This is topic A Matter of Interpretation (Working Title), Fantasy, ~2,000 words in forum Fragments and Feedback for Short Works at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
An author whose blog I follow threw out a flash fiction prompt: Rebellion. The story I gleaned from it turned out to be longer than flash fiction, but it's still shorter than most of the stories I've written since I got back into the game, so I'm okay with that.

Any and all feedback would be appreciated.



Cers lurched toward the town of Risafio. Stitched-together muscles strained with every step as he struggled to stop, stumble, or fall. Anything was better than the slow plod toward the town where he would become a killer.
Cers’ master, Tirian, was small and frail, but moved with the swift elegance of a man confident in his purpose. “Don’t shamble so. I built you better than that.”
The tattoos that covered Cers’ body flared with arcane energy. The compulsion to obey was overwhelming.
Cers straightened his posture and steadied his gait, but kept his pace methodical. He wanted to voice his protests. He had tried to argue when Tirian first told him he was meant to sack Risafio, but Tirian had commanded him into silence. Cers was meant to take orders, not to question them.


The Dragonspine Mountains loomed above Cers as he tended the fire at his master’s campsite. Jagged peaks and cliff faces tore at the clouds like claws and teeth. Cers had never seen their like before. He stood two heads above most men, and was deeply troubled by the newfound understanding of what it meant to be small.
Cers’ master, Tirian, exited his tent and motioned to the ground. “Sit. I want to check your seamwork.”
The arcane tattoos that covered Cers’ body glowed softly as Tirian’s command took root. Cers grunted an acknowledgment and sat down beside the fire.
Tirian’s hands traced delicately across Cers’ skin and explored the stitching that held his limbs together. Had Tirian not

[ February 11, 2017, 07:14 PM: Message edited by: Disgruntled Peony ]
Posted by Scot (Member # 10427) on :
A la extrinsic: A construct struggles against its creator's commands as they march towards a violent encounter.

I enjoyed seeing the writing prompt so securely in place in the story start. A nit-picky part of me wonders if golems et al process instructions this way (at all?), especially re: moral issues. But it's your story, so I set that question aside. On the other hand, I do want to know why this golem has the wherewithal to question - something good about his construction? Something bad about it? I expect that will come out later.

Does Cers know the town name? Does he care? Is it something about Risafio that enables him to even question his commands this much?

I like the 2nd sentence intent, that he's trying to sabotage things, but I think it could be stronger. My first read was that his straining was to keep things together so he didn't stop/fall. Since this is the story-prompt, I think the rebellion here should be foregrounded more. Maybe even promoted to opening line status? Would breaking up the phrases with more punctuation help convey the struggle better?

In the 3rd line, "anything was better" seems like a lost opportunity. What specifically would be better, from Cers POV? Along the same line, "become a killer," while I love the ending focus on that idea, seems bland. Maybe bring up the commands at this point. (And maybe why a golem cares about anything as abstract as killing anyway? OK - I'll stop harping on that point now.)

"Cer's master..." takes us out of Cer's POV. I like Tirian's little attentions to detail. "We're going to massacre innocent people, but I want you to use good posture while you do it." Personally, I'd like a cue about Tirian's tone of voice here. Is he harsh, criticizing, breezy, nurturing, arrogant?

I like the energy tattoos, so much so (and they're so vivid) that I think they should be in the first paragraph. Do they flare brighter as he resists? Since obeying commands is so central here, I feel like it would be good to clarify exactly what the overarching command is. Is Cers on the line to bust up furniture? Or kill someone specific? Or rip apart anything that moves? Sacking a town involves a range of options (not speaking from personal experience). [Smile]

I can't think of anything more to complain about on the rest of the excerpt. Good stuff! Thanks for sharing such a strong example.
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
A modern Promethean Frankenstein monster ambles toward a town, ordered to destroy it. Risafio.

Cers does express want-problem complication, apropos of a start fragment's basic dramatic criteria. I don't know that I care about Cers, though. He would rather commit mayhem than amble, albeit amble difficultly? An unlikable trait. Right away, I want to see Cers averted, destroyed.

Town? Hamlet? Village? A further detail or two about the settlement could show the nature of the town's personality. Like why Tirian wants to do Risafio harm.

The Prometheus legend entails a forebear's disobedience to a leader offspring's will. Titan Prometheus and Olympian Zeus, in particular. Prometheus stole fire from Mount Olympus and gave the gift to humanity. Prometheus also created humanity and benefited humanity most of all the gods. For giving the gift of fire to humanity, Zeus chained Prometheus eternally.

For me, the outcome of this story is Cers turns on Tirian and averts the town's destruction. Maybe some order of Tirian's releases Cers from bondage to Tirian's will. Like Tirian orders Cers to kill all the people in the town. Hah! he starts with Tirian and is thus released from Tirian's command. That -- another common modern Prometheus narrative maxim, of the maker's hand, the maker, destroyed by the creation. A maxim of woe who bites the hand that feeds. Cers must then receive apt poetic justice in the end. The townsfolk do to Cers what must be done?

Is not the time ripe for a fresh Promethean tableau founded on another maxim? I believe it is, if for no other reason than to warrant publication.

What? No cues from Greek mythology, only the message of contested succession as old as the Earth. Maybe a fresh take might emerge from New Feminism's central convention; that is, portraits of the unique lives of women. Not a succession contest tableau, rather, emergence of a supportive, equal, and mutual partnership. First, though, Tirian must be persuaded to compromise. For that, then or even as the narrative is, Tirian's true motivation best practice should be established, stated or implied, up front. What is that due to? Because the town thwarts Tirian's will? Then who is the true Promethean? The town? Who gives a gift to the common good that opposes Tirian's will?

Complication's want-problem motivations, conflict's polar opposite stakes and outcomes forces in contention, and tone's emotional-moral attitude, those develop reader engagement first, during, and last. For all the players of any drama, for this one, Cers, Tirian's, and the town's motivations, stakes, and tones. This fragment is shy, to me, of meeting those criteria.

The first sentence tells through a summary the physical action of the fragment, Cers ambles. The sentence could be excised and not change the remainder's meaning.

The two sentences of the second paragraph do not connect, are abrupt bumps in the flow. Tirian's character nature, physical movement anyway, is described as elegant yet no clue in the speech that is so. Tirian's command only speech.

The tattoos is an inspired potential, that they signal perhaps Tirian tattooed magic gaeas upon Cers skin that compel him to immediately, fully obey Tirian. That's a subliminal implication that doesn't quite express a perceptible intent at the reading moment. More development of the designed intent, Tirian's and what that means to Cers, plus what it is intended to mean for readers, is indicated.

Some language shortfalls, too: much to be static voice (was); an "as" conjunction error that splices unconnected actions and ideas together; a "but" conjunction error that is not a contradiction use; another "but" that is a contradiction use, though a weak contradiction and unnecessary; a "tried to" mistake, Cers did or didn't argue, internally at least; several infinitive verb errors, like "to obey," "meant to sack," "meant to take orders" and "not to question them," that mistake implication expression for full realization. To take orders is to receive orders, not implement and obey per se. To question is open to interpretation as obedience regardless of internal resistance. Those are tense changes that are unnecessary, and numerous, best practice recast for simple past tense accordingly.

The title, to me, implies Cers misinterprets an order of Tirian's intent. That is inspired. Maybe it telegraphs somewhat the plot and outcome, though. However, if the title's import is that and more, some other more overt and tangible feature of the action, then that would transcend the potential plot telegraph, either by misdirection or by a fusion of dual meanings.

In short, I'm so what? oh yeah? huh? unsatisfied the fragment accomplishes essential setup depiction of the dramatic action of the whole. I would not, cannot, read on as an engaged reader.

[ February 02, 2017, 04:28 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
I think you misunderstood? Maybe I need to be clearer. He *doesn't* want to commit mayhem, so he's trying to stall.

Ahh well.
Posted by Ryan Neely (Member # 10458) on :
I realize the piece is meant to be flash fiction, but most of my comments will likely only add to the length of the narrative ... so disregard them all you like.

First: I enjoyed it. For the length, there was enough to hint at a story both before and after which is, in my opinion, what good flash fiction does.

Left as is (i.e., if you have no plans to lengthen this into a full short [1500+ words] or an even longer piece), there are two things I'd like to see (just to heighten my sense of these two characters). First, I'd like to see what Tirian's walk looks like. I can't specifically visualize "the swift elegance of a man confident in his purpose." I'd also like to feel what it is for Cers to "straighten his posture" and "steady his gait" against his "stitched-together muscles." Does adopting correct posture strain against the stitches? Pull against his muscles strangely? I guess what I'm asking for is a little sensory detail. Do the tattoos burn when they flare? Does it bring the stench of burnt flesh and hair to Cers' nose?

I don't know that there is more feedback I can provide that extrinsic and Scot haven't already mentioned.
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
Originally posted by Disgruntled Peony:
I think you misunderstood? Maybe I need to be clearer. He *doesn't* want to commit mayhem, so he's trying to stall.

Ahh well.

"Anything was better than the slow plod toward the town where he _would_ become a killer."

The sentence emphasizes Cers would become a killer. The subjunctive auxiliary verb "would" is the misplaced emphasis culprit. After the sentence where Cers strains to amble, nonetheless actually attempts to stop, stumble, or fall, to delay, combined, those imply he wants to commit mayhem. The "as" conjunction error adds confusion, too.

"Stitched-together muscles strained with every step as he struggled to stop, stumble, or fall. Anything was better than the slow plod toward the town where he would become a killer."

//Stitched-together muscles strained at every step. He struggled to stop, stumble, or fall, anything but plod toward the town Tirian ordered he would slaughter.//

[ February 02, 2017, 10:39 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
For me, this fragment lacks clarity, both of character and situation. By this I mean there are too many stop, consider, decide, move on moments. For example:

The first word, Cers. What is it and how do I pronounce it? I managed to work out something after a few moments thought when I realised it was a character's name.

“Stitched together muscles . . ..” What's this? An old injury badly tendered or perhaps Cers is a construct, a patchwork man made of bits and bobs and old odd ends stolen from unconsecrated ground (to steal from scripture a bit).

Then there's Tirion. First thought, Tyrion Lannister, next thought, Tirion of Narnia.

There are others scattered throughout.

I like the story idea potential for conflict of an epic and tragic sort, however because of the shortcomings I've mentioned I would not read on at this stage.


P.S. I did not make the assumptions others appear to have made.
Posted by Bent Tree (Member # 7777) on :
I really like this as a first draft! I can see your mind working and doing well to set the scene character, and premise.

I would come back down the road and just edit for concise and effective statements. "Meant to take orders" didn't ring well and was used another time in the text...
Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
After some time to let this story breathe, I realized I neglected to properly illustrate the setting in the opening paragraphs. I also didn't do a good job of setting up the opening conflict, so that's something I'm working on elaborating on within this draft. I tried to foreshadow future problems in the opening lines without going overboard.

(Also, with regard to Tirian's name--when I originally came up with these characters over a decade ago, I was not yet familiar with Game of Thrones. I just thought it was a cool-sounding name. I really don't know that I want such an easy free association with other fantasy stories, so I may well change Tirian's name before all is said and done. I'm going to keep it for now, though, because that's a simple find/replace function away once I decide on something I like better.)

In any case, here's my second attempt. Hopefully, it's better than the first.


The Dragonspine Mountains loomed above Cers as he tended the fire at his master’s campsite. Jagged peaks and cliff faces tore at the clouds like claws and teeth. Cers had never seen their like before. He stood two heads above most men, and was deeply troubled by the newfound understanding of what it meant to be small.
Cers’ master, Tirian, exited his tent and motioned to the ground. “Sit. I want to check your seamwork.”
The arcane tattoos that covered Cers’ body glowed softly as Tirian’s command took root. Cers grunted an acknowledgment and sat down beside the fire.
Tirian’s hands traced delicately across Cers’ skin and explored the stitching that held his limbs together. Had Tirian not
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
Appreciably a stronger start.

The first paragraph is sublime, but for a few artless craft intrusions and language distractions. The paragraph thematically connects to the title, and which fully realizes what an exposition in its traditional meaning expresses: setup and outset of a focused theme (as of a whole writing). Cers is made small by comparison, by relativity, by personal interpretation of his subjective standing to Dragonspine Mountains. Exquisite.

Distractions: the adjective "The" first word is unnecessary and implies greater emphasis than the clause of it warrants. "as he tended the fire at his master’s campsite." A pesky "as" conjunction error, also Not Simultaneous to or with Cers' reflections about the mountains and his relativity to them. The paragraph contains three more unnecessary conjunctions and likewise run-on sentences.

The fragment contains four more conjunction errors; only two sentences and one sentence fragment altogether are simple sentences. The rest are conjunction-spliced run-on compound sentences. A judicious use of complex sentences would infuse spicy variety to defuse the sing-song rhythms of the complex sentences. The conjunction use is an excess that distracts from the potency of the context and texture.

For illustration, this sentence's breakdown: "Jagged peaks _and_ cliff faces tore at the clouds like claws _and_ teeth." A best practice is to use, emphasize, the most relevant items. Which of the jagged peaks or cliff faces is more relevant? Which of the claws or teeth is more relevant? If those extra items are necessary, those can be expressed in separate sentences, that amplify emphasis and detail.

Plus, the simile "like claws and teeth" is bland. The comparison is a dissimilarity similarity, metaphor like. However, the emphasis trails off instead of amplifies, and is pat and not open to interpretation. Simile expresses direct comparison between dissimilar abstractions that ask for less interpretation. Simile leaves less for readers' imaginations to infer than metaphor.

Might metaphor be stronger? Verb metaphor? There, "tore" is the predicate substitution consideration. //Jagged peaks and serrated cliffs gnashed and clawed at the clouds.// Or simpler, stronger, easily inferable, no conjunctions, //Jagged peaks clawed at the clouds.// Or similar metaphoric effect.

A consideration for verb metaphors is those defuse potential misinferrence from "is a" noun-subject and noun-object type metaphors, especially for fantastical fiction. Like, The uptown bus is a snake that slithers along city game trails. Incomprehensible, inapt metaphor, that. Instead, The uptown bus slithered along city streets. Verb metaphor, all but invisible, ample emphasis, easily comprehended, apt metaphor.

"Cers’ master[,] Tirian[,]" Stray commas. Not any master, Cers' master Tirian. Cers has a master is already expressed beforehand. Readers can infer from extant context wrap, before and after, that Tirian is the master.

"check your seamwork" Is "check" an anachrony for the story's milieu? The word used to mean verify soundness is a 1930s era coin. What other term might be more apt to the milieu?

"arcane tattoos" Paraphrased summary tell. Would a more verbatim description show? Like, tattooed dark-inked runes? Or similar, more specific, vivid visual effect?

"stitching" Unnecessary present participle gerund (noun). Stitches? Sutures? Could some present or past participle gerund be clearer and stronger? Verb metaphor?

"delicately" Unnecessary empty adverb, describes only a mechanical action, empty of emotional texture. And redundant, "traced" already implies inferable delicacy. Other redundancies, "traced" and "explored."

Recast for illustration:

"Tirian’s hands traced delicately across Cers’ skin and explored the stitching that held his limbs together."

//Tirian traced stitches sown into Cers' torso through his limbs.// More verbatim, with fewer words, description, that. Not the best example, though.

The latest fragment, to me, is stronger and clearer, only a few craft challenges distract from full-realization. Ample setup of the inferable action to come, obviously, a modern Promethean creation at Tirian's will to exact mayhem, a strong tension's empathy and curiosity arousal therefrom.

Due to the first paragraph's exquisite though somewhat blunted craft, I'm more inclined to read on as an engaged reader, for this latest fragment.

[ February 15, 2017, 03:48 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by Jay Greenstein (Member # 10615) on :
The Dragonspine Mountains loomed above Cers as he tended the fire at his master’s campsite.
Presented this way, you, the storyteller are standing nearby, watching him and commenting on what there is to see. But if so, why doesn't Cers ask you who you are? My point is that you're injecting yourself, needlessly, into the scene, in effect standing between the reader and the action, blocking the view. How can the reader feel the protagonist is their avatar if they know him only second hand?

As we read, we know what you see. But we're not aware of what has the character's attention. And fair is fair, it is his story. So why not let him live it in real-time. For example, you could present it in his viewpoint, with something like:
- - - - - - -
As he added fuel to the fire, Cers studied the clouds, streaming in torn fragments by the peaks of the Dragonspire mountains. Torn like me, came to mind, and that brought a glance at the master's tent, still closed.

But then, as if summoned, Tirian, exited the tent. He, too, studied the sky for a moment, before turning to him and saying, “Sit. I want to check your seamwork.”
- - - - - - -
Your story and characters? No. Nor is it meant to be great writing. It's just a quick example of another approach.

The why: The idea is to place the reader into the protagonist's moment of now, because that converts the story from a history lesson on a fictional character, to an ongoing experience, measured in cause and effect. That means if we're aware of the cause of what has the protagonist's attention, and the needs, desires, and resources that drive his thinking they'll drive ours, too, and we'll wonder what the best course if for our protagonist. Then, following his instinctive and considered responses, as any good method actor does, we place ourselves into his persona and react as him. And that's where the fun of reading lies, not in a constantly accumulating pool of, "This happened...then that happened...and you need to know..."

Another thing to take into account is that reading is a serial operation. Unlike vision, where we get everything at once, we must mention things one at a time. So our medium is inherently slower. And if the action flows more slowly than in life the story will drag. To avoid slowing the narrative we need to strip the narrative to what matters to the plot, character development, and meaningful scene setting.

Look at some of the points: We've been placed at a campfire in a mountain setting—scene setting. Other then telling the reader that it's windy at the mountain top, light enough to see, and unlikely to storm in the near future, isn't that the purpose of the opening lines? Does the fact that he's not seen clouds like that move the plot? No. Does he react, other then to say, "That's new," No. So why slow the narrative by including it? Does his height matter to him at that point? No, so it's you, stepping in as storyteller to describe him.If he's tall and it matters let him look down on others, or have someone say, "Damn, but he's big." My point is that yes, the reader needs to know, but not there, so mentioning is serves only the slow the narrative.

What I did include is his relating the clouds to himself in a way that tells the reader that he's unique, and not happy—character development. It also prepares them for the knowledge that he's a construct, so they have context for when the seams are mentioned. And with the thought, he turns to look at the tent, telling the reader that whoever is in there is important to his being torn—more foreshadowing. But notice, too, that based on his mental chain of attention, we've gone from a glance upward, to mental introspection as a result, to thoughts of the master, in natural progression that the reader, were they him, would also have followed. Done that way the story flows, in real-time. So at that point the reader's reaction is to want to know who's in the tent—a hook.

And since we've exhausted meaningful things for him to do, we rubber band time and compress his wait to seconds, and the master exits the tent. But instead of turning on and speaking his line, I had him tend to what people normally do on exiting a tent. It also says that his business with Cers isn't immediately important. And of course, it also gives the reader a moment to accept that he's there, as Cers, before we change direction. In effect, we've banked the turn.

Next: if the master says sit, does it matter if Cers chooses a log or the ground? No. So we just have him sit, without slowing the narrative to present unneeded detail. The faster the read the more impact—and immediacy—the prose has.

It's all a trick, of course, a method of placing the author in the prompters booth rather than on the stage. As the great Sol Stein observed, “In sum, if you want to improve your chances of publication, keep your story visible on stage and yourself mum.”

There are other ways, but this one is especially suited to action sequences, and eliciting en emotional response from the reader that matches that of the character. It also has a useful side-effect. Because you're forced to think about what has the character's attention, and how they perceive and parse it, what matters to the protagonist becomes what matters to us. And in practical terms, it means that if we try to make the character do something to advance the plot that's not what he would choose in the situation, he'll say, "Hell no, I won't do that, and force you to approach it as he would. And that makes a huge difference in the feel and realism because instead of telling the story from the outside in, we switch to inside out.

The article I often recommend, a condensation of the technique, can be found here.
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
Is it ironic or syncrhonic that the title for this short story is "A Matter of Interpretation" and how experienced and otherwise reader-writers interpret narrative point of view differently?

An observable situational irony maybe, that narrative point of view is a matter of interpretation and to different reader-writer relative, too.

The latest fragment opening paragraph's narrative point of view, to me, is a narrator-viewpoint agonist merge -- artfully ambiguous until fully developed later on. Could be either, could be both: the narrator received reflections of Cers'. I default to Cers'. The method, if fully realized, is no less artful, persuasive, dramatic, as it were, than any other narrative point of view. In fact, that narrative point of view is a time-honored, noble, traditional one and contemporarily represented in somewhere more than half of all narratives' starts, a first paragraph at least, if not as far as a quarter way into a narrative, and could run to as many as three-fourths of all narratives' start method. The method's familiarity recommends it to readers broadly.

Myself, as writer-reader, I favor in medias res' immediate close access to one viewpoint agonist's sensations and thoughts, otherwise known as third-person close. This fragment's first paragraph is mostly the third-person limited narrative point of view. One clause's different viewpoint intrusion mixes in a viewpoint glitch, "as he tended the fire at his master’s campsite." Of whose viewpoint dramatis persona-wise is that clause? Not the narrator's, to me, not Cers'. Implied writer's? Real writer's? I don't know, know only that the clause stands apart, as perhaps the clause's viewpoint does, from narrator and Cers.

If the paragraph is taken as Cers' viewpoint and sensory stimuli and response to it, as if from a camera about his shoulder or forehead or even seen from his mind's eye, that clause stands apart because the camera turns back to look at Cers. He cannot see himself. That makes it a viewpoint glitch.

On the other hand, if the narrator is an invisible bystander, that clause fits, though the rest of the paragraph then is a viewpoint glitch, as it includes narrator direct report of Cers' and the narrator's visual stimulus and response, inside two heads and maybe a third head at the same time.

This gives me mental whiplash while I follow the viewpoint from two or more heads at the same time, contemporaneous anyway: look at the mountains, look into the narrator's thoughts and out through those eyes, look into Cers' thoughts and out through those eyes, look at Cers and look at the fire out through the narrator's eyes in one run-on sentence.

The clause "as he tended the fire at his master’s campsite." is a summary paraphrase anyway, a tell, that instead could describe verbatim "telling details" of Cers' sensations and actions about the fire. What? Poke the embers, stoke the fire, add wood, twigs, a split log, a sap pocket spark and pop? Cers' sensations those, reflected by the narrator from Cers' sensory perceptions. In any case, the clause merits its own paragraph after the mountains reflections. Plus, merits an emotional thought response similar to Cers' mountains reflection's, and like it, of a thematic exposition nature.

Mountains and fire, two of the four Nature metaphysical elementals: earth, fire, water, and air. Earth represents, well, grounded and steady. Here, though, becoming grounded, for good or ill, Cers realizes he's small and is unsteadied by it. Wow. He's emotionally disequalibriated at the outset and potentially readers are, too; I am. That's artful craft. Fire represents inflammatory temperament, for good or ill. Air, flightiness, for good or ill, Water, fluid flexibility, likewise, for good or ill.

Hence, what about and how the fire Cers tends is thematically relevant to the story and contrasts or compares, or both congruent, with Cers' mountains reflections? These questions offered for consideration of a separate paragraph about Cers' fiery reflections. Such a paragraph adds further preparation of the main action to come, might artfully delay the upcoming partial satisfaction segments about what is to be shown about Cers, that he's a modern Prometheus.

Of course, I see strong parallels with grand dame Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Prometheus. Not a disruption per se for me, the opposite, rather, actually, a source from personal experience upon which to draw for imagination which I bring to the reading experience and an anticipation this milieu's will re-imagine the topos of Prometheus. Likewise, I see a similar narrative point of view to Shelley's aesthetic one. Those situate me in the narrative's milieu. Then the narrative only need not disrupt me from that reading dream, and also further engross me in the fiction dream of the story. The clause noted above disrupts me right out of the gate.

Furthermore, I note from all of her fragments Disgruntled Peony's emergent narrative point of view aesthetic is for a narrated narrative, not an utterly detached narrator, invisible narrator with access to only one viewpoint, third-person limited, in this case, Cers' and his sensations visual, aural, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, and emotional, oh so emotional sensations most, please, and his thoughts and emotional responses. The only disruption, or viewpoint glitch, of which is habit of resort to external narrated tells of a viewpoint persona's actions from a narrator's detached perspective. Like what Cers does about the fire, the paraphrase he tends it, and cannot see himself do.

About Disgruntled Peony's emergent aesthetic, most of note now from this fragment, that the emotional charge has before been shy, to me, though begins to find its full realization on the mark in this fragment, not too little, not too much, not too overt nor too covert, not too late or too soon. Emotional charge eases tell into show all by itself, due to perceptions of an emotional response to stimuli is subjective, is private, is intimate. This realization is intimacy and a subtle though profound emotional reader appeal.

Who wants to sense and feel what any million people do? Nope, rather wants to experience one intimate conversation from a reading dream.

The cinematic technique contained in the first paragraph reflects cinematic motion picture starts that establish a setting; mountain ranges are common thematic-setting starts. However, this fragment's does more with less, shows through emotional charge what the mountains, amply physically described, and thematically mean at the moment to Cers. Intimate, fully realized preparation segment. But for the remote viewpoint access "as" clause out of place, to me anyway.

Narrated third-person limited is a choice, to me, and, I pray, for any other writer who can master its nuances. This fragment is close to its mastery.

Somewhere more than thirty or so other narrative point of view choices are extant; Damon Knight graphs those to a nuanced degree in Creating Short Fiction, "Beginnig a Story," page 133, explicates the more broadly appealing ones, rejects some possibilities for their restricted-niche appeal power, and misses one or two, though is a robust guidance for distinguishing those methods.

Narrative point of view transitions within a narrative are common, no need to stay to one and only one, so long as transitions are not too disruptive. Writers use such transitions to enhance dramatic movement, from close enough to closer and yet closer and closer, and to signal transition changes and movements in event, place, time, situation, and personas.

For example, Joyce Carol Oates' "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been." The first quarter of the story, counted to the word, is detached narrator point of view, summary and explanation with strong and clear emotional charge, transitions into closer and closer access to viewpoint agonist Connie's personal perceptions and thoughts, from detached-remote to limited to danger close intimate narrative point of view. The narrative doesn't stray from Connie, keeps in touch with her and only her, the overall narrative point of view, third person. Noteworthy, too, the start upsets emotional equilibrium; that is, that's what "hooks" readers first and foremost.

And all of this above are matters of interpretation. How ars poetical, how metafictional. Exquisite.

[ February 15, 2017, 07:54 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by Scot (Member # 10427) on :
Disgruntled, I wish there was something I could add to the conversation, more than "I think it's improved" and "I like it."

Are you still keeping it as flash fiction? Have you reworked the entire story? I'd be glad to read the whole, although I wouldn't be able to give feedback like extrinsic and Jay have.
Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
I've experimented with first person and second person from time to time (haven't posted much of that here, because it's generally not serious), but I do tend to prefer third person limited. I was trying for an outside in approach with the viewpoint... essentially, I was trying to set up a brief 'establishing shot' before I dove into Cers' viewpoint.

This is only my second draft at this point, so I'll be looking into further refining the prose shortly. Good catch on the word 'check', extrinsic. I'm not as familiar with etymology as I would like to be, and don't always think about things like that in my early drafts.

As for why I didn't dive further into his head, I'm still working in finding a balance that works for me in that regard. It usually takes me multiple drafts to really get where I want to be with point of view and character immersion. The first draft is just to get things on paper, the second draft smooths things out a bit and gives me a better idea of what I want, and draft three is where the story really starts to shine. I'm almost finished with my second draft, at present (I only have a couple pages yet to poke at). There's definitely some work yet to go, but I do feel like I'm starting to get better at catching story problems and figuring out how to fix them earlier on in the process.

Scot: The story is a little long for flash fiction, presently totaling a little over 2k words. I'm aiming to keep this one shorter--no more than 3k words, if I can help it--but there's definitely more I'd like to do with this character and setting. Thank you for offering the read. Once I finish this draft, I'll send it your way. [Smile]
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
First, I agree with your approach to third person. It is the default for most published works. Now I'm left with a quandary, do I critique this draft or wait for the next one?

Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
First, I agree with your approach to third person. It is the default for most published works. Now I'm left with a quandary, do I critique this draft or wait for the next one?


If you want to wait, that's fine. I'd appreciate any insight you're willing to offer, though.
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
Okay then, my initial feeling was that the fragment is trying to do to much too soon. I know, this is a short story and space is a major concern, yet I feel you are missing a huge opportunity to follow Damon Knight's advice: If at all possible, the main dramatic complication should be referenced in the first sentence or, failing that, within the first paragraph. This doesn't mean you need to jump right into Cers' dramatic struggle, but it should be referenced--even obliquely.

The first sentence sets the scene eloquently and introduces 'tending the fire', which can be used as an artful visual introduction to Cers' character and inner contemplations as he gazes deep into the glowing embers . . ..

But you let it pass by. The second sentence, and by association the third, is too overwrought for so early in an opening I feel. Keep it simple and direct at the start is my advice, later you can jump up and shout, “Look Ma, I can use similes!”

The fourth sentence confuses the hell out of me. Two heads taller; how much taller is that? Does he have a small head or a big head, and how tall are 'normal' people in this fictional world anyway? Also, what does this mean, or imply? . . . deeply troubled by the newfound (new-found) understanding of what it meant to be small. I have no clue.

Next paragraph you introduce Tirion and Cers' seams and tattoos. Personally, I wouldn't have at this juncture. My preferred method to introduce Cres' physical nature would be to have him contemplate what he is now juxtaposed with 'memories' of what he once was as he tends the fire. Just a thought [Smile]

Hope you find this useful in constructing your next draft.

Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
Etymology becomes second nature with practice. It is research, for when a writer wears an editor's visor, and for editors. Anachrony spans more than diction, too, like a blunderbuss motif, say, depicted before personal gunpowder armament technology emerged. Steampunk, though, is about anachrony!? Any Punk.
Posted by H Reinhold (Member # 10553) on :
Peony, sorry for not offering comments on your openings so far. I've been following the discussion closely and with interest, and don't really have anything to add at this stage. I think the most recent version is much better than the original. I'd read on. If you'd like to send me your draft, once it's ready, I'd be happy to have a go at offering feedback.

On a more general note, I've found the discussions and comments on several recent topics here, including this one, particularly enlightening and helpful. So, to everyone who has been posting: thank you.
Posted by Scot (Member # 10427) on :
Not to turn attention away from Peony's story, but I agree, Reinhold - this has been a really helpful thread.

Thanks, Peony, for starting off such a beneficial discussion!

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