Revised- 13 A wet drenching fog rolled in from the harbor brings in the stench of garbage, raw sewage and cheap spirits. Turney slipped down an alley nearly tripping over half-naked but still breathing sailor and turned onto Queens St. He rummaged through his stained leather satchel until he found the Kippah with its crudely sewn six pointed star and fitted it to his head. Candle light flickered through the windows of mercantile shoppe of Ibrāhīm the Hebrew, where the Jews of Port Royal met the beginning of each Sabbath. He knocked on the window, giving them his sweetest gapped tooth smile, but was greeted with rough gestures and hands waving him on. He side stepped slowly away counting heads as he did. Turney was faithful in making his rounds and was glad that this being Friday was his one and only stop before engaging in other more pleasing matters of the flesh that were his duties.
Intriguing, though confusing. A tale where the protagonist makes the rounds between the faiths of his community to count them?
Lines 1 and 2: I have an aversion to the overuse of "as", which is too often misused for "while" or "since." Consider: Wet fog rolled in from the harbor heavy with the smell of garbage, sewage and cheap spirits.
Also in line 2, you mention his "kippah", the head-covering observant Jewish men wear or that less religious Jewish men wear when being observant, but you describe it as having a "sewn five-pointed star". This is confusing. The Magen David (Star/Shield of David) symbol of the Jewish faith is a six-pointed star, which one would assume Turney would know by name, but perhaps not, since his personal faith is uncertain. A five-pointed star would, perhaps, be a pentacle, something that could be derived from practical Kabbalism (the applied, too often misapplied, "magic" of Jewish mysticism), but this is not something sewn onto a kippah. Did you mean to? Otherwise consider: Turney (funny, doesn't sound Jewish )rummaged through his stained leather satchel and withdrew his kippah with it crudely embroidered Magen David. --or use six-pointed star if you wish to depict him as a Gentile trying to show respect
Line 3 & 4: The use of "his" is not completely clear. Does it refer to "Turney" or "Ibrāhīm"? The latter is Arabic for Abraham. Therefore, you've established a place and time where and when Sephardic Jews reside--i.e. after the 7th century CE and somewhere in Muslim-ruled coastal lands, likely the Maghreb (North Africa or post-conquest Israel, Lebanon, or Turkey/Anatolia). The Hebrews reaction to him is unwelcoming, contrary to Sabbath behavior. This is a mild hook, because I wonder why--especially as he is trying to show respect. Then again, if he is a census-taker, Biblically Jews would have an aversion to him.
Line 4 & 5: A larger hook because I'm curious to why he is making these "rounds".
Line 6 & 7: While the mention of "Romans" is congruent with the impression of a North African locale, it is anachronistic with times post-Mohammed. Similarly, the list of Christian sects confuses as it not only propels the story date closer to modern times: Anglicans (after 1246 CE), Baptists (after 1609), Presbyterians (1707), and Quakers (late 1640's), but their inclusion also creates confusion as to place, since these were European sects not present in Northern Africa. Thus I am left with a tale of alternate history in an unknown locale and a protagonist that appears to be a census taker: He carefully recorded their names and their numbers as he had for years. But for who? And why?
Nothing grabs me, except the last line, wondering why he had recorded their names for years, but I wouldn't get that far if I had to wade through the first part. Not having much of a religious background I didn't know what a Kippah was. I'm sorry, I don't have any suggestions, all I can offer is my reaction as a reader.
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I thought the world building and detail was rich and concrete. I don't understand what is going on, but as I enjoyed the text I wanted to find out more.
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The scene's setting I feel is developed. However, the plot feels incomplete. Turney seems to be snubbed by the Port Royal Jews. I think portraying why they snub him and how he reacts to them would provide the meaning of their attitude toward him and his toward them.
I feel the same way toward Turney's pleasures of the flesh. The conventional meaning of those pleasures is sex. Though other pleasures may be meant, I take the one that comes to mind first as the one intended.
I feel lingering in the Port Royal Jews' scene is warranted. Fully realizing its meaning on the page means developing its context and texture. The contexts are strong: who, where, when. The texture is underrealized: what (the dramatic situation of the moment is), why, and how. Before moving on with Turney's rounds, I as reader want to know what his interaction with the Port Royal Jews means to him, and me as a bystander accompanying him on his rounds.
Port Royal? A Jamaican maritime town I know best from its pirate traditions, I also know of Nova Scotia's Port Royal's maritime traditions. Developing one or the other's setting would give me a sense of the milieu's context and texture too. Not much, maybe a mention of the smells emanating from a wooden ship's bilges? Fishing maybe. A Dutch East Indiaman barque maybe.
This feels a little like Leopold Bloom making his rounds from James Joyce's Ulysses.
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Extrinsic, to be honest I have hard time with getting a hook set in the 1st 13, but rather use it more as sounding board for the very things you and Dr. Bob mentioned. Had to look Leopold Bloom and no it's not the same. I hesitate to say more about the plot because I'm hoping I can get a couple of readers to run it through the shredder for me and make it a better story.
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Extending the fishing metaphors of the "hook," "setting the hook," and "fish on the hook," I believe an opening thirteen lines only needs at minimum to be bait for the hook. An opening could begin, say, with putting a minnow onto a hook. Or a cast of the baited hook, line, and sinker into the water. There is no overt reason to hook a massive white whale in a few words when a "hook" need not be firmly set until a quarter of a narrative's word count has passed.
I feel that this opening's "hook" is implied by the Port Royal Jews' disposition toward Turney. I consider that "baiting the hook" and an ample dramatic complication for a beginning with an adequately vivid sensory description of the scene. "Baiting a hook" is a simple matter of implying a dramatic complication, which is simply a want or problem wanting satisfaction. Turney's interest in the Port Royal Jews is portrayed in this opening as a want and a problem wanting satisafaction. What I feel is missing is what that means in the moment.
I don't feel that complication is adequately developed in the moment. At this time, due to that, if I had the time, I would not be interested in reading further for developmental editing commentary purposes. Realizing the meaning of this opening scene on the page for readers' benefit is a matter of expressing your creative vision. Missing context and texture in this part lead me to believe that the rest of the narrative is in similar condition. If I were to participate in its development, my creative vision would intrude. And that is a no-no, the worst offense a commenter may make, in my opinion.
The story is yours to create. In fact, what I consider a law of writing, a writer writes the story in such a manner that readers are guided toward the intended meaning.
A wet drenching fog rolled in from the harbor bring[ing] in the stench of garbage, raw sewage and cheap spirits. Turney [would have held his breath had he not been drunk]. [He] and slipped down an alley nearly tripping over half-naked but still breathing sailor and turned onto Queens St.
**I added that extra sentence because the first description is good and has an excellent sensory cue, but you need something to connect the idea of "stench" with Turney. What is his response to this smell? That helps to bring us from a big picture view down to the smaller.
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