This is topic Heartbeat in forum Fragments and Feedback for Short Works at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by Lamberguesa (Member # 10320) on :
Hello folks. Here is my current work in progress. "Heartbeat" is the working title, though it needs to be changed. It's about 36,000 words currently and I'm half way through my second draft. Don't need any readers yet, just thought I'd get your impressions on the opening. Thanks!

Take 1:
Hanging in motionless silence, Krauf surveyed the starless beyond. Could there be something, someone looking back? He let the Black Curtain envelope his vision, ready to swallow him whole. What was it hiding? Insult? Challenge? Invitation? No, there was nothing. No relief from the ache of loneliness, no promise of new adventures, no hidden surprises. Just nothing—an insatiable well of space to swallow everything that mattered. Krauf spoke softly into to the empty observatory, “Did you know how hard this would be?” The lights of Pergos-Bethlan were no more. Krauf nursed his crippling emotions, chewing on them like an old cigar. He had known this moment would come, and, with time, his sense of foreboding had faded into grim acceptance. But now that it was here at last, a frigid hopelessness pierced him.

The light of Pergos-Bethlan was gone.
Suspended in approximate zero gravity, Krauf shivered and wrapped his arms around shaking knees. That distant speck of light, his last neighbor, was missing. Yet another victim of The Darkening: the terrible phenomenon that swallowed all light and life. He would be next to receive its cold embrace.
The sole occupant of Space Station Pergos-Centurnon stared through the observatory window into a starless expanse; a black curtain between himself and the outside universe. It loomed, threatening to swallow him and the very galaxy he bordered. "Are you still out there?" He whispered. The ventilation system hummed with a soft swish-swash. Krauf tapped at the window and slowly turned his back on the outer darkness.

[ September 24, 2014, 11:38 AM: Message edited by: Lamberguesa ]
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
This opening strikes me as a rambling, stream-of-consciousness first person narration without any references that I can hang my hat on. Sorry, there is one, "the empty observatory".

While we have a who, Krauf, there is no what, where, when, why, or how to give this opening any context and I'm left asking myself, "What's this all about?" With the subsidiary questions: What's the Black Curtain that it requires capitalisation and who, what, or where is Pergos-Bethlan?

None of what is written so far entices me to turn the page.

There are some other things I also have issues with:

1st Sentence: motionless silence. Silence does not usually move under most, if not all circumstances, and this, starless beyond. What are we talking about, the night sky, some alternate reality, space?

2nd Sentence: What?

3rd Sentence: Why is Black Curtain capitalised?

Sentence 4 et al:What is it that it can hide such things and why would it be doing so? And, why would Krauf believe it is/could/would?

"No, there was nothing." How do we know, did he look? He wondered if it was but how did he come to the conclusion that it was hiding nothing?

Then we finish with a examination of Krauf's own inner emotional despair and a rhetorical question that, as far as I the reader am concerned, is completely meaningless.

I would encourage you to tell me the answer to this question: What are you trying to tell me with this beginning?

Posted by Brendan (Member # 6044) on :
There is some interesting turns of phrase, even beauty about the voice of this. But it is not hitting the early pieces of information that I need - and thus feels like the instincts of a different genre. Phil above hits the nail on the head. Spec fiction requires grounding, more than some other genres.

For example, before I can sympathize with his plight, I need to ground myself so I can place this story among so many other stories that I have read. What era is it? What sub-genre is it? What is the location? Who are the key players? (Krauf, Black Curtain? Please don't laugh, especially if Black Curtain is a metaphor, this early it could be a name since it is capitalized - spec fic can take things so literally and the number of options is huge - see Phil's point on starless beyond.)

The last paragraph feels like it's going too deep too quickly, like a first date discussing how many kids they should have together. But at the same time, it feels like there is information hidden by the author. Perhaps this is simply because I don't understand the meaning of the line "The lights of Pergos-Bethlan were no more." Or its relationship to Krauf. I feel there should be strong meaning to the statement, that this may be an initial conflict, but since I don't yet know whether it is a city, a space ship, a constellation, a pair of fairies, a signal system around an empire, or a firefly nest, I don't know how to attribute its meaning to Krauf's internal thoughts and internal conflict. This acts on me as dissonance, leading me towards distancing myself from the character - not the effect that was meant I suspect.

I've gone in harder than I usually do for a new member, partly because I quite liked some of the imagery. And partly because creating an explanation helps me understand these pitfalls better, as well. I hope you don't mind.
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
Let me ameliorate my harsh opening comments by seconding Brendan's observation that some of the prose imagery is quite evocative, even beautiful. That, however, does not alter the fact that I don't know where I am or what's going on.

Posted by Lamberguesa (Member # 10320) on :
Thanks for the responses! Go as hard as you'd like on me, I want this to be excellent and therefore I welcome all criticize that leads me closer to that end.

I can see now that this needs to be reworked significantly. What I am getting from you both is that the passage is, to some degree, beautiful but essentially meaningless.

Grumpy: to answer your question, not as an explanation but more for my own understanding: I think my goal was to intrigue the reader with elements of mystery, making them want to read on. However, from the response, I have only confused the reader by not providing enough grounding. Would you agree? I was trying not to bore the reader with too much explanation at the start, but clearly I need to explain a bit more to get them hooked on the story.
Thanks! I'll be back with more.

[ September 23, 2014, 12:20 PM: Message edited by: Lamberguesa ]
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
Originally posted by Lamberguesa:
. . . not as an explanation but more for my own understanding: . . .

That's exactly what I was looking for, thank-you. You were seeking to intrigue instead of inform, and some basic information is necessary for the reader to understand what is going on. For me, the opening of the story has one purpose: To provide the reader with enough information to understand what is about to happen. This information may be about character, milieu, setting etc. To my mind the exemplary opening of this type is:

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.
Ernest Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea

We know from this single sentence the who, the where, the what (dramatic want), and the when. Obviously, I don't expect such a masterful opening from most writers, even myself. However it is ever something to strive for.

So, what does the reader need to know in order to understand what is going on? That's where to start your opening; but not necessarily the story, if you get my meaning.

Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
I second Grumpy old guy and Brendan's observations about where is this going. I have a different approach though. The emotional quality is strong and clear, a favorable, artful quality; however, the emotional states least favored by readers are ennui and angst, more so disfavored when they are static--an unchanging state of being.

The fragment depicts an "isolated-navel-contemplation-stuck-in-a-bathtub" event. Which is a routine for potential interruption. "that it was here at last," whatever "it" is, implies an interruption is imminent. Except for the ennui and angst emotional cluster and the "bathtub-stuck navel contemplation," that routine and routine interruption is artful too.

Also, similar to a white-room syndrome concern, this fragment depicts a black void, little setting development to speak of.

I interpret the intent is to show a consuming-cosmic phenomenon approaches Krauf. He "hangs" in space, inside an observatory aboard a space craft presumably, sees the "Black Curtain" come closer. He faces his mortality.

An individual and death is a worthy theme, though clear, the death influence is underdeveloped, whether that is the case or not. The fragment as is implies no way out, the dramatic conflict's stakes and outcome leave only an accommodation to death, the acceptance cycle of Kübler-Ross's five grief stages model. Krauf, obviously, wants to live, a want suitable for a dramatic complication. The problem opposition to the want is he knows he will not live and that fills him with dread. The want and problem are out of proportion to each other. This fragment begins at the end. Instead, a beginning begins at a prior time, when hope for life remains.

On the other hand, I infer Krauf could discover a last-minute life-saving solution. However, the fragment implies Krauf is the last living being, human anyway, in the universe. He is ambivalent toward death, both welcomes and fears it because he's pitiably alone, an artful contrast, the static emotional cluster and action notwithstanding. The "argument" Krauf has about death's welcome or denial could be the main drama, though no less bathtub stuck.

Emotional disequilibrium is one "hook" most necessary for an opening, next is imminent routine interruption, next is a dramatic complication introduction: wants and problems wanting satisfaction. They are all present in the fragment. Artful that. Though again, concerns about the emotional cluster, the static action, and narrowed dramatic conflict from limited possible outcomes. Dramatic conflict parallels dramatic complication. Conflict in writing terms is a diametric opposition of antagonal, causal forces, stakes, and outcomes; life or death, acceptance or denial, for examples.

"Do not go gentle into that good night. Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light." (Dylan Thomas)

Those above features notwithstanding, next of equal relevance is events, settings, and characters. Grumpy old guy notes setting shortcomings. I note above event shortcomings. A character's interaction events with events, settings, and other characters develops characterization, plot's drama, and emotional appeals. Events develop characterization and drama easiest and most of all.

Again, the events of the fragment are mostly static, the only motion event of note is the Black Curtain's imminent approach and imminent influence upon Krauf. Krauf hangs motionless and silent. No event. "No, there was nothing. No relief from the ache of loneliness, no promise of new adventures, no hidden surprises. Just nothing—an insatiable well of space to swallow everything that mattered." That latter passage states nothing will happen, nor relief, no surprises, except Krauf's demise. That spoils dramatic potential of notable magnitude, except if Krauf rages against the dying of the light or accommodates to the good night. Which is a challenging complication by itself for fantastical fiction generally. An event shortcoming concern for me, regardless.

Settings nextmost to events are easier to develop, appeal easier than characters initially. Grumpy old guy notes limited setting "grounding." For grounding's sake, settings are also event and character inetractions, especially emotional influence. Krauf reacts emotionally to the Black Curtain's approach, thought he was prepared, though realizes he's afraid. That change is artful and timely.

Where and when are implied or given, in an observatory presumably in future-time, deep space, since Krauf hangs motionless. However, stronger setting development portrays other, specific setting details that develop events and characters. Specific, "telling" details are antagonal sensory stimulations that evoke natural emotional responses. Krauf reacts to the Black Curtain, not to much else. Telling details are not setting, character, or event detail explanations and summaries; they are event, setting, character details responded to from an agonist's reflected viewpoint, from a character camera and sound and other sensations lens.

Note that visual, aural, tactile, olfactory, and gustatory sensations are the commonly labeled five human senses. The sixth of great importance for prose's reality imitation is emotional feeling responsive to other sensory stimuli. Which is what most develops characters in relation to events and settings.

Brendan notes figurative language concerns for fantastical fiction: figurative language may too easily be taken as literal in most prose, not just fanatastical fiction. For me, concerns about figurative language begin from the first clause. "Hanging in motionless silence" "Hanging" is problematic to begin with. "Hanging" as a praticiple verb begins the fragment with a possible -ing ring rhyme, an assonance that accumulates into a nuisance, also known as the rhetorical scheme--figurative language--alliteration when artful virtue. Note other -ing words in the fragment that warrant revision considerations.

From the first word my editor kicked in, undesirable for openings in any case.

Also, "Hanging" recast to hung doesn't change the meaning, the past participle form of verb to hang in that use. As a transitive or intransitive verb, hang signals a suspension in space from a support or tether. A hanging man is one at the gallows. A hung man has other, perhaps unintentional, figurative meanings. Suspended without support or tether-- suspend is a stronger and clearer verb, regardless whether participle or nominal verb. //Suspended motionless and silent,// //Suspending motionless and silent,//

"surveyed," the main clause's verb, is a static verb, from summarizing and explaining a visual action, not the visual sensation itself, and from being unchanging, ongoing, nondefinite action. An adjustment so that the viewpoint comes from Krauf's reflection leaves out the external viewpoint narrator's tell quality, expresses what Krauf sees and responds to emotionally. Tell: static, external summary and explanation lecture. Show: dynamic reality imitation from a viewpoint agonist's internal reflected, experienced sensations. The first sensation of note could be Krauf's felt sensations of zero gravity, thus develops event, setting, and characterization.

Otherwise, the first given sensation of note is "the starless beyond." I understand "beyond" as a noun in that use, though a little too figurative for general readers. More contexture would develop its meaning for all readers. Contexture, context: who, when, where; texture: what, why, how.

Rhetorical questions generally are weak writing. They directly ask questions a narrative ought best imply so that readers ask them and the narrative artfully, timely, and judiciously answers them. They tell readers their meaning.

Dialogue tags are as best practice short, simple, and invisible. "Krauf spoke softly into to the empty observatory," Extra word "to," a revision artifact. An adverb, like "softly," in a dialogue tag artlessly tells readers an actor's stage directions. The speech action stands alone when no other character is present to speak. A substitute attribution method is to set up the speech beforhand with an action tag, if indicated. A dialogue attribution tag of the "he said," "she said" types are the most invisible, though, because they come from the narrator, are not within the scene's reality, they are a degree overt narrator tells rather than viewpoint character reflection--why dialogue-tag invisibility matters.

Dialogue tag best practice places them mid dialogue after a natural pause or after the dialogue, best practice not before the dialogue. Action dilaogue attribution best practice is before a dialogue or mid dialogue, maybe as well after a dialogue line.

"Krauf spoke softly into to the empty observatory, 'Did you know how hard this would be?'" uses an adverb, "softly," an alternative "said" speech tag, "spoke," and action and setting attribution. The attribution calls undue emphasis to it, makes it highly visible as a narrator summary and explanation tell.

The dialogue line itself is lackluster from its directness and generic expression.

Options for both tag and dialogue development might use an emotional action to set up the dialogue. Perhaps a thought or an emotional feeling, or both simulatneously, that transitions from the prior sentences' stimuli to reactions toward them.

The dialogue is rigidly formal. An informal speech grammar might signal stream-of-consciousness speech on its own without a tag.

"a frigid hopelessness" an example of where an adjective may be too sophisticated, where a simpler word may serve more artfully; cold, for example, maybe frozen.

In all, some strengths, some shortcomings, proptionately weighted toward shortcomings, to me.

[ September 25, 2014, 01:19 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by Lamberguesa (Member # 10320) on :
extrinsic- Wow! Thank you for taking the time to write such a thorough, mind-blowing analysis. Truly, it helps.
Sigh, and to think that's just the first 13 lines. I can't imagine how much rewriting the rest of the story will require. Ah well, press on I must.
Posted by Lamberguesa (Member # 10320) on :
Ok, time for round two. Have at it!
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
You're welcome, Lamberguesa.

Those observations may serve for more than thirteen lines and more than one narrative, maybe all your writing endeavors. Most of those points are second nature for me now, after I learned them the hard way, formal study and on my own. They and other writing principles make draft writing and revision more productive and timely. Dialogue attribution, for example, second nature and once and done a first draft, revision drafts might adjust the dialogue contexture and shift tags around, from action to said tag or vice versa, leave one out, add one in.

Dynamic dialogue has five flexible characteristics, for example: echo, non sequitur, question and answer, colloquy, and squabble, rarely generic pleasantries or directness. Again, second nature now for me. Writing development is a marathon, not a dash, I think is a unanimous Hatrack consensus. We have a few unanimous consensus agreements: reader emotional effect, character agency-influence on events and beteween characters, and perhaps excessive -ing word dissonance.

[ September 25, 2014, 03:47 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
Quickly read take-two and it seemed to address all of my concerns. However, it's been a long hard day at work and I'll need to think about it. Will get back to you.

Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
"Take 2" reads smoother. Remarkable to see substantive revisions soon after a first post.

The emotional contexture of the first, though problematic from the ennui and angst cluster, the second version lacks. Ennui and angst's issue is few readers like self-pity parties. "Self," though is the operative word, pity for the self. Readers can pity; selves as a best practice ought not. Same with fear for self. Readers ought feel fear and pity for a viewpoint agonist, not told directly that an agonist fears for and pitys self, A parallel emotional cluster is warranted, grim determination in the face of danger and perhaps forelorn hope for survival, for example.

The second version also moves farther away in narrative distance, more narrator report, lecture-like summary and explanation, less viewpoint agonist reality imitation scene reflection. The observer lens, so to speak, the action comes from is a narrator outside the scene, not present, since Krauf is alone and the last living survivor. The first version has traces of Krauf's veiwpoint, from the emotional contexture mostly, subjective and unique to his viewpoint of events and settings.

Though the second is more linear and rigid grammar than the first, that misses opportunity to use informal grammar to express the scene from Krauf's viewpoint through use of stream-of-consciousness methods. To name a few, sentence fragments, without one of three syntax elements, subject, predicate, or object, or one or a few understandable words; thought or speech interjections; emotionally weighted adverbs and adjectives, words with emotional strength generally; idiomatic and idiosyncratic expressions unique to the agonist; understatement, overstatement, and hyperbole; awkward grammar that signals disorganized, faltering, disoriented, confused, etc., thought or speech or reflective meditations, arguments, evaluations. Though used judiciously and timely as warranted.

Use of the above and other methods estranges narrator in favor of viewpoint agonist perspective, places readers within a scene's reality as invisible bystanders, companions, participants, or even inside an agonist's mind and body. That magical teleportation into a scene's reality imitation, no matter whether first person or third person, or other grammatical person, is highly valued by readers generally.

Verbs that confuse that participation mystique generally tell an action from outside an agonist's perspective. They are verbs that summarize and explain sensory stimuli actions, not reflect the sensory perceptions themselves, as observed by a narrator, sensations that an agonist cannot possibly experience, usually visual sensation verbs though may have aural, tactile, olfactory, or gustatory parallels with visual sensations. An agonist cannot see the self walk, see the self see, see the self hear, see the self touch, smell, or taste.

On the other hand, if a narrator is meant to be overt, the narrator should be the attitude holder, the persona with an emotional attitude response and judgment, evaluation, opinion, etc., about the sensations and action of a scene, the subjects and topics situationally and overall of a narrative. In other words, either the narrator or an agonist should have the stronger personality readers align with, associate with, identify with, and accompany on a narrative journey.

The second version is clearer than the first; the first is stronger than the second. Maybe a third shot will meld both clarity and strength. By all means, continue to write forward; come back to revision after the first draft is finished

Emotion and attitude and other warranted contetxure can be leavened in when a draft is finished, captures the inspiration and lines out and sketches in the action. One of three broad, successful writing processes: intuitively draft, revise for conetxture; plan, draft, revise for contexture; a mix of the former two. My process methods combine the latter with running revision while planning and drafting, and several or more revision drafts once the draft is completed, from start, to middle, and to end.

[ September 25, 2014, 11:08 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
I noticed the increased narrative distance as well; and I miss the intimacy of the first draft.

While I now know where I am and what is about to happen, in that something will happen but I don't know exactly what, it now lacks the passion and beauty of the first.

But, how to do both? Aye, there's the rub; and the reason why authors are paid the BIG bucks.

Posted by Brendan (Member # 6044) on :
I think that the narrative distance (or lack of closeness) can be fixed by simply referencing Krauf's point of view a bit more. It was done in "That distant speck of light, his last neighbor, was missing." But it needs to be done a little more in in the following two sentences.

"He would be next to receive its cold embrace."
(e.g. "He knew he would be next to receive its cold embrace." The extra "He knew" puts the focus on his knowledge, rather than the author's knowledge.)

"The sole occupant of Space Station Pergos-Centurnon stared through the observatory window into a starless expanse;"
(e.g. "Now the sole occupant of Space Station Pergos-Centurnon, perhaps of the entire system, he stared through the observatory window into a starless expanse;" By separating the information about the space station from the action of staring, we link both lots of information to him rather than to a narrator that seems to be observing him.)
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
Narrative distance is degree of closeness or openness, remoteness distance between narrator and agonist viewpoint and voice.

The example Brendan suggests of added "knew" is one method for closing distance, a tagged indirect discourse method. "Knew" is part of a thought tag, similar to he or she thought, the more invisible thought tag, like he, she, or it said. "He" is the other tag part.

Indirect thought from how the sentence is constructed, thought not given by the agonist. The indirectness comes from the thought or speech, as the case may be, originated from another viewpoint than the thinker or speaker, a narrator in that case. Narrative distance middle ground, part narrator, part agonist viewpoint and voice.

Placement of the tag after the thought or speech, in object, object complement, or predicate complement position, mid sentence, or sentence end, closes narrative distance more than if at the sentence start, though then is tagged direct discourse.

Other tag options are free, meaning untagged, indirect or direct discourse. Each of which has more or less close or open narrative distance, dependent upon other contexure, especially stream-of-consciousness methods like those enumerated above.

For examples:
//Receive its cold embrace, he knew he would be next.// Its cold embrace--he knew he would receive next.// //Its cold embrace he would receive next.//

However, artful, timely, judicious variations on the thought motif require other methods than tagged thought.

Note "receive" is a verb that expresses the subject receives the action. Note also that "would" is a to be auxiliary verb. Perhaps the resemblance to passive voice may warrant revision consideration, though not passive voice in itself. "Embrace" is the operative word of note, used as a noun though, not as a verb. Optionally: //Its cold darkness will embrace him next.//

Separation of information in Brendan's second example closes narrative distance a mite. A larger method issue is use of the verb "stared" in the first place. Krauf cannot see himself stare. The narrator does. Again, verbs that summarize and explain sensation process actions instead of show the sensations themselves tell remotely, open narrative distance. The observatory window and the starless expanse are the relevant visual sensations, not that Krauf stared at them.

An option that closes narrative distance shows one or the other or both, the window or the starless expanse, as the subjects performing actions, not as sentence objects. For example, //Beyond the observatory window, the starless expanse stared--(glared, glowered, leered, gaped, loomed, seethed, etc.)--indifferently at him, now the sole occupant of Space Station Pergos-Centurnon, last survivor in the entire system.//

A viewpoint agonist can see other subjects see, or assume subjects look, not see the self see though, and can, should express emotional attitude commentary about the visual sensation. Placing a viewpoint agonist in sentence object position, acted upon, not performs actions, is another method for closing narrative distance. If an agonist is already established as the scene viewpoint, by default, that agonist experiences sensations baldly portrayed, without the sensation action told: saw, heard, touched, smelled, tasted, emotionally felt.

[ September 26, 2014, 02:48 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by Lamberguesa (Member # 10320) on :
Thanks for the great feedback. I think I'll work more on the actual story before spending more time on the intro.

It will be a challenge to get the info in there while also drawing in the emotion from the Take 1. Thirteen lines isn't much space (pun not intended).

Knowing little of the story itself this might be hard for you to gauge, but I'm curious as to what information seems most important from Take 2. It would help to know what I could potentially leave out for the sake of adding in more about Krauf's internal struggle.


Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
The most important information for a start is: introductions of emotional attitude; event, setting, characters of substance; and dramatic conflict and complication--the personal wants and problems for which an agonist wants satisfaction. The complication's problem is artfully implied already by the event of substance in both versions--the all-consuming black curtain's approach, the want not as clear. The setting is clearer in the second version. The emotional attitude stronger in the first version, though problematic. Both introduce the character, characters if the black curtain is a character, which it is because it influences Krauf--has agency, though Krauf's agency is least developed.

For me, the prose could be pared of all nonessential words, maybe at least by a third. That would leave room for the emotional contexture of Krauf's internal struggle development. The internal struggle I think first needs to be realized and identified so it can be included.

Conflict's role is an opposition of forces that develop stakes and outcomes. Life or death, for example. Krauf obviously faces death, enormous stakes, perhaps too doubtless an outcome that he will die. What's death's opposite part of his struggle if not life. That opposite of death, whatever it may be, incorporated into the start fragment develops drama, conflict, complication, internal and external struggle, and at least needs to imply that Krauf will not go gentle into that dark, good night.

That puts Krauf into dramatic motion, and the story, as a proactive agonist, not one to whom death just happens without his efforts to stay execution. He's suspended in no dramatic or physical motion, idly watches his demise approach, does nothing to delay or stop its approach. Unless his struggle is an accommodation to death, as somewhat implied by the first version, or interpreted that he wants to live anyway, he's static. What does he do that he wants to and can do about his situation right away? No matter if he fails at first.

[ September 26, 2014, 02:40 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
Originally posted by Lamberguesa:
. . . I'm curious as to what information seems most important from Take 2.

What an impossible question for a reader to try and answer. You know your story, or you should by now, so--do I have enough information to understand what is going on? You don't need to cover all the bases, but you don't want your reader floundering either. You need to resolve the dilemma of providing only enough information to allow the reader to understand while leaving enough uncertainty to surprise later.

As for the 13 lines, don't try and fit everything into such a small space. Entice, suggest, inveigle, tease. Draw the reader into Krauf's world and dilemma with the promise of an emotional catharsis to come.

Posted by Lamberguesa (Member # 10320) on :
Thank you both, that makes a lot of sense. I can see in some ways that the current opening might be misleading as to what the story is really about, though it is mostly accomplishing its intended purpose.

Grumpy: you are absolutely right, there is no way I could expect the reader to know what is most important in that passage without having read the entire story. I must work to get just the right content (emotional, informational, etc) into the beginning without trying to cram too much in there. As you said, "Aye, there's the rub; and the reason why authors are paid the BIG bucks."
At the least it is what separates great authors from those who are not. Naturally, I strive to be the former.
Posted by Denevius (Member # 9682) on :
The light of Pergos-Bethlan was gone.
Suspended in approximate zero gravity, Krauf shivered and wrapped his arms around shaking knees. That distant speck of light, his last neighbor, was missing. Yet another victim of The Darkening: the terrible phenomenon that swallowed all light and life. He would be next to receive its cold embrace.
The sole occupant of Space Station Pergos-Centurnon stared through the observatory window into a starless expanse; a black curtain between himself and the outside universe. It loomed, threatening to swallow him and the very galaxy he bordered. "Are you still out there?" He whispered. The ventilation system hummed with a soft swish-swash. Krauf tapped at the window and slowly turned his back on the outer darkness.

Overall, I think it works. I would drop 'wrapped his arms around shaking knees' because it takes some thinking to understanding a throwaway image. Like, I'm *guessing* he's floating around in space in fetal position, but I'm not sure. I figured him to be standing since I'm not told anything else about his position except the absence of gravity. But he could still be floating straight as a board. My point being that I had to figure out the image, which is time consuming, again, for something that isn't all that important.

And I would change 'The Darkening'. It's equally melodramatic as it is a cliche. I immediately thought of a lot of other workshop scifi/fantasy I've read which went after the same type of trope with very similar language. I bet "The Never Ending Story" started the ball on that metaphor with it's 'Nothing' destroying Fantasia.

But I did like the overall feel of the opening, and I felt a sense of tension for Krauf. So that worked. I would read further.
Posted by Lamberguesa (Member # 10320) on :
Thanks for the feedback Denevious!

I can see how that action would be confusing and either needs to be rewritten or removed.

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