Hatrack River
Home   |   About Orson Scott Card   |   News & Reviews   |   OSC Library   |   Forums   |   Contact   |   Links
Research Area   |   Writing Lessons   |   Writers Workshops   |   OSC at SVU   |   Calendar   |   Store
E-mail this page
Hatrack River Writers Workshop Post New Topic  Post A Reply
my profile login | register | search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » New Series - Oh and I'm back. :)

   
Author Topic: New Series - Oh and I'm back. :)
MikeL
Member
Member # 9138

 - posted      Profile for MikeL   Email MikeL         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Hi everyone, it's been some time since I checked these forums. I've been building up a report with some editors and now I'm working on a new Science Fiction series. If you have time, please let me know what you think.

OLD 13:
quote:
Perched on the roof of an apartment complex, he watched for the target. The moonless night grated on his nerves. Criminals were hard enough to catch in broad daylight without the added problem of dark shadows. He double checked his gear and waited, crouching on the edge, above the target’s balcony. A bead of sweat ran down his back as his nerves and the stillness began to get to him. This would be a long night.

The cold wind whistled through the alley ways below. Sounds of the monorail in the distance echoed through the streets. People making their way down sidewalks and side paths chattered unaware, and completely oblivious to the dark form above them. He was part of a three man reconnaissance squad working with Alpha. This was his team’s first Psy Ops mission with a

Second update 13:

quote:
The cold wind barely registered through his strength-enhancing, armored exosuit. His muscles tensed when he received a report that the target was closing on their position; E.T.A. five minutes. He checked his gear and weapons for the twentieth time, and a bead of sweat ran down his back, a sign of nerves betraying his calm. He slowly crept toward the roof's edge above the target's balcony. Once the target entered the building, it was Alpha's job to take him; his team, Beta, was backup and recon. People made their way down sidewalks and paths completely oblivious to the covert activities. Sounds of a monorail in the distance echoed through the night. His communication unit, a bio-implant, chirped the sound of an incoming transmission.
Newest updated 13, in Courier 12pt:
quote:
The cold wind barely registered through his black armored, strength-enhancing exosuit. He checked his gear and weapons for the twentieth time. A bead of sweat slowly rolled down his back betraying his calm, as he slowly crept toward the edge of the flat roof just above the target's fourth floor balcony. Below, people on their daily routines ambled their way down sidewalks and paths oblivious to the covert activities. Sounds of a monorail echoed through the night, as he silently recited the mission details again: Wait for the target to enter the building; provide backup & reconnaissance to Alpha team inside. Suddenly, his bio-implanted communication unit chirped the sound of an incoming transmission.


[ March 19, 2013, 12:30 PM: Message edited by: MikeL ]

Posts: 154 | Registered: Jun 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
JSchuler
Member
Member # 8970

 - posted      Profile for JSchuler   Email JSchuler         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The first paragraph isn't doing much for me, and it's primarily tripping my suspension of disbelief. A moonless night is grating? He's set up an ambush and the darkness is a hindrance? He's watching from an edge (directly?) above the target's balcony? Sounds like a terrible place to watch from.

And if he has only double checked his gear, I don't believe he's been there long enough for the stillness to get to him.

Plus, what stillness? The very next paragraph you have wind whistling through alley ways, the sound of a monorail, and a moving crowd down below. It's very much the opposite of still.

In short, I'm not getting a cohesive, immersive picture here.

Posts: 271 | Registered: Jan 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
An in medias res opening that starts the action in the middle of events but not the dramatic situation, largely expressing backstory. The tension of the moment is almost tangible due to the emotional context; that is, the viewpoint character's at cross odds emotional reactions to the circumstances.

However, the narrative distance is open a little wide for me for the situation and contrary to the emotional context from limited sensation detail for the viewpoint character to react to, limited sensory stimuli description to respond to in the moment. Verbs like "perched" and "watched" in the first sentence are synonyms for stood or sat and saw or looked, and so on, are signals the scene is underrealized. They are static voice instead of dynamic voice that an opening calls for. Consider describing sensory details about the rooftop, avoiding any seeing or body posture awareness, and thus implying the viewpoint character is perched on the apartment building rooftop looking down into the alleyway.

"I've been building up a report with some editors." "Report"? Rapport. "Double checked"? Double-checked. "Alley ways"? Alleyways. "Unaware, and completely oblivious"? Tautology and irrelevant comma. "Three man reconnaissance squad"? Three-man.

Paint the scene as though from the viewpoint character's in the moment perceptions and reactions and the narrative distance will close in and the voice settle into an easy back and forth between the viewpoint character's foreground exterior (sensory) and interior (reaction and thought) worlds, instead of foreground narrator mediation.

The strongest feature for me is that of starting in medias res, being curious about why the viewpoint character is in the situation, and a developing introduction of the dramatic complication that's not quite as fully realized as I favor; that is, that the viewpoint character is on a manhunt for a psionic terrorist, which was redacted due to being overlimit. Dramatic complication is a want or problem wanting satisfaction. Describing or implying the complication is a matter for openings, as soon as the first line. Since the psionic terrorist complication credibly is in the foremind of the viewpoint character in this situation, start there. Waiting is boring for readers too; start with a first sighting of the psion.

[ March 16, 2013, 02:49 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

Posts: 3541 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
tesknota
Member
Member # 10041

 - posted      Profile for tesknota   Email tesknota         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I like it. JShuler and extrinsic bring up good points, but before I read their comments I had one of my own.

I was immersed in the the mood until right after this part: "oblivious to the dark form above them."
I just felt jolted out of the scene into an explanation of what he was a part of... I guess a tell, rather than a show? I'm not entirely sure I'm using the correct terminology here.

Maybe instead of telling me what team he was a part of, write about what the other two teams members are doing, where they are, etc. Show me the other team members rather then tell me he's part of a team.

But it's almost 3 AM and maybe all of my thoughts and suggestions are gibberish right now.

Posts: 168 | Registered: Feb 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MikeL
Member
Member # 9138

 - posted      Profile for MikeL   Email MikeL         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thanks extrinsic,

You are quite right, I am waiting too long to describe the dramatic complication; I.E. the manhunt for the psionic terrorist.

Like you said, I really need to make sure to deliver the active/dynamic vs passive/static voice. I've always struggled to do this in the beginning of the story, because I want to give too much info... I forget that I can explain along the way.

Having looked at the scene again, do any of you think there is an issue beginning the first line or two with dialogue, or is that a taboo?

Posts: 154 | Registered: Jun 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MikeL
Member
Member # 9138

 - posted      Profile for MikeL   Email MikeL         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Question: Did I do something wrong with my line count?
(I must have - 12pt Times New Roman - 1 inch margins)

What am I missing?

Posts: 154 | Registered: Jun 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Opening with dialogue is speaking from disembodied mouths out of a black dark vacuum void. It's not taboo, per se, though it can be disorienting from not putting a speaker's voice to physical world character and setting introductions and development.

Thirteen lines fit exactly into a text box where a poster enters a new topic forum post. Note that the typeface for the text box <textarea> is a monospaced slab serif type, like Courier. 66 glyph columns wide and 13 rows deep, as it would be in Standard Manuscript Format set in a 12 pt monospaced typeface, again, like Courier. Times New Roman is a proportional typeface and does not have a standard column dimension: a period takes up a tenth the width of a capital M, for example.

[ March 16, 2013, 05:42 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

Posts: 3541 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by tesknota:
I like it. JShuler and extrinsic bring up good points, but before I read their comments I had one of my own.

I was immersed in the the mood until right after this part: "oblivious to the dark form above them."
I just felt jolted out of the scene into an explanation of what he was a part of... I guess a tell, rather than a show? I'm not entirely sure I'm using the correct terminology here.

Maybe instead of telling me what team he was a part of, write about what the other two teams members are doing, where they are, etc. Show me the other team members rather then tell me he's part of a team.

But it's almost 3 AM and maybe all of my thoughts and suggestions are gibberish right now.

Your terminology is a heat-seeking missile. I felt there were tells, too, but focused on whys and wherefores of and treatments for tells and shows. A tell, in a simple definition, is a narrator's summarization or explanation told, reported directly to readers. A show is a viewpoint character's perceptions and reactions to perceptions in the moment of the action.
Posts: 3541 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MikeL
Member
Member # 9138

 - posted      Profile for MikeL   Email MikeL         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thanks extrinsic,
You have been most helpful.

Please see the updated version of the first 13.

quote:
The cold wind barely registered through his strength-enhancing, armored exosuit. His muscles tensed when he received a report that the target was closing on their position; E.T.A. five minutes. He checked his gear and weapons for the twentieth time, and a bead of sweat ran down his back his nerves betraying his calm. He slowly crept toward the roof's edge above the target's balcony. Once the target entered the building, it was Alpha's job to take him; his team, Beta, was backup and recon. People made their way down sidewalks and paths completely oblivious to the covert activities. Sounds of a monorail in the distance echoed through the night. His communication unit, a bio-implant, chirped the sound of an incoming transmission.


[ March 16, 2013, 11:36 AM: Message edited by: MikeL ]

Posts: 154 | Registered: Jun 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
JSchuler
Member
Member # 8970

 - posted      Profile for JSchuler   Email JSchuler         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I like the new version better. It fixes my issue with suspension of disbelief. But, it's still heavy on the tell for me, and generic. I'm just going to focus on one sentence.

"People made... completely oblivious to the covert activities."

I picked this because the scene described here could be the basis of a strong opening, giving us a setting and a situation. But, we need a few things:

-What people? What sidewalks? Did a movie just let out? Are these people just off the monorail, dragging themselves along the cracked pavement after a day at the Energy Mill? Is it a crowd of shoppers, loaded down with bags from the Jacey's Megastore that dominates the block? Are they well dressed, the women in heavy furs? What's their general mood? Think about the neighborhood and time of day this scene occurs in and what characterizes the people milling about below. Use what you come up with to immerse me in your world.

-"completely oblivious" Adverbs, the hallmark of telling. Not all adverbs are bad. Sometimes telling is appropriate. However, whenever I write one, I go back and re-read without the adverb. Does the scene still make sense? Does the sentence still flow? If it does, I cut. 99 times out of 100, I cut.

-"covert activities." Generic, and not half as interesting as it could be. Compare to "oblivious to the sniper rifle peering down at them."

-Most important, we need a reason why these people are mentioned at all. In my above example, there's a sniper rifle interacting with the crowd. In your story, what is the crowd's interaction with the character you focused on? If there's no interaction, you may as well write about what's going on at the other side of the world for all the good it does, right? People halfway around the world are just as oblivious.

Posts: 271 | Registered: Jan 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Meredith
Member
Member # 8368

 - posted      Profile for Meredith   Email Meredith         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I might connect with "him" better if you gave him a name.

It still feels pretty distant, not tightly connected to the character's perceptions, thoughts, or feelings.

JMO

Posts: 3937 | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MikeL
Member
Member # 9138

 - posted      Profile for MikeL   Email MikeL         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thanks JSchuler,
Grr...how to do it all in 13 lines... [Smile] I guess this is where I put my creativity to the test eh? I'll revise it again soon. The people are walking to and from the monorail etc...yes, this needs a better explanation.

Thanks Meredith,
I want to give him a name, and I will, but its an awkward name that he hates...Daelan...so I'm saving it for a few more lines later into the dialogue. It also helps to build some tension between two characters.

Posts: 154 | Registered: Jun 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Grumpy old guy
Member
Member # 9922

 - posted      Profile for Grumpy old guy   Email Grumpy old guy         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Originally posted by MikeL:
quote:
Grr...how to do it all in 13 lines...
Do what? If you are having so much trouble with the opening, I would suggest you either don't have a clear idea of the purpose of the opening or you're trying to do too much with it.

The first 13 is far too restrictive to try and introduce too many concepts too quickly. Focus on one, would be my advice.

Phil.

Posts: 681 | Registered: Sep 2012  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I think the second version is stronger in sensory details, but like JShuler notes they are on the generic side. Also, now that I see the direction of the opening, the ordering of the setting details zooms in and out without fully realizing any one. The setting of the stakeout doesn't feel significant for later in the narrative, so not much development would be required, just a telling detail or two, maybe three for each visual sensation.

Ordering them is a hierachal matter. From close by Daelan to farther away and farther away, a narrative technique, or vice versa, farthest away to closer and closer by, a cinematic technique. Since Daelan's Beta team is overwatch, maybe a nearby middle ground opening closing into Daelan's close perceptions is in order.

As it is in the second version, I get some sense of the relative time, place, and situation of the setting. The exosuit and monorail suggest a near future time and the monorail suggests a populous urban or municipal location. I see how having many people around could make the situation more complicated for Daelan and thus why that's significant in the moment.

The vision I have of the setting is an aging, perhaps restored brownstone in a gentrified urban neighborhood. "Daelan _slowly_ crept"? tautology, gives me a sense the apartment building is about four stories tall and the rooftop is flat with a low ledge wall. Any higher and he'd have difficulty picking out people on the ground. Ledge walls are typically at least knee-high. And that gives me a sense of a northeast mega metrotropolis. High pitched gable roofs are more common to suburban and rural and southeastern apartment buildings where real estate isn't at such a premium and commonly only two or three stories.

Climate is another factor in roof configurations. Roofs that shed snow are steeper pitched. Flat roofs maximize rentable space when height restrictions limit upper story superstructure as in municipal settings. So I do have a sense of the setting but I'm projecting details that may be erroneous and cause reading distrubances later from being erroneous. The second law of writing, the writer writes the story, not the reader: not this much anyway.

Posts: 3541 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MikeL
Member
Member # 9138

 - posted      Profile for MikeL   Email MikeL         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Wow Extrinsic,
You've described my scene well: It is the future; although more distant. and the apartment is a four story building sitting in a "mega" metropolis. This is an older sections of the city - hence the four stories - that resides in a relatively warmer climate.

From what I gather, my second intro has almost hit the mark, but it needs a word or two added/changed to make it really stand out. The story's intro paragraph has always been my kryptonite, but I have so fully realized this scene that it's become like a movie to me. Maybe that's why some of the ordering theme closely mirrors that of a cinematic style.

Thanks to everyone for the help. Later I'll post the first 13 for Chapter 2. [Smile]

Posts: 154 | Registered: Jun 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
SASpencer
Member
Member # 10044

 - posted      Profile for SASpencer   Email SASpencer         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I think it is very suspenseful. The only thing I have to add is the reason you wrote the bead of sweat down his back is to show his nerves, so you can leave that out.


and a bead of sweat ran down his back betraying his calm.

Posts: 67 | Registered: Mar 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by MikeL:
Wow Extrinsic,
You've described my scene well: It is the future; although more distant. and the apartment is a four story building sitting in a "mega" metropolis. This is an older sections of the city - hence the four stories - that resides in a relatively warmer climate.

Consider how to work those setting details in so the setting isn't quite as relative and is more absolute. Not every general, reasonable reader is as imaginative as I am, nor projects as much life experience onto a writer's creative vision.
quote:
Originally posted by MikeL:
From what I gather, my second intro has almost hit the mark, but it needs a word or two added/changed to make it really stand out. The story's intro paragraph has always been my kryptonite, but I have so fully realized this scene that it's become like a movie to me. Maybe that's why some of the ordering theme closely mirrors that of a cinematic style.

Yes, almost hit the mark. I think some causation areas are a little open for further adjustment. The principle of causation has been my guiding light for openings for some time. A first cause is a circumstance that does not of necessity follow anything else of consequence or significance. Introducing a first cause starts a narrative's dramatic movement barrelling down the roller coaster track. Subsequent causes and their attendant effects follow in a credible and natural sequence.

A first cause I discern from this opening is implied, that of a wanted man at large, by Daelan's stakeout. Note: implied. Any reasonable reader can infer the psion is a villain and that Daelan and the Alpha and Beta teams are paramilitary law enforcers. This is another principle that works creative writing magic. Known as implicature, a circumstance clearly establishes intent and meaning even though implied. Giving readers enough detail to draw a reasonably accurate impression of a dramatic action's situation in the moment is the art of implicature.

Posts: 3541 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MikeL
Member
Member # 9138

 - posted      Profile for MikeL   Email MikeL         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Updated 13 in Courier 12pt:
quote:
The cold wind barely registered through his black armored, strength-enhancing exosuit. He checked his gear and weapons for the twentieth time. A bead of sweat slowly rolled down his back betraying his calm, as he slowly crept toward the edge of the flat roof just above the target's fourth floor balcony. Below, people on their daily routines ambled their way down sidewalks and paths oblivious to the covert activities. Sounds of a monorail echoed through the night, as he silently recited the mission details again: Wait for the target to enter the building; provide backup & reconnaissance to Alpha team inside. Suddenly, his bio-implanted communication unit chirped the sound of an incoming transmission.

Posts: 154 | Registered: Jun 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
JSchuler
Member
Member # 8970

 - posted      Profile for JSchuler   Email JSchuler         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Adverb city! barely... slowly... slowly... silently... suddenly...

Also, "betraying his calm" doesn't make sense, as I don't associate sweat with calm. "Betraying his nervousness" does.

I like his recitation. I imagine him stopping and giving a slow, controlled exhale before nestling up to whatever piece of gear he would be using (this is tough, as I have nothing to go on). Maybe he shuts his eyes. Maybe he peers through a scope. Maybe his hand operates the action on a gun. Then, under his breath, in words that are almost lost to the wind before they reach his own ears, he states his mission, like a mantra, to pull his mind away from his racing heart.

It's just unfortunate that everything I see is external to the text.

Posts: 271 | Registered: Jan 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MikeL
Member
Member # 9138

 - posted      Profile for MikeL   Email MikeL         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I like adverbs! LOL

Seriously, I fixed some of the "extra" and unneeded adverbs just after I had posted the new update. It's funny what you see after you read your own writing for the tenth time...

Posts: 154 | Registered: Jun 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Set battleship scanners on L-Y. Seek out and recast for dynamic voice and verbs. However, adverbs and adjectives' principal function is to express commentary: attitude, emotion, etc., dynamically. Their impact comes from their expressive qualities and their timely and judicious deployment, meaning only when amping up expression, when no other syntax or diction construction will do, and sparsely regardless.

Hit! "_Barely_ registered," meaning hardly noticeable, meaning not noticeable, really. Dynamic voice would flip that from a somewhat negation statement into a positivation statement; for example, felt a bit of chill.

Hit! "_Slowly_ rolled." Does this mean trickled? Or simply ran? Maybe traced or dribbled? Dripped? For figurative and expressive meaning, perhaps an icy sweat drop dragged down his back.

Hit! "_Slowly_ crept." I've never yet seen anyone creep or crawl rapidly or hurrily or quickly or fastly.

Hit! "_Silently_ recited." Is this mouthed? Whispered? Thought? It's a serial list he silently recites afterward, formatted in the old school italics convention signaling direct thought. To me, the action is a thought in the form of a review. Perhaps a direct thought tag and no italics are indicated:

Wait for the target to enter the building, mission orders, he thought, provide backup & reconnaissance to Alpha team inside.

Oh my, an ampersand in prose? Spell it out is the standard prose principle.

Hit! "_Suddenly_." Sentence adverb that doesn't meaningfully modify the meaning of the main clause. The active and dynamic verb chirped almost expresses the meaning of abruptness. A stronger verb would obviate the sentence adverb altogether. Maybe the communication unit thumps his ear drum?

But these herein are my voice, one of many, actually. The principles involved, though, are worth consideration.

[ March 20, 2013, 09:34 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

Posts: 3541 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
SASpencer
Member
Member # 10044

 - posted      Profile for SASpencer   Email SASpencer         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Ambled. I was watching the history or science Channel and they showed a Scandinavian horse with an unusual gait, called ambling, which is very efficient and it looked like the horse was trotting with straight legs. Unfortunately, now whenever I see that word I get that image. I was wondering what image was in your mind when you wrote that?
Posts: 67 | Registered: Mar 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MikeL
Member
Member # 9138

 - posted      Profile for MikeL   Email MikeL         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
SASpencer,

I picture people ambling as they walk home after a day at work; no enthusiasm or rush, just the routine task of walking while half aware of the surroundings.

Extrinsic,
I swear, that I post on this site just for comments like yours; brilliant, I tell you! I noticed those same area's as well, but I was sufficiently lazy before posting the last rewrite. I did not take the time to wait and read it myself till before I had posted it. Therefore, the many errors are due to my excitement about having a better intro and posting it too soon.

Still, I love your replies. They make me laugh.

Posts: 154 | Registered: Jun 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is not enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.
UBB Code™ Images not permitted.
Instant Graemlins
   


Post New Topic  Post A Reply Close Topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Contact Us | Hatrack River Home Page

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2