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 » The Bone Tree

   
Author Topic: The Bone Tree
rabirch
Member
Member # 9832

 - posted      Profile for rabirch   Email rabirch         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Hi there. I'm looking for comments on the first 13 and also, if anyone is interested, full reads. The story is complete at just under 3,000 words.

Thanks!

***

"Heard the bone tree singing again last night, Ma."

Ma startled and dropped Maybeth's plate of cold chicken. It landed in front of the empty seat at the table with a clatter. "I told you not to talk about that thing, Jimmy," she said, twisting a hand in her white-and-yellow apron. "It's nothing but backwoods twaddle."

Jimmy licked chicken grease from his fingers to stifle a retort. He should've known better than to say anything. Never did anything but rile her. He wouldn't take it back, though. Not when he could still hear that hollow-reed cry in the back of his skull.

"Careful," he said, instead. "You'll wake Maybeth."

[ May 07, 2015, 02:13 PM: Message edited by: rabirch ]

Posts: 248 | Registered: May 2012  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Not a bad opening, though there's weakish writing in the second paragraph that makes me hesitate. 'startled' is an awkward, clunky description that ruins the flow of the second sentence. And the mom's reply seems too familiar, like I've heard those same lines of dialog many more times in many other places.

The pace of the third paragraph is better.

It's a story I would continue for a couple more paragraphs more, but something tells me that the writing doesn't stay sharp and engaging.

Posts: 1216 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
JSchuler
Member
Member # 8970

 - posted      Profile for JSchuler   Email JSchuler         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
There's a disconnect between the "again" in the first sentence, Ma's initial reaction, and her dialog. Both the "again" and her dialog indicate that this isn't the first, or maybe even the second or third or fifth, time Jimmy has told her about the bone tree. There's frustration in Ma's words that indicate repeated failed attempts to get Jimmy to stop talking about it.

So why does she drop Maybeth's chicken? Why is she startled? I could understand slamming it on the table. Anger would be an appropriate transfer of emotion. But raw fear? The dialog says this is too familiar for fear to manifest as fear, especially in a manner that is more appropriate to a jump scare.

I like the last two paragraphs and would read on to learn about this bone tree. But those first two are tough.

Posts: 388 | Registered: Jan 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
rabirch
Member
Member # 9832

 - posted      Profile for rabirch   Email rabirch         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thanks, Devenius and JSchuler, for your comments. I'll have to consider how to approach them.

It is revealed through the course of the story that Ma has a very good reason for being afraid, but if I'm turning readers off, I'll have to decide how much of that fear I want to telegraph. (My first reader told me that the plate slamming--which was what I had in my first draft) didn't make sense in context with Ma later on in the story, so I'd actually changed it away from that to the more fearful opener.

Balance--it's tricky!

Posts: 248 | Registered: May 2012  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
wetwilly
Member
Member # 1818

 - posted      Profile for wetwilly   Email wetwilly         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Just wanted to pitch in my 2 shekels. I agree that the opening could use some cleaning for reasons already mentioned. I really like the opening line, though. I'm not usually a big fan of the unattributed dialogue opening, but I think this line is gripping enough to make it work.
Posts: 1528 | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
There's a bit of inconsistency in the voice. On the one hand, I think these are supposed to be backwoods people. On the other, we see words like 'startled', 'clatter', 'stifle', and 'retort'. This is more academic, educated word usage which creates a clash with the world the writing is trying to create.

I also can't tell the age of the POV from this opening.

Posts: 1216 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
JSchuler
Member
Member # 8970

 - posted      Profile for JSchuler   Email JSchuler         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
It is revealed through the course of the story that Ma has a very good reason for being afraid, but if I'm turning readers off, I'll have to decide how much of that fear I want to telegraph.
It may be the scene is inappropriate for the fear you want to display. If you modify it so there is a reason she would be spooked by Jimmy speaking, it would be fine. For example, if she is hearing the bone tree and is already on edge from that, and Jimmy, who she doesn't know is in the kitchen with her, speaks, then dropping whatever is in her hand is appropriate.
Posts: 388 | Registered: Jan 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Disgruntled Peony
Member
Member # 10416

 - posted      Profile for Disgruntled Peony   Email Disgruntled Peony         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The opening line intrigues me. The word choice for the narrative is hit-and-miss, but there's clear conflict and the character interaction has me wondering what's coming next. I would like to read this so I can give you a proper review, please.
Posts: 743 | Registered: May 2015  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
WB
Member
Member # 10414

 - posted      Profile for WB           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I don't know what a bone tree is. Jimmy and Ma do. So I'm not experiencing Jimmy's annoyance or Ma's fear, but my own confusion, and that definitely distances me from the story. Tell us!
Posts: 28 | Registered: May 2015  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Bent Tree
Member
Member # 7777

 - posted      Profile for Bent Tree   Email Bent Tree         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
It worked for me. I would turn the page. Send it over if you want a full crit.
Posts: 1864 | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
rabirch
Member
Member # 9832

 - posted      Profile for rabirch   Email rabirch         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thanks for all your comments, wetwilly, Devenius, JSchuler, Disgruntled Peony, WB, and Bent Tree. Much appreciated!

Disgruntled Pony and Bent Tree, thank you for the offer of a read. I'll get this out to you today.

Posts: 248 | Registered: May 2012  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
babooher
Member
Member # 8617

 - posted      Profile for babooher   Email babooher         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
OSC wrote about something he called Abeyance. This has a good explanation of it:

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-keys-to-good-science-fiction-fantasy-storytelling

You have a good example of this. I don't know what a bone tree is, but I trust that you'll reveal it later. You've revealed quite a bit about it, enough to intrigue and draw readers in.

Posts: 816 | Registered: May 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
rabirch
Member
Member # 9832

 - posted      Profile for rabirch   Email rabirch         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Interesting, babooher, I didn't realize that had an official name, though it probably shouldn't surprise me.

Thanks for pointing me to something new!

(And sorry I mistyped your name upthread, Disgruntled Peony!)

Posts: 248 | Registered: May 2012  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Sétanta
Member
Member # 10421

 - posted      Profile for Sétanta   Email Sétanta         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I liked it enough to continue reading it to see where it goes. =)

I agree with other's that Ma's reaction seems "overwrought." In my entire life, I don't think I can remember a time that someone dropped something they were holding in shock, no matter how horrible the thing is I've just told them (including the death of a loved one). That kind of thing only happens in movies, and God knows why they do it, either. A more realistic reaction might be to dismiss him or brush him aside, as though his comment were stupid and childish and not to be discussed. Or she might grip the chicken wing tighter, almost like a weapon, and speak to him sharply.

The good news is that I think her reaction is the only thing that drew me out of the narrative (that and the use of the word "startled" as others have mentioned). It's just a weird paragraph. But the rest of it is interesting.

I do want to say that a lot of people across the threads I'm reading have intimated that explanations better be coming pretty durned quickly in opening narrative. I disagree. As long as it's done well, I think the writer can keep the reader guessing for quite a while on the actual nature of something, or placate them with a superficial explanation that really develops a lot more depth as the story unfolds. I'm not sure what your plans are for the bone tree, but I'd wait a while to find out, as long as everything that's going on is compelling.

S

Posts: 27 | Registered: May 2015  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Disgruntled Peony
Member
Member # 10416

 - posted      Profile for Disgruntled Peony   Email Disgruntled Peony         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
With me, at least, it's not so much that I feel explanations need to come immediately as that I like a clear hook as opposed to muddled confusion. I don't like feeling like I'm purposefully having information withheld from me. In the case of this opening, I never felt that way--I was given enough information to be intrigued but not enough to spoil the twists that are forthcoming.

I've also found that I'm more likely to be comfortable with a hook that takes longer to develop in novels than I am in short fiction. With short fiction I want to be grabbed right away. With novels, I'm willing to be quietly intrigued at first and let things build as time goes on. It's probably just a personal preference, but it's definitely something I've noticed as time goes on.

By the way, I've gotten to read the entirety of The Bone Tree now and it is definitely worth the read. Just a general FYI. XD

Posts: 743 | Registered: May 2015  |  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