This is the opening of my current tale, a historical dark fantasy. Any comments welcome on the voice and whether you would read on. Any comments at all welcome, really.
Thanks in advance.
Suffer a Sea Change
by Damon Shaw
Do not struggle. You will not break free. A sailor knows how to make knots. And nobody can hear you so far from shore. Do not over shout your voice.
You will need it.
We will be... companionable. We will talk like friends. I will tell you of my life. And you will tell me of yours. Afterwards, perhaps, I will let you live.
I was not a good man. The machinery of the world does not produce good men. We are damaged in the making. Poverty, which could have make me strong, leave me broken. The fracture in me, the weakness, was gold.
Posts: 96 | Registered: Mar 2009
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I feel like this is actually shorter than the allotted 13 - for the purposes of this board you could leave out some of the whitespace unless you feel it absolutely necessary for the effect.
From what there is, it seems interesting. I haven't made up my mind as to whether or not I'd invest myself in the story, but I would definitely read on a page or two to get a better feel.
A few nits: "Poverty which could have make me strong..." should be "made", and going on, "leave me broken" should be "left me broken," unless you've got a character that intentionally has slightly messy grammar.
I like the tone of it. That interests me. I want to know who the conversation is between, and how they have it without speaking. Is it a telepathic thing? I don't mean that sarcastically; that's what I thought as I read it. That's what I took from the first paragraph being conversation, but not in quotes.
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Hi Damon, i liked this opening quite a bit and would definitely read on. I love the opening voice. I love how you've already dropped in hints of the historical aspect (I'm guessing its early Industrial era?). The term "over shout" did cause me to pause, however.
I almost think you could get rid of "I was not a good man" and drop right into "The machinery of the world..." which to me is the more compelling line.
Posts: 2185 | Registered: Aug 2007
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Thanks micmcd - it isn't actually telepathic - I just can't be bothered to put quote marks around every paragraph. It is all spoken, so I think I can get away with using 2nd and 1st person without quote marks.
annepin - good call on cutting that sentence. The period is around 1905 when steam really began to take on sail, and the Russian Revolution was beginning. I may change "machinery" to "engines," or "engine."
I like the opening narrative quite a bit. I will say this, though: if I were reading it in a different mindset, I might have decided that the third paragraph was an indication that the captor was just some lonely guy looking for someone who would talk nicely and respectfully to him (the fact that the prisoner is 'fighting' for his life would pretty much guarantee that act), and I would have passed. Although...it occurred to me that such people can also be somewhat insane and, consequently, have a completely unpredictable agenda behind the abduction. Since that just happens to be where my mind was when I read your passage, I would want to read more.
And, at that point, I'll find out what kind of MC I'm about ready to meet. But, at least, you got me interested.
It is a very interesting opening and I would likely give the story another page or two to decide if I would continue.
Is the MC the narrator? One thing i would caution is that if you have a MC that is not fluent in English (like this one seems to be) the way to show that is in the dialog (and internal monolog), not the narration. Skewing the narration that way just makes the whole story more difficult to read and digest from the reader's standpoint. The two things that micmcd pointed out really pulled me out of the story and made me focus on the SPAG errors. When it's in dialog or monolog the reader instictively attributes the "mistake" to the character, but in narration it just breaks the "mood."
That said, little things like not using contractions in the opening dialog helps set the period and/or non-native speaker. Few non-native English speakers use many contractions until they are quite fluent (or has been my experience living and working in Asia, Africa and the Middle East). Also, as I recall, contractions weren't heavily used in English a hundred years ago (for example, go watch classics like Guys and Dolls and you'll note the lack of contractions in Media of the 50s and 60s) So, great job with that.
I really liked this opening - the voice is very strong, and drew me in right away.
Most of the problems I had ('over shout', 'could have make me strong' etc) were answered by you revealing that the character does not speak fluent English. My problem in that case is that this is not made clear enough to me. 'The machinery of the world does not produce good men' and 'the fracture in me, the weakness, was gold', for example, are lovely phrases, and really quite eloquent for a person with a limited grasp of the language.
There are no easy fixes to that. You could play more with grammar, syntax, vocabulary. You could make the sentences more 'basic', or add in a few more slightly incorrect words, but by doing any of that, you'd risk losing the voice, which is currently very engaging. Is it essential that this person not speak fluent English? Currently, 'over shout' comes across as bad writing, and 'could have make me strong' looks like a typo, so I think it's an issue regardless.
Still, voice difficulties aside, I'd definitely read on. I assume that the reader is playing the part of whoever it is that this man has kidnapped and tied up? I'm excited to see how we get out of this situation!
Thanks, all. I'm glad it seems to draw most people in.
@Treamayne - interesting point about only making the accent notable in the internal monologue or dialogue. I know what you are saying, but in this case, I think it may have to be included in the narration, too. The MC is talking directly to someone and heading somewhere very specific, and so I think I'll try to do the impossible -- have some grammar oddities that nonetheless don't interrupt the flow of the reader's enjoyment. One of the ways I hope to get away with it, is always to make the same mistake, so that the reader gets used to it. I haven't yet decided what to use yet, but probably something to do with verb agreement.
I agree I have to say where the protag is from as soon as possible, so the reader can relax.
I really like the first three lines, (up until 1. Greed), they quickly set up an image of two people, one the captor/dominant, and the other who is tied up and threatened. I didn't quite understand the subtitle '1. Greed', would this be in the main body, a chapter title, or what? It broke the flow a bit for me. I also think that it might help to try and include something about the person tied up, or does that come quickly afterward? It might help as well to ground it in more tangible descriptions: I like the writing after the subtitle, but it seems slightly vague philosophy and I can't really connect it with the narrator. I would definitely read on though, so well done!
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