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Author Topic: "Piper" 2.0-Modern Fantasy-WIP
MerlionEmrys
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So I'm starting revisions/rewrites of my "Piper" story (which still needs a decent title) and while I am-for this draft-starting in more or less the same place, I'm trying out a different thing to begin it with.
So, thoughts on this are good and I wouldn't mind some readers for the whole revision when it's done.


There was a good crowd in the Blue Note jazz club tonight. There was a good crowd every night Peter and the Piper’s played anywhere; Peter made sure of it.

He took a deep breath and drained the last of his drink before heading back to the stage and nearly choked on it when the door of the club opened and admitted a new patron.

It wasn’t the person that choked Peter up though, not really-it was the unwieldy metal brace he wore around one leg.

It brought back memories. Old, old memories.

A boy limping along behind his friends—all of them, every other child he’d ever known—as they danced toward a gaping cave-mouth to the sound of Peter’s pipe, to visions of a utopia of eagle-winged horses and bees without stings.

[ January 20, 2019, 08:07 PM: Message edited by: MerlionEmrys ]

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extrinsic
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An individual and a club scene, a specimen visitation at a social gather.

Clunky and amateurish craft, diction, and syntax, non-definite, non-finite, nonspecific expression in particular leave me adrift and disengaged. A minor standout of small appeal is the fifth paragraph's recollection of a Pied Piper scene that connects to the "new patron's" arrival from the long lost past. Too soon to redouble back in time, though, due to the extant present moment scene rushes and forces low magnitude drama from incomplete scene to incomplete scene.

Consider rewrites that omit sentence fuse conjunctions and connective tissues: "before," "_and nearly_ choked," "when," "as," "though"; eliminate trivial -ing words, eliminate trivial expletive "it" uses, and eliminate cliché expressions, like "heading."

I couldn't read further as an engaged reader.

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EmmaSohan
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Peter! Of course I keep reading. It's an interesting problem for a start because you are not starting blank, you are hopefully connecting the reader to a previous story.

He took a deep breath? I am wondering about details like that. Is this part of the plot? Why is it here? My first readthrough I ignored it; on my second readthrough I stopped, paid attention, and decided it probably wouldn't happen.

On the grammar front, "and nearly chocked" needs more punch. A dash before it would probably be enough.

I like how you drop clues instead of saying. The clue of "Pipers" seems too obvious for the first sentence, and an implausible name for a band.

Remind me what you mean by "Peter made sure of it"?

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MerlionEmrys
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He projects his music to passersby and attracts them.

I have my doubts about that part though...how it's done or perhaps the doing of it at all.

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EmmaSohan
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We've talked about this line before. I atill got a "thug" vibe from that phrase, which you don't want. Last time, I thought you meant: "His music guarantees that", which is innocent.

BUT, and I am seeing this today, it could also be "There was a good crowd every night Peter and the Piper’s played anywhere; Peter attracted a following." And then you have a subtle hint to the old story.

What about that deep breath?

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Grumpy old guy
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Of all iterations of this story, I think this is the worst. Yes, we get closer to knowing who the character is and where the story might be heading, but still.

This opening is both obvious and artless. The contrived mystery and reveal of who Peter might be through the agency of a repressed memory stimulated by the entrance of a ‘lame’ man into the club is--well, words fail me in describing its obviousness.

The Piper of Hamelin, indeed. So many opportunities missed. From what I understand of the legend, it was the pipe which was enchanted, not the Piper.

Or are you thinking of this character:

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

Phil.

[ January 23, 2019, 05:32 AM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]

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MerlionEmrys
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quote:
BUT, and I am seeing this today, it could also be "There was a good crowd every night Peter and the Piper’s played anywhere; Peter attracted a following." And then you have a subtle hint to the old story.
Yeah, something like that would be better, or I may just do away with that aspect entirely.

Please excuse my slowness to reply-I'm working again, and fairly long hours, so writing related time is limited.

The thing about this story is, it's all about Peter's guilt and his past coming back to haunt him. There is really no way to have conflict early on without revealing who he is, because all of the story's conflict hinges on his past.

I'm definitely not sure about the flashback though...although, really, I always envisioned it starting with Willy (the now-grown lame boy from the Browning poem) showing up at the club.

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extrinsic
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An individual and guilt? An individual and the self? An individual and society? If one or more of those are central themes, numerous possibles for introduction through the title and thirteen lines, theme centrality irrespectively.

Maybe ambiguous or ambivalent title allusion to the lame boy grown or to the past, though introduction depiction of any now moment event that evokes guilt could work, for example, guilt about audience manipulation and self-justified by that the band has to "eat," though Peter loves the adoration most of all. What do proverbial they say about the emptiness of extorted, coerced, or bribed affection? Covert message potentials there. If affection (adoration, loyalty, obedience, respect, friendship, love, etc.) must be bought or forced, will whatever be sincere?

And then an outcome destination of maturation growth from sincere whatever realized. Genuine contrition at a personal cost? Or bildungsroman's personal maturation gains at personal loss costs? Or maturation decline? Further extortion for greater personal gains at others' expenses? Anyway, food for thought -- how theme intangibly functions for prose and congruent to a tangible dramatic movement action.

Much difference for prose between flashback and recollection.

"2. The Individual in Society
a. Society and a person's inner nature are always at war.
b. Social influences determine a person's final destiny.
c. Social influences can only complete inclinations formed by Nature.
d. A person's identity is determined by place in society.
e. In spite of the pressure to be among people, an individual is essentially alone and frightened." (Laura Paten, "Common Themes in Literature," UDC.edu hosted PDF)

[ January 27, 2019, 07:44 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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EmmaSohan
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quote:
Originally posted by MerlionEmrys:


Please excuse my slowness to reply-I'm working again, and fairly long hours, so writing related time is limited.

The thing about this story is, it's all about Peter's guilt and his past coming back to haunt him. There is really no way to have conflict early on without revealing who he is, because all of the story's conflict hinges on his past.

Conflict? You just need a reason for the reader to keep reading, and you seem to have no trouble with that. When I think about it now, one typical start is dropping hints so that the reader eventually understands that you are talking about the Pied Piper. You seem to do that.

So I don't see any problems other than you have to work, you can't call him Peter, and it's going to be a difficult story to write. And I don't know how many people know about the lame boy. I didn't.

But it has so much potential. One of the most famous characters in all of literature, and he's flat in the story.

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MerlionEmrys
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quote:
Conflict? You just need a reason for the reader to keep reading, and you seem to have no trouble with that.
I tend to agree, but many desire some sort of inciting issue or strong sign of the story's central conflict in the first 13. But as I said, with this one, that involves revealing who he is.


quote:
So I don't see any problems other than you have to work, you can't call him Peter, and it's going to be a difficult story to write. And I don't know how many people know about the lame boy. I didn't.

I think the lame boy may be an artifact of Browning’s poem version of the story (though I think that is perhaps the best known version.)
And I definitely can call him Peter. I’m aware of the nursery rhyme connection, but if it’s good enough for China Mieville, it’s good enough for me.

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EmmaSohan
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quote:
Originally posted by MerlionEmrys:
I tend to agree, but many desire some sort of inciting issue or strong sign of the story's central conflict in the first 13.

In the first 13 pages? That's reasonable, but not all books do that. Probably not The Princess Diaries, The Winter of our Discontent, or Twilight. I have been looking at starts, and starting with normal life seems common enough.
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extrinsic
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The above cited novels' starts begin from routine, everyday events though pose ominous portents of "danger at the door" routine interruptions. This is one of Jerome Stern's Making Shapely Fiction shapes, "Bear at the Door." The challenge of routine interruption starts is to show portents of pendent dramatic interruption among otherwise routine events: foreshadows, pre-positioned motifs, Chekhov's guns.

Other Stern shapes may attach, as well. A bear at the door is patently also a visitation shape, albeit an unwanted visitor, and could as well be a specimen shape, for instance, if the "bear" is Edward Cullen, vampire. A specimen is a subjective persona, that is, a subject observed and portrayed by an objective persona, an observer, Swan. The third type is an influence persona, a persona who antagonizes others. The latter two types may mix in antagonal influence, as Swan and Cullen do.

How aptly and artfully a writer establishes reader engagement and immersion through a pendent routine interruption within a few lines or pages differs. Some starts are slow or nonstarters and may expend up to a fourth of total narrative word count to initiate any dramatic movement. Others start quiet, yet initiate dramatic movement through victimism problem antagonism at first, or proactivism from the outset.

Twilight starts from a so-labeled "Preface" chapter that is actually a nonlinear timeline button-hole loop start from much later in the action and returns in Chapter One to a present-now moment. The Preface shows Cullen in superhuman action and Swan is suspicious. Stephenie Meyer balked at the publisher's insistence for a stronger start chapter, and they excerpted the section from later for the start. To this day, Meyer regrets that decision. Both the typescript that was and the as-published version's starts are inept starts. Except if the true subtexts of the cycle are inferred as advocacy for social elitism: self-promoted superior responsibilities warrant superior self-privileges.

A stronger start would have realized those subtexts and shown Swan as the ugly duckling wallflower she thought herself at first, victimized, that is, then promoted to among the elite, now that she's outgrown her fledgling feathers, as the saga unfolds.

Under-realization is a common shortfall of debut novels.

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EmmaSohan
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I think that becoming a princess is not a bear.

We could call it that if we were being paid to support Stern, but that would be backwards -- really her scheme is supposed to help us understand the stories.

If a story is to begin with life as normal, I think there should be something interesting. One possibility is what Stern said, though I prefer to call them intimations.

Cabot provides intimations. On page 10 (trade), her dad calls wanting to speak to her mother. It takes a clever reader to realize that's an intimation. Page 15 he calls again:

He sounded all weird on the phone again, so finally I was like, "Dad, is Grandmere dead?" and he got all startled and said, "No, Mia, why would you think that?"
And I told him it was because he sounded so weird, and he was all, "I don't sound weird," which was a lie...

I didn't know about the Preface in Twilight. I would have skipped it. Thanks. That's a pity.

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extrinsic
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A number of Stern's sixteen shapes attend routine interruption types, ostensibly, many, most, or all narratives are routine interruption -- a, or the, facet of a start's dramatic movement incitement. More anon. Princess Bride's several include "Journey's" "ordinary life is left behind." (Jerome Stern, Making Shapely Fiction, pg 33)

Also known as a native departs a hometown, the congruent opposite of a stranger comes to town, though the physical departure itself for the journey is part of or apart from the personal and interior life sojourn.

Now anon: three hundred sixty-five days to a year, the one that's markedly non-routine different is the basis for a story.

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EmmaSohan
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I have a native-departs-hometown story, but she departs around page 24; the precipitating incident to her leaving is page 12, just in the limit of 13 pages. My understanding is that those stories normally begin with life-as-normal, which I needed, alas. I tried to make it as short as possible.

The question is how to handle life-as-normal, and it didn't seem fair to authors to say it was just potents. In The Winter of Our Disconnect, Steinbeck creates little fault lines.

And Cabot creates a fake problem, which I am not sure I like. So I don't want to say authors can do whatever they want.

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extrinsic
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Thirteen pages Standard Manuscript Format amounts to roughly three thousand or so words, if a typewriter typeface. A quarter again as much if Times New Roman's journalism typeface. I know of no one who would read that much of everyday-routine prose for recreation purposes. Maybe up to a fifth page at most, or a thousand words.

Many editors might read five hundred words. More than a few intern screeners would read no more than a first page's thirteen lines if nothing else before had tripped the decline instinct.

How to handle the dramatic mischiefs of everyday, normal routines is a challenge. Manageable if complication, conflict, and tone developments do their timely and due magics. Otherwise, strong and clear ominous portents and intimations of a discernible pendent crisis degree will serve instead. A viewpoint persona on the cusp of routine interruption need not be aware, only that readers are clued in and curious and emotionally engaged to see the interruption unfold and end at a full satisfaction outcome.

Folkloristics offers liminality for such portents, both at the threshold of perceptible and liminal times-spaces for foreshadows, pre-positioned motifs, and Chekhov's guns. Threshold is the operative word: doorways, windows, ladders and stairs, gateways, portals, roadway entrances and exits, etc., transitional times-spaces: midnight, noon, dawn, dusk, work rush hours, an age phase onset, a milestone, a benchmark, a crossroads, a hallway, before a storm breaks, when a storm peaks, when a storm wanes, the zone where two or more ecosystems overlap and is neither, a shoreline, a dock, a basement, an attic, a mop closet, the rooftop of a skyrise, or a tenement row rooftop, a steam tunnel, the untamed, feral zone between a wilderness and a curated and manicured landscape, etc., etc. Liminality portrays settings as lively influence characters, too, for, perhaps, decision intimations, say, forward into the unknown or backward return to a known time-space though now as alien as forward and as when the threshold of transformation was entered.

Several pages of escalated routine victimization that exhort a native leaves hometown is an apt start, likewise, a faulted proactivism trial and error routine that leads to the true departure, say, three times a failed runaway and the fourth more so succeeds, and then all of Creation intercedes. A dramatic lead-up to a routine interruption, crisis incitement episode that at last compels the true journey's start as late as a fourth of total word count is apt, too; exceptions abound, of course.

Charles Frazier's Thirteen Moons starts from an aftermath button-loop timeline scene, that readers generally misunderstand and is under-realized, if ever. The true action begins in the second chapter, when young boy Will Cooper is forced from home.

[ February 15, 2019, 04:58 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Princesisto
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First, some comments about specifics of the writing:

1. A good opening paragraph. It tells us that this is about musicians. They are popular. "Peter made sure of it" has an element of mystery: we want to know how.

2. The second paragraph is just one sentence, which is usually not a good idea. It is very hard to put the proper emphasis and clarity into a mass of words like that. I count four sentences there.

3. The third paragraph is disappointing. It puts a very important piece of information secreted within a complex structure and difficult punctuation. Just tell us clearly: he was shocked by the leg brace. Maybe you should tell us why, maybe you should dangle it like bait. I can't speak to that until I know the rest of the story.

4. The fourth paragraph is spot on: wouldn't change a word or punctuation mark. Powerful and intriguing: the reader wants to know about those memories.

5. The fifth paragraph maybe shouldn't be there. We've gone in a few lines from playing in a club to limping around a cave. How we did that and why is not at all clear. Save the eagle-winged horses and bees without stings: it's a nice concept. But mesh it into a story.

Instead, I would say, get on with the story. What is happening now? It's a little like the King spent one hour announcing his new policy and forgot to tell what it was. This is 13 lines of giving us little teasers about what the story WILL be about. I say, put the final paragraph into the present tense and use it to tell what happens now that the band have had a good night on stage.

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Princesisto
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P.S. Sorry. Yes, if you are looking for beta readers when you are ready for that, my hand is up waving at you!
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MerlionEmrys
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Thank you for your thoughts and for the offer. If I ever get my act sufficiently together to finish this second draft, I'll send it to you.
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