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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Daughter of the Sun

   
Author Topic: Daughter of the Sun
babygears81
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Virginia Young-Deer was a girl divided. She lay on the couch in the living room wrapped in her mother's quilt, white knuckled from wringing a corner-end she had wrapped around her hand. Virginia always feared, when her mom went on these binges, disappearing for days at a time, that she might never see her again.
Then, of course, if she did come home tonight, Virginia knew she would be what Nanna called piss-drunk. Mom lived in a sea of sadness. Anyone else would have drowned, but her mom had found a way to breathe under water--to suck the sadness up deep inside her and then blow it out, before breathing it back in again.
If Virginia caught her on the exhale, there would be glorious times. Times where her mom's smile lit up her whole face, and she seemed, if for a moment, genuinely happy. But the exhale never

[ June 05, 2013, 06:32 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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enigmaticuser
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Grief can be hard opener. It's like walking in on someone whining.

I think what makes it or breaks it is whether it comes off like relating or whining. I think you're ok until "sea of sadness". Then it starts to sound like wallowing.

If I say to you, "I'm really sad", do you think I'm as sad as a person crumbled on the ground racked with sobs? Once the narrator starts naming/analyzing feelings their using intellect so the emotions seem to lose power.

So I think if you toned down the explicit sadness it would be better.

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Estee
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The first sentence didn't fit for me. At first I thought maybe she was actually, physically divided--like she lay on the couch with her hand cut off and wrapped in a quilt. It's not a strong first sentence. Experiment with putting "mother's missing again" in the first sentence. From there, I think you could really dive into Virginia's character. Her age. Her thoughts. Her feels. Her fears. Don't have Virginia be thinking about her mother's feelings. Give us a good solid anchor into the soul of Virginia--then we'll know whether to sympathize with Mom, or hate her.
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babygears81
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Thanks for the feedback!
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Denevius
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My only concern is that, as a reader, I find the mom a more interesting narrative subject than the girl, who is barely in this opening except as an observer of her mother.
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shimiqua
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I'd suggest walking around the sadness, rather than dwelling in it.

This is the girls life. Her mom is always sad or drunk, and she's on her own too much. Even sad things like this become normal when you're living within it. I think you should show us what her life is like. What does she do other than sit on a couch and wait for her mom to come home? She could be making dinner, or listening to music, or doing homework, and then hear her mom come in, and show the drastic and fearful moment of unclarity on her mom's mood.

There is some beautiful prose here, but the POV character isn't the star of this story so far.

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Carl F
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Glad you developed a new opener. I believe I told you earlier that I thought you should develop Virginia more at the start. I want to see and know this girl.
Estee's comments make sense too. Since I know what is going to happen further along, this would also be a place to plant the idea that all is not as normal as it might seem. Start a little mystery brewing.
How is the rest shaping up? Carl

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InarticulateBabbler
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First: if there is a speculative element here, I don't see it. So, if it is futuristic or fantastic, there should be some hint. That may be the area to focus on first--unless Virginia's mom really can breathe under water.

Second: How old is Virginia? If she's a teen or older, it doesn't feel right to have her curled up and afraid; if she's young, then how would she know what would drown anyone else in sadness? the voice seems off, without reason. If it is a different narrator, maybe we could get a hint of the narrator and why they are telling the story.

I won't dwell on the sadness, except to say, why aren't we seeing Virginia's sadness? It seems the narrator is telling us about something we should be experiencing through Virginia's eyes.

And maybe she could be showing something that she does to take (or try and take) her mind off of it.

I hope this helps.

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babygears81
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Thanks everybody. This chapter definitely focuses more on Mom than Virginia. This is the only chance the reader will have to see Mom, and its important that they get to know her. In my past draft, Virginia wasn't in the scene at all. It was just Mom and Grandma, but all my readers threw a tizzy so I rewrote it to have Virginia in the scene. Mom defintely takes center stage though. Would it bother you as much if something more Virginia centered came before this?

Also, V is thirteen. Her fear is explained in this chapter, just not in the first thirteen lines.

It's funny that some of you took the first line literally. You fantasy readers are a tricky bunch to write for. I don't read a lot of fantasy, something I'm trying to ammend now that I've started writing it, but I take almost nothing in a story literally. In fact, one of the reasons I didn't read much fantasy, was because I sometimes wouldn't pick up on what was happening until much later than most readers. I assumed everything was metaphor. If a person walked mechanically to the door, I did not assume they had robot legs, or were a robot, I just thought they were feeling disconnected or doing something out of habit that didn't require any thought. I used to get frustrated because everyone would take my metaphors literally and be confused. Now I just accept our differences, but I appreciate the feedback because I never would have foreseen anybody taking that line literally in a million years.

Carl, it's...going. I've hit a hump in my revisions that I just can't seem to get over. I know what to write, just can't seem to make myself sit down and do it. I finally forced myself to, and in two hours wrote two paragraphs of drivel. Taking a break now and working on a short story that came to mind a few days ago. Hopefully that will help.

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extrinsic
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I think your instincts about showing Mom, the complication she is for Virginia, are strong and potentially useful to readers. However, I think the method could be more artful and, hence, appealing.

For example, consider opening with a scene in which Virginia and Mom interact, developing each's introductions through that scene. In terms of shape, that is a specimen type, where Mom would be under Virginia's microscope. That way Virginia's character develops through her observations of Mom's behavior. And doing so would keep the scene in touch with Virginia and her moment, place, and situation space, or meaning space, the setting where they interact.

As the opening is, though a few scene details are given, it is mostly tell. That is a challenge of scenes where only one character introspectively acting self-relates summaries and explanations of the dramatic action, how Mom complicates Virginia. Virginia's isolated self-involvement doesn't allow readers to see, in this case, whether Mom is really how Virginia perceives her to be. We are told Mom is like this and not allowed to decide for ourselves if it's a credible and authentic portrait of Mom and, simultaneously, an authentic portrait of Virginia's relations with Mom.

In every case when writing, consider whether a character being alone is the only practical way to report the action. Scenes of at least two characters interacting are most often the more dynamic ones anyway.

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babygears81
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Thanks, extrinsic. That's actually what this chapter is, Mom and Virginia interacting and Mom is definitely under the microscope. You just don't see it in the first thirteen. So maybe I should cut everything before and start the chapter when mom walks in the door?

The reason I had it there in the first place, is because the reader doesn't see why Mom drinks, only that she is drunk. I want the reader to have sympathy for her, in spite of the fact that she is a bad mother, but now that I think about it, I can piece this bits in through other chapters to give that impression. I'm taking a break from my revisions of this now, but I'll post the revised thirteen later and get your opinions.

Thanks again!

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by babygears81:
Thanks, extrinsic. That's actually what this chapter is, Mom and Virginia interacting and Mom is definitely under the microscope. You just don't see it in the first thirteen. So maybe I should cut everything before and start the chapter when mom walks in the door?

The reason I had it there in the first place, is because the reader doesn't see why Mom drinks, only that she is drunk. I want the reader to have sympathy for her, in spite of the fact that she is a bad mother, but now that I think about it, I can piece this bits in through other chapters to give that impression. I'm taking a break from my revisions of this now, but I'll post the revised thirteen later and get your opinions.

Thanks again!

You're welcome, babygears81.

Perhaps the scene might open with Mom's dramatic entrance. Doorways are liminal spaces from their transitional nature: between and spanning part of the indoors and outdoors, places or times where transitions take place. Setting up Mom's entrance is the challenge I see. Describing physical details of the scene given before Mom's entrance that introduce and develop character and plot, the complication that Mom is, might be a strategy. Virginia preparing for Mom's arrival, like cleaning up from Mom's last living room debauchery, for example.

One additional guidance, though, is to also introduce in the opening the overall mystique of what the story is at its foundation about. Since liminality is one of the central foundations of the overall story, consider portraying the door as a methaphorical yet concrete portal that Virginia is both anxious and eager to pass through, and anxious about Mom's impending arrival while she cleans up, for example.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by babygears81:
It's funny that some of you took the first line literally.

OSC warns about this in his book HOW TO WRITE SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY. Metaphorical language can be taken literally in speculative fiction, so writers have to be careful.

Samuel R. Delany even has a term for poorly done metaphors and such: "subjunctive tensions" and he uses examples like "his eyes dropped to the table" or "Princess Leia's whole world exploded."

My favorite example is "as the family sat at breakfast, the morning sun came through the window."

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extrinsic
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"The book sat on the table." Picture legs and arms and a head on the book!?
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