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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Time Bomb

   
Author Topic: Time Bomb
Crane
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I've written so many little vignettes in this story, that I'm not sure where the first 13 lines should start. I picked one possibility, and I'd certainly appreciate some criticism.
-----
Tag crouched in the shadows of an overturned dumpster, motionless beside the still form of a homeless man. She watched water drip from his face and matted mane of hair into the puddle which always formed in his lap on rainy days. She studied the homeless man's face for a long time before running dancing fingers over his eyes, nose and cheeks. Her bitten-back fingernails shimmered with colour and when she took her hands away the man looked like Andy Warhol had mistaken him for Marilyn Monroe. Tag wrote her name on the sidewalk beside the man in puffy purple graffiti letters. Satisfied, she stood. At that moment a man came around the corner and he bumped into her; hard enough to knock them both off balance. Tag whirled around to face the stranger, braids flying about her head. She
-----

This looks like 13 lines in my browser, but it seems like quite a lot of text for 13 lines. I hope Kathleen or someone will cut it, if its too much.


[This message has been edited by Crane (edited August 02, 2011).]

[This message has been edited by Crane (edited August 02, 2011).]

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited August 02, 2011).]


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Wow, Crane. What browser are you using?
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Crane
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Firefox, Kathleen. Sorry about that. Thank you for fixing it. Doesn't look so strong now, does it? Now I know what I'm shooting for. Appreciate it!
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Huh! Firefox usually only adds one line to the text box.

There's a template for a 13-line post in this topic:

http://www.hatrack.com/forums/writers/forum/Forum6/HTML/000004.html


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Tryndakai
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How very curious, she's using magic of some kind (I assume) to make street art out of a sleeping (or dead?) homeless guy. My first thought was that he's dead, but upon a second reading, I don't see anything specifying that, so I might just be being morbid . . . but having her paint the face of a dead guy is, in turn, so morbid and much more fascinating . . . lol, anyway.

I think you jumped too fast from her odd bit of vandalism to "At that moment a man came . . ." Sounded forced, and jounced me out of the story because I was so wrapped up in that bizarre, detailed scene, and suddenly we've got a scene from every chick-flick-in-a-subway, kinda deal. Or something . . . maybe it's just the clicheness of the phrase "at that moment," itself. "when suddenly . . ." "just then . . ." that sort of thing.

Also, does the homeless man now in some way resemble Marilyn, as in she's given him lipstick and such along with Andy Warhol coloring? Or is it just that she Andy Warhol'd him? Because he did a lot more than Marilyn in that style, so I'm just wondering if there's a specific detail Tag added, there. Else, just "like Andy Warhol had gotten at him," or some such, might work just as well. Just IMO, or course.

Finally, on a completely different note--hey, I've only just noticed that the size of the post box here in Firefox, at least, is adjustable! I usually use Chrome. Wonder if it's there, too, and I've never noticed, or what . . . ? Anywho, that might explain the overly long post.

Much luck, Crane. I'm terribly curious to read more about a magical graffiti artist of homeless people. Such an odd place to start . . .


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Crane
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Thank you, Tryn, for the advice and questions. Nice catch on the cliche. You're absolutely right about that.

So I'm going to try again with a different point in the story for the 13 lines. Maybe this one is better? Let me know what you think. (I think I understand what we mean by 13 lines, now. the problem is less with my browser and more with me being a thick-head.) If you want to know more about Tag, there's a character interview open for her and her friend, Claudette. You can find out more there. I have a few pages written explaining the premise of the story which would answer your "what's with the homeless guy?" question. Is that appropriate to post here or not? I don't know how much explanation I should do with the premiss. I don't know if I should and let you have fun figuring it out (which would also test if I'm communicating my ideas well or not), or if it'd be more helpful (to me) to give it all away so you can see where I'm trying to go. Advice?
ok, here we go with 13 different lines:
---
A red-head waited for a bus, one shoulder pulled low by the empty baby carrier in the crook of her arm. A grandfatherly man squinted at the space between his fists, just wide enough to hold a newspaper. On a bench, a woman in a suit, knees together, blew on a mug of dirty rainwater. Nothing moved, except Tag who trudged through them, hands in pockets.

A skater slalomed around the frozen figures. He picked up his board and trotted beside her. "Hey girl," it sounded practiced, "you going to Ustathi's talk tomorrow?" She raised a skeptical eyebrow but didn't stop. He waved at her back, letting her go ahead. "I'll see you there, then?" She shrugged without looking back. He hopped on his board, pushed off, leaned left and bumped fists against the man without a newspaper. "Flex wins!"


[This message has been edited by Crane (edited August 03, 2011).]


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wirelesslibrarian
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I liked the first 13 better. In them, I got the impression that the homeless guy was frozen (which the new post confirmed), and that Tag wasn't just spray painting grafitti - she had the ability to generate and apply color with her fingers. If that is correct, you've got a way cool concept. A weird world filled with statue people and mutant grafitti girls? Sounds post-apocalyptic to me, and who doesn't love a good after-the-end story?

The writing was good overall. One suggestion I could offer is to vary your sentence beginnings somewhat. All but two of the eight complete sentences start with either Tag's name or the pronoun her or she. Makes it read as slightly monotonous. The ideas, though, are terrific.


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Crane
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Thank you for your response, Librarian. You've hit the basic-concept nail on the head. You're right about the sentence structure, too. Here's my revision based on the two crits so far. Let me know what else, please.
---
Tag crouched in the shadows of an overturned dumpster, motion- less beside the still form of a homeless man. Water dripped from his face and matted mane of hair into the puddle which always formed in his lap on rainy days. Chin in hand, she studied the homeless man's face for a long time before letting her fingers dance over his eyes, nose and cheeks. Her bitten- back finger- nails shimmered with color and when she took her hands away the man looked like Andy Warhol had mistaken him for Marilyn Monroe, right down to the mole. Puffy graffiti letters spelling her name blossomed over his sunken chest, completing the piece. Satis- fied, she stood. Stretching her hands to the overcast sky, she shook out her shaggy braids.

The overpowering smell of wine belched from the storm sewer. Slap
---

Also, I really love this BB. I've been here two days, and I feel like I'm learning a lot... and have a lot to learn. And it's fun. Thank you, Hatrackers! Or are you Hatrackies? ^_^


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Tryndakai
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Ooh, I hadn't caught the whole frozen thing. Even more intriguing . . .

I think the first opening works a little better, as far as setting up a scene and getting the reader immersed in your world. It has a tighter focus, and so gives me a few details to be super-curious about, as opposed to the second beginning, which, had I not already read the first, would likely have just confused me before finally settling me into the story. Though both angles are quite intriguing. I'd be quite happy to see the second opening come up right away as the scene after the homeless guy bit, if that's where you wanted to go.

As far as telling me what's going on--I'm definitely interested in finding out, but in that ideal way that makes me want to read more, as opposed to needing you to really explain anything up front. Unless you would like critiques on the storyline, or query, or whatever. I'm happy either way.

BTW, have you ever heard of/read "Max Quick: The Pocket and the Pendant"? In that story time has frozen for all but a handful of kids, who run around trying to take care of themselves while grown-ups stand there like mannequins . . . Not to say, by a long shot, that I think your idea's "been done," or whatever. Just a similarity I noticed. I'd love to see what you're doing with it.

Oh, also, your revision of the original opening is quite good. You addressed every issue raised so far, from what I can tell, and while I hadn't even noticed the sentence structure bit that Wireless pointed out, now that you've fixed it the writing definitely flows better. (Despite the odd hyphens in half the compound words . . . I'll take that as an artifact of copy-pasting. ) Also, I like the "puffy graffiti letters." Which were there before, I suppose, but I noticed them more this time . . . probably because they "blossomed."

So, yeah. Props.

[This message has been edited by Tryndakai (edited August 03, 2011).]


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Crane
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Thanks Tryn.

I do want a critique for the storyline. Its really a huge challenge for me to create plot. I've been struggling with it for months (not in a very dedicated way, however). I have a lot of scenes written, mostly near the beginning, some scenes sketched later in the story... but my plot isn't really well in place, yet. I only really have beginning, middle, end. I know that's no way to run a railroad; but what can I say, I'm learning.

I have not heard of Max Quick. There is also an episode of ST:TNG (Timescape) that uses this device.

The odd hyphens are my attempt to get more words into 13 lines. Maybe I shouldn't be doing that? Is it cheating?


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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A hyphen takes up exactly as much space as a space does (in monospace text, which is what is used for the 13 lines), so it doesn't make any difference if you use hyphens instead of spaces, Crane.
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Crane
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So I'm happy for now with the 13 lines (although anyone who wants to offer more feedback is welcome to). Now what I'm struggling with is trying to write a short sentence that summarizes the story. I'm trying to keep it under 15 words, and as you will see, I'm mostly failing. Here is the list of possibles that I came up with, in order from short to long. What I'd like is feedback on is: which sentence is the best one at describing the plot? And how can I make that sentence stronger? I'm not happy with any of these, so your help is appreciated!

Here are the candidates:

Human heroes and uncommunicative aliens must work together to reverse a temporal apocalypse.

A young artist discovers she has just the right tools to restart time.

An injured healer must help a sick alien to save a dieing universe.

Two races, so different that communication is impossible, must work together to restart time.

Two universes collide and only by working together can their respective inhabitants save themselves.

A brilliant physicist must solve a paradigm-shifting mystery in a battle against entropy itself.

Earth's last heroes confront the nature of the universe with the help of a mysterious alien race.

When universes intersect and time stops, a mute artist and an alien castaway cooperate to set things right.

After entropy has run its course and time stops, invaders from another dimension give Earth one last chance.

A quirky band of friends rely on each other to restart time and give humanity one more chance.

Humans with powers struggle to communicate with an alien race which holds the key to saving the universe.

A young artist discovers the meaning of existence when she learns to communicate with a strange alien race.

When an aged universe is too tired to take care of its children, help invades from another dimension.

Only by learning the secrets of an impenetrably alien race can Earths last heroes save this cold, dark universe.

Our energy starved universe devours another dimension but only by cooperating with the aliens there can we save ourselves.

A mute artist learns to communicate with a blind alien race to save Earth from an apocalypse that's all-ready happened.

At the end of time, heroes step forward to discover the nature of the universe and give us all one more chance.

An entropy afflicted universe stutters to a stop and out only hope lies in the minds of an alien race so different that communication is imposable.


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Sakari
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I like the revision of the original opening! I would like to know more about the magic system too, I like how it seems weird.

There is just that one 'always' word that caught my attention; "puddle which _always_ formed in his lap on rainy days." Otherwise the passage is mostly description about Tag's actions, but that one bit is about the homeless - who knows there _always_ is a puddle in his lap? Tag has followed the man? Could it not be "into the puddle forming in his lap"? I'm not sure how coherent I'm here, but something there bugs me

Regarding your effort of summarizing the story in one sentence: I didn't get the whole picture or the plot of your story from the discussion, but personally I would go with one of the sentences that emphasize the protagonist. Could be just me, but e.g. "Two races, so different that communication is impossible, must work together to restart time." does not do much for me, since there's nobody there - just two anonymous races.

Sakari


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mythique890
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"When universes intersect and time stops, a mute artist and an alien castaway cooperate to set things right."

My favorite by far.


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Crane
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Thanks for your feedback, Sakari and Mythique. I think I agree with the sentence that you chose, Mythique.

Sakari, I'm glad that the puddle in the guy's lap bothers you. It "always forms," because the man is essentially a statue. He's sitting there on sunny days and rainy days. The phrase is supposed to make you think that there's something weird going on, so if it does that, then I'm glad. Perhaps there's a way I can make it more clear, though? Should I keep it mysterious at first?


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