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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Belief

   
Author Topic: Belief
Bruce King
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2,400 word YA SF/FA near future short story. I am looking for any and all feedback on the first 13 and also comments on the full copy. Thank you.

*


Larry McIntyre stood alone at the edge of a cliff gazing down at the sea. He took a deep breath in, sighed and walked away from the thousand-foot drop. After a few paces he turned around to face the ocean again. His heart began to race. What if he was wrong? It didn't matter. He ran as fast as he could toward the edge and jumped.

As he flew out over the ocean images of what had led him to this place flashed through his mind. The looks of pity as he waddled down the hallways of his high school. The girls that always just wanted to be friends. The endless therapy sessions. Soon, it would be over.

He stopped flying and started to drop. His little life review turned into a sickening realization that he was going to end up

[ February 05, 2013, 02:59 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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mayflower988
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Ooh, that sounds interesting. I did have a hard time picturing what you meant by "the seascape disappeared". I think maybe if you'd said the part about his momentum first, then the seascape disappeared, then he found himself in the room full of monitors, it would have transitioned more smoothly. It starts out feeling like he's committing suicide, then you introduce the sci-fi element all of a sudden. I felt a jolt not unlike Larry's.
What does VR mean? Virtual reality? If that was the case, why was we worried about being wrong? Could Larry die by jumping off a virtual cliff?
Anyway, I'd be interested in giving you some feedback on the whole story. Do you need the feedback by a certain deadline? Shoot me an email if you don't mind a slow-ish response. I could probably get it back to you in a week, at least.

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extrinsic
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Although the premise intrigues me, that of Larry searching out a virtual reality portal to a secret room, the static verbs and the withheld fact of the virtual reality read like ninety-nine out of a hundred struggling writer narratives' openings I encounter.

Standing, glancing, breathing, sighing, racing heart, rhetorical question, refused answer, and an unexplained suicidal action. Wow, a whole bunch of writing principle issues in the opening paragraph.

Unreported virtual reality openings have about as many challenges and detractors as waking openings. This one withholds Larry's knowledge of the virtual reality from readers. It fools readers into believing Larry jumps to his death, but he is saved by passing through the portal, though he is in no real danger whatsoever.

These are everyday issues editors have with writers' narratives: static voice (static verbs), a Dischism of a writer breaking into the middle of the action as if leaving the alpha setting of the real world and waking in the setting of the narrative, and inartful withholding to create a false dramatic effect.

The second paragraph describes teenage angst and ennui that suggest strongly Larry is suicidal. The third paragraph all but finalizes the outcome of his suicidal jump. Then, wham, abruptly, Larry lands safely, more or less, in another virtual reality.

Consider for treatment opening at a different time, like, for example, at the cliff top, Larry reviews his role playing game strategy before he leaps and the stakes if he misses the portal. Also consider just describing his sensations of the setting, the causal sensations that he reacts to in order to leap through the portal. Like does he know the cliff face is a thousand feet high? How? What would he see if he looked down that would imply the cliff is that high? Try giving those few telling details so that readers know the cliff is precipitously high.

Is the ocean calm? Turbulent? Surreal? Glassy? Turbid? Seafoam green? Azure? Cobalt blue? Cerulean or baby blue? Foaming white caps? Drab green swells? Does Larry run on grass? Hay? Heather? Pavement? And so on.

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skadder
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I have to say that I dislike the witholding.

As a reader I feel I've been taken for a ride. Your main character knows he is in a virtual world--something that must be in the forefront of his mind and yet the intro leads (misleads) us into believing he is doing something that could kill him.

We dip into his thoughts, yet as a writer, you carefully avoid mentionning he is looking for the 'secret room' in a virtual world until he finds it.

The 'its-not-a-real-world' surprise revelation is mentionned in the Turkey City Lexicon--see Jar of Tang.

The secret room sounds a bit like the secret room in the Matrix--the Architect's room. I would re-think the description.

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Bruce King
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Thank you for the feedback.
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Bruce King
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Extrinsic,

I appreciate your lengthy critique.

I was wondering if you could elaborate on your comment about "writing principles".

Thank you for all your help.

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Denevius
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hello bruce. i'll take a look at the entire piece. just send it to my email whenever.

todd

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Bruce King:
I was wondering if you could elaborate on your comment about "writing principles".

Writing principles span a gamut of mechanical style, craft, and voice concepts. In the case of the areas I commented on, craft is on point and voice to a lesser degree. As skadder noted, many common science fiction writing speed bumps are detailed at the Turkey City Lexicon. Other writing speed bumps arise here and there, like the admonition against waking openings.

One speed bump that's as old as can be is using static verbs like seeing, standing, sitting, etc., that summarize actions and directly tell readers what a viewpoint character does rather than showing the sensations the character perceives. This is a telling voice when perhaps a showing voice is more dramatic, appealing, and compelling for readers, especially for openings. Even in a virtual reality, a cinematic portrayal of the setting can be a powerful opening. So long as the stimuli is causal.

Logical causation is another potential writing speed bump and as old as ancient Greece as a writing principle. This cause causes this effect. Action causes reaction. Stimuli cause response. Be the effect, reaction, or response a physical action, a thought, or an emotional outburst.

Several causation logical fallacies are common in struggling writers' writing. The Cum hoc; ergo, propter hoc fallacy: with this; therefore, because of this. The tree fell down when the monster roared. The tree fell down because its roots gave out.

The Post hoc; ergo, propter hoc fallacy: after this; therefore, because of this. I prayed for a gift pony on Christmas. I got it; therefore, the wish caused the pony to be given.

The Ad hoc; ergo, propter hoc fallacy: to this; therefore, because of this. This fallacy is subtle but most common. Ad hoc fallacies illogically attach unconnected or inverted causes to effects. He stood on the precipice overlooking the azure sea. He sighed. He looked down at roiling combers crashing against the jagged rocks below. He ran toward the lighthouse on the promonotory. He missed playing with his childhood friends on the wild coast.

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Bruce King
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Thanks for the clarification.

I get the static verbs idea. Showing versus telling is something I definitely struggle with. However, I am not sure how the ad hoc fallacy applies to my first 13 lines since fallacies have to do with faulty reasoning in an argument, not an explanation of why something happened.

I appreciate your input.

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extrinsic
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Ad hoc fallacies portray little, if any, or inverted causality. That is faulty causation, in this sense, a lack thereof. Creative writing is a form of argumentation, which does rely upon logical causation as much as debate, argumentation, and critical analysis. Just the conversation that creative writing is is not overtly contentious, more so persuasive in that readers enjoy the created emotional stimuli of a dramatic work.

One reason I feel your opening thirteen lines has an ad hoc fallacy comes from placing the cause, searching for the portal to the secret room, after Larry jumps from the cliff, the effect.

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Bruce King
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Got it.
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RyanB
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Put another way: your reader is going to feel cheated at the bait and switch. You told us "my life sucks" is why he jumped off the cliff and then revealed that's not the case.

It doesn't play well.

OSC's "Character and Viewpoint" and "How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy" go into great detail on what readers expect given what you've told them.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Please read the topic on how to tell when you've got 13 lines.
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