This is topic On the origin of the species, F, approx 8K in forum Fragments and Feedback for Short Works at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by Nick T (Member # 8052) on :
Hi everyone,

This is a story from a continuing series, so I'd love any crits from anyone who are unfamiliar with the world.



Charles clenched the snuff-case in his pocket as his half-brother Francis inserted a homunculus into the hollowed-out skull of a Doberman. The dog twitched and Charles tried not to vomit.‭ ‬If was sick while watching one of Francis‭’‬ baffling experiments,‭ ‬how could he cope with tomorrow‭’‬s vivisection test‭? ‬If he passed,‭ ‬he'd be a Gentleman Scholar.‭ ‬His illegitimacy wouldn't matter and‭ h‬e could court Lady Ada.‭ ‬If he failed,‭ ‬he'd remain a bastard dependent on Francis’ charity.‭ ‬Gentleman Scholars didn't vomit at the sight of blood.‭ ‬Charles imagined his throat a firmly closed lid and kept his gaze fixed on Francis.

[ January 14, 2012, 03:44 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]
Posted by OliverBuckram (Member # 9655) on :
I thought this was a great first line, though I am not sure about "hollowed-out" as opposed to empty. It really established setting and has the lovely homunculus.

Since the doberman is alive, I think maybe you need to tell us more about the physical layout. That is, is there an incision on top of the doberman's head?

I am guessing you are having trouble with the format and this is actually not all one paragraph.

You are missing a word "if was sick"

I am wondering if you might be trying to cram too much plot into these opening lines. Loved the golems prayer, i might think of putting lady ada a few paragraphs later
Posted by babooher (Member # 8617) on :
I thought the insertion of the homunculus caused the twitching, kind of like an electrical shock can cause muscles to move even if the body is dead. I figured if the skull was hollowed-out, then the beast must be deceased.

I think OliverBuckram has hit on a bit of a problem. I think you are cramming too much in too quickly. All of the detail makes me want to read more, but I felt rushed. Setting and atmosphere have, in my opinion, been sacrificed for information.

On my first reading, I misunderstood who Francis was talking to (this was my failing, not a failing in your writing). I thought Francis was trying to kind of tutor/help his brother through a difficult experience. Then I saw that you hadn't actually written that and I was sad. Not knowing the characters beyond your lines here, I don't know how far Francis' charity extends or in what ways. I also don't know how close they are. If there is a kind of close connection, if Francis knows Charles's interest in Ada, then much of the information you've told us could actually come from Francis' mouth. This could deliver a bunch of info while also showing us a lot of character.

I'd love to read more. If you'd like, shoot this my way.
Posted by JenniferHicks (Member # 8201) on :
I agree with some of what's already been said. The first sentence feels crammed and would probably benefit from being split up. And a little more visual detail on the dog would be nice. Charles is trying not to vomit; a couple of well-chosen visuals would re-enforce that by showing what exactly it is that makes him feel sick.

As always, you can send the story my way.
Posted by Daniel_W (Member # 9725) on :
Hey Nick T.

I think it's mostly been said so far - the missing word in 'If was sick', and the length of the first line (I'd suggest making a more definite separation between the clauses, with a comma and maybe a word or two; 'Charles clenched the snuff-case in his pocket, [and watched] as his half brother...'. That kind of thing). 'Hollowed-out' caught me too, mostly because I don't think it counts as vivisection if the subject has no brain left, and is thus dead. It's also quite long-winded, so if you're gonna make a point of the hollow skull, I'd go all out and add another word or two - 'the bloody, hollowed-out skull' or something.

These are little gripes, and the opening is engaging enough that I'd read on for a bit. My main concern is that, so far, it's coming across as 'just another vivisection story'. If possible, I'd suggest taking whatever story element it is that makes -your- vivisection story unique, and hinting at it in the opening. I'm guessing that it has something to do with the whole 'Gentleman Scholar' thing? Of course, since it's part of a series, this could just be part of an established world that I don't know about, in which case ignore that last point [Razz] .

Sorry I can't offer to read the whole thing - honestly don't know when I'd be able to get it back to you, haha - but I hope these notes were helpful.

Posted by History (Member # 9213) on :
Gee, Nick. This sounds familiar. [Smile]

Dr. Bob
Posted by Denevius (Member # 9682) on :
in a critique you did for me, you mentioned taking out words like, "Lina/She noticed", "Lina/She felt", etc, in an effort, if my understanding is right, to move the narrative into deeper 3rd. i think it's a useful piece of advice, but i also feel, in reading your excerpt, how trying to accomplish this can lead to confusing readers.

your first line works fine. there's Charles watching his brother operate on a dog, and the operation is getting to him, so he clenches the snuff-case in his pocket. however, the next line, "The dog twitched," is confusing because, as the reader, i'm still expecting the narrative to focus on Charles. The dog twitching leading the second sentence makes it seem as if the dog should have been the focus of the previous line.

i almost feel that your attempt to immerse deeper into 3rd person is creating schizophrenic sentences, particularly when you have two actions happening in the same sentence yet no point of reference to let the reader know whose the focal point of the sentence.

and then, just in the first three lines, there's a lot going on. there's charles clenching the box, his brother inserting a homunculus, the dog twitching, charles trying not to vomit, the vivisection test tomorrow, and charles worrying about coping with it.

i think you may be able to make two full paragraphs just from those first three lines.
Posted by Nick T (Member # 8052) on :
Hi everyone,

Thank you very much for the feedback and I agree that the first 13 are too packed with information and the POV depth needs a bit of adjustment.

I'll send it through to those who've said yes (and will trade crits, of course).

Dr. Bob, this version has been re-tweaked from the guild of gentleman scholars onwards (no knife-ghouls except in passing mention). I think it's almost to my satisfaction in terms of broad plot.


Posted by Denevius (Member # 9682) on :
hey, i'll take a look also. thought you were more itnerested in readers who hadn't read before.
Posted by Lloyd Tackitt (Member # 9714) on :
Loved the first line! After that the tension diminished per line.
Posted by Wonderbus (Member # 9494) on :
Hi Nick,

If you're still after readers for this, I'll give it a read.
Posted by Osiris (Member # 9196) on :
I'd be happy to take a look, too, Nick.

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