Small Damages, and stretching the sentence

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I have been focused this week on sentences—on what happens when we go beyond mere reporting and plot advancement, and listen for song.  My books are written over the course of many years.  Often, I'm frustrated with a single passage—can't get past its boxy, angular, or explanatory language.  For a long time, sadly, I stay stuck.

Sometimes it's not the sentences themselves that are broken, but my ability to imagine deeper. That was the case with this small sequence of sentences, from my forthcoming Seville novel, Small Damages (Philomel).  The passage cited directly below is the way this small moment from the book appeared for years in my drafts.  Note the hard and unhelpful (unlyrical) stop.

I nod. My breasts are swollen sore above the lump of you.  I don’t get sick anymore.  I don’t sit on the bathroom floor fisting the toilet, or lie there afterward, sobbing.  I don’t.  But everywhere I’m sore.
This next and final version is, in my opinion, what the passage needed to be.  The useless repetition of "sore" has been replaced with a more realized vision, and a small story.

I nod. My breasts are swollen sore above the lump of you. I don’t get sick anymore. I don’t sit on the bathroom floor fisting the toilet, or lie there afterward, sobbing. I don’t. But everywhere is the flail of you, your necklace of bones, your hardly skin, your fingernails; you already have them. In health class, eighth grade, we watched the movie, we saw how it is. The pearl squiggled out with a tail. The curl like a fish protecting. The webbing in between, just temporary.
My sentence obsession was inspired by NaNoWriMo, and is part of this contest.  A signed copy of Small Damages or You Are My Only will be sent to the winner, as well as a celebratory moment on this blog. 

By the way, isn't that baby beautiful?  She belongs to Miss Cristina, Mr. Jeremy, and Little Eva.

4 comments:

kelly said...

I love the phrase, "your hardly skin."
And I just wrote about a baby today--not nearly as well, I might add!

Serena said...

This is glorious "your necklace of bones"!

Sarah Laurence said...

Definitely improved! I like your insight about imagining it deeper. Beautiful baby.

Lilian Nattel said...

Beautiful words and baby.

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