Jenna Said Solemnly

I have impressed myself. I ran a regular expression search “said [a-z]+ly[s.,]” (sans quotes) recursively through my “Dragon Blood” story folder, and found only five matches. Considering this is the story I’ve worked on the longest (in bits and pieces), and at the same time is my oldest worked-on story, this is a good sign!

What does this search match on? Anything with the word “said” followed by an adverb. This is important because an adverb after said is often (although not always negatively) telling rather than showing.

Let’s see what the five matches were.

“Don’t worry about me,” Samuel said slowly. “The girl needs help.”

He’s out of breath and worn out a bit, thus his speaking slowly. “Slowly” doesn’t convey any kind of emotion, but maybe I can still improve upon it a bit.

“Don’t worry about me,” Samuel said. He stopped for a moment to catch his breath. “The girl needs help.”

Later in the chapter, there’s another adverb.

“Hey, Ty,” Samuel said quietly, nudging the cat beside him. “Check this out.”

This one I could rewrite as “Samuel whispered”, but I think I’ll leave it as it is. If I can improve upon it, I’m not sure how at the moment.

I’ll skip the third one (with “Sarah said quickly”) as it’s no longer part of the story. I keep trashed scenes and dialogue in case I may get inspiration from or use of them at a later date. This part is first draft material, and not worth rewriting right now even if I were to use the portion again later.

Fourth.

“Ty isn’t with me,” Samuel said firmly.

Ouch, this is a hard one. He’s being firm in how he speaks. Could I write this in another way and capture his firmness? The scene is that someone has approached him to take his cat, Ty, away from him. Samuel is standing his ground here. Hard work here, so I’ll move on.

“I’m not sure you do forgive me,” Jenna said solemnly, stirring the ice with her straw in her half-filled cup of iced tea. “I don’t think you can forgive me for it.”

Aha! Here’s a big one. Why am I, the narrator, telling the reader that Jenna is solemn? Let’s try removing the word.

“I’m not sure you do forgive me,” Jenna said, stirring the ice with her straw in her half-filled cup of iced tea. “I don’t think you can forgive me for it.”

Now, the question is, can I infer her solemnness from the paragraph? I’d say no, I cannot. Let’s add some context by including the two paragraphs before it. It opens with Jenna speaking to Samuel.

“Actually, that’s what I wanted to bring up. I meant everything I said when drugged, but I didn’t mean to say any of it. Looking back on it, I wish I didn’t say any of it. I don’t mean it now, and I didn’t mean it the way it came out. I guess that drug let me be vocal with the things I wouldn’t say, the things I wouldn’t have said for myself, no matter how much I wanted to say them. I’m sorry for having said them to you. Can you ever forgive me?”

“Of course I forgive you,” Samuel replied with a smile. “I know what it’s like to be in that situation, and I understand your feelings over it.”

“I’m not sure you do forgive me,” Jenna said, stirring the ice with her straw in her half-filled cup of iced tea. “I don’t think you can forgive me for it.”

This is a difficult one, but one I need to tackle.

She frowned. “I’m not sure you do forgive me,” Jenna said, stirring the ice with her straw in her half-filled cup of iced tea. “I don’t think you can forgive me for it.”

Does that work? Is it really that simple? At one moment she’s asking his forgiveness for what she’s done, and the next she’s frowning, unsatisfied with Samuel’s response. “I’m not sure you do forgive me. I don’t think you can forgive me for it.” She frowns as she says this. Is she solemn? Is there a feel of gloominess in her words that might not have been there has she not frowned? I wonder…

Running all of my writings through the regular expression, there’s less than ten matches. This pleases me. There’s another person speaking firmly, and one man speaks plainly. Two others speak confidently.

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