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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Magician

   
Author Topic: Magician
mobewan
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New book. First book! Have first chapter done, about 7k words. Its fantasy/steampunk(ish). Pulpy type tone. Needs more work before opening up whole chapter to be read, so just looking for opening feedback for now. I've rewritten it several times with the general tone staying the same, but I now feel like I'm over editing it, so I'm looking for second/third+ opinions. Any feedback gratefully recieved.

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With forced stubbornness Aiken ignored the throng of people, horses and loud conversations that surged through the square behind him as he stared at the tired looking station-house. Like a weary old has-been, the buildings façade had faded with time, paint blistering off it in long, curled ribbons. Windows were smudged so badly with dirt it must have been done on purpose to stop people peeking in and catching glimpses of inner activity. Even the roof seemed to sag under the weight of the city’s expectations pushing down on it.

He stood alone, the decision he needed to make his only company. He looked up at the building’s sign as it slowly pirouetted in the wind. It was hanging on only one hinge, the other having given way some time ago. The quiet squeak it made keeping time with his heartbeat. It was made from cracked wood, and the image painted onto its surface had faded over time. Hard to make out unless you were up close, it displayed an eagle in flight, holding a sceptre and a shield in its claws. It was the universal symbol of peace and guardianship.

It's dilapidated state the universal symbol of falling into disrepute.

[ October 15, 2012, 03:25 PM: Message edited by: mobewan ]

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Meredith
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My first comment is: Stop editing the first chapter and just get the story out--the whole story. That's what first drafts are for. Don't worry about revisions until after you type "The End".

I like the description. I can picture the setting.

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ars
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I have to agree with the above comment however, if this is helpful:

I stumbled over "paint blistering off it in long, curled ribbons." Blistering made me picture bubbles in paint that has been burned or out in scorching sun, then I had to change my mental image when the "curled ribbons" came off. But that may just be me.

Try cutting "over time" from "the image painted onto its surface had faded over time." The surrounded details are enought to cover that.

Good luck with the rest!

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mobewan
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@Meredith, sound advice. Wish I could be as disciplined (and I am iproving the time taken during revision), but I'm also learning loads from the experience. It's something I will keep my eye on though. Picturing the setting is the key, so I'm pleased that came through.
@ars, thanks for the feedback. both great points, and I do have an issue with added detail that bogs the flow down, so its really useful to get that pointed out.

I have edited the paragraph (sorry Meredith!) based on the feedback (and expanding out the advice from here and a friend). As you pointed our ars, it was inconsistent in a couple of the descriptions, and I wanted to emphasise both the decision to be made (and make reader curious) as well as highlighting the disparity between the respect there should be for what the building represents against its dilapidated state. Now really happy with it, but always welcome further feedback). Thanks all.

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Aiken stood alone, the decision he needed to make his only company.
With forced stubbornness he ignored the throng of people, horses and loud conversations that surged through the square behind him as he stared at the tired looking station-house. Like a weary old has-been, the buildings façade had faded, pale paint curling off it in long ribbons. Windows across all four stories were smudged so badly with dirt and grime, that you couldn’t help but wonder if it was done on purpose. Even the roof seemed to sag under the weight of the city’s expectations.
He raised his his eyes to look at the building’s sign above the door. It was slowly pirouetting in the wind, hanging lopsided off one hook. The quiet squeak it made as it spun keeping time

[ October 19, 2012, 07:45 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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T. Westfield
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My interest was piqued at the first line.

I was put off a bit, though, by the start of the next line - "conversations" don't make up part of a throng in my opinion. Moving "throng" to your opening line could strengthen that image ("Aiken stood alone in the throng...) while streamlining the second ("With forced stubbornness he ignored the people, horses and loud conversations...)

"Weary old has-been" seems a bit repetitious, I think I'd at least drop "old" from that series. "Weary" also echoes "tired looking" from the previous sentence, describing the same building - you may want to replace "tired looking" with something like "aged" or "weathered".

In the "Windows" sentence you switch from the POV of Aiken(he) to (you), which seems a bit odd. However, I can see how having Aiken studying the windows takes away from his focus on the decision he must make. Still, unless the "done on purpose" detail is relevant to your story, I would find another way to describe the dirt.

Regarding the sagging roof, the reference to the "city's expectations" tripped me up. Perhaps it would be better if the roof sags "under the weight of time" or "years" - something to tie in with the other aging-related descriptive terms you've used.

Also, I think you can tighten up that last line as well: "He raised his eyes to the sign above the door. Pirouetting slowly in the wind, it hung lop-sided off one hook. Its rhythmic squeak keeping time..."

I hope you were serious about welcoming more feedback!

T.

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mobewan
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Thanks T. Yep, the more feedback the better - I have broad shoulders :-)

All your suggestions are great. Def agree with the conversations/throng bit, and the pov spot is great. Hadn't even noticed. I like the "cities expectation" line because its relevant to the story, but it does seem clunky there, so need to reflect on that.

If I were to debate anything you've said, it would be the weary old has-been. I agree that it's repetitious, but the line seems to flow better than it does if I remove a line. Get your point though, and I'll reflect on it.

Ironically, I've made a break through in the overall story today, which means I need to go back and rethink the opening. Basically the building now needs to be not quite so run down! Will make more sense if I were to show you...which I will do once I've had chance to straighten it out, and open myself up for more of this feedback experience. Loving it so far.

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T. Westfield
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The city's "expectation" makes more sense to me now, because of the detail you added about the symbol on the sign. I had interpreted the "station-house" as a train station before, most likely because of where your reference to horses took me. Now I see this is a police station, or something similar, so I understand the expectations placed on it.

And debate away! The story is yours, so only you know what's truly right for it. Repetition of the tired/old/weary description reinforces that sense of dilapidation, which may be precisely what you want.

In keeping with your breakthrough, I'm sure you can shift your description to fit - perhaps moving from the run-down look to something more indicative of being weathered and well-worn. Stone steps indented from the passage of many feet, door handles burnished by the touch of thousands of hands, and such.

In any case, congratulations on the breakthrough!

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Tank1982
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Hello, thanks for sharing. You painted a very clear picture as I could "see" what you were describing. I think that this is something I would turn the page on.

I wasn't so sure of some of your 'ing' choices, and felt that a regular action verb might have done the job better. For instance, "Like a weary old has-been, the buildings facade had faded( ; ) pail paint curl(ed) off it in long ribbons." and "The quiet squeak it made as it spun (kept) time"

Other than that, the only thing that confused me was "Aiken stood alone, the decision he needed to make his only company" I think i read it about 5 or 6 times trying to understand what it meant. It helped me when I threw 'was' in between make and his.

[ October 24, 2012, 06:53 PM: Message edited by: Tank1982 ]

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mobewan
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@T, it’s really difficult with the 13 line limit (and I'm not convinced I've stuck to that...) to give full feeling for the section, so accept that without being able to continue on a few lines you may miss some of the context, but appreciate the feedback. Ironically with the "breakthrough" (may have made it sound slightly more glamorous than it actually is there…;-) what I was doing was linking the state of the building (impressive, grand even, at first glance. But underneath the surface there is something hidden) with that of Aiken himself, and your ideas have made me think maybe I’m not being subtle enough…
@Tank1982, glad you’d read on! Good points about ‘ing words. I struggle with the technical elements of writing, and this type of feedback helps me recognise when I need to work on tense, imagery and all other sorts of “proper writing” elements. And your comments about the first line…I hadn’t realised I’d been reading in a missing ‘was’ as well. I’d read that line so many times I’d simply missed it wasn’t constructed well enough. Cheers.

Will post revision soon…

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mobewan
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new start. Concious it means getting to the point takes longer and can't be covered in 13 lines...
----------------------
Aiken stood alone, stubbornly ignoring the discord of noise behind him. The decision he needed to make was more than enough company.

Ignoring the babbling conversations, creaking wagons and braying horses that surged through the chaotic square, he stared at the Station-House in front of him, and wondered at the impression it gave.

Tall, wide and multi-storied, it leapt out of the area as though trying to escape. Recently painted surfaces. Crystal-clear window panes. Elaborate shutters that actually worked. A smartly tiled roof. Huge doors made from lacquered wood. All clean and tidy, despite the recent storms. It all gave a sense of the spectacular, the noble, the dignified. It stood out in

[ October 26, 2012, 12:30 AM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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