For the next ten days, I’m starting my daily writing with a warm-up exercise. I’ll randomly choose a passage from Steinbeck, Hemingway, or Babel, type it out (to internalize the language), analyze the style, and then mime it in my own vignette.
“We slept, all six of us, beneath a wooden roof that let in the stars, warming one another, our legs intermingled. I dreamed: and in my dreams saw women. But my heart, stained with bloodshed, grated and brimmed over.” — Isaac Babel
Notes on style: conceptually sparse but rich. Each word is deep and vivid, but with little elaboration — the word as a stand-alone is enough. Overall, classic Babel. Short clauses and copious comas — trains of thought read as long flows but with spaces for breath. Juxtaposition between sleep and horror, women and horror — tensive pulls holding the narrator suspended between them. Visceral grit — sleep, physical contact, warmth vs. exposure to the stars, lust, blood, death. Not angsty, just practical.
It poured, drenching the night, raindrops big as the tips of a woman’s fingers, splashing on the roof, making it sing. I ran a bath and sat in it, listened to the rain. Cold water intercepted above me by shingles, warm water lapping against my skin. Gooseflesh rose on my bare shoulders. My cool lips whispered a mindless prayer: thanking God for life and for shelter. But inside, where the warmth of the bath couldn’t penetrate, I felt empty.
Analysis: too long.
It poured, the sky falling down, raindrops soaking the ground, making the roof sing, making the bodies beneath it quiet. She prayed: thanking God for grace and shelter. But inside, in the space between heart and ribcage, she felt empty.
Analysis: I like the removal of changing to third person. Much cleaner, but it lacks the space created by the extra meditation between the rain and the emptiness.
It poured, a heavy rain, water soaking the dirt until it bled, drops drumming the roof, making it sing. She prayed: sat in a warm bath with gooseflesh on her shoulders and talked God. But inside, for all the words she was saying, she felt empty.