The Music Went On– Second Draft

A few days ago, I posted a short story.  Everyone was very kind and very helpful in giving me all these critiques about strong language and painting pictures with words– all of which comments I had no idea how to interpret.  Eventually I had to Google strong language in writing and after filtering through a couple of essays on why one should or should not curse in their writing, I found a very helpful article that told me something of what strong language is.  It seems that strong language is not cursing, but using verbs and adjectives that give the impression of something happening.  Instead of you describing a sound, you use a verb that has a specific sound tied to it.  And of course there’s a simpler version of that: use big words.  So I went through that short story because I was sure I wouldn’t get another idea quite like it very soon, and I edited it a lot.  I didn’t quite rewrite it, but a lot has changed.  Please, read through this second draft of The Music Went On.  Again, be so kind as to be overly brutal in your critiques.

I stood, contemplating the young cellist performing in the park, his silver case open before him.  He gazed intently at a music stand holding several loose papers.  The sound emerging from the cello wove a flawless and beautiful melody, but no one lingered to listen with me.

The cellist didn’t acknowledge me, alone in my stillness among throngs of people, cars and bicycles.  His eyes were fixed on the music as his fingers flew around his instrument, which moved with him as if living.

As I watched, the musician closed his eyes, ignoring his music for the first time.  As he improvised, the sound grew richer and his movements wilder.  Seeming that at any moment he would burst from his seat, he played for the crowd who didn’t hear him.

I peered into the case, but it was empty; no one had yet donated to the musician.

As I searched my pocket for spare change, the cellist’s bow struck his music stand.  A gust of wind scattered sheets of paper through the park, unnoticed.

The music stand collapsed and shattered, silver pieces glinting as they bounced in every direction.  Still no one around paid any heed.

The strings of the cello snapped, but even through the discordant twangs the melody continued.  The bow split and the hairs ripped, but the music still played.  The cello swelled and splintered, but the music lingered.  The young man had become the center of chaos, but the music went on.

Fragments flew in all directions, metal sparking against the concrete, wood twisting through the air.  I shielded my face, but nothing struck me.

When I risked a glance, the cellist and the chaos he had created were gone—all but the silver case.

As I bent to drop a few bills into the empty case, I could still hear the music playing faintly.

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  1. &*#$^&^*%! What strong language!

    …OK, that was silly. Never mind. I actually like the first draft better – this one starts off well, but by the end of it, I was a little annoyed by all the description. I don’t like over-blown description, though.

    • Very interesting… I’ll think about that.

    • *reads all the other comments* I guess… I guess I think it depends on what you’re trying to write. If you’re writing a high fantasy story, then go for the description! Just don’t pull a Paolini and overdo it…

      But I think if you’re going for something kind of eerie or otherworldly or mysterious like this, then I think spare language works better.

      I don’t know. Just a thought.

  2. I felt that way too. I liked the first draft better. And it seemed as if you were trying too hard to make it descriptive. I’d say find a balance between this draft and the first.

  3. I’m wishing you the best of luck.

  4. Although I did like the added descriptions to paint the pictures more vividly, I have to agree with my fellow commenters on the fact that you were being a tad over-descriptive. The added descriptions also made your sentences longer, more complicated, and generally about the same length as the next. If you make some of the sentences a little less detailed, with a few less long words, there will be a nice diversity of lengths and a pleasant balance to the whole thing.

  5. Charley R

     /  September 8, 2012

    Much better! It’s mostly just grammatical touch-ups needed here – some sentences read a little disconsonantly, and I think there’s a few commas that have made a break for freedom somewhere in there. On the whole, though, the language is far more evocative, and the story all the better for it.

  6. I really enjoyed both drafts of this story. I would say, however, that “strong” language isn’t always necessary. I often enjoy writers who take advantage of simpler words, rather than going for the three-syllable option. Obviously it’s a stylistic choice, but I think you should let the images you create speak for themselves, rather than use “strong” language to overwork them,

    Great work! Please share the third draft.

  7. gkbookworm

     /  September 8, 2012

    “As I watched, the musician closed his eyes, ignoring his music for the first time.  As he improvised, the sound grew richer and his movements wilder.  Seeming that at any moment he would burst from his seat, he played for the crowd who didn’t hear him.”
    This paragraph gave me a really, really strong visual. There was a moment where I had to stop and go, “whoa!”
    I like this version better than I do the last, but you should try for another draft.

    • I’m glad you liked it. I have written another draft, but it won’t be published– it’s an intermediate draft where I threw away the old voice and went in another direction in that respect. I’ll have to write a few more like that, then find a style and voice I like and try to recapture the original feeling… Anyway, I’m talking to myself. Thank you for the critique!

  1. The Music Went On, Draft Three « This Page Intentionally Left Blank

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