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The Inkspiller


I may not be the foremost expert on prose, but I’ll take a gander at answering your questions and lending my own verbose expertise, whatever its meager worth might amount to. I by no means wish to hijack your style, but invariably my suggestions for rewrite / revision are probably going to very much reflect how I personally would write the sentence, without necessarily knowing the background of your story or the context of the given excerpt.

Given the number of quotes to work with, this will be a long reply. Hopefully the forums don’t eat it.


Alfonso and his chancery paid the mercenary captains, and the captains paid the mercenaries, but Drastan often got the feeling that their captains took even more than their greater share already demanded.

Perhaps something like:

Alfonso’s chancery paid the mercenary captains, and the captains paid the mercenaries; for all their shows of humbly sympathy, Drastan suspected their captains were lining their own pockets.

I’m not sure how much we could really shorten this one sentence without breaking it up into separate sentences, or potentially altering the meaning of this excerpt.

Alfonso’s chancery paid the mercenary captains, and the captains paid themselves; whatever was left over went to the mercenaries. Naturally the captains reassured the men they were getting their fair share, but Drastan knew better than to trust a man who could afford more than two pairs of clothes.



Darkness cloaked the world in shadows by the time Drastan had entered the streets of Toledo.

As for this, there are a couple potential rewrites depending on whether you want to enhance description or reduce word count. For more scene immersion, perhaps something like:

Drastan stepped out onto the shadow-cloaked streets of Toledo, his eyes instinctually sweeping the alleys as they adjusted to the night.

To adjust flow and word count with style, more like:

By the time Drastan stepped outside, night had cast her languorous, scheming shadows over Toledo’s winding streets.


Wren’s eyes widened.

My question for this one is whether or not I can write it for the current PoV character. So if Wren is the PoV character in limited third person, does it make sense to write that sentence?

In limited third person, you can describe everything your chosen POV character can see or assume, including their own actions, behavior, thoughts and feelings. So yes, if Wren is the POV character, his/her own actions can be described as long as they can sense or make an assumption. For example, Wren can reasonably interpret that a man narrowing his eyes and gritting his teeth might be doing so in anger, and maybe even infer what they’re angry at based on the context of the situation.


Drastan glared at them, and then turned and strode away. My question for this one is the word ‘then.’ Should it be used in instances like this, or should it be eschewed always or at least whenever possible?

In this case, it’s up to you whether to use ‘and’ or ‘then’, or both. The use of ‘And’ implies that the two sets of actions, ‘glaring’, and ‘turning and striding away’, are occurring simultaneously. The use of ‘then’ implies that there is a chronological sequence to these actions – Drastan glares, then turns and strides away. You don’t need both ‘and’ & ‘then’, use one or the other.


“What do you see?” Drastan hissed, growing impatient.

This is a question of telling vs showing for me. Is the phrase ‘growing impatient’ feel like pure telling, or is it something that you would write while still trying to feel close to the character’s head?

‘Growing impatient’ is very much telling. ‘Hissed’ already does adequate service for conveying Drastan’s impatience and agitation, and ‘growing impatient’ doesn’t add much descriptively. If you feel that ‘Drastan hissed’ leaves the line too bare / short, you have a couple options. You can either (A) append some other action or body language of his that indicates his agitation and impatience, or (B) delve directly into Drastan’s thoughts with a bit of narrator reading from his brain. Examples follow:

(A) “What do you see?” Drastan hissed, gritting his teeth while his companion hemmed and hawed. 

(B) “What do you see?” Drastan hissed. Why couldn’t he just spit it out? Delay got people killed – most importantly, himself.


Drastan placed a hand on the cool stone of the elegant building, and glared at Fadrique’s back.

The comma is unnecessary as the sentence is currently structured; ‘and glared’ fulfils the same function of the comma  in joining two separate clauses. Otherwise, you could write the sentence as:

Drastan placed a hand on the cool stone of the elegant building, glaring at Fadrique’s back.


Drastan was by his side in a flash, a long knife gripped in his hand.

No, I try to keep my use of ‘with’ under control. It’s not a bad word, but less is generally better, especially when you abuse commas and semi-colons as much as I do. In fact you could shorten this sentence even more:

Drastan was at his side in a flash, long knife ready in hand.


Drastan was about to tell Fadrique that he was wasting their time

Not strictly, no. ‘That’ makes the sentence somewhat more formally correct, but no reasonable reader is going to be confused if you omit it and it will add a little urgency to the sentence.


Crackling torches that rose a full head above Drastan lined the stone paths, illuminating its lavish contents.

Yes, as the sentence is currently constructed. It does sound a bit clumsy around the ‘that’, so here’s a potential rewrite:

Torches lined the stone paths, standing a full head over his own; crackling flames cast an orange glaze over the [compound’s] lavish contents.

(I don’t know what the ‘its’ refers to, as ‘paths’ is plural, and thus the appropriate possessive to use would be ‘their’ if it is referring to the paths’ contents.)


I will continue my answering in a part two, as this post is already crazy long.

Non nobis Domine, sed nomini, Tuo da gloriam.

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