This is topic The Wind Belongs to You (working title), F, 12,000 words in forum Fragments and Feedback for Short Works at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by H Reinhold (Member # 10553) on :
Any and all comments appreciated. How did I end up with such a dreadfully long story? I'll be looking to cut a lot of words for the next draft.


The dust nets were loose again. Baynar stumbled over the grass towards the farm. Beneath the sea roar below, the wind shelling his eardrums, he caught the dreaded sound: the faint flap-flap of naked wire against the poles. Couldn't Gruko come out and see to it herself? A damned chore. Just because she was older.

The buckets below the nets reeked of seadust. Baynar hooked his scarf across his nose and retied the nets tight, so tight his fingers bled. The cables hummed and a flicker of light shot across them. Then the light faded and the pulse resumed.

Baynar pulled the scarf away from his face and scuffed on to the cliff. Gruko was like the wind off the sea, savage, unrelenting, inevitable. Let her rage. He was sick of it.

He could see quite clearly now. The second moon was up, and slicked (...)
Posted by tesknota (Member # 10041) on :
Let me start by saying that I like all the imagery. I like the world that you're creating in this scene - very alien, but familiar at the same time. What I'm having trouble with is taking all of these images and stitching them together into one coherent milieu. I think this first 13 would be much more immersive if could grasp onto a more coherent whole.

The first line starts with dust nets, which I immediately picture as huge bug nets: a stick with a concave, flexible net attached to one end. It took me a few read-overs to realize that the later "flap-flap" sound was caused by these dust nests being loose, but I didn't realize this right away because "wire against the poles" makes this sound like a fence with its wire nets coming apart. So far, I have some trouble picturing what Baynar's trying to fix - net or fence? Second paragraph makes me think fence, because fixing the net caused a flicker of light to shoot "across", and that makes me picture straight surface. The strength of this 13-line opening is the description of the world, but a clearer picture of what we should see would play to this strength.

Another thing was Gruko. I can't quite place who or what Gruko is. I think she's his older sister, a human (or whatever creature Baynar is). But the second mention of Gruko makes her seen inhuman, and that mention even seems out of place... but that's something I can stand past the first 13 lines.

Finally, I'm not sure if this was done on purpose, but this world doesn't make too much geographical sense to me right now. There's dust - so much dust that you need nets to catch it. But this exists right above a sea that roars with what I assume to be water. These juxtaposed elements already seem strange to me. But then there's also grass and a farm, which means conditions for vegetation. I know this is not our Earth, but my Earth-primed brain demanding some sort of explanation either here or in later parts of the story.

Sounds interesting so far. Best of luck editing!
Posted by H Reinhold (Member # 10553) on :
Thank you, tesknota--very useful observations! I have just realized that there is practically no visual imagery in the piece. I think this happened because I imagined the scene taking place at night, in the dark. But where have I made that clear? Nowhere. And again with many of the other confusions--while I personally have an idea of what I was going for with the dust nets, I have not given the reader any concrete clues about what they look like. Same for Gruko. I need a bit of distance from the piece in order see it as a potential reader would, and not just find in it a confirmation of the scene already in my imagination.

I'll have a think about the world. What you say about it being geographically unclear is absolutely right and I've either been ignoring the details by waving my hand over them or have pushed them aside to figure out later. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
An individual ruminates about a seaside setting while notes a malfunctional device and about those relative to a kin person's unpleasant behavior.

Imagery is more than visual sensation in the main. Imagery broadly encompasses any and all sensory stimuli of a figurative vein. Imagery compares closely to symbolism and emblemism and motif, to metaphoric equipment, to objective correlative.

This sentence, for example, is tactile imagery: "Baynar _stumbled_ over the grass towards the farm." Stumbled is a tactile action, mainly, a sensation of the feet that metaphorically "see" and are unsteady on uneven and obstacle-plagued terrain. The sentence setting's visual imagery are "grass" and "farm." Another less commonly distinguished imagery is proprioception: awareness of internal sensation properties, like pain and balance, and body and body part positions. All such imagery evokes reader imaginations that fill in concrete details, maybe enough, maybe not. In any case, herein, maybe enough for thirteen lines' introductions.

Of more import for me, is the fragment artfully unsettles emotional equilibrium amply for a start. Baynar is obviously unsettled, by a neglected dust net he believes is Gruko's sole fault and obligation, and by Gruko's attitude toward him as well, plus, some vague and yet to be determined emotional attitude toward seadust. Resigned to seadust's persistence for now, maybe. Maybe, too, an emotional attitude toward the seadust net system as yet to be determined.

In terms of an objective correlative, Baynar comparatively contrasts the sea's attitude to Gruko's. That is imagery's forte, too, and symbolism. Due to those motifs emphasize more so than any other dramatic feature, that implies the main complication is Baynar's relationship with Gruko.

Other complications comprise the start: seadust, the seadust capture system and its neglect. Maybe more than needed at the start. Artful complication introductions nonetheless due to those align and unify somewhat relevant to an overall yet to be determined true complication, to me, complication the secondmost as well as congruent start essential attached to unsettled emotional equilibrium.

No conflict to speak of, though. If sibling rivalry between Baynar and Gruko is the conflict, say, acceptance and rejection stakes and forces at odds, that is more or less routine to me. This line implies they are brother and sister: "Just because she was older." An envious and natural younger sibling rival comment, that, a routine, not conflicted in the dramatic sense of stakes and possible contested outcomes.

Some of emotional attitude's tone in the fragment, though, to me, about larger matters than immediate now matters. Like about the seadust, the dust nets, the seadust smell. Baynar's emotional responses more or less fixate on Gruko, not the immediate circumstances before him.

Plus, Baynar easily remedies the seadust and dust net system. As complications go, those hold little dramatic appeal, because those are routine and easily remedied. Like why is seadust a problem? Because it smells unpleasantly? Not enough on its own. Unpleasant stimuli associated with pleasant circumstances soon become altogether pleasant. Like the fetid stench of low tide is pleasant for folk who benefit from the fruits of low tides. And worse, the stench of death-rotted fish that rises from a commercial fish boat's bilges soon smells like money and is pleasant for its workers. Like a brewery's soured and soiled spent grains soon smell pleasant. Those are a few of my experiences with fetid stenches.

Why, too, is seadust a problem to Baynar, this farm, such that it must be screened? Does the dust corrode the farm? Is it organic or mineral or both? Even sea salt spray is corrosive for machinery, for plants, for metal. Add silicon grains, maybe shell dust grains, depends on the sea, more corrosive dust. How about corrosive organic dusts? Like plankton spores and detritus carried aloft that, when fell on farmland, slimes the soil and plants with eutrophication products: runaway plankton growths and deoxygenized water due to over-enriched aquatic habitats. That is a foul, powerful, and unhealthy smell. In short, what specific smell "telling detail" is the dust's scent such that all the above is shown and implied? And the buckets that collect the electrostatically screened dust, must they be emptied overboard or dumped into compost piles?

I can imagine, my overactive imagination and all, how the dust smells, though that is other than intended maybe.

The nets, likewise, specific detail, are those long-line nets, dip nets, pot nets, pound nets, gill nets, loose or close mesh, diagonal or rectangle mesh, tall or short, or like chicken wire? What "telling detail" evokes the intended image in readers imaginations? And like the seaside imagery, might be related to and Baynar's perceptions of and attitude toward Gruko?

Again my imagination projects the nets though might be different from the intent. I don't know, I don't need technical details nor milieu per se, only vivid, lively sensations, and personal attitudes toward those that relate to what to me appears the main complication Gruko represents for Baynar. Or is the dust and air movement the substantive main complication of the moment and the narrative overall?

Some ample start essentials in hand, some that fall short, on the preferred side of the ledger a degree in total.

The title implies some other complication-conflict than the above suggest. Plus, the second-person of it suggests, perhaps spoils the story for some readers at the start due to the grammatical person of it is second person. Working title, though. Our writers' Muse also forbids use of the four-letter word for air movement, none at all.

I am inclined to read on as a somewhat engaged reader a few more lines, to see if the narrative settles onto an inferable and unequivocal main complication of a conflict in a strong tone, each of a magnitude suited to a start and a long short fiction's length.

[ February 28, 2017, 07:25 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by H Reinhold (Member # 10553) on :
Many helpful and insightful comments, extrinsic. Thank you. I will need a bit of time to digest and ruminate on them properly.

Our writers' Muse also forbids use of the four-letter word for air movement, none at all.
Interesting. Could you elaborate further? I did stumble across a similar discussion here a while ago, but unfortunately couldn't find it again, and can't remember the explanations given.
Posted by Scot (Member # 10427) on :
I agree that there are some evocative images in this opening. The way you're using new terms and describing small details makes me feel confident that the author knows what he is doing. But I also shared some similar confusions about Gruko specifically and about what's going on in general.

It might be un-helpful advice, arising from my own efforts at short-short writing (and from Dwight Swain's counsel), but I would like to know what Baynar's driving goal is. Currently he seems to be simply reacting to Gruko and the environment. Does he want to get back to the show he was watching? Does this chore give him some leverage over Gruko? Is he saving his own skin by taking the time to handle these small tasks? The goal will probably change soon, but understanding what he is going after will make it easier for me to root for him.
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
Originally posted by H Reinhold:
Many helpful and insightful comments, extrinsic. Thank you. I will need a bit of time to digest and ruminate on them properly.
Our writers' Muse also forbids use of the four-letter word for air movement, none at all.
Interesting. Could you elaborate further? I did stumble across a similar discussion here a while ago, but unfortunately couldn't find it again, and can't remember the explanations given.
The Muse's edict means, not to use the four letter word for air movement, as an exhortation to stretch abstract cognition muscles. The word is an all too easy first resort for rhetorical aesthetics' functions. In short, the edict means think again, recast, for stronger and clearer appeal purposes through poetic equipment. What different term might say more with less for a given circumstance?

An appealing one from poetry and prose is the sole Muse's exception of the word's use, that pronounces the I vowel hard instead of soft: Air movement that _winds_ this mortal coil. A dual or more meaning there, a polyseme, more said with less.

[ March 01, 2017, 01:29 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by Jay Greenstein (Member # 10615) on :
The dust nets were loose again. Baynar stumbled over the grass towards the farm
Doesn’t track. As we read it, we don’t know what the dust nets are. We don’t know who we are. We don’t know why it matters to this character. And we certainly don’t know why caused Baynar stumbled. But since you specifically mention it, it must matter. So at a guess, he’s drunk, clumsy, or handicapped. But that doesn’t seem to be the case based on what comes next.

So after reading the critical first two lines I’m confused, when I should be wanting to know more. Think about the effect on a reader’s perception had there been something like:
- - - - - -
A faint metallic sound, nearly buried within the sea roar, pulled Baynar’s attention from the safety fence to the house and outbuildings, and to a flutter of movement where there should have been none. The damn dust nets were loose again.

With a muttered curse he gathered the tools and headed away from the cliff-edge and across the pasture toward the farm.

- - - - - -
Do something like that and we know where the dust nets are, and that they can be seen, and heard, moving from a distance, which gives a sense of proportion, since we know he’s far enough away to see it the whole area at once. So it includes scene-setting as we begin the action, to help develop a visual picture.

The why of it:

From the storyteller’s viewpoint the story begins with what the narrator notices and reacts to. But in our protagonist's world our story begins with his attention being attracted by something that matters to him. Cause, followed by effect.

Rather than simply reporting what he noticed, though, I combined the thing that attracted his attention with the sea noise to place him near it. I placed the sea below him later, when I mention the “cliff-edge,” to show that the fence I added was to keep the livestock that fed on the grass from tumbling into the sea. I didn’t announce what it was for, and didn’t have to, because that’s implied by his walking on grass and it being called “pasture.” His gathering the tools says that the nets matter enough to break off what he’s doing, but aren’t critical enough to leave the tools (or perhaps that he’ll need them).

His curse was to show a level of annoyance rather than panic, as was his walking not running.

I omitted mention of Gruko because the reader has no context for who she is and what their relationship is. That needs to wait till the reader knows where they are in time and space, and has background enough to make it meaningful and necessary to the action in progress.

Your story? No. Nor is it great writing. It’s a quick parallel to demonstrate a more inside-out approach that you might find useful. Notice that at no time does an invisible, and emotion free, voice explain things to the reader. Instead, we learn what catches our protagonist’s attention, his evaluation of its importance, and his response, told within the moment he calls now. Done that way, each thing that motivates him to act is self-contained with the necessary context for the reader to see it as he does. And each motivation/response takes him forward in time, and gives the reader the feeling that time is passing.

Hope this helps.

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