This is topic "3" - Supernatural Horror (~3500) in forum Fragments and Feedback for Short Works at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by Iustin (Member # 10408) on :
Hello everybody. This is a short story I have been working on for a while. The word count is still in the air as I am reviewing the rest of the story. It is separated in three parts, the first being called "Spring". I know it does not seem horror to start with but if you are interested let me know and I will send you the rest of it. Enjoy the reading.

Spring had finally arrived and the birds sang their joy all over town. The arrival of the fair had busied the streets considerably. The happiness was almost palpable as people were enjoying the first beautiful day in weeks while walking around the stalls playing games and seeing the wonders of the world. A faraway cart bell was calling its little customers to enjoy some delicious treats while off to one side, a small group of teenagers were carefully arranging what was to be the dance floor later on. The girls that had just come of age were the easiest to point out as they never stopped giggling or throwing furtived looks at the boys who would surely invite them to their first dance in the evening. An elderly couple was watching the arrangements, talking in low whispers bright smiled.
Posted by wetwilly (Member # 1818) on :
You can send it to me. I'll take a look.
Posted by Denevius (Member # 9682) on :
There's too much passive language. 'Spring had', 'birds sang', 'fair had busied', 'happiness was', 'people were'. And on and on.

Eliminate the past tense in each of your sentences to make the prose more active.
Posted by HenryMcF (Member # 10246) on :
I thought there were a too many adjectives and adverbs. (I'd take out considerably, for example.) Also I agree with Denevius on the form of verbs, e.g. I think Spring came would be better than Spring had finally arrived. I like the way you are setting up a contrast to the horror to come, but I would be more direct. For example in the last sentence I'd take out "were the easiest to point out".
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
The fragment portrays an idylic snapshot of a fair, a routine occasion, that a pendent and ominous interruption awaits in the wings.

The snapshot of a state-of-being quality comes from the state-of-being verbs of each and every sentence and clause; that is, a stasis state, a static scene -- to wit, static voice: to be, to have, infinitive, present participle, and nonfinite verbs for each clause's predicate.

Also, a state of being wants a pivot off the static state, in life, of course, and for written word here most especially. The fragment's voice would work for me if the implied ominous interruption were more pronounced than my own projection of pendent chaos, because a state of being cannot naturally stand uninterrupted for long: of at least contention, if not confliction, confrontation, or conflagration were signaled more strongly and clearly.

The fragment does imply much potential for change from the static state, and thus creates an emotional change of anticipation; only the implications require more inference on my part than I feel is a best practice for openings. One small cue or clue or two or three as to the pendent upset of emotional equilibrium that signals routine interruption I feel are warranted for this narrator tell opening to be fully realized.

An emotionally charged adjective or adverb or noun or verbal phrase would serve, say here: "The happiness was almost palpable . . ." Firmer expression, in the first place -- "almost" is a hedging term. Either the happiness is palpable or it's not, no "almost" wishy-washiness for prose, please. That clause is an ideal insertion point for an ominous foreshadowing of contentious, at least, events soon to follow.

Prose is about passionate clashes related to the moral human condition, regardless of genre, form, or media. Signal a clash about to interrupt a routine, and the "hook" magic of openings is artfully managed.

Puncutation or diction error or revision artifact or typo: "An elderly couple was watching the arrangements, talking in low whispers [--] bright [or, brightly] smiled [or, smiles]."

Also, that is another place, a second, perhaps, for emotional commentary that foreshadows the routine is about to be upset; that is, a stronger and clearer signal the low whispers and bright smiles could be ominous, say, false, feral smiles and conspiratorial intents. Narrator tells arose best reader effect if they express strong and clear emotional attitude commentary.

Likewise, consider every verb, adjective, and adverb for whether they are empty of emotional charge or are robust emotional expression for best reader effect. Verbs and especially adverbs and adjectives' functions for prose are to express strong and clear emotional commentary.

[ May 06, 2015, 03:10 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by rabirch (Member # 9832) on :
Aside from the above-raised issues of filtering through "had" and "was," my question here is, who is your character? Readers are drawn into stories, in large part, through character. Can you get this inside somebody's head? Let them experience was you are describing. That will help make it more immediate and also give a reader someone to connect with.

I think that would help a lot.
Posted by Iustin (Member # 10408) on :
Thanks everyone for the feedback. It's a bit of a weird story because the characters appear just a few lines after this initial description so it does not work very well in the 13 line limit. Please let me know if you are interested in reading the full work. I'd be curious to hear opinions on that. Thanks
Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
This is a long first paragraph. I recommend breaking it down into smaller sections for easier reading.

Also, going 13 lines into the story without being introduced to the main characters or a conflict seems a bit odd to me. Why not introduce the characters first and then use this description of the setting after we have a reason to be pulled in?
Posted by Bent Tree (Member # 7777) on :
My trouble with this is that I never met an MC really. The voice was very distant. For the genre there was no indication, no speculative indications whatsoever. I feel as a goal in publishing we must write, for the most part, character driven stories.

The flowery prose would do so well to contrast a cantankerous curmudgeons thoughts or a murderous little wench's stream of consciousness. And this would give us a story with a character that we could love or despise or both.

As this is, I feel it is very mundane scene. I don't feel the inciting moment is right because I haven't met a character and have not convinced that it was these events that submerged that character into this story.

Gaining trust is important to the reader. You are taking them on a ride. They need a taste of what they are getting into.
Posted by WB (Member # 10414) on :
I think if you're going to get an editor or a reader to turn the page, there needs to be something on that page to hint it's going to get good. The first paragraph is free, but you need to use it to that advantage, I think. How about telling us some hint of creepiness to come? Then instead of me wondering why I should care about the perfect day at the fair, I'll know why: because it contrasts with the awful thing that's about to happen.

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