The Devil is in the Detail — and So is the Meaning

27 Nov

Lesson 19 is a devil of a lesson! So many things to check my manuscript for, that my memory is unable to hold them all.  This is fine detail work. Words matter, and the choice of one word over another, or one phrase over another, makes for subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) differences in meaning, differences in voice and the way a scene reads.

Part of me is fascinated by this choice of words. Reading a sentence in the manuscript, I made changes and then found myself musing on alternative variations. Eventually I wrote out five versions and analysed just what the differences made to the meaning. See what you think; original m/s version first:

‘His manner changed, disconcerting her’.

‘His manner changed, which disconcerted her’.

‘His change of manner disconcerted her’.

‘She found his change of manner disconcerting’.

‘She felt disconcerted by his change of manner’.

And should I have used ‘mood’ instead of ‘manner’? What I’m learning from Lesson 19 is that I need to be clear about what I meant at that point; then I need to express it in words as accurately as I can.

I chose ‘She felt disconcerted by his change of manner’ because ‘she’ is my MC and the scene is from her PoV. It describes what she is feeling and gets rid of an ‘-ing’ word. I’m having a down on those at present for reasons that are not fully clear to me 🙂

So far, Holly’s course has concentrated on the bigger issues of plot, character development, conflict and many other considerations. Lesson 19 is looking at the actual words used, tidying up, replacing words to better describe the meaning intended.

As I mentioned above, there are so many things to look out for in this lesson that my brain won’t hold it all at once; so I’ve made lists under the following headings: dialogue; description; action; flow. This sits on the desk as I go through the m/s. Even so, I’m going through each scene two or three times. When I’ve finished, I think the m/s will need to be put away in the drawer for a week while I do something else!

It’s an awesome lesson and I feel excited at making all the changes and then re-reading the more polished version. Halfway through at the moment so it will take another week or so.

Have a good week, and enjoy your writing 🙂



Posted by on November 27, 2011 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “The Devil is in the Detail — and So is the Meaning

  1. Kirsten

    November 28, 2011 at 3:24 am

    Interesting post! I am sooo looking forward to that lesson. My writing needs that kind of analysis!
    My choice: (not having gone through the lesson)

    ‘His change of manner disconcerted her.’

    I like your choice as well, and agree with you about the ‘ing’ words. However, ‘She felt…’ seems to put some distance between the reader and the character, so I usually try to edit those out.
    Just my thoughts. Great work!

    • Prue

      November 28, 2011 at 1:23 pm

      Thanks Kirsten!
      This lesson has blown me away. I can see why this process has to be done right at the end. I took Holly’s word for it because she knows what she’s talking about. And then last night, the reason was loud and clear as it hit me between the eyes 🙂

      I definitely agree with your suggestion and the distance ‘felt’ puts in there. ‘His change of manner disconcerted her’ is clear and definite.
      I expect the word ‘felt’ is appropriate at times – as is the use of an occasional -ing word – and I guess that’s what learning the craft is all about. It’s awesome 🙂

      Good luck with the course!


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