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Feedback on a Writing Assignment

  1. Feb 1, 2015 #1


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    Staff: Mentor

    Hey guys. I've got a writing assignment what I'd like to get some feedback on. It's just a little descriptive paragraph, a few hundred words or so. We were supposed to go outside into nature and write a 3rd person description of the setting. No talk of ourselves. What do you think?

    In the still air under the low hanging branches of a mesquite tree, a butterfly, egg white in color, dances in the yet-to-flower weeds, dashing erratically from clump to clump as if desperate to find a meal. The cloud cover overhead barely holds back the sky. Long streaks of blue shine through where it is thin, like holes in an old cloth that’s been worn with time and pulled over the Earth.

    A cool breeze stirs the limbs and leaves. With it comes the smell of horse dung and dry hay from the nearby stables. Oblivious to the hot scent, the butterfly struggles towards the next clump. It fights the wind, like a boxer who’s just broken out of the corner and is slowly forcing his opponent back towards the ropes. Each push forward is a jab that sends its opponent reeling. Between each push the butterfly pauses, bracing on delicate wings and shrugging off the incoming blow before surging forward once more.

    The battle startles a ground squirrel. It squeaks and scampers across the rocky ground in search of a spot to hide from its unknown assailant. Hungry and alone, the butterfly continues its hunt.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 1, 2015 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Are you thinking of simplifying some of your writing? like the butterfly, egg white in color could be instead the white butterfly

    To me it seems distracting to see the word egg as I first read the line as the butterfly egg and then noticed the comma when it didn't make sense.

    As I read it, I kept thinking about how Garrison Kieller would read it on the radio, on his writer's almanac.

    http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index/ [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  4. Feb 2, 2015 #3


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    IMHO, two similes in such a short text feel strained. I'd get rid of the first, seeing how the second one is the centrepiece of the whole paragraph. Or at least change the 'like' to 'reminiscent of' or some such.
    I'd also reconsider having 'his opponent' and 'its opponent' in short succession.

    I would perhaps try not to switch the focus too often. You go from the butterfly to the clouds and back to the butterfly. It'd be easier to follow if you started with clouds, then kept to the bug.

    I agree with jedishrfu - the whole egg thing breaks the flow. As for simplifying - your writing reminds me of those http://www.math.rutgers.edu/~lenci/jokes/chicken [Broken] faux-answers by various authors. While I do prefer the Hemingway approach, you just seem to be more in the Tolkien or Faulkner camp. Which is a matter of style, I suppose. But do keep in mind that the excessive flowery language does make the Lord of the Rings somewhat hard to read.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  5. Feb 2, 2015 #4


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    I agree with this. A paragraph should be composed of a starting sentence that introduces the reader to the information followed by supporting information.
    The two main things that I see here are that the first sentence is too long and the topic is discontinuous as previously mentioned. I would end the first sentence at weeds and start the next one with "It dashes erratically...". The discussion of the sky could be kept if you had a final sentence that related it to the butterfly. Something like this - Long streaks of blue shine through, lighting the butterfly's path with a soft glow.

    The other paragraphs look good to me. They tie the concepts nicely as you move from paragraph to paragraph.
  6. Feb 2, 2015 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    Thanks guys.
  7. Feb 2, 2015 #6


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    Jeez, my wife would love to have you in her class.

    Aside from any minor construction details*, it is very well composed - like a miniature story - with an intro, body and conclusion. That's hard to do.

    *I too tripped over the "butterfly egg", had to go back and read it again.
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