I’m struggling to clearly yet briefly explain what’s going on. I’m fairly sure this sentence is grammatically correct, but it still sounds clunky and confusing.

For context, my POV character sits down at a table with a lot of other people. A few of them notice her at first, but the rest only do when she’s addressed by another character.

Everyone who hadn’t already turned in my direction.

Even if I try rephrasing it, it still seems off.

Everyone who hadn’t turned to me already did so now.

Should I split this sentence up into different parts, or is it clear enough as it is?

  • 3
    "Everyone who hadn't already turned towards me did so now."? Not sure this is a proper question for this site, nor that this is a proper answer.
    – DWKraus
    Jun 1 at 1:13
  • 1
    It would be more of an English SE question, although they are awfully picky over there. Is my version workable? If so, it shouldn't matter.
    – DWKraus
    Jun 1 at 1:58
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    "Everyone who hadn't yet turned to me did so now." Is that good enough?
    – garbus
    Jun 1 at 11:33
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    How important is the fact that you are talking about the people who were not already looking in your direction? If it is a minor consideration, then you may want to relegate that to a non-restrictive clause, and contain it within commas: "Everyone, who hadn't already, turned in my direction". (If it is of great significance, and must remain a restrictive clause, then this is not possible) Jun 1 at 14:23
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    If you're writing your first draft. Keep writing and worry about it later! I write clunky, ugly, stupid sentences all over my first draft. Then I fix it in editing. At least your sentence is clear in what happens. And besides, maybe this whole scene should be cut in editing anyway. If you've spent days fretting over it during the first draft you might be less willing to do so.
    – Erk
    Jun 3 at 0:29

I have found that when I’ve written a complicated sentence, the kind that doesn’t work well, that it is usually because I’m not communicating the events in my scene very well.

For instance, ‘Everyone who hadn’t turned to me already did so now.’ might be better related as “Why is everybody looking me?” if I wanted the narrator to communicate surprise or worry about being the focus of attention.

The difficulty with your example sentence is that is doesn’t communicate anything beyond the fact everyone turned to look at him.

If every important sentence communicates across multiple dimensions — actions and emotions or reactions and consequences or fears and reactions — then I’ve found that my writing challenges reduce to ensuring that my subjects and objects are clear and that causality is enforced.


You could omit the "turn" action and talk about the result directly:

Suddenly everyone was looking at me.

What might also make this "seem off" to you is that you are using the adverb "now" in a sentence in the past tense. That's wrong. You should instead use an adverb referring to the past moment, such as "in that moment", or not directly referring to a moment at all, such as "suddenly".

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