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Author Topic: Short story
trailmix
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My name is Brodi. At last count I was 178 years old and as far as I can tell, I shall never die. I have been cast into the deepest, darkest oubliette in the Kingdom. I’ve been in here so long that I have taken to recounting stories of my past to the darkness. A better audience than that fat boar of a King and all his bony cronies, I’ll tell you that much. I don’t suspect the good King thought I would survive the fall. Honestly, I kind of wished I hadn’t. Although I do take comfort in the fact that I outlived the old pig. The King, by now, has past on; it’s likely his successor has as well, perhaps his after that. There is not a single person alive, save for myself of course, that even remembers my crime. Murderer they called me but that isn’t exactly true is it? When Fate has it in for you, there is no


I know, generally, people hate 1st person POV. That's what I am going to go with for the moment. I am more interested in comment s on whether or not this is hookish enough and whether there is any information that you, as the reader, need, that you think I am leaving out. That's a fairly large weakness of mine. Thanks again Hatrackers.

Scott

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited January 21, 2007).]


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wbriggs
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I'm not exactly hooked or exactly not hooked in the first half of the paragraph.

"Honestly, I wish I hadn't" -- omit, I think

past on -> passed on

The last part is where the sentences mystify rather than inform. "Murderer, they called me, but that isn't exactly true, is it?" We don't know, since we don't know what he did. "Believe me, I tried." How? We don't know.

I don't have any problem with 3rd person POV here. I suspect that once you get into the story, you may not need the framing device of "I'm here and I'm going to tell you a story now," but it's certainly no sin.


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trailmix
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My name is Brodi. At last count I was 178 years old and as far as I can tell, I shall never die. I have been cast into the deepest, darkest oubliette in the Kingdom. I’ve been in here so long that I have taken to recounting stories of my past to the darkness. A better audience than that fat boar of a King and all his bony cronies, I’ll tell you that much. I don’t suspect the good King thought I would survive the fall. Honestly, I wished I hadn’t. Although I do take comfort in the fact that I outlived the old pig. The King, by now, has passed on; it’s likely his successor has as well, perhaps his after that. There is not a single person alive, save for myself of course, that even remembers my crime. Murderer they called me but that isn’t exactly true is it? When Fate has it in for you, there is no escaping her. Believe me, I tried. That’s how I ended up in here.
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Max Masterson
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I read the section and didn't want to keep reading. I had no sympathy with the character talking. He says he was called a murderer and doesn't quible that he killed someone, only the way he should be described. If he didn't murder the person he should have a feeling of remorse. Even if the killing was necessary, most people forced to kill will wish they didn't have to.
Also I suspect the story is going to be about how he got where he is. In which case the level of suspense is greatly reduced. If I know the character will live to be 178 and end up in a prison then I'm not going to wonder if he will survive any dangers described in the story. And if he is in there for so long then the story would have to be set so long ago that it's probably no longer relevant to anyone alive, something u touch on by saying everyone is dead who remembers him.

If I'm to be hooked i need to identify strongly with this character, explain his reasons for doing whatever crime he did and make me feel how he feels. If I'm well inside him then I might even care how he got there.
(as always I'm only giving my opinion as a reader, I don't claim to be right)

[This message has been edited by Max Masterson (edited January 21, 2007).]


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Survivor
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I think that the narrator needs to show more awareness of his audience...not us, the people he believes might read his narrative.
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wbriggs
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Hi, trailmix, what was the purpose of your second post? You changed the wording slightly, which I'm sure is a good thing, but only very slightly. Are you getting what you need here?
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trailmix
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Yes I am. Im boggled at how much information is required in the 1st 13. I mean, if I give all the information asked for in the comments thus far, whats the purpose of reading on? Shouldnt the reader have questions after the first couple paragraphs? Isn't that one of the reasons to continue reading?

Im not being arguementative. I'm fairly new to the serious writing world. Is the first 13 lines really going to decid whether I make it through the slush pile?


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oliverhouse
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> Is the first 13 lines really going to decid whether I make it through the slush pile?

It is certainly the first hurdle, so in many cases, yes.

I haven't been published either, but here's how it looks to me. You don't need _everything_ in the first 13. You need enough information to set the hook, and you have to be extremely careful about asking questions and not answering them. Nothing important that the viewpoint character knows should be left out. In your case, he knows what he did; he knows that he's in prison unjustly, and he probably knows something of why.

As far as space goes in the first 13, I think you could get some of your key points across in a lot fewer words, and then tell more of the information that we need to know.

Think about the specific information you convey:
* Name
* Age
* Unnaturally long imprisonment
* Unnamed king did it to him
* Committed a crime (I assume I can take him literally, since he's not qualifying the words "my crime")
* Imprisoned for murder.

Your original had 174 words. Here's a pure cut:

quote:

My name is Brodi. At last count I was 178 years old and as far as I can tell, I shall never die. I have been cast into the deepest, darkest oubliette in the Kingdom. The King, by now, has passed on; it’s likely his successor has as well, perhaps his after that. Not a person alive, save for myself, even remembers my crime. Murderer they called me but that isn’t exactly true is it? When Fate has it in for you, there is no escaping her. Believe me, I tried. That’s how I ended up in here.

That's 98 words: a 44% cut. Those are all your words, not even reordered. All the data are still there, with only one weakness: I didn't want to rewrite, so I didn't make the linkage between the king and the MC explicit. If given a little latitude, we could make the sound better and tighten up even more. I have a version that's 69 words, a 60% cut, if you want to see it.

Now you have much more space to drop a few more tidbits -- what did he do, and why isn't it "exactly" murder? Why does he live forever? Is he trying to escape? Why is he telling this story? To whom is he telling it? Why was he framed (or whatever)?

The first question is important, I think, and the others may or may not be. Put in what you need to set the hook. I agree with Max that you have an issue with suspense, so if there's any way to have suspense in the story, you might want to put that up front.

Now, having said all of that -- sometimes the issue isn't the data that are put into the first 13. Sometimes it's tone, atmosphere, philosophy, or something else. I've given you specifics here based on what I think you're doing. If I'm wrong, chalk it up to an overactive imagination.

Regards,
Oliver

[This message has been edited by oliverhouse (edited January 21, 2007).]


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RMatthewWare
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Yes, I think you should put everything of relevence in the first thirteen lines, end there, and call it a story. Can you say 'flash fiction'?

Seriously though, I was slightly intrigued with what you've come up with. It would be enough for me to read the next thirteen lines.

The first person works fine because I get that this is a person explaining what has happened to him. It's really the only tense I think that would work for the story I think you're trying to tell.

I disagree with the problem of your character being immortal. I recently read "Wild Seed" by Octavia Butler and loved it. I cared about Doro, even though he was immortal, because I cared about what he would turn into, what his internal struggle was.

That's all I got for now,
Matt


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Green_Writer
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Summary doesn't always lead to disaster. Look at the Star Wars movies. However as a story writer, you don't have the impressive John Williams scoring or starry scenery to intrigue the audience. You need to reel us with a taste of your interesting characters or world.

On a side note, I love the first person perspective. I feel it most interesting because it keeps you guessing (is the narrator revealing the whole truth? is he lying to himself?)


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trailmix
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Thank you so much oliverhouse. I appreciate the time you took to comment on my 13 lines. You conveyed your point very well. If you want to email the version you did with only 69 words I would definately look over it.

And thanks again to everyone else that left a reply so far. I will be putting up the ammended version of my 13 here soon. Please stop by again and let me know if Im heading in the right direction.


Scott


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trailmix
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My name is Brodi. At last count I was 178 years old and I shall never die. I have been cast into the deepest, darkest oubliette in the Kingdom. The King, by now, has passed on; it’s likely his successor has as well, perhaps his after that. There is not a single person alive, save for myself of course, that even remembers my crime. Murderer they called me but that isn’t exactly true is it? How was I to know that the ring I pilfered off the old bird was the only thing keeping her alive? All the King and his cronies saw was me kiss the old bags hand, then she crumbled to floor all loose skin and bones. If I sound callous its because Fate has been dogging me since day one and when Fate has it in for you, there is no escaping her. I've had to do some things I'm not to proud of to stay one step ahead of her but I've never killed anyone. Not on purpose anyway.

Question; How important is it to address how the story is being written down?


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Max Masterson
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I much prefer the newer version. I find it much easier to have sympathy with him. Also I don't get the sense of him just sitting there telling a story from the past, this time. With the more condensed summary the fact he has been there so long doesn't mean he's necessarily going to stay there. Much better for me.
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kings_falcon
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I like the last version the best. Now I have some sympathy for him. He's a thief but not a murderer.

I'm lightly hooked. I'm interested in the MC's situation and would give it a few more lines to see if a story starts. After all, what kind of story is a guy in a hole going to tell me?

I'm not wondering how he's writing the story down. Eventually, I'll have to get a feel about whether he's telling me or trying to write. My sense was that he was telling rather than writing though. I think this is because he says he's telling the stories to the dark. Oh wait, that was the last version.

I would like to know the connections between the people. Who was the Old Bird? How did she relate to the king? But it doesn't bother me too much because I suspect we have moved past her involvement.


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trailmix
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Initially I had the story being told. I am still working out the vehicle I'm going to use to get the story to the audience. I like the idea of him telling the story. He was a bard before his imprisonment. I thought that recounting stories to maintain his sanity, entertain himself and as to not forget, would be somewhat natural. He has been in the oubliette for over a century after all. Tom Hanks was talking to a volleyball after a few months in castaway.

I intended the tale to actually start when he is an apprentice to a lord's court jester, after a bit of summary about the unussual circumstances of his birth, as well as his early childhood.


scott


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Survivor
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Then you'd have to deal with him talking like a crazy bard who doesn't even have a volleyball.
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oliverhouse
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Much better, Trailmix. I would definitely read on (assuming the technical stuff is cleaned up). My only question is who the old bird was, but I'm assuming that I'll find out later -- and, more importantly, it's not something I need to know just now.

I think this is an excellent example for my cutting blog (here). Do you mind if I post it there?

quote:
Question; How important is it to address how the story is being written down?

I'm going to be slightly contrarian here: I don't think it matters at all. I've heard some people say that that's one of the more important aspects of first person, but I just don't think so. I've been looking at it since coming here because I was reading about how important that is -- OSC talks about it explicitly in _Characters and Viewpoint_, for example -- but I've read too many excellent first-person accounts that never tell you anything about the circumstances for the tale-telling. It's probably important that you think about _why_ your narrator would tell the tale, because it's part of his character, but how the words have been recorded? I just don't think it's important.

In other words, there might be situations in which you _need_ first-person narration; in others, you might improve the story by using third instead; but I think that some stories just feel right in first person, and I would worry about getting the story right before you worry about the mechanics of how it was recorded.

Regards,
Oliver


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trailmix
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Survivor,
You're right but I would file that under pros not cons. I beleive it would be a great way to use the unreliable narrator. If I have the skill to pull it off still remains to be seen but the idea has potential I think.

oliverhouse,
I don't mind at all that you posted a link to your blog. I haven't gotten a chance to read it yet but I assure you I will. I feel the same way about the mechanics of 1st person. I'm still not sure if we are right but that's fine for now.

scott


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