Tuesday, May 12, 2020

How to improve writing (no. 87)

[Mark Trail, May 12, 2020. Original panel, left, and two revisions.]

In today’s Mark Trail, some dialogue in need of improvement. The gist of things: The Crowley family and Mark are on a camping trip for “troubled children.” Eric is the Crowleys’ son. The Crowleys seem to be leaning toward adopting Kevin, a young orphan on the trip. Eric is jealous, and Kevin knows it. Kevin runs off from camp with Mark Trail’s adopted son Rusty; everyone searches for them; a forest fire happens; and Kevin saves the day by warning Mrs. Crowley and Eric that a tree is going to fall on them. This story has taken months to develop.

One problem in the original panel above: Kevin didn’t save three (or more) people — only two. Mrs. Crowley has exaggerated. A second problem: “our and Eric’s lives” is some mighty awkward syntax. My first revision aims for accurate reporting and decent syntax. My second revision aims for more schmaltz: in saving Mrs. Crowley and Eric, Kevin has indeed saved “all of us” — in other words, the whole Crowley family, including Eric. Formerly rotten Eric, I hope.

Related reading
All OCA “How to improve writing” posts (Pinboard)

[This post is no. 87 in a series, dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

comments: 2

Fresca said...

These Fix-'Em-Ups are my favorite posts.

If I were Eric, I would now hate Kevin even more for garnering favor with such an obvious move as saving my life and my mom's...

Michael Leddy said...

A real amateur move in its transparency. Today Kevin is being praised for his bravery, though I’m not sure how brave it is to tell someone a tree is going to fall on them.