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Author Topic: Creation - Fantasy flash
alliedfive
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This is an old story whose ideas I always liked, but the plot I never felt good about and crits verified that. This is a reworked version. Interested in thoughts on the 1st thirteen and readers for the finished thing (probably today or tomorrow).

1st Thirteen:

The little girl Sibbi came to me on a winter’s morning with a question tilting her pink lips. She carried a yellow spineflower between two perfectly formed fingers. She had wild dark hair, and eyes that shone blue enough to shame the sky. She looked exactly like my daughter. Her looks had been the easy part--accomplished in only four generations. But that day, something new kindled in those glacial blue eyes. I can only describe it as an intensity that I almost dared believe was familiar.

“Da-Wensir, who made the flowers?” she asked, twisting the thorny thing back and forth in front of her nose.

I stood slowly, feeling the weakness in my old legs and the lurch of my fragile heart increasing its modest pace.

“Who do you think made them, little one?”


*KDW - I may be a line long. It's been awhile since I've posted.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by alliedfive:
*KDW - I may be a line long. It's been awhile since I've posted.

No, you're fine.

And welcome back.

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Rolag
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Hi alliedfive. I'm new here.

My overall impression was of an interesting story about a genetic engineer.

"The little girl Sibbi came to me on a winter’s morning with a question tilting her pink lips." I liked the imagery here and it gave me enough to start visualising the scene.

I also liked the idea of the yellow spineflower and could imagine what it might look and feel like.

"two perfectly formed fingers"
I interpreted this as your intention to show Da-Wensir admiring his handiwork but I found I had stopped reading and was instead wondering what other kinds of fingers the girl had. Maybe it's the word 'two' that distracted me.

I wondered why Da-Wensir wanted to make a replica of his daughter and why it had taken four generations to achieve it.

"Her looks had been the easy part". This suggests that Da-Wensir had tried to do more than recreate the appearance of his daughter.

I was intrigued by the reference to something new in the little girl's eyes that Da-Wensir "almost dared believe was familiar". I wondered if the something new was a reminder of his daughter or of someone else and why he was hopeful of it. Do you think "dared to believe" reads more clearly?

"Da-Wensir, who made the flowers?"
This suggested to me a source of unresolved tension. My interpretation was that Sibbi already knew the answer and was just seeking confirmation. Perhaps there is more to her than meets the eye. Perhaps Da-Wensir doesn't realise it because he's blinded by her likeness to his daughter.

"the lurch of my fragile heart increasing its modest pace"
This reinforces the idea that this is a pivotal moment.

Your few lines generated a lot of questions that hooked me as reader straight away.

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Denevius
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You don't state the exact word count, but if it's flash fiction, I'm guessing between 600 to 1200 words. But for a piece of that expected length, you have an awfully long opening of description without ever getting to the point of the narrative. I would say open the piece with the girl asking who made the flowers, but the problem with that opening is that I don't think it'll be very enticing for a reader.

I just don't think your story begins in any of the opening lines you wrote here.

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Denevius
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Oh, and it probably doesn't help that for a flash fiction piece, the title is 'Creation', which is very long, and very complicated. An attempt to cram something so big into something so short is probably going to cause serious problems writing-wise.
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skadder
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I have no problem with the opening's length or the 'getting to the point' of it as, since I haven't read the the whole story it is impossible to pass judgement on that aspect.

I also have no issue with either the place you have started or the title--the story will either feel complete or incomplete, but since I haven't read it all I have no idea if the author will succeed or fail.

I like the tone of the writing. I think you can drop the second use of blue and just go with 'glacial eyes'.

Otherwise, I'd just be nit-picking...a strong start.

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Denevius
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I mostly agree with your sentiment, skadder, that there's serious limitations to critiquing the first 13 lines of a piece of writing. For the longest time on this site, if I was interested in a story, I'd just ask for the entire piece without saying anything about what was posted.

At the same time, I do think there is some value if the writer is confident in their craft, has a strong idea of what they're doing, and so can take what's most useful in suggestions that often seem to ask for too much in the very beginning of a piece.

And, let's face it, if you're posting your openings here, you know good well how the site works and what to expect. There are plenty of other sites where you can post the entire piece and get feedback that way. It doesn't make sense to put up a critique for your fist 13 lines, and then not actually expect people to say anything except, "I can't respond until I read more to see what happens".

As for this story, though the poster doesn't say how long the story is, it *is* listed as flash fiction. If this is true and not a mislabel, the story is going to be around 600 to 1200 words, as I said earlier. Anything more, and calling it flash fiction I think is incorrect.

***
From Wikipedia: Flash fiction is a style of fictional literature or fiction of extreme brevity.[1] There is no widely accepted definition of the length of the category. Some self-described markets for flash fiction impose caps as low as three hundred words, while others consider stories as long as a thousand words to be flash fiction.
***

Keeping that in mind, we already have a piece that has an opening of about 135 words, most of which is description or introspection. Now, is this the best way for a flash fiction piece to start? Well hey, if the writer can get away with it, sure. For me, though, that opening feels like warmup writing before the story actually begins.

And there's a couple of problems with where I'd say the story begins. At the moment, I can't tell who the story is about: the narrator relating the story to us, the little girl, or the flower. It could be about any of these, but to me, what this means is that the narrative isn't focused. And an unfocused opening to a flash fiction piece, in my opinion, spells doom to the story overall. This style of writing needs to be crafted with a laser precision or else it fails.

Not to mention the fact that the most interesting, unique aspect of the story so far are the names: Sibbi and Da Wensir. There's nothing particularly telling about the flower, especially since the description is only of the girl. And not to be flippant, but dark haired blue eyed little kids are kind of a dime a dozen in fantasy fiction.

But definitely, to each their own. I can be a bit harsh on flash fiction because as soon as I see it, the years of doing explications for poetry in university kick in because, theoretically, each word should matter in even a way that's not true for short stories or novels. And in my opinion, most of the words in this opening either don't matter to whatever the plot will reveal itself to be, or are a bit tired and overused in prose.

However, I'll be honest in admitting that, like poetry, I think most attempts of flash fiction fail big time. So perhaps I'm not the best person to comment.

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skadder
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I have no problem critiquing the first 13 lines of a story--I've been doing it for some time!--however there are issues that can only really be critiqued if you have read the whole thing.

I'd like to point out that the Alliedfive states they have completed the whole story and so this intro represents the start of a completed piece. So in Alliedfive's opinion (and they know the whole piece) the story works.

Of course you can ponder the fact that the author has used 136 words so far (a little more than 12-15%)on description and introspection (I'd disagree--stuff happens), but since we have no idea where this story is going I'd be loathe to challenge the author on this issue as I can't yet judge if it is a mistake. It may be the perfect way for this story start. I have published a flash story where the first 50% could be described as introspection, flashbacks and description, so I reserve judgment unless I have read it and can definitively say it works or doesn't(IMO!).


It's little like judging the length of a piece of string based on the few feet you can see that then disappear under a door. You can identify what the string is made of, its colour, how strong the part you can see appears to be, etc...but not how long it is or where it is going or the condition of the rest of it.

quote:
It doesn't make sense to put up a critique for your first 13 lines, and then not actually expect people to say anything except, "I can't respond until I read more to see what happens".
That isn't what I am saying. See above. I am suggesting that certain aspects are difficult to comment on because they rely on complete knowledge of the unfolding of a story.

Of course, I am not telling you how to crit a story--that's up to you. My original post was meant to reflect on your comments with regard the story and show the author that there were differing views on those particular issues.

[ June 11, 2013, 06:04 AM: Message edited by: skadder ]

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alliedfive
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Great comments everyone, thanks.

This is done now, and at 1,200 words, needs some cutting. Anyone else want to read the whole thing?

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extrinsic
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I don't have room on my plate for the caliber of critical response I feel this mostly well-crafted full draft merits.

The opening part does a fair job of developing initial introductions. Who the focal characters are, what their concerns are--a dramatic complication implied for Da-Wensir wanting a reasonable replacement for his lost daughter, implied that she's lost; Sibbi's passionate curiosity wanting to know about the spineflower--a narrative voice: first-person narrator, addressing readers as if from a lecture yet from within the moment, place, and situation of the action.

I don't see other adequate context feature development, some implied: when in a time relative or not relative to the real world, like contemporary, futuristic, or alternate history, though that Sibbi is a created person implies an era where cloning perhaps is somewhat routine. Also Where absolute to the moment, place, and situation of the action, though "winter's morning" and Sibbi carrying a spineflower implies outdoors generically; nor where relative to the real world. Again, alternate world relation or real-world-relation. Though, again, the spineflower implies this place is not of this world and any known or knowable real-world era.

Texture too, some implications of what, why, and how. What the situation is for Da-Winsir and Sibbi, that of a cloned child's dawning awareness. Why Da-Wensir lovingly cares for Sibbi; she's meant to replace his daughter. How he strives to replace his daughter, that she's a clone is strongly implied. Though how he created her isn't given, that he created her is directly given.

I have a slight care for Da-Wensir's desire to replace his daughter. I'm curious what the outcome will be of this snapshot of a dramatic moment in their lives, a slice of life dramatic anecdote. I feel the final outcome might be beautifully evocative, but don't know if it's a tragedy or a comedy or a blend of both. Raising doubts about an outcome is strong writing; however, I think some prepositioned foreshadowing of the brief story's outcome is a best practice for portraying the action to come.

A degree of prepositioning is given by that Sibbi is a clone? and Da-Wensir desires a meaningful replacement for his daughter. I'm just not clear about whether this is a horror, a thriller, a bildungsroman, or a traditional drama, nor whether it's a metaphorical or a direct action, nor whether it's a simple or complex plot. A simple plot's struggle is straightfoward want or problem satisfaction efforts, some surmountable problem opposition, and a successful or failed satisfaction outcome. A complex plot changes direction at at least one point through a reversal and neither necessarily succeeds nor fails, but results in a profound personal discovery and character transformation at a proportional personal cost (bildungsroman).

One diction stumble I have is with the word "tilting." That is awkward to me. Tilting means leaning from a vertical or erect position; or similarly, related to jousting, which is a lance competition intended to upset a knight from an erect seat upon a charging horse. I can't picture tilted lips on a seemingly human girl and Da-Wensir, a genetic scientist perhaps, thinking that description seems incredulous.

[ June 12, 2013, 05:42 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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mayflower988
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Do you still need critiquers? I was perusing this forum and came across this story. I'm glad to see you've come back to it. Good for you. :)
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alliedfive
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Yes, I would still like a reader or two if anyone is interested.
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mayflower988
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I would love to. Send it over.
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legolasgalactica
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Didn't make through the 1st paragraph before I lost interest... not my type of story (some girl with a flower...) and too much description... but the while skimming through the comments saw something about genetic engineering ...?? What had i missed?

Re-read it paying attention this time and found it intriguing. I suggest saving all the discription for a few lines later and starting off with: how after 4 generations, she nearly looks like the daughter and the eyes... then going into the rest.

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Dirk Hairychest
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Hey allied, I admit that on first read, I missed the subtleties of this story. Understanding now that Sibbi is an artificially created girl is very intriguing and I would be compelled to read on.

I am intrigued by the idea that Da-Wensir apparently took four generations to make a girl that looks like his own daughter. I wonder about how old Da-Wensir must be. It keeps me guessing about why he would spend so long creating a child who looked like his own. Has his daughter died? Is she some important historical figure? What technology is used in the creative process? Are the flowers also created? All these questions and more are brought up by your initial 13 and this is a good thing. If you can keep your reader guessing, you have the definition of a page turner.

Unfortunately, I didn't understand any of this until I read the other posts. I would like to see these concepts less hidden in your first 13. Perhaps a succinct mention of the technology used. Or even just a less sneaky line than her unusual blue eyes that tips me off that she is somehow unnatural.

I would also recommend taking a look at your adjective use. I found the colors to be a little distracting with too frequent repetition. I suggest the simple exercise of removing every adjective and then rereading your lines. You can then evaluate if your nouns are strong on their own or if they are hiding behind your descriptive words.

Thematically, I am most interested in where your story is going. The morality of artificially created life will certainly be brought into question. I also see themes of family, love, and loss. Some of my favorite concepts to consider in my own writing!

You have an interesting start and with a little more tweaking it looks like a story I would read all the way through. And enjoy!

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