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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Lirazel's Heart

   
Author Topic: Lirazel's Heart
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(6990 words) Available for critique from those who wish.
Earned but an HM for WOTF Q3 2013.

"Does it hurt her?" Dominic asked.

Astolfo peered with disdain over the array of clockmaker's lenses perched upon his nose. Dominic's face was pale. He was foppishly dressed; and his nails, neatly trimmed, were painted in shades of topaz and turquoise and flashed like the carapaces of agitated chitins as he pulled at the waxed point of his beard.

The old artificer tapped a wire-encircled lens over each eye and peered down at his instruments. What his daughter had seen in the man, he still could not fathom. Dominic was too tall, too thin, and too enthralled with the latest court fashion, jostling for position amid the other minor functionaries. He sighed. But Astolfo could not deny the lad had been a good husband and very much in love with Mirdath. "Stop twitching, Dominic," he said,


Respectfully,
Dr. Bob (on last day of his European trip)

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extrinsic
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My understanding of a WoTF honorable mention is that at least one feature is praise-worthy but that shortcomings outweigh the strengths of what does work. I don't see easily that praise-worthy feature or its promise in this opening.

I'm uncertain about what this story is about from the title and the opening. I assume this is the opening. It feels to me, though, like it starts in a middle but doesn't clearly and strongly develop, cue up, or imply an in medias res' dramatic complication.

Opening with a dialogue line is challenging from it feeling isolated from the action, the setting, character development, and from a disembodied voice. I understand David Wolverton, WoTF contest coordinating judge, does not automatically frown upon opening dialogue lines, though his predecessor K.D. Wentworth did. This one doesn't work for me.

Otherwise, though the sensory details are strong and clear, they are given in a summary fashion. A glitch word for me in that regard is "peered," twice, summarizing an action that is to me static. They blunt the bald descriptive parts' impact on narrative distance, opening narrative distance.

I'm not sure, frankly, whose viewpoint is foremost. This feels like narrator viewpoint, struggles to be Astolfo's, but Dominic's opening line and speaking preeminence by default implies he is foremost. The voice is to me unsettled in those regards.

Any use of "sigh" as an action description is to me a signal of an uninterpretable emotional summary begging for stronger and clearer development.

Though this opening strives to develop sensory details, they focus most on Astolfo's appearance and Dominic's, not any bit about the setting. Like is Astolfo operating on Dominic, sitting or standing? Where? Is Dominic lying down? If so, on what? Where does this take place? Inside or outside? I feel I'm at arm's length from the moment, place, and situation (setting) of the dramatic action.

A diction glitch that gave me a strong hiccup speed bump disturbance is "chitin." Though "chitin" is a noun, it is the material's composition rather than the being or object it comprises.

One curiosity invoking feature, contrarily, is Dominic asking if "It hurt her," presumably the title character "Lirazel." I suspect that is the dramatic question that the narrative satisfies and may be inclined to read on out of curiosity to find out the answer. I often encounter mixed strengths and shortcomings. This opening to me has strengths and shortcomings that clash and disrupt me rather than engage me.

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aspirit
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quote:
"Does it hurt her?" Dominic asked.
Although I'm not opposed to dialogue in the first line, it doesn't work for me here. Two characters are mentioned without any information given about them, and too many questions arise from that. Who is she? What might be hurting her? Who is he? Why does he care? Does he care? I imagine Dominic speaking in a quiet, concerned voice, but is he? For all that's given, he could be angry.

quote:
Dominic's face was pale. He was foppishly dressed; and his nails, neatly trimmed, were painted in shades of topaz and turquoise and[-->that] flashed like the carapaces of agitated chitins as he pulled at the waxed point of his beard.
A nitpick: I'd rather see this as a separate paragraph, to indicate that we've moved from description of Alstofo to Alstofo's POV. More disorienting is the phrase, "like the carapaces of agitated chitins". What came to mind is an image of beetle-like aliens that can change the color of their shells or exoskeletons. It's too much. If chitins are important, they can be described later. Cutting the phrase to "like chitin" would work better either way.

quote:
The old artificer tapped a wire-encircled lens over each eye and peered down at his instruments.
I don't understand where the lenses are. In the second sentence of the (presumed) opening, they seemed to be over his eyes already.

It's in the last paragraph that my interest grows. I'll read the story if you don't mind waiting a week for a critique.

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Received encouragement today.
Multi-award (including WOTF and Hugo award) winning author David D. Levine kindly critiqued Lirazel's Heart:

"The worldbuilding is extremely rich, as is the descriptive language. There's real emotion to it and the characters...are distinct and very well drawn. ...editors and readers would absolutely eat up a series of these stories."

[From your mouth to G-d's ears, Mr. Levine (Old Jewish saying).] [Smile]

He provided a wealth of constructive criticism as well.
Much needed and much appreciated.

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Merlion-Emrys
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I'll give it a read.
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That is kind, Merilon.
I'll send it to you.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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