a novelist, a ...


Can one say:
1-Psychological thriller about a novelist, a telekinetic, who causes disasters simply by thinking about them.


I don't like 1. I think the sentence would work if you had more nouns in a row.

2-Psychological thriller about a novelist, a telekinetic, a madman, who causes disasters simply by thinking about them.

3-Psychological thriller about a novelist, a telekinetic and a madman who causes disasters simply by thinking about them.

Do you think 2 and 3 work?

  • boozer

    Senior Member
    3. tells me the novel is about 3 different persons, of whom the last is a madman who causes disasters. :D
    Last edited:

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    No.1 is fine. It would also be fine without the second comma.
    Boozer is right in condemning no.3. For it to work, you would have to alter the punctuation:

    3-Psychological thriller about a novelist (a telekinetic and a madman) who causes disasters simply by ...


    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    For me, (2) doesn't work - not in this emotionally neutral description of a plot. Of course we can emotionally describe someone as a madman, a nutcase, a blight on society, an unexampled twerp, and the multiple appositions work just fine.

    (1) punctuated as such says that a novelist causes disasters: the protagonist is primarily a novelist, Stephen King gone to the bad perhaps. The interpolation 'a telekinetic' adds an explanation of how the novelist can do this. The relative clause belongs with the novelist. Without the second comma, the relative clause attaches to the telekinetic, and now it's about a novelist, but one who has a secret life as a disaster-causing telekinetic.

    (3) requires that second structure: first we get to the novelist, then that is put in apposition with the double description that has the relative clause. Now it's the madman and telekinetic who causes disaster. In speech you might be able to get away with the other interpretation, where both telekinetic and madman are interruptions to the novelist who does something (and there's a comma after 'madman'). That's a perfectly possible structure, after all:

    3a-Psychological thriller about a \/novelist, a telekinetic and a \/madman, who finds his novels are coming disastrously true.

    (An apposition echoes the intonation of the first phrase.) That's as opposed to the intonation where there are three people - which in print is practically the only way to read it. (A list has non-final fall-rise on each item but the last, which has a final fall.)

    3b-Psychological thriller about a \/novelist, a teleki\/netic and a \madman who join forces to cause disasters.


    English - England
    The sentenece in its present form cannot be saved. No matter where the comma or intonation appears, and despite the singular verb form, with the construction, there will always be the question, "How many people were there?" hanging in the background.

    I would suggest, "Psychological thriller about an insane, telekinetic novelist, who causes disasters simply by thinking about them."
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