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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Night's Shadow

   
Author Topic: Night's Shadow
Denevius
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Woori leaned back in her chair, finger circling her coffee mug, leg dangling over the armrest, while her three classmates droned on about the crucial midterm exam Friday morning. A thirty minute oral interview, all in Korean. She sighed. What a way to begin the weekend, she thought, and yawned, head thrown back, mouth opened wide as if she’d gobble down the world around her in one bite.
In the park across from the café where the old men wasted away by soju yelled their conversations to each other, she saw a black man cutting across the cobbled stones, pigeons rising in a dark cloud at his passing.
“Since Woori didn’t write down a practice conversation,” her South African teammate, who’d chosen the Korean name Ga-Yeong,

[ April 12, 2016, 09:35 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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Denevius
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A short urban horror/spec fiction story, projected length to be 6000 words. Thanks for any/all comments!
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babooher
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Not much happens here.

The line "In the park across from the café where the old men wasted away by soju yelled their conversations to each other..." is confusing. Are the old men wasted away in the cafe or in the park? Is Woori in the cafe, looking out into the park? The description of action and then setting was jarring. Because the discussion is among classmates, I first thought school, not cafe, so then the second paragraph seemed disjointed. Are they studying in a cafe with old men yelling around them? In any event, there is no exigence. Setting is ill-defined (the South African teammate creates an international group so the more homogeneous cultures you've written about aren't necessarily in play anymore. The note about soju creates a possible clue, but this could be a Korean neighborhood in Las Vegas just as well as Korea).

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Denevius
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Hey, nice points, Babooher. Thanks for the comments!
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Grumpy old guy
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I find it ironic that you submit such an opening after bemoaning the two previous submissions to this particular forum. For me, this stands out as a perfect example of the banal and mundane ditherings any student indulges in when they realise they have a snap test they forgot about.

Nothing to see here, folks. Now, move along.

Given the now three concurrent submissions of the mundane as opening salvos used to introduce short stories I am reminded of the advice of Damon Knight(paraphrased): The key dramatic complication of the story should be referenced in the first line of the story; or as close to it as practicable.

This is no easy task, requiring, as it does, an intimate understanding of exactly what your story is about from the very outset--which usually disqualifies pantsers; unless they finish their story, analyse it, and then rewrite the beginning.

An example:

The word 'ACCEPT' hovered dead centre in Bartholomew Prinn's eye-line, demanding he respond.

In this particular short story the central dramatic dilemma revolves around whether or not Bartholomew Prinn accepts the status quo, attempts to remain aloof from the fray, or actively rebels. It is a small pay-off, an “Ah!” moment the attentive reader will realise later on as the story develops. It also serves well in focusing the writer on their true task, telling the real story, instead of boring me with the banal.

Phil

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Denevius
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Thanks for the comments, Phil. Lots of interesting points!
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Denevius
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Hey IRWhite, thanks for the analysis. The opening voice is a bit funky right now, and a lot of your points make perfect sense. The test is fairly important in how Woori and Ga Yeong, the story's "antagonist", or perhaps just Woori's "nemesis", interact with each other (also, the weight people put on testing in Korea is pretty extreme, so someone not seeming to be driven by them is a cultural eye-opener).

The man in the park is a catalyst, though admittedly in the opening that I have written, he comes into the story a bit later on the first page. On an impulse when I posted this, I pushed him up to the second paragraph. I'll see where I put him in the opening in the eventual revision I post as I write more of the story.

In her own way, Woori does try to consume the narrative world as painted around her. The plot points of the story are all woven into these first lines.

Either way, thanks again! You've given me a lot to think about!

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Grumpy old guy
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A question, Denevius: Is this story targeted toward a particular audience?

Phil

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Denevius
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Readers who enjoy speculative fiction/urban horror. People who enjoyed Bacigalupi's "Windup Girl" will probably enjoy this story.
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Grumpy old guy
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So, it isn't specifically written for an Asian/Korean audience? It's just for your general, run-of-the-mill, vanilla, Western style readership? A schoolgirl in Maine, or a kid in Western Sydney would understand all the social nuances without elaboration?

Phil.

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Denevius
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My audience isn't anyone who thinks that a general, run-of-the-mill, Western style readership is "vanilla". This we are in agreement with.

My audience isn't anyone who believes that a "vanilla" readership is an unsophisticated readership.

I have more faith in the schoolgirl from Maine because A) this schoolgirl could be a teenaged Syrian American girl who enjoys opening her mind through fiction, and B) this schoolgirl could be a teenaged "vanilla" girl who enjoys opening her mind through fiction.

Your limited worldview is sad, Phil, but not unexpected.

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babooher
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Worldviews aside, Phil brings up an issue that is important. While the intended audience might be one thing, I always thought the purpose of the first 13 wasn't in seeing how a story might do with a "normal" or "general" reader, but in seeing how a story might do when presented to a gatekeeper--an editor or a slush reader. A reader picks up a collection of shorts intending to read something along his or her interests and trusts that those interests are appealed to before a purchase is made. An editor or slush reader has more experience and is more likely to be more discerning. A general reader has succumbed to marketing much more than an editor or slush reader. An editor might ask if a piece is accessible to an audience, but he also has to decide quickly if a piece is worth his time to keep reading. All of these are valid considerations and aspects that we, as writers, should address.
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Grumpy old guy
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I'm sorry, I thought I was simply asking for information, not expressing a view on anything. The question was quite simple: Is your target audience Asian/Korean? That you take exception to my use of the term vanilla and ascribe to it racist overtones is your issue, not mine; but I'm not surprised either. You are, after all, obvious.

My purpose in asking the question was to point out to you that in the light of this statement to IRWhite how is the reader supposed to know that this story takes place in Korea--divination?

quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:

The test is fairly important in how Woori and Ga Yeong, the story's "antagonist", or perhaps just Woori's "nemesis", interact with each other (also, the weight people put on testing in Korea is pretty extreme, so someone not seeming to be driven by them is a cultural eye-opener).

Phil.

(Now, where did I put my hood?)

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Denevius
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quote:
Worldviews aside, Phil brings up an issue that is important.
I'm unsure how to answer this beyond pointing out the successes my writing has already had. My writing that takes place in Asia has been published in several non-Asian venues, and my novel that takes place in Asia was signed by a non-Asian publisher, is being produced and will be released to a Western audience in several months.

So it seems that if the question is whether or not my prose can get past the gatekeeper, the answer is yes, it can, it has, and I suspect it will continue to do so.

quote:
An editor might ask if a piece is accessible to an audience...
This is an interesting way of stating this, as it is often assumed that Western audiences just won't, or will very reluctantly, consume anything that's not specifically Western. So for instance, an editor may get my story, see that there are no vanilla blonde hair blue eyed character populating the story, and assume that their readers can't, or won't, handle it no matter the quality of writing.

Or at the very least, if a fiction takes place in a non-Western narrative universe, the central character who this world revolves around has to be vanilla in order for a Western audience to be satisfied by it. This is why Scarlett Johansson is being cast as Motoko Kusanagi in the upcoming 'Ghost in the Shell' movie.

And it's true, as a writer who incorporates a diverse range of themes, cultures, and races in my fiction, this is, unfortunately, a liability. My prose has to be as near to perfect as possible in order to get through narrow-minded beliefs that are still prevalent in Western culture, that a narrative is potentially unaccessible if it doesn't have primarily Western (specifically vanilla) themes, or if it doesn't have a vanilla character central to the storyline of a non-Western world.

However, I'm already proving this sentiment wrong, and I plan on continuing to do so.

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extrinsic
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The issue of substance is relateability, the personal experience of readers' connections to personalized identity, and isn't what ethnicity a character exhibits. Journalism has always understood this principle, even present day New Journalism does, if not more so than before Hunter Thompson's unique Gonzo Journalism.

A talking news TV bust's report that one hundred thousand Indian Ocean archipelago residents perished from a tsunami is tragic though impersonal. A report from a journalist at the scene of one family's devastation, an interview of the sole child survivor, is the personal touch to the extreme.

Relateably personalize the report, the news desk editor says.

[ April 16, 2016, 12:35 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Grumpy old guy
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Just so I don't fall into the 'vanilla' character creating set, Bartholomew Prinn in my example above is half English, one quarter Sri-Lankan, and one quarter Japanese.

He's a bit of a mongrel; in origin and attitude.

Phil.

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Denevius
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quote:
The issue of substance is relateability, the personal experience of readers' connections to personalized identity, and isn't what ethnicity a character exhibits.
How is an opening focusing on testing not relatable? Most people have taken tests. Most people have worked in groups in which one person seemed disinterested, or in which they themselves were the disinterested party.

What, exactly, is unrelatable about his opening?

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extrinsic
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From a lack of implied or expressed emotional charge. Disinterest is inert emotion, maybe pendent before a storm. A still life portrait of a routine. Some foreshadowing development could serve for the latter implication of pendency and the former of emotional charge. Setting, plot, idea, character, event, and discourse features and motifs offer avenues for approaches to both. Best practice for best reader effect begins with some emotional movement.

A smidgen of possible foreshadowing in the dark cloud of pigeons rising, but emotionally underdeveloped, could be a good fortune or bad fortune omen and either a positive or negative emotional charge, though is emotionally inert. If verbs and nouns themselves do not clear and strong imply or express emotional charge, adjectives and adverbs, interjections, noun and verbal phrases serve instead. That's their function for prose and poetry, and formal composition, where emotional charge is widely deprecated.

Emotional charge is the substantive difference between impersonal and personal composition. The played-out platitude to eliminate all emotional expression from composition expression matters only for when objective, reasonable, rational, logical, unemotional persuasion is the point. Emotional persuasion is creative expression's point and dominion.

For examples, the one from above about a tsunami-devastated family's sole child survivor uses setting, plot, idea, character, and event to imply emotion that's universally relateable. No ethnicity about it. The Indian Ocean archipelago implies a native person, not a whit about ethnicity. For maximum Western relateability, though, the child could be from a Western ethnicity, or at least of a Western belief system, though neither is necessary and probably irrelevant. This happened to a child is all that matters.

The sample from the other thread about an invitation to a trendy restaurant implies much, though, again, emotionally underdeveloped. "Trendy" could be a dysphemism for a la-dee-dah boutique food shop that mocks and ridicules its patrons, serves them overpriced air flosses and artfully arranged though skimpy, unsatisfying portions. Here's the appetizer course: Ice essence of avocado and peat smoke; the salad course, a few parsley root sprigs, some spruce bark, and dressed with a cod liver oil and beer vinaigrette; and so on. Food service as sarcasm.

Or the trend could be nutritiously, emotionally, and spiritually satisfying exotic dishes served in an emotionally charged, comfortable, exotic ambience.

The other sample of Shainey cutting fringe in the hem of a large T-shirt for a festival event evokes a vivid image and is pendent and implies a joyous abandon emotional charge. Clear and strong, though curiosity arousing from what can go wrong. Anything, of course. That's why the ominous mention of an extra-large men's T-shirt is relevant and relateable, foreshadows dark, emotionally charged doings ahead from Shainey's innocent abandon. Uh-oh! Oh no, say it isn't so.

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Grumpy old guy
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Because you are habitually blinded by your assumptions you apparently fail to realise that the vast majority of readers of English language fiction know nothing about Korean culture, let alone educational practices. They don't know, for instance, that Korean children don't just go to school: they go to school before school, they go to school after school, they go to study school after their evening meal, and they go to exam school months before their exams. And they kill themselves at an alarming rate. They equate their self-esteem, their entire life and self-worth, as being based on their exam results. It also goes a long way to explaining K-pop. [Smile]

If you had taken the time to set this up then Woori's actions would not only seem atypical and strange, but as definitely mysterious; a foreshadowing of things to come. Instead, they read as mundane and banal--exams, who cares! Thus you rob your opening of any 'hook'.

Phil.

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Denevius
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quote:
Because you are habitually blinded by your assumptions you apparently fail to realise that the vast majority of readers of English language fiction know nothing about Korean culture, let alone educational practices.
Well, Phil, in several months when your novel is released and when my novel is released, we can see which one has the most robust sales. If your vanilla fiction sells better than my universal fiction, then you may actually have a point.

But if my universal fiction that encompasses cultures from across the world outsells your vanilla fiction that focuses on vanilla concerns, then I suggest that perhaps you should try writing from a different worldview.

By the end of 2017, I'll make sure to revisit this topic on Hatrack so that we can compare and contrasts our different publishing successes.

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Grumpy old guy
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As I said previously: obvious--and predictable.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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A challenged writer is as good as the next work; a published writer is only as good as extant, past work.

How many anecdotal tales have I observed where an ascendant writer's expectation is ever upward and the reality is a fade into obscurity.

Donald Maass speaks to this phenomena eloquently, that his experience with clients is about four out of five debut, if I recall correctly, then backslide onto backlists and into obscurity. He notes a common circumstance about those, that their work and passion plateaus or slips back down slope, made the cut barely once or twice, then the initial novelty factor wears off and doesn't sustain later efforts.

Maass advises don't count on past successes, continue writer growth, stay ahead of an audience's sensibilities and sentiments and expectations, though not so far the audience is outpaced.

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Denevius
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quote:
How many anecdotal tales have I observed where an ascendant writer's expectation is ever upward and the reality is a fade into obscurity.
I have no idea.

I do know that Phil is 50% troll on this site. 40% of his comments are plain absurd. And every now and then, 10% of the time, he'll say something worthwhile acknowledging as correct.

Part of what motivates the half of him which is troll is his lack of writing success, which he covers with bluster. This is why when he wrote his first critique and I gave him a simple 'Thank you', he couldn't let it go at that. In his delusion he feels that his comments should be given more weight, so he followed up with a question.

Which, again, I answered simply.

This, too, wasn't enough to feed the troll. Which is fine. The truism of internet trolls, however, is that they claim expertise but have nothing verifiable to back up their claims.

By the end of 2017, Phil will still be on this site, trolling most of the time, speaking absurdities the other, and every now and then saying something sensible. At the end of 2017, I'll probably be signing GWI'SHIN, the sequel to my novel, up.

So if this little corner of the internet is the bridge Phil has taken residence under, so be it. I do find it funny, however, that in this ridiculous distraction Phil has once again created, that the only two comments, Babooher and Extrinsic, has been more in support of Phil, who has no verifiable success, and not in support of me, who actually has proven that my writing can, and has, gotten published.

In the last three years, I started and finished a novel and got it published, and yet you see a point in Phil's comments?

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babooher
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The opening you posted of some people in a cafe studying is boring, god-awful boring, and your past successes don't make it any less boring. Personally, I think your use of Korea is a good way to bring the exotic that readers want, but as I already mentioned, this opening doesn't concretely have any of that. I'm not giving advice based on popularity or who has the best track record. I'm opining based on what I perceive. If you think your track record is good enough that you can ignore some decent writing conventions, so be it, but then why are you searching for feedback?

You're into challenges. So here is mine to you: What makes this opening compelling? I don't see it. And it isn't because of Phil, or extrinsic, or anyone else that I don't see this opening as compelling. I'll take full responsibility for my inability to see this opening's potential, and I hope you can make me see the light. You have the floor, school us.

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wetwilly
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Hey guys on all sides: can we keep the discussion about the writing and not about each other?

This opening doesn't particularly hook me, but it also doesn't turn me away. It's written smoothly, and I find it pleasant to read on a linguistic level. Not much has happened yet to pull me in, but I would read on, with the provision that stuff starts happening pretty soon. I was not aware that blowing off an exam should be seen as strange in Korean culture, so I agree that that should be shown to a Western culture, if it is indeed important. Perhaps by contrast? Let us see the normal way other Koreans handle it before we see the blow off so we have a contrast. Or have MC think about how dumb it is that everyone else in the country stresses over these exams. Or let us see the other Koreans react with shock to MCs cavalier attitude. ("You're acting like a lazy American. Care for a Big Mac and a pickup truck while you fail miserably?")

Just some thoughts. Love 'em or leave 'em.

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Disgruntled Peony
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I've been meaning to write a response to this opening for the last five days, and in the meantime the thread has ballooned in a number of directions, many of them awkward at best. I wish my response had been more timely.

From a technical standpoint, this entry is well-written. However, as a reader I find it distancing. Based on this opening, I could believe this to be the opening of an urban horror. On the other hand, I wouldn't necessarily expect this story to be a speculative fiction piece.

I've recently read David Farland's book, "Million Dollar Outlines". One of the things that stood out to me the most was the idea that people read science fiction and fantasy in order to be transported, to experience new and wondrous things. (They don't have to be happy experiences, but they should definitely be interesting.)

I'm very familiar with the concept of 'student' and I can take foreign language classes at any number of local schools. There's a lot here that I personally am familiar with, to the point that I find it distancing simply because I already know what to expect. There are hints of something larger in the multicultural names and the statement "men wasted away by soju" (which I would assume to be some type of drug). Those caused mild flickers of interest, but not enough to properly pull me in.

I'm not saying this story has to be set on the planet Tarbosh or begin with space men appearing in the middle of the cafe. However, I would like to have a stronger understanding of where the story is going to go. Given only these opening thirteen lines, I see a character in a mundane situation who is bored and miserable. The conflict is minor (Woori hasn't written her practice conversation) and easily dealt with (she could either write one, or her fellow students could help her hammer something out).

There are a few ways this opening could be improved, based on my admittedly limited experience. A little more focus on the setting could potentially do wonders for this opening, depending on what said setting is. A hint of the conflict that is to come would also be useful. I'm not asking that you change the whole concept of your story, just that you give me, the reader, an idea of what it is from the get-go.

I enjoy urban horror, personally. I would love for this opening to grab me. As things currently stand, though, there's nothing to hold my interest. I hate to say that, especially considering the direction this thread has gone as a whole, but it's true. I should note, however, that while my response does involve a great deal of criticism I am not saying your opening is bad. I'm saying it could be better, that I'd like it to be better, and am offering up suggestions for potential improvement in an effort to help you make it better. That's what we're all here for in the end, right, guys? To help each other improve?

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Denevius
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quote:
I'll take full responsibility for my inability to see this opening's potential, and I hope you can make me see the light. You have the floor, school us.
Sure thing.

Part of what makes my writing compelling, this opening as well, is my proven willingness to listen and change what doesn't work when I think it makes sense. This is my fourth opening I've posted in the last several months. If you look at the previous three, I've politely thanked everyone, and later on, have put up revisions to show how I've tinkered with the openings.

The words themselves of this particular opening have little to do with the amount of effort I'll put into them over the days, weeks, and months to make them as perfect as possible.

The opening currently as is isn't as compelling as it could be, but the dedication I'll devote to the eventual final draft of the opening will be. This dedication to wordcraft is why I've published, and why I'll continue to do so.

quote:
If you think your track record is good enough that you can ignore some decent writing conventions, so be it, but then why are you searching for feedback?
My track record is good, and at this moment, Babooher, I don't think you understand what "decent writing conventions" really mean. A first draft is just that. It's you taking out the pieces, colors, and shapes you want to use, and later on building a castle.

This opening is a first draft effort. Nothing less, nothing more. You gave your first critique:

quote:
Not much happens here...
And I politely thanked you.

quote:
Hey, nice points, Babooher. Thanks for the comments!
However, with your last comments, I can't thank you, because right now you seem not to understand how the writing process works. This opening isn't written in stone, as I've demonstrated of my openings numerous times on Hatrack.

And as I said, I also originally politely thanked Phil. But the idea that Phil espouses that a vanilla schoolgirl from Maine is a general Western-style reader who won't be able to relate to this opening is complete b.s. And since no one else here has found this comment particularly troubling, I am compelled to call Phil out on his lack of writing achievements in comparison to me, and because of this lack, he has no idea what an audience will enjoy and be engaged with, and what they won't.

I could be wrong, but at the end of 2017, Phil will still be on this site pretending as if he's an authority on writing, while I will be signing the contract for my next novel.

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extrinsic
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My position embedded in the above proverb about challenged writers being as good as their next work and published writers being only as good as their extant work is several-fold -- a paraphrase from writing culture, by the way -- is that no one has the privilege of using their successes to disparage others, nor as a basis for disparaging others' constructive efforts.

We are all on this Poet's Journey together, at different legs, some ahead on one leg, some behind on the same leg, some ahead on one and behind on another leg of others who are behind on different legs and ahead on others, all about the same overall Poet's progress from being able to construct some structure, some appeal, in some words.

Another area the proverb implies is that published writers are under a performance burden that challenged writers enjoy as an option. Get on the mangle, no matter to what extent or success, and be caught up by that mangle or more leisurely enjoy the sacred Journey.

The one area the proverb is most gruesome about is that publication culture is a mangle and wrings out wrack and ruin more than it produces well wrung-out fabrics ready for airing, not to mention, mangles wrack body parts and persons too.

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Denevius
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quote:
We are all on this Poet's Journey together, at different legs, some ahead on one leg, some behind on the same leg...
But if you're behind, you shouldn't pretend you're ahead.

Phil offered a critique, I told him thank you, and he could have left it at that. I didn't ask him for a followup.

Then he asked a question of perspective audience, and I told him: spec fiction/urban horror readers. I didn't ask him for a follow up, and he could have left it at that. But he didn't, and he comes up with:

quote:
So, it isn't specifically written for an Asian/Korean audience? It's just for your general, run-of-the-mill, vanilla, Western style readership? A schoolgirl in Maine, or a kid in Western Sydney would understand all the social nuances without elaboration?
Honestly, I'm not surprised the rest of you don't have an issue with these questions. And that's sad. However, it does force me to get blunt in answering something this insipid.

So if you're going to respond again to this thread, please answer these questions first:

1) Why would this opening be specifically written for an Asian/Korean audience?
2) Doesn't this question imply that other openings on Hatrack with vanilla characters are written for vanilla people? Why is this question not asked of other story openings on Hatrack?
3) Does this mean that Babooher's opening is only for people who have mined on the gas planet Brume, if location dictates who a story is written for?
4) Why is the adjective 'vanilla' in this question: It's just for your general, run-of-the-mill, vanilla, Western style readership?
5) "A schoolgirl in Maine..." When you picture a schoolgirl from Maine, what do you see? And why Maine? The U.S. has a huge, diverse population. Why choose the state with one of the highest percentages of vanilla people?
6) When a schoolgirl from Maine reads a literary text for English class, is it expected that she'll understand all of the social nuances in the first 13 lines of the story? Is this every school girl who immediately grasps all of the concepts of 'The Great Gatsby', 'Catcher in the Rye', 'Scarlet Letter', 'Pride and Prejudice', in the first 13 lines?
7) How do you not see how obtuse and offensive Phil's questions are?

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
quote:
[Originally posted by extrinsic:] We are all on this Poet's Journey together, at different legs, some ahead on one leg, some behind on the same leg...
But if you're behind, you shouldn't pretend you're ahead.
The abbreviation of the sentence misrepresents the point: No one is ahead on all the legs all the time, even one often in the lead on one leg is far behind on other legs oftentimes. And the legs are concurrent, not linear sequences. No pretend about it -- ahead some ways, behind some other ways.

Nor should my lack of response to the issues raised above, or the questions posed therefrom be construed as assent or anything else. I don't care to be lumped into an assumed global misrepresentation. Fact is, I have strong sentiments about their messages and methods that are at wide distances and cross causes from each other and of questionable intents upon which I will not further comment.

The point of a commentor's comment is only a subjective to others though objective to the commentor's assessment of what works and what doesn't work for the commentor and a similar consensus group's shared, known, knowable, and projected sentiments and sensibilities. One writer or reader's treasure is another writer or reader's trash and vice versa.

Frankly, the trash comments to me often hold the greater treasure for feedback, if I can transcend beyond emotionally overloaded condemnation and likewise overloaded imperative proscriptions. Although never easy or comfortable to interpret, treasure nonetheless.

[ April 18, 2016, 04:12 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Grumpy old guy
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Denivius, you are a fool. First, look up the word vanilla in a dictionary, the colloquial definition is this: Standard: basic: without refinements or additions. Second, the suburbs of Western Sydney would be some of the most multicultural on the planet. Third, I didn't say the opening should be written for a specific ethnicity, I just asked asked if it was set in a specific location; and the reason for asking that question.

I could go on, continuing to play with your parochial little mind, but I have a deadline to meet. So, as I depart this thread the sound you hear as I walk off into the sunrise is me laughing at you.

Phil

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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You are both making personal remarks here, and I want it to stop!

quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
I do know that Phil is 50% troll on this site. 40% of his comments are plain absurd. (and so on)

quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
Denivius, you are a fool.

I will close this topic if the discussion does not return to the writing.

You do not respond to feedback by critiquing the feedback. You say, "Thank you." You answer questions. And you leave it at that.

You respond to answers to your questions by saying, "Thank you."

Critiquers should ask questions so that the writer knows what is not clear in the fragment. Any answer the writer gives will not help with the fragment as it stands. The real answers need to be inserted into the rewrite. Editors do not ask questions unless they have already decided to purchase the right to publish.

Please remember this.

Thank you.

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extrinsic
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Consider those two general topics for the "Special Hatrack Topics" forum, an as yet underutilized forum. The two topics of; one, decorum, less so as notice of individual infringements, more so as general discussion of online and otherwise social interaction strengths and shortfalls; and two, a discussion of generally expression culture's, specifically workshop culture's interactive strengths and shortfalls.

I feel those are timely and relevant topics and suited to the special topics forum.

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Denevius
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quote:
You do not respond to feedback by critiquing the feedback. You say, "Thank you." You answer questions. And you leave it at that.
As I have pointed out repeatedly, I *did* try this with Phil. I told him 'thank you' for his first response, and I answered his unasked for followup for the second question. Notice no one else originally did this. Others gave their critiques and went along the way.

Again, no one seems to question why it is that Phil felt he had to add more when nothing else was asked of him.

quote:
If you do end up with a revision of this opening, I hope you do share it with the group here.
I always had every intention of posting a rewrite eventually. This is a fiction in process, and as I stated to your thoughtful analysis earlier:

quote:
Hey IRWhite, thanks for the analysis. The opening voice is a bit funky right now, and a lot of your points make perfect sense.
But unfortunately, I had to eventually respond to Phil because I'm familiar with the nature of Hatrack. Despite my initial attempts at being polite with Phil's feedback, somehow I still get partial blame for how the thread derailed.

When Phil responded with his absurd series of questions, Kathleen could have cut off the conversation there with:

quote:
Editors do not ask questions unless they have already decided to purchase the right to publish.
Phil had no call to continue pressing me for answers to his questions after I'd answered his first one. But Kathleen didn't stop him there, and I have a strong sense that if I hadn't said anything, Phil's comments would have been allowed to remain unchastised despite the absolute lack of workshop protocol he was egotistically displaying.

By the way:

quote:
This opening doesn't particularly hook me, but it also doesn't turn me away. It's written smoothly, and I find it pleasant to read on a linguistic level. Not much has happened yet to pull me in, but I would read on, with the provision that stuff starts happening pretty soon.
quote:
From a technical standpoint, this entry is well-written. However, as a reader I find it distancing. Based on this opening, I could believe this to be the opening of an urban horror. On the other hand, I wouldn't necessarily expect this story to be a speculative fiction piece.
Thanks for the comments, Wetwilly and Disgruntled Peony! I'll keep it in mind as I think about rewrites.
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Denevius
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No.

But it would have been nice if Babooher, then Extrinsic, and finally Kathleen had all told Phil that he was in a severe breach of workshop protocol. My story thread is threatened to be closed because Phil breaks workshop decorum by pretending to be an authority he isn't.

The fact that when Kathleen finally decided to respond that she blames me partially, tells me that it's not what Phil said that's the problem, it's the fact that I didn't let his breach slide that is.

I'm the metaphorical victim, Phil the mugger, but when I bloody his nose, the cop tells me that I'm partially at fault for not just handing over my wallet.

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Grumpy old guy
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Kathleen, apologies for my inappropriate use of the term 'fool'. They are entertaining.

Phil.

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InarticulateBabbler
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To whom it may concern: It's a hard lesson to learn to just ignore something which doesn't add value to the critique, but that's what grown-ups do. Scroll past. Move on. You can see someone's name and actually not respond. And it's a simple rule to follow to critique the work not the writer.


quote:
Woori leaned back in her chair, finger circling her coffee mug, leg dangling over the armrest, while her three classmates droned on about the crucial midterm exam Friday morning.
As David Farland says in his Daily Kicks about beginnings: Static is boring. If something is not happening a reader quickly loses interest. Even with a setting description, it can be active: Trees marching down a hill, but it has got to pull you into the story. This "finger circling," not actively leading me anywhere; "leg dangling" seems like you're describing my teenager who is too bored to change the channel of the show that's boring her; "classmates droned," is like strike three. . . in the first sentence. At this point, my eyes start glazing. It's a run on sentence, telling me this is boring. It doesn't set where they are, what time period it is, or who any of the characters are. I don't know why I should care (the protagonist doesn't) about the midterm.

quote:
A thirty minute oral interview, all in Korean. She sighed.
Again, "sighed" = bored. No spec-fic element. No characterization (other than bored). The midterm is an oral interview in Korean. (No premise for a story, yet.)

quote:
What a way to begin the weekend, she thought, and yawned, head thrown back, mouth opened wide as if she’d gobble down the world around her in one bite.
Big run-on. ". . .she thought, and yawned. . ." is the 5th way of saying "bored/boring," and you chose to end your "open/free" paragraph with this. You've drilled this is boring into my head. You've taken more time to describe her yawn than her, her friends, the setting, the time/date/era, or even hint at what the plot's about (except, hopefully not, a boring interview).

quote:
In the park across from the café where the old men wasted away by soju yelled their conversations to each other, she saw a black man cutting across the cobbled stones, pigeons rising in a dark cloud at his passing.
In the park across from the café where the old men wasted away by soju yelled their conversations to each other Huh? When did we get to a cafe? Just now? the old men wasted their day away by soju What old men? they wasted their day away by alcoholic beverage yelled their conversation? Seems like there's a word missing here, and it becomes another run-on. . . .she saw a black man cutting across the cobbled stones, pigeons rising in a dark cloud at his passing. This is a sentence by itself. It is also the only active one yet. But, the cobbled stones of what? The cafe? The pigeons took flight at his passing? He died?

quote:
Since Woori didn’t write down a practice conversation,” her South African teammate, who’d chosen the Korean name Ga-Yeong,
Back to the boring midterm, without explanation of the black man (which shouldn't be an odd sight, if her teammate is South African--or is her teammate white?) cutting across the cobblestones across from a cafe full of old drunks.

This is littered with This is boring. You're bored. which does not invoke horror. The language doesn't invoke horror. The setting doesn't invoke horror. None of the characters invoke horror, or give the impression that they would even stifle a yawn for a mass murderer. Sorry, if this is the promise of what is to come, I can't say as I'm interested in turning the page.

I hope this helps.

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Denevius
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Thanks for the comments!
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:

Phil offered a critique, I told him thank you, and he could have left it at that. I didn't ask him for a followup.

Then he asked a question of perspective audience, and I told him: spec fiction/urban horror readers. I didn't ask him for a follow up, and he could have left it at that. But he didn't, and he comes up with:

quote:
So, it isn't specifically written for an Asian/Korean audience? It's just for your general, run-of-the-mill, vanilla, Western style readership? A schoolgirl in Maine, or a kid in Western Sydney would understand all the social nuances without elaboration?
Honestly, I'm not surprised the rest of you don't have an issue with these questions. And that's sad. However, it does force me to get blunt in answering something this insipid.
Okay, this "cop" does not consider Phil's questions (asked in the perspective of this "cop" for clarification) to be insipid.

Critiquers may ask questions for clarification.

If writers do not want to respond to them, that's fine.

If you'll look at what Phil said, above, you'll notice that he was not just talking about schoolgirls in Maine. He also mentioned kids in Western Sydney (which this "cop" took to mean Sydney, Australia), a very different place from Maine (which this "cop" took to mean Maine, United States, by the way).

So this "cop" did not recognize the questions as a "mugging."

I am not on Hatrack every day, I do have a life outside of Hatrack, and OSC is okay with that. So sometimes things get past me, which I regret.

And which could be helped if people who feel "mugged" would email me about such problems. (I would recommend emailing me at workshopDOTwoodburyATgmailDOTcom in emergencies, because I will see those emails soonest.)

Escalating the situation on the forum is not the best way.

There is another definition of "positive feedback" which explains how things can escalate and which has nothing to do with the definition we have for the term here on the forum. (Think about what happens when a live microphone starts screeching.)

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Denevius
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quote:
If you'll look at what Phil said, above, you'll notice that he was not just talking about schoolgirls in Maine. He also mentioned kids in Western Sydney (which this "cop" took to mean Sydney, Australia), a very different place from Maine (which this "cop" took to mean Maine, United States, by the way).
To what purpose?

Why would schoolgirls from Maine to Western Sydney have a problem relating to this 13 line opening?

This question is only for Kathleen, so I respectfully ask no one else answer. There's something here that I would like explored about the intent of Phil's questions, and a lot of other people jumping in just makes for a confusing conversation.

What about this 13 line opening do you feel would cause Phil to ask these questions? Why would this story be specifically for Asian/Korean audience?

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
Why would this story be specifically for Asian/Korean audience?

Because the first 13 lines make it appear that the writer is taking for granted things that Asian/Korean readers would understand, things that would need to be clarified for non-Asian/Korean readers so that they will "get" what's going on.

If your readers don't "get" what is right there in the text, then they may not be part of your audience.

Because some of your critiquers indicated that they perceived the point of view character as being bored by the opening situation, and were therefore bored as well as they read your 13 lines, then they probably did not "get" what was going on. (And it appears to me that they have told you so.)

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Denevius
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quote:
Because the first 13 lines make it appear that the writer is taking for granted things that Asian/Korean readers would understand, things that would need to be clarified for non-Asian/Korean readers so that they will "get" what's going on.

If your readers don't "get" what is right there in the text, then they may not be part of your audience.

The story begins with university students studying. Is this an Asian thing? What about this opening needs cultural connotations to understand? There are several people, and they are studying. One is bored.

If you look solely at this opening, and solely at the actions of this opening, why would further cultural explanation be needed *now* in order to widen the base of readers past Asian/Korean readers?

Is it your belief that if you gave these 13 lines to a vanilla schoolgirl in Maine, that she should not be able to grasp what's going on?

Kathleen, you've never given a critique before, and I don't desire one now. However, an explication of these lines, one by one, in order to see why a schoolgirl from Maine may not get it, and so may not be the audience, would be intriguing.

1)
quote:
Woori leaned back in her chair, finger circling her coffee mug, leg dangling over the armrest, while her three classmates droned on about the crucial midterm exam Friday morning.

Is this where the schoolgirl from Maine becomes lost? With a girl drinking coffee before a midterm exam?

2)
quote:
A thirty minute oral interview, all in Korean.
Do schoolgirls from Maine not understand what oral interviews are?

3)
quote:
She sighed.
Have schoolgirls from Maine never sighed?

4)
quote:
What a way to begin the weekend, she thought, and yawned, head thrown back, mouth opened wide as if she’d gobble down the world around her in one bite.
Have schoolgirls from Maine never yawned?

5)
quote:
In the park across from the café where the old men wasted away by soju yelled their conversations to each other, she saw a black man cutting across the cobbled stones, pigeons rising in a dark cloud at his passing
Have schoolgirls from Maine never seen a black man walk across a park?

6)
quote:
“Since Woori didn’t write down a practice conversation,” her South African teammate, who’d chosen the Korean name Ga-Yeong,
Have school girls from Maine never sat next to a foreigner?

Where in these lines in this opening would a schoolgirl from Maine possibly be unable to understand, and relate to, the events?

What in these events make it seem that the 13 lines would be exclusive for Asian/Korean readers?

And on the flip side of this, would you also say that a piece opening on a gas planet Brune, as Babooher's does, make his story exclusively for humans who have worked alongside AIs and mined planets in outer space? Or for Babooher's piece, is he given more time to illustrate the rules of his scifi universe in the narrative? But for my piece, the rules must be shown immediately, or anyone who doesn't have intimate knowledge of the rules are excluded?

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Disgruntled Peony
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Dude. Stop.

There is no need to get so defensive. Different people have different opinions. Kathleen has a life outside of the forums and can't monitor the site 24/7. She was not choosing sides when she asked the both of you to stop behaving in an inappropriate and immature manner.

You're still too close to this. Take a deep breath. Let it go. Come back when you're calmer and more clear-headed.

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Denevius
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You do realize that this is another 71 words that could have went towards actual fiction.

Either way, I did respectfully ask for no other responses, as these questions are directed solely towards Kathleen. I'll repeat that request again.

Thanks.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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That is all the time I intend to expend on this topic.

My definition of "respectfully" does not appear to correlate well with yours, Denevius.

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