Revising toward style

Here is a found paragraph.

The garage door had been up all day. The neighborhood was quiet. I came out to run to the store and saw a rattlesnake crawl behind a paper bag. Trash in the cooler garage. I’ve a wife, three kids. I am far too young for death. It must have fled the heat. Past my driveway, trees swayed against a blue sky. It was hot, even for June. I could just go back inside the house, get in the car, be someplace else. But who would come out the door next? My mom? I took a shovel and rake, pushed the bag away, and as it twisted toward sunlight, I pinned it with the rake. Soon they would be done with lunch. How much sound will it make, I wondered for a moment, then chopped with the shovel.

In a group of three, consider the content. Talk about what kinds of stylistic choices could add to it. Which of Thrill Me’s suggestions might be most helpful? Are there poetic strategies that might help? Where would additional sensory language make the paragraph more engaging? What changes to sentences could make the paragraph more interesting? Is this the best sentence order? What is the paragraph like as one long sentence? A pattern of fragments? Agree on a plan to revise the paragraph dramatically without changing the content. Then, revise it so the content and style match more completely. As you make changes, remember the textbook’s warning against styles that call too much attention to themselves, distracting from the content.

Here are two examples:

The rattlesnake must have been fleeing the heat. In my garage, it slithered into the shadows behind a paper bag. Hot, even for June, the garage door had been up all day. I’d come out to run to the store. I’m too young for dying. My wife, three kids. I could just go back inside the house, or just get in the car, be someplace else. But who would come out the door next? My little daughter? Soon they would be done with lunch. I took a shovel and rake, pushed the bag away, and as it twisted toward sunlight, I pinned it with the rake. The neighborhood was quiet. Past my driveway, trees swayed against a blue sky. How much sound will this make, I wondered for a moment, then chopped at it with the shovel.

Fleeing June heat, the rattlesnake slithered into the shadows behind a paper sack in my garage, but snakebite wasn’t how I’d die, not with a spouse, three sons, and a few short steps back inside the house to call the city, the snake handlers, or close enough, that work there. Of course, my littlest son could come out the door next because soon they’d finish their snack, so I took a shovel and rake, pushed the sack away, and as the snake twisted toward sunlight, I pinned it with the rake. Now, the neighborhood was still, and past my driveway trees swayed against a blue sky; how much sound will this make, I wondered for a second, then clanged and sparked the snake into pieces with the shovel.

Once you’ve finished as a group, take a double-spaced page of a story you’re writing. Repeat the process you just finished as a group of three as an individual with your page.

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