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Author Topic: The Faithful
Stephen
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It's been a couple of years since I posted-- all feedback welcomed.
A wet drenching fog rolled in from the harbor bringing with it the stench of garbage, raw sewage, and cheap spirits. Turney breathed through his mouth as he hurriedly slipped down a darkened alley nearly tripping over a half-naked drunk. As he turned onto Queens Street, he rummaged through his shoulder bag until he found a small skullcap with a crudely sewn six-pointed star, and fitted it to the crown of his head.
The Sabbath had come and he was late, and the service had already begun— he smiled. Through wavy glass, candles flickered; he could make out shapes gathered in the mercantile shoppe of Ibrāhīm the Hebrew. There was no synagogue in Port Royal, so the Jews gathered in Ibrāhīm’s shoppe to worship. He was about to rap gently on the window— but his hand froze.

[ June 06, 2016, 01:29 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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babooher
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This seems oddly familiar.

I guess the hook, if there is a hook, is the question about what causes Turney to not tap on the window. The issue at this point, for me, is whether or not that's a strong enough question, and I think the answer is no.

This is a slow opener, and the language isn't anything tantalizing--nothing bad, just nothing to draw me in.

You might try being meaner to Turney. Instead of almost tripping, perhaps he does trip and rouses the angry drunk. Maybe he can't find the skullcap he knows he put in his shoulder bag. Maybe let his tardiness bother him more. And after all this agitation he stops, concerns forgotten because of what he sees.

Or, maybe you cut the first line so you can add a bit onto the end to indicate a larger question.

If you end up needing readers, I'll give it a go. Just know I think there are problems already.

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extrinsic
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A furtive individual makes his way through a decrepit part of a town late to Sabbath services.

Details of the fragment thoroughly confuse me: crude six-point star on a skullcap, Ibrāhīm the Hebrew, Port Royal, and hedged actions: "nearly tripped" and "about to rap gently."

Milieu and setting the details imply is late seventeenth century, when Port Royal was at its peak as a pirate haven, when Jewish persons under British law could be required at all times in public to wear a distinguishing mark, the "yellow badge," not a six-point star though (the Nazi yellow badge requirement), a resemblance to two stone tablets for British territories.

Also, "Ibrāhīm the Hebrew," "Ibrāhīm: is the romanized version of Muslims' Abraham diacritically marked above A and i with macrons for nonnative English speakers' benefit. The convention through the ages otherwise is unmarked, Ibrahim, but Muslim, neither Jewish nor Christian. "The Hebrew" is not unheard of among Jewish persons; however, gentiles mostly used "Jew" for its sly offensiveness and adopted among Jewish persons for similar reasons, never of the self. "Ibrahim the Hebrew" implies the Muslim Hebrew!? Not unthinkable, I guess.

Contrarily, skullcap is generic. Yarmulke or kippah are the Hebrew terms.

Port Royal had a synagogue in the late seventeenth century, and several across the British island colony up through a time, though only one synagogue remains in all of Jamaica today, in nearby Kingston.

All the above confuse me and challenge my willing suspension of disbelief.

The fragment implies Ibrahim was up to some kind of skulduggery beforehand, maybe. I don't know. Otherwise, he's only on his way to Sabbath services among seemingly similarly furtive Jewish persons, maybe. I don't know.

When, where, what, why, and how? Who is clear enough, maybe, enough character development almost. The event is somewhat clear though not especially strong. The setting is on the underdeveloped side. And complication (motivation): Ibrahim wants to attend Sabbath services. Low magnitude, low urgency, and what about his furtive reasons he doesn't wear the yellow badge skullcap all the time? What about stakes (conflict)? about I don't know what.

I would not read on.

[ June 07, 2016, 01:55 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Disgruntled Peony
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Your setting is interesting and you've got a decent feel for sensory description. However, there's a lot of grammatical awkwardness in this opening, which pulled me out of the story tremendously. Also, some of the sentences ramble on or are unclear. I wouldn't read further at this point in time, but a solid edit might change my mind.

[ June 08, 2016, 05:15 PM: Message edited by: Disgruntled Peony ]

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Stephen
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Ok got it. I still have work to do. Thank you all.
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Stephen
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Take two-- tried to be clearer and fix the awkwardness.

A wet drenching fog rolled in from the harbor bringing with it the stench of garbage, raw sewage, and cheap spirits. Turney hurried toward his appointed round, he took a shortcut down a darkened alley and immediately regretted it. The smell was far worse, and the cobbles were slick with muck. Half way through, he stepped on something soft that moaned and pawed weakly at his ankle. He shook it loose giving it a backward kick eliciting a loud groan. As he emerged onto Queens Street, his hand went to his baldpate. Quickly he unslung his shoulder bag and rummaged through it. Turney snickered as he withdrew a tattered Yarmulke, and fitted it to his head.
Inside the mercantile shop of Abraham, the Jew, two candles flickered through wavy glass windows. He was late. The Jews of

[ June 21, 2016, 04:18 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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extrinsic
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For me, a larger consideration is the fragment's narrative point of view leans toward a detached narrator reporting the setting, events, and Turney's actions. Yet the narrative attempts to portray Turney's received reflections. Neither has much if any attitude toward the topics and subjects on point.

Some fog floats into town. Turney walks through town. He preps for an interaction with Jewish individuals.

Still a number of language and grammar awkwardnesses that force and rush the action: fused sentences; missing, stray, and misused punctuation; unnecessary tell, flat descriptions, a compound word glitch, misused conjunctions and prepositions, awkward tense shifts, and empty adverbs.

Also, a craft matter of what Turney's objective is, is withheld. He knows what "his appointed round" is and more -- what he really is up to. That clause is more or less an artless withholding. That is an insertion point for a clue of what he's up to.

The content organization, for me, is clumsy too. I would not read on.

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Disgruntled Peony
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quote:
Originally posted by Stephen:
As always to the point and helpful. I keep kicking myself and ask why I ever thought I could do this. Anyway, thank you.

Hey. You can do this. It just takes practice, which means you need to keep doing it. [Smile]

As far as the piece itself goes, there are still grammatical errors but there has been improvement in the piece. I'm going to make some suggestions and put the changes in bold so you get a look at the sorts of things to look for when editing.

quote:
A wet, drenching fog rolled in from the harbor; it brought with it the stench of garbage, raw sewage, and cheap spirits. Turney hurried toward his appointed round. He took a shortcut down a darkened alley and immediately regretted it. The smell was far worse; the cobbles were slick with muck. Half way through, he stepped on something soft that moaned and pawed weakly at his ankle. He shook it loose and gave it a backward kick, which elicited a loud groan. As he emerged onto Queens Street, his hand went to his baldpate. He unslung his shoulder bag and rummaged through it. Turney snickered as he withdrew a tattered Yarmulke and fitted it to his head.
Inside the mercantile shop of Abraham, the Jew, two candles flickered through wavy glass windows. Turney was late. The Jews of

(I was guessing 'he' meant 'Turney' in the second to last sentence. If I'm incorrect, I apologize and recommend that you specify the name of the late person.)

Those suggestions made, I do have some general questions about the opening:

What does 'appointed round' mean in this context?

What moaned and pawed at Turney's ankle? (The vagueness makes it hard to get a mental image, aside from the fact that it's likely something alive. ...I say likely because zombies are a thing.)

Why does Turney snicker when he puts on the Yarmulke?

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Stephen
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Take three-- Thanks Disgruntled Peony. Self-pity sucks.

Turney pushed through a curtain of drenching fog toward his appointed rounds. He was late. From the harbor, the stench of garbage, raw sewage, and cheap spirits permeate the air. Taking a shortcut down a darkened alley, he immediately regretted it. The cloying stink was even worse, and the cobbles slick with muck. A dozen slippery steps in his foot came down on something soft. A man moaned and pawed at his ankle. Shaking him loose, he gave the man a kick, which elicited a loud curse. Another soul for the harvest my lord, he whispered, and hurried on.
Emerging onto Queens Street, he rummages through his shoulder bag, withdraws a tattered Yarmulke and fits it to his head. Ahead a man began to sing— prayers had begun. Candles flicker from inside the mercantile shop of Abraham the Jew. His shop was

[ June 22, 2016, 05:09 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Disgruntled Peony:
quote:
Originally posted by Stephen:
As always to the point and helpful. I keep kicking myself and ask why I ever thought I could do this. Anyway, thank you.

Hey. You can do this. It just takes practice, which means you need to keep doing it. [Smile]

Seconded.

Grammar, in isolation, means as much as an individual's language aptitude demands for everyday conversation purposes. For prose, grammar, includes content and organization, accompanied by expression craft, entails a glorious symphony of the three basic composition category criteria: grammar, content and organization, and expression.

All three categories. For example, the first sentence fuses three ideas into one clustered and emotionally detached train wreck. "A wet drenching fog rolled in _from_ the harbor _bringing_ _with_ it the stench _of_ garbage, raw sewage, and cheap spirits." Underscores bracket the more problematic words.

The significant words, though somewhat problematic too, are "fog," "rolled in," "stench," "garbage," "raw sewage," and "cheap spirits." Verbs are more significant than nouns, nouns more significant than pronouns, and both more significant than adverbs and adjectives, prepositions, and conjunctions. Articles are adjectives. Parts of speech: verbs, nouns, pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, and conjunctions.

Adverbs and adjectives out-significate nouns and verbs when they are emotionally more charged than the words they modify and if suited to a context and texture. Port Royal, for example, is a maritime town, at its founding through to today. The people speak a nautical language and live by, from, and on the sea. Nautical terms might suit the milieu.

Most of all, consider if preposition and conjunctions between ideas suit the implied connection intent and if the connected phrases are relevant to one another. The basic function of connectors is to connect closely related ideas and appositive, dependent, related content that modifies main clauses.

The first sentence forces three somewhat related ideas together and leaves none fully realized. "A wet drenching fog rolled in from the harbor bringing with it the stench of garbage, raw sewage, and cheap spirits." Do "wet" and "drenching" amplify "fog" in any emotionally meaningful way? What are nautical verbs for fog movement? Likewise emotionally charged and nautical terms for "stench," "garbage," "sewage," and "spirits"?

Heavy and wet fog drifts -- low wind conditions accompany heavy fog; rarely, heavier wind accompanies light, wispy fog. "Rolled in" is a deep-inland landlubber term. Plus, fog moves from a place to a place. Stench is loaded enough, though then garbage, raw sewage, and spirits are of less emotional amplitude and not per se of a nautical bent.

The emphasis arc of openings requires emotional emphasis rise toward a peak then fall off somewhat, sooner or later. The sentence, as is, trails off to dead stop after "harbor." The paragraph fragment's emphasis arc bounces like tiny speed bumps, which could, if more artful, rise to the first paragraph's end, maybe continue the arc rise in one or two subsequent short paragraphs, and peak at a pivotal point then; ideally, when what Turney is really up to is introduced.

For demonstration purposes, the first sentence recast: //Soupy fog from the harbor drifted into the lantern-lit port town. Heavy mists wafted soured rum, rotted garbage, and overripe sewage stenches across the wharf. Foul dewdrops wet Turney's frayed overcoat and baldpate, hazed the cobblestones his boots slunk over, and dampened planked shops beside the waterfront lane.//

However, foreshadowing is a prominent prose function for ambience, atmosphere, weather, and setting details generally. I can't project from what's given what Turney is really up to, so the above demonstration entails little or no foreshadowing of events to come (the verbs "drifted, "wafted," adjective "foul," past participle gerunds "soured," "rotted," and verb "slunk" may serve some foreshadowing function; that is, Turney is sneaky, of a low character, and up to no good), though the recast demonstration is emotionally charged and the emphasis arcs; perhaps enough, maybe too much.

If indicated, the serial lists could be reduced to one most telling detail, one most significant detail, like overripe sewage stench settles onto Turney's baldpate and he is disgusted by it.

At the least, the demonstration illustrates a more leisurely setting development method and fuller realized scene and stronger organized preparation segmenting.

Thirteen lines allows very little plot movement. The usual thirteen-lines fragments attempt to arrive at a plot pivot, an inciting event and, ergo, rush development to get there within the allotted line count. However, implication through foreshadowing and event, setting, and character telling detail development is a key thirteen-lines strategy that implies something is about to go event-awry in a major way, arouses curiosity at least, implies plot movement if not, ideally, story movement.

"It just takes practice." And practice that is trial and error and multiple many experiments with language that's other than everyday conversation's off-the-cuff spontaneity.

[ June 22, 2016, 01:46 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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extrinsic
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The third version contains more compact sentences and of enough type variety, though the tense changes haphazardly throughout the fragment.
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