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Tsuki woke up to the morning sun that entered through the window. She yawned and sat on the side of the bed, rubbing her eyes. The clock on the wall said half past ten. She brushed her teeth, washed her face, and then went downstairs. When she reached the dinning room, she realized that there was no one there. Not even the owner of the inn. She checked the kitchen. No one either. They were probably still asleep. Her stomach started growling so she decided to check the refrigerator. Luckily, there was a can of tuna and tomatoes. She fixed herself a sandwich with some bread she found on a shelf. Then she poured herself some orange juice, and went to sit at the table.

While eating she stared at the various paintings on the walls. The owner of the inn had told them the other day that they were the work of a Chinese painter who had been their guest. He would wake up every morning exactly at nine, start a painting, and finish it before midnight. He did this continuously for six days. But then, on the seventh day, he suddenly disappeared. He didn't even check out—he just took his things and left. The man had paid in advance, so the owner didn't mind, though he was very puzzled by his behavior. The paintings were unlike anything Tsuki had seen before. She wasn't sure how to describe them. They gave her the feeling of being surreal and ordinary at the same time. Her favorite was one with an white ironing board put in the middle of an empty room. The most noticeable thing was, obviously, the missing iron. Where could it had gone? Tsuki was having a hard time debating whether it was a common setting or not. She couldn't decide. Though it was precisely that confusion that made the painting beautiful; the balance between what is possible and what is not.

After finishing her breakfast, she went to take a walk at the beach. She made her way through the sand barefoot, feeling the cold water and foam run between her toes. This was one of her favorite sensations in the world. It reminded her of her distant childhood. Tired of walking, she sat in the sand, gazing at the sea. There were still enormous waves, so high that they looked like skyscrapers. A big tree trunk was being tossed up and down among them. It was then that Tsuki glanced around and realized the beach was deserted. There was no one around. Where's everyone? Puzzled, she went back to the inn and headed upstairs. She knocked Meilin's door, but there was no response. Then tried Kazuo's. Nothing. She then went for her phone and tried calling them. None of them picked up. Giving up, Tsuki went back to the living room and sat on the table again. She spent the rest of the day there, waiting for someone to come back.

But no one did.

Of course, this doesn't happen in the whole narration (the beginning is mainly dialogue and the ending exposes the climax).

I wonder if I'm adding too many unnecessary descriptions (e.g. the character moving from point A to B, and from B to C. Or doing task A and B, then B and C).

If that's the case, how can I improve the text?

EDIT:

Here are some parts of the text with a little bit more feeling:

Tsuki woke up to the morning sun that entered through the window. She yawned and sat on the side of the bed, rubbing her eyes. The clock on the wall said half past ten. She brushed her teeth, washed her face, and then went downstairs. When she reached the dinning room, she realized that there was no one there. Not even the owner of the inn. She checked the kitchen. No one either. They were probably still asleep. Her stomach started growling—but no one was preparing breakfast. It was probably not right, but guided by her hunger, Tsuki went to check the refrigerator. Luckily, there was a can of tuna and tomatoes. So together with some bread, she fixed herself a simple sandwich.

After finishing her breakfast, Tsuki felt like taking a walk at the beach. She made her way through the sand barefoot, feeling the cold water and foam run between her toes. This was one of her favorite sensations in the world. It reminded her of a distant childhood. The period of time she spent whole afternoons in the beach, building sand castles with her father, and swimming under a vanilla sunset. When happiness seemed so simple and reachable. Where had those days gone? Now, they only existed as memories. But did they really belong to her?

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In your case it's not the amount of narration that hurts the story, it's how dry it is. I'll probably write a more detailed answer but I really recommend you read the very beginning to Douglas Adams' "Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy". It does something very similar but manages to make the narration very juicy. –  SF. Jun 21 '13 at 8:50
    
In reference to your edit, I think that your focus has now disappeared. In terms of coherence, your paragraphs almost have nothing to do with each other now. –  markovchain Jun 23 '13 at 15:48

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I don't think the information is entirely unnecessary, but it's dry. Lauren gave a good answer about adding more feeling; in this answer I'll focus on another style issue.

You have a lot of "she did this, then she did that, then she did something else...". That feels repetitive. Sometimes you want to convey the action itself; other times you want to convey a state change. For example, you wrote:

Tsuki woke up to the morning sun that entered through the window. She yawned and sat on the side of the bed, rubbing her eyes. The clock on the wall said half past ten. She brushed her teeth, washed her face, and then went downstairs. When she reached the dinning room, she realized that there was no one there. Not even the owner of the inn. She checked the kitchen. No one either. They were probably still asleep. Her stomach started growling—but no one was preparing breakfast. It was probably not right, but guided by her hunger, Tsuki went to check the refrigerator. Luckily, there was a can of tuna and tomatoes. So together with some bread, she fixed herself a simple sandwich.

Consider instead:

Sunlight streamed through the window, awakening Tsuki. Letting out a yawn as she sat up, she glanced at the clock on the wall -- half past ten already. After washing and dressing she went downstairs to an empty dining room. Where was the owner? The kitchen, too, was empty; was everybody still asleep? It probably wasn't right, but her growling stomach sent her to the refrigerator, where she found a can of tuna and some tomatoes. Taking some bread she found on the counter, she assembled these into a simple sandwich to slake her hunger.

I did several things in that rewrite:

  • changed some "she did" phrases into descriptions: "awakening Tsuki", "letting out a yawn"

  • conveyed some information without adding more action verbs at all: "half past ten already" (that the clock said it is implied), "an empty dining room" (she doesn't need to realize anything)

  • moved some of the less-important actions into subordinate clauses: "after washing and dressing" (which I also collapsed, judging that brushing her teeth isn't important except as part of this routine)

  • used "action" verbs for actors other than Tsuki: "her growling stomach sent her to the refrigerator"

  • turned a straight description into "dialogue" to show rather than tell: "Where was the owner?" instead of "she realized that there was no one there"

  • used a mix of approaches; doing any one of the above to the exclusion of the others would be just as problematic as your original

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It's dry because there's not much emotion there. You're telling us a lot, but you're not showing us much. You have two instances of her being "puzzled," but the rest is just a description of her movements. What is she thinking? What is she feeling?

Here's an example. You start with this great sensory image:

She made her way through the sand barefoot, feeling the cold water and foam run between her toes. This was one of her favorite sensations in the world. It reminded her of her distant childhood.

...And then you immediately drop it. Why does it remind her of her childhood? Where did she live? Did she spend all day at the beach? Was it her home or a rare treat? Why is her childhood "distant"? Is she old? Was she traumatized? Did she live in another country?

Add some emotions. Add some memories, some thoughts, something to give us a taste of who she is and why we should care.

You can also use this as a way to introduce the character so we know, for example, why she would spend half a day sitting at a table waiting for people to return, instead of making more phone calls or going back outside to knock on doors or turning on the damn TV to figure out what happened to everyone.


An aside, but I've seen this before in your work in the examples you've posted here: Your characters encounter a situation which should be disturbing or terrifying and accept it with a passivity which borders on pathological. It's like they're watching their own lives on television. If you can't see it in your own work, then please mention it to your beta readers to point out to you.

I realize that the remainder of the story has more action in it, and that it is a short story, but that doesn't fix this excerpt, where she just sits there, patiently waiting to be acted upon, rather than acting herself. And it's noticeable to me primarily because I've seen and commented on the same thing in your other work/posts.

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Thanks for your suggestion. I think you've become very familiar with my work (you know all my cheap tricks and patterns). Please see my EDIT. Is that better? –  Alexandro Chen Jun 21 '13 at 14:16
    
@alexchenco Yes, much improved. You need more of that. And your heroine needs not to sit there unless you explain to us why she's so helplessly passive. If she were in a wheelchair and literally couldn't go anywhere without help, fine (and that would add to the horror at the end of the story), but she's physically fine. –  Lauren Ipsum Jun 21 '13 at 15:21

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