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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Dream the Chasm

   
Author Topic: Dream the Chasm
Denevius
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Months of pretending to be human in front of twenty-one year old Oh Ah Hyeon, months of inserting herself into the young student’s circle of friends, going so far as to enroll in classes at Jeju University; months of going out on group dates, of late night drinking games after intense studying sessions for crucial exams; months of doing her assigned duty to the Gwanlyo to be with Ah Hyeon as often as possible without revealing her identity, of pretending to be alive when she was dead, almost came to a metal and smoke end for Kim Jung Hyun when the car speeding in the opposite direction swerved into their lane.
Ah Hyeon issued a short surprised scream, but Jung Hyun remained calm as she wrenched the wheel to the right and pressed down hard on the brakes. Her car went into a neat slide, and the

[ March 07, 2013, 10:56 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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Denevius
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This is Speculative Fiction/Urban Horror, and the first draft will be done in about two weeks with an estimated word count of 7000. Comments on the above are welcomed.
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History
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Hi, Denevius.

I believe I am familiar with the characters and setting from one of your previous stories, or am I mistaken?

The first paragraph = sentence I found interesting from a style perspective, and risky, but in the end I had to conclude it was too much information presented too fast for me (info dump, particularly of too many proper names). I had to read it thrice to be clear who was who, and what was happening in the moment, and I still didn't know the why (i.e. why this dead protagonist is spying upon the 21 year old for the Gwanlyo, or what/who the Gwanlyo was)?

Now there are a number of published works that have similiarly tripped me up in their openings that, reading further, I have come to enjoy, but I still feel the reader shouldn't need to work so hard in perceiving the protagonist and conflict.

Good luck.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Denevius
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Hey History, thanks for the response. Yeah, this is one of the longest first sentences i've written in a while. I can understand your reticence in reading further.

Thanks again!

todd

p.s. Oh, and yeah, I've presented this universe before on this site.

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Corky
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Well, I'd read on. And I didn't have any trouble with the first sentence, long as it was.
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Denevius
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Hey, thanks for the comment, Corky.
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Grumpy old guy
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I'm sorry, but the names are an immediate turn-off. Character names, particularly of major characters, need to be chosen with utmost care. At least there aren't any acutes or umlauts to be found.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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A valiant attempt at a periodic sentence. You have the gist of the principle, only the information is given as backstory and doesn't develop the main idea given at the end and the perhaps problem wanting satisfaction hinted at in the beginning of not being human and wanting to fit in doesn't fully develop and I feel like it's all tell when I'd like to see Kim Jung Hyun's struggles before the car crash.
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pidream
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Like others I found the unfamiliar names a bit distracting. I might have led with the line, "months of doing her assigned duty to the Gwanlyo." And a few words describing that followed by the rest would have drawn me in more. Sometimes too much detail is as bad as too little. But I might have read on.
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Denevius
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Thanks for the replies. And the names were chosen with "utmost care", they just aren't American names. Sometimes that happens in the world, people existing without American names.

Sorry, don't mean to be caustic. The gripe some have of foreign words not being translated in the text is legitimate, but the names complaint always comes off as, I don't know, narrow minded and a bit obtuse.

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Grumpy old guy
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Denevius, I wasn't meaning to be parochial, just that names, foreign or not, need to be kept simple or the reader will struggle with them. That is a turn-off.

I have no problem using foreign words, if they are in context: sacre bleu or konichi-wa, for instance, or merde--which most people think means sh*t but is actually untranslatable into English, or so I'm told.

Phil.

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Denevius
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No problem, and thanks again for reading and responding.
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tesknota
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I think what you’re trying to do here is a creative way to reveal the gist of the relationship between Oh Ah Hyeon and Kim Jung Hyun. I get the general feel of it on my first read through, but I had to read it a couple of times to absorb all the information. It’s just so much all at the same time. Maybe a bit of restructuring could make it less taxing on the reader to gain information?

Here’s what I see going on in order:
1. Pretending to be human
2. Inserting herself into a circle of friends
3. Enrolling herself in classes
4. Going on group dates
5. Late night drinking games
6. Doing her duty to the Gwanlyo without revealing her identity
7. Pretending to be alive

There are three general types of activities I split these into. The first is mundane (2, 3, 4, 5). The second is intriguing (1, 7). The third explains why, or reveals motive (6). Perhaps if you rearranged the activities into these groups, you could create more impact – maybe even a twist.

The mundane activities would make me assume that this girl has a crush on this boy and wants to get closer to him. The intriguing activities would surprise me, and make me rethink. She is not a normal girl with a crush – she is a supernatural girl who is in love with a human boy… hm. Then, when you throw in the motive, I rethink again: perhaps she doesn’t like him at all; if this boy is her duty, perhaps she actually thinks his social behaviour is very irritating because it makes her job to protect him just that much harder.

Another thing is with the names. Because these are Korean names, they possess a different structure than the ones English readers are used to. In the first lines, I would stick with only “Ah Hyeon” and “Jung Hyun”. You can include their full names later on in the story, after the reader gets used to who is who and who does what. For the first 13 lines, however, I would stick with first names – especially because the names are in a different structure. Also, since these are foreign names, I’m struggling with gender identification. I know that Jung Hyun is a girl because you refer to her that way, but I am just assuming that Ah Hyeon is a boy. I don’t think you specified Ah Hyeon’s gender.

Anyway, these are just a couple of thoughts. Do with them as you will.

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extrinsic
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A writing principle about names—persons, places, things—calls for either reasonably assuming the target audience is familiar with them or developing their context and texture, backstory and mythology so the audience becomes familiar with them.

As tesknota notes, Eastern person name conventions are inverted from Western conventions: surname first, given name last. Westerners in general aren't adequately familiar with that convention.

Westerners are somewhat familiarized with Korean names from news mass media. Is the target audience familiarized with these names? If readers bring familiarization to the story. Great. If not, a best practice familiarizes them with the names. Gradual introductions develop familiarization.

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Denevius
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Hey Tesknota, the rearranging of the order of events is a pretty cool idea. I think I'll give it a whirl. And with the names, you guys are making good points. I guess the only thing I think, though, is that trying to create a comfort level with foreign names in the first 123 words of a story that's nearing 7000 seems a bit unnecessary. Wouldn't you think so?

But yeah, Ah Hyeon is actually a girl. And again, thanks, especially with the re-ordering of events of the first line. I'm really digging the idea.

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Grumpy old guy
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But, you want them to read past those 123 words and get to the end of the story. Personally, unless there was another really impelling reason to keep reading, I wouldn't.

Phil.

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tesknota
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Well, Ah Hyeon being a girl totally changes my interpretation of events. =)

Maybe this is just a very strong preference on my part, but the names of characters in a story determine whether I'd read on or not. When I grab a book, I turn to the center to read a few words before I start from the beginning. If I see names I have trouble pronouncing in my head or are just very out there, chances are that I will not read the book (unless there was another reason like Grumpy mentioned).

I think names are even more important in short stories. If I were reading a book and I see unfamiliar names, I might think I'll get used to them later and give it a few pages. However, common sense tells me that the shorter the piece, the less likely I will get used to the names. I cannot emphasize with a character unless I am familiar with every part of its being, and if I don't form any meaningful attachment to the characters at the beginning of a story, I'm not motivated to read on - especially if the beginning of the story is about the characters, and not about something else.

So stick with the names. They're your characters, and their names are part of who they are. But in the first 13 lines, refrain from calling them more than one thing to ease the strain on the reader. Don't make the reader try to understand your characters' relationship AND how foreign names work at the same time. The former is what you're going for; the latter can be done as an afterthought later on.

Example (later in the story):
Oh Ah Hyeon, just Ah Hyeon to friends, earned average grades in Jeju University.


I hope this makes sense. I just woke up from a nap. This is terrible, but Korean names are just something I am really bad at telling apart. They all sound similar to me at first listen. I have trouble telling Korean names apart both on paper and on the screen. Just keep in mind that some of your readers will, like me, have this problem. How you get them to engage despite their unfamiliarity with these names is up to you. =)

Good luck!

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Denevius
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I wrote the names like that in an attempt to keep close to the culture. When being introduced to a person in Korea, you just aren't going to get their first name only, and the beginning of a story is the introduction to the characters. Though I don't agree with your point, I do understand that to many it's a source of concern, and perhaps they wouldn't read further because of a foreign name, whether it's Pishujay, Ahmadinejad, or Kim Jung Hyun.

Anywho, thanks for the feedback!

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pidream
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The comments about foreign names are honest ones coming from their POV. I've been to Asia, in fact, I'm living there now and I still have a difficulty
with names as they have with mine. This just MHO but maybe it less about the name being foreign, than our inability to pronounce them correctly. I can't tell you how many times I have butchered someones name here and been red-faced for it. But hey by all means remain true to your vision of the story. Sana suwertihin ka!

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Denevius
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quote:
A valiant attempt at a periodic sentence. You have the gist of the principle, only the information is given as backstory and doesn't develop the main idea given at the end and the perhaps problem wanting satisfaction hinted at in the beginning of not being human and wanting to fit in doesn't fully develop and I feel like it's all tell when I'd like to see Kim Jung Hyun's struggles before the car crash.
Hey extrinsic, I've thought about this comment and I think you were right. I think this universe ultimately works better as a novel, so I've gone ahead and began the process of expanding it.
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extrinsic
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I agree the universe suits a longer form. The complication of not being human and wanting to fit in for whatever reasons seems to me of a magnitude for long fiction. The way Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land takes a novel to fully realize a similar complication. Recent Korean events also suggest to me a parallel and tie-in with alienation and efforts to be recognized might be timely and relevant thematically.
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