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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Boiling Springs, Take Two

   
Author Topic: Boiling Springs, Take Two
JoBird
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VERSION ONE:

quote:
“Is he guilty?” Elise asked. She and constable Reeves weaved through a crowd of gathered folks in the town’s center. Cold rain fell. She held Reeves' thin, black book over her head.

Constable Reeves spit into a growing puddle of mud. His body still ached from the long ride earlier. He gave little growls to encourage people to step aside. “You’re going to ruin my copy of his play,” Reeves said. “It cost me four tiles to have it scripted and bound.”

“I’m ruining my dress, too. Just answer my question. Is he guilty? For real?” Elise’s white dress was indeed getting soaked. Reeves admired it against the small curves of her body. She pulled the book down, covering her chest. Reeves averted his eyes, and sniffed through the gaping hole that was once his nose.

VERSION TWO:

quote:
The crowd murmured in anxious anticipation. They shuffled their feet, and craned their necks to get a glimpse of Kymric’s arrest. This was a big day in Boiling Springs, Reeves knew. One of the most respected pillars of the four tribes was about to be chained for a senseless and bloody crime. And none of the people could understand. Kymric wasn’t a monster, he wasn’t an evil aberration that society needed protection from. He was a gift-giver, a good man, a living apostle to the four tribes. Even Elise had trouble accepting his guilt, and she had seen the dining room full of dead bodies.

“Is he guilty?” Elise asked again. She and constable Reeves weaved through the crowd of gathered folks in the town’s center. Cold rain fell. She held Reeves' thin, black book over her head as



[ August 11, 2012, 01:46 PM: Message edited by: JoBird ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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This is actually 14 lines on my computer, but I use MSIE, and I understand that if you use Firefox as your browser, the box allows for 14 lines, so I am willing to allow for that.

Hope that helps, JoBird.

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JoBird
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Okay, I see what you're saying. I'm using Chrome, by the way, and these lines total up to thirteen in the full reply message box for me.

I was confused on two levels.

1. Originally, I thought I was supposed to try to base the thirteen lines off of the manuscript itself. Like, if I write it in Word in Times New Roman with a twelve point font, then count out and grab the first thirteen lines. Doing it that way, this adds up to nine lines. So, I was confused there.

2. When I realized I couldn't take the full thirteen lines out of my manuscript then I understood that I had to crop it based on the reply box. I just wasn't sure which one until now. There's the quick reply box, the full reply box, and the preview post box.

Ultimately, I'm just a bit slow, but I've got what's meant by thirteen lines now. Thanks.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Don't use the quick reply box, it's shorter.

I'm glad you were able to sort it out. I try to explain in a topic in the Please Read This First area, but I manage not to be clear enough, I guess.

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JoBird
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VERSION TWO:

quote:
The crowd murmured in anxious anticipation. They shuffled their feet, and craned their necks to get a glimpse of Kymric’s arrest. This was a big day in Boiling Springs, Reeves knew. One of the most respected pillars of the four tribes was about to be chained for a senseless and bloody crime. And none of the people could understand. Kymric wasn’t a monster, he wasn’t an evil aberration that society needed protection from. He was a gift-giver, a good man, a living apostle to the four tribes. Even Elise had trouble accepting his guilt, and she had seen the dining room full of dead bodies.

“Is he guilty?” Elise asked again. She and constable Reeves weaved through the crowd of gathered folks in the town’s center. Cold rain fell. She held Reeves' thin, black book over her head as


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Elan
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In my opinion, your story doesn't start to get interesting until this line: "Kymric wasn’t a monster, he wasn’t an evil aberration that society needed protection from. He was a gift-giver, a good man, a living apostle to the four tribes."

Try starting there, if you want an opening that really grabs attention...

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mikerancourt
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Following up on Elan's opinion, I messed around with the order:

Kymric wasn’t a monster. He wasn’t an evil aberration that society needed protection from. He was a gift-giver, a living apostle of the four tribes. Yet the shuffling crowd craned their necks, catching glimpses of the restrained elder about to be sentenced for a senseless crime.

Elise was still disbelieving and she had seen the dining room full of bodies.

“Is he guilty?” She asked Constable Reeves as they weaved through the crowd. A cold rain fell in the town center.

So...what did Kymric do? :-D

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Lance Conrad
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First version gives us a lot of unanswered questions, which can be good, but perhaps too many. Tossing attraction in there in the first 13 might be a little rushed. The second version leaves us without as many questions, but to me was less personal and didn't draw me into the characters at all. I'm interested to know what Kymric did but don't care if he's chained or executed for it.
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JoBird
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Thank you so much for the thoughts so far. Some of it really resonates with me. I appreciate it greatly.
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MattLeo
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I still like your original from the first post best, because the narrator's personality comes through. This is what agents and editors call having a "fresh voice".

These versions feel a bit -- journalistic. They're information packed.

The main issue I have with the first one may be a personal idiosyncracy. I like to know as soon as possible who the POV character is in a scene. It would please me more if it were clear in the first paragraph that Reeves is doing the observing. The water is running down *his* neck because he's given Elise his hood.

It seems to me that every time you rewrite this opening, it gets less personal and idiosyncratic. The last version is by far my least favorite. The opening is full of world-building details that are meaningless to us, not being familiar with "the four tribes" etc. If you are going to write an information packed piece, don't bury your lead. You could open with the second half of the paragraph:
quote:
Kymric wasn’t a monster, he was a gift-giver, a good man, a living apostle to the four tribes. Even Elise had trouble accepting his guilt, and she had seen the dining room full of dead bodies.
There are of course stylistic issue here that not everyone agrees with. I like to get a sense for whose eyes it is I'm looking through. But other people are very much of the Flaubert school -- they want *concrete* images, they want the author to use the POV character like a filmmaker uses his camera. In that case you want to open with a memorable sensation or image (perhaps the rain dripping down Reeves' back). What you've got in this final version is kind of a mishmash with too many different kinds of detail, including the ones *nobody* wants to be burdened with in an opening (the anthropology of your world).

When in doubt in an opening, simplify. Don't give the reader too many different things to think about or focus upon. Structure information so it comes in at a point that makes sense.

For a cinematic style, you could use the narration like a camera. Starting with this third version you could start with a tight shot, widen it a bit, and then pull back for the panoramic shot. You might start with the rain on Reeve's neck. Widen the shot Elise's question about Kymrik's guilt. Pull back to take in the crowd and its mood, then cap that with Reeves' opinion. That isn't my style, but it gets all the information out in a logical chain where the reader is prepared for the next slug of detail.

By the way, I have a silly problem with your title. When I read it, I don't picture the boil of a spring (although I've seen plenty and even snorkled into a few). What I picture are mattress springs in a pot of boiling water.

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History
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I agree with Matt. I find the original opening better.
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JoBird
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I agree. After a lot of consideration, I agree. You're right.

I received a bit of advice via email telling me that publishers prefer third person limited to first person. That spun me into a bit of a crisis; I decided to rewrite the whole thing. I think that was a mistake on my part.

Unfortunately, it takes me a while to figure out what criticism to keep and what criticism to let go.

Thank you.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by JoBird:
I received a bit of advice via email telling me that publishers prefer third person limited to first person. That spun me into a bit of a crisis; I decided to rewrite the whole thing. I think that was a mistake on my part.

Well, that is an extraordinary bit of intelligence. I have certainly heard no so such thing. For example Nathan Bransford, the author and well-known former agent, wrote an article about first and third person narration last year (http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2011/06/first-person-vs-third-person.html), and nowhere does it mention this preference. Surely he would if there were some kind of industry-wide preference.

Aspiring authors are so eager to please they tend to construct hard and fast rules from one or two opinions. It'd be insane to rule out first person narration, and clearly it hasn't been ruled out by publishers.

That said, I like third person limited a great deal. Skillfully (n.b.) applied, it combines many of the advantages of first person and third person. But the advantage doesn't happen magically just because you use third person limited, any more than flying a carrier-capable fighter plane means that you, personally, can land that plane on a ship. You have to do the right things with it.

What you want to do is sneakily move deeper into the POV character's head when you want a more first-person feeling. The narration picks up some of the character's dialog foibles: the word choices, the rhythm (sentence or word length), the thinking style (reactive/emotional, stolid/rational). When you do this you want to achieve the very personal narrative feel you get in first person. I can show you some examples if you like.

When you want to introduce stuff outside the main character's head, you either pull subtly back, becoming more formal and objective; or you can introduce a second POV to the story. The latter is highly effective, but in my experience tends to be costly in word count.

There are still things that can be done better in first person than third person limited. Imagine *The Tell-Tale Heart* told in third person limited. It doesn't work. That's because the narrator has an agenda (to convince you that killing and dismembering an old man is what any reasonable person would have done), and addresses himself to the reader. The big difference, I think, in how *personal* first and third person limited narration are is that in first person, the narrator is on stage and knows it. He consciously and unconsciously colors what he tells the reader, and thus reveals things about himself he may not even know.

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