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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Sight (first 13 lines. 15 if you count the subtitle)

   
Author Topic: Sight (first 13 lines. 15 if you count the subtitle)
Crashburn274
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In the Land of the Blind...

William Edward Carpenter was born, pronounced healthy, and sent home with his father and mother. If his parents felt anything unusual about him, they then paid it no mind. The baby's lungs were proof of his health. He exercised them without significant pause during every waking moment. James and Janet Carpenter complained of this to friends and family, but, because he was their first, no one believed the child's behavior unusual. “Babies cry,” they said, “did you try that pacifier I suggested?” It was only when William happened to be laid down very near a heater that his parents discovered something odd.
The Carpenter's heaters operate on the principle of electric resistance. In addition to heat, they radiate a small amount of red light. In this glow, for his first waking moment, the baby William stopped crying.


Thank you for looking at this! I wrote an introductory paragraph setting the stage, but when I decided this was a short story (11 300 words) rather than a novel, I cut it down to the subtitle presented here. Its not a style I've seen elsewhere, and I appreciate any advice you have regarding this choice.

[ February 25, 2013, 09:10 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Didn't count the subtitle, but it was still a paragraph over 13 lines.
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Robert Nowall
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Shouldn't this be in one of the Fragments and Feedback areas?
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Thank you, Robert. I didn't notice that.

I'll move it now.

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Denevius
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are you looking for a reader? if so, i'll take a look. you said it's about 11,000 words?
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babooher
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I think the psychic distance in this is deeper than it should be. I found the explanation of the type of heater awkward. I also thought you started in the wrong place. I think I'd cut or move everything except something along the lines of "In the red glow of the electric heater, the baby William stopped crying." I think that would be my first line and paragraph, and then I'd work in about his parents' relief in paragraph 2. The parents'relief would indicate (without needing to spell out or tell) how bad the crying had been.

I'm still intrigued, but the word count plus this intro makes me wonder if the work doesn't need more trimming.

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extrinsic
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An essay about Psychic Distance:
http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/psychic-distance-what-it-is-and-how-to-use-it.html

Though the above essay author Emma Darwin says psychic distance is sometimes called narrative distance, and John Gardner's take on psychic distance is close to Darwin's, from which she draws, they are different principles with degrees of overlap and degrees of distinct separation.

Narrative distance is the degree of separation or closeness between narrator and character voices, even if the narrator is first person. Psychic distance is the depth of access to a character's in the moment perceptions and thoughts.

Dave King's essay, "Decoding Narrative Distance";
http://www.davekingedits.com/articles/pov.html

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babooher
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So I should have said narrative distance? I'm confused.
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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by babooher:
So I should have said narrative distance? I'm confused.

Perhaps. If thoughts are expressed they are the narrator's. The psychic distance is shallow in that regard, too, versus deep. And perhaps open rather than "deep" or close narrative distance.

The voice expresses the narrator's perceptions. Which is one method for opening a story, particularly when expressing multiple viewpoints throughout a narrative. John Grisham's The Confession narrates in that manner. Also, the superlative quality reminds me of William Thackeray Makepeace's Vanity Fair, which also narrates in that manner, both of which express multiple viewpoints.

My sense, I too think the child quieting when bathed in the heater's glow is a strong point. The opening voice is on the superlative side but not too artlessly. And I love the opening line set in title case as if a subtitle. "In the Land of the Blind . . . " a one-eyed man would be king. I think that's a stronger title than "Sight," though I think ellipsis points in titles, and opening lines, unnecessarily signal context and texture work a story should do.

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SR Dev
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I'd love to take a look at this.
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babooher
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Extrinsic, would you say "The voice of the excerpt feels like it comes from a distant narrator. Narrative distance is open," about this opening? I'm using your words as I understood them to make sure I understood you from before and now.
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extrinsic
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This excerpt's narrator feels to me like a nearby bystander. Open but not distant narrative distance.

I know this voice as that of a somewhat objective, somewhat subjective omniscient reporter or the investigative journalist who knows the circumstances of the Carpenter family and perhaps has a depth of knowledge about the characters' perceptions and thoughts, perhaps after the fact. The phrases "complained of this to friends and family" and "discovered something odd," for example, imply a comparatively close narrator who has access to character perceptions and thoughts.

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tesknota
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Intriguing concept. I assume that everyone born into this population is blind, and this child is the first to see.

If this is the concept, I think it would have a bigger impact if you deliberately use more sensory description (touch, hearing, tasting, smelling) in the first paragraph (before "his parents discovered something odd.")

I agree with extrinsic and babooher that the red light is the key point. I would try to make that really impact the reader. Describe the red light more than the heater itself.

Otherwise, your words have a really good flow and I enjoyed this opening. =)

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