This is topic Where's Alice? in forum Fragments and Feedback for Short Works at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by walexander (Member # 9151) on :
What parent names their child Lucifer? The same kind that are killed attempting to sacrifice said child thirteen days later.
That’s me, Lucifer King Quinton or Lucky Quinton as I’m known by in certain circles.
You might think a kid with a name like that might call on his namesake every once in a while when times got tough. You’d be right, but lucky for me no help ever came.
Instead, my savior appeared one day at a community auction in the form of a 1873 .44 Colt Peacemaker with the Grim Reaper engraved upon the grip. With Death on my side what could go wrong?
I look back on my life of crime now with a fond smile of the

The start of a possible series of short stories with a detective/steampunk/dark fairy tale feel. Something along the lines of a Ghibli studio creation.

[ November 05, 2015, 08:16 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
A bad-boy individual ruminates on his troublesome past.

As backstory goes, the fragment implies a routine interruption is pendent, that the summary and explanation will be concise, and adequately starts introductions of what the narrative is really about: crime and wickedness in the service of justice.

The start sets up an emotional mood of forlorn resignation and amused, cynical self-deprecation -- an emotional cluster.

The above work for me, are artful strengths, except for the backstory start, that more suits novels' luxurious length than short stories, I feel. I favor dramatic action starts anyway. Dramatic action starts pit conflict and complication and events, settings, and characters in clash if not contest or contention, and that are in scene and not from only inside a disembodied head.

The fragment contains a touch of all the above, though the scene's setting development, that is probably most essential, is on the short side for me. The one place the fragment introduces is an auction house where the Colt comes into the picture, a prior event and prior time not clear how long prior.

"detective/steampunk/dark fantasy feel" implies one or the other. A slash means or. A hyphen means and. A first impression could suggest confusion of what the story's genre is and want to know which of the three is predominant. The three fall neatly into the noir category: a hardboiled cynic's adventures in bleak settings. There's the setting feature foreground, plus the "hardboiled cynic" that the fragment does manage.

Yet always an aesthetic and intangible and most relevant criteria to a form or figure; that is, a subtext or such of a meaningful social commentary, like, again, setting aesthetics in the case of noir. Person, place, and situation in the case of noir. Are these ungiven bleak settings' situation meaningful? Underdeveloped setting of the fragment implies no. Bleak settings is a Ghibli sensibility and sentiment: upbeat pessimism about bleak settings -- ironic -- for its youth audience's appeal.

That's Naturalism, too: Realism's reality imitation (vivid and lively settings) tinged with pessimism, even if cynical, ironic, satiric, or sarcastic, or two and more or all the former.

Grammar glitch and astute punctuation use: "a 1873 .44 Colt Peacemaker". Indefinite article selection, an adjective, is based on pronunciation of the word modified. "1873" starts "eight," takes article an. Many writers leave off the Imperial fraction decimal period of firearms' bore size that means "caliber." No period, by the way, for metric bores.

I could read on to see if the start develops setting meaningfully, in scene, and an immediate now-moment introduction of complication and conflict. I'd give the start up to four hundred words, or two pages, to get there. Though the setting and scene shortfalls don't work for me: I'm predisposed to not read further.

[ November 06, 2015, 10:24 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by walexander (Member # 9151) on :

Your insight reminds me of a funny story.

So when I finished my novels 3rd draft I got brave and gave out some readers copies. Immediately a demographic emerged with favorable response.

I got even braver and by request gave a copy to someone I knew was way outside the demographic. They had heard about it and wanted to read it. It was complete curiosity that prompted me to give it to someone outside the normal spectrum. My editor and I waited to see what the reaction was.

Finally it came. He didn't even talk to me. He called my editor and said he hated it- it was just like those horrible "twilight" books. My editor got together with me and we both just started laughing and then went out and had a drink or five. You see--all the while he figured he had given us a negative crit but it was in a strange way the most positive thing he could of ever said about it.

My editor said, "Oh my God. I hope it is as bad twilight," and we laughed some more.

Anyway, yes, you are right. I did use "a" for "an" even though the rules call for it. It's a personal thing to me any time a sentence sounds awkward though appropriate. You're right "caliber" probably would be far better than a point before 44.

It's a curious columdrum about action starts though. It's become the go to for writers. I was also warned off of weighing down scenes. I was taught to give only enough to spark imagination. That in no way implies reworking is not in order. Problem always is where to start. Every different angle of a beginning requires sacrificing something else at the same time. In an action scene. You can't add a lot of detail. It has to strike like lightning and not lose the pace. If you don't set the scene before, lets say for example a gun fight you threaten to bog down the pace of the action with details. If you set it after you leave the reader trying to visualize something in which they are not sure what is happening and where and to whom. First thirteen is a paradox. A damned if you do, damned you don't scenario. A great skill to contemplate and hammer away at.

I did learn something knew though...I didn't know a / meant or. Thanks.

Thanks for the insight also, that is what I consider it more than criticism. You have a strange and unusual way of backwardly getting to point, but when deciphered, usually has something of substance to say.

That being said, can I find a better balance to this first thirteen? Possibly, it's worth the time to try, but not at the sacrifice of the whole story. First thirteen is important but sometimes its magic must be waited upon. If you have story foundation then it's only a matter of time to find that right opening.

Thanks for taking the time. I do appreciate it.
Posted by Reziac (Member # 9345) on :
Good concept and reads just fine (and in this case I'm good with ID'ing the gun by name, because it feels like a relevant detail), and it's not an atypical start for a gumshoe. But -- this isn't a story; it's a summary of the story, leaving us nothing else to discover (so whatever is going to happen had better start REAL soon, before we wander away). So instead of having the character tell us *about* himself, why not let us follow him as he jumps straight into the meat of the story? tease those details out as it goes.
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
I agree that you should add the word caliber when describing the Colt. I enjoyed the opening and it immediately told me that this was a tale (regardless of genre) told in the style of Dashiell Hammett. As a reader I am forewarned of what to expect--and I appreciate that.

My one suggestion would be to consider the next few sentences that continue on from the current submission; I have the nasty feeling we will be going on a trip down memory lane--I hope not.

I'm prepared to await the action to unfold so long as I am entertained by the character narrator.

Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
The period before an Imperial bore measurement is for a decimal value and required though not pronounced, except spoken occasions that require clarity, in which case the word spoken is "caliber": "forty-four caliber." .44 is the fraction-decimal forty-four hundredths of an inch. Metric, 9 mm, for example is a whole number.

Use of the Imperial measurement period signals authentic firearms savvy and subtly appeals to enthusiasts. Period left off or spelled out "forty-four caliber" signals firearms naivete. Written measurements generally use numerals for numbers, as do time, dates, and ordinal numbers for measurements.

These above are part of the arcane mysteries and customs of copyediting -- when to use numerals and when to spell numbers. Actually, this is on the copyeditor-proofreader proficiency test. As are appropriate uses of capitalization, apostrophes, punctuation, word compounds, and etc., and how they shape strength and clarity of expression. Individual affections -- idioms -- that add strength, clarity, and appeal notwithstood.
By in-scene action, I mean that the setting development of at least the now-moment time, location, and situation development of the meditative recollection is vague to nonexistent. Where does this reflection take place? The auction house is my default, like he's just this moment acquired the Pale Rider's sidearm. Not much, only a clue or hint, a mention that he's, where now? A word or two, not an entire fragment. Because noir is on point, a bleak setting feature, not per se grime and grit, any bleakness will do, like a corporate boardroom's sterile cleanliness: lifeless, with an emotional tint.

[ November 07, 2015, 02:30 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by wetwilly (Member # 1818) on :
Note: I didn't read any of the other critiques before I posted mine. Didn't want to be influenced by their thoughts.

I would keep reading. In fact, if you've got a complete story ready for readers, I'd love to take a look.

One little caveat: I would hope an actual scene starts really soon. These opening lines are clever and catch my interest, but I better start seeing stuff actually happen soon or I'm bailing.

"That’s me, Lucifer King Quinton or Lucky Quinton as I’m known by in certain circles."

Reads more smoothly without the "by."

" savior appeared one day at a community auction in the form of a 1873 .44 Colt Peacemaker with the Grim Reaper engraved upon the grip."

That is a bad-ass line. Love it.
Posted by walexander (Member # 9151) on :
Ah....sorry E.

Just noticed KDW clipped my first thirteen.

Are we adjusting now by the thought we are preparing for a six by nine? Because even if that is true I am still shorted by a sentence. My count is twelve now.

Or are we measuring by a submission manuscript length? At which I only have nine lines now?

I'm a little confused. The different lengths do adjust a view of first thirteen.

Are we not prepping for agent/editor/contest read here? Or are we prepping for final print draft?

Either way, I'm shorted.

Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
I count twelve lines also. Perhaps Clotho's distaff, Lachesis' yardstick, and Atropos' shears took one from a baker's dozen for good measure.
Posted by walexander (Member # 9151) on :
(lol) to funny E.

Interesting to see in action though, how just clipping three lines can change the whole color of a piece. I understand better now your reference to noir because Alice is never referenced. Nor is the sentence completed that gives a clue to his age. You're right. With the clip it's just vague description.

You have given me hope though that their is a parallel universe where 13 donuts in every box is the norm.
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
I read the fragment before revision shortened it. I caught the Alice allusion: down a rabbit hole. Note that Wonderland is a bleak setting, though Alice is anything but a hardboiled cynic.
Posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (Member # 59) on :

I just checked against the template and the textarea box has been changed.

Instead of 64 characters wide, it's apparently 63 characters wide, which shorts everyone 13 characters at the most.

Very sorry about that. Thanks for speaking up.

I'm going to go see if I can change the textarea dimensions.
Posted by walexander (Member # 9151) on :
Thanks WW,

Doing some polishing, but should be ready for a reader in a few days if you are still interested.

Good call on the "by" sounds much clearer. Thanks for the insight.

No Prob. KDW. I owe this forum a lot for helping me ever get seriously started. When I first started here I was pretty intimidated to even believe I had a chance and lacked even a novice understanding of what it really takes to see such a dream move toward reality. I can't believe it has been five years. I feels like it was yesterday.

Posted by wetwilly (Member # 1818) on :
Feel free to email me when you get it ready.
Posted by babooher (Member # 8617) on :
"That’s me, Lucifer King Quinton or Lucky Quinton as I’m known by in certain circles."

Lord, that's funny!

I see the "I look back on my life..." and it seems too far removed. It's a red flag for me, but that line about circles makes me want to overlook it. I'd read more if you let me.
Posted by walexander (Member # 9151) on :
Sure B.

I'm still polishing. I have did a little adjusting from the very line you red flagged already. The next three lines had been an intro to who Alice is but with some nudging I realized their was a better pace driven way to do it. That adjustment caused a ripple so I'm just tightening anything that was loosened in the change.

when it's done I will send it to you and WW and anyone else who wishes a read.

Thank you for the offer and the insight.


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