Hatrack River
Home   |   About Orson Scott Card   |   News & Reviews   |   OSC Library   |   Forums   |   Contact   |   Links
Research Area   |   Writing Lessons   |   Writers Workshops   |   OSC at SVU   |   Calendar   |   Store
E-mail this page
Hatrack River Writers Workshop Post New Topic  Post A Reply
my profile login | register | search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » War Demons -- Revised

   
Author Topic: War Demons -- Revised
Neoindra
Member
Member # 3422

 - posted      Profile for Neoindra   Email Neoindra         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Here is a revised opening to the scifi short story War Demons that I was hoping to get feedback on. I would love a critique on the entire work if anyone is interested. It’s close to two thousand words. Thank you.

Laura paused to take a couple of deep breaths. She glanced at the lush vegetation around her as she repositioned the precious cargo hidden under her jacket. He sighed in his sleep, but otherwise didn’t stir. Rescuing the small child had taken longer than expected and now the sky was starting to lighten with the impending sunrise.
Glancing at her watch she was surprised to find that she had been on the run for three hours. The lights still glittered in the distance frighteningly far away, but she knew from experience that was only a trick of the night vision lenses that had been implanted into her retinas years ago. They were what allowed her people to traverse in the complex underground tunnels that had become their home, but here on the

[This message has been edited by Neoindra (edited June 01, 2006).]

[This message has been edited by First Assistant (edited June 03, 2006).]


Posts: 58 | Registered: May 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Survivor
Member
Member # 213

 - posted      Profile for Survivor   Email Survivor         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Way too much digression into needless out of character exposition. Also, watch your syntax.
Posts: 8322 | Registered: Aug 1999  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
HSO
Member
Member # 2056

 - posted      Profile for HSO   Email HSO         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
A couple of things to consider:

Can the story introduction be more active? Especially that first sentence? What I mean is that the story starts with Laura pausing. This may have an adverse effect on a reader, who may literally pause his reading immediately. And there is more trouble with that first sentence by not knowing what she was doing before she paused. Seriously, give that first sentence a lot of thought...

The next thing is describing the setting initially. Lush vegetation tells us only that there is lush vegetation, not where she truly is. Consider developing the overall setting first, then develop the finer details. This is critical. Where the heck is she? What is the name of the place? These are the two things that come first (in my opinion, of course).

Third, I had to read the fragment three times before I realized that the precious cargo was the child, and the "he" referred to the child. Consider being up front with what Laura is carrying by explicitly stating what she is carrying, if not in that second sentence, then by developing it CLEARLY in the following sentence. There is nothing to be gained by doing otherwise. I asked myself, "Who the heck is this 'he' anyway?" I worked it out, but far too late.

Lastly, the hook might lay in the first sentence in the second paragraph: "She was on the run for three hours." Wow! That could be a killer opening sentence, in my opinion. It's got everything (almost). So much better than "she paused ... deep breath." Just something to think about.

Oh, and Survivor is right, too.

[This message has been edited by HSO (edited June 01, 2006).]


Posts: 1520 | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Neoindra
Member
Member # 3422

 - posted      Profile for Neoindra   Email Neoindra         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Okay, I think I see what you are saying. Would something like this work better?

Laura had been running through the thick vegetation for three hours with the small child secured under her jacket. Her lungs burned as she gulped in air and her body begged for rest, but she knew that if she was going to survive she had to reach the base, and soon.
Looking toward the horizon she focused on the lights of the base glittering in the distance. They appeared frighteningly far away, but she knew from experience that was only a trick of the night vision lenses that had been implanted into her retinas years ago. They were what allowed her people to traverse in the complex underground tunnels that had become their home, but as dawn approached they made it difficult for her to see.


[This message has been edited by Neoindra (edited June 01, 2006).]

[This message has been edited by Neoindra (edited June 01, 2006).]


Posts: 58 | Registered: May 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
JBear
Member
Member # 3463

 - posted      Profile for JBear   Email JBear         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I think that what you have serves as more of notes--much of the information can be revealed in other ways in a much more concise manner. It's to much explanation and not enough action for a hook. It seemed very expository. Maybe you could try to reveal such information more concisely by revealing your character's thoughts? Something like the last post by Neoindra seemed to me to provide a good guideline for how to do that. You might also try to rewrite the chapter from the POV of the child? and see how that works out (maybe it wouldn't work at all, but it's worth a try). Less expository, more action and revelation.
Posts: 11 | Registered: May 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Neoindra
Member
Member # 3422

 - posted      Profile for Neoindra   Email Neoindra         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Okay, well since I am Neoindra, do you mean that you liked the rewrite of the rewrite better than the original rewrite?
Posts: 58 | Registered: May 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
JBear
Member
Member # 3463

 - posted      Profile for JBear   Email JBear         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I apologize, I got confused as I was reading something else at the time I wrote the post. I thought the rewrite was really good, yes. The only nitpick I have is the last sentence. Something didn't quite seem right about it. The part about the undergound tunnels might be expressed in another way or left for later, while leaving the brief explanation that her retinal implants made it hard for her to see without the bit about the underground tunnels. The re-write is certainly good enough as is, though, to get me to turn a page. Maybe even just re-working the sentence would do the trick. Play with it, I think you've got a great start.
Posts: 11 | Registered: May 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
wbriggs
Member
Member # 2267

 - posted      Profile for wbriggs   Email wbriggs         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I think you may be starting in the wrong place. Laura is in an action, but it's an unchanging action. What's the story about? Maybe, start there.

Also, I'd put this down because although you are certianly giving detail -- night vision glasses, living underground -- you haven't told me what I really want to know: why is Laura running, and who's the kid?


Posts: 2830 | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
HSO
Member
Member # 2056

 - posted      Profile for HSO   Email HSO         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
It's a little better, but the exposition, setting issues remain. The first sentence, in my opinion is a little awkward, too. Please allow me to explain in detail, and later with some license by showing an example of what I mean:

quote:
Laura had been running through the thick vegetation for three hours with the small child secured under her jacket.

Firstly, the "had been" roots the introduction firmly in in the past, not the present, which may or may not be your intent, but as written it's static, telling us only what happened already. What is she doing now? If you're going to start immediately with Laura, then it might be best to describe her actions in the present (not to be confused with writing in past-tense, by the way). Perhaps by replacing "had been" with "was" will do, since many stories start off with a classic passive statement (such as Ray Bradbury's "It was a pleasure to burn"). To keep the "had been" in this opening, then it might benefit by drawing a comparison to what she had been doing to what she is doing in present, such as (roughly): "She had been running [...], but she now stopped." Still, I'd recommend against it. Simply stating that she "was" running will suffice.

Thick vegetation: again, this tells us almost nothing except there is thick vegetation. There can be thick vegetation in my back garden if I don't pull up weeds and mow the lawn now and then. So where is this taking place? Throughout the entire fragment, we never learn where we are. Yes, there's a base in the distance, but we don't even know what that really means yet. If you prefer, tell us why the thick vegetation is important in it's own sentence. Is Laura scratched from prickly bushes? Take the time to develop things, and give everything a reason for being there. So, does this thick vegetation place have a name? Almost everywhere has a name. Consider telling us where we are.

Small child: It's good that the child is developed more clearly. The not-so-good is that we don't know whose child it is. Because of the way this is written ("the" child), it implies the child isn't hers and that she has kidnapped it. If this is true, be honest about it right away. Why is this child important? Additionally, later in the fragment we learn that Laura is worried about her own survival, but no mention of the child's survival is made. (You might think it's implicit, but it's not.) A simple "their survival" would do the job if Laura is indeed worried for both of them. Consider being very precise in your intent, and don't withhold vital information from the reader. Real suspense is not developed by withholding what's actually happening, or what the characters know. Real suspense is developed by getting us to care about characters (yes, even in an opening), and putting the characters in situations that are difficult or near impossible. Don't let your opening be too mysterious. Facts will engage a reader far more than a vague opening.

Here's one way of opening those first few sentences that doesn't withhold -- with license (apologies in advance):

Laura was running for three hours before she finally allowed herself to rest somewhere in the forbidden zone of Royal City. Thornweeds and thick vegetation had all but shredded her trousers; the scratches on her legs were painful and bleeding. But the male child she had taken from Outpost Four remained unharmed and quiet underneath her leather coat. [and so on...]

The above doesn't withhold anything, but it does create a little mystery at the same time. It also establishes setting, both local and overall, and "attempts" to help the reader engage with Laura's plight by giving her some scratches (thereby using the vegetation theme you were developing). Since I don't know what you're really trying to acheive with it, I had to use some license. Sorry for that.

Regarding exposition, it's the following bit that I believe we all had issues with in the first version:

quote:
[...]that had been implanted into her retinas years ago. They were what allowed her people to traverse in the complex underground tunnels that had become their home

Do we really need to know this specific information right away? Probably not. What if we edit that out, and a few other bits, and see what we're left with? Let's see how that second paragraph might look (I am not, however, saying it's better) without exposition:

quote:
ON the horizon, the lights of the S-Base glittered. They appeared frighteningly far away, but THIS was only a trick of HER night vision implants.

That's all we need to know for the moment (though establishing that the base is home immediately thereafter would be a a good idea). If you prefer, you can develop the tunnels differently by saying that Laura was looking forward to being home, safe, in the lightless tunnels under the base -- this makes it clear (indirectly) why she has the retinal implants at all. But avoid the exposition of why she has implants, simply show them working!


Right. I apologize again for rewriting and editing your piece, but I honestly could not see another way of making my point any clearer. I do not presume that my versions are better, but they do illustrate the points I made and perhaps some of the others' points as well.

Good luck with this.

[This message has been edited by HSO (edited June 02, 2006).]


Posts: 1520 | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Neoindra
Member
Member # 3422

 - posted      Profile for Neoindra   Email Neoindra         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I would like to thank everyone for the constructive criticism. It really gives developing writers the chance to experiment and develop their own particular style.
Posts: 58 | Registered: May 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Survivor
Member
Member # 213

 - posted      Profile for Survivor   Email Survivor         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Your second version is pretty good. It's got a few things I would change...it's not usually a good idea to use the past perfect for the first line of a scene, for instance. But overall, it's a good start. The exposition, while still not very streamlined, is under control and clearly on topic. The POV is there, in that moment. The action and tension make sense.

If you don't mind getting more of my comments, send it on over.


Posts: 8322 | Registered: Aug 1999  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Woodie
Member
Member # 3346

 - posted      Profile for Woodie   Email Woodie         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Honestly, I think more info about the child would hook me more than the funny eye lens.

I'll look over the whole thing if you are still looking for a reader.


Posts: 88 | Registered: Apr 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Sara Genge
Member
Member # 3468

 - posted      Profile for Sara Genge   Email Sara Genge         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
hmmm.
I agree, more kid, less lens. I can't tell you how to do it because I can't write that well. However, I do read alot and I liked your second opening.

Posts: 507 | Registered: Jun 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Neoindra
Member
Member # 3422

 - posted      Profile for Neoindra   Email Neoindra         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thank you Survivor and Woodie for offering to read. I’ve had a bad weekend so I haven’t gotten it out yet, but will send it to you within the next two days if you can still read, if not I understand.

[This message has been edited by Neoindra (edited June 04, 2006).]

[This message has been edited by Neoindra (edited June 04, 2006).]


Posts: 58 | Registered: May 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Survivor
Member
Member # 213

 - posted      Profile for Survivor   Email Survivor         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I may be late getting it back, but I'm sure I'll manage.
Posts: 8322 | Registered: Aug 1999  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Woodie
Member
Member # 3346

 - posted      Profile for Woodie   Email Woodie         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'm hoping to get to it tomorrow.
Posts: 88 | Registered: Apr 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Neoindra
Member
Member # 3422

 - posted      Profile for Neoindra   Email Neoindra         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thank you both for reading it. I’m not in a hurry so don’t worry about the time frame.
Posts: 58 | Registered: May 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is not enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.
UBB Code™ Images not permitted.
Instant Graemlins
   


Post New Topic  Post A Reply Close Topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Contact Us | Hatrack River Home Page

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2