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Hello all, hope you're managing to avoid the hail (in May... what the...)

I've got a couple of sentences today. These might be stylistic decisions, but if there's a grammar rule, please let me know.

A) His heart pounding with adrenaline, he picked up...

B) Heart pounding with adrenaline, he picked up...

C) With his heart pounding with adrenaline, he picked up...

(I appreciate that there are numerous variations, such as 'His heart hammered as he picked up...', but I'm more interested in any general rule with this type of sentence opener than the actual sentence itself, so that I can apply it globally)

D) ...and landed in the water between two rocks.

E) ...and landed between two rocks in the water.

- I'm sure there's a rule here! It may well be time to dust off those grammar books.

Many thanks in advance!

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    • I'm interested to read advice on the first section too. As for the second part, D says that he/she/they/it landed in the water, whereas E states that the rocks are in the water.

      Hope this helps.

      Also, hail? Ouch! It's just showering here in the NW of England. 'tis a bit nippy though. 

      Edit: Me and my big mouth. It's lashing it down now. Not so much cats and dogs, more lions and wolves. 

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      • Thanks Baz - and hope you stayed dry!

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      • For the first set, C is a non-starter. The double-with stands out like an adrenaline-infused thumb.

        Other than that, I'm not aware of any rules, per se. There is one school of thought on it that suggests that you are changing focus between the clauses, which creates cognitive micro-friction, making the reader do more work to understand what's going on. Of course, the construct is so common…

        Personally, I might be more inclined to go with "His heart pounderd…" and give myself the option of separate sentences or a semicolon. Or, better still, make adrenaline the subject of thal clause, given that while the phrase is common, it's grossly inaccurate. (Also, depending on the type of book you're writing, reference to adrenaline might be anachronistic.)

        Likewise for the second choice. What do you want to emphasise? According to Harry, the final word lingers in the reader's mind. So, D says "he got wet, but damn it, at least he escaped cracking his head open," whereas E says "it wasn't a painful landing, but now he's soaked through."

        Which do you want to say? One of those, or something else entirely?

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        • As always, you have given me much to think about, Rick. Given yours and D.M.'s comments, I'm cutting the adrenaline. It's good to hear that there are no rules here - I was expecting something like you mustn't split the X and Y. On a re-read, the double 'with' was definitely an issue!

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        • Personally, I like B and D. They seem to speak to how he would experience it in the moment: his heart first, then what he did.  The cold water first, then where he was.

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          • These were also my two favourites, thanks.

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          • In my writing, I follow the school "less is more" so I tend to write tight. I always check sentences for balance and rhythm, and by this I mean how they sound when spoken & read, how they sit among the prose. Here are my opinions:

            A) His heart pounding with adrenaline, he picked up...

            It's sufficient to say His heart pounded. He picked up... And by puting a full stop between the two ideas, you make each one of them stronger. We know what makes the heart pound, no need to state it as it distracts & weakens the idea. Readers want to read on, specially if it is a scary or tense scene. For fast pace use short sentences.

            B) Heart pounding with adrenaline, he picked up...

            Pounding is the countinuous form of the verb, and it's ok to use it if you don't use it too often at the begining of sentences or it will create a monotonous sing-song. I've read work that goes a bit like this: Glancing over his shoulder, he opened the door... Stepping inside, he switched the light...  Rushing upstairs... you get the idea.

            My edit: Heart pounding, he picked up... but depending on the context of the prose of course.

            C) With his heart pounding with adrenaline, he picked up... 

            This seems to be a fast paced scene, so avoid anything that slows down the tension. My edit: With his heart pounding, he picked up... for same reasons as before. The words "With his" at the begining of the sentence are not too distracting because the reader concentrates on what follows. They can stay.

            D) ...and landed in the water between two rocks.

            You could add a bit more drama to bring the setting & scene alive like this: ...and landed in the water, just missing two rocks. It makes us see the movement in the scene and (all important now) the dangerous rocks. We lost "between" but if he missed two rocks, they must have been pretty close. It all depends what is more important to the story: the danger of the scene or how close to each other the rocks were.

            Generally there are no good or bad rules. Just good and bad writing...

            Hope this is helpful.

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            • This is so helpful, thanks DM. I have definitely been known to overuse such subordinate openers, and am trying to use them sparingly. I think I will go with 'Heart pounding, he picked up' which was my favourite construction.

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