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My character, an old woman, has been knocked down, injured and can't get up. There is a crowd of people, spread across a park, who all witnessed the accident. From her view, at ground level, she is aware of a movement across the park, people turning towards her - but how to describe what she hears? - various exclaimations blurred into one. I'm trying, in one sentence, to put the reader down on the ground with her, before help arrives. I appreciate all suggestions.

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  • What is the problem you're having exactly? For example, is this a question about the formatting for having several lines of direct speech into a single sentence? Do you not know what their reactions should even be? Something else?
    – Laurel
    Nov 25, 2023 at 19:37
  • My question was poorly written, I have edited the question.
    – Janine C
    Nov 26, 2023 at 9:50

3 Answers 3

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First, think about all the different ways people might exclaim in such a situation. There will be some screaming in terror, others will laugh with unbelief because they didn't completely see what happened and mistake it for something staged or funny, there will be some calling for others to get an ambulance, some will silently run to the accident to help, yet others will shout orders what to do, and so on.

Next, think about the different ways you might summarize that. You can list it, as I did. You can describe the general effect of many different exclamations at the same time. You can try and describe the general mood of the exclamations (shock) or the behavior that accompanies it (tumult) .

From the function this scene has in your narrative, try and understand which kind of description most serves that function. Is there a character inside that situation? What effect does the situation have on them? etc.

Finally, simply try and write what you think works best and evaluate it on the next day. Revise as you see fit.

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    Thank you Ben - I did evaluate and rewrote the question to make it clearer - probably just a few words would cover it all. At least now I have a better idea of what I need.
    – Janine C
    Nov 26, 2023 at 9:59
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    @JanineC I think you already have the foundation for a good solution there: "... she is aware of movement across the park, people turning towards her, various exclaimations blurred into one ..." Maybe specify what kind of exclamations, what emotions. One adjective might be enough (e.g. "anxious exclamations"), maybe an additional phrase (e.g. "people calling for help"). I'm not a native speaker, you'll probably find better words.
    – Ben
    Nov 26, 2023 at 10:25
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Your viewpoint character will perceive very little of all the crowd's reactions. Think of what the character will see and hear and describe it. The gabble of indecipherable talk, the exclamations of grief or shock or glee or what have you.

From the point of view, just declaring that the crowd exclaimed over it would convey much of it.

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  • Thanks Mary. Yes, I am trying to describe what she hears. I edited the question to explain it better but just that process has been very helpful.
    – Janine C
    Nov 26, 2023 at 10:01
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This isn't all in one sentence, and is probably not the answer you're looking for, but when I write exclamations from strangers in a large group, it looks something like this:

"Oh my gosh!" "What just happened?" "What is that?"

Of course, these are very vague exclamations because I don't know exactly what happens that is so surprising to everyone---and it's not in one sentence like you asked for, either. But if you're really stuck on using one sentence, I suppose you could say something like:

Exclamations of (horror and/or shock?) erupted around the park as _________.

Or something like that.

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  • I have edited the question, my first question. Thank you for your time Izzy - I appreciate your two suggestions but that style of phrasing is what I am trying to avoid.
    – Janine C
    Nov 26, 2023 at 9:53

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