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Hello! I'm a writer from central New York who has bipolar disorder. Among other topics, I write about mental illness and writing. I have short stories published in Lynx Eye, Lost Coast Review, The Outrider Review, Sliver of Stone Magazine, The Mondegreen, The Linnet's Wings, Cobalt Review, Breath & Shadow, The Round Up, Postscripts to Darkness, Masque & Spectacle, and several other journals. I have essays about mental illness in The Ram Boutique and Amygdala Literary Magazine, and an essay in Parts Unbound: Narratives of Mental Illness & Health, a book that was published by Lime Hawk Literary Arts Collective. In December of 2016, The Mondegreen nominated my story "Santa Lucia" for a Pushcart Prize. I've written a novel entitled Purple Loosestrife and a novel entitled Hoping It Might Be So, both of which I am submitting to agents and publishers. I'm working on a novel called Dark and Bright as well as a book called Violets Are Blue: Essays About My Bipolar Life. I have a B.A. in English from SUNY Buffalo and an M.A. in English from SUNY College at Brockport. I hope you enjoy your visit to my blog!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Revisions, Revisions...

So I'm working on the editing of my novel, Purple Loosestrife, and as I go along, I'm finding little bits of wording that I'm reworking and redundancies I'm getting rid of. But I came upon one sentence that I contemplated for a long time. The sentence reads, "She turned off the light and closed the door behind her." I wondered, is it redundant? Is it stating the obvious? The part of the sentence I'm thinking of is "closed the door behind her." She wouldn't close the door in front of her when it's clear in the scene that she's leaving the room. So should I cut the "behind her"?

I finally decided not to. I realized that saying "closed the door behind her" is idiomatic. It is obvious that she would close the door behind her when leaving the room, but it's an expression that people tend to use, redundant though it may be. So I've left it as is because it sounds right to me.

I think sometimes we have to keep such figures of speech in our writing to keep it sounding authentic, to keep it sounding right in a way that can nevertheless be hard to define. Idiomatic language can be hard to define, I think. Just think of trying to explain certain idioms to a non-native speaker of English. But to cut all of it out of a written piece strikes me as extreme and inauthentic.

These are all rather small things, yet a written work is made up of a great number of small things, so everything counts. But it can be difficult to know what to do. At times, I think that going with your gut is the best policy, as well as going with your ear and sticking with what sounds right to you.

7 comments:

  1. I agree. The sentence sounds better with "behind her." That's the trick isn't it? What sounds best. Nice little post. Thanks, Emily.

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  2. I think context and your intent are key to this. Is she just closing the door, or is she leaving someone or something else behind her in the room? Equally, she may have just had an epiphany, so closing the door behind her might also refer to some thought or emotion she has just wrestled with, as well as heading out the door.

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    1. Derek, you're spot on. She is leaving something behind her in the room--not a person or an object, but a sense of something, an epiphany, as you say--so what you suggest is very true with this scene. Thanks for your comment!

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  3. This is a post I almost missed in my cluttered inbox. Idiomatic language is an interesting subject. My children are brought up in France and are more at home in the French language than English. Idiomatic English leaves them bemused. Either they get it just slightly wrong, or they develop their own version and refuse to change it. For example, after reading Fantastic Mr Fox, my son uses the expression 'Upon my soul!' But he says 'Open my soul!' He reasons that neither expression makes sense anyway so one is as good as the other.

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  4. That is an awesome post. I just love, love, love, how we can churn out 100,000 words and probably another 5,000 per day in blogs and everything else...and how one sentence can bring us to our knees, leaving us stymied for hours on end! If you can step outside yourself, the irony of it all is magnificent.

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    1. Thanks, Buzz! The irony is magnificent! A writer can get hung up on a single sentence, but I think it's all just part of the writing process.

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