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Author Topic: Untitled
mayflower988
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This is my first serious writing attempt. I'm not sure yet if it's going to be a short story or a book. It's set in kind of a medieval world, but I don't want it to be a fairytale. Think "Ever After" rather than "Cinderella". It's about a girl who's spent the last ten years of her life in a convent. It's currently two pages long. I'm using Firefox, so I'm not sure how much of it I can post. Here goes:

As the heavy metal doors strain open, I stare at the outside world. My throat constricts; my heart races. Ten years is a long time, I think. Ten years ago, when I fled to the convent, I fully believed that it was the best decision I’d ever made. After all, the world is full of danger - evil men don’t think twice before completely devastating a girl. Fear had driven me to seek refuge in the convent. Ten years is a long time to live in fear. But ten years is also a long time to live in loneliness.

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mayflower988
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Oops, I forgot to put this - I'd like to know if you'd be interested in reading more. Then if you are, I'd like to email the rest of it (two pages) to you and hear your feedback on it. Please and thank you! [Smile]
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genevive42
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Not bad. But a few things.

Drop, 'I think'. You're already in her thoughts, it's not necessary.

Also, you first name the danger as a general thing, but it would probably be better if it were specific. In fact, when you say 'fear had driven me...' it might be good to say fear of what, and get specific there. Was there a specific predator she was avoiding? Say so right up front and you'll draw the reader deeper into the story.

There's some excess repetition of the fear idea without further enlightenment. That's what makes it excess. If you want to use repetition as a tool, it's good if you can add a new bit of info or a new emotional slant with each new statement. Here, if you wanted, you could go from general to specific. Start the threat big and then make it personal.

For a first attempt, this has a good feel and you seem to have a good grasp of things. Keep at it.

Oh, and since you said you didn't know if thiis was a short story or a novel, I'd recommend figuring out what the end is. Once you have a target, it's easier to estimate what it's going to take to get there.

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mayflower988
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Hey, Genevive, thanks for the tips. Wow, I can't believe I put "I think" - you're right, that is unnecessary. I like how you said to introduce something new about the fear each time it's repeated. I'll work on that. And you're right, I need to figure out where the character is going to be at the end. That makes sense. Thanks again!
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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You can add five more lines (at least half again as many as you have here).
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Tiergan
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Not bad at all. The "I think" didnt throw me off at all. When I read it, it came across to me as she wasnt sure 10 years was a long time, and was trying to convince herself that it was. But if you want it to be fully convincing and leave no doubt, I agree, lose the I "think".

I agree with genevive repeating the fear a couple times is alright and can add impact, but too many times seems forced. Along the same lines, watch out for the "10 years" one or twice is good, but too many and again you risk crossing the line.

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mayflower988
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Thanks, Tiergan, that's a good point. Okay, here's how it is now (I hope this is 13 lines):

As the heavy metal doors strain open, I stare at the outside world. My throat constricts; my heart races. Ten years ago, when I fled to the convent, I fully believed that it was the best decision I’d ever made. After all, the world is full of danger - evil men don’t think twice before completely devastating a girl. Fear of those men had driven me to seek refuge in the convent. Loneliness has led me to leave.
My sweaty hand clutches the borrowed bag; I might be the third or fourth to use it. New things are scarce at St. Joseph’s. The dress I’m wearing is a hand-me-down, stitched up so many times, it’s more stitch than dress.

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rcmann
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Are you sure that you want to use First Person present? It's entirely up to you, of course. And the beginning seems fine. But I personally have always struggled with it and many others do as well. If you feel up to tackling it I wish you good luck and offer respect.
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mayflower988
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rcmann: I haven't written much before this, so I don't think I have enough experience to judge whether or not first person present will be a problem. What about it has caused you trouble? Is there another POV you'd recommend?
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rcmann
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I recommend that you use whatever works for you and works for the story. Just because I have had issues with it is no reason to expect that you will. Write the story the way the story wants to be written, and tell the world to kiss your backside.
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extrinsic
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First-person present is a challenging narrative voice to write for a struggling writer newly begun upon the poet's journey. Daring too, although with plenty of payoff when mastered. One of both that grammatical person and tense's immediate challenges is portraying the immediacy of the unfolding action in the person and now of the moment.

Both excerpts read to me like backstory summary, detailing what led up to the moment the action begins. Fear of molestation that drove the character into the convent, wanting companionship causing her to leave the convent.

The latter excerpt begins with the character leaving the convent, switches to a recollection that gives the backstory, then returns to leaving the convent. Action interrupted.

Consider portraying leaving the convent but try the action in the now moment of the scene, with the character interacting with other characters. Like she sees the gate open, a gatekeeper, an abbess perhaps, gives her grief for quiting the convent, gives her advice about the harsh reality of the outside world, tries a final time to convince her not to leave or bids her good riddance for being disruptive. That would open up an opportunity to get the backstory in without summarizing it in the thoughts of the character directly addressing readers as if from a pulpit.

Taking a look at the first line:
"As the heavy metal doors strain open, I stare at the outside world."

"As" used as a conjunction meaning while opening a sentence, a chapter, a story immediately puts me off a story. It would be the same if the opening started with and or but or which or that used as conjunctions. There's no clause to connect to beforehand at the beginning. A causal issue. Try just describing the metal doors, which I projected the appearance of.

I imagined the metal doors are wide gates set into a castle wall, imagined elaborate iconic decorations, imagined a cross, imagined a bronze patina.

What does the character see of the outside world that she sees differently than she might have seen from within the cloister? How she views the outisde world now from the doors introduces her expectations. Trepidation? Confidence? Caution? Joy? Sorrow? Anticipation? Portray her visual sensations with an emotional undertone.

The best writing advice I've received and taken to heart is to slow down, don't rush through scenes wanting full realization.

I am curious what will happen to the character. I care what will happen. She's pitiful for her threadbare belongings. She's interesting for her fear of the outside world conflicted by her loneliness problem wanting satisfaction. I envision a riotous loss of innocence on her personal journey and pray she finds what she seeks without too much cost. Those bits of writing mischief are artfully managed.

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mayflower988
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Thanks, rcmann. I've been thinking that I may try the past tense. We shall see how "the story wants to be written".
Thanks for your comments, extrinsic. Those are very helpful. Would you be interested in reading the rest of what I have? I like what you said about keeping the scene in the now and interacting. I didn't think I'd be able to include the next sentence, which introduces a character there with her.

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extrinsic
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You're welcome, mayflower988. I'm not interested in reading the rest at this time, thank you. I believe you have a strong raw draft summary to work with. At this phase, though, I would be more hindrance than developmental aid.
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mayflower988
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That makes sense. I'll have to let everyone know when the story is finished. I hope it's not too long from now!
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mayflower988
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Good news! I've figured out how the story ends. Now I just need to figure out how to get my character there.
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mayflower988
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Okay, I've been working on it, and I'm thinking that I may start the story with the events that led to my MC entering the convent, rather than with her leaving the convent. But I'm not settled yet, so I'll post the first 13 lines of each beginning, if that's allowed. Let me know which is a better beginning, #1 - the cause of MC entering convent, or #2 - MC's departure from convent.

#1
Dusk fell around the two sisters on their way home. They picked their way around puddles, past the last few shops to the edge of town. The cobblestones were wet from the rain that day. Dreda could hear it dripping off of the thatched roofs. Meggy had taken her into town, just the two of them, to purchase ribbons and thread. Dreda swung the basket in her hand. She smiled with pride – Meggy had agreed to let her carry the basket.
As the girls passed the last building, the baker’s, Dreda noticed a man standing outside, playing a lute. Fascinated, she slowed and stared. He played a children’s song, one that she and her friends sang often, the one about the ring around the rosy.

#2
The heavy metal doors groaned in resistance as the doorman cranked them open. I stared at the outside world. Rays of new sunlight stung my eyes and revealed the green of the rolling hills, the tree-line that began in the distance – and the road that disappeared into them. I hadn’t stepped outside of those walls in ten years. My throat constricted; my heart raced. When I fled to the convent, I fully believed that it was the best decision I’d ever made. After all, the world was full of danger - evil men wouldn’t think twice before completely devastating a girl. Fear of those men had driven me to seek refuge in the convent. Loneliness led me to leave.

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