2/14/2011

Operation Ratio: Results!

Last Friday, I mentioned that I'd found something interesting called Operation Ratio, in which you could test the Visual Picture making strength of your prose by finding the ratio of concrete to abstract nouns.

To discover if you have a Visual Moving Picture, you count the verbs in a piece and discover how they're weighted between weak, generic and strong.

I promised to try this out and let you see the results. I was working on a particularly mental section, and decided to run the ratios, and then to make some changes to enhance the Visual Moving Picture. Here are the results:

Sample #1, unedited version: (This is a Young Adult WIP):
I sighed. If there was ever a time I could’ve used my trusty little 10,000 Reasons to be Happy book, it was then. I hoped it was where I’d left it, but it seemed doubtful. Kids walked by those steps all the time. Someone would’ve taken it. Maybe some poor fool like me. So maybe I was a little anal about finding five reasons every day.
That day, sitting alone in the hospital cafeteria, waiting to find out if Mom would live or die, finding reasons had never felt more insane. Yet, there were reasons. Daddy would be proud. I’d found some, and as I looked up from the napkin I’d just crumpled in my fist, I saw a few more.
Rylie and Hayden, who were in Drama with me, and Chad O’Rourke, had just walked through the doors. They all had big grins painted on their faces—literally, grins made with face paint—and they were walking toward me. Chad carried a single red rosebud in a budvase.

I'm not an expert at this, but I came up with the following: 175 words. Ratio of concrete to abstract nouns = 3:1. That's an okay result. Verbs: 23 weak; 7 generic and 0 strong. Ouch! That's the problem with mental scenes.

Revised:
I sighed. I needed my trusty little 10,000 Reasons to be Happy book. I hoped it was where I left it, on the steps across from the high school. But kids walked by those steps all the time. Surely someone picked it up and stuffed it into their own backpack. Maybe some poor fool like me. Someone who found reasons every day, no matter what.

I stared through the window at the pond. A wafer thin layer of ice sheeted it. Bad news if you stepped on it. Would Mom live? Or would she die that day? I twisted around and blinked at the napkin. I had scribbled two reasons on it. I needed three more. Finding reasons felt insane. It never felt more insane.

Yet, there were two. Daddy would be proud. I picked up the napkin and crumpled it in my fist. Two. And by the end of the day? How many? One?

The sounds of laughter caught my attention. I glanced toward the cafeteria entrance. Rylie and Hayden, who took Drama with me, and Chad O’Rourke, stepped through the doors. Big grins spread across their faces—literally, grins made with face paint. They walked toward me. Chad carried a single red rosebud in a budvase.
This version took a few more words: 214. The concrete to abstract noun ratio went up a little, to 3.4:1, which is still fine. The more concrete to abstract, the better. The big difference was in the verbs. Now there are only 11 weak, 16 generic --- and 6 strong.

What do you think? Is it an improvement? Or not?

11 comments:

  1. I think there is an AMAZING difference!

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Catherine. You have taught me a valuable lesson in revision.

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  2. A true testament to what a difference strong verbs make. I'll really have to keep this in mind when I hit the revision stage. Thanks!

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  3. Definite improvement! Concrete details and vivid images and very strong verbs. Well done!

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  4. Found you through the Crusaders - I'm a new follower. That's some intense work but I could really see how this ratio exercise could help, especially with the really important scenes in a book (first couple pages, turning points, etc)

    I think you improved your scene, for sure, it had more visuals and senses in it.... except (hope you don't mind) this sentence was really confusing "Yet, there were two. Daddy would be proud. I picked up the napkin and crumpled it in my fist. Two. And by the end of the day? How many? One?" This part I liked better the way it was written previously. Goes to show sometimes
    it's okay to use "would" and other weak verbs. As long it's intentional and not over-used.

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  5. Margo, I don't mind what you pointed out at all. Not to worry. :) I also think that any idea can be carried too far. Thanks for stopping by, and for the follow.

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  6. What a cool tool to use! Definite improvement with stronger verbs. I'll have to try this out. :)

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  7. Hi Fellow Crusader! Just wanted to stop in and intro myself. The Ratio thing is interesting. I think your 2nd version is better except for the sentence about the friends' smiles. I think that could be stronger.

    See you around...

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  8. Hi Vicki! Thanks for the heads up about the smiles. That's very important. I'm going to strengthen it.

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  9. Really interesting. I'm a fellow Crusader, dropping by to say hi and thank you for visiting my site. I'll be back!

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  10. Hey Catherine! Another crusader checking in. Boy, all the ratio work has got me thinking. Neat way to strength sentences. . .or just figure how to tweak them.

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  11. That's a really cool idea. I might have to look at my stuff with that point of view.

    I'm excited to read your blog in the future. Go crusaders!

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Thank you for taking time to comment. It means a lot to me.

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