct" --> "dependent clause as modifier").

4. Just because words appear together in a phrase doesn't mean they have to stay together in the re-write (e.g. "scrutinizing gaze of the bright green eyes" --> "turnded bright green eyes"/"gaze = paralyzing")

Hope this helps more than it confuses. :o