Hi all. It's been a long time since I posted anything. I hope to become part of the Hatrack community again.
I'm concerned that the first thirteen below does not move fast enough and that there is no apparent speculative element in these lines. Please let me know what you think.
quote: Harvey Gimlet grabbed his satchel and slipped away from his parents. While they and their hippy friends chained each other to a forestry bulldozer, he crept down a ferntree gully and made his way along the stony creek. He pushed through bracken and over the woody debris from last year’s floods until he came to the mouth of a narrow gorge. He stopped and stared. It was draped with hundreds of orb weaver webs. Thousands of tiny bugs were caught in the threads. Most were swaddled in silk, but a few were suspended unwrapped, glittering like jewels in the light. It was wonderful. He removed the magnifying glass and tweezers from his satchel and approached. This is how Ali Baba must have felt.
I really like this. I like the writing, I like the imagery; I can see it all as I'm reading, it's very clear. To me, it's smooth and interesting.
I am missing the hook though. In other words, I'm not engaged into wondering what the consequences of his actions are going to be. I'm not sure why I'm not engaged on that level yet, but maybe it's because I don't understand Harvey's motive for slipping away from his parents yet.
In terms of increasing the apparent speed of the opening, if that's something you feel strongly about, I'd suggest shortening your sentences by breaking them up, and giving yourself one or two paragraph breaks.
For what it's worth, the slow pacing of it doesn't really bother me. Still, that being said, I would suggest two paragraph breaks. One after the very first sentence to highlight it, and one after he stopped and stared.
Posts: 94 | Registered: Jul 2012
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Strong descriptive writing mode. A little on the remote perception side though.
I'd suggest bringing character voice more into the foreground. "Hippy friends chained each other to a forestry bulldozer" is character voice. Maybe adding another modifier would make the personal meaning and character voice and attitude stronger. //Hippy-dippy//, for example. Or more, //flower-power hippy-dippy friends. And that would portray a strong potential attitude toward a potential topic or theme, maybe introducing an interior-life dramatic complication Gimlet faces, his personal problem wanting satisfaction. His parents neglect him emotionally because they pursue their own selfish agendas, eh?
The looking actions are patently narrator voice, A character cannot see himself looking, sensation mode. Nor in most credible situations consciously look. Looking is typically a nonvolitional reaction to visual or other sensory stimuli that draws the eye. Gimlet is exploring, after all, but he's not thinking about looking and he's not internally reacting to what he sees. The narrator tells his reactions. They are on the generic side. "Stopped and stared." "It was wonderful." The narrator interjections create an unsettled voice from jumpy transitions between character voice and narrator voice. Consider delving deeper into introspection writing mode, portraying Gimlet's thoughts and how he reacts internally to the stimuli he personally encounters.
The mention of Ali Baba does set up a potential fantastical premise that might relate to an external-world dramatic complication. Though a bit of an obscure cultural reference since Ali Baba's story isn't current in popular culture.
Ali Baba related to a dramatic complication might imply Gimlet is on an other world adventure where milieu emphasis story type is foreground, The opening of which typically involves leaving a routine setting and entering an other world and encountering problems that impede a return to the sanctuary of the routine world. The general dramatic complication being struggling to return to routine. The outcome being returning to the original routine world or a new normal routine in the other world. Meanwhile, since it's a hero's journey, at a degree of personal cost, personal transformation also is an outcome, typically personal growth.
I'm not partial to the term "speculative." Its meaning to me is intellectual curiosity and theoretical inquiry. Somewhat to do with actual fantastical premises, but fantastical premises involve highly improbable or impossible creative motifs, like that of the singular magical motif phrases that open and close the thieves' cave from the myth "Ali Baba and the Forty Theives." "Open Sesame" and "Close Sesame."
Again, a strong descriptive approach to an opening but a few craft shortcomings that I feel keep this opening from being all it can be.
Sorry, I but this doesn't work for me. Clearly it seems to work for others, though.
First I found the the presentation of it as a block of text was a little off-putting.
My general impression is that I feel removed from what is happening. It feels quite non-specific at times but the rest I have trouble visualising.
I think it is perhaps because it is countryside and that is infinitely variable--a hospital ward is easily visualised, but a treefern gulley? Wood debris? Is that tree trunks washed away in floods or small twigs?
The narrow gorge--I can't picture that clearly as a gorge can come in a number of highly different configurations. Coffee cups are pretty much the same size and shape, so you can get away with just saying coffee cup. But gorges can vary by significant amounts.
Since your MC is outside, I feel I should really know what the weather is like, even if it is passing reference. Is it hot, blue skies? Or is it very humid or even overcast? This may help me ground in the scene.
When he encounters the orb webs I feel I can visualise things a bit better, but I wasn't hooked. I think perhaps your MC's possible dislike of his parents suggested by the line '...they and their hippy friends' sounds a bit judgemental and he comes across as little obsessive with his liking of bugs. I think you should consider that making someone dislike other people in an intro can put off a chunk of readers unless they really deserve it (serial killers, rude people etc.).
I don't think people need worry too much about lack of speculative elements in the first 13 if it doesn't naturally happen. I try and get something in if I can, but some stories don't work out that way. You have to hook in other ways--good writing, tension, jeopardy etc, character interplay.
Posts: 2995 | Registered: Oct 2007
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Thanks for the nice words and all the feedback!
Extrinsic, thanks for the thoughtful response and the clear suggestions for improvement. I was trying for character voice/introspection mode with "it was wonderful" and "this is how Alibaba must have felt" but clearly missed the mark. It is an 'other-world' story.
Skadder, I'm still processing your comments about landscape etc. I will have to think about how to describe a things more specifically and remain efficient. Appreciate the mention of the 'dislike' factor being off-putting for some. It is a concern for me as the amelioration of the tension is an important part of how the story resolves.
Hi Denevius, it's 2000 words but not ready for readers yet, I'll take a raincheck though, if that's okay?
Posts: 1683 | Registered: Aug 2004
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