This is topic The Dead Queen Of Queens in forum Fragments and Feedback for Short Works at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.


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Posted by Lemonsqueezer (Member # 10731) on :
 
Hi, I am new here and this is the first piece I have posted.


The dim lighting in the bar told my lies for me and complimented my undead aesthetic. My dress was tight across the chest despite being altered at the shoulders. Tonight, I am a platinum blonde with razor smooth skin and razor sharp fangs. It was easy to pick up tonight, the cops stay away from this part of town when the jarheads are about. He appeared at the bar -- No companion, no wrinkles, no medals. Jackpot. The never ending ache pulsed through my mind and body. I glanced his way, bit my lip and shoved my ‘cleavage’ in his direction. It was that easy. I promised him an evil time as we moved things outside into the darkness. His hand slid up my skirt towards my tuck, but before he had chance to release, I lunged for his neck. Now he lies slumped on the ground –-poor bastard never saw it coming. I adjust my wig, clean the blood from my chin and reapply my lipstick.
 
Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
 
As someone who has written a vampire story, I can confirm that it is not necessarily a good idea to start here--not in a short story. I would, in fact, like to offer up the thread containing my own first story's opening 13 line evolution to help explain why. (It will give you a lot of insight into the matter while still giving a barrier of distance since it's not your story being discussed.)

http://www.hatrack.com/ubb/writers/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=11;t=004777

Essentially, this seems more like an establishment of the norm rather than a shake-up of the status quo, and in short stories it's generally better to skip the former in favor of the latter. With longer stories, you have more time to win the audience over. With short stories, you have to get their attention yesterday.

That warning given, I'm going to shift into a critique of the prose.

It seems to me that this set of opening lines would benefit from some paragraph breaks, like so:

quote:
The dim lighting in the bar told my lies for me and complimented my undead aesthetic. My dress was tight across the chest despite being altered at the shoulders. Tonight, I am a platinum blonde with razor smooth skin and razor sharp fangs.
It was easy to pick up tonight, the cops stay away from this part of town when the jarheads are about. He appeared at the bar -- No companion, no wrinkles, no medals. Jackpot.
The never ending ache pulsed through my mind and body. I glanced his way, bit my lip and shoved my ‘cleavage’ in his direction. It was that easy. I promised him an evil time as we moved things outside into the darkness. His hand slid up my skirt towards my tuck, but before he had chance to release, I lunged for his neck. Now he lies slumped on the ground –-poor bastard never saw it coming.
I adjust my wig, clean the blood from my chin and reapply my lipstick.

A single sentence tends to contain a single idea; a single paragraph tends to contain a collection of related sentences. Well-timed paragraph breaks make the story easier to read and give the reader 'breathing room' rather than feeling like everything is happening all at once.

I think the third sentence could make a better opener than the one that currently comes first (you could simply shift it forward and have done with it).

In your fourth sentence, a semi-colon might do better than a comma.

In your fifth sentence, starting with 'He' without context threw me off. 'My mark' or 'my target' might work better.

I feel like 'The never ending ache pulsed through my mind and body.' is an unnecessary sentence.

It seems like you might be missing a word in sentence eleven.

I missed some of the subtleties of this opening on my first read-through, but I picked up on them better during the critique. I'm curious where this story is going. If you're interested in a critique of the full story, feel free to e-mail me.
 
Posted by kirsten.j (Member # 10779) on :
 
I think this reads well-- smooth, with some interesting language use. I'm not sure I would read on, though, because it seems like nothing very original. Essentially, a vampire picking someone up at a bar and then sucking their blood. A story we've heard before.

A couple trivial things:

quote:


The dim lighting in the bar told my lies for me

Maybe I'm just being thick, but I don't know what this means...

quote:

and complimented my undead aesthetic.

I like that, though [Smile]

quote:

My dress was tight across the chest despite being altered at the shoulders.

I like this sentence-- good rhythm.

quote:
It was easy to pick up tonight, the cops stay away from this part of town when the jarheads are about.
Run on sentence.
But I like the term "jarheads".

quote:

He appeared at the bar -- No companion, no wrinkles, no medals.

Good character intro that mounts tension.

quote:


Jackpot. The never ending ache pulsed through my mind and body. I glanced his way, bit my lip and shoved my ‘cleavage’ in his direction.

I would not put quotes around cleavage. Just ruins the flow for me.

quote:

It was that easy. I promised him an evil time as we moved things outside into the darkness. His hand slid up my skirt towards my tuck, but before he had chance to release, I lunged for his neck. Now he lies slumped on the ground –-poor bastard never saw it coming. I adjust my wig, clean the blood from my chin and reapply my lipstick.

Nice language use and good rhythm.
 
Posted by skadder (Member # 6757) on :
 
The dim lighting in the bar told my lies for me and complimented my undead aesthetic.

While I like this sentence, I think it contains elements of telling (clue: told) and could be re-worked to show the lies and the undead aesthetic complementation.(...the pale light and pale, dead skin)

My dress was tight across the chest despite being altered at the shoulders.

Again this sentence has distance--perhaps this tightness could be shown?


Tonight, I am a platinum blonde with razor smooth skin and razor sharp fangs.

This is all telling.

It was easy to pick up tonight, the cops stay away from this part of town when the jarheads are about. He appeared at the bar -- No companion, no wrinkles, no medals. Jackpot.

You keep changing tense, probably best to stick to one, past or present and I'd stick with past.


The never ending ache pulsed through my mind and body.

But how does that feel--this feels a little removed and could be re-framed more viscerally.

I glanced his way, bit my lip and shoved my ‘cleavage’ in his direction.

As per other critiquer...remove quotation marks--if it isn't real cleavage then make that clear.

It was that easy.

I promised him an evil time as we moved things outside into the darkness. His hand slid up my skirt towards my tuck, but before he had chance to release, I lunged for his neck.

Off camera death--did you avoid showing it for it a reason? I quite like to see the death fromt he vamps POV as it gives me an insight into them.

Now he lies slumped on the ground

Now rather that later? You don't need to say that and could use some of the wasted words to convey other stuff about the scene ...the ground, the lighting, the weather/environment etc.


–-poor bastard never saw it coming. I adjust my wig, clean the blood from my chin and reapply my lipstick.


This piece has a far bit telling in it--I haven't picked up everything I could have, just the main stuff.


I realize you are new, and I can see you enjoy writing. You can turn a phrase, but you need to participate with other writers who critique you and you critique them in order to hone your skills (which will happen).


[ November 10, 2017, 05:53 AM: Message edited by: skadder ]
 
Posted by Lemonsqueezer (Member # 10731) on :
 
Thank you for the critiques everyone.
This isn't a piece I was particularly precious about so it felt like a good place to start opening myself up for critiques.

I am hoping with the more critiques I get the better my writing will be.
There is a lot of clear themes for me to work on.

[Smile]
 
Posted by MrsBrown (Member # 5195) on :
 
Nice start! I'd like to see a re-write, tightened up a bit. I like your prose.

"His hand slid up my skirt towards my tuck, but before he had chance to release..."

What is a 'tuck'? By 'release' do you mean ejaculation? The sliding hand sounds like things are just getting started, so that would be too soon. (Ugh, this is awkward to write about! But it did throw me out of the story...)
 
Posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (Member # 59) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Lemonsqueezer:
I am hoping with the more critiques I get the better my writing will be.

The more critiques you GIVE the better your writing will be.

Critiques you receive tend to only help you with the work in question, but critiques you GIVE help you learn more about what works and what doesn't and why and why not and will help you with writing in general.
 
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
 
An individual summarizes her setting situation, appearance, seduces a "jarhead," and upon him preys. A theme related to an individual and society, though social predation.

Except for "jarheads," the language is flawless and smooth, some summary and explanation tells that could be more artful and appealing if leisurely and unforcefully shown instead. Lines like the first sentence, "The dim lighting in the bar told my lies for me and complimented my undead aesthetic." for example. While a curious admix of attitude shown, apt poetic equipment, and told right to the point that she's a vampire in a bar, some of the weight falls on told when shown might be of stronger appeal.

Jarhead is a specific term for a U.S. Marine in full uniform or civilian mufti that reflects uniform apparel. The stretched-neck Marine dress uniform's stiff, erect collar and the standard buzz-brush cut hairdo make the head of any Marine look like a clay jar. More development could clarify if he's a U.S. Marine or the term is a general descriptive synecdoche. I stumbled over the word.

"told my lies for me" is an exquisite turn of phrase, though an implication that's best practice a conclusive comment after setup and suspension segments develop its shown meaning.

That sentence, too, starts with the definite article "The" adjective that modifies plural noun phrase "dim lights." Plural nouns do not require an article, best often left out, especially if for a noun's first introduction.

Being told the first-person narrator-agonist is an undead right up front misses opportunity to imply and readers infer this is a revenant's tale. That's premature, and likely to put off screeners, and later, general readers. Hatrack's thirteen lines principal principle is to engage readers so they read farther than a first page. If a first line or page alienates readers, the remainder is declined, never to be read.

Revenant narratives' popularity waxes and wanes, waxes when reimagined artfully, wanes when copycat derivative dilutions flood the publication pipeline. At a time when revenant narratives were out of vogue and tired-out clichés, Anne Rice reimagined vampire genre as sympathetic to "noble," "old-money" "idle" social elites. Later, when revenant was as much out of vogue again, Stephenie Meyer reimagined vampire as a popularity pageant contest between social elites, athletic elites (werewolf), and non-elites, though she didn't fully realize such. Smart subconscious plants throughout the saga imply this is so. Revenant is again out of vogue at present. Vampire themes across the board, from Bram Stoker forward, someway express an appealing, fresh, lively, vivid message and moral attitude about social elitism, contrary or proponent, or at least sympathetic.

A narrative's start best practice implies, shows, or declares what it is really and truly about. This fragment tells that it is about vampire, does contain a show of social elitism in that the undead woman takes her prey as if by superior natural right.

Frankly, the only reason at this point the fragment as is would persuade me to read on is if I anticipated her to receive a just poetic justice comeuppance sooner or later for her hubris. The dramatic situation of the start is one of positive fortunes for her. The only dramatic movement potential then is toward a negative fortunes outcome, tragedy, in other words, or maybe mixed loss and growth at great personal cost. If so, then some clue or cue that or another is the case is best practice implied more strong and clear at the outset, than that all is rosy and shiny and deliciously dark and will continue so throughout for this undead woman.

That she's full of confidence and competence is the only clue such is the case and that not clear or strong enough to signal this routine of hers is about to be dramatically and terribly interrupted. If the fragment contained a stronger and clearer clue of such a turn of events to come and right soon, that could persuade readers and screeners to turn the page.

I would not at this time read on, though, in the main due to I don't see the promises of dramatic movement a revenant narrative's start fragment, to me, requires.

[ November 10, 2017, 05:20 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
 
Posted by Jack Albany (Member # 10698) on :
 
The good--and the bad news. As a reader I wouldn’t get past the moment I realised how cliché this opening is, but as a critic who forced himself to look deeper, I am fascinated by its originality. I don’t think I’ve read a story about a vampire like this, ever, but a walk-in reader won’t get past the opening cliché: A vampire walks into a bar looking for a snack. Uggh!

If you can come up with a more original opening setting and tone down some of the obviousness, such as ’cleavage’, I think you might have something here.

As encouragement, I second extrinsic's observation about the fragment: "told my lies for me". It is exquisite.
 


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